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.
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.
Now let’s take a look at where the cancer has hit in Travis’ lymph nodes.
Everywhere you see red…Travis has cancer in his lymph nodes. More or less.
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…
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.
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.
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.