Sunday, January 15, 2017

Moving Forward

I wanted to touch base and let y’all know that I finally heard from my doctor’s office regarding the pending results I talked about in my last post. I am happy to announce that these lab results came back negative, which is what we wanted. This means better prognostic statistics for me regarding future recurrence rates, and no further treatment will be added to the pill I am already taking.

Ultimately I know my, and all of our, “prognosis” is in God’s hands, and He had really helped me let go of obsessing over hearing those results in the last few weeks, but this was great news, is a huge praise, and a big relief.

It seems weird to finally be able to tell you guys there is nothing else pending out there regarding my cancer treatment. Of course there are routine follow-ups in the months ahead, but no pending surgeries and no pending labs. It has felt strange coming out of this trial.  In some ways I think maybe I feel some of what a soldier might feel coming home from battle trenches. I’m processing the trauma – thinking through what the heck just happened, I’m a little scarred (physically and emotionally), I get mad about my losses sometimes, and sometimes I feel guilty I’m ok while others who’ve walked this road before me haven’t been as fortunate. All this while simultaneously feeling extremely grateful that this has been my path. I’m back at work and getting to work out again and trying to jump back into living “a normal life” and some days it just feels awkward if I’m honest. If you’re thinking to yourself, “man, Alise needs counseling,” you would be correct. I’ve been going for a few weeks now, and that has been super helpful. One big thing I’ve learned is to not shove my feelings under the rug by quickly praying them away (something I had no idea I was doing), but to pray better and include Jesus in the struggle. Instead of “help me not feel angry,” praying “Jesus, today I feel angry because ­­­______ and I don’t even want your help if I’m honest but I know I need it. Forgive me. Meet me where I’m at. Give me your peace.”

Your continued prayers are appreciated as Chad and I both adjust to the effects this journey has had on us, as we continue to process, and as we think and pray through (as we all should be doing) how to best utilize this precious life we’ve been given to His glory and for His name. Additionally, we just invite you to join us in praising God for His goodness and all His provisions and little miracles along the way.   We are truly grateful!  Happy New Year Everyone. Thank you for following this journey and for your continued support. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Reconstruction

Since my last update at the end of September a couple big things have happened. The biggest update is that I had surgery on November 14th - the rest of my breast reconstruction and a simultaneous inguinal hernia repair. I am healing really well from that, and am very thankful to have the tissue expanders out.

The next biggest update is a story I never really intended to have to tell you guys. Back in September my Medical Oncologist sent my tumor off for some additional 3rd party testing. This is a test that exists for patients with my type of breast cancer to determine whether or not there would be any benefit from chemotherapy. We were expecting the scores to come back really encouraging and to have confirmation on the plan of care, but, instead, the results we got were a little perplexing.

Long story short, my tumor tissue is currently in transit to my doctor who will have her specialized pathology lab perform a confirmatory test (to make sure the results are legit) before we make any real decisions. Please pray that her team is able to bring clarity to my results, and that (yes we are still praying for this =) these results will create ability for a clear treatment plan to be made. I will definitely update you guys through this site once I know anything more on this front (I have no real clue when it will be, but my best guess is sometime in January).

These results really threw me for a loop. Full disclosure, I've really struggled with the news. The surgery I had on the 14th was one I had really been looking forward to as sort of 'the last big thing'. The end to this crazy season. Then, 6:30pm the Friday before surgery I get a call and learn that may not be the case. It's been a crazy couple of weeks to say the least.

Meanwhile, I've started on the Tamoxifen. This is a little anti-hormone pill I will take every day for 5 years. This is the one part of my treatment plan that is not convoluted, and is an absolute must.  I have to say, taking it for the first time was a little emotional for me in a way I wasn't expecting. It was sad for me. It was like a little reminder that I've had a disease. The hope, and what I am believing (most days - when fear doesn't set in ;), is that I am healed, and that this little pill will just prevent recurrence. The same would be true of any additional treatment I might need.  This perspective has helped return me to a more peaceful state while I wait on the additional test results and finalization of treatment plan.

