Friday, December 14, 2007

Because of Cancer... Results Day

Today is results day. We wake. Getting out of bed on any other cold, dark December morning is difficult enough. Today, it is torture. Brian gets ready. I get ready. We eat breakfast. We act normal. Brian goes 45 minutes before his appointment time to get blood drawn. “Meet you there.” Blood. On Monday at his MRI, they had to have 3 different people poke him to try to find a vein. That hasn’t happened in years. What does that mean? Is chemo taking over his blood now? Great, another test result we have to analyze and account for when making decisions on what to do next. Jan, Brian's mom, comes over. I leave her a note with the bus pick up time. She will feed the boys and get Gavin on the bus, awaiting my return home with news. What news? It’s all any of us think about.

The whole drive I fight back the wandering thoughts going to the worst places of my mind. I audibly tell myself to stop and remind myself of God’s provision in my life. I have a conversation with God and I hear Him remind me that He is the Same in good times and bad. Will I praise Him in the good times but renounce Him in the bad? He loves me even when I am hurting, probably even more. The same way I feel more love and compassion flowing from me when my child is hurt by something that I want to protect them from, but that they will learn and grow from. I am reminded not to worry just as the lilies of the field do not worry and the sparrows do not worry; yet God provides for their needs. Am I not more important than they? Then I remember countries where people do not have enough food to get through a day. I remember people who just lost their loved ones to lunatic shootings in malls and churches and how December will be a painful month for them forever. I feel blessed. I pray for them. I feel peace surround me. Then I feel it leave again as I approach the building.

I drive up to the building – Oncology and Hematology Associates. I focus on that part of the sign and not Comprehensive Cancer Center of Central Illinois. For some strange reason, I can tolerate the word oncology, unlike cancer and tumor.

I come in after Brian. No sense in spending an hour there before the actual appointment. I wait in the first waiting pod outside the laboratory. I hate this part. Brian walks behind the curtain to get poked. I hope they find a vein. Maybe Monday was a fluke. I look over at the complimentary coffee. Next to it – mind-numbing brochures about drugs that are supposed to help with the side effects of chemo, pamphlets about hair loss and wigs, booklets about losing a breast and cosmetic surgery, medical journal articles about new treatments. Yeah, free coffee really helps ease that pain. I look away from the constant reminders and articles in front of me instead at a picture on the wall and next to it a placard in memory of Jane Doe. Another picture, then more placards stating in memory of John, Joe, and Jack Doe. I think of all the people who have sat here like me waiting for the love of their lives, the father or mother of their children, their brothers, sisters, parents, whomever, come out from behind that curtain where you are known by name and where the process of the day begins. There is no escaping sickness and death in this place and is it so wrong of me to resent free coffee trying to disguise this fact? Let’s see if anyone tries to make idle conversation with me today. I don’t wish to befriend anyone here. What is wrong with me? I don’t want to talk to some person about their side effects and surgeries as the patient or their experiences as caregiver to their loved one. I don’t want to know, and I don’t know why. Will I get the usual...

Stranger: “You look too young to be in here, sweetie?”
Me: (NO KIDDING! I AM TOO YOUNG! HOW DO YOU THINK WE FELT 10 YEARS AGO AT OUR FIRST VISIT IN OUR MID 20’S! OH YEAH, AND MY KIDS ARE TOO YOUNG TO WATCH THEIR DADDY GO THROUGH THIS! WHILE WE’RE AT IT, MEDICAL EXPENSES COST US 20 TIMES WHAT THEY DID 10 YEARS AGO DUE TO CORPORATE COST SHARING WITH EMPLOYEES, WE ARE UNDER-LIFE-INSURED BECAUSE BRIAN HAS BEEN UNINSURABLE SINCE WE GOT MARRIED AND I AM A STAY AT HOME MOM! SHALL I GO ON? LEAVE ME ALONE SO I WON’T CRY IN FRONT OF MY HUSBAND, PLEASE! ) Oops, make mouth move: “Oh, yeah, cancer doesn’t discriminate on age, it seems. We will keep fighting, though. It is our lot in life. What brings you here?”
Stranger: “Oh, Sweetie, you’re husband is lucky to have you. You are so strong. How do you do it?”
Me: (I fake it half the time. I am scared out of my mind on the inside.) Wait, speak: “We have a lot of faith.” (Also true)

Brian comes out. Move on to next waiting area. Ascend staircase knowing it is getting closer. Teeth start to chatter. Make nervous idle chit chat with Brian. Or just hold hands and look into space. Try not to notice additional placards on the wall, each one memorialized to someone. This place is like London; the whole place is a memorial. Notice large puzzles on the tables and fish tanks scattered throughout. All meant to have something to do to pass the time, to ease the fact that you are probably going to be here for a while. Why am I so ungrateful that someone is trying to make me comfortable? I do not want to be here.

