Leslie’s Cancer

This is not going to be your typical Rare Faith Newsletter and it’s a little hard to know where to start, but here goes…

In July I began having abdominal pain that I attributed to probable leaky gut, menopause, and organ prolapse symptoms all converging at the same time. (Sorry, is this TMI?)

I toughed out two painful episodes (one in July, one in August) and then finally went to urgent care after a third attack in November. They didn’t run much in the way of tests but figured it might be diverticulitis and sent me home with an antibiotic that I should start if I didn’t feel better by the next day. Well, I felt better the next day so I moved on without treatment.

On January 3 I started to feel another attack, but this time it felt like everything I ate was making me sick, no matter how perfect, clean, or ideal the food was. I prepared to tough it out again and made an appointment with a specialist in March, which was the soonest they could get me in.

I thought the discomfort would pass after a few days but this time it didn’t. By January 14th I had dropped 15 pounds (probably only losing the 15 I gained over the holidays, so in my my mind that wasn’t super alarming), and got on the phone with a Teledoc. With so many different issues going on, I wasn’t sure even where to begin to address them. Which kind of doctor do I start with? Knowing they’d each likely send me out for tests and not having the energy to face all that, I figured maybe the Teledoc would at least provide me with some bite-sized advice to help me take a good next step.

The Teledoc explained that if I just went to the ER, I would have access to ALL the different kinds of doctors and ALL the different tests available, in house. So she recommended I go there and said I would also probably be admitted, and I was.

Suspecting diverticulitis, they did a CT scan and found an abscess, a perforation, and a mass in my colon, and also a suspicious spot on my liver as well.

Here’s what I shared on Facebook four days later (Jan 18):

Hey friends, for my birthday (Jan 19) will you just pause a moment and offer a prayer that the doctors on Friday (Jan 20) will be excited to tell me how well my surgery went? I would love to wake up to the news that they were able to do everything they needed to do, and that things went even better than expected. I would also love to have an extra measure of comfort, strength, and stamina to get through this.

If you haven’t heard, I was admitted to the hospital Saturday (Jan 14) for abdominal pain that I’ve been dealing with acutely since Jan 3, we suspect diverticulitis. They’re removing a section of my colon that has an abscess and perforation. I appreciate all the prayers that have already been offered, your support has been felt.

The outpouring on my birthday was incredible. I was so lifted by all the love and support that came in from all over.

Three days later (Jan 21):

BIG UPDATE: Thank you everyone for your love and prayers. I have so much to share but will need to wait until I have the strength. Please stay tuned, as awful as it has been, the miracles and tender mercies throughout have been amazing and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

We were told last week that it was either diverticulitis or cancer and they wouldn’t know for sure until surgery. Though naturally concerned, we felt peace and confidence that everything would be okay and that this would be temporary. Also, we felt like it was probably diverticulitis because cancer doesn’t run in my family, but diverticulitis does.

So we held vision for diverticulitis and our prayer was that the doctors would be “pleasantly surprised” in their findings, whatever they were to be. We actively practiced “keep calm and watch what happens”, which is the same thing as “do not fear”. I’ve learned that the Lord can do miracles even if our faith is small, so long as there is no fear.

During surgery it was confirmed that we were dealing with cancer. They removed a softball sized tumor from my colon.

So that wasn’t the news I was hoping to wake up to, but here is one of the miracles I’ll share now. Trevan wrote it up for family yesterday so I’ll paste it here:

“Leslie was just coherent enough to tell me about the miracle. The doctor fully expected (with a perforated intestine) to find contamination / leakage into the abdomen, but there was none. Nada. The doc said it was as if a cocoon had formed around it and prevented any leakage. Leslie responded, was that a surprise? Back came the emphatic response, eyebrows raised, ‘Yes! We were Pleasantly Surprised!”

(Check! )

Thank you everyone for your continued love and prayers. I haven’t been able to read everyone’s comments and messages yet but I am so, so grateful for your support. It has truly strengthened me.

