Tag Archives: MD Anderson

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. 


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. 


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


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

The Waiting Game

Waiting sucks. Plain and simple. Just ask…anybody.

I remember in June of 2004 we booked the cruise of a lifetime for that December. I thought the wait was going to kill me.

Or a kid waiting for Christmas. Or their birthday. It tortures them (and their parents).

How about Fridays? How hard is the wait when you drag yourself in on Mondays?

A high schooler waiting for summer break. A first grader waiting for a loose tooth to fall out. A giddy 12 year old for an upcoming slumber party. A bride for her wedding (the groom for their honeymoon).  Football season.  Water to boil.  The microwave to finish.  The traffic light to turn green.  This blog page to load.

Waiting to fight for your life.

Wow. Suddenly the others seem so trivial.

Can you imagine, every day, waking up knowing you have cancer inside of you and having to wait for the treatment plan to fight it?  What is that like? “Good morning cancer. I know you’re in there. Eating away at me. I’m going to have to ask that you ‘freeze’. No spreading. No growing. Just freeze. Cause I am waiting for the plan to fight you.”

Talk about feeling helpless.

Travis and Carrie are waiting. Stuck in a holding pattern. Waiting for test results to be mailed. Records to be faxed. Doctors to review. Appointments to be made. All the while knowing there is this thing inside of him trying to kill him. Can you imagine?!?

Can. You. Imagine?

So this week we ask that you pray for things to fall into place. Quickly. There is no time to lose. How the pieces of a puzzle fall into place to create a picturesque image – not a piece out of place – we pray everything would fall into place for the Roberts.

Specifically… For MD Anderson to receive everything they need from Kaiser. For Emory to receive all of the records they need. For the appointment with the Piedmont Hospital surgical team to happen this week. For the appointment with the Emory team to happen this week. For the appointment with MD Anderson to happen early next week.

For all pieces to fall into place. Because waiting sucks.

So now for the best part of all…

Everything you just read was written first thing this morning. I always ensure the Roberts read, make changes, and approve posts before they are published. After all, this is their story. This post was waiting to be published. And the calls started rolling in. Travis has his appointment with Emory tomorrow at noon. His appointment with MD Anderson on Monday.

The records have been delivered. The appointments have been made. Before the prayer even left our lips… the puzzle is coming together…beautifully. One could even say – miraculously.

They still need your prayers for the remaining pieces to fall into place to perfect the picture.  They would like their appointment with the Piedmont surgical team to happen before they go to MD Anderson so they know the surgical options available here.  They also need the pathology slides, from Travis’ liver biopsy, to get to MD Anderson before their appointment Monday.

Who knows?  Maybe God is already working on finalizing those final pieces of the puzzle.  Because even though He sometimes uses it as a tool for refining us. God knows…waiting sucks.

And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:4

Learning “The Truth”

The Beginning

This beginning starts with an ending.  A death.  Death is usually thought of as a bad thing but in this case a physical death led to spiritual life.  And that is never a bad thing.

This story begins approximately two months ago when a great man and friend of Travis, Pete, died unexpectedly of a heart attack.  He was only in his fifties.  His death got Travis thinking.  Thinking about death.  Thinking about life.  And especially…life after death.  You see Travis grew up in the church.  He was taught, his entire childhood, that belief in Jesus was the only way to heaven.  And he had always believed that. And, as he thought about Pete and the after life, he knew he still believed it.  But is believing enough?   Because, after all, the Bible says even the demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Travis accepted Christ as his savior when he was eleven years old and rededicated his life in 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11thgrade (just to make sure he “got it right”).  And, from that point forward he kept, what he liked to call, his “fire insurance” in his back pocket.  He didn’t live for Christ or even really involve Him in his every day life other than the occasional prayer.  But now he wondered is “fire insurance” enough? So one morning a couple of months ago, he said a prayer.  A prayer that would change everything.

The Prayer

Travis takes a bath every morning.  Some may consider it odd.  Travis says it’s his “thinking time.” It will become his “God time.”

Two months ago he said a prayer from the bathtub.  He told God he “didn’t think he was going to make it to Him.” For the first time, Travis was questioning if his “fire insurance” was valid.  He had always believed that “once saved, always saved” but what if he was never saved in the first place?  He admitted to God he was “too selfish to change on his own and that He was going to have to do something to intercede.”  He prayed “just please don’t hit me with a bus…give me a chance to change.  Give me a second chance.”  And God would give Travis his second chance.

