What an interesting chain of events has taken place since my last post. I’ve been pondering things for a couple days, wondering how I could possibly capture it properly.
Before I report on the rest of Round 4, I think it’s time to give some more details around my thought processes. I’ve been keeping a private record of my thoughts, so that when this is all over I can go back and trace the effects of my thoughts on the outcome. Sharing those things too soon runs the risk of having my thoughts challenged, and – if I’m not feeling particularly strong – potentially rendered less effective.
So I won’t share everything yet, but I believe that what I’ll share today has had an impact on what we’re seeing now in Round 4.
During rounds 1-3, when I couldn’t sleep or I was suffering with acute side effects, I filled my mind with a prayer:
“Thank you for this pain. Thank you this experience. Thank you for my hair. Thank you for my scalp. Thank you for my cranium. Thank you for my eyes. Thank you for my nose. Thank you for my brain. Thank you for my ears. Thank you for my sinuses. Thank you for my pituitary gland. Thank you for my endocrine system. Thank you for my teeth… thank you for my healing…”
I just ran down my entire body from top to bottom, naming every part and system I could think of or see in my mind’s eye. I wanted to be grateful for my body, instead of thinking about how much I wanted to be away from it while it suffered. I can’t say that I emotionally felt the gratitude; I just treated it like an exercise in discipline to choose gratitude.
At the very least, it served as a distraction to help pass the time.
For the first couple rounds I felt like my job was to just submit and endure whatever was to come. I had received a blessing from one of my church leaders before the surgery in January where he said that my faith would make me whole, predicated on my faith and God’s will. The blessing then boldly added, “You have the faith, and it IS His will to make you whole again.”
I understand that wholeness can be realized in this life or the next, so I received the blessing with gratitude, while also holding a healthy UNattachment to how it would play out. I’m not going to let any particular outcome rattle my faith or belief in God.
The blessing also promised that the surgeons would see the Lord’s hand, and that they would work with precision and be guided. I already shared how pleasantly surprised they were about how the surgery went.
I was also promised that my perspective would widen, that I would see what the Lord wants me to see through this experience, and that I would endure it successfully.
I wondered what that meant – that I would “endure it successfully”. I later had a conversation with a friend who has been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer for some 20 years. I asked what it means to endure something successfully, and without hesitation he said, “It means you will successfully learn the lesson it is intended to teach you.”
What an Opportunity!
It was during that time – while I recovered from surgery – that it hit me, “I GET to experience cancer!”
Life is short. I believe I existed with God before I came to earth. If I signed up for cancer before I came here, then there must have been some benefit I knew I would get, and whatever that was, I must have wanted it very badly.
I love how this person puts it:
So, I’ve been determined to find the gift contained in this adversity. And, if going through cancer this year might also help my family get closer to a few seemingly unrelated blessings we’ve been longing for, then YES, it will be worth it!
(I had no idea if experiencing cancer would impact other areas of my life in positive ways, but I chose to believe it could, and would. Thinking so helped me face it all with a little more enthusiasm. After that, que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.)
Time to Create
It wasn’t until (I believe) Round 3 that I started to feel like it would be appropriate to envision how I would love for this to go. Previously, the message from the Spirit had been “submit”. So I didn’t want to overstep my bounds by asking for things to be any different. I waited for a feeling or sense that I had a green light to “create” my future to be something even better than the positive prognosis everyone already expected after 12 rounds of chemo.
That feeling began to take hold near the end of the second week of Round 2, when I began to entertain “what if” questions. “What if… I could be done with only 6 rounds instead of 12?” “What if… the cancer was already gone?” I pondered the possibilities. “What if I have already learned what the experience has for me?”
I had already experienced a major shift in my heart, especially toward my husband who had stepped up to the plate and become the most amazing caregiver I could have asked for. I had already felt a shift in my priorities. I had already felt my heart expand and nearly explode with love for the people in my life, like I had not felt before.
I had already made decisions about how I would live life differently once this was behind me. My empathy for others had grown exponentially, and my patience and ability to endure hard things was also noticeably expanded.
HAD I already learned all that the experience had for me? I’m sure there is still much more for me to learn and experience, but I also don’t believe we need to suffer for suffering’s sake, beyond the point that it has done its job.
So, what if it already has? What if my cancer story could be a very short story?
