Follow up.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could just type the words, “and she lived happily ever after, for a very long time. The end.” and that be true. My eyes even tear up at the idea of this as my reality. I’m stubbornly clinging to this hope but unfortunately, it isn’t true yet.

You may remember, I said in a previous post that cancer has always felt like a bad dream so cancer free was even more foreign because the bad dream seemed to have resolved but I hadn’t woken up. Since my surgery and drawn out recovery, I’ve been practicing as much mental discipline as I could muster into believing I was cured and wouldn’t have any more cancer. I decided the millimeter lung nodules were not going to be cancer and resigned not to give them any of my energy by worrying about them. With this mindset, I boldly strode into a CT scan three weeks ago, not worried about finding anything because I was determined my hope and my mental commitment to being cancer free would triumph. My mom was worried though. It was my first scan after surgery. My first scan after four months with no chemo, the longest I’d been off chemo since getting diagnosed a year and a half ago. Four months is a perfect window for new cancer to grow big enough to show up. I drank my cleaning fluid contrast and got my CT scan like clockwork. The first of five monitoring scans that would happen over the next two years.

Peter Pan Donuts in Brooklyn
Wearing my favorite winter garb.
Local brews and garlic fries.

The next day, I left for a long overdue visit to NYC to visit my best friend and her seven month old daughter that I had never met. After two days of my favorite foods, drinks and NYC activities, I text my oncologist for results. Reading her reply was like a punch in the gut. Some suspicious nodules had grown in my lung. They weren’t “new” nodules. At the back of my mind there had been two slow growing lung nodules that in my crusade to stay cancer free I had thought dismissively about. Not for the first time, nor I’m sure for the last, my head and heart spiraled. I had skipped right over the “what if’s” and straight into hopelessness. My poor friends, suddenly I was distracted and melancholy and crying in the hallway outside their apartment late at night talking on the phone to my mom. Things got dark folks. I was sure I was going to have to postpone my life all over again. Not go back to work, stop coaching, more heavy dose chemo, cancel my upcoming vacation, constant nausea, another surgery, more pain, more hospitals, failed treatments, frustrated doctors, never be cancer free, be abandoned by God, everyone would give up, I would give up, the cancer would spread to my brain and then within five years I’d lose the fight and die.

This is the scary story that’s waiting in the shadows to capture my heart and force itself into my reality. I don’t understand how anyone can have cancer and not know Jesus. People always tell me how strong I am. Let me put those rumors to rest, guys, it’s not me. This depression, and fear, and pain, and shit circumstances are too much for me! He is the only one big enough to over power my scary story and say what’s true. I need to say it again, for myself, He has nothing but good intentions for me and no matter how dark my circumstances are it doesn’t change who He is or how much He loves me. I had this thought last weekend, maybe I’m going through this so that God can say, even in the most hopeless and darkest paths in life, He doesn’t just still loves us and want good things for us, but He is in it with us. If people who know Him and love Him never experienced this level of darkness could I say or believe that this isn’t too much for Him? Could I say with absolute assurance that He can walk through the worst life throws at you with you? Could I tell you I know that He wants to make the most depressing and fearful things in my life something good? I think sometimes people have horrible things happen so that we can find out whether what God says about Himself is actually true. I can tell you with certainty, He is not a God of talk and empty promises. Everyone has their own version of my scary story, I just want to tell you there’s an alternative if you want it. I hope that you can see these things about God are really true when you look at the darkness of my life. By some miracle I can not only remain sane and happy but I can appear strong. Somehow I am always rescued from those dark thought spirals, though I never quite now how it happens.

My oncologist ordered a PET scan straight away. She wasn’t discouraged like I was by these lung nodules. Yes, they are chemo resistant. Meaning, the 9 months of chemo I had, which had shrunk and killed all my other cancer, hadn’t gotten rid of these nodules. If you look at my previous scans you can see these nodules, they were only one millimeter, but they were there. Now they are four and five millimeters. Last week I was injected with that damn radioactive isotope again. Sure enough, the two nodules glowed, positive for cancer. Next step, meeting with my radiation oncologist to discuss radiation. Let’s see how this goes and what the implications will be.

This is the canister the radioactive isotope vial comes in to reduce radioactive exposure. Very science fiction.

The fight still rages, guys, I’m so grateful you’re in it with me!

Narcotic Bowel Syndrome.

Recovery after this most recent surgery looks a little different. In a good way, mostly. I mean, I was in the hospital for twenty nine days the first time, this most recent surgery I was only hospitalized for six days. Where they went through the same incision, sternum to pubic bone, and then some, all those rib and thoracic incisions, I didn’t need to start chemo and was much stronger afterwards. I could walk, after all, more than i can say for after my first surgery. Yes, I had another infection after the second surgery and it looked like I would die again, but I didn’t go septic like after the first surgery. I wish I could make a table breaking down how similar and different the surgeries were. The main take away is I came out of the second surgery better! I really wanted to use my recovery after the first surgery as a standard for my current recovery. I can’t.

My colostomy (abdominal poop bag) after the first surgery was horrendous! It was also very convenient. I didn’t give my bowel movements a thought. As long as I had an extra bag with me, in the end I was good to go. I had pool days, beach days, camping trips, and all the summer fun with that thing. Most of my closest friends didn’t even know I had it.

Now having your intestines reconnected is an altogether different experience. How much attention do I give that urgency to poop? Am I going to poop my pants? Is this just a false alarm? This cramping, am I going to have a bowel movement or not? Turns out when you take your intestines out of your body, they get a little freaked out, stop working, paralysis for a while. By the time I was discharged from the hospital they were moving again but not in a synchronized manner. They were sporadic and out of sync, part of me felt constipated and the other part felt like diarrhea. It was uncomfortable to say the least.

After two months of severe cramping, feeling not that my intestines alone were cramping but sometimes my pelvic floor and low back, and then there was that sharp swallowed a knife pain too. I was mildly concerned. I mean, after two months, my prior experience and medical knowledge told me things are mostly healed, fascia, muscles, intestines… The fact that I had days where I was spending all my time on the couch or limping around the house because of abdominal pain was definitely unnerving. I had a follow up with my surgeon to look at some open wounds I had along my incision and at my mothers prompting I described my frequent “discomfort”. “I’m sure it’s my diet, Mom! Let’s not make a deal out of nothing!” The resident I described my symptoms to was like, “yeah … that pain is abnormal for this time frame.” I know I don’t have an obstruction because I’m going three to five times a day. “I’m sure it’s diet.” I’m always very dismissive of my pain and problems (part of why I’m in this mess to begin with). Then Dr. Reeves, my angelic surgeon came in. He asked some more probing question about my symptoms and my meds. “Sounds to me like you have Narcotic Bowel Syndrome. You’re intestines are going through their own set of withdrawals. You need to slow down your tapering of pain drugs, I wouldn’t go completely off them for another two months.” I had been planning on going off cold turkey in like a week. “Oh no! Don’t do that! You’ll be miserable!” Well ok Dr. Reeves!

