Monday, July 18, 2011

Out of the Woods

July 14th 2011 is a date that will forever be burned into my brain.

Its been 6 months since they found the mass. I've gone through a lot in that short amount of time. Its so very hard to live with cancer every day. It has its way of creeping into your mind and not letting go.

After my last CAT scan I was told that the original tumor in my chest was still there and I would need to come in to discuss the next step.

I already knew what the next step was: Bone Marrow Transplant. My doctor had told me so from the beginning. I was so disheartened when I heard that the tumor was still there. My family and I resigned ourselves to a future we had already lived in our past. I kept having 'flash-forwards" of the coming months which were actually memories of what my brother endured with my face superimposed on his.

After my Cat scan I also requested a PET scan. Once I found out the tumor was still there I felt stupid for hounding my doctor into giving me the PET, but I went anyway.

On the 14th my parents and I went to meet with my doctor to discuss the next step. GULP. I casually asked the nurse if they'd gotten the PET scan results yet. They hadn't. I asked her if she'd make sure the doctor had them before he came in. We waited.

He came in looking at some reports and I waited to hear him say the words I was dreading. Instead he said, "I like what I'm seeing". I thought he was being surprisingly callous. I mean yes the tumor HAD shrunk again but only by .8cm's. Nothing to write home about.

I said, "you are?!" and wondered how I had misjudged him all these past few months. he'd been such a great, empathetic doctor. Now he was just some jerk who obviously had no idea what it was like facing a life-threatening bone marrow transplant!

He went off into a rant of medical terminology that I didn't understand a word of and then he started discussing what my options now were. 1. Observation. 2. Radiation or 3. Bone Marrow Transplant.

I was thoroughly confused. How had my options changed? What good would observation do for an aggressive cancer? "What?"

As it turns out the PET scan showed that while the tumor was still there, it was no longer active. In fact, there was NO activity at all, anywhere. "Complete remission". Those words I understood. I hugged him.

Ever since then I find my self exhaling sighs of relief. Its over. No more cancer. No more chemo. All of a sudden I have a future again. All of a sudden I'm a person again, not just a cancer patient. Its so hard trying to explain what its like when almost your every thought is about cancer or its effects and then to suddenly find yourself free of it! Its incredible. I felt like I was flying.

All those years ago I followed my brother Josh out of the woods time and time again. By the grace of God, I've followed him out one more time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I took my very last cycle of RCHOP chemotherapy last week. I've been pretty sick. I was so happy to be done with it though. No more chemo!

But now I have to wait on my next Cat scan and Pet scan before I know what's next. What I want to hear is the R word, REMISSION. I'm really, honestly hopeful and believing that I'm there, but I just cant help being terrified of the other result. If there is ANY sign of cancer at all, I will have to get a Bone Marrow transplant.

If you know me or have read this entire blog, you know that my older brother Josh had to have a BMT when his cancer recurred back in 2003. Hellish is the best word I can think of to describe those months. Josh was fortunate because he didn't need a donor. The doctors were able to use his own stemcells in what they called an Autologous StemCell Transplant. We met alot of other Bone Marrow Transplant patients when we were at Emory Hospital and at the Hope Lodge. For patients that have to rely on donor marrow the transplant is more difficult because their bodies try and reject the donor marrow in what is called Host vs Graft disease.

Knowing what could be in store for me seems almost worse than having no idea. Ignorance is bliss. I'm trying to stay hopeful and positive. I'm so thankful to have come this far by the grace of God, I'm incredibly blessed with good doctors, true friends and a steadfast family, but, man, am I scared.

I'm trying to live in the day, but it sure is difficult when so much could ride on tomorrow. The anticipation is really overwhelming. "Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today" - Seneca

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Well, I'm happy to announce I only have ONE more cycle of RCHOP to go! What a ride it has been. I can't wait to get this poison out of my system. No more cycles of least thats the plan assuming my scans come back clean, but still, no more RCHOP ever again!

Cancer seems to be an epidemic lately. My small church is full of cancer survivors and fighters. Hardly a day goes by anymore where I don't hear of a friend or an aquaintance getting a cancer diagnosis. Its rough.

I've looked back over this blog and I think of all the things I HAVN'T talked about like trying to get Disability;  the Medicaid Bureaucracy; The endless bills stuffed in your mailbox. I'm still not going to talk about it except to say its the third part of the cycle of sickness' trifecta: Cancer, Chemo and Paperwork. As if the first two weren't hard enough.

I recently visited a friend in the hospital, the same hospital and same floor where I took my first chemo back in January. When his nurse came in to attend to him she said I looked familiar. I told her about my previous visit, but we decided that we couldn't have met then as she isn't chemo-certified. Then she asked me what kind of cancer I had.

"Large cell non-Hodgkins Lymphoma" I said.

 "Do you have a brother who also had cancer?"

"Yeah, I do."

"And did he have the exact same kind?"


"Are you the Daylight Donuts guy?"

"I...used to be, yeah." Daylight Donuts was where I worked while I was saving to take my brother on a post-cancer celebratory Hawaiian vacation.

