After Thanksgiving Libby had a PET scan and biopsy which confirmed Dr. Schlabach’s suspicions that the breast cancer had metastasized and so her diagnosis was unceremoniously changed to stage four peritoneal carcinomatosis.
As we began digesting this new information, I remembered the words of our surgeon following the mastectomy, Dr. Burns had told me in the waiting room that the surgery went well but, but all thirteen lymph nodes that were biopsied showed signs of cancer, which meant that he was not successful in removing it all.
We learned that attempting to stop a metastasized cancer is sometimes compared to cleaning a room after throwing handfuls of dust up into a spinning ceiling fan. Eventually some of the scattered dust can be found and removed, but if the definition of success is predicated on recovering each microscopic particle (as it is with many types of cancer) that job becomes exponentially more difficult.
When Libby’s biopsy results defined the make-up of this new cancer, a different regiment of chemotherapy drugs were selected for this new battle. Libby and I soon discovered that the metastasized breast cancer cells were not static, in other words, they doesn’t just sit still and “take it”, the cells would often morph into other forms to keep from being affected by the chemo drugs.
Well meaning friends would sometimes suggest the latest “all natural” or “organic” cancer remedy or a new miracle book ($19.95 suggested retail) which touted the latest discovery or cure “that the drug companies have been hiding” Other well intentioned friends encouraged us to travel to Houston, New York, China or Mexico for the “best” doctor, treatment or cancer clinic. But after much discussion, counsel and prayer, including one piece of advise from a trusted friend and doctor who said, ” You know, if God chooses to heal Libby he can do it with or without our help”; we made the decision that we felt was best for us, which was to seek the best medical care locally so we could stay close to home and have the support of our family and friends.
Against these seemingly insurmountable odds, Libby’s attitude remained positive and on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, while waiting on a very critical test result we heard a sermon entitled: “Living In The Time In Between”. Our Pastor prepared the message to help focus our attention on the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas (waiting for the Christ Child to born) but Libby and I saw an entirely different meaning in the timely message and scripture that Sunday morning.
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s
peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His Peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)
Libby’s diagnosis of Peritoneal Carcinomatosis was asymptomatic , meaning she had no symptoms, in fact, she was feeling as good as she had felt in a long time. Dr. Schalbach explained that the symptoms, would eventually include severe abdominal swelling and digestive problems, he said that because of her very high tumor marker results, he had expected Libby to show up for her appointment looking as if she were five months pregnant.
After the decision was made to stay local and seek the best, scientifically based treatments, we made a pack with one another to stay positive, never second guess our decisions and NEVER – NEVER look back. Libby was not some naive school girl and she knew the odds were not in her favor, but together we had made the conscious decision to enjoy everyday and trust in God’s grace.
Dr. Schlabach set up our schedule for Chemo round two and as we left his office Libby was giving out hugs and encouraging her doctor and staff saying, “We did this once before, now we just need to do it again.” followed by, “does anyone know a place where I can find some cute maternity clothes designed for 54 year old women?”