Author Archives: concretefaithblog

Peace

There is peace flowing through the Roberts’ household.  A peace that surpasses all understanding.  Even the understanding of those of us who know Christ’s peace.

On Wednesday morning Travis went to the emergency room.  He just couldn’t breathe.  Well…he could breathe. But his breaths couldn’t seem to get enough oxygen in them.  Despite having been on oxygen for the last two weeks.

Travis was transferred to a room in ICU.  His lungs were filling with fluid and blocking his ability to absorb oxygen.  There were two possibilities…pneumonia or cancer.  The hope and prayer was for pneumonia.  24 hours of treatment would determine if it was.

It was not.

CT scans and XRays did not show tumors so there was hope that it was not cancer.  But as it turns out it is cancer in his lymphatic system.  Not his lymph nodes…but his lymphatic system. Those small lymphatic vessels that run through his lung tissue are filling up with fluid being produced by the cancer cells and blocking the absorption of oxygen.

But ask Trav how he is feeling and the answer is always the same…

I feel good!

What an amazing man.

Travis gets to come home today and be with his family…surrounded by love. Hospice has been set up and Travis has everything he needs to be comfortable.

And I can tell you this…

He is so peaceful.

Carrie is so thankful for everyone’s support and love and she asks for your continued patience and forgiveness if she is slow to respond to texts, calls, and emails.  Please respect this precious time for the Roberts as they ask people not to visit.

And so the prayer request is this.

Pray for peace and comfort for the whole family and for all of #TravsArmy.

Trav has touched so many.  Changed so many in the past fifteen months.  There are so many stories that will come out in the next several weeks of the impact Travis has had. But there are some who will have questions…doubts…confusion over the ending of this story.  Trav would want you to pray for those and that his story would not add to their confusion or doubts but only help walk them through them.  Because the peace that Trav has, the unexplainable peace that he is experiencing, tells him this.

This is not the end of the story.  It’s only the beginning of the next chapter.

 

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Hero

The clock is ticking. With each minute that passes another cancer cell grows… And another… And another… And another…

The sickness has set in. The symptoms are here. The fight has kicked into high gear. There are good days and there are bad days. But through it all… Travis fights.

It’s humbling to watch him fight. To see him lose a battle and continue on.

That’s what heroes do.

The week before last Travis lost several battles in a row. His surgery wound opened. Blood clots set in. He was removed from a trial. And, worst of all, a rare and freak contamination of his cells. The cells that were supposed to be his lifeline .

And yet… Travis fights. No thought of giving up. With a bold faith in the Almighty and the love and support of his soulmate and caretaker…Travis fights.

Because that’s what heroes do.

Four weeks from now Travis is scheduled for the MAGE trial.

Four weeks is a long time. A long time for any fight let alone one with a body that has been ravaged by cancer.

His odds are not good. But that’s how Travis likes it. That’s when he thrives. After all, Travis has faced odds like these his entire life both personally and professionally…and he always comes out on top.

That’s what heroes do.

So for the next five weeks, as Travis fights, there are two small requests.

First, give him the time and space to fight this battle. This request is hard for Travis. It almost goes against his nature. The Roberts’ home has always been the “gathering hole”.  They have the most loving, caring, and giving friends they could ever hope for and their friendships are deep. But, for now, Travis’ focus needs to be on healing and Carrie needs to be there for him as she always is.

Returning phone calls and text messages are low on the priority list for now so please do not begrudge them if yours has gone unanswered.  And please do not be hurt when Travis does not accept visitors. He is busy fighting.

Second, your prayers are coveted by Carrie and Travis.  That’s how you can fight along with them. Carrie once said she doesn’t look for the “big miracle” anymore because she sees so many miracles every day.  Those miracles are a direct result of your prayers.  So please keep praying. Pray for the miracle.  Pray for his healing.  Pray he has the strength and health required for the trial at the end of the four weeks.  Pray, pray, pray… Fight with them through your prayers.

The next four weeks will likely drag for Carrie and Travis. Travis will be fighting every step of the way as the minutes, hours, days drag on.

After all… that’s what heroes do.


Prepared

We spend our lives trying to prepare ourselves for different events.  Tests…graduations…college…weddings…kids…a management position…a new job. Life seems to always be about preparing for the next thing. But there are some things you can never prepare for. There are some journeys that offer no map…no directions…no GPS.  You simply put one foot in front of the other and hope you are going in the direction God has prepared.

