And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. -Romans 5:3-5
It has been a busy 2 weeks. Mrs. Barbara's pain continues to persist. This has been her longest stretch of pain since undergoing surgery almost 1 year ago. I won't lie. This is hard. It's hard to watch your wife, mother, mother-in-love, Memere, sister, aunt, daughter, friend, neighbor struggle with pain with no definitive end in sight. It's even harder to see her spirits wax and wane and wonder if it is just the drugs confusing her or if her true spirit is diminishing. That's when the doubt for all of us creeps in. It doesn't feel good. That's when the enemy smiles and sneaks himself in. What do we do? The first step is recognizing the lies. When you can acknowledge truth versus lie, you can kick the enemy right to the curb. The lie is "She is dying." The truth is "She is fighting." With cancer, you have to throw all expectations about what a "fight" looks like out the door.
We have gotten some helpful answers in the last two weeks. After some uncomfortable abdominal swelling, Mrs. Barbara was sent for an ultrasound to look for fluid, or ascites. IF they found it, they would have removed it with a small needle. Thankfully, there was not any concerning fluid in her abdomen. A potential pain cause ruled out, but still no answer. Then we had an appointment with the urologist. He discussed the need for a stent to be placed in her right ureter to prevent the tumor from further pinching the ureter and causing a backup of urine into the kidney. We understood his concerns, but still didn't have a clear answer for the pain, so before agreeing to the stent (which could cause additional abdominal discomfort), we wanted clear answers on what exactly was causing all this pain.
We spoke with the trial doctor and nurse practitioner who both explained that the immune system response, or "tumor flare", was most likely to blame for the pain she is describing (a powerful, heavy pressure in her lower abdomen - like the "elephant on your chest" but on your lower belly). She has the raquetball-sized tumor and several tiny tumors on the inside, and all of these tumors and the abdominal and spinal lymph nodes are all enlarged, most likely from these immunotherapy clinical trials drugs kicking in. It's an uncomfortable process, but within the expectation of the medicines beginning to work. There will be another CT scan in 4-6 weeks, and we will have an even better idea if this is the case. Also, after changing around her medicines some, the pain management doctor has found a combo and dosage that seems to be working. She just had the stent placed today, so hopefully she won't have a lot of pain related to that procedure. So far, so good! Overall, when these trial drugs work, the immune system response will calm down while continuing to fighting the cancer, and then her pain will begin to decrease. So...there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We just can't see it yet. Which is why I am holding on to the verse above, and all of us fighting along side Mrs. Barbara, as caregiver, prayer partner, friend, neighbor, loved one from afar should too. Because when she can't pray these things, we know the Holy Spirit is lifting her up, as it says in Romans 8:26-27:
In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
For many of you reading this, who are very close to Mrs. Barbara, who have reached out to me inquiring about how she is doing, we are very grateful for your concern and love and prayers! She has been off the phone and Facebook because she has spent quite a lot of time resting and going back and forth with these latest procedures and doctor appointments. We anticipate this will be the case for the foreseeable future. No doubt she will reach out as soon as she is able. Please continue to send up prayers. She loves getting your messages of support and cards in the mail! And I share each of your concerns with her. Each message blesses her! Please feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or by email if you need more information.
Heavenly Father, I continue to lift up my precious Mother-in-Love to you! I give You many praises for her safety during the procedure today. Lord, I pray for Your Spirit to move inside her so that she can feel your loving and supportive Presence and be restored. I pray the effects of the medicines serve their purpose while not causing additional pain or discomfort. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen.