Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Dear Family and Friends,

Dickens was right.  Life sometimes takes you swiftly from good times to bad, and sometimes you experience both at the same time.

On September 26, Steve and I flew from Seattle to Istanbul, where we spent the next nine days experiencing the thrill of touring in Turkey and the Greek Islands.  Almost immediately on arriving in Turkey, however, my stomach began to hurt.  It wasn't just pain, but also a feeling of indigestion, heartburn, and extreme fullness after eating even small meals.  We hoped I had picked up a bug or was having some simple gastritis (inflamed stomach lining), so we bought some Prilosec at a Greek pharmacy to reduce the acid production in my stomach.  While it didn't stop my symptoms, it calmed them enough that I was able to notice them, but also keep my concerns on the back burner as we left Greece for Spain, where Daniel would join us.  

During two beautiful weeks in sunny Spain, the symptoms continued, and I began to worry that my cancer might be back.  Despite my worries, with God's help, I fully immersed myself into the joy of walks, hikes, Mediterranean swims, and drives around the Costa Blanca region of Spain.  When Steve returned to Seattle, Daniel and I continued in Spain and then ended our trip with five days in London.  While exploring British museums and parks and seeing plays at night, I began to realize my stomach symptoms were ever present and were most likely cancer.  Upon arriving home, a CT scan confirmed my suspicions.  My ovarian cancer is back for the third time.

The good news is, the cancer is not in my internal organs.  My liver, kidneys, pancreas, gallbladder, and upper colon look pretty amazing for a 55-year-old!  Unfortunately though, it is in some abdominal lymph nodes which have significantly grown since March.  One of these enlarged lymph nodes presses on my pancreas and one presses on my aorta and vena cava.  The presence of these cancerous lymph nodes taking up space in my abdominal cavity seems to be causing my stomach symptoms.  And of course, you don't want the cancer to travel from your lymph nodes to any other part of the body!

Thus, I begin my third chemo regimen on Monday.  We will be using a time release chemo drug called Doxil this time, administered through the port in my chest once every four weeks.  We will re-scan in three to four months to see how it is working.  The potential side effects are nausea, hair loss, heart damage (no thanks!), and a thing where your hands, feet, and armpits get sore rashes and peeling skin.  Please pray that the Doxil will kill the cancer and that I will experience minimal side effects.  Thank you!

Additional good news is that to avoid the armpit skin symptoms, I am to avoid anything that will make my arm rub against my armpit, including VACUUMING, SWEEPING, AND DOING DISHES!  Woo hoo!  I've got a "get out of housework free" card for the foreseeable future!  :-)  Poor Steve, Renee, and Daniel...

I enter this "hat trick" round of chemo with a lot of gratitude.  I'm thankful for the wonderful time in Europe that preceded my new diagnosis and shored me up for what lies ahead.  I'm thankful for an expert gynecological oncologist who always knows exactly what to do when I have a recurrence.  I am thankful for good strength going into the chemo from all the exercise I had in Europe.  I'm blessed with great friends from so many sectors of my life who are faithful in praying for me, and who have offered to help us with whatever we may need, such as meals or a little housecleaning now and then.  I have the world's best husband and kids in Steve, Renee, and Daniel, who love me fiercely and will care for me with the utmost devotion and compassion.  And last, but most important of all, I have a 40-year strong faith in God, Who will never leave me or forsake me and Who will continue to help and sustain us through the unwelcome journey of cancer just as He has in the last two years.

I close with the song that keeps playing in my head, and the joy in knowing that despite my health challenges, it is well with my soul.

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

Love,
Gabrielle

P.S.  Let's end with some Europe photos!

Philippi, Turkey. The Apostle Paul was imprisoned in this spot.

Virgin Mary's House near Ephesus

Colosseum at Ephesus where Apostle Paul spoke

Colossus of Rhodes

Our Regent Seven Seas Mariner cruise ship!

Altea, Spain vegetable market with my aunt Julianne!

The colorful town of Villajoyosa, Spain

Eating fresh, hot churros y chocolate at the famous Valor Chocolate shop

Walking around Altea, my aunt and uncle's Spanish town, at night

Hiking to a lighthouse in Albir, Spain

Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Uncle Oliver, Aunt Julianne, and me on my favorite beach at Villajoyosa

Pretty fall scene with fat pigeons at Regent's Park, London

Curtsey for the Queen at Buckingham Palace

Heaven on earth--the bakery at Harrods!

World's second largest Chihuly at Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Dressing to go into the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul

Mykonos, Greece

Ceiling of the Hagia Sophia Mosque

Kids in Istanbul having their "coming of age" celebrations dress like princes and princesses. Hagia Sophia in background.

A pretty mosque with gorgeous blue tiles everywhere

Spice Market in Istanbul

Our spacious room on the cruise ship!

Swimming on island of Crete. Visibility to 30 feet!

Everyone's favorite Greek Island--Santorini!

We hiked along the coast from town to town in Santorini!

Foxy husband on Island of Mykonos with it's red roofed windmills

Daniel and me on beach at Villajoyosa

Daniel on a hike in Spain

Every year we go to Altea we climb the spiderweb on Altea Beach!

Daniel and me on the beach promenade between Altea and Albir

Hiking I Fach in Calpe, Spain

Daniel with I Fach rock in background, Calpe

This is the life. Villajoyosa.

Along the waterfront in Altea

One of many views from the Altea Old Town hilltop where my aunt and uncle live

Apparently this is my deli in London!

Daniel didn't know what a phone booth was until he saw one in London

Our final London meal--world's best Indian food!

Last night in London we happened upon a red carpet movie premiere. Pictured here is movie actor Vin Diesel!




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