One year ago (May 2016) on a family vacation to celebrate my 5 year old's birthday, life changed for our family. It was on the first day of that trip I noticed a large nodule on my chest that had not been there before and truly seemed to "come out of the blue." Thinking and hoping it was a swollen gland, we finished our trip and I went to see my doctor once we returned home. After some observation, I had a mammogram which then ushered me into the office of a very skilled breast surgeon. Upon initial ultra-sound, my doctor was certain – but two biopsies and a MRI later she knew that I had breast cancer. I had a ping-pong ball sized tumor on one side (ironically, despite the size, the position of it had kept it hidden until now and that is why it had not shown up in self-exams or doctor exams) and they would later determine there were several smaller tumors on the other side.
Amie and Her Family
I was 36. I had a 5 and a 7 year old. I was "too young." This wasn't the way it was supposed to go. My husband and I dealt with all those thoughts and emotions. We had "what-if" conversations that we really didn't want to have. But ultimately, this was the new reality we were facing. We knew we couldn't do this on our own and our faith became a huge source of strength for us. While this news took us by complete surprise, we serve a God that made the Heavens and Earth and this did not surprise Him. Somehow, through the pain and unknowns, we completely believe He will bring good from this...even if it is not the path we would choose.
In December of 2016, I had a double mastectomy the week before Christmas. The doctors felt confident the surgery went well. They did find evidence of cancer in one lymph node, but my prognosis was still positive. We started the 2017 New Year preparing for chemo. There were two options, one more aggressive than the other. If you know me, you know I don't like drugs, and chemo are such harsh drugs. Deciding what course of action to take was hard because the consequences are so intense. But after a lot of prayer, we chose the more aggressive option. As such, I had to do more initial testing because those drugs cause such havoc on the body. During those tests of my heart, it was determined I had another tumor in my liver. That news came as unexpected as any. Stage 4 breast cancer, metastasized to the liver. The good news was it did not seem to spread through my lymph system and was isolated in my liver...but the bad news was it was a large tumor in my liver that had to be addressed. So, in February of 2017 I began chemo treatments. I have completed phase one (which is all of that drug they can give me at this time) and that came with many of the typical symptoms...fatigue, nausea, hair loss. Scans showed that the drugs did work. The tumor shrunk some, and the cancer activity shrunk a significant amount. This summer, I have started phase 2, which is 12 weekly treatments of a different drug. This fall when these are complete, I will be scheduled for liver surgery. A liver resection of up to 40% of my liver will remove any remaining tumor and cancer. While that surgery is daunting, it wasn't that many years ago that a surgery like this was not possible, so for that I am thankful.
My kids are now 6 and 8. They have learned to be even more independent this year as mom just couldn't do all I used to do. That has hurt my heart, but I know it has made us stronger at the same time. My husband has been at every chemo appointment with me and picked up so much of my slack around the house and with the kids. He has truly been a testament of "for better or worse, in sickness and health." I have had to learn to let down my pride and ask for help from family and friends. My mom has spent more time at my house than her house this past year and we are beyond thankful for her! Cancer does not just affect one person...it affects everyone around you. It affects health, emotions, finances, and perspective. The doctors are optimistic this course of treatment can have positive outcomes, but there are still hurdles we must get through and at least another year of treatments and surgeries plus many more years of follow-ups. But around our house we chose to talk about the "joy of cancer." While cancer has certainly disrupted our lives and brought an abundance of tears from us all, it has also caused us to find joy in new ways...the friends that bring meals and drop what they are doing to pick up my kids, the financial generosity of complete strangers, understanding we are not promised tomorrow for 1000 different reasons so a deeper appreciation for right now. Cancer is bad, but it is not void of good....we fight this one day at a time. Sometimes minute by minute. But in that we grow as a family and we learn a deeper appreciation for each other and each moment we have! Until my days are done I chose to look for the joy in life, even on the days you have to dig really deep to find it, because living life any other way just really isn't living!
I (Jesus) came that you may have life and have it more abundantly. John 10:10
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:25