Thank you all for continuing to follow and join in my journey. I continue to be so very humbled and grateful for the support that has been provided.  If I don't check back before - I wish you all a very Happy Holiday Season! May we all get good time with loved ones and intentionally reflect on the many things for which we have to be grateful.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Phil 4:4

Monday, September 26, 2016

Treatment

Some of you may have seen that I just went on a cruise with two of my best friends. I wrote a really well-thought through and witty post before I left. The problem is that I wrote it on my phone, and as soon as I finished writing it, I accidentally deleted the whole thing. **Rolls eyes** The post was mainly about how I have been doing emotionally the past few weeks, since there still wasn’t really an update regarding an official plan of care.  Here were the main points for discussion in the deleted post (keep in mind this is from the perspective of September 14th):


  • Will know treatment plan in next 2-3 weeks
  • Been going through tissue expansion process. It stinks, but it’s over...yay!
  • Going on a cruise tomorrow
  • Start back to work next week
  • Breast reconstruction process on hold until treatment plan is identified (if chemo is not needed, reconstruction will likely take place in mid november) after second opinion appointment next week


So that’s all a little confusing since it’s what I was supposed to post on September 14th, but I just want to prove that I am not a complete blog slacker, and I did try to update the blog before today ;) Since that day, the following has occurred:


  • Went on a 5 day cruise to Cozumel - this was an amazing time with sweet friends. It helped my body relax in a way it hadn’t been able to do at home, and as crazy as this might sound, it really prepared me for going back to work. It was the first time I had been out of the house for more than a few hours since my mastectomy on Aug 3, and it helped me identify that I am stronger than I thought and also helped increase my stamina.
  • Last Wednesday, I had a second opinion appointment where it was confirmed that I will not require chemotherapy or radiation treatment! I will be doing systemic treatment in the form of a pill called Tamoxifen for 5 years. As far as potential boats I could be in, I have really ended up in a good one, and I am extremely grateful.
  • I wanted to update you guys sooner, but Thursday I went back to work (so I just haven't had time)! I definitely noticed some limitations, and I still deal with pain and discomfort of some sort on a daily basis, but I was pleasantly surprised with how I felt overall. We were pretty slow, so hopefully I continue to be pleasantly surprised on days with heavier patient loads.
  • Since I am not requiring chemo or radiation, my plastic surgeon is looking to get me scheduled sometime mid-November. I also have an inguinal hernia I plan to have repaired at the same time (I know I know, I’m fallin’ apart ;), so I imagine that sometime this week the general surgeon and the plastic surgeon will be able to figure out a date that works for them both and will get me scheduled.


Those are the main updates. In a lot of ways it feels like I’m out of the woods, but in reality  - with 2 surgeries still coming, 5 years of Tamoxifen and the challenges this will bring and could potentially bring, and the reality that Satan is Satan  - I still very much so need your support and prayers. I am also still very much so in a healing phase, and that will reset in many ways once I have my next surgery. Some days are flat harder than others. One moment I’m fine, and the next I am trying to hug my husband and realize I really can’t fully embrace, or be embraced, how I was before...and that reminder sends me to tears. I definitely struggle hard some days. Just last week I was shaking my fists at God and telling him I hated him in one hour and was on my face repenting hours later. I am a sinner just making my way through this journey, but (despite of my sin) I have found God to be with me every step of the way providing what I need to make it through. Someone very dear to me who has been walking her breast cancer journey for 10 years gave me these 3 pieces of advice:


  1. Trusting God is a choice (not a feeling).
  2. Focus on God -- not the cancer.
  3. As Job said, “Yet will I praise Him!”

God truly gets me through each day as I strive to follow these three pieces of advice on a minute to minute basis. These simple reminders are so relevant to any of life’s numerous challenges, and I hope they encourage and challenge some of you as they have me. It has been so humbling to watch many of my prayer requests turn into praises, and I ask you each to continue praying and praising alongside me as I walk this journey.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

In Flux

I was hoping to have more information for you after meeting with the medical oncologist on Tuesday, but here's a quick update while things are still in flux: I'm so thankful that my medical oncologist was very pleased with the pathology report from my surgery. I am still working with the doctors to come up with the proper treatment plan as well as schedule a second opinion. Like I said, not much of an update, but there's what we know.

I'm also very thankful for the amount of love and support I've received. I know my text replies have been somewhat skimpy especially in the last couple of days while I've taken time to process (and honestly also been especially tired and sleeping a lot). I am leaning on this blog to keep everyone who wants to know updated. If you want to be among the first to hear these updates, please use the "Follow by Email" box to have these posts come directly to your inbox.

