perfect peace

The anxiety and the peace

This is a post in the series about my BRCA gene. It gets a little graphic, so male readers be fore-warned! You can access the rest of my story via the green button on the sidebar. To God be the glory through this story. He is worthy!

I wouldn't really consider myself an anxious person. I am pretty go-with-the-flow. I don't feel like I always have to be in control. I like the feeling of freedom, fluidity, and change. I like routine too, but I'm perfectly fine if routine gets tossed out the window if a friend calls or if it is sunny outside. 

So I was caught a little off guard when I found myself losing sleep last week. I am 2 1/2 weeks past a major surgery, and 3 1/2 weeks closer to another one. When the fog cleared after the hysterectomy and I began to focus on the mastectomy I realized that I didn't really know much about what was going to occur. I have only met with my breast specialist and my plastic surgeon once. ONCE. This is a huge, life changing, body altering, looking process and I have only met the doctors once. This started to bother me. And the more I thought about it, about all that I didn't know, the more I was bothered.

My plastic surgeon was recommended to me by my breast surgeon. They will work as a team during the first surgery. The breast surgeon will take out all of the tissue, and then the plastic surgeon will come in and place the temporary implants. Then, over the course of several weeks I will go to the plastic surgeon to have the expander implants slowly filled with saline so that my skin and muscle can stretch to the right size. Then the plastic surgeon will go back in in an outpatient procedure to remove the expanders and to place my permanent (10 year) silocone implants.

When I first went in to see the plastic surgeon I didn't really love it. All of the girls in her office, while really nice were all in their 20s and very... perky. I have never really considered myself a plastic surgery kind of gal. Sure, there are things I don't like about my body, but I think that it is more of a self-image issue than and actual body issue that needs to be surgically altered. I don't know many people who have had breast implants. I like to dress modestly, and I want to model for my kids that God made me fearfully and wonderfully, and we 'get what we get and don't throw a fit' kind of attitude. I want to be healthy, but I don't have to be the hottest mom on he block. It's a heart issue for me. So surgically altering my body turned out to be a bigger deal to me emotionally than I expected it to be. I want someone to say to me that I will look natural, that I will be happy with the results, and the no one will be keen to the fact by just looking at me that I have fake boobs. But they won't say that because they can't guarantee that. And that annoyed me. Because no matter how much I tout about being cool and go with the flow, the fact is that I want to be in control of what happens to my body. I want to have the final say. And it turns out, I just don't.  

I became annoyed that my plastic surgeon wasn't acting like this was a big deal. My OB and my breast surgeon were both extremely compassionate and spent a lot of time with me in their offices explaining things and answering questions, but my plastic surgeon was pretty clear cut. She came in and sat in a low chair so her face was at my chest level. While she was examining and measuring me she had a little bit of a concerned look on her face. "Your beasts are different sizes", she said. "I can tell your babies favored nursing on your right." That's all true, they did. I'm not offended, just a little flushed. I've never really had anyone stare me down like that before. Except maybe the Dude, but he is more discreet. :) Throughout the course of the appointment I was told that I am a good candidate for nipple sparing surgery, but that she is not sure about the right side. She kept using the phrase "on the cusp." I wasn't really sure what she meant. 

I left that appointment feeling uneasy about the whole thing now. If I couldn't keep my nipples, did I want to go through with this? Why all of the sudden were my nipples so important to me? I thought I was cool with the whole body image thing. Apparently I am, buttony on my terms.

So I sat anxiously for a couple of weeks. Should I get a second opinion? Would it be worth it? Why didn't I like her? What is at the heart of my issue? I had so much peace about the hysterectomy, where did the peace go? This became a matter of prayer for me, and for those closest to me. 

Then God sent the experts. Women how have been through this journey. I spoke in one of the earlier posts about those who have gone before me to guide me into this process. Through random connections I was placed in contact with Debbie who had this same exact surgery 3 weeks ago, and Kristi who just finished the whole long process. She started last July, and had her final surgery in November. God has used these women to be an amazing source of knowledge and Godly encouragement. When I started blogging about my surgeries, I was hoping to open up my story to women who needed hope. Turns out that I am one of those women, and writing about my story has opened myself up to the encouragement of others willing to walk this journey with me. It really is amazing, this thing we call Christian community. 

Kristy also blogged about her journey, in great detail, which kind of freaked me out. [read it here] But I think God is honoring my request for more knowledge through her. I now have a pretty good idea of what I am going to go through. The other night I stayed up late reading all the details, balling and shaking by the light of my computer. Kristy was very honest and up front about the process and the pain. Lots of pain. But her writing is upbeat and encouraging, she had this quote on one of her posts.

