Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fighting the Good Fight & What Really Matters

Before I was married, I got the privilege to live in Joplin, Mo and it was one of the most enjoyable periods of my life.  While there, I attended a church called Christ Church of Oronogo and met an incredible man named Mark Christian.  He is a remarkable speaker, and brings truth and love to the pulpit straight from the scripture.  It's not watered down, or stories shared solely of him and his life experiences.  It's just simple, straight up scripture and truth. Over the years, the words the Spirit has filled him with have helped me in more ways than he’ll ever know.  

On Monday, July 16, I walked back into the chemo ward at the Mills Breast Cancer Center in Champaign, IL.  A place I have been trying to avoid since I walked out in 2014.  When I rang that bell upon completion of my first round of chemo, I fully intended to never return.  I don’t like it there for a number of reasons.  Some are a bit more obvious, while others are hidden and unknown only to those who have walked through those halls.  I don't like it there mostly because I don’t feel like I belong.  The majority of the people are older, frail, and sickly.  That’s not me.  I'm quirky and energetic still.  I don’t like it because it makes you sick.  The drugs they give you make you feel weird, like you’re not yourself.  I don’t like it because there is no end this time, no goal to work towards, so I feel lost.   That’s not the case this round.  I don’t like it because in a way it takes away my freedom.  I am bound to the chemo chair every Monday, until further notice.  Every part of my body wants to avoid this place, and yet, I feel like this is exactly where God had called me to be.

Three years ago, while I was in chemo the first time, the chemo ward wasn’t nice.  Still though, I made some amazing friends while I was there, and I got to spend quality time with people I love.  This time, before I entered back into the chemo ward, I spent a week at a Christ In Youth conference with a few students I have been working with for the last two years.  During this week, I, along with several others, challenged my students to grow in their faith, and share the gospel with others.  Some of us made promises, confessed our fears and sins, and made plans to walk out of the darkness of our lives and into the light.  

During this week, as I'm asking my students to grow and spread the love of God, it dawned on me my hypocrisy as I had not been doing as well as I can during this time.  So I made a promise to them, and I'm making a promise to you.  I'm not saying this to boast or to brag, but rather to help keep myself accountable and to help me follow-through.  As the chemo ward is not the happiest place on this earth, it still can be a place of joy and hope.  So I ordered encouragement cards, beautifully designed, and with verses of hope written on them.  I am going to make it my mission to encourage as many people in that dreadful place as possible.  I'm going to share the love of Christ as best as possible, and hopefully make the chemo ward less dreary.  I have no idea if this is going to help, or work, nor am I sure if anyone has ever done anything like this before.  I've never seen it, but I'm sure I'm not the first.  But, I promised my students that I was going to use this as my new mission field, and I fully intend to do that.  Bring it on Satan.  

When I made the decision to enter back into the chemo ward, I was crushed.  I was broken.  We have been trying to gain access to a variety of clinical trails, anything but traditional chemo, with no luck.  I have been denied for various reasons, I'm "too healthy", I don't have the right immune system, I don't have any genetic disorders.  I've had a couple of oncologists tell me I'm unfortunately just not a very drug-able patient.  My chances of having cancer are .1%.  POINT ONE PERCENT.  Not even a full percentage, and yet, here I am dying from this terrible disease with limited treatment options.  I remember saying to Charlie that I didn’t understand anything anymore and that I felt guilty for asking people to pray for me.  Simply because nothing was working, our prayers weren’t being answered in the manner we had been seeking.  It seemed as if everything we had been praying for, the exact opposite kept happening.  And yet, still, I can't walk away. 

This world is ugly, brutal, not what God intended, and yet, there is still so much beauty and joy amongst all of the pain and sorrow.  It all depends on how you look at it. During the decision process to enter back into the chemo ward, people would ask me how I was doing, and all I could do was cry.  Words could not express how I felt, until Mark Christian.

My husband and I still listen to Mark and CCO's podcasts online when we can, and they're always such a gut check.  They're the types of sermons you listen to and walk away knowing you need to be doing more with your life.  Compelling, and gut checking words hit you almost every time.  (You can check it them out here if you want: One night, on my way from Sullivan to Monticello, I was alone in my car, crying, I decided to listen to one of these podcasts.  And as always, the perfect words came through my car speakers.  

The podcast was called, The Gospel: When It Doesn't Fix It.  Focusing on Mark 9, the question is posed,  "Is your faith in Jesus because He did something you wanted Him to do, and proved Himself, or because He's good even when He leaves you in the condition you wish you weren't in?"  Honestly, I can answer that I believe in Him, even if He doesn't answer, but boy, would it make it a whole lot easier if He did answer our prayers and provide a miracle.  

Mark continues, and in the podcast you begin to hear a story about a father who brings his son to Jesus to ask for healing.  His son is possesed by a Spirit, and the disciples cannot cast out this demon.  The religious leaders argue with Jesus and say that He can't heal this boy, they mock Jesus and His disciples.  Both parties are in a back-and-forth debate as to who is right, and who is wrong theologically.  During this time, the father desperately waits for help.  He doesn't care about who is right, and who is wrong.  HE JUST WANTS HIS SON TO BE HEALED.  HE JUST WANTS TO KNOW THAT JESUS IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS.  That father, and I, we both just want Jesus to fix what is broken.

