I’m Going To Be Okay

So do not fear, for I am with you;

    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

When you sit back and enjoy a sunny day. Blue skies and puffy white clouds overhead. The sun warming your face, the breeze tickling your skin.

For me, it was five years of sunshine-y days. So grateful.

Then a few drops come out of nowhere. Not sure if you really feel them at first. You ignore the raindrops until they grow steady. Drip … drip … drip.

For me, it was the earlier bedtimes that didn’t help me feel better. The cough that didn’t go away. The morning walks that once filled me with energy now left me depleted. The feeling of not feeling well. New, but familiar.

Then the skies darken, the thunder booms, and the rain falls down in sheets.

For me, it was the doctor visit, the emergency scan, the phone call. “There is a new mass on your lung,” my doctor said.

And my sunshine-y days went dark.

I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer in October of 2015 and started my first line of treatment a month later. Over the last five years, my life was full of ups and downs and lots of scans, but I always got pretty good news. And I wanted that good news to continue. Desperately.

I knew one bad scan changed everything. And a couple of weeks ago, it happened.

After a cough lingered a little too long, I called the doctor and they saw me the next day, on a Friday. I thought I had walking pneumonia. I thought they would give me an antibiotic, maybe an inhaler. I didn’t expect to drive myself straight to the hospital for an emergency scan. Alone.

I sat in a room by myself waiting for the results, grateful I brought my book. It was evening and the nurses left the station for the day. Once in a while, a nurse popped in to check on me. Finally, the nurse told me I could go home. She gave me no information. She removed my IV and said my doctor would call me on Monday.

He called me on the way home. There was a mass on my lung. It wasn’t there on my last scan at the end of June. My cancer either progressed, mutated to a different type of breast cancer, or worse, the mass was lung cancer or lymphoma. The only way to be sure was to remove the mass and biopsy the tissue. He would call me Monday to get things started.

It was a long weekend.

I was devastated. I was mad and sad. Mostly, I was terrified. Why was this happening? Why now? I was used to feeling good. I was used to clear scans. I was used to living a somewhat normal life. I didn’t want my calendar filled with medical visits and treatments. I didn’t want to have chemo again. I didn’t want to lose my hair again. I didn’t want to die. Why did God let this happen? Why did I have to go through something more, when I had already been through so much? This wasn’t fair.

Not to me. Not to my family. Not to the kids.

I searched for Scripture. Anything to hold onto. I found Isaiah 41:10.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I recited that Scripture over and over – when I wanted to cry, when I wanted to scream. How could I fear when God was with me? How could I be dismayed when I knew God was in control? God would give me the strength I needed. He would help me. He would hold me. I was safe in His hands. I had to remember that. When I started to forget, I recited it again. And again.

Over the weekend, I processed what was happening and lived my life. I leaned on Mike. I drank in my kids, family time, blue skies, and falling leaves. There was still so much good. There was still so much for which to be grateful even as my cough continued to worsen and I felt miserable, I took time to enjoy everything from hanging out with my kids to watching the sun trickle through the trees from my morning room window. I did things that made me happy. I had no idea what was to come, but I had right now. And I wasn’t going to waste it in tears.

Mike and I met with the surgeon the following week. I was anxious to have the lung nodule removed so I could breathe normally and stop coughing constantly. But I quickly learned that was not possible.

The nodule was on the outside of my windpipe, narrowing my airway and irritating my lungs, signaling my brain to cough. All the time. But it didn’t matter how much I coughed, it wouldn’t help. Unfortunately, the nodule was entangled in veins near my lung and my heart. There was no safe way to remove it, only to biopsy it. Once we knew what it was, the nodule would be treated medically, with medication, chemo, or radiation. Only then would I get relief.


Surgery was scheduled the following Tuesday. Before this happened, we planned a trip to Ocean City to celebrate my son’s birthday that weekend. We were leaving on Friday and returning late on Monday. The doctor told us to go. We did, and we had an amazing time.

