• denise tam

The Cancer Journey : How?

Reposted from denisetam.webs.com January 15, 2012


A well thought out plan and an exciting adventure, though polar in its nature, are two things that keep me sane. I find comfort in taking predictable steps while another side of me thrives off of the thrill and danger of the unknown. The latter has led me to experiences like befriending a local Cuban and opting to dine with his family in their unfinished mud house, or the time I wandered the outskirts of Shenzhen to capture the stories and lives of migrant factory workers and then having to hitch hike back to a part of the city where taxis can be found, and most recently, bungee jumping off of a beautiful gorge in China where mountain tips touched the skies, where the water beneath me stood perfectly still mirroring the wall of mountains surrounding me and also where they used duck tape to keep my shirt in place during my fall.


On a general day to day basis I'm a planner of all sorts and I like to know and be in control of my circumstances- or at least think that I am.

In reality we all live outside of our own control. Cancer has made this more obvious to me


It's been a while since my emotions have been steady. Unfortunately I don't find my health challenges exciting or the treatments thrilling. Each day brings different challenges and fears. Cancer certainly does not define me nor consume me, but I still worry. In the areas of health alone, I worry about the doctor not being able to put the needle into my port properly, the side effects from the high dosage of vitamin c -short term effects of not being able to breath, and long term effects of the vitamin c depleting my body of important minerals, results from tests, an infected port which has been more frequent in recent weeks, pain in my lower back that I refuse to believe is from enlarged lymph nodes and the list goes on.

My most recent scan for example was more than just a day at the hospital. As much as I tried to prepare mentally for it, I am somehow always unprepared for the adventure that awaits me.


I woke up scan morning with a bounce to my step. One would have thought I was getting ready for a date.


In reality I did have a date, just one that I didn't really want to go on, a date with a doctor at a place I was all too familiar with - the hospital.


Doc was late as usual and he started off treating me to a contrast drink. It tasted like licorice, a flavor that doesn't sit well with my taste buds. It was a full cup, but I downed it like a Sambuca shot only realizing afterwards I had three more to take. Unlike other situations, I couldn't throw the shot back behind me or sneak it to a friend beside me. The drinks were lined up for me and only me. I said a quick prayer of protection over my body before I downed each cup and continued on with my adventure ahead.


Doc informed me that I would need to have another type of contrast infused through a drip and proceeded to list out the side effects which included the feeling of extreme heat throughout my body (to the point that you think you're going to the bathroom but you're really not), bitterness in my mouth and a possible skin reaction.

It seemed that the scan was more than just being scanned.


It soon came time for them to find my veins. There's a reason I got a port put inside of me - I have no visible veins! I became a pin cushion for the next few minutes as nurses squeezed, hit and examined my arms and hands to no avail. A doctor was finally called in and even he gave up and asked for an ultrasound machine. And so with the ultrasound wand in one hand and a needle in the other Doc found a vein. Hurray!

The last surprise came when I was already lying on the bed ready to be scanned. Doc told me the contrast wouldn't have made it to my intestines and to have a clear enough scan he recommended me to have contrast flushed directly inside of me through an enema. I actually asked him to repeat himself several times as I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I go for coffee enemas weekly but I had never heard of contrast enemas. I wanted to have a clear scan and I certainly didn't want to have to go through it all again so I gave in. I left the hospital feeling like a stuffed thanksgiving turkey and as the adrenaline rush wore off, physical and mental fatigue wore in.


Each day is full of surprises. And every life is full of hardships. When I wrote about living today, 'how' became an obvious question.


How do we truly find joy in each moment we have breath? How do I trust that God is in control when result after result it shows the cancer is growing? How does the mother who lost her unborn baby find joy in her circumstances? How does the girl whose father just passed away find peace in the present? How does the girl who ended a relationship with her boyfriend find hope for the future? How does the father of four battle cancer for the third time find assurance in God's plans? How does the widowed mother find strength to raise her baby boy each day?

These are just a few questions in my life and those around me, but of course there are global questions as well as your personal 'how's' that can be added to this list.


I went to see the new oncologist this week. It was a relief to hear he doesn't recommend chemo (I'll be doing three more months of natural treatment). He basically said the nature of this cancer is slow growing and it is inclined to grow and shrink as it pleases.


"There's not much you can do about it," he explained, referring to both conventional and natural treatments. "It can be something you live with your entire life."

That statement hit me hard. I don't believe this cancer will stay with me forever. I believe I will be healed, but I couldn't help wondering 'what if I'm not? How will I live my life?’


Life is not easy. But we're never promised an easy life, we're only promised a way to get through this life - with God's grace.


I know this to be true but I certainly don't claim to live it out each day. But just like how I'm certain the sun will rise in the morning, I'm thankful that in the darker of times I can be certain God's grace and strength will get me through the day.

The pains, the disappointments, the hopelessness in life are all very real. But I’m thankful that God's strength and hope that He offers is just as real.


Lamentations 3:19-24 (MSG)

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,

the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.

I remember it all –oh, how well I remember –

the feeling of hitting the bottom.

But there’s one other thing I remember,

and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,

his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.

They’re created new every morning.

How great your faithfulness!

I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).

He’s all I’ve got left.

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