Malaysia, Dysplasia


On March 25, 2014, the day before I found out that I have esophagus cancer (see that story here), I made a plea to a friend who is going through a nasty divorce.  Things are just going terribly and I’ve been privy to many of the details.  I found myself being too caught up in the disaster right along with my friend; sometimes feeling as though I was being swept away by the current.  A time or two,  I almost felt like I was being dragged under the water.  It wasn’t so much the sad facts that weighed me down but mostly it was the speculation that was getting to me.

I’m a marriage speaker and I’ve walked through some serious stuff hand-in-hand with some women.  But on this particular day, I  felt unusually weighed down by the “what ifs”.

I have never been a news watcher.  Truthfully, I hate the news.  I don’t even care about the weather unless I’m getting ready to go on vacation and I’m trying to decide between a light jacket and a winter coat.  For the most part,  the news is really just “Bad News”.  So it’s a total downer to begin with.  Maybe it would be okay if they just reported the facts.

But usually when tragedy strikes (or MIGHT strike), the news stations figure out a way to spend unbelievable amounts of time saying what might happen, what might have already happened, what probably happened and why they think it happened or will happen, etc.

Being from South Florida, the best example we have of this is before a hurricane hits!  We watch model after model after model of the projected and re-projected hurricane’s path.  The reporters suit up in their yellow rain coats and go stand in the windiest, rainiest spot to talk about the impending DOOM that’s getting ready to hit.  They warn us over and over again about the possibilities awaiting us.  This goes on 24/7 for 5-7 days straight.

The most current display of ridiculousness surrounds the disappearance of  Malaysia flight 370.  I’m not totally unaware of what’s going on in the world.  I do catch glimpses of what’s going on now and again on AOL or Facebook or as I’m walking by the TV when my husband has the news on.

Flight 370 went missing on March 8 with 239 people aboard.  The search shifted from waters off of Vietnam to the strait of Malacca and then finally to waters in the Southern Indian Ocean.

The fact that the airplane disappeared is an undisputable tragedy!

But the news stories about what MAY have happened to flight 370 have been so varied and crazy that I’m not going to spend blog-time repeating them.  The hype causes confusion to the families with loved ones on board and strikes terror in to the hearts of anyone else listening to the speculation.

The media’s handling of the missing flight was the subject of the plea I made to my friend.

I told my friend on March 25 that  I just couldn’t do the “Malaysia flight 370 media-frenzy” thing anymore.

As gently as I could, I used that example and then I  just said “I can’t take the speculation anymore.  I want to be here for you.  I really do.  I want to help you through the facts of what’s taking place and what’s next and what’s happened and how you’re handling it all.  I want to pray for you and I want to pray for your marriage and I want to trust that God is doing what He needs to do to bring about whatever He has in mind for both of you and anyone else involved through this trial.  But I just can’t take the speculation anymore.  Can you please just try to stick to the facts?”

As believers, we need to be careful not to spend time wallowing in negative speculation and hearsay!  We are supposed to do the best earthly-good we can with the bad news and the trials that come our way but we have to ultimately trust God with the process and the outcome.

I shared a couple of verses that came to mind.

Philippians 4:8 says we are supposed to think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy.

This is right after we are told in Philippians 4:6 not to be anxious about anything.

That doesn’t mean we sit around in la la land or in our “happy place” ignoring what’s happening around us.  But it does mean that we have to purposefully steer our minds away from the stuff that is NOT true and that produces anxiety!

And there’s Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding.

This means we don’t speculate!  God’s ways aren’t our ways!  We don’t understand all of what He’s doing, maybe none of it!  But we are called to trust!  We aren’t trusting when we are spending a bunch of time putting up models of what “might” happen!

Hebrews 11 talks all about faith starting with Hebrews 11:1 which says that faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Lastly there’s the verse I had to recite in front of my whole church as a child.  Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

If we love God and we’ve been called by Him, we KNOW for sure that whatever He’s doing is going to work out for good.  Maybe not for our own personal, earthly pleasure, but for the good of the Kingdom.  So why question and speculate about how He’s going to achieve his goals?  We are to trust Him!

So I had that tough conversation with my friend on March 25.

And then on March 26, I got some open-ended, speculation-worthy bad news of my own.

“We found some cancer (in your esophagus).  We think we caught it early.  But you need to have this test and that test and see this doctor and that doctor and then we’ll come up with a plan to treat it and these are the ways it’s treated from best to worst case scenario.”

I found myself face to face with a test of my own.

And I immediately felt my own advice, from the day before, wrap around me like a warm blanket!  (How may times do we give advice to others that we need so badly ourselves!?)

My husband and I drove home from that appointment and thought about how we’d tell the kids (teenagers) or if we even should?  We decided he would tell them.

I cried a little when he broke the news to them because I was thinking about being in their shoes.  My daughter has a classmate who lost his mother to cancer and we had just attended the funeral of a much-loved pastor and teacher (and husband/father/grandfather)  from our church/school who had lost his battle with cancer the month before.  So I knew that the kids knew first-hand what the word “cancer” can sometimes mean.  And we had little to go on at that point.

