Normal or Abnormal?

As we waited to hear the results of my biopsy, I sat there praying, “Lord, please use this for Your glory.” I now felt it was selfish to pray to not have cancer. I knew that I was willing to be His tool. This is how the journey began…

I remember waking up on September 7, 2012 and looking in the mirror to find the lump on the left side of my neck. My first thought was, “Wow! That would suck to have cancer.” My second thought was, “It would suck to lose my hair.” I never would have imagined those would become true statements. I went to the doctor that day and I tested positive for mononucleosis. Whew, good news. The doctor started me on an antibiotic because my white blood cell count was elevated and said that if my lymph node didn’t go down in a few weeks to look at scheduling an ultrasound. Life continued as normal for a few weeks – I did a huge Pampered Chef booth at Sugar Beet Days, went to Keystone for my in-laws’ 40th wedding anniversary celebration, watched my best friends gain full custody of their foster child… and then I went in for the ultrasound on September 25th. The technician found a lymph node that was 5.4 cm in width. That is about the size of an egg. No wonder I was uncomfortable. I was referred to an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) and met him on October 3rd – He refused to do much because the ultrasound results stated that I had a mass in my abdomen… I wasted some time getting that straightened out 🙂 Again, life continued on as normal… I got to start my dream job of travelling around the United States teaching anatomy, I continued with Bulldog Ministry Youth Group, I continued working with the Logan County Fair Board, Royalty Program and Rodeo Committee…and then I went to meet my new ENT in Greeley on October 29th. Before we headed home we went over to the hospital in Greeley and I had a fine-needle aspiration. That is where they suck out “stuff” from the lymph node and test it. The results stated, “The fine needle aspirate is from a lymph node and shows scattered large atypical Reed-Sternberg-like cells. This type of cell is often encountered in the lymph node from a patient with infectious mononucleosis.” = YEAH! “However, they may also be seen in cases of Hodgkin’s disease.” What is Hodgkin’s disease? Again, life continued as normal – I got to go to Atlanta to teach Anatomy and I celebrated my second son’s third birthday. I met with my physician on November 7th and we went over the results of the aspiration. He thought it would be best just to wait it out a bit longer – some people have lymph nodes that stay enlarged for months following a mono diagnosis.

Life became abnormal as Jake (our oldest son) was hospitalized for pneumonia. He started a vicious coughing fit on November 15th that we could not get under control. We laid hands on him and pleaded with God. Ultimately, we rushed him into the emergency room and after four days we were released. Jake had received healing from the Great Physician and we were incredibly thankful.

We know that the devil knows that we are doing God’s work. We have a youth ministry that meets in our home every other week. We have kids that are giving their life to Christ. We became keenly aware that the devil had been working hard to take a foothold in our home. Roy became the spiritual leader I always knew he could become and the Lord led us out of that fire.

Life seemed to go back to normal. We celebrated Thanksgiving with family. I had a few more Pampered Chef shows. Roy and I were doing incredibly well. We drove over to Greeley on December 5th and my doctor gave me some steroids to get started. They worked! The lymph nodes went down and we were all really excited. We rejoiced with the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior. Christmas was such a joyous time. With two little boys, Jake, 4 and Matt, 3, we had lots of laughter and smiles. We baked Christmas cookies and delivered them to our neighbors while singing Christmas carols.

We followed up with my physician on January 15th because I was no longer simply “uncomfortable” but had actually started to experience pain. He mentioned the word “lymphoma” and I tucked it away into the far creases of my brain. We did another round of steroids, but they didn’t seem to be as effective this time, maybe because I had a cold? We celebrated Jake’s 5th birthday on January 16th, his actual birthday and again on 19th for the birthday party. We had a bit of a mess that day which resulted in a fire starting across our yard. The fire trucks really did arrive for his fire truck themed birthday. Ultimately, we headed back to the doctor in Greeley on January 31st and we scheduled a biopsy for February 8th. It seemed like a long time to wait, but God knows best and I needed that time to be drenched in His peace. I REALLY needed that time. God’s peace is rooted in my papillary muscle (muscles at the bottom of my heart) [You will learn a little anatomy from this blog ;)] After a ridiculous customer service experience, I finally got my appointment to go over the results of my biopsy on February 13th, 2013. I remember…small talk…small talk… “It is Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.” I was rooted in His peace. I knew God would be glorified. I knew I would be a tool He would use to increase His kingdom. I was willing.