Jesus though, just doesn't alway fix our physical problems.  He builds our faith, and He cares more about our issues than we do.  He can do anything if we allow our faith to believe that He can do what He says He can do.  It's not about how much we trust Him, but what we put our trust in.  If we believe in Him, we would be amazed at what He can do.  So here is my prayer.  Father, I do believe.  Help me overcome my belief.  Do it your way, not my way.  

Church.  Listen.  At this point in my life, I don’t care about the little things.  Those who are desperate don't care who's right.  We don’t care about how much money we have, We don’t care if you’re rich/poor, cool/uncool, old or young.  We don't care if you worship in a cool church building, or if the church has the coolest band in the land.  We don't care if you drive a fancier car, or about what’s happening tomorrow, or what we're doing that day.  We don’t care about what’s happening in the world or news stories.  We only care about Jesus.  I (we) need to know he’s real.  I need to know His love.  I need to know He cares.  I have an unqunechable thirst for a hug from Him, and these simple words, “It will be okay.  I got this.”  That’s all I need.  That's all I really want.  Things on this earth temporarily distract me, but at the end of the day, when I’m lying in bed awake at night, all I truly need is Jesus and the reassurance of His love.  I need to know at the end of this battle, He is there waiting for me.   That's it's not just a made up story.  He is real.  That's all.  

At the end of the podcast Jesus explains to His disciples why they couldn't cast out the demon in the little boy.  He tells them how little their faith is, and that this demon could only be cast out by prayer.  If you have faith in the source of your power, not yourself, God will get you in on things you cannot do yourself.  And how does that power arrive?  Through prayer.  Humble helplessness is the first step.  Admitting that I cannot do anything outside of God.  Without you God, nothing I do matters.  I don't know what to do next, I don't know how to trust well.  I'm scared.  Fear overwhelms me, or doubt creeps in saying that I'm not good enough or worthy enough of His love and power.  

So, I need help.  We all need help.  We need to fully trust.  To know God.  We need prayer to overcome our disbelief.  Even when He doesn't do what we ask Him to.  There is nothing I can control about this situation.  And I need to give it ALL to God.  I'm not sure what that looks like, but I'm going to work towards that goal.  

During these next few months, I'm not sure what's going to happen.  IV chemo has begun, and it's going to wreck my body in a way I'm not excited about.  After one round, I already feel weaker, tired, sick, and worn out.  But I do know I'm not going to give up.  No.  I'm going to ask to all of you to prayerfully remember us and ask for us to overcome our belief.  Pray for continued growth in my faith and for a miracle.

We will also need help with chemo treatments and visits if you so desire.  I've listed a schedule below, and while I have a massive family willing to help, my chemo schedule can be daunting at times, and somewhat of a burden to only my family.  So if you want to come hang out with me in the chemo ward, I WOULD LOVE to spend some time with you.  

I am on a three-week chemo cycle.  Two weeks on chemo (every Monday), and one week off.  The week off allows my body to hopefully recover from the various side effects the drugs will bring along with hopefully (Lord willing) the destruction of my cancer.  My current chemo schedule is listed below: 
  • Monday, August 6th
  • Monday, August 13th
  • Monday, August 20 - OFF Week
  • Monday, August 27th 
  • Monday, September 3rd
  • Monday, September 10th - OFF Week
  • Monday, September 17th
  • Monday, September 24th
  • Monday, October 1 - OFF Week
The schedule will eventually change over time, but for the moment, this is where we stand until further notice.  Like I said, if you have some free time, and want to come hang out with me, I would LOVE to see you.  Even if it's just for a few minutes.  It helps pass the time, and for the chemo ward to be less terrible.  

One major positive note in all of this, we FINALLY paid off all of our medical bills from Mayo!!  To say they were daunting and huge stress in my life is almost an understatement.  After a whole year of fighting with insurance, and Mayo, we finally reached an agreement, and because of all of your support and love, Charlie and I no longer have to worry about this piece of the puzzle.  Truly. I wish I could express my gratitude and thankfulness for everything, everyone has done for us.  We cannot stand alone, and we aren't.  We are blessed and loved beyond measure, and we thank God for the overwhelming amount of love and support we have already received.  

So again, thank you.   For everything.  Your prayers, support, and love help carry us through.  And we couldn't do any of this without all of the help we've already received.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Thankful Sufferings

Some of us are lucky to have amazing father figures in their life.  I am one of those.  I have a daddy who I know would move mountains to do anything I absolutely needed, and on May 19th, 2012, I was lucky and blessed to gain a second father in my life. Both of these men, I know, would do anything for me if it meant I would or could get better.  When I think of my Heavenly Father, I view him through the lenses of the father figures I have in my life.  I don’t know if this is biblically sound or not, but it’s the best my limited mind can do when imagining Him.  

