Greetings friends and family,
Kim is driving us home from Nashville. We have been occasionally bringing one of our kids along with us so they can get an idea of what we experience on our trips, and this time we brought along our Sam, Samantha, whom I call Summer.
Thanks to my dear mother (thanks Mimi!), who helps us afford these biweekly trips, our visits to Nashville aren’t 100% about cancer; we typically stay in a nice hotel, have a pleasant dinner, and usually have time for a fun breakfast before we go to the clinic. So we did all of that, except that I had a CT scan at 8am prior to breakfast at the Pancake Pantry.
We went to my appointment at 10:30, first setting Sam up in the pretty atrium of the adjoining hospital. Our doctor was out of town, so we met with her physician’s assistant, who delivered the “good news” and the “worrisome news.” Here’s the gist of it: the primary tumor that we’ve been tracking showed additional shrinkage. This is very good news, and I think I’m experiencing some improved symptoms as a result. However, they found a “new left upper quadrant reticular nodular infiltrate within the intraperitoneal fat/omentum and new trace ascites worrisome for early carcinomatosis.” Huh? As I write that, half of those words are underlined in red squiggles, so not even this dictionary understands these word, so my dazed, initial response was, “are they saying I’m fat?”
You health professionals out there, I’m sure, know what this report is saying, but in layman’s terms, it means there is a small, suspicious spot, surrounded by a little fluid, in or near the wall of my upper left abdomen. O….K…. Gulp.
Now, keep in mind, we were aware of the cancer seeding in my abdominal wall, so this wouldn’t exactly be new disease, if that is, in fact, what it is. But these unknown and complicated terms didn’t stop me from doing a few Google searches. Please don’t do that. Upon reading a few articles, I read a particularly discouraging one, and l experienced a small panic attack that lead to an unsteady walk from the waiting room to the treatment chair.
Suffice to say, I won’t be rid of my need to live by faith any time soon!
In my chair, awaiting the infusion drugs that will, hopefully, continue to work against my cancer, I read over and over the CT scan report. After all of the specific details, there are 2 short sentences that summarize the findings. Point 1 offers the promising news, while point 2 required a refill for my anti-anxiety medicine. This is just the cold data that the powerful machines, for which I’m obviously very grateful, provide, though it’s strange that radiologists seem comfortable with words like “worrisome” and “suspicious”, but I don’t remember ever reading words like “encouraging.”
So it was left to my wife and my infusion nurse to provide some larger, more hopeful perspective. Kim, before taking Sam around Nashville, reminded me of the words of wisdom, no, truth, that was given to this weak worrier back in 2013 by a friend who was visiting me in the hospital after my initial surgery: “the doctors do what they do and the people of God do what we do. And we pray. And continue to pray.”
After Kim had left, I shared with my nurse, Kelly, about the scan results. She first essentially gave me the standard, not-so-helpful comment about “not worrying about it” (!), but then she added something along the lines of “the medical people do what they do and praying people do what they do.”
She had my attention.
She shared with me what she considers to be a miraculous story about a friend of hers who has survived 10 years with stage IV breast cancer against all odds. It was deeply personal to her and undoubtedly one that showed the hand of God, but it didn’t hit me particularly hard. But, upon returning to her tasks, she left me with, “God’s not done with you yet.”
If I nearly fainted upon hearing the latest news and reading about “median survival rates” from an internet article, I can best describe what I felt then as a surge of faith as I fought back tears and remembered God’s mercy to me, not just these past four years, but my entire life. God’s been with me, and He’s not through with me.
To all my friends and family, near and far, who are hurting or lost, I wish for you to hear those words, too. I wish we could make a pact with each other that we won’t give up on ourselves or each other. God’s not through with us. Let’s help each other make this time worthwhile.
Note: the featured image is of Summer (Sam) and me in the gorgeous lobby of the Union Station Hotel in Nashville.