Featured Post

Perfect Imperfection

Tonight we put up our Christmas tree, the first Ravella/Gilbert tree. Actually we have two trees. One is artificial. It is perfect. It has p...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Andrea's Journal Entry May 3rd 2007

This journal entry is Andrea's summary of events from around spring 06 - spring 07. Andrea has a conversation with God about all that had happened. She recalls God's faithfulness to her. I will tell you during this time she faced two brushes with death. First on Nov 06 when her scan report said her tumors were "to numerous to count." Those were tough words to hear. The second was in Jan 07 when she went into the ICU for the first time. In between she went on a trial for a new drug after first being denied entry into the trial. When the doctor told us Andrea could not get the drug her words were, "I'm so sorry, this drug could have lived a long life on this drug." Talk about difficult to hear. We were searching and waiting for a new drug. That was Andrea's only medical hope as no current drug could cure her. The only hope you are given is to try to keep you alive long enough for a new drug to be developed. Here we were so close and told what we sought was within our grasp only to be denied on a technicality. Do you know what Andrea's response to that doctor was? She said without missing a beat, "That's okay don't feel bad, my life is in God's hands and it will be okay." The doctor a young woman, maybe in her early 30s did not know how to respond to such a statement of faith. She had just told Andrea I hold your life in my hands and I'm telling you no, and in her mind as a doctor that was the truth to her. Andrea's response told her, "You don't control if I live or die, there is one greater then you and He holds the keys to my life or death." For me it was a long drive back from Duke to Goldsboro. I just did not understand why we had gone through all that only to be denied. I have to admit I was confused and question God. Andrea allowed me to vent on the drive then she said pull the car over. I stopped on the highway and she prayed for me, for my faith, for the doctor and reminded me God was in control, and that we need not worry. She was that way, facing her own mortality she comforted me. It should have been the other way around. About 2 weeks later Andrea was admitted into the trial, the doctor sat with us and told Andrea what an impact she had made on her life. She could not believe how Andrea had responded. She said it had changed her life. I was ashamed for my failure to trust and believe the truths of God. I had let the world define God's abilities and questioned His plan. I grew that day. I looked at my wife and I thought, thank you Lord for allowing me to witness this woman of faith. I would thank Him for that many times over the next two years.

While I'm thinking about it I will share two other times she did this for me. Sorry if this blog is so long. I just want to talk about Andrea and share with you what I mean when I say she made me who I am today.

It was the day we learned the cancer had returned. We got back for Dr. Atkins office and I drove straight to Duvall's house, not wanting to be alone. Lori Jo, mustered up the strength to calming talk to us offering encouragement. I know this had to be as had on her as us but she never showed it. She was so strong that day. I'll never forget sitting in our car outside her house and her calming words. Anyway we left and went home and I walked into our room and collapsed on the bed and began to cry out to God, "No! God do not take Andrea from me!" Our last oncologist told us if the cancer ever returned Andrea was going to die, and that is all I remembered. In a moment I felt Andrea lay on my back, her put her body over mine, her arms wrapped around me, trying to cover me with her self. Then she just whispered in my ear, Jim it is going to be okay, God is in control I will be fine. She just kept telling me that over and over until I calmed down. She began to hear her cry, just a faint cry. I was not sure if she was srying about the cancer or seeing me in pain. I think the later, she was just that way. She was comforting me. It should have been the other way around.

