Category Archives: Concrete Faith Must Reads

Blessings

You’ve just received bad news.  The cancer is growing. It hasn’t moved into new organs and there’s not really any new lymph node activity but there are two new tumors on your liver. To sum things up…the cancer is taking over the liver.  Likely outcome if they can’t find a treatment?

Liver failure.  Within months……..

How do you handle it?

Me? I think I would get angry.  I would get angry and scream out to God….”ARE YOU NOT LISTENING???  Do You not hear the prayers of thousands? Or is it that You just don’t CARE!?!?”  And then I would likely fall to my knees in repentance.  Sobbing out apologies…confessing that His ways are not my own.

And then I think I would go to bed.

I would lie in bed and it would be tough to get out of bed.

That’s how I would likely handle it.

Well that’s the news Travis received last Wednesday.

How did he handle it?

He got on a plane. Flew to Chicago. And told his story to thousands of people.

Wow. What a blessing.

When this all started, back in April, Travis told God two things.

“I won’t get mad at You for this. No matter what happens.  I won’t get angry at You.  I accept Your will for my life”

And…miraculously.  He hasn’t.  Oh he’s human.  He’s gotten grumpy.  Sad.  Grieved to the depths of his soul. But he has put his life and trust in God’s hands.

NO MATTER WHAT.

Second, he told God that, if He gave him a platform, he would use it for His glory.

And he has.  In October, he told his story and gave his testimony in front of a large group of people at a Northwestern Mutual conference.  A moving, motivational speech that touched so many that they asked him to do it again. And again.  And again.  This month he spoke in Raleigh, Tampa and, on Thursday to thousands of people, in Chicago.

In one word…the speech was…amazing.

I actually didn’t hear the speech.  How do I know it was amazing?  Here is just one example of the feedback Carrie and Travis have received because of it…

Thank you both from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story with me and my northwestern family. Please know that the impact of our time together will be something I (and many others) never forget. You’ve forever changed the lives of thousands in that room and consequently millions more through the families we touch. In the months and hopefully years ahead, you and your children will find a home in my prayers, both prayers of supplication for healing and prayers of thankfulness to my God for bringing such wonderful people into my life. 

Wow.  What a blessing.

Trav always has been a bit different.  Handled things a bit differently than others.  He has always been contagious. People are drawn to him.  For some reason…they have always listened to and followed Travis.

It’s one of the reasons you hear his family and closest friends say “this just has to end in a miracle.”

At this point, a miracle is the only thing that can save Travis.  He begins a new chemo regimen on Tuesday and they are looking into Y-90 – a directive radiation treatment.  But make no mistake.  The doctors do this in the hopes to give Travis more time…not to save him.

Only a miracle will do that at this point.

If he can get the doctors to agree to the Y-90 treatment in combination with the new chemo regimen…he will most likely get sick.  Very sick. And it will be a tough road for The Roberts.

And so now we have a request of you.  Below is an email from Amanda, Carrie’s sister.  So many have asked “what can we do…how can we help?” Well…now we have an answer.

You can be to The Roberts, what they have been to all of us as we have watched them travel this road…a blessing.

 
Dear Family and Friends of Travis and Carrie,
 
I want to thank you all for the prayers and the many types of support that you have given Travis and Carrie over the past nine months.  Last spring I set up a care calendar for meals for them, which so many of you contributed to.  I recently asked Carrie if they would like for me to set that up again, which she agreed to with some qualifications that I will explain.  They have recently decided to try a very strict and specific diet. Carrie and Travis have decided that it will work best if the entire family adheres to it. Pursuing this diet for the whole family is going to be like a full time job for Carrie, and while they so much would appreciate meals, they by no means expect everyone to try to figure out this diet as well! I know that so many of you would like to help out the Roberts in some way – I have received messages with appeals to help them, and I know that many of you have reached out to them with similar offers.  I talked with Carrie about a number of options that I thought would help alleviate some stress for them and give the people who love them a way to contribute to their needs.
  1. If you are a member of a CSA  (Community Supported Agriculture), and have extra organic vegetables, consider giving them to Travis and Carrie.
  2. Give them gift cards to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to help with the large expense of an all organic diet for the whole family. If you choose to help out in this way, but do not know how to reach the Roberts, you can mail them to their PO Box.
    1205 Johnson Ferry Rd
    Ste 136-312
    Marietta, GA 30068.
  3. If you love to prepare food and would like to bring a meal, they would welcome it if you don’t mind sticking to all organic, hormone-free lean meats and veggies as well as healthy fats such as olive oil. Please no beans, grains, potatoes, or fruits because of high carb content. I have set up the meal calendar, and Travis and Carrie will put a cooler on their front porch so that you do not need to coordinate meeting times with them, in the case that you choose to bring a meal.
    In order to sign-up to help Carrie and Travis with a meal, you will need an access code.  The HELPER logon is used by family and friends that would like to sign-up to help. To access Travis and Carrie Roberts’s personal CareCalendar site, visit http://www.carecalendar.org/logon/148576 and enter the following information in the appropriate spaces:

    CALENDAR ID : 148576
    SECURITY CODE : 1502
  4. Continue following their blog at http://concretefaith.org and pray for them daily.
With love and deep gratitude,
Amanda Pettit-Shaheen
Care Calendar Coordinator
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Numb

The past 24 hours have been a blur.  Things have happened so quickly.  It’s been a whirlwind where you can’t catch your breath and you are just left feeling…numb.