These kinds of questions lead my thoughts to new ideas to help me know my next right steps. The more I entertained these thoughts, the more courage I gained to write a blog post, which I will send out when it is declared that I am in complete remission. I wrote it on 4/8/2023, describing how I was healed, how we felt getting the news, and how we celebrated.
I will share that post when it is true.
By the way, I haven’t looked at the post again since writing it. I don’t remember everything it said. But I wrote it with intention – to first create it spiritually, so it could later, eventually, be realized in reality. I’ve learned that big goals work best when I create the idea of it, intend for it to happen at the right time, feel it as if it has already happened, and then get on with my life, never questioning or wondering if “it” worked.
From there, I’ve learned how important it is to simply “keep calm, and watch what happens.”
(“Fear not” is the most important piece in the formula. But since it’s easier to follow a positive instruction than it is to avoid a negative instruction, that’s why I flip “fear not” into “keep calm and watch what happens.”)
“Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.” D&C 67:3
Then, eleven days later on 4/19/2023 I watched a video where a cancer patient was cured in 3 minutes, from sheer intention. I fully believe our thoughts do have that kind of power, even without practitioners chanting for us. By that time, I had already been entertaining the thought of creating a desired outcome in my mind for almost two weeks, so it was not a stretch for me to take a few things I learned from the video and put some thought-energy and intention into my tumor disappearing.
I imagined myself well. I tried to remember what that felt like, and projected the feeling into my current state. The words that kept me in that place were “already gone”. I repeated them in my mind, holding the feeling of wellness, [it’s] “already gone”. “I am well and strong.” [It’s] “already gone.”
After a few minutes of this, I moved on with my life and didn’t question or wonder if it worked. My job from there was to continue to just “keep calm, and watch what happens.” If it worked, great. If it didn’t work, that’s ok, too. My overarching prayer was that the Lord’s will be done, trusting that whatever happened would be for my best, and highest good.
To NOT be the Limiting Factor
That’s how I exercise my faith – I see it done, and feel it done – including the gratitude I expect to feel when it is true – merely to ensure that *I* am not the limiting factor in what the Lord can do for me.
“…by faith all things are fulfilled.”
“…dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”
“…neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith.”
“…if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them.”
To Think is to Create
Bob Proctor told me once that my mind was busy, but that I wasn’t thinking. It took me over a year of processing his words to finally understand what he meant by that. To think is to create, and you’re not creating if you are spending your time thinking about things the way they already are, or obsessing over worst case scenarios. That’s the easy path. That’s just mind busy-ness.
To really create, you have to do the hard work, to take time instead to imagine things the way you want them to be. It’s about imagining a different outcome than the default future, or worst case scenario. It’s to entertain a new, creative idea, and to imagine how it would feel if it were to actually transpire.
Henry Ford said:
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”
Bertrand Russel also understood what it means to “think”. He said:
“Most people would sooner die than think, and many of them do.”
Thinking to create something other than the default future IS hard work because of the divine, creative energy that it requires us to activate. Using our mindset to help shape our results is to exercise our God-given creative faculties and operate in the language of faith, the same way God Himself does.
He speaks the truth in advance:
“And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.” Judges 7:9, emphasis added. This was before the battle had even begun. Watch the full video of my Hidden Treasures class – now available with slides – which includes the full Gideon story breakdown here.
God doesn’t complicate things. It’s usually simpler than we make it.
“Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (John 5:8-9)
He didn’t say, “Here, I HEAL YOU! I fixed everything, do you feel it?” He basically just said, “Be well. Do it. BE it.” In other words, “Accept the healing, it’s already yours.”
The responsibility was put squarely on the lame man to act as though it was already done.
Anyway, I didn’t want to share all the thought-work I’ve been doing earlier, because I didn’t want thousands of eyes waiting and watching to see if my efforts to align with these true principles succeeded or failed. When I’m working on a big goal, I usually keep things quiet between the Lord and I so that I am not also having to manage other people’s expectations or opinions.
You’ll see in a minute WHY I finally felt comfortable sharing this much now…
Fast forward to Round 4
Last time I posted, I was on day 3 of Round 4 – Wednesday. That was 5/3/2023. We were waiting to see if the reduced dosage would still cause burning hands and feet that night. Well, it did not! I slept soundly and felt pretty good in the morning. I was still eating pretty well. My eyeballs had some slight neuropathy but nothing like I had experienced with the other rounds.
