Cancer Free?

Why, YES INDEED!!
That’s been my most popular question I’ve received and I asked my oncologist, Dr. Zelnak, specifically, “What does this mean? Am I in remission? What do I call myself?” Her response was (and as my witnesses Katey and Rachael were there to hear it), “You are cancer free!” (Remission, I learned, is not really a word used for breast cancer patients.) She said you call yourself a “Cancer Survivor”. So I mean, I think that’s something to celebrate people – so please join me in rejoicing and lifting up a prayer of praise to our Heavenly Father!!
But what does this mean going forward?
  1. I have my final reconstruction (implant transfer) surgery the afternoon of August 4. I will have about a month of recovery where I won’t be able to pick G-man up, etc. My parents will be taking him back to Texas for a couple weeks to make this easier and hopefully by Labor Day (his 2nd birthday) I will be good-to-go!
  2. I will have a PET scan sometime later this fall. This will be probably my only scan. I will not have routine follow-up scans. Due to the large clean margins from my mastectomy and it being fully encapsulated in only two of the 10 lymph nodes they took there is nothing they are watching or need to watch in future scans. Chemo was completely a precaution to kill any trace of any cell of cancer. So all of this = CANCER FREE!!
  3. I will see Dr. Zelnak every three months for the first two years, every six months for the eight years after that, and then yearly from then on. I will have blood work done and routine checks/tests at each visit.
  4. I will continue to have yearly gynecology visits and mammograms (on my left side). (But just to be clear, breast cancer rarely spreads to the other breast. If I ever got cancer in my left breast it would be a completely separate cancer occurrence, not this current cancer spreading.)
  5. Starting at the end of July I will start a monthly ovary suppression shot as well as a daily estrogen-blocking pill. I will do this for 10 years (yes years). This will force me into menopause (you can start praying now for low side-effects). There is discussion whether I will just have my ovaries taken out to avoid a monthly shot for 10 years, but for now I am going to just have the monthly shot.
So, does this mean my cancer journey is over? Sorta…but, no, not really. I guess it never really is over. I will always have to check yes on the form that says ‘Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?’. I will have the daily reminder thru a pill I’m taking and pretty frequent doctor appointments taking blood and giving me results of levels that ‘normal’ people don’t have to check. BUT!! But I refuse to be defined by cancer because I am defined by my creator. My creator says that I am (and He says that you are):
  • A child of God (John 1:12)
  • A friend of Jesus (John 15:15)
  • Justified & Redeemed (Romans 3:24)
  • Fellow heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
  • Set Free! (Galatians 5:1)
  • Chosen, Holy, & Blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
  • Redeemed & Forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
  • His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
  • A citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
Don’t just quickly read over those statements and move on. Jot down those phrases and verses and read over them this week. Truly digest what God thinks about you – what your identity is. Because I can tell you it’s easy to define yourself by your circumstances, or someone’s social media update (which is usually their hi-light real, not their reality by the way), or by your job, or your education, or the size of your house, or the amount in your bank account, or whether you have ship-lap on your wall (thank you Joanna Gaines). Seriously, when was the last time you looked in the mirror and thought to yourself, “I am okay because I know that I am a redeemed child of God.”? I think we usually look in the mirror and pick out a flaw. Or when did you walk into someone’s home and instead of thinking you failed in the decorating department you thought, “It really doesn’t matter because my actual house is where my citizenship lies which is in heaven”? Or what about reading a social media status and instead of speaking negative self-talk of how big a failure you are you instead think, “I’m exactly as God created me to be, his amazing workmanship, and I’m not supposed to be like him/her, God is pleased with me!”?
That may sound all cheesy. I really hope it doesn’t. They are actually examples from my own life if I’m honest. But this latest circumstance in our life has made us not focus on cancer but on whose I really am and what He has to say about me. It’s very easy to get caught up in the pity glances and stares when I walk into a restaurant with no hair, an obvious PIC line in my arm, and three young children around me. It’s easy to only define myself with ‘cancer’. But that’s not me. It’s a part of my story, but it’s not who I am.
I recently read that God’s view of us must come first in our hearts and minds. We must reorient everything else around it. We should start with this truth. Then and only then are we really ‘suited up’ for the ‘battle’ of life. (Fervant p.62)
So take an inventory of what you think your identity is. Read those phrases and verses above and throw out the lies and take hold of the truths. Because those words of truth are the words that actually define you.
Sorry for the wordiness of this. But with these updates you’ll always get some of my heart too.
Love you,
Ashley
P.S. I’m feeling great by the way. Even took the boys to the train museum today. Hamilton is gone for two weeks to Kanakuk. The only side effect that remains right now is my yucky mouth and taste-buds – that usually takes a few weeks to fully come back. I canceled meals for July so that I can resume some of my mom responsibilities before my surgery in August. Meals in August will be a huge help – thank you so much!
P.S.S. As always you can respond to this email to comment or reply to me. Love hearing from you. Thank you for your continued prayers.