Monday, June 13, 2016

simply living

Someone is always watching over me, so it seems.  While preparing for my MRI a week ago, I received a call about my PET scan.  Could I do it the 8th of June?  I had to laugh- of course I was scheduled to get the results of the test from Dr. Panwalkar on the 7th of June.  Lucky for me, when word made it back to Dr. P he simply said lets get her scanned on the 7th and I'll see her on the 8th.  

As I sat in the exam room waiting for Dr. Panwalkar, Annie peeked her head in to say hello and show me the cutest new picture of Grace, her puppy.  We chatted briefly and she wished me well. 

Dr. P strode into the room and over to the computer desk, flipping the screen on right away.   In a straightforward manner, he said "Well your PET scan report was good.  I just read the report- haven't looked at the scan, but lets see."

I'm still a complete rookie looking at scans.  But he spends his time orienting me to the various organs and directions we're going.  Its when he gets to the lungs that he slows.  "Here's the spot.  Lower left lobe of your lung, is lit up.  The radiologist says its consistent with inflammation of some kind."

But I don't feel relief.  My questions come into play right away.  Is it radiation scarring?  Is it treatment related? I have such a long standing history with Dr. Panwalkar, he seems to know he has to give me more to stand on.  
 As I ask the questions, and Dr. Panwalkar seeks to find answers to them, he decides to go back through old scans.

And there it is.  Glowing bright yellow.  In the exact same place. 

6 months ago my scan was clean, and 3 months prior to that was ok, but last summer before I started chemo?  My lung lit up in the same spot, as it is now.   That was not inflammation.  Therefore, this is most likely not inflammation.  But only time will tell.

So even though the report sounds really good?  Dr. Panwalkar most likely thinks as I do now, the new spot is cancer again.  And again I need his reassurance that we can formulate a plan A, and B or even C, for treatment. 

He says we can go back to Taxotere- weekly maybe this time.  And he stretches way back in my history and somehow remembers I stopped Halaven, after having a really good response to it.  So I can go back to that one if need be.  He names off several chemos.  I'm just not letting it all soak in- I just want to float on the surface right now.

Yet, Dr. P is throwing lifelines like he knows I need him to.  He knows.  So much space and silence sits between us, but he doesn't fill it with anything but what I can handle right now.  There's knowing in the silence.

We also go through my brain MRI, which looks precisely the same.  Stable Mable.  

He motions to the exam table and I climb up.  He repeats his instructions to me, even though I should have every part of the exam down pat.  But he listens to my lungs, and then takes a moment and simply rubs my back.  No words.  Just compassion.  Slow. Steady.  He then checks my eyes, my mouth, my stomach, my lymphedema- everything.  Then he thumps down my spine and I tell him its fine.  He stands then and pats that place on my back again, reassuring, and says "I think you are doing really good."  

He goes to sit down and I ask, "How are you, Dr. Panwalkar?"

"Me?"  He responds, sounding surprised.  "I'm doing well.  Thank you for asking."  

I tell him I see how the chaos of the construction, and all of the congestion going on in and around the hospital can be daunting on a daily basis.  So if he decides to move on- away from all of this- just let me know!  His hearty laugh reverberates through the exam room, but then he offers this gem- a life-preserver.  

"I'm not going anywhere.  Don't worry, I won't abandon you."  

With that I let go and feel all of the air start to expand my lungs again.

I may be treading water, but my head is still above the surface breathing oxygen.  I'll just keep swimming.  It's all I know how to do. 

A new treatment plan will take shape and the right time will come in the future.  

For now,  I'm just going to keep living in the "meantime." 

 It takes Rick most of the day Saturday to get the motor running on the boat.  With the hours of sunlight stretching into the evening, its time to go, despite our late start.

We're equally thrilled that Nolan decided he'd like to go.  He starts "remembering when..." on the quick ride to the lake and my mother's heart is brimming with the resonance of his sweet stories.  The summer we spent at The Miller's lake- weren't we so lucky they let us use the cabin for the summer?  Every detail he remembers and shares with us.  

The fishing starts off slow, little nibbles and bites.  We laugh at the little blue gills, and crappies they catch.  Then Nolan fights to land a northern that he lets his Dad hold up for him once its in the boat.  We're merely catching and releasing this day.

Once again, few words are needed.  It doesn't get much better than this. 

We end our night with pizza at Zorbaz.  I'm drunk with sunshine and being on the water and living with joy in the "in between."