Brian gets called back. Weigh in. Blood pressure. Temperature. Go to the next waiting area – examining room. Teeth chatter harder. Trying to hold it together. Trying to control my mind and the countless scenarios it has laid out. Hold onto the moment of just being alone with Brian. In comes the doctor. No beating around the bush. He knows why we’re here and that we want the news right away. What is the news?

The results: This time MRI looks pretty good. There is increased enhancement around the surgical cavity again. Probably residual tumor, just like last time, but could also be scar tissue or radiation effect. Spectroscopy doesn’t show any abnormality to make them think anything significant is going on. This is decent enough news considering Brian has one of the most aggressive forms of cancer known. CBC on the blood looks all within normal range. The lab techs taking the blood at this place had NO problem finding a vein. We'll chalk it up to a fluke on Monday.

The plan: another round of Temodar for the next 5 days. I would like to give Brian a couple day break, but he wants to get it started right away so he is done by Christmas. Also, he wants to hit it hard early after diagnosis, he tells me, and spread it out later. This round, though, Brian felt a lot more fatigue than usual and is having some pain in his shoulder. He fell during one of our ice storms recently and if the pain continues, he will need an MRI of the shoulder to see if any muscles or ligaments were affected. It is getting better he tells us and he is feeling overall stronger than he was even a week ago. That is why I hate that he has to take chemo again right away.

Summary: All in all, this is good news. Barring any contradiction from Stanford when we hear from them, it should be a pretty Merry Christmas, and the honeymoon begins again until 6-8 weeks from now when we anticipate the next Test and Results Week.

Leaving today, the jingle jangling Santa roaming the halls passing out candy canes is tolerable. I suddenly hanker for a free cup of coffee, and doing a puzzle when I get home doesn’t sound half bad. I tell myself I should note one of those names on the placards and pray for that family. I can’t help but wonder if any of that would be the case if the news were different. It doesn’t matter. The news isn’t different and I get to go home and spend the afternoon with my kids without trying to hold back tears. Praise God!

KEEP BELIEVING

19 comments:

  1. Angie and Brian,

    I have been thinking about you all day, Angie your blogs are amazing, your descriptions put everything in perspective for all of us. I love you guys and can't wait to spend the Christmas season with you, no matter when we get together.

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  2. Angie and Brian,

    Been thinking about you all week and ecspecially today. Your blog has been wonderfuf, and very insightful.

    Thank God for the good results.

    Have a very Merry Christmas!

    Love,
    Deb

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  3. Angie, you have become such a great writer! Such a talent.

    Angie and Brian, I'm playing at church this weekend and offering it up for you. Know that all the musicians and techs will be praying for you backstage. Love you guys! Kara

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  4. Hi Angie and Brian,

    Thank you for including us in your posts. They really are inciteful and certainly puts everything in perspective. We know you are surrounded by a loving and caring group of family and friends-and if there is anything we can do to add to that just say the word!

    Wishing you the best this Christmas.

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  5. Bev & HowieDecember 14, 2007

    Howie and I think and pray for you always. Know that we may not live close anymore, but the love for you and the children always remains. Blessings for all of you and your families this Christmas. We love you.
    BEV.

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  6. I have been thinking of you all day!! I was both excited adn nervous to check your blog today. I was so glad to read the news was good.
    I know I only know you and your family through this blog but your words have really made a diffrence in my life. In how I view the world and the obstacles that are in my path. I wanted you to know that you have made a diffrence with your attitude and the words you have written. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!!

    Christina

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  7. Oh, Angie, I really don't know what to say... the tears are streaming down my face thinking about the trauma and horror you and Brian have to go through. I know it is not pity that you are after, it is just that I cannot begin to imagine being in your shoes. Your amazing writing skills, however, make it somewhat possible to try to understand. We will continue to pray for you as always, and thank you for posting your prayer requests on your blog, it makes it so much easier to know how to pray pray for all of you. On a happier note, I also thank God that the results were pretty good and that the 4 of you will be able to have a nice Christmas.

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  8. Okay Angie (and Brian)

    I've read your bloggs before; but this was very inspiring! Maybe writing (at home for a living) is your new future. I love the vantage point you wrote from. Maybe it is out of necessity or God's way of blessing you (isn't He amazing!) or inspiring you that made you think of this creative way of writing about your life. Keep it up. I think it will help both you and others. Again......your point of view was awsome. I know I'll think about the complimentary coffe with more enthusiasm from now on.

    I've been out of touch for a few weeks now. Out of town on a job and then I come back to Oklahoma's worst ice storm in history. (glad I made some historical point in my life). I've now lived without electicity for a whole 2 1/2 days and it is funny how you ALWAYS put my life in perspective with what you guys are going through. I know I was just happy (once Ken hooked up the generator) to have my food cold and my house warm. Anything else was a plus. Now I look at you guys and realize how much I DO have to be THANKFUL for. Including having such an awesom niece I can claim as a relative.

