Part of the reason I write is for personal clarification. It is so much easier to sort out what is going on in my heart and head when I put it on paper. Another reason is so that my friends and family will be kept up to date with new information and know how best to pray for us. The last reason I write and post these blogs is so that, in the future, maybe some dear soul who is dealing with the same thing I am dealing with now will know what to expect and will take comfort in knowing that someone has gone through it ahead of them. This blog is especially for that last group; to let you know that in these situations, feeling out of control is pretty normal.
It's been a crazy couple of weeks. Beginning with the week leading up to my scans (I have a friend who calls it "scanxiety,"). On Thursday I went to the Dr. and was told to start the low iodine diet the next day. Friday through Sunday were ok, but I kept forgetting that I was on that stupid diet. I didn't eat anything I shouldn't, but I would be cooking and thinking, "Oh, this is going to taste so good!" and then suddenly remember that no matter how good it turned out, I couldn't eat it. I think mostly this was because I didn't expect to jump into diets and scans so immediately after my appointment. I thought I would have a couple weeks to prepare and plan my meals, but I didn't. I am thankful that I had already found a staple meal that I enjoyed (when I was on the diet the first time), so I just went back to that for the week. There was also a lot of explaining how my appointment went to tons of people. And telling everyone that you've had an appointment and you're doing something new, but there really isn't any news yet is kind of frustrating. Friends and family want progress, and the waiting can be as hard on them (though in a different way) as it is on me. It's been almost a year since my surgeries, and that's a long time to have few "real" answers.
By Monday I thought I had everything under control. I had decided I was just going to get this week over and be done, and that I would be fine. Funny thing is, you can't just decide stuff like that. I still had anxiety. I just refused to think about it! So I had to go get a shot on Monday. I didn't think it would be a big deal, as often as I have had blood draws and IVs over the past year. In my mind, I would sit in the little chair, lay my arm on the flat armrest and have it done. I was a little nervous that the medicine might burn going in, but other than that, I was ok. Then the nurse came in and told me the shot had to go in my backside. Don't ask me why this freaked me out, but it did. I don't think I've had a shot back there since I was a little girl getting tubes put in my ears. I think mostly it was just that, once again, I was unprepared for what I had to do. But I'm a big girl, and a little needle isn't going to get the best of me! So I forced my body to relax as I awkwardly waited for the shot. The medicine didn't burn a bit. And that's about the only thing I had time to think before I started to black out. The room was spinning, everything was black, and, even though I could hear the nurse talking, I could not understand what she was saying, much less follow her instructions. I was holding onto the table I had been leaning over for dear life. She had to pull a chair up behind me and force me back into it. Finally my head started to clear. I felt foolish and weak and (as is normal for me when I pass out), I was very emotional. I cried a little bit to the nurse. Then on my way home I called my husband, my mom, and a couple of my closest friends and I cried then too. Poor Caryn got the full deluge of my emotions. Fears I didn't even know I had came pouring out and I cried and cried.
I learned that day (once again) that it's ok to fear. I know I cannot live in fear, but fear is very real, and needs to be faced. I cannot overcome it on my own...but if I don't acknowledge it, then I cannot even allow the peace of God to cover it. I found things I didn't know were hiding in my heart, and I'm thankful for that day. I also had to promise everyone that I wouldn't go alone to the rest of my appointments that week!
Tuesday, I had to get another shot and my sister-in-law went with me. It was very uneventful (I knew what to expect this time!), but she and I had a very nice trip to Murfreesboro and back. It gave us rare, kid-free conversation! That night, I left work early. I had started feeling dizzy after the second shot, and I was too weak to keep up with production. I was hoping I would be able to come back after my scan Friday morning, since I would be able to take my medicine and eat "real food" once the scan was done.
Wednesday, I had a few appointments. I had to get blood drawn, register with the hospital for my scan at the end of the week, and meet with my surgeon for a check-up. My mom and my daughter went with me. We stopped to pick up my dad for lunch between appointments. We went to IHOP and I had a bowl of mixed fruit. I don't like honeydew.
