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.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Good, the Bad & the Chihuahua

The past few days have been great! By far this has been the best week of the chemo treatment. Sadly it is also the last week of my first chemo which means its time to start chemo treatment #2 and start this whole cycle over again.

The chemo hit me harder than I or my doctors expected it to. There were also unexpected side effects of the chemo that caused some serious complications (see the post titled "RED" for details). The thing about being a cancer patient on chemotherapy is you need double prayers. You need prayes for the awful things the cancer is doing to your body AND you need prayers for the awful things the treatment is doing to your body.

Not just your body, but your mind as well. My mind has been put to the test and I've only just begun. My emotions are all over the place. I try to keep a possitive outlook but thats not always easy especially with my long history of depression. On my last visit with my doctor I asked for some medicine to help with that. Its called Zoloft. Let's hope and pray it will help make things a little easier.

But, as far as the body goes, mine just isn't quite up to par anymore. My knees are weak and stairs are my enemies. Nine hours of sleep and three or four naps a day aren't quite enough to keep me rested. If you want to see me winded, ask me to walk across the room. As it turns out, ingesting your own blood does some pretty strange things to your body as well, but we wont go into that. Have I mentioned how much I miss my hair?

As bad and sad as all that is, there is good news to be had and to be shared. First, God is good and willing to save. Second, the chemo has knocked out the pain in my chest, the constant fevers and the disgusting night sweats! Third, I'm learning some serious lessons in humility. There are people, complete strangers, all over God's green earth calling out my name to God. Thats humbling.

Fourth, Poe came home! Poe is my Chihuahua mix puppy. I got him for Christmas from a friend just weeks before I found out about the tumor. He came into my life at just the right time. When I was in the hospital he had to go stay with my brother and his family and I've missed the little stinker very much. But now he's home where he belongs and so am I.

Since my first chemo was so difficult I'm feeling anxious about the next. But I still have faith in God, look what He's done so far. My friend Donnie Fritts has been fighting an ubelievable battle with a very rare cancer and its long lasting effects on his body and mind, but he's been fighting it with faith. His wife, Sharon sings a song called "Through It All", it's their testimony. I hope they dont mind if I steal a verse. Because, while all of this may be overwhelming and sometimes terrifying, God is faithful to His promises. He will not forsake me. He will not make me walk alone, so:

I Thank God For The Mountains,
And I Thank Him For The Valleys,
I Thank Him For The Storms He Brought Me Through.
For If I'd Never Had A Problem,
I Wouldn't Know God Could Solve Them,
I'd Never Know What Faith In God Could Do

This battle I'm fighting, I'm not the only one. And its not just cancer patients, its every person out there who has a mountain in front of them, but keeps on climbing or a thorn in their side, but keeps on going its every person who has believed in the name and the power and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who, without ever having seen him, trust him with their lives. Keep believing, keep climbing, keep going and keep fighting.

"Fight the good fight of faith" - 1 Timothy 6:12

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sad Eyes

Today my hair fell out.

I knew it was coming and I tried my hardest to prepare myself for it. I remember the night Josh's hair fell out. He knocked on my door and woke me up. He was standing there in the hall with such sad eyes and an open palm with a lock of hair in it.

I have to admit, I didn't really understand why he was quite so upset, we knew this was coming. Seemed like out of all the horrible things he had to go through that losing his hair would've been the easiest. But it wasn't.

When I realized my hair was coming out the other day, it was not a great moment, but it wasn't too hard of a one either. But, today, when it all started coming out and I saw myself in the mirror for the first time, I saw my brother's sad eyes in my own reflection. It hit me hard.

Its not just the vanity of it. Yes, I hate losing my hair, I quite liked it. I may have had a bit of a receding hairline but I still had hair. Its the reminder that this is not just a dream, its a reality. I'm not just changed on the inside, now its out there for everyone to see. Now I'm branded: CANCER PATIENT

I'll be alright. I will learn to be proud of it. Not just a brand to show people that I have cancer but a brand to show people that I'm fighting that cancer. And I plan on winning.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I apologize for not having updated the blog lately. I have been in the hospital.

