Hope is being able to see there is light in spite all of the darkness.
It started with my questioning my father, whose spirit I firmly believed led me to discovering my ovarian cancer early.
A prayer. An accusation. A plea.
Dad, I'd asked. Why warn me of my cancer but not my brother? Why was he already stage four when his cancer was diagnosed? I don't understand. If you are really looking out for us, why did you let his symptoms stealthily grow until it was too late?
Could you please explain this to me?
A month ago, my brother's oncologist told him there were no standard options left to try and referred him to a specialist at a nearby teaching hospital. Being familiar with the hospital, I offered to accompany him and his wife on their initial visit.
The morning of his appointment was hot and humid; it was with heavy hearts that we drove to the city. Wanting to be hopeful, fearful of hearing the worst. Hanging on to a prayer. When we arrived we settled ourselves in one of the examining rooms and the specialist entered, a file in his hands. He began reviewing J's history, eventually coming to the notation that his sibling was a cancer survivor.
I raised my hand. That's me, I confirmed, ovarian cancer. The specialist nodded and I continued. I was also diagnosed recently with Lynch Syndrome (a hereditary genetic mutation which makes me susceptible to a myriad of cancers).
What happened next took us all by surprise.
His eyes lit up and he became animated. Really? he asked. Yes, I answered, my MSH6 gene is defective.
Realizing we were confused by his sudden excitement he offered an explanation. Six weeks earlier a new immunological drug had been approved by the FDA to be used on any cancer patients who had Lynch Syndrome. Studies had shown that Lynch Syndrome patients had been especially responsive to the drug. He looked at my brother. Do you have it as well?
As they continued their conversation I paused, stopped listening, and realized it wasn't that Dad and God hadn't answered my prayers but that they couldn't answer them until...
...until a drug was created that would open doors.
....until I went for genetic counseling and my genetic mutation was discovered.
...until studies were done which showed the drug's effectiveness for people with Lynch Syndrome.
Sometimes a prayer can't be answered until all the pieces have fallen into place.
Thank you, I silently said. I'm sorry I doubted you.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur. J was sent for genetic testing and blood tests were done. Suddenly we had hope again, a silver lining behind the dark clouds.
We are still waiting for the results, still hanging on to the hope that there is one more option available for my brother.
Waiting on a miracle.
Hope is patience with a light lit. - Tertullian
Waiting for answers has required so much resilience and patience. We are blessed to have a large network of family and friends praying for my brother and his family. As I wrote this post I thought about how many other families are fighting the same battle. The waiting rooms at every oncologists' office are full.
I have been recently reading Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant's new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. I recommend it to anyone who is going through a difficult time. You can read more about the book and the foundation she and Adam Grant have created here.