Better. Older. Survivor?

Hi friends. I’m up late with another good dose of insomnia that is either because of all the changes in my body, the nap I got today, or the sweet tea I drank after dinner with the girls at Jeanie’s. But, in any event, I’ve had it on my mind to post an update so why not get started on that at 12:30am?!

I’ve been asked the same 3 questions a lot lately. So, I thought I’d answer those for all of you because I appreciate your concern and, truthfully, though I have not a single doubt that they’re asked in love, I can just get tired of answering the same questions. Sometimes it just gets real boring to be talking about cancer. Again. Or, even typing about it – hence the long delay in updates. But, you’re sweet to care and the blessing of the blog is that I can continue to have the blessing of your concern and prayers without the dry mouth of saying the same things over and over again. So, here goes …

  1. How are you feeling?
  2. What’s next in your treatment?
  3. What’s your prognosis?
  1. How am I feeling? Most days, apart from really short hair, numbness in my right armpit from the lymph node removal (that makes it really hard to tell if spray deodorant was sprayed in the right place) and questions like “how are you feeling?”, cancer would be way down on the list of things on my mind. My burns have healed very well and my big toenails are even about halfway grown back in. That’s all good news. However, with the medically-induced-menopause, I could do without the sleep issues, hot flashes, extra few pounds, and bladder issues. I may or may not have wet the bed this week. Yes, you read that correctly. And, considering Scott didn’t think I should tell him I’m sure y’all are wondering why I’m telling you – or anybody and everybody that reads this. But when it’s 12:42am and you can’t sleep and decide to get up to update the blog, you never know what little secrets may escape from my fingers. Needless to say, the medicine for sleep worked a little too well that night. Thankfully, I woke up right away – in shock. Since then, I’ve backed off to only one of those little pills that put me into a semi-comatose state. That was a low. Oh, yeah, and I had a colonoscopy a couple of weeks ago too. Doesn’t it sound more like I’m 6o than 40?! I feel like my body has aged a couple decades in the last 10 months. Cancer continues to surprise me with side effects. Who knew cancer could cause bed-wetting? So, apparently, not only do I need medicine for my hot flashes and sleep but I also need Depends?! Nice. And, yes, it’s ok to laugh. I definitely do. Somedays, it’s laugh or cry. I prefer the former.
  2. What’s next? I’ve already started the monthly shots to cut off my ovaries and those will continue for 5 years (unless we decide to have them surgically removed). I may or may not resume the oral chemo depending on the criteria of the clinical trial at UT Southwestern (more on that in previous entries). So far, I qualify but there are additional tests being run on my original biopsied tissue. And, depending on whether or not I resume the oral chemotherapy in upcoming weeks (for up to 4-6 more months), we will determine when I start hormone therapy. For my type of cancer, this is a big part of my treatment plan. Though, unlike the much harder things behind us, it is the easiest to administer – no needles, knives or burns, just pills.
  3. What’s my prognosis? Interestingly, lots of friends have asked me about my prognosis and/or whether or not I’m “in remission” but I’d never heard anyone on our medical team use either word. So, at my appointment last week, I asked Dr. Osborne how to answer y’all’s question. She enthusiastically responded with “tell them you’re a Survivor!” And her excitement for me was real cute but it warrants me addressing this topic that I’ve heretofore not exactly known how to explain or unpack. I’ll give it a go. Bear with me. And if this doesn’t make any sense just ignore my ramblings…

From day 1 of this journey I’ve become keenly aware of everything pink and was quickly introduced to the language of “survivor.” I have been introduced to others who are “survivors” and I was once given a button that said “4 month survivor.” Here’s my issue with that – and, it’s just that, my issue – but I just don’t really understand the title. It just seems far too heroic for what I, personally, have done to be ‘crowned’ with the title of “survivor.” What else would any of you have done? I went to doctors appointments, I trusted smarter people than me, I prayed, I sought counsel, and I passively participated in the treatment plan. I trusted my life to a sovereign God and went about my business – both at the hospital and in life. The real active participants in this “battle” against cancer are the doctors, researchers, and medical community. And, the true sustainer of my life is God. So, what am I missing? I just don’t feel like a hero or like I need a button or banner or tshirt or applause because I got cancer then trusted doctors and trusted the Lord and “survived.” If God wore tshirts, I think He could wear one that says “I’m a Sustainer.” Likewise, I feel like a bunch of you who have supported us with meals, laundry service, notes, lawn service, thoughtful gifts, financial help, babysitting, etc. could also get an “I’m a Sustainer” tshirt for your efforts to strengthen, sustain us and uphold us by service and prayer. Maybe the best analogy I can come up with relates to my faith. I’m a Christian. But though I’m incredibly thankful for that fact it would be foolish to be proud because it has nothing to do with anything I have done. God revealed Himself to me through His creation and through His Word and through a mother who was committed to teaching me, praying for me, and attending a Bible teaching church. But I had nothing to do with selecting my mother or being born into a country with religious freedom or even where we went to church. And, God sent his son to be born (Merry Christmas to all!) and to live a sinless life and to die for me. But, I really had nothing to do with that. And then I accepted that gift of salvation by faith. I didn’t earn it or pay for it or deserve it. So, again, nothing for me to be proud of. Thankful indeed – but not proud. So, it is with me on the backside of this cancer journey and labeled by some as a “survivor.” I’m thankful. Thankful indeed that I’ve “survived.” But not proud as if I’ve personally accomplished something – because in the same way I had little to do with my salvation I had little to do with the fact that “I’m a survivor.”