The Roller Coaster

A few weeks after his bathtub prayer, Travis began to have stomach pains.  They would come and go – nothing constant and nothing so severe he felt he needed to go to the doctor.  Over the next few weeks they got more consistent, but still not constant, and more severe when they hit.  Everybody had explanations: ulcer, bleeding ulcer, his diet, gas, etc. Finally, on a Monday – his wedding anniversary – he took his wife of 13 years out and made their first stop the doctor’s office.  The doctor said it was probably reflux, gave him a prescription, and told him to come back on Friday if he was not better.

That Wednesday, April 10, Travis was in Birmingham on business, actually a celebration for a major achievement with a client.  The night began with an amazing dinner and then some fun with the client at their state of the art facility.  During this time, Travis’s stomach began hurting.  But what was stranger was the kidney pain.  As the night progressed so did the pain to the point that he had to leave the festivities to return to his hotel room.  If only he could get in the right position…get some sleep.  Maybe this would go away?  As he lay in bed the pain got worse and no position helped: lying on his stomach hurt his stomach and lying on his back hurt his back.   The pain became so intense he made the decision to head to the emergency room.

The ER doctor ordered a CT scan and some painkillers.  Stat.  And then Travis waited.  The doctor finally came in and broke the news.  “Mr. Roberts, you have an awful lot going on. You have kidney stones in both kidneys but not blocking anything, so they shouldn’t be causing problems – not sure why you are experiencing pain there.  The lymph nodes in your abdomen wall are swollen. And there are four lesions on your liver.“ Travis’ only question: “Do I have cancer?”  The ER doctor truly could not answer the question despite the number of times Travis tried to pin him down to get a definite answer.  But he finally stated – I don’t “think” it is cancer but you definitely have something going on.  He suggested Travis get home and get to the doctor’s office.  That was at 8:00 AM.  He was at the doctor in Marietta by 11:30 AM.

Travis got his second chance.  He recognized it immediately. The prayer he said from the tub just a month or so earlier came back to him.  Tears.  No.  But unlike many of us…there were no excuses.  There was no questioning.  He knew, with every ounce of his being, this was the answer to his prayer.   God heard his prayer and answered.  But was he going to be ok with the answer?

His primary physician in Marietta was not as optimistic as the ER doctor.  She reviewed the scans and did some blood work.  She told Travis she thought it was cancer.  What?  How?  Travis asked every question possible, and finally the biggest question of them all, “In a situation like this with my results, has it ever  turned out not to be cancer?”

“Once.”

The next step was an MRI, which was scheduled for that same Thursday afternoon.  By Friday morning they had the blood work results.  Everything looked perfect.  Everything was in normal range.  Then the MRI results – the tumors on the liver are in a spot that can be biopsied (good news) and all other organs look immaculate (even better news).  The inflammation of the lymph nodes in the abdomen wall pointed to testicular cancer.  In the ER, Travis had an exam and nothing was found but maybe there was something?  Maybe the ER doctor missed it? Were Carrie and Travis really praying that he had testicular cancer?  How could this be real?  Who does that? But when you are facing the other options it suddenly doesn’t seem that bad. After all, if you have to have cancer, testicular cancer is the one to have.  Very high success rates even if it has metastasized.  Think Lance Armstrong.  An ultrasound was scheduled for 3:00 that afternoon.

They got the results immediately.  Ultrasound came back clean. What does all this mean?  All the organs are clean.  Cleared of testicular cancer.  Maybe not cancer?  Time to schedule the biopsy.  “Yes, Mrs. Roberts, the next available appointment is April 24.”  WHAT!?!?  That’s thirteen days! It was April 11!  But Travis is a fighter.  So they showed up at the doctor’s office and said that they would stay as long as it took to be seen.  They were taken right back. Despite the clear MRI, clear ultrasound, and clean blood results, the doctor was still not encouraged.  But she did see the desperation in their eyes and told them she would be coming in on Monday, her day off, just to fight to get the biopsy moved up.  All they needed to do was wait.  Until Monday.  Just wait.  It sounds so easy, but, of course, it isn’t.

