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My WOW Moment!
It was April 13, 2016, as Mark and I sat in the exam room waiting for my surgeon to come in and check me after having the April 5th needle biopsy. He came in and after “small talk”, he told us to meet him in his office around the corner so he could discuss the results from my biopsy. I really didn’t think much about going to his office, but Mark told me later that he knew then that the news would not be good. Anyway, the surgeon sat down at his desk across from us, and looking only at me, he said…“I don’t have good news….you have ER PR + breast cancer. Without hardly a blink, I responded….”Wow!”………
This is a journey of revelation not only about my breast cancer, but a revelation of my great and awesome God who is just using me to tell His story with my WOW moment! I will get back to the “cancer part,” but I must back up a few months prior to share where I was before I got here…sharing “how God works!”
I have been a Christian (a believer in Jesus Christ) since I was about 10 years old. I’ve been connected with a body of believers from childhood to present….it’s all I have ever known. I have gone to church my whole life…I love God! I love that He loved me so much that He gave His Only Son because I believed in Him and I would not die separated from Him because I have eternal life! A little personal paraphrasing of my favorite verse….John 3:16. I’ve been living this eternal life ever since I became a believer!
As a part of my eternal life, I have been involved with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) for several years. With this study, you study a book of the Bible for about nine months. We start our study after Labor Day, and it continues until the second week of May. Let’s just say….it’s a very thorough study! You learn a lot which is great; however, what God reveals to you can be AMAZING! Because that is just who He is! This year our study has been on the book of Revelation. Revelation…yep, there has been a lot revealed to me! As I began this study, my prayer this year was to be bold for God. So here I am praying to God for boldness and all the while staying very quiet when the Holy Spirit would provide an opportunity to speak up and be bold for God. Let’s just say opportunity after opportunity passed.
Also as part of my eternal life, I was experiencing some health issues. I had a regurgitating mitral valve that was beginning to be more bothersome, and heart surgery was definitely in my future. Mark (my husband) and I met with a surgeon in September 2015 and decided that on January 7, 2016, I would have my heart surgery. I told him that we didn’t need to tell our children (daughter - Reed and son - Tyler) or other family members in September, because that would just give them too much time to worry about how I felt, to think about it during the Christmas holidays, or to dread the New Year. Most of our family and friends probably found out about my surgery about two to four weeks before it was to occur on January 7, 2016, because I thought I was “saving” them hours, days, or weeks from being worried about me! At the time, I did not realize that NOT sharing about my upcoming surgery was actually selfish on my part. I had missed an opportunity to see God work….to bless me and my family, to bless others, for others to receive a blessing, to give us all a time to draw closer to Him, for those who were not believers to trust in Him for the very first time, or for me to be bold for Him. I missed the opportunity to glorify God in all that time before surgery! Would He give me another opportunity to be bold for him?
I still continued to pray that prayer for boldness, but I had a weakness….fear. This fear wasn’t from God, but was from Satan. Satan has a very crafty way to convince you that whatever you want to say or do for God can be put off until another time. That “date” to speak up or be bold for God just gets pushed out further on the calendar. Satan gives you such a “pride in yourself” that you know that everything will be ok, because God is going to take care of you…and He does and did for me; however, Satan still seemed to be in control in this little part of my life….my eternal life! Satan doesn’t belong there, because Jesus defeated death, hell, and the grave, so I could have that eternal life that was only from Him!
For my heart repair, God truly blessed me with a great surgeon who repaired my mitral valve through robotic surgery rather than the traditional open heart surgery. Recovery from heart surgery progressed, and I became stronger. I was encouraged by my surgeon to follow-up with my cardiologist and my primary doctor, so everyone would be “up to speed” on my health history.
I first met with my primary doctor. In that appointment, she asked if I had had a mammogram. I told her that it had been awhile since I had one, so she arranged an appointment for me at the end of February. The next day, she told me that my mammogram was abnormal, but this wasn’t uncommon, and I would need to get a second mammogram for additional views. She ordered it; I went in the following day and had the second one done. The results came back…."indeterminate on magnification views…biopsy recommended." A biopsy appointment with a general surgeon was made for mid-March.
