Unless you’re super duper close to me or was close to me at the time, you may not know that at one point I was attending college at UWOshkosh to be a teacher—Language Arts to be exact. Gosh this feels like a lifetime ago, but I remember these next stories like they just happened.
I was taking a Sociology course at the time, and my professor was a real—peach. He was the biggest peach out there. In fact, you could have asked anyone in that class and they would have told you the same—“oh that guy? Yeah, he’s reeeeaaaaal peachy. The peach-ness just oozes out of him.” I think this is needless to say, but I don’t think they’d actually use the word peachy. Catch my drift? 😉 Anyways…
For the last assignment that semester, we had to write a well-researched and cited paper on a topic in society that, in a nutshell, wasn’t so black and white (because so many things are, right?). The topic I decided to write on is one that can get heated quickly. It is very dividing, and people tend to be super judgmental about it. Abortion. That word right there stirs up emotions in people almost instantly—I’d be willing to bet you had a strong reaction just reading the word itself. It’s honestly a topic that is just… I almost didn’t want to share what the topic was here. Let’s just say that.
After choosing our topics, we had to march up to his desk to sign up and let him know what topic we were taking head on. I, of course, wrote “Abortion………. Jessica Haag………” on the line. The professor read what I signed up for, looked up at me as he sat there pushing his glasses up and said, “Huh. Good luck. You better agree with me. Oh---and referencing the Bible here won’t count.” This coming from a guy who was (I say was because I don’t know his beliefs now but I’m honestly hoping those have changed) an atheist and proud of it. He also knew I was a Christian (let’s just say we may have had a few disagreements over the course of the semester). Easy paper to write—right?
Well…fast forward to turning my researched and cited paper…walking up to take back my graded paper—couldn’t wait to see the grade on that baby (insert eyeroll). And, just as I expected, as he’s handing me the paper he looks me in the eye and says, “You would have gotten a better grade if you just agreed with me.” Great. Can’t wait to see this marked up paper.
To my surprise….I saw an “A-“ (I was still kind of upset by the ‘-‘ part to be honest). Then the words, “Well written & researched” and “surprising approach & conclusion.” Okay then. I’ll take it.
There was another time down the road in college where I was looked at differently by a professor. I was one semester away from Student Teaching (but was already questioning if this was the right path for me…I wasn’t close to even being a little certain), and I had a “Banned books” class that was a requirement. So….I went to class. And in this class, the very first day, the professor read a book that was now banned from public libraries and asked the simple (not so simple, really) question of, “who in here would have a problem reading this book in their classroom?” My hand went up. My hand was the only hand…that went up. “You might as well get up and leave now,” were the next words I heard from that professor. But, naturally for me, I did not. I sat there—alone…but apparently not really alone because after class I had two other students come up to me expressing how they were too afraid to raise their hands but wanted to as well.
I may have stayed for the rest of that particular class, but I never went back. Like I said, I was already thinking teaching wasn’t the right path for me. Did that encounter push me faster to making that decision? I’m not sure…I guess—maybe? But in all honesty it was only a matter of time.
My belief system…is real. It’s strong. I have a core set of beliefs that are pretty darn unshakeable. In fact, for all of you StrengthsFinder lovers out there, “Belief” is one of my Top 5 strengths (Adaptability, Includer, Positivity, Belief, and Connectedness are my top 5 in that order for those curious). But honestly, if you are able to prove me wrong—100% prove me wrong, with everything you have and there is no question left to ask as every little thing was answered and the proof was in the pudding…then you maaay be able to sway me. But until that… I’m sorry. I still have some questions—but my core beliefs are strong (my husband miiiight call me ‘stubborn’—which I now “no no no…” hahaaaa).
Why am I sharing all of this with you? Let me take you back to August 24, 2017—the day my best friend that I’ve been friends with since Kindergarten had to look me in the eye and tell me “it’s cancer…” (I will forever say as long as I live that Tif—YOU gave me a fighting chance whether you believe it or not…you’re just a dang great doctor)…the day I sat there with my husband of 5 years while thinking of my 1, 2, & 3 year old children who were back home…the day I had to tell my mom over the phone with tears that we would be home later because “it doesn’t look good, Mom, it doesn’t look good…”the day my dad came through my bedroom door, “my baby girl…” while my husband just laid by me and held me. The day that oncologist told me to “get your affairs in order…. there is no cure…you need a grief counselor….I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m saying, it’s incurable. You need a grief counselor. I mean, we’ll do what we can.”
