A letter from Karla Koll in Guatemala
February 2012 (2)
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Grace and peace to you in Christ’s name as we approach the beginning of Lent.
My recovery from the mastectomy has gone well. The stitches are out and the drain has finally been removed. My arm is regaining normal motion.
The initial pathology report leaves no doubt that I need additional treatment. In recent days Javier and I have been exploring options.
We have met with an oncologist here in Quetzaltenango and another oncologist in Guatemala City. Both agree that all the drugs used for chemotherapy in breast cancer in the US are all available here. Both doctors also were clear that diagnostic equipment and procedures are much better in the US. CIGNA, the company that provides coverage for PC(USA) mission co-workers, is also insisting that I be seen in the US. Both doctors agreed to follow a treatment plan developed in the US.
From the moment my illness became known, friends in two supporting churches in Chapel Hill, NC who support my salary and CEDEPCA – University Presbyterian Church and Chapel in the Pines - have been encouraging me to go to the cancer center at the University of North Carolina. They have also promised to take good care of me while I am in Chapel Hill.
I'm flying to North Carolina on February 23. The next day I'll turn in my lab reports, slides, tissue block and mammograms. On Tuesday, Feb. 28, I'll have a PET/CV scan. On Wednesday, Feb. 29, I'll meet with an interdisciplinary team of doctors. They should be able to give me a treatment plan that same day. I was asked to stay in Chapel Hill for another week in case I need further tests. I'll be flying back to Guatemala on March 9. My hope is to be able start chemotherapy here in Quetzaltenango the following week.
I will have my US cell phone with me. I will also be able to receive mail while I am in North Carolina. Please contact me if you would like either my phone number or mailing address.
While I am in North Carolina, my husband, Javier, will travel to Nicaragua to check on our farm as well as other family business. He has been a great help to me since my surgery, though his patience has been stretched to the limit at times. Our daughter, Tamara, continues her studies at Reed College. I hope she is able to focus on her school work and not worry about me.
Meanwhile, the semester is now underway at CEDEPCA. The classrooms are literally bursting with students. It´s a great joy to see so many people responding to the alternative theological education we are offering. I think we have the largest number of students ever. I was able to spend two days this week at the office. I am confident my colleagues at CEDEPCA will be able to carry on well without me, though I am continuing to do some work and I intend to remain connected to what´s happening at CEDEPCA.
I am learning to tell people that I feel fine, even though I know I am very sick. For the most part I am feeling calm, especially now that I have a plan for the next steps. There are, of course, moments of anxiety. There are also moments of sadness as I mourn all that I had planned to do in the coming months. I am very sorry not to be able to carry out my mission interpretation assignment in the US at this time.
On the other hand, I am looking forward to a different pace of life in the weeks and months ahead. I´m compiling a list of the books I want to read as well as the films I want to see. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for either list.
I refuse to turn being a patient into a full-time job. As a Christian, my vocation is to work in God’s mission. I now do so as someone who is fighting cancer. I know that God is with me every step of the way.
Please do keep the messages coming, even if I can’t always respond. It’s a great help to be connected to so many people in different places around the world. I will need your encouragement and support in the weeks and months to come.