More to come.

By the way, the MRI they did before surgery came back showing no cancer on the liver, so the suspected stage 4 was downgraded to stage 3. They were surprised to find the liver fine. If you know anything about cancer, here was my condition upon release: pT4b, pN2a, Mn/a.

  • pT4b means the Tumor had grown through the bowel wall into other organs. In my case, it spread into one spot in the small intestine, which they resected.
  • pN1b means there were 2-3 lymph nodes involved. In my case, 3 out of the 20 removed were found to have cancer. A 4th node was also involved, but inoperable. My next scan showed it to be cancerous as well. So while I was technically stage 3, because the node was inoperable, they had to treat it like stage 4.
  • Mn/a means there is otherwise no metastasis – no spreading to distant organs.

Four days after surgery, (Jan 24):

Prayer warriors, pain has been off the charts today. Send a prayer up that I will be strengthened enough to endure it? 🙏 thank you in advance.

It was determined that the inoperable node was blocking my left ureter, so they put in a nephrostomy tube to relieve the pressure.

I spent a total of 15 days in the hospital, was sent home with both a neprostomy tube/bag and also a colostomy bag. That was a lot to deal with, but tried to remind myself often that at least I was alive.

My doctors seemed optimistic, helped me believe my prognosis was good. Part of my treatment plan will include 6 months of chemo. I’m told that relatively speaking it shouldn’t be too bad. (BTW I want to thank all of those who have sent us various recommendations and tips for facing this in alternative ways. Believe me, my husband and I are being prayerful in our decisions and appreciate all the info and will continue to weigh out our options as we find the path that brings us the most peace of mind.)

What’s Ironic Though…

Since last year, I’ve been preparing to teach a 6-month program called Miracles Made Simple. I’ll be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with the name of the program, because I don’t want it to sound like something as sacred as a true miracle is something to be trifled with, nor something to be “conjured”. But those who know what’s going into the course have all seemed to agree that the name is truly appropriate.

The irony is in the fact that THIS was the month I had long ago set aside to finish up the curriculum. But then I get diagnosed with cancer, which has consumed almost all my energy since January 3. It’s the 31st now… that’s pretty much been the whole month that I haven’t had the energy to finish the curriculum. Instead, I’ve been flooded with experiences and have been witnessing miracles that I can’t wait to share.

It’s one thing to study and prepare curriculum… it’s another thing to be living through some stuff that is literally shaping the curriculum.

Cancel Everything?

So I’ve had to ask myself, do I cancel or postpone the program while I focus on getting well, or do I pull myself together and kick it off as planned February 8, putting the program lessons to the test myself even if I feel weak, so that our weekly meetings are even more raw and real, real time, than I ever intended?

I couldn’t make that decision while I was in the hospital undergoing all the tests and recovering from surgery, but I knew I could at least practice what the curriculum was going to teach and see what *I* at least would learn. I figured I’d decide later if I would cancel the class, or if I would push through and share the experiences and lessons learned.

I know there are no guarantees. Even with a good prognosis, I understand that the Lord has a plan for my life, so I just intend to make the most of the time He grants me however long that is. But seriously, I’m not planning on letting this take me out. I’m just going to face it a day at a time with the same kind of Rare Faith that has helped me get through so many other kinds of challenges.

It will be a grand experiment.

Practicing at the Hospital

This newsletter is already too long, but I will say this. Miracles are not so much about getting what you want. They are gifts and blessings that we can experience daily, which help us see God’s hand in our lives. They bring us a rescue when we truly need a rescue. They give us that genius spark of an idea when God sometimes needs us to solve our own problems. They give us an added measure of love, patience, strength, or wisdom when a situation calls for us to be more than we are. They provide us glimmers of hope despite impossible odds. And they ARE simple.

If I were to sum it all up in one phrase, it would be this:

Fear not.

That is how we qualify for the miracles we seek. When I was told in the hospital that it might be cancer, I was grateful that I already had the practice and muscle memory (so to speak) on how to turn off fear. Because I know that with faith the size of a mustard seed, mountains can move. The real determining factor is whether or not fear is present.