Her eyes grew wide and she she said "Oh my goodness! EVERYONE on this floor knows your story, its one of the most touching things I've ever heard!"

I cant believe how far I've come. Cancer throws so much on you and takes so much from you all at once and it takes a while to find your footing. I'm amazed at what God has done with my life. I see the cycles and I see the effects, the growth. I'm grateful.

One more cycle to go....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Damascus Plan

It looks like good news is on its way! I just took a cycle on Thursday (slept through the ENTIRE thing) and that means that I have two more to go before they do another scan. As good as my results were last time, I'm hoping for THE good news this time: The R word!

Meanwhile, I still have those mental and physical battles that try and draw me deeper into depression. I caught myself not wanting to be alone but not wanting to be with anyone else either. Long ago, chemo, cancer or worry robbed me of the joy of reading. The meds make it really hard to get any exercise. I'm not supposed to be in the sun. Sometimes it gets hard to pray, not out of anger or anything like that, just because...I guess it means facing what I don't want to face.

But I DID catch myself! I caught myself in the mirror and didn't like who I saw. I saw Old Jeremy, Past Jeremy, Scared Jeremy. That won't do. I kicked him out a long time ago and I'm not about to let him back in now.

So I devised a plan. A daily to-do list to make sure I stay on track. At first I started adding things like "Change your attitude". Fffpt!!! What a load of crock. That's not something I could live up to. So I decided it'd be better to make a small list of very reasonable, doable things that I knew would also have a fairly big impact on my mood and outlook.

For instance, "Spend a little time every day on a relationship. You were made to be with people. Strengthen family ties, strengthen friendships. Call someone, write someone, visit someone. Invest a little of your time on people that you love"

And "Get OUT! Go for a walk with Poe, go read on the patio, go visit friends, but get the heck out! You are not "Shut-in Jeremy" anymore, he's dead. YOU are a Champion!!!"

"Talk to God everyday, I don't care what time, but if you haven't done it before your head hits the pillow, do it then. God loves you Jeremy, he forgives you. Do NOT let the enemy make His sacrifice of so little effect. He died for you, talk to Him! You are MORE than a Conqueror!"

Also on the list are training Poe (my dog), reading Scripture every day, making sure I've done at least one chore before bed and one rule which defies Doctor's orders: Get some SUN. Not much does the soul better than sunshine.

I call this plan the Damascus Plan because I wanna see the light again. :) If ya didn't catch that reference read the book of Acts. Its nothing major, just small things and so far its helped a lot. Maybe if your going through the same thing you could come up with your own Damascus plan.

Keep your head up, fighter.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Milestones and Glass Houses

About a month ago I hit my fouth cycle of chemo. That's the halfway mark. It was a big deal to my doctors and to my family and friends. I was excited too, but more anxious than anything.I didnt want to let myself get too excited, from the beginning I've forced myself to be as ready as I can be for bad news. So I didnt want to over celebrate or get anybody's hopes up.

Just recently coming out of a very hard depression, it is really difficult to put down in words how I was feeling. I felt doomed either way. But one thing God has been doing in my life lately is bringing more and more fellow fighters into my world. Kathy has terminal cancer, she always sits across from me at the infusion center. She and her husband used to own the local Sonic. She grins and laughs all the time and every once in a while you can see a bit of fear come through.

Phillip found out that he not only has stage 4 non-hodgkins lymphoma, but also that he has stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma. He's a great guy, very witty, has a beautiful loving family and is very optomistic.

Lisa has stage 4 bone cancer and stage 4 faith. She's an amazing woman who looks life and death right in the eyes and is thankful for all that she has.

April is my age and has breast cancer. To me it seems like she is forever going to get treatment. I dont know how she does it while also getting her Masters Degree. She is always brave and unselfish and full of faith.

Rick is a friend from my church. Not too long after I found out I had lymphoma, so did he. He's a very kind man who loves his family, they arent hard to love.

My mind tries to find a word to classify these people. "Hero" isnt enough. Diamonds in the making. Icons of Strength and Faith and Nobility. The truth is they are just humans but because of their cicrumstances and the actions and reactions to those circumstances they've become, maybe just a little MORE human than the rest of us.

I'm thankful for my milestones and for these extraodinary people God has put in my path. I'm also happy to report that my latest scans have shown significant shrinkage of my tumors. Many are not even there anymore. My biggest tumor is now less than half its original size!

Christ was telling the truth that it only takes faith the size of a mustardseed, because my faith has had its ups and downs, but even at its weakest it helped me to endure and thats what its all about.

Thank you for your enduring prayers and support and mostly for your sincere love. God bless you!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


I started my 4th cycle last Thursday. So far the sickness has been manageable.

For everyone who has been checking this blog, I apologize for not having updated it recently. After my third cycle I just sort of drifted away and became very distant. I've felt so detached from reality. The bad part is, I guess, that I kind of enjoy it.

