The Plan

14 12 2011
This says it all.

I opened up my email this morning to these beautiful words from my bff Marnie Leonard Fender. We’ve been pals since middle school:

My heart is broken to hear the test results.  You are so special to all that know and love you and I wish that this wasn’t the fight that it is.  I couldn’t respond to your one line blog… the one line said so much about how you must be feeling.  We are normally graced with many words of inspiration – and the lack of prose from my dear friend, the most talented of writers, hit like a freight train.  The impact of just a few words….the implication of your sorrow.  Please remember the impact of other few words….you are loved…God is with you…hope returns.  I am hopeful about your talks with the doctors. 

Monday and Tuesday this week were like night and day — and I can’t help but think, no, believe, that the power of prayer was responsible. First there was the sudden collapse of my right leg in a Kohl’s Department store. “Was it pain that kept you from walking?” the doctors asked me at the ER.

No, it wasn’t the pain, I assured them. I can walk through pain. My leg just simply gave out, couldn’t bear any weight, wouldn’t work. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

Don rushed me to the University of Michigan ER as my instructions from my medical team at Beaumont were: Get to the closest ER. Doesn’t matter which one. Just get there.

Don wheeled me into the ER and there I was, sitting in this rolling chair, wearing a mask for protection, tears streaming down my face at such a high rate that the top of the mask was soaked and clinging to my cheeks. I was immediately sent for a veinous ultrasound (this was a first for me), which checks for blood clots. Thank God, the test result was a negative.

Next, I was sent for a complete MRI of my back, from my neck all the way down through my tailbone. I laid in the MRI tube for a full hour. When they finally pulled me back out, the techs asked how I was able to remain so still. Apparently, a lot of people can’t and have to go under anesthesia or simply can’t complete the test.

I told them my strategy. I pretended I was an astronaut in a rocket heading into space, and that I had been well-trained for the mission. The headphones meant to protect me from the loud noises of the MRI machine were, in fact, my communication to and from Ground Control. I imagined how, once the rocketship burst through the atmosphere and I got the green light, I’d be floating around the cabin of the shuttle, gazing at the beauty of earth from space, mingling with my astronaut companions, trying to decide which freeze-dried meal would be dinner. Beef jerky? Chicken? Yes, I know; my strategy is way out there, but it worked.

And so did the tests. My ability to lie that still gave the doctors the best possible images to work with. They returned to my room at the ER within 45 minutes of the test — a very quick response. They closed the door. Closing the door always means something serious is up. The doctor began by explaining that there was no disc compression, no pinched nerves. That was the good news.

The bad news was that there were multiple lesions in my back, near my spinal cord. But that was as far as he wanted to go. The ER docs simply recognized the complicated nature of my diagnosis and that truly, it was my oncology team that needed to look at the films and interpret them. I really respected them for that.

On the ride home, I sobbed. Wracking sobs. I looked at all of the houses that dotted the landscape, brilliantly lit in the dark of the night with strings of Christmas lights, nativity sets on the lawn. I thought this new development meant I was a goner. I felt quite certain of that in those moments and sobbed at the thought that my life was coming down to one last Christmas.

Not so, my oncology team told me yesterday, after reviewing the films and tests from the University of Michigan. They had studied those films earlier in the day, while I was going through a PET Scan. There was very good news to be had. VERY GOOD NEWS.

NONE of the lesions were touching my spinal cord. My spinal cord was completely clear. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, and I could see it all over my oncologist’s face. This was the piece of information that would change everything. Yes, there is cancer in my back, and that’s a new development, but it’s in my vertebrae and very treatable. Right then and there in the office, I was given a shot of a second chemo agent called Xgeva (pronounced X-Geeva), to go with my Xeloda (Zeloda).

The combination of these two chemo agents has proven to be very successful in treating breast cancer that has mestastasized to the bones. And, as I began the Xeloda a week ago, my oncologist noted, we were already ahead of the game. We should see some improvement within three to four weeks on this new regimen.

That’s a long time to be as debilitated as I have been in the past few weeks. And the last two days, I’ve spent most of my time in a wheelchair, unable to walk for any length of time on my own. That’s due to the inflammation in my back. So, my doctor is putting me on a round of steroids and I should get relief within a few days. I should be back, up and around and WALKING again very soon.