 

That really helped me. I don't have to be a solid rock because I stand on the rock. My foundation is securely set on a loving Father. So I can break down every once in a while, He's got me, He's got this. 

Debbie lives right around the corner from me and gives me updates on what life looks like for her one week, two weeks, and three weeks out. She is gentle and kind and is quick to point me back to scripture when I start to derail. 

Here are some of the gems she has shared with me, as well as some that I have been mediating on myself. 

fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
— Isaiah 41:10
And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.
— Isaiah 42:16
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
— Isaiah 26:3-4

There are lots of avenues to artificial temporary peace for the hard things in life, but only one way to true, everlasting peace that can withstand any storm, and that peace comes from Jesus.

I was comforted by the truth this week that he has suffered bodily mutilation, loneliness, despair, discomfort, humiliation, and disgrace. He knows what I am going through and he cares for me. 

I am trying to be intentional about spending my vast amount of down time in the Word, seeking truth and comfort from scripture. Renewing my mind and retuning my heart to praise him and thank him. Not only for his provision and lovingkindness in the hard stuff. But for the hard stuff. 

 

 

 

Amy's story {my BRCA story}

This is part of my story. Click here to read the first post. Click here to read the second post.

My gynecologist and my breast surgeon share a patient and they wanted me to know her story. We will call her Amy. 

Amy tested positive for BRCA when she was 35. Her mom had survived breast cancer a few years earlier, so Amy thought she had time to make a decision about surgery and opted to monitor the gene for a while. Every three months she went through some form of screening, ultrasound, mammogram, MRI. Amy stuck with al of her appointments and the doctors watched her closely. Just two years into the monitoring plan Amy's doctor found breast cancer on an MRI. Since the cancer wasn't visible by mammogram yet, they thought it was in early stages. When Amy went in to get her double mastectomy the doctor found that the cancer was in her lymph nodes, stage 4. Amy was in shock. 

She had made a mistake. She wished she could go back in time. She was mad at herself for saying no to the surgery that she had to have anyway, the surgery that would have prevented the cancer that she now faced. 

Through these events, Amy decided that she wanted to be a voice for other BRCA patients. She offered her phone number to anyone facing this decision. She urged the doctors to use her story as a cautionary tale. 

My doctors did use Amy's story to influence their recommendations for me. They told me about her, about how she is in chemotherapy treatments now, about how they are all mad at themselves for not doing all they could to prevent this from happening. They were all shocked at how quickly the cancer progressed and at how, with the most careful monitoring, it still snuck by them and started to spread.

On Monday morning I met Amy. As I was being prepared for surgery my sweet nurse told me that she had read my chart. 

"I want you to know that you are doing the right thing," she said. "I am also BRCA positive, but I opted to not do the surgeries. I was only 35 and I thought I had time to think about it. I thought that if I decided my age 40 I would be okay." She lifted her surgical cap off her head to reveal no hair. "As you can she," she continued, "I don't have any hair because I am going through chemotherapy right now." 

I was a little stunned to be meeting this girl, the one who I had influenced our decision. The one who went before me. I had used her story as an illustration of God's grace in my life and his loving hand guiding our decisions with grace and peace. I told my friends over and over that I felt grateful for all the people who had gone before me to help me make this difficult decision. My mom, and my aunt, heck even Angelina, and Amy, who I had never met but was brave enough to share her story.

I didn't really know what to say. As tears filled both of our eyes I took her hand and thanked her for sharing her story. She told me that I was being so brave, and she didn't have the strength to make the decision that I am making. I told her it is just by the grace of Jesus that I can do anything and that God has graciously brought us to this point. It is of no strength of my own. 


Amy squeezed my hand a led me back to surgery. The next time I woke up I was in my room with the Dude. I said in groggy, slurred speech, "Isn't that crazy about my nurse?" He said, "I am so glad we got to meet her."

I came home Tuesday and shared the story with my mom. I hadn't shared her name yet and my mom interjected, "is her name Amy?" "Yes, how did you know? 

Turns out, just days before my mom had met a lady wearing a relay for life shirt. As a cancer survivor my mom always takes notice of that kind of thing. She asked the story behind the shirt. The girl said she was wearing it for her friend and co-worker, Amy, who was battling breast cancer. Mom stopped right there and prayed for Amy.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.


— Isaiah 55:8-12

Sometimes God's Word does not make sense with our own thoughts. We ought to go as deep as he calls us into the reckless, risky place of faith. If he is with you in that place, you are better off than being by yourself in a place where you stand on your own two feet. - Priscilla Shirer