We came home to conclude our weekend with game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  It was the most "on the edge of my seat" anxiety-inducing, intense hockey I've endured in a long time.

But in the end?  There he is, our #7 Matt Cullen, with the rest of the Penguins, winners of the Stanley Cup!!  

Tears of joy and celebration fall, as I watch Matt's family gather around him.  Much more Stanley Cup celebration is anticipated in the weeks ahead.  

This morning, as I ease into this week, I begin my day with Jesus Calling.  

Sarah Young

June 13th

I am creating something new in you: a bubbling spring of Joy that spills over into other's lives... My spirit flows through you to bless others.  Let yourself become the reservoir of the Spirit's fruit.

Your part is to live close to Me, open to all that I am doing in you... Just keep focusing on Me as we walk through this day together.  Enjoy My presence which permeates you with Love, Joy, and Peace.



  1. Vicky, so many times I've read your posts and said to myself, I'll remember how she phrased her thoughts, the passages she quoted...and then I don't. This time I've printed your last two paragraphs to put on my wall and re-read over and over. Your courage, love, and faith are inspiring to so many. You are helping others --with your writing-- far more than you could possibly ever know.

    1. Gale, to see your sweet self show up here meant so much to me! Thank you for your gracious words- Sarah Young wrote those words that speak to my heart so often- and now she speaks to yours as well! Love and blessings to you!

  2. My dear sweet soul Sis,
    Your words..."I just need to float right now" bring me to tears. Your heart knows, as it has always known, that He is right there with you. You, your Heavenly Father, and Dr. P...there together. My tears are flowing as I envision you in that exam room and once again I am so, SO grateful to God for the compassion and knowing and wisdom of Dr. P.

    I am so grateful to the Lord God Almighty for your clear brain scan. God Bless Stable Mabel!!! I am so grateful to God for all the other areas of the scan where Dr. P said, "They look really good." All of those clear places that still have NED, I am grateful and praying for each one.

    And that pesky, yellow, lit-up spot is no match, and I mean NO match, for God and all of your prayer warriors. We are right this very minute, dear one, praying and telling that yellow spot to go AWAY! Be GONE! End of story!!! God has got this, of that I am sure.

    Thank you for the gift of those magnificent photographs of you, Rick and Nolan floating on the water. I was floating with you, and they were a balm for my weary soul. The sky in each photo is streaked with the reminder that He is here, right now, holding you up, keeping your head above water. He is Holding us all up. And what I know for sure, my dear friend, is that just as Dr P. will not abandon you, God won't either. Not now, not ever. Neither will all of us who love you so.

    And, just a reminder... you ARE a bubbling spring of JOY that flows into the lives of others. His spirit DOES flow through you to bless all of us who love you. So... just like Dory says in the new sequel to Nemo, "Just keep swimming!" You are and I'm paddling right there beside you!!!

    Love you to the moon and back again, Vicky Held Westra!

    1. I barely have words that can adequately respond to yours. I'm always so touched- and come to read them time and again and feel so blessed by you. NO WORDS! I just love you, dear one. xoxo

  3. We need to see each other like yesterday!!! I work tues, thurs and sat and so what are you doing friday????? I love you and need some vicky time!!!

    1. So happy we will spend time together soon!

  4. Thanks for this update. I am rejoicing in the good, believing for the rest, and loving your time on the boat. And your doctor - God bless and strengthen Dr.P :)

    1. Thanks for always being so supportive and encouraging- helps me so much!

  5. You just keep doing that thing that you do - the living :-)

  6. Once more, as I always do when I read your writing, I'm covered in Holy Goosebumps.

    Thank you, my friend, for sharing your Joy and your Journey with us.

    And you have such beautiful legs!!


  7. Late to the party...again. Unless something hits me square over the head...and yet, it's never a disappointment to hear your words and the processing of the life in and around you. Thank you for continuing to share. When I was in Troy's room where the TV sits tuned into sports, and the Penguins took it all, you were who I thought of most of all. You and Rick and the boys. I figured you'd be pretty happy just then for your friends. :) Of course, I was happy too, for all of you! Victory!

  8. Yep, one day at a time. Just do what is right in front of us. Let the rest work itself out. You're doing fine. Hugs.

  9. Your strength is amazing Vicky....loves surrounds you more and more each day. I'm always thinking of you my friend, praying for your body and soul.


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