(So far on chemo, if I let myself cry, it has felt like the muscles controlling the tops of my eyeballs would contract and burn.) I also had some hot flashes, but I’m never quite sure if that’s menopause or chemo. They say chemo can cause temporary menopause, but for me I think I was in the middle of it anyway, so who knows.)
5/4/2023 – Day 4 – Thursday – It must have been an unremarkable day because I didn’t take any health notes, or at least they didn’t get saved. From what I remember, day 4 is when the fatigue and queasiness usually kicks in more, but this time there wasn’t anything unusually unbearable about it. The anti nausea meds really do work, and I get tremendous additional help from Mentos mini mints. On the harder days, keeping a Mentos mint in my mouth even when I sleep just makes everything okay.
5/5/2023 – By Day 5 (Friday) my appetite was still good, but I wasn’t pooping enough to keep up with it. Stool softeners every day weren’t helping. Suppository – nothing. Laxative – nothing. Starting to worry because the pressure and pain was building. Last time I had severe constipation with the chemo was during round 1 or 2 (can’t remember for sure), and that time had me rocking in pain all night and vomiting. It’s been the only time I’ve vomited on chemo.
I called my doctor and they said I probably needed hydration again. Stool softeners and laxatives rely on the body’s fluids to pull moisture into the bowels, and I was too dehydrated for them to work. With all that eating I did all week, I should have been doing better about drinking, too. When you feel good it’s hard to remember to drink when you’re not feeling thirsty! But boy, have I learned my lesson.
Most Valuable Pair
We attended my daughter’s beach volleyball banquet that evening (even though I was having abdominal pain and she was dealing with neck pain from a dance injury). Both of us got through it, enjoyed loaded nachos for Cinco de Mayo (I’m already in pain, what’s one more load going to do??) – and celebrated her award for “most valuable pair” – all season, only one loss!
…and then we headed our separate ways afterward. She went home to nurse her neck and wait for her scheduled adjustment, and Trevan and I headed to the ER. My doctor’s office was closed so that was their recommendation.
To the Emergency Room
We got to the ER at about 7pm. The room was full of very sick people – more than I had probably ever seen in there. Although it was no longer required, I asked Trevan to please go find me a mask. We waited four hours to be seen. Gratefully it only took a little while to find an open bench where I could put my head on his lap and sleep for much of that time. Look how thin my hair is getting!
The pain and cramping was growing increasingly worse the longer we waited. By the time they assessed me, I was at a 9 on the pain scale with occasional breaks down to level 6. They started the IV and gave me morphine. I love morphine. Ohhhh, how I love morphine. For the record, later when I was offered more (but when I wasn’t still in severe pain) I said no.
Even though I wanted it.
They sent me for a CT scan to see if there was a blockage (due to my history of colon cancer, they took this all very seriously.) The scan came back showing significant constipation and a partial blockage (hard stool?), so the IV fluids continued. They didn’t give me anything more in the way of a laxative or anything because they knew my system already had so much of that in there… my body just needed the fluids to help them work right.
I slept a lot, and eventually my bowels started moving again. The cramps felt like labor pains. At one point Trevan said, “I’m going to start timing these,” and he was actually serious. Five minutes apart. I reminded him that this wasn’t actually labor, and we laughed. (Correction – I thought he was timing how long between the cramps, but I learned later he was actually timing how long they lasted, so he could help me know when the next one would probably be over.)
At 1am Trevan decided to go home and get some rest, since all they had for him was a wiry stacking chair. The hospital wanted to keep me overnight.
5/6/2023 – Day 6 – Saturday – I spent most of the day just laying there, reading, watching tv, and listening to the poor woman next to me with dementia. She kept screaming, “Get me down from this bed! I need to get out of here! You don’t know what I’ve been through today!”
She begged her daughter on the phone to come get her right now, but her daughter lived in Ohio. A nurse told me later that she thought someone was trying to kill her. A big shout out to all the nurses who get cussed at or physically attacked when they are just trying to do their job helping people. They were so patient with her!
Check the CT Scan?
After my scan, one of the doctors came to talk to me and I said, “I know this isn’t what you were looking for, but I’m just curious. Can you check the CT scan for the state of the tumor we’re working on?” (It had been 4 weeks since I had written my victory post, and 2.5 weeks since I had actively and intentionally envisioned it gone.) All she had seen so far was the report and it didn’t say anything about it, so she left to go view the image itself.
