Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Draining the Swamp. We’ve heard this phrase a lot in the American body politic over the past several months. However, this post is not about the swamp in the body politic; it’s about the swamp in my physical body, and the swamps that tend to accumulate in the various spaces of our lives.
A swamp is a place that is flooded with water. Metaphorically, a swamp is a quagmire, a predicament, or a state of distress from which it’s hard to extricate oneself without help. In other words, it’s a muddy mess!
Just a few months ago, I found out that my metastatic (Stage 4) breast cancer had spread to my right lung after staying in my bones for 7 years. It showed up as ‘pleural effusion’, medical jargon for fluid around the lung. This is visible on a CT or PET Scan, a more sophisticated version of an x-ray. Fluid around the lung can occur from pneumonia or other bodily infections, but with proper treatment, it goes away. When fluid accumulates due to metastatic cancer, the situation is much more complex.
On December 5, I had a surgical procedure called a thoracoscopy at the Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven. A surgeon went into my chest with a fiber optic camera to look around and see what was causing the fluid to build up around my lung. He found several abnormal spots of tissue on the lining of my lung, which were biopsied and found to be positive for breast cancer. The cancerous tissue there was causing fluid to build up in the space between my chest cavity and lung, resulting in the compression of my lung. This can cause many complications including difficulty breathing. Fortunately, I was not having trouble breathing. This was a true blessing.
However, there I was with this swamp in my chest, flooding the area next to my right lung. It was time to drain the swamp. How would this be done?
First, I was going to need a tube inserted into my side through a small incision, going down into the area where fluid was accumulating. It’s a flexible plastic tube smaller in diameter than a pencil, and about four inches of it extends out of my right side through the incision. Most of the time, it’s coiled up and covered with a bandage, so it’s not visible. Three times a week, the bandage is removed and my lung is drained of fluid by a visiting nurse or my husband Marc. It is not a painful process, nor does it take very long, although I must admit it is annoying to have a tube constantly attached to me.
The goal of this regular swamp draining is to ensure the fluid doesn’t stay stagnate in my body and cause bigger problems. But this is only a temporary fix. I don’t want to drain the swamp every few days only to have it fill back up again, I want to drain it permanently. To do this, we have to address the reason the swamp is filling up - the cancer. My fabulous oncologist Dr. Andrea Silber (also at Smilow), my health care partner for the past seven years, recommended a new treatment that I began in late December. In three-week cycles, with a week off between cycles, I take a medication called Ibrance, approved for use about 3 years ago. I also take another pill called Letrozole that blocks estrogen, since the breast cancer I have is estrogen-receptive (meaning estrogen causes it to grow). The goal of this treatment is to stop the cancer in its tracks, which will lead to the cessation of the fluid buildup in my lung because there will be no cancer to drive it.
For almost two months, I’ve been taking this new medication in combination with the array of naturopathic therapies that have been my mainstay throughout my treatment. Yesterday I saw Dr. Silber, and I’m thrilled to report that healing is happening! My test results show clearly that the cancer is diminishing, and the fluid output from my lung is decreasing each week. Hallelujah!
My prayer is to be fluid-free by Easter Sunday, April 16. I ask all of you reading this to pray with me that by Easter, also known as Resurrection Sunday, my physical body will be restored and show no evidence of cancer. That has happened before on this journey and I have full faith that it will happen again. I’m draining the swamp so I can get there.
Draining the swamp is a necessary process in many areas of our lives – physical, emotional, in our relationships, at work, etc. My friends, I invite you to identify an area in your life with a swamp - a place where there is too much of something that is harming you rather than benefitting you. Once you find it, start draining that swamp so you can free up space to begin cultivating more abundant life. I agree that this process can be tedious, boring, and overwhelming. However, in order to cross the finish line, you have to jump over hurdles and make your way around obstacles. Nothing of value was ever achieved without hard work and sacrifice.
There have been many times on my cancer journey when I’ve felt myself drowning in flood-like waters. But every time, a power greater than myself connected with the power within me to pull me up out of the deluge so I could breathe again, and here I am today, a living testimony. Now it’s your turn. Start draining the swamp you’re drowning in. Once you do, you’ll be able to breathe freely again and take the next step on your divinely ordered journey towards your higher calling. See you at the next stop!