Storm Clouds

It has been a rough week for all of us.  After we met with the oncologist on April 5, we came home and Theresa crawled into bed.  For the next 7 days, I can count less than 10 times that she got out of bed and came out of our bedroom.  The pain is so bad and she is constantly tired.

On top of the pain, she has had little appetite and has consumed less food in 7 days than Ryan does in 1.  And he’s not exactly a big eater.  On Friday, April 8, Theresa ate some yogurt in the morning and 2 chicken nuggets that night.  She didn’t eat anything again until Sunday, when she agreed to eat a little applesauce.  She had 3 bites and put it down saying it didn’t taste good.  I got her to drink a bottle of Ensure in the afternoon and another bottle at dinner time.  I have a picture of Ryan and Theresa in her hospital bed from 3 weeks ago on my computer desktop.  I compared that picture from 21 days ago to how she looks today.  It is so surreal to see the physical decline in so little time.  I struggled with putting these pictures in this post, but decided to insert them to show just how much change has happened in the past few weeks.

DSC_1241_DxO 20160412_185813-resize

Another development that took place over the week was the Theresa had periods of irrational speech and thoughts.  On Saturday I told her that we may need to look at a feeding tube to get nutrition into her body.  A few hours later she asked about feeding and I thought she was asking about a feeding tube.  She looked out the window and asked if the horses were still feeding.  The problem being, we don’t have any horses.  On Monday, Ryan went back to see his Mom when he got home from school and he called out for Nana.  When my Mom got back to the room, Ryan said he didn’t understand what Theresa was asking him for.  Mom asked her what she needed and she said “Make sure you cook Uncle John’s hamburger well done”.  When I got home, she asked if the bathroom remodel was done yet, even though there is no remodeling going on. What I don’t know is if this is being caused by lack of nutrition, medicine or lesions spreading to the brain.

I sent an email to the oncologist on Monday asking about options for nutrition, be that some bland diet or even a feeding tube.  I just don’t know what the right path is regarding this. I’m told that the body may not be capable of handling nutrition and it can make matters worse.

I need to rely on the medical professionals for their assessment, but right now they are not on the top of my friends list.  The health care network Theresa uses keeps all of her records in an electronic format called MyChart.  When I logged onto their site to send the email, I saw some records but there were many missing.  I figured out that you had to select a section to bring in hospital records.  I downloaded all of these records and spent some time reviewing them.

What I found was disturbing to me.  I am her husband and yet I had to read about many things in her downloaded medical chart.  From an MRI done on her abdomen:  At least 5 hepatic metastases with the largest measuring 5.6cm progressed since prior PET/CT; Extensive diffuse osseous metastases through the imaged axial and proximal appendicular skeleton; Bilateral femoral neck metastases are present; Redemonstration of extensive left breast tumor extending to the skin and extending posterior through the left chest wall and abutting the pericardium; Suspected peritoneal carcinomatosis due to thickening observed in the MRI.

From a Total Spine MRI: Diffuse osseous metastatic disease, involving the vertebral bodies and posterior elements most notably within the lower thoracic and lumbar spine; Multilevel thoracic spondylosis and degenerative changes of the lumbar spine.

Is it any wonder why my wife is in so much pain?  The known extent of the metastatic disease was shocking to me.  They hide behind HIPPA and patient privacy laws to keep from telling the family what is truly going on.  Several years ago, we completed an estate plan along with medical power of attorneys for each of us.  I reviewed this tonight with my attorney and he agreed that given the amount of morphine she is on together with the periods of irrational speech that I have every right to demand that all discussions/decisions must go through me as her appointed attorney.  It was a moment of relief that we have the proper documents in place, but also a moment of profound sadness and fear.  Am I the one who is going to have to decide to continue or stop a treatment?  Am I the one who is going to have to decide to have a feeding tube inserted or not?

I had stopped by the parish today to return something and several of the workers asked about Theresa.  When I told them what was happening, Fr. Rankin said that he would stop by tonight. I told him that several people have asked me about healing for Theresa and if I believed God could heal her.  My answer has been the same to all who ask.  Yes, I believe that can happen.  But I also point out that in most of the healings demonstrated by Christ in the Gospels, he preceded the bodily healing by healing their soul.  The bodily healing was more for the benefit of the crowd gathered.  I told him that I wanted more than anything for her complete restoration to health.  But, my priorities right now are to make sure she is prepared spiritually for the future and to help Ryan prepare for things that are to come.