Monday came, and Travis and Carrie scheduled an appointment for 11 AM – simply to ensure someone was working on getting the biopsy moved.  They met with a new doctor who had worked with their original doctor and who was equally as discouraged. They had so many questions for this doctor.  She was patient and answered every one of their questions for an hour.  As she was finishing up and getting ready to leave, almost as an after thought, she said, “oh – and I have great news.  Your biopsy has been scheduled for 11 AM tomorrow.”  What?!?  Did they hear that right!?!?  They felt overwhelmed, grateful to God for His provision through this nightmare.  Somehow, despite the fear, the “not knowing,” and other emotions, they had peace.  And now this.  They went ahead and scheduled an appointment with an oncologist for the following Friday so they would not have to wait once the results were in.  Despite several recommendations for a ”Dr. Hamerick,” they really wanted an appointment fast.  So they scheduled with another doctor for the following Friday.  They knew God was in control.

Tuesday morning arrived, and it was time for the biopsy.  Travis and Carrie met with the Intervention Radiologist who was performing the biopsy and asked his opinion.  He stated that he was at a loss.  If he looked at just Travis’s liver scan, he would think benign liver tumors.  After all, 70% of us are walking around with benign liver tumors.  If he looked at just the scan of his lymph nodes, he would say lymphoma.  But together? He was at a loss. He did say that there were many things it could be and warned them not to jump to any conclusions.  Something to hold on to…finally! Travis was given twilight anesthesia and, true to form, the only trouble they had was keeping the needle steady for the biopsy as Travis has them laughing throughout the procedure.  When the nurse came out to report to Carrie that he was fine and in recovery, she commented, “he talked through the entire procedure…cracking everybody up.” No surprise there.

And now the wait.  The results of the biopsy would take 7-10 days.  Seven. To. Ten. Days.  Unbelievable.  His birthday was just seven days away.  Wouldn’t it be “so Travis” to find out on his birthday?  All bets were on his birthday.  The wait was nearly impossible.  The days were long.  The nights were longer.  How do you sleep when you are waiting to hear if you are going to live or die?  If your children will grow up fatherless…your wife a widow?  How do you wait? How do you wait without going crazy?

Travis’s birthday came.  38 years old.  38 years old and waiting to hear the news of life or death.  Could this be real? Every phone ring caused their blood pressure to skyrocket.  The morning came and went.  Lunch time. Afternoon.  Time to sing Happy Birthday. No phone call. The birthday was over and there was no news.

The Diagnosis

Tuesday Morning.  Carrie is brushing her teeth…getting the kids ready for school.  The normal routine.  Travis is in the bathtub having what is now his “God time.” The phone rings.  “Mr. Roberts, this is the doctor.”

“Do I have cancer?”

pause

“Do I have cancer?”

pause

“Do. I. Have. Cancer?”

pause.

long pause.

longest pause.

“Yes. You have cancer. You have metastasized adenocarcinoma of the GI. “

Brokenness.  Plain and simple.  Each of them sobbing. Together. On their own.  Sobbing. Carrie on the floor.  Travis in the bathtub – paralyzed in fear.  Cancer? Really? How did this happen?  But he knew.  He knew how it happened.  Funny how it all circled back around to the bathtub.  The exact spot he was in two months ago when he prayed.  When he asked for this.  But “this” isn’t what he had in mind.   He was still grateful for his second chance and refused to turn his back on God.  Refused to get angry with God.  But was “this” necessary?  Did his second chance have to be this drastic?  Only God knows.  To be clear, Travis and Carrie don’t believe God gave Travis cancer.  They believe Travis already had the cancer when he prayed that prayer in the bathtub two months earlier.  Because, after all, God works all things for the good of those who love Him.  God was preparing Travis’s heart for what was about to happen.

The OB-GYN who delivered two of  their babies was keeping in touch with them throughout this entire ordeal. Travis had done his driveway for him, and they had become friendly.  Dr. Lee was able to pull some strings and get their appointment moved up to the next morning at 9:00 AM.  And it was with Dr. Hamerick.  The one they really wanted. They didn’t have to wait until Friday after all, and they got the doctor they wanted.  God’s grace in an impossible time.

