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The wandering way toward a decision

April 1, 2018

When I last wrote, I was waiting to see Dr. G again to talk about further biopsies.

I told her that I am a questioner and I need to be able to understand and justify to myself why I’m making the choices I’m making. Right away, she discussed the differences in what we had originally thought this cancer was (more of the same from last year) and what we had learned it to be (something entirely different.) And while it is good that it’s a less aggressive type, everyone is very concerned that my breast has managed to grow two different cancers in a fairly short period of time. It tells me that there seems to be something fundamentally wrong happening in there.

I asked about the biopsies and she showed me my most recent PET scan and my MRI from August (I don’t have a more recent one.) The PET scan is amazing, by the way. It starts at the top of my head and goes slice by slice down to my legs (not sure exactly where it ends.) She showed me the two spots that are concerning to her. Neither of them are masses per se, which is why another biopsy wouldn’t really be helpful. One of them was kind of a wisp going from the chest muscle up toward the nipple and the other was a little brightness closer to my armpit. The cancer showed up like a glowing little ball, and appeared much deeper/closer to my muscle than I had expected.

Next we went through the old MRI to see if there was any sign of this in August. The scary thing was that there wasn’t. I could understand their recommendations more. We discussed again the lumpectomy option, but you start to get the feeling that if we are leaving glowing spots behind, what else is going to show up? The tumor board was meeting on Friday so she said she would discuss it with them and let me know what they said.

After we met with her, I met the Winship breast cancer nurse navigator. They are people who you can talk to about anything regarding your illness, treatment, emotional and physical issues, family stuff, etc. They even have people who specialize in helping you talk to your kids about cancer. I had met one of these in the fall, but never followed up. I felt like because I wasn’t doing the standard treatment, it wouldn’t be a good fit, but I’m not going to throw the book away this time. We talked about our concerns about the emotional side of this, and she said she would connect me with someone I could talk to.

I left there and text my sister “it seems like mastectomy is the best option”. But then a few hours later, I was looking for information online and kept finding articles about “Why I ignored my doctor’s recommendation and healed my cancer naturally.” I felt really conflicted. I’ve seen my scans with my own eyes. No one is making anything up to sell me a surgery. Yet, maybe I should be trying harder. If other people heal naturally, maybe I should too.

My wise sister again gave me the comparison of our dad’s diabetes. He has had type 1 since he was 4, yet when he became a Christian in his twenties, two times he asked God to heal him from diabetes and quit taking his insulin. He and I talked about it this weekend, and he told me that he had (I’m sure) well meaning friends come in and tell him if he took insulin it would be a sign that he lacked faith. He almost ended up in a coma both times, and could have died. Choosing to take insulin, and therefore to stay alive, does not make him lesser. And having to have surgery, doesn’t make me lesser.

I woke up Friday morning feeling blah again. Dr. G called me first thing and said there wasn’t anything new from the other doctors, but if I wanted an MRI for my own peace of mind, that would be fine. She said to think of any questions I had over the weekend and she’d call back Monday afternoon.

We had a whole free day, but I had no energy and was struggling to think about anything around the house. Jonathan and I sat at the kitchen table and I started crying. I told him, I think somehow it’s not computing that I really have cancer. Maybe if I could get that in my head and my heart, then I could accept the decisions that I have to make. It’s been hard for both of us to process all of this since in every other way, I’m as healthy as I could be. There seemed to be a disconnect in my thinking.

I ate something nourishing, which helped me feel better, and then went on to really get shit done the rest of the day. Something in me must’ve been computing the upcoming surgery, because I nailed down an upholsterer for a sofa that’s been sitting in our garage for months, ordered the fabric online, and picked out paint colors for two rooms that are currently covered in patches of sample colors.

That night we went to the Good Friday service at church. The service was wonderful, but the conversation we had with our pastor afterwards was the beginning of a mindset change. Our pastors have prayed for us frequently throughout this time. Not only do they pray consistently for healing, they also pray for things like agreement among care providers and good sleep in our house. After we prayed, we talked through a lot of these struggles I have.

Re: healing and especially natural healing – just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is the wisest choice. One of the temptations put to Jesus was to jump off the temple because surely the angels would save him. This was possible. Jesus would not have fallen to his death. But what would have been the point? To prove he could? It wouldn’t have been a wise use of his power. Choosing not to make use of the medical options available would not be wise for me. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

During our conversation, I referenced some of these articles I’d seen and then immediately remembered that I need to be aware of the lies that are coming into my head. When I was diagnosed with PPD, this was a powerful lesson a friend shared with me, but I guess I’d forgotten. I don’t even know if you have to believe in an evil being in the world to believe this, but there are messages that come into our minds that are not true, and if you believe in the devil, you know his goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. Some of the lies I was hearing during the depression were things like, you should be strong enough to fix this, if you had it more together you wouldn’t be in this mess, taking medicine is bad/not trusting God, etc… Depression was stealing my life at that point. It was trying to destroy me and in turn destroy my family. If I had believed those lies and not gotten help (and it takes more than medicine to get well), we could have lost a lot. I need to pay more attention to the voices I’m hearing and see if they are truth or not. And healing naturally might be truth, but that doesn’t mean it’s my truth.

