My Story | Lori M., Arizona, USA
A String of Pearls -- My Personal Miracles
Years ago, Glenn Miller wrote, and made popular, a song called "String of Pearls" which is still popular today. I have my own string of pearls, made up of all the personal miracles God granted to me in the form of blessings and practical help during my experiences of the past ten months. I should have known that this would happen since He was so similarly generous and supportive when I lost my husband, Matt, and adjusted, last year, to being without him.
Actually this series of miracles began in October of 1995. I knew that Matt could not stay in Florida for health reasons, and one Sunday morning while driving to church, I prayed for guidance about where we should go. This is not exactly the thing to be doing while driving. Although I was alone in the car, I swear to this day I heard a voice tell me, "Go to Arizona."
That's what brought us here. This is crucial because, as it has turned out, the Lord was sending us to Arizona for ME, and not for Matt. Finding suitable land on which to settle seemed impossible until we stopped at a fourth real estate office at the exact moment the five acres on which I now live came onto the market. Another miracle just for us? I think so.
In May of 1998, I knew I was in trouble. I went to the bishop and he gave me a healing blessing in which he said, "You will be cured. You still have much work to do." I had always thought that a healing blessing left the process totally in God's hands, and in my willingness to accept His healing. I thought that going to a doctor would be a betrayal of my trust in the blessing and in God's efforts. This misconception caused me to make a nine-month delay in seeking medical help. Any delay is, ordinarily, very dangerous where cancer is concerned.
This misconception, however, saved my life...another miracle in the making. On February 15th, 1999, a holiday, I drove into town to run some errands and began to hemorrhage. Why Dr. A., my general practitioner, was in his office that day, I will never know. He was, and he immediately put me into the local hospital. They said they had no beds, but I ended up in the maternity section.
Dr. A. kept me there, had many tests run on me, and made sure everything was under control before sending me home. He made the initial cancer diagnosis and referred me to a gynecological oncologist in a distant city. I thought he was nuts...200 miles one way just to see a doctor? I did some checking, and the doctor he recommended was clearly the best choice at the moment. I was to see him on February 25th. On the 23rd, my e-mail was filled with copies of articles about a new treatment for my type of cancer...with a much better cure rate than the conventional treatment ever had. I printed out one of the articles and took it with me.
Dr. F., the gynecological oncologist, read it and smiled. He told me that he and his partner had developed the new treatment protocol which they had been using for about three years. The clinical trials were completed at the end of 1998, and their published findings were accepted by the National Institute of Health in February, 1999.
Dr. F. refused to do anything for me until March 25th, which seemed strange since further waiting would add to my problems. He did this in order to allow enough time from the end of the clinical trial period so that Medicare and the insurance companies would not label the treatment experimental, and refuse to pay for it.
My first surgery was on Thursday, March 25th...an exploratory procedure in which every organ was checked via microscopic samples for any presence of cancer. Fortunately, my cancer was still Stage 3b. Although it had spread regionally, it was contained within my pelvis.
The Saturday morning following the surgery was a beautiful spring day in which no one should have been indoors. Three events made this morning the time of another personal miracle from God to me. First, it was discovered that I was highly allergic to the breathing therapy inhalant that is routinely given after surgeries to prevent lung problems. Second, Dr. F. gave me his opinion on my situation. Strangely, he is the only doctor who has ever mentioned the power of faith and attitude.
His exact words were, "You can be dead by September; or, if you have a strong faith and can maintain a positive attitude, no matter how bad things get, I think we might be able help you." There were no promises or assurances given. In fact, their developmental group of patients did not include anyone with my type of cancer (small cell adenocarcinoma), and there was no guarantee that the new treatment would be effective for me.
After this rather dire but honest prognosis, the nurses got me up for the first time since surgery. This was the third event of that Saturday morning.
I need to digress for a moment so that the rest of this story makes sense. The facility where I was treated is made up of a general hospital area and the tower. The tower has seven floors, each of which is a specialized treatment area. I was on the sixth floor, the cancer floor. The fifth floor was for cardiology patients and so forth, floor by floor. The seventh floor was divided into specialized rooms including a six-bed unit for outpatient care for blood transfusions, chemotherapy and such. It also housed the special lead-lined room used for radiation therapy. Being in that room was a most interesting experience; it was where I spent the ninth and twelfth week of my hospitalization.
But back to the third event. Every inpatient in the tower wears a monitor which keeps a constant record of vital signs. After I was up and feeling quite steady, the room filled up with excited people, although I had no idea what was happening. It seems my heart had gone into a very serious atrial fibrillation.
The tower cardiologist, who never came into the hospital on weekends, and never left the fifth floor, for whatever reason, on this beautiful Saturday morning, was standing right outside my door! Another of God's miracles on my behalf. I never did find out why he was there, but he was able to help me. I was moved to the fifth floor where, after a number of tests were taken, he determined that the anomaly was caused by stress. Everyone's first fear was that I had developed a blood clot, which would have been very serious. My oncologists couldn't find me; no one had thought to tell them that I had been moved. Fortunately, they finally caught up to me.
