Tag Archives: Cholangiocarcinoma

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. 


Reminders

Throughout life we are given many reminders.  Reminders of the past.  Reminders of future promises.  Reminders of present circumstances.  Reminders are everywhere.

Reminders can be a great thing.  When you sit at the beach, and watch the waves roll in and hear the seagulls chirp, you are reminded of God’s greatness.  His majesty.  He reminds us of His presence through nature.

Reminders can be hard too though.

When Travis got his amazing results back from the CT scan last week I revisited The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation’s website.  With so much promise.  With such amazing results.  What had I missed?  There must have been someone.  Someone with stage 4 who had…won.

And then I was reminded….

I was reminded of the statistics.  I was reminded of the devastation that Cholangiocarcinoma is.  I was reminded of the reality.  

And I wept.

I wept for those who have gone through this.  For those going through it.  And, most of all, I wept for my dear friends.

While the vast majority of Cholangio patients do not respond to treatment the way Travis has…some do.  A few.

And I was reminded…

Even those few, who respond well to treatment, even they have a life expectancy of three years or less.

Three years is a miracle.

Trey will be eight.  Piper will be six.  Jake….three.

Reminders can suck.

Thursday Travis had his sixth chemotherapy treatment and he and Carrie met with his cancer counselor.  They ran into Travis’ doctor.  And they were bombarded with reminders. 

His cancer counselor reminded him that she discusses cancer and diagnosis’s with doctors every day. However, when she says the word “cholangiocarcinoma” to any doctor they typically just shake their head no.  She reminded Travis and Carrie to stay grounded…despite his positive results.

His doctor discussed how excited he was about the CT scan and the promise  it shows.  But he reminded them to be prepared.  Be prepared for the CA19-9 to start going up.  He reminded them that the CA19-9 always goes up.

Reminders.

After last week’s results were published, many people asked “what’s next?”  “Is it time for surgery?”  “Where are we?”  So allow me to provide you with a reminder.  The cancer has to be completely out of Travis’ lymph nodes to consider surgery.  Additionally, it has to stay out of the lymph nodes and not spread to anywhere else for about six months before the surgeons will start considering surgery.

A reminder that we still have a long way to go.  A reminder that prayer is still very much needed.

Sometimes when you have been living in circumstances for an extended period of time it becomes “the normal”.  Everybody I have met.  Everybody Travis and Carrie have talked to believe that Travis will beat this.  That’s just who he is. Travis beats the odds.  But this is just a reminder that Travis is still sick.  Very…very sick.  And his chances are not good.  So it will take a miracle.  A God sized miracle to save him.  And the Roberts are counting on that miracle.  They believe they are living out that miracle.

But remember…all the while…they are bombarded with…reminders.


Cliffhangers

Cliffhangers.  Like you…I have mixed feelings about cliffhangers.  Sure.  They are exciting. They get your blood pumping.  They can even overwhelm you.  But they are also, well…annoying.

When your favorite show ends the season with your jaw on the floor going “but…” “wait…”  “how?”  “how did he?!?!”  “How is she!?!?”  “I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL SEPTEMBER?!?!?!?!?”

Like I said…they can be annoying.

This experience is feeling more and more like a movie.  No surprise there.  Travis’ life does seem to play out like a movie.  How many of you feel like the waiting for the CA19-9 every two weeks is kind of like a…cliffhanger?

And so…another two weeks has passed.  And the results are in.  Like a season premiere.  Will it be what we hoped for?  Will it be a let down?

Let’s let you decide….

  • 05/15 – 161,000
  • 05/29 – 135,000
  • 06/12 – 57,000
  • 06/26 – 19,500

Today?

8,800.

Another 55% decrease.  A 95% decrease overall.

A cliffhanger well worth the wait.

Some of you have said the last video was also a…cliffhanger.

“When’s the next segment?”  “Why haven’t you guys updated the blog!?!?”  “FINISH THE SERIES!!!!”

