Mike and I are just back from Central America. Normally, we are there on mission trips; reaching out and serving others. This time, I was served and ministered to greatly by very special people.
We went to Guatemala this trip to bless two missionaries we know, and have simple uterine prolapse surgery. When we arrived, I had a series of pre-surgery tests done, including an ultrasound which revealed a large cyst on my left ovary, and fibroids in and outside my uterus. Big surprise. This changed the original diagnosis and treatment. I was now in for a radical hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes), and bladder reconstruction. Wow. My heart fluttered and I shed a few tears, but pressed on. God was with me. He knew...
God took care of little and big details. He provided our lodging on the "Avenue of the Holy Spirit." That was one clue we were in good hands. He also provided a trusted friend and Christian OB/GYN surgeon, Dr. Oscar, who very capably changed his plans 36 hours before the surgery; performing not one simple, but two more complex surgeries to fix my body.
We had arranged for some of our missionary friends to visit us before the surgery, and one of them, Pamela, who helps run a Christian school we visited earlier this year, unexpectedly ended up spending the night before my hospitalization because her lodging in the city fell through. God ordained this, because she helped us navigate through paperwork in a Spanish speaking hospital the next morning at 4:30 AM. God knew.
One little detail included God miraculously providing free parking overnight across the street in a private police parking lot, for Pamela's ministry vehicle. Normally, people's cars are not safe on the streets all night, yet are not allowed to park their cars inside the gated tourist police parking either, but we prayed and found favor with the boss. God knew.
Another blessing was being a two-minute walk away from the doctor's office where I had multiple pre-surgery tests, and only a five-minute walk from the hospital, where I was admitted for two days. These things all matter when you're in a strange place. But God knew...
It was as if God was orchestrating every detail, as a master conductor brings in the strings against the sound of the percussion and woodwinds. Just at the right place in the music. Just at the right time. God knew...
The 5 hour surgery went well, and the doctor didn’t suspect cancer but we still had my tissue sent to a pathology lab in the capital city. I was on bed rest for a week in Guatemala, where Mike took good care of me, and was even able to assist the doctor, the day before our flight back, in removing a few stitches that were causing discomfort. We made it through the 18-hour travel day and were home by 2 AM Sunday, November 10th for the following 6-7 week healing process.
THEN THE SURPRISE:
After one week at home we got the bad news on Saturday, November 16, 2019 that, in fact, “high grade serous carcinoma” cancer had been growing inside my left ovary, which was removed two weeks earlier. It was encapsulated, thankfully.
Praise God that our surgeon recommended removing everything, before he even knew there was cancer in my body. And we praise God the ovarian cyst did not burst while being removed. God knew…
Since coming home, I have had a CT scan and blood tests. No other cancer cells can be seen in my body at this time. This means I have Stage 1A ovarian cancer. The prognosis seems good 92% survival rate following treatment.
But there is still a lot about the cancer we do not know. One thing we do know, is that though I may be cancer-free, today, ovarian cancer is known to “throw seeds” to different parts of the body. Chemo is the only thing which kills cancer, besides a miracle of God.
Sample tissue and slides of the cancerous ovary were shipped from Guatemala to the research hospital we are working with, close by. The cells are being tested to see if this is a genetic mutation. Also, through blood tests, we can learn if new effective treatments might be an option for my condition.
We’re also learning all we can about how chemo works, how long it is effective, and what the likelihood is, of the cancer recurring in my body, given my diagnosis.
An oncologist team is walking me through next steps. Thursday, December 5th, I started 6 rounds of carbo-platinum and taxol chemotherapy, given every 21 days through March 19th. My next treatments are the day after Christmas, December 26th, then January 16th, the day before my birthday.
We are also incorporating every natural immune system booster we can, as integrative treatment. We have already adjusted our daily diet; removing anything that might feed cancer cells. I am boosting the body with vitamin-packed foods. And I am taking multiple supplements, at the direction of my naturopath and trusted friends.
Thanks for praying. We are so encouraged by the great outpouring of prayers and support we are receiving in many ways - from most important - prayers and Scripture, to helpful research, to meals, to money, and even someone donating a “deep clean” for our home the day before chemo started this week. I’ll be very sensitive to germs and bacteria for the next few months, especially.
My dear friend, Susan Blount, who happened to be on this mission trip with Mike and me, has just introduced me to Patty Fischer, Christian wife, mother, grandmother, singer, pastor’s wife and author. Her book Hidden Treasures in Secret Places,is a great encouragement. She also had ovarian cancer and is thriving two years later. She shares her journal entries and even some very funny experiences along the path, in her book. She and I have been chatting together, too, which has been an extra added blessing for me. The morning of my first chemo treatment, I opened my computer to receive this verse from Patty:
“For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ “ Isaiah 41:13
In the doctor’s office that morning, I was reminded of this verse often, during the 8 hour day of firsts in my life. It's still somewhat unbelievable!
We are now pretty certain the Christian share ministry we are members of, will pay for the major part of my treatment in this initial stage. However, we have yet to receive any funding, and it could take three months for the payments to start coming in.
We have also applied for a benefit for the most expensive medicine I need, to help build up white blood cells. We don't know for sure, but appreciate prayers that this will come through. This drug costs $26,000 X 6 injections, so it will eat into our funding for all the rest of the treatment, if we do not receive this benefit. Please pray.
Meanwhile, we have to pay for appointments, scripts and supplements. So, we trust God. So many faithful ones are helping keep us going in this surprising time. Thank you for your support!
Being a planner, this is hard for me. I like to plan way ahead for major (and even minor) things in life. God surprised us with this, but we trust Him completely. I’m trying to be as childlike as I can, though I admit, I get overwhelmed, occasionally. We covet your prayers for peace, wisdom and trust.
With all the uncertainty, we know that when we walk surrendered to God, He is in complete control of our lives. The trip to Central America last month was part of His plan before we knew it. God brought the right people into our lives to assist and help with everything we needed. He knew...
When you are afraid, trust God. He knows. The short and long-term side effects of both cancer and chemotherapy sound scary, but God…He knows the hairs on our heads (that’s easy when you’re going through chemo 😉). He knew each of us before we were in the womb, and He knows the beginning, middle, and end of our days here on earth. Being in God’s arms is a safe place to be.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Of course, we want to live to old age, bearing fruit and giving back as Psalm 92:12-14 says.
My grandchildren and I are in love with each other more than I could ever have imagined. They are so precious and loving. I want to be in their lives here, for a long time. This is my request of God, if it is His perfect will. I’m learning not to pray selfish prayers, but prayers for His will.
Please pray that God will continue to go before us, paving the way for His will in our lives.
We SO appreciate you and your support. Our family and spiritual family have both come around us in very loving ways. My sweet daughters-in-law even planned a family photo shoot, which was a desire in my heart that they knew nothing of. So thoughtful. My mom, sister and brother, and all of our spiritual family are surrounding us at this time means so much! We are richly blessed. Thank you all!
May the Lord richly bless and prosper you as you follow closely after Him. Be blessed at this season where we remember our Savior’s birth and path of suffering for our eternal souls.
Paulie & Mike
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