I can function normally. As long as I can allow my intestines their own way, three to five times a day. As long as I can stretch out on a couch for a couple hours between activities. As long as I take at least a quarter of a pill of Norco three time a day. (I’ve been tapering. When i was discharged from the hospital I was taking one pill every four hours, setting alarms in the middle of the night so I didn’t wake up with pain.) Some days my intestines are noooooooot happy, often it’s a day or two after I cut down my dose or forget and skip a dose. It’s debilitating at times. But I look good.

Most people just want you to look good and function well. So I do. Most people are really happy with me, not just for me. But I hate withdrawals. I hate the anxiety and hot flashes and aching mind gnawing pain of withdrawals. My intestines hate it worse. Poor guys have been through enough, now this? It’s alright. Time passes and so will this.

I’m still cancer free! I’ve had blood work done and my tumor markers are still really low and my labs are normal. I’m trying to stand in the belief that the cancer is gone and will stay gone. Another CT scan and follow up in the works! Still praying and fighting!!!

Cancer Free.

Where do I start? I mean, seriously. It’s like the last year and a half of my life has been a bad dream. Part of me always expected to wake up. So you can imagine, it’s been very strange to have the bad dream resolve itself and not to wake up. If the bad part of the dream is over, does that mean it isn’t a dream at all, or does that make the happy conclusion a dream too? It makes the whole cancer thing seem even more unreal. The entire thing is hard to conceptualize and even harder to communicate.

To put it plainly, the surgery was miraculous. The plan was never to make me cancer free. That wasn’t supposed to be possible. I remember waking up after surgery, very sluggish and blurry, to my parents and brothers next to my bed. There was a tangible excitement that was buzzing in the air, just over my head, outside my reach, beyond what I was able to understand and make sense of. My mom leaned over the bed and said softly “They got it all, Sweetie.” I frowned, internally I think, I’m not sure I had the control or energy to actually frown. I didn’t like my mom saying that to me because it couldn’t be true. The disease was too small in my lymph nodes, it was microscopic. I was almost irritated that she misspoke and my head was too foggy to figure out what she meant to say. But then she continued… “They got the whole chain!” She was very emotional, that much was plain, she was happy and tearful. “The chain?” I questioned groggily. Irritation and hope began wrestling over my heart. What chain? She didn’t mean… “The… ” my brain hiccuped. What was that word? The lymphatic chain, the one the radiation oncologist talked about and wanted to radiate as my best chance for a cure… “My lymph node chain? No way!” I slurred through my lazy post anesthesia fog. Thats all I remember. I fell back asleep? We talked of the cosmos? I don’t remember.

I woke up the next morning, half expecting to have dreamed what my mom said. Rational me didn’t want to talk about it, I’d wait for my surgeon to tell me himself. I wanted an official report, to be told more formally. “They got it all,” HA! The resident came in at some point that day, I’m sure it was the morning but in that post surgical haze chronological order barely exists. But I remember what he said with remarkable clarity. He talked about how the lung surgery went well, it was cancer they removed, but they got the whole nodule and the regional lymph nodes. Then Dr. Reeves and he got started. My intestines were amazing, there was barely any scar tissue. He wasn’t sure why, maybe my age, maybe my diet, maybe how fit I was, it didn’t really make sense taking into account the two previous surgeries. This made it easy for them to find my rectal stump and reattach my colon. I inwardly praised my intestines for handling surgery so well and thanked God because, lets be real, if it doesn’t makes sense to the doctors then it’s God. Then they went after the lymph node they missed during my first surgery. The one that was too risky to go after because of how close it was to my aorta and how little time they had. The resident said, “we wanted to go in up high, by your liver, since the lymph node is so high in your abdominal cavity it made sense to start high. We couldn’t, there was too much scar tissue by your liver from the first surgery. So we went in down by the colostomy. Now, this is where things get a little magical…” My eyes widened. He explained that because my intestines were still out of my abdomen it made my posterior retroperitoneal lymphatic chain very visible. He wasn’t sure why it was so visible but it was. “Im not sure how he does it, I sure can’t, but Dr. Reeves can tell when a lymph node has been treated versus a healthy lymph node. They don’t look any different to me, so I don’t know.” Basically my surgeon can somehow see with his eyes that a lymph node has dead cancer cells in it. But where there are dead cancer cells it only takes one cell to survive to cause a problem in the future, so even dead cancer cells indicate danger and need to be removed whenever possible. They took the whole chain out and whats even better is they were able to trace the chain up to where the peri-aortic lymph node was, the one they were looking for. They removed it without an extensive search. “So you’re pretty much cancer free. It was basically a miraculous surgery.” He concluded.

I burst into tears.

I was in no way expecting to hear that phrase. I was completely caught off guard. Later that day my surgeon, Dr. Reeves, came in and also told the same story. It was much more practical and grounded than the way the resident told it so I’m glad I heard the story from him first. I enjoyed hearing words like magic and miracle being thrown around. But my surgeon was beaming, not so much with pride but with joy, his own version of “magic” and “miracle”. He was so happy that he could do this for me.  His conclusion was better than the way the resident put it. He smiled down at me and said… “so we can say with certainty, you are cancer free.”

What a dream!

Surgery II.

I’m sitting in the waiting room to be checked in for surgery, the most negligent blogger ever. Wait, Amy, didn’t you already have surgery? How did we jump from lung nodule to surgery. Well … it hasn’t been a jump I’m afraid to report. It’s been a couple of months of tests and decisions and waiting. I had the biopsy, I’ll cut to the chase, it was inconclusive, suspicious for cancer. Normally a lung biopsy takes twenty minutes and there aren’t complications. Well, my nodule was so small that it was very difficult to get a sample of. So difficult that it took an hour and a half. Then, because it was on the periphery of my lung the needle ended up puncturing through the other side of my lung and I got a pneumothorax (collapsed lung). Collapsed lungs, believe it or not, do not feel good. I spent the day in the hospital with oxygen being monitored. All’s well that ends well.

