Friday, June 28, 2013

And So We Begin a New Path

The path we are walking now has a name -- It's called Cancer.

On May 21st, my husband went in to have surgery to remove what we believed was an 'inflammatory mass'.  They would remove a small amount of the colon and small intestine that had been damaged by the mass and sew the two parts back together.  Nothing gave any indication that it would be anything other than simple.  He would heal from surgery, and life would continue as normal.

When I met with the surgeon, I knew immediately that something was not so straight forward as she had believed it would be.  For several days, my mind would replay her words to me, "We found cancer."  I took a deep breath.  I asked a few questions, "What type?  What do we do now?"  She removed what she could, but it was still there -- speckled throughout and incurable.  The plan would be to slow it with chemo.  Oncology had been contacted and would be in touch.  We talked for a few minutes, and then she hugged me and left me in that private room to 'process' a little bit.

I prayed.  I thanked God for His control, and I asked Him to help me.  I had been alone at the hospital that day.  (I use that word 'alone' cautiously.  I use it to say that I didn't have a friend or family member waiting with me.)  I know God is with me always, and when I met with our surgeon that day, God's presence was never more real than it was there.  I was NOT alone!!

I realized I had some phone calls to make.  Processing it internally was one thing, but I realized that I had to make my voice work - without breaking down - and tell others.  How on earth was I going to be able to call his parents and brothers and repeat those words from the surgeon?  How was I going to tell my husband?

I called my pastor first.  As I waited for him to return my call, I walked.  I was still trying to get together a mental script for what I would say when I called his family.  The walking helped ease the physical part of the emotional flood that was happening inside of me.  Pastor called back, and I gave him the news.  He offered words of comfort and encouragement.  He told me he would be praying for us.  He asked me if I knew how we would tell the children.  I hadn't yet gotten to that part of the mental processing -- I had to tell our children!

I took many more deep breaths, and I prayed some more, and then I called my husband's parents.  God gave me the strength I needed to do that.  Mom wanted to come right away, but I told her to talk to Dad first and that the two of them needed to process this themselves before coming.  After all, my husband didn't even know this yet himself.

That call was followed by a call to one of his brothers, and then to a sister in law who would relay the news to her husband, his other brother.  Then I called my family. 

In between phone calls, I sent some email messages to close friends who I knew were waiting for news.  Doing that also gave me time to 'regroup' and gather the strength to make the next call.  A few people called me back after we talked the first time.  It seemed no one was prepared to hear the news. 

It seemed like forever before he woke up -- I was anxious to see my husband.  Finally, the status board read 'Transferred' -- he was in his room. 

He was still very groggy when I arrived.  It was hard to hold back the tears.  I still wasn't sure what to say.  "Hey there.  It took you long enough to wake up.  I've been waiting a long time."  Then it came.

"Did you talk to Dr. Colbert?"


"What did she say?  Was she able to reconnect things?"

"She was able to remove the mass, and everything is reconnected . . . "


". . . but she did find cancer."  (I said it.  That was enough for now.)   I had to turn my face away.  I couldn't fall apart now.  More deep breaths.

As my husband woke up more, he asked me to tell him again, and I did - this time giving a little more information.  We repeated this process a couple more times.  Somehow, it didn't seem right that it was getting easier to say.

That night, Trent's brothers and parents came and we all spent some time together.  After they left, we talked about how to tell the kids.  My dear friend Kay was keeping the kids, and she agreed to bring them to the hospital the next morning. 

As I prepared to go to sleep that night, I felt wrapped in God's blessings.  The night before, I had gone to bed thanking God for His love, care, and total control in this situation.  That night, I realized that it was a great blessing to be able to do the same thing -- those factors had not changed.  God still loved us; He still cared for us; and He was still in control of every aspect of our situation.  This diagnosis may have been a surprise to us, but God already knew.  Through the emotional turmoil of the day, I was still blessed.

When Kay brought the kids to the hospital, we kept the news simple, and reminded them that the most important thing they could do would be to pray for Daddy because we know that God is in control and that He is the greatest healer of all. They asked a few questions, but didn't talk much.  We made sure they knew people who they could talk to if they had questions or concerns.

What we had planned as a 2 - 3 day stay stretched into 7 days in the hospital.  We had several visitors.  Our pastor and his wife each came twice.  There were a few other visitors from church.  Trent's parents and brothers each visited twice.  There was also a friend Trent knew from high school who visited.  One evening, four men from church came.  They talked with Trent and laughed together.  They had a devotional time with him.  Each of the four men prayed for Trent - for us.  I was so overwhelmed by the love that they were showing toward us.  We were truly blessed!

Our surgeon met with us daily to check on Trent and see how we were doing.  We had a great team of nurses and nursing assistants.  We met our oncologist.  She was very kind and compassionate.  We got more information.  This is Appendiceal Cancer, and it is very rare.  It doesn't have a well-established protocol of its own, so they treat it like colon cancer.  It is slower growing than colon cancer, but it also is slower to respond to chemo.  We got a plan for the next 6 weeks:  First priority is to heal from surgery.  During that healing time, a consult would be set up with a doctor at the University of Minnesota -- he is the one doctor in Minnesota who has experience with Appendiceal Cancer.  There would be new scans ordered -- this time including the chest because this cancer typically spread upward.  It felt good to at least have something of a timeline in front of us.

After 7 days, we were finally dismissed.  Trent really wasn't where they wanted him to be physically, but they weren't doing anything for him, so they let us go.  We were relieved to be able to get back to a sense of 'normalcy' -- to get to be HOME.  We would focus on healing and wait for the next steps.

To be continued. . . .

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