When Fr. Rankin arrived, we prayed with Theresa and he anointed her.  As he was leaving, he told me that he asked Theresa if she was at peace and at peace with leaving her family.  She shook her head no.  He said our job was to ease her anxiety and fears about the path ahead and move her to being at peace with what the future holds.  I’ve said it before, but thank you God for good and holy priests.

I know many people are praying for Theresa and for her family.  I am profoundly grateful for that.  Please pray for peace of mind for Theresa and understanding for Ryan.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

 

 

 

Suffering and Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

Over the past few months I have had plenty of conversations about what is happening to Theresa and have had many people express different perspectives such as:

“I get so mad, because she is so young and with Ryan being so young…”

“As you know, God could heal her right now if He wanted, we don’t understand the plan…”

“It makes me angry to see bad things happening to such a good person when there are so many people bad people seeming to have not a care in the world”

 

I truly appreciate everyone’s perspective and can identify with all of them.  One of the things that has come out of this journey is that I have a greater understanding of suffering in the life of an orthodox Christian.  While I grew up a Latin rite Catholic, I never really understood the perspective of redemptive suffering.  I’ve had some people tell me that we should offer up our suffering in line with St. Paul writing to the Colossians:  “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church…”.

crucifixion

Others have mentioned gazing upon a crucifix and pondering the immensity of what Christ endured for our salvation.  In this pondering, we realize that His outstretched arms are an invitation to unite with Him in His suffering.  We are to take the suffering as it occurs and offer it up for a specific intention (“Use this pain, Lord, for the salvation of my brother…”).  I have a deep respect for those who hold to the perspective of redemptive suffering, but it is not a perspective that I share.

Over the past ten years, my theology, faith and spirituality have taken a sharp turn towards the East.  I am grateful for this shift in my theology.  I am blessed to have a wonderful spiritual director and priest who guides me along the right path.   And with all that has happened with my wife’s health over the past year, I am thankful when I reflect on things over the past ten years that have prepared me for the current journey that I am on.

The Eastern Christian perspective on suffering is that there are generally three sources of suffering in this world: suffering from the persecution of others in body and soul, suffering from sickness and disease, and suffering in spirit because of the sins of the world.  There are only two possible ways to deal with such sufferings.  Either one humbly accepts them and transforms them into the way of salvation for oneself and others; or one is defeated by them with rebellion and rejection, and so “curses God and dies” both physically and for eternity in the age to come (cf. Job 2:9-10).  The spiritual person, when suffering in the flesh, uses his afflictions to be set free from sin, and to be made “perfect through suffering” like Jesus himself (Heb 2:10).  He knows that as his “outer nature is wasting away” he is being born into the Kingdom of God if he suffers in and with Jesus the Lord.

More relevant to me personally is in a very real sense the most grievous suffering of all is not in the flesh but the spirit.  In this journey, this is the suffering that I bear, while Theresa deals with the flesh and spirit.  This is the suffering that torments the soul when, by the grace of God and in the light of Christ, the spiritual person sees the utter futility, ugliness and pettiness of sin which is destroying men made in the image of God. The spiritual person, according to the measure of grace given by God, participates spiritually in the agony of Christ.  It is the greatest suffering of the saints, more unbearable than any external persecution or bodily disease.  It is the torment of the soul over the utter foolishness of sin.

Several years ago, I went to a Carmelite parish for confession and had the opportunity to speak to a very wise Carmelite priest.  He heard my confession, pondered it for a moment and said the following to me:  “God forgives always, man forgives sometimes, but nature never forgives;  do you understand that?”  At that time, I didn’t think much about his words but they came flooding back to me when we heard that Theresa’s cancer had recurred and spread.  And it was in that moment that the words of the Anaphora of St. Basil rang true regarding why bad things happen to good people:  “When You created man and had fashioned him from the dust of the earth and had honored him as your own image, O God, You set him in the midst of a bountiful paradise, promising him life eternal and the enjoyment of everlasting good things by keeping your commandments.  But when he disobeyed You, the true God Who had created him, and was led astray by the deceit of the serpent, he was made subject to death through his own transgressions…..”Since sin entered the world through a man and death through sin, so your Only-begotten Son was well-pleased to be born of a woman, the Holy Theotokos.”  “He gave Himself as a ransom to death by which we were held captive, having been sold into slavery by sin.  He descended into the realm of death through the Cross, that He might fill all things with Himself.  He loosed the sorrow of death and rose again from the dead on the third day, for it was not possible that the Author of Life should be conquered by corruption.  He made a way to the resurrection of the dead for all flesh.”

