Tag Archives: Cancer

Not Your Typical Cancer Patient

Travis Roberts.  Not your typical cancer patient.

That’s my friend.  Funny, witty, brilliant, sarcastic, annoying at times Travis.  He’s not your typical cancer patient.

Travis’ third treatment of chemotherapy was this past Thursday, June 13.  And, since he meets with Dr. Hamrick every other week, he also got to see him.  His rockstar doctor.

What I wouldn’t have given to see the face of this man.  This brilliant medical doctor who, at the age of 42, has already worked his way up to the head of oncology at Kaiser Permanente.  A man who has seen a lot.  A man who has basically seen…it all.

But he’s never seen Travis.  Nor anyone like Travis.

I would have LOVED to see the look on this man’s face as he sat across the desk from Carrie and Travis…in awe.

Can you imagine the conversation…

Travis…I…uhhhh…I got your CA19-9 results back.  Ummmm…yeah.  There down to 57,000.  Yeah.  Uhhhhh…I don’t know.  You went from 161,000 to 57,000 in two treatments.  I can’t explain it. Ummm.  Yeah.  Wow. 

Ok.  So that’s not how the conversation went.  But I bet it is close to what he was thinking.

But doctors still have to maintain professionalism. So instead of looking dumbfounded.  Instead of doing the happy dance.  Instead of losing his composure.  He simply said “You are an anomaly and I cannot explain it.” 

An “anomaly”.  An “outlier”.  Man’s words to describe the unexplainable.

Man’s words to describe God’s miracles.

So Travis took his amazing news.  His incredible news.  His miraculous news.  And went to his third, five hour session of chemotherapy.  And from there…he went to his friend’s rehearsal dinner.  And then Friday he went to a golf outing honoring his friend.  And Friday night he went to a BBQ for the soon to be newlyweds.  And Saturday he went to the wedding…and the reception…and the after party.

1001444_10201527943427536_5408269_n

I am exhausted just typing this…and I didn’t have chemo!

And Travis???

Well.  Come Sunday.  He crashed.  Hard.  He spent the day in bed. Exhausted.  He has some pain in his scalp and a little swelling in the arm he got his chemo in this week.  But it took all that to bring out the symptoms.  Why?

Because he’s just not your typical cancer patient.

Over the next week or so we will be releasing an interview that Travis’ friend Steve Barnes did last week.  It is a six part series and each video is between 4 and 8 minutes.  This will give out of town friends a chance to see Travis and how well he is doing.  It gave Travis a chance to tell his story…in his own words.

To tell…how he is not your typical cancer patient.

Disclaimer…as you can imagine, being interviewed on the spot (without rehearsal) can be nerve racking.  Travis did a great job but, under the pressure, mixed up a few facts.  In this clip, he states that anything beyond Stage 2 Cholangiocarcinoma is considered incurable.  It’s not quite that “clear cut” since it depends on if it is intrahepatic or extrahepatic.  To read more about the survival rates by staging, visit The American Cancer Society.

Check back in the next day or two for part two….


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.

Lymph-Nodes1

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

Lymph-Nodes1

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.


Walking Two Lines

What is faith?  What does “having faith” mean? Does it mean living in ignorant bliss? Passing through life thinking “God will take care of it”?  Does it mean making your decisions solely on the belief that God will provide, protect, heal without giving thought to anything else?

Does the employed not actively search for a job because he believes God will provide?  Does the parent not discipline because he believes God will steer his children?  Does the sick not get treatment because he believes God will heal?

Where is the line drawn?  The line between faith and reality?

Travis’ and Carrie’s reality is that he is sick.  He is really sick.  This week they learned that MD Anderson does not have a “special sauce” just as Dr. Hamrick, aka Dr. Rockstar, told them at their first meeting.  There is not a “miracle cure” being kept under wraps at the country’s best cancer hospital.  There is not a miracle cure for Stage 4 Cholangiocarcinoma.

