Coming to Terms with Cancer

In this together!!

In this together!!

Today Owen came home from the hospital. He had a strumectomy done to remove the 12 cm sized tumor growing in his chest–a malignant thymoma. When the CT scan was performed a month ago, the oncologist said it looked like it was in stage 2 and it was the size of like a tangerine. But this one was the size of a grapefruit, the largest the thoracic surgeon had ever seen in his career (and he has been a surgeon for like 40 years!) and it had grown into stage 3 cancer–invading his heart.

So they couldn’t remove all of it. Had to leave the part of the tumor on the heart alone. It has left an exclamation mark scar on his chest. I knew that meant either radiation or chemo or both. Deep down, I was holding out for just radiation. But sure enough, on Wednesday, the oncologist came in and explained to us the treatment plan in his thick Hebrew accent. We held hands hearing about all the chemical combinations and the side effects–  hair loss, fatigue, nausea, weight gain. He used words like “aggressive” and “kill everything” to explain the process but encouraged us with words like “you are strong, you will be able to handle it.” Supposedly the research suggests that with the chemo combination  often called PAC, performed every 21 days for 4-6 sessions and included with it a month of daily radiation at UCSD, Owen will have a 80-90% chance of being cured.

I don’t like those numbers. I want 100%. I can’t even imagine a world if that 10-20% chance comes crashing through our lives. That would mean more chemo. More radiation. More suffering.  And what if, it is never cured? Then what? I don’t even want to imagine. So I cling to what Owen says.

“You know the strongest man you’ve ever met going through Chemo, doctor?” He said, matter-of-factly.

“Yes,” the doctor replied, questioningly.

“That will be me, doctor.” I loved that.

Given we were already mentally preparing for this talk, however, it didn’t come nearly as emotionally shocking as it did when we were in the hospital a month ago, and the first doctor from upstairs came down and suggested the word Cancer with her concerned eyes. We were not expecting that. That was the moment that slowed down, where like in the movies, the sound quiets and all you see are the characters’ expressions as they hear the grim news. The doctor pulls out the documents and solemnly words the news. The wife stares blankly at the doctor and puts her hand on her husband’s knee. He leans down and rests his head in his hands. And you know. You as the audience know they just heard they’ve got cancer. But when you are the one in that scene, it feels like a dream. At least it did for me. Is this real? This wasn’t part of my life plan.

But still, I was emotionally jarred by the official news that chemo was next. It made everything all the more real. Even more real than the surgery. This is what I think of when I hear of cancer. I think of the chemo–the monster that kills cancer patients faster than the cancer can kill them–but somehow, doesn’t kill them, just leaving them bald, frail, weak, and in bed. So after the doctor left the room, I went into the bathroom and cried. Cried for my husband. Cried for me and for the kids. I don’t want to go down this road. I don’t want to have to see my husband in that state. There are many more tears ahead and I don’t want to cry anymore.

Today I had time to process it a bit more. In the quiet of the day as my husband recovered on the couch and I paid the medical bills we had already accumulated with the blessing of donations in our GoFundMe Campaign, an intense chest pain came over me–anxiety. Almost an attack. But I prayed and asked for prayer. I decided–no cleaning, no added stress. Instead, I spent an hour designing a banner for a buy, sell, trade group I’m co-administering on Facebook with a couple of close friends. It was medicinal. I need a creative outlet. In the end, I think today’s anxiety came today of all days and not earlier because my body is finally having time to just feel. I’ve been in survival mode for a while. I just hope my milk supply goes back up. The baby is now drinking mainly formula, because 2 weeks ago, once Owen started getting another flare up (chest pains, nausea, night sweats, fatigue, weakness, poor appetite) my supply plummeted. In my mind, I felt like I was so strong. But the body knows. Survival mode kicked in. And that means less milk for my baby.

wedding handsOwen went through it too–negative emotions I mean. Some friends of ours, the Pallottos, came over tonight and took care of the kids for a couple of hours, asking us to go out for a while and just be together. We did. It was good for us. We went to Red Lobster and picked at our crab legs between holding hands, talking, and sharing silence. We laughed. We even cried. My husband’s lips were ash and he didn’t have much of an appetite. He broke down a couple of times unexpectedly. We held hands and for the first time in our marriage, remembered that in the big scheme of this life–it is the two of us in our family who are one. Our kids will grow up one day and leave and they will not be with us. It will be us two. I will be with him through this cancer. And he, God willing, will be with me when I experience my big issue in the future, whatever that may be. It became so much more real tonight. So this is marriage. This is sickness and health. And strangely, it brought me comfort and an overflowing surge of love. I love him. I love this man. And he is mine and I am his till death do us part.

I drove us back home afterward, and felt a poem forming in my mind about my mixed emotions– sadness, anger, and yet love and joy still.

I told Owen–“I have a poem forming in my mind. It’s called the Paradox of Pain. You know–I want to laugh, I want to cry.”

Then Owen replied quickly, “…I want to stab you in the eye.”

“Yes!” I cried, “You know!”

psalm 56 3I write this blog because I believe in being translucent. I don’t think we can truly know each other and love each other unless we allow ourselves to see one another as we truly are. Listen, I know the truth. I know God loves us. I know he has a plan for us. I know he will use this for good. I know he will be there with us through it all. I know this. And knowing that certainly gives us a hope and a strength, I could no way have on my own. But it doesn’t mean that I want it. I don’t want it. I want a life of bliss and no suffering.

Ironically, I say that knowing that it’s silly and knowing that it is through our suffering that we become strong and better people, which I want too. I want to grow closer to Christ. I want to be stronger. I want to be more compassionate toward others. I want to grow closer to my husband. I want to appreciate life more and take less for granted. I want all of that too. But you can’t get all that growth, without some pruning. Pruning cuts and it pinches and it hurts. It hurts! But I do know that the Master Gardner has a beautiful plan for his garden. And we get to be a part of that plan. I do trust in that. And while today was a tough day and not the last of those tough days, I know that because of what I know, there will be many great days too.

Thanks for reading. If you have gone through cancer, how did you deal? How did you come to terms and move forward? Would love to know more of your stories.

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13 thoughts on “Coming to Terms with Cancer

  1. Hey! You know he is gonna be OK, Owen is super strong and enthusiastic, and he is the one who know more about videos and seo in the internet, so, he can’t do this to us, we really need his knowledge!!
    Life Wins!!!

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  2. OMG, your blog brought me to tears. I am awaiting transplantation because of a recurrence of liver cancer. I come from the UK and have so much gratitude for our NHS. Until now all of my treatment has been insurance funded, and now as transplantation must take place under the NHS (free of charge) I am being treated by the same doctors and surgeons with the exception that it is all now state funded. The pressure you must be under is immense, and I identify with sitting in restaurants crying, smiling and laughing all within a few minutes. It sounds like you are both so close, and I know better than most that words just won’t do it. Please keep writing as you are not only entrepreneurial you are inspirational as well. You will be in my prayers. Ray xx

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    • Prayers going your way for your liver transplant. I know someone who has had it done. It is an amazing gift and I wish you the best. I’m sure you are excited and scared. So much with that. Thank you for reading!

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  3. I had no clue you and your husband were going through such a time. I’m happy you’re staying strong and optimistic when it is difficult to do so. I’ve got you guys in my thoughts, and with fingers crossed, I know you’ll pull through.

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  4. Your smile had an indescribable heaviness! I felt you were meeting my greeting half way and more than once I had an inkling to ask! Thought you were overwhelmed with your little ones. Did not or could not have ever imagined you were going through this! Miracles do happen and hope is the most beautiful feeling! The plans of the architect of the universe we will never know–man proposes and God disposes! First and foremost cling to hope! Owen brought love, laughter and happiness into your life and all this shapes you forever! We cannot question why me because we are all tested from time to time in different ways! Take one day at a time! You are in my prayers my dearest! Blogging is the best thing to do!!! All people come into our lives for a reason!

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  5. After I read your post this morning I have not been able to get you all out of my mind all day. I have been praying for you. Then I was reading in Job and read this: Job 33:28 God rescued me from the grave, and now my life is filled with light.’ Immediately I thought of Owen. Your faith is strong and such an encouragement. The Lord is filling your family with light. Praying with you.

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  6. Hi! I am Famous Amos’s Mom, and I am reminded of my own mother, who is now 86 years old, who has survived 8 bouts of cancer over the last 30 years. The first time she had lymphoma, her doctor told her she had a 5% chance of surviving. The Shah of Iran had the same thing at the same time, and he died, and Mom lived. She has had radiation and chemotherapy all of these times, and she told me that obviously God wasn’t finished with her yet, so she keeps on keeping on. She is a trooper like Owen, who is determined to beat this “monster” living within, and I can tell you that attitude is key. Yes, Mom was like a limp dishrag, yes, she lost her hair, her appetite, but never lost her resolve. I was her praying daughter, who got to see my Mother come to Jesus when she was in her 70’s. God is not finished with Owen yet, and you both will have a difficult road ahead of you, but I do know that our GOD will never give you more than you can bear, and with the trial comes a strength that surpasses anything human. With testing comes the peace that passes all understanding. There will be people whose lives will be touched by simply being near to you both, as you go through this. My life has already been touched by this, so I can stand with you in support and prayer. God bless you and your precious little ones, and let’s see what the King of Kings and Lord of Lords does for you!

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    • Thank you so much Connie for sharing your mom’s inspiring story and taking the time to read my blog and reaching out. Can’t wait to see what God does to show off his glory. God bless!

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  7. Oh my gosh Theresa…
    I experienced the same type of humbling night with my wife Julie last night… She is being so strong for my benefit and still will put me before herself..
    We too had a night on the town.. Mostly laughed and held hands.
    The absolute rudest awakening came while we were cuddling in bed and she let her emotions out and confessed that she was (SCARED) Afraid to die..
    At that moment i too was thrown a reality check and relized i was just as scared as her.. As we laid there holding each other tight and feeling closer than ever we cried each other to sleep.. And like you my fear was just the thought that i may not always have her there..
    This morning she is still asleep and i cant even make myself leave her side.. I know am putting my faith in love, hope, and God..
    Thanks for sharing..

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