This week I was driving home from my oncologist’s office and heard a song that reached out and grabbed me. You will understand why in a little bit. I have once again been trying to figure out how and why I seem so accepting of my situation. I have a lot of doubts running through my mind. Are people going to think I’m not grateful for their prayers? Do people think that I don’t actually have/had cancer? Do others think I’m faking? Do I not care about my own health? Do those around me get the impression that I don’t need them or want their help? I can ask all of those questions because I have asked them of myself. I am not a worrier by nature. I mean there times that I am concerned about how something is going to turn out. There are times that I feel like I have to step in to act on something so it goes “the right way”. But, for the most part, I do not sit around all day and dream up things to worry about. I know people who do that and it makes no sense to me. But my own reaction in this process is puzzling to me as well.
I heard this song by Kutless on K-Love coming home this week. It moved me and made me truly consider how this cancer scare could end up. While I’m confident that this time I’m going to be ok I cannot speak for the next time around or the time after that or the time after that. Who knows how many times I will be in this fight for my life. I’m speaking honestly here. This is a topic that is on my mind a lot. I believe any cancer patient will tell you it is forefront of their mind as well. If they say they haven’t thought about it then they are lying or living in denial. The words of this song spoke directly to my thoughts. Here is the you tube video of the song with the words to follow. I will have more to say after you watch it. The title is Even If.
Sometimes all we have to hold on to
Is what we know is true of who You are
So when the heartache hits like a hurricane
That could never change who You are
And we trust in who You are
Even if the healing doesn’t come
And life falls apart
And dreams are still undone
You are God You are good
Forever faithful One
Even if the healing
Even if the healing doesn’t come
Lord we know your ways are not our ways
So we set our faith in who You are
Even though You reign high above us
You tenderly love us
We know Your heart
And we rest in who You are
You’re still the Great and Mighty One
We trust You always
You’re working all things for our good
We’ll sing your praise
You are God and we will bless You
As the Good and Faithful One
You are God and we will bless You
Even if the healing doesn’t come
Even if the healing doesn’t come
So I believe the answer to my question of whether I am taking this fight seriously lies within the words of this song. II Chronicles 20:15 says “For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” I have completely laid this battle at the feet of Jesus. God is walking with me. I have given it to Him. When my life was falling apart I prayed and asked God to take it all because I couldn’t fight it alone. He is good, faithful and true. His shoulders are strong enough to carry the burden of my cancer and my treatments. I could never carry them alone and can’t imagine ever trying to. The day my primary care doctor found “something” in my abdomen and sent me immediately to have an ultrasound I remember praying as I laid on that bed. I prayed that whatever was going to happen would be a simple fix but that if it wasn’t that the Lord would carry me through it. That was a good 48 hours before I heard the words “you have an ovarian tumor.” He is Good and Faithful. He picked me up and has been carrying me ever since.
So, am I taking this seriously? Of course I am! But am I worried about it? There are parts that concern me but for the most part I can say no I’m not. Am I ok if the healing doesn’t come? That’s a harder question to answer. But I have faith in my redeemer. He watches over me and carries me along the path. He hides me in the shelter of His wings (Ps. 61:4). Whatever His will is my future I will learn to accept. By the time that comes I honestly say the Lord will have done enough work in me and my family’s lives that I can say I would have the faith I need in Him to say Yes I would be ok. If He is walking with me now then when life is falling apart and the hurricane hits He will be strong enough to carry us through then. But until that time I will tuck myself safely into his feathers and settle in right here where I am.
Since my diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer following surgery on April 8th I have had a growing sense of the need to share a warning for women in my life to be checked regularly for ovarian cancer. The problem with that is that the symptoms could be one of a million different things making them easy to “write off” by a doctor and their patient. I understand doctors not wanting to be too aggressive with diagnosing patients. But there has to be a line somewhere in the sand that a doctor has to not allow a patients symptoms get too far away without testing them for something like Ovarian Cancer. Those symptoms will be the topic of today’s blog post. If you suffer from them please plead with your doctor to check you out more closely.
