Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Holding Pattern

I've wrestled with what to write for weeks, since they first found swollen lymph nodes under my right arm. Even now, with uncertainty still hanging over me, I wasn't sure what -- or if -- I should write.

I've shed a lot of tears, and most of the them haven't been about the physical challenges I'm facing. It's about the losses others might see as small, but which have overwhelmed me.

It's the loss of personal space and dignity when complete strangers must become more familiar with my body than I'm comfortable with, and the prayer that they'll treat me with respect and compassion as they do their jobs.

It's the giving up of dreams.

I was so honored that our son and daughter-in-law asked me to come out and help when their second child is born, thrilled for the chance to meet a newborn grandchild since we were overseas when all the others were born. Their first child was 15 months old when we finally met her in person. So this was a pretty big deal for me, and realizing it wasn't going to be feasible broke my heart.

Ivan and I had dared to start dreaming of taking a much needed, long break, to set off cross country with no agenda. We talked of places we'd like to go, things we'd like to see. At this point that isn't even a remote possibility.

It's the ongoing uncertainty. I'm the kind of person who likes to know what I need to do, and just get it done. Remaining in a holding pattern for weeks on end is getting to me.

Then I read in today's devotional:
This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete. As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into my care.
You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence. The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes. Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you.

I saw the surgeon a week ago, to go over the pathology report from the biopsy of the lymph nodes (that came after a CT scan, mammogram and two ultrasounds). I didn't get a straight answer because they had simply designated it as "malignancy with an unknown origin". He did say the report leaned toward breast cancer, but admitted he couldn't understand everything in the report since he's not an oncologist.

So this week I saw an oncologist, who believes I do have breast cancer. But they can't be sure it isn't in other places too, so I'll be having three MRIs and a full body PET scan this coming week. My prognosis might be really good if it's just breast cancer, because it is, apparently, a very treatable kind. But my pessimistic mind takes me to the dark places...which is why I need to hold fast to the truth that my security is in Him, and no one and no circumstance can take that from me.

The oncologist wouldn't go over possible treatment options until we get all the scan results back. He said that would be putting the cart before the horse. So more waiting, still stuck in a holding pattern.

I have some pretty strong opinions about not going to extreme measures to extend my life, if that life is going to be filled with poor health, pain and horrible side effects. Having just read "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande, I'm more convinced than ever that too often we chase after the elusive "cure" long after it's obviously futile, to the detriment of our quality of life.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to medical treatment. I definitely want this cancer cut out of my body! And I'm open to treatments that can help cure me. But I balk at extreme measures that only extend life by weeks or months, and leave the patient suffering horribly until the end. On the other hand, I've gotten encouraging messages from friends and family who have weathered the C storm and survived. I'd like to be able to send someone that kind of message one day.

It's a lot to process and I can only take it one day at a time, leaning on Him, trusting in Him to guide me through the journey. I have to know that He's walking ahead of me, leading the way. I'm grateful for the people in my life who are supportive, encouraging and willing to help in different ways.

This isn't going to become a blog that's all about cancer. Not at all. In fact, I'm really looking forward to sharing my latest quilting project: a baby quilt for that next grandchild, due in April. It's been my most challenging quilt to date (to design, not sew). Time and energy have kept me from finishing it as fast as I'd like, but it is moving along. Once it's done and delivered, I'll share pictures. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to the design? Hint: they asked for a space theme!