October 28, 2014
Today is significant in that it’s an ordinary day. Rory went to school, I went to work, Scott rode this morning before going to work. I went to the bank and grocery store.
Two years ago, October 28, 2012, was the most unordinary day of our lives. When the phone rang, I was standing by my front door, expecting the call knowing Scott had taken the boy to Urgent Care after church. As I answered the phone Christopher said “Hi Mom, it’s me. I’m fine. Don’t freak out. The doctor at urgent care suspects Lymphoma and he’s sending me to the hospital for more tests.” I remember looking out the window of our front door and seeing our neighbors getting ready for our annual neighborhood chili cook off. It was almost surreal hearing my son had cancer and yet seeing life going on as normal right before my eyes. I remember thinking “This is the part in movies where people get bad news and faint or drop to their knee’s crying.” I also remember good old Max was standing by my side.
I knew we needed prayer. I made some phone calls then went outside to find my friend Vicki. I thought I had it all together as I walked across the street. Eddie was sitting outside assembling something and as he looked up, I asked him where Vicki was. I could tell from his expression and the way he called for Vicki, that I was obviously not ok. I found Vicki and told her what was going on. As we stood in the middle of the street, she wrapped me in her arms and just let me sob. As I composed myself, we walked back to my house and she sat with me. We prayed.
Sherry Miller called and asked if I wanted her to come over. I immediately said yes! Sherry had walked this road before. Her sweet daughter, Taylor, lost her battle with cancer. Taylor had been one of Christopher’s friends for a long time. I knew Sherry’s presence and strength would be a great source of comfort. Judy came. Caylee and Joey showed up. God knew I needed to see Joey that day. Joey was in the middle of chemo for a relapse of Leukemia. (I’m so happy to share that Joey has won this battle again!!!)
As the day wound down, and I knew Christopher and Scott were settled in at the hospital, surrounded by friends, exhaustion set in. You know, the kind of exhaustion that is so overwhelming, you can’t really sleep? One benefit of this type of exhaustion is an elevated sense of God’s presence. It is enough.
Around midnight, I heard Luke’s car in the driveway. He came in with arms loaded with food for breakfast and an overnight bag. I remember thinking after Christopher’s call that maybe I would call Luke and ask him to come stay with Rory and I. I figured I needed to keep things as normal as possible for Rory and so I didn’t ask. The beauty of Luke showing up without being asked is that Rory didn’t find it out of the ordinary! I slept much better with Luke being home and getting a giant hug from him. Luke was up before us and had a hot breakfast of pancakes and eggs waiting when we came down stairs.
We are now down to five months left of treatment. We’ve had a small bump in the road but that is behind us.
September 6, 2014 found the boy making a trip to Urgent Care.
I had been spending time in prayer, really immersed in God’s presence. I knew I was being prepared for something. As I was in the middle of my quiet time, the phone rang. I knew it was Christopher (and that was before his caller ID ring began and no, I didn’t look at caller ID.)
Christopher said he’d woken up with a rash that was causing him some pain and was probably going to go have it checked out. He had a scheduled clinic visit on that next Monday. He told me that he hadn’t been feeling well for a few days. That always sends up a red flag. He decided to wait for one of his buddies to go with him to Urgent Care. I asked if he was just feeling so badly that he couldn’t drive himself or if he wanted the company. He said he needed the company. I was glad he waited for Sam to go with him. I could hear stress and concern in Christopher’s voice. That’s the part that broke my heart.
I called Mary Jo and told her what was going in with the boy. She stopped over and said that she thought it sounded like Shingles. I shared that information with Christopher. The boy texted me to let me know they were on the way to Urgent Care. He had communicated what was going on with his doctor in Asheville and it was she that suggested he go to Urgent Care as it would be cheaper than an ER visit. I love that doctor.
I kept myself busy waiting for the phone call with results. I don’t think it was even 45 minutes before Christopher called and said “Mary Jo was right!! It’s shingles!” I wish you could have heard his voice before and after to appreciate the relief we all felt.
Christopher was put on a round of Acyclovir and told to take pain meds. He got settled into his room and fell asleep. I texted our doctor here to ask how serious this was. So long as Christopher took his medicine, it would be fine. If he didn’t, then it could be very serious.
I talked to Christopher the next day. He really concerned me. You could hear how uncomfortable he was and how poorly he was feeling. I asked him if he wanted me to come down. “I’m just going to try to make it through the day. I’ll let you know.”
This was one of those moments that I found cancer making me angry. No mother ever wants to hear her child in pain and say “I’m just going to try and make it through the day.” I started doing laundry. I went to work that evening while Rory was at youth group to get things in order just in case I needed to jump in the car and head to Tennessee. I emailed the staff at Milligan to let them know what was going on with Christopher. Within thirty minutes of sending the email, our friend Bill Greer (also the President of Milligan) went to check on Christopher in person.