The results were not good. The trial does not seem to be working.  It seems all this torture Trav has endured…has been for nothing?!? Can that be so?  Everyone is just feeling…

numb…

His CA19-9 came back at 91,000.  More than doubled in just one month.

Why is this disease so aggressive?

The news came in soon after yesterday’s post but they weren’t ready to share.  It was just too much to absorb.  Too much to deal with.  The emotions. The heartache. The numbness.

An emergency trip to MD Anderson was scheduled and they left last night.  Today, they spent the day at MD Anderson.  They took Travis’ blood, did a CT scan, and gave him fluids for a few hours to combat the dehydration.

They will be in Houston for the weekend and doctor appointments to discuss results will be on Monday.  They fly home Tuesday.

He won’t officially be taken off the trial until the results of the CT scan are back and so he has to suffer through one more weekend of this treatment.  Assuming the CT scan confirms what the CA19-9 is showing the trial will end for Travis.

What was the point of it?  It seemed so “meant to be”? It seemed so “purposed”.  But why? The mind starts asking a million questions…”what ifs”…”how comes”…”why is it so”…until you have to force yourself to a place of just being…numb.

Numbness allows you to get through the day.  It’s what gets one foot in front of the other.  It’s what brings the laughter in the oddest times.  You know that kind of laughter.  The kind that makes you wonder “how can I be laughing right now”?  You’re laughing….because your numb.

Numbness is what will help Carrie get through her 37th birthday tomorrow spending it in Houston…because of cancer.  Numbness is what will help Travis and Carrie cope with missing Trey’s first basketball game on Saturday and Trey and Piper’s Christmas concert on Sunday.

I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing but numbness is not foolproof.  It does not last 24/7.  And so…they will likely slip into the emotions throughout this weekend as they miss their children….face their current reality…prepare for the news on Monday.  Tears will likely be shed.  And then numbness will return along with that laughter at the oddest times.

So pray for them.  Pray for the news on Monday.  Pray that it will be clear what they should do and they don’t have to choose between treatments.  Pray for guidance…mercy…for numbness.  And be patient and forgiving.  Because as much as they love the encouragement…love to hear from everyone…love to know that you are thinking of them.  They may be slow to respond.

You may just catch them in a moment of feeling…numb.


In The Trial

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Trav made it into the trial!
YAY!!!!
Here he is with his meds… All in this little bag !!!

The CA19-9 marker is up quite a bit as expected.
The cancer has grown, BUT has not spread anywhere new and the lymphnodes look about the same as they did before his chemo break. The news is not amazing and it is not devastating. I call that a win in Cholangio World:)!

The doctors here are awesome and even though it is difficult to be here, we feel so blessed that we are. We are so grateful to our rockstar Dr Hamrick at Kaiser and to his team for fighting for us to get into this trial and for cheering us on along the way.

With that being said, we are so ready to go home to see our babies!!! Thank you all for the prayers and support. A big thank you to my mom and dad for keeping our oldest guy all week and to my angel cousin Ali who kept our two little ones. It’s an amazing relief when you know that your children are being loved and taken care of.

We feel like God has His hands on our journey and we are trusting Him all of the way. Our prayer now is that these trial drugs will attack the cancer in Travs body. That he will be able to handle these drugs as he did the others with little to no side effects. Also, that we know how to deal with any fear that is creeping into the minds of our older kiddos. This is uncharted territory so we pray that God leads us in our words and actions as parents.

We truly love those of you who are reading this and supporting us. God has shown us His love through all of you !!!

Carrie


Country Music

I don’t like country music. I realize, since we live in Georgia, I just lost half the readers. But…well…I just don’t.

Saturday was a great day.

A day full of friends, family, and one of Travis’ favorite things.

College football.

They were on the road, headed for Athens, by 6:00 AM. On the trip up they talked and laughed in amazement over the past 24 hours. Did Travis seriously talk to Lee Corso on the phone? Did Carrie have a separate conversation with Chris Fowler? One in which he apologized for taking so long to get in touch with her??? (After all, the #TravOnGameDay campaign had started a whole 48 hours earlier ;-).) Did Travis do a television interview for WSB? It was all so crazy.

As they pulled into Athens, Travis’ friends all managed to arrive at the exact same time…along with a four foot cut out of his head stating “I’m dying to be on GameDay.” In case you’re sitting there thinking, “Wow, his friends are seriously insensitive,” just know…Travis decided on the quote to put on what would become known as “The Head.” That’s just Trav.

And so the day began.

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Travis played cornhole with his friends. Pictures were taken. Laughs were exchanged. It was like the hundreds of other tailgating experiences in Travis’ life.

And yet it wasn’t.

Something was different.

Travis was different.

He enjoyed every moment. You could see it in his eyes. Those hazel eyes that would well up with tears over, and over, and over again throughout the day. It was like every time you looked at Travis all you saw was love. And gratitude.

