Sunday, August 24, 2014

Facing BC...and I'm not referring to Bocachica!

This particular story of God's providence and provision actually started back in November of 2013.  Jorge and I were in Mexico but I came to NC to help my mom while she was recovering from foot surgery.  While I was home I saw what looked to me like a strange lump on my throat.  I got an appointment at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill (that is where I have been treated since I was a kid).  The good thing is that the "lump" turned out to be nothing.  The "bad" thing was that I got a hospital bill as a result.  Since I don't have health insurance I went to the financial aid office to try to set up a payment plan and they had me fill in a bunch of paperwork and send in a few forms and documents.  I got everything filled out and mailed off and then I returned to Mexico in December.

A month or so later I got a call from my mom telling me some really great news; Jorge and I had both been accepted for a special coverage plan at UNC Hospital for the whole year of 2014.  Because of all the paperwork I had to fill out, both Jorge and I were now eligible to receive health care, with applicable co-payments, for the whole year!  We were shocked because this was something we didn't ask for or seek out yet we could see that God had worked on our behalf to provide health coverage for us for the whole year while we were home from Colombia on sabbatical.

In February Jorge and I came to NC with a few plans and of which was to apply for Jorge's citizenship (tomorrow is our next appointment and we should get their final answer.)  Since we now had this health coverage we were able to get Jorge to the doctor to help him with some on-going issues he had been having and it proved to be such a blessing of provision for us!

In March, I found a lump on my left side, along my rib-cage.  I thought it might just be a lipoma but wanted to get it checked out to be sure.  When I called to make the appointment, the lady on the phone said that she would also schedule me for a mammogram.  I couldn't figure out why she wanted to do that so I explained that I didn't need a mammogram because the lump was not on my was on my side.  The lady kept insisting so I finally just went along with her and thought to myself, "fine, I'll get a mammogram... whatever!"

In April I went in and it turned out that the lump indeed was just a lipoma and nothing to be concerned about.  The mammogram, however, showed a suspicious calcification.  A few days later I went in for a biopsy which showed a "pre-cancerous" calcification that the doctors wanted to take out.  So, I was scheduled for a lumpectomy.

In June I had the lumpectomy done and about a week later, went in for the results.  Now, I have already had cancer twice so when I face circumstances like this I usually try to prepare myself for bad news while of course, hoping for good news.  So, I wasn't totally taken by surprise when the doctor told me that what they initially thought was "pre-cancerous" actually turned out to be cancer.  Even now it feels surreal to say that I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Based on the lumpectomy results, they think it was non-invasive and they think they got it all.  However that is not the end of the story.

For those who don't know, I had cancer when I was 14.  Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  I had radiation treatments and chemotherapy.  I got it again when I was 21 and went through a brief regimen of chemo.  In spite of all this, for the most part, I have had pretty good health over the last 30 years since I was diagnosed.

When I was diagnosed at 14, my mom had to sign papers assuming responsibility for the future risks caused by the treatments I took.  They explained that the chemo and the radiation could cause other damage and could even cause other kinds of cancer down the road.

So, when the doctors told me about the breast cancer, they also told me that they were certain that it was caused by the radiation treatments I had received as a teenager.  "It's a classic case" he said. And even though they think they got all of the cancer out in the lumpectomy, because of my medical history, I am at a very high risk of the cancer coming back and it coming back invasive.  I'm actually at a higher risk level than if I had the breast cancer gene and I have a high risk of getting other types of cancer as well.  Because of that, the doctors recommend aggressive action:  a double mastectomy with reconstruction.  I am scheduled for this surgery on Thursday, Aug. 28th.

Believe it or not, this is the short version.  In the midst of all of this I have spent a lot of time over the last few months researching, learning, connecting with others who have walked similar paths, talking with the doctors, weighing the pros and the cons, and especially talking to God about all of this because I have had to make some big decisions!

Even though it is sobering to receive and process news like this, from the beginning I have seen God's hand in so many details...providing what I needed even when I didn't know I needed it, opening and closing doors as I sought His help in making decisions, and even arranging the logistics of my life circumstances to have me in the right place at the right time.  I have experienced His Grace first hand and literally felt Him giving me strength and courage.  I am not afraid of what lies ahead.  Don't get me wrong, I am not looking forward to it and I wouldn't mind if I woke up to find it was all just a bad dream.  But at the same time, I am not afraid because He has been so Present with me through this and I know that He will be with me and help me to face whatever comes my way!

PS:  I have seen God's hand in many ways throughout this journey so far but I just have to reiterate two that especially stand out to me... 1.  the way God provided the special hospital coverage months before we even needed it... and 2. the fact that the scheduler at the hospital kept insisting on me having a mammogram even though I tried to convince her that I didn't need one!  I mean, really, when does that happen?  Seeing God's hand intervene on my behalf like that gives me all the confidence I need to TRUST that He is with me and always will be!

He cares for us affectionately and watchfully!!

1 Peter 5:7 (Amp)
Casting the whole of your care (all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.


Andrew Burnett said...

Will be praying for your upcoming surgery Karen. Blessings sister.

Paula Sumpter Hall said...

I remember your journey at 14 and though I watched from a distance, you were of great inspiration to me then as you are now. Wishing you love, support and much Grace!

Anonymous said...

Karen, you are such an Amazing Strong Women!! Your strength and courage is unbelievable.. I wish I could be half of what you are! Your strength, Faith and positive attitude will prevail as it did before, God has his hands on you!! Much love and prayers to you and Jorge!!
Kim Coble

Anonymous said...

Wow- amazing story, GOD watches out for us even when we don't understand! Tricia Hoover