I have to say, 2017 was one of the hardest, yet best years of my life. My relationship with God and my friends and family deepened so much. So much joy and love came out of such a hard time. And I got to check one of my bucket list items off my list- Italy.
Around this time last year, I embarked on an unwanted adventure- stage 4 thyroid cancer. I remember the devastation I felt getting that initial diagnosis. Later I was told that this adventure was going to be brief; below is the conclusion to that unwanted adventure. To all of you who saddled up and joined me on this adventure: thank you. You mean the world to me.
On January 8th, I received an email with the results of my CT scan. Three of my tumors had grown. The cancer treatment I received in July did not work. I was devastated. This was not the answer I was expecting. I was supposed to be healed.
I immediately called the my doctor’s office for an appointment to set up a plan of attack. I left messages with no response on their end. I was frustrated, frightened and saddened by the aspect of losing my hair, chemo and my PTO being wasted on medical treatments instead of fun adventures.
I shared my email results with my closest friends and coworkers who immediately prayed for me. One of my coworkers who was outraged that I found out via email told her mother, who was equally outraged, and a nurse at CCare, a cancer treatment center here in town. My coworker connected me with her mother who got me an appointment with one of the best oncologists at their center. On January 23rd, I took my squad, Lauren, Donna, Tammy Jo and my Uncle Johnny (who drove up from LA for the day just to be at my appointment) and we met Dr. Rao.
Dr. Rao went over my scans and medical information and gave me some of the best news of my life: there was no need for further treatment at this time. I was overjoyed: no chemo, no hair loss, no sickness…I would get to keep my PTO. I was thrilled.
After the good news, came what my boss calls “good bad news”: my tumors were not going to go away and there was no treatment that would rid me of them completely. There was no need to treat me now, as I wasn’t symptomatic. There would come at time where I would be and when that time came, there were treatment options that would help shrink the tumors and slow their growth, but again not rid me of them completely. They would prolong my life, but decrease my quality of life. His goal was for me to have the best quality of life possible for as long as possible.
I took all this new information in and asked: ” So, will this cancer eventually take me out?”
Dr. Rao sighed and said: Yes, eventually you will die of Thyroid cancer.
“How long do I have?”
“15 to 20 years”
I was stunned. I did the math; I’d be 50-55 years old when I died. I want to get married, have a family of my own…15 to 20 years would definitely affect that. I wouldn’t be able to grown old with my friends. I may spend my last days sick and suffering. I sat in stunned silence, my mind racing with the thought of only 20 years left.
Dr. Rao continued on.
“The goal is to keep your TSH levels as low as possible. This will slow the tumor growth. They are very small now, not even a centimeter, so I am not too concerned. In 3 to 4 years they might be an inch. Right now the plan is to watch the tumors. When they start to become a problem, we’ll talk treatment options. I’m going to set you up with an new endocrinologist to monitor your thyroid levels…”
I don’t remember much else from that appointment. My friends embraced me once the doctor left. They prayed for me. I cried. I counted my years. 20 years. It was long but not long. I couldn’t believe this was it and there were no other treatment options. I’d have to live with it until it took my life. I was numb.
But…I also had no peace. The words of the doctor didn’t sit right with me. I respected him and trusted him but the dying of thyroid cancer part- it didn’t fit. Having only 20 years left didn’t sit right with me. Some would say it’s denial- but I felt like his word was wrong and that this would not be my ending.
God then whispered: You are going to have a long and happy life.
Me: “I know God; 20 years is a long time. It could have been 6 months left”
God: No Alexis, not only 20 years. You are going to die an old woman. You are going to be married and have children. You’re going to have grandchildren. You are going to live a long and happy life.”
At the time, I was too stunned to hear or believe God’s words. I delivered the news to my family, friends and coworkers. They were shocked, but encouraging and supportive. Many of them were in disbelief of the news too, and almost all have stated: God is in control and has the ultimate say in all things.
God whispered to me daily to trust Him and His plan. To trust His word. The week after I got the news, I had to fight hard not to give into despair and give up. The enemy was so loud; reminding me daily of my shortened life and broken dreams. It is so easy to listen to that voice and believe it when you look at reality: cancer, stage four, no cure. But when you look at things through faith and trusting God- reality means nothing.
He spoke to me again at church through my pastor- “The word of man is meaningless; you are going to live a long and happy life.”
And finally, I had peace.
Side note: I am learning to trust what God tells me and not having to rely on the words and prayers of others. Not that those things aren’t good, but I need to realize I can hear Him clearly and I have to start trusting that I hear Him correctly. Thankfully, God is patient and will give me multiple confirmations of things He’s told me through His word or through others. It bothers me that it took me hearing it from my pastor to really believe what God was telling me. I am working on that.
Since that meeting with my oncologist, I’ve met my new endocrinologist who confirmed that word from God: the cancer will be controlled by my medication. If I take the right dose of thyroid hormone and my TSH levels are at zero, then the hormone will act like chemo and keep my tumors from growing. She let me know that she has patients who are in their 70’s and 80’s with these tumors and still doing well. They have some symptoms but they are well managed. She didn’t want me to worry about dying from this; she was certain that I would have a long life.
Again, God sweetly confirmed his word.
So now, I am clinging to that word. Once the enemy realized that I fully believed God about my cancer and wasn’t afraid of the what the doctors told me- he was silenced. He may try to bug me in other ways, but my cancer- he doesn’t bring it up. He knows he can’t hurt or discourage me with it. And that my friends, is sweet victory!
So that’s the end of my cancer story for now. I get to live with it, but not be overcome by it. I look forward to a year filled with new babies, new marriages, new travel adventures and plenty of PTO.