When friends started asking me this week how Karen’s surgery went on Friday, I realized I need to bring an update. There was no surgery, and right now, it appears there may not be a need for it.
Last week was a time of big decisions. We were at a crossroads in her treatment plan, and it wasn’t clear where we should turn, weighing out the pros and cons of each decision. Remove the drain and have surgery? Remove it and wait and see? Remove it, have surgery and continue chemotherapy? It wasn’t a clear cut path.
In the process of consideration, we met with her oncologist on Tuesday of last week to hear his opinion and how it might factor into our decision. During the consultation, he indicated that the CA125 blood test (used to determine activity of ovarian cancer) had dropped from a high of 1200 down to near normal levels of 46. In our amazement, we asked what caused that drastic change. He grinned, shook his head and offered a few thoughts. “I’d like to think it was my doing, but I doubt that. It could be everything you are doing, and so whatever that is, keep doing it. It could also be an act of God.” We both breathed a collective sigh of relief.
And so our next question was, what does this mean? It was agreed that the urgency level has dropped and we have some time to watch and wait. So the drain was removed that day and our new plan was implemented. We would forgo any more surgery, medication or treatment and let her body recover naturally and holistically. Since then she has begun to feel progressively better day by day. Her appetite is improving and her ability to actively work is lengthening in hours. Needless to say we are very grateful and in Karen’s words, feeling a new lease on life.
So what were the things Karen was doing that the oncologist mentioned? She made a pretty big lifestyle change back in November, first beginning with adopting a ketogenic diet, but chemotherapy can cripple the taste buds, and that approach was too limiting. So we morphed into more of a keto-tarian approach, a high fat, high vegetable diet focusing on foods that have natural anti-angiogenic properties. This means lots of color in the food; red, blue and black berries, dark greens, red cabbage and onions. It means fermented foods like sauerkraut and Kimchi. It also means no grains, beans, or legumes.
So was that the key? Was this the X-factor that led to the precipitous drop in the cancer marker? How about the kind support from friends and family via reaching out through phone calls, cards, letters, text and groceries? What about the prayers offered, many from people we don’t even know? What’s the cause? What’s the secret? What’s the special sauce?
While I would never discount any of these things, the one thing I return to over and over again here in my middle years can be summed up in one word:
My point in mentioning faith is not to advertise or defend it or try to sell you on it. It’s simply to tell my story as I know it and have experienced it. It’s my story and it brings me great joy and therefore I am happy to tell it to anyone who wants to listen.
Faith is described as confidence in what you hope for, of being certain of what you do not see. Seeing it this way takes some of the guesswork out. If I am not confident, maybe I’m not living by faith.
Here in my middle years, I’m learning that faith isn’t a crap shoot. Its not rolling the dice and seeing what happens. Its not gathering as many friends as possible in hope you reach a tipping point when you get enough people involved. I no longer find safety in those kinds of numbers.
Instead, I am finding that faith is more about engagement and involvement with the One who created me. And when crisis hits, the first thing I do isn’t to pray, because crisis can create panic and I certainly don’t know what to pray for in a state of panic. The first thing I do now is enter into a place of thanksgiving and rejoicing and put my mind at ease in the fact that the One who created me has not changed, even though my circumstances have. It’s in this mindset that I can begin to listen and tune in to the what the Man of Sorrows is praying and how the Comforter is interceding for me. If these two are in accord, it only makes sense that I join in with them.
This is where I find my confidence in faith comes from.
Thank you again to all who have been there for us. One of the coolest things has been the generosity of our church family, where someone every five days brings us groceries that meet Karen’s dietary requirements. We have a stack of cards and notes sent the old fashioned way through the mail, some even anonymous that have special meaning. Thanks to our employers at Blue Blood and The Mill for being so accommodating of our needs for time off. These are among the list of things I mention when I enter into thanksgiving and rejoicing. Even this act has power to heal.
Lastly, we give permission to anyone to ask us about how we are doing. I learned this years ago in dealing with the grief of a family who lost a child. They said the one statement that was the most frustrating was when someone would say, “Oh, I thought about calling, but I didn’t want to upset you.” I will never forget what the mother said, “This is our life we live 24/7. How can you upset us?” We want this story to provide hope, therefore your questions are welcome.
Rejoice with us.