Snow day- and I am loving it. Tucked away, all cozy and safe inside, with a hot cup of coffee and some leftover cupcakes from my sister’s birthday this past weekend, everything is beautiful right now, for so many reasons.
- On September 9th, 2015, my entire life completely changed when I was diagnosed with Stage 1 oral squamous cell carcinoma.
- October 12th, I had intensive, 6-hour surgery that removed the tumor and reconstructed half of my tongue using skin grafts from my arm and leg, and a neck dissection to remove 41 lymph nodes.
- A 10 day hospital stay followed the surgery- trachea tubes, feeding tubes, endless meds and examinations that are a blur of extreme physical pain, floods of love and support from family and friends, and more God-given strength than I ever knew possible.
- After testing my dissected lymph nodes from my neck and finding positive traces of the cancer in them, the doctors declared it to be Stage 4 cancer, and recommended immediate radiation therapy to my head and neck. I was told that if I didn’t do this right away, my chances for surviving this cancer would be slim. But as I sat there in the radiation therapy office with my mom and my aunt, listening to the oncologist urge us to start right away, there was an answer in my heart that couldn’t have been clearer- “Do you trust Me?” After a lot of prayer and research, I made the hard decision to say yes to that still, small voice and no to my doctors, and pursue alternative health and healing.
- Following the lengthy hospital stay, I’ve been recovering at home for the past four months and four days- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. It looks different every day, but it’s been a slow, challenging, and growing process. And I haven’t shied away from any of it, no matter how difficult. I’m forcing myself to really deal with this season, hear God’s voice through it, discover more about myself and my strengths and weaknesses, and allow something beautiful out of the questions, the pain, and the uncertainty. It’s been a lesson in grace, mercy, and whether or not I believe God when He speaks to me, shows me His glory, and surrounds me with His presence.
Yesterday, February 15th, 2016, I had my first official PET scan. The doctors were sure that they were going to find some stray cancer cells in my lymph nodes, especially since I had declined the radiation therapy and had been relying on essential oils, diet change, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and other holistic alternatives to traditional cancer treatments (and of course, prayer. Lots and lots of prayer and relying on God!). I went in for my test alone, let them hook me up to IVs and drink some disgusting orange/chalk, and was passed through the scanner several times. After almost three hours, I left feeling relieved the test was over.
But the sense of God’s peace and presence was overwhelming. For the first time since my surgery, I didn’t have that panic-attack tightening in my chest when they inserted the needles or when I was placed on the scan table. I have dealt with some PTSD since the surgery, and it had an unexpected and frightening effect on my emotions and mental health, which immediately affects physical health and response as well! But I haven’t ignored this, and have worked with an awesome counselor and been open with those I trust most to help me through it. Be honest about your weaknesses, even when it feels embarrassing or confusing. Allowing myself to really be vulnerable and transparent to my safe space has been one of the most healing parts of my journey.
Now for the best part of the story…
I woke up early this morning to heavy snowfall; a world blanketed in white, like a life-sized snow globe. And my beautiful, sleepy Tuesday morning was made even more complete when I received the best news I could ever want to hear from my doctor- “We got the results back from your scan. You are cancer free! Congratulations.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I AM CANCER-FREE. I BEAT CANCER. Wow.
So, that’s about all I can say right now…
God is good. Prayers get answered. Truth is real. And life is so precious, so short, and so taken for granted. Choose to be so very grateful for your life. I guarantee you I won’t stop smiling today. And now that I have been handed this amazing second shot…I can’t wait to see what’s yet to come.