There we were, closing in on our 35th wedding anniversary. He - the local attorney, successful and respected. She - veteran English teacher, loving her job and her students. They – cute couple about town, blessed with two grown children, two gorgeous grandsons, a good marriage, friends, and a great church home. Both had been raised in baby boom comfort. Both were enjoying good health and personal fulfillment.
Then, life threw us a curve. It began with a stressful week followed by an insomniac’s weekend. Then, the flu. Mike nudged me at 10 PM, clutched at his chest and said, “I think I’m having a heart attack.”
So, off to the ER. It turns out that the pain was esophogitus, perhaps the result of his latest hobby. He had been practicing for an aerobatic flying competition. As he explained to the doctor, sometimes when you are upside down and you think you’re going to throw up, there is this muscle maneuver you work to keep stomach stuff in its place. Could that cause some GERD? Well, yes.
However, as he IS 57, DOES have managed blood pressure and a creeping cholesterol level, the docs did a work up, X-ray, CAT, blood work, all while pumping 4 bags of fluids into his body.
“Wow,” they said when the tests came back. “You have a large kidney stone.” Large = half dollar dimension. “And,” they added, “there’s something strange with your gall bladder.” There was also a spot on the liver, “unchanged from 2003.”
So, next week, we met with surgeon who said the first order of business was the esophagus. That Friday, Mike got scoped. Diagnosis: Inflammation. No permanent damage. Medicine and off we go.
The following week, we met a radiologist who conducted a liver biopsy of the spot. Diagnosis: benign hemogioma. Again, no big deal.
Next the urologist. Our local guy said that we needed to see the specialist in Indianapolis as this chunk was way too big for conventional methods. Mike’s doctor would drill in from the outside and use a little ‘jackhammer/sucker device.’
But first, the gall bladder. Third surgery in as many weeks, surgeon performed a laparoscopic procedure. A nurse came out and escorted me to a little room. (The little room off the surgery waiting room is the bad news place) Doctor closed the door, folded her hands between her knees, looked at me and said, “Well, it’s cancer.” Then she explained that when they examined the gall bladder, they decided to examine a frozen section right in the operating room.
Mike woke up, asked me, I told him. We then went home for the weekend. That surgeon, the oncologist of the next week and then, later, a specialist doctor, along with pathology reports made much of the fact that along with the gall bladder, they had taken 3 lymph nodes. Two were clean and one had ‘microscopic traces (5 cells) of cancerous tissue on the outside, not apparently invading the nodes.
Now, no one wants ‘cancer’ and ‘lymph node’ in the same sentence; however, each specialist gave us just a glimmer of hope that this was the one they caught early.
Our next step was the kidney stone and a 3 day stay in Methodist Hospital. This was Mike’s 4th procedure in as many weeks. Next we would tackle a liver resection, the purpose of which was to ‘cut out all cancer and take thin slices of the liver until we find a clean sample.’ If indications were correct, the surgeon would excise the bad cells and then we’d face some radiation just for safe measure and go on our way.
No one said it was a sure thing; but many gave indication that we had reason to hope for a positive outcome.
When Mike was ready for me to share our trial with friends, I told him the news would go viral. I am part of a prayer network at school, Laura’s Angels, named for a teacher who passed away several years ago. The Angels share prayer requests, meet tangible needs and offer other support to any who ask. I am part of a praying church, especially out Ladies’ Group. And, of course, there is my family and Mike’s family, plus their churches, filled with prayer warriors.
Many members of these groups forwarded our need to other groups and within several days, we heard from people all over the world. God’s family was rallying around us as we headed to Indianapolis for surgery on April 6.
At this point, I will post the news I sent from the hospital.