Sunday, September 18, 2016

5 Year Update - Beating the Odds

5-year oncology visit
This is the news that I have been waiting for. 

For 5 years… I have hoped and prayed to hear the words “no evidence of disease”. 

On Thursday, I had my 5 year mammogram and met with my oncologist and officially received my 5 year cancer free declaration. 

5 years - wow. I was given a 40% chance of surviving 5 years. It is not hard for me to remember being told those stats and deciding that I HAD to focus on the 40% survival rate and not the 60% chance of cancer coming back and getting me. And now, 5 years later, not only can cancer be put on a shelf in my core memory bank... but I can celebrate that I feel healthier than I really ever have before.

Looking back over the past 5 years is surreal. So much has happened in our families life that all I can do is humbly praise God that he shielded my body from reoccurrence and has strengthened my family in a way I couldn’t have thought possible. 

I wish I had a secret to share with others fighting cancer about how you beat the disease, but I don’t. If I had to sum up what I have learned from this trial it would be: You don’t have nearly as much control over your life as you think you do. 

Cancer doesn’t discriminate… it picks young, old, male, female, non-smokers, smokers, marathon runners, bon-bon lovers, kale eaters, health junkies, junk-food lovers, jerks and even nice people. As ridiculous as this may sound, about a year after I finished treatment I decided I wasn’t going to have cancer again… is that the secret??? Is it all the prayers and love that was poured on my family? Was it the special prayer service that I went to or the blessed water that a friend gave me which I poured on my scar everyday during treatment? I don’t know… but I do believe that the efforts I put forward were only part of the success of survival - and at the end of the day we really don’t have the control over our own lives that we like to think we do. 

As I celebrate this huge milestone in my cancer journey, I am also remembering a very special friend of mine that passed away last September from a battle with cancer. Annette was a 45 year old non-smoker, healthy eater, clean life liver that got lung cancer… and then several other cancers eventually took over her body. I can’t bring myself to say that she “lost her battle” because she was anything but a loser. She was a fighter unlike any other and a believer in hope… but also a realist. The last time I saw her was about 3 weeks before she passed away. Her breathing was so labored and I knew the pain was exhausting for her body… but her spirit and mind were there. I will never forget her telling me about how her 20 year old daughter had moved back home to help her, and a friend had gotten after her for using the little strength she had to make her only child breakfast every morning before work/school. She told me about how she knew her time was short and she wouldn’t be able to help plan a wedding or babysit grand-babies… but she could make pancakes - so no matter what anyone said that was what she was going to do. Because being a MOM was the most important thing she had ever done and she would do it until her last breath.  As I left her home, she started to say good-bye and I interrupted her to say “no, I’ll see you later”. Either during another visit or in the glory of heaven I would see her again… there was no need to use the word good-bye. 

So, while I know this post should be all about a big-fat party celebration with streamers and confetti and champagne… I have to write the honest truth. After-all, I’ve tried to be 100% honest throughout this journey. I don’t know why I am still here and Annette is gone… actually I have a long list of wonderful people that have been stolen from this earth by cancer. But I am still here - and as a vow to these friends/family I will try to live the life I have been given and breathe the breaths I have been blessed with to the fullest. 

The other day Eric told me he too remembers the fear of my diagnosis and not thinking I would make it 5 years. Maybe that’s why I’m still here… just to prove him wrong and to continue to keep our life together spinning in a crazy tornado of fun and love. 

Or… maybe it’s because the Lord knew that if I was gone there wouldn’t be somebody to cut the crust off Leah’s bread or slice up apples the way Nathan likes. Who knows???All I do know is that my cup runneth over and I just might be the luckiest person alive. 

Thank you all for your love and support. 
I hope that this blog has helped you to see the honest side of cancer and shown you how to love and support someone entrenched in this battle. And maybe… given a little insight to how the Lord works in our lives even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. 

Peace, love and rock n’ roll, 

Poipou Beach - Kauai, Hawaii
June 2016
The Joppa Family
We beat this together!

Napali Coast Hike - Kauai, Hawaii
Nathan 9, Leah 6, me... almost 40
I had a "moment" of celebration on
this hike. Often when I think of my
health journey I am humbled and
overcome with amazement of
what my body has gone through
in the past 5 years.