The other time was when we were waiting for Andrea's second bone scan results. It must have been around Dec 06, six months since the original diagnoses of incurable bone cancer. This was the killer. Bone cancer was the one I feared. Not just death but a slow and painful death. Anyway we were called back to Dr. Atkins check in area where Andrea's height, weight and blood pressure were recorded and we took our seats waiting for a exam room to open up. Those are tense moments waiting for test results. So much hope. Knowing the answer is already written. Were our prayers answered or not? You don't know you only know the answer is already written in the radiologist report. Well I could not stand it I had tried to read the nurses eyes hoping to she if she would revel the contents of the report and could not discern anything. I look up on the counter and there laid the report, just sitting in the open. Andrea had her back to me so I picked it up, and read the Doctors summary; the bone caner had spread to the point her bones throughout her spin hips were completely covered by tumors. What was once three small spots had spread everywhere. The diagnoses was terminal. I set the paper down and could not breath. I walk back to Andrea and sat down. She said “What is it, what did that say?” I said “Nothing” trying to hide what I knew but my face gave me away. She said, “Jim what did it say?” I said, “The doctor said the bone cancer has spread everywhere and there was nothing they could do.” She turned and looked me in the eyes and said, "Jim do not worry, it will be okay. I trust God. It is okay, God holds my life in His hands." I looked at her, the pain welling up in me, and thought what faith you have. She was a rock. She did not waiver. And I had just told her it was over, next comes the pain, then morphine, then Hospice, and then it is over. She did not blink an eye. I felt her strength filling me. I smiled and we hugged. In a minute we were called back to see Dr Atkins. He put the scan on the light board. Oh my God! Six months ago Andrea bone scan showed three black spots about the size of a pencil tip. At the time Andrea could hardly walk or get up from the pain. In this scan her whole spine and almost 100% of her hips were solid black. I thought it was worse then report said. Dr. Atkins in his usual calming confidence pulled the scan down and said, "Well the radiologist feels this is showing a significant spread of bone cancer. I disagree, I think this is just showing changes in your bone density most likely caused by the bone strengthen drugs you are on. I would not worry about it. If this was cancer you would not be able to stand up much less walk." I thought yeah, she hurt so bad before and now she is not hurting, that can't be cancer. I looked at Andrea and she was smiling at me. She withstood the attack and again she taught me the meaning of faith and trust, not as a concept but practically when life challenges what you profess to believe. She was giving me strength. It should have been the other way around.

Here is Andrea's Journal entry:

Lord it is May 3rd, a Thursday night and I can't sleep. I was thinking of all the things you mean to me and how blessed I've been by you Lord. It's been almost two years since I started chemo for metastatic cancer. In one way Lord, the time has flown by and in another I've felt it crawl by hoping each day would give me another day to live. Since the beginning I have know you were planning to heal me since you told me so in your word, through people like Jacquelyn , Wayne, Jim and many others. And also through my dreams. So in other words I have had and still do feel that your plan is to heal me. At first I thought it would be a few months of chemo and Wha-la I'd be finished, healed yet in fact I'm taking a new form of chemo called Xeloda and also Tarceva. The side effects of Xeloda were daily vomiting and Tarceva was a horrible rash on my face and head. I know you remember those Lord. My scans were improving I believe but Dr. Atkins changed me to Gemzar since I could not keep anything down. Lord every time I needed change, you provided. You were with me every second of my care. So often we prayed for Dr. Atkins wisdom and you answered us positively, always. Then when we were doing well I asked Dr. Atkins about the trail at Duke for a new form of Herceptin called Lapatinib. He said I was stable so it was a good time to try it. I was denied because I had previously taken Xeloda or Tarceva. Jim was heart broken. I was just tired. But then later we got a call and suddenly I was in! One month of no chemo and I was randomized to the arm that does not get Herceptin with the new drug. Here we go again Lord. You know my life was slipping away and my body was becoming polluted completely with tumors. But you never left me. You had Jim set up for my Mom and Angela (sister) to visit weeks earlier and the visit coincided with my illness. They got to meet Dr. Atkins. When I went to his office I had to be wheeled in, as I was unable to breath. I had just become increasingly short of breath and had gotten oxygen just in case I needed it. I had told the nurses at Duke that I was short of breath but they did not seemed concerned. Just said let them know if it gets worse. Well then I got the CT scan while Ang and Mom were here. I was covered in tumors. Dr. Atkins pulled down the films and started me on chemo either that day or the next. Angela almost vomited at the sight of all the tumors. This is a question Lord you don't ever have to answer but what was that near death jaunt all about? I pray our faith was grown through it as well as my Mom's and Angela's. Then you gave us such a great gift Christmas Lord. It was so fun. I loved having Nic home. Remember Lord how you got his tickets to Him? I was so happy!!! I was doing better with breathing but the first week of January I wasn't feeling good. Jim and I took Nic to the airport and that night he took me to the hospital. I had pneumonia. Remember Lord how about a year ago before this I felt liked you asked me whatever I wanted to do about the fluid around my lungs? I said I did not want to go to the hospital (they were going to admit her to drain the fluid) and then you asked me what if there was something you had for me to do there. And I asked if I couldn't just do it some other way. Then I felt you say, "What if someone who was there to witness to your son didn’t want to do what I needed them to do?" I said “I'd go to the hospital.” But again, I felt you persist and say, "No what do you want to do? I said "I don't want to go." Then at my appointment before going into the hospital all the fluid was gone! No hospital for me! Fast forward to Jan 07 when I was so short of breath I can barley make it to the car without help. We meet Dr. Atkins at the hospital and he admits me with pneumonia. Here I am Lord just where I didn't want to be. This time you're not asking me if I want to be there either! Dr. Atkins told Jim it was bad and he would rather me go on a ventilator and feeding tube so that my body didn't have to function on its own and well as get better. We agreed. I prayed Lord for your guidance and there you were again!!! Guiding all my care. That night I went to surgery for the tubes. Thank you for being with Jim and me. I remember right before the "lights went out" I said to Dr. Dove and the nurses, "I'm praying for you" They responded like a choir of angles, "We're praying for you too." Now Lord they didn't have to respond like that but I'll tell you one thing I appreciate that they did. What a comfort. I thank you that the ICU was only 3 days! Dr. Dove told Jim there were a couple of scenarios that could happen. I could just never really recover and pass on or stay on the breathing tube for 7 days or so, but that in a few cases people have got off in 3-4 days!

