In January, when my symptoms began, life was busy as it always seems to be as a wife and working mom of four young children. Since I didn't have a lot of extra time to take care of myself, I blamed my symptoms on other things like the food I was eating, a trip to Mexico, etc. In April, after the symptoms continued to persist, I finally set up an appointment with my primary care physician. They did some testing and referred me to a gasterologist for an appointment on July 15 (3 months later)!
As I waited for my appointment and my symptoms continued, I began to think in the back of my head, could this be cancer? But I talked myself out of it and told myself to stop worrying. Even when I went to my appointment and described my symptoms to the gastero and asked her if it could be cancer, she said, "Anything is possible, but it would be a very small chance, you are young and don't have any risk factors. It is most likely ulcer colitis or chrones. They said I could wait several months for a colonoscopy with my gastero or take the first available, which was on July 17. I decided to take the first available.
When I got home from my gastero appointment, I came home to our foster son throwing up all over. He had had a routine procedure that morning and ended up getting admitted to the hospital for a complication. At this time, the doctors were telling us he could be in the hospital for up to a month. He is home now, yay! This was overwhelming because we also have three biological children, Rylin 7, Gunnar 5 and Crew 3 at home and did not know how we could be at two places at once. We thankfully have an amazing support system, who began stepping in to help right away. I thought about rescheduling my colonoscopy, but knew I needed to figure out what was going on and decided to go home and start the prep.
I went in for my colonoscopy on July 17. When I began to awake from the anesthesia after my colonoscopy, I remember my mom sitting next to me in a chair and the doctor telling her they found a 7-10cm mass in my rectum that was most likely cancer. Cancer?? What? I was so out of it still...this could not be happening. And yet deep down, I knew it was true and what I had suspected all along.
The next couple days felt like a blur. Scott and I cried, prayed and cried some more. We had no idea where to start. There is no guide book on where to start when you get cancer or well maybe there is, but I certaintly didn't have it. We began reaching out to family, friends, friends of friends and anyone who could help us figure out where to even get started on this journey. God blessed us by connecting us with several friends of friends who have been through or are going through a similar journey. I can't tell you what a gift this was and is to have someone to talk to and to help us start figuring out the next steps. Through these conversations we were connected with a doctor in GR, who began ordering a lot of additional tests.
Things began moving very quickly. On Thursday, we heard back from the doctor that the lab had confirmed it was cancer. On Friday, I had a CT scan. On Saturday, the doctor called to let me know the cancer had spread to my lungs...it was metatstatic, stage 4. I will never forget this conversation. I answered the phone not expecting it to be the doctor, Gunnar was still chatting my ear off like he always does and it was hard to take in what the doctor was saying. It was ripping my heart out to think of how this would impact our four kids. I called to Scott to come upstairs and walked outside where I just cried out to God begging for his help. We called my parents over to help with the kids, so Scott and I could process this devastating news.
And this probably sounds crazy, but after sulking for about an hour, I told Scott we are going to Legoland. We had already promised the kids we would go this summer as a reward to the kids for some new rules they had been following and I didn't want to sit around being depressed. I wanted to do something fun and enjoy the amazing family we are so blessed to have. So I called my parents and my siblings and we all went to Auburn Hills for a night and went to Legoland. It was a great distraction from the scary news we just heard and was a gift to be able to spend time with family on such short notice.
When Sunday came, reality hit like a ton of bricks. We solidified the team of doctors we were going to see in Grand Rapids on Friday, July 26 and began calling the best cancer centers in the U.S. We were determined to fight this cancer. When I spoke with M.D. Anderson (# 1 cancer center), they were scheduling out until the end of August. My next call was Mayo (#3 cancer center) and they offered me an appointment on Oct. 16, my birthday. We could not wait this long to begin treatment and I was feeling defeated. Later that day Scott and I had both heard about Sloan Kettering (#2 cancer center) from a friend and decided to try them. When I talked to Sloan they told me their next appointment was two days away, but they needed all our information right away. Long story short, the first appointment didn't work out, but we were able to get an appointment for Thursday, Aug. 1. While it felt like God had shut a door to the other cancer centers, he was opening a window to where we feel like he wanted us to go.
Memorial Sloan Kettering has the first center in the world dedicated to research of young onset of colorectal cancer. The risk of colorectal cancer has more than doubled for people under the age of 50 when looking at a group born in 1950 compared to a group born in 1990. They expect this risk to double again by 2030. If you have any symptoms, please go get checked out right away. https://www.mskcc.org/clinical-updates/msk-s-new-center-focus-alarming-increase-colorectal-cancer-young
We met with the doctors in Grand Rapids on Friday, July 26, and since the cancer has spread or is metastatic, they told us the 5 year survival rate and the possiblity of a cure are really low...I won't depress you with the statistics. Their recommendation was to do some more tests and start chemo asap. These meetings were a hard to sit through, but we hold our hope in the Great Physician, who can do more than we can imagine.
The other day, I posted a link to this devotional. https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/07/24/what-if-life-doesnt-have-to-be-pain-free-to-be-full?fbclid=IwAR19MpYiGhHwEZuZbSKt6u5B07UWaozPR-2iKzfAzNGAA2yPgCYIdCUfCxA
What stuck with me from this devotional is that God wants our life to be full even admidst these difficult journeys. We just need to continue to look for Him or the rubies wherever we turn.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)
While this journey has been incredibly hard and we are devastated by this news, we have felt God's peace. We know He is faithful and will continue to trust in him through this journey. We feel His presence and are seeing Him everywhere we turn and know somehow He will use us and this journey for his purpose. We have been seeing him in...
• All the prayers and kind texts - We can feel them, so please keep them coming
• Our kids and the joy they bring to our lives
• My amazing husband, who is the best dad ever and is taking such good care of all of us
• Our family and friends who have stepped in to help with our foster son in the hospital, our other kids, our house or wherever they can
• Our dance parties with the kids and our three year olds version of My Whitehouse (My lighthouse)
• The friends of friends who have experienced cancer and have given us advice and wisdom. You are such a light in this journey
• Our amazing house church, who is praying continuosly and helped with our foster son and meals
• All of you who are bringing meals. They are delicious and we can't thank you enough!
• The friends and family who are helping us to do fun and normal things. We need it and appreciate your help!
• My old doctor who responds to my late night text questions
• All the cards and flowers
• That I was able to stay at home with the kids this summer. It was a hard decision to leave MH, but I can't tell you how many times I told Scott this summer was the best summer with kids. I think God was preparing us to be able to endure this fight
• My family who drops everything and goes to lego land
• The friends who helped put our house back together after a crazy week
• And so many other ways!
If you are reading this and willing to pray for us, could you please pray for complete healing, that God would protect our kid's and our family's hearts, that God would guide the doctors in this treatment plan, for Scott as he is carrying such a big load caring for all of us and for our foster son as we do not know what this means for his adoption. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers!