Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hope and Confidence

Well, this is the first time I have been on my computer in a week and I have to say that it's been a little rough. I've had so many things cross my mind and so much Scripture come to light but haven't been able to journal it in any form. The surgery was on my left side and since I'm left-handed, writing is out and until today, typing was out too. Actually, until today I didn't even really feel like writing or typing so I just stuck a bunch of index cards in my bible to mark where things stood out to me. So, here's to catching up on a week full of thoughts, medical information, and of course the devil trying to discourage me through it all.

I see where my dear hubby updated the blog for me as far as how the surgery went. Of course the doctor did find cancer in the lymph nodes so I was really just discouraged. I honestly with all of my heart just knew that Jesus was going to clear out those nodes for me and had 100% confidence in His healing power. So...when I woke up and was coherent enough to understand that the lymph nodes did test positive I was upset. I just didn't understand how my faith could be so strong and the result NOT match up. However, I can say that the thought was pretty fleeting as I just sort of sucked it up and told myself that "it's ok, God has a greater plan and this is just part of it." The following day when I went home, my doctor called after I got home and let me know that she had taken out 18 lymph nodes and 4 were cancerous. So...I was pretty happy about that. That's between 20-25% so at least it's not 50% or more. I mean, if it can't be 0%, at least it's not 100%, right?!?

However, despite my positive thinking, of course that dang ol' devil (and I'm being nice with that term) has been putting thoughts in my head such as this..."if you had THAT much confidence and faith in your God to clear your lymph nodes and He didn't, just what makes you think He's going to heal you? Don't fall prey to having that much faith and being proven wrong once again." And embarrassingly enough, I have wondered that too when he starts in on me. I have wondered, "hmmm, why should I put that much faith, and hope in God to heal me when He didn't this time?" It's almost like I feel nervous to give everything I have into trusting for a complete healing because I don't want to feel hurt or disappointed or look like a fool for trusting so much.

In the midst of those thoughts though, I have come to recognize it as the devil just getting at me and have been able to turn him off with Scripture. For example...
Romans 4:18a - Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping; believing.
Psalm 91:5-6 - Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in the darkness nor the disaster that strikes in midday.
Psalm 6:6-9 - I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. My vision is blurred by grief and my eyes are worn out because of my enemies. Go away all you who do evil for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea and the Lord will answer my prayer.
Psalm 57:7 - My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!

I have really felt "my word" from God this week is CONFIDENCE. So, I will do my best to remain confident in His healing powers, in His sovereignty, and in His love. Back off devil and leave me alone. My God is the One who is in charge of me, and my thoughts. We will NOT have you invading them!!! (Sorry for the rant on the devil, but I had to say it!)

Now for some news on just how wonderful my doctor is and the most up-to-date plan that I know now. When Dr. Ballinger came into the recovery room to tell me that a few lymph nodes had tested positive so she did a deep dissection of lymph nodes, apparently I got really emotional and started crying and telling her that I didn't want to die and just wanted to see my babies grow up (I don't remember this at all!) Apparently she was so affected by my emotion that when she came to talk to David in the waiting room to let him know how everything went, she started to tear up when telling him what I had said. He said that it was so overly obvious that she really really cares about me and our family and it hurt her to see me like that. The next day when she came to check on me, she again reassured me that I WOULD see my babies grow up. She told me that she cannot guarantee anything 100% as no one has any guarantee of 100%...not even someone without cancer, but that she was nearly positive that I would be just fine. I love that about her...she gives so much hope, without giving false guarantees.
So, the plan now is that I will go either Monday or Tuesday to have my drains removed. Then sometime the following week I will meet with my oncologist at Vanderbilt to discuss the final plan for chemo. The oncologist that I will be seeing is a female who specializes in breast cancer. YAY!!! As for now, it will probably be (based on what my surgeon thinks) 4-6 months going every other week. There may be some chest wall radiation done also since 4 nodes were affected...the cutoff for needing radiation with a mastectomy is 4 nodes so they may or may NOT do it. That will be a decision for the radiation oncologist to make I guess. And that is all I know for now. I'm ready to get going with this!!! I just know by the end of October I will be able to say that breast cancer was a thing of the past.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Everything went well!