Pascha-Icon

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Because of free will, which was used to transgress the first commandment (but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die).  With that first transgression sin entered into the world through a man and death through sin.  When we sin and ask for forgiveness, God always grants forgiveness, while our fellow men sometimes grant it.  However, no amount of contrition or repentance can make nature change.  We live in a world of sin and death, physical and spiritual.  The work of Jesus on the Cross was not to eliminate sin and physical death.  Rather, it was to free us from death’s despair and open to us the gates of paradise.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus encounters a man who was sick for thirty-eight years lying near the pool called Beth-zatha, which had five porticoes.  Jesus asks the man if he wanted to be healed and the man replied: “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  Jesus tells the man to rise, take up your pallet and walk and at once the man was healed.  Yet, Jesus warns the man saying “See you are well!  Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.”  It’s hard to imagine with our human understanding what could be worse than spending thirty-eight years lying sick, more likely than not in his own waste and stench.  Yet, Jesus says that something worse can befall him.  It is in this that I see what is important in our journey on the earth.  We are not made for this world but made for eternity in the Kingdom.

After Divine Liturgy on Holy Thursday, my spiritual advisor gave me a bible and said it was an old priest tradition to start at the 17th Chapter of John and read until the end of the Gospel of John on Holy Thursday.  Chapter 17 starts with the high priestly prayer of Jesus.  “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth”.

Do I believe that God could restore Theresa completely?  Yes.  Do I pray for this to happen?  Yes, if it His will.  Do I believe that what is happening to her physically/spiritually and spiritually to Ryan, Mom and I is for the sanctification of our soul and body?  Absolutely.  We will not know what spiritual benefit this situation has provided to us and others who are on the journey with us until the veil is lifted and we find ourselves in the Kingdom.  Until that time, I will continue to humbly accept whatever comes my way and transform that into the way of salvation for myself and for others.

Christos Anesti!

Alithos Anesti!

The Narrow Path

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few…(Mt 7:13-14)

Today was the final day of radiation treatments for the metastatic lesions found in Theresa’s spine and femur. They provided her with a flower and certificate of completion. I smiled at the flower and was happy that this particular regimen is finished. I try not to get too excited when something goes well, as well as not getting too sad when things aren’t going well. It’s one way to maintain some sense of control and sanity.

20160405_155238

In the afternoon, we met with Dr. Pavani Chalasani, the oncologist who is taking over treatment for Theresa while her original oncologist recovers from an illness. Dr. Chalasani provided some direction on how we should go forward. The new drug regimen is the use of Gemcitabine and Cisplatin. On day one, both drugs will be administered. One week later, a dose of Gemcitabine will be administered and will be followed up the next day by a Neulasta injection. This treatment will start on April 14th. The schedule has a week break between rounds which means there will be no treatment administered during the week of our 21st wedding anniversary!

The combination of Gecitabine and Cisplatin was a clinical trial that took place around 2007-2008. It was developed to treat patients with metastatic breast cancer who had been pretreated with anthracycline and taxane (ACT). The ACT treatment was the original one prescribed and taken during 2015. One study showed a partial response in 29% of patients and a stable response in 39% of the patients. The plan is to revisit the treatment after 2 cycles to assess how things are going.

The other thing put forward by Dr. Chalasani was to take part in a clinical trial that is ongoing which uses an immunotherapy regimen that targets a protein on white blood cells called PD-1. PD-1 normally maintains the balance of the immune system by shutting it down at the right time. Some cancers take advantage of this mechanism by expressing PD-L1, enabling them to escape attack by the body’s white blood cells. The immunotherapy regimen works by blocking PD-1, enhancing the body’s ability to detect and destroy cancer cells. The doctor wants very much to explore clinical trials as this cancer has not responded to the normal drug treatments.