He was so grateful to be there. Enjoying the moment. Enjoying his friends. Enjoying one of his greatest pleasures in life.

And so it was time to head to College GameDay.

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Upon arrival, Travis and his friends were treated like royalty. Even compared to the other individuals holding backstage passes, there was something different about Travis and his group. Travis was allowed in areas other backstage pass holders were not. Travis was given tours of areas others were not.

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Travis was brought up on the “demo field” as it is know on College GameDay. Others were not.

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He was introduced to the crowd and ESPN host, Chris Fowler, shared a little about this UGA alum’s journey. His fight. The crowd cheered him. Everyone was smiling. And Travis’ eyes, once again, started welling up with tears.

On the way out Travis got to speak to David Pollack, had a picture made with him, and a football signed. (And, by the way, the face David Pollack made when asked if he got all the tweets…priceless.)

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And, of course, he got to meet Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, and the rest of the guys and even got a few pictures made at the desk.

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The morning was…well…perfect. All his friends could have hoped it would be for Travis.

And the game was still ahead of him. Arguably, one of UGA’s best games.

So what does all this have to do with country music?

As College GameDay ended, the group headed back to tailgate. Everyone was still abuzz from the experience. Everyone was so excited. It was like, for a moment, they forgot why ESPN let Travis be included in the first place.

The group sat down and just replayed the morning in their minds. A couple of the guys were playing cornhole, but mainly, everyone was just relaxing and enjoying the moment.

And then Tim McGraw came on…Live Like You Were Dying.

The group sat there quietly listening to the song. It seemed so ironic. The timing of it. That song. It’s almost ten years old.  For it to come on at that moment. And so…they let the words sink in.

“…loved deeper…”

“…spoke sweeter…”

“…was finally the husband, that most the time I wasn’t”

“…became the friend the friend would like to have…”

“…finally read the Good Book…”

“…took a good long hard look at what I’d do if I could do it all again…”

A tear rolled down one person’s cheek. And others began crying too. Quietly. To themselves.

And, at that moment, something hit me.

Travis is one of the luckiest people I know.

How can a guy with Cholangiocarcinoma be considered lucky?

For those of you who know Travis well you know that he is known for being “lucky”. His friends often say that he has a lucky horseshoe up his proverbial you-know-what. That he has the midas touch – everything he is a part of is successful.

That’s just Travis.

But, lately, it has seemed like Travis’ luck has run out.

Diagnosed with one of the rarest cancers. One of the hardest cancers to cure. The chemo stopped working after four, short months.

And yet. At the risk of sounding insensitive. I still think. Travis is one of the luckiest guys I know.

Travis didn’t get hit by a bus 5 months ago. He found out he had an incurable disease and his time was limited.

And now…he is living like he is dying.

And so. As Tim says…he “took a good long hard look at what he should do if he could do it all again”. And he did that.

Had he been hit by a bus…there would have never been “a good hard look”. There would have never been the changes that all of us have seen over the past five months.

Travis has loved deeper. Travis has spoken sweeter. And he is definitely the friend a friend would like to have. He spends every morning reading the Good Book and listening to sermons. Carrie feels like they are falling in love all over again. And his kids adore him more than words can express.

While he hasn’t gone 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fu Manchu…he was on ESPN’s College GameDay. He just got back from a family trip to the beach. And, as I write this, he has taken his family to the Falcons v. Patriots game for his oldest son’s birthday.

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He sometimes pulls the kids into bed with him at night…just to enjoy the extra snuggles.

And so…as Tim says…he “lives like he is dying”. Because he doesn’t know how much longer he will be able to.

Despite having terminal cancer. And despite the chemo no longer working. Travis is still one of the luckiest guys I know. Regardless of the outcome. Because he got a second chance at life and he has taken it. He is living life.

On Saturday Travis, with tears in his eyes, said, “I just can’t die. I love it here so much. I love my family so much. I love all of you so much. I’m just not ready.

And so…a few questions for you. Because not all of us are as lucky as Trav. People do get hit by buses. Have heart attacks. Aneurisms. Strokes.

Do you love the deepest you possibly can? Could you speak a little kinder? Are you the friend a friend would like to have? When was the last time you read The Good Book?

Do you…live like you are dying?


Choking

I was walking into Kroger.  Convincing my three year old we didn’t need “the car cart” because we were just running in for one thing.   My phone rang.

“Hey Trav!”

“Hey…you hear the latest CA19-9?”

“What? No!  Did you get it?”

“Yeah.  14,000.”

Silence.  I tried to speak.  But I was….choking.

So Trav spoke.  “14,000………..So. That’s it. It’s definitely going up.  I talked to Hamrick.  I am going to get a CT scan to see if they see anything.  And Hamrick is going to call MD Anderson and talk to them about next steps.”

Silence…I tried to speak…I think I tried to say “I…I…I’m so sorry Trav.” But I was choking.

I took a couple of deep breaths.  I muscled out a question or two here and there.  But never more than a few words.  I couldn’t.  There was something in my throat.

I was choking.