Powerful, disciplinarian, strong, wise, confusing, head of the Home, role models, loving, kind, stern, focused, and above all else, the boss.  See, I know my father is all of those things, as a kid I always knew he was the head of the house, but I also knew that he always taught us that we could do anything if we set our minds to it and worked hard.  Even in the times of struggle and disagreements, I knew he still loved me and would do anything for me.  

So imagine, as a young woman, with this view/mindset of my father, portraying that on to my Heavenly Father, who is far wiser, loving, and powerful than my earthly fathers.  Knowing that He has the ability to heal me, and to get rid of this disease, and yet, He chooses not to move in the way our prayers have been pleading for (at least not yet).  

When we found out in January that the first set of drugs we were trying didn’t work, I was devastated.  Broken.  It seems like everything we have been specifically praying for has gone in the exact opposite direction. We asked for this disease to never come back.  When it returned, we asked for the cancer to only be in my sternum. When it was in my sternum and my liver, we asked for guidance and for access to a new clinical trial that could potentially cure me.  When we found out about these new drugs that have limited to no side effects and could work for three to five years, we begged for them to work.  And yet, nothing.  Everything was backwards and wrong.  All of our prayers seemed to go unanswered.

So I got mad.  I stopped talking to God, I stopped praying.  It wasn’t working, what was the point?  Why serve a God who may not even be real or have the power to heal me?  Going to church become excruciatingly difficult.  Hearing God’s name and singing songs about His glory and love brought me to tears instantly.  I couldn’t even think of Him without crying or getting angry.  He had broken my heart and I felt so alone and abandoned.  Jesus, don’t you love me?  Can we please just get a little break?  Where are you?  All of my previous words seemed foolish.  And I became unsure.  

Charlie and I went out to San Diego, CA for a little trip.  He had to work, and I got to tag along. While we were out here, I didn’t pay much, but I did ask God something simple.  Every night, I asked Him to show me His love. Every night I did this, He responded.  Every night I would pray that prayer, that next morning I would get a text from a random individual telling me how much the love Charlie and I, and how they had prayed specifically for us.  When I didn’t pray, no text.  So, I kept praying that prayer.  It’s simple, really short, but what my heart needed.  

During this process, Charlie and I have also been hit with some substantial medical bills. They have been one of the largest things I worry about.  Countless hours on the phone talking to insurance, talking to the hospital, talking to others for help has led to nowhere.  The bills still remain and the worry/frustration remained.  I knew about the benefit planned for us, but I was still worried.  I didn’t think there was any way we could raise enough money to come close to what we needed to pay off our current medical debts, let alone what we needed for any future assistance.  

Three weeks before the benefit, while Charlie and I were in San Diego, I wasn’t thinking about the benefit.  I wasn't thinking about much other than my frustration with God's lack of "response".  Oddly enough though, it was during this time that I began saying my simple prayers, asking for God to show me His love.  And then it happened.  You know that saying, like when people are trying to impress someone, or outperform them, and they say something to the affect of “Here, hold my cup” and then they do something amazing that just blows your mind?  Well, that’s exactly what happened on the evening of my benefit.  God looked at me and said, “Here, hold my golden goblet.  Let me show you how much you are loved.” 

Words cannot even begin to describe the generosity, kindness, support, and overwhelming amount of love we have been shown.  Feelings of joy, shock, and unworthiness has swept over Charlie and I as we continue to be supported by so many.  While we know we have done nothing to deserve this outpouring of love, we appreciate it beyond words.  It is a much easier journey when you have the best support group in the world, and we have been blessed beyond measure with so many incredible people in our lives.   

I honestly don't know what my future looks like or what it holds.  The silent whispers in my head sometimes scare me, and I want to ignore them.  But I can't, and only God knows the number of days we each will hold on this earth.  Every day is a gift. Days of zero pain or sickness have become days that I cannot wipe the smile off of my face.  There is literally nothing that can put me in a bad mood on those days.  I got to go on a pain-free walk in the beautiful sunshine the other day and it was literally one of the best days of my life.  The simple things truly are the things that matter the most.  Sitting on the couch with my husband and dog, hanging out with my family, spending time with friends.  Those are the times that matter most.  I wish I would have fully and completely understood this earlier in my life.  

I have slowly been learning about His love, and I've been allowed to enjoy a peace from God during this time that has kept me away from a deep depression.  I have also learned that God is still moving, even if it it's in a way I don't understand or agree with.  He is the ultimate powerful God, and I am not.  He holds the universe in His hands, and ultimately I am called simply to obey Him and His commands.  He loves me, and even if He doesn't save me from these earthly sufferings, my eternity is firmly secured in His love and mercy.  

Since January, I completed reconstruction surgery.  Finally, after 3.5 years, and 7 different surgeries, that portion of this process is over.  Once the surgery was completed, I began a new oral chemo called Xeloda.  In all honesty, this drug has been terrible.  I have been sick numerous times, and I developed hand and foot syndrome so bad it became incredibly difficult simply walking across my living room floor.  We have since received some additional medications to help with the severe side effects, but I had to go through a dose reduction due to the toxicity level that was previously delivered with the higher dosage amounts. 