So, there was indeed a silver lining to my test results. Would I have loved to hear that there was not any cancer in my back? Of course. But my oncologist was steady, confident and calm as she walked me through my options and told me that this is indeed treatable and that we will get it under control. Maybe we’ll even get rid of it. She still maintains that I have years ahead of me. This is not my last Christmas.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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62 responses

14 12 2011
Kerry

Oh thank God! I am so relieved to hear that. I am no trained medical professional, but I think you have many years as well 🙂

14 12 2011
Joyce Hawkins

You’re an inspiration! You find the good in the not-so-good news. I’ve been following your blog for a while and pray for only the best for you.

14 12 2011
Kathy

Oh, Amy… your spirit and attitude are so inspirational. It’s a wonderful thing that you’re sharing all of this with all of us. I’m there with you. We ALL are!!!

14 12 2011
sean

Woohooo!!! Go Amy! Go Amy! Go Amy!!!

14 12 2011
Maureen

What an awful scare. So many of us were praying that your thoughts on the ride home wouldn’t come to fruition, but it certainly crossed many minds. Thank God for these doctors and their knowledge and familiarity with what is so scary to us ‘mere mortals.’ We are constantly tested! Believe, believe, believe! Love you.

14 12 2011
Sharon L-S

Breathing a sigh of relief!!!
Sending hugs and prayers your way.

14 12 2011
Marie Petrides

God Bless you Amy, you truly are an inspiration to so many of us. I have prayed so hard for God to give you the best possible outcome. May God continue to bless you with Good health, and continued progress. You truly are a remarkeable woman……Faboulous news!!!!!!

14 12 2011
Cheryl Buck

So glad to see your news. Sending you a ton of hugs and never ending prayers. Will talk to you real soon. Love ya:)

14 12 2011
Maggie

I’m crying in relief as I read that. Even though I have never met you, your story has struck a cord with me. I am so thankful that this is treatable and you should have many more years.

You also have a kick ass oncologist.

14 12 2011
Marnie

Now there’s my Aim! XOXOX

14 12 2011
Jennifer Bopp Stegbauer

Well now we can see more clearly why it is at this time important for you to be on Xeloda instead of the PARP Inhibitor. I am so relieved that you are ahead of the game on the meds and that there was a silver lining to this cloud. And I agree, this will not be your last Christmas! Wish I could be there to wipe your tears, hug you and just hang out.

14 12 2011
Deb Peters

Oh Amy, I am now sighing a big sigh of relief. I commend you for your courage. Your strength is astounding. Of course the prayers will not stop, but instead continue until the team of doctors say that you are in complete remission. Lean hard on the Lord who will help you through this, and dwell heavily on the words of your oncologist that you have many years left.

14 12 2011
Kristi Rugh Kahl

Tears…….of relief, of sadness, of happiness, of hope, of love……
God’s ears must have been ringing and on overload these last 48 hours but it sounds like he didn’t just listen, he heard and answered 🙂

14 12 2011
Ken and Gay

Dearest Amy,
We are relieved to hear the news and words from you oncologist which are so very hopeful. You are blessed to have such a knowledgable team of Drs.by your side! We all felt the impact of those few powerful words after your MRI. Marybeth phoned me and said for Amy to write just one sentence meant there was so much to take in, all of our hearts were breaking too! Now we have new hope and can see the light that is surrounding you. The tears running down our cheeks are happy tears! We LOVE you to the moon and back and knowing that your MRI journey took you there and brought you back to all of us is sweet music to our ears!! Much Love, K.&G. xxxooo

14 12 2011
kerri daugherty

Thank god! Amy u are the most amazing women I have ever met. U inspire me, and have opened my eyes to life again. So very glad to know u will have many more Christmas with family and friends. As I’m sure u know god has a reason for this. Maybe he knows ur the fighter and can open peoples eyes and hearts like u did me and we can find a cure. Love you and may god bless u and don an theo

14 12 2011
Karen

I only have tears of joy for you!! Merry Christmas Amy!!

14 12 2011
MFA Mama

Oh, Amy! How scared you must have been! I’m so glad to hear that the lesions aren’t actually touching your spine, and that your oncologist is so optimistic, but you must just be reeling…I hope you’re back up and around ASAP, and do remember that steroids will mess with your mind (so try to be good to yourself and others and remember to take deep breaths when needed). I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

14 12 2011
Laurie

Thank God, Amy!! I absolutely love your spirit and zest for life. You’re my energizer bunny!!! Prayers for you, Don & Theo.

