Every once in a while, I share the story of some dear friend who has been a major source of inspiration to me, and although I’ve told you about Kari before (Ob/Gyn with an aggressive form of uterine cancer), her recent Caring Bridge entry was so encouraging that I asked if I could share it with you. She tells a story about her father-in-law as well as some reflections on her own cancer journey.
Miracles and Waiting on His Plan
Larry’s dad developed bladder cancer a number of years ago. It is a story of a remarkable number of medical mistakes and failures, and of God’s grace in a miracle cure. First, he was treated as if he had only a precancer, based on a misreading of the original (and repeat) biopies ( mistakes 1-3). When he repeatedly failed the superficial laser treatment, I suggested he get a second opinion at U of M. They re-read the prior biopsies, said he had had invasive cancer since the first biopsy and said he needed to have extensive surgery, which they could not schedule for a few more months (potential failure 4). We were able to get the surgery done here in Battle Creek within a few weeks, but he had to have a re-operation 1 week later as there was an internal leak of urine into his belly (mistake 5), however, despite extensive looking by 2 urologic surgeons, it could not be found (mistake 6). He had to live with this with the condition being difficult to handle and making him feel ill. Eventually this healed on its own after several months.
At a followup visit several months later he was complaining of back pain so a pelvic CT was ordered which showed nothing (mistake 7, as was not high enough). When he continued with pain he got an MRI which was read in the urology office as negative (mistake 8). The final report from the radiologist correctly idenitified the multiple enlarged lymph nodes from the metastatic bladder cancer, but apparently was never read by the urologists (mistake 9.). His primary care doctor got a copy several months later, when he requested records and discovered the oversight. Dad was then started on radiation, then chemotherapy. After half the planned chemo, repeat imaging showed there was zero effect on the tumors and they suggested he might as well stop treatment. He was tolerating the chemo so well, after discussion with family, he decided to finish the last few cycles as it might be at least holding the the speed of growth.
While people had been praying for Dad all along, about this time there was a “laying on of hands” at his church, and extensive prayer. Running into one of the urologists in Battle Creek I updated him on the situation. He looked at me straight in the eye and said, “You know he won’t survive this. People don’t survive after metastasis of bladder cancer, so just prepare yourself It will only be a few more months.”
Six months later his oncologist suggested a repeat CT, just to see how much the tumors had grown. To everyone’s astonishment, they were gone! All I could think was , “Well, here we go again- another misreading and a medical error.” However, repeat scans again and again over the last years showed no sign of tumor. There is no real explanation here except that this was a miracle.
Why am I telling you this? It helps to explain why I do not feel this is a “battle” with cancer. So many people use these words, which I have never quite related to. I do not feel aggressive in any way. If determination or extra effort could cure it, I would do that. But it is not what you have to do.. Mostly you accept things – side effects , treatments. It is really pretty passive time of waiting, not “fighting”.
I believe that the outcome is entirely in God’s hands, whether treatments “work” or not. If my life is over sooner than later (and, of course it will be over someday, no matter what) then it is because my work on earth is done. If my life ends later, then God has more work for me to do. Either way, my only choice is to trust that God’s plans are good. If I am asked to “endure”, that is what I need to do. If it is to wait and see what the outcome is or what side effects I have, then waiting is what I must do. This “fighting” would be both counter productive and exhausting. I am okay and at peace with waiting to see what He has in mind for me.
So that comes to my own miracle this week. I opened a copy of my mail today which held the paper results of my CBC (blood counts) from last Thursday. I was alarmed to find that that doctor that read them to me missed that my “absolute neutrophils” (the most important infection fighting cells) were 420 (not the 1600 I understood he read to me on the phone on Friday.) If they are under 1500, I am supposed to put on drugs to boost them higher and/or be hospitalized. And these were taken 3 days after their lowest point! The point being, I had been in significant danger of having a life-threatening infection, instead of the just bronchitis I am now recovering from. When today I called U of M with the result, they wanted me to go to the emergency room to get treatment because they were so low. However, since the report was 4 days old, I asked and it was decided to repeat the CBC today prior to being admitted. The neutrophils are now 2700, an astonishingly rapid recovery.
So I have been through a harrowing time this last week, not even knowing it. If I was “taken out”, or at least “taken down” during this time, it would have been understandable – but I was not. While I still have a pretty good cough, I no longer have a fever and have walked through this time safely. Only God can do this, affirming my original position. You don’t “fight” cancer, you endure or journey through it, trusting “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to His purpose.” This is true whether He decides I am done with my life sooner or later. Just trust.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life” (Psalm 138:7).
Kari’s father-in-law, who is “Uncle Milton” to us, is alive and doing fine today! Larry, Kari, Kathi, Alan, with Uncle Milt and Aunt Faye on the sofa.We were celebrating Uncle Milt’s 86th birthday in 2011. This was taken just last spring, so you can see the Lord has truly preserved his life in a very miraculous way! Thank you, LORD!!