I met with my oncologist to discuss the results and our game plan. Because my biopsy was inconclusive, but suspicious, I scheduled an appointment with a thoracic oncology surgeon to discuss the possibility of surgery. Long ago, during my last post surgical follow up visit, I had asked my surgeon when I could have my colostomy reversed. The reply was that once I didn’t need chemo and radiation and could be off treatment for about three months that I could have the surgery to reverse it. So I had this thought. If I need to be off chemo for three months for my lung surgery couldn’t they just double whammy it and do both surgeries? Good news, yes, they could.

I met with a thoracic surgeon and my original surgeon the same day. My hope, strangely enough, was that both surgeons would be agreeable to perform surgery. To cut to the chase, they were both agreeable! And Dr. Reeves, my champion surgeon, was even willing to go after some suspicious lymph nodes that were missed in the first surgery. He also said that even though I have some cancer that wasn’t there after the first surgery he feels better about my prognosis now, nine months after the surgery, than he did immediately after the surgery when I was supposedly cancer free.

It’s been a few weeks. I’ve had a PET scan, which was clear, nothing lit up positive for cancer! I’ve had a repeat colonoscopy, which was also clear, no new tumors or polyps even! That’s a really really big deal!

Here I am, laying on a gurney to go into the OR for another ten hour surgery. I’ve been through the spectrum of emotions but I’m ready to get past this.

Work it out.

About a month ago now (please forgive the infrequency of my posts) I had a panic attack during a workout. You’ll remember I have this slow growing nodule in my lung. When I last wrote, we had found that in a year, the nodule had grown from two tenths of a millimeter to six tenths of a millimeter, despite chemo. It’s still tiny but any abnormal cell growth is a concern with my history. I had discussed there were three options, biopsy, radiation and surgery. The morning of my panic attack I had met with my oncologist to discuss what we would do next. We decided to do a biopsy, determine once and for all if it was cancer or not and make our decision based off these results. She said, “Now Amy, if the biopsy is positive [for cancer], I’m going to recommend surgery over radiation.” That’s the aggressive course, don’t wait to see if radiation works, get the thing out. It made sense to me and I left her office in agreement and headed to the gym to meet up and workout with friends.

It was an intense workout programmed that day, an EMOM of thrusters and burpee box jump overs. (If you don’t do Crossfit and don’t have any idea what that means, it’s fine, it’s not important. Just know it’s an intense workout with a time component.) chemo has impacted my ability to workout A LOT. Often i get dizzy during rest breaks because my blood pressure can’t keep up and I’m still recovering from my massive surgery in February. This particular day, my body was tired and sore so I scaled the reps and was determined to give it my all. Here’s one thing you should know about Crossfit, the workouts are more than just physical. There’s a mental and emotional component that requires grit and commitment. If you’re having a rough day and your emotionally taxed going in, it’s going to manifest itself in the workout. As the workout progresses and fatigue set in you need mental fortitude. You need to say, “Keep going! Don’t quit! Finish this set! You can do it!” But when you’re already mentally and emotionally tired the reserves for positive self talk and determination just aren’t there. As I warmed up and didn’t feel great, a pitying thought entered my mind and nestled in my heart, “You’re so far from where you want to be physically. Look how tired you are! You’re not getting better.” So as I started the workout I was already feeling sorry for myself. As I got tired and was gasping for air, instead of pushing myself to stick with it, my thoughts went to cancer and surgery. “Just when I was starting to be able to push during workouts without being dizzy and lift heavier weights I have to recover all over again! Go back to square one!?” And that’s when the panic hit. I started hyperventilating and crying and fought my hardest to calm down and get back to the reps. I paced in circles in the corner during a rest period as my thoughts spiraled darker and darker. Then this inner voice cut through the panic, “Why are you fearful of what isn’t even determined yet? You don’t even know if it’s cancer, much more, you don’t know if you need surgery. Stay in the now!” And I took a deep breath and finished the workout.

This mental/emotional and ultimately spiritual fight is my normal. I’m lucky enough to have people behind the scenes continuing to pray for me and wage this battle with me. I have excellent friends who talk me down and provide me with limitless support. I am anchored to this space of hope and peace.

Clean and jerk post surgery PR 135#

I have lots more news but here’s an encouraging story to tide you over till my next post. Know with certainty that the voice that cuts through my panic is not my own and is equally available to you. We’ve all got dark thought spirals in our life, but there’s only one voice powerful enough to still the screaming panic and whisper calm. More soon!

Anniversary.

A year ago, September 21, I got my diagnosis. After months of abdominal pain and bleeding I woke up in the middle of my colonoscopy to see a massive tumor and know it was cancer. I was told I had inoperable stage IV colon cancer.

I have discovered treasures of darkness. I’ve gone into deep darkness of the soul over and over. But I’ve learned how deep true friends will go with you. I’m learning how to see hope and love in pitch darkness. I’m finding the faith to not seek rescue from God but find refuge with God, letting him comfort me in it more than delivering me from it. I’m trying to see past circumstances to stay fixed on the character of God when I don’t recognize Him. I’ve found that worry and “what if’s” never really prepare you for the bad they only rob you of right now good.

I’ll be reflecting on this more… what are my “takeaways from the worst year of your life”? I will continue to declare Gods truth over myself even in my pain, and discomfort and sadness. I won’t be called a victim when The cross and His resurrection declares me a victor! The hope and good news I have is so much better and bigger than the darkness and loss.

To update you all, I’ve been taking chemo pills for… two months already? I get an infusion of Avastin once every three weeks, take chemo pills (Xeloda) for two weeks and then have a week off. Each cycle is three weeks (if that makes sense). It’s been… ok. Not as much of a respite as I had hoped. So much better than hard core chemo and the chemo pump, but no walk in the Park. Where chemo before knocked me on my butt for five days and then let me climb out of my chemo cave to feel good for a week, chemo pills leave me feeling mediocre constantly. I’m nauseous always, but it’s very mild. I’m consistently more tired than my good weeks during hard core chemo, I just don’t have energy. This makes my workouts more inconsistent. I’ve developed Foot Hand Syndrome (different from Foot Hand Mouth Disease). It’s cause by toxicity from the chemo pills, they think the chemo leaks out of the capillaries into the soft tissue on the bottoms of your feet and palms of your hands. This makes them bright red, hot, tingly, and progresses to dry, cracking, pealing, and burning sensations. It feels like walking on hot asphalt barefoot. I’ve had several days of limping and/or being too uncomfortable to walk. The other down side to chemo pills is I have a once a week episode of horrrrrrriiiible diarrhea. Mostly horrible because the intestinal cramps are so painful that I throw up and get lightheaded. It only lasts like six to eight hours though, not for days at a time. I still prefer it to hard core chemo even though the subtle feeling bad constantly is more demoralizing.