I love you so much God. Look at all you already have done and I'm not finished writing or living!!!

Thank you for showing me your universe while I was unconscious in the ICU. Thank you for letting me feel your angles lifting me up (Psalm 91) under my armpits. What comfort you brought me Lord while I was asleep. You healed my body and the scan I had in the hospital that night was better then Dec's CT as far as tumors went. They were down by 75% on that scan I think. But then God out of all that came people being touched by you! I don't know how we could be a witness in that state but we were somehow. And that's only because of you. I pray we fulfilled your mission for us in the hospital.

Well Lord as you know when I lived in Turkey in 1999-2001 I dreamt that something very significant happened on a date that was written down on something like a piece of paper. It was 01/09/0 and the second part of the year was missing. So every year on Jan 9th I waited to see what would happen. But nothing significant ever happened. Until 01/09/07! When I left the hospital on 01/09/07. (note 7 is the number of completion). Lord I believe I left the cancer behind me. I left it there! I love the way you speak to me. I love you Lord. I just want to put it in writing that I'm thankful for what you've dome for Jim and me and our family. I thank you I'm alive and will continue to be. I just love you Lord.

I had scans in March or was it Feb? March - and they looked good - only a few small spots they call questionable. So again I praise you Lord.

I'm scheduled for two more rounds of chemo as you know Jesus and my body is feeling very toxic. So my prayer remains that I will not receive another single drop of chemo that I don't need. For your faithfulness I pray for my healing, for my eye sight, vocal cords, arm and hand neuropathy, blood levels, all side effects. Clearly I can see you heal and you will heal me of all that ails me. I thank you so much Lord for all you have done. I am your miracle Lord. Use me how you see fit. Maybe it will be big maybe it will be small, but it will be. I pray for spiritual sensitivity like the neuropathy in my hand Lord. It is so sensitive. Let me feel a tingling when you speak to me. Don't let me miss your still small voice.

I thank you Lord Jesus. I love you - You are my healer.


1 comment:

  1. WOW...she is amazing! It seems like any hurdle she encountered on the other side I would always think...."she's amazing!" She and you are truly a witness to the power the Holy Spirit can have in a person's life if only you submit to it. I am so thankful to have known her and so thankful to you for showing me this private side that is completely consistent with the woman I know and love. Reading her journal entries always leaves me wanting to read more.