We are anxiously awaiting the next CT scan results as we are praying for something to begin working, to slow down the cancer, or kill it all together.  The scan will take place on March 23, so prayers during this time would be greatly appreciated.   

Again, we cannot begin to say thank you to everyone for all of their support and love.  We have been blown away by a community of generosity and love.  Underserving, and yet so appreciative, we continue on knowing we are not fighting this battle alone.  So again, thank you.

Charlie and Megan 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Pursuing God and Preparing to Fight

Following Jesus isn't easy.  I know I've heard this a million times, but you don't realize the truth behind those words until you're faced with their reality. It's almost like when you hear someone talk about how difficult marriage can be, but you don't realize it until you're there.  It's just hard sometimes.  And I'm not talking about personal persecution or anything like that.  I'm taking about the continual, and constant choice to put your faith in Jesus when everything is wrong in your world and He chooses to be silent.  When the God you love chooses to bring you into an ugly and unknown situation.  A situation that you may not come out on the other end and learn or grow from it.

I've been struggling a lot with the loss of our family.  The family Charlie and I won't get to raise.  The grandchildren my parents and Charlie's parents will never get to have.  I weep.  Sob.  Mourn for them.  For the children I will never get to know and who will most likely be raised by people I will never meet.  I don't understand God's plan in all of this, and when it comes to my health and my long-term outcome, He's silent.

I've been so frustrated with Him lately.  Why isn't He responding, why doesn't He save me?  Why is this just getting harder and harder?  So I decided to ask Him.  A few weeks ago, I was walking the dog and crying over our situation. I was talking to Jesus, begging for a response.

Me: "Jesus.  You are taking everything away from me.  My family. My marriage. My children.  Our finances. My future."
Jesus: "I am enough."

And you know what?  I wish.  Wish.  I could tell you that when I heard His voice say those words that I immediately accepted them.  That I agreed with Him and felt comfort in those words.  But I didn't.  I told Him I wanted more.  That He wasn't enough.  The truth is I wanted Him AND I wanted my health back along with my comfortable and normal life.

When Jesus was in the garden before His cruxifiction, He was pleading and begging with His Father for any other way.  And yet, when the Father responded with a "no", Jesus still obeyed.  He went forward knowing how terrible the road ahead was going to be, how miserable and unbearable his death would become.  And yet, He still did it.  He died for me and for you.  All of us.

And then for me to look at Him and say, "Ya know what, Jesus.  That's cool that you died for me, but I still want more."  Gut check.  Who do you think has the issue now?  Me or Jesus?

There is a battle going on in my life right now, and it's more than a battle or a "fight" for my health.  There is a battle that Satan is trying to win.  To overcome.  A few weeks ago, Charlie and I got what we thought was yet another bout of bad news.  My most recent CT scan results came back and the radiologist thought the cancer was growing, that the meds weren't working.  Leading up to that point, hundreds of people had been praying alongside Charlie and I asking God for the drugs to work, and then they weren't.

I remember getting ready to leave the house, crying as I put on my makeup, crying as I got in my car, and crying as I left our drive.  As I was leaving, a thought popped into my head.  "Megan, why do you keep following a god who doesn't love you?  Who can't save you?"  The questions were strong and resonating deep with my emotions and heartbreak.  For a second, I almost gave in.

But right then and there, something else happened.  A fire, anger almost (maybe it's my competitive stubborness, I'm not sure), but I made a decision.  I promised God, no matter the outcome, no matter what happens moving forward, that I WAS GOING TO CHOOSE HIM.  I am going to praise Him.  I am going to fight the negative thoughts and the doubts.  I am going to pursue Jesus and a deeper relationship with Him.   Satan will have to kill me before I stop singing God's praises or spreading the good news about Jesus.  And with all of the fear pushed aside, in my head I told Satan to "bring it".   I won't give in.

Terrifying words if you really think about it.  I know.  However, my goal while on this earth is not to educate others about breast cancer, or how to prevent this disease, but to tell more people about Jesus.

Health wise, we still aren't 100% sure if the meds are working.  My most recent CT scan still showed more cancer than what we originally saw from my July scan, but my tumor markers are still going down.  I started with a tumor marker of 72, then it dropped to 47, then to a 37.  (A normal human is around 35.)  The remaining tumors seem to be stable, and there seems to be some potential shrinkage in the main tumor in my liver.  But we honestly don't know.  For now, Charlie and I are BEYOND grateful and happy I get to stay on my oral meds until January. Giving us at least one more normal Christmas and holiday season.

I also completed ten rounds of radiation on my sternum to hopefully get rid of the pain caused by the cancer.  So far, the pain is almost gone entirely. Let's hope the cancer is gone there too.

How can you help?