Pushing through all this to try and have normalcy has been increasingly difficult. Not being able to do things with friends or in the gym has been really disheartening. I’ve had several episodes of tears over “just wanting to be a normal girl”. I’m almost to the point where I can go back to work, do workouts as prescribed but then I’m struck with horrible cramps or can’t walk because my feet hurt. Until this week, I’ve had no concrete plan of how long I would need to take the chemo pills. It was a cycle by cycle basis. My body has been responding progressively worse to the chemo, side effects are becoming more debilitating and with quicker onset each cycle. My body has been telling me louder and louder, “we need a break!”.

I had another CT scan to check up on my cancer. There were a lot of questions. Had it spread on lighter dose chemo? Were there new tumors in my liver or colon? Was it growing in my lymph nodes? Did it grow in my lungs? This scan would determine if chemo pills were effective for managing my disease. Was radiation still appropriate? Could I go off chemo and have my colostomy reversed soon?

I didn’t get my barium smoothie this time. It was worse. The tech said “let’s have you take this solution, it visualizes the bowels better. Tastes worse than the barium smoothie but it’s lemon flavored”. Well, it tasted like cleaning fluid, no joke or exaggeration, literally soapy. It tasted like lemon cleaners smell, not lemon flavored. I had this thought of, “someone made a mistake, this is cleaning fluid, I’m poisoning myself”, but then acknowledged that they would know right away during the scan if the contrast didn’t work and could call poison control so I was probably safe.

The scan showed that seven months after my surgery there were still no new tumors in my colon or my liver. This is great news, as both the colon and liver have high tumor recurrence rates. All of my lymph nodes were still normal sized, meaning no measurable cancer. But one of the suspicious nodules in my lung had grown another millimeter. Last November it was two millimeters, July it was five millimeters and is now six millimeters. It’s still tiny! Not bad news, per say. Not the best news but no new tumors and treatable lung nodules is great in my book. This means we can plan.

Currently the plan is to revisit the possibility of radiation and get a biopsy of that nodule to be certain whether it’s cancer or not. If radiation doesn’t blast them enough I can have surgery to take out a wedge of my lung and get rid of it that way. Two treatment options, so treatable!

So I’m in a good space. Tired, sad, wanting to be past this, but still anchored to hope and truths bigger than my circumstances.

I want to leave you with something. There’s this great song by Ellie Holcomb, “Find You Here” that is just so good! Here’s the lyrics,

“It’s not the news that any of us hoped that we would hear

It’s not the road we would have chosen, no

The only thing that we can see is darkness up ahead

But you’re asking us to lay our worry down and sing a song instead

CHORUS:

And I didn’t know I’d find You here,

In the middle of my deepest fear

But You are drawing near

You are overwhelming me with peace

So I’ll lift my voice and sing

You’re gonna carry us through everything

And You are drawing near

You’re overwhelming all my fears with peace

You say that I should come to you with everything I need

You’re asking me to thank You even when the pain is deep

You promise that You’ll come and meet us on the road ahead

And no matter what the fear says, You give me a reason to be glad

Here in the middle of the lonely night

Here in the middle of the losing fight

You’re here in the middle of the deep regret

Here when the healing hasn’t happened yet

Here in the middle of the desert place

Here in the middle when I cannot see Your face

Here in the middle with Your outstretched arms

You can see my pain and it breaks Your heart

Rejoice, Rejoice

Don’t have to worry bout a single thing

Cause You are overwhelming me with peace

Don’t have to worry bout a single thing

You’re gonna carry us through everything

Overwhelming peace”

This is my real.

Next Steps.

(Double post day! You may want to read “Again.” before you read this one. But you don’t have to or anything I’m just trying to be chronological about all this.)

A month ago I was moaning about how I just needed a break. This little heart of mine is exhausted. Tired of feeling miserable from chemo, playing catch up with my life, looming disease and unknown, blood thinning injections, skin breakdown around my ostomy, bad news. Just tired! Well folks, I finally got a break. My CT scan says no growth of any “nodules” and no new tumors or masses or nodules or spots or other synonyms of cancer. My disease is still microscopic and according to my oncologist and radiologist is “stable”.

I’ve still got a four millimeter nodule in my lung and the other two in my lungs are smaller than that and the periaortic retroperitoneal lymph node is still only seven millimeters. But anything less than a centimeter is deemed microscopic disease and some even say it’s not measurable. This is somehow so different for my brain than the it’s microscopic in your lymphatic system and spreading into your lungs even though nothing is really different. I feel more stable like my cancer isn’t exploding and spreading like crazy despite the systemic, hard on my body chemo.

I was lucky enough to get this news before I went to a family church camp that I’ve gone to every summer of my entire life. I was surrounded by people who have known me since I was born and have been prayerfully walking each and every step of this crazy road with me. I have distinct memories in high school and college of feeling like my life was going all wrong but knowing there were people who didn’t know what was going on but were praying for me made something in my heart rest. Knowing people are being more faithful to pray for you everyday than you are to eat breakfast gives you a level of confidence that can’t be generated by positive self talk. It’s powerful. But I got to be surrounded by these people and share the good news with them. It was a pretty cool experience.

A month ago I went and met with my oncologist to discuss the implications of stable microscopic disease on future treatments. What we decided to do is switch to a lighter dose chemo. Thank you Jesus! This means chemo pills and only one infusion. Two thousand milligram pills twice a day for two weeks then a week off (a three week cycle) and Avastin every three weeks. Three weeks ago I took my pills and went in for my infusion like a song bird. I was stoked and had every expectation that I wasn’t even going to notice I was still taking chemo. Neither of the drugs had side effects of nausea so let me at em! I told myself as long as I wasn’t nauseous I could tolerate anything! Well that was grossly unrealistic.

