I am more than my lung cancer diagnosis
I am more than my quarterly appointments with the cancer center
I am more than my MRI test results
I am from majestic snow-capped mountains in Echo Lake, CA
I am from African wood-sorrels or Bermuda Buttercups lying in an open field
I am from the Washington navel orange tree planted over a hundred years ago in front of the State Capitol building in Sacramento, CA
I am one of many success stories for Genetech, the manufacturer of the targeted chemotherapy treatment I take daily
I am a friend, mother, daughter, wife, teacher, encourager, leader, grandmother, advocate, and a Believer in Jesus Christ
I am more than my lung cancer diagnosis
"IN GOD WE TRUST" imprinted in all capital letters on the back top of the United States America's dollar bill. Who decided that the statement should be all capitalized as if they were shouting at us "IN GOD WE TRUST?" Thus, does this mean every American citizen is in agreement that we trust in God? If so, then how is trusting or believing in God demonstrated through the use of money? What do I do with my dollar bill that says I trust in God?
The word God (when capitalized) defined, according to dictionary.com denotes, "the one Supreme Being, the creator, and ruler of the universe." However, the word god (when lowercased) indicates one of several deities, especially a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs. When reading the phrase statement, "IN GOD WE TRUST," how can one tell if the GOD is the one Supreme Being or one of several deities?
Personal interpretation is inevitable when it comes to the phrase statement on the United States of America's dollar bill. Many people have already written about the topic of money. Furthermore, a large number of individuals have given their views about what the phrase "IN GOD WE TRUST" means. My post is not about any of that, and you can Google, or pick up a book about money that probably will explain several philosophies of "IN GOD WE TRUST."
This post is about where do I place my trust. Do I put my trust in several deities or the Creator of all things? I could answer quickly and say, "God" with a capital "G." Yet, will I still trust God when slapped with outrageous cancer-related medical bills? You pray different when insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-pays hit your monthly budget.
I'm no stranger to crisis. Some crises, however, lead to danger while some point to opportunity. I aim to find balance, but there's always a precipitating event that knocks me off balance. I must change as a result. This change in me furthers my growth and dependence on God.
Six years ago, on March 13, 2014, I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Today, on March 13, 2020, I am faced with housing challenges and the threat of coronavirus. On the one hand, I am celebrating being alive. On the other hand, fear taunts my security for basic needs to continue living. Be it resolved that I will trust in the Lord Jesus Christ until I die. I've decided to take my fears and nail them to the cross. The Word of God says it best, "Jesus Christ is the head over every power and authority. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:12-15)
I chose to believe that Jesus Christ is in total control. In Jesus, I trust. Jesus is God's son, who died on the cross for me. I accepted Jesus as my savior a long time ago, and I will not walk in fear now. He's brought me too far. Be it resolved that I am putting all threats against my physical, mental, financial, and spiritual health on full notice.
Affording food as medicine is critical to cancer patients. Eating fresh or healthy meals is not extravagant spending. Why should I have to go to the food trucks that hand out food with expired expiration dates on it to afford rent? I have decided to nail it to the cross and present my case to Jesus Christ.
It isn't very comforting to know that my chemotherapy is manufactured outside of the USA. My medicine may be limited shortly. Nevertheless, I put my trust in the One living God. He'll supply all my needs according to His riches in glory. God's Kingdom is not of earth. Jesus will keep my heart and mind in perfect peace throughout my cancer battle as He has done for the past six years. I have decided to nail my chemotherapy supply needs to the cross.
The budget is tight. There's hardly any room to get my nails done to celebrate my 6th cancerversary. I loved teaching my sixth graders the pledge of allegiance to the United States of America BEFORE I was diagnosed over six years ago. Nevertheless, I will always uphold the core democratic values. I am still free to pursue happiness. I am still free to worship my living God.
As I walk in my truth and can no longer do what I used to do, I accept my limitations. I know that my monthly premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and my patient bills are never going away. But Should I crawl up in a corner and die? No. I've decided to groom myself as needed, especially today, and nail my tight budget to the cross. I feel like Langston Hughes when he poetically wrote, "I too sing America". I am happy to be alive in the land of the free. No matter what may come we are still blessed.
I'm Nailing It to the Cross!
The most fundamental threat is not having an adequate place to stay with my family as I live out my days. I even thought renting would be more affordable than having a mortgage while I fight cancer. It seems nothing I do to manage works without spiraling into something more challenging. Yet and still, I trust God. According to Isaiah 32:18, God declares that "My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest." I have decided to put my trust in God and nail QUALITY affordable housing to the cross.
"In God We Trust" imprinted on the back of the United States of America dollar bill is what we citizens should believe. As for me, it's a daily choice to believe that Jesus is on the throne. I pray for you, other believers, you pray for me, and let's watch God change things.
God Bless the United States of America, where it is "In God We Trust."
