Thursday, July 20, 2017

Everything happens for a reason

I've always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and everything that happens is ultimately part of God's perfect plan for my life. Of course, some things that happen happen because of choices we make and some things happen because of choices we did not make but each choice, whether wrong or right, takes us down a path that God has allowed. Sometimes He allows the path to be used as a teaching tool. Sometimes we learn the lesson and sometimes we do not but, if we remember, each thing that touches our life has to first come through the mighty hand of God, then each thing should be received as a gift. I choose to look at life this way although there are many who do not agree with my perspective. 

For some time now, I've been feeling like I needed to make a change in my medical care. Earlier this week, I took the first step in that process and started the ball rolling. I contacted Cancer Treatment Centers of America because I felt I deserved better care than I was getting from my current oncologist. I could have stayed with my current doctor. I've been his patient for the past three years but something in my gut was telling me it was time to make a change and I've learned to listen to my gut (actually, the prompting of the Holy Spirit is more accurate terminology) because when I listen, I always reap the benefits of making a wise decision. 

Today, I spent an hour on the phone with my nurse navigator. CTCA (Cancer Treatment Centers of America) assigns each patient their very own nurse to help them navigate through all the testing, paperwork, questions, etc. throughout the time they are under the care of any medical staff at their facility. My nurse navigator's name is Crystal. She was extremely nice and very professional. We went over my medical records which included medications, tests, reports, surgeries, and personal history. As I went over each item with her, it was as if I were back at the beginning of my breast cancer journey. I was surprised at all the emotions that came creeping up as we talked. There were several times in our conversation that I had to fight back tears and as I did so, I began to experience a little doubt. I wondered if I was doing the right thing leaving the oncologist, breast surgeon and radiation oncologist that had taken care of me for the past three years. They'd been good to me but if I had to rate them on a scale of 1-10, I'd give the oncologist a 2, my radiation oncologist a 4 and my breast surgeon a 9. 

I wondered as we wrapped up the conversation how my medical team would feel when the folks at CTCA contacted them for all my medical reports. Would they feel betrayed? Would they wonder why I was leaving? Would they even care? I'm sure patients leave practices all the time under normal circumstances but I was abnormal. Cancer makes you abnormal. And even as much as I'd like to be normal again, I'm glad I'm not. 

My nurse navigator said I'd more than likely have a bone scan as soon as I start treatment there next week. I've been having a lot of pain in my thoracic spine around the T7 and T8 vertebrae. She said they'd probably want to repeat a chest ultrasound too. When I mentioned my desire to continue my natural health care regimen, she told me she needed to speak transparently with me. I knew what she was going to say before she said it. She said since my cancer was fed by Estrogen and Progesterone, the doctors at the center would more than likely put me back on adjuvant therapy. That means oral chemotherapy and that also means it will probably be one of the three drugs I've already tried - Arimidex, Aromasin, and Tamoxifen. I mentioned the bad experience I'd had with each of them and she assured me the doctors would manage any side effects with other medications or they may even put me in a clinical trial. When asked if I would be okay with that, I answered in the affirmative. 

Truth be told, I'm nervous about what the future holds. The fear of recurrence is always in the back of my mind. I talked to the nurse about the insomnia and anxiety I've been experiencing and she made a note of it in my chart. Over the next couple of days, my new medical team will meet to discuss my case. On Tuesday, when I go in for my physical assessment, they'll have even more information to review. Wednesday, there will be more testing and I'll meet my new oncologist on Saturday. Yes, Saturday! At CTCA doctors work on the weekends and it's not an abnormal thing. 

CTCA believes in integrated treatment. They have a naturopath, a spiritual advisor, a nutritional counselor, a mental health advisor, and of course, the medical team which includes the oncologist, nurses, therapists, etc. 

I'm a wee bit anxious about what comes next but I'm doing my best to trust God and leave everything else up to Him. I can't control any of it anyway, so why worry about it, right? So, we'll see what happens and where all this goes. Right now the path is dark and unclear. I feel like it's a winding path through a dense, brush filled forest. I'm standing at the head of the path looking down through a tunnel of overgrowth. There are thorns and thistles on both sides of the path and the road is rocky underfoot. I've taken the first step by deciding to leave my present team, now I need to be ready to move forward when the time comes. Next week, it will be time to venture a little further on the path. If you care to follow me on my journey, check back often for updates. I'm sure there will be many. 

The willow which bends to the tempest,
often escapes better than the oak which resists it;
and so in great calamities,
it sometimes happens that light and frivolous spirits
recover their elasticity and presence of mind sooner
than those of a loftier character.
- Albert Schweitzer

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