This week was a week for which Travis and Carrie were not prepared.  There was no map on how to navigate. No directions.  No GPS.

Because the echocardiogram came back so strong their spirits were up.  They needed something positive after all the blows they had received and they had gotten that positive news with the echo results. They were reminded that God was in control and things were looking up.

It was determined that the blood clot in his lung had broken off from the one in his leg.  That alone could have been an instantaneous death…but it wasn’t.  It went to his lung where it showed up on a CT scan.  Clearly God’s hand has been upon Travis. Clearly God was with them.

They had tried their hardest to convince the doctors to let them stay and have Travis start the trial in a week. After all, the last time they went home Travis ended up with a blood clot and an incision that seemed to leak fluid endlessly.  Going home was not appealing. But it was to no avail.  Travis needed to go home and recover before they began the trial and return in two weeks.

But, despite that, overall things were good.

And then the doctor walked in. He walked in without a map, without directions, and without a GPS to help them navigate the news he had to share.

They were not prepared.

The lab had called.  Travis’ cells were contaminated. 

All. Of. Them.

The lab called and informed the doctor that his patient…Travis…had Aspergillosis.

Aspergillosis.  A fungus.  A fungus that is found in Georgia, among other places, that you get by breathing in.  It infects approximately 1 in 100,000 people, typically those with a compromised immune system.

It chose Travis.

“Travis…it is insurmountable to get you into a trial. You are actually no longer eligible for any trial. There is nothing more we can do for youI’m sorry.”  

How do you navigate this news? Where are the directions on handling this?  How do you prepare?

Carrie and Travis choked out sobs of desperation.  They cried more tears than they knew they had. They held each other.

And then.  One by one.  They called their loved ones.  They choked out the words and cried all over again with each call they made.

There was no map.  There were no directions.  This was new territory.  Yes…they always wondered if this moment would come and how they would handle it.  But just because you wonder if it will come doesn’t mean you’re prepared to handle it.

The sadness was enveloping. It was almost suffocating.  Almost. 

But there was still a peace.  Because they know…this life is so short…so temporary…and that there is a bigger picture that matters.

The day drudged on.  The thought of having to make it through the night there ,with no hope or purpose for being there, seemed overwhelming but so did packing up to leave.

They made some more phone calls…they wept some more…they did their best to prepare.

And then the infectious disease doctors walked in.

They knew that these doctors were coming but they thought that they were there to discuss treatment of the fungus.

But, that was not the case. 

The infectious disease doctors introduced themselves and got to the point…

Mr. Roberts, we don’t think you have Aspergillosis. 

Unbeknownst to Travis and Carrie, when their trial doctor left that morning after giving them the news, he didn’t stop fighting for them.  He spoke with infectious disease who would be visiting Travis that afternoon, and he asked them to please prove him wrong.  Help him determine that Travis did not have a fungal infection.

And they went to work.

They poured over his CT scan from last week.  They looked at his medical records.  They studied the puss coming from the incision.

The CT scan showed two spots on his lungs that could be Aspergillosis.  But this was an airborne disease that had presented in his liver.  For it to have made it to his liver it should be pretty apparent in his lungs.

When they examined the puss from his incision, it showed no sign of the fungus.

Thorough physical exams were given by both infectious disease and the pulmonary doctors.  They both thought that it was very unlikely that Travis had this fungus.  These visits were actually humorous for Travis and Carrie.  Some of the questions that they asked were… Do you live on a farm?  Do you work outside?  Do you do a lot of yard work?  Are you around chickens or birds? The thought of Travis in any situation like this is pretty funny.  He really isn’t Mr. Outdoors.

But, most importantly, people breathe Aspergillosis on a regular basis. It is just in the air.  However, healthy people can easily fight it off.  Sick people can’t.  People with compromised immune systems can’t.  Travis has had countless blood tests over the past year and not once has it shown a weakened immune system.  Not once.  His blood test results have never been anything but perfect and his white cell blood count has always been within normal range…even with the infection in his incision.

The fungus is on the cells.  No doubt.  The only question is…how did it get there?

There are two answers…both are far fetched and both have equal chance of being true.  Either Travis has Aspergillosis or the sample got contaminated.  The lab has only had one other contamination in the past ten years.  It just doesn’t happen.  But…someone with Travis’ white blood count doesn’t contract Aspergillosis.  It just doesn’t happen.