She told me after returning that since we were such nice people, she was dreading what she might find. She really didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news. But when she came back, she said, “Well if anything IS there, it’s too small to see. I didn’t see anything.”
We weren’t surprised but we were happy for the news. At least there are no new surprises or growths to worry about. Granted, it’s not conclusive since CT scans can’t generally see anything smaller than 2-3 mm. We won’t be able to officially call it gone until I get a more sensitive PET scan, which is scheduled for next month. (For the record, when I started chemo, the remaining cancerous lymph cluster after surgery was 3 cm. Not huge, but strong and actively multiplying, evidenced by the way the first PET scan lit up.)
Moved to my Own Room
Sometime during the evening of my 2nd day at the hospital, when they were waiting for word from the doctor whether I could be released, they said they had a bed for me upstairs and that they were going to move me there now. They said it wouldn’t change my discharge… if I was indeed going home today like they expected, I could still go home from there.
So they moved me to my own room and waited for the discharge orders.
Finally, around 5 or 6 pm the hospitalist came to say they were going to release me. I asked if I could please finish getting the IV fluids that were already underway, but which still had some time before they would be complete. I had been watching the bottle for two hours already and it didn’t look like it was budging at all.
He said, “Of course!” They checked the line, helped it flow faster, and added, “We’ll plan to discharge you four hours from now.”
Meanwhile, my bowels stayed busy. Eight ostomy bags full! No wonder I had been in so much pain. That was nearly a week’s worth of food in there, making me look 7 months pregnant. I estimate that I lost at least 6 pounds of poop. Proud mama here, let’s throw a baby poop shower! Then, for at least the second half of the day, there was no more pain in passing everything, so I was grateful for that.
Trevan spent most of the day getting things handled at home, but then joined me around 10pm so we could watch a show together. He stayed the night in my room on a short sofa.
Um – Change of Plans
Near the end of the infusion I started having more, painful abdominal cramps again, and that’s when the diarrhea began. They say it can be tricky to balance constipation and diarrhea. They weren’t going to send me home with a new problem only to have me return again, so they decided to keep me a second night.
I had been texting a Sunday School substitute in case I wasn’t going to be there to teach Gospel Doctrine the next morning.
- “I might need you…”
- “Actually, it looks like I’ll be home soon after all, you’re off the hook!”
- “I guess, they’re keeping me another night… you’re back on deck.”
It was uncertain whether I’d be there to teach, right up until 9 am the next morning. Brother Greer – thank you for being so flexible and ready to serve at a moment’s notice!!!
Finally, I was released Sunday morning, feeling hydrated, and ready to be home!
5/7/2023 – Day 7 – Sunday. I stayed home from church, exhausted from the two-day stay at the hospital. I keep thinking I’m going to get to teach again and I keep planning on it, but so far I think I’ve only taught once since my surgery.
After a long nap, I was feeling noticeably better than I’ve felt on previous rounds. Later that day I found myself wondering what to do with myself now that I was feeling pretty good. I started to realize that, even though I had seen myself well, I hadn’t really figured out how I would spend my time being well.
If I don’t know what to do with myself on a good day, am I really ready to be well again?
What will I actually do when I am well?
Sure, I had already made a list of the things I would focus on when the cancer was behind me, but I found myself living in this middle place where I felt better, but it wasn’t yet totally confirmed that it’s behind me. So what do I do in this sort of limbo place?
I’m not going to dive in to the “hiking mountains” dream, which is one item on the plan for after I’m in remission and recovered from chemo. I’m not quite ready to dive into the Family History research that I’m looking forward to doing (because I can get lost going down those rabbit holes and not come out for weeks at a time).
Trevan advised me to not worry too much about it. He said just keep taking it a day at a time and don’t beat myself up for not doing more right now. I do feel better, but my full strength has not yet returned. So I write, I work on my business, I do dishes when I have the strength, I study for my Sunday lessons, I listen to music, I watch shows (The Reluctant Traveler is a fun one we just discovered!)
But the main thing is to just love my family, and focus on helping them be happy. That’s been one of the fruits of this adversity: a deep and convicted desire to slow down and soak up the joy of my most important relationships.
Week 2, Round 4 – The Doctor Nailed it!!
