Test Results

I’m only about 3 hours into knowing these results myself so forgive me if this comes off as a jumbled, rambling mess of an update.
We received some great news and some hard news today. I’m going to start with the hard news because I’m choosing to end and concentrate on the positive news.
The hard news is that the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes. The biopsy came back showing positive traces of carcenoma. So what does this mean? It does not change the date of surgery (which is March 24). It does not change what I am having done in surgery (I will still have a unilateral masectotmy, reconstruction, and lymph nodes removed all at the same time). What this does change is it is no longer a possibility for me to have after-surgery treatment it is a guaranteed. After-surgery treatment will be chemo. We will not know how much or for how long until after the pathology report comes back on the tumor after the surgery. I will start that treatment a couple weeks after surgery.
It was disappointing news for sure. I cried for the first time since my diagnosis day. I had really hoped that all I would have to do after surgery was the estrogen-blocker pill, but that will not be the case.
So the great news we received literally minutes before we received the hard news was that I was negative for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. This is huge because it means I don’t have to have additional surgeries. It means my boys do not need to fear carrying this gene and passing it to their daughters. It means that my family is spared from having to get tested, especially my sister.
I do not want the hard news to overshadow the amazing news. The hard news is short-term, will be yucky for a little while, will be a season – not a lifetime. The amazing news is forever and ever peace-giving and comforting. I want to be sensitive to the fact that one of my dear friends is BRCA2 positive, but even her husband encouraged Mark with just how good our good news is and not to miss that!
A couple songs have come on the radio consistently when I have been in my car after all of these doctor appointments. One is a song by Casting Crowns titled ‘Just Be Held’. The chorus says, “Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place”. This isn’t something happening to me. This isn’t things flying out of control around me. This is my life falling into place exactly how the author of my life sees fit. Who am I to argue?
Another song is ‘Good Good Father’ sung (but not written by the way) by Chris Tomlin. The chorus repeats the phrases, “You’re a good, good Father. It’s who you are. I’m loved by you. It’s who I am. You are perfect in all of your ways.” This is all a part of his perfect plan for me. Again, who am I to claim it is imperfect?
The last song I heard for the first time today. It’s by Lauren Daigle and it’s called ‘Trust In You’. I was so encouraged by the song. I’m going to end with the link to the video that has the song with the lyrics.
Love you all and so appreciate your continued prayers.
Sincerely,
Ashley

Quick Update

I had a sonogram and biopsy on two lymph nodes today. I am hoping to have those results by Thursday. PRAY they are clear.
I am meeting with my oncologist, Dr. Zelnak, on Thursday at 10:00 am for her to give me her suggestions on pre/post-surgery treatments.
I had a sonogram on my left breast today. PRAISE I did not need a biopsy because it was clear! When the doctor came in and told me he didn’t need to biopsy the left side after seeing the sonogram pictures I said, “Thank you! If you were my husband I would make out with you right now!” He and the nurses got a good laugh out of that :). That was the blessing for the day!
Thank you for your continued love and prayers!
Ashley

