Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yes, I am Blogging at 4 AM

So technically its 4:33 AM on Sunday morning and yes, I am sitting here awake and alone in the living room instead of in the bed soundly sleeping with my husband. Unfortunately I have some sort of nasty respiratory infection that keeps me coughing and is making it hard to breathe while laying down. Not to mention the night sweats that are oh so disturbing. Praying the antibiotic will kick in soon and start healing these lungs right up. And as for the cough syrup the doctor prescribed, lets just say it works. And...Other than this infection, the bone pain, muscle aches, and nausea from chemo the other day is GONE!!!!! Praise Jesus!!!!! I can certainly handle 3 days of yuck feeling after chemo each time knowing that after those 3 days I will have 18 to feel fabulous with my family!
Anyways, the real reason for the post...Stephanie...the gal I mentioned in the last journal entry very briefly. Here's the story. When we were leaving Seattle last Wednesday, David went over to grab us lunch while I took the kids to potty and then on to the gate to wait. When we got to our gate, the area was ridiculously full so we just stood by the agent desk and figured we wouldn't have seats. No big deal at all. Then for some reason, Chloe and Brody started walking into the crowded waiting area and spotted a table for kids in the middle that had 4 seats and only 2 little girls were at it. We headed over there and immediately I was drawn to the mom. She was young, had a bandana around her head, was obviously bald, and I assumed it was due to chemo from breast cancer (it helped that the bandana has pink ribbons all over it). Usually, I do NOT strike up conversation with a total stranger about breast cancer but this mom looked so sad and tired and I thought that if I could just offer her a few words of encouragement that maybe it would help.
I started the conversation by just asking if she was currently in treatment for breast cancer. She sweetly said that she was and then I proceeded to tell her that I too had had breast cancer. Her eyes grew wide and a smile crossed her face, and inside I could feel the Lord saying keep talking to her. We asked each other the normal survivor questions, and found that our cancers were quite different. She originally was a stage 2, I was a stage 3. Her cancer was triple negative (meaning non-hormonal, non aggressive), mine was triple positive (hormone related and aggressive), yet despite these differences, there were so many commonalities. We both had the same chemo treatments, same radiation, and same surgeries, both were 31 at diagnosis, both have pre-school age children...her twin girls were 2 at her diagnosis and are 4 now (and ADORABLE!!!) Her husband is in the ARMY and was able to take on the role of a recruiter so that he could be home and non-deployable while Stephanie was sick. And she said that her family also lived out of state like ours do.
I then asked a question that made me want to puke...like really puke. I asked her why she was still in treatment since it had been 2 years. I knew the answer already, but she seemed to want to keep talking. Her story is heartbreaking. Stephanie was diagnosed in December 2009. She had her surgeries in February 2010 and started chemo the next month. She did the same grueling chemo that I did for 5 months followed by 6 weeks of radiation. She finished all treatments in October that year and her oncologist told her he would see her back in 6 months. A few weeks passed and she got pneumonia...well, they thought it was pneumonia. No one ever did an x-ray to really see, but instead just put her on 5 different rounds of antibiotics because it wasn't clearing up. In the mean-time, she told me that she had a followup visit with her neurologist for migraine headaches...she had been having them since she was 12 so this was a routine check-up. She mentioned the un-resolved pneumonia to him and he immediately ordered a chest xray to be done that day.
You know how this story is going to go, right? Chest x-ray showed several spots on her lungs. Next step was a PET scan to check the rest of her body for metastasis...the cancer had already spread to not only her lungs, but to her spine, brain, and abdomen. At this point of her story, I felt the Lord telling me to tell Stephanie that I would pray for her, but I felt like at this point it would sound so cliche...especially since we are perfect strangers. I waited and let her keep talking. She told me about the radiation she was taking for the spots on her spine, the new chemo she was taking and how it was just attacking her blood counts ferociously. She spoke with such strength and resolve yet there was something lacking...
Eventually, they called her flight to begin boarding so she and her husband started gathering their bags and getting their girls ready. They were off to New Hampshire, where they live, so that she could get treatment the next day. I don't know what possessed me except to say it was the Holy Spirit's urging, but I asked her name and told her that I was going to put her in my prayer journal and pray for her. I'm not kidding when I say that her eyes grew wide, a smile crossed her face, and she got a little teary eyed. All she could manage was "I'm Stephanie and thank you so much!" I hate that we didn't have time to exchange emails or phone numbers, yet I also feel like God may have been protecting my heart... the heart that hasn't fully healed from Kate's death. I think that our encounter in the airport was all that she and I were meant to have yet I will keep praying for her daily. I love how the Lord just puts people in your life for seasons that can last only 45 minutes or can last for 10 years. This short season with Stephanie will not be forgotten for a long time to come.

I guess I just want to end with this. It's simple. Get this dear friends. It's simple. You think you have to evangelize and tell the whole story of God, Jesus, and salvation in order to feel like you have witnessed to someone. However, many many times, it's as simple as listening, sharing your story, and offering words of encouragement. It can be just telling someone you are going to pray for them (and then doing it) or it can be as easy as showing someone an act of kindness.
This sweet girl reminded me of a few things:
1. life is short so embrace each day with as much energy as you can...even on treatment days if the only energy I have is to hug my kids and husband while I am laying in bed, then so be it, but do it with as much love as possible.
2. be grateful and praise God in every situation. The trials in life that we go through are not just pointless, they are to build us up to do even greater things for the Kingdom.
3. and finally, never be afraid to follow the Holy Spirit's leading or urgings. You can't go wrong if you do.

I'm sad that I won't be able to update on Stephanie, but I really do feel like this is just how God is choosing to protect my heart at this point. I know she was trying to get into some clinical trials in Boston to try some new chemo there. Even though we won't be able to follow her story, please join me in praying for her, her little girls Izzy and Addie, and her husband.

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