Tag Archives: Hamrick

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. 

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Our Hope is Not in Google…

Travis underwent a endoscopy and colonoscopy yesterday morning.  Talk about kicking a guy when he is down.  It was assumed nothing would be found but there was so much hope in that something would be found.  When this journey started the Roberts said “anything but colon cancer…colon cancer is a death sentence.”  Now they are praying for colon cancer.  Irony at its finest.  You see, when they said “anything but colon cancer” they didn’t know about Cholangiocarcinoma which is one of the last remaining possibilities.  I mean…have you ever heard of it?  It is one of the rarest cancers.  One people out of 150,000 cancer diagnoses will have Cholangiocarcinoma.  One. Because it is so rare there are very few treatment options available and the ones that are available…the cancer usually resists.  Or maybe Adenocarsinoma of an Unknown Primary.  In layman’s terms that means “we don’t really know where it is coming from so we have to blast you with everything.  All chemos. And hope for the best.”  So a doctor coming out saying “we found the remnants of a tumor in the colon. Esophagus. Intestines.”  ANYWHERE ELSE…would be indescribably amazing.

But that isn’t what the doctor said.  The doctor said “we found nothing”. A clean colonoscopy and endoscopy.  What is this crazy world we have entered where up is down and down is up?  Where the news of NOT finding cancer in the colon, rectum, intestines, esophagus, etc. is BAD news? Nothing makes sense anymore.

Confused?  So are Carrie and Travis.  But just Google the statistics on Cholangiocarcinoma.  Or Cancer of an Unknown Primary.  Or the survival rates. It won’t take long to learn why the Roberts would pray for colon cancer. But.  Our hope is not in Google.

The narrowing down began on Friday…

Travis had his PET scan on Friday and the doctor called with the results at 4:30.  Depending on who you ask you will get a different answer.  Some of us think it was awesome.  It showed cancer in the liver and in the lymph nodes of the abdomen wall, as they expected.  It also showed a small amount of cancer in the lymph nodes in his pelvis and collar bone.  Doctor Hamrick was not surprised by these finding a and was quick to say a VERY small amount.  All of his organs look clean.  Bones…clean. Pancreas, colon, intestines, stomach…clean, clean, clean and clean.  Amazing.

But, understandably, Travis was upset by the news, and didn’t find it so awesome.  What he heard, and what resonated through his mind was, it spread to other lymph nodes.  Again, the doctors were not surprised or even upset by this finding.  But to the individual walking around with this disease it was pretty devastating.  It makes it real.  Somehow even more real than it already was.  Now it is this living thing. Growing inside of him. Traveling in his body.  What gives it the right!?!?!?  WHO INVITED THESE MUTATED CELLS ANYWAY.  I can understand being discouraged that this uninvited, unwelcomed guest has taken up shop in another part of your body.  It’s scary.  But our hope is not in the absence or spreading of these mutated cells.

Dr. Hamrick  had additional news to share as well.  He presented to the surgical team at Piedmont Hospital and they are willing to meet with Carrie and Travis this week.  While Dr. Hamrick says Travis is absolutely not a candidate, at this time, for removing the cancer from his liver surgically he does think he would be a candidate for having Y-90, a surgical treatment that allows them to blast the heck out of the tumors directly with radiation. But our hope is not in the Y-90 treatment.

Dr. Hamrick also said that he found a medical trial going on, right now, at Emory for Cholangiocarcinoma but, at the time, he wasn’t sure if Travis would be a candidate.  However, he called Sunday afternoon (yes, Sunday afternoon…now how’s that for a doctor working to save your life!) and said he found out Travis would be a candidate for the trial.  They should be meeting with the doctor at Emory this week to discuss the clinical trial.  But our hope is not in a clinical trial.

Additionally, the Roberts will be traveling to MD Anderson to get a second opinion.  When you are fighting something like this you need the best.  MD Anderson is the best. Perhaps “The Best” can give them a definite diagnosis.  A definite treatment plan.  What will they recommend?  Will it align with the recommendations of Dr. Hamrick?  The Piedmont Hospital surgeons?  The clinical trial at Emory? But our hope is not in the recommendations and opinions of doctors.

Once they get all of the results back, have their meeting with the surgeons, and their second opinion from MD Anderson,  it will be time to make decisions.  Lots and lots of decisions.  Decisions that seem like life or death.  But our hope is not in the ability to make the “right” decision.

Travis is not an indecisive person.  Anyone who knows him can testify to that.  Indifferent at times maybe…but not indecisive.  You can’t be indecisive when you are the president of one of the largest concrete companies in the Southeast.  But Travis has never had to make decisions regarding his life.  Now it gets tricky. Or so it seems.

Travis’ hope.  The Roberts’ hope.  OUR hope is in the Author of life.  The One who does not look at statistics.  The One who does not look to doctors.  The One who does not Google.

And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You. - Psalms 39:7