Yesterday Travis had a lungoscopy.  They inserted a tube through his nose and down into his lungs and sprayed saline into the lungs.  He says it felt like he was drowning.  He was supposed to be knocked out, but his cough woke him during the procedure and they could not get him back out.   They pulled the fluid back out of his lungs and sent it to the labs for multiple tests.  They will watch that fluid in the lab to determine if he has the fungus.

They also did a special blood draw that was sent to the labs for testing.  The infectious disease explained that there is no way to determine 100% whether Travis has the fungus or not, but these tests will give them a very good idea.

To recap, the CT scans appear to be clear of Aspergillosis, any slides that have been tested from the surgery are clear, but most importantly the experts who have given Travis physical exams do not think that he is a candidate for Aspergillosis.  The tests that were done yesterday and the day before take around 72 hours to come back with findings of the fungus, but we have been told that they are already coming back clean from a bacterial or viral infections.

After all of this, if the fungus grows on Travis’s tests, there is nothing more the NIH can do for him… for now.  The fungal infection would take months if not years to clear from Travis’s body and that is time that he does not have.   If it doesn’t, and they all agree that he is not the carrier of the Aspergillosis, then he will be making new trial plans with the doctors.

How do you prepare for that?

The next few days will be emotional as they anxiously await the news.  Any time spent is nerve wracking.  After all, the cholangio is still growing inside of his body as these things are being sorted out.  The Roberts are not sure when they will be sent home, because Travis is still healing from the lungoscopy. But whether they are in the hospital or at home they are waiting to hear what the next few weeks will hold.  There is no planning for it.  There are no directions for it.  Regardless of what the news is…there just is no way to be…

prepared.

Travis wanted to add Carrie’s quote… Through it all,  God is Good!

 

 


Conviction

Conviction is a funny thing.  It comes at the strangest of times in the strangest of circumstances.  Despite everything going on (and, as you will learn, A LOT has been going on today) I have had a strange, quiet conviction.

It began last night as I read the post Laughter to Carrie for approval.  But I ignored it…

I have a tendency to read and reread blog posts…it’s the perfectionist in me…and each time I did that still, small conviction came back.

I kept pushing it aside.

What I didn’t realize was, at the same time, Carrie was experiencing the same conviction herself. But, like me, she tried to ignore it the best she could.

The fact of the matter is the Roberts household is anything but void of laughter. There is an upside to facing the darkest moments imaginable.  An upside to dealing with raw pain that sucks the life out of you.

It makes the good times that much sweeter.

Even last night, despite the circumstances and in between the tears, we laughed.

Yes. There is unimaginable pain running through the Roberts family and their joy is no longer care free. It’s so much richer. It’s deeper. They are learning to find joy in all circumstances and to find laughter in all situations.  And today that was put to the test as the news only got worse.

It does not look like Travis will start a trial this week.

Another blood clot has been found in his leg. Irony at its finest. Blood thinners are a life necessity for Travis now and yet they are blocking him from his life saving trial.

There is a chance they will switch Travis back to the other trial again.  But, for now, they will monitor his blood clots for a week and then they may send him home.  If Traivs gets back into the original trial, they would return to DC in a couple of weeks.  But at this point…who know? Things don’t change on a daily basis.  They change on a minute to minute basis…

This morning, when the news broke, all I could think was, “now would be a great time to show up God.”

That’s what my flesh kept saying.  My spirit knew that He is here.  He is in control. He has walked them through every step of this journey and has not and will not abandon them.

But my flesh is another story…  My flesh was shouting…

“WHERE ARE YOU!?!?!?! Now would be a great time to show up….”

I thought about Kimberly, Travis’ high school friend, and the message she got almost a year ago.  I thought about our Black Angel. I thought about how clearly we seemed to hear God.  And I just wondered to myself…

“where are You?”

To be clear…these were my thoughts. Travis and Carrie have amazing strength and faith. When asked, “do you ever wonder ‘why us‘?” Their response is simple, “why not us? What makes us so special that this should happen to someone else and not us.

As usual, I need to take a lesson in faith from them.

Carrie text me this afternoon and told me she was having her very first “blog regret”.