I think the other issue, at least for me, is that it seems like a label – and, whether good or bad, I really don’t want to be identified or defined by anything I’ve done, said, accomplished, failed, or even “survived.” In many areas of life, I’ve been tempted to be defined by achievements or accomplishments but that hasn’t served me well. Nor has it served me well to be defined by stupid things I’ve done or said or even things I’ve failed at. So, it just doesn’t seem fitting to learn those lessons (about labels and my identity) the hard way and go find something else to label myself with. Thankfully, cancer doesn’t define me. Without a doubt, it has influenced me and changed me and taught me, but it doesn’t define me. So, needless to say, I’m just not sure I have embraced the “survivor” language. Besides, isn’t it rather obvious if I’m talking to someone and mention that I’ve had breast cancer that I “survived” without me explicitly telling them that I’m a “breast cancer survivor”? Hmm…

I’ve had those ramblings of thoughts in my head for a few months but hadn’t yet taken the time to put them into words. And, now that I have, I’m not even sure if these words will make sense. But, thanks for reading and trying to understand. I have a few more things that have been bouncing around in my head over the last few months that I’ll likely share in upcoming posts as well – what I’ve learned about how to love and serve others (from y’all!) and what I’ve learned about being a cancer patient that I’d happily share with anyone headed down this same path.

And, last but not least, I thought I’d include a recent picture of our family – including more hair for me and less for Lincadinc. Lincoln got his haircut last week and, overnight, he seemed to go from a baby to a boy. I have mixed emotions about that. But what I don’t have mixed emotions about how stinkin’ great it is that God gave us a little boy exactly 8 months before we’d begin this wild ride. And how thankful we are for folks to journey with us – from beginning to the “better” end.

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12 thoughts on “Better. Older. Survivor?

  1. I love reading your posts! You are such a blessing to me. Yay for God and Yay for you being a SURVIVOR!!!!! Merry Christmas!

  2. So great Jennifer. I think Luther said “the only thing we bring to our salvation is sin and resistance.” Philippians 2 says it is God who wills and works. So, thanking God today for being the “sustainer” and for the gospel which not only saved you, but sustains you, and uses you to share truth with us as God places it on your heart. Speaking of “sustaining,” last night I was talking with Steve who was just released from Lew Sterrat and bunking at UGM. I asked him if he had a faith and he pulled out his tattered bible that he got in prison over a year ago when a guy led him to the Lord and he read to me Psalm 18 (I’ll be burning some devo time there)…then he said this, “While this bible may be tattered and falling apart, this bible is what has held me together.” Jennifer, your journey has been marked by the same – a faithfulness to the One who “sustains” and keeps it all together. Blessed by you and Scott (and Linc)!

  3. Thanks for honoring one of those well intentioned friends with answers to all her questions. I AM sorry to burden you with having to answer them, but THANKFUL to know how you are so that I might more specifically pray for YOU whom I love! Thankful even more so for your heart and how you continue to teach me :-). Love you!

  4. Jen-

    First, such a beautiful family. Linc is such a handsome young man.

    Most patients ask, “when am I considered a survivor?”- I tell them from the day you are diagnosed. Every day you have lived with a cancer diagnosis you ARE a SURVIVOR. To many women this is an important aspect of their diagnosis. Don’t feel bad for being a survivor…..

  5. Sweet Jen….I am sitting at my desk at my office about to see my patients and I thought I would read your post. Oh Jen, how your words touched my heart. I understand everything you said so clearly as if you were sitting right next to me. the two things that really hit me the most were…

    #1 “If God wore tshirts, I think He could wear one that says “I’m a Sustainer.”
    HA~ I love the truth and humor behind these words. yes and amen. God is the sustainer. Christ is the survivor—he survived the ultimate betrayal, rejection, pain and suffering to the point of death on our behalf and was raised to life so that we could be sustained by His victory.

    #2 “I really don’t want to be identified or defined by anything I’ve done, said, accomplished, failed, or even “survived.” — I LOVE this. so many times i feel like i am defined by my failures, sin struggles, etc. but i am reminded by your words that Christ defines us. Christ says who we are. Nobody else can, no circumstance can–praise God that the perfect shed blood of christ defines you and I as simply… His child.

    I love you so much and remember you in my prayers. And when all else fails on those days that suck and you are down in the dumps…. remember our little “iphone adventure”….He has not forgotten you and will never forsake you :-)
    “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

  6. I thank God for sweet ramblings in the middle of the night. They are often the best and usually unfiltered truth. Praise God for healed burns and regenerated toenails and for giving man insight to make Depends for those that need them! And I love the prognosis from the doctor and your thoughts and the thoughts of those who love you. Your prognosis was given to you long before cancer: Known, Adopted, Heir. Amen that Christ survived the cross and having been baptized into Christ, you have clothed yourself with Christ and you too are a survivor of sin, death, and cancer. And Linc is a good looking littlle man.

  7. You are many things but they do not define you – you, instead, define those things! And, I love the picture – copied it to use as my home screen! Love you

  8. I couldn’t disagree with you more, Jen. You didn’t choose to lie down and succumb to this disease. You chose to fight hard, and that makes you a SURVIVOR! You have chosen to survive for your husband and son, your family, your friends, and all that read your words and meet you and are blessed by knowing you. We all just exist in our worlds. You have overcome more and are elevated to the level of survivor. I wouldn’t welcome the same opportunity, but reveoin the title for the rest of us. We are proud to know you – you SURVIVOR!

  9. Thankful for your thoughts and perspective! Your journey has blessed and encouraged many in their faith, including mine! Love you.

... Those are my thoughts. Now, I'd love to read yours...

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