  • Prayers honestly are the best way right now to help.  I know they help keep us strong when we don't have the strength.  The outpouring of love and generosity from so many has left Charlie and I speechless time after time.  Truly.  We are loved and blessed beyond measure.  So thank you to everyone who continues to pray, and help us on our behalf.  
  • I have an amazing group of people helping throw us a benefit, and if you want to attend, I truly think it's going to be an amazing evening.  I recently quit my job simply because managing my health and working full-time was no longer something I could handle.  And while we are beyond blessed financially with Charlie's job, we have massive amounts of health bills looming over our heads that we continue to fight.  If you want to attend, more information about the benefit can be found here:  
And remember:

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Learning to find God, Love, and Hope in Misery

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I was all alone in my kitchen, sobbing, praying, calling out and begging Him to take this from me. Every ounce of my being wanted this to go away, for it all be a bad dream.  I wanted to flee, hide, have it all just disappear.  And through my tears, He responded.

Jesus: "Megan, will you do this if it will bring one more person to Me?"
Me: "Jesus.  I don't want to."
Jesus: "But Megan, will you?"
Me: "Yes."
And in that moment, I had peace.

Oh!  We were so close to being done.  So close to putting our cancer journey behind us and moving on.  Charlie and I had scheduled my LAST reconstruction surgery for July 26, 2017, almost three years after I was first diagnosed with stage 3A breast cancer in October 2014.  We were so happy, and we began the process for an exciting new chapter in our life.

On June 1, I stopped taking my Tamoxifen so Charlie and I could begin the process of having our own baby.  The plan was to have the embryo transfer while I was on FMLA from my surgery to prevent the loss of any more time away from work.  We had made our trip to Northwestern to begin the process, our embryos were sent down from storage, my oncologist had given me the green light, and we had a plan in place.  We were prepped and so excited!  If everything went as planned, we were going to be pregnant by August 9th!  The verse above was ringing true in our ears and we couldn't wait!

During this time, Charlie and I had also started regularly exercising again.  While working out though, I began to experience some intense pain in my sternum.  It was pretty consistent, and got worse when working out.  I was almost positive it was connected to my surgery I had in December, but my surgeon was convinced it had nothing to do with my surgery.  So, I scheduled an appointment with my local doctor for an X-Ray.  Everything came back normal.  But, no one called me to follow-up or suggest anything further.  Because we were in the process of having a baby, I was meeting fairly regularly with my oncologist, and I mentioned the pain to her in passing.  She wasn't worried, but scheduled a bone scan just to be safe.  The bone scan was complete, and at the end of the scan, the nurse looked at me and said, "Good luck, sweetie."  Deep down, I knew at that exact moment what was happening.

A few days later, Charlie and I left to go to Missouri to celebrate my 30th birthday.  July 7, in my Carle health account, the test results showed what we all feared.  Bone metastasis.  Happy Birthday.  We got back from our trip, and I immediately called the hospital because no one had talked to us at that point.  We needed a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis, but my oncologist was on vacation and it was going to be another week or so before we could get in.  With the help of an amazing and generous friend, Monday, July 10 we got our CT scan, and confirmed that the cancer had metastasized to my bones. A series of other tests would show that it was also in my liver.

Wait.  What?  Ummmm......Jesus.  Did you forget? Charlie and I have already done this.  We have already gone through some major trials.  We weren't supposed to have this come back.  We were supposed to beat this.  We praised YOUR name throughout all of the struggles from the first diagnosis.  We loved you, we gave you all the glory to your name, we sought and trusted in your healing hands.  And we didn't do it half-heartidly.  We truly loved Him and praised His name and trusted him throughout the entire process.  We grew, we learned.  What the heck was happening?  I'm only 30 years old.  Charlie and I have only been married 5 years, and 3 of them have been in and out of the hospital because of cancer.  I am super healthy.  I eat right, I exercise, and cancer doesn't run in my family.  I can't be dying from this disease.  No.  We were supposed to be done, and having a baby.  This wasn't happening.  But it was.

Charlie and I were heartbroken.  We were numb, paralyzed almost.  I lost 8 lbs. in less than 3 days from stress.  I cried non-stop.  I truly and deeply asked myself if I fully believed in Heaven and the God I have served all of my life.  Are you real?  And if You are, where are you?  I mourned the loss of the life I thought we were going to have, of growing old with my husband, of our children we would never have the opportunity to raise.  I mourned for my family, for the loss they will suffer and endure.  The pain I was going to inflict on them was almost too much for me to handle.  I struggled with enduring this long and painful death that lays before me.  I became envious and jealous of anyone older than 50, why can't that be my life?

However, during this time, God's goodness continued to shine through.  (I doubt it a lot, and I still question His plan daily.)  Charlie and I, along with my family and friends, asked everyone and anyone we knew to pray.  Pray for a miracle, pray that God would save me from this disease. Pray for wisdom, and guidance as we began this process yet again.

He is in this. Even in the suffering and the pain, He is here.  Through some crazy connections, and some of the most amazing friends a girl could ask for, Charlie and I were able to see the leading oncologist in the country for my specific type of breast cancer.  This shouldn't have happened.  Normally, you have to submit your case to Mayo, they review it, and then see if they will accept you or allow you to come for an appointment.  Even if they approve your case, the leading oncologist I get to see is booked for weeks on end and I probably would have never gotten to see him.  As soon as he heard about my case, he was ready to see me the next day.  So, that's what we did.  Charlie and I didn't feel comfortable with the recommended plan of care from Carle, so we drove 7 hours to Mayo in Rochester, MN on Tuesday, July 25.  My appointment was the next day.