A few tips on where I'm at and how you can support me these days:
  • If I haven't updated here, I might not be ready to talk cancer updates just yet
  • Keep the texts coming that let me know you are thinking about me but don't require response
  • Check here 
  • Call me or email me if you wanna really catch up on how I'm doing (I'm not big on texting in general and it overwhelms me to text about this kinda stuff because, in case you haven't gathered, I'm not a short version of the story kinda gal;)
  • Keep Praying! I've updated my prayer requests on the right hand side of the blog (have to be in full web version to view this from a phone)

Love love
Alise

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Healing

Well, you guys might need to hunker down with a nice big cup of coffee, tea, or whatever it is you drink, and cozy up; because, there is so much on my heart I want to share, and I have the feeling this is going to be quite the long post.

First, recovery is going well. I came home last Friday at 10 am, and aside from one rough day, pain has been controlled and I have been thrilled with my mobility (it is much more extensive than I expected). Time at the hospital was not the best, and while I want to be raw and open, I also do not want to be a complainer. If any of you want a venting session from me about the time I had there - I'll be glad to provide ;) That said, I want to make very clear that my physicians are amazing. I cannot tell you how many people I have had tell me how fortunate I am to be under their care. It feels good when checking into pre-op to have nurses tell you "we have people come from all over the country for them. You are in good hands," especially when this is comment 500+ of the like received about these guys. I really can't say enough about their excellent care and treatment, along with my OBGyn who supported me through getting the initial cyst checked into and has faithfully gone above and beyond to check in with me weekly on the phone, and has provided any assistance he possibly could in this process.  

My parents and my besties, Melanie and Leah, came into town for the surgery to assist Chad in caring for me during my hospital stay. So many other friends and family reached out in various ways and have made my recovery as seamless as possible. My brother Adam drove from South Carolina to surprise me on Saturday once I was home. He quoted a book he's currently reading and said "I can't promise you sunshine, but I can make sure you always have an umbrella in the rain." I mean come on - how cute is that?! My bothers Mark (and his daughters, my awesome nieces) and Aaron (and his wife Bekah) planned visits to see me at that time as well. For the many other prayers, texts, phone calls, visits, flowers and cards sent - thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

I will meet with a medical oncologist on August 23rd. Until that time I really won't have an update on the treatment plan ahead. Please continue to pray that a clear treatment plan develops in the next couple weeks. 

While in recovery I have had a lot of time to think. What follows is overtly Christian in nature and I realize not all of you follow the same line of thinking. I always love chatting with people from other belief systems and backgrounds and hope you will enjoy "hearing" some of the thoughts I've been having during recovery and the perspective my faith has provided in this difficult time.

I think, as humans, we tend to draw naturally toward a feeling of entitlement to things to which we were never promised entitlement. These include health, wealth, ease of life, lack of trials, struggles, and tribulations.  Even entitlement to smaller things like customer service representatives being good and efficient at their jobs, receiving the better assignment at work, “that person” in front of us not cutting us off on the road (or, if you're anything like me, a vast array of other road pet-peeves) creep into my thought process on a regular basis. 

The thing is, we were not promised any of these things. We are not promised long lives that are free of suffering and trials where everyone and everything magically revolves around ME/US. It is my belief that this is true regardless of religious beliefs, but in the Christian faith, we are warned of this through scripture. 

In John 16:33 Jesus says "...In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 4:12 "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you."  It's not a matter of if, but it's a matter of when these things will occur. It doesn't make these times any less difficult, sad, or frustrating, but my point is that they should not surprise us. The answer to the question "Why?" would be a whole separate blog post. In fact many have written whole books on the matter, so I won't get into that at this juncture (though I might have a quote or two at the bottom of the post that speaks to that). 

I love so much that "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15)" and that it's ok to feel like these struggles are difficult, sad, and frustrating, and that very next verse in Hebrews says, "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." And to be 100% honest, this verse brings tears to my eyes as I type it in because from Sunday when I first started typing this post to this moment on Thursday, the sadness of some of my losses has really kicked in to where I've almost felt hypocritical even posting the words I'd already typed and kept putting off finishing the post. That was Satan lying to me, and what a sweet reminder that I am to confidently approach God's throne of grace, and that in that place mercy and help await. Give me one moment while I ball my eyes out and blow my nose...

