It's incredible to think that 7 months ago (as of our last OHSU trip this past Monday), we were given the definitive news of my cancerous tumor.
A LOT has happened in 7 months.
Actually, maybe the better statement is what hasn't happened in the last 7 months. :-P
Life has changed...tremendously.
And still IS changing.
Aaron has had to work harder than ever to support our family and our living, being without my helpful income almost entirely--minus the mid-treatment weeks that I was able to squeak out the energy to re-open the studio and see students.
But even then, he's not been able to count on anything from me...we can't afford to not knowing what's ahead...and it's a complete understatement to say that my level of appreciation for my husband has increased TEN FOLD over the last seven months. I've always known he was incredible, but really, he is nothing short of tongue-tyingly
Let's not forget the other family who have stood in the glaring gaps of our daily lives this past half a year. First and foremost... my parents--Monga and Nana M.--who have basically been a second set of parents to our little guys and happily continued to step into that role as certain weeks brought that need. My dad keeps reiterating the phrase 'We're a team,' to which I find ironic every time I consider the meaning. Sure, there are enough of us for that title to fit, but teams can be all kinds of functional... and/or disfunctional... depending on the quality of the members.
In our case, we are a conditioned, rehearsed, love-based team... and that's why they are way more than the average definition of 'grand-parents.'
And they are ours. And WE are blessed to have them.
VERY. VERY. BLESSED.
Aaron's parents--who don't even live in the area--have multiple times now given up precious work-leave to be a mega-support. We were, in fact, just joking last night as Nana Z. headed out to the guesthouse at the end of a long, serving day, that we need to give her a 'slave' name...like Besty Sue... as she had just asked if we 'needed her anymore or could she retire to her quarters.' LOL. Oh, mom! ;) How I ended up so blessed to have been given my own mama--such an amazing and awesome example of a God-fearing, humble yet beautiful woman--and then 'inherited a second mom of the same caliber via my marriage, is beyond me!! But I remain so grateful for them both, deserved or undeserved... during this time, especially.
Extended family--siblings, sibling-in-loves, aunts, uncles, cousins, distant cousins, you-name-it--have absolutely stepped up and out with generous and self-less support... kind words and gestures throughout this hike.
Then there is our church-family and friends.
Words do not even begin to do that justice... SERIOUSLY.
Food, dinners, gifts, gift-cards, gas-cards, monies through fundraisers (that have saved our hides everytime with the stacked up medical-bills that just never go away, these days), resources, house-help, kid-help, moral-support, emotional-support.........
though most of them have never hiked a trail as this, it never ceases to amaze me the level of compassion we can still have for one another based sheerly on the heart's good intentions.
I've said it before and I'll say it probably a thousand more times before this is all 'over'...
this is the single most difficult thing I/we have ever been faced with, hands down.
The 'safety-net' of people that have willingly and gracefully assembled behind us in support and prayer has made facing each sleepless night and/or pain-filled afternoon, doable.
So... thank you. So, so, so, so much.
About the most popular question I'm getting from everyone these days, now that we're post-surgery (good riddance large tumor!) and staring down a future of 'remission' is "What now?"
What's next in the big picture of it all?
Pardon if I can't really provide a satisfactory answer for most of you who are so deserving of one. :-P
Honestly? I don't really know.
We've been told, due to the large number of affected lymphnodes found after all the pathology tests, that I will be required to undergo 3 full weeks of radiation just to my under-arm. When and where that will take place is still up in the air. We have to 'locate' a radiologist who specializes in radiation involving tissue-expanders--which we have none of here--so that complicates things a bit.
We're also feeling like we are at a point in this trek that we need to have some more education--second opinions if you will--on things like the drugs that my current oncologist is telling me I need to be on for the next 10 years! We've seen the stats and read some confessions online, but there are still a lot of questions and if we're going to start really 'captaining our own ship,' now is the time.
What does this mean? Well, it means a lot of things.
It means that I'm reaching out to more survivors--'interviewing' them, if you will--and feeling out what route is working best for them. It also means that we are talking with other oncologists and breast-cancer specialists about my scenario. I've contacted Cancer Centers of America who, so far, seem to treat the person and not just the disease. I'm going to be talking on the phone soon with a current patient of there's--also a young Christian mother--who has been faced with a similar journey--to discuss her experiences with them. There is a strong possibility that we will be visiting one of their facilities within the next few weeks, again, just to gather information and build our medical-support network. I am acquiring names of books and plan to be meeting and talking with dietitians soon about the changes we need to implement in our lifestyle to guarantee the best possible scenario of keeping the cancer from coming back.
At this point, decisions and treatments are in our court. This is a scary responsibility, in some regards, but at the same rate...a part of this trek that I am grateful for. I don't think all the money in the world would be enough incentive for me to be willing to go back to 7 months ago, honestly.
I never want to do those months again.
While I am so very grateful for the eternal changes God has brought about in me from having gone through such an experience, given the choice, I would never have agreed to it.
As I've said before... that's why I didn't receive the choice. ;)
7 months is a long time, but this past 7 months feels like an ETERNITY... as I'm sure the coming 7 months of radiation, reconstruction, Herceptin infusions and seemingly endless drug-regiments will feel, also.
But when I look back over those difficult months...days... hours even, I am pleasantly reminded of the pact that started this whole journey........
MOMENT. BY. MOMENT.
That is how we've faced every day up to now, and that is how we will face every day, onward.
And while I continue to 'track' this journey via this blog and the hundreds of you continue to follow my cancer-related ramblings and support our little household on this trek, I remain grateful and humbled.
Come to think of it, I do have a good answer for all of you asking "What Now"...
the answer is "What's Been."
Month to month, day to day, hour by hour,
Moment by moment...
with all of you and our Awesome God backing us--standing steadfastly in 'Courage,'--
we will, fully and truly, conquer this mountain~
we will, fully and truly, conquer this mountain~