I have faith Travis will be healed. Carrie knows Travis will be healed.  She says that she can see him in 7 years running Hemma Concrete, doing God’s work, donating his time to a cancer foundation…living.  And the doctors will be saying why is he still alive?

But. We still think, KNOW, he should be treated.  That’s a no brainer, right?

But what about the decisions that are harder to make?  Do some decisions mean your faith is weak?

Somehow.  Miraculously.  Travis has to walk two lines.

There is the faith line. He will walk this line because He believes God can, and will, heal him.  God will intervene.  There will be a miracle.

Then.  There is another line. The line of reality.  The line that says you are very sick and your life is not going to end on your timetable.  And as a responsible father and husband.  Travis has to walk this line as well.

What does this line look like?

It’s buying and filling out birthday cards for your children for every birthday you may miss.

It’s recording endless videos of yourself, with your children and wife, so they have tangible memories of you.

It’s sitting down with the camera and telling your sons how to get the girl.  And your daughter…to run from the boys.

There is a sweet girl named Lily who lost her dad far too early and she has written down questions that she wished she knew about her dad…just for Travis.  So Carrie is videoing Travis as he answers each of her questions.

Who would he want to walk Pippi down the isle?  

What does he think each of his sweet children will be when they grow up?

What is his favorite food, movie, band…???  

He is doing it all because he has to walk that line.

And just like starting chemotherapy next Thursday does not mean Travis does not have faith.  Neither do these responsible acts of a loving and sick father.

Travis is sick.  Yesterday he and Carrie met with Dr. Shroff to review the results of his CT scan Wednesday.  This CT scan provides a higher definition and better picture than the one he had a month ago when this all started in that emergency room in Birmingham, AL.  And my friends found out there are not three tumors in Travis’ liver…there are eight. One large tumor approximately 6.7 cm and seven small “satellite” tumors scattered throughout his liver.  Additionally, the lymph nodes in his chest are actually full of cancer.  Not the “small amount” they originally thought.

Are they glad they went to Houston? Yes! Do they like the news? No.  Two things came out of Houston they are so grateful for.  First, they  found out that the treatment plan their doctor in Atlanta suggested, the doctor in charge of Travis’ care, is the same as the Cholangiocarcinoma expert.  Second.  They also are so grateful they will never have to say, if we only went to MD Anderson like everyone told us to do. And this trip was made possible by a friend.  A new friend.  A dear friend.  Holden.  Thanks to Holden, they will never look back with that regret.  No regrets.

While Travis is sick.  Fighting for his life. He will have to walk two lines.

There will be times he simply cannot walk both.  Faith may dwindle.  And that is where we, the body of believers, step in and fill the gap.  Praying on his behalf when the reality line becomes too big to see past.  When the faith line is so narrow it can’t be seen.

Thankfully.  God doesn’t require perfect faith to intervene.  To give a miracle.  God never relies on us.  He knows He would always be disappointed.  No. We have to rely on God.

In the Bible, the book of John, chapter 11, describes Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  In verse 40, Jesus says to Martha, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”  But the story doesn’t stop there.  Jesus wasn’t laying out a requirement.  He was providing a gentle reminder.  How do I know?  Because as soon as He says it, He prays, and goes ahead and raises Lazarus from the dead.

Despite Martha’s faith.

Or lack of…

Because Jesus knows. Sometimes it’s just too hard for us to walk both lines. 


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”.


Disneyland for Dead People

Travis’ title. Not mine.

But once he started explaining what he meant…I got it.

If you have been to Disney you know it is a “machine”. A well run machine.

You never see landscapers…and yet the landscape is always perfect. The crowds are processed quickly and efficiently. They train their employees, from characters to the street sweeper, how to handle their guests politely and cheerfully and they refer to those workers as “cast members” instead of employees. They even figured out how to cut down the wait on the best rides with Fast Pass. They are a well run machine.

Apparently…MD Anderson is as well. A cancer center that spans city blocks. Valet parkers at every corner to care for their patients. A check in process that is fast and efficient.

But MD Anderson is not Disney. Because one thing is noticeably lacking…joy.