Keep in mind she has been away from her sick husband for 24 hours.  They have gotten the worst news since hearing the words, “You have cancer.” It’s the first appointment, discussion, treatment, etc. Carrie has not been with Travis at. The times they have shared on the phone throughout the day have been filled with raw emotion and endless tears.

The day, in short, has been overwhelming…

And yet. Despite all that.  Despite what she has been dealing with.  She was feeling convicted about giving the impression that joy and laughter was lacking in their lives.

And just like that…

God answered my question.

My question of “where are You”, from earlier today, was answered in a simple text from Carrie as if to say “I’m right here. I’m holding them.” 

Because that kind of peace…  That kind of joy…  A joy that allows Carrie to look beyond her current circumstances and see the joy and laughter in their lives is only available from one Source.

Conviction has a negative connotation.  It’s a word that usually reminds us of the things we have done wrong and of our failures. You can choose to ignore conviction or listen to it and learn.  I am grateful Carrie decided to listen to hers.  I wish I had listened to mine a bit sooner. Because when you listen and act good things usually flow from even the toughest…

conviction.


Laughter

As I drove down the streets of downtown Roswell today I couldn’t help but notice the laughter. Coworkers relaxing after a long work week. Friends joining up to kick off the weekend. Happy couples walking hand-in-hand.

Laughter all around.

And as I drove to the Roberts house I couldn’t help but think how desperately they needed laughter. Laughter is a sign of happiness. Of joy. Of things going right.

Laughter has been missing from their lives for far too long.

Today, Travis took an emergency flight up to Washington DC. He lost out on the last four days he had to spend with his family before making the trip for his one month long treatment.

And that was probably the best thing that happened today.

It all started yesterday evening. Travis hadn’t been feeling well but still wanted to take his children out shopping for their Mother’s Day presents. So he and Carrie’s dad took a trip to the mall with the kids. He was still winded and had no appetite but felt okay enough to make the trip.

But while there he coughed.

That nagging cough, from what was thought to be the cold he had for over a month, had somehow…changed over the last few days.

And when he coughed… His incision burst open. So much fluid came out that his shirt was completely wet and drips of fluid fell to the floor.

Unnerving to say the least.

He quickly got in touch with the doctors at the NIH and they had him send pictures. An infection was their only concern and there did not seem to be infection. He was told he did not need to go to the emergency room and could just see his doctor in the morning.

The morning came with a special moment. When Trey’s teacher, Mrs. Decker, found out that Carrie and Travis would miss the kindergarten graduation she planned a private graduation for their viewing. The Roberts were filled with pride as they watch their oldest cross the stage. Tears of anguish and of happiness flowed simultaneously from their eyes.

There wasn’t much laughter though. Because that precious moment was overshadowed.

Overshadowed by an earlier call. The doctors had been reviewing his CT scan that morning to ensure there was not a tear underneath his incision. And they found none. But what they did find was far worse.

Pulmonary embolism….a blood clot in his lungs.

He was told to go to the doctor and get a shot that would allow him to fly, despite blood clot, and that they had already booked him on the 3:15 PM flight.

No time to pack. No time to prepare. No extra days with his babies before his month long journey.

It was decided that Carrie would follow tomorrow to enable her to get their things together for the journey ahead.

Upon Travis’ arrival to the hospital more issues arose. His incision was in fact infected. There is fluid around his heart. The origin of the fluid from the incision is unknown. And then, of course, there is the blood clot.

All roadblocks. Roadblocks to the trial.

Too many complications can make him ineligible for the trial.

But. As always. Trav had a surprise for the doctors.

His bloodwork showed a healthy, young man. His white blood count is perfect despite his infection. He feels better than he has in weeks and his appetite is returning.

All good signs.

At this point the doctor can’t comment as to if he can continue with the trial. It will require a team of doctors. A team of doctors discussing his future. A team of doctors deciding his future.

The biggest concern is the blood clot. Or, more specifically, the blood thinners for the blood clot. He can’t be on blood thinners while in the trial because of their impact on the platelets.

There is a tough couple of days ahead. Plenty of hurdles to overcome and roadblocks to get past. Prayers from #TravsArmy are needed more than ever.

Prayers to ensure this family can one day, once again, enjoy some…

Laughter.

