Recently, it seems as though I've received the same message from friends:
"Someone I know just got diagnosed with brain cancer, the same type as your dad. Could I give them your contact information if they want to talk?"
And as you all can imagine, my heart breaks to see this message and it's always no questions asked if they can have my contact information- I give my email, my cell phone, my address- heck come visit me at my house! Because during those first few weeks of Dad's diagnosis, we would have given anything to have someone to talk to, to help figure out what we should do next.
But because I know others are not nearly as open as we have been, some have such a hard time talking about a new diagnosis- chemotherapy, radiation, MRI's, (and let's not forget) the horrible results when you google "glioblastoma" or even "brain cancer"- I thought I would share some advice I would give to anyone newly diagnosed.
My first piece of advice- do NOT google "Glioblastoma". The internet is filled with a lot of information- and I've used the internet as a great resource for treatments for Dad, but it took me a very long time after his diagnosis to actually google "glioblastoma", and I'm so glad I didn't right away. In a time where you may feel so incredibly discouraged by a cancer diagnosis, I encourage you to instead look to those who have BEAT this disease as a source of HOPE. You'll find that many who are long term survivors are so busy LIVING that they don't have time to post anything negative on the internet.
My next piece of advice, lean on your faith or find your faith. This advice is so much easier to write than it is to live sometimes, as my faith was truly tested when Dad was diagnosed. I struggled with the "why us?", and "how could You do something so bad to MY Dad?"- but, if you've read my blog before, you know that these questions filled with hate, turned into prayers filled with thankfulness and love. I can't imagine this journey without my faith- knowing that walking hand in hand with me is this amazing God that is SO much bigger than this cancer.
Another piece of advice, find a doctor you trust 100%. From the moment Dr. Fleener walked into Dad's ICU room, we knew she was OUR doctor. I know enough about upcoming treatments to understand some of the options Dr. Fleener discusses with us during appointments, but we lean on her to guide us through Dad's cancer journey. Again, the internet is a great resource, but having a great doctor is an even better resource. Find someone you're comfortable with, because you'll be sharing all sorts of things with them that you didn't even know could be a side effect of treatment and radiation.
And my final BIG piece of advice- take it all ONE day at a time (heck, there were some days that we took it just 5 minutes at a time). Because there will be really good days in your cancer journey, and there will be some truly bad days- but the good will out weigh the bad, this I can promise you. Find a support system to help you take it all one day at a time, and continue to LIVE. My mom always says, "We will not wait to die, we will continue to live." and she takes that to heart each and every day.
As one of my favorite devotional reads:
"Follow me one step at a time. That is all I require of you. You see huge mountains looming, and you start wondering how you're going to scale those heights...But you don't know what will happen today, much less tomorrow...If I do lead you up cliffs, I will equip you thoroughly for the strenuous climb. Walk by faith, not by sight."
For those who have been recently diagnosed, know that on this journey you are not alone, as you've got lots of other brain cancer families that have walked this path before you and are here for you to lean on, cry with, and be a support system of those that just get it.
The chemotherapy sucks. The radiation sucks. The Avastin sucks. And the medical bills all suck. But I promise there is so much GOOD in this journey, GOOD that far outweighs the bad- and sometimes you don't have to look that hard to see it all.
You'll find family and friends that go above and beyond, you'll even find strangers doing the same- reminding you that throughout some of our most difficult times, we do have something to be thankful for.
Continue fighting through this journey, remember that one bad MRI is not defining of your cancer journey, and never give up the HOPE for a cure.