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  • Jess Haag

"I Am the Storm."

Updated: May 1, 2019



I'm sure most, if not all, of you have seen the above quote floating around at some point in time--I know I have.  It just so happened to pop up at a time I needed a good kick in the hiney to get my head back on straight again.

I am not gonna lie.  It has been an emotionally, mentally, and physically draining couple of months here.  You know the saying "when it rains, it pours?"  That's pretty much how it had been seeming to go the last couple of months.  It was just one thing after another, after another, after another.  Even the smallest, little things that don't go how you want them to go can set you off.  Wanna know what set me off the other week?  A band-aid.  A stinking. Princess. Band-aid.  Why did it set me off?  Because my daughter twisted it up while taking it out of the packaging so we could no longer use it any more.  *Enter tears.*  Oh, and by the way, these are my tears--not my daughter's.  And by tears...I mean full blown crying, followed by the most innocent look of confusion on my daughter's face.  "Mommy, why you crying?  We can get a new one.  It's okay."  But once those tears started, they did not stop a-comin'.

Okay.  Let me just say, before you go thinking I'm seriously crazy and so emotionally unstable that a band-aid sets me off, I clearly just needed a good cry.  So I did.  I let it flow.

So what did start it?  It's heartbreaking to think about and for me to say, but I know two more people who fought so courageously, so hard against this disease--and recently just couldn't do it anymore.  These are women I prayed for, thought about daily, checked in with.  One of them was actually diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer within a couple of weeks of my diagnosis.  I checked in with her regularly, just to see how she was feeling, how things were going, we'd share ideas, etc.  And she did the same with me--sweet, sweet woman.  These losses were very hard on my mind--and I don't mean to sound selfish or heartless because trust me when I say I feel very deeply for all their loved ones and everyone who knew them--but it was especially hard because it's "my" disease and also two more losses to this horrific disease. I just think about the MANY that are affected and it breaks my heart.

After that, "things" just kept happening and being thrown into this storm.  I had a CT scan done on August 6th and I knew we would be talking about the results on August 13th, my first day back on chemo.  Well, I received an update via email that showed my tumor markers were pretty darn high--way higher than back in March, and actually higher than my initial diagnosis (what the flip, right?!).  So, I called that Wednesday to talk about it and see what was going on.  I had a sneaking suspicion end of June, beginning of July that something more was brewing.  I was feeling waaaaaay more exhausted and not only wanting to take naps, but NEEDING to take them.  That's when I always know something just isn't right.  I know my body very, very well and this type of exhaustion was seriously abnormal.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.  I'm glad I did because it kind of prepared me for what I heard next--I got a phone call that day from my local oncologist's NP.  She informed me that the cancer grew in the liver, with some new developments in there as well.  Not at all what I wanted to hear, of course.  Thankfully, I had called my mom that day to see if she could come over to hang out with me and the kids for a while.  I just had a feeling I would get a call like that, and I wanted to be prepared.  It is HAAAARD taking care of 3 little toddlers when you're overwhelmed.  Sometimes all you want to do is plop yourself in bed, and stay there for a bit.  But you can't because you have these tiny, little, vermin humans to take care--so you suck it up and get to it. ;)

So Thursday rolled around, and of course the new development was weighing on my mind heavily.  All of a sudden, I was receiving a call from Madison.  It was my oncologist just calling to check in on me--see how I was doing, if I had any questions.  I emailed him on Wednesday to let him know the new development.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that phone call.  I always knew, but that phone call made it even more clear I was working with the right person.

We talked, he told me the growth was consistent with how long I had been off chemo (he added it was more than he hoped for, but nonetheless), and he still felt that continuing with maintenance chemo was the right thing to do at this point.  He went on to explain that I had such great response with chemo and that I have been off it for so long that he wanted to see if just maintenance chemo would not just suppress, but maybe even shrink it again.  I am aaaaaaall for this.

I started treatment on Monday, August 13th.  It's a 35 minute infusion (sure beats the 6 hour one!) of one drug, along with 2 weeks on, 1 week off of the chemo pill.  My local oncologist actually wanted to start the stronger chemo right away, but my UW onc ( & myself) took charge on the decision to try out the maintenance chemo.  They'll keep a close eye on those tumor markers and make decisions based on which way that number goes.

I think back, and I could kick myself in the butt.  Even though I may never truly know if any of it helps, I still feel confident that it does and that's why I share.  As many know, I am fighting this with not only chemotherapy, but with many natural supplements and my diet.  I stopped taking my supplements in order to prep for surgery--which was pushed back a month-- and had to change my diet a bit after surgery due to a low-no fiber diet.  After being off my supplements that long and being on a different diet than I had been used to, I slipped.  I stopped juicing as much, supplements, my diet was different, etc.  And it was super difficult for me to start everything again (40ish pills a day was nice to get away from!)  But...I'm back.  Chemo scares me just as much as not doing chemo does.  I want to fuel my body with the appropriate nutrition, the right tools, so it can get back to doing its job and fight on its own.

So here we are--August 24, 2018.  This day marks exactly 1 year since receiving the devastating, life-changing news, "You have cancer. Oh....and it's Stage IV."  I remember this day like it was yesterday.  When I have my dark days, this day becomes even clearer--and that's not a good thing seeing as that oncologist sent me away nailed in my coffin already.  I know feeding my mind with positive thoughts is crucial in this battle.  I also know that I cannot and don't even want to do this without God by my side.  Nothing is impossible with Him.  I find that the times I am not close to him, when prayer is not my first choice/response...that's when I am my weakest.  That is when I lose it.  That's....when I get stuck and can't seem to snap out of it.

I look back at the year, and I have sooooooo much to thank God for.  So much.  My family is amazing, my friends rock my world, my church & school families have been just awesome, I've met so many terrific people because of this 'same yet different' journey we're all on.  I watched my kids grow another year, and my husband--my rock-- and I have grown closer and closer.  He's had to take on a ton and he does it with no complaint and with such ease it's crazy.

I also look back at the year and realize that I was off chemo almost just as long as I was on it.  I started September 19th of last year and finished up in March--6 months of them "throwing the kitchen sink at me" with chemo.  And then, the 'unthinkable' happened--I had surgery.  That wasn't even a thought in their mind when this all started.  And on top of that, my tumor in my colon was 4-5x smaller than the surgeon is used to seeing.  Sooooo much to thank God for.

We have a choice to be victims or victors over whatever life hands us.  I CHOOSE to not give up.  I CHOOSE to be happy.  I CHOOSE to realize my diagnosis is, in fact, a blessing.  I CHOOSE to not fight alone.  I CHOOSE to let go, and let God.  I CHOOSE to Be. Still.

"The devil whispered in my ear,'You're not strong enough to withstand the storm.' Today I whispered in the devil's ear, 'I AM THE STORM.' " Be the storm.  The devil can't work his skills on a strong, God-fearing individual.  He preys on the weak.  Whatever life throws at you, take God with you.  Find your strength in Him.  If you're not acquainted with Him yet, it doesn't take a lot to say, "Hi" to Him.  Just an open, willing heart. James 4:7-8  Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and He will come near to you. Hope & Pray.

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jamie.coenen
May 03, 2019

Jess you are so amazing. Thank You for sharing this journey with us. You are so strong and I pray for you daily. You Got this Sending you hugs.

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