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

EMAIL US AT: BIBLEFIGHTER@GMAIL.COM 

SNAIL-MAIL: P.O. BOX 637/ AMISSVILLE, VA 20106

CALL US AT: 540-937-6159.

SUPPORT US AT GOFUNDME.COM: APRIL WITKOWSKI MEDICAL FUND

SUPPORT US AT PAYPAL: ID: PAWitkowski

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?