mercy

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion (Psalm 103:2-4)

I read this verse to my mom as we waited for my primary care physician. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was there for, probably a follow up to being in the hospital, but I had learned the day before from my surgeons nurse that they had my pathology results. I had asked her to not tell me over the phone. They have a tendency to do that sometimes. I once received a call at 11pm from an ER nurse who wanted to check up to be sure that someone was following up with me on a 2 centimeter opacity that they saw on a chest x-ray that they took of me several days before. No, no one had mentioned it to me. And now you’re telling me at 11pm when I can’t call anyone to talk to them about it. Dr. Google has no bedside manner, I can tell you that. Googling 2 cm lung opacity… by midnight I was sure I was dying from something terrible. Turned out to be an infection, cured by a course of antibiotics. Dr. Google never mentioned that.

No, I didn’t want to know over the phone. I told her I had an appointment the next day and I would ask then. I was supposed to swing by to see her after my appointment so she could check my incision, and I could ask her then too. I wanted to be sure that I had some family with me for support. My husband had already taken so much time off of work, so I didn’t want to put that stress on him. I’m sure my daughter would have gone with me if I asked. I thought if the news was not great that it might be best to have some time to process it first. It was hard on them to find out about the cancer in the first place.

I think that in some ways, serious illnesses like cancer may be more difficult on a patient’s loved ones than on the patient themselves. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terrible thing to be diagnosed with something like this. To not know what is going to happen, is this going to kill you or are you going to get past it. To have to endure frightening tests, to have patience to wait for test results, to have to have surgery and experience terrible pain. It is very difficult to be the patient. But it is also very difficult to be the family of a patient. As the patient, I only have to worry about myself. And even in the worst case scenario, I have hope that my loved ones can still go on with their lives and have some happiness. But what if it wasn’t me? What if it was my husband, my daughter, or my mother, or any of my loved ones? Worrying about whether or not that person would still be around, worrying if you are going to lose that person (and I do worry very much about some of my loved ones that have serious illnesses). I think that may actually be worse in some ways. cancer doesn’t just happen to you. It happens to everyone who loves you.

But God loves me. And God loves my loved ones. I don’t know what He has planned. It may be healing, or it may be something different. But I do trust that God loves us, and that no matter what happens, He will be with us through it all.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:2)

In life, there will be water. There will be rivers. There will be fire and flame. But God will be with us through it. And though our bodies may die, He will preserve our souls and we will spend eternity with Him.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not even cancer. Not even death.

My parents wanted to come with me to my appointment, and I was thankful that they were there. And right after reading those verses (Psalm 103:2-4) the doctor entered the room.

He talked to me about my recent ER trip (no one had warned me that incisions can start bleeding weeks after surgery and I thought something horrible had happened). He examined my incision and said that it looked good to him. We talked about the surgery, CT scan results and some other things. I inquired why such a large tumor (around 5cm) didn’t show up on my CT scan I had 2 years ago. If that CT scan missed a large tumor in my colon could I trust the recent CT scan that says I have no mets? He said that sometimes tumors in colons may look like fecal material if the colon has not been emptied. He said that CT scans of organs such as liver and lungs do show things easier, and if there wasn’t anything on the CT scan then there is a good chance they are clear. Though I do know from another doctor that the CT scan only takes a slide every so many millimeters (was it 3?) so there is a small chance a CT scan could miss something. However, I have had 3 CT scans since they found the tumor, so chances are pretty good since they have all been clear.

I almost didn’t have the courage to ask him about my pathology report. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know, if I was ready to know. I don’t know what I can handle, or even if I can handle any more than I have already been through to be honest – and I don’t really want to find out what my limits are either. But I had to ask.

He pulled it up on the computer monitor and we looked at it together. He said that he is an internal medicine doctor and that he didn’t feel comfortable telling me what the stage was, since it didn’t say on the report, but he said that he would help me understand what the report did say.

“Tumor invades through the muscularis propria into the pericolorectal tissue” Okay, probably not Stage 1, I thought to myself. I remembered reading that stage 1 meant that it didn’t start going into the colon wall.

Immediately my eye was drawn to the line: Thirty-six benign lymph nodes (0/36).

“That means there was no cancer found in the lymph nodes, right?” I asked him. Correct. It’s not in my lymph nodes. Thank God.

Other things seemed to jump off the screen. Well differentiated and All Margins Clear.  Goodness after goodness…. Terminal ileum – no significant pathologic change. Appendix – no significant pathologic change. Donut tissue – no significant pathologic change. No macroscopic tumor perforation. No lymphovascular invasion. No perineural invasion. “These are all good things right?” I asked. These are all good things. Thank You God for mercy that I don’t deserve.

Apparently I even had a wedge biopsy of my liver, which was negative for dysplasia or malignancy. I wonder if the surgeon saw something funny looking while he was in there. He was pretty thorough in telling me what he planned to do but never mentioned a liver biopsy. He mentioned possibly taking my gall bladder if it looked bad, and that he would look around while he was in there. But what is he going to do if he sees something suspect, wake the patient up and ask permission? He’s a great surgeon, and I’m glad he was thorough. Whatever he saw, it was benign. Thank God for more mercy. Gall bladder looked good by the way and I got to keep it. More mercy.

My doctor said it seemed to him that there is a good chance that the surgeon may have gotten it all and that I may actually be cancer free at this moment.

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion (Psalm 103:2-4)

Praise the Lord indeed.

I said to my parents, “Well, I might actually get to stick around for a while!” My doctor smiled and said “Just be sure to look both ways when crossing the street” and it made me laugh. Did he read my last blog post? Nah, couldn’t have.

I came home and read my daily devotional for the day. Would you believe what today’s scripture was?

Psalm 103:1-5

1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Wow. It seems that God really wants me to see this today. Praise God.

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