Interestingly, this clinical trial mirrors one that a Diaconate classmate forwarded to me back in March. He is a PhD drug researcher and suggested looking up this treatment. We are going to pursue enrollment in the trial as we need to think outside of the box. I am not a doctor, but I am a well trained investigator and interrogator. One of my skills is to read between the lines at what is being said and look for elements of the truth that may be lurking between those lines. I get the sense that the Gemcitabine/Cisplatin regimen will be the last “normal” regimen we try if it does not work. More than likely, any future treatment regimen will be clinical trials.

I’ve been telling those who ask for an update on Theresa that we really need some wins in the fight. We’ve been fighting bad news/setbacks since November and it seems to be everywhere present and has been winning every battle. I’m tired of playing defense. Let’s go offensive and win a few battles! My quote from Matthew is clearly taken out of context from it original scriptural meaning, but it is fitting. This path we are on is narrow and hard, but it is the only one that can lead to life.

Χριστός ἀνέστη!
Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

Holy Week

 

With another hospital admission at the start of Holy Week, there was a chance that Theresa would not be home in time for Pascha.  On Thursday night, the doctors said they were planning on discharging her on Good Friday.

After the Divine Liturgy on Holy Thursday, Fr. Rankin and I went up to see Theresa around 9:30PM.  It was time to take my black cassock for a spin and see if it would get me past security and the 8PM closing time!  (I figured, if they wanted to see clergy credentials, I’d show them my FBI credentials instead!) We came up to her room, both dressed in black and she said “A little dramatic tonight I see.”  At least she still has a sense of humor.
12931118_10154585424311686_820289718251461401_nI got a text message from her Friday afternoon to call.  When I did, she told me that they were not going to be releasing her.  They did a final blood test and found abnormal liver numbers.  They said this could be one of two things, a blockage in the bile duct or a tumor in the pancreas causing the bile duct to dilate.  They did an MRI and found a mass in the pancreas.

The GI doctors came to visit and said that they had two options to fix the issue.  First, they would insert a stent into the bile duct to try and force it open.  If successful, the fluids could drain from the liver and return the liver functions to normal.  If the stent was not successful, they would need to insert a drainage tube, bypassing the bile duct.  They said this was not an emergency situation and that it could wait until Monday.

They gave Theresa the option to discharge Friday night and return for outpatient procedure on Monday.  She chose the wiser option and decided to stay in the hospital until the procedure was finished.

On Sunday, after the Matins and Divine Liturgy, Ryan, Mom and I brought the Pascha basket to the hospital for Theresa to enjoy the fruits of the feast.  Without prompting, Ryan hopped up on the bed and enjoyed some more ham and chocolate with his Mom.

12803101_10154585424576686_3981127997493952049_n

Before we left for church, he took the $5 he had gotten in one of the Easter eggs and said that he was going to buy his Mom some chocolate to enjoy.  I’m so impressed with him and the caring spirit he has been showing.

12888789_10154585424531686_5462315603757355195_o

Today, they did the procedure with endoscope. As they were positioning her for the procedure, they said they normally did the procedure with the patient on their stomach, but due to her bone lesions in the femur, they would be doing the procedure with her lying on her back.  This was the first we had heard about lesions in the femur.   Ugh.

Theresa got back to her room around 3:30PM and told me that they were successful in getting the stent into the bile duct.  It looks like they will be discharging her tomorrow.

 

Tough Questions

When Theresa went to the ER on Monday 3/21, we knew they were planning on admitting her to the hospital for an unknown number of days.  I decided to not tell Ryan until I got home that night and had Nana tell him Mom was at the doctor for tests.

I went to see Theresa around 4PM and found her hooked up to another IV; another set of pain medicines.  All of this was starting to wear on her and she told me how difficult it was to see her Aunt/Uncle leave and that she broke down while talking to her Uncle.  She said we did everything we were supposed to do and yet here we are.  She said that she didn’t want to do this anymore.  I didn’t push her; I just let her vent her feelings. As it was getting close to 7PM, I left to get home to talk to Ryan.

