So first, the medical update. On the PET scan, I had both a nodule and multiple lymph nodes in my chest that "lit up". Two oncologists, and a radiologist looked at the scans, and believed there was no chance it could be anything but cancer. As they were scheduling the biopsy, a second radiologist looked at the scans because the nodule is in a difficult place to biopsy. He enlisted the help of a pulmonologist to look at everything. The pulmonologist was the one who first brought up that he thought there was a chance that it could be histoplasmosis. Thankfully from there, I got put on a fast track to see both infectious disease, and the pulmonologist. A biopsy of three of the lymph nodes that were adjacent to my airways revealed one that was positive for histoplasmosis, and the rest for inflammation. The pulmonologist assured me that all should be well- but I still needed to follow up in two months for another scan, because of the nodule that is present which we were unable to biopsy. This is the waiting, and where I've been living for the past couple months. It has been a very strange place to be.
I was relieved, but there is still "cautious optimism". I have lived for four years now in the wake of cancer. I have had trouble looking at pictures from "before cancer". I look at the smiling person I was, and there is such a deep ache in my chest over what "she" didn't know. There is grief over the way it was "supposed" to be. Though my hair has grown back, and the miracles of modern prosthetics preserve my silhouette, and by all "appearances" I am well.....It hasn't ever been "over", and it never will be. It happened. I will always have scars, follow ups, and symptoms that make me second guess whether or not it's "just" an ache. Beyond the physical reality, is what I consider to be the most difficult part of cancer- the emotional wounds. What this experience revealed to me is how much I have spent of the last four years trying to move "past" cancer. Trying to get back to what I was before. Stuck, emotionally in the mode of survival. I ran full steam ahead during treatment, and continued to do so once treatment ended, because let's face it- this is hard. It is much easier for me to remain strong when I dive into work, my kids, my hobbies- anything to keep from having to feel. I can't cry- I "have to be strong", and I don't have time to fall apart. There is probably something prideful about being able to embrace the hardship, and deal. It's part of what has served me so well in Emergency Medicine. But the pain, and the grief of the experience leave such deep wounds. Wounds that have made me a little broken inside, and I haven't allowed them to heal. I just look at my blog (and by that, I mean the lack of blogging) to see the evidence. When I write, I process. I allow myself to feel, and invite others into the process. I get to shine light on the truth of what's inside me, and let the Lord speak His truth over it. I have been running from these wounds for a long time. This whole experience has ripped the band-aids placed so carefully over them completely off. It's time to let them breathe. This involves admitting that I am a little broken- ok, a lot broken, and I am ok with that.
It takes a lot of effort to continue running when you are injured. It's exhausting. I have lived too long in the striking the pavement of the valley of the shadow of death....and although the truth is we all journey in this same valley, the difference is where your eyes are focused. On the shadow cast by the mountain, or the One who holds our life in His hands, covered by the shadow of His wings.
This past week was my two month follow up. I had another scan of my lungs, and met with the pulmonologist again. I had hoped that the nodule, and lymph nodes would just be healed and gone, but unfortunately they look the same, to mildly larger. Could it be cancer and histoplasmosis? Maybe....but my symptoms are better, and looking at the whole picture he assured me that there is most likely nothing to worry about. While the lymph nodes should eventually heal, in some cases the nodule will never go away almost like a "scar" from the infection. In 9 months we will re-scan again to see if things have changed. This is of course, is good news..... The difficult part is when the next day, I read the radiology report which says "increase in size of adenopathy, likely metastatic". The words leave a sour, awful pit in my stomach. They carry an all too familiar weight. There is some temptation to give in to the fear, and jump back on the roller coaster.
So then, what's a girl to do? The only answer I have, is to pray. To continue to pray. Because remember a few weeks ago? I had "just a few months". We PRAYED. YOU prayed. And then- prayers were answered. Some may call it a coincidence. That it was fungus all along. But then we miss the opportunity to give credit to a completely amazing God. One who is capable of miracles. One who longs to give us good things. If Jesus can turn water into wine...He can turn cancer into fungus. Amen?
Using my medical training and perspective, I know that we have to look at the whole picture. We have a biopsy of one of the nodes that did show histoplasmosis. I have an expert that is telling me there is nothing to worry about. I'm not going to lie- I can't help but have flashbacks from my original diagnosis...I was told for a while that we would "watch" the lump. For 9 months actually.
I could let this make me scramble, push, fret, and be anxious all in the name of advocating for my health. But, I have a peace about where I am, and I trust that for now, the right thing to do is wait. No matter what the outcome is, the truth is that we are all on a path toward our eventual physical death. Cancer or not, tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. I could let fear motivate me, fuel my anxiety over what may or may not be happening in my body. But Jesus asks us to trust Him completely. He is sovereign, He is good, He has been faithful, and He holds all things together. My life is no less in His hands yesterday, today, or tomorrow, no matter what choice I make, or how many months I have to wait for more answers. I don't have to ride the roller coaster. I can can keep my feet firmly planted on the solid ground of His word, watching the cars plummet down, and soar back up again, all the while knowing I am secure because I have a hope, that is an anchor for my soul.
So I am taking steps to support my continued healing both physically and emotionally. I am in a place where I can be thankful for this experience because I believe it has helped me to understand how deep the wounds were, and how desperately I needed to tend to them. Jesus loves us too much to leave us broken. His desire is always for restoration, and healing, but it is a two way street, and first we have to trust Him enough with our pain to let Him into it. So, in obedience, I will slow down, sip the tea, soak in the Word, allow the tears to fall, and my eyes to lift upwards. So thankful that we serve a God of miracles, and tender mercies.
It's time to heal. Chicken soup, anyone?