Yes, No, & Not Yet
It has been a really difficult few days around here.
Remember when we discussed the fact that I like things I can count down? Well, I really don't like when my count down gets messed with. Especially if it gets messed up in such a way that the count down suddenly goes back up.
So when my nurse called to tell me that my counts were too low to start round three this week, I had a breakdown right there in my therapist's parking lot.
Honestly - I knew this was coming. Even after nearly two weeks, I spent most of the weekend short of breath and tired enough to log some hours on the couch. Add in a conversation with the on-call doctor on Saturday night when my injections sites wouldn't stop bleeding, and even I knew my counts were still off.
I dried my tears and headed to the market for what was supposed to be a chemo snacks run. After meandering the aisles in my sunglasses and a shirt that wasn't hiding my enormous belly as much as I wished it would, it turned into a frozen pizza and ice cream run. What can I say? They were breakdown purchases.
Once I got back in the car, my mind wouldn't stop reeling. Why was this happening? Why did we need to add a week to my treatment? Why couldn't this whole thing just hurry up and be over with?
And then I probably looked like a crazy lady to anyone who dared glimpse into my car. Because I started telling God off. Complete with screaming and steering wheel banging. I was demanding answers. Why were may prayers going unanswered? Why were we doing this? Why was I stuck here - in the land of chemotherapy - AGAIN?
He didn't respond.
* * *
I had a similar breakdown about a week ago via an email addressed to my spiritual director. I wanted to know why God wasn't answering my prayers, when so many others I know claim that all it took was an earnest, heartfelt prayer and their answer arrived directly. What was the deal? Why did it work for everyone else and not for me?
Is my faith actually not strong enough?
Am I being punished?
Is there something lacking in my prayers that I'm not aware of?
His answer wasn't what I expected, although something I had heard before but had forgotten. He reminded me that God doesn't respond to our prayers with a yes or a no. Rather, its a yes, a no, or a not yet. And oftentimes we mistake not yet for no.
So maybe when I think God is saying no, I'm really living in the land of not yet.
* * *
I tossed and turned most of the night last night - when your body decides to act like its become 9 months pregnant essentially overnight, its kind of hard to get comfortable. Add in hot flashes, and you might as well forget it.
It was my sixth paracentesis (it took me hours to figure out if it was five or six - what does it mean when you start to lose count?) this morning. I was grateful that I would at least get to have a few feeling good, normal sized days as compensation for the chemo schedule getting out off kilter. But then something went wrong with the equipment in the operating room and I had to lie there with the catheter in my side - not draining - forever while they worked it out. When they did, the doctor had to re-stick me in the side with the huge needle to run another catheter. He failed to warn the me or the nurse and the pain medicine had worn off, so you can imagine how that went down.
In case you can't - there was screaming. And sobbing.
But in the end, we drained 6.5 liters - confirming the fluid is building at a significantly slower rate. I left there 14 pounds lighter and feeling good thanks to an extra dose of pain medicine delivered a bit too late.
* * *
When it comes down to it, my issue with all of this these last few days is control. Not that any of us ever really have control over anything, but when we're healthy its easier to pretend that we do. Right now, I have no control over anything and days like these are enormous reminders of that. I have no control over my body's reaction to the chemo. No control over the equipment in the operating room. I have no control over what my body will allow me to eat, or even over what I can wear once the fluid starts building. Its painful to be so clearly out of control.
* * *
I got home from my appointments yesterday and sat on the deck to do the day's reading. I opened my Bible and found it was holding this passage for me:
But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.
2 Timothy 4:5
I understood it. I'm meant to walk through this space and share my testimony with those who need to hear it.
I understood it.
I didn't necessarily like it.
But I will do it.
And perhaps in doing so, my not yet would become a clearer yes or no.
* * *
So where do we go from here? I head back to Dr. Carter next Monday for more blood work. If everything looks good, round three will start next Tuesday. So everything will be a week off. They also plan to lower the dose of chemotherapy I receive to one that my body can handle better. The dose I was receiving was very high, so even the lower dose will be well within the acceptable treatment range.
They are going to start me on a medication that is delivered by injection the day after my infusion (as if I needed a road trip on my crappiest feeling day - or another stick in my week for that matter - but if it works, I'm all for it). Its meant to help my body better reproduce white blood cells after the chemo knocks my system down. I had something similar when I had Hodgkins, but it was a daily injection. I am grateful they've developed a way to do this only once, rather than daily. If it works, I should be able to avoid the restrictions I've been under the last two rounds and we should be able to keep the rest of our chemo schedule on track.
The silver lining is that that Dr. Carter reports there are studies that show that patients with this complication - counts low enough to delay treatment or alter a treatment plan - have better long term outcomes. This is likely because the counts get so low because the chemo is doing exactly what it is supposed to do extra well - killing all the rapidly growing cells - including any cancer cells.
So maybe this delay isn't a no in response to my prayers for healing.
Maybe its simply a not yet.