This is David with an update. Kelly did great this morning during surgery!! The surgery took a little more than 2 hours and the surgeon told me that everything went exactly to plan. I got to see her about an hour after, once a room was available. The surgeon was confident that she removed all of the cancer from the breast and lymph nodes. Unfortunatly, a couple of the lymph nodes did test positive for cancer. She explained that although her Pet Scan tested negative for any cancer spread in the body, it is impossible to detect microscopic cells that may have spread. Chemotherapy will be nessesarty to kill any rouge cancer cells, if any. This is an aggresive approach in attempt to prevent relapse in the future.
At first Kelly was very confused as to how the lymph nodes could be affected because she had such very strong faith and belief that they would test negative. However, she knows that she can only see a small piece of the puzzle but God already has the puzzle put together. She is not questioning why but continuing to pray and believe that God is going to heal her.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Surprise of all Suprises

Today, around 4:00 or so, my phone rang and the caller ID showed a number from Atlanta, Georgia. I assumed it was my in-laws as they are from the Atlanta area, but when I answered it, it was so not them. It was...get ready for this...are you sitting down?!? The President of Chick-fil-A, Dan T. Cathy, calling me...little ol' me to let me know that he had just gotten word of all that's been going on and he wanted to call to offer some encouragement as he has also been through a difficult time medically speaking. Anyways, before we got off the phone, he asked if he could pray for me and then did just that. I told him that David would for sure be updating the Nashville market about the outcome after the surgery so that if he wanted to he could ask our business consultant about the outcome. Instead, he asked me to ask David to voicemail him directly or if he sends an email to send one to him as well.

Can we just say things like this don't happen anymore? I would venture to say that MAYBE in only like 5% of companies does the President of a 3 Billion dollar company call you personally to pray for you and your medical problems. And what gets me is that he actually called me, the spouse of an owner. He could have just as easily called only David to let him know that he and his family were praying for me, but he took it one step furthur...went the second mile, to let me personally know.

I have always respected him and the entire Cathy family, and it's for reasons such as this. I'm honored and priveleged to know this family and know what and Who they stand for.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Refreshment for the Soul

Last week, David and I attended the annual Chick-fil-A seminar for 5 days. Every year it's in a different location and this year happened to be Long Beach, California. This year's guest speakers were Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Life), Dave Ramsey (getting out of debt/money makeover guru), and 2 college football coaches who display Christian values and leadership skills greatly. Oh, and how could I forget Jim Collins...author of the bestseller "Good to Great." And, the music was by Nicole C Mullins and THAT was phenomenal.
Now, on to why I was aboslutely grateful for this time away even more so this year than in the past. On the first day of meetings, Jim Collins spoke and towards the end of his talk, he mentioned that his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago. He said that immediately he went into the "what mode"...what do I do, what will we do for her, what are the statistics, and what all knowledge can I gain from this. He said that he loves research so he immediately went to the internet to get every piece of info that he could. (By the way, this is me!!! Totally me...) Anyways, in the meantime, his wife was watching him in this mode and when he finally asked her what he could do for her, she replied that he should stop asking "what" and instead ask "who." (WOW!!! God got my attention there!) Then, he went on to say that she had gotten 2 opinions from 2 different surgeons. They were totally different treatment plans but she decided to go with the second opinion. (UMMM, Hi Father God, I totally know that you are speaking to me now - thank you!!!) Jim continued on to say that she had had a double mastectomy and was doing phenomenal now. He didn't go into anymore detail, but that was enough for me. The Lord chose this seminar that was mostly aimed towards my husband and other CFA owners to speak loud and clear to me. The message that I got was A) one of even more hope than before, and B) no more what's, only who's...and my Who is my Father God.
Also during the week, I was priveleged to get to know our business consultant's wife on a deeper level. She and I had several opportunities to chat and talk about things in our lives that have shaped us into who we are today. She is definitly a woman of God and someone that provided so much encouragement to me by her story and her encouraging words. Also through her, I was priveleged to meet another consultant's wife who is currently battling stomach cancer. Through talking to her I received so much hope from her story. She was given 1 year to live and was told that her type of cancer was aggressive. Here she is, 3 years later and still traveling with her husband and taking care of her family. She encouraged me not to let those terms "aggressive," and "prognosis" mean everything to me because God is the only one holding the timeclock and only He knows how much longer any of us have. She told me that she has set goals and just lives to meet those (which is something my mom told me that she does too). Right after talking to her, we go back into the meeting and what was the scripture that was read...??? In Proverbs (can't remember the exact verse) - Without a vision, you will surely perish. Could that be God encouraging me to continue on with my life and plans while letting Him lead the way? So, I have set some short and long term goals now and plan on seeing them through.
Anyways, we arrived back home on Thursday evening and boy was it nice to be back in the south!!! I came home with a new sense of peace, hope, and encouragement. My soul is refreshed and ready to face a new week. It's amazing what a little time away from it all will do for you.


