Giving Life My All

Giving all of myself to everything in my life… God, my family, my health, my mind. This is my story… my ups and downs, struggles and triumphs.

So It’s Been a While…

on October 1, 2016

It’s been well over a year since the last time I posted anything and it’s crazy how much has changed and how much I have been through during that time.  As I’ve hinted at before, I would not have made it through without leaning on God for strength.  One year ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depression but was suffering Clinical Depression that was spurred on by undiagnosed Postpartum Depression.  I was in a downward spiral destroying my life and my marriage until I was forced to face my demons by caring family and friends.  Thankfully, I have my depression under control with the assistance of medication, exercise, and faith.  I will speak with anyone who is interested in hearing more about this or who is thinking they might be experiencing depression.  Later posts may relate to this topic as it applies to my life… but I have done a pretty good job of taking care of my mental health with the help of my husband, family, friends, and God.

 

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Playing soccer with some local children in Highgate, Jamaica

 

 

At the end of June, I traveled to Jamaica for a week-long Mission Trip with my church, Trader’s Point Christian Church.  It was an amazing experience, a huge wake-up call, and something I plan to commit my efforts to for years to come.  I hope to elaborate on this trip in a future post.  Just 2 days after returning home from Jamaica, I had a major medical scare.  A 10 cm mass was found on my left kidney.  It showed signs of malignancy but I quickly learned that kidney cancer can’t fully be diagnosed as such until the tumor is removed and the entire thing is tested.  So… on July 29th, I had an Open Radical Nephrectomy to remove my entire left kidney, left Renal Vein, left Adrenal Gland and surrounding Lymph Nodes.  During the procedure, my surgeons discovered that the tumor extended well into the Renal Vein and up the Inferior Vena Cava.  They made the decision during the surgery to open up my Vena Cava to remove as much of the tumor as possible.  The surgery that was supposed to be 3 hours long ended up taking 6 hours,  during which I had 2 blood transfusions.  At the end of the 6 hours, the Vascular Surgeon made the decision to close me up knowing he was not able to get all of the tumor out.  He scraped as much off the walls as he could, but he could not reach up beyond the liver.  So, they closed me up to start my recovery.  It’s been 8 weeks since the surgery… and although it has been rough, I have almost made a full and complete recovery.  My surgeon has been impressed with how well I’m doing… how quickly I was up and walking… and how straight I was able to stand just 2 days after surgery.  When I came home from the hospital, 4 days after surgery, I was doing full squats in my garden to check out what happened while I was away.  I definitely don’t advise everyone to attempt this at home if they ever go through a major surgery, but having been in really good physical shape, my body was conditioned to do these things naturally, without strain.  If there has ever been a time or reason for me to encourage people to take care of their bodies and to build endurance and strength, this is it.

 

Now… just a couple of ways that I have witnessed God in action throughout this ordeal…

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When my doctors were getting ready to close me up, they spoke to my husband in the waiting room.  They had already explained the difficulties they encountered during the surgery and they had to brief him on rules and policies of the Intensive Care Unit.  They didn’t think I would be awake for a couple of hours and they were going to have to watch me very carefully to make sure I was okay from the major surgery I just had.  Thirty minutes after they rolled me out of the Operating Room to the recovery area, they went to get Greg.  They told him that I was awake and that he could see me.  He was a bit confused since he had just been told that it would be several hours before this would happen.  Beyond what everyone was expecting, I never had to enter the ICU.  My body was handling the surgery way better than the doctors could have predicted.  Greg walked back to recovery and was able to hold my hand and talk to me… although I have no recollection of this.  He said the first thing I said to him was “Is it over already?  That was quick.”  Just a couple of hours later, they rolled me into my own recovery room.

 

24 hours later, the nurses were ready to stand me up to move me from my bed to a chair.  I handled that easily and so, the next day, they wanted me to try walking.  When it was time to walk, I stood straight up with some help from the nurses and family and started taking my first steps.  The nurses were shocked at how I was able to stand straight up… they said most patients with abdominal surgery end up hunched over, holding their incision.  I, then, walked halfway down the long hall, turned around and walked back while holding Greg’s arm.  The nurses were impressed with that too… they weren’t expecting me to walk as far as I did on my first attempt.

 

 

Once at home, I slowly started gaining my strength back.  I used my leg and back muscles to do squats down to the floor if there was something I needed.  I went up and down stairs as necessary.  I tried to stay up and moving as much as my body allowed me to.  By the time I had my 2 week post op check-up, my surgeon was blown away by my recovery.  4 weeks after the surgery, I was flying out to NYC to meet with a Urologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  I’m now almost 9 weeks out and I have returned to REFIT(R) classes once a week to continue building my strength and fitness back up.

 

Honestly, if there is one thing I have been unbelievably thankful for during all of this (other than God), it’s my overall great physical health.  I have no doubt that if I wasn’t as fit as I was when I went into my surgery, it would have been a much longer and tougher recovery.

 

Also… God’s work during all of this still amazes me.  A year and a half ago I became a Certified REFIT Instructor.  A year ago, I started teaching 2 REFIT classes each week at the Hendricks County YMCA.  Last winter, I added a 3rd class to my schedule.  Teaching 3 fitness classes every week forced me to keep my health and physical fitness in check.  Had God not put these opportunities in front of me during this past year and a half, I most likely would’ve decided to take a break with exercising.  God put these classes on my plate to help my body prepare for the battle it was going to have to endure in the future.  When I went in to have my Kidney removed, I had 2 Urologists performing the surgery.  There was no plan to have any other surgeons involved.  When they opened me up and discovered that the cancer had spread up my IVC, they knew they had to call a skilled vascular surgeon in to help clear the tumor.  God had Dr. Irwin working in St. Vincent’s that night… one of a handful of surgeons in the entire hospital who is capable of performing the necessary procedure.  Though he was not originally part of the operating team, God had him there at the hospital to join in to help remove more of the cancer.  I have been told multiple times by several doctors that this entire operation was a MAJOR surgery.  I have also been told multiple times by doctors that I am recovering way better than the majority of people.

 

One thing I can say with confidence through all that I have been through is that God’s got this…. and I truly do not believe I would be where I am today without Him having control over all of this…. it has all been years in the making.  My battle with Renal Cell Carcinoma isn’t over, but I have full confidence (with all of these signs from God) that this cancer will not end my story.

 

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2 responses to “So It’s Been a While…

  1. Danielle says:

    Cheryl, I am do glad your revovery is going so well. Was your tumor cancerous?

    Like

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