This is not the end of this post.  If you have just read this post for the first time please do not stop here.  Please be sure to read Conviction which was written the next day to get the full picture of what God is doing in our lives…


Tears

There is something about tears…a complexity to them. They make an appearance at the pinnacle of happiness and yet also at the darkest of times and still manage to be appropriate in both occasions. They have the ability to choke you and to cleanse you.

There is just something complex about…tears.

Travis and Carrie have had their fair share of tears over the past year. And the past few weeks has been no exception. For the past month Travis has started getting sick. And along with the tears that have flowed so have the excuses.

It’s probably just the cold we all have…

Maybe it’s his mind playing tricks on him…

Surgery. It’s definitely the surgery. That was a major surgery…

But the truth of the matter is…

Travis is getting sick…from the cancer.

And the tears flow…

Fevers at night… Extreme stomach pain from the large tumor pressing on his stomach organ… Night sweats… Weight loss…

No more excuses… but still lots of tears.

Travis. Is. Sick.

He’s still a fighter. Ask him how he feels…”I feel great!” He is definitely fighting it tooth…and…nail.

The trip to the NIH brought both good news and bad news.

As a reminder, the trial consists of the doctor removing a portion of the tumor so they could get to the T cells that were trying their best to attack the tumor (but failing on their own). They then try to multiply those T cells in a laboratory to re-inject into Travis to fight the cancer.

After the surgery, there were two major hurdles to get past. The first was for the T cells to grow. Because sometimes they just don’t.

Travis’ T cells are growing.

And the tears of joy flow.

The second hurdle is to find the exact T-cell that can fight the cancer and multiply that T Cell. This requires extensive genetic testing that can take 6 to 8 weeks.

But the doctors don’t think Travis will be healthy enough in 6 to 8 weeks to handle the trial.

Six to eight weeks…

Tears flow

It kind of takes your breath away. To think of Travis so sick… So weak… So close to the best option out there for this monster disease…and not be able to make it to it.

But there is good news…

If you remember there were two trials available that he was eligible for. The second trial is called the Mage trial. It’s very similar to the trial Travis was on but it’s done via a huge blood withdrawal instead of surgery. Not everybody has the Mage protein…but Travis does. The trial is still in its earliest of phases but it is showing some promise . And it is a treatment that Travis can do immediately…as in next Tuesday. On top of that, the doctors are still going through with the testing of the T Cells. So…just in case Mage stops working down the road. There is a backup plan for the backup plan.

Tears of relief pour down…

Next Monday, Carrie and Travis leave for at least a month. Travis will check into the hospital on Tuesday and have two days of testing. And then the countdown starts. Seven days of intense chemo. Chemo that will bring his immune system down to nothing. Chemo that will make him sick. Chemo that will do everything but…kill him. And when he gets down to day zero…they inject him with the “souped up” Mage proteins that they took from his own body.

There are tears of joy for the fact that he can get in and get treatment so quickly. But there are also tears of sorrow. Sorrow for being gone for at least a month. Sorrow for missing their baby Pippi’s end of school party. Sorrow for missing Jake’s third birthday.

Sorrow for missing Trey’s kindergarten graduation.

These are things that a parent should never be forced to miss. Things that so many of us take for granted. Some of them even seeming more like an obligation then a privilege.

But not to Carrie… Not to Travis…

And so tears flow. And as they flow they conflict. The tears of sorrow crossover with the tears of joy for being able to get into a trial at the 11th hour. For being eligible for 2 promising trials when time is running out.

And while tears of sorrow flow for the things they will miss over the next month there are no tears of regret. Because barring a divine intervention healing from The Almighty, they both know that these are the last options.

These trials have to work.

There are no alternatives and there are no other options. These have to be the ones that work…if he is going to be there for his family to one day

wipe away their tears.


An Open Letter

Dear Travis –

Well.  You made it.  While we are not at all surprised, some of us wonder if you are a tad bit?  After all, you asked several of us over the past year, “what’s the “over/under” on making it to 39?”

Just how many bets do you have to pay up on?

A year ago tonight you were sitting with family and friends as we celebrated your birthday.  There was nervous laughter, awkward moments of silence, and prayer.  We didn’t know yet.  We knew there was something but we were hoping, against all odds, it was just a random infection.  A benign tumor.  A fatty cyst.  Anything but…..cancer.

In less than 12 hours you would find out it was….

Since that day, that fateful day, we have watched you in admiration.  We have watched you grow, help others, love, learn, forgive, chase after Jesus…

We have watched you…change.

You have not walked this road perfectly but there is no expectation for perfection.  Only growth.  And we have seen plenty of that.

We have seen you grow in ways that have caused us to whisper behind your back, “did he just say that?”  “did he just do that?” “was that Travis?!?”  

You have shocked us. Inspired us. Taught us. And, of course, made us laugh…even in the most inappropriate of moments as only you can do.

Watching you over the past year has been a humbling experience.  It has inspired many of us to live. You have shown us how to love. And for many of us…because of you…we have found our way back to church. Back to God.

A friend, one of us, once said you were a “modern day Paul”.  As you sit at Buckhead Church on Sunday morning, taking up two rows with your “army”, that comment comes to life.  Leading others to Christ even as you wrestle with Him yourself.

And so, after a year of giving us so much, more than we could have ever asked, we have one more request.

Keep fighting.

A silly request, we know, because it’s asking you to do what you do.  What you have always done.  But still, we are asking you for it anyway because we want you to know how important it is…to us.

You have plenty of reasons to fight…

Your beautiful wife. Your high school sweetheart.  The girl who would be lost without you.

Your oldest boy.  Your clone. The mini Trav.  The boy who looks up to you like none other.  The one who adores you.

Your precious girl. Your angel. The one who wants your “chemo” to go away. The one who wants her daddy to walk her down the aisle some day.

Your baby.  The one who sings “The Daddy Song”. “The Daddy Song” that expresses how much he loves you already…at only 3 years old.

Amazing reasons to fight.

But we have one more.  Clearly not as an important as these others but worth mentioning nonetheless.

Fight for us.

We are not done learning. Our faith is not done being stretched by watching you walk this journey.  And the only way for faith to grow…is to be stretched.

There are so many more of us to reach. That only you, in your special way, can reach.

So when you are tired.  When you are understandably done with feeling sick…being poked, prodded, and cut open…and you are going through your list of reasons for fighting.  Think of us.

Because the world we live in needs a modern day Paul. The world needs you.

So with that…there is only one question left…

What’s the over/under on making it to 40?

We’ll take that bet.

Love,

#TravsArmy

 

 


Good Friday

I heard a friend recently say that Easter is like the Superbowl for Christians.  Perfect comparison.  Christmas is fun.  Important.  But Easter….Easter is the foundation of our faith.  It’s what sets us apart from every other religion out there.  And you can’t have Easter without…Good Friday.

All morning #TravsArmy has been approaching God’s throne, in unison, asking God for His grace, mercy, provision, and healing.

Isn’t that what Good Friday is all about on a much larger scale?

This morning I thanked God.  I found comfort, not coincidence, that Travis’ surgery fell on Good Friday.  365 days in a year and his surgery landed on Good Friday.  A day that represents God’s love, grace, provision, mercy…and healing.

As Carrie reported last night, Travis hates needles.  He yells.  Literally. As they insert an IV, Travis yells at the top of his lungs and typically draws a crowd of nurses and doctors to see what is going on.

Leave it to Travis to pull some giggles and smiles in the bleakest of moments.

This surgery day began with the poking and prodding you would expect before a major surgery. Unfortunately, for Travis, the epidural gave them trouble and they had to do it multiple times.

Carrie was not allowed in there for the epidural but I would be willing to bet a crowd was drawn.

Carrie was able to see him after the epidural, before being brought back for surgery. He was in good spirits and, as always, brought smiles to faces.  He was brought back at 9:15 for surgery.

Around 11:00, Carrie got the call that he was doing well and they had about an hour of surgery left.  The family headed back to the waiting room.

Less than an hour later the doctor came out and said that Travis did great.  They were able to get both tumors they wanted without any issue and Travis would be headed to ICU soon.

When he woke up he was in severe pain but they were quick to give him what he needed to get him comfortable.  Carrie was able to see him and said he was very groggy but good.  As of 1:30 pm, he is resting comfortably.

The prayer now is that Travis will heal in record time from the surgery so they can get back to those babies.  That no infection or complications set in.  And, of course, that the surgeons got what they needed to create the cells to fight the cancer.

God knows how all this will turn out.  He has Travis in His hands and has had this path in His hands all year.   This year, He has given us two reasons to be grateful on this…

Good Friday.


Roller Coasters

If you know Travis you know that he is an adrenaline junkie.  He loves anything and everything that gets the heart racing…sky diving, driving fast, and of course, roller coasters.