So after I mopped up the tears, I found the same words coming out of my mouth to them that I shared with my friend the day before.

I said, “This isn’t going to be like that Malaysia flight where we are going to make up a bunch of doom-and-gloom stories about how this MIGHT turn out.  We are going on the facts and we have very few of those right now.  What we do know is this – God knows what he’s doing.  He has a reason for this.  A purpose.  A plan.  Right now we see it as a total miracle from Him that I went to have that test with your Dad and they think they caught it early.  We don’t know if it will stay that way but no matter what the outcome is, I’m not worried about it and I don’t want you to be either. I trust Him!”

And with that, my son just matter-of-factly told us that his plan was to not worry.  He said, “Well, I’m not going to worry because I can see that you aren’t worried.”  Boom.  End of story.


So, other than rhyming with Malaysia, where does dysplasia come in to this post?  That’s part of my update.

Since my last post about the “good news/bad news” (again, that’s here) , I’ve had a PET scan and another round of biopsies.

The purpose of a PET scan is to find out if there is cancer anywhere else.  And the good news is that there isn’t!  In fact, even my esophagus didn’t “light up” on the PET scan – which meant it’s probably still really early.

The biopsies were to get a better idea of the overall state/stage of my esophagus.

The first biopsy had shown cancer.  The second round of biopsies showed pre-cancer or “dysplasia” in some nearby spots.  Some was low-grade dysplasia (“someday I’ll be cancer”), some was high-grade dysplasia (“I’m going to be cancer pretty soon if you don’t do something about me”) – all of it, including the first biopsy that was cancer, is NON-invasive which means what they’ve seen so far doesn’t appear to have gone deep in to the layers of my esophagus.  More good news.

I have something called Barrett’s Esophagus which is what happens when acid-reflux or GERD starts wearing away at your esophagus causing it to start to have some cell changes.  This is a condition that has become more common over the past couple of decades.  Supposedly you only have a 1% chance of this condition turning in to dysplasia or cancer but it’s a situation that warrants watching.  And it’s more common in men.

When you get something that you have a 1% chance of getting, do you consider yourself lucky or unlucky :)?

There are still some unanswered questions – like what do we do next (search the ocean floor where we heard the pings?).  And I should have some of those answers in the next week.  I am meeting with three different doctors who have been recommended by different sources.  And then I’ll have to make a decision who is going to treat me.

For now, I ask you to join me in praying for wisdom to make these decisions.

But I also hope that you will consider the above analogy the next time you either get or share some bad news.  Especially if you’re a believer.  Will you trust God during your wait?  Will you trust Him while you are waiting for the facts to emerge?  Or will you speculate and worry about all of the horrible things that “might” happen even though you know that God can use even the worst outcome for good?


Merrie Beth Day











You have to have the Good News before you get the bad news!

1080946_24278190You know how when someone has something rough to tell you, they always ask you what you want first?  The good news or the bad news?  And then you have to decide if you want the good news first to cushion the blow of the bad news or if you want the bad news first so that the good news brings your spirits back up?

Well, 10 days ago I was presented with some very unexpected bad news.

In my case, the bearer of the news didn’t even ask me if I wanted the good news or the bad news first.

I knew there was bad news coming because I got the call that went something like this:

Nurse: “We have the results of your biopsy (the one I hadn’t even thought about since the day I had gotten it and was told everything looked fine) and the doctor wants to see you.”

Me (confused): “Oh.  Umm.  Okay.  Sure (what doctor is this again?).  When does she want to see me?”

Nurse: “Now.  Can you come right now?”

Me:  “Umm, no, I’m sorry, I have a nail appointment this afternoon”.

Just kidding :).  Is there any answer to that question other than “I’ll be right there!”?

Of course my mind immediately went to “The Big C”.  Isn’t that what biopsies diagnose?  What could be worse news than that?

So, I already knew there was bad news of some sort coming.

But, before I even crossed the “which news do you want first” bridge, I already knew I had the capital-G, capital-N Good News and that whatever bad news there was coming my way, I knew that HE had his hands all over it!

What Good News is that?  Who is HE?  Well, the Good News of Jesus Christ, that’s who.

The Good News that gives us strength when we don’t think we can do it and peace that surpasses all understanding and faith that He will work all things out for good for those who love him!  Not that things always turn out for what we believe is our earthly “good” – but that He will use whatever comes our way for His good!

I was with a good friend when I got the call. We had just come back from an 8th grade school field trip with our sons and were getting ready to part ways, grab our kids from school and head home when the phone rang.

I immediately started to cry after I hung up.  I told her what had happened and she immediately grabbed both of my hands and started to pray.

She prayed for peace and strength and for the bad news to be somehow tempered with little-g, little-n good news when I got to the doctor.