Ovarian Cancer is called the “Whisper Killer” because the symptoms are so mild and easily excused for other illnesses that it isn’t usually discovered until it is too late for successful treatment. Each year there are approximately 22,000 women diagnosed with Ovarian cancer and 15,000 women will die from it. Those are not odds that I as a patient am ok with. I am not ok with those odds for any of the women in my circle of friends or family. The longer I sit back in my chemo chair and thank the Lord that my cancer was found so early the longer I stop and think about my friends and wonder if the aches and pains they feel could possibly be Ovarian Cancer too.
First I will list the symptoms and then briefly talk about them and explain how they relate to me and perhaps you.
- Abdominal, pelvic, or lower back pain
- Nausea, lack of appetite, or feeling full quickly
- Bloating or intestinal gas
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or increased frequency)
- Unexplained changes in bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Ongoing decreased energy level
As you may remember I also have Fibromyalgia. All of those symptoms above can EASILY be explained as being Fibro related. I have had Fibro for 19+ years. And I have had all of those symptoms! I have taken a different medication for each one trying to treat each of them. Some of them helped for a period of time and some of them didn’t. How many of those symptoms would you say you are currently dealing with right now? Has your doctor ever once said to you “maybe we should do an ultrasound to check things out”? He’s probably just grabbed his prescription pad and written a script for 30 pills of so and so and rushed out of the room to his next patient. You wouldn’t have known the difference because who even thinks about Ovarian Cancer. Since you have now read this….YOU HAVE!!!! The next time you go to the doctor you will have been informed and can add O.C. to your list of things to discuss with him/her. Somebody has to start talking about it. I am 46 years old and it never came up in ANY of my doctor’s appointments so that is why I am equipping you with the knowledge. Now one of the two of you in that examining room WILL have the information and it CAN be discussed.
There is one other symptom that I wanted to spend just a few minutes on that was a big sign for me that I ignored. It fits into all of the categories above. I always had very painful menstrual cycles. The symptoms of my period included all of the symptoms above. From the very beginning my period would put me in bed for a number of days each month. The cramps were very painful. I was always trying to find some kind of medicine that would relieve them but nothing would relieve them. Ron had been begging me for over a year to talk to my primary doctor. But I assured him that I had been at this period thing for 33 years and periods hurt. That’s what they do. I accept it. It makes me miserable but it’ll be over in a few days and I’ll be fine. So ignored him. As a result of my stubbornness I was 3 years behind on my regular physical. What I discovered as a result of my doctor performing a total hysterectomy was that I had endometriosis and that the cancer had started growing in it. No wonder I was so miserable. I wish I had listened. I wish I had stayed current with my physicals. I wish I knew a lot more about my body than I did. Who knows how long I had endured endometriosis? I could have had it years just sitting there making me miserable. If I had stopped putting it off and admitted my weakness I may have saved my body from this cancer fight.
Ovarian Cancer is the whisper killer. The tests necessary to discover it are very specific tests that are done examining the ovaries. Unless you are looking for it you will not find it. So pay attention to your body, write down everything and demand your doctor checks you over. Don’t let it whisper in your life. You may not have a chance to whisper back.
As I type this I am in the second row on the end by the windows of Dr. Wheelock’s Chemo room. I’m never quite sure over the last two months how I have managed to get here. But, alas, I am here and I continue to look for the reason why. I haven’t discovered it yet. But I’m still looking.
My friends continue their prayer vigil for me. They are constantly praying for which I am eternally grateful for. There are days I cannot pray. My heart feels broken in a million little pieces. I do listen to Christian music and find that is encourages me. Everyone is so good at lifting me up and holding me there. There are days that I need that. Then other days I can pray all day. I suppose that is normal. I guess it is normal. I’ve never done this before.
Our trip to London was incredible. It was a Doctoral trip for Ron but a vacation for me. I stayed in and rested a couple of days. But it was the trip of a lifetime. So incredible! I’m remembering everything while I’m sitting here at chemo. The churches were incredible. It was a church history trip. Churches there are NOTHING like churches here. If you follow me on Facebook (Pam Stokes Hunter) I have a ton of photos posted there. I posted a few on Instagram (RHPCEOWife). I update my Instagram quite a bit each day. Feel free to follow me either place. There is a group on Facebook specifically for my Cancer walk (Team Pam). You don’t have follow my regular Facebook account to follow my Cancer group.
