Topic: Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!
Replies: 10   Last Post: Dec 23, 2018 5:51 PM by: jeancooper®
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Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 10:15 AM

Cancer treatment is finally done! Thanks for your prayers and support from my posts in June & July. Mrs TigerBoneMD completed her last radiation and rang the bell Friday! We made her goal of being done before the CFP by 8 days (and Christmas by 4, as a bonus)! We certainly hope and pray for a medically boring and uneventful 2019. Thank you to all who have prayed for and supported us these past 6 months. We hope you have a great Christmas, Cotton Bowl, New Years, and Championship Game to bring closure to 2018 and start 2019 off right!

That's the summary for those of you who don't read long posts. If you want details keep reading, otherwise, go enjoy the weekend and celebrate with your loved ones and ignore my rambling.

June 14th (Flag Day) we had an abnormal mammogram result, the 15th we had an ultrasound and a biopsy, and Wednesday the 20th my friend called us with ER+, PR+, HER2- breast cancer. I sincerely hope those designations are confusing to you, since that means you probably haven't been touched by this disease in the past 10-15 years. Basically means it is the most common form of breast cancer and is highly treatable. July 9th lumpectomy and sentinel nodes. Later that week good margins, but 2 slightly positive nodes. Following week, Medical Oncology and Radiation Oncology. The unpleasant news: chemo will be needed, your hair (which she has a mane of hair that everyone who meets her compliments) will fall out, and we will need 33 sessions of radiation including the nodes.

We had our tough moments, were amazed and impressed by the kindness, compassion, and support of not only our friends and family, but perfect strangers (who became friends) who were either moved to help by personal/ family experience or quite frequently one of what my wife calls "God Moments" where there is no other explanation for an occurrence.

(Feel free to skip this paragraph if you don't want details) Four sessions of chemo August through mid-October. Hair came out by September. One of the high point/ low points was a lady from American Cancer Society putting her in touch with a salon in Alpharetta who specializes in hair loss from chemo/ alopecia. The stylist there had suffered with alopecia for seven years and her ministry to my wife truly turned the corner from a hair loss standpoint. They fixed her up with a wig that her own friends could scarcely tell wasn't her own hair and that restored a small measure of what cancer had robbed from her. Needless to say the repetitive cycles of chemo, followed by weakness, lack of appetite, generalized nausea with a resolution just in time for the next round wore on us, but despite having to miss 3 of our home games (although our daughter confirmed she was just as animated and expressive while watching as she is in person), she soldiered on. Her early goal was to be able to go to Fripp for a week (which she had coordinated) with all her family to celebrate her mother's 90th birthday and that was a big success. Last chemo the Tuesday after we returned, then straight into radiation 3 weeks later.

Again the small victory of timing and goals. If she doubled up one day (which apparently is permissible), she could finish the Friday before Christmas, so again, she put her head down and charged onward. Every day at 3:15. Her high school friend was one of the technologists so that brought a measure of comfort. We got to learn about radioplex (which I think is just a mixture of about every sunburn treatment in existence and probably some of Peter Pan's pixie dust for good measure), and super powered cortisone creams, and eventually silvadene. The engineer in me was amazed that you can get an "exit sunburn" on your back from where the beam passes out. After the deepest, asymmetric tan ever, the last day was here. I had cut my office short that afternoon (didn't figure any of the staff would complain shutting down a couple hours early the Friday before Christmas), but in typically curveball fashion, they moved up her radiation so their staff could attend their holiday party that afternoon. Thankfully one of our daughters was there to hear her ring the bell. As it turned out, it didn't matter as much since we had round two of throat/ sinus infection that we are currently trying to clear so our celebration involved sitting at home by the fire, under a blanket to keep warm.

Dealing with cancer in someone you care about deeply has taught me many things. First, it confirmed that we are not in control of circumstances. Nausea happens. Exhaustion happens. Cold/ congestion/ infection happens. Rescheduling happens. What we are in control of is our response to those circumstances. I certainly had my share of taking the bush axe out along the slope of the back yard and down in the woods and clearing some brush. As I told my son at a difficult time for him several years ago, there are very few issues you can't ponder and deal with using a bush axe. He didn't realize until I clarified, the bush axe was not intended to use on the object/person of your distress, it is useful to clear brush and weeds and the fog in your brain. Something I learned during my summer job with the DOT survey crew while at Clemson that I've continued til this day. I have come to accept that, even with my highly scheduled/ regimented life as a surgeon (and former engineer), sometimes you just let things progress as they will and deal with it. At times, I need a more Zac Brown/ Jimmy Buffett outlook.

