It is well


Remember when you were a kid and you had to do a report for science, social studies, or whatever. You would do it on the Egyptian Pyramids or the solar system. Maybe you did a report on Martin Luther King Jr. or Emily Dickinson. And you most likely felt like an expert when you were done. Maybe you were bored by your topic or you even resented having to do it. In the end you might have thought why did I have to do that stupid research. Or if you were like my kids maybe you were excited to learn new things. My point…. I realize that having cancer is sort of like that grade school report you had to do. Everyone I have met becomes an “expert” on their cancer. I know a lot about my rare cancer. My friend Kristine knows all about hers. Melanie can explain to me the intricacies of Acute Lymphoblstic Leukemia (cancer of the blood). Ultimately, in order to understand what is happening/going to happen you need to become an expert on your cancer. Whether you want to be or not.

My cancer is a tricky beast. Unlike normal breast cancer it does not show up on mammograms or through a breast exam. In fact by the time it is diagnosed it is always a stage three cancer. (There are only four stages.) Inflammatory breast cancer spreads very fast and has a poor prognosis compared to other breast cancer. In my case I had symptoms for about 5 months before I sought treatment. I was diagnosed “officially” on May 11th and chemotherapy began on May 30th. So to say the least it was a very quick transition from being a normal mom/wife to being chemo sick and in need of help.

What I chose to not reveal to all but a few people was that I am in fact at stage 4. My oncologist revealed to me at my first chemo appointment that I have cancer in the lymph nodes in my neck, throughout my left breast, left underarm, right under arm,lymph nodes in my abdomen, the bone of my sternum, and pelvis. Of course this means that I will never not be on chemo. I will finish this round of THC (not pot…taxotere, herceptin, carbiplatnin). Then I will get a mastectomy of either one or both breasts. Then I will get 5 more months of chemo followed by radiation on my neck. After that I will be placed on a daily chemo medicine as well. The reality is that I will never be in remission..there is cancer in my bones that can not be removed. They are not trying to cure me but rather prolong my life. I can however expect to have several more years with you. I don’t know how many…but you don’t know how long you have either. I am not hopeless. I assume the best given this situation and I need you all to keep praying for a miracle. A cure for cancer would be great.

I am sorry that I could not tell everyone in person. That would be almost impossible. And I am sorry if you are sad. I have acceptance about it and I am trying to make all my days count, because they are all I have. It is my intention to use the acupuncture to alleviate my chemo symptoms to improve my quality of life. So far it is totally effective in doing that. I am going to gentle yoga at the wellness center. I am trying to spend time meditating and in prayer. All of which adds to my peace of mind and diminishes anxiety and stress. I need to do better with my diet…but I have been saying that forever.

I realize how precious the days are. And it motivates me to spend all the time I can with my loved ones. It prompts me to apologize quickly when I have hurt someone. And it motivates me to forgive quickly too. I don’t want to spend my days angry and unhappy. Sadly, it also makes me want to eat dessert after every meal…or before every meal. It also makes me want to buy things to make myself feel better…which is why often have to apologize to Kelly. I am really trying to let God fill the void instead of stuff.

I often feel a strong desire to become perfect because I don’t want to leave this world with a lot of unfinished business. I think we assume that we will have years to work on our character defects. I do not have that long and I really want to work it all out today. But that is not realistic. So I have to be a bit more patient and learn as much as I can. I keep praying. I keep apologizing. I keep forgiving. And I remind myself daily that I am blessed.

My favorite hymn has been a great source of strength for me since my diagnosis. It reminds me that regardless of my circumstances God is good and I need to accept what is my lot in life. I have included the lyrics. Maybe they can give someone else the strength they need too.

It is well with my soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


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!


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.


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!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!


And Lord, haste the day when my 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.


7 Responses to “It is well”

  1. faith says:

    This is why I shouldn’t read your blog while I’m at work…

  2. jenni bender says:

    andrea… i’m not really going to try to say something witty or profound right now. i just want you to know how seriously much i love you. when you have time and are feeling okay i’d like to come see you.

  3. Siobhan says:

    You are so loved. There’s not much more to say than that.

  4. Andrea says:

    I apologize to everyone who reads the blog at work.(4 of you emailed me) I did not even think about the effect that could have on you. Actually, I do not believe anyone really reads the blog :). I am always surprised by that. So forgive me for making you cry. I just felt it was time to clue you in on the details. We waited until the children were done school to tell them what was happening. And we didn’t want everyone to know before them. In any case, I am sorry if that was too intense for anyone. I just thought I needed to be forthcoming with the details. I love you all.Don’t read the blog at work people.Andrea

  5. leah says:

    Andrea, I think that was the right thing to do, (telling your children first), I do feel sad when i read your blog, but i also feel hopeful. I think about you everyday sometimes all day, and i always pray for you and your family.

  6. Heidi Barr says:

    Andrea I love you.
    This illness will be your personal journey in so many unimaginable ways, both good and bad. One of my dearest friends, who has her own terminal illness to cope with, when I told her of your cancer, said to me ‘remember this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.’ Today I am moved to share this thought with all who read this blog out of loving concern for you. We cannot know how long you will live; we can know that you that you will need help to insure the quality of your life in the mean time. If we are lucky…this will be many years. Long enough for us to occasionally grow weary of our tasks as your friends and need to lean on each other to get through it. Long enough to marvel at how your illness has changed the way we live our lives and to share this miracle with you and our loved ones. I am honored to be running in this marathon along side you and your amazing family and your friends and I hope it is the longest damn race I’ve ever been in!!!

  7. shayna says:

    Andrea- I am glad that you were able to tell everyone- words are so insignificant but – i get these mixed emotions when I try to take in the whole cancer thing- part of it is such a deep, dark sadness, but another part of it is a feeling of awe— a great feeling of holiness- it always makes me a little dizzy. I’m honored to be in your life. we (me and jahna) love you girl and I know from this blog you have so many friends that love you too-