As soon as the infusion started the nausea hit me. I convinced myself at first it was psychosomatic (my mind was inflicting the nausea not the drugs). When that didn’t decrease the nausea I said, ok, it’s only the steroid I take before I get the chemo that’s making me nauseous. It’ll pass once the steroid is out of my system. I was pretty couch bound for the rest of the day which was horribly disappointing. Then the nausea persisted every day I took those damned pink pills. I’m still not sure why I’m nauseous, since it isn’t a side effect.

I was so wanting to get my life back! Go back to work at the hospital, start doing intense workouts again, reopen my physical therapy business, and travel! But nooooo I was plagued by a three out of ten constant nausea that increased to a four an hour after I’d take the pills. Zofran and Reglan didn’t do anything. So I’m resigned to learn to coexist with nausea and fatigue while I take these pills. I get to practice mental discipline and ignore it and push through it if I want to reclaim my normal life. I’ve gained weight which means I’m stronger. I’m back to Olympic lifting and doing workouts but am still very limited by fatigue and the weird dizziness with exertion. But I’m getting stronger every day!

At this point, I don’t know how long I’ll be taking the chemo pills. I know the plan is three cycles then we’ll hopefully do re-scans and it will show no new growth or spread. We may still do radiation in the future but I’m not sure. Then at some point in the future I have to be stable enough to not need chemo for three month in order to have the surgery to reattach my colon and get rid of this poo bag on my stomach. So I still have a big surgery and hospital stay to look forward to.

It’s a strange place to be, in all honesty. If I’d never had cancer you’d look at my scans and say I was normal and healthy (with the exception of my massive surgery and colostomy). My disease (if it’s even there) is so small it’s still not measurable. By all objective measures I’m disease free? It’s weird to say that. So I’m making myself sick with this chemo, and that feels lame and excessive. But at the same time the chemo is essentially keeping the disease dormant. This lighter chemo could potentially not be strong enough to keep the disease dormant and my next scans could show enlarged lymph nodes and new tumors and growth of those suspicious spots in my lungs. It’s a very strange place to be.

The mental battle still rages…. Don’t be afraid of what’s not there, but very likely is there. Don’t hold on to those experts words that said I would never be cured and could die within five years. Don’t grieve for what all this has cost you because better things are just ahead… I feel I have been promised a long, full, life and I still have to fight to claim those promises as fact. I still cry and feel sorry for myself frequently and battle hard against that. I have been very stable lately on God’s character which helps soooo much! When I doubt that or allow my circumstances to paint him differently than who He is, is when things get super dark and hard. Oswald Chambers said “Unless we can look the darkest, blackest fact full in the face without damaging God’s character, we do not yet know Him.” … We’ll shoot. That’s real.

I’m trying to find normalcy, routine, and make the steps to slowly live the life I see as mine. I can see it though, I know what I want it to look like… that’s a pretty big deal. I have a real vision and hope for the future. But for now I’m settling on battling with nausea and using my energy for things and people I looooove!! I’ll keep you posted!

Again.

(Written in July. Forgive the delay)

Here I am again. In the radiology waiting room with bad art and annoying television. We’re repeating imaging to look at the nodules in my lungs and lymph nodes to ensure they aren’t growing and maybe they’ve even disappeared.

About my lungs, there was this horrible window of time where it was possible I had tumors in my lungs that had grown and spread while I was off chemo preparing for and then recovering from my surgery. You might remember, my last CT scan after my surgery said three nodules in my lungs had all grown. I knew there was maybe one nodule in the very beginning but because it had been unaffected by my pre surgery chemo it had been determined it most likely wasn’t cancer since all my cancer had shrunk dramatically with chemo. This would mean we’ve got some chemo resistant cancer in my lungs! We would have to completely change the direction of future treatments! Plus just the idea of having cancer in my lungs was unnerving. I’d gotten comfortable with the whole colon, liver, lymph node tumor thing but for it to be even more progressed than that was very disheartening! There was this small hope that what the radiologist had seen was present the whole time and wasn’t new. I’d still have to mentally adjust but somehow knowing they weren’t new would comfort me.

… and a man in the waiting room just threw a magazine across the room and yelled at his wife that he’s sick of being treated like an invalid. Oh my…

My oncologist spoke with the radiologist directly and asked him. What’s the deal with these nodules? Are they new? Were they always there and just too small to be reported by the other radiologists? The good news is, yes. He saw the same nodules on previous pre surgery CT scans. But where they were unaffected by chemo they did increase in size by millimeters while I was off chemo. I asked my oncologist why hadn’t they been affected by chemo and thought to be calcium deposits not cancer.

… oh man now the man is wobbling up to a stranger and asking her to bring up the World Cup game on his phone. Oh dear…

She said some cancer is slower growing. Chemo targets rapidly dividing cells and so if a cancer isn’t dividing as quickly (growing) it’s not going to absorb the chemo as much and will be less affected. What this concludes is that my cancer is damn aggressive and very sneaky. Hiding in my lungs and lymph nodes. Tsk tsk tsk. So it was concluded I needed even more chemo, two more rounds worth with an added medication.

… my goodness, sir, the volume on your phone is very very loud…

my last post had left off with me being beyond disappointed. My body had had enough chemo. The nausea was relentless and the intestinal cramping was crippling. That’s not even mentioning the emotional and mental exhaustion of clinging to faith an hope when things turn for the worse not the better. I had been entertaining ideas of going back to work, hitting workouts hard, starting to intern at the gym, starting up with my physical therapy business, I had made plans for my birthday to take a vacation with my brothers and go camping with my friends and now they would be bulldozed by more chemo. I felt my heart starting to slip into lies of darkness and death and unfulfilled, broken promises.

Honestly, looking back, I don’t remember how I was brought back to solid ground again. I remember that I had to make a choice to believe the Lords promises… AGAIN. I had to chose to believe He is just as powerful and faithful and good intentioned. I had to chose to believe that He hadn’t forgotten about me and changed His mind. AGAIN!!! … This war is relentless.

So today I have repeat scans. I survived two more rounds of chemo, just one round shy of my pre surgery chemo and way harder on my body. I’m choosing to believe nothing’s grown since my last scan and that the blood clot in my lung is gone. Here’s to fighting for life and hope and cures! Banana barium smoothie we meet again. Bottoms up!

…. intermission…….

Got the results from my scans, everything is stable! This is good news, everything is the same size as the last scan after my surgery.