20160321_173242

Before I got home, I sent a text message to Fr. Rankin letting him know that Theresa was back in the hospital and relaying her comment about not wanting to do this anymore.  As soon as I walked in the door, Ryan asked where his Mom was.  I told him she was going to be in the hospital for a few days and he dropped his head.  I asked him to come in and talk with me for a bit.

All day long I knew that I was going to have a conversation with him about Theresa and had it all ready in my head.  I asked him how he thought Mom was doing and he gave me the so-so hand sign.  I asked for more details and he said she’s been sleeping alot and her back has been hurting.  I asked him if he remembered a few weeks ago when we told him the cancer was back and he said yes.  I told him that it had spread to a few other areas, the spine and liver.  Before I could get the next word out, he looked at me and asked, “Is Mom going to die?”  That was not something I was expecting so early in the conversation and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about sidestepping that question or using some generic line that we are all going to die some day.  I took a few seconds to gather myself and told him, yes there is a chance that  Mom might die from this.  The look on his face and the tears that came out cut to the bone.

I let him curl up on my lap and cry for several minutes.  I told him that this was something that was not going to happen today, tomorrow, next week or next month.  I explained that the doctors are doing everything they can and that many people who have the same disease as Mom have been fighting and living for years.  Some people for 20+, some for 10+, some for 5+ and yet others who don’t get that far.  He asked me what was the percentage chance that Mom will die and I had to explain that we don’t know and there was no way to make that guess.  He asked if he could go and visit his Mom the next day.  He said, I’m not going to take any books or electronics, I just want to lay down next to her and talk.  We made plans to have him come to my office after school and He and I would go visit. We talked about how we can not change the past, we can not predict the future, but we can live each day to the fullest.  I told him it was fine to be sad, mad, confused…any number of emotions.  I also told him that it was fine to be happy and laugh when things happen during the day that make him happy.  He smiled and said he would.

As he was falling asleep, he reminded me that for all the adult questions he asked, he is still a 10 year old boy.  He analogized that Mom’s fight was like a wrestling match, Mom vs. Cancer.  And we are the spectators watching the wrestling match take place.  I said yep, and just like any wrestling match our favorite wrestler will have some good rounds and some bad rounds, but we will always cheer for them.  He smiled and said, yes and she won’t give up on us.

On my way to work on Tuesday, I called Theresa to let her know about my conversation with Ryan so that she would be ready for the questions he was sure to ask her.  I found out that Fr. Rankin had visited her Monday night and had a blunt conversation with her.  Father said that there might come a time in the future when she has to make a hard decision to stop or continue treatment, but now is not that time.  There are still many treatment options to pursue and that she needed to fight the fight.  She told me that she needed to hear that.  Thank you for good and holy priests.

Ryan and I got to her room while she was away for treatment and when she returned to her room, he did as he said and climbed up in bed and talked to her.  And just like we expected, he told her that I said there was a chance she might die.  In the moments that came after that question I saw the incredible strength that my wife has. She gave her answer with a strong and confident voice and it had to be very comforting for Ryan to hear the confidence in her voice.  We stayed for a bit before we made our way home.  Before we left, Ryan wanted a few pictures to be taken.  As he was saying goodnight, he told Theresa that cancer patients in the hospital who have someone pray for them are more likely to get out of the hospital than those who don’t have someone to pray for them.  He said it’s probably because God knows that a person who is being prayed for is loved and makes them better.  While his theology may not be textbook, his spirit is strong!  DSC_1241_DxODSC_1242_DxO When we got home and he was getting into bed, he said his night prayers and without prompting, added a beautiful petition for the health of his Mom that would make St. John Chrysostom proud!  I know it made his Dad proud.  I posted these pictures to my Facebook account and one of the comments came from my brother John.  He posted the picture below that he put on my Mom’s facebook page when she started her treatment for ovarian cancer in 2014.  He said that number 1 on that list was evidenced by Ryan and his Mama tonight!  Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!10600360_10208907491233429_8967509459011058704_n

 

 

Home, yet going back

The doctors gave Theresa the OK to return home on Friday, March 11th.  They sent her home with new prescriptions and new ways to treat the wound she has.