I got the kids, ran home and grabbed my husband and he and I headed to the doctor’s office.  I told him on the way that I hoped the doctor would start our meeting with, “There’s no need to worry but….”

Before we went in, my husband threw up a quick prayer that we would have the strength to deal with whatever the doctor had to say.

Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t start with “Don’t worry but….”  She started with, “I have some bad news.”

And then, “We got the results of your biopsy and I’m sorry to say that it showed some cancer“.

As I sat there kind of stunned, she followed that up pretty quickly with the little-g, little-n good news.  “I think we’ve caught it very early.  It’s very RARE to catch it this early.  Thank God you had the endoscopy with your husband!”


A couple weeks before I got the bad news, my husband was scheduled  for an upper endoscopy.  He was having some digestive problems that had him thinking he was having some heart issues.  I thought the issues were all tied together, but mainly digestive issues,  because of some stuff I was learning in an Anatomy class I was taking (which made me an expert :)).  So I asked my husband’s cardiologist if he thought that we should look in to the digestive issues before jumping to any conclusions about heart issues.

So we went off to the gastroenterologist  together and she ordered an upper endoscopy for my husband.  He was anxious to get it done right away and scheduled if for the following week.

I had been having heartburn/GERD issues for YEARS – as in like 20 years!  So during my husband’s appointment, since she was ordering an endoscopy for him,  I asked the doctor is she could do an endoscopy on me too – just to be sure I wasn’t doing any damage to myself with the years of heartburn.

I would have probably put up with it for 10 more years if my husband and I hadn’t been sitting in that office that day for him!

My grandfather actually passed away from esophageal cancer (at 94 years of age!) almost 5 years ago, which is what put it on my radar screen.

I didn’t know this then, but esophagus cancer is a rare cancer to begin with (about 12,000/year in the US get this type of cancer).  It’s one rarely caught early because there usually are no symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to interfere with swallowing.  And at that point, it has a very low survival rate.

My husband ended up getting a cold and couldn’t get his endoscopy on the day he had originally scheduled.  So in the meantime, I had my appointment with the doctor to set up my endoscopy and we ended up getting the procedure done together!

You’ve heard of couples massages?  We got couples endoscopies on March 14.  We literally followed that up with a couples massage on March 23rd.  I know, kind of crazy right?  We sound like those annoying 16 year olds that wear matching shirts :).

We each got diagnosed with acute esophagitis and gastritis (inflammation of the esophagus and stomach) from our couples endoscopies – yes, matching diagnoses.  And we were each put on the same prescription proton pump inhibitor.

But thank God, only one of us got the bad news.  And as corny as all the couples, matchy-matchy stuff above sounds, I was honestly glad it was me.

For one thing, I was getting ready to have some time on my hands to deal with it.  I had a final Physics exam the day after I received the diagnosis and then I would be done with school for 5 months until my core program starts.

Secondly, God blessed me with the ability to grin and bear medical poking and prodding.  I don’t like it.  Nobody likes it!  But I can tolerate it.  And I don’t worry too much about it.  My husband, not so much!  So it’s not like there was a choice who would receive the bad news, but if one of us was going to go down this road, I was glad it was me.

Fast Forward to today (10 days later):

I’ve been poked and prodded. I’ve read no less than 100 articles about esopahgeal adenocarcinoma (mostly about the unbelievable rarity of catching it early and having a good prognosis).  I’ve had a CT scan that, praise God, showed nothing has metastisized nor is there lymph node involvement in my chest and stomach.  I’ve been to an oncologist, a gastro specialist and back to the original gastro doctor for appointments and a repeat endoscopy and biopsies.  Tomorrow I have a PET scan which also checks for any distant metastatisis.  By Tuesday or Wednesday (April 8th or 9th), I should have a pretty clear picture of where I stand.

But so far,  it seems to be a miraculous discovery with a good prognosis.

But wherever I stand when the dust settles, I know that God has me in the palm of His hand!

As an aside:

In 2010, I had a trial in my marriage that seemed bigger to me than the diagnosis I received on March 26.

The trial did a few things for me.  It grew me in Christ like nothing ever has before.  While I was walking with the Lord already at the time, I had a microwave conversion of sorts where my walk was concerned.  It showed me that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, God can be trusted to give us what we need when we need it and that He is with us every step of the way.  My marriage was not only restored, but  it became more than I could  have imagined in my wildest dreams – and it’s exactly what I need for “today’s” trial.

God promises that He will do more than we could ever hope or imagine.  He promises that he has a plan for us – plans to give us a future and hope.  And he says we have no need to fear!  He kept all His promises in 2010.  And I know he will do that for me in 2014, even if it doesn’t include the outcome that I hope you will all join me in praying for!

I could not have made it through last week’s bad news without the trial I went through in 2010.  That trial has been the gift that keeps on giving and I know this one will be too.

So am I worried about last week’s bad news or any bad news I may receive this coming week or beyond?


Why? Because no matter what the bad news is, I already have the capital-G, capital-N Good News!  And you can handle any bad news if you have the Good News first!