14 12 2011
Laura Kasischke

Wow. Whew. Merry merry Christmas, and many more.
been thinking of you nonstop. xoxox

14 12 2011
Amy Yongblood

Happy Happy Day Day!!!!! love to see those words “treatable” and “confidence” and “silver lining” and “relief” in your post. Goosebumps covered my body when I read it this morning. A new development maybe……….but your are going to kick it in the butt right outta the gate.

14 12 2011
WendyH from FLX

What wonderful news, Amy! I’ll continue sending healing vibes & prayers from Montreal 🙂

14 12 2011
Susan Ager

It is not your last Christmas but, knowing you a bit as I do, I will bet you will APPRECIATE its every moment as if it were your last. That’s what we all ought to do — love each other and each song and each cookie as if our life depended on it.

14 12 2011
amylouwho

I’ve only been reading your blog for a short time now, but long enough to know that one sentence entry said so much more than the number of words you used. I am so glad you have a plan in place, a good plan, and that your doctor is so full of hope for you. I continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers daily.

14 12 2011
Jennifer L. W. Fink

Amy — I have no idea how you are able to write such beautiful prose while in the midst of a such a troubling time. I can only surmise that you are one of those people who is truly living out her purpose on Earth, and truly serving a purpose greater than yourself.

For what it’s worth, you have indeed been surrounded with prayer. I was so moved, touched and concerned by your previous two posts that I reach out to my friends and family here, and multiple people in my circle are now praying for you as well. God bless!

14 12 2011
Alison

So relieved that this is just another obstacle – to be overcome – but that you will get treatment and all will be good. Wishing you buckets full of great health in the coming year.

14 12 2011
Claire

Thank God. You are a hero and your husband, son and oncologist are too. Big hugs!

14 12 2011
Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart

Better news than what all of us feared. Thanks for the update.

14 12 2011
CFW

So glad to hear about your new plan. Keep the faith!
Would love to come over and visit with you but we have been a little sick from the cold.
Sending hugs and kisses from across the lake.

14 12 2011
Cathie

So happy to hear the great news! Our heartfelt prayers are always with you, Don and Theo! Merry Christmas!

14 12 2011
Meredith from FLX

Thank you for the update…I will look forward to hearing about your progress and will continue to send best thoughts your way!

14 12 2011
Carrie

I cried… At Marnie’s words, then for yours. So much love for you!! Thank you for sharing it with us :o). So many blessings. Thank you for reminding me to count on the blessings, and the love of others! You’re one beautiful, strong Lady ;o). My prayers are with you!

14 12 2011
Sharon Frisch

Thanking God for the positive news, Amy. Praying these treatments work quickly for you and for God’s peace to surround you at all times.

14 12 2011
Julie

I can’t quit crying. Earlier news just paralyzed me into nothing but prayer. Now I’m crying. Guess that’s called relief.

14 12 2011
brian Murphy

All these replies man a lot of love coming your way, Amy . . . and I’m REALLY REALLY REALLY happy to add to the stream!

14 12 2011
Elaine

Many years ahead never thought otherwise!!!! You are just so strong and i’m so happy to hear the positive to this. Love us from Alabama

14 12 2011
Jennifer Ozment

You are an inspiration to so many! Love and prayers being sent your way.

14 12 2011
Jackie Dishner

I’m thinking of you, Amy, and feeling inspired by your words.

14 12 2011
Nickie

God is GOOD!! That is wonderful news Amy, and I am so very greatful for your outstanding oncology team. Get rest and we will keep the prayers going!! Love you…..Nickie and the Gang!!

14 12 2011
Scott Orwig

What a terrifying experience that must have been! And losing mobility can be a devastating blow. Your restricted diet was exhausting enough, but that’s nothing compared to suddenly needing a wheelchair. Between that change and the news from the MRI many people (most people!) would be down for the count. But as usual you just get back up again, ready to keep fighting for a long time more.

Xgeva is one of those drugs that wasn’t available just a year ago. We can only guess what will be out in another year. Hang in there.

