By Barb Arland-Fye
“Skol!” my siblings and son posted on Facebook Sunday night after the Minnesota Vikings’ incredible victory over the New Orleans Saints. “Skol,” my son Patrick explained to me, is the Vikings’ chant.
I was on the phone when shouts of joy erupted in our family room following the Vikings’ victory. We quickly called my parents, knowing my dad would be floating on air over the amazing win. But Dad was already on the phone with my brother, Tim, to talk about the game.
“Skol!” Maybe that should be my battle cry tackling follicular lymphoma. Last week I visited Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for follow-up blood tests and a PET scan. I’ve been monitoring the disease for the last three months, which required no treatment. For the most part, I’ve been feeling good — except for fatigue at the end of the day.
I asked for prayers that the testing process would go smoothly and for a calm state of mind during the PET scan. Those prayers were answered, so I figured the PET scan would show that monitoring would be sufficient.
A litany of questions from my hematologist that afternoon prepared me for a different scenario. The PET scan showed that the cancer in my lymph nodes has become much more active. “The storm clouds are approaching,” my doctor said. He recommended chemotherapy to stop the disease’s progression. “We want to catch it the day before it gets aggressive and not the day after,” he told me and my husband, Steve.
The doctor also ordered an ultrasound-directed needle biopsy of lymph nodes on the right side of my neck, which have grown larger. Results from that test will help determine the course of chemotherapy. Low-grade follicular lymphoma requires one type of chemo while the aggressive form requires a more powerful concoction. Low-grade is treatable but not curable. Aggressive is curable.
A longtime journalist, I consider myself a good note-taker, but that skill seemed to disappear as I tried to process the information my doctor shared. I was trying to wrap my head around the news and its impact on my life. I’ll be sure to ask good follow-up questions at our visit with the doctor in the next week or so.
Coincidentally, I have been praying over the last year to deepen my relationship with God. A cancer diagnosis wasn’t what I had in mind, but I imagine it will lead to intensity in our relationship!
During a phone call with my parents last Friday night, I thanked my Dad for their prayers which helped me to feel much more relaxed during the PET scan. The biopsy, however, was more painful than I anticipated. “Dad, you forgot to pray for my tests to be painless!” I joked; he played along with me. I added, “You better keep me on the first decade of your rosary, Dad.” “You’re on all five,” he answered. He and Mom pray the rosary daily, with special prayer intentions for family members as needed.
Prayers and the encouragement of family and friends sustain me. So, too, does my work as editor of The Catholic Messenger. A song pops up in my mind “Companions on the Journey” by Carey Landry. “We are companions on the journey, breaking bread and sharing life and in the love we bear is the hope we share for we believe in the love of our God.”
I hope God is a Minnesota Vikings fan, because I’m adding “Skol!” to my prayers.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)