Sunday, June 5, 2011

with flying colors

"test me, o Lord, and try me, examine my
 heart and my mind." ~ psalm 26:2

test results have never bothered me much.  i was one of those strange kind of kids who really liked school.  didn't mind studying.  was usually prepared.   my mother always told me i would grow up to someday become a teacher.  she was absolutely certain of her prediction when in 5th grade i started creating pre-tests and study guides for my classmates - just for fun.   i probably could have made a few dollars off this peer tutoring,  but i never thought about it,  i truly just loved doing it.  i remember the next year when my 6th grade teacher, mr. devantier, introduced me to mimeograph paper and allowed me to duplicate my study guides.  what power. what privilege.  in my own little world i was now published.  at age 12, i was reproducing my work and feeling kind of clever and cool about it.   from kindergarten to graduate school i have been receiving marks...waiting on results...anticipating test outcomes.  it has always been something i have, in a strangely competitive way,  enjoyed.  it is good to be graded when good grades come somewhat naturally.  i have never worried too much about assessment because of one thing:  i was in control.  i was usually in control of how much preparing and how much studying i had done.  most of my results had something to do with me.  had something to do with what i put into it.   i liked that. it made sense.  as long as i was in charge, i felt confident.  (there were some exceptions, of course).  and by the way, my mother was right, a teacher i did become.

this next week we wait on big results.  long gone is that industrious, little school girl.  long gone is her confidence. long gone is her feeling of control.    there is absolutely nothing competitive or thrilling about the results arriving this week.  i, honestly, feel kind of fearful.  there was nothing i could do to prepare or study for this next week's news...i can't predict the outcome and i don't want to anticipate the answers.  in fact,  i'd kind of like to just skip right over these next seven days.  but i can't.  i am getting a couple of phone calls regardless of whether or not i want to pick up the phone.    the answers will be in. the grades will be posted.  the evaluation complete.

we will know this week more information about my BRCA gene.  do i carry it?  are my children at risk for this mutation breeding ugliness?  what will it mean to me, to them, to us?  how will it change the face of our future?  we are hoping and praying for a negative result.  we wouldn't be any closer to understanding why i have breast cancer at 42, but at least we would know it is not genetic.  in addition, i am also waiting for my oncotype dx to come back from some lab somewhere.  right now, perhaps this very minute, some pathologist is studying all of my information and laying out my genetic blah-blah and deciding my grade. my number.  my next few months.  i've copied a description from one of the zillion's of websites which can better explain the oncotype dx:

"The Oncotype DX is a diagnostic test that assesses the tumor tissue and estimates the likelihood that invasive breast cancer will return, or recur after treatment. By analyzing the expression pattern of certain genes in breast tumors, the Oncotype DX test can more precisely estimate a woman's risk of cancer recurrence when compared with the standard assessments doctors normally use to evaluate the risk of cancer returning.
The Oncotype DX screening test is performed on each tumor sample to get the Recurrence Score. The Oncotype DX test scores the breast tumor on 21 different genes involved in breast cancer and gives a Recurrence Score, or a number between zero and 100 that shows the chance of the breast cancer returning within 10 years of the original diagnosis."

so basically what we will find out next week is a number which will tell me if chemotherapy would be in any way beneficial for me.  chemotherapy is obviously not a fabulous decision for anyone unless they are seriously in need.   there are too many risks and side effects and issues for it to be used as a "just to be sure" kind of thing.  my genes will have to line up in a way which offers proof that i could benefit before we travel down this poison heavy road.  bottom line:  i will have to be under the number 18 to even consider not doing chemo.  i'll do it.  don't get me wrong.  i'll take it willingly, not happily, but willingly, if my results show i could benefit.  i've told you from the beginning:  i am all in.  100%.  we are fighting this with everything and anything and then some.