On another note, I am aware that several people read this blog and would just like to ask if you all would please pray me through the surgery on Monday morning. I'm mostly just nervous about what they are going to find when they test my lymph nodes. Please pray and ask Jesus, the Great Physician, to clear those lymph nodes out so that when they go in, they will be clean and not affected by the cancer. I know that several of my reports have indicated that it is probably already in them, but I also know that Jesus has ultimate say in what the final report says. Also, I was made aware this past week that a new friend (that I have not met, but already feel she's a friend) has been told that her mother-in-law may be facing breast cancer also. She found a mass in her left breast and was to meet with the surgeon last Thursday. I'm not sure what they found out, but I just ask that you would pray for this sweet lady and her family as well.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Timing and Laughter

I went for my PET scan on Thursday which was the test where they looked throughout the body for more cancer. When my mom and I arrived, the first thing I see was an elderly woman with her daughter in the waiting room. I started to get nervous because it appeared that the elderly lady was wearing a hospital gown...IN THE WAITING ROOM! There is NO WAY I was going to do that. Those things are paper thin and don't cover very well. Luckily, it was just the outfit she had chosen to wear that day and it wasn't truly a hospital gown...just a moo-moo. Next, I hear this lady BURP!!! Like really loudly and not just once, but 2-3 times. The chuckling started. I couldn't help myself. After filling out paperwork, I sat down and heard her daughter starting in on her mom. This was the conversation... "Now just cause you have cancer don't mean your dead yet...you gonna have to get outta the house so people know you're not dead." (I know that spelling is wrong but it's the southern accent they spoke with). I could not believe what I was hearing. OK, the chuckling turned into laughter. I could barely drink my contrast because I was afraid they would make me laugh and I would spew it everywhere. It was the funniest waiting room experience I have had...almost. God knew I was nervous so I think he provided me with a little humor. It truly made me think of the old lady on the Hallmark Cards.
Oh, by the way, the PET scan came back showing that everything is cancer free!!!! The only thing that showed up as cancerous were some lymph nodes near the affected breast but the doctor called me and told me that those nodes lighting up could just be from the surgery that I had. The only way to be sure is to go forth with the lymph node testing as scheduled. THANK YOU JESUS THAT NO OTHER ORGANS ARE AFFECTED!!! And please oh please Lord clear those lymph nodes for me!

Now on to timing. God's timing is perfect. I mean, I already knew that in my head, but I truly experienced it yesterday afternoon and felt it in my heart. I went to Wal-mart to get some groceries and literally in the check-out line my heart started to speed up, my anxiety level started rising and I just felt like I needed to get out as soon as possible. After getting in the car, I tried calling David and a few other friends but no one was home so I had to do this on my own. I just started pleading with God to spare my life. To please not take me away from my babies. To please let me live a long long life. By the time I got home, I was seriously in a panic attack about not seeing my babies grow up. I just knew that I was going to die. I sat in my car in the garage for 10 minutes just trying to compose myself before I went into the house, but I couldn't. The devil was just pounding on me so hard. Thank you Lord that my mom was here to speak truths to me and tell me that I am NOT going to die and that I will see my kids grow up. She spoke truths to me about God's love for me and Chloe and Brody. And after spilling out my emotions to her about how scared, angry, and lonely I felt she continued to provide illustrations from the Bible and reminded me of something I had told her when she was diagnosed with cancer and was going through treatments. Little did I know that it would come back to me as encouragement later on. And...here's the kicker to the story. I received a card yesterday from David's cousin. I got it last night and wouldn't you know...the perfect verse for me and my day was in there. Isaiah 40:11 - He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.
God knew what my emotions were going to be on that day before I was ever made. He knew it and orchestrated everything so that that particular card with that particular verse would arrive on that particular day. Hmmm...can we say perfect timing?!?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thank You Sweet Angels...