Christopher went to his scheduled clinic visit on Monday. According to his doctor, he was ahead of the game healing wise. He was to avoid the cafeteria and wasn’t physically up to sitting through class all week. The beauty of pain meds is two fold. The first being obvious! He was able to get semi comfortable. The second beauty is that Christopher is VERY talkative and entertaining when he’s taking pain meds. We had some great phone conversations.
We are thankful for modern medicine but also for the power of prayer. Our heartfelt thanks to all those who lifted Christopher in prayer!! Christopher said “I never thought I’d be so thankful to have shingles!” Cancer gets into all your thoughts. Being human, all sorts of things race through your mind. You should hear some of the conversations God and I have. It sounds so simple to lay your burdens at the foot of the cross and let God handle them. I have much work to do.
We share so many burdens but I am a firm believer in sharing our joys as well.
We were able to go to Milligan for Homecoming weekend this month. It was the first visit that we were not going down to bring the boy home for chemo, or to go for a doctor visit. It was purely for fun!! Luke and Audrey were able to join us! For those who don’t know, Audrey and Luke were engaged just a few weeks ago. We are thrilled to claim Audrey as another fake member of our family!! Not only do we love Audrey for who she is and the fact that she is marrying Luke, she is also a Milligan graduate!!
We had such a great visit. We arrived on campus Friday evening. We piled into Christopher’s car and went to dinner. We returned back to the dorm and all the guys began showing up at Christopher’s room to say hello, give hugs all around, and visit. This may be because they are great guys and/or because they know I brought toasted ravioli for them.
Rory stayed in the dorm with Christopher. I don’t know which brother loves that more!!
Saturday we got to campus around noon. We had lunch in the SUB, fully enjoying the weather and Starbucks on campus. Following lunch we watched the parade. It’s a legit parade, complete with candy, but it’s only about 15 minutes long. We were able to visit with some friends and professors that Scott and I knew from our days at Milligan. We literally stopped traffic when we saw Coach and Mrs. Walker drive onto campus after the parade. We ran over, gave hugs, and promised to meet up later to visit.
Next stop was a haircut for Christopher at Sports Clips, or as Rory called it “Short Clips” because “how can he have gotten his hair cut that quickly?” Sure enough, Scott had to trim a few places and the boy was good to go. We then went to the grocery store to get the needed materials to make dinner for the boys.
Saturday evening we got to spend sometime visiting with Coach Walker. He is truly a remarkable person to spend time with. You would never know he was 90. He has incredible stories to share and always makes you feel so loved. Coach was the Athletic Director at Milligan for 50 years. He has coached every sport Milligan has ever offered. He was written up in Sports Illustrated a few years ago! Seeing Coach is always one of the high lights of our trips to Tennessee!! Coach is so caring and calls Scott frequently to check on Christopher.
We attended the soccer game that evening and then headed up to the Village to make dinner for all the guys. We actually had a little leftover!!
Sunday morning we went to church and then to lunch. The weather was beautiful as we sat outside and waited for our food that may have taken forever to get, but was worth the wait!
Next a quick stop at Old Navy and then took the boy back to campus to change and get to volleyball practice at 4pm. I spent a lot of time sitting on the bleachers at the field house watching Scott play basketball. I found myself watching my son playing volleyball in the same gym where I watched Scott play more than 25 years ago.
Looking at Christopher you’d never know his situation. All you see is a hard working college athlete. So many emotions were going through me. Joy at seeing the boy working hard and able to play a sport he loves. Frustration at seeing the effects of the medicine on his joints and muscles, knowing his knees were hurting. Happiness that even though he has to overcome so much to reach his goals, he’s able to be at school. I admit, I was sort of a mess for a bit and had to step outside to compose myself. Christopher is mostly a designated server (if I understand that properly.) Christopher’s serves look strong. It was fun to sit with Scott and watch our son.
Luke and Audrey met us after practice. We sat at the grill and to say we inhaled two Buffalo Cookies is an understatement. I’m not even sure everyone left with all appendages in tact.
We left the boys on campus to go to Vespers and Scott and I went back to visit with Tom and Barbara, and Craig and Carrie Lynn. The next morning we met Christopher for breakfast in the school cafeteria. It was as delicious as it sounds! We saw him safely off to class and began our long drive home. Knowing Thanksgiving is only about three weeks away made our goodbyes just a bit less sad.
We had such a very good weekend. God is good – in the hard moments of life as well as the good moments. There is no doubt in my mind that this is part of the lesson we are to learn on this journey.
I end this update asking for prayer as cold and flu season is here. While Christopher’s counts have been good lately and his body is growing stronger, we still have to be vigilant as his immune system remains suppressed. Thank you for your faithful prayers these last two years. We are grateful.