Tag Archives: cancer

A Restful, Invigorating Inner Climate

Two weeks ago tomorrow Chris and I found ourselves walking into the Columbia St. Mary’s Cancer Center building in downtown Milwaukee. Having spent a considerable amount of my life in medical buildings, I was struck with how peaceful this particular clinic was. The east wall of the waiting room was solid windows that displayed an impressive stretch of the Milwaukee Lake Michigan beachfront. There was a courtyard with cascading waterfalls and fragrant flowers. As I walked through the “chemo area” I noticed boards on the wall where patients could post notes about things they were thankful for. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe all hospital buildings should embody this same concept.

The appointment went as well as it could have. My doctor was kind and personable and even has a seven year old child, to boot!There was nothing glaringly obvious indicating cancer but on the same token, he wants to look further into the cause of these night sweats and my elevated eosinophil count. The type of night sweats that I’m having are typically indicative of something awry with my immune system. We talked through our game plan, which is essentially a few months of lab work, scans, possible biopsies, and lots and LOTS of waiting.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, 8/5 at 10:15 am) Chris and I will meet with my hematologist, again, to discuss the results of a blood smear that he ordered at my first appointment. For the past two weeks, he’s been studying my blood under a microscope, trying to discern and observe how my white and red blood cells reproduce. I’m continually fascinated by the way God has created our bodies and the knowledge he has given doctors. Tomorrow we will find out if my cell reproduction is normal or if there are irregularities. This will be a good indicator of whether or not there is a blood disease or infection going on. If he has noticed something “off”, I will go in for a bone marrow biopsy that would be extracted from my hip, in order for him to then study my stem cells. If my blood looks normal, I will most likely proceed to seeing a bone specialist to try and determine if these night sweats could be caused by a slow moving, underlying bone infection.

I also had an echocardiogram about a week ago to ensure that “all is well” with my heart and the vascular system that moves my blood in and out. This was precautionary more than necessary. Precautionary, so as to make sure that no sneaky infectious bacteria has decided to settle in and set up shop in my arteries.

An echocardiogram can only show what is physically taking place in my heart, though. If someone could invent an echo that showed the emotional and spiritual well-being of my heart, the results would look a lot like the cancer building I described above. On my heart wall, you’d be able to see a large “Thankful Board” on which I’ve been mentally posting little notes. One of the notes would have a quote scrawled on it that says,

“I’ll be praising God for all eternity, but only during my brief time on earth can I bring Him joy through praising Him in the midst of pain.”

This is a quote from the book “31 Days of Praise” by Ruth Meyers. After reading it, I immediately posted it securely to my heart wall.

I really have no “gut” feeling about what tomorrow’s appointment will bring. But I do know that God has been conditioning me for over 20 years to praise Him in the midst of pain, so no matter what the results of my blood work show, that is what I’ll do.

“Even in troubled circumstances, or when God does not choose to work in spectacular ways, praise can help us view our situation through different lenses. It can help produce within us a restful, invigorating inner climate.” -Ruth Meyers

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Anything really means ANYTHING

My conversations with God have sounded a lot like this over these past few days;

Me: “So God, when you say “Do not be anxious about anything… you don’t really mean anything right? There are some really BIG things that it’s OK for me to be anxious about, right?”

Holy Spirit: “Nope. I really mean anything and everything.”

Me: “But God, you know the phone call I just got from my doctor the other day. I have trusted you with so many things in the past…I think I’ve earned being able to worry about this one.”

Holy Spirit: “No…really. I know you won’t be living my best for you if you worry about this. You’ll miss what I want to teach you in the waiting. I promise to give you what you need to get through today and that’s it. We’ll worry about the strength you need for tomorrow when you wake up tomorrow…”

Me: “Ok, well I’ll try not to worry but I probably still will. And besides, if I don’t worry, how am I supposed to pass the time between now and my appointment on July 22nd? I feel frozen, like this can’t be reality. My head feels like it’s outside of my body right now. How do I function feeling like this? All I want to do is sleep so I don’t have to think about it. And if there’s any way you could shut down Google between now and then, that would be awesome too.”

Holy Spirit: “Keep talking to me about this. Get into your bible and really see what I have to say about this. Ask other people to pray that I give you the strength and peace you need. Then when you are sleeping, people will still be praying. I’m not going to withhold peace from you. It is possible to have peace and still function during this waiting period. We’ve been here before… many times. Look how close we’ve grown because of it. Trust me. And DON’T Google it. Just DON’T”

This conversation started after a phone call that I received this past Wednesday from my primary doctor. I had gone in the day before to discuss night sweats that I’ve been having. They started after my spine fusion three years ago. They were sporadic and occasional at first but have increased in frequency and severity as of late. If I go 2 or 3 nights without having one, that’s a good month. And it’s not like I’m just getting hot at night. I wake up and my pajamas are wet, the sheets are soaked, and I can feel sweat trickling down my skin. So I finally decided it was probably good to have it checked out. Chris decided it was probably time, too… poor guy.

