Accepting Gifts, the Perfect Day, and a Medical Decision (WARNING: it’s a long one!)

Being blessed by others sounds like such a great idea, and it is. I enjoy blessing others and I have been contemplating why it is so hard to allow others to do the same for me? I felt I was doing better with receiving gifts until a gift offer came along that seemed too big, too outrageous.  I decided it is my mother’s fault (she has passed away so there are no repercussions to ensue).  For anyone who knew my mother, they would tell you she was a sweet, giving, independent and PROUD woman.  I think that is the key – pride.

When my father was forty-eight years old he had a significant stroke that put him in the hospital and rehab for quite a long time.  I was eleven years old at the time and the youngest of four children who were all still in school. I am amazed how my mom kept the household intact, worked full-time and then drove us all to Grand Rapids every other day to visit my dad.  I know people offered to help with meals and driving and I would hear her say “we are fine.  We don’t need anything.”  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned from my current neighbor Janet and my then fifth grade teacher that the staff at my school collected money to help our family out. When they presented the money to my mom, she refused to accept it.  I can only imagine how it must have stolen the joy from all those people who chose to give.

God has been revealing these type of memories to me these past few days when I was struggling to accept a gift I deemed to be too extravagant.  A kind person offered to send me to my dreaded doctor’s appointment in Detroit in a limousine. Upon hearing it, I thought he had perhaps lost his mind from smelling cleaning fumes for too many years. It took me twenty-four hours to process it and realize that God works in mysterious ways, not only for me but for others too. Maybe this gift was not JUST ABOUT ME, but also the giver and all those affected by it. That limo ride is a memory I will always cherish and I am extremely thankful for it.

When the limo driver called to confirm and I accepted, joy and goodness followed.  In fact, I was so busy planning the limo party that I didn’t have time to be anxious about my appointment. While I remembered to pack snacks and games, I forgot my notebook with my questions for the doctor at home!

Here is our sweet ride

: amy limo

Do I look stressed about my appointment?

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Thankfully, our limo driver, Heather, is an awesome, fun woman who has been sworn to secrecy as she knows way more about each of us than a person should.   There was lots of laughter and not all of it was due to appropriate topics.

limo 033

A God-aligned day is when everything falls into place, which is exactly what happened. School was cancelled due to the windchill so I did not have to use a sick day and the road conditions were good for our three-hour trek.  My niece, who is an oncologist, was able to rearrange her schedule that morning to be present for my appointment. We rolled up to the Karmanos Cancer Center just as we finished our prayer for peace, kindness of the Karmanos staff, and discernment for me.  Prayers were answered as everyone at the cancer center was so friendly from the lady greeting me at the information booth to the gentlemen I sat next to in the waiting room who told me “you are going to love it here. They are going to take such great care of you.”

The most amazing event involved registration booth #4 where God introduced me to an angel by the name of Jacquelin Fountain.  This beautiful woman quoted me scripture and sang me verses of a song all while finding out if I had been exposed to Ebola in the last 21 days, my date of birth, and insurance information.  We high-fived each other when she quoted me the exact scripture I listed on my last blog. She spoke it as TRUTH and in such a way that an atheist would have believed her.  I left her renewed, hopeful, and joy-filled.  What would our world be like if we all performed our jobs beyond the call of our job descriptions?

Dr. Flaherty, a melanoma specialist, spent over an hour with me visually mapping out my cancer situation from the beginning all the way to what current options I might consider.  He patiently answered my questions, clarified for me, and presented the facts without bias towards a particular treatment.  It is too complicated to explain it all here so I will cover the basics. There is research on the effects of certain treatments for cutaneous melanoma.   However, there isn’t, and never will be, specific clinical trials on treatments for mucosal melanoma due to the small population.  It is unknown how any of the proposed treatments will work with my specific situation.  I felt peace and a clear sense that I needed to go the route of targeted radiation.  The location of the tumor in my femur is in an “unkind” (doctor’s words) area.  While the radiation therapy is not a cure, I hope it will contain the tumor so it does not grow.   Because I did not bring the disc of the last PET scan images with me, I will need to have a radiation oncologist view it and determine if cyberknife radiation can actually reach the location of the tumor in my femur. Dr. Flaherty did not see why I could not have it done at Lacks, but if not, I will go back to Karmanos.

I am growing so much through this journey.  I am doing better not trying to figure out or agonizing about the future, I am quicker to trust in God’s leading, and I am doing (a little) better in not letting my pride get in the way of the blessings. Please know that the support of family, friends, and even strangers is priceless to me. Love, Just Pamela

2 Cor 9:8  “And God is able to bless you abundantly so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Facing “the hard”

While I know the signs pointed to melanoma in the femur, I still held out hope that it was a fluke on the scan. Unfortunately, the orthopedic surgeon told Richard and I that the biopsy indicated that melanoma has metastasized to my bone. He further stated that I will need the walker for at least another month until my bone is stronger. I do not know any more information, and I refuse to research it as this has not been healthy for me in the past. I will wait to hear from my oncologist to determine the next step.

This is tough information for my family and friends to absorb. As hard as it may be to believe, I feel like I am rebounding from the news much quicker this time. I have peace that God will guide me in this journey and even stronger faith in Romans 8:38 “we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him and who are called according to his purpose for them”. While I do not claim to know in what ways He will work, I have a strong belief that He is doing and will do amazing things.

After hearing the biopsy news, I was contemplating on whether or not to return to work. I am glad I chose to go to work as it was the perfect way to get my mind off from this disease. If I hadn’t returned to work I would have missed this classic moment. One of my young students was holding the door open for me so I could get my walker through the doorway. As I was doing so, he quips “I don’t want you to crack your head open as you are the nicest speech teacher.” I really want to believe he meant the last part of his statement but he has also told me he is “allergic to pencils” so I am questioning his credibility.

My walker at school is tricked out with a seat, brakes, storage compartment, and even a hot pink princess bike bell provided by my colleagues. The bell has made me quite popular in the preschool room and encourages a lot of conversation (a speech pathologist’s dream). Of course, one preschooler had to share that his grandma has a walker just like mine. My poor vanity. All I can think is that she probably doesn’t have a cool princess bell on hers!

These are the small things that get me through the day. So I continue to take one minute, hour, day at a time.

Ephesians 3:20 God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine…