Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Heaven's Meanderings

I have been wondering lately.

Quite a lot.

Wondering if people, Christian or not, think about heaven.

And if they do, really, what they think about it.

Do they accept the culture's definition of what heaven will be like?

Or do they go to God's word to learn what He tells us it will be?

Do they get past the cliches?

"It's a better place."  It is.  But how?

"We'll be together again one day -- in heaven."  Maybe.  But not everyone will be there.

"Absent from the body is present with the Lord."  

"He/she is done suffering."

Do they think about what it will be like?

Do they think what it will be to be in the actual, physical, presence of the Lord?

Do they wonder what they will look like?  Act like?  

Do they wonder what they will do?

Do they wonder if they will recognize others?

Or do they accept the 'pat' answers?

"She/he is in heaven now."

"She is an angel now, looking over us."  (um, people don't become angels when they die, just fyi)

The most precious note was included in our church's prayer note this week.  

From a little girl.  Savannah.

Who is thinking about heaven.

“I wish I could talk to God, like hear him talk to me.  I think you talk about that.  It is a very interesting thing.  Do you ever wonder what he sounds like or wonder what he looks like?  You should talk about that.”

Why, yes Savannah, I do wonder.

And one day, I will hear Him talk to me, and I will know what His voice sounds like.  I will see Him as He is, and I will know what He looks like.

One day, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and I will live there forever.  With Him.

Only recently have I started past the cliches.  The 'pat' answers.

It took staring in the face of the fear of death to get me to consider heaven more seriously.  And I've only just begun.

I wonder.

Quite a lot.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Powerful Nuts

Today was the day to see my radiation oncologist.  

Dr. Alice Wang.

But first, Susie the nurse takes me to the exam room.  Susie is a sweet spirit, with a wonderful countenance.  She is a smiler.

"List of medications, please."  

"Side effects from any of the medications?"  Well, yes, actually, there are.  And they are not pleasant.  "Diarrhea?"  Yep.  "Taking anything for that?"  Nope.  "Why?"  Because, Nurse Susie, I take too many things already.  Too many.  And I am tired.  And what is a side effect here and there?

"Why did you switch off of arimidex?"  Severe joint pain.  "Did you take anything for the joint pain?  Ibuprofen?"  "NO?"  

I interpreted the "NO?" to really mean "are you nuts?"

Honestly, I hadn't even thought to take something for the joint pain.

"Do you just power through the stiffness and pain?"  Pretty much.  

"You need to ask Dr. Wang about taking ibuprofen.  You need relief."  Well, yes, I do.  And I will.

Dr. Wang comes.  

She remembers me.  Good news.

She is very thorough in her examination.  She asks me to show her the range of motion I have in my arms.

I don't have range of motion in my right arm.  In fact, I cannot lift it up over my head.  Which explains why it is so difficult to undress.  So now I am to be referred to physical therapy.

Dr. Wang measures both arms -- around the upper arm, around the lower arm.  The length from my elbow to my mid arm.  And then she compares the measurements from each arm.  If they are not symmetrical, it could be an early sign of lymphedma.  That would not be good.  The measurements are symmetrical.

Dr. Wang says I should be able to take ibuprofen, but should first ok it through the medical trial gurus.  Medical trials complicate everything.  So, when I see Jerry on Friday, I will check on the ibuprofen question.

Until then, I will continue to power through.

And I am not nuts.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hello Mammogram. So Nice to Meet You.

So, last week I had my 'annual' mammogram.

The first one since my cancer diagnosis.  (I did have a mammogram on the morning of the surgery to remove the lump -- but that one doesn't count because its purpose was to guide the insertion of 'guide wires' to assist the surgeon in identifying the outer edges of the tumor.)

The routine is to wait six months after the finish of radiation treatment.  

And now I know why.

Because it takes a long long time after radiation is over for the tissue to recover from the inflammation.  And mine has not.  Recovered.  From the inflammation.


This time, I did not go alone.

Don took the day off of work to accompany me for my tests. 

Much to the confusion of Kathy, the ultrasound technician, I insisted that Don be allowed to accompany me into the mammogram room.  Husband education day! (Surely, others have brought moral support?)

Kathy was wonderful.  She explained that, after a diagnosis of breast cancer, diagnostic mammograms are done for the next five years.  A diagnostic mammo is different in that more photos are taken, and greater magnification is used.  

She asked if I'd like to see the pictures.

So, after each compression, I went back to her computer and compared the picture with the same pose from last year.

And I saw the cancer clearly on last year's picture.

It was not there on this year's picture.


Thank God.

I explained to Kathy about the new lump I have felt.  She arranged for a diagnostic ultrasound to be done immediately.

The ultrasound technician had me pinpoint the lump.  And he went over it again and again with the ultrasound to see if there was anything there.

The radiologist doctor (who is remaining unnamed in this tirade) came in.  

He introduced himself to me and said how pleased he was to meet me. 

I think, to myself, "um, hello?  You met me last year and gave me the worst day of my life.  You don't remember me?"  Really.  

I know, I know.  He sees many patients every day.  But doesn't my chart tell him that he did the core biopsy?  That I would feel so much better if he came in and said "Hello, Drenda.  I am happy to see you again.  How are you doing?"  That I would think I was safe and in good hands if he remembered?  

But he did have good news.  He said the mammogram results were entirely NORMAL.  And then he went over the new lump again and again with the ultrasound.  NOTHING IS THERE.

"Drenda, I see nothing suspicious or of concern.  Everything is fine.  If the lump changes, let us know.   Otherwise, I'll see you next year."

Thank God.

Thank God.

I am getting near the end of 'cancer'.

I can feel it.

There is nothing there.