The Silent Killer

We recently learned that less than 10,000 people have died in the United States from Covid-19 only. The virus might have played a part in the other deaths they currently include in the total, but they don’t actually know that right now.  

Know what they do know? They know that every year at least 20,000 women will be diagonosed with ovarian cancer, and 14,000 of them will die from it. This year.   

That’s an awful lot of women, and it’s like that every year. 

MY STORY
I started to feel sick in early 2009, but it took more than two years to find out what was happening to my health. There were many visits to many doctors, until my endocrinologist finally noticed something amok with one of my hormone levels. And, she said something curious: “We’re having a hard time locating your right ovary.”

I went home and searched the internet for the hormone she’d mentioned—I had never heard of it, and had no idea that I should be concerned. Then my search came back with one answer: ovarian cancer. I clicked a link, and found a long list of symptoms. I fully expected I would read down that list and be completely reassured that I did not have cancer. Instead, I could recognize almost every one. In fact, I almost felt relieved to have all of those symptoms point somewhere.

Nine years ago next month, a basketball-sized tumor was removed from my body. I did indeed have cancer, but I do not have cancer today. I praise God for that, and I urge you to become familiar with the symptoms of this awful disease. I know it’s scary to think about it, but it’s better to discover a problem sooner than later—especially a problem called cancer.

DON’T IGNORE THESE SYMPTOMS
There is no diagnostic test for ovarian cancer, and because the symptoms are so varried, it’s often not discovered until Stage 3. That is why this disease is so deadly: they find it too late!  

14,000 women
will from
Ovarian Cancer
in 2020

While any woman can have any of these symptoms and not have ovarian cancer, if the symptoms persist for more than two weeks, please make an appointment with your OB/GYN.

  1. Pressure or pain in the abdomen or pelvis (I remember telling one doctor that I thought I needed to do a juice fast or detox, because I felt so bloated.)
  2. Difficulty eating; feeling full quickly
    (By the time dinner was ready, I’d lost my appetite. If I did eat, I could only manage a few bites.)
  3. Urinary concerns, such as urgency, frequency, or difficulty emptying your bladder (Had pointless, invasive, and completely unnecessary tests.)
  4. Change in bowel habits; constipation and/or diarrhea (Yup.)
  5. Unexplained, unusual, excessive vaginal bleeding (You don’t want to know.)
  6. Weight loss (Yes. That’s what scary.)
  7. Weight gain
  8. Nausea (I ate a lot of watermelon that summer. It was almost all I could stand.)
  9. Shortness of breath (This was awful. I could hardly do anything, without needing to rest.)
  10. Vomiting (Yes. Almost daily.)
  11. Tiredness, low energy (Oh, yeah.)
  12. Painful menstrual cycle
  13. Painful intercourse
  14. Abdominal swelling (I looked nine-months pregnant.)
  15. Dull ache in thighs or lower back

    oca bracelets copy

HELPFUL WEBSITES 
Presidential Message
Ovarian Cancer 101

Ovarian Cancer Awareness 
Cancer Center 
CDC Ovarian Cancer Fact Sheet

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12 Things I Learned When I Got Cancer

A few days ago, I marked the seventh anniversary since a surgeon removed a basketball from my abdomen.

When I was finally able to return to chapel services at the Farm, where Doug was serving as Chaplain, he asked me to share a testimony.  I jotted down a few notes, and this is what came out. Pretty rough and ugly, but maybe what I learned can encourage someone else who may be in the midst of a season of suffering and challenge themselves.

 

Things I Learned When I Got Cancer

Lesson #1: God Gets To Do Whatever He Wants To Do
I really did not think God would allow me to have cancer, because I had too much going on in my life. The Fall is the busiest time for me in the ministry. Plus, there is no cancer history in my family. And, didn’t I have enough to deal with all ready? My family needed me. I did not have time to be in a hospital.

I really did think these very dumb thoughts.