I had a friend post a great You Tube video for me. I thought I would share it with you all. It is awesome and fun! Enjoy!
I’m convinced – What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger! I’m not dead – So I must be STRONGER!!!!
We are actually in the air for leg one of our trip to London today. We fly into Charlotte and then leave from there tonight and fly into London. Words cannot express how excited I am. I have been so excited for a year to make this trip. I was hopeful that I could get my Fibro aching body in good enough shape to meet the schedule. And here I am!
Last June I knew I was going to have to make some physical changes so that I could be in better condition. That’s when I started losing weight and exercising. I knew there would be a lot of walking involved. At that time I knew there was no way I could meet the challenge of keeping up with everyone. Because I sold Advocare I ordered the 24 Day Challenge and worked toward eating a more nutritionally balanced set of meals. As it turned out I have now lost a total of 60 pounds and I can walk with the best of them. However, what I’ve learned in the last two months is that while I thought I was getting healthier for London I was actually getting my body ready for cancer. But either way I’m set. When we get back from London next Sunday I will resume chemo. I’m good to go either way.
I know this blog is short and sweet. But I only bought 30 minutes of wifi on the plane and it’s just about up. But I just wanted to pop in and tell you how thrilled I was to be meeting the goal that I’ve been working toward for so long. LOOK OUT, LONDON, HERE I COME!!!!
It’s been so long since I’ve written. I know it’s been a long wait. This cancer process is a draining process. Mostly I try to not to think about it. Some days it makes itself known to me in spite of whether I want to think about it or not.
I am thankful I had the port put in though. That was so convenient. They didn’t have to search for a vein in my pitiful arms. I never imagined I would ever need a port. But I’m glad that I got one. The surgeon who put it in was very nice. I went back to Baptist Hospital where I had my original surgery in April. He kept them from having to do a whole bunch of tests they had to do for pre-op because I had just had them done the previous month. That was so nice. I was in and out. It was great. The anesthesiologists are the greatest. Because I have the hardest veins to deal with ever I usually get right by those IV techs and get straight to the anesthesiologists. If the IV techs stick you once and have a hard time getting a vein then they have to give it up to the next level, which in my case was always the doctor. And he was always a perfect stick. SUCCESS!! But I’m very glad we don’t have that ordeal that every time.
My first chemo was on Wednesday May 22. It was a long day. I was so scared of what would happen. I’d never been in that situation before. So I was more afraid of what came after the chemo than the actual chemo. I had been with dad a number of times for his chemo. You sit down, they hook you up, he goes to sleep, the chemo stops, he wakes up, they unhook him and he goes home. I figure I can handle that. I knew chemo treated people differently so I wasn’t sure how it would treat me after the fact. To be worse no one could sit in the room with me. I was especially panicked because Ron couldn’t be in there. I’ve really come to depend on him to be right beside me. But they said I could go out and visit with him by the elevators as long as I was feeling ok. So Ron and the kids brought me. When I got there I realized how cold I was. I didn’t mention it. But Lauren mentioned it and asked if I wanted a blanket. Thinking she had brought one I said yes. Little did I know that she and Michael went all the way back home (about 20 minutes) to get me one and brought it back to me. That made me want to cry. I was already an emotional wreck. I wasn’t used to my kids being so gentle and selfless with me. We met at the elevators so I could get it from them. My heart was soft toward them already. It grows moreso every day. Chemo that day took 6 hours. I talked to all of the ladies around me about their experiences. It was a great day of bonding. That’s another reason why they don’t allow family members in with us. They want all of us patients to meet and bond together. I fully understand that now. It was a moving experience. I bonded with them. I’m not sure how many of them will be there when I go back. But I will start all over again. Cancer brings us together but our fight binds us.
The days after chemo are as bad as everyone says they are. I was hoping to have the Stokes gene when it came to chemo. I was hoping to not get sick – got sick as a dog. My fibromyalgia made it all worse. I hurt everywhere worse than any other flare I’ve ever had. My hair fell out. None of it was pleasant. But the truth is that NOW I know what to expect. I no longer have that fear of the unknown. I know what the unknown is. That helps my spirits in a terrific way actually. Before I started chemo I was scared of what was gonna happen. Now I know and I know I can live through it. It’s not my dad’s chemo unfortunately. It’s mine and I know what is entails.
