The road to Damascus

……..As we battled our way through traffic leaving the city, I found myself fully distracted by the events of the day. Wednesdays chemo treatment was more than expected. The day was long, filled with doctors, nurses, counselors and discussions. I kept finding myself drifting further back though, to the few weeks before, and this is where i start.

The scheduled chemo treatment before this one was so much better. Mainly because Amy couldn’t have the treatment due to her blood levels. We were able to return home without the addition of the poison, and it made Amy feel better physically for not undergoing the treatment. She carried herself into the weekend and her friends wedding with energy, joy and happiness. As I watched her stand near the altar it reminded me of before this time, before we knew what was going on inside her. As I rode off on my bike that evening from the wedding, I had forgotten what’s become our routine now for the 2 hour ride home.

The Monday after the wedding, Ames and I packed up our truck, and headed for the wilderness. We watched the traffic of Memorial Day build up as people returned from vacation, and I laughed as we were just starting ours. The best time to go away is at the end of a major holiday, because you know you’ll have the place all to yourself. We did, for the week. Amy and I fished, we hiked, we read, we target practiced, and we just sat still below sunny skies and warm temps. This fishing trip was as perfect as they can get, and we both felt refreshed by the time we packed up and headed home. Ames’ spirit, although seldom low through all the treatments, looked lifted higher than I have seen in a long long time. It seems to me she has been able to lift her spirits slowly since we put the girls to rest in the new garden. A little higher every day, as we watch the garden grow and the trees take root. As she gives it all gentle care, making the garden as beautiful as only she can do. I see her smile more and more, I see her seizing the day a little harder each time

. By last Monday, she couldn’t have been any happier, and prepared for Wednesdays treatment. Wednesday was our news day, the reports after the scans. For days both of us had forgotten about it. Mainly because we had somehow convinced ourselves there had to be nothing more than the best of news, given how Amy felt. How much she was able to do, how much we have in the works for the weeks ahead. It was only tuesday evening that I got a little itch inside my head. There was a small tug to my conscience. That said tomorrow was the day of the news, and what if it wasn’t good? I guess tuesday evening I felt my mind slip back into reality, back into prep mode, ready for tomorrow. I guess I carry anxiety every time we head for treatment. Not because of the treatment. Funny enough, I believe it’s because of the commute. To be honest, I can handle a lot of tough things, just ask some of the people who know me. What puts me on my knees begging for a bullet though is grid lock. Thank The Lord Amy drove into the city that morning.

The nurse practitioner met us with the news her tumors haven’t changed in size this time. They weren’t smaller, as all of us had not only anticipated, but had convinced ourselves over the last 8 weeks. She proceeded to tell is that this isn’t bad news, this just shows the doctors the chemo is maintaining my wife. But, the truth for my wife was it was bad news. You see, when you place a ladder into a deep pit, and you force yourself to climb the rungs slowly over the course of putting our babies to rest. Receiving what they have said is one of the heaviest chemo regimens a person can handle every other week, even neutral news is bad news. You hope for all your efforts and torments the news is only pushing towards the goal we all pray for every day. Wednesday it didn’t. I watched my wife tear up and swallow any further pulls towards a complete breakdown of sobbing. So, I had to ask all those questions you’re supposed to ask. I turned to the n.p, and asked what if my wife was to stop her treatments. She told her sympathetically she could stop at any time, it’s her choice where this goes. But, the reality is, she needs chemo for the remainder of her life. Those words are extremely hard to swallow. At 9:30 in the morning that Wednesday, both my wife and I were thinking, “wow, chemo for the next 10,20,30 years or so?” Well, those thoughts must go through a lot of the readers heads as well, and understood. Because all of us know Amy and how strong she is, how incredible she is. Why would we expect anything else? We shouldn’t.

As the day rolled on, the infusion took place, Ames’ wonderful nurse told her we were going to go meet with the doctor at the end of the day. Throughout the next few hours, we both felt let down. Amy looked at me and said, “it’s fine, I can take the treatment, but if this cancer spreads to the lungs, or elsewhere, I am done with it”. And rightly so for her to say these things. After the treatment, we met in the office and the doctor sat us down with the nurse, the practitioner, and began to speak:

“ I heard you asked about the outcome if you were to stop receiving treatment. I want to tell you what I think. The diagnosis you have of stage 4 colon cancer has a statistical life expectancy of 30 months for the patient. This is what research and experience has given us for a number. With the cancer in your liver, it makes it more difficult. Amy, your liver has a mass that encompasses 50% of it. Half of your liver is rotten, and the chemo is keeping it in check at this point. If today was your last treatment, it is my belief you would survive a matter of months. I know you both are very smart people, and I only speak this way with the smarter patients. I told you in the beginning that I am not God, I don’t know how long a person has. It’s up to Him, not me, not you. You could die by a freak accident during this treatment as well, and it would be His choice. I can only give you numbers, and also give you the facts, the fact is, your treatment worked very well the first time. This time, it wasn’t bad news, it was fair news for us, knowing the treatment has kept it from growing. Amy, your case is personal. I take it home with me and think about it all the time. My wife asks how the woman who lost her babies is doing. We are making progress. The definition of chemo in reality is to prolong your life as best and as long as we can. This is what we are charged with as oncologists. Right? Cancer doesn’t get cured most of the time, if not all. And this is what we are doing. The best that can be done for you, and God determines the rest.” “ if you guys stop now, and go on the trip you planned, it is fine. A few weeks is a good idea, between treatments, a little break. But a month is too long. Chemo vacations are common for many of my patients. With stage 4 colon cancer though, it is not recommended. I can see a stretch to 3 weeks, but if chemo doesn’t get infused for that 4th week, it could take time off of your life.” “Sitting in the car for long periods of time is bad as well. You stand a very high risk to blood clots, and it can kill you.” The list goes on and on. In hindsight I am grateful for all he said. It shows we have a doctor taking care of Amy that is 100% concerned for her and thought of every scenario he could that afternoon.

