Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Survivor by Janis Cox (Intro by Yours Truly!)

     Sometimes it's good to talk to others and hear how they dealt with their demons. A writer gem friend of mine contacted me last week and told me about a very special lady. Mary Ann lives in Arizona and she valiantly fought a cancer battle and so far, it seems God wants her around a little longer. After facing the rigours of chemotherapy treatments for uterine cancer, her attitude showed that she was far from being a sister to doom and gloom. 
     Jan, my fellow scribe, told me how she had interviewed this soul sister and how affected she was by her story. Jan wanted to get Mary Ann's story out there so that others might be encouraged. I told Jan I would be happy to let her post her interview on my blog. Anything to help a sista'! 

Before the interview, just a little bit about my friend, Jan: 

     Janis Cox is follower of Jesus – first and foremost. Then she is a wife, mother, grandmother, a sister and friend. She has been married for 42 years to a wonderful, caring and patient husband – they have three grown children who are married; they have six grandchildren.
      She is a writer, watercolour artist and person always involved in doing something. She has her fingers in many pies – but all of them are delicious. A friend once told her that she saw a vision of her – with a whole bunch of coloured balloons and she tried to capture each one of them.
      As a retired public school teacher Jan loved to write poems for her kids. With this background and her artwork she has now published her first illustrated children’s book, Tadeo Turtle.
     Jan runs a group blog Under the Cover of Prayer. And another blog with Kimberley Payne called Family and Faith Matters. She is a member of The Word Guild and Inscribe and now His Imprint. You can find her at her website www.janiscox.com.

An Interview with Mary Ann – a Cancer Survivor.
By Janis Cox
February 25, 2014

What were the circumstances leading you to discover you had uterine cancer?

I had been spotting, but the doctor did not think this unusual. After seeing a different doctor a year later, I was told that any bleeding after menopause should be looked into. I don’t blame the first doctor as I may not have been clear in describing my symptoms. But this is a warning – any woman who has even a tiny drop of blood after menopause – see a doctor.

When the spotting got more frequent, I went back to my doctor. She sent me to a gynecologist, who examined me; then immediately got me in to see an oncologist at the Ironwood Cancer Center, Mesa, AZ, who sent me to St. Joseph's Hospital to meet with a gynecologic oncologist surgeon.

Of course this was a Friday so everything slowed down over the weekend. It was first thought I had cervical cancer stage 2. Then after exploratory surgery they found it was uterine cancer stage 2. I finally had a complete hysterectomy and the cancer had spread to one lymph node which changed to uterine cancer stage 3c. Later a PET scan found there was activity around my stomach. That finding changed the diagnosis to uterine cancer stage 4. Our son wondered how that cancer got from cervical cancer stage 2 to uterine cancer stage 4.

God gave me a peace through this whole process. Everything happened so fast. I didn't have to make any decisions. God was in control.

2   Can you tell me what your initial reaction was? Your husband’s? Your family’s?

Besides God's Word, God put books about a glimpse of heaven in my path long before my diagnoses. I read His Word of course. Two other books I read were Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, a story about a little boy’s trip to heaven and back, and To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, a doctor’s extraordinary account of her death and life again. The week before going to my doctor I found the third book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, at an estate sale. I read it after surgery and thought if the author could go through what he went through, this will be a piece of cake. His words taught me so much about being on the receiving end of people who care. So with what the Bible tells us about heaven and the accounts of several who have experienced it, I know it is for real for those who believe. And God has given me peace.

I had peace with the thought that I might be going home to see the loved ones who have gone before me.

I am 73 years old and have been married for 49 years. My father was 73 years old and had been married for 49 years when he died of cancer. My mom never got to celebrate their 50th anniversary. I prayed that my husband and I could celebrate our 50th together before He took me home.

I called my husband from the gynecologist’s to come and get me when I went to the first appointment. I’m sure he panicked not knowing what was wrong until he got there. He said he couldn't put his shoes on fast enough. Once he heard the diagnosis, he took over. He said that at first he felt fear overwhelm him, but the calmness God gave me put him at ease.

Our son wanted to make sure I was in good hands. He wanted to know all the details and suggested I come back to his state for treatment.

Our daughter had questions – lots of questions that she wanted me to ask the doctor. The doctor said she would be glad to talk to her. I called my daughter and let her ask the questions. I think the call helped. My daughter’s relationship with God helped her walk with me through prayers and lots of phone calls.

Our senior pastor came and prayed with us. Even a nurse in the hospital prayed with me. I knew Jesus was with me the entire time.

3    What Scriptures did you lean on throughout the procedures you needed to go through?

A little book, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, gave me peace through all of this. The words were like God talking to me personally each day.

The main message I received when reading this book was to focus on Christ. These words went through my head: Trust in Me; focus on Me; communicate with Me both listening and speaking; I will keep my promise and will always be with you; I will give you peace; focus, focus on Me.

Jesus has been with me every step of this journey. In Bible study I had attended it was said when we have a mountain before us, God can take it away, give us an easy way around it, or be with us all the way over it.

4    What else helped you to keep peaceful through all this?

I guess watching God at work kept me at peace from the beginning of my diagnosis and through the treatment. When the doctors did a PET scan they found activity on my stomach. After four sessions of chemo I had another scan and the PET scan was clear.