That’s what my work is all about – if I could just say “Fear Not” and everyone would get that and live by it, I think my work would be done. But there are so many reasons I know it’s hard to let go of fear, so that’s why I keep writing.

I also did this:

Given the various possibilities of my condition, I consciously ran through each scenario and made peace with each possibility. I’ve learned to “choose” the thing that I don’t have choice about.

With that first scan they were pretty sure they were looking at stage 4 colon cancer, so I had the gamut of possibilities to run through. I wanted to qualify for the best possible outcome, so I knew my job was to simply take it all a moment at a time without fear.

Choosing the Vision

As I went into surgery, my vision and prayer was not that I would be totally clean or healed before they opened my up. I didn’t feel that that was the appropriate request (another factor in the idea of Miracles Made Simple), but I did feel like it would be appropriate to envision the surgeons being pleasantly surprised at whatever they found. Let that be whatever it would be. I just wanted to wake up to some good news. And I did.

So maybe I still have some cancer to deal with, maybe not. But the miracles have been abundant. This is just one of the many experiences that has shown me that God is still in the details of my life, and I know He is in the details of your life, too.

I believe that the more we learn to invite and recognize His hand in our day to day challenges, and the more we learn to ask for the right kinds of miracles, the more our faith and strength grows to face each day with greater and greater success.

I’ve seen the principles sustain us in money challenges, now I’m getting the opportunity and BLESSING to see them help me out with some health challenges.

Whether or not I fully recover, I will continue to praise God for the gifts contained in every adversity, and the opportunity that I have to even more fully experience and appreciate everything this earth journey has to offer.

Fifteen days after being admitted (Jan 30):

I’m home. There’s so much to say but I haven’t had the strength to even begin, or even know where to start. Emotions are raw. I’m tired, uncomfortable, never thought cancer would be something I would get to experience especially this young (haha at least I still feel young), but grateful – more than I ever thought I was capable of feeling – for the outpouring of genuine love and concern I have felt for me and my family.

When it first started pouring in, I accepted it as tokens or nice gestures for helping the giver feel better in an awkward or difficult situation. But as my pain increased and the outpouring continued, I broke open and came to comprehend more fully the real, genuine sentiments behind the gestures and they truly filled me with strength, love, light, and an overwhelming, humbling sense of gratitude like I’ve never experienced before. I needed it, and the Lord taught me how to let go of my pride and truly soak it in.

The Lord’s own love and concern for me became palpable through each of you who reached out, served our family, expressed heartfelt messages of concern and encouragement. It was real and again, so humbling.

Trevan’s care for me has been unbelievable. I saw how much I have previously failed to see who he really is, how unconditional, how selfless, the way he puts my needs above all other concerns, more so than I deserved and even more than perhaps was even really needed. But it softened me and showed me how much better I could be in puttting him first when taking care of him when he’s the one sometimes suffering. I hope to do better now and in the future when I’ve regained my strength.

I have not been able to thank each of you individually for your lifting thoughts, prayers and service, but I hope this post can make a little dent at least in thanking you, each of you for all you’ve done.

It’s not over yet, chemo will start soon and prognosis is good. We are grateful for and feel really good about our team and treatment plan. There are worse kinds of cancer and rougher treatments than what we expect this will be for me, but will just take it a day at a time without fear. My oncologist said I probably won’t even have to lose any of my hair.

Resting up today so that I can be ready to walk the airport and greet my son who is returning tomorrow night from his 2-year mission for our church where he served in Idaho for a year during Covid and then Barbados for the last year.

More to come. I still have a really cool miracle to share but I’m out of steam for now. Love you all.

Next Update

Leslie Householder

One Response

  1. Leslie,
    Thank you for sharing your journey and faith with us! Our prayers are with you and your family through this time. What a blessing you and your words have been to me in my life.

    Patricia Hansen ❤

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