Here I was again, missing an opportunity…because I kept all the info about the abnormal mammograms and biopsy to myself. I didn’t even tell Mark! I didn’t want to worry anybody. (Again, I wasn’t allowing God to bless me or anyone!) Well, the day before my biopsy appointment, the Hoover Bucs were playing a doubleheader against Spain Park. The Hoover Bucs is the varsity baseball team that Tyler, plays for, for those of you who don’t know. Around 4:30 p.m., as I was sitting in the stands watching the game, I began to feel a squeezing and pain in my chest. My back was also beginning to ache. Did I tell Mark that this was going on?….Absolutely not! It felt “similar” to the mild heart attacks that I had experienced back in 2011, but it was not entirely the same. With my “cardiac knowledge,” I knew that the troponin enzyme (heart enzyme that elevates to indicate that you are having a heart attack) would not show up until 12-26 hours after actually feeling anything. Being the accountant that I am, I calculated that I needed to wait until at least 4:30 a.m. (the next day!) to reach that 12 hour mark to really know if I was having a heart attack. I was also thinking, this pain surely would go away before 12 hours. As the sun went down, it got a little cool, but I had my wind jacket and a blanket to pull up close to me pressing my chest as the pain continued. I was calm, cool, and collected as I sat there acting normal…I didn’t want anyone to worry! At one point, I asked Mark to rub my back, and he did. He had no clue that anything was going on!
Well, the pain never went away! It was still going on all the way on the ride home. I went to bed with it, never saying a word about it! I even prayed to God to make it stop….I still never told Mark. I eventually drifted off to sleep. I woke up about 3:15 a.m…..still having that squeezing and pain in my chest. One more hour to the 12-hour mark, but I just couldn’t make it anymore. I went into the bedroom and called Mark’s name. I didn’t want to wake him up and worry him with this matter, but I told him that I just couldn’t handle the pain anymore. He wasn’t too happy to hear that I had been having those chest pains since 4:30 in the afternoon the day before. We left the house and headed to the new Grandview Hospital ER, because my cardiologist’s office was there also. There wasn’t a soul in the ER waiting room…Praise God! We did not have to wait; I went back immediately. They asked me all my medical history, did some bloodwork, gave me some medicine, and soon reported back to us that I did not have a heart attack. This seemed to not be a heart related event. The ER doctor released me, and we went home.
Mark worked out of the house that day, and I began to feel better and told him that I had some errands to run. My biggest errand was that I was going for the needle biopsy appointment. At the time, I didn’t know this would only be a consultation and not a procedure; however, I had that covered! I had already inquired if I would be able to drive after having a biopsy, and I was told that I would, so there was no point in worrying anyone with this “little” matter. When I met with the nurse, she asked me several questions, and she commented that I seemed nervous! I told her that I had experienced 12+ hours of chest pains and had been to the ER that morning; however, no heart-related event was found. I told her it was just a fluke; I guess.
The next day, I checked in with my primary doctor to let her know that I had been to the biopsy consultation, and I told her about my chest pains and trip to the ER. I asked her if she thought my chest pains episode could have been an anxiety or panic attack. I told her that I really hadn’t thought of that before until the nurse had asked me about “being nervous.” She said that anxiety could be a reason due to this recent news and my past heart surgery. I then told her that I had not shared all this “abnormal mammogram” info with Mark, because I didn’t want him to worry. She kindly encouraged me to tell him, because I would need the support, and someday he may need me to support him, as well.
Later that day, Mark told me that I needed to let him know when things like chest pains or whatever was going on. Well, I had to “come clean” and tell him about the abnormal mammograms and the upcoming biopsy that he had no idea about! When I told him, he was very sweet and assured me that he always wanted to know things about me, especially when it involved my health. I love that man! God knew he was my perfect “helpmate!”
On April 5th, I went and had the needle biopsy. Let’s just say that wasn’t a very fun experience; however, I managed to have enough energy to play tennis two days after! My principle of recovery…."Getting back to my routine is my road to recovery," and tennis was in my routine! It would take a few days for the pathology report to come in, so I scheduled my appointment for the results for April 13.
It was April 13, 2016, as Mark and I sat in the exam room waiting for my surgeon to come in and check me after having the April 5th needle biopsy. He came in and after “small talk”, he told us to meet him in his office around the corner so he could discuss the results from my biopsy. I really didn’t think much about going to his office, but Mark told me later that he knew then that the news would not be good. Anyway, the surgeon sat down at his desk across from us, and looking only at me, he said…“I don’t have good news….you have ER PR + breast cancer. Without hardly a blink, I responded….”Wow!”