Post op

It’s been three months since my surgery. Recovery has sure been… interesting. Let me start by saying I am doing “remarkably” well. If you saw me on the street you would never know I have a massive scar stretching from my sternum to my pubic bone, open wounds packed with dressings or a bag stuck to my stomach that fills with poop. I’m not back to normal energy. I am still limited by pain. But my life looks normal. I’m going out to dinner, spending the day with friends, running errands, working out, but it’s all limited. At best I’m at eighty percent of my normal pre surgery self.

Since I’ve been home things have gotten dark. “Dark?” you might ask, “wasn’t getting diagnosed with stage four cancer dark enough?” Yeah. Yes, definitely. But these past couple months have been way worse! Walk with me through a metaphor… There’s this path through the woods. It’s night, it’s dark, there’s enough moon and star light to see the path just before your feet. But either side of the path is shadowy. You can hear leaves crunching or a rustle in a bush just ahead. You can swear that something is watching you. You see movement out of the corner of your eye but whenever you turn your head it’s gone. You strain your eyes peering into the shadows but can’t make out anything but menacing shapes. I mean, it’s like walking alone back to your cabin or tent during summer camp. It’s like walking to your car by yourself in a sketchy neighborhood with no streetlights. All you want to do is run or hide or scream. The panic rises in your chest, the hair on your neck prickles. The threat of the unknown. Recovery has been like this. I feel like lies and fear and “what if’s” are hunting me, stalking me. Most people feel completely alone and the darkness swallows them. They can’t outrun it, and they eventually get completely bombarded by the severity of the darkness and depth of the “what if’s” and are left hopeless and paralyzed. We all know people who have lived most of their lives in this place. Heck, maybe you’re in that place. Maybe it’s not cancer. Maybe it’s a tough marriage, maybe the death of someone close to you, maybe it’s substance abuse, maybe depression or anxiety, or a bad break up, or whatever! There is so much darkness in the world! And so often the paths of our lives go through some damn dark woods. I am so lucky… (Is it fair to say that? Luck has become such a foreign concept. But you get the idea.) I am so lucky (let’s be real gifted) to be surrounded by friends who are willing to walk with me through the darkness. Often when you’re out in the dark you just wish there was another person with you and it would make you so much braver. I not only have my incredible family and friends, I have people all over the country holding me up in prayer and anchoring me to hope. I’ve said this in previous posts and it continues to be true. Even better, I have a God who walks with me, not just watching out for me, rooting for me, or is sending me good thoughts. He is doing battle for me. I can’t tell you how many sobbing car rides or damp pillow cases have been interrupted by this beaming flashlight into the darkness. He’s fighting back the darkness for me and not just holding my hand, but shielding me and carrying me past some of the most horrifying and disappointing and heartbreaking darkness to date. That flashlight shows me the shadows of fear for what they are and differentiates truth from the “what if’s”. Guys. This can be true for you too. Let me tell you more about my “haunted woods” path and the darkness I’ve been wading through.

Things were progressing right on schedule according to the timeline set up before surgery. Six weeks after the surgery I would start radiation then do some light chemo just to be thorough. The problem was I had been in the hospital three weeks longer than expected. So I started up my medical appointments a week after being home. It felt rushed. I wasn’t ready to undergo any treatment or make any medical decisions but ok, here we go. My oncologist hooked me up with a nearby radiation oncologist for a consult. There was one lymph node that wasn’t removed during surgery that had shown up on my PET scans my surgeon had wanted to target with radiation. I was tired from not sleeping well, hungover from 4 am sleeping aids and having narcotic withdrawals to boot. After waiting for an hour, in rushes this woman. My surgeon Aunt, (the one with the secret doctor network) had warned me about radiation oncologists. “They’re physicists. They are super smart and intelligent but also very nerdy. They have horrible social skills so don’t be alarmed.” This was definitely true of this woman. She lacked anything that could be termed as social graces. She was an abrasive, arrogant, loud talker. She spoke to my mother and I, in what could easily be mistaken for a yell, and everything that came out of her mouth was negative. I won’t give you the conversational play by play but her message was simple. Why would she do radiation on lymph nodes, or whatever, where there was no measurable disease? That would be prophylactic radiation therapy and not only did she believe it was unethical she couldn’t find a scrap of research that said anything like it had ever been done. She also made me and my mom feel like it was our idea and we were complete idiots and had insulted her for even thinking it.

Here’s the backstory. During the surgery, they removed the regional lymph nodes around the primary tumor in my colon, thirty-five in total. Thirty out of that thirty-five came back positive for cancer. None of these had shown up on any image studies, probably because they were too small. This was a complete shock and meant that the disease in my lymphatic system was far more extensive then they thought. It also meant that it was just hiding out waiting to grow and spread. Eight rounds of aggressive chemo hadn’t destroyed it. Massive surgery hadn’t removed it and the worst part, I was far from being cured. My surgeon was unable to remove the lymph node next to my heart during surgery. He recommended targeted radiation aimed at that lymph node. It had shown up on imaging, we knew cancer was there, he just couldn’t get to it. My oncologist had agreed with him radiation was my best chance for a cure.

To be yelled at by this doctor telling me I didn’t need radiation was both good and bad news. It wasn’t like I wanted radiation. I just wanted to be cancer free. But hey if I don’t need it that was great news. My oncologist was apologetic but insistent that another consult with a different radiation oncologist was my best bet. Off I went to another doctors appointment (my third that week).

Dr. Marquez was an authoritative version of social grace. She also rushed into the room but was empathetic and kind in a “I am a boss, check this out”, kinda way. She told me the other radiation oncologist was a black and white, by the book, gold standard, kind of doctor. After going over my case and doing tons of research she found… there was no literature published about radiating lymph nodes with microscopic disease. But she explained that she was a doctor who saw grey where other doctors saw black and white. She believed that using radiation could be used in conjunction with the surgery as more of a “mop up” approach. She would use data gathered from studies of other cancers but for my type of cancer there was no precedent. She liked my surgeon’s perspective but didn’t agree, it wasn’t enough. She recommended not just radiating the lymph node he had missed during surgery but the entire posterior peritoneal lymphatic chain, not just radiating my pelvic cavity but also my abdominal cavity. It would be extremely harsh on my body but she told me based on what she had read about my history that it was clear I was a fighter. Aggressive radiation was my best option for a cure. We scheduled a CT scan tentatively for the following week to plan and map out my radiation.This is the radiation plans doctor Marquez mapped out on the table for me... thanks?