Evidence of Brain Metastasis
"Four punctate enhancing brain lesions, suspicious for metastatic lesions," the study result indicated from the MRI and PET. For 2.5 years, I've been walking around with enhancing brain lesions. I did know of the one discovered in May of 2017. That's why my oncologist at the University of Michigan placed me on Alectinib chemotherapy. Two tumors in May 2017 (one larger than the other) were noticeable because they showed up on a CT scan. By July 2017 enhancing lesions became significantly less conspicuous without evidence of new or enlarging intracranial masses. For whatever reason, the University of Michigan Cancer Center had only done one MRI on May 2015 as part of a clinical trial study. At that time, my lung cancer had not metastasized to the brain, and Crizontinib chemotherapy was working well. Unfortunately, I withdrew from the clinical trial AT1338 due to significant side effects that hindered my quality of life. But be it as it may, from September 2017 through June 2019, University of Michigan Cancer Center (by CT scan reports) reported NED, meaning No Evidence of Disease while on treatment. Based on Stanford University Healthcare, there is evidence of disease. And more importantly, we don't know how long the brain tumors have been there since the last MRI at the University of Michigan on May 2015.
As of September 2019 (about two years later), there are four punctate enhancing lesions and enlarged bilateral intraparotid and cervical lymph nodes. My Stanford Health Care Team all met in full force yesterday, October 1, 2019, ready to serve. Yes, I began progressing on April 22, 2017, with CT head showed multiple lesions in the supra and infratentorium. These lesions were 5-9 mm. But on Alectinib they never disappeared. They shrunk; this confirms that Alectinib chemotherapy is still working. Those are just the ones we know about based on a CT scan. But today the lesions are there, and I feel fine. A team of doctors wanted to see for themselves. A neurological examination concluded that I'm conversant, pleasant, cooperates with the exam. I'm also fluent in comprehension, naming, and repetition intact. In short, I am neuro intact and asymptomatic, even with four tumors and enlarged lymph nodes. Is this a miracle?
Miracles are Everywhere
First, let's define a miracle. A miracle is a noun, meaning a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency. So, yes, even this part of my cancer journey is a miracle. You'd have to know the whole story to even understand. I've decided to write a book called "Hope. It Will Not End with My Death". In this book, you'll find a positive approach to facing trauma in life. The book, packed with illustrations, medical reports, strategies, and the blessed Word of God will encourage any seeking to overcome any trial or tribulation. I would argue that my very walking around with brain tumors is not the only miracle.
Despite the questionable use of the term NED by the University of Michigan for the past few years, I still believe those doctors there were a godsend to me. The timing of my diagnosis and the release of next-generation chemotherapies at certain times was spot on when I needed it. Period. There was nothing in the cancer world for the advanced disease I've been diagnosed with, and I should have been dead and buried in my grave in 2014.
Furthermore, how God used my circumstances and led me to Stanford University Healthcare is nothing short of a phenomenon. My state-of-the-art patient, health care team, is Dr. Neal, Medical Oncologist; Dr. Gibbs, Radiation Oncologist; and Dr. Li, Neurosurgeon. I have not yet met Dr. Pollum, Radiation Oncologist, but she too is part of the team. Together, we've decided to hold off on cyberknife SRS at this time and repeat MRI in three months. If there are any new or enlarging lesions, we will treat them at that time. This procedure or treatment is my new normal in my cancer journey. Thanks to doctors like Dr. Gibbs, she helped to invent the Cyberknife Stereotactic Radiosurgery. From now on, every time those brain lesions pop up I know, there's a treatment for it. Praise God! Cyberknife SRS is my new standard of care for a while, maybe years even. That's a miracle.
Enjoying Toasted Marshmallows and Life
There is no cure for my disease, but in hope and with faith in Christ Jesus, I know that I'm not giving up now. "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13) I didn't know how to handle my heart when I would still have these dreams and goals that I wanted to accomplish. My mind was saying one thing, and my brain was attacking me with tumors that have metastasized. I wrestled with survivor's guilt for too long. But I didn't know what was next. I decided to face fear and respond to God's call. I asked God, "What if I die during this next assignment in my life?" He questioned back, "What if you LIVE?" My obedient response now is, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: night cometh when no man (or woman) can work." (John 9:4 KJV)
I am enjoying life right now and am working passionately on a variety of projects that are meaningful and purposed. I will most certainly not dwell on brain tumors. I will eat toasted marshmallows tonight with my grandkids and thank God for all that He has done. I pray continually for the doctors and patients and the advancements made daily. Whatever your faith, color, or creed cancer is not prejudice. Another divine agency (miracle) is that we are living in a country where many walks of life are coming together to help conquer cancer and invent tools and medicines to do so. So, have a marshmallow, and trust God to do what He does best, perform miracles.
Today, the PET/CT & MRI tests results revealed small four tumors throughout my brain, and one enlarged lymph node in the chest. And I replied, "Count it all, Joy." It's been over five years since my cancer journey with Stage IV NSCLC ALK Positive. It took some time for me to realize, credit goes to the Alk Positive Group, that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. But I was diagnosed with a rare lung cancer in March 2014. I didn't do it then, and I won't do it know, I won't play the "Why me" card. Instead, my Father in Heaven taught me what to do. I trust Jesus. He guides me to, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
The comprehensive doctors at Stanford University Health Care are in the process of scheduling radiation for me. I'm thankful for the new advances they've made in cancer research. With total confidence, my oncologist said, "Keep doing what you're doing and leave your cancer to me." His statement alone was confirmation that I was in the right place at the right time. Why? Because I prayed to God that I'd find a doctor like the one I left behind in Michigan. My doctor at the University of Michigan used to say the same thing, "Keep doing what you're doing and leave your cancer to me."
God has quickened my spirit. I know I'm on assignment. So, during this time, I will worship. "If the stars were made to worship, so will I." All of these trials of many kinds are just part of my becoming.
Today I will "count it all joy" and keep pressing my way in Christ Jesus.