Lesson #2: Just Keep Trusting
A few days after being released from the hospital, my incision opened and I was bleeding profusely. I was in the worst pain, and fear was rising. Doug had to take me to the E.R., and I remember laying there so scared, asking Doug to help me make sense of this. He simply told me, “You just have to keep trusting God.”

When things are so hard, but just keep getting harder, remember to just keep trusting. God’s faithfulness has no end.

Lesson #3: Pain Happens
We cannot prevent pain, but there are things we can do to stop it, or at least ease it. So, do what you can, and hold on tight to a friend’s hand whenever possible. And, remember Lesson #2. It will eventually pass. This applies to physical pain, and emotional pain.

Lesson #4: Do Your Best
You may not have another chance, so do your best right now. And, when it comes to other people, give them your best. It matters. It may matter to someone you’ll never meet, but it definitely matters to God, who put you here to do it in the first place.

Lesson #5: Always Assume The Other Person Is Having A Worse Day
I could cry right now, remembering the way I was cared for at the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. But, it wasn’t only them. My visiting nurses (Robyn and Karen and Wendy, especially) blessed me in so many ways. I remember the look on the face of my anesthesiologist, the last thing I remember before waking up in recovery—the kindness and assurance in her eyes mattered. Yeah, they all knew I was sick. They had an advantage. But, we don’t have an excuse. We encounter people every day who are facing serious troubles. When I consider how much the kindness, warmth, and gentleness of strangers meant to me, I pray the Lord help me always to extend these same gifts to others. People giving their best made all the difference for me. Refer to Lesson #4.

Lesson #6: God Doesn’t Have To Give You Cancer To Kill You
Don’t wait for a terminal diagnosis to take life seriously. We have all been appointed a day to die, so live every day with meaning now.  Besides, when you get that diagnosis, you may not have the time, or strength, to do those things you keep putting off. And, it feels really bad to think you really might not get another chance. Review Lessons #4 and #7.

Lesson #7: Do It Now
Why are you putting it off? We don’t get credit for our To Do List.

Lesson #8: You Cannot Be Too Polite
See Lessons #4 and #5.

Lesson #9: The Little Things Matter
If you have been paying attention, you’ve all ready learned this lesson. Please, review Lessons #4, #5, #7, and #8.

Lesson #10:  Trials And Suffering Mature Our Love For God, And For Others
Don’t be afraid of trials and suffering. Don’t resist them. Don’t buck against them. One word I learned well during this time in my life was y – i – e – l – d. Yield. Yield to God, even as He takes you down a dark and frightening road. You see, His will only works when He is in full control. We must be fully surrendered. Remember Lessons #1 and #2.

Lesson #11: The Worst Thing That Can Happen Isn’t On This Earth
The worst thing that can happen is not getting to Heaven at all, or arriving in the presence of the Lord without a treasure to present your King. (See Lessons #10, #7, #4, and #2.)

Lesson #12: Don’t Forget What You Learned The Last Time
When the Lord allows suffering, it is for a purpose. He has a reason. An objective. So, write down what you learn. Tell others. And, keep living those lessons out every day. Live it as long as you have breath.

God bless you today. I know cancer has a way of re-entering the life of the survivor, and I keep that in mind as each anniversary approaches. My particular cancer is very slow growing, so if it usually reappears after 10-20 years, and the survival rate on the second pass is a lot less than the first. So, believe me, I review these lessons regularly. ❤

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A sign my family left in my room. It was a touch of cheeriness that meant a lot.

I’m Alive

[Today is the five-year mark, since my cancer surgery in 2011. I am going to share a few posts from that year, and one other post. As you may know, the five-year anniversary for any cancer patient is a noteworthy day. So, in my own way I am marking it by living and breathing and testifying of my dear God and heavenly Father, Jehovah, who has shown me great kindness.]


sevenTH (and final) POST IN THIS SERIES: Written 10/27/11
(to begin series from beginning, click: First Post)

2016-10-27-01-28-11


10/26/16
P.S. Thank you for walking down this portion of Memory Lane with me. It wasn’t an easy walk five years ago, and not exactly fun to remember today. However, remembering the hard times is important. It gives us perspective. It reminds of the goodness of God. And, He was very good to me in this season of my life. There were exceptional acts of kindness by nurses that I will never forget. There were divine interventions, and such grace in the midst of the trial. I know what He has done for me, He is willing to do for anyone. If you are going through a hard season, I hope you will find hope in my story. I hope you will seek Him for help in your time of trouble.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” (Deuteronomy 7:9, ESV)

Learning To Number My Days

[Today is the five-year mark, since my cancer surgery in 2011. I am going to share a few posts from that year, and one other post. As you may know, the five-year anniversary for any cancer patient is a noteworthy day. So, in my own way I am marking it by living and breathing and testifying of my dear God and heavenly Father, Jehovah, who has shown me great kindness.]


SixTH POST IN THIS SERIES: FIRST PUBLISHED OCTOber 24, 2011

This experience, as a whole, has really shown me how I am wasting my time—and, wasting my life. I don’t want to leave my family, yet, but the truth is I’m just not ready to meet the Lord.

If the Lord calls me home on Wednesday, I will be ashamed to stand before Him. How will I account for my life? How could I possibly? There is so much more I want to do. I want to have a splendid crown to lay at His feet.

So, I ask the Lord for more time, yet, deep inside I suspect I’m all talk. I am facing Wednesday down with all this determination and motivation, but I am also starting to look at Thursday. How will I make the most of the days that follow?

Will I make sure they count?

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“So teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalm 90:12)

Signing Away My Life

[Today is the five-year mark, since my cancer surgery in 2011. I am going to share a few posts from that year, and one other post. As you may know, the five-year anniversary for any cancer patient is a noteworthy day. So, in my own way I am marking it by living and breathing and testifying of my dear God and heavenly Father, Jehovah, who has shown me great kindness.]


fifth POST IN THIS SERIES: FIRST PUBLISHED OCTOBER 20, 2011

Well, not really, but it sure feels like it.

Today was a bunch of pre-op business and paper signing. It was a really hard day. Very long. Lots of blood taken. Lots of forewarning. Two EKGs, for crying out loud. (My heart is fine.) We left our house just before 10 a.m., and pulled into our drive-way just before 8 o’clock.

We did finally feel a strange relief, though, when it was all done.

Still, I am so freaked out by every aspect of this. A tube down my nose and throat? Possibly an epidural? Propofol? Really? They’re giving me the stuff that killed Michael Jackson?

I just hope I get lots of flowers. Lots of ’em.

And, I hope I don’t die. I told the Lord that as much as I would so love to be with Him, I just don’t want to leave my family, yet. Oh, it is so nice to think of being with Him, versus staying here. Really, who would want to stay here? Well, me. I’m just not ready to go.

I caught my husband looking at me towards the end of the last appointment. We’d been through so much by that point, so many explanations and questions, and he had such a look on his face. I wanted to smile at him, to make him feel better, like “I’m OK! It’s OK!” But, when I started to smile, I started to cry. I looked away and hoped he didn’t see my eyes fill-up. There are just so many emotions. It’s as if they all bubble up to the surface the moment you release one. Stoicism has its place. At least, it did today.

Until it was all over. And, then, there was relief. And, laughter. And, looking forward to being home with Hannah.

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Good & Bad

[Today is the five-year mark, since my cancer surgery in 2011. I am going to share a few posts from that year, and one other post. As you may know, the five-year anniversary for any cancer patient is a noteworthy day. So, in my own way I am marking it by living and breathing and testifying of my dear God and heavenly Father, Jehovah, who has shown me great kindness.]


fourth POST IN THIS SERIES: FIRST PUBLISHED OCTOBER 18, 2011

BAD
It has been a crazy, emotional time.

GOOD & BAD
Eight days until surgery. Wednesday we will be at appointments all day: vascular specialist, anesthesiologist, and then the Big Cheese. I still cannot believe I am going to have my guts cut open. I imagine myself on the operating table, and it’s such an ugly picture. I am kind of glad I feel so bad, though, because it motivates me to go through with this.