While she was waiting on a room in the ER, she complained that the stretcher was causing her back to hurt.  This continued once she got up to her room.  It seemed like heat would help reduce the pain, but it still hurt pretty bad.

On Wednesday, March 16th, the pain was incredibly bad and even the Oxycodone was not doing much to mask it.

The next chemotherapy treatment and meeting with the Oncologist was on Thursday, March 17th.  The regular Oncologist was sick so we met with another doctor.  She ordered a lower back MRI to see what was causing the pain and that test was done that evening.

On Friday, Theresa got a call from the substitute oncologist who said that there were numerous lesions on the spine and hips and made a quick referral to a Radiation Oncologist.  That appointment took place Friday afternoon.

IMG_0011

 

The Radiation Oncologist decided it was best to have Theresa go to the ER for a full spine MRI that will be used to create a map of where the radiation is directed.   The goal is to reduce/eliminate the lesions to reduce the pain they are causing.  More likely than not, this will require time in the hospital.  She wanted Theresa to go to the ER on Friday, but her Aunt/Uncle from Illinois were coming to visit over the weekend, so Theresa said no.  This is happening on Monday, March 21.

IMG_0015

 

 

 

 

Akathistos Saturday

“Is any one among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is any cheerful?  Let him sing praise.  Is any among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” – James 5:13-15

 

Pantanassa_932x1184

In the Eastern Church, the 5th Saturday of the Great Fast is known as Akathistos Saturday.  My parish sang the Akathist to the Holy Theotokos and held an anointing of the sick afterwards.  I watched as people came forward for the anointing and when it came time to watch my wife go forward, I had tears in my eyes.  And I wasn’t the only one.

Why?  Because three days ago she ended up going to the ER for the round of confusion that happened on Tuesday and she was admitted to the hospital for a battery of tests.  They did blood tests, brain scans, MRI’s, ultrasounds and many visits from doctors and medical students.  In the end, all of the testing didn’t provide any definitive answers.  They were able to rule out some things, but their final report was the confusion was probably caused by an underlying infection, made worse by dehydration and improper nutrition and chased by too much Oxycontin in her system.

They sent her home with 28 days of antibiotics, a much lower dose of Oxycontin and instructions to follow up with the Oncologist.  As I have written about in a previous post, the new treatment plan is a drug called Navelbine and the first two times she received that drug, the area where the cancer is was hurting after the treatment.

The surgical oncology team that came to see her looked at a very nasty looking wound that had the internal medicine doctors thinking infection.  The surgery team said it wasn’t infection; it was dead cancer cells.  Again, I choose to believe that Navelbine is doing its job and killing the cancer.

 

image7

As part of the anointing, our parish priest gave a short homily regarding the sacrament.  He quoted James 5:16: “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”  If the prayer of a righteous man has great power, how much more power and effect does prayer from the Holy Theotokos have on our behalf?  I had a long conversation with my spiritual advisor on Tuesday, right before all things broke loose.  He said to me, “You are receiving an education in pastoral theology in this journey that no seminary could every provide you.”  I choose to believe there is a Divine plan in all of this and that wherever the road takes us, it is for the sanctification of soul and body, both mine and hers.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

 

Confusion and Delay

SVYesterday, Theresa left home at 12:30PM to work in the parish finance office.  She called home around 5:00PM to let Mom know that she was going to be late.  At 7:30PM, I sent her a text asking if she was planning on coming home tonight?  She responded a few minutes later with a text that said “Seriously exhausted on 291”.  My response was huh?

I figured she was on her way home on I-19 and that Siri had autocorrected the text from I19 to 291.  Around 8:00PM, Theresa called saying that she was lost and didn’t know which way to go to get home.  She said I just passed a sign for Ft. Huachuca/Sierra Vista.  When she said that I realized that the 291 she mentioned was milepost 291.  I had her pull off the road and turn on the GPS with our home address.  I heard it in the background ding and say the estimated travel time was 1 hour.

She had gone 50 miles East of our home.  Having made the drive to Sierra Vista many times, I knew there was a truck stop just off the interstate.  I had her pull into there and wait for me to drive and pick her up.  There was no way I wanted her trying to drive home.  So, we put Ryan in the backseat and drove to the Loves truck stop.  When I got there, she seemed to be a bit dazed and confused.  We drove home and she went to bed.

