This past weekend, my brother Aaron and sister-in-law Cerise came to visit. We have a running joke when taking photos that Aaron “photobombs” in the background doing a serious-Gollum squat or dancing the worm while everyone else poses normally. We had a great time binging on lobster rolls and pizza, it’s always amazing to see them.
Today Grace received her third cycle of chemotherapy. She is feeling well now, but the remainder of the week will likely be difficult once the pre-medications lose their effect. During chemotherapy, they give steroids and strong anti-nausea medications before giving the chemo drugs to prevent fatigue and nausea immediately, but the effects of these wear off by 3 days. She was feeling discouraged a couple weeks ago because every time she went in for a lab draw or to get an IV for the CT, she got poked a minimum of 3 times before they could get it successfully. To prevent blown and scarred veins that can happen as a result of this, many people opt to undergo a procedure to get a “port,” which is basically a semi-permanent big IV (it goes in one of the big veins in the neck) with a landing pad of sorts underneath the skin on the chest, so nurses can draw blood or give IV medications through a guaranteed successful IV. Grace opted not to get a port because the plan was to only do 4 cycles of chemotherapy after which she would transition to an oral immunotherapy. We are praying confidently that this is God’s plan.
Thankfully, today she had a great nurse who’s been doing this for more than 30 years, and she successfully got Grace’s IV and labs on the first shot. Grace thanked her and said that she had been praying all morning for a great nurse like her, and the nurse said she got chills and thanked Grace for bringing her such a great vein.
We are geared up for the week with plenty of broth, boost drinks, and medications should she need any. She has not needed any pain medications or cough suppressants in almost two weeks, which has been reassuring. She also finally reached her baseline weight tonight, which was a win! However, the chemotherapy has caused her cell counts to trend down (her lowest dip was last week, but today her new baseline is Hgb 11.1, WBC 3.6, ANC 1.9 and she is starting to lag in recovering back to normal as quickly as she did with the prior cycles). This may place her at a higher risk of being unable to fight an infection. We now need to be more careful when going out in public or having visitors. She didn’t get her flu shot yet due to the labs, so we have been reminding friends and family who come visit to rain-check if they’re feeling under the weather. Maybe this is overkill, but we’ve both seen the worst-case scenarios of cancer patients with uncontrolled infections in the hospital due to being immunosuppressed, so we just want to be as careful as possible.
We will see our City of Hope Oncologist next Friday, 10/19/18. After meeting with our UCI Oncologist today, we will likely continue through the 4th cycle of chemotherapy and then switch over to exclusively immunotherapy, which has a much better tolerated side effect profile than chemotherapy. If all goes well, Grace and I hope to get back to work as soon as her labs bounce back to normal and when her bones/lungs continue to show improvement.
One thing that we have learned from a very wise elder at church is the concept of “double fisted faith,” meaning that we come to God with one fist saying “I believe God will heal me and make a miracle out of me because I know God is all-powerful and is capable of this,” while the other fist says “And even if God doesn’t make things go in the way I prayed, I will still say He is great because there is a bigger plan that I can’t understand now.” For someone who doesn’t believe in God, I know this can seem like circular logic and there are a lot of arguments to be made on this concept. However, all logic (or lack thereof) aside, we have learned that faith can sometimes be inclusive of logic, but many times it is completely exclusive of it. Faith in a powerful God and Jesus Christ like ours is consuming… so consuming that when we cry out in anxiety and pain, there comes comfort that can’t be explained. I think that’s the key point, there is both pain and comfort in having faith, because one is pointless without the other.
I’m not going to sugar-coat things, Grace does have her low points and we have our dark days when we are angry, bitter, and cling to a “why me” mentality. We’re human, and whether you’re a Christian or not, we can all agree that we are all wired to be flawed and can’t be super strong and courageous all the time. Grace often says, “Thank God that I believe in God, because if I didn’t I’d be so angry and be lost in self-pity 24/7.” At least it’s more like 12/5 or 3/2 depending on the chemo week. Still human, still broken people in need of redemption every single day. And that’s what God has been delivering.
Thank you, Kyle for sharing with us a beautiful verse. I hope this verse speaks to you as much as it speaks to us.