I wandered aimlessly around Kroger as my three year old begged me for a cookie and I tried to think of something…anything….encouraging to say.  But I couldn’t.

I was choking.

Whatever this thing was in my throat that wasn’t allowing me to swallow couldn’t have had worse timing.  I needed to be there for my friends.  I needed to encourage them.  To tell them I was here no matter what.  I needed to say something.  But I just couldn’t.

I was choking.

I tried to clear my throat.  Nothing came up.

Travis talked about the possibility of a medical trial and perhaps this was God’s way of saying it was time to do something different.  He sounded remarkably well. I think I managed to tell him how well he sounded…through my choking. 

All the while my head was racing.  Doing the math.  What percentage of change were we seeing?  How fast? All the while working on getting out of my throat whatever it was that was stuck.  Whatever it was I was choking on.

Trav talked a little longer and then quickly said “Carrie’s callin.  Gotta go.”  I think he might have even said good bye.

I sat in my car for a second.  Still holding the phone to my ear.  And suddenly, the thing that had been stuck in my throat…grew.  I tried my best to swallow it back.  I panicked a little because it was starting to impede my breathing.

I tried choking it back…but it had gotten too big.  I no longer could.  And so with a cough it came out.

The sob.

The sob I had been choking back came forward.

Anguish. Pain. Heartache. Anger. Tears. More tears.

That’s what had been stuck in my throat.  That’s what had been gathering while my friend told me his news.

That’s what I was choking on every time I tried to speak.

I don’t think we ever truly know what it feels like to walk in Carrie’s and Travis’ shoes.  To ever truly understand what it feels like to be them.  To be facing this. To be living…this.  In fact…I don’t think we can relate to what it is like to be their mother.  Father.  Sister.  Brother.  Family. To hear the news.  To face a reality that seems so bleak. We can’t relate.  We can’t understand it.

I have cried my share of tears over this and have fooled myself into thinking that, because of those tears, I understand what they are going through.  But today I realized.

I don’t.

Today. For the first time…I had a glimpse of what it is like to be walking their road.  What it is like when they lay their heads down to sleep.  When Carrie and Travis look at their children.  When their parents, siblings, family…look at them with their children.  Today, for just a moment, I knew what it felt like to live a life where it always feels like…

You’re choking. 


A Trip To Disney!

Oh how I wish the Roberts were off to Disney World.  The real Disney World.  The place where magic happens and dreams come true.  The place where Piper’s eyes would light up as Cinderella walked up to introduce herself.  Where Trey would squeal as he got to blast space enemies on Buzz Light Year’s Star Command .  Where little Jake would likely scream in terror as Mickey Mouse tried to get a smile out of him :-).

Disney World.  The happiest place on Earth.

But…that is not the trip for the week.  Instead, Travis and Carrie are headed back to Disneyland for Dead People.

Tonight, Carrie and Travis take a flight to Houston to visit MD Anderson.  And while they are excited to get in front of them.  To show them.  For them to see…the miracle that Travis is.

They are also nervous.

The faces.  The looks.  The fear.

Death.

Everywhere.

Even if you believe in the Creator. Have faith that you are saved.  Have faith that this place is temporary and we are eternal beings.

Death is scary.

So to be surrounded by it.   To have everyone look at you…hopeless.  With pity.

It’s no wonder they are nervous.

So pray for peace.  Pray for comfort.  Pray for hope in a place of hopelessness. 

In addition to that, the first thing MD Anderson plans to do tomorrow is check Travis’ CA19-9.  Why?  Well…it isn’t that they don’t believe that Travis’ CA19-9 has dropped 97%.   It just that…they don’t believe Travis’ CA19-9 has dropped 97%!!

So pray.  Pray tomorrow that the CA19-9 drops….again. It plummets.  Travis has had astounding results with his CA19-9 but, expectingly, it has slowed slightly.  So pray for another dramatic drop.  One more thing to amaze the doctors.   One more thing that will make them scratch their heads.

Pray they will give him some direction as to the next treatment option…should the current stop being effective.  If it stops being effective we want NO lapse in treatment time. So pray that if there is another treatment…a study coming up…a trial beginning that Travis should be a part of…that it would be made clear.  That they would be given direction.  And, likewise, if they should just “stay the course” with the current treatment…they would have a peace about that as well.

Finally, pray that Travis stays at the forefront of MD Anderson’s mind.  That’s really the purpose of this trip.  To ensure they “remember him”.  As if forgetting Travis Roberts is an option!  But, after all, it is MD Anderson and they do have thousands of patients so “falling through the cracks” is a possibility they are ensuring they avoid.

So that, some day, Travis can take that trip to Disney.  The real Disney.


The Walking Miracle

Travis. The Walking Miracle.

That’s what he is. I am not just saying that because he is one of my closest friends. Because I want to believe it. Because I want it to be true.

I say it because that is what it is.

Truth.

Travis is…a walking miracle.

First…let’s talk lymph nodes. Those pesky little things that swell up in your neck when you get sick. Those things the doctor pushes around on, in your neck, when you go in for a check up. But your lymph nodes are not just in your neck. They run through your body as a part of the lymph system.