The doctor proceeded to tell us over and over to reconsider the vacation. We listened of course. We heard all the facts. The doctor also did say he was going to think of some way to give her a treatment she could take while we are away. Something to make it so we can do all we want, take the vacation, etc… And so he needed to think on it. This was all the news we received this Wednesday. We were directed to a counselor, which both if us didn’t really want to see. We wanted to go home. We drove through gridlock traffic quietly that day. The bumper to bumper didn’t seem to bother me too much that afternoon. Amy was tired, as the chemo was still pumping through her, but she gardened and carried on for the next few days. She rests and recovers still, although manages to help me with things, and even get the corn planted with us Friday. It makes me so proud when I see her able to do these little things. It squeezes just a little more love into my soul.

Over the last few days, I have thought long and hard on these things. My mind is a waterfall, a rush of turbulent thoughts dumping itself over the cliff and down, pounding the rocks below into new shapes, sizes, forms and changes. It takes some time to pull it back together, like watching the river settle after the spring thaw. I had a dream the night we came home from the chemo. I shouldn’t share this, but it woke me violently. I dreamt our dog had gotten old, or sick or something, and we needed to put her to rest. In the dream, some of my family was helping to administer the shot, as I held her and kept her calm. The dream in my head had flashed so suddenly, and I found myself not with my dog in my arms, but it had become Amy. In my dream I jerked suddenly up, letting go as if startled by a snake or bee hive in the grass. I reached for her in bed, but she had left sometime during the night. It scared me, it really did. I got up and went outside for a few minutes to breathe. Amy had went to lay down on the couch, as she was restless and couldn’t sleep that night.

I daydreamed yesterday that someone came to me and told me to take my wife to the road that leads to Damascus. If we walked the road, we may see a figure coming towards us in the distance. We would meet him along our path, and He would grab hold of her, and kiss her face. He would look at me and smile. There would be no talking, no explanations. There wouldn’t be any educated statistical research. There wouldn’t be any scans or checkups. We wouldn’t have to know if her blood levels were high enough to get treatment. We would just know it was all over, and we could go on and on through our life like we had before this happened. The daydream was really nice, and it made me smile. Oh how I wish He still walked in human form on this earth. I feel him in Spirit every day, but the thought that it could be different, that it was different for our ancestors. It’s overwhelming to think of the power, you know. I would bring her there in a heartbeat and wait till the end of time to meet the man in the road to Damascus.

The reason I stray from the update and begin to tell of these things? It’s only because I began to feel that I couldn’t be selfish about all this. There are so many people praying about all this stuff. My words to you are to pray harder. The doctor is going to fight the hardest he can, the best he knows how. His outcome and outlook are bleak in a relative tense though, as you can tell. But he is just a man. He is not above what most of us know, and he believes as well. Have you ever thought you could pray harder than you do now? I don’t believe I pray as hard as I should, and now make it an effort from this Sunday going forward to take the time to pray more.

The one thing Amy and I know for certain is we will be leaving in a little over 2 weeks for our trip. She isn’t sidled with the news, or the worry about the trip from the doctors perspective. She told me: if it takes months off my life to miss a treatment based on the life expectancy of these statistics, then so be it. She, and I, are excited to go. It is going to be fine as well. She won’t have any trouble. The doctor said one more thing which lifts me up, and is true. Amy is the healthiest looking, strongest person that comes to the infusion center for treatment. The truth is, she is. I see all the others receiving treatment when we are there. All of us have heard of the cases where a doctor says, “you have so and so disease,and an expectancy of 3 months to live.” Or something along those lines. And the person lives 5 years. Or more. It’s just like the doctor said. He is not God, none of us know how long, or when He chooses to call us.


Not Great News

The results of the latest MRI aren’t great news. Not the worst thing that we could have heard, but disappointing nonetheless. I wasn’t able to have the PET scan because the insurance wouldn’t cover it. I’ll have a chest CAT scan tomorrow- apparently my oncologist is keeping an eye on my lungs to make sure that nothing is going on there.

Nate and I are still thinking about and processing what we heard yesterday. In a little while he’ll write a more detailed update on here.

Our hope is in the Great Physician. Nothing medical-no test results, studies, drugs, diagnoses- matters much compared to His timeline and plan.

On the happy side, the chemo treatment that I had yesterday hasn’t affected me too much. Just some sickness immediately following and through the night. But today I’ve been weeding and planting as usual, running some errands and generally enjoying the sun, warmth, the breeze and most of the growing things (other than weeds).