I've always believed that God doesn't give you anything you can't handle. But I didn't think I could handle more cancer. Yesterday I received the awful call from my doctor that the Hodgkin's had returned. Two weeks ago I had my follow-up PET scan after my last chemo treatment and I met with my doctor a few days later. His face said it all when he walked in the room. He explained to me that a lymph node on my esophagus which had decreased in size during my PET scan in November, had now increased in size and had significantly increased metabolic activity--which they believed to be a recurrence of the Hodgkin's. As I burst into tears, he told me that they had treatment plans in place which included additional chemo and a stem cell transplant. I tried to listen but was so overwhelmed. He then told me that it was a possibility that the cancer wasn't back, but it was just inflammation or another disease that presented itself as cancer. I grasped on to that piece of hope and prayed that it was true.
My life was a whirlwind for the next few hours. I had to immediately meet with a thoracic surgeon because I needed to have surgery and a biopsy to determine if it was in fact cancer. And I had to get all of my medical files and slides to take to the stem cell transplant doctor. Then I was told I needed to go to Westchester, NY to meet with a fertility specialist because the additional chemo is harder, stronger, more aggressive and would leave me infertile. All of this in one day. As I ran around the city trying to get from one appt to the next, I was in a cloud, not truly believing that this was happening--again. My thoughts and feelings from that July day when I was first diagnosed all came rushing back. Why me?? What did I do wrong? Why won't this cancer die? Of course I had worried about it coming back but I never dreamed it would actually happen. This is one of the most treatable cancers and yet mine wouldn't go away. My doctor told me this was not what he expected but he explained that sometimes some of the cancer cells grow resistant to the first type of chemo and they don't die completely. Like an ant you may think you kill when you step on it, it could still wriggle around and come back to life.
So I had surgery this past Monday and my parents came into town to be there when I came out of the anesthesia. The surgeons had to use a giant robot and video camera to go into my chest through my ribs to grab the tissue from my esophagus. So when I woke up I was in a lot of pain and had a tube coming from my rib cage to drain blood. It wasn't pretty and I felt much worse than I thought I would. It was pretty serious surgery and I had to spend the night in the hospital. Thankfully, I was blessed to have a private room and my parents were able to spend the night with me there. My friends were also there to lift my spirits.
When I told my roommates that I might have cancer again I told them I didn't think I was strong enough to go through it again and my roommate Renee said, "of course you are, if anyone is, you are". But I didn't feel strong. Frankly I wanted to give up, go far far away somewhere where I could get away from this awful disease that won't go away. But I can't. It's in my body and I have to fight against it. I think one of the most annoying things is that I feel fine. No symptoms, no sickness, I didn't even catch a cold this winter when everyone around me in my office was coughing and blowing their nose! If I didn't have the PET scan and the biopsy as proof, I wouldn't even believe that I was sick. Now that I know the truth, I have to dig deep inside me and find the strength to fight again. Hebrews 10:25-36 says, "So do not lose the courage you had in the past, which has a great reward. You must hold on, so you can do what God wants and receive what he has promised." So I have to hold on, I have to fight, so I can finally be healed--for good.
Ross is coming to town on Saturday and I cannot wait to see him. There are a lot of decisions we have to make and I'm glad we can make them together. I prayed so hard for healing and that my biopsy would be negative for Hodgkin's, so it was disappointing to hear that it wasn't but I know that God will answer my prayers, it just may take a little longer to get there.