by Laurie-Ann Copple
This colouring sheet is called "Reaching for her healing." It is drawn by Laurie-Ann and is inspired by Mark 5: 25-34. L-A is also reaching for her healing, as Jesus carries her through the process.
I’ve been a cancer patient since August 2019, although I first approached my South African GP in late July. He wasn’t available, so I was paired with a wonderful woman doctor. She diagnosed my other condition, Hydradenitis Superativa, which is an inflammatory skin disease that shows up as painful boils and rashes. Her diagnosis was confirmed by Dr. Lizmare Bronn, a dermatologist in Paarl. I was told to go off dairy (cow dairy), and we found that this was the main trigger for the breakouts. My diet shakes and a lot of my diet was dairy, so this disease went into remission (I just need to be as dairy-free as possible). However, under a breakout on my left breast, hid an even sneakier and deadlier disease, inflammatory breast cancer. It masqueraded as mastitis, but when antibiotics didn’t work, the surgeon who was meant to operate on a potential growth instead took core samples and sent them to the lab. I then had a mammogram. Both confirmed the presence of the cancer. The lab work was not cheap, but it was accurate, and the type of tumour was eventually found. This was the kind that would respond to the strongest chemo, then Taxol (paclitaxel), and Herceptin injections. These and the following PET/CT scans at Tygerburg hospital ended up being $31,000 Cdn. We are thankful that the rand to Canadian dollar value was and is in our favour (it wasn’t the case when I had fibroid removal surgery).
Then during this process, the corona virus made it’s way around the world. The flights we booked long ago were cancelled, and we tried again, to find these cancelled as well. South Africa went until level 5 lockdown (the tightest ever) on March 27th, 2020, and we were supposed to leave on April 2nd, to eventually arrive in Canada on April 10th. This wasn’t to happen. Our broken car and the car we borrowed from another missionary are still as we are (we are thankful to Sandy for the use of her car). Our precious things (that we are keeping) cannot be freight forwarded, so we are at present still using them. We weren’t even allowed to move from our rented house, and the next tenant was not allowed to move either. We’re still in the house, possibly until the end of June, but we can’t be sure. So, we put the needed mastectomy that I was to receive at Ottawa General Hospital on hold. It wasn’t actually booked, but the Canadian surgeon said he wanted to assess me before putting me in surgery. He told me to follow the care of my South African oncologist and that he would be there for me once we returned to Ottawa. He told me that most cancer surgery was cancelled or postponed except for emergencies, so I likely would have had to wait. Such as life as a cancer patient. You would think that cancer trumps corona virus, but not necessarily. Cancer patients are actually more at risk of catching covid-19. He thought I would be safer where we were, in a quiet gated retirement community, under lockdown.
Here’s the twist. We had found no trace of the cancer on the PET/CT scans, although there was a black mark that the radiologists thought was a mark on my left rib. We rejoiced with my oncologist and staff at CapeGate Oncology. We rejoiced with friends and family. We praised God. Yet nearly two months later, I discovered hard lumps in my left breast again. The cancer was back. I emailed CapeGate, and they arranged for me to see my original surgeon again. I saw him on the very day I was to see my Canadian surgeon, April 22nd. He agreed that the cancer may have returned, but said he would speak to the oncologist. He was concerned about me catching covid-19, so it was a matter of no delay to get the cancer out and risk the virus, or wait for the virus to pass and pray that the cancer wouldn’t grow too fast. However, inflammatory breast cancer is extremely aggressive – even more so than covid-19! I was phoned the next day by the surgeon, who told me, that I had two choices: have a radical mastectomy done in Worcester (no options as to other forms of mastectomy) or to wait until our return to Canada. He did say that if we chose to wait that we would lose all the gains we had from the chemo and other treatment. I likely would have to go through chemo all over again. I chose to have the surgery in Worcester, and trust Dr. Smith. I completely trust him. He is a kind, caring man, and a very good surgeon.
So we were to brave covid-19 after all, although I was asked to go for the test and fill out very long forms that included a list of any people I had close contact with. There were only three on that list, Dr. Smith, my nurse Mariana and my husband Tony. The first two were wearing masks the whole time (as was I). The test turned out negative as I had expected. Now the hospital staff could breathe easy behind their masks and know that they wouldn’t catch the virus from me. But I was expected to bring a “supply of cloth face masks” with me for my hospital stay. I can’t imagine how I’m going to sleep with mine on, but perhaps it will go on when I’m face to face with medical folk. Tony won’t be allowed to come see me, which is unfortunate, since normally it is helpful for one or two others to help when a patient has a mastectomy. How sad, and more difficult for me. I hope I don’t have to ring the bell for them to simply come fetch something that I can’t pick up. The last time I stayed at the hospital, I tried to manage not ringing the bell unless I had to, and one time I mentioned to Tony that I was still waiting for pain meds, and he telephoned them. The head nurse was really annoyed at this, and told me off. I was just to ring again, and that it’s their job to take care of me. Ok, I get the point. I’m taking my pain meds with me just in case.
I am very thankful though, for several reasons. This cancer surgery will save my life. I may not like having a breast and half my under-arm removed, but it will save my life. I’m going to be given care and good food (I remember very good meals from my stay in early August). I am thankful that I know the surgeon much better. I am thankful for people praying for me all over the world. I am also incredibly thankful to a bunch of people who stepped up and contributed towards not only the basic surgery, anesthesia and hospital stay, but also towards any complications, mastectomy supplies, and meds for after-care. We had around $12,000 Cdn come in within 48 hours! We have enough, and won’t have financial worries over the operation and recovery. We may even have enough for prosthetics, a mastectomy bra or two, the next Herceptin injection and perhaps some PSW care. But we’ll take one step at a time and see where we are led. Thank you Jesus, for showing once again that you are faithful and that you have me every step of the way.
I will share more about the hospital stay, surgery and after care when I am able to write. And I trust I will be able to continue to draw. The table I draw on is higher than my elbows, but I may be able to manage in short bursts.
Thank you for praying. If you are led to contribute towards ongoing medical costs, please see below. I will still be receiving expensive Herceptin injections every three weeks, and in time, I will have radiation therapy, whether in South Africa (where we will need to cover those expenses too) or in Canada (where most would be covered by OHIP). Thanks for journeying with us. There's more to come. I can even send you colouring sheets if you like.
Here's how you can give financially:
DIRECT GIVING TO THE COPPLES (For Medical expenses, NO TAX RECEIPT)
Canadians can contribute via our regular Canadian banking account by e-Transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org
South Africans can contribute via Tony's South African account. via EFT to: FNB (First National Bank) Account Number 62757609494, Branch Code 200407 Account holder: Mr Anthony C Copple.
Anyone can contribute via Tony's Paypal via this link: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod
Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple (usually Laurie-Ann)
L-A's devotional blog
TONY'S DEVOTIONAL BLOG
Tony's south african journal