Well, since “pink is my signature color” (so perfectly said by Shelby in Steel Magnolias), thankfully I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer instead of colon cancer:) And, pink makes for a fitting title for this new reality in our lives – it seemed much gentler than leading out with “cancer” and, without a doubt, we feel the gentleness of the Lord in everything we’ve experienced to date. In summary, I felt a lump several months ago but we assumed it was related to nursing Lincoln so I didn’t go to the doctor right away. I went to my ob/gyn February 1st and he also presumed it was a nursing-related cyst. The breast surgeon he referred us to presumed the same but that all changed quickly last Tuesday (7th) when he tried to aspirate it and realized it was a dense mass (about the size of a marble) and not a cyst. He also saw enlarged lymph nodes on the ultrasound. He took cell samples and asked us to meet us back at his office on Thursday. He then lovingly, compassionately and graciously told us that I had cancer in my breast and lymph nodes. Thankfully, it’s nowhere else in my body. And very treatable.
The treatment plan will begin soon. The next steps (within a week most likely) are to have a minor surgery to insert a port and do another biopsy. After the port is installed, I will likely begin chemotherapy within days. There are 2 rounds of drugs and those will be administered in sequence. The first round will be 14 weeks and I’ll go every week. The second round immediately follows and is 8 weeks – I’ll go every 2 weeks. The second round is harder on the body and I’d hoped to have the hardest round first but we agreed to participate in a study with another drug that requires pairing in a different order. I have some encouraging signs that my body may not suffer the fullest extent of side effects as others – apparently, if you aren’t easily susceptible to nausea (i.e., motion sickness in cars, roller coasters, and pregnancy) then you’re likely to have less nausea with chemo. And they promised there are medicines of all sorts to counteract nausea, mouth sores, tummy issues, etc. We are wondering, however, with so much medical progress, where’s the drug to prevent hair loss?! But, even on that front, I feel better about it than I would have expected and they can tell me, almost to the day, when I’ll lose my hair. Looks like God’s gonna use medicine to help heal my body and work on my vanity in the process!
We have LOVED all of our doctors and their respective staffs. Blown away by the breast surgeon’s (Dr. Kuhn) thoroughness, compassion, and kindness and we took his recommendation for a breast oncologist (Dr. Osborn/Baylor) and are blown away as well by her thoroughness, history, experience, and attentiveness. And, as if I didn’t feel like I was in good enough hands (and we do!), Dr. Osborn then offered me her cell phone and said I could call in the middle of the night if we needed to. Our mouths fell open and we felt so overwhelmed with that level of care – and this was in the middle of an appointment where she’d spent 1.5 hours with us answering questions and helping us understand my diagnosis as well as treatment plans.
After chemotherapy, I’ll have a 2-week break to let blood cells recover then surgery. It’s unclear right now if that will be lumpectomy, mastectomy or double mastectomy. Since there’s no family history of breast cancer, they want genetic testing to help determine future risks and the decision about that. After surgery, I’ll have anti-hormone therapy to prevent recurrence and possibly radiation (depending on type of surgery). So, in total 7-8 months of chemo/surgery before ongoing treatment.
At this point, we feel SO covered by the prayers and support of friends and family and are so thankful. As of today, my requests are for Lincoln (8.5 months), Scott (been nothing short of amazing so far but it will be a long, hard road for him), for doctor’s continued wisdom and guidance (huge praise that our care to date has been amazing!), for my body and strength during chemo and surgery, and for all the friends around us who have graciously agreed to carry this burden with us but we know it will become burdensome for them as well.
Our greatest heartache so far has been Lincoln. We know that he’s a GREAT age for this because it will be a blur and he’ll be in great hands with friends and family but weaning has been hard for me and Scott and I both get most emotional when we think about him having to have his little world rocked over the next 6+ months.
The only major stressor for me (not Scott) at this point is insurance. We have new insurance as of last August and it’s their practice to consider anything in the first year a pre-existing condition. We have sent paperwork proving we had ‘credible coverage’ prior to our coverage with them but it will take 7-10 days to process that and, Lord willing, lift that clause. To date, the doctors have been great to allow us to pay out of pocket (initially there was some concern about even taking us for the initial appointments) but, with the great expense, it is Baylor’s policy not to accept any patients for treatment without sufficient insurance coverage. We are praying that will be resolved quickly because I can’t start treatment until it is.
And, lastly, I’d really love your prayers for Scott. He’s been a rock. And He’s been SO trusting of the Lord with results, me and finances (not wanting to compromise treatment or timing even if it meant all out of pocket). But this will be a long road for him as a caregiver to me, Lincoln, taking on much more of our house management, and trying to work as much as he can in the midst for income. We are thankful for a great business partner for him that has more than been willing to fill in the gaps. But Scott also loves what he does so know this will be a hard change of roles and jobs. And I pray against the strain on our marriage when both of us will be physically, emotionally and spiritually weary. At the same time, to date, it’s been one of the very sweetest seasons in our marriage. I am so blessed with him.
We feel absolutely overwhelmed by the immense love and care we’ve received by our friends. Our God’s gone before us in so many very visible ways to remind us that though it’s a shock to us it’s NOT a surprise to Him! He’s paved the way in precious and gracious ways. He knew this was coming in 2012 and He surprised me with Scott in 2010 then surprised us with Linc in 2011. So the surprise of cancer is so graciously buffered by those other surprise gifts of grace. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude. And He’s granted a peace that surpasses understanding. He’s got this! And us!
And, the love from our friends has been AMAZING. I can’t even begin to explain how surrounded, loved, encouraged, and served we’ve felt. They’ve kept Lincoln, made baby food, cried with me about weaning him, swept floors, brought dinners, done laundry, begun organizing teams to meet needs, set up this blog, delivered Starbucks on multiple mornings, gone to the store for us, gave us a filing system to organize all the flood of information and paper … and it’s only been one week! Again, we feel like God is providing our daily manna and promising He is more than able to do the same for tomorrow … and the next 6-9 months! We’ve been so shocked by how many of y’all have asked how you can help. What a gift! Cynthia is coordinating that and can connect you with the right person for whatever suits your desire. If you want to do something, send her an email with our name in the subject line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell her what you’d like to help with (meals, babysitting, household needs like groceries, laundry, errands, or anything else!)
With love and thanks from the House of Clouse!
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.