but as i entertain the oh-so-unsettling "what ifs" again...i am back at that sick-stomach-place.  that place of disbelief and incredulity.  really?  is this really happening?  am i really waiting to hear about the need to pour poison into my body?  can it not be enough that i have sacrificed my breasts, must i sacrifice my energy? my summer? my health? my hair?  Lord, when will all this stop? Lord, will it ever stop?   i sit here typing this morning, feeling just barely recovered from my surgery.   as i am trying to ween myself off pain medication,  i am tender.  my body is sore.  sensitive.  hurting.  i can't imagine right now dealing with this next thing.  this next level.  i don't want it for me...i don't want it for my husband and kids.  we have already been through so much.  you've heard me write about God's provision...and i am still 100% in complete belief and fully reliant...but. but. but.  but it is not easy every day.  that is what i want to tell you truthfully.  i am believing and trusting and resting...but some days are harder than others.  and today as i think about the next few months i just want normal.  i want quiet and calm and easy.  i don't feel like battling anything, not mosquitos or heat or teenagers or sunburn or cancer.  i just want the cool and gentle.  i want it so badly i can taste it. i want it so badly my hands shake typing.

so i wait for results.  i am more patient than normal.  patient only because of the tinny taste of fear on my tongue.   i am scared. i mean, really, flat out afraid.   it is temporary,  i know that.  all of this is.  even our lives are.   i have been learning that lesson well.  and remember, i am typically a pretty good student.  a quick learner.  a good study.  but these lessons are hard. these grades are heavy.  these tests are bigger and more frightening than anything i ever encountered in college.  i can't do much to prepare for them.  i can't even guess at predictions.  but i know God is preparing me for the answers.  regardless.  i know He has been preparing me for quite some time.   when He entered my life years ago, He removed the label of failure and replaced it with His stamp of approval.  His stamp of promotion.  His stamp of salvation.  His stamp of passing-with-flying-colors.   and no matter what.  no matter even if i am physically scared to hear what they say, my future already has His mark on it and nothing can change that.  not even chemotherapy.  my body my fail.  actually i am certain my body will fail.  someday.  none of us will make it through unscathed...unmarked...untouched by life's hardness. 

"lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will VANISH like smoke,
the earth will WEAR OUT like a garment
and its inhabitants DIE like flies.
but my salvation will last forever,
my righteousness will NEVER FAIL."
~ isaiah 51:6

did you read those words?  vanish. wear out. die like flies.  yep, that's us.  cancer or no cancer, we are all prey to ultimate deterioration.  sounds pretty serious.  and it is, except  we aren't without hope.  that's it.  that's everything.  God's salvation lasts forever and HIS righteousness will never fail.  i may fail. my test results may fail.  my strength may fail.  my courage may fail.  my body may fail.  but my God will not. 
 "do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. 
 He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you."  (deuteronomy 31:8).


andrea said...

your one strong gal.....i admire your honestly... courage...fears and your ability to share this journey with so many.....i feel your passion for your life and your fighting will...God bless you jody...your ministering to us ALL....your in my daily prayers....i am cheering you on...Go JODY!!!

andrea sisler

jodymcnatt said...

thanks andrea. your encouragement means so much.

Aus said...

Jody - dang you are cool - tough too!

Yeah - the "harsh reality" is that life is terminal. But acknowledging that - then we know that we can afford to give 100% to anything that we do - we don't need to hold anything back in reserve - we can live our lives to the fullest! There is some comfort in that - and through all of your writing I'm seeing you live your life that way. You are to be praise for that - and honored for your commitment to it!

I'll offer my prayers for a low grade on this particular test for you (not often one hopes for a 0 eh?) and for the genetic test to turn out with you NOT being a carrier. But at least in regard to the latter - you kids will have the benifit of knowing up front - and that's a good thing for them to know!

You are - well and truely - inspirational!

hugs - aus and co.

Rebecca said...

I hear your fear and I know your confidence is in the right place-- the only true place there is. Sometimes speaking "aloud," as you are doing here, in a way, is a good way to make His arms feel more real to us. Thank you for speaking the truth. I am praying for you so often.