It was such a blessing and privilege to spend six weeks in Bad Mergentheim, at a beautiful clinic, being treated with such amazing care. To rest, stepping out of the stress and anxiety of my life ... that in and of itself was a gift. Yet, there was so much more that both Scott and I experienced that brought healing and understanding to our lives.
Of course the thing that most people want to know is how my physical treatments went. They were hard and good all at the same time. Because I have no tumor markers to check, my tumors are the only indication that my doctors have to see if the treatment protocol I'm on is working. So early on in my stay I had an ultrasound to check the residual tumor in my breast and also the tumor cluster under my left armpit. The tumor near my right lung was not able to be seen on the ultrasound because of my sternum. The residual breast tumor extension was 18 x11 mm and the conglomerate of lymph node tumors was approximately 32 x 20 mm. After 20 days of treatments the residual tumor in my breast was 10 x 6 mm and the tumors under my armpit were definitely smaller measuring 28 x14 mm. This basically meant that I could continue on with the treatment protocol that they had me on knowing that it was working.
One of the things I found interesting about my doctors in Germany was their emphasis on the emotional side of treatment. Of course they would talk about my physical treatment but often I found we were discussing my heart, my mind, what emotional pain I had from relationships, and how I was dealing with stress. It took a while to get use to but it was amazing to experience this wholistic type of care. For me the most surprising thing about my time at the clinic was the emotional healing that took place. I was able to spend time doing art therapy which spoke to a very deep part in me. Sometimes its hard to express how we feel and painting or working with clay can be a tool to draw out. It was that way for me anyway.
I was also struck by the beauty that was all around me. The clinic was clean, simple, and beautifully decorated, the town of Bad Mergentheim was ancient, and lovely. A stream meandered through the park, fountains gurgling and dripping softly, trees covered with frost, cobblestone streets pressed into shell patterns, and the tolling of church bells so commanding yet jubilant. I was literally feeding on the beauty that surrounded me. We went on hikes and saw birds and plants I didn't know the names of... we biked up steep hills and meandered around town and into inviting cafes. It was healing for both Scott and I to have this time together. I wrote about it in my journal one day...
Beauty is not extra, it is essential to life. Our eyes must feed on beauty however simple. We must tease out the mess and madness and see the light and truth. We are beautiful and so much around us is too. I choose joy even when nothing turns me in that direction. We can speak life with our words and thoughts. We can only do this very mysterious turning with the help of the joy giver; everything flows from Him. Fix our eyes on Jesus and choose joy.
And I tried to do that while I was at the clinic. I was thankful to be there everyday, no matter how hard the treatments or how many times I had to get stuck with a needle, I was blessed to be there and I wanted to be a joy to those around me. It was easy to be joyful. I felt a lightness, also a brilliant gold color stands out in my mind. My theme color while at the clinic. It was all of your prayers. I felt covered in prayers. My parents felt the same way. While I was getting treatment they had strength to care for my children and they had such joy. It was your prayers. My children missed both Scott and I but they thrived and enjoyed their time with Oma and Opa. It was the power of your prayers and the gracious love of Christ that carried us through that whole time away. Thank you. And God continues to answer prayers now that we are home.
I was given a treatment plan to follow upon my arrival home. The most significant part of that plan involved IV therapies that are not commonly found in the states. I was able to find a doctor 20 minutes from my house who is working with me. He is the same doctor who helped me with my Lyme disease back in 2006 when I first moved down to Chattanooga. He just so happens to know my Oncologist, Surgeon, and the doctor I saw back in PA even before I moved to Chattanooga! So once a week I go in to get my infusions using that port that was put in last year (that has been waiting for such a time as this). The other part of my protocol for treatment is heat therapy. In Germany I was able to do local and full body hypothermia treatments. I was told to do infa-red sauna before my IV treatments if I could possibly find it. Well it so happens that just three months ago Chattanooga opened up its first Sauna studio. I am seeing provisions met on all sides. No detail seems too small and I praise God for his continued love and care. However there is so much going on right now, my days are full. I get tried and overwhelmed but I continue to slowly move in the direction laid out for me. I was recently reminded of this hymn...
- Jesus, Savior, pilot me,Over life’s tempestuous sea;Unknown waves before me roll,Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal;Chart and compass came from Thee:Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
- As a mother stills her child,Thou canst hush the ocean wild;Boist’rous waves obey Thy willWhen Thou say’st to them, “Be still!”Wondrous Sov’reign of the sea,Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
- When at last I near the shore,And the fearful breakers roar’Twixt me and the peaceful rest,Then, while leaning on Thy breast,May I hear Thee say to me,“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”It has become my prayer. I am still healing, still having my ups and downs, but I know that I am not alone, even when I am at my darkest hour and I can't see how things are going to work out and I forget all the ways that God has provided and loved me, I am still not alone. I can't see everything but I don't have to. I'm learning to let go.I have in my minds eye a picture of the crucifix of Christ. Arms outstretch, vulnerable, broken, rejected alone. totally alone. As my husband and I drove out of the small town in Germany, on our very last day, every mile for about 5 miles or so there was a crucifix on the side of the road. It made this impression on my mind. I felt like God was showing me the way to trust. Arms outstretch, vulnerable, broken.. but never alone... never totally alone.The painting in my room. A light shining.
Scott was the biggest support to me through all my hard treatments and emotional healing. My friend, lover and art partner.
After two hours of full body hypothermia treatment, the sides zip down and you get wrapped up like a giant hot pocket... hotttt pooockeettt. This is loving called the hotbox by all the patients.
This amazing young man reminded me of the great power of laughter, singing and simple kindness.
The view from our balcony. It was very cloudy all throughout our stay, but every once in a while the sun would peak through...
"Just let it flow...be like a child... no judgement ... just... let it flow" the words from my art therapist.
The giant sycamores of Bad Mergentheim and the castle walls encircling them.
The basement of the clinic was were all the detoxing therapies were and the best wifi hotspots.Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland... [for] the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.Isaiah 43: 18-19,21