So right now I am on a plane beginning our adventure to London. When Dr. Wheelock first mentioned I would have to have surgery way back on April 12 I told him that we had a trip to London planned for June that I have been looking forward to for a year. I made him promise on that day, before the scalpel ever touched my skin, that we would work this trip into the schedule. He said he would. Later on after surgery when we decided that chemo was going to be necessary I reminded him of that promise. We agreed that he would get in one chemo treatment before the trip and that I could certainly go. Originally the trip was going to be for 3 weeks. The first 10 days would be a PhD trip for Ron’s class at Dallas Baptist University. Then the rest of the time would be our own personal trip. We decided it would be better to take the personal trip out of it and just go on the school trip so I could get back to resume chemo as soon as possible.
So my instructions are to get home on Sunday June 30 and on Monday July 1 at 8:00 a.m. I call Dr. Wheelock’s office and let them know I’m ready to get back on the wagon. Starting that week I will resume chemo once a week every three weeks for 15 weeks. It’ll be rough but God says I can do anything with Him by my side. So that’s what we’re gonna do. God and I are gonna be going to chemo, meet new women, be an encourager and I will be a witness for Him. That’s what I’m called to do. Cancer is my calling. My life was dedicated as a child to His care and His service. This is part of that service. Not everything in His walk is sunshine and roses. Sometimes It involves some thorns. You can’t have beautiful healthy roses without a few thorns. So for now I’m the thorn. In a few weeks I will be a beautiful bright healthy rose.
As I sit here ready to update this long abandoned blog I am 3 days away from my first chemo treatment. I never imagined I would ever be one who ever needed chemo but here I am. I have had quite the battle in the last 5 weeks. It’s not the battle I thought I would have. It’s not the summer I imagined it would be. But it is the one that I have been dealt and the one that lies before me.
On April 8th I went to my primary doctor for a long overdue check up. I decided in March that I wanted a particular medicine for some fungus that I had on my toes but my doctor’s office said I would have to come in for a check up to have the blood work done because it had been 3 years since my last check up. I know it was overdue and I knew that I needed to go in but I just didn’t. So I set the appointment for April 8. While my doctor was pokin’ and proddin’ she made a gasp when she pressed on my stomach. She said my uterus felt the size of a five month pregnant uterus. I assured her quite emphatically that I was NOT pregnant. So she sent me for an ultrasound. That was a Monday. That afternoon I was called to go back Wednesday morning for CT Scan with contrast (they wanted it on Tuesday but my insurance wanted to cause problems – you know how that is). That evening Ron and I were on our way out to dinner with our best friends because the day happened to be my birthday when my phone rang. I answered it. It was my doctor who told me I had a tumor on my ovary. She was sending me to a Gynecological Oncologist. My appointment with him was 7:30 the next morning. Oh and Happy Birthday. The next morning I saw Dr. Wheelock where he told me that I have Ovarian Cancer. He assured me that on Monday morning we were gonna get it out and get it GONE!
The word “cancer” scared me. How did cancer get inside of me? What was I supposed to do with that? I’ve been battling cancer with my dad for 3 1/2 years. I didn’t know how to fight it from this side of the battle. I think I went into a shut down mode for a long time. People said they were praying for me. I was mostly numb. People took my numbness as a positive attitude. As I look back on those first couple of weeks I think I was honestly just floating outside of myself watching it all. The final word has come in that it is cancer and that I will be having chemo. I have settled into myself. I have felt the fear settle in. I am afraid. I cling to the Lord who promises never to leave me or forsake me. He has a plan. I don’t know what it is. I don’t have a clue. I cling to Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you future and a hope.” Beth Moore says it best and is my motto in this cancer battle along with that verse. She says “As we seek to know God’s will and go where He sends, he doesn’t just wait for us at our next stop. He travels every mile right beside us.” So wherever I go and whatever path I take God and I will be walking hand in hand.