A place where people don’t smile and nod as you pass by but, rather, look down at their feet…with tears in their eyes. Face after face after face shows sadness. Hopelessness. Fear. As you sit in the waiting room, scanning each patient’s face, you can’t help but read their thoughts…I’m dying.

In a word. In Travis’ word. You feel…

Disparaged.

But not all patients were given a promise. More than once.

This sickness is not unto death.

You can call me crazy. Say I am in denial. Think that I have “false hope”. Look at me with sympathy.

But I am standing on that promise.

Let me be clear. I am a logical person. A legalistic person. I require explanations and they better be logical or I will call. You. Out. I argue with fellow believers about our beliefs – even when I agree with them. I play devil’s advocate. I sympathize with those who don’t believe and can often see their position.

Simply put…

I am not a “faith person”.

I’m ashamed to say it. Ashamed to admit it. I admire people who have a child like faith and can simply read or hear something…and believe. But that isn’t me. That is my struggle. And I have a feeling…many of you reading this are the same.

And I have admitted to my dear friends. My best friends. That I stopped believing Travis would be healed. As “tidal wave” after “tidal wave” of disappointing news hit. I stopped hoping. And started thinking about…the inevitable.

Until Saturday night.

When I read the email from Kimberly, which I talked about in The Black Angel post,…I became a “faith person”. It’s hard. It doesn’t come naturally. But I believe God sent us a message, the same message, more than once.

This sickness is not unto death.

The pathology slides are in from Johns Hopkins. They were sent there to get a second opinion. We were hoping. Praying. That it was a misdiagnosis. That the original lab person had an “off” day and simply read the biopsy wrong. We were hoping God would answer our prayers this way. But He didn’t. Our ways are not His.

This sickness is not unto death.

Believe that with me. Please. Become a “faith person”. It’s scary. But wow. Is it ever exciting.

The Roberts need it. They need us, their support system (second to God of course), to believe it. Because they are sitting, waiting, trying to hope

In a Disneyland for dead people.

Updated Prayer Requests


God Showing Up

As I have told you before…the faith and love of others has both amazed and overwhelmed Carrie and Travis. Travis, specifically, has never felt so much love. Dare I say…has never “felt” so much as these last few weeks.

There is daily evidence of the love for Carrie and Travis. Right when they think they can not take another step in this journey. God shows up.

A story in which a friend runs into another friend and says, “I need you to pray for my friends.” Her friend responds, “Of course, that works perfect because I need you to pray as well for a couple. Their names are Carrie and Travis.”

Comments left on the blog stating they were praying for Travis even though the person does not know him.

And then there was the call.

Carrie’s friend Diane called her and asked her if they would be at the prayer service on Sunday.

Pause.

Carrie responded, “I am not sure what you are referring to.”

“Oh. Didn’t you know? A prayer service has been organized at First Baptist of Cumming at 3:00 on Sunday to pray for Travis’ healing. Over 70 people are invited.”

Wow. God’s showing up.

We do believe God can and will heal Travis. Not just because we want Him to. Not just because we asked Him to. Not just because Travis is a “good person”. Not just because Travis is a believer.

Good people die every day.

Christians die every day.

Mothers and fathers of young children…die. Every. Day.

To be honest. I don’t know why God sometimes chooses to heal and sometimes chooses not to. I know why bad things happen to good people. We live in a fallen world where there is sin, disease and death. But I don’t know why God doesn’t always choose to intervene.

And…when I am honest…when my thoughts are quiet and it is just Him and I…I sometimes get mad about it. Especially when things didn’t go the way I thought they should go. When the people I deemed worthy are hurt and the people I deemed unworthy are spared.

My thinking is wrong. I know it is. But it is true. And I also know I won’t have the answer to these questions this side of heaven. That’s ok. God doesn’t owe me an explanation.

I don’t know what they are. But only for His holy reasons and for His holy purpose…God has told us Travis’ sickness is not unto death. So I believe he will be healed.