That. All of that is stuff I think about almost daily as we journey through this. All of that…is what got me to researching since day one. And I haven’t stopped learning since. I’ve developed a very different set of beliefs in certain areas over the past almost 3 years. In some areas, I’ve done a complete 180. Fear—can do that to you. But so can belief.
For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@justjesshaag), you know that I had a PET scan last week, and I was also in Nevada for my treatment—I needed to speak to Dr. Rob about the results before anyone else, including my oncologist. I finally spoke to my oncologist yesterday as well. And the results of the scan….
The CT scan done one week prior to the PET scan showed possible progression—and that was the case with the PET as well. Some of the lesions grew in size (and are quite large), and there’s a small newbie that decided to join in on the fun. There was also a nodule in the right lung that grew just a bit, but it’s unclear if it’s mets to the lung or if it’s just normal wear and tear (the CT indicated this as well). Both my oncologist and Nevada Dr. aren’t concerned about it.
That being said…the big question I’ve been asked is—what are you going to do? And, to be honest, I knew what I was going to do after the CT scan. I knew what I was going to do after the PET scan. I just wanted to get the opinions of two doctors that I work with closely—two doctors that are trying to help me—two highly intelligent, expert doctors with two very different opinions. In a nutshell, we have one who wants me back on chemo, possibly a clinical trial if I would want….the other? Stay the course, we’re on the right track—we have time. One doctor takes you down a path that most are familiar with…The other--takes you down a path that most people will raise their eyebrows at. A path that most people might immediately say “pseudoscience” and brush it off immediately. It’s a path so unfamiliar to anyone I know…I don’t know anyone, personally, that’s done it. It’s a path soooooo incredibly unfamiliar to many that it scares them. It’s a path that requires a ton of hard work and dedication—a complete lifestyle change. And heck—I don’t blame anybody for feeling how they feel about it. But to me, I have these choices. I can either:
A. Go down a known path that still has so many unknowns and the only real guarantee is you will feel like crap and your body will be susceptible to every little thing out there. There’s no guarantee that it will work so we’ll just give you everything we can throw at this thing and if it works, great! But it will eventually stop working and the cancer will be like ‘whack a mole’ and we’ll just hit it wherever it pops up next until we just can’t any more (literally what I was told by the second oncologist I met back in 2017). You do the scans and everything it entails….the chemo, the scans, the chemo, the scans….
B. Go down a path that you are semi familiar with only through your own research and conclusions—your body’s best defense against anything is its own immune system. And because another of your Dr.’s--whom you trust with your entire being that was one of the guys who gave you hope from the very start of this & you’ve been working hand in hand with as well-- opinion of “Jess. If I had something serious like this…this is where I’d go.” And then you go there and it’s amazing, the Dr. is incredibly intelligent and easy to work with and you literally feel like a prayer you’ve been praying for over 2 years at that time has been answered… And you feel the strongest you’ve EVER felt (physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally).
Which do you go with?? Decisions, decisions….
That all being said, I have decided to continue on the course of natural treatments and healing. I don’t make any decision lightly as I know it affects those close to me as well. It’s not easy to answer the many ?’s, especially when you can feel or hear the uncertainty in the person’s voice. Don’t get me wrong, I am very, VERY blessed with a TON of support in my decision making—not everyone going the route I am now has the kind of support I do. I’m extremely grateful—it makes life that much easier.
I know people might think I’m crazy—WHAT IS SHE THINKING?!?! And I’m okay with that. I have certain beliefs….a certain belief system….that is very, VERY strong. I believe my body is amazing. I believe my body can do amazing things. I believe, when given the right tools and the things it needs, that my body can heal itself. I believe my body was beautifully & wonderfully MADE. I believe the doctors I work with (every single one of them) are using their God-given talents to the absolute best of their abilities and they all have something unique and amazing to offer. I believe…I believe…I believe. And know that I feel confident in this decision…I feel strong in this decision. And it’s amazing. Does this mean I would never go back to chemo? Nope. It doesn’t. I’m just choosing not to at this point.
Call me crazy…but I believe I was led to Nevada. I believe it was a prayer answered. I believe after 42 treatments of chemo (and only 1 of those was considered ‘maintenance’ chemo) and one intense Y90 radiation therapy treatments….that it was a prayer answered when I needed it. Will it be part of the answer to my prayer of full healing? No one knows except Him. Call me crazy, sure. I do have crazy strong beliefs.
My oncologist said we will scan again in the next 6-7 weeks. As always, I will keep you posted on my Facebook page and/or Instagram. Thank you for all of your prayers, words, thoughts, and for checking in on me. Ohhh the love sure is amazing <3.
Hope & Pray. <3