April’s Cancer Update: November 2021

As some of you know, I (April) went through my usual rigmarole of scans last week.  Shots of dye, drinks of contrast, and CT machines provide my doctors with data about the current state of my breast cancer tumors. Peter and I went into these scans expecting some dramatic or at least definitive results. After having punched my tumors with the full power of my chemo drugs, we thought the scans would report that my tumors had shrunk. Sadly, that was not the case. But my scans weren’t without some good news either.  There does not appear to be any new growth in my tumors.  The cancer cells also seem more inactive. This is positive news for sure. 

What’s Next  

My chemotherapy (Abraxane) has done as much as it can do to fight back my tumors. Now, we move into a maintenance mode. The goal is to stay on my current treatment as long as possible. Until those nasty cancer cells start growing again, we will use the chemo to hold them back.  My doctors project the chemo will be effective for about three to six more months. When the cancer morphs and starts growing again, then we will discuss and decide on a new treatment plan.

For now, I will continue to use the Abraxane in a decreased dose.  Instead of three weeks on, one week off, I will transition to taking chemo every other week. This has the benefit of less time in the Infusion Center as well as less side effects per week/month.

Chemotherapy has proven to be brutal at times for me.  In addition to losing all my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, there are the occasional fever and chills after the infusion, the constant stomach pains, the decreased appetite, the intense fatigue, and the neuropathy (losing feeling in my fingers and toes).  Some days these side effects are more than an annoyance and completely disruptive to my life. There is only so much that a person can push through. Over the last few weeks, I reach that point. Hopefully, a reduction in the Abraxane will increase my quality of life while still holding my cancer at bay.

How Are We Doing?

We walk a tightrope between the good and the bad. We remain hopeful in our God and continue to learn what it means to trust and rely on Him one day at a time. Yet we continue to grieve this incurable disease that has taken up residency in our lives. We can’t ignore the ways that it affects our day-to-day lives.

While we see the good news in these recent scans, we can’t help but still shed tears because the cancer is still in my body.  If we could will it away in our own strength, we certainly would have by now! Instead, I’m told my scans are increasingly difficult to read and interpret due to the scarring nature of the disease on my insides. 

So I try to focus on the positive aspects of less chemo in the coming days. Still, I know that I will dread Infusion Center building each time I pull into its parking lot.

The idea of better days ahead does not mean easy days. Forcing myself to eat my meals and struggling with the pain in my fingers while fixing my girls’ hair each morning may not go away. 

As thankful as I am for the makeup that enables me to draw on eyebrows, the flash lashes that replace my own and wigs that are stylish and complimentary, I miss my own hair and know I’m not getting it back anytime soon. I sometimes feel like cancer has taken away my youth and a sense of who I am, especially when I look in the mirror first thing in the morning.

On this tightrope that we find ourselves, I can confidently say that God has kept us from falling to the ground. We sway from side to side, but He is always there is steady us again. Our faith is not great and our emotions are tumultuous, but our God is good, powerful, and true. He loves me, Peter, Luke, Lily and Lacey. We are learning that His mercies really are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!

How to Pray:

Please pray for God to heal me, to push back the cancer and to bless my treatments. Nothing is impossible with God.  

Pray that I will have the strength that I need each day to endure side effects and to accomplish the tasks that are before me, especially caring for the needs of my family.

Pray that we will experience the mercies of God afresh and that we will know the joy and peace of Christ even on the bad days.

Pray that God will increase our love for our three kiddos. Under the best of circumstances, parenting is no easy feat (much less in the midst of scans and trips to the infusion center).

Pray that God would redeem our three children. Of late some have expressed an increased interest in the gospel.

Contact Info

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CALL US AT: 540-937-6159.

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The Face of Cancer

breast-cancer

“You look good”

I appreciate the compliment; I’m glad that the signs my disease and of the emotional turmoil within do not reach the surface of my face.

Yet those who live in close proximity to me and those who have visited our home over the last few months have seen what the pictures on social media cannot convey. My church family has also been a constant source of comfort as they walk with our family through this trial week in and week out. They have watched me barely walk into church and have observed me leave worship early because of my pain. And, they have witnessed the good days in between, learning in many ways how to judge how I am feeling. Their sensitivity and love is such a blessing.

I can’t begin to show how grateful I am for those who are praying for me (literally all over the world!). Certainly an extension of the grace of God is the undeserved friendship and care of so many. How truly blessed I am that the Lord would put it on the heart of so many to pray for me, my family and my healing.

When I was first diagnosed, I entered into a type of shock. The diagnosis still is so much to process. It has felt like learning a new language, one that I really didn’t want to learn. I had no idea that there were different types of breast cancer and very little knowledge of current treatments. All the words sounded unfamiliar. My ignorance produced fear. But one morning I remember waking up and the Lord allowing me to realize that though I may know nothing about breast cancer, I hadn’t lost all I knew about Him. Now was the time to stand firm on all I did know. That has been an anchor in my rough seas.

IMG_1621I credit my husband for orchestrating the wonderful health care I am receiving. He immediately set to researching all he could about my disease and those working in the medical field to treat it. He learned to speak the language faster than I did and still knows it better than I do. When I could have just shut down, he worked to keep us moving. Because of him I am in a research study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and go out for scans and tests every few months. I am being observed and learning much more about my cancer because of participating in this study. I also receive great local care through the University of Virginia’s breast cancer specialists in Charlottesville. It was here that I had my recent surgery to remove my ovaries.

I have a notebook full of medical information that I have accumulated from all my doctor visits since May. Having a serious, incurable disease also requires a lot of organization. Test results, medications, appointments and the like force me to continue to engage my new way of life. I can’t ignore or escape it.

