Embracing Cancer

Well….after a good appointment with Dr. Patel (our local UCLA oncologist) last Friday, Dr. Sales (Kaiser surgeon) conceded to do a lymph (axillary) node biopsy, as Dr. Patel recommended. That was a mini-battle won! Al and I went in to see Dr. Sales on Tuesday. He did a needle biopsy of my axillary lymph node (in the armpit) right there in his office, and we agreed that if it came back negative he would proceed to a full node dissection (cutting out) on the day I had already had scheduled for a simple mastectomy. The needle biopsy was a small step in a progression of events to rule out a more advanced cancer. We both felt comfortable with that- although the biopsy hurt like hell!


Dr. Sales called today to tell me that the small sample he drew from my node is positive for cancer. They are 99% sure it is breast cancer there. But there is still not a clear indication of what type of breast cancer. One thing for sure- the outward symptoms are only worsening and I still have no palpable mass (lump). The likelihood that I have IBC is quickly becoming more real. I guess I am such a “freak” of medical knowledge that they want to take pictures of my breast when I get to the hospital on Monday! Dr. Sales instructed me to keep my surgery time in the OR for Monday, and instead of a mastectomy he will be doing several core biopsies. This is where he inserts a tube into my breast and lymph nodes and extracts tissue for further pathological study. This might give them the total picture they need. He is also going to be inserting a port catheter in my chest for instant access to my bloodstream so that they can draw blood, and I can receive the chemotherapy I will be getting. So this in inevitable…..and a modified radical mastectomy will be down the road (once they can arrest the cancer spread).


The good news is that Dr. Sales offered to refer me to Dr. Patel for treatment, and I accepted, hands down. I am thinking Dr. Patel, being that he is a UCLA Assoc. Prof., will want me to participate in a trial. There’s advantages and disadvantages to that. The trial in Bethesda is looking at a drug to slow formation of new blood vessels (which are the lifeline for cancer cells) in combination with traditional chemo. I would have to receive all cycles of treatment there, which would be several weeks/months. The trials here on the West coast are stem cell rescue. This is where they harvest stem cells pre-chemo (or obtain from donor) and then give you a dose of chemo so high it could kill you. Then they go back in and re-install (so-to-speak) the damaged stem cells with the healthy ones. There are many complications that arise with this method………and it means I would spend long periods in the hospital. It sounds very scary, but people with Stage IV cancers are maintaining remission after this treatment.


So I don’t know what exactly the future holds beyond Monday, when I will be going back in for this multi-procedural operation (which has risks such as lung perforation and other wonderfully frightening things). I do have appointments on Tuesday and Thursday of next week for bone scans, pelvic/chest/abdominal CT’s to rule out distant metastases. I will let you know the final picture that we have to look at as soon as I see it clearly myself. But one thing does seem certain- I have to brace myself for treatment. Keep praying……..God is still in the miracle business. I just heard a testimony of a young boy who was suspected of having leukemia, but by the time they could perform tests his white blood cell count had dropped miraculously low (normal). The Dr.’s literally told the family that God had performed a miracle! There certainly are no coincidences……. I have “My Utmost For His Highest” as my “homepage” at work, and here was the devotional for today:

May 15

The Habit of Rising to the Occasion


. . . that you may know what is the hope of His calling . . .

-Ephesians 1:18


Remember that you have been saved so that the life of Jesus may be

manifested in your body (see 2 Corinthians 4:10). Direct the total

energy of your powers so that you may achieve everything your election

as a child of God provides; rise every time to whatever occasion may

come your way.


You did not do anything to achieve your salvation, but you must do

something to exhibit it. You must “work out your own salvation” which

God has worked in you already (Philippians 2:12). Are your speech, your

thinking, and your emotions evidence that you are working it “out”? If

you are still the same miserable, grouchy person, set on having your own

way, then it is a lie to say that God has saved and sanctified you.

God is the Master Designer, and He allows adversities into your life to

see if you can jump over them properly-“By my God I can leap over a

wall” (Psalm 18:29). God will never shield you from the requirements of

being His son or daughter. First Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not think

it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though

some strange thing happened to you . . . .” Rise to the occasion-do what

the trial demands of you. It does not matter how much it hurts as long

as it gives God the opportunity to manifest the life of Jesus in your



May God not find complaints in us anymore, but spiritual vitality-a

readiness to face anything He brings our way. The only proper goal of

life is that we manifest the Son of God; and when this occurs, all of

our dictating of our demands to God disappears. Our Lord never dictated

demands to His Father, and neither are we to make demands on God. We are

here to submit to His will so that He may work through us what He wants.

Once we realize this, He will make us broken bread and poured-out wine

with which to feed and nourish others.


In “rising to the occasion” I am actually smiling as I wonder what creative things I can do to my bald head- and all the pictures I’ll be sending you of it! And I am thanking God that he gave me the ability to talk to impressionable social work graduate students about Christianity and domestic violence last night. I am looking forward to pouring out my heart in worship this weekend as we drive to Fresno to see Third Day (my FAVORITE Christian band). I am thanking Him for my strong and wonderful husband……..the beautiful children He has blessed me with…..and the overwhelming outpouring of care and concern that has been expressed towards us. Please don’t think we ever have enough……we covet all of it!


In Jesus~


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