    May your realize how many lives you touch and how much you have to offer other people.

    God BLESS you and your entire family as you face the CHRISTmas Holiday Season.

    Love you always,

    Cindy

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  9. Oh by the way Angie,
    Yeah......that last posting was anonymous because I can't seem to remember my sign in name, my user name, my password or anything else about myself when it comes t this sight.

    Life is just too complicated. KJust know that anonymous might just mean your aunt Cindy and Uncle Ken in Oklahoma.

    Geee..........I seem to hate technology!!

    Cindy

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  10. Angie & Brian, unfortunately I have walked in your shoes, I do understand what you are saying. Writing is so good for you and for all of us who want to know how you are both doing. Keep the words coming. They will give you strength to get through the toughest times.
    I am so happy to hear the positive news, especially at this time of the year. What a wonderful Christmas you will have now. You have both been through so much. (Yes, especially for your young age. But none of us get choose all the events in our lives.) Stay strong, stay believing!

    ad

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  11. Thanks so much for the comment you left on Mile High Mamas. I am sobered to read about your journey, especially since my husband is a cancer survivor who just had heart surgery a couple of years ago. I know what it is like to live with this hanging over your head and your attitude is inspiring.

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  12. I'm glad that the news was good today, although it seems weird calling any news associated with cancer "good." I hope you are able to enjoy your weekend with Brian and the boys. More snow is headed your way I think.

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  13. There are rarely many instances in which I become speechless. :-)

    I concur with several peoples posts regarding your writing style.r I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy life to write and posts these blogs. You should look into turning these pages into a book; "How we beat cancer for the umpteenth time". I will confess that I was not sure if I was ready to read today's post, especially with the email to prompt us to the blog. I have no clue what you guys encounter on a daily basis, however, your writing allows me a small glimpse. I can reflect back to the 5 year survival party in which we all dressed up for Halloween. I was thinking you guys were Pebbles and Bam Bam. That does not seem that long ago hanging out around the fire and talking about old times. I am always thinking of you guys and look forward to seeing in January. I hope for a joyous 2008 and improved health into the future.

    HUDSON

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  14. Angie, your emotions lepti into my heart here. Although I haven't been on the same journey you and Brian are on, we did lose a daughter 5 years ago. When you wrote about the woman in the waiting room asking you questions...well, I've been there! It's so difficult to be diplomatic, much less kind to someone when you're aching on the inside. People have no idea that their simple questions are opening up a world of hurt, just waiting to explode. Thank you for putting it into words.
    Much love, and much praise to God for good test results.
    Pinky

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  15. Angie and Brian,
    The power of words....what to say and how to say it...every writer's struggles...The interesting point about God's Word is that it is spoken by Him and written by another. You can take Him at His Word. Keep it in your heart and in your mind. He is in control. I have to remind myself of that fact often.
    I agree with the assessment of your writing, Angie. Let's start on that book this summer.

    Love, Jane

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  16. Your note was so helpful and we will have you in our prayers. Thank you for your prayers for Hillary. We hope she can soon be with her son Max soon. I know Brian pushes every day because of you and your boys. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and much like ours, I bet it is the best one yet!
    --Shawn Coltharp

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  17. Shawn ColtharpDecember 15, 2007

    Thank you for your sweet message to us about Hillary and your family will be in our prayers. Your site is wonderful and as an employee of the National Home Office of the American Cancer Society, it is wonderful to see Brian's progress. We are so hoping Hillary's son Max will be able to cone home so he can help her push forward to regaining her life as you and your sons have helped Brian do. Can you imagine if he had not been able to have those children in his life through this? That is what she/we have dealt with through all of this. We have your site bookmarked and can't wait to read more on his progress. Shawn http://www.xanga.com/hillarycoltharp

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  18. Yes, praise God Angie!!!! I'm glad to hear the good news - I am so relieved for you and your sweet husband.

    I can't even imagine all you have been through, but I am so pleased to have met you and that you are sharing your story - the story of your lives and of your precious family and your husband - through your beautiful writing. I hope it helps you to know that I love to hear your story as hard as I know I know it must be for your to live it and to write it - it is a gift to hear and see your life through your beautiful writing.

    I hope you have a good weekend and I hope the news remains good - especially through Christmas! Take care and I'll see you soon. Kellan

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  19. Wow - I was so nervous reading this post and kept wanting to just "skip to the end" as I'm sure you do as well. I can't imagine having to go through this. Brian is lucky to have a supportive wife and loving kids to hug him and help him through the worst. Like you said, faith is what will get you through it. I'm so glad this trip was positive. May they continue to be so.

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