I enjoy being alone and hiding. If no one is around, I don't have to talk about cancer, I don't have to smile. No one should have to smile when they talk about cancer.

But then when I AM around people I don't enjoy it. I feel guilty, I feel selfish. I AM selfish. I know so many people who are going through what I'm going through and worse and they are handling it so much better. I'm ashamed to admit how depressed and scared I am.

I'm so afraid of the future. I'm getting tested next week to see how the cancer has responded to the chemo. No matter what the answer is I'm afraid of it. The scariest answer is "the cancer hasn't responded at all". Next is "The cancer is responding but it will still take some time" and even the so called "good news" scares me, "The cancer's gone, you're in remission". What then? I'm just suppose to go on as if it never happened? Go back to my old job, go back to being happy?

But things wont be the same. I'll be working at that old job to pay off the $50,000 I owe. Happy? Even if I go into remission the chances are high that the cancer will come back within four years. There are so many scars, mentally and physically and I don't feel like I can ever be me again.

I hate this side of myself. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't share it. I knew I wasn't strong enough when I started this journey, but then, so did God. My prayer is still the same "God give me strength to bear this well and to be a good example." I don't feel like I'm doing much of either, but I'll just have to trust God on that.

I want to thank everyone for their constant support and love and ask for your forgiveness for my selfishness and for my distance. It will pass. Love is the key thing. It never stops, never dies, never gives up. I'm surrounded by love so I must be on the right track. God bless.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Man With The Gun

I took my second treatment on Thursday. It took nearly 8 hours. The room was freezing and the place was overcrowded.

I'm not gonna lie, I was disappointed at the lack of privacy, Seems like it should be a very private thing. But no, you just sit down in any particular recliner not occupied at that moment and eventually some nice lady comes over and sticks some tube into your port and there you have it. Chemo begins.

Now, here I am in this room full of fellow cancer fighters and chemo patients and there's one sound I wasn't expecting to hear: laughter. Most of these people have to come in every single week and so they all know each other by name. It was nice to hear the laughter. I'm glad I haven't been the only one laughing. Sometimes my family or friends will sort of get onto me for the jokes I make, but the way I see it I'd rather laugh at it. My late grandmother always said "If I didn't laugh, I'd cry". I do plenty of the latter so I may as well do some of the former as well.

Now, you'd think I would start to feel right at home here in this little cancer fighter communion, but you'd be wrong. I had a handicap. I was at least 40 years younger than anyone else there. I've always gotten along better with people older than myself. But for some reason I was let down that there was no one my age there, no one who I could really identify with.

But still 8 hours gives plenty of time to bond. It was so nice to hear all the people talk about the ups and downs of chemo, about how the doctors finally found their cancers, almost always by accident. It was nice to hear that I was not the only one who couldn't seem to talk about anything else but cancer.

Just in the past few days alone some close friends have asked me if I ever get tired of talking about cancer. Yes, I really do. But at the same time I don't know what else to talk about. It feels as though a man has a gun to my head 24/7. I don't know how to ignore him. He's constantly on my mind and when I speak Its difficult not to mention him.

But there in the chemo ward everyone had their own gunman, and we all listened and shared our stories and our pains and our jokes. And I didn't feel so alone. Its hard to explain, since my own brother is a cancer survivor and went through almost the exact same thing. Not only him but I have many friends who fought and overcame cancer and it helps to talk with them but somehow it doesn't help the loneliness. They HAD cancer and won, their gunmen are dead. Mine's got his hand on the trigger.

So, it was nice to listen and share a bit and just feel like I wasn't the craziest person in the world, or the sickest. Why do you have to see the suffering of others to realize how fortunate you really are? There was a sweet old man there with lung cancer. His son and daughter were there with him. They used to own a pet monkey that their dad had bought them in Miami. He loves to eat food from a place called Sharkey's or Duke's. His chemo isn't designed to put him into remission, its designed to push back the inevitable. But he sat there, laughing with his kids about a monkey they'd had 30 years ago and eating his Zaxby's chicken with a smile on his face.

Ken came in towards the end of the day. He was the youngest guy I'd seen there besides myself. He was probably in his forties. He gave everyone a mint. He grinned from ear to ear and made a lot of little jokes. He looked perfectly healthy to me.

Ken was very friendly and outgoing and automatically reminded me and my brother of a friend of ours from Carrollton, Ga. Ken started to ask me how old I was and where my cancer was. I told him. "How about you?" I asked. "Brain cancer" he said.

Ken was a driver for Mohawk and taught kickboxing on the side. One day he took a kick to the head that he just couldn't get over. He went in for some tests and found a tumor the size of an orange in his brain. Without hesitation his doctor told him he only had 2 years to live.

Ken's had two surgeries and started experimental treatments. He just recently gave his life to Christ and couldn't be happier to tell you about it. Since he was diagnosed last May they say the tumor has started shrinking.

Remember these men and women, the guns are to their heads but they keep on living and laughing anyway. Say a prayer for them for healing and strength. Say a prayer of thanks to God that for today at least, the gun's not at your head.