Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Showing People Who Can

Before I started chemo, but geared up to Fight Like a Girl!
Funny to see myself with eyebrows and eyelashes.
(Photo cred. Neely Jacobson Photography)

Since everyone who reads this blog has not been with me since the beginning of this Cancer journey I feel it is important to recap the logistics of my diagnosis, so the news I have to report is all the more amazing. In November 2012 I had a surgery to remove a mass on my right ovary. During the surgery the doctor found the mass to be a lot more involved then anticipated, and when I awoke from a surgery that was intended only to remove a portion of my ovary I learned my Fallopian tubes, right ovary and 3/4 of my left ovary had been taken due to what the doctor had discovered was not just a mass but a Cancerous tumor. We were not given much time to process the information before our first meeting with my Oncologist on 11/30/2012. Even though our world came crashing a down a little  that day after being told "you can die from this" and given an explanation regarding the serious threat Ovarian Cancer poses to many vital organs, our faith told us everything was going to be alright despite many things that seemed very wrong. 

I was immediately scheduled for a surgery on 12/10/12, and afterwards we were informed how advanced the Cancer had become. During the procedure I had a complete hysterectomy as it was determined Cancer had spread from right ovary and "splattered" all over my uterus, remaining ovary, and surrounding area. In addition the Cancer had metastasized and formed into a significant sized mass near my bowels, and  Cancer cells were found floating in stomach fluid pulled during the surgery. As a result of the destructive metastization, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer, the highest on the widely accepted Cancer staging scale and therefore most despairing classification of one's Cancer.

While I was in the hospital recovering from a very invasive and extensive surgery a question was posed to me on the "Teal for Tarah" Facebook page set up by our church.  The question came from the mother of a child in my parent's church. As children do, she asked questions without a filter, which I am always happy to oblige no matter the age of the inquirer. Bottom line, she wanted to know why God had allowed me to get sick. I remember pondering over a response as I laid awake in my hospital bed dependent on others to assist me with basic human functioning and inconvenienced by many lines and tubes extended out from my body. Even after eighteen difficult rounds of chemo, the sacrifice of my ability to ever have biological children, and the trauma and difficulty induced by battling a life threatening disease I still believe the words in my response from that night. From my hospital bed I wrote "Tell her God did not make me sick, but will make me well again someday. Make sure she knows Cancer is not from God, but sometimes when Cancer appears God finds ways to use it. He uses it to draw the sick closer to Him, uses it to make people stronger for Him, and uses it show others how real He is". 

The battle has tested my faith and will to fight, and despite maintaining a close relationship with God it had me question IF He could or would heal me.  Prayer, letters, God's word, and personal words of encouragement have helped me maintain the faith. While writing this blog entry I am reminded of a letter alerting me to the faith held by many who don't know me, but still believe in Jesus's ability to heal me. A friend of my husband told me she had felt led to share my story with her congregation in Owasso, OK. Reportedly after sharing the story an elder of the church came to the pulpit and prayed for my healing with "boldness". In addition he shared the Bible story found in Mark where the father of a demon possessed boy asked Jesus, "IF you can heal my son?". Jesus replied, " IF I CAN?" and then the man asked Jesus to help him with his unbelief. 

Although this is not the end of my Cancer journey, and may not mean complete healing I received a letter in the mail affirming this Bible story shared on my behalf. My tumor indicators are done to a "1" a number which was at "140" even after the surgery which removed growing Cancer tumors. A 1-35 is in the normal category. A 1, for now, means healing, it means Jesus CAN, it means with the help of a heavenly father and many who have supported me I kept up the good fight, and showed Ovarian Cancer what it means to FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Life's a Mystery

I have had catscans to check for any signs of Cancer since completing my aggressive chemo regiment. Despite more phone calls then I can count I still do not have conclusive results, and I have left all the messages for the doctor that they will allow for now, and so I continue to wait.

Life is filled with mystery, and being the intelligent, sometimes considered  analytic, and compassionate creation we are as human beings we often seek to understand things that are not intended to be within our understanding. Since being diagnosed with an aggressive form of Ovarian Cancer I have resisted asking the question why, but lately the temptation to understand has been a lot more captivating. As doctor's bills begin to pour in and I am no longer regulated by such an intrusive chemo schedule I am left with a lot more questions then I had when I began this journey. Questions about if Cancer will ever return, what does God want me to do with the life I've been given, and will I continue to appreciate things as I longed to do while I was so sick and helpless. I don't feel like my faith has weakened, but maybe I could compare this transitional time with the darkness experienced with the recent Oklahoma tornadoes that has impacted many across the nation. There is so much destruction, so much doubt and sadness, but through it all there is light. There is light in those who have chosen to give, serve, and reach out to those affected and light experienced by the growth that happens in the midst of tragedy.

With the tornadoes, and for me my Cancer diagnosis, there are many questions and lots of why's that can only be directed by a God who is in control of it all. To quote something my husband said about his childhood following his father's death from Melanoma he stated, " I never lost faith that God was real, that He was alive, and that He cared about my family. I thought to myself many nights if God is not all that we as Christians believe Him to be we are in more trouble then we appear to be in, someone better be driving this train!"

The blessing in it all is that God is everything we believe Him to be. He is directing this train of life even when we are burdened with more questions and sorrow then we care to be bombarded with, and still when we feel so blessed we feel the need to shout it from every social media outlet we have access to.  My husband is the king of analogies, and one of my favorites he has shared with me is that life is like a football game. If you knew you were going to win every time there would be no motivation or intrigue to suit up and play. Sometimes the game will bring hurt and sadness, but other times it brings such joy you want to shout from the rooftops. Because life is a journey and mystery we are captivated by it, and I am thankful to be captivated by a God who is good to those who choose Him even when life feels a little too mysterious.