5/8/2023 – Day 8 – Monday. This is now week 2 of Round 4, and the first time I think the round has gone just the way the doctor always intended. I had some minor side effects the first week, but week 2 is feeling mostly normal. There’s a little bit of fatigue, but nothing like before.
I think he’s finally nailed it! I’ve even found myself saying, “If this is how my chemo was always supposed to feel, I could do all 12 rounds, no problem.” The hope and goal is still to be done by halfway, and we’ll know next month with the PET scan whether we can stop, but I am now less attached than ever to how long I need to do this, because it really isn’t that bad.
(The drama at the ER was totally avoidable, if I had only stayed hydrated. I’m allowed to go to my doctor’s every day for hydration if I need it. Constipation has been my only complaint this round, but that is something I can avoid.)
My GI Appointment
Also Monday I had my three-month follow up with the GI surgeon who did the original colectomy in January. While I was there, I told her that my CEA levels were down to normal by 4/6/2023 – after only 2 rounds. She was amazed and so happy for me! Then I asked if she received the scan from my weekend hospital stay. She said she did, so I asked if she had seen the image, or the report. She said she had only seen the report, but that she could go look at the image. I said, “I’m just curious, I’d love to get your take on what you see of my tumor.”
This is the doctor who had found it in the first place, so she knew what she was looking for. She left the room and upon returning, she said, “I couldn’t see anything… It’s not conclusive without a PET scan, but… this test DID have contrast, so…” and she smiled big and shrugged her shoulders.
This is why I felt like it I could finally share what I’ve been doing to prepare for a miracle.
I asked, “Is this unusually fast for a tumor to shrink?” She replied, “Yes – This is really fast.” She added, “Let me know when your oncologist says you can be done with chemo and we’ll schedule to put you back together (reverse the ostomy). I would still take his recommendations, because we only want you to go through this once. Let’s make sure it’s really gone so you don’t have to do this again.”
I asked how long after chemo I need to be recovered before they can do the ostomy reversal. She said, “The chemo needs to be out of your system for four weeks before we operate.” She then told me she had also talked with my UroGyn to coordinate the surgeries and get all the procedures done at the same time.
It’s feeling close!
Looking Forward to my Surgeries
Remember when I originally thought all my pain was a combination of leaky gut, menopause, and prolapsed organs? Well, the pain was actually cancer, but I do still have prolapsed organs to also get fixed when the cancer is behind me. I wasn’t sure if I’d have to wait maybe six months to a year to be recovered enough from chemo to have surgery. My GI surgeon said she only needs four weeks notice and the UroGyn schedules out eight weeks ahead, so I’m happy that it sounds like they will both be able do it all much quicker than I thought.
So, things are looking good for the potential of being done after only two more rounds (total of 6 instead of 12). But one thing I added to my victory post (again, yet to be sent), is the idea of: “all this OR something better.” In other words, let my victory play out as I described, or let it play out in a much better way than even I could have imagined.
At the end of it all, I intend to look back on the experience with awe and amazement at what the Lord did with us. What He taught us, how He helped us, and what encouragement our story was able to bring to others.
5/9/2023 – Tuesday – I’m feeling normal-ish! Haven’t needed any anti-nausea medication. Resting, working on my business, writing, eating, tasting! Drinking lots of water. It’s only Tuesday of week 2, I’m amazed and grateful that Round 4 has proven to be the right dosage for my doctor’s goals for me.
To wrap up, I’ll end with this:
I’ve been so supported through prayers and fasting, people putting my name on temple prayer rolls, the messages and encouragement have been tremendous, ongoing, felt, and appreciated.
So here’s how I see it…
Prayers and fasting SEND or invite the blessings; but having a careful and intentional mindset is how we RECEIVE them.
I thank God for His Son, Jesus Christ. How He overcame the world, How he experienced every pain, heartache, and suffering that we will ever face, so that He would know how to comfort us. I have felt His comfort, His relief. I have HOPE because of Him. I do not fear, because of Him. His yoke IS easy and His burden IS light. Everything is made better because of Him. Beauty from ashes, all of it. Life is so good!
My friend called yesterday morning to ask if I was feeling well enough and available to help her in an emergency, to run some food to her daughter’s school nearby.
Yes! Yes I am, yes I can… yes I will.
It feels soooo good to be useful again! I made some food and drove it there like it was no big deal. This experience has really taught me to appreciate it when I actually have the ability to do things I always took for granted before.
It’s good to be alive.