Bad News Gets Worse

The doctor had told Travis Tuesday morning that he needed to get scheduled for an endoscopy and a colonoscopy.  He had a 1:30 pm appointment that day for the prep.  The procedure would probably be the next day.  Numbness.  Shock.  Tears.  The family gathered.  Hugged. Cried.  And cried some more.  The 1:30 appointment came, and the Physicians Assistant walked in and punched Travis and Carrie in the stomach.  At least that is what it seemed like.  “Mr. Roberts, I just got off the phone with the head of Gastroenterology.  We believe that what you have is Cholangiocarcinoma (Bile Duct Cancer).  It is extremely rare.  I know you are here for an endoscopy and colonoscopy prep, but this disease is so rare that there really is no treatment for it, so there is no reason to prep you.  If your oncologist decides he does want these procedures, we can always schedule them, but we don’t believe there is any reason to at this point.  I’m sorry.”

Travis heard, “Go home and die.”

Thank God for Google.  Google can be a curse.  You can find some scary things. Depressing stories.   Serious wackos.  Which Travis had found over the past ten days as he poured over Google for hours on end trying to match his symptoms, or lack of, to a sickness.  But it can also be a blessing.  Travis got home from the meeting with the Physician Assistant, and the Googling began.  A glimmer of hope.  Bile Duct Cancer was rare, but there ARE treatments available.  There are options.  Google even says there is a 2% chance of survival.  Two percent!!!!!!  It’s amazing the things you cling to when you have receive the kind of news they received.  There was now a little hope to hold onto until the appointment with the oncologist the next morning.

Thank God for a 9:00 AM appointment. In true Travis fashion they arrived 20 minutes early for the appointment.  Dr. Hamerick sat down and laid it all out.  “You currently have an incurable stage 4 cancer.” Incurable? It is considered incurable because so few people survive that they cannot even round the number up to 1%.  Officially, the medical community would say Travis has six months to live.  But….

Funny how that little word, three letters, “but” can offer so much hope.

But…..the average age of people getting this cancer is 72.  With a cancer this advanced, Travis should be sick.  Really sick.  Vomiting, diarrhea, yellow with jaundice.  He has none of that.  Other than a mild stomachache every now and then he has no symptoms.  (“Coincidentally,” since going to the ER two weeks ago, his stomachaches have all but stopped and he has not had another problem or pain with his kidneys.  There is a saying that goes, “Coincidences are simply situations God chooses not to take credit for.” We believe this pain was God’s getting him to the ER to find this sickness and not choosing to take any credit.) So how can Travis fit in the survival rate statistics when he doesn’t fit in the statistics of the sickness?  He can’t.  He doesn’t.  More hope?

Looking Forward

Dr. Hamerick wants to hit this cancer with everything he can – aggressively.  Because of the number, size, and location of tumors, surgery (which is typically your best shot) is not an option at this time.  Doctors simply cannot hack up your liver.  You kind of need it…to live.  Dr. Hamerick informed Carrie and Travis that he planned to spend all day Wednesday searching for clinical trials that Travis could participate in.  Additionally, he already had a presentation scheduled for Friday to a team of surgeons at Piedmont Hospital to convince them to do a surgical radiation treatment.  This procedure would allow them to surgically insert a tube and pour radiation directly onto the tumors.  He scheduled a PET scan for Travis on Friday (4/26) and an endoscopy and colonoscopy on Monday.

Travis and Carrie are looking at getting a second and third opinion at Emory and MD Anderson in Houston, TX.  They had already submitted the application for MD Anderson and were in the “waiting mode” when a friend found out they wanted to go there.  The friend “coincidentally” knows someone on the board at MD Anderson.  Within an hour, MD Anderson was waiting for Travis’s call and anxious to get his case.  Within two hours everything was being setup.  In addition, Travis’s father recently had a client who was a doctor at Emory.  He pulled the strings to get him into Emory as soon as possible.  God’s grace in an impossible time.

At every corner of this journey Travis has experienced an outpouring of love that is overwhelming.  Like nothing he has ever experienced.  He made the comment, “I didn’t know people were so nice!?!”  People have come and prayed over him, cried with him, hugged him, fed him, and just been there for him.  And he is grateful for all of it.  But most of all, he is beyond grateful to God for being merciful enough to give him a second chance at eternal life.  He knows that is the most important thing.  However, his prayer is that in God’s infinite grace and mercy, He will now give him a second chance at physical life as well so he can be the father, husband and leader he knows he is meant to be.  He, and his family, ask that you will pray for this along with them.

At the top of this blog will always be a page for current prayer requests.  Please check that out often to see new prayer requests and updates to existing prayer requests.  And, as always, feel free to leave Travis a note of encouragement below by clicking below.