Also, in God’s timing, Reed was coming home from college on that day, because she was scheduled to have her wisdom teeth extracted the following day. We had both of our children home at the same time when we needed to tell them something we never dreamed that we would face. That evening, we called them into the kitchen, and I told them….”Dad and I went to the doctor today, and we found out that I have breast cancer.” At that moment, I embraced both of my sobbing children, and we just cried together. That release of tears was freeing, because I had not shed a tear since hearing my diagnosis. I told them that the type of breast cancer was very common, and I knew that God would take care of me. We told them as much as we knew and asked them not to tell anyone until we could contact other family members.
For the next several days, we called our family members to let them know and asked them to pray for us. Late at night on Thursday, April 20, I sent emails to several groups with basically the same information about what we knew. Being right in the middle of finishing up our regular baseball season as Area Champs, our “baseball family” received the following email entitled….An Ugly Curve….
Hello Varsity Baseball Family!
Technology allows us today to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Well, last Wednesday, this Williams’ family was “thrown an ugly curve”….I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
You know when you see “a curve”….you don’t expect it, you don’t know what to do with it, and more times than not, you have “a strike” against you. However, “this batter” is still swinging. She may get “a hit” or “strikeout” in a frame, but there are plenty of frames to play.
Right now, all we know is the following:
· It is ER PR+ breast cancer (a very common type)
· Surgery will be soon (possibly next week); it will be outpatient.
· We will find out the stage several days after surgery.
· Post-surgery treatment (medication and/or radiation) may occur.
Just as we want our Hoover Bucs to reach the title of 2016 7A State Champions; I am reaching for the title of breast cancer survivor! I would appreciate your prayers as my family and I “step up to the plate” in this life game. I specifically ask that you pray that God’s power will be displayed in a mighty way as we “hit any ugly curve” that comes our way.
We have some great baseball still to play, and I plan to be there rooting on our Hoover Bucs….2016 Area Champs!
Immediately and at that very late hour, I was receiving texts and emails from people saying that they were praying for me! It was incredible to be lifted up in prayer by so many!
On Friday, April 22, Mark and I went back to see the surgeon and scheduled my partial mastectomy for Tuesday, April 26. Everyone that came into contact with either Mark or me would tell us that they were praying for us. Again, it was incredible! On Sunday afternoon, April 24, I was so blessed to be prayed over by a group of ladies who love the Lord and were pouring all that love on me in a “sweetest hour of prayer!” I was and am so encouraged by each of them and how they touch my life. They are my “BC Squad!” (Beat Cancer Squad)!
Surgery day, April 26, was a pretty easy day for me. I was surrounded with love from Mark, Reed, Tyler, and Vicky (my BFF)! I was at peace going into and coming out of surgery, and my recovery in the days following was happening quite quickly. We were told it could take five to seven days before we got the pathology report to know if the lymph nodes were clear and know the stage of the cancer. Times of waiting wears on some people, but I knew it was part of “this journey,” so you just have to adapt. I had God’s peace and comfort.
On Friday, April 29, Mark and I met with the surgeon to learn the results of the pathology report. He said he had good news and not so good news. We tentatively scheduled a second surgery to occur on Tuesday, May 3. The following email was sent on Monday, May 2, to our baseball family entitled…Another Curve and This is How God Works!...summarizes what the pathology report showed and how God takes care of the details!...
Hey Varsity Baseball Family,
Thank you for praying, for all the hugs, words of encouragement, and meals! “I’m still in the game!” You may or may not have heard about the results of my pathology report “through the grapevine,” but it pales in comparison to what I’m going to tell you how God works!
“This batter is up to bat,” facing Ugly Team Cancer head-on. She is protected with the “helmet of salvation” (so she has already won!); she is supported by bleachers of fans (prayer warriors all around her!); she feels confident with peace from God as her next 3 “at bats” explain her success “at the plate” in frames 2-4……..
- A Base Hit!...Lymph nodes – negative; Praise the Lord! - Flied Out, but the runner advanced!...I have Stage 2 breast cancer; it’s not the greatest result, but God's got this! - Another curve, but this batter is learning how to deal with those!...My report showed a positive anterior margin which means I need another surgery to get a clear margin; however, this “curve” may be a blessing to seek out the best medical team to be in charge of my care and treatment forward. Looks like she got a base hit!
Just wanted to bring you up to speed in my very basic baseball jargon as it relates to how God has allowed things to happen as we continue our journey....