Check out this figure. The green is your lymph system and the “bubbles” are the lymph nodes. What do you notice? They are all connected. Remember that. It will come in handy later.

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Now let’s take a look at where the cancer has hit in Travis’ lymph nodes.

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Everywhere you see red…Travis has cancer in his lymph nodes. More or less.

Wow.

In his words…”the PET scan lights up like a Christmas tree!”

So where is the miracle in that?

It is simply unheard of. It is a miracle that the cancer, as it has moved through his body through those connected lymph nodes, has not “jump shipped” onto another organ. The diaphragm basically divides the chest cavity from the abdomen. The cancer has passed by the large intestine, small intestine, gallbladder, pancreas, stomach, through the diaphragm, past the lungs…and has not touched a single one of them.

Having trouble understanding how HUGE this is? Don’t quite understand how intertwined the lymph system is with these organs? Not convinced of this miracle? Try this picture of just the abdominal cavity. Again…the green line is the lymph system and the green bubbles are the lymph nodes…

Lymph Nodes with Organs

And that is just the abdominal cavity. The cancer moved through the lymph nodes. These lymph nodes that encircle and intertwine with the organs, and never touched them.

A walking miracle.

But. It’s still hard to hear the doctor say “yep. you light up like a Christmas tree.” When those words come out of the doc’s mouth… When you see how they look at you… Your mind plays tricks on you. The enemy plays tricks on you. And despite the miracle…you get worried.

Travis got a second opinion on Wednesday. Well. I guess technically it is a fourth opinion. Or is it fifth? Who knows…always good to cover your bases. A friend got him the appointment and just wanted him to meet with this doctor who has saved other’s lives. And so he did. And the doctor looked at his images and looked at Travis. He looked at him like he was a walking miracle.

How can this guy have it from his groin to his clavicle and it not be in his organs?

So while it is encouraging to hear. To hear you are a walking miracle. “The look” is still so scary. The look that says…

Wow…how are you standing before me seemingly healthy when you have this much cancer?

And so the look can be discouraging despite the encouraging words. Despite knowing you are a walking miracle.

CA19-9. It’s the cancer marker that tells the doctor how Travis is responding to the chemotherapy. The first time Travis had this test done was on the day of his liver biopsy – April 16. Normal is below 35. Travis’ was 91,000.

NINETY ONE THOUSAND.

Travis and Carrie thought it was a typo. But it was not a typo. 91,000. That was his starting point.

Yesterday, Travis had his second treatment of chemotherapy and, prior to starting, he and Carrie met with Dr. Hamrick. They asked for the results of the CA19-9 test taken on May 15, the day before his first treatment of chemotherapy. The test taken just four weeks and two days after the initial test. Just 30 days later. Just one month.

161,000.

Carrie screamed. Literally. Dr. Hamrick had to yell “Whoa! Calm down! It’s ok! We knew this was an aggressive cancer. Nothing has changed! We knew this!”

Yes. We did. We heard. We were told.

But 161,000???? In a month?

If you go to the message boards on cholangiocarcinoma.com you will find people worried about 300. 400. Even 1000. But 161,000???

A walking miracle.

But again. You can tell yourself you are a walking miracle. You can convince yourself you are the “outlier”. The “exception”. The “miracle”. But your mind plays tricks on you. Your mind says otherwise.

And so. As Travis sat through his treatment yesterday. His five hour treatment. With poison running into his veins to kill this thing that seems…invincible. One thing kept running through his mind. Over. And over. And over.

161,000 161,000 161,000

This morning Travis awoke. And thanked God for another day. Another day of being symptom free. Another day of life. Another day of being a miracle. But he had something more to say. Something more to ask.

Speak to me God. Let me know You are hearing our prayers. Let me know You are there.

And he opened his Bible.

As I have mentioned before, Travis is new to Bible study. He is still figuring out if Galatians is in the Old Testament or New. If there is a difference between Corinthians and Chronicles (uhhh. big difference. huge). Suffice it to say…he doesn’t yet know his Bible. But he is trying and following the advice of his father…sticking to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Lately, he has been reading John. And today, not-so-coincidentally, he happened to be on chapter 11. And for the first time, on his own, he came across John 11:4…

When Jesus heard this, he said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory. God’s Son will receive glory because of it.”

God spoke to Travis. He met him where he was and gave him a gentle reminder. But He wasn’t done.

Shortly after this Travis was talking to Carrie. Explaining to her that he was “all for the miracle”. He was hanging in there and trying his best to simply have faith. But just once. Just one time. He would like something tangible. He would like some good medical news. Just once. Something encouraging. After what seemed like punch after punch after punch to the gut. Just good news for once.

An hour later the email came.

Dr. Hamrick.

Great news. Got your CA19-9 back from Wednesday’s test. Down to 135,000.

In just two weeks. After a single treatment. A 16% decrease.

THIS MEANS THE CANCER IS RESPONDING TO THE CHEMOTHERAPY!

Something they weren’t sure would happen. Something that doesn’t happen for a lot of people. Something that could have been another punch in the gut.

But God spoke again. He spoke to Travis. This time the reminder wasn’t so gentle. It was tangible.

God spoke to His walking miracle.


Cancer Kicks.