We actually didn’t mean to leave you with a cliffhanger.  We had every intention of posting within a day or two.

But we have been busy.

I don’t mean “normal life” busy.  All of us have that.  I mean

we-got-something-in-the-works-busy.

Something exciting.  A silver lining in this gloomy cloud of Travis’ cholangio.  Something BIG.  Bigger than any of us.

But.  We aren’t ready to reveal it yet.  So while we are ready to reveal the follow up to the last video. Regarding our plans…our work…our BIG thing…we just have to leave you with…

a cliffhanger.

Interview 5 of 6

In segment five of this six part series Travis discusses the chemo game. We encourage you to watch the first four clips if you have not already – Not Your Typical Cancer PatientThe DiscoveryA Death Sentence, and Finding Love…and God.


He’s Human After All

Travis doesn’t feel pain.

At least…not like you and I feel pain.  He can’t relate to people who stay home sick.  Sickness has never slowed him down.  If he breaks his arm…he simply uses his other arm to wakeboard.  If he is passing a kidney stone…he shows up for the tennis match anyway.  When he had foot surgery on both feet he played golf two days later…bleeding through his shoes.  Most things that would bring others to their knees…Travis tends to walk right through.

It’s almost as if…he’s not human. 

In the post, Chemo?  What Chemo?, I wrote about being sick in bed for three days and Travis texting me, 48 hours out from his first chemo, to see if I was ok. So I have witnessed, first hand, how this guy handles sickness and pain and have thought…

this guy’s not human.  

So imagine my surprise.  My shock.  My fear.  When I get the text last night that Travis is having unimaginable pain.  Unmanageable pain.  Unbearable pain.

Travis’ scalp has been…”sensitive” since this past chemo session.  My hunch is that Trav’s “sensitive” would equate to a trip to the ER if it were me but that is how he described it…”sensitive”.  But last night there was something different.  Something worse.  It wasn’t his scalp.  It was his brain.  

Three times.  Three separate times.  Pain.  Sharp pain.  Sudden, sharp, radiating pain sheering through his brain in jolts as if he is being struck with a cattle prod.  Three times…evenly spaced throughout the evening…they hit.

Pain that made him scream out.

Pain that took his breath away.

Pain that literally took him to his knees and showed that he is human after all.

Can you imagine what it is like, when you have cancer, and face a new pain?  Can you imagine what your mind does to you?  It’s simply my friend who has cancer and, yet, any time I feel something weird inside or my kids complain of something weird…suddenly…I give pause.  A second thought.  A “what if” flashes through my mind.  If I am like that…what is the person who has cancer cells inside his body like when there is a new pain?  Can you imagine what his mind does to him?  Especially a person who does not usually experience pain and suddenly has insurmountable pain. What goes through his head? What goes through his wife’s head?

Did it spread?

Is it in the brain now? 

If it’s in the brain…there are only weeks left. 

Today was better. It was back to being…”sensitive”.  And Travis got to speak to his doctor who believes last night was a side effect of the chemotherapy.  A side effect that doesn’t usually come until you are on chemo for several months or even years.  But Travis is a freak.  He’s back to being non-human.  He doesn’t get those pesky side effects like fatigue or nausea or hair loss.  He get’s lightening bolts through his brain.

Perhaps the three jolts last night were a fluke.  A response to a very long and strenuous weekend.  Perhaps this is something that will occur every night the way fevers and sicknesses get worse at night.  I hope not.  I pray not.  I don’t want my friend to go through this unimaginable pain.  I don’t want to face that my dear friend…

is human after all.

Interview 2 of 6

Tonight we have part two of the six part interview series. If you did not get a chance to see Part One, or would like a refresher, I encourage you to watch it first. In tonight’s short, four minute clip Steve gets Travis to open out about first finding out that “something” is going on and what that was like.  In a way, perhaps, this was the first time that Travis realized he was human after all….

Legal Disclaimer…All blog posts and videos are Travis’ experiences and opinions.  Travis is not a medical expert or even in the medical field.  Cancer is different for each person and so nothing on this blog should be taken as fact or used for determining diagnosis’s or treatments.