My friend Louise started a Caring Bridge site for me. The Caring Bridge (www.caringbridge.org) allows protected websites for connecting people to share your prayer needs and other concerns. I can't thank her enough. It was a way to let friends and family know with one message what I needed prayer for and how I was doing. The words of encouragement meant so much to me. I could never have imagined there were so many people who cared and prayed for me.

My cousin Kathy came while I was in the hospital and was company and support for [my husband, Jake, as he drove back and forth and was a great support when I got home.  My brother and his friend visited while I was in the hospital and came back after I got home. My sister came for a week to help. My cousin Joan came for a month for encouragement. My sister and cousin Kathy came back at the end of treatment with a lot of great tips on eating to prevent cancer.

Friends, family and acquaintances told me stories of hope and encouragement with lots of stories of recoveries. People sent cards of encouragement, flowers, books on how to eat healthy, and a beautiful blanket which had words embroidered, "The Lord did not promise that life would be easy, but He did promise to go with you every step."

I also received a prayer shawI. I took that shawl to every chemo treatment. I knew that the woman who had made it had prayed over every stitch, taken it to the altar at her church and prayed for me there, too. What a blessing. I felt those prayers. I also was given a pocket cross with the story of how Jesus died for me. It also went to every chemo session.

The cancer center blessed me with hats and a wig. I have quite a collection of hats from my loving caring friends.

But....most of all God gave me a supportive, loving husband whom I could count on to be there for me.

5    Can you tell me if there was any growth in your Spirit during this time? And if so, explain how you have changed

I learned to trust God and that He holds my future no matter what any doctor says.
I learned that as I backed out of commitments there were others to step in to take over. Letting go of those commitments showed me there is time for the Lord and people.

     There must have been highs and lows – can you explain any of them – how you felt and how you were able to adjust to the circumstances?
I had unexplainable peace through most of this journey. My low point was two weeks after my first chemo. It was Halloween. I looked in the mirror. My face was covered with a rash but I still had my hair. I got in the shower and was washing my hair... my hair was in my hands and my hands were not on my head. I felt emotions bubbling up. As I sat on a chair later with tears rolling down my cheeks, I took out my book, Jesus Calling. I was a day behind in my reading. Tuesday October 30th, said, "I am with you, I am with you, I am with you." 

I went to my computer to write something funny on Caring Bridge, like Happy Halloween. Instead I stopped to check my email first. There was an email from Pastor Donavan suggesting I listen to "All Sons & Daughters". I had a good cry with Jesus to some beautiful Christian music. The words from one of the songs were, "God made me beautiful." It was just what I needed. I finished my meltdown with a good friend, Louise.

During my first chemo session I had a bad reaction to Taxol, the chemo drug the doctors used. I was warned ahead of time of the possible reactions and what doctors could do to reverse them. I had a heavy pressure on my chest and neck that went down my back. It kept getting, worse and I guess my face was the reddest red. It took 20 minutes to reverse these effects. The doctor came out and asked if I wanted to try again and warned me that I might end up in the hospital. I said okay and they started me again on the Taxol. I had the same reaction. That meant, no more Taxol for me.

Then they gave me Carboplatin and I had a different reaction. I got cold and couldn't stop shaking. The medical staff had not seen that reaction to Carboplatin before. The nurse gave me Benadryl and a warm pack on my stomach that helped me to stop shaking. They continued the chemo and this time I was able to tolerate it.

I told my nurse that God had prepared me for this, that morning in Jesus Calling. "When the road before you looks rocky, you can trust Me to get you through that rough patch. My Presence enables you to face each day with confidence."  And in the previous paragraph, "Before you know it, the ‘obstacle’ will be behind you and you will hardly know how you passed through it." That is exactly how I felt after my treatment was behind me. My nurse said why didn't you tell me you had a talk with God? Then I would have been prepared too.

Several hours after my 5th treatment I had an experience similar to what I had had with the Taxol but not as strong. The doctor said that after each treatment my system did not fully recover so by the 5th treatment there was more chance of a reaction. I had a PET scan after my 5th treatment and the result was clear and I did not want to have the 6th treatment even though the doctors advised it. My fear grew. Several friends prayed God would take the fear away and He did. I was given some extra Benadryl before that treatment and I didn't have the reaction I had had with the 5th treatment.
I adjusted to it all by focusing each day on Jesus and knowing that He had given me that day. I let Him take care of the mountains.

A blanket that my friend gave me says it well:

“God doesn’t say life would be easy but He says He will be with you every step of the way.”

Thank you to Jan for sharing Mary Ann's story and to Mary Ann for sharing her heart. 


Janis Cox said...

Thanks for posting my interview with Mary Ann. Her story indeed touched my heart. As we lean on Jesus He gives us the strength we need through every minute of the day.

Mary Ann Jakobsen said...

Thanks for posting my story!

Mary Ann Jakobsen said...

Thanks Jan for sharing my story!

Mary Ann Jakobsen said...

Thanks Jan for sharing my story!

Mary Ann Jakobsen said...

Thanks Jan for sharing my story!