Annnnnnd I'm back. Thank you Jesus that despite the fact that we shouldn't be surprised when trials come, when we still are, you are so gracious and patient with us. Thank you Jesus for being with us in our pain and suffering.  SO, we even get to include God as we work through all our various feelings and emotions during these times, and he welcomes that. How amazing is that?

Another theme of the week, which ties in to the first two, is the "why" behind unwavering peace and hope. I was not ready for this until I was in it. Each day He has given me what I need to have peace and joy in the midst of whatever is happening that day. Monday was a miserable day. Sunday night my dinner did not settle well. I sat in miserable nausea from 11-2am when I finally vomited about 1.5 Liters. Thus why Monday was miserable. You can imagine the action of aggressive vomiting after a bilateral mastectomy would be quite painful - it took all day Monday to catch back up on my pain management. This also left me weak and dehydrated. All this just one day after I felt well enough to put on a dress, high heels, and makeup and go to church. It was frustrating to relapse, but the thing is my hope and my joy remained because "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.(Isaiah 53:3-5)"

I have my healing already, no matter the outcome of all this. No matter how I feel physically or emotionally on any given day - I have my perfect healing through my salvation in Jesus Christ. Now I know for sure some of you won't agree with me on that, but that is the assurance I have through my faith. It's absolutely amazing, and it is the source of my peace and my hope despite my trial and the various feelings it brings. I can't even begin to express how thankful I am for this gift that has been given to me.

To conclude I've left a few quotes from Tim Keller during an interview about his book "Walking with God through Pain and Suffering." At the least it will show you an additional peek into what was speaking to me this week, and for those of you going through trials of your own, maybe there is a nugget of truth that will encourage you today as well.

“Look at Jesus. He was perfect, right? And yet he goes around crying all the time. He is always weeping, a man of sorrows. Do you know why? Because he is perfect. Because when you are not all absorbed in yourself, you can feel the sadness of the world. And therefore, what you actually have is that the joy of the Lord happens inside the sorrow. It doesn’t come after the sorrow. It doesn’t come after the uncontrollable weeping. The weeping drives you into the joy, it enhances the joy, and then the joy enables you to actually feel your grief without its sinking you. In other words, you are finally emotionally healthy.” (253)

“Some suffering is given in order to chastise and correct a person for wrongful patterns of life (as in the case of Jonah imperiled by the storm), some suffering is given not to correct past wrongs but to prevent future ones (as in the case of Joseph sold into slavery), and some suffering has no purpose other than to lead a person to love God more ardently for himself alone and so discover the ultimate peace and freedom.” (47)

“The only love that won’t disappoint you is one that can’t change, that can’t be lost, that is not based on the ups and downs of life or of how well you live. It is something that not even death can take away from you. God’s love is the only thing like that.” (304)


“Glorifying God does not mean obeying him only because you have to. It means to obey him because you want to — because you are attracted to him, because you delight in him. This is what C. S. Lewis grasped and explained so well in his chapter on praising. We need beauty.” (170) 


If you actually made it this far CONGRATULATIONS, if you took my advice at the beginning of this post it's probably time for a refill!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Praises for Successful Surgery

Hi everyone,

I was supposed to do this last night but wasn't think about it at the time. Everything with Alise's surgery went smoothly yesterday. Thank you all for your prayers throughout the day--they were certainly answered!

The surgery ended up going from about 4pm to 8pm, and then she spent a couple hours in post-op recovery. We finally got all settled in her room at around 10:45.

Please continue to pray as Alise recovers: for comfort and manageable pain and good, peaceful sleep.

Love you all,
Chad

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Friendly Friends

After waking up from my Lymph Node Biopsy my surgeon said "Well, I got our friends. Now let's just hope they are friendly." Guys, my Lymph Nodes all came back benign! Praise God for these results. My bilateral mastectomy is at 3pm today.  My prayer is for wisdom for all those who will assist in my care today (and in the days ahead) and for a clear treatment plan to be identified after surgery. 

Chad will post a guest entry here on the blog once I’m out of surgery and in recovery.  Thank you for how you have lifted me up already, and in advance for continuing to do so.


“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9