At 4:00Am, her alarm went off which indicated it was medicine time.  She went into the bathroom to take the medicine.  Almost 50 minutes later, I noticed the light was still on and she was asleep in the bathroom.  I let her stay there, figuring at least she was sleeping.  When I got up at 6:30 to get ready for work, she was taking a shower.  I joked, so you decided to sleep on the toilet last night.  She didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.

We have an appointment with the oncologist tomorrow and this will be something new to report on.

Panagia Pantanassa

DSC_1086_DxO

On Sunday, one of the families at our parish gave us the icon you see in the bottom of the picture.  The icon is titled Panagia Pantanassa.  This icon is a representation of the miraculous icon of the Theotokos held at the Monastery of Vatopedi, Mount Athos, Greece.  The holy icon was brought to Mt. Athos by elder Joseph from Nea Skete. The first record of the icon’s healing came from elder Joseph.  One day a young man from Cyprus went to visit and entered into the church.  At that point, the elder witnessed a glowing light radiating from the face of the Theotokos and an invisible power pushed the young man to the ground.  When he recovered from his fall, he began to repent and weep and confessed that he did not believe and was a participant in the black arts.  He changed his life and became an Orthodox Christian.

The icon is also know for working many miracles, especially healing people with cancer.  There are many recent records of people who have been healed from cancer after participating in the Supplicatory Canon to the Pantanassa at the monastery.  There are 13 odes that are sung as part of the Akathist.  From Kontakion 9 and the Ikos:

All angelic and human nature was amazed at the greatness of Thine incomprehensible Incaration, O Word.  Gazing with wonder before this great mystery of piety, with fear and trembling we thankfully cry out to Thee:

Rejoice, constant Preserver of healthy children. Rejoice, Bearer of health to the sick. Rejoice, Healing of ailing children. Rejoice,  Mother of suffering youths.  Rejoice, Thou who dost raise up those cast down upon the bed of sickness. Rejoice, Comfort of those held by the fear of death. Rejoice, Thou who dost heed men’s weeping.  Rejoice, Thou who dost regard our moaning.  Rejoice, Suffuser of earthly pains with heavenly joy. Rejoice, supernatural Patience of the tempest tossed.  Rejoice, Thou who preparest joy for those who weep.  Rejoice, Thou who provided the meek with wings of prayer.

On Saturday March 12, the entire Akathist will be sung in the church followed by the solemn anointing of the sick for all in the parish.   Lord, enlighten us, With Your precepts that can guide our lives, and with Your arm most powerful Grant to us Your peace, O You Who are the Friend of all.  Clouds of trials now have surrounded me and I’m afraid, O most Praised hasten to my aid, You who carried Him Who is our salvation cause and hope.  I lie now in great pain and sorrow, and there is no healing at all for my body.  Except for you, Who alone gave birth for us, to the Word the great price for creation all, of your goodness Pantanassa, From my sadness and sicknesses raise me.  Through the prayers and intercession of the Holy Theotokos, O Savior save us.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

 

Rejoice, constant Preserver of healthy children.
Rejoice, Bearer of health to the sick.
Rejoic

Round 2

The second half of the first cycle was on Thursday.  Due to the prior mixup with GEHA, this was going to be a Navelbine only cycle.  The pre-medicine took longer to get through than did the Navelbine.  It always makes me nervous when the nurse puts on gloves to administer the dose…just how toxic is this stuff?

Between the pre-meds and the warm blankets, it didn’t take long for Theresa’s eyes to grow heavy.  As they were preparing the dosage, the nurse brought out the Neulasta shot.  On the first round, they gave Neulasta the day after chemo and she had an appointment scheduled for Friday to receive this.  They sorted it all out and gave it to her on Thursday.

According to the billing statements, Banner UMC bills GEHA almost $25K for the Neulasta dosage, with GEHA authorizing $12K.  Since that dose has a street value equivalent to 27 ounces of platinum, I suggested we take it and run!

After the Navelbine went it, she had a similar reaction with the tumor area hurting.  And just as before, we chose to believe it was winning the fight.  Navelbine 2, IDC 0.

20160225_151559