You can see where things are looking super shadowy. I could swear there was something following me down this dark path. I could hear footsteps looming behind me as fears trying to negotiate their way into my heart. The surgery was successful in doing all it was intended to do but my cancer was a bigger more aggressive beast than they had guessed. Wait, it gets better…

The following Monday was one of the worst days of my life. I had an appointment to re-consult with the doctor I had first met with at City of Hope. He was a leader in colon cancer research and very well respected. My oncologist wanted his opinions and recommendations on future treatments but he refused stating it had been too long since he’d last seen me. So to facilitate him sharing his vast knowledge I went for a “check up” post surgery. He was cordial and thorough but his opinion broke my heart and opened the door to fear and lies just wide enough for them to flood in. His message was simple. “You will never be cured. The disease is too extensive in you lymph nodes. If it isn’t in your lungs and heart already, it will. Radiation kills bone marrow and you will need all the bone marrow you have to tolerate the extensive chemo you will need for the years to come.” …. let that one sit on you for a second. Wow. I will never be cured.

The good news is, I’m rational. I’m compartmentalized. But I could not keep back the tears on that drive home. I try not to cry I front of my mom because I know it just makes heartbreak more heart breaking but for reals? “I don’t mean to be negative. But I need to be honest with you about the severity of your disease and my recommendations.” I had to do some wrestling on that drive. I have always felt like I was going to be cured. This is a weird path in my life that I’ll look back on later and say “Thank you Jesus you brought me through THAT!” But this man was telling me that this was wrong. That I would never be brought through it and it would eventually kill me. Morbid. Dark. I KNOOOOooooow!!

So I was left with a serious predicament. Do I stay aggressive with my treatment go ahead with radiation and shoot for a cure but possibly ruin my ability to tolerate future chemo treatments? Or do I go conservative just do chemo and keep the disease from progressing? I spoke with my surgeon, what did he think? Radiation would not affect him being able to put my intestines back together when the time came for my colostomy reversal. He said six of one half a dozen of the other and there was no wrong answer. My oncologist said the same. So it was up to me. I prayed and deliberated over it for a couple days.

In college I implemented this rule when making impossible decisions. Because I believe that God has a “best” way in life, he cares about the decisions we make. Rarely do we hear Him say “this is the best, do this”. But one thing that’s been promised us is that His ways are paved in peace. So I hypothetically play out both options and go with the one that I feel more peaceful about. It’s like using Rock Paper Scissors to show me wether I want a hamburger or burrito. If I’m disappointed that burrito won I’m going to get a burger. I had the most peace about staying aggressive with this cancer. I was still in the fight mindset. I thought that if I took a step back with treatment it would screw with that mindset and cancer is trying to dominate my life so I can’t start letting it now. “He has not led you this far to die in the galleys!” kinda thing. So let’s give this fight all I got! Full speed ahead!

The day before I was going to start radiation my radiation oncologist doctor called. She had presented me at “tumor board” earlier in the week. Tumor board is a meeting of multiple health disciplines involved in the care of cancer patients (doctors, surgeons, oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses, the works). They present certain cases and discuss what can be learned from treatments already performed and what future treatments should be. All the pros and cons are weighed and everyone that has an opinion shares it. The result of my case being discussed was hold radiation for now. “It appears there’s nodules in her lungs and lymph nodes even though they are to small to count as measurable disease. Blast her with more chemo first. She responded well to the regiment she was on before so put her back on that for two more cycles (four rounds) then reassess the disease and decide if radiation is still appropriate”.

My hair was starting to grow back. I was starting to have less pain. I was starting to live my normal life. Chemo is not what I wanted. The nine out of ten relentless nausea and fatigue were not supposed to be in my cards. Man oh man was I bummed. The regiment would be different though because my fingertips and feet were still numb from one of the drugs, so I couldn’t have that one anymore. Which meant they would up the doses of the other meds.

My body did not tolerate this bout of chemo well. I think because I was weaker from the surgery and sepsis? All I knew was it was way worse than all my previous sessions. Round two I dry heaved. Round three I threw up. Round four I was passing out in the medical office and couldn’t walk so they took me to my car in a wheel chair. The nausea was more severe, long lasting and more disheartening. Chemo was kicking my ass.

One complication that rose up was that I started developing these superficial wounds along my incision. It was like a pus blister would slowly painfully form for a couple days then erupt out of my incision leaving a pocket that required packing to heal and prevent an abscess from forming. These things were painful and slightly debilitating but of no concern to my surgeon. Just an inconvenience for me. And because of chemo would take twice as long to heal.

Then, of course, right before my last round of chemo I had my repeat CT scan to track progress and see how things responded to chemo. My dad was in the hospital out at Loma Linda for a heart procedure so I headed out there after my scan. That banana barium smoothie was a breeze! While sitting with my dad I got a call from my oncologist. “Amy you have a PE in your lung. Are you symptomatic? Short of breath?” A blood clot in my lung. I laughed. No I don’t have any symptoms I even worked out last night with no problems. I had done my first hand stand pushups and snatches with 65# (the heaviest yet since surgery). “Well we need to admit you right away. Where are you? Can you go to ER?” I ended up being admitted for blood thinners and kept in the hospital three days. I went to crossfit and did the workout the day after discharge and half Murph two days after that. The down side is I need a blood thinning injection twice a day and I don’t have the fat to make it not super painful. Yet another thing I need to be worried about. Cancer activates clotting factors in the blood that cause clots to get lodged in your lungs, heart, brain, legs. It’s a really serious life threatening thing if untreated.

The day after Murph I finished my last of four rounds hanging on by a thread. The plan was I would start chemo pills and get one infusion every two weeks. They would still cause diarrhea but they shouldn’t make me nauseous! After 6 weeks we would revisit radiation.

I was so excited to get my life back! Feel better, have more energy, and go back to work. I had trips scheduled and birthday plans made. Things were looking up! I was in the shower washing my chemo damaged hair when I saw I got a call from my oncologist. I turned off the water and answered. Apparently the results of my scan were not what they’d hoped. My colon and liver look great, the lymph nodes are all still within normal size range but what was alarming was that there are three new spots on my lungs. We can’t know for certain that their cancer because we can’t biopsy them. But when you have cancer and you have abnormal cell growth it’s pretty likely cancer too. Also my tumor marker had risen while I was off chemo which means my cancer could have spread while I was off chemo recovering from surgery. Which means I need two more rounds of chemo. This news crushed me and fear yet again rushed me and enveloped me. This was the new lie, “You won’t be cured. God is a liar. You will fight this for as long as you can stand it and then you’ll stop treatment and be dead within five years. ” That lie feels so real. I was mad at God a little. Really? It would spread while I’m off chemo recovering? Now I have cancer in my lungs? Microscopic disease is so hard to fight. How long can I hold out? I will never be better. I will fight cancer till it kills me. Dark dark dark.

