February 14, 2021

all through the night (lung biopsy)

*I wrote this post months and months ago. and just realized I never finished or posted it. It was an experience that even six months later I feel deeply affected me and changed me. so I wanted it here on my blog to remember*

I had my routine six month CT scan on July 27th. When I saw my doctor that week, he let me know that the CT scan showed something on my lungs. He knew I had been sick a few weeks before so we guessed that it might have something to do with that, but to be safe he wanted to do a PET scan.

It was the first time for me to get a PET scan on August 7th. I had some nerves about the experience and what the results might bring, but the scan itself was much better than many things I have done in my life. And I was grateful to get a PET scan (which is much more thorough than a CT scan) finally just to know.

My doctor called me a few days later after we had put the kids to bed. That is a sure sign of a good doctor to give me a call even later at night. He told me the nodule was glowing on the PET scan at a 5.8, higher than they would like to see it, but not a sure bet that it was cancer. It was measuring at about 11mm. But he wanted to get a lung biopsy done to check it out.

I felt numb. Or calm. I wasn't sure. Nothing about the words lung biopsy made me feel good inside. But I also didn't want to get caught up in worry and fear about any of it until I had some actual answers. I did know that if the cancer was back and in my lungs then that would be very, very bad news. But I also knew that it could be nothing of consequence.

That night I fell right asleep as usual. I often have vivid, crazy dreams, but that night I had a dream that will be difficult for me to forget. It started out wild and nonsensical--I was at a paint and sip place with a girl from elementary school and she stole some tablecloths (the dollar store ones no less!) from the shop. Then Eric and Brinna and I went outside and everything was flooded so the only way to get around was to tube through the streets so we went uphill and downhill on the roads until we ended up at our "house." Eric and I stepped out of the garage and came around to the front porch where a big group of diverse people were standing on the porch. I didn't recognize anyone. But somehow I knew they were the young adults from church. A girl with curly hair stepped towards me and started talking to me. She explained that they were there to see me and to sing to me.

Then a guy looked me in the eyes and asked me about the results of the scan. Something about the dream changed for me at that point. It was like reality settled in and I told him everything that my doctor had said to me. He looked at me with compassion. Then he and a few others took my hands and stood in a circle with me and started singing. After each line of the song, more people would join us and add their voices to the song. The two songs were absolutely beautiful. When I woke up from the dream during the second song, the lyrics were running through my head, but I had to google the songs to remember what they were. They had been singing the lullaby "All Through the Night" followed by "Come Thou Fount." It was lovely dream that brought me so much comfort. 

"Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber steeping,
I my loving vigil keeping,
All through the night
While the moon her watch is keeping,
All through the night
While the weary world is sleeping,
All through the night"
"Come thou fount of every blessing 
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise...
Praise the mount I'm fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love...
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it , seal it for thy courts above."

The next week was full of emotion and appointments to get ready for the biopsy. I listened to my two songs, especially "All Through the Night" (the version by Nick Lechey), over and over again. When I was feeling anxious, the words brought me comfort. "Guardian angels God will send thee." I just needed to remember that I was not alone.

I had to drive down to the hospital a few days before my biopsy to get a covid test and other standard pre-biopsy testing done. I was so nervous to go into that hospital in mask all by myself. I wanted to cry, but I thought of that promise again. Guardian angels God will send me. And I put all my trust into that. I prayed to God as I drove. I felt the most comfort and peace and strength that I had felt in the longest time. I was not alone. I felt strength as I walked in to the hospital back to get my testing. God also sent me an angel in the form of a person on earth. She was an older lady who sat herself close to me when she walked in and started talking to me. This woman had been through A LOT. It humbled me and put my life's challenges and complaints in perspective. Not to mention she was a distraction as I sat there. I always say my favorite part of cancer is the people you meet.

I was so grateful that for the actual biopsy Eric was allowed to come with me. Having him with me brought me so much comfort. And the nurses and doctors that helped me before and after were so great about letting him be with me. 

Before the biopsy the doctor explained how close to a main artery my nodule was but that he was confident that he could get it. Thank goodness he did.

The anesthesia didn't make me nauseas this time but it did make me loopy. Eric was able to sit with me the entire time that I was coming to. Apparently, he recorded the whole thing. I don't remember half of it and vaguely remember the other half. It made us laugh to watch it later. And much of what I said has become family inside jokes. Like, you need a swimsuit for every occasion. Because I know how to laugh at myself, here you go. Sorry it's long.

I came home after a few hours. My kids made me feel so loved when I walked into my room. I had pain in my back and my lungs made weird crackling noises when I breathed for awhile. But recovery wasn't too bad.

I tried so hard to live in the moment as I waited for my results. I tried not to let my thoughts spiral. I tried to focus on what I knew today and not worry about tomorrow's things until tomorrow. 

But the truth was, if this was breast cancer again then it was terminal. It really truly would be. And this was a very real possibility. Not a wild worry. But a realistic concern. Every time my brain went there I worked so hard to keep it back to the moment. I tried to distract myself as best as I could. It mostly worked and I felt quite a bit of calm. But not all the way.

The day that I had my doctor's appointment with Dr. O came. Eric and I sat side by side waiting for our telehealth call (because covid). Dr. O got on and told us right away that he had good news and that it was not cancer. He told us that he was so relieved when he saw the results because he had been so worried when he saw the nodule. Well, let me tell you he is a good doctor because he didn't let his worry come through the first time--he only shared with me hope and confidence that there would be a plan no matter what. But it was interesting to hear after the fact that this really could have been a very big deal. 

Such relief washed over me. I released all of these emotions that I didn't even quite realize that I was carrying.

After all of that drama, I really wondered why the heck I had to go through all that and what I learned from the whole experience. It actually taught me and shaped me in a lot of ways. I learned another way that Heavenly Father speaks to me. I learned about my own strength and the value of all of the coping tools I have learned. I saw my faith and trust in God tested and strengthened. I knew that I was not alone even if I had to do something by myself. I realized that cancer and stuff like biopsies are just going to be a part of my life and it is better to just accept it. I practiced controlling my anxiety instead of letting it control me. I learned, again, the value of living life to the fullest--for you never know how long you have on this earth.