Another good point from that conversation was that when it comes to something like this, our emotions aren’t always going to be in agreement with our minds. Sometimes we have to let our minds lead. And along those same lines, when we are in the midst of a struggle, we often can’t see clearly. This is when we need to rely on those people around us that know us, love us, and that we trust. This is also something I had learned in a sharp way recently, but had forgotten.

Over the past school year, Jonathan had frequently commented that he regretted not signing the girls up for more days of school. It would have been really helpful, especially with all the appointments I had in the fall. I really struggled with this though. I think that sending your kids to preschool or not reflects more on the mom than on the dad (even though it shouldn’t.) Preschool wasn’t a thing when I was growing up, and a lot of people, especially ones like me who don’t work full time, don’t send their kids off when they are little. I was judging myself on whether I could spend all day every day at home with them or not. A spot opened up in Elin’s class a few months ago, and I talked to someone about whether we should take it. I don’t remember who it was, but they recommended that I just trust Jonathan on this one. The spot ended up going to someone on a wait list, but it had made me work through trusting him on a decision that I couldn’t make myself or agree with him on. He is the father of our children. He spends more time with them than most dads are able to. He knows me. He sees how our house runs (or doesn’t.) I trust him in every other way. I need to stop trying to control everything, and just trust his decision on this.

So here we are again, faced with decisions that I can’t bring myself to make. Realizing that I may just have to trust those around me when my eyes can’t see clearly. It became clear in that conversation what those specific loved ones felt like I should do. I don’t actually have anyone in my group I trust, medical or personal, telling me this is a bad idea, which should give me a lot of comfort. Our pastor prayed that I would have peace and be able to reach a decision long before the next Friday deadline Dr. G had given me.

The next morning we went to an Easter egg hunt at church, and I said, for the first time, I’m going to get a mastectomy. Then I came home and we talked to my parents more. I felt like we were all coming to a place of acceptance which helped me.

I also realized one of my most fundamental hangups with this. I have always been one to wonder what things are really supposed to be like. How did God intend our societies to exist? What should the world be like? It’s so broken right now. So much sickness, greed, poverty, loneliness, isolation. None of this is how it should be. I hear about people getting cancer and just wonder, what was wrong in their environment? How could this happen? Something must’ve happened. Must’ve gone wrong. Yet it keeps happening. Even when people live healthy lives, they can still get cancer and die. It’s been happening through all of time. Our world is broken and we are part of it. Sadly, sickness is part of that. Denying the reality of that doesn’t do me any good. Saying that cancer is awful and wrong doesn’t change the reality that it is growing in my body. This thought is so fresh that I’m still working through it.

So here we are. It’s Sunday night. I had a few more conversations today that each fit a different little piece into the puzzle of all of this. One friend shared her story of having to go medical after a lifetime of natural, and the realization that it was no longer just about her anymore. There were two kids and a husband who factored into things. Another, the wife of a man who would be dead right now without drastic medical interventions, reminded me that God does not give us a spirit of confusion, and that we have to make the best decision we can with the information we’ve been given.

I still struggle to say that I’m going to have a mastectomy, but I’m going to call the doctor in the morning and schedule it. I believe that in the short term, this decision sucks. It’s going to be painful. I’m going to be sad to lose my breast. But long term, I believe it will provide the best outcome for me and for my family.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Hilary Galt permalink
    April 1, 2018 23:03

    Following, loving, praying

  2. Karen E permalink
    April 2, 2018 05:20

    Will have you on my mind, and in my prayers.
    Praying for peace, strength and healing…
    Much love!

  3. Andy Zimmerman permalink
    April 2, 2018 15:11

    I really understand your struggle, Grace, as I have worked though my own issues treating the cancer in my life. One point you touched upon; Jesus tells us we are not to put our Lord, God, to the test. He has established the natural laws that govern His creation and that includes giving us great minds to develop the great medical system we are blessed to have. Compare what we have to what exists in Vietnam. God works through people to achieve His plans. We have to learn to trust the learned professionals he sends our way, once we have verified they are trustworthy individuals.

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