On January 1, 2004 the GA Bulldogs played Purdue in the Capital One Bowl.  And, of course, Travis was there.  The Capital One Bowl is in Orlando so a trip to Disney and Universal Studios was inevitable.  While at Universal Studios, Travis came upon a roller coaster called The Dueling Dragons. Actually…two roller coasters. Two roller coasters built as one.  Two separate rides.  Two separate adrenaline rushes.  And…the best part? There was no line.

Travis was in heaven.

I believe Travis may have set the record for riding the Dueling Dragons the most consecutive number of times in a row that day.

Travis loves roller coasters.

But in the past year I would venture to guess that Travis’ love for roller coasters has weened. At least…the kind of roller coaster he has been on.

The emotional roller coaster.

For the past year Travis has gone up, and down, and up and down, and down, and down, and down, and down, and down….

For the past year, Travis has felt like he has been on the Kingda Ka, the longest roller coaster drop in the world, and there is no way off.

Today was no exception.

Travis checked into the NIH (National Institute for Health) at 8:15 AM.  He was placed in a room which he shares with another man riding a roller coaster. As expected, one of the first things the nurses did, was check Travis’ vitals.

Fever.

101 degrees.

When a child runs a101 degree fever there is little, if any, concern. They tolerate it so well…..bouncing off the walls and having a blast.  When an adult runs a 101 degree fever…it’s not quite the same.  We seem to handle it the same way we would if we were hit by a dump truck.

Now imagine if someone who has been battling a deadly cancer for the past year runs a 101 degree fever.

Panic can set in.  “What ifs” run rampant.  The roller coaster speeds up. 

But…as many of you know…Travis is anything but the “typical cancer patient”.

When asked by the nurse, he simply told her “I feel great.”

Despite the fever, Travis headed off for the brain scan and then his CT scan, his chest x ray and his EKG. He and Carrie met with multiple doctors and surgeons.

And then the news came.

We may have to send you home. 

There is that point on the  roller coaster, when your stomach feels like it is in your throat, when you have to fight it back down.  Carrie and Travis were in that moment.

Their stomachs in their throats.  Fighting it back down to brace for whatever was coming next. Just like the fastest of roller coasters.

Travis is sick.

An obvious statement, I know, but I am not referring to the cancer.  He has a cold.  Just like you, me and anyone else can get….Travis simply has a severe cold which has caused mucus in his lungs.

Funny how something so small and simple…something that “the healthy” deal with every year as a “small nuisance” can send someone on such a ride.

But a cold for Travis isn’t a simple nuisance.

Suregons don’t operate on those who are sick with an infection or fever.  They wait for healing because they need the body ready to fight and recover from the surgery. In Travis’ case, they need the body to focus on healing the liver.  Not fighting a cold.

We may have you go home and come back when your cold is gone.

More waiting.  More doing nothing as this cancer has its way in his body.  More goodbyes to endure with their precious children.  More tough questions to answer. More waiting.

This roller coaster is getting out of control.

The CT scan came back and showed that the cancer has not spread.  Additionally, while the cancer has grown, it has only grown slightly despite the lack of treatment.

At least the roller coaster slowed some as surgery was contemplated.

Luckily.  The ride slowed down even more. The surgical team decided that it was more risky to wait than it was to proceed while Travis is sick with a cold and fever.

And so the surgery is still scheduled for Friday.

An intense surgery. Travis will have a 6-8 inch incision and they will take out a section of his liver that has multiple tumors.  From there…they will try to grow the cells. The cells that will work to beat this cancer.

The chance of success?  Not great…

Travis and Carrie learned, that while the treatment is showing great success in melanoma, it has only been done on 14 gastrointestinal cancer patients.  It has worked on one.

One.

The roller coaster speeds up.

The good news? The “one” was a cholangiocarcinoma patient. The other patients had other GI cancers.

Will this surgery be a success on Friday? Will the cells grow? Will God intervene and provide a divine miracle or a medical miracle?

Only He knows.  I just pray that some day soon my friends’ emotional coaster will end. That healing will come and Travis will be able to enjoy something he has always loved….

A good old fashion…roller coaster. 

 

 

 


Coincidences

The day began with Travis and Carrie driving into the National Institute of Health.  As they drove up a song came on the radio…I Need a Miracle by Third Day.

