Thursday, June 13, 2013


As most of you know, the last month has been full of doctors appointments and scans While this may seem like a sad and tedious process, it has actually been filled with moments of hope and laughter.  Heck, I even received the BEST CRAPPY NEWS EVER!

I have to say that MD Anderson is overwhelming at first.  The skyway between the buildings rivals those of some of the biggest airport terminals I’ve ever been in.  There is no underground train to transport you, but there is a 6 person shuttle cart if you dare (with an 80 year old driver who probably can’t drive a car anymore...I’ll pass).  Anyways, you get my point.  The place is huge!

I had no idea what to expect when I met my doctors.  I had been forewarned about oncologist painting the bleakest picture possible (mostly to avoid litigation I presume).  But an insider (who shall remain nameless) told me that my main oncologist (Dr. Hanna) was the Head of the Head and Neck Department (I wonder who was the neck?), and that he was a great man with a caring heart.  So, when I met him I was relieved to know he was the latter of the two types.

A little background for you…I had my pet scan the week before my first appointment with Dr. Hanna.  I didn’t want to wait any longer for any more results.  The Pet CT would show if the cancer had spread.  So, on that first appointment we were anxious, but I kept praying, “ Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Philippians 4:6   We overhead Dr. Hanna outside my room saying, “And the PET?  It was clean?”.  When we heard the resident reply “yes”, a wave of relief fell over us.  But, what if he walked into the room across the hall with that message?  So, with guarded hope, we waited and heard the doorknob turn into my room.  And, there he was with one of many answered prayers.

Hallelujah!  The cancer was isolated and had not spread.  After learning that my cancer had been growing for nearly 10 years, we were concerned with reason.  But meeting Dr. Hanna for the first time and hearing this great news, I realized quickly he was the right doctor for me.  He proceeded to talk about how rare Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma is, how there aren’t large trials to base treatment on, but they were convinced they would be able to take care of me.  At that first meeting, he was optimistic about shrinking the tumor about 80% and living with the other 20% like a chronic illness.  Strangely, I was somehow OK with that.  It wasn’t the fact that he was convincing but that I felt a peace about it through the Lord.  He went on to explain the mass itself, and said there are “three flavors of tumors”, and I had the best one.  What, is it chocolate or something?  No, but it was the best darn tumor available (well, of course, it was mine).  So, Will says to him, “So you’re telling us that’s the best crappy news we could get?”  Dr. Hanna laughed, agreed and said he may use that line one day.

The next day led us to Dr. Frank who leads the Proton Radiation department.  I was curious as to his opinion on the shrink and control theory presented by Dr. Hanna.  We were shocked when he used the “C” word (get your minds out of the gutter).  Not cancer either, but CURE!  That was new, and Will and I just stared at each other wondering if we had heard him correctly.  We most certainly had…he thinks he can cure me.  He didn’t seem like an egomaniac, so I didn’t think he was trying to garner a God complex.  But doctors just don’t use that word.  He had cured a young lady a few years back with the same cancer.  She was a few years younger than me, healthy like me (other than that stupid tumor) and eerily enough she even looked like me.  Who would imagine my doppelganger would have my cancer too. 

While hearing the word “Cure” certainly provides a positive outlook for my treatment, I don’t hold on to that.  I hold on to the hope that Jesus Christ will ultimately be the one to cure me, whether in this lifetime or in the next.  And, that really, is all I need to know.

On May 30th I was fitted for my proton radiation mask.  Talk about a weird appointment! A mold of the back of my shoulders, neck and head was made out of something like the expandable foam used in home insulation.  Then a mesh material was placed over the top of my face, neck and shoulders and three nurses looked like they were artists sculpting a masterpiece that happened to be my face.  But the real sculptor is God the Father.  Ironically I received a text that day from my dear friend Lydia that read, “To God we are like clay in his hands being molded together into his likeness.”  She didn’t know I was making my mask that day.  God is truly amazing.  And that day I knew that this mask that looked like a cross between Chewbaca and Hannibal Lecter, was so much more.  God was using my illness to mold me into his likeness.  Wow!

After my radiation 101, I met with a nutritionist who gave me the scoop on calories and protein required for weight management.  For the first time in my life I was worried about keeping weight on verses getting it off.  I’m sorry but that is counter intuitive for a woman to do!  Anyways, after a series of questions, she asks me what I had for dinner the night before.  Now, before I tell you my answer, know that we drove to and from Houston that day and headed straight to Molly’s piano recital back in Austin.  So, dinner was a cupcake served after the recital (Terry P., can I get an Amen!?)  Well not too thrilled with that answer, she asked about lunch.  Well my friends that answer wasn’t much better.  “Chick-Fil-A”, I said with some trepidation in my voice.  She asked if I ate the fries too.  Now isn’t that a dumb question!  Of course I ate the fries!  Slightly embarrassed at my two responses, I said, “That’s kind of embarrassing.  Probably not what I should be telling a nutritionist.  But I work out though (like that somehow makes my poor choices OK in her mind).  It does for me J  Lucky for me (if having radiation and chemo can be lucky) I will pretty much get free reign on what I can eat.  Once the side effects start, eating will be much more difficult, so they just want me to eat whatever I can get down.  I told her I would probably be the first patient to gain weight.  She laughed, wrote that in her notebook and smiled.  I think she will be most likely throwing that comment back at me one day.  So in preparation for the weight loss to come, I decided I’d try to bulk up.  My efforts haven’t worked out too well so far.  But, as I sat in my kitchen chair and it collapsed to the floor, Will said, “Maybe you better stop bulking up!”  LOL.  We must find the humor in our situations.  Humor and a relationship with the Lord, will be the two things that keep you sane!


  1. Cathleen,

    Love you Godly spirit. You are at the best cancer center in the world and the head and neck dept. Is outstanding. I say this with confidence because my wife Jan was a patient there in the head and neck area in 2006. The mask, dentist, CT scans sound familiar. They were just starting proton radiation back then. For your encouragement, Jan is cancer free today. Praise the Lord and the experts at MDA. We will be praying for you and your ultimate success in beating this disease.

    Bob and Jan Fugler

  2. This is a little late - but AMEN sister!!