We met with the oncologist, he laid out a plan of action we felt fairly positive would work, and then suggested we remove my ovaries immediately. (My cancer feeds off of estrogen, so we needed to remove as much estrogen as possible.) Charlie and I had planned on going home after our initial appointment, but the surgeon was free that next day to perform the needed surgery if we wanted.  So, of course, that next morning I had a full ovariectomy (my ovaries and tubes were fully removed from my body).  After I woke up from surgery, Charlie drove us 7 hours home.  (I have THE BEST husband in the world.)

Now that we are home, we are going to continue to kill as much estrogen in my body as possible to hopefully starve the cancer cells.  If this plan of action works, it can work on average for around 30-35 months.  If it doesn't work, we will need to look at alternative treatments.

Once you're diagnosed with metastatic cancer, there is no cure.  What happens when you're diagnosed with metastatic cancer, doctors look for various treatments that will prolong your life for as long as possible, while maintaining the highest quality of life.  You have "lines" of treatment.  So I will start line one of treatment (removing the estrogen from my body), and then when that stops working, I will start a new line of treatment (line two), and so forth and so forth.  I will be in some type of cancer treatment (endocrine therapy, chemo, radiation, etc.) until the day I die.  For now, I am beyond grateful I can avoid chemo for potentially a few more years, Lord willing.

While there is no cure, there is however hope.  Hope that I will go into long-term remission (this is a possibility, less than 5% chance, but a possibility), hope that a cure will be found before my life is over on this earth, hope that God will provide a miracle and heal my body, and hope in knowing that if and when I die, I will go to Heaven and my suffering will end.  However, hope is scary.  You can hope and pray for one thing, and God can have a totally different plan.  Ultimately, His plan will always be better than our own, but it's scary and hard not knowing what that is.  Especially for people like me who like to plan out their lives.  I like to have goals.  I enjoy knowing potential and practical outcomes.  This is scary.

I don't know what our future holds, and I pray for a miracle.  We will continue to pray for a miracle.  I do know however that prayer is powerful and it's working.  Most, when they are faced with this situation go into a deep depression.  The Lord has spared me of this currently.  The pain in my sternum has decreased drastically, to a point where I almost don't feel it anymore.  Charlie and I are continually surrounded by an army of people who lift us up when we don't have the strength to do it ourselves.   We are able to continue only through the strength of our amazing friends and family.

Amongst the tears, the screams, the fear, the suffering, and outcries, He continues to whisper to me.  "I will restore you." He says, over and over again.  This is His promise to me.  Whether that is here on this earth, or in Heaven with him, I do not know.  But I pray that we will continue to praise and serve Him on this earth until the end of our days.

If you are praying, or if you want to join us in prayer, please pray for the following:

  • That I would go into complete remission.  Pray for a full-miraculous healing. 
  • That our story would bring glory to His name. 
  • Strength for my husband and family.  This is probably a more difficult battle for them than it is for me.  
  • Thank the Lord for all of the blessings He has already given us.  
Thank you.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Half Way and the End of Chemo

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without boarders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me."

I finally finished chemo on Wednesday, May 20!  One day after our 3rd year anniversary!  Charlie and I celebrated with an amazing home cooked meal with our family and a nice night at home.  It was a joyous day.  We then continued the celebration by retreating to Eminence, MO for a long and quiet weekend.  We had little to no cell service while there, and honestly it was a huge blessing to just stop and relax for a few days.  

Since I've last written, I've experienced a new wave of symptoms from chemo.  My fingernails and toenails started to die and detach from the skin.  I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes (sad day), and I developed symptoms of neuropathy in my fingers and toes.  (Neuropathy is weakness, numbness, and pain due to nerve damage in the body.)  But other than that, my symptoms stayed fairly controlled.  I was extremely lucky throughout this process and remained healthy for the majority of those long five and a half months.  My only major downfall is that I craved cheeseburgers.  I LOVED cheeseburgers and ate them multiple times a day when allowed. 

All of the side effects wore off about a month after chemo stopped and my hair is finally growing back!  Slowly, but surely, it's coming.  I've stopped wearing my wig because it was hot and rubbing off some of the new hair that was growing.  I'll still wear it occasionally, but I've found a new sense of freedom in going just as myself.  I tried hats, but they itched and hurt my head.  So all bald and bold is who I am!  Roar! 

I'll be honest.  The end of chemo was exciting, and yet it was surprisingly sad.  I found myself missing chemo.  At first I thought it was the staff I  missed, and the weekly visits I got to spend with friends and family.  But there was something more that chemo offered that I initially didn't think about.  Chemo in a weird way provided me with a sense of comfort.  Comfort in the fact that I was surrounded by people who were dealing with the same thing I was. Comfort in the fact that something was being done to help cure me and I wasn't getting worse.  Comfort in seeing my doctor on a weekly basis.  I guess I hadn't anticipated feeling like that, I only anticipated joy from being done.  It was a strange feeling.  