My surgeon has been great; however, since I need another surgery, I just feel (after praying, etc.!) that I need an oncologist to be on board before I have another surgery, so that I can understand some of details per my pathology report. I knew that my surgeon was going on vacation on this Wednesday, so having surgery on this Tuesday (i.e. tomorrow) was the tentative plan. He would be gone ten days, but I wouldn't have to wait that long to find out the next results, but I wouldn't get to talk to him about them in person until he got back. That plan to have surgery tomorrow is no longer going to happen. Through conversation with breast cancer survivors and research on my own, I have been informed that The Kirklin Clinic (Breast Health Clinic) takes a “team” approach. You have a surgeon, a medical oncologist, and a radiation oncologist that will meet with you all at the same time. With all three, I expect to get a better understanding of my results, the next step, my treatment, etc.
Get ready....this is the exciting part!
This is how God works.....
Last week (I think it was after my surgery), I had called the Kirklin Clinic to just get info about how they did things. I had also been told earlier by Mindy Barton (Thank you, Mindy! 4-yr breast cancer survivor!) about her doctors at the Kirklin Clinic, so I knew the process; however, I already had a surgeon at another hospital and had had surgery, so I really didn't think that I would need that (3 doctor) "team approach.” Also, Mindy told me her medical oncologist's name, and when I checked him for insurance purposes; his name did not even come up, so I felt that I was "out of luck" using him, because we want to use doctors that are "in network "for our insurance that we pay for.....right?!
Well, when I got my results, I shared this with Mindy. We were just texting back and forth about different things on my report. After that “conversation," something ( the Holy Spirit) prompted me to "research" some of the terminology from my report. With this “research,” I knew I needed an oncologist sooner than later so that I could understand what was on my report. I was also prompted (by the Holy Spirit again!) to google Mindy’s oncologist’s name. The list of "close" spellings came up, and I noticed his last name was actually a hyphenated name (because he's Columbian). I checked his name in my insurance database...he was "in network!"...another confirmation of God/The Holy Spirit prompting me to use my head in my quest and "research!" This "new knowledge" I kept to myself overnight as I prayed for thankfulness that God had guided me to seek a 2nd opinion. I shared my intentions with Mark the next morning, and he agreed that we needed to go in that direction, too.
So, the "positive anterior margin" (i.e. the need for more surgery) is the blessing in disguise! Would I have questioned or been prompted to seek a 2nd opinion...I don't know, but more than likely....I doubt it. Also, "the revelation of God's timing"....with my original surgeon going on vacation when I was to have surgery the day before just didn't "sit well" with me. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that....God's got this!
Also, since the decision to seek a second opinion, God has put people in my path who are so willing to help me get the best medical attention and treatment available! The Kirklin Clinic called me today before I called them! Another affirmation of God taking care of the details!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Please pray specifically for God's guidance, wisdom, clarity, peace, and glorification as we make the necessary decisions needed in this journey. He's working His perfect plan for me, and I'm so encouraged by Christ love and support from my brothers and sisters in Christ! His perfect healing is on its way...stay tuned…”this batter and her team are slugging it out!” You don’t want to miss seeing how God’s great power will be displayed!
Much love to you and In His Care!
Since that time, I have been so thankful to God how He has handled the details. I thought back to that day we found out that I had breast cancer, and God has helped me understand why my response was “Wow!” The word “Wow” means something to this Williams family. It originated in conversation about baseball that Mark, Tyler, and I had. Being the “well-informed” baseball mom that I am, my advice to my “star baseball player” was to “Study the Pitcher”….”STP.” Let’s just say an eye roll and a request of “please don’t yell that again at a game” was later voiced by Tyler! I asked Mark, “What is your advice for Tyler?” He said, “Work on Weakness”, and I chimed in with the acronym…WOW! Work On Weakness…WOW!…God had revealed to me that my response was a confirmation of me yielding to the Holy Spirit to work on my weakness of being fearful to bold for God!
God is so AMAZING! It is not a coincident that He allowed my dear husband to utter the words…Work on weakness…so that I would hear God! Mark and I will be married thirty years this year in October, and “in sickness and in health,” I am truly blessed to be loved and cared for by him. God can use the closest people to you to carry out his perfect plan. I can’t say it enough…God handles the details and He deserves the glory.
I am confidently trusting in God’s Presence, Peace, and Power of healing. And I’m so encouraged when others tell me that they are praying for me; however, I am filled with so much joy knowing they are strengthening their own relationship with God by communicating with Him. My life is abundant, and by the saving grace of Jesus, I am living my eternal life! With God, I am assured of His “Wow” (Wisdom over worry) and by depending on Him, I will have another “Wow” (Winning over weakness) all the while being thankful and glorifying Him!
Thank you to all who pray! I covet your prayers and God’s got this!