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I need to get something off my chest

on May 13, 2015

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This is such a difficult post to write. 

I’ve been thinking about it—and putting it off—for almost seven months now. It’s not one of those things that just easily rolls off the tongue and into conversation.

But it fills my head and my heart constantly.

And maybe, if I just throw it out there, we can all just deal with it, then forget about it and move on with our lives.

Do we have a deal?

Great!

I have cancer.

There. I said it. Let’s just take a moment to let the words sink in.

(Insert moment of stunned silence here…)

Those of you who already know this information, you can just be patient for a bit…

Are we good now?

Awesome!

I’m so glad we’ve had a chance to have this little talk.

So, why have I been putting that off for so long?  It wasn’t actually that bad, now was it?

But I’m sure you have questions. I had questions. So, we can talk some more if you’d like. I’m mostly ok with it. And really, I need to start getting more comfortable with talking about it.

Let’s go back to the beginning…

I have a maternal history of high blood pressure and heart issues. For my grandmother and my mother, both conditions appeared with the onset of menopause. I know this seems a bit arbitrary and perhaps farther back than we ought to be going, but really, it just takes us to this past October, 2014.

I was experiencing some issues with my heart—episodes of palpitations to be exact. And, being of the age where some women experience symptoms of menopause, I decided to be proactive and schedule a physical with my doctor. It had, after all, been more than four years since I had last checked in with her. (Long enough, in fact, that I discovered upon making the appointment that my doctor had actually retired and passed her practice onto another doctor.)

So, I paid the new gal a visit, got the whole work up, and she ordered a variety of heart tests to establish a baseline, pre-menopause. Just to make sure things were in good working order.

The palpitations weren’t worrying to me, as I’ve experienced these in episodes many times through the course of my life, starting already as a teenager. For me, the appointment was more just to do due diligence with my health. Any woman over 40 will tell you that they hear the admonitions regularly. 

So, over the course of the following weeks I completed a Holter test, an echocardiogram and an ultrasound on my heart. I had my blood pressure tested, endured a mammogram and pap, and routine blood tests. Oh the joys of middle age!

(As a side note, I am so thankful to live in a country that provides these things in a timely manner and for FREE! I try very hard not to take these things for granted.) 

My appointment for the blood tests was October 27 in the afternoon. Less than 24 hours later, at noon on October 28, I received a call from my doctor’s office, requesting that I come in TODAY to discuss some bloodwork I had done recently.

Recently? The ink on the test tube label was hardly dry.

You have to know that I knew immediately something was up. My doctor’s philosophy regarding tests is “no news is good news” – they only call if something comes back positive. (All the heart tests, by the way, came back squeaky clean!)

And so, after texting my husband and a friend to pray for me, I headed back to the doctor’s office with a sick feeling of dread.

But, can I tell you what a comfort prayer is in the midst of panic? Truly.

Heart racing. Mind racing. Knowing that I was walking into something that could potentially change my life. And I had an overwhelming, inexplicable sense of peace.

The appointment was a blur, and a little comical, when I think back. (That may be a post in itself) but the long and short of it is this. My white blood cell count is extraordinarily high. There are “smudge cells” present in my sample. B-cells. Cancer cells. Whatever you want to call them. They’re there. I have Leukaemia.

Now, it’s usually at this point when I tell people that they look at me with pitying eyes as though I will drop dead at any moment.

And maybe this is why I’m having such a hard time telling people – Because it’s all just so anti-climactic. 

The fact of the matter is this. I have CLL – Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia. It is slow-progressing and I have been assessed as Stage 0. (Yes, there is such a thing.) It’s early.

So, when and if you see me, you’ll notice that I actually am, by all appearances, exactly the same as I have always been. I look the same. I sound the same. I feel the same. For all intents and purposes, I am healthy.

To be honest, I actually feel like a bit of a fraud.

Daily, I come across articles and blog posts, hear stories of people whose lives have been turned upside down by cancer. Late diagnoses. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Incurable. Terminal. Families left behind. It twists me up inside. I feel sick.

And here I am. Nothing’s changed in my life, except now I KNOW I have cancer. But somehow I feel guilty that—at the moment—I’m not suffering in the slightest. As though suffering will make it legitimate?

My “treatment” is serial blood tests, every three months, to watch the progression in terms of numbers and “watchful waiting” for any one of the potential symptoms to emerge.

I’m not naïve. (Well, I’m a little bit naïve, but not about this…) I know that in the future, some form of intervention will be necessary. As the cancer cells slowly crowd out the healthy cells, the effects will take a toll on my body, my lymph nodes, my spleen, my liver. We don’t know what it will look like and we have no idea when the impact will be felt.

But, for the moment, I have been given the gift of time.

Time to let it sink in. Time to figure out what I’m going to do with it all; with the time I’ve been given.

Time to be honest.

Time to speak out.

Time to raise awareness.

Time to make a difference.

I’ve been sitting with this for almost seven months now.

I’ve shed some tears.

I’ve had some moments of panic.

I’ve had many conversations with God about my life; about what I’ve done with it to this point and about what HE wants to do with it from now on.

And—despite the diagnosis—I’m excited for the future (whatever length of time that turns out to be) and what it holds for me.

“And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding

will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

~Philippians 4:7

This I know to be true.

Stay tuned.

3 Comments

  1. Hey there Janine,
    Thanks for posting. I had heard through the grapevine a little about this but wasn't going to ask for details from anyone. Very glad you have time and glad to see you blogging!
    hugs and wishes to you
    Rodney

  2. Thanks Rod. I'm actually thankful for the renewed perspective this provides. Makes one look at life and re-evaluate priorities a bit. I'm hoping that good things come out of it all.

  3. Tan

    May 26, 2015

    Post a Reply

    Janine, I'm so sorry I'm late to reading/knowing this. I will be thinking of you as you continue to live an amazing life. Knowledge can be tough but powerful…but I know you are too!

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