ImageIf you know Travis you know his style. And you know he is known for his style. His clothes are as wild as his personality and his shoes…as loud. Kind of like these little gems. His recent purchase. His new “cancer kicks”.

And you love him for it. Love him to the point that you take the fashion RISK of buying them in his honor. Wearing them in his honor. Friends like Steve Matheson and Charlie Cogen (aka The Chuckster) buy crazy shoes like this and send Travis pictures of them wearing them…just to make him feel better. Just to make him smile. Because that’s how much Travis is loved.

IMG_0139Loved by his precious wife, who is walking this journey along side him…in her own new pair of “cancer kicks.”

So Travis just wants to say thanks. Thanks for all the love. The support. And introduce you to his new “cancer kicking” shoes. He bought them for this trip. For this FIGHT. And he is ready to fight. He now has…a plan.

God has been so faithful in answering our prayers. Perhaps not always in the way we would want but His ways are so much greater than ours. So even when we may not agree I guess we just have to trust. After yesterday’s post, Disneyland for Dead People, our dear friend Kelly emailed me and said:

I am a faith person – I will believe to the point of people thinking I am an idiot!!! But I tell u this, I DO believe he will be healed!!! Having the lab tech read the results wrong isn’t much of a miracle….and I know God is gonna give us all a KABOOM miracle that forces the blind to see!!!! Not unto death….I believe it!

Guess I’ve got a lot to learn about being a faith person. Anybody else?

Yesterday, Carrie and Travis received confirmation that it is, in fact, Cholangiocarcinoma. They met with an expert, Dr. Shroff, (and I mean expert) in Cholangiocarcinoma. Cholangiocarcinoma and Pancreatic Cancer are the only things she works on. They could not have been in better hands so there is no more questioning if this is what Travis has.

And yet. Travis and Carrie feel peace. Prayer Answered.

Yesterday, Dr. Shroff sat and discussed treatment options with them in depth. There are so many treatment options. More than Travis and Carrie first realized. More than our “Google research” ever showed. Despite that, her suggestion aligned with the original suggestion that Dr. Hamrick, aka Dr. Rockstar, gave initially. She feels the best course of treatment, initially, would be to attack this cancer with two chemotherapies at once – Gemcitabine and Cysplatnum. Travis will be given chemo every two weeks for six hours. After two months they will reassess and determine their next course of action. Their next line of defense. It could be some kind of localized radiation such as Y-90 or Proton Therapy or another type of chemo treatment.

So the treatment course is clear. There is no worry about making the “wrong decision”. There really is no decision to make. Prayer Answered.

Dr. Shroff felt strongly about using the Gemcitabine and Cysplatnum together. She explained that their studies have shown that the Gemcitabine is far more effective when it is used in combination with Cysplatnum. So are you ready for the exciting part?

They have only been using this combination for THREE years. So who knows if the scary stats on the Internet are even close to being accurate anymore! There seems to be advancements in treatment pointing to possible…survivors????? For the first time ever. MD Anderson is giving them options, and, there’s a little bit of tangible hope. Prayer Answered.

And…the treatment prescribed.  Can be done in Atlanta.  Home.  Travis getting treatment and sleeping in his own bed.  With his family.

Prayer Answered.

Additionally, Carrie and Travis found out that MD Anderson would push for him to have Foundation 1 testing. Foundation 1 testing is an expensive, genetic testing that will show doctors which chemotherapy treatments your body is susceptible to. Scientists look at your DNA and look at where the gene is mutated and that tells them which specific chemo can attack it best. Sadly, many patients don’t get this. Either their doctor does not push for it, their insurance company won’t pay for it, or they cannot afford it. Your body can literally reject the chemotherapy and it will not fight the cancer. This test helps avoid that. What’s more is that Dr. Shroff stated that, because Travis’ cancer is so rare the Foundation will want it. So…if they can’t get it covered by insurance the Foundation will likely eat the cost.

Prayer Answered.

But what about all those scary statistics? What about those percentages? Don’t get me wrong. Cholangio is still a scary thing. And the percentages and numbers and expectancy doesn’t change. But. Dr. Shroff doesn’t see Travis as a number. Dr. Shroff sees him as an individual. And within just 30 minutes of meeting with Travis she was able to see him for who he is…a fighter. And SHE SAID….”I think you are an outlier.” Just. Like. Dr. Hamrick.

Prayer Answered.

The only way cholangiocarcinoma is ever cured is with surgery. But stage four patients are not eligible for surgery. Ever. Since first finding this out and seeing the stats between those who had surgery, and those who did not, Travis has been searching for a surgeon who would roll the dice on him. Who would take a chance. Because he knows that is his only chance. Yesterday…he found that surgeon. A conference call with a Piedmont Hospital suregeon at 5:00 gave Travis his first hope for surgery.

Prayer Answered.

