Just the facts

Our MDA trip on Monday finally brought closure to the journey. We have been living in the middle for a while… maybe here, maybe there. MDA is supposed to be great, but my home, my family is here. Experience vs. inconvenience.

After enjoying some great fellowship with our Life Group Sunday night, we again found ourselves on the dark, empty road to Houston. A drive that I used to not mind, but lately I have come to curse. Blessed to have Ethan’s mom live so close to the med center, we woke early Monday to start another day of doctors and decisions. First up, the surgeon. She was ready to do surgery. She was confident that she could get the cancer. She even put a glimmer of hope for radiation. Nice lady, but I walked out of there not convinced that I would carry out the surgery that I had just put on the calendar. My surgeon is as good as her. I can just take the info back to her.

On our way to grab lunch, I called my surgeon. I gave her some details, she agreed and sounded like she could be convinced to go ahead with surgery. But then she threw a major kink in, “You know I am pregnant, right? My last surgery will be Oct 31.” It would be a giant feat to get scheduled and everyone on the same page in the next 2 weeks. Que the slammed door.

Next up, oncologist. He is a brilliant man from Mexico who has 25 years of MDA cancer experience. He speaks with a heavy accent and is the definition of a close-talker, but he is great. He reviewed the scans from last week communicating that we are looking at a mass about 8cm x 5cm x 3cm. Aggressive, rare, but still contained. No evidence of lymph nodes effected. He agreed, surgery. Again, thanks for the 2nd opinion, but I was still planning on surgery at home. And at this point, I even called my surgeon back to see if I could get on her schedule.

Before we head home, Ethan and I decide that seeing the radiation oncologist would be beneficial. So, we go to the desk, we request and appointment and just like that we have one. This man was my modern day Gabriel. He stepped in the room, big yet gentle, and spoke the words that would change my course. The community (outside of MDA) standard is to not radiate an area more than once. But experience and precision of MDA has shown them that it can be done, and in some cases changes your statistics for the better. The surgeon will do her best to get all the active, known cancer out. But there is always the chance of the random cells that are slightly distant from the margins that may come back clear. And that is where radiation picks up the baton and finishes the race. Radiation is like an extension of surgery, able to widen the treatment field. When Austin radiation oncologist took the option of radiation off the table, it was a big disappointment. Like a major player was taken from my game plan. So to be associated with a team that would bring it back, was a giant deciding factor.

Let’s also go here for a moment. Go back to 2010. We are cancer-naive. We are being fed the information we needed to make decisions, but maybe didn’t get the real, big picture back then. There are things from the 2010 pathology that make my doctors in Austin say, “I am not surprised it came back.” And, “Why did they not take all of your lymph nodes?” And, “Why did they not radiate the upper level 3 nodes?” It was not communicated that the cancer had vascular “tentacles” that could easily carry the cancer, causing a recurrence. So, we could go as far to say, if we had more information in 2010, would the picture look different today? And I certainly don’t want to be asking myself that question 3 years from now. I have the opportunity to use some of the best in cancer care. Only a fool would choose convenience over experience. Especially when this experience can extend my life.


Surgery is November 5th at MDA in Houston. There are still appointments to be done, pre-op testing, and after pathology is in from the surgery the next game plan will be put in place.

On the Mountain

I have this daily devotion book. It sits on my nightstand collecting dust a lot of days. The days that I do open it up, that day’s message are usually profound and exactly what God needed me to read THAT day. I love how the Spirit works in me. Yesterday’s message hit me hard. I wanted to sit and write what I gleaned from it to encourage anyone reading the blog, but it just didn’t happen. Today, it was on my schedule to do. But 2 hours had already past by this morning, I was still going full speed toward unimportant tasks. As I read today’s message in my book, it pricked my heart as well. It was based off of Luke 10:33 when the Samaritan stopped to help a man in need, a man who was his enemy, a Jew. My book states that God is at work in the lives of my friends, my family, my neighbors. He may ask me to interrupt my day long enough to join Him as He ministers to those around me just like the Samaritan helped the hurt man. In other words… Julie, sit down and write.

IMG_0326 There is a lot going on. For over 7 months, we have walked this journey of cancer. We have learned new information every step of the way, most of it not any better than what we learned the step before:

It’s back. It’s changed. It’s aggressive. It’s spread through the skin. It didn’t respond. It is hard to remove. It’s probably going to come back.

Don’t think for a second that before those statements came true that I was not covered in prayer. That all of us did not bring our requests, our pleadings to the Lord Almighty. But please don’t confuse that with He did not hear or He did not answer. Isaiah 58:9 says, “You will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and He will say; Here I am.” Sometimes, the answer is just a simple, quiet “Here I am.” Is that enough for us? It has taken many “no’s” for Ethan and I to change our thinking, change our prayers. Prayer is not meant to be us telling God what we want or how we think it should be. As a friend described it, it is not a remote control that we can point at God. Prayer is communication. Prayer is putting myself in His control. Prayer is trusting that his answer is enough. Yes, we submit our requests to the Lord but then it is not our job to say if He answered correctly. As I begin to trust his answers, I begin to ask less for healing. I am asking more for Him to use me. Through that comes his grace. And His grace is a beautiful thing when it is all you have to hold on to.

So, yesterday’s message was from 1 Kings 19 when Elijah, a prophet of God, is discouraged. The Israelites had turned away from God, killed the prophets and Elijah was left alone and fleeing for his life and prayed that he may die. Then the word of the Lord spoke to Elijah:

“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by” (paraphrased) …a great and powerful wind tore through the mountain and shattered rocks, then an earthquake, then a fire. But God was not in any of those things… “After the fire, came a gentle whisper.”

Enlarge my photo above. It is from Pike’s Peak in Colorado this summer. I wish that I could stand on that mountain right now, stretch out my arms and just feel God’s presence. The the wind, the clouds, the storms, the fire… that is not always how God responds. We want him to send the earthquake of healing. The miraculous, supernatural, instant, unmistakeable healing. We want the powerful wind to blow through this journey and in the end be healed and whole. Be honest, we want it big. And I have seen big. I have asked for big and asked God to SHOW UP, and He does. But also be prepared for the gentle whisper. The grace. The everlasting love that can never be taken away. Be willing to hear his answer be “Here I am” and let that be enough.

Headed to MD Anderson

IMG_0780We finally got the appointment that we were waiting on with a doctor at MD Anderson. Its amazing how difficult it really is to see these guys. Not just MD Anderson. We had to jump through hoops to try to see the Baylor doctor as well. We forwarded records and images and waited 2-3 days for her to review my history before she would confirm an appointment. Then we hear that she does not accept Humana, something you would have thought they would check first. I am still interested in seeing her, but we will go to MD Anderson next Tuesday and see how things go there first. I don’t really know what we are hoping to hear. I feel like I have my heart exposed and anything could come back. My biggest prayer is that the treatment plan will be consistent with what my doctor here wants to do and I will not be left with a decision to be made on our end.

Chemo was on Monday and Wednesday/Thursday hit me pretty good. I have done this routine 16 times and I am still surprised every time. Most of my pain and fatigue comes from the Neulasta shot that I get on Tuesday. It leaves me with a headache, achy body and just tired. So yesterday after I took the girls to school, I might have crawled back in bed. Today, I woke up feeling like my old self. I have got a little work to do today, 3 soccer games tomorrow and life goes on… We don’t have time for cancer around here.

I will update after the appointment on Tuesday. Thank you friends, near and far, who are walking beside us.