I want desperately for life to be normal…Last week seemed unbearable – I was diagnosed with lymphoma on Wednesday, I think Valentine’s Day was on Thursday, but that is up for debate, Roy was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday and our horses’ respiratory infection got out of hand on Saturday. Seriously? I KNOW that the Lord does not give us more than we can bear, but holy shmoly, that seemed like a lot.

I don’t know what you do when you find out you have cancer. I prayed. After a lot of tears and processing with family, I got to meet an oncologist in Greeley on February 19th. Whew – that was a yucky experience! After two and a half hours my question became, “What is NOT a side effect of chemo?” We stayed in Greeley that night and my family all mobilized north to stay with us. Roy and I thought we should really explain all of the information in person and I couldn’t possibly repeat it over and over again on the phone. Now we shifted gears into light speed. I had a PET/CT scan on Wednesday morning. I continued to meditate on Philippians 4:6. It was the Bible verse I was working with the boys on memorizing during the week of my diagnosis. “Do NOT be ANXIOUS about ANYthing, but in EVERYthing, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests TO GOD.” [The inflection is the way Matt would say it, and it is how I heard it over and over again during the scan]. Thank God for little boys! Wednesday afternoon we travelled back toward home to Sterling and I met with the surgeon who would put in my chemo port. “What is a chemo port?” was my question. Thursday at noon I had surgery to get my chemo port installed. Is that what it is called – installed? implanted? marked? My thoughts seemed to wander. Anyhow, I had severe pain after the surgery and we finally got that under control yesterday with some better pain meds. I have been sleeping a lot just trying to prepare for the next part of the journey. I start chemo tomorrow. This is my new normal.

I am thankful. I am thankful that I have a God who is big enough to handle this. I am thankful to have a family support system. I am thankful that my husband is the man of God he has always been destined to become. I am thankful to have two beautiful boys that remind me that I am not dying of cancer but living with it. I am thankful for the people I will meet along this journey. I am thankful for the opportunity to share the love and joy of Jesus Christ. I am thankful!

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12 thoughts on “Normal or Abnormal?

  1. Molly Anne T says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. We are all sending you lots of prayers! You have a remarkable perspective on all this! And I saw your bday is coming up. Happy Birthday!!

  2. Del & Linda Brock says:

    Brandee, what a powerful message of sharing as you begin your journey. God is smiling right now, because He knows that He and His Kingdom will be glorified through your suffering & pain and through the tears & prayers of those who love you dearly & even of complete strangers! I know that Roy & Jake & Matt, Dick & Nita & all the Gillham’s, including our close friends Jane & Ken & their family, all of your family, & on, & on, & on…..will be lifting you in prayer! May blessings follow you as you journey! In the Name of Christ, our Comforter & Healer, I pray! AMEN!

  3. Helen says:

    Brandee, thank you for sharing. There is no one in this world more positive and inspiring as you!

  4. Debora Bates says:

    WE are ALL thankful for you and your testimony to what God does and will do with you and your beautiful family! God Bless You my friend! I am praying for you and it will be amazing to watch how God uses you in the times to come as He has in the past.

  5. Andrea (Cammarata) Robbs says:

    Brandee Hun, if anyone can do this you can. You will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers during this journey.

  6. Melissa Ludwig says:

    Praying for you and your family. You are a wonderful writer.

  7. Lori says:

    Brandee, I am reliving my daughter, Erica’s, experience with Hodgkin’s as I read your message. It sounds hard to believe, but you will get through this. Right now you have so much information to digest, but the saying is so true “take one day at a time”…once you have experienced a couple of treatments, it will help to know what is typical for you. Don’t try to think too far down the road, and do what your health professionals suggest. Lots of rest, good nutrition, hydrating when you can, and allowing people to help you by praying for you and your family. I look forward to hearing of your steps along the way; God really will use you in this! He will cover you with His mighty hand, and walk with you every step of the way! May you feel the comfort from the many prayers directed toward you..

  8. ramfishn@cox.net says:

    Brandee, I just want you to know you are in my prayers & I truly hope things work in the right direction for you. God Bless you & your family & you know if you need anything all you have to do is ask.

  9. Debra Sherman says:

    We are all praying for you and your family. Debra Sherman at Elbert Christian Church, Elbert, CO.

  10. TJ & Rocky Best says:

    Your dad and mom will walk this journey with you every step of the way and be there to support you when you need us !!

  11. Lyle and Diana Delta Co. says:

    We are praying for you and your family. God will see you through!!

  12. Patti Gillham says:

    Brandi, I have always been grateful that my daughter has you as a spiritual leader. This community is so blessed that you came here and took up the call to minister to our children. We thank God for you and will keep you in our prayers.

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