Coincidence?

They were given official badges, their car was searched, they went through security. Needless to say…it took a lot to get in the building.

Ironicsince, after all…it took a lot to make it to that building.

Almost a year to be exact.

A year of heartache.  A year of prayers. A year of hope. A year of lessons.  A year of miracles.  

And here they were.

When this journey started, Travis told us he wanted the crazy stuff. He wanted them to throw everything at it.  Inject him with AIDS or whatever crazy trial was out there…he wanted it.  He was willing to risk everything because he knew everything was at risk.

And here he was.  A year later.  At the place he did not even know about a year before and yet had hoped for.

Coincidence?

The morning was filled with blood work, labs and XRays.  It was pretty routine.

The doctor’s visits came after lunch.

The doctor walked in the room and the first question out of his mouth was, “how do they even know you have Cholangiocarcinoma?”

Not because he thought it was something else.  Not because he had any scientific reason to think otherwise.  Simply because…Cholangiocarcinoma just does not make sense.

To live a year with Stage Four Cholangiocarcinoma, to grow 15 tumors on your liver, and to still be alive was pretty amazing.

But certainly not unheard of…

The unheard of part, dare I say miraculous part, is living a year with Stage Four Cholangiocarcinoma…growing fifteen tumors…and not having a single symptom. To have perfect blood work, liver levels, and white blood cell counts, one year in leads a doctor to wonder…are they sure it is Cholangiocarcinoma?

Coincidence?

The doctor moved on with a brief, yet impacting, statement…

You’re definitely in the trial…

Such a simple statement for a doctor to make, and yet, a statement that means so much to so many.

There are two studies Travis is eligible for.

The first, is the TIL trial.  It is the trial they originally learned about and the one they prefer.  The procedure is actually slightly different than what they originally thought.  They would first go out for a week or less. During this time the doctors would perform the surgery which they referred to as a liver resection.  The amount time spent would be determined by how soon Travis recovers from the surgery but anywhere from a few days to a week is normal.  At that point, they would come home for three weeks.  During this time they will grow the T-cells from his tumor cells.  But there is no guarantee the T-cells will grow.  For some they do and for others they don’t.

If they don’t grow…then he cannot be in the trial.

If they do grow, then after three weeks, they will head back. There will be a few days of tests and then Travis will be given chemo for ten days in the hospital.  The purpose is to bring his immune system down to nothing so that it will not reject the new blood cells.  Once his immune system is down then they will inject him with billions of healthy cells.  He will also receive a daily treatment to assist the cells in fighting the cancer.  The immune system slowly comes back up and, once it is at an acceptable level, he is able to go home.  How long he stays is determined by how soon his immune system comes back. He will return monthly for a scan to ensure it is still working.

The second trial is called Mage.  It is very similar to the first but there is no surgery.  It is done through a large blood draw.  There is a protein in Travis’ tumor called Mage.  They reengineer the blood cells to attack the Mage protein thus killing the cancer cells.  The downside to this trial is that it is in its infancy.  It has only been done on four people.  For whatever reason, unlike the previous trial, they cannot inject all of the cells.  They are still figuring out dosages for this trial.  Additionally, they only accept one person every other week and they are currently booked through May 8th.

Even with the best blood work…when you have Stage Four Cholangiocarcinoma….time is of the essence.

The hope and the prayer is that he will get into the first trial.

But what about the miracle?  The miracle we all prayed for?  The miracle the elders prayed for?

My grandmother has an old quote hanging on her refrigerator.

Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous…

It was no coincidence that “I Need a Miracle” came on the radio as they pulled into the NIH.

It was no coincidence that Travis found himself at the NIH almost a year after saying he wanted the craziest, riskiest, “throw the book at it” trial out there.

As it turns out, there was no CT Scan today.  Only blood work and an Xray.  Carrie asked about the X-ray results two separate times but the doctor only replied that they had reviewed his scans from Kaiser.

In Carrie’s words, We still don’t know for sure

I certainly believe a miracle is possible.  Even probable… It’s certainly what I want.

I want my God to have all the glory.  I want those who don’t know Him to see Him and know Him.

But as a friend reminded me…God’s ways are not always my ways.

And so.  As my grandmother would tell me…He could choose to remain anonymous.

And like all the other ones of the past year…He could choose to give us another…

coincidence.