Thursday I went to the cancer center for my six month check up. Because childcare is tough to find for six kids, one of whom is a foster (oh, yeah, that's why I haven't had time for blogging...I am mothering SIX awesome kids right now) I went alone. At first I was apprehensive about this. I kept thinking of the "what ifs", and would I be able to handle being alone if I got bad news. God kept whispering, "you're never alone". He stayed true to that statement for sure.
Early that morning I began the hour and a half drive to the hospital where the nearest melanoma specialists are. Despite the anxiety that I'd been riddled with in the days prior, Thursday morning, I felt pure peace. I turned on some worship music and prayed my way to Cleveland. I prayed for many things. I prayed for good results, peace, compassionate doctors, ease of blood draw, clear chest x-rays, that the surgeon would take more than ten seconds to answer my questions and that my new oncologist would be someone I could trust my life with.
I arrived early, never having driven there myself before I felt a sense of accomplishment just in making it there without getting lost. I parked and made my way down the elevator and through the eerily lit tunnel to the building where the cancer center is. I took the stairs up to the cancer center. Thanking God with each step that I was able to in fact take the stairs. I waited my turn to check in and a cheerful woman greeted me, took my copay and looked at my schedule of appointments. She sent me to do my lab work first.
I headed over to the lab and had my blood drawn. It was quick and painless! Answered prayer! I then waited to see the surgeon (who is so busy and ALWAYS super late) I sat in the waiting room reading quietly until my name was called. I then went to the exam room where I waited an hour for the surgeon. While I was sitting there I tried to calm my mind while barraged with posters and pamphlets about chemotherapy, therapeutic sperm donation (what?), and hospice care.
The doctor came in, was very sweet. Looked at my scar and explained that it was turning hypertrophic/keloid, which is why it's been so painful. He said we'd need to wait a while longer to see what it does and to just massage it. Because so much skin was taken, there was a lot of trauma and tension on the wound. He then asked if he could refer me to the "MelaFind" program so that we could keep a better eye on my moles. After the nurse gave me the information, I headed back to the waiting area.
It was then time for my x-rays which took approximately fifteen seconds. "Hold your breath don't move, ok arms up hold your breath don't move, ok kiddo you're done" Back to the waiting area for me.
I got myself a glass of water (one perk to this place is the ice machine...they have really awesome crushed ice) and made myself comfy on a couch with my Kindle since my next appointment was about two hours away. As I sat, I read, prayed and people watched. In a place you'd think would be filled with despair, the hope in the room was tangible. As I looked around I could see some people getting great news and rejoicing with their families as others did not receive good news and tears flowed freely. As I looked around the vast waiting area, I knew I was sitting in the midst of some of the strongest people I'd ever be in the presence of.
I sat there thanking God for the peace I was feeling, for the quiet time to reflect (since that is a precious commodity as a mother of SIX), and for the affirmations of hope in the good and bad that I was seeing all around me. My name was called right on time and I was taken back to an exam room. I was anxious to meet the new oncologist and had no idea why they'd changed my doctor. I knew the minute he walked in that God had his hands all over the situation the entire time. The doctor walked in, made eye contact with me and asked GENUINELY how I was. He sat down and focused on me. I felt more heard than I've felt through this whole ordeal. He listened to my every fear and concern and he didn't dismiss even one.
We talked about my tumor, the aggressiveness of it, the fact that I was a mom of six and what the prognosis is. The doctor looked at me and said, "You're 35 years old. 83% 5 year survival just isn't good enough. We need 99%. I'd like to suggest a change in your follow up. I believe that because of your age, we need to be as proactive as possible so you can live a long and healthy life. Immunotherapy is really coming along way with melanoma but it does best when used before the cancer really takes over, so I would suggest, and it is entirely up to you, that we do more scanning periodically to make sure there is nothing hiding internally." Tears flowed down my face, as scary as those words are...those are the VERY words I prayed I would hear. I did not feel like the previous doctors had given the attention to the aggressiveness of my particular tumor and I did not feel like they were being aggressive enough.
The doctor looked panicked and said, "Oh please don't cry! We're going to make sure you have every chance to beat this thing. It may never come back but if it does I want to be ready and waiting. You do not have to decide right now. Just please give it some thought." I choked back tears and said, "I would like the scans, I'd prayed hard to hear you say those words and not make me feel crazy for wanting them. I want to be as healthy as I can for as LONG as I can so that I can be the wife and mom my family deserves." He got kind of choked up (he is roughly the same age as me) and said, "Kristy, that is the most reasonable thing I've heard all day. You are really something. You make ME feel like a wimp." I laughed and he said, "I have two kids...and barely make it through most days."
We then went over my blood tests and x-rays which all looked good and we made plans to reconvene for scan and exams in November. I left the clinic that day, feeling God's hand on me. His presence was tangibly felt all day, and while these trials sometimes feel like too much, those moments are so sacred. He is there. He is in it all and we are NEVER alone. I truly couldn't be more grateful.
Cancer is another one of those things that no one wants to have to encounter, but I believe it is going to be another thing to teach me, heal me and help me be better. I believe God knows what he is doing and while it is hard and exhausting, He is forcing me to lean harder on Him and it is a good place to be.
So six months out...still no evidence of disease. With melanoma, they don't really talk cure. It is a disease that can rear it's head at any time...it travels in the lymphatic system and in the blood so the key is to keep up the immune system and be the healthiest me I can be. In the cancer world, time is often talked of in three month increments. Living life between scans can be super hard, but I am determined to live it to it's fullest. This IS the day that the Lord has made....I will rejoice and be glad in it. I no longer fear growing old. I pray each day that I get the privilege of growing old. I intend to be proud of each and every year lived...35 and going strong! :)