It's July 9 and radiation has somewhat began.  I started radiation only to find out that my body wasn't aligning correctly with the radiation machine, and we had to re-map my body.  This wasn't an issue, just slow and extremely time consuming.  I'll finish radiation treatments at the end of August.  I've heard radiation is a walk in the park compared to chemo...I'll let you know how it turns out. 

I will have a grand total of 33 rounds of radiation and I will go to the hospital every week day until finished.  After radiation is complete, I have a decision to make.  I can be put on Tamoxifen (a hormone pill) for 10 years, or take an ovarian suppressant in the form a shot every 3 months + horomone pills every day for the next 10 years.  The shot + pills is a better option in decreased recurrence rates, but it also has more side effects and will put my body in a constant state of menopause.

I switched oncologists and that has been a huge blessing as well.  My new doctor explains things to me in a way I can understand and make better decisions.  She is open to my feelings and concerns and I cannot tell you how she is like a fresh of breath air for me.  She's also extremely honest and I so appreciate this.  Before her, the only person who would tell me the truth without surgar-coating anything was my chemo nurse, Deb.  I love Deb as well.  

Now the hard part kicks in.  Honestly, up to this point, this whole process hasn't been too difficult for me. (I'm extremely lucky God has protected my mind, health, and emotions during this.)  After I switched oncologists, I finally asked her what my overall survival rate/reoccurance rate was.  My stomach dropped a little when she looked at me and said, "Are you sure?  It's not good."  Ummm....what do you mean?  I thought breast cancer was curable?  And I'm doing amazing!

While all of those things were true, I was still looking at an overall survival rate of 44%.  I'll be honest.  That was hard to hear.  I had expected a 95-100% survival rate.  I was pretty numb for 2-3 days, but then by God's grace again, I woke up one morning and felt at peace.  For some reason, if the cancer does come back and I don't beat it, I die.  That's not that terrible. (My family and husband disagree with me here.) Because of my faith, I know where I will be going and I'm not worried.  I will continue to pray for it not to come back, for this to be the only time I have to deal with cancer, but if it does, I'm totally at peace about it.  I can't fix it or change it.  Only trust God.  

Not to brag or anything...but I kicked chemo's butt.  I did.  But I didn't do it alone.  I will continue to say it, its because of my amazing support system.  Because of everyone who prayed, brought food, sent cards, gifts, words of encouragement, your hospital visits, and everything else.  My nurses and doctors still continue to be amazed at how many people I have been surrounded by during this process.  Seriously, YOU ARE ALL AMAZING!! and I'm usually brought to tears when I think of everything that's been done for us.  Thank you.  

What you can do: 
  • Pray radiation goes well with limited to no side effects.
  • Pray I have complete and total healing.  No more cancer, ever.

Radiation Machine

Baby Abe and I are twins.

No more chemo!!

Just another day at chemo.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Mental Mundane and Daily Battles - Running the Race

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?                                    Run in such a way as to get the prize. 

- 1 Corinthians 9:24

Chemo is nearing an end (yay!), and I've already planned a big celebration for this day!  Once chemo is finished, I'll be starting radiation.  I will have treatments every day (M-F), for six weeks.  Treatments will be short, less than an hour, and the side effects should be minimal. (That's what the doctors say, the nurses tell a different story.) There is a small possibility I can cut this time down to four weeks and receive higher doses of radiation instead.  For this I am hopeful.

Right now, chemo is boring and difficult.  It's no longer a new part of our life, rather some what of the norm.  My normal routine has become chemo on Wednesdays, and sick on the weekends.  This is the hard part.  This is the time that I'm tempted to stop. To go on without any more treatments and just be normal again.  A constant state of feeling well on one day and miserable the next day for months takes a toll on someone in a way you don't expect, nor can you prepare for.  I know this is a short time and I'm nearing the end, but some days it's really hard to continue.  My body isn't the same and it never will be the same again.  Some days you feel worn down, and other days I feel completely normal.  Now its a mental struggle to continue.

Sadness is not how I feel.  I actually still feel quite lucky.  There are several patients who are receiving the same treatments I am and they are so tired and weak that just getting out of a chair without help is a struggle.  Me on the other hand - I'm going on short runs and 5-6 mile hikes when I can.  I know the Lord has provided in unfathomable ways I could have never expected, I know I am LOVED.  There are people who don't have these blessings.  But it's still so hard.  I am six months in now, and I probably have a year left until everything will finally be "done".

I mentally tell myself I can do anything like I normally did, and then my body reminds me that I need to simmer down.  Sleeping is difficult for me right now too.  Night sweats and bloody noses wake me most nights as my body is going through early menopause.  Charlie has been gone with work a lot right now too.  And while I am beyond blessed and blown away by those who have stepped in to help while he is out, it's still hard not having him around.  I will say however, that chemo has provided (well kind of forced) so many opportunities for me to just spend an afternoon with people that I love and care about.  Time to just chat and catch up with them on their lives and for these opportunities I am forever grateful.  I wouldn't trade these times for anything.