MRI Results

I know everyone is curious about my MRI results and so I wanted to give you a quick update. Overall, they were very encouraging. There were a few suspicious spots of increased blood flow that she is wanting to do a sonogram on and she is recommending me to meet with my oncologist this next week just to start that process. Those appointments are pending.
I was very uneasy and nervous before the MRI – taking a lot of deep breaths – sorta shaky. I was singing my Veggie Tales song in my head in the waiting room (read previous post to know that story). But then I remembered a verse I gave to Regina when she was sick; 2 Timothy 1:7-8 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but [with me] take your share of the suffering [to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God.” This is the Amplified version which expands on words and definitions. This is what I got from it: He brings calm and power not fear and I’m ready to take my share. Let’s do this!
I wanted to take a minute to answer a couple questions that I have been asked a lot recently. The first…How are you being so strong? I’ll answer it this way…
I have just arrived home from an encouraging and uplifting conference. I am the Coordinator for my local CBS (Community Bible Study) class. The regional CBS Leadership Conference was in Atlanta this weekend and so about 20 from our leadership team went to this conference. Over 500 representatives from classes in Georgia and South Carolina were there. CBS is an international ministry that God is doing some amazing things in. The mission of CBS is “To make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in our communities through caring, in-depth Bible study, available to all.” There are day classes, evening classes, children’s classes, co-ed classes, it really is available for all! I would encourage you if you haven’t picked up your Bible in awhile – don’t just pick it up and read it. Find and get involved in a CBS class. Click here to see the website and to find a class close to you. It’s $35 for the year and moms it’s $10 per child FOR THE YEAR! I mean that’s cheap! I pay $10 per hour for babysitting! And the children’s program is not just verse and cookie – it is amazing curriculum! If you are local to the Cumming area come join our class – contact me and I’ll tell you more.
I am excited to go to church on Sunday. Corporate worship always does something for my soul. It’s not just about sitting in rows, it’s about community, but there is something about sitting in rows. Listening to sound Biblical teaching. Worshiping. Jesus tells us to gather together and so I do with my family most every week. So I ask you have you gone to church recently? If not I would encourage to pick a place and visit this Sunday. Our church has partner churches across the country so if you want to find one I know i would recommend click here to find one. If you are just too uneasy to drive and walk through the doors of a church this Sunday then go here. Our church broadcasts their services (the whole thing including worship) every Sunday multiple times online.
So how does this answer the strong question i mentioned above? There are two things in my life, two places I make sure I’m going every week, CBS & church. I will never NOT be a part of CBS or a part of my church. I drank their kool-aid and have the mustache to show for it so-to-speak. CBS holds me accountable to read and study my Bible. Church holds me accountable to worship my Savior. These little deposits every week of my life over time have prepared me to be strong during this time of my life. There’s no other explanation to me. I could go into my personal journaling and prayer life, or the time I had with my mentor, or my accountability partner, or many other ‘christian’ things I do – but if you really narrow down and get to the foundation of my strength it’s in-depth Bible study and church.
The second most asked question I get is how is Mark doing? i wanted to copy his FaceBook post from earlier this week. Many of you are on FaceBook, but many of you are not. Here is his post:
 As followers of Jesus we are not exempt from the broken world we live in. Nor should we expect to be. In fact, we are told all throughout scripture not to avoid trouble and trial and uncertainty, but how to respond, where our hope is and what we are given to endure.
  As my wife and I face cancer it is really just a reminder, albeit a very clear one, that we are not home yet. That things are not as they should be. The trial of uncertainty raises a longing in your soul for all of Creation to be made whole again. Yet, in the waiting, you find a peace and mercy and grace and even joy that God alone can give. It is beyond worldly description.
 A wise friend of mine gave the analogy that you pour concrete while the sun is shining. Trying to do so while it’s raining will only lead to mush. The same is true with your faith. Have you resolved in your heart who Jesus is, now, while in the good times? Because if you wait to try and figure that out when the storms of life come you never will.
I am so very thankful that Ashley and I both are secure in the fact that we serve a historically risen Savior. He did what he said he would do. That provides a tremendous amount of hope. No matter what this broken world brings our way.
 Sorry for the soapbox. Had to get that out.
Been singing/praying this, this morning:
“And my soul will know Your love surrounds me
When my thoughts wage war
When night screams terror
There Your voice will roar
Come death or shadow
God I know Your light will meet me there
And my soul will know
When fear comes knocking
There You’ll be my guard
When day breeds trouble
There You’ll hold my heart
Come storm or battle
 God I know Your peace will meet me there
Oh, be still my heart
And my soul will ever know that You are God
And You heard my prayer”
-“Prince of Peace”, Hillsong United
So…I think he’s doing okay. He has his moments of course, but I have the best man standing next to me. I told him I wouldn’t be able to do this without him and he told me you aren’t supposed to. It has brought us closer and stronger as a couple already and we are only two weeks in. I’ve always said I married up, but he says the same about me. Guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
i’ll get off my soap box – most of you (if you lasted this long) – really only cared about the first paragraph. But you are going to always get a bit of my heart along with the medical details.
You can always leave comments below – your prayers and encouragement are so uplifting. I so appreciate all the sweet cards I’ve received and we are so humbled by the gofundme page contributions.
Continuing to choose to trust!
Ashley

Faith!

