I suppose I should start with a health update for those of you who are waiting with baited breath to hear how it all went.
Surgery went extremely well! I was released from the hospital a few days early. My earliest release was Monday, April 28, but they were expecting Wednesday, April 30. I came home Sunday night, April 27.
The pathology reports came back within 48 hours of the surgery. Talk about the longest 48 hours in the history of ever. If one lymph node was malignant, my survival rate was 50%. If two held cancer cells, my survival rate was 22%. I would have about a year to live.
All Lymp Nodes were clear! All of them! Praise the Lord!
But wait! There's more! The pathologists also dissected and scanned the bladder. Where once I had a tumor that took 3/4 of my bladder, held aggressive, high grade cancer, now there is no trace. No trace! This is the miracle we've been praying for! God is faithful!
Many ask the question, why did we still have the surgery? Bladder cancer is highly aggressive. It has a very high re-occurance rate, but it also tends to jump from organ to lymph system, to other organs. It morphs and before you know it, it takes over everything. If we hadn't had the surgery there was a 75% chance it would have come back - within the first year. But there was no guarantee it would come back in the bladder. It could have come back inoperable - as brain cancer, or bone cancer, or liver cancer.... This is HUGE!
Like I said before, God's great healing process and this surgery together are my miracle. My survival rate now stands at 95-98%. My surgeon says I have a very long life ahead of me!
That's the report of it all. I still have catheters and tubes coming every which way. I have a weak leg and a limp from a bit of nerve damage during surgery, but that will eventually heal. I'm still tired and I still prefer soft foods to real food...but I'm home and I'm happy to announce that I am CANCER FREE! God is good!
I have been thinking a lot this morning of how long - and how short this journey has been. It all started six months ago, November 7. And here we are, nearly six months later, and I've already conquered chemotherapy, I've already had my surgery, and I'm already home recuperating. It seems like a lifetime ago, and yet, it seems like only yesterday.
As I contemplate my journey, here are some thoughts...
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
From the very first day of this blessed journey he assigned to me, The Lord has been my faithful shepherd. I have never been in want for anything. He has supplied all of our daily needs, medical needs, and pastoral needs.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters."
There was so much to take in and understand in the beginning. So much information, so many decisions, so many choices... But it was as if He had already orchestrated them all for us, ahead of us. So that all we had to do was rest and be still before Him.
"He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake.
From the very beginning I felt Him begin to restore my soul - even in the middle of the daily grind, the treatments, the fatigue, the nausea. My body was unwell, but my soul was being restored. I also believe that he allowed me to walk this path because I determined to give him every glory. The passage says he leads us in paths of righteousness - not for our own sake, but for his name's sake. For his own glory. I pray my responses have pointed others to Christ and have given God all the glory.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
There were many days when I honestly didn't know what the outcome would be. I read statistic reports, I studied every aspect of bladder cancer, I researched and read... and I prayed. And even though it appeared as if I were in the literal valley of the shadow of death, I was not afraid. The Lord was always there for comfort me, often times comforting through scripture, but also through random friends' text messages, emails, cards, letters, phone calls...hugs.
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over."
I can't say that I have any enemies. There are a few that question my faith, but that's ok. The Lord has overcome, and my cup runneth over!
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
I now understand how important it is to be a supporting voice, to give an encouraging word, to speak goodness to someone who is going through dark and troubled times. For me, that's what this last verse means. I've been given goodness and mercy and I want to spread it. I want goodness and mercy to follow me all the days of my life as I dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I want to share the grace that's been given to me with anyone and everyone I meet or know that needs it.
I believe I've been on a very blessed journey. The cancer itself was a terrible thing, but it became my greatest blessing - in fact, the biggest blessing of my life. Simply because it taught me grace, it taught me patience, it taught me hope, it taught me faith, it taught me mercy. It grew my character. It developed my fruit. It opened my eyes to the unimportant and it cleared my heart of years and years of nasty debris.
If God had to use a horrible thing like cancer to heal my broken and wounded soul, I say bless it! I am thankful for every tear I had to cry. I am thankful for every sleepless night. I am thankful for every uncertain day.
God has proven himself faithful to me once again. He is good and His love endures forever!
Only By His Grace,