So now I have a new choice. Do I believe what looks and feels true or do I trust that God is everything He says He is and capable of fulfilling every promise He ever told me? It’s really not a hard choice. I’m going to chose to believe that He wants me to live a long full cancer free life and He’s going to be the one to make it happen. The alternative is to say God is not who He says He is and is powerless. There’s no hope for me to be cured and I’ll probably be dead in five years. Faith is hard. But why would I abandon a path of hope for a path of fear? The same choice is offered to you everyday.

I would love nothing more than to elaborate with you in person so feel free to reach out. Let’s get coffee or lunch or ice cream.

Surgery

Where do I even start? It’s been a while. I haven’t wanted to put in the energy or emotion to update how things have been going. So here’s highlight reel of my massive surgery.

I had surgery on February 12. They cut me from sternum to pubic bone. They took out a pretty piece of my colon, the surrounding lymph nodes, and sixty percent of my liver. But they got all the cancer. After the surgery I’m now considered cancer free. Everything went as planned! The incision was straight which means the scar will be pretty. Initially there were some issues controlling my pain. Apparently most of the really intense pain medications (morphine, fentayl, dilaudid, tramadol, methadone, you name it they tried it!) I’m not very sensitive to. The nurse or nursing assistant would ask me my pain level on a scale of one to ten during their rounds. I’d generally respond, “Uhh around a seven or eight.” “Well are you pushing the button for your pain medication?” At the time I was on self serve dilaudid IV pain pump. “It just makes me fall asleep it doesn’t control my pain!” as I reluctantly push the button and drift off into a lethargic pain haze. But within the first week things were going as planned and I was stable. They had started me on a liquid diet and I was already walking almost a thousand feet in the hospital hallways. I was pretty excited, my parents were pretty excited, it looked like everything was going even better than expected.

Then… I started having more pain. I know I said that there were some issues controlling my pain but this was a nine out of ten pain that was constant and unrelenting. On Saturday night, five days after surgery, I “crashed”. It started with what felt like a maximal cramp of my lowest ab muscle that wouldn’t release and then worked its way segmentally up my entire abdomen. Maybe you can imagine, maybe you can’t, but at this point I have staples from my sternum to my pelvis so having every muscle in my stomach start progressively cramping was very uncomfortable, to say the least. Then, I started shivering. I didn’t have a fever, yet, but I’ve come to recognize since, that shivering is a severe pain reaction for me. The shivering just started in my jaw but then went through my entire body to the point where I was almost convulsing and it looked like I was having a seizure. I have a feeling it was a pretty intense scene. I’m convulsing and crying in pain, my mother is crying, my dad is threatening to call 911, the nurses can’t get the doctors on the phone, and I’m in the most excruciating pain of my life. After that things get fuzzy for me. I’m told I developed a 105° temperature and then my blood pressure started dropping and my oxygen saturation started dropping. They put me on an oxygen mask with six liters of oxygen and I was barely saturating at eighty percent. I was on my way out, folks. And by out I mean, dead. I literally almost died. I feel so good now it’s crazy to think of it as anything other than a scary story or a bad dream. I remember the following day in patches. I’m told I was “in and out”. There were lots of tests. One CT scan they tried to take me to, my vitals went unstable again and they had to wheel me back to my room so I wouldn’t die during the scan. Finally, I was transferred to ICU to await surgery the next morning. I remember having this thought as I lay writhing in nine out of ten pain, “People survive torture all over the world. If this were torture, would I talk to make the pain stop?” Sometimes my answer was “No, I can do this,” and I’d grit my teeth and pray. Other times my answer was “Yes, I’d tell them whatever they wanted to know.” In surgery, they opened me back up and gave me a colostomy inserted a J tube, and two drains. Turns out because of the chemo and my weakened immune system I got c-diff which caused the anastomosis of my colon to leak and form an abscess in my abdomen and I developed severe sepsis.

I distinctly remember waking up one morning in my third week of laying in bed in severe pain feeling miserably nauseous and this thought floated through my brain, “I’m not getting better and I’m going to die here.” No one had even mentioned the word “home”. I looked out the window of my hospital room and wanted to see the San Gabriel Mountains, my mountains. I wanted to think of home and have a hope of going home, an idea of being strong enough, well enough, to leave. It was an abstract thought. It was the darkest moment of my life. And believe me, I’ve had many “darkest moments of my life” the past couple months, this, by far surpassed them. I leaned over to my mom and said “I’m not getting better. We need people to pray.” Later that afternoon, I started to feel better, then the residents told me they were thinking of getting me ready to go home in two days. Coincidence?

I had made progress, I was medically stable and they had finally found a pain medication regiment that worked for me and my pain was controlled, like a four out of ten. After weeks at an eight or nine, four was a dream. I could go home on a feeding tube with some drains and my colostomy. Not ideal but doable. The morning I was supposed to go home I started throwing up and running a low grade fever. So they held the discharge, did another CT scan and found I had developed another abscess and there was some fluid collecting in my left lung. They put in another drain and a chest tube, while I was awake. That hurt. But they were still talking about discharge and home was a concrete realistic expectation.

That’s how my fabulous surgery and short hospital stay turned into a month long very complicated hospital stay. But I finally made it home, weak and pain ridden. My abdomen looked like a science experiment of dressings and tubes and bags. I had lost a twenty seven pounds. Turns out a couple weeks without food and having too much pain to get out of bed makes you ridiculously weak. I could walk about twenty five feet before things got painful and I needed to sit down. This was not how I pictured my life after that surgery. I was feeling sorry for myself, let me tell you! Let’s not forget the narcotic withdrawals that magnified everything negative and uncomfortable and made me emotional. It was a rough week.Ready to go home...

My dad put the whole thing into perspective when he said, “You know, a lot of people climb mountains thinking the summit is the goal. They focus on it, and dream of it, they work so hard to get there. But afterwards, they still have to get off that mountain. More people die on the way down than on the way up. That’s where you are. ” I had spent so much time just trying to get to that surgery that I hadn’t planned much for my after surgery recovery. Certainly not mentally or emotionally!

Nevertheless, recovery, here I come.I have the best support system imaginable