Hello,
I know you are probably desiring more information and an update on my week. It’s can’t believe it’s only been a week since I received that phone call – I feel like it was forever ago. Probably the longest week of my life. It was a whole lot of hurry up and wait. I had a lot of doctors appointments and know I have many more in my future.
  1. I decided on a plastic surgeon today – his name is Dr. Mackay (‘kay’ pronounced like ‘kite’: Dr. Mac-ki). This means that I can now get my surgery scheduled. I should hear tomorrow the date that Dr. Mackay and Dr. Steinhaus have available. PRAISE the decision for which doctor and direction in treatment has been very easy and clear!
  2. I went to the genetic counselor on Monday to have my genetic testing done. I will have these results back in two weeks. PRAY that it comes back negative.
  3. I have my MRI appointment tomorrow (Thursday) morning. PRAISE I was able to get this moved up a day and am now hopeful to get the results back before the weekend. PRAY I can get the results back and that they are clear.
  4. I should have the factor results back from my biopsy by Friday. PRAY that what they find is not ‘angry’ and slow growing.
I posted on the Team AJ FaceBook page (link here) that I wish I could just ask God for the cheat sheet to all these answers, but that would be like spoiling a good book when you are just getting started. I appreciate you being along in this adventure of my story.
Some of you may or may not know that we have had our house on the market since September. We have a contingent contract on a house that we want to move into. A couple weeks ago we had a precious family put a contingent contract on our house. So all we needed was their house to sell and then the dominoes would all fall into place. (More on the reason for our move at a later time). When we left Dr. Steinhaus’s office on Friday Mark and I looked at each other and said we need their house to sell this weekend if we are going to be able to pack and move before the surgery. We get home on Friday and I’m talking to a friend on the phone and tell her please pray their house sells this weekend so the move can work out. Mark walks in and shows me his phone and it’s a text from our Realtor – they showed their home that morning and negotiated an offer and are under contract. Closing set for 3/18! I was shocked. My friend started laughing, “I didn’t even get a chance to pray about it yet.” So currently we are packing our house to close on the new house by 3/18. I will find out tomorrow, but the surgeon’s scheduler said I wouldn’t be scheduled until after that date anyway. AMAZING!
Some of you may be asking two questions after reading this:
  1. Why in the world would they be moving during a time like this – are they crazy?
  2. Why in the world would they wait 4-5 weeks before having surgery to remove the tumor?
Question 1 Answer:
As soon as we got the diagnosis last week we received some amazing council from my dear mentor’s husband, Bill Williams. For the last 10 years of my life I have had the honor and privilege of being mentored by Regina. (Check out her website here). Regina battled breast cancer for the last 20 years and this past September she finally won that battle and got to meet her best friend Jesus face-to-face. I think one of the hardest phone calls for me to make with my diagnosis was to Bill, but he was so gracious and so encouraging. I am pleased Mark has him as a resource through this adventure. So when Mark called Bill he asked him what he thought we should do about the house. Do we take it off the market? Do we get out of all the contracts? Bill asked Mark some very important questions:
  • Is the house moving closer or further from support? (answer: slightly farther from Mark’s family, but much closer to our friends and the boys’ schools where carpools will be easier)
  • Is the house bigger or smaller? Does it have space to have someone stay overnight with you easily to provide help? (answer: it’s slightly smaller, but does still have a guest room)
  • Is Ashley excited and looking forward to it? Could it provide a great distraction for her during this time? (answer: YES! and YES!)
Then he said probably the wisest and most helpful thing I’ve heard over the last week: Whatever God lead you to in faith yesterday, God will still lead you to in faith tomorrow, no matter what cancer tells you today. Don’t put your life on hold for cancer – keep living! And so…we are! We are choosing to live which means we are choosing to move.
Question 2 Answer:
The doctor has told us that it is completely normal to think and stress over the thought “i just want it out of my body”. But realistically it takes some time to get the necessary ducks in a row to make that happen. (Usually 4-6 weeks after diagnosis). Right now they believe that it is low grade (less angry) and there is not a need for pre-surgery treatment (i.e.: chemo, radiation, etc.). I am OK with having a ‘delay’ in the surgery and giving me some time to process and accept this new reality. And through the whole process back starting with Dr. Howard finding the lump during my annual exam I have chosen not to borrow the worry from tomorrow. I am not thinking about the possibilities or going to the ‘dark places’ or the what-ifs. I have to live today for today – it’s the only way to live through this.
Another prayer update is we have sat Hamilton (our almost 9 year-old son) down and told him that I am sick. We did not use the c-word and we did not tell him where it is. We did tell him that there was a bump in my body that needed to come out and that it was serious. We told him that I was going to have to go to a lot of doctor appointments to have tests run and eventually surgery. And that he may be staying with friends and grandparents a lot over the next few months. He asked a lot of good questions. He asked if it was contagious. He asked if I could die (which we said yes if we didn’t have the surgery which is why we need to take these steps). He asked “Are you sure you have the bump – like did the doctors do multiple tests to make sure?” Just like him to start advising us in what is best to do! Overall, he handled it like a champ. I know he will ask more questions along the way, and we pray God will give us wisdom how best to answer them truthfully and gently.
I told Mark today we have a lot of great people in our life. From having the whole week in meals provided to having childcare covered for all of my appointments. Receiving sweet cards in the mail and encouraging texts and emails daily. And of course all of the prayers being offered at the throne of our Savior daily (probably hourly with the type of warriors you are!). We have been humbled and blown away by the GoFundMe page (link here). Thank you for your love and generosity.
As soon as I know more I will keep you informed.
Choosing to live in faith,
Ashley