The first stay in the hospital was extended by six days because of the heart problem. I have very few usable veins in my arms, and I was blowing several IVs a day. It was a real nightmare. Everyone was as kind and careful as can be, but the situation just got worse and worse.
I faced my second surgery with great trepidation, fearing that the nightmare would continue. Part of that surgery, however, was the placement of a port-a-cath through which all the IVs and blood work could be done. It is great and I still have it. The fears of going back to the hospital haunted me, and I prayed extra hard for courage and comfort before the surgery. I no sooner said "Amen" than I felt a presence in the room. Although I did not see or hear anything, I just knew that someone was there with me. I slept like a baby that night and the next. On another night, I was aware that my Dad was there for me.
Overall, my treatments went very well. They were a combination of a new type of radiation, and chemotherapy using a new chemical combination (no hair loss!) given everyday for a full three months. There were two other surgeries during which rods were inserted into the tumor. After each of these, I was then taken to the lead-lined room and attached to a machine which fed radiation into that rod. As I said, being in that room was an experience. No one could enter without turning off the radiation and only my meals were brought in. I was monitored by a camera, which meant that the room was always lighted. I missed the day/night cycle very much. The door looked like a conventional wide wooden door, but when it was opened, I noticed an inch of lead between the two wooden panels...very heavy.
I was finally sent home on June 1st, 1999. I was sicker at home than I ever was in the hospital. Dr. R., my radiation oncologist, had warned me that I would be. As he explained it, my body had been bombarded with radiation and chemotherapy for months, and now, all of a sudden, everything had stopped. Like a drug addict, my body had adapted to the treatment phase and now had to do without it.
People saw me at Wal*Mart and K-Mart shortly after I got home, so the rumor spread that I couldn't have been all that sick. But believe me, I WAS. Why was I at Wal*Mart and K-Mart? You have to know my daughter-in-law, Lisa. She and my son, Steven, loved me so much that Lisa flew to be with me in the hospital. She arrived the night before my first surgery and stayed with me for the following three months through those darkest days. I found that Lisa had an unbreakable will of iron underneath that love. One of my doctors said that I should walk, so Lisa was determined that I was going to walk if she had to carry me. June in Arizona is just too be outdoors, and since Lisa likes Wal*Mart and K-Mart, and they have nice long aisles and bench seats near the check out area...you can guess the rest. We started out with 50 feet. Lisa, knowing that I have a two-foot stride, even counted every step. There was no cheating on her. She was right, of course; but at the time, I really didn't appreciate that.
One of the final miracles God sent me during this period was a most practical manifestation of His love and support. I was concerned about paying for all of this. I have some savings, but the expenses of all the treatments, surgeries, and doctors, would have surely wiped that out. I had been home for only three days when a gentleman called to ask if he could buy some property that I still owned in Florida. He wanted to make a cash offer. We agreed on a generous price and, thus, my medical bill concern was solved.
My recovery at home seemed to progress so slowly that I became impatient and tried to push it, only to make things worse. I never knew a human being could be so weak and still be alive. Once I started to obey my doctors and not rush things, my strength began to emerge. I did need two blood transfusions in addition to the ones that I had during treatment.
After treatment, "atypical" or "suspicious" cells were found in every lab test taken during a series of follow-up examinations which made it necessary to have them taken at one-month-or-less intervals...200 miles each way. Dr. F. finally got fed up and walked a set through himself and established some "norms" for me. This helped for a few times.
On March 27, 2000, however, he found two new growths. He excised one of the growths and took tissue samples of the surrounding area. The new growths proved not to be cancer, but suspicious cells were found in the other tissue samples. We conferred on April 6, 2000 and decided that a cone biopsy and D&C (dilation and curettage) were needed to be sure of just what was happening. Since the excision he had performed in March needed to heal completely, the date for the new surgery was set for May 31st. During the interim, I was able to visit my son and his wife, Lisa. I also found the great EyesOnThePrize online support group which has been a fantastic blessing for me.
After the surgery, Dr. F. came into the recovery room to report his findings. He told me that his visual examination of all the tissues showed him no sign of cancer. He also told me that he had never seen such severe radiation damage...that I appeared to absorb radiation at a much higher rate than normal. This rate of absorption was also the factor the saved my life. I had wondered about this while under treatment since both doctors seemed so surprised when the cancer responded so consistently and completely to the treatment. They had truly not expected that to happen. Memorial Day would be my first anniversary of being cancer-free.
The pathologist's report, unfortunately, came back on Monday, June 5, 2000 showing the presence of cancer cells. Cervical cancer does not always simply recur in its original site, but may travel and form tumors in any part of the body. And so, during a June 7th consultation, Dr. F. was forced to give me the worst-case scenario about where this could all lead. He set up a schedule of all the diagnostic tests that he would need to determine if there was additional cancer and, if there was, where it might have spread.
This is where we are today...still three tests to go and awaiting the results.