But. Currently, Travis’ tumor is so large it is crossing between his right and left lobe in the liver. No surgeon in the world will touch that. He basically wouldn’t have a liver left if they did. So. We have to pray for the impossible. Pray that Travis’ body not only takes the chemotherapy but that it shrinks the tumor. This is a long shot for two reasons. First, cholangiocarcinoma does not usually respond to chemotherapy – which is why it is a “bad one”. Second, on the patients who do respond it typically does not shrink the tumor. It simply eats up the cancer but leaves the tumor “carcus” behind. We need it to get out of the left lobe. We need it to shrink. And then. Despite the odds. Despite the “rules”. The surgeon will consider surgery.

Today, when Travis went back to get the I.V. for his CT scan, the nurse looked at him and bluntly said,” Do you believe in God?”

Travis responded, “Yes. Yes I do.”

“Well keep believing honey…cause I see miracles walk out of here every day.”

I don’t know about you but I see God working in the Roberts life. He is answering prayers. Holding them in His mighty hand. Giving them peace.

Standing with God, Travis and Carrie are ready to take on this beast. In their new “cancer kicks”.


The Black Angel

This is a story. An amazing story. A true story. An unbelievable story. A story of faith. A story that is still being written and yet…we already know the ending.

It all starts with a black angel.

Two and a half weeks ago, sitting in the waiting room, waiting to be taken back for his liver biopsy the mood was…sobering. Travis made jokes to ease the tension and Carrie and her mom Kris, of course, giggled. All the while, in the back of their minds, thinking what if? Certainly not. It’s an infection.  It can’t be…the “C word“. But they nervously laughed along with Travis, if for no other reason, than to make him feel better.

Travis’ name was called and he and Carrie walked back. It was just Kris and I…hoping…praying. Kris turned to me and said “we should pray”. And so we did. Quietly. Discreetly. Holding hands in that waiting room praying for our dear loved ones.

And then the black angel appeared.

No. I don’t mean she appeared from no where. One minute not there and the next…there. She was actually a few chairs down and across from us and she got up and walked over. She was dressed in a gleaming white polyester suit and her skin and hair were black as night. She spoke softly.

“I saw you praying and The Lord spoke to me. He told me to tell you this sickness is not unto death. And then she walked back to her seat.

Ok. I’ll admit it. I’ll say it. I smiled and thanked her, along with Kris, but my first thought was “Cuckoo!” I mean she claimed to hear from God!?! And who talks like that anyway???

But then, a few minutes later, we noticed…she disappeared.

No. Not before-our-eyes-disappeared. But you notice the people around you in a waiting room. You notice when their loved one gets brought back and they sit there anxiously waiting. You notice when their loved ones come out and they gather their things and you listen in on what they say. You notice because you want it to be your loved one coming out. Giving good news. You notice.

But she was gone. Nobody had come out. She didn’t seem to be with, or waiting on, anybody. It was like she was there simply to deliver us a message. And then she was gone.

Suddenly. I wasn’t so sure she was “Cuckoo!”.

Suddenly. We were referring to her as “our black angel”.

Travis had better faith than I did. We told him about the black angel and he immediately believed. He believed in his black angel and her message.

But time has a funny way of messing with your mind.

Of making you forget.

When the news came in that it was “the C word” we said to each other, “what about our black angel?!?”

As the appointments delivered worse and worse news…we forgot about our black angel. And her message.

But God didn’t forget.

Since we began the blog Travis and Carrie have been emailed daily by a friend of Travis’ from high school – Kimberly. Travis has not spoken to Kimberly since high school but she still felt convicted to fervently pray for this family. And so she did.

Each day she has sent them an encouraging email with some encouraging bible verses. What the Roberts didn’t realize was that Kimberly only did so when she felt directed by The Lord. She never sought out a verse for encouragement but only included a verse that was laid upon her heart. Only emailed when she was prompted. Never on her own.

Yesterday was no different.

Yesterday morning she prayed and asked God to show her how she could encourage Travis and Carrie that day.

Silence.

She was tempted a couple times to search for a verse that would bring them comfort but she remembered her conviction to only deliver what The Lord impressed upon her and so she resisted the temptation.

The day dragged on and there was still nothing. Perhaps she wasn’t supposed to email them today?

And then she received the latest blog update and she read about their pain. Their struggle to breathe. “Oh Lord…help me encourage them!”

Silence.

As she and her husband put their children to bed, her husband prayed and read scripture while she silently asked God to please lay something on her heart because she wanted to encourage them but she did not want her words to be “of her”.

Immediately, she was reminded of an email from two years earlier.

Two years earlier, she received an email from a friend stating her husband had stage 4 cancer. What struck her was their faith. Her first thought was that she didn’t think he would make it.

She felt ashamed. Ashamed that she did not have their kind of faith. She immediately cried out to God. She confessed her lack of faith. She begged Him to comfort her. She was led to a daily devotional and she turned the pages to that date.

And then she wept.

She stared in utter amazement at the verse God led her to and she read and reread it. She underlined it and put a note by it. Because she did not want to forget it.

But time has a funny way of making you forget.

She sought out that same daily devotional last night. She couldn’t remember the day or even the exact month of that email but, as she opened it and turned the pages, she felt convicted to look only at today’s reading. She looked at the clock.

It was 12:04 AM. May 4th. May 4th by four minutes. So she turned to May 4th.

To her complete and utter amazement it was the same page she read two years earlier. The verse that taught her to have faith…despite the circumstances.