Updates

Hi there,
My sweet friend Rachael set up this website for us. There may be times she posts on my behalf. Please feel free to pass this website on to others as well as read the bio information for details on how all of this happened. I wanted to give you an update from our doctor’s appointment today. There are a lot of praises and a few more requests resulting from today’s consult. Thank you in advance for all the ways you are supporting us!
  • We liked the doctor I met today at Breast Care Specialists (BCS). Her name is Dr. Steinhaus and she will be my surgeon and team lead going forward. This is a HUGE praise!
  • Dr. Steinhaus seemed to think this is a less aggressive cancer (HER2- or ER+) (another HUGE praise!) but we won’t know for sure until the factor results from the biopsy come back. Please pray for slow growing (less angry) cells.
  • We have a tentative plan for treatment; however, it will not be set in stone until we have results from the genetic testing, MRI, & biopsy factors. The tentative plan is a right, nipple removing, skin sparing, full mastectomy. And my cancer card gets me a free boob job on the left so that they match :). After the oncologist sees the pathology report from the tumor (and all previously gathered information) she will then determine my treatment after surgery. My options would be chemotherapy or a daily estrogen-blocking pill for the next 5-10 years. Please pray that I will not need chemo. She thinks surgery will be sometime in the next 4-5 weeks.
  • Doctor appointments coming up: On Monday (2/15), I will have some genetic testing done at 10:30 am as well as meet with a plastic surgeon for a consult at 3:00 pm. I am waiting to hear from the second plastic surgeon to schedule with them. Currently my MRI is scheduled for Friday (2/19) at 7:00 am, but please pray when I call back on Monday they can get me in sooner.
  • The three things we are consistently praying for are:
  1. Better results than we expect from every doctor appointment and test.
  2. Good sleep every night for me and the rest of the family.
  3. Hamilton’s heart. We will soon fill him in on what’s going on.
We will continue to try to update as we know more. There is also a FaceBook page if you would like to follow along click here: TeamAJ
I know the question you are all wondering is how am I doing? I am fine. Really. Like…seriously. 🙂 I so appreciate the out-pouring of love and prayers. I really need your intercessory prayer right now because words are not necessarily coming between me and God currently. It’s not because I’m mad, angry, or bitter – it’s just because I have no words. I am experiencing, really probably for the first time, an overwhelming peace that is passing all understanding. I am not fearful. I take comfort that God is not surprised by this. I have hope because I serve a God that never changes which proves I can trust him. So today and throughout this adventure I am choosing to trust.
I had been asking God to give me a verse that I could cling to during this, and this may sound completely silly, but my boys were watching VeggieTales Robin Good and His Not-So-Merry Men. It’s all about the concept that God cares for us. Cares for you (and me) specifically, individually, and purposefully. The verse the show is based on is Psalm 55:22-23, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken…as for me, I trust in you.” I’m humming the song they sing in the show (you should watch it) “He’ll care for you, He’ll care for you, He loves you and He’s always there for you. His burden is light, His promise is true. God will take care of you. God will take care of you.” So that is my verse in this.
I’m going to close with this. Last weekend Mark and I went away to the Winshape Retreat Center for a marriage retreat. We spent a lot of time planning, goal-setting, and casting vision for our family in 2016. My gut was telling me that God was preparing me to change the 6s to 7s – that he had a different plan for my 2016. I loved that He gave me such a sweet opportunity to connect and have quality time with my hubby before this storm came. One of the things we do each year is choose a word & a fruit of the spirit (thank you Jeff Henderson) for each family member for the year. My word was Pray and my fruit was Faithfulness. Mark’s word was Strong and his fruit was Peace. I love how detailed our God is that he would lead us to these words and fruits specifically for this time.
Our God is divine and sovereign…ALL the time!
Ashley