The appointments were mostly, "hurry up and wait." The actual "doing" didn't take long at all. I did have an informative visit with my surgeon. He confirmed that half of my vocal chords still have absolutely no movement, but that the other half is compensating well. He said singers have the most success in this type of situation, so (once again) I am thankful for all the years of singing that have trained my vocal cords to stretch beyond what they would normally do.
Thursday, I was able to just stay home. I still wasn't back to work, and it was nice to have a day with my family where I didn't go anywhere at all. But the next day I had my scan, and as much as I smiled and loved on my kids and just took time to be close to my family, underneath it all there was a little knot in my stomach over the upcoming scan.
Friday came soon enough. A dear friend was able to ride with me to the hospital. The scan it's self was easy. Lay on a table for about 20 minutes while you get moved slowly through a huge machine. I think I dozed off for a few minutes somewhere in there (it's best to keep your eyes closed, since the machine is a very few inches from your face, which can make you feel claustrophobic). Then they have the radiologist take a preliminary look at the results before they let you go. Unfortunately for me, the radioactive iodine hadn't moved through my system as completely as they needed it to, so they asked me to come back the next morning for another scan. So much for going in to work on Friday!
Saturday came and my sister rode with me this time. Since it was the weekend, the area of the hospital that we needed to go to was next to empty. They didn't have to scan the lower third of my body this time, so that knocked a few minutes off of the time I was in the machine. That day I was more nervous than the day before; having to come back for anther scan wasn't sitting well with me. But finally we were done, and then my sister and I went out for a wonderful brunch! I ate an omelet stuffed with all sorts of meat and cheese. My stomach was upset later from the sudden change in diet after such bland food for a week, but it was SO worth it!
Now all we had to do was wait for the results. I went back to work on Monday. My mom made arrangements to go with me for the results, which would be Thursday. Brad and I didn't talk about it much that week, but it was weighing on both of us. He would randomly ask me if I was ok. And, slowly, I became ok. As I prepared myself for Thursday, I was given a strength and peace that had been missing. On Thursday I was ready for anything. Brad called me before I left the house to pray with me. We both began to cry, but I was able to honestly pray, "not my will, but Yours." I cannot say that at that moment I knew that the cancer wasn't totally gone, but I can say that I was completely prepared for bad news. There is a reason it's called, "peace that passes understanding." I still don't understand how I can face this illness and not have constant worry or pain or anger or fear or sorrow. But the peace is there. I'm not saying the other feelings are never around, of course. Just that...God wins. I trust Him and whatever He has planned for me.
So now we just have to decide what we're going to do about the remaining cancer. I'm still up in the air about it. At first, it made sense to go through with another round of radiation. And maybe that IS the best course. I'm just not as sure about it as I was. The oncologist suggested that course, and it is the easiest, fasted route to take. But I scheduled an appointment with my surgeon for the same day as I meet with my general practitioner, early next month. I feel like I need perspectives from both of them before I decide for sure what to do. My other option would be to have more scans done before we proceed with any treatment, just to be sure we know exactly where the cancer is, how big it is, and anything else that is currently unknown. So please pray for wisdom in this area.
After my results on Thursday, I wanted to be close to my family. And my birthday was on Saturday. So we went to a matinee showing of Man of Steel, then came home to a huge birthday party with my entire family at my house. On Sunday we went to my parents' house after church for lunch and didn't end up coming home until around 10. I loved spending time with everyone, but it made for a very busy weekend. Monday was a more physical day at work than usual, and on Tuesday I finally crashed. The heat and emotional roller coaster of the last two weeks, topped by the (wonderful, yet) busy weekend all finally caught up to me. I didn't do much of anything yesterday, and the rest was very good for me. Even now, I'm worn out, but I'm much better than I was yesterday. Brad is in a very similar state. This is another way you can pray for us; that we would get the rest we need and that we would recover quickly from this draining experience.
I hope reading this is helpful to someone. Even if what you're facing isn't cancer, there is a natural process to dealing with trauma, and it's fine to go through that process. It's normal, and it doesn't mean you're weak or have no faith. You need to mourn loss, you need to acknowledge fear. But remember not to live in those low spots. Pray for strength and peace, and share your concerns with someone who will pray for you and with you. Then lean on the One who gives you every breath and know that He is in control.