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.


From the Rat Race to the Waiting Game

This is a weird feeling. I have nothing to do today but clean my house. How does that happen? We have spent the last month in a cancer diagnosis rat race, running to doctor appointments, scans, blood work, and the biopsy; then traveling for more scans, more blood work, more doctor appointments… Now Trav is at work, and I have nothing to do but clean my house. Well, and catch up on bills and laundry and phone calls that have been set aside. But, we don’t have any doctor appointments today.
Trav and I were saying this morning that since we don’t have chemo this week it feels like we are doing nothing. That feels both strange and not good. It gives me too much time to read the message board on Cholangiocarcinoma.org and feel slightly envious of the people who caught the disease before it spread out of the liver. Isn’t that crazy to be envious of someone else who has CC? I am actually happy for them, but I’m being honest in saying that my happiness is combined with a bit of envy. Why couldn’t Trav have gotten the kidney stones one year ago when the CT scan may have only shown a tumor in the liver and no enlarged nodes? Why couldn’t we have caught this disease before it left the liver? The whys only waste time, but I can’t keep them from sneaking into my head from time to time. Then I read about other people who were diagnosed because they were becoming jaundice and starting to itch. Their bilirubin numbers were already out of control at their diagnosis, so they have to wear drains and have stints put into their bile ducts. Wow, aren’t we blessed! Trav is symptom-free. Outside of the effects from chemo (so far tiredness and a headache), Travis is feeling good. That is so amazing, and we are beyond grateful.
Sunday night a friend came into town, Jason Mashburn (Mash). We are so happy that he is here. We have all been friends since middle/high school when Mash was Trav’s main partner in crime. Trav broke his anti cancer diet Sunday night so that we could go to the hole in the wall Mexican restaurant that Trav and Mash went to when they were skipping school back in the Wheeler High School days. We even sat at their booth.  Well, at dinner Mash asked about the blog. He was wondering if it would be updated as much now that we don’t have new things going on every day. That is a good question. Probably not. Simply because we don’t have as much to report now that we are in the waiting game.
The first date that we are waiting for is a blood test that Trav will get in about four weeks. This blood test will look at his tumor marker which is called CA19-9. It is the blood marker that points the doctors to his diagnosis of Cholangiocarcinoma. Trav’s CA19-9 level is insane. It is 91,000. Normal levels are between 0-37! You may be wondering if that was a typo that you just read. That is what we asked the doctors. Are you sure it is 91,000? Dr Hamrick assures us that it is nothing to worry about. Everyone has his own starting point, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The only thing that matters is that it goes down. In approximately four weeks, Trav will have his blood drawn, and we will be on our knees praying that his CA19-9 level is lower than 91,000.
The second date that we are waiting for will be in about two months:  the CT scan that tells us if the chemo is helping. When I set the date for the CT scan, I will let everyone know. Like I have said before, two months isn’t really long enough to have amazing results, so stable or slight shrinkage of the cancer will be a win.
So… even if you go days without hearing from us, please don’t stop praying. The waiting days seem harder than the busy days. You all know how that is. It is nice to be busy and productive. Please pray that the meds are hard at work and killing each and every cancer cell. Pray that those lymph nodes respond to the chemo. Pray for our strength and our patience. Pray for our three little ones. Trey and Pippi know that daddy is sick, but of course they don’t understand cancer. Please keep joining us in prayer while we are waiting!!!