Although I just posted below, I felt it necessary to write a seperate entry to just thank everyone for their love and support. The cards have blessed my days more than you could ever know. The phone calls and emails have just poured in and beleive me when I say that I have read most of them often and have saved them all. The meals that have been prepared for us have been such a blessing and huge help to our family as that allows us just one less thing to worry about. And the hugs and words of encouragement in person have been such a reflection of God's love.

I could not have asked God for more sweet sweet angels to have been placed in my life than you all. I love you and appreciate each of you even if I don't see you to tell you.

To my church family back in NC, please please please know that your cards have just been the biggest blessing to me. Each one has spoken different truths to me about Jesus which is exactly what I need when the devil tries to put his lies into my life. I receive the cards usually around dinner time which is when it gets dark which in turn is when everything starts to seem a little less positive. Your cards and words lift me up out of that pit though. Thank you from the most inner and sincere part of my being. I love you all!

Praise!

Today I had my second opinion with a surgeon in Nashville. It was with a lady who I am almost positive has been through breast cancer herself, or has taken all precautions against it as she shared with us that she has the breast cancer gene. Anyways, she does most of her surgeries on breast cancer patients to I felt really good going in there.
Anyways, I did gain more information today than I ever knew possible about my type of cancer. It is early stage, although very agressive. Actually, the final staging isn't back yet as we still have to test lymph nodes to get the final word on that. That surgery will be in a few weeks and also at that time a mastectomy will be done. I have decided that this is the best course of action for me as I will not have enough breast tissue left on the affected breast to be able to even have radiation done. If I am unable to do radiation, then my chances of recurrence are 25-50%. She didn't think a radiation oncologist would even consider doing radiation as the mass they took out was so large and the areas of invasion were many. The only way to be confident that this type of cancer is gone without radiation is to have a mastectomy. So, no brainer. Do what I have to do to get rid of the disease. She also did mention that if any lymph nodes come back positive then chemo is a must-have, but that she suspected that it would be needed anyways due to my age, the aggressiveness of the cancer, etc...
I LOVED LOVED LOVED this doctor.
A. it's a female so she "gets it"
B. she spent over an hour with David and me talking in detail about options, pathology reports, etc...
C. she is a specialist in breast cancer surgeries
D. she asked me if I had any questions for her and when I whipped out my list she said that she was glad that I had come prepared with my questions
E. she made me feel like I was her one and only patient and that there was definitly hope for me


So, I will have a PET scan on Thursday to just check my whole body and be sure that there is no other cancer anywhere and then David and I leave for a week to go to Long Beach, CA. YAY!!! (thank you Jesus for some time away from all of this) The surgery will be the following week sometime. It's generally just a one night stay and I will come home with a drain or 2 for a week or more. After all reports are back from the lymph node testing etc... I will meet with the medical oncologist to discuss chemotherapy treatments. Lord willing I will meet with him and he will say that I don't need any at all, but I am prepared to take them if I need them. After that, maybe within a 6 month time frame I will be able to write in my journal that I am cancer free. I just know that God is going to heal me. I have begged and begged to just touch the hem of his garment and be healed like the woman in the Bible was. I feel like everytime I seek him through prayer, scripture, or worship that I am not just touching that hem, but grabbing it and not letting go.

I have hope. I have faith. And there is a lot to be said for those things.
Zaphaniah 3:17 - Your God is present among you; He is mighty to save. Happy to have you back, He will calm you with His love and delight you with His songs.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What Goes DOWN, must come UP!

That's what I am telling myself at least. I'm trying to look at my days as such...when my mood is down and out one day, I'm sure that it will come back up as I look to my family, friends, and most importantly God for my encouragement.

Let me start out with what news I got Friday...there is going to be another surgery to take out some lymph nodes now. My pathology report came back showing some areas where the cancer was starting to work its way outside of the cell wall. Originally it wasn't thought to be doing this, but when they took out the entire mass(es) that's what they found. I was also told that chemo could be a possibility now but that couldn't be said for sure as the oncologist will make that decision. And...when we asked to see the radiation oncologist and medical oncologist at Vanderbilt my doctor told me I would be wasting my time and that I could make a self-referral. Kind of ticked me off that he was so flippant about it as doing my best to save my life is NOT a waste of time. Thankfully we have insurance that doesn't require referrals so it's not really a big deal to do it ourselves.

