Individually, they look like…nothing. Just some scribble or blobs of color. Certainly nothing you can ever differentiate.
The funny thing about puzzles is that the more pieces there are to a puzzle, the harder it is to make sense of the individual piece. Just a blob of color. Nothing significant or particularly deciphering about it.
Even with a 1000 piece puzzle. It is never complete without each, indecipherable piece.
999 pieces don’t complete a picture.
Putting together a puzzle with 1000 pieces requires determination, willpower and, most of all, patience.
Now…imagine being asked to put together a puzzle without having the benefit of seeing the final picture first. No cover to the box. No picture. Just handed 1000 tiny pieces in a Ziploc bag.
Can you imagine the frustration? The overwhelming feeling of where do I even begin?
Carrie and Travis are living out a puzzle. Each day is a piece. An individual piece to a 1000 piece puzzle. And sometimes, on their own, the day… the decision… the choice may seem insignificant. But their end picture would not be complete without it. And they don’t get to see the final picture until all the pieces are together.
When this journey first began, back in April, Carrie knew in her gut that they needed to go to MD Anderson. But they were told treatment should not be delayed. They were told there is really only one course of treatment when it comes to Cholangiocarcinoma. They were told that MD Anderson took a while to get into. And there was no time to waste.
But Carrie knew they were supposed to go.
A piece of the puzzle…
Somehow. Some way. They needed to get in…and get in fast. Treatment had to start and there was not time to waste. But Carrie was being called.
And then a phone call. A friend. A good friend had a contact on the Board of Directors. Some calls were made. Some strings were pulled. And, within a week or so, they were at MD Anderson for their consult.
A piece of the puzzle…
As you probably recall, Disneyland for Dead People (aka MD Anderson), was a disappointment. In Carrie’s words, there was no “miracle cure” that only MD Anderson had access to. It was such a disappointment. Carrie comforted herself by saying she never had to say “what if” but…still…a disappointment.
Or was it just an undecipherable piece of the puzzle…
The treatment began. And it worked. It worked really well. A 96+% reduction in his cancer marker. From 161,000 to 3,900. In three months. The puzzle pieces seemed to be coming together and coming together fast. We thought a picture was forming. A beautiful picture.
And then an odd piece. A piece that didn’t seem to…fit.
The marker went…up?!?! How did that fit? But, like it or not, it was a piece of the puzzle that had to fit in order to complete the picture.
Because 999 pieces don’t complete a picture.
What was next? The next suggested course of treatment that seemed…brutal? Or something else?
Because of that seemingly insignificant trip to MD Anderson Travis was considered a patient of MD Anderson. And there was a new trial. A new trial the doctors seemed to be excited about. The piece of the puzzle that seemed so insignifigant at the time was suddenly an intricate part to the puzzle. Had they not made that trip. The trip that seemed to have no other purpose than to prevent later “what ifs”. Had Travis not already been considered a patient at MD Anderson. There would be no trial option for him. That trip was suddenly becoming an important piece of the puzzle.
But could he get in?
Travis’ chemo had been working so well. His marker wasn’t slowly ticking down. It was skydiving. And then it stopped. It never bounced around as others have reported. It didn’t taper off. It consistently went down. And then jumped up. Way up.
Everyone was devastated. How could this be happening? Why so soon? How could it just make a 180…just like that? It seemed so…wrong.
But really. What we didn’t know. Was that it was another piece of the puzzle.
The trial had a window of opening. A brief window. Had Travis’ treatment worked just one more time he would not have gotten into the trial. Had his marker bounced around a little before going up. He would have missed the window. Had the timing not been exactly what it was…there would be no trial for Travis.
A piece of the puzzle.
The past three weeks have been rough. Really rough. Sickness only a cancer patient knows. Pain only a cancer patient can relate to. Being brought to the point of giving up…throwing in the towel…just to somehow muster up a bit more strength from a place you didn’t know existed.
And while it was all miserable. Every bit of it was pieces of the puzzle.
I have been thinking about this post for the last few days. Thinking back over the past 8+ months. Knowing what I was going to say. Amazed by my God who sees the big picture and tolerates us when we curse Him for the individual pieces. I began writing it this morning knowing the CA19-9 result would come in at any point. I knew it was going to be great. I saw the picture forming. The pieces coming together. I couldn’t wait to lecture everyone on trusting Him through the pieces because the picture was going to be beautiful. I just needed the call.
And then it came.
The CA19-9 is up.
That piece doesn’t fit.
That can’t be right. But it is up…1000 points.
The Physician Assistant, Lindsey, said not to panic. It might be considered a stabilization. All of the other cancer markers the Roberts didn’t realize were being checked were down. Way down.
How could this be up?
Another piece to the puzzle.
As Travis talked through it something dawned on him. His blood was taken on the first day of the trip to MD Anderson last month. He didn’t start his treatment until eight days later.
Could that be it?
A quick call back to Lindsey and a bit of comfort. Who knows how high the marker went up in those eight days of no treatment? We have seen what Travis’ marker can do in two weeks. Changes by the tens of thousands. And we are looking at a mere 1,000. Lindsey indicated that was likely it and this could be looked at as a stabilization of the CA19-9 if not a downturn.
Another piece of the puzzle.
The throwing up mentioned in the previous post was thought to be caused by severe dehydration. And, sure enough, after some IV fluids Travis feels like himself again. He was prescribed some steroids to help get his rash under control and they are confident it will help. It seems to already be working.
His CT scan is scheduled for December 16th. That will tell a lot. And they, of course, will get another CA19-9. One that will allow them to compare apples to apples.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the box cover to this puzzle. We can’t see what the result is going to be. But Someone does. The Puzzle Master Himself.
And…because of that…this I know. Good or bad…it’s another piece of the puzzle.
Because 999 pieces don’t complete the picture.