14 12 2011
Pam Richards

Don must be so relieved! Loving you so much and being powerless to protect you from these demons! You are an amazing woman, Amy. Your writing and your readers help as support and as outlet for you and your fears. My prayers are for strength for BOTH of you, with an extra prayer for Don. I don’t know him, but I sure hope he has YOUR friends, too, and many of his own for extra support during these rollercoaster times. God can do anything–and we are ALL praying for that miracle of complete cure for you.

14 12 2011
amy

I have tears in my eyes as I read this. That’s great news =) I have added you to a global breast cancer survivor prayer chain so please know that you are in the hearts and minds of alot of people. I know that if anyone can beat this monster down, it’s you. In my thoughts and prayers daily.

Amy

14 12 2011
Beth Johnson

So relieved. I can’t imagine how scared you must have been, even considering how scared we all were. It’s not the best news, but at least it’s workable news. I’m going to keep sending Good Thoughts your way.

Beth

14 12 2011
Rita P

A resounding YESSS!!!!!!!! LOVE to you!

14 12 2011
Sherri

Thank you God. Prayers are still in overdrive.

14 12 2011
Cathy Carey

Big sigh of relief! Thank heavens you have such a great team beside you.

Merry Christmas for this year and many more to come.

14 12 2011
Patti Moyer

So happy for the news you received! Keeping you in my thoughts & prayers!!

14 12 2011
Pam Spencer

I wept at your diagnosis and now I weep again…this time from relief. I will keep praying for you.

14 12 2011
JoAnne Braun

Amy, you are such a fighter, and have set an example for us all. You make us all want to: Get up, get going, and get over it…..your inspiration makes us all better people, and we bless you for that. Enjoy the Christimas lights with your family, feel better, and know the universe is praying for you.

Love, Sherri’s mom

14 12 2011
Laura Laing

I’ve been holding my breath for two days. You sound good, confident. We’re all still cheering for you from all corners of the world. Hope you can feel it.

14 12 2011
Dan

I’m so thankful to hear this news. You are constantly in my thoughts and prayers.

14 12 2011
Mary Dougherty

Praise the Lord

14 12 2011
Debbie V

I am so happy to hear your positive news. God does answer prayers. Merry Christmas!!!!!

14 12 2011
Mary Cox

Quote by Lance Armstrong –
“You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row…. NEVER QUIT !!! ”

Amy I though this would fortify your spirit – Flooding heaven’s gates with prayers for you dear one.

Mary

14 12 2011
Lori Madison

What an inspiration! How inspirational! I’m utterly inspired by your courageous, “be about it” demeanor. Bless you and your mountain of strength, wisdom and perserverance! Not only are you fighting for every day of your precious and gifted life, but you’ve found time to share your experiences with others that they might be informed, encouraged and lifted up through your struggles. What an awesome gift. Thank you & enjoy this splendid season with your family & friends!

14 12 2011
Ellen Katz

Glad to hear the good news, Amy. You are amazing!

15 12 2011
moonknight64

Very happy to see you come thru this intact. And to stay sane in that MRI tube? That deserves a banana split all by itself,Amy. Well done!

15 12 2011
Leah Ingram

So happy to have a post ending with VERY GOOD NEWS. I got an update on your situation on FLX this morning, and now I’m subscribing to your blog (I thought I had way back when but whatever) so I can keep tabs on how you’re doing.

15 12 2011
Bob Adams

Yep, prayer does work… and did. Tough way to find out though. Thank God for your faith.

15 12 2011
Laurie Bennett

Amy, I can not stop thinking of you .. Be blessed friend. Praying for you.

15 12 2011
Kimberly DeMoss

Never give up Amy! When I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer last year I told myself from the start, that isn’t me they are talking about and I don’t have cancer. I still believe that till this day and I have finally hit a point of remission. I’m the lady that saw you in Rose Cancer Center the day you were filming your Fox2 documentary. Since then I have been reading your blog, feeling your pain, and taking your inspiration into my own life. My team of doctors is on the 1st floor and they are just as amazing as yours. No matter what the prognosis there is always hope. I pray often for you and your family and hope God will keep you well. Hugs to you Amy and please never give up!

16 12 2011
Auntie Helen

Always in my heart and prayers. Love You.

16 12 2011
Sarah Zowada

Praise God!!! Enjoy CHRISTmas with your family.

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