I keep telling myself better health and strength is ahead.

At the same time, though, I just feel bad for myself and want to cry.

GOOD
Anemia is slightly improved. Enough to avoid a transfusion. So very glad for that. My blood thinning level wasn’t enough to warrant stopping the shots, but it is finally moving in the right direction.

BAD
I keep tell myself that one day this is all going to be old news. The past. Something that happened a long time ago. I’ll look back and it won’t be a big deal. I’ll laugh and say, “Yeah, it was THIS BIG!” Or, maybe, I’ll miss the time with Doug, driving into Boston on a sparkling, Fall day, right in the middle of the week. Maybe, one day, I’ll just think about how wonderful Hannah has been, without the fear my days with her are shorter than I think.

GOOD 
One of my nieces sent over a bunch of food today for our freezer. I am so touched. I mean, really, just blown away. I am quite emotional about it. Meals are like this incredible burden when someone in a house is in the hospital or very sick. So, having a meal in the freezer is huge.

BAD
My poor husband has been having the worst of times. I hate that I am so much a part of his burden.

GOOD
We received a most remarkable gift. It was a like being on the Price Is Right: a brand new washer and dryer. Can you even begin to imagine what kind of blessing that is for us right now? I still can’t believe it. How could someone do something like that for us? Yes, the giver is someone who has known about NBF since it’s beginnings, and over the years he’s known some New Brothers personally. However, that is still a very generous thing to do. It is also a solution to what has been the biggest, practical problem of our time on this missionfield these past seven years. The loving kindness of the Lord and His people is quite humbling.

GOOD
Babies are coming over tomorrow. My dear daughter was supposed to go to their home to sit for them, but Doug is out all day. So, she made arrangements for them to come here. She didn’t want me to be alone.  Sweet, huh? I’m looking forward to them.

– – – – – – – – –

Well, I guess it is time to go. Must find God’s peace in the midst of this storm.

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Bed-rest Can Make You Tired

[Today is the five-year mark, since my cancer surgery in 2011. I am going to share a few posts from that year, and one other post. As you may know, the five-year anniversary for any cancer patient is a noteworthy day. So, in my own way I am marking it by living and breathing and testifying of my dear God and heavenly Father, Jehovah, who has shown me great kindness.]


Third post in this series: FIRST PUBLISHED October 14, 2011

Been ordered back to bed. My leg was swelling, again. That’s a drag. Next week I see a vascular specialist, who will make a plan for surgery.* They are talking about a temporary filter, and continuing the injections right up until surgery. I am so tired of these injections. It takes an awful long time to push 150 mg. of stuff into a person. By midway, it starts to burn. Doug does such a good job. He hates having to do something that hurts me, so I try not to let on. Just breathe. It’s hard not to react, though. Oh, well. Hopefully, they won’t last much longer.

My CA-125 results came back, but the nurse said that this test alone is not a good indicator of ovarian cancer. Normal is anything below 35. My number was somewhere in the high 40s. She said that the size of this thing alone could give a false positive, so I think we’re going to have to wait until surgery. I am not thinking this is cancer, though.

Anyway…it’s late. I’m tired. I miss normal, but I am trying to remind myself that this will all be over really soon. The end of the year is just around the corner, and by then I should be fully recovered and living large once again. Honestly, that isn’t so long to wait for the good that awaits me. Modesty and discretion prevent me from sharing all that is going on, but my quality of life is definitely going to improve, if all goes as well as hoped. I look forward to that!

In the meanwhile, I keep surrendering. It’s such a good posture for the Believer, only holding onto the Lord.

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A favorite painting helped pass the time. Artist: Cathie Boucher. (cathieboucher.com)

*Thank the Lord, I did not have to have surgery for the blood clot.
I did have to continue those darn injections until April, though. :/ 

Cancer Is A Very Big Word

[Today is the five-year mark, since my cancer surgery in 2011. I am going to share a few posts from that year, and one other post. As you may know, the five-year anniversary for any cancer patient is a noteworthy day. So, in my own way I am marking it by living and breathing and testifying of my dear God and heavenly Father, Jehovah, who has shown me great kindness.]