I am going to keep running this race, and I'm determined to continue running it well.  Always remembering how blessed and lucky I really am.  Lucky that I live during a time when modern medicine can fully heal me, lucky that I still get to have a normal life after this, lucky we were able to save my future children, lucky to have so many people love me, and lucky to have a Father who has protected me from depression and blessed me with a stubborn personality.

I have six more rounds of chemo left, radiation for six weeks, and two more breast surgeries to fix everything.  Oh and my hair is kind of growing back!  Little stubblies are there, I can feel them!!  So that counts as growth.  One for team Megan, zero for team chemo!   Thank you everyone for all of your help, prayers, letters, cards, and support.  With you all I can quickly and happily answer the question I get asked every week, "Are you suffering from any depression?" with a quick and solid "NO!".   The nurses also love how many people I have brought with me to my visits.  They love getting to know everyone and can easily see how much we are loved an supported. THANK YOU!!  YOU. GUYS. ROCK!!


What you can do:  

  • Pray for continued mental strength. 
  • Pray for Charlie and I's marriage, that we continue to support each other and we stay strong in our faith. 
  • Pray that this is the one and only time I have to deal with cancer and I have complete healing from the treatments. 

If you want to come sit with me during a treatment, just let me know!  I would love to spend time with you, catch up, and just see you!  I go every Wednesday afternoon, 1:00 pm at Carle's Mills Breast Cancer Center.  :)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Start of Chemo

"And whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the son.  You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it."  - John  14:13-14

Chemo.  I'm learning how foreign of a concept it really is.  Most people know that people undergoing chemotherapy will more than likely feel "sick", lose their hair, and become extremely tired.  While for the most part, this is all true. But for everyone, it's so different.  The process of chemo is rather strange as well.  

I've had a lot of people ask me what it's like to get chemo, how long are the treatments, and how do I feel?  While I cannot answer for everyone, as chemo treatments all range in time, type, and side effects based on your diagnosis, I can give you an inside view of what's it been like for me.  

I have started receiving treatments every two weeks and I've completed the first three of four rounds of chemo and then will move to different drugs that will be administered once every week for 12 weeks total.  These first rounds have been fairly rough, but the doctors say I am handling the side effects extremely well.  My blood work has been coming back 100% normal and once the drugs are "out" of my system I feel completely normal as well.   My energy returns and the side effects dissipate.   

My first round wasn't too bad.  I became extremely tired for two solid days, food tasted weird, eating was extremely difficult, I felt ill but I never became ill, and my brain felt "fuzzy".  This lasted for around 5-6 days, and on day 7 I felt completely "normal" again.  The second round wasn't as "easy" as the first round.  I was extremely tired, my head felt like there was a million blisters from my dying hair follicles, my stomach hurt (not just nauseous), and my entire body hurt from the white blood cell booster shot.  I finally buzzed my head as it helped ease the pain from my swollen hair follicles, and then once my hair started falling out in handfuls, I shaved it off.  Now I have a nice shinny head  - it's so soft and smooth. :) 

Round three, by this point it's a mental struggle to check yourself in knowing that the drugs you're about to get are going to cause you to feel miserable for the next week.  My day usually starts around 7:00 am when I arrive at the hospital.  First, it's blood work, then a check-in with the oncologist.  After that you walk yourself into the chemo room where there is about 60 chairs in a giant room, each with their own IV machine.  I get a giant bag of saline pumped in me to help me stay hydrated, two bags of anti-nausea drugs, two tubes of red chemo drugs (I have to suck on ice while these are administered to help keep my mouth from peeling and blistering from the drugs), then after that I get one more clear bag of another chemo drug. I finally finish around 2:00 pm.

I typically leave treatments feeling pretty normal for the rest of the day and the day following until I get my nuelasta shot (the white blood cell booster shot). After that the body aches begin, my head feels fuzzy, my energy drained, appetite gone, stomach is upset, hot flashes as my ovaries are beginning to die, blurred vision from the steroids, headaches, and other things.  It's not as bad as it seems, and yet it's worse than it seems all at the same time.

The thing I miss the most though are my nose hairs.  You don't realize why God gave those suckers to you until their gone, and my nose hasn't stopped running for the last five weeks.  In all of this though, I've still been able to continue to work.  The Lord blessed me with a job that has flexible working hours, and for this I am so grateful.  Charlie and I have continued to be blessed with friends and family that remain helpful in so many ways.  I say this every time, but everyone has been amazing and we couldn't do this without them!  So thank you!!!!!

Through all of this though, my heart has been softened again. Me heart had grown cold from an old job, life events, and other things.   But the goodness that has been poured  out by so many people, people we don't even know, makes you believe there really is more good in the world than evil some times.  We have been so blessed, it's nearly impossible to be depressed or down about any of this.  :) 

What you can do: 
  • Please continue to pray that the side effects are minimal, specifically that my eyes remain un- effected from the steroids.  My vision is extremely important to me.  
  • For my mental and spiritual strength.  Keep these strong during the long and difficult moments.
  • And for a blessing in the hundreds of people who have reached out and helped Charlie and I during this process.  They are all unbelievable!