Mike and I talked before we left. This was going to be a fun trip. No time for sadness. We would celebrate Kade’s 14th birthday with our family and his friends. Life was going to look different soon, but not yet. There was nothing I could do until I had the biopsy and we knew more, so there was no reason to waste a perfectly good weekend getaway fretting about it.

We had the best time. I almost forgot about my cancer. We laughed and played on the beach. We watched sunrises and sunsets and waves crashing into shore. We had cake and candles and celebrated all weekend. When Monday came, I didn’t want to come home. I wanted to stay there forever, but we packed our things and drove away from the beach, not knowing what was waiting for us when we got home.

We reported to the hospital at 5:30 am the next morning. I was nervous but I woke up filled with God’s peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding. After a lot of conversations with God, I was accepting of what was to come. I was still scared. Still devastated. But I knew God would get me through it. I was calm as the nurse helped me get ready. I was calm while she inserted the IV. I was calm as I waited to go to the operating room.

Then, I lost it when they wheeled me into the room. The quiet tears didn’t stop. Not because I was afraid of the procedure but because of everything. The machines. The beeping noises. The memories. The unknown. The knowledge that this was my life again. I didn’t want to do this.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

The nurses were wonderful. They calmed me down and got me through it. I should have known. God always put the right people in my path. I was never alone. I woke up in recovery, sore but relieved it was over. Mike took me home. I curled up on the couch, my throat sore, my muscles aching, and my brain in a fog from the anesthesia. The results would be in the next day. All I could do was pray and wait.

I was my father’s daughter. I had been through so much already and came out on the other side. I could do that again. God would walk me through it again. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t like it. But I could do it. Whatever I had to do to have more time with my family, I was up for it.

I refused to believe this was the beginning of the end. I wasn’t there yet. I prayed for the best case scenario and a clear path to treatment. As long as there was something the doctors could do, I was going to be okay. Lord, please let there be something they can do. Lord, please let this not be the end. I prayed the hardest prayer. I prayed for God’s Will. And the strength to accept it.

Mike and I had deep conversations. Hard conversations. He was so strong, so supportive, but he was devastated and scared, even more than me. I knew this because I would be if our roles were reversed. My heart broke for him. We talked about my fears. I told him how scared I was. How much I didn’t want to be sick from treatment again. How much I didn’t want to lose my hair. How mad I was that this happened before the holidays, my favorite time of the year. How sad I was for him. He listened. He didn’t dismiss me. He didn’t say the things people said. He had been here before too.

He let me talk. He held my hand. He let me cry.

Was this it? Was my work done, my purpose fulfilled? Mike didn’t hesitate when he told me I had more to do. This wasn’t the end, just another part of my story. God wasn’t finished with me. Mike said he believed God thought I did a great job so far so He had another plan, another way to use me.

He made me believe that.

But I had seen this scenario before. The bad scan. The downhill slide. The treatments that didn’t work. The cancer spread. The patient died. I watched my friends die all the time. I lost two friends to cancer in the last week. This was metastatic breast cancer. We didn’t look sick. We were doing okay. Until we weren’t. Then it was over. Just like that. I prayed that wasn’t my story. Not yet.

“It’s not your story,” Mike said.

I told him how I wanted us to spend our time. I didn’t want to waste it. Any of it. I wanted to have the best Thanksgiving and the merriest of Christmas seasons. We would decorate the house like we always did. We would bake cookies and watch holiday movies and drink hot chocolate. We would enjoy all the season had to offer. We would be joyous and merry and bright, even when it was hard.

I would spend my days with people who wanted to spend their days with me. I would focus on what mattered, more than I already did. Every bend in the road came with new perspective. And a new perspective brought change. I was ready for change.

We laughed that I wrote a book about this. Literally. I knew how to do this. I knew what was important and this experience would only prove what I already knew. There was a lesson in every experience. There was good in all of it and I would find it. I would learn from it. The only way I could accept this was happening again was to believe that was true.

God was good all the time. And God would use this for His good. He already had. There were blessings in this experience. I didn’t have to look hard to see them either. God placed them right in front of me. Daily reminders that He is right here with me.

No longer would I waste time proving my worth to others, chasing after people, or accepting less than I deserved. I would pay attention to actions, not words. Those who wanted to be in my life – those were my people. The rest? No hard feelings. I wished them well.

