I’ve never been the best at remembering dates, that’s why I rely almost completely on my Google calendar to keep me posted on important occasions. Not just that, but also my Facebook Birthday reminders have saved me on more than one occasion, and I love the Pixingo date reminder too (shameless plug, I know). You see, without these wonderful tools, I might forget something important. But as bad as I am at remembering dates, there are a few select dates that were embedded in my brain. Oh, they are probably the same ones you have remembered too, so I guess I shouldn’t boast with too much pride. But, of course, it’s my children’s birthdays, my husband’s birthday and our anniversary, my parent’s birthday and anniversary, my brother’s birthday and a few of my closest friends. But now, there are four other dates (which ironically have two similar dates to the ones listed above) that I will never forget. You see, these are the days that led me up to my diagnosis.
April 18th was a wonderful day. It was my mother’s 70th birthday and I was going to do whatever I could to make it a special, memorable day. I brought her donut’s in the morning (coconut is her favorite, but the “morning after” donut looked too good to pass up), took her to lunch in the afternoon and we all celebrated that night at their house. I made a Shutterfly photo album filled with memories from her birth to just last month, as well as letters from almost all our family and her closest friend. She spent over an hour looking at it, reminiscing, laughing, crying and reading the letters. Some of which were more amusing than others…that’s all I’m saying. Mission accomplished: she had a great day…we all did. But my journey to diagnosis also began on April 18th. I woke up in the middle of the night (OK, so maybe it was actually April 19th which would be better than tarnishing my mom’s birthday) in so much pain I couldn’t stand it (and it wasn’t from the champagne J). My jaw was throbbing, my face felt like someone was stabbing it with a knife and I couldn’t bear the pain. I’m pretty tough (I’ll tell you more about that later), but I was crying in pain and searching the house for drugs. It didn’t matter what kind, just something to stop the torture. Will informed me that the two baby aspirin I took weren’t going to do it, so he wrestled up some Aleve, four of which also didn’t come close to doing it. But, it somehow got me through the night. The next day was filled with much internet research, and I had resolved to see a neurologist…not because I’m neurotic, like many of you think, but for the nerve pain I had been experiencing in my face J
I won’t bore you here with the details of the neurologist visit, but he sent me to get an MRI of my little brain, which seems to be getting even smaller lately, to determine what was damaging my trigeminal nerve. He knew it was something, we just had to figure out what. So, April 25th was the day I was confined to a machine that feels more like a coffin than a medical mystery machine. I had resigned not to open my eyes once in the machine, and they played a little KASE 101 to ease my mind (country for those of you not lucky enough to be in TX). Unfortunately, the first ten minutes were commercials, only adding to my already burdened mind. But, I must say, I felt the prayers of my friends when I was in there. I had asked that they pray for me to feel peace and calmness, and it worked because I barely moved a finger the entire 35 minutes. During that time I also prayed. I prayed to the Lord and asked that He be with me, and to give me strength to face whatever it was that was in His plan, good or bad. . And if I’m honest, I don’t think I could have prayed that prayer if I really believed it was malignant. But I’m so happy that I did, because that took strength. And I’m going to need as much as I can get. Of course, I was sure it wouldn’t be bad. How could it be, doctors have been ignoring it for years. Anyways, I digress. After the MRI, I headed home with my mom who had gone with me since Will was in Vegas working. About an hour after getting home I got a call from the doctor… “Do you have a minute to talk? It’s not good. It’s serious.” I stood on my back deck overlooking God’s beautiful creation, just staring blankly, seeing nothing and hearing nothing. All I heard was “it’s serious”. Thank God that my parents were both there to help me. Will immediately flew home that day. I didn’t have the werewithall to ask the doctor anything at all. But thank God for Bert (you’ll learn more about him later), who filled in the blanks for me. It’s a large tumor in my right sinus cavity. It’s the size of a large plum (I hate plums, by the way).
All this lead to a biopsy on April 30th (the next date I’ll never forget), which didn’t worry me at all. A large, slow growing tumor, which had in fact been the cause of all my jaw problems and nerve problems for almost a decade, would typically be benign. I mean, who can have cancer for 10 years and not be in worse shape? Well, it turns out I could. On May 2nd (also my dear friend Shelly’s birthday), I received a call from my ENT that the biopsy had come back, and it was bad news. I had Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma…cancer…malignant cancer. God got me through the phone call without completely losing control, but to hear that “it’s inoperable”, “chemo doesn’t typically work for this type of cancer” and “it’s advanced”, it was all I could do to keep my knees from buckling beneath me. Will and I stood in the hallway as I tried to absorb what I’d just been told. I had cancer. I must have looked like a ghost. I can’t imagine what it was like for Will to see me digest this news. All I can say is once I hung up the phone I began to make noises that must have sounded something like a crying hyena, dying elephant and an American Idol contestant that makes the “worst of” show. I was making sounds that I had never heard, hitting high notes that I didn’t think were possible (but I’m guessing, in the words of Randy Jackson, were “a little pitchy dog”). It was, without a doubt, the worst moment of my life. But I had my husband, my rock, there to hold me and pick me up. You see, at that moment, I had a choice to make. I could curl up in a ball, ask “Why me”, and turn my back on God for allowing this to happen to me. OR, I could do what I’m doing and will continue to do until I beat this cancer down and out of my life. I chose to stand up, accept what I’d been told, say “Why not me”, and run to God. You see, I’ve learned in my faith journey that God doesn’t promise our lives to be easy. Our lives are meant for His glory, and I am going to do my best to be strong and faithful and know that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13.
So, there are definitely dates that I won’t have to put in my Google calendar to remember. To be honest, I wish that I could just forget them altogether, but that isn’t God’s plan. They are now forever embedded in my mind, like the words to Happy Birthday or the ABC’s. They are the dates that changed my life forever. If I really think about those dates, they aren’t the dates that started my cancer journey, but they are the dates that started my survivor journey. They are the dates that God is using to help me draw him closer to my heart. God has a plan…a beautiful and perfect plan. Looking back I can see the pieces of the plan neatly knit together now (that too, I’ll amaze you with later). I don’t have to understand why, but just trust that it is the way God intends it to be. And, I know, that with this test, I will have a beautiful testimony that will help me share the truth of the gospel with others. I am convinced of that.