At 3:00 today there will be a prayer service for Travis. Travis and Carrie will be there for it and will leave straight for the airport to head to MD Anderson after. It is short notice and, for most of you, it is a long drive. So, if you cannot make it, we are asking you to simply pray for Travis. From wherever you are. Regardless of whatever you are doing. Pray for him at 3:00. Pray for his healing. Pray for God to intervene.

So that you don’t forget, set an alarm. Write yourself a note. Ask Siri to remind you.

And watch how God shows up.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20
Prayer Service – 3:00 PM

First Baptist of Cumming
1597 Sawnee Drive
Cumming, GA 30040


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

Gathering Thoughts

I am happy to report that I am still employed. Travis did not fire me.

After all, he respects a little rebellion.

He asked me to let you all know that he plans to post, personally, in the next day or so. He’s just gathering his thoughts…


Not a Number…

It’s possible this is going to be my last post because I am breaking the rule I placed on myself when we started this.  I am posting without getting Travis’ approval first.  But I didn’t want his edits this time because everything I am going to say is truth.

As we learn more and more about cancer we are learning that it seems to be all about numbers.  Doctors talk in numbers.  Websites talk in numbers.  We find ourselves talking in numbers.  Averages.  Ratios.  Ages.  Years of life.

Numbers.

My friend’s name is Travis Roberts.  He is a husband. A father. A business owner. A friend. A child of the Living God.

He is not a number.

Travis is a husband.  He is a great husband. An amazing husband.  Don’t get me wrong.  He has, by no means, been a perfect husband but show me a husband who has been – or a wife for that matter.  But he is a great husband.  I have always noticed how Travis looks at his beautiful wife.  With love.  With adoration.  Proud to have the prettiest girl in the room on his arm.  He admires his wife and how she stays home full time, raising their children, and admits he could never do it.  He ensures she lives a comfortable life and, tries his best to spoil her (although anyone who knows her knows she is not impressed with the material things.)  He is.  An amazing husband.

Travis is a father.  A wonderful father.  A father who adores his children and is devastated at the thought of them going even a day of their childhood without him.  Just go two pages over from this post and see the pictures of him with his kids.  Holding Trey.  The look in his eye.  The love in his eyes.  He has always seemed to strike the perfect balance between spoiling and disciplining.  As an outsider looking in…I have always been surprised by this.  I just assumed Travis is all about fun. It was a surprise to me to learn he not only disciplined but knew how to discipline out of love. He is. An amazing father.

Travis is an inspirational business owner.  A 27 year old “boy” who started a small driveway business – Hemma Concrete, just eleven years ago with only a few hundred dollars, and has turned it into the fiftieth largest concrete company in the country.  A 25 million dollar company.  In eleven years.  Starting out as a 27 year old.  Wow.  But sales and growth don’t give the full picture.  There’s the people.  Travis’ employees love and I mean LOVE him as a boss.  My hunch is many would not work there for not Travis as a boss.  He refers to them as “the Hemma family” and he truly means it. He is.  An amazing business owner.

Travis is fantastic friend.  Fantastic.  He has more friends from childhood and high school than most of us have friends total.  There is a reason for that.  Many of you reading this are lucky enough to count yourself as a friend of Travis’.  Whether it is from growing up, business, college, church, or any other means I don’t have to convince you what a great friend Travis is to have.  He is a FUN friend.  Fun to be around.  Fun to have around.  Always a gracious host whether it is on his boat, teaching you how to wakeboard; in his home, for another UGA football party; or on his tailgate trailer.  He is.  An amazing friend.

Travis is a cherished and sought after child of the Living God.  Who knows if Travis was saved when he was eleven years old or just in the recent weeks.  It doesn’t matter.  One thing is undeniable.  God has chased after Travis since he was eleven.  Travis did his best to run.  He is, after all, a fast runner.  But God didn’t give up. God doesn’t give up.  And in these last few scary, FRIGHTFUL weeks Travis has found comfort and even peace in his Father.  His heavenly Father.  Because Travis is a child of the Living God.

Travis is NOT a number.