Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cancer Is Not Big

Today I just learned of another woman who found out she has ovarian cancer.  Memories of the day that I found out came flooding back once again.  It's always amazing to me how that event in my life can bring back such powerful, scary memories, as well as many questions.  Can I beat this?  Will it beat me?  How will I get through this?  What will happen to me?

It was interesting in the days that followed my diagnosis how my perspective changed.  It turned to can I beat this to I will beat this.  It turned from how will I get through this to I will get through this.  It turned from what will happen to me to God will take care of me.

There was a song from Veggietales that often came to mind during the first few months of treatment.  It was always one of my kids favorites.  It's called God is Bigger than the Boogieman. 

Video for God is Bigger than the Boogieman

It was a song that always made me smile.  It was so simple, yet so true.  And it got me thinking, if God is bigger than the boogieman, then of course God is bigger than cancer.

Now don't get me wrong, cancer is a tough road to go through.  It affects your body, your mind and your spirit.  You go through ups and downs weekly, daily and even multiple times a day.  There are days you wonder if you are going to get through it.  You can't get through it by yourself, you have to rely on God.

Today I got a devotion sent to me that sums up everything about God and why you can rely on Him. 

You can ask the Lord
because He will not give you a wrong answer.
You can wait upon the Lord
because His timing is always perfect.
You can trust in the Lord
because He makes no mistakes.
You can hope in the Lord
because He holds your future.
You can rest in the Lord
because He is in control of your life.
You can lean upon the Lord
because He is completely faithful.

Here are some Bible verses that show that:

So just as God is bigger than the boogieman, He is also bigger than cancer.  And if He is bigger than cancer, which for so many of us is the big problem we never want to face, than of course He is bigger than any trial, struggle, pain or sadness than we have.  What a wonderful God we have!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Highs and Lows Of Cancer

We all have highs and lows in our lives.  They start from the time we are young.  When we are young something from a scraped knee to not watching a TV show can make for "the worst day ever." and then it can turn around by getting something as simple as a Popsicle.   As we get older we have the highs of a first date, a wedding and the birth of children.  But there are the lows with struggling with kids, seeing loved ones hurting and just the trials of everyday life. 

I was looking over my cancer journal today on Carepages and realized how quickly the highs and lows of cancer really come.  I went from a low of the diagnosis, to the high of treatment working, to the high of remission, to the low of the cancer being back all in the matter of 10 months.  Since then there have been highs and lows between treatments working and not working, feeling great and then getting very sick, plus the normal highs and lows that every family goes through in life.  Some might look at my family and me and wonder how we get through it all.

As I was looking through my journal I came across this post on a day that was definitely a low, even though it wasn't a major one.  Here's what I wrote:

"Today was a mixed day. I was tired from a car alarm going off at 2:30 in the morning. The owner didn't hear it so it went off for about 1/2 hour. Between that and the storm that blew through, it was a restless night. Nausea is still there. Today I had a hard time eating. I talked to my nurse today and she put me on some different medication that we are hoping helps. If this one doesn't, we do have one more option. Hopefully this will be the trick that takes it away....

 I ended up doing quite a bit of driving today -- Bible class, chiropractor appointment and picking up kids from school. I was pretty tired as I was driving and I wondered how I could keep my stamina up. One of my favorite songs by Casting Crowns came on the radio "Praise You In The Storm". Part of the song quotes this Psalm from the Bible:

As I drove in the valley and looked up to the hills I could feel God watching over me and making sure I had just enough stamina to get to school and back. Nothing that the world throws at me can take God's protection away. He is watching over me all the time and making sure I get to go home to Heaven one day. What an amazing God we have."
 My family and I don't get through the highs and lows of this journey because of anything we do.  It is only because of what God does for us.  And when you think about it, none of us get through any of the highs and lows of our lives on our own.  God is there watching us always because He never sleeps.  He promises He will be with us forever, no matter what gets thrown our way.  How appropriate to look to the hills and remember God through our highs and lows.  During our lows we can look up and remember we have a God who is taking care of us, and during our highs we can look up and remember that God has directed us and given us that blessing.  May you always be able to look at the hills and remember what a loving, caring God you have.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dealing with Change

When you are dealing with chronic cancer, change is an inevitable part of life with cancer.  Sometimes it is expected, like at the beginning when you have no evidence of disease for the first time.  Other times it is unexpected when the cancer comes back, the treatment doesn't work, or your body just can't handle the drugs that it is being given.

Over the past three years we've dealt with plenty of change in our lives from the initial cancer diagnosis, to a short time in remission to the constant changing of different chemo regiments.  Each change brings its challenges and its blessings.  This time with change I feel like there is more riding on it than ever before.

I met with my gynecological oncologist yesterday.  She gave me a big hug right from the start.  (Yes, I am fortunate to have a relationship with her.) I got the ins and outs of this new trial drug, or parp-inhibitor, (Veliparib or ABT-888) that I will be on. 

So here's what the parp inhibitor does and why it could be effective for me.  All our cells have DNA that need to be repaired.  Cancer cells are no different. Because I have a BRCA mutant gene, that avenue of repair is gone for the cancer cells.  So they use a back door, so to speak, of the protein parp.  The parp inhibitor stops that back door from working and can, in effect, kill the cancer.  That's also why this type of treatment only works for people who have a BRCA mutation.

I start this on Friday.  I will be taking 300mg of this twice a day.  For me that means 6 pills in the morning and 6 pills at night every day for as long as I can handle it.  If I have problems, we can lower the dose and then go back up when I get better.  The best chance I have of this succeeding is with the 300mg dose.  I will also be taking anti-nausea pills before the inhibitor because that is the most common side effect.
Exciting possibilities are definitely here for me, but this science is not perfected.  It works for about 40 percent of people.  Nausea is the most common side effect.  That is a big deal for me since that's what I've been struggling with as of late and what put me in the hospital so many times the beginning of this year.  We already have some hydration scheduled just in case I need it.  Prayerfully I will follow the normal pattern and the nausea will only be around the time I take the inhibitor and after two weeks it will be much better, possibly even gone.  We will also have to watch my blood counts.  The possibility is there that after 6 months my blood counts will just be too low and I will have to stop. 
So we head into this change.  Am I excited?  Yes.  Am I scared?  Absolutely.  In some ways this seems like my last chance since this is what my doctor has been hoping to get me on since I had my recurrence two years ago. 
But as always, God gives us things to remember to trust in Him.  I read some stories today about women who have been on continual treatment for 11-15 years.  It hasn't been easy, but they are still here.  I have also heard from women who have been on this inhibitor that they have gotten their energy back and their cancer has decreased. 

But the best thing God gave me today was a devotion based on Psalm 46.  Here is an excerpt:

"Yes, God is bigger and stronger than all our experiences. He can handle all our difficulties. God has already canceled the sting of our greatest enemy—death. He did it by offering up his one and only Son so that we might live with him forever in his kingdom.
Sometimes it is good that our lives come to a screeching halt. It reminds us that the LORD almighty is our God. And it shows us that he is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."

So our family will once again learn to deal with change.  But with that change comes the promise that God is with us at all times.  He has taken care of our biggest problem of sin.  He can easily take care of everything else, in His way, and in His time.

(If you ever have any questions, or anything you would like me to blog about, you can either leave me a comment here or email me at lisarittierodt@gmail.com)