The Dream Team

Tuesday was a good day

Tuesday I met with the dream team.  This is the team that I am hoping God put together to save my life.  At 1:30, I had my first meeting with my interventional radiologist.  He is very young (36) with a young daughter.  For the record young doctors, when you have a rare disease, make me feel better than old doctors.  They just get it.  They are edgy, risky, and understand what it means to not want to leave your children behind.   They are not hardened by failures.  They don’t just phone it in and look at you as a stat.  They see a father.  They understand when you tell them that you would rather die by being overly aggressive in 18 months. By pressing and fighting to get the tumors small enough to just maybe be lucky enough to have a liver resection(instead of dying at 24 months without trying).  They understand that six months is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  When you look at what is going on in the world of Cholangiocarcinoma the standard of care for my stage is chemo first then some sort of radiation.  I do not know if I have even heard of doing them at the same time in any of the CC chat rooms.  This Dr. wants me to start chemo Thursday and get set up for y-90 radiation at the same time.  This from what I can tell is NOT the standard.  This is risky.. This will make me very sick…  We are going to meet with Dr Hamrick tomorrow before I start my chemo.  We are going to get his opinion on doing both chemo and radiation at once.  Then we will decide. 

Next we met with a liver transplant/resection doctor.  He is one of a 3 person surgical team in this department at Piedmont.  These guys come highly recommended and they are incredible.  At one time we had 6 people in the room wanting to meet me.  We thought that we might be having a party.  For one thing it is amazing that this surgeon took his time to meet me.  I am not a candidate for surgery at all right now and no other hospital thought there would be any point in having me meet with a surgeon.  This guy truly wants me to get to the point that I can have a surgery.  That means I have to have the cancer out of my lymph nodes.  At that point, one of the guys on the 3 man team will take on my liver.  If they think there is the slightest chance that they can  help me, they will do surgery.  This guy got it!  He got that I want to go out guns blazing.  If I am going to go out… I am going to go out fighting.  His words were, “you are a 38 year old otherwise healthy father of 3. We are going to throw the kitchen sink at you”.  Thank you God!  That is what we have been looking for. 

So even though it is scary to go to the doctors and see the looks on the faces, we did not get that from Piedmont Hospital.  They saw me for who I am and not as a stat.  They were straight up about my challenges, but they told me not to give up hope.   That is what Carrie and I needed to hear. 

The prayer request now is that my cancer will react positively to the chemo that I start tomorrow.  I will be going every other Thursday, and the treatment will last about 5 hours.  I will be learning how my body deals with the chemo as far as side effects.  Then I will be scanned in 2 months to see how the cancer has reacted.  Two months is not long enough to make great progress, so it will be considered progress if the cancer has not grown or spread.  BUT, lets pray for shrinkage and especially that it kills those cells in my lymph nodes.

I want to thank everyone for your love, support and prayers.  We are blown away by the kindness.  I keep asking Carrie, “Where have I been?  I never knew that people were this good”.   So thank you for being there for me.  God has given me the strength that I need to make it through each day, and I thank Him for that every morning and every night.  


Helpless?

Helplessness. It’s a terrible feeling. One of the worst. A feeling of being out of control. A feeling of inadequacy. A feeling of desperation.

Helpless.

When you are fighting for your life against a disease you had never heard of…you feel….

Helpless.

When you are facing the possibility of a future without your spouse and the doctors have little confidence…you feel…

Helpless.

When you see your friends going through unspeakable pain, and you know you can’t take it away…you feel…

Helpless.

When you read post after post of a story of hope and faith intertwined with insurmountable odds and you just want to help but know there is nothing you can do outside of prayer…you feel…

Helpless.

But are you helpless? Are we helpless?

Maybe not.

It may not seem like much but there is something you can do. Everyone of you reading this blog. Every friend. Every family member. Every stranger. Travis and Carrie have a request…and each of you can meet their need.

There is a theory. Cholangiocarcinoma would not be the scary thing it is if it were not so rare. Because it is so rare not much research is done on it. Because it is so rare not much money is put towards it. Because it is so rare the doctors feel…helpless.

So the request is simple. Below is a link. It is to the Cholangiocarcinoma foundation. Specifically…their donation page. All the Roberts ask is that you make a donation or buy a bracelet. Give what you can – what you feel led to give but, please, give something. And let’s make the first steps to finding a cure for this terrible disease and maybe. Some day. We can spare others this terrible feeling of being…

Helpless.

Donate to The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation


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”.