Last Tuesday I was feeling pretty bad from the chemo. I had asked my dad to bring me a nausea pill and something to drink, which he did. A few minutes later I felt that awful pull in my stomach and, being too weak to get up and go to the bathroom, I calmly asked Dad to bring me a garbage can.

He calmly walked to the bathroom, calmly got the garbage pale, walked calmly past me and into the kitchen. He calmly dumped the contents of the pale into the kitchen garbage and calmly added a new bag to the pale.

He then picked up the pale, calmly walked back into the living room and placed the pale next to me. He calmly walked back to the kitchen to tend to my never calm Chihuahua puppy. As he did so, I calmly slid off of the couch, slightly amused by Dad's attention to detail in the face impending unpleasantness. As soon as I hit the floor, I set to business with the garbage can.


That's odd, I thought. "Dad?" I calmly asked into the air. My eyes not leaving the redness.

"Yes, son?" He calmly replied.

"What color was the drink you gave me?"

"It was a Sprite, it was clear. Why?"

"Then why is this red?" I calmly pondered. Oh! I realized.

Calmness faded away and so did I. My blood pressure dropped significantly, I drooped over the garbage can unable to hold myself up. I couldn't move, I could barely speak.

Its red.My dad was by my side I could hear my mother calling an ambulance.

Its red...The world started to drift away. I couldn't feel. I couldn't think.

Its red!I was fading. I could see colors, organic, earthy colors and something was opening in front of me, something also very organic looking. I've passed out before. But I've never experienced anything like that. I think I was doing more than just losing consciousness. As I watched the thing open in front of me I was suddenly jolted by a voice saying "FIGHT, Jeremy! You can fight this!"

The organic opening reversed itself, the colors did as well and suddenly light came back to my eyes. My dad was still by my side holding my hand. My mom was opening the door for the EMT's.

I was taken to the ER. They needed to find out why I was bleeding internally. Unfortunately a blood test revealed that I was neutropenic. Neutropenia, is a deficiency of white blood cells which are what the body uses to fight of infections. A common cold could have killed me. The neutropenia is a side effect of my chemotherapy, it was expected and is temporary, but it created a problem: I needed an endoscopy to find out why I was bleeding, but they couldn't do that unless I was able to fight off any infections I might get from the process.

I was admitted to the hospital and put on an IV and antibiotics. I vomited up blood once more again the next day. Alot of it. My blood pressure slowly returned to a near normal level but my white blood cells were being stubborn. By Friday I was still neutropenic and my hemoglobins (red blood cells) were still low due to the blood loss. I needed a blood transfusion.

I spent 6 days in the hospital. Never left the room. Only left the bed three times. My dad was with me the entire time. My brother, Josh and mother had gotten sick and were not allowed near me. My brother, Jason spent the second night with me and held my hand as I faded in and out of consciousness. Then he also got sick and could not come.

My father is amazing. He also held my hand, and he prayed and waited and tolerated the freezing cold room (I was burning up) and waited on me hand and foot. He washed me with a cold cloth when I was most nauseated and took care of me in every way possible.

The hospital, mixed with still dealing with the cancer diagnosis, the fear of not knowing why I was vomiting blood and the time all conspire against the mind. My enemy used this time to break me down and attack me. I had the worst and most painful night of my life that Saturday.

The devil tried his hardest to give me every reason to turn my back on my faith, to curse God. But he doesn't understand me. He doesn't understand God. I love God, not just for what I can get but for Who God is. He is worthy to be loved, worthy to be trusted. I had asked God to be my Overcomer. Even though it was hard and painful and the scars will always remain, I overcame the hardest night. My dad was there too. Praying me through, reading Psalm 91:

"This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him."

"Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night"

"The Lord says, 'I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.'"

Finally, I got good news. My white blood cell count had come back up. They did the endoscopy. More good news: the bleeding had stopped. It was caused by an ulcer in my Cardia, which is the end of the Esophagus and the beginning of the Stomach. It was healing. They suspect there was a lymphoma there and that the chemo had disolved it, leaving the wound.

More good news: I could go home.

Its good to be home :)