Now, on to why I say what goes down must come up...

Yesterday was a really bad day for me. I couldn't eat breakfast for the tears that flowed, I couldn't calm the storm in my heart and soul, and I just couldn't feel that I was really going to become a breast cancer SURVIVOR. This lasted most of the day so it was a HARD HARD day that took me by surprise. So far, I have cried my tears in hiding. I don't want my children to see me sad, I don't want David to see me as anything but strong, and I want(ed) everyone else to think that I am handling things beautifully with no worries. Well, cat's out of the bag. I'M NOT! And guess what...I discovered that that makes me normal (okay, okay, no smart comments here please).
A sweet friend called yesterday and reminded me that Jesus gave us the emotions we have so it's okay to feel them. It's okay for me to be sad, angry, and upset. It's also okay to share those feelings with my support system as they were also given to me by God to show His love, and offer His encouragement. I told her that I had just been feeling so broken since my post-op appt on Friday that I hadn't wanted to seek out the Lord through His word, and had barely any energy to even talk to Him. A few hours later, she texted some scripture to me so I reluctantly went to open my Bible and wouldn't you know it, I started reading and then kept on and on and on. My soul was beginning to fill up and God was right there making it happen. I was even reminded of a verse that was my mantra 2 years ago when I was told that I was going to miscarry Chloe. Are you ready for this?!?!? This couldn't be more perfect for me now also. Psalm 112:8- They do not fear bad news but confidently trust the Lord to care for them. Ummm...Hello!!! Can we say that God just spoke to me. No, like really...he spoke right to ME!! He penned those words many many years ago for such a time as this. I felt like He was saying, "Hey Kelly, settle down, take it one day at a time and don't get so worked up about things that only I can control. Just trust me to deal with it for you and you go enjoy those sweet babies of yours!"

So today I woke up feeling great emotionally. I feel revived and ready to go. I'm ready to go to church and spend time praising my God through song and worship and then listen to what He is going to say to me today. Ears are open, heart is open, and I'm ready to take on my day!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Keeping the Focus

Lamentations 3:23 - Great is His faithfulness. His mercies are new every morning.

Aaah, I am finally starting to feel better physically and am getting my strength back. My pain has now turned to more just really bad soreness which is completely tolerable. Makes me feel like I just had a really amazing workout instead of a surgery. Also, my surgical site is healing beautifully and things are looking better up top.
I did find out today that the cancer is all the same type which is a good thing and an answer to prayer. I also found out though that it is a very aggressive type and was also found to be in the margins. However, the doctor did get it all out so praise the Lord for that. I meet with my doctor on Friday for my post-op visit and will discuss everything with him then. Then on Monday I am heading to Nashville for a second opinion as I feel like when your life is at stake, a second opinion is always a good thing to have. Then after that, I'll meet with the oncologists and form a plan. I'm not sure whether I'll need chemo in addition to the radiation now that I know that it's aggressive and I have a higher chance of recurrence, but if I need it, I want it. I want to do whatever it takes to kick this cancer's butt!!! I have 2 babies and a husband to take care of for a long time to come.

When I first found out this new news, my first instinct was to be upset and start worrying about my future again. I felt like the devil had found another "in" so to speak and he was back at attacking me. However, nearly immediately after that, my thoughts were to just focus on the positives and not forget the good things about this...
A. I found it early
B. I have had the tumors removed so they are no longer in there
C. I have been blessed with a new friend at the hospital through all of this
D. I have been humbled by the Lord and shown His love through so many people
E. I have been drawn closer to Him
and many many other blessings have come from this.

Anyways, while I was telling my mother-in-law (and myself) that I was just going to focus on the positives and keep my eyes looking straight ahead and not get down about it, my thoughts came to Peter and the story of Jesus walking on the water. Matthew 14:28-31a. Then Peter called to him, "Lord if it's really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water." "Yes come", Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water towards Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. Jesus reached out immediately and grabbed him.
Although we start out with good intentions, sometimes our faith falters. That does not mean that we have failed though. When Peter reached out to Christ that was a symbol of his faith. He was afraid but he still looked to Jesus for help. That's my goal...to know that fear is okay as long as I still look to Jesus for help. I just have to keep my focus on Him.

1 Peter 4:12 - Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad - for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.