October is breast cancer awareness month. While I understand the intent, I have tried to avoid all displays of the pink ribbon and paraphernalia. My personal battle is still so raw and fresh that I don’t want to associate with yet another reminder. Perhaps I will feel differently next year.

Many people have asked about what our children know. They know Mommy has cancer which they understand as very bad germs inside of me. Each night at bedtime, we pray for God to take Mommy’s cancer away. Our 3-year-old has volunteered to people that “Mommy has cancer in her back!”

I can’t begin to list or describe all the ways big and small that cancer has affected our little family. This is the area that brings me most often to tears and my greatest source of anguish. I pray daily and fervently for my children’s salvation. My greatest desire is to live to see them firmly established in the truth. This trial isn’t just mine, it is our whole family’s. God allowed me to have cancer. God allowed my children’s mommy is have cancer. God allowed my husband’s wife to have cancer. It is hard, painful and scary. Yet our hope remains in God. That He will bring good out of this evil.

The opposite of fear is trust. I continue to fail to trust Him and let fear overwhelm me. I have many times fallen into despair. But God has not left me.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,”

Psalm 46:1-2

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”.. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:27, 31

How many times does the Bible tell us to trust God and not be afraid? He has never failed us. He has and always will take care of His children.

I will have more scans in a few days. I am tempted to fear and doubt. But ultimately I know that my life is in God’s Hands. I should focus on my devotion to such a good and gracious Father. He deserves my undivided heart and adoration (Psalm 86:11-12).

Like so many others with similar and yet different stories, I am the face of cancer. But more than what my face looks like, it matters where my face is looking. I must now and always turn my face in the direction of Christ. I know that when I “look full in His wonderful face, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” I want to reflect back what I see in Him.

I don’t know what my scans will show next week. I hope for good news. Over the last two weeks, I have had more consecutive good days with minimal back pain than I have enjoyed since before my diagnosis six months ago. I am so thankful and pray that is a good sign of my treatment working. Yet I want my heart prepared to rest and trust in Jesus no matter what is reported.

Will you please continue to pray for me? Pray for my heart to remain steadfast while also petitioning the Great Healer for my health to be restored?

A Time Travel Memory

april-and-aprilI’ve always liked the idea of time travel. It is evident by my taste in entertainment (books, movies, etc.) as well as a theme in my imagination.

I distinctly remember a moment in my life when I was about 8 years old. As I was lying on my bed looking out my bedroom door down the hall, I imagined that my future self came to visit me. I imagined that 30 year old April traveled back in time to visit 8 year old April. I realize that this in and of itself may cause you to never take me seriously again but alas this is a true story. I pictured what my older self would look like and say to me.
In my 90s influenced brain I thought I would be wearing a brightly colored pant suit with heels and sporting long hair (I was really into having long hair then). I’m fairly certain my younger self would be disappointed that she/I didn’t grow any taller than “we” are but maybe she wouldn’t have noticed with the heels. I do think I could pull off the sophisticated look my little self was hoping to achieve. Some things influence your style your whole life. My favorite color has been purple since I was 2 after all.

When I was eight, I imagined that my “grown-up” self would tell me hints about the way the rest of my life would go. Clues about who I would marry and how many children I would have. Of course my older self couldn’t tell me anything too specific because we can’t mess with the whole space-time continuum thing! That and an eight year old really can’t think of too many details for what grown up life would be like. So I gave my future imaginary self a break and let her be vague but say really cool things about how great I am.

It was a fun past time one afternoon in my childhood. And I honestly haven’t thought much about it since. But today as I was rehearsing in my mind all the struggles in my life right now, I remembered me as a little girl. I’m 33 years old now. I’m basically the age I expected a grown up to come talk to me.

So what would I say today to little April sitting on her bed with her eyes wide and ears attentive?

Ironically, probably what I thought I would say when I was eight! I wouldn’t tell her about the hard times. I wouldn’t tell her about the people she would lose, her aunt from cancer, her grandfather from Alzheimer’s or her baby boy hours after he is born. I wouldn’t worry her with all the years she would wait and wonder if she was ever going to get married. I wouldn’t burden her with the financial struggles. I also wouldn’t lament to her how hard raising a family and ministering to people can be. And I’m glad I didn’t tell her and that I didn’t know.
Today the Lord used this memory to remind me of His faithfulness. God has been good to me. He did provide a godly man to marry (finally at 29 years old!). He has given me two healthy children to raise. He has given me many ministry opportunities within the church. His has met my needs, comforted my heart and blessed me more than I deserve.

It is so easy to grumble and complain. My heart is so quickly discontented.
In James 5:7-11, the author addresses some poor Christians who are suffering unjustly both at the hand of the rich and for their faith. They are told to be patient in the trial and not to grumble about it. Because Jesus is coming back and will one day make all things right, we can be patient when things are hard. I need to be patient in my outlook. So many times I want do and change things and God has just called me to patiently endure. He says those who remain steadfast will be blessed. I don’t want want to forfeit my reward or my testimony by complaining.

Life is hard, but God is aware of my sufferings. He is also bigger than them. He is worthy of my praise and trust no matter the circumstance. And not once has He ever forsaken me. There is purpose in all that the Lord allows and He is compassionate and merciful to me, His child.

If I went back in time, I could tell little April all day long of the ways that God has proven Himself faithful. But today I pray that the Spirit does not let this grown up April forget this wonderful truth. I feel confident that 60-year-old April would tell me the same thing!
James 5:7-11

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.