Friday, October 25, 2013

Welcome to the 5%

I'm sorry to interrupt our scheduled programming and I'm also sorry for leaving you all at a moment of suspense in my little story. I've been caught in a bit of a whirlwind these past weeks, and nearly all my thoughts and energies have been consumed in its wake. I promise to resume the love story soon, but right now, I'm wide awake at 4 a.m. with a desperate need to tell you all about something else.

Did you know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? I didn't, actually, until last Monday when I was sitting next to Roby on the Paris/Salt Lake City flight, and the stewardess accompanied my orange juice with a pink-lettered napkin. "Take flight in the fight against breast cancer," it said. How ironic--because that's exactly what we were doing.

No surprises or cliff-hangers here, folks: just the overwhelming truth. Last Friday, I was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in my breast.

Roby was in Lyon with me. We'd arranged his first visit there over a month before, and somehow all I can think is that God knew I would need him desperately that day. I'd recently completed a cycle of antibiotics to treat what the doctor assumed was an unusual infection. But when the swelling didn't completely disappear, he ordered a biopsy. The results sent both me and Roby to the States within just a few days. He only had a week's worth of clothes and had to make special arrangements with a police officer friend to get his passport sent to him. Miraculously, everything still fell into place for us to be together--just as it always has. I have no doubt in my mind that I'm marrying the best man in this world. If you hadn't already guessed the end to my love story, I apologize for spoiling things a little...

We had an appointment at the Huntsman Cancer Institute yesterday--it's the premier location in the West for those needing treatment and all that goes with it. I arrived at 10:30 with a small entourage--Roby, my mom, one of my sisters--clutching a shiny, red folder filled with half-translated exams and images and results. Medical French is complicated...but I've learned a fair amount this past month. Six hours later, completely exhausted and in a bit of pain from having become a temporary pin-cushion, I left. All of our minds were spinning with the information that had bombarded us all day: starting chemo therapy treatments as soon as possible, getting surgery in a few months, undergoing genetic testing because 29 year-olds don't usually get breast cancer, learning that treatments could make me infertile. And then, for me, the real kicker: facing the reality of losing my hair. I think that last one deserves a post of its own. I'll go there another day.

I'm still struggling with jet lag right now, and can't believe I'm having to make decisions that I never even knew people had to make. I'm not even supposed to be here. I should be in France, missing my fiancé following his first visit to our future home. I should be teaching a math or a French or a history lesson. I should be sending messages to my mom about what kind of flowers I decided to have for my wedding. Nothing seems real. To be honest, I've been running away inside my mind. But I guess I can't run away forever when I suddenly have dozens of people telling me what I have to do and what's going to happen.

Apparently, only 5% of breast cancer patients are under the age of 40. I don't know how I won those odds. I've never won anything.

But that's enough. Let's get all of that awful, depressing stuff out of the way. I have to tell you, friends--wholeheartedly and without hesitation--that even though this is very hard and frightening and derailing, I don't doubt for one moment that God is aware of me. I want you all to know that I am not bitter about this. I'm scared out of my mind at times, but I am also unendingly grateful to be surrounded by people--angels--who love me. And while I could be asking why this is happening now--two months before our wedding--I'm mostly just grateful that I don't have to go through any of this without the love of my life by my side. God knows what He's doing;
I am grateful for His timing.

Remember how I said my love story is all about faith and healing and learning to trust? It's all still true. I just didn't know that I had a new plot twist around the corner which would further try my faith, build my trust, and add a different layer to the idea of being healed.

Six years ago today, I met a brand new 25-year-old Italian missionary. Now, in two months and two days, we will be getting married. Everything else is just a wrinkle in our plans. We are going to make it. In the meantime, we would love your prayers.

16 comments:

  1. Donna, you are so incredibly strong, and I can't help but marvel at God's timing for you at this time in your life! To read about this particular miracle is truly awe inspiring! It's incredibly to me to hear you say, basically, "Oh how merciful is our God!" (Even though I am sure you will wonder at times...maybe...I would.) My thoughts and prayers are definitely with you, with Roby, as well as the rest of your family.

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  2. Oh Donna...I am so sorry to hear this. I truly am. I can't describe how much I admire your faith and strength right now. In the midst of all of this, as you said, how wonderful that you will be sealed to Roby in just a couple of months. I think that's one of the best things about marriage - you don't have to go through difficult things like this alone. Know that prayers and love are coming your way from Virginia!!

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  3. Lovely, you will be always be gorgeous whether or not you happen to have a stack of protein strands atop your head. I'm so sorry to hear the news and I'll be praying for you both. Loves!

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  4. We love you Donna, and you and Roby are in our prayers. We are hear for you.

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  5. Lots of thoughts and prayers heading your way.

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  6. Your positive attitude and faith are inspiring. I will be praying for you!

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  7. I will keep you in my prayers! I kind of know how you are feeling. When I was a junior in high school the doctors found a tumor in my neck. I did the biopsy and surgery thing. Apparently the kind of tumor I had is only found in really old men. Why did I as a 16 yr old girl have one, the doctors kept asking me. God knows all. Keep the faith, keep family close, express all concerns to those who love you, you will make it through!

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  8. Love you, Donna. I cried through this whole post. I can't even imagine what emotional and physical trials are ahead for you, but I'm so grateful to you for your example. Always teaching me, that's what you are. I'm looking forward to seeing you at your wedding, I'm sure you'll be a lovely bride. We'll be praying for you.

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  9. My family and I will be praying for you

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  10. Oh boy, I opened this thinking it was going to be a continuation love story. It was but not in the way I was expecting. I couldn't imagine going through all cancer treatments and facing the possible consequences--even your hair! I knew that comment was coming from your heart. I'm so glad you have someone to go through it with you.

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  11. We are so grateful you have a wonderful companion by your side- we hope to meet him one day! We always knew you had incredible faith and strength and your comments thus far in the "journey" prove it further. We love you and of course you are in our prayers.--Sister P.

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  12. Donna -- you are loved and have a great support system. We're all cheering for you. You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.

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  13. Donna! I just read this after your email this morning! This is such a big bump in the road and I hope and pray it is something that stays just that, a bump in the road. I am afraid of the "C" word as well, because it was this month 19 years ago that my mom died of breast cancer. Technology and treatments have improved so much since then, I am so glad you have the support system that you do! All morning long I have thought about you and the things that you will go through in the next couple months and the rest of your life. You mentioned some of them in this post, I am so glad you are going in to this with such a positive attitude! :)

    If by some chance you need it, I would be more than happy to chop off my hair and donate it if that would help you have a pretty up do for your wedding. My hair isn't as long as yours, but it's getting close. :)

    Good luck! I will keep you in our prayers and definitely this upcoming fast Sunday!

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  14. Hi Donna, you are such a talented writer, I hope you'll keep us updated through your blog. Your optimism and faith through such a huge trial is uplifting. You have tons of support from friends and family. We are keeping you in our prayers!

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  15. Dear Donna,
    Yesterday I was tutoring a French girl in English Lit and she was bemoaning an upcoming project. "Is it about love?" she asked me. I answered yes and went on, "Most stories are about love. It's the one thing everyone wants. So most stories are about how to get it, how to keep it, or about how one has lost it. It's something everyone can understand." You've found your love, and I have no doubt it will be the number one thing that carries you through this trial. Courage! On pense a toi. Bisous, famille Ashton

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  16. Can I tell you that you are an answer to my prayers?

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