The verse?  John 11:4

This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it. Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”

The same words of our black angel.

Our minds may play tricks on us. Make us question. Make us forget.

But thankfully…God doesn’t.


Breathe Travis. Just Breathe.

Yesterday was a tough day. A day full of emotions. A day where the Roberts had to remind themselves to…

Breathe. Just breathe.

Yesterday was the first opportunity the Roberts had to meet with a specialist in gastrointestinal cancers, specifically Cholangiocarcinoma.

Can you imagine the anticipation? Can you imagine the high hopes? Finally…someone who knows a lot about this horrible disease. Someone who knows more than what the Roberts are finding on Google. Someone to tell them what they are finding on Google is wrong…and to stay off the Internet. Someone to say, “this isn’t nearly as bad as your other doctors have made it out to be. It’s only because it’s rare that it’s so scary.” “We got this.”

Someone who will help Carrie and Travis breathe again.

Their appointment was at noon and the morning had been good. Records picked up. Kids dropped off. Business running smoothly. There was even some laughter. The drive to Emory was pretty to say the least.  The mature trees and full azaleas were bursting with color against quaint cottages and impressive estates.  It was almost…peaceful.

And then the trees cleared. And as Emory appeared ahead, hearts started racing.  Suddenly the peace and tranquility was gone.  Suddenly stomachs were churning.  Suddenly it was getting harder to breathe.

Despite looking “dapper” (the physician assistant’s word…not mine) in his “baby blues” (pants) and polo with sleeves rolled up, Travis was…a wreck.  The wait in the waiting room was three hours.

At least it felt that way to Carrie and Travis.

Finally, Amar’e  Stoudemire, called Travis back.

Ok.  So it wasn’t Amar’e  Stoudemire of the New York Knicks…but he was a dead ringer!

Charm and wit are a big part of Travis’ personality.  It is how he has been able to get away with the things he has gotten away with most of his life.  Make them laugh and he gets whatever it is he wants.

Doing what you know calms you.  It helps you breathe.  Being witty and charming calms Travis.  Only…Amar’e  Stoudemire didn’t exactly find Travis charming. Luckily he was only there for a few minutes.

The doctor and physician assistant came in next and it wasn’t long before all of the oxygen got sucked out of the room.  Nobody could breathe.  Everybody was gasping for air.

It felt that way.

The doctor got right to the point, explained the clinical trial they had going on and asked if Travis had any questions.

Any questions!?!  Apparently, he didn’t know Travis.

Travis went through a litany of questions and as each answer came the Roberts quickly realized this visit was going to be no different from the others.  It wasn’t that the other doctors weren’t familiar cholangiocarcinoma.  It wasn’t that Google was wrong.  The Internet wasn’t this place with only worse case scenarios.  It was that this disease is that bad. 

Breathe.  Just breathe.

How long? That’s what everyone wants to know. How long do they have?  The problem is cancer is different for everyone.  It reacts differently to everyone.  The treatments are different for everyone.  So doctors talk in averages.

“So give me the averages.”

“12-14 months.”

Breathe.

“Can you cure it?”

“No.”

Breathe.

“Can you get it into remission and buy me some time.”

“I don’t think so.  It is unlikely”

Breathe reader.  Just breathe.

Where did all of the oxygen in the room go?  Why were the Roberts struggling to breathe?With tears in his eyes, Travis tried to catch his breath and then did what he does.

He made a joke.

“Well.  I guess that’s Game Over.”

Breathe Carrie. Just breathe.

And then he left.  Most of us, in that situation, would have gone home.  We would have turned off the lights, crawled into bed and cried. But not Travis. Travis got in his truck and drove 7 miles across town, put on a happy face, and walked into a room full of lawyers for a mediation between his company and a general contractor as if he wasn’t just handed a death sentence.  Somehow. Travis figured out how to breathe.

Yesterday was not the day the Roberts were hoping for…praying for. Yesterday did not make things any easier. But the good news is…there is always tomorrow.

They will head to MD Anderson Sunday night for a three day visit.  Their expectations are set.  They know they are not going to suddenly hear about high success rates.  About high survival rates.  They are looking for a plan.  The best plan.  A plan to fight and beat the odds.

There are two HUGE prayers that we ask you get on your knees for over the next 72 hours.  First…pray for a mistake.  Weird?  Our prayer is that the liver biopsy reading was wrong.  A mistake was made.  Is it a long shot? Maybe.  Maybe not.  It happens.  MD Anderson will be reading the slides.  Pray that it is something.  Anything else.  Second…in order for them to find something different they need to get the slides.  The slides are in transit.  They are not there yet.  They need to get there by Tuesday in order to be read in time for Carrie and Travis to discuss treatment options with the doctors at MD Anderson.  Please fervently pray for both of these things.

Every night Travis practices dying.  If you know Travis, when you are finished laughing, you won’t be surprised by this.  To hear him tell it is hilarious despite its morbidity.

“Yeah. I just lay down and close my eyes and think ‘I’m dead’.  It’s not too bad.  I hold my breath and I just practice dying.”

Breathe Travis. Just breathe. 

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. - Psalm 3:5