Let’s just say that it has been another doozy of a summer. I wish I could report that everything has been rainbows and unicorns, but let’s admit that’s not reality-- for any of us. Last year at this exact time, I spent four days in the hospital, only to get out and return to an eight day stay for surgery to remove my lower right lung in which they had found two tumors. That surgery and recovery were extremely painful and difficult, and I remember thinking, “I am getting old.” But the reality (besides getting old) is that I had endured nine surgeries in five years and the effects were taking their toll on me. Plus, I beat myself up when I don’t recover and get back to my usual self within one day. One month after the surgery, my cancer blood markers weren’t as low as they should have been, so my oncologist began monitoring my blood levels monthly and scanning me every other month in order to track the cancer that he suspected was growing somewhere in my body. (My blood markers to indicate cancer have been going up by 1-2 points each month). In November I was diagnosed with another condition called Interstitial Cystitis, which I have written about in my blog. It is a painful bladder condition that causes bloating and back pain and much more. (WEB MD has a clear explanation of it). For the past 11 months I have been “chasing cancer” and dealing with symptoms and flare ups due to this IC diagnosis.
Since the end of May I have been having severe migraines along with nausea and vomiting. I went to the doctor to find out the cause and was told this was a flare up of my IC condition and they also found in a scan that my ureter (goes from kidney to bladder) was inflamed and blocked, thus causing my kidney not to drain properly. Due to authorization and insurance woes, this has not yet been addressed (I still am waiting to see the kidney specialist), which means that I endure the pain every day. I also deal with the extreme distress caused by all the phone calls related to insurance, payments, scheduling, and run arounds with people who have no idea what they are doing. One week in July I logged 18 phone calls within 48 hours trying to deal with the urology department and prescriptions. I had at least two days where I seriously thought I was going to implode. Every fiber of my being was in pain and the stress of dealing with incompetence and no results had my head pounding and spinning.
Now wasn’t that a fun and exciting way to begin this blog post? You probably don’t want to read any more! And as you know if you follow me regularly, I try to stay real and raw, and I don’t sugarcoat anything, but there is hope. There is always hope. I have so many people who say to me, “How do you get through this? I could never do it.” Or, “You are so strong, how do you live through the pain and keep going?” These are valid questions and I have come to realize this, from the very beginning of my journey…I have options.
What are my options?
One: I could sleep all day and cry over the pain and my situation and watch Netflix.
Two: I could get angry at God and the world and everyone around me and live in a state of depression and agitation.
Three: I could recognize my situation, do the things I love when I have the strength and energy, and love the people around me with intentionality and purpose. And, pray daily for healing and strength to endure that only comes from God.
Of course I choose option three every single day. Now remember this, I don’t feel great a lot of the time, and there are days that I simply can’t get out of bed due to a migraine or lack of energy. But most days, I give myself rest and grace and then I push through to live and love despite the chronic pain. It actually makes me feel so much better to get out, exercise, shower, and do things instead of lying in bed thinking about the pain and allowing my crazy head to think of all the worst case scenarios out there. I also realize that there are many people who simply cannot get out of bed because their bodies are so broken down and the pain is so bad. But now, while I am able, I choose to do whatever I can to push through.
So yes, this summer has been a doozy. But through the pain, I have so many stories of joy and love. I had my wonderful trip to North Carolina with my boys, seeing great friends, and exploring new places. I have been on beach walks with my family and friends and it never ever gets old that I live twenty minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I have discovered new eateries in town and had lunches and dinners with dear friends. I have laughed and cried with my women’s group each week as we pray together and hold each other up through the hard and good times. I have watched movies and read tons of books. I have been to Celebrations of Life and weddings. I have had my little ones over to swim and eat popsicles in the pool. I had my son Noah home and had special family times just hanging out with all of us around the table, eating or playing games or just talking. And each week, as another migraine hits or I have another round with insurance, I focus on the joy and the gratitude and the life that I still get to live for one more day.
To end this post, I want to share some good news. On Friday I had a thermography scan. It is a different type of scan that doesn’t expose me to radiation, but uses heat/laser to scan the body. The doctor told me that if she hadn’t known my history of all this cancer, that I am one of the healthiest people she has scanned! She did find the kidney and ureter issues, so I still need to get that taken care of. She found a TON of inflammation in my bladder, renal and pelvis area (due to the kidney issues and from all the surgeries), but she found NO cancer anywhere! No masses, no tumors, no cells. She said all my organs look good, my bone density is great, and my immune system is strong. She said it is obvious that I eat well and exercise. That night after the scan, I slept the deepest and strongest in months!
There is hope and I will cling to that. Despite the pain, I will push through, with Jesus as my strength and comfort, because that is the option I choose.