After my exam, my doctor and I agreed that there didn’t appear to be anything to be concerned about, but he’d run a complete blood panel, just to be thorough. During the visit we were able to rule out the possibility of the night sweats being caused by early menopause or my antidepressants. I left his office with us agreeing that it, most likely, was just my autonomic nervous system being its crazy whacked out self. During my last surgery, they hacked through some pretty major nerves and disrupted my nervous system quite a bit, so this explanation would be totally legit.

So I was a little taken aback when I received a voicemail from my doctor the next day,  asking me to call him back. “Nothing urgent” he assured me, but he needed to discuss the results of my blood panel with me.

When I called him back, he said that one of my white blood cell counts was moderately elevated. He asked if I had asthma or was experiencing any seasonal allergies? Nope. Could I have a parasite? Was I having Diarrhea? Well I have an ileostomy so that one’s a little tough to tell 😉 But no, I hadn’t noticed any changes in my stomach or bowel function. After we had covered all of those fun topics he said, “Well normally I might just ignore the elevated levels, but since you are having the night sweats that are getting worse and the fact that it started after your spine fusion, I think we should be thorough and have you see a hematologist in our oncology department. Sometimes this elevated type of white blood cell can indicate a underlying bone marrow infection or cancer.”

He gave me the name and number of the hematologist and as I hung up the phone and went back to blow drying my hair, the weight of everything that he had just said came down hard on me. Oncology. Hematologist. Bone Marrow. Fusion. Infection. Cancer. I picked up my phone and texted Chris. He called me right away and together we let all of those words sink in.

I knew his mind would be flooded with the same thoughts mine would because he was sitting right next to me four years ago when my neurosurgeon was listing the risks of cutting my spine in half and fusing it back together. He had explained that rather than grafting bone marrow from my hip for the “glue” for the fusion, he would take bone marrow from bone he was removing from my spine and ribs and mix it with a synthetic bone paste that in a very small percentage of people, was thought to increase the risk of cancer. But on the flip side, mixing this paste with my own marrow would provide a much stronger fusion and with my bones being as small as they are… we needed that.

Chris and I knew the risks. With surgeries that major there are always risks. But now all of those words came flooding back into our minds with a new urgency. In addition to this, I had mentioned to Chris about 4 or 5 months ago that there was an area of bone on my thoracic spine that was really tender and painful. It’s still there, but I had been ignoring it because … well… I mean they CUT ME IN HALF. I didn’t want to be overdramatic about a sore spot. I had even had my PT work on that area a few times, just to make sure it wasn’t a knotted muscle. Now my stomach felt knotted as I recalled the fact that bone tenderness could be a symptom of Leukemia.

After Chris and I were done talking I called my Neurosurgeon in Chicago just to loop them in. They said to go ahead and be seen in oncology and keep them updated because these symptoms are definitely abnormal. If they do discover some sort of bone marrow infection, it could infect the hardware in my spine which would be devastating.

Then I called the oncology department and set up my appointment. It’s July 22nd at 3:15 pm and I covet your prayers for both the appointment and for the waiting time until then. We are not new at the waiting game. I learned so much in our journey with diagnosing my Chiari, but it’s still not easy to think about having to go through another health situation that requires so much patience. Again, because of the complexity of my case, everything is difficult to diagnose. For each new symptom, there could be at least two possible causes. This can lead to major mind games going on in my head. There are moments where I feel almost certain that when we walk into my appointment on the 22nd that he will say, “There is absolutely nothing to be concerned about”. Then moments later, I feel pretty confident that he will want to look into this more; do a more extensive blood test, bone marrow biopsy, or CT scan of the tender area.

But the one thing that Chris and I DO know for certain is that God is still completely in control. This is not shaking him one bit. He will continue to use this for his glory and kingdom work. We are thankful that I have doctors that want to be thorough. And as my friend Erin said, God has only asked me to walk the road of waiting right now. Nothing more.

So in an earnest effort to do that and only that, I write about this not to compound the worry and “stir the pot”, but to ask you to pray. Specifically pray for mental strength to continually bring my anxiety and worry to God with Thanksgiving for all he has already done in my life and all that he will continue to do. Please pray that answers will be clear and that God will provide the physical strength to tackle whatever is next… whether it’s cancer or just having to live with a overactive autonomic nervous system.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” -Philippians 4:6 out of The New Living Translation Bible

Much love,

Adri


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