Every day was a gift. Every single one. I would continue to find joy in all of them. I would thank God for waking me up in the morning and ask Him to use me to spread His message and spread His love. I was open and available. Every day. I would thank God before I went to sleep for another day and all the blessings that came with it.

My days were limited, but I would have no regrets when my last days came.

I would show the people I loved how much I loved them with my whole heart. When I left this earth, they would never have to wonder. I think that was the worst thing, wasn’t it? To have to wonder.

I would be more patient. More encouraging. I would use my words to lift up and comfort. I would be tight with my words and not waste them.

I would pray and journal and meditate on all the important things. Oh, how unimportant so many things became when life took an unexpected turn. I would ask God to open my eyes, my ears, and my heart. To use this experience to make me a better person. To make me more faithful. To draw me closer to Him.

My phone rang in the late afternoon.

“Lab results were negative for lung cancer and lymphoma,” said the surgeon. “Positive for breast cancer. Further testing will determine whether the breast cancer is the same type or a mutation.”

My whole body ached from the effects of the anesthesia. I was still miserable, but so incredibly grateful. Breast cancer progression was better than a new cancer like lung cancer or lymphoma. Maybe God put those possibilities in the mix to soften the blow. I was now one step closer to a clear path to treatment. Prayers were answered.

Praise God for breast cancer progression. I never thought I would be relieved to find out my cancer progressed, but that was where I was.

The next day, my oncologist called. Preliminary results showed my cancer was a much more aggressive mutation, but the results were inconclusive. The only way to know for sure was to do another biopsy.

Oh no. Another hospital visit. Another recovery. Another few days of discomfort.

I didn’t want to, but I had to. I would do anything.

In the meantime, I would start a new treatment. Injections were scheduled the next day, this past Friday. The second biopsy would take place as soon as possible. I would see a radiation oncologist too, my doctor hopeful high dosage radiation would shrink the nodule in my lung, giving me much needed relief from the incessant coughing. We were moving forward. We had to do something. I hated my calendar was filling with medical appointments, but I felt better doing something. This cancer was growing inside of me. If the results came back that my cancer mutated, I would start IV chemo. I prayed that was not the case, but I couldn’t worry about that now.

I had the injections on Friday. They hurt going in and they hurt after, but I have been through much worse. I can do this. I can do hard things. And it was hard. I felt terrible the rest of the day. I felt terrible the next day. I couldn’t get off the couch. I grabbed my pillow and blanket. And I stayed there. I reminded myself this wasn’t forever and I recited Isaiah 41:10.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I felt unwell. I was frustrated. And mad. The memories of chemo rushing back. Those days I couldn’t get off the couch. Those days I had a list of things to do and no energy to do them. Those days I felt worthless and lazy. Those days I felt like I would never be myself again. That hurt more than any injection ever could. I cried. I felt sorry for myself. Then, I shook it off and got myself together.

It was Halloween. Trick or treat. My kids wanted to go. I refused to miss it. I baked chocolate chip cookies and prepared a taco and nacho bar. No matter how I felt, I would enjoy this night. I would enjoy my kids. And I did.

It will be another week or so before I know for sure what type of cancer is growing inside of me. I will have another biopsy procedure, meet with the radiation oncologist, and head back to the chemo lab for more injections in two weeks.

In the meantime, I will bake cookies and pies and all things sweet and scrumptious. I will settle in to the November slumber, filling my home with candles and blankets and so much coziness. I will make soup and stew and foods that soothe my family’s hunger and their very souls. I will be grateful for the early sunsets that bring my family together. Puzzles and games and time well spent. I will look to the heavens and take in the blue skies and puffy white clouds as well as the grey and overcast ones, remembering there is beauty in both. I will watch in amazement the sunrises and sunsets, and the moon that shines its light in the dark. Life still happens, even when it is hard. And I am not going to miss a bit of it.

Knowing my cancer is awake again is terrifying, but I will hold onto my faith.

God will give me strength.

My people will love me through it.

I’m going to be okay.

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