Second, people have the capacity to be amazing. I have had more of my own patients ask about my wife and how her treatment is coming than I can remember. It seems they are in many ways going through this with me as well. Many are either survivors themselves or have relatives touched by breast cancer and want to encourage those who are currently walking this path. One lady brought a prayer bracelet that she makes for everyone she learns as part of her role volunteering with Susan G Komen. Another of our friends who we hadn't seen in months brought by cupcakes on a particularly difficult day. In may case, one of the most amazing "God Moments" involved a fellow Clemson alumnus featured in Clemson World magazine. As I cleaned up my pile of correspondence, magazines, journals that (understandably) piled up starting in June, I saw the summer 2018 issue of Clemson World featuring Grainger McKoy and his carving. As someone who works with his hands, I am always drawn to sculpture and carvings, so I began to read that article. By the end of the article, I was moved to tears by his description of and thought process behind "Recovery" which is a sculpture of the recovery wing beat of a bird, which is the least powerful of the wing phases but the most crucial to position for the power stroke which follows. His mention of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” really resonated with me. I contacted him, got a personal response from a dear kind man, and got a pin of "recovery stroke" that I presented her as she completed her treatment. I would commend this article and his work to any of you ( https://clemson.world/mckoy/ ). Full disclosure, I had wanted to get an actual bronze casting for a particular spot in our house, but that wasn't in the budget (but she was overjoyed with the pin).

I realize now that we are positioned in a moment of weakness, but also poised to flourish with a powerful stroke in recovery. Her hair is returning thickly (and is almost as long as my 5/8" buzz), this throat/ sinus infection will clear, there will no longer be daily/ weekly treatments that our life revolves around, all 4 of our children will be here by this evening to begin celebrating. We will have our friends and family celebrations over Christmas and the coming week. Our fellow Clemson friends and those we (and our local hero, Deshaun) have converted to the Clemson nation will watch the Cotton Bowl and hopefully a third national championship shortly thereafter. Life will resume after a six month pause, and we will celebrate each milestone achieved and support all those who come after us in this journey through cancer. The power stroke is coming, and 2019 will be altogether different and better!

So after an exceedingly long post, I will simply finish by saying thank you for all your prayers and support, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Tigers and beyond, and Go Tigers!!!

Re: Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 10:28 AM

Absolutely loved this post. Having walked difficult roads myself, I appreciate the depth of emotion this life experience elicits. God bless you all and Merry Christmas!

2019 orange level member

Re: Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 10:36 AM

Lovely post. Merry Christmas to your family.

Re: Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 10:55 AM

Thank you for sharing this heartwarming story. Praying for a cancer-free body. Merry Christmas!

Well said TBoneMD . . .

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 11:19 AM

Thanks for your Christmas Gift to ALL of Tiger Nation!

In my experience, our women folk are better fighters than us guys!!!

May you truly enjoy this Christmas with your friends, children and your wonderfully sweet, hairy bride!!!!!!!

You and yours are loved!!!

Go Tigers, Beat Notre Dame!!!!!!!

2019 white level member

Re: Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 11:45 AM

Thanks for sharing! May God bless you and your family with a very Merry Christmas, a Tiger victory and a Happy New Year!!!

Re: Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 11:59 AM

Thank you for sharing. May God bless your wife and all of your family this Christmas and the coming year!

Re: Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 11:49 AM

Thanks so much for sharing! One year ago my wife was fighting breast cancer. Her surgery was the day after Christmas, and what a different perspective it put on everything at the time. You really do stop sweating the small stuff. She rang the bell last spring, and now as we await the arrival of my parents this Christmas, we’re so thankful for one another and everyone who supported her.

2019 purple level member

Re: Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 3:14 PM

Thanks for such a beautiful and wonderful story and, a reminder that the best gifts we receive are not wrapped in tinsel and glitter and a beautiful bow. What a joyous time for your family to celebrate this news. The power of prayer and the compassion of friends and strangers are gifts that sustain us when we need it most. Have a wonderful CHRISTmas.


Re: Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 3:25 PM

Wonderful story, especially the part about Grainger McKoy. What an example of a person who invites Christ to become a great part of his life! Blessings to you and your wife!

Re: Merry Christmas and Thanks for All Your Prayers!

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 5:51 PM

Thank you for this beautiful story

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