Second post in this series: FIRST PUBLISHED October 12, 2011

This is the moment I first realized I might have cancer.

yawkey

We were at the intersection, getting ready to turn. We had been looking for an address, not a building.

Cancer is a very big word, but there it was, right there on the side of the building, for everyone to see. Why aren’t they being more discreet?  We turned the corner—there it was, again! Everywhere. CANCER!

Once we were inside the building, I began noticing the people. Scarf-covered heads. Pale and fragile people, walking as though they were measuring every step. A lot of blank expressions, a lot of bowed heads. Did we all have something in common? Was I like them?

The visit was surreal. I felt like I was floating through the whole experience. I really think the Lord just gave me the grace to get through it. My only prayer before leaving our car was that I just not start crying, and I didn’t. In fact, I feel pretty relieved. So does Doug. We have a lot of confidence in the surgeon.

This may sound strange, but I was glad he was horrified by how large the mass is, and was eager to remove it. I will have an extremely long incision,* because the mass extends up so far, but it will be so good to have it gone. It keeps growing, you see, and I feel very much like a pregnant woman in her 10th month. He says surgery will be within two weeks. “As soon as possible.”

As for it being cancerous. I will probably know tomorrow. He took a blood sample for a CA-125 test. Of course, I am hoping this is not cancer, but I know it might be. Ovarian cancer happens. I really don’t want it to happen to me, but if it’s going to happen I can’t imagine a better place to be for treatment.

Cancer is a very big word.  I know God is not intimidated by it at all, so I am just going to trust that He knows what’s best.  I will find peace with God on this, because…well, He’s God. He’s the one in charge. When I said, “I surrender all,” He took me seriously, and I’m so thankful He did!

I know I can trust Him.

“If God asks that you bend, bend and do not complain.
He is making you more flexible, and for this be thankful.”
(Terri Guillemets)
‎”Before me, even as behind, God is, and all is well.”
(John Greenleaf Whittier)

 

*I woke up this morning feeling pain at my incision. It was  a strange
sensation to wake up to on this particular day. Not to worry, though:
a nurse told me I wouldlike feel those little twinges for a very long time.

“Courage, Dearest”

[Today is the five-year mark, since my cancer surgery in 2011. I am going to share a few posts from that year, and one other post. As you may know, the five-year anniversary for any cancer patient is a noteworthy day. So, in my own way I am marking it by living and breathing and testifying of my dear God and heavenly Father, Jehovah, who has shown me great kindness.]

first POST in this series: published October 4, 2011

When I logged on to Xanga today, I had just learned some news that sent Fear rushing through me. Crazy how Fear rises up so suddenly and powerfully. I thought a little blogging would help me cope. Instead, I saw a pulse that PrincessKristi had just posted:

“Courage, Dearest.” – Aslan

It took my breath away.

As suddenly as Fear had asserted itself in my heart, tears filled my eyes and I felt that comforting presence of the Holy Spirit.

Oh, sweet comfort!

It was if the Lord Himself was whispering those words in my ear. It was just what I needed to hear, and it really made all the difference.

Now, at the end of the day, I have some good news. My doctor has given me permission to get off of bed rest*. Yea! The pain in my leg is almost all gone. I won’t go crazy with being up, but it sure was nice to get to help with dinner a bit.

My blood is not “therapeutic,” yet, so I must continue the shots and take more Coumadin. However, Doug has become very adept with the syringes. The medication still burns and stings as it makes its way into my bloodstream, but I don’t feel the needle. That’s a very nice thing!

I dread that when this clot is done and I’m off Coumadin the Big Thing is still to come, but today I learned the name of my surgeon. I looked him up online, and he sounds pretty impressive. His interests include “suspicious pelvic masses.” So, there you go.

“Courage, Dearest.”

I must keep reminding myself.

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*The cancer had brought on a blood clot in my leg.