Saturday, September 25, 2010


There are lots of them.  Why does a 25-year-old guy have cancer?  Why Billy, of all people?  Why didn't they find it sooner?  Will he be moved anywhere else soon?

As I've talked with many of you over the past few days (I know, it's hard to believe we've only known about this for 2 days), we're discovering more questions than answers.  For now, I wanted to share some of the answers that we do have.

How's Billy doing?
The answer to that--for now--is he's hanging in there.  He does have some fight in him.  Yesterday, he heard word that they'd be removing his breathing tube.  It seemed like it was taking forever!  They told him they'd need to shut the machine off, and then they could take the tube out.  Once they finally shut the machine off, he yanked out the tubes himself!

He is very sick, however.  The pain medicine makes him nauseous.  He gets pain meds every hour.  Almost immediately, he throws up.  And then he falls asleep.  He wakes up every once in a while.  Sometimes, he talks.  But he's thirsty and sleepy.  And he watches the clock for when the pain meds can come again.  Sometimes, it feels routine.  More often, it's hard to watch.  My brother should not be laying there like that.

So, was Billy sick for a while?  Where did the cancer come from?
Who knows where it came from.  Lots of times, it's hard to detect right away because the initial symptoms are indigestion and a loss of appetite.  When a 25-year-old guy has indigestion, you don't think much of it.

Billy said that his stomach cramps started when he finished flight school, around mid-August.  We saw him over the weekend of August 21 in MA for our cousin Kelly's wedding, and he seemed fine.  My parents and I saw him again in AL at the beginning of September for his graduation from flight school.  He was still having occasional stomach cramps, and had lost his appetite somewhat.  He said he had lost about 10 pounds since flight school ended.  We talked about it a few times as we'd eat together, and we thought he might have an ulcer.  He thought so too, and he stopped drinking soda to try to cut back on the acid he was eating.  He wanted to wait to get it checked out until he got to Hawaii.  At the time, the cramps didn't seem all that bad.

Billy was with Melissa and Tyler this past weekend in the Florida Keys.  Melissa said she noticed that he ate less and less over time.  On Sunday, he ate a little bit of spaghetti, and that was it.  (He hasn't eaten since then.)

On Monday, he went to the ER.  On Thursday, he was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer.  It's so advanced because the symptoms didn't get strong until now.

We don't know where it came from or why.  Stomach cancer can be genetic, but there's no history of it in our family.  We don't really have any more answers than that.

Where is Billy?
He's in the ICU in Baptist Hospital in Miami.  He will be moved out of the ICU to a room "upstairs" as soon as a bed is available.  The move from the ICU is a step in the positive direction!

How long will Billy be in Miami?  Will they move him soon?
Billy is currently a Warrant Officer in the army.  So we're waiting to hear back from the army regarding treatment recommendations.  We can go with what the army suggests, or we can go somewhere else.

In the meantime, we're researching the options.  We're not sure where he'll be treated, what it will cost, and how much will be covered.  There are lots of questions.  I'll get to the treatment questions in a minute...

Regarding moving Billy, that depends on treatment.  But it also depends on his condition.  Right now, they're trying to regulate the pain.  The pain is strong and fairly constant.  Billy is getting medication every hour.  It's quite intense, and makes him throw up.  So he hasn't been able to eat anything for almost a week.  His condition is "not stable" due to those facts.  The doctors want to regulate his pain before he gets moved anywhere.

But he needs to get somewhere for treatment (maybe here, maybe somewhere else).  So he may be here briefly, or he may be here for a while.  Billy will be wherever the treatment option is best.

What are the treatment options?
Billy's version of cancer is very advanced and very aggressive.  The doctors here say they can't operate to remove it.  We can try chemo to try to knock it out--but every patient is different.  Some patients respond really well and really fast to chemo.  Others don't.  We won't know until (and that's if) we try.

(Note:  With cancer, chemo can help, but it doesn't always.  As the nurse said this morning, there are "atom bomb versions" and there are "sniper versions".  You don't want to hit him with an atom bomb if it's the wrong kind.  So we want to figure out exactly what he needs and go for that.)

There are stories out there of people being miraculously healed of cancer, if they change the kinds of things they're putting into the body.  But Billy is in so much pain at this point that he needs pain meds.  And the pain meds are making him throw up.  So it's hard to put anything good into the body.

It's hard to say what's best.  Ultimately Billy will get to decide what treatment he gets.  We do have some leads, but it is the weekend.  Please pray that we'd get connected to people in places of power who will help us get answers quickly!

I will address more questions later.  Feel free to keep calling and texting.  I am answering Billy's phone, so if you call, don't be surprised to hear a woman's voice.  :-)  I will relay messages to him.  There are some visitors coming...  Christy is here now.  So is Melissa, as well as her brother and dad.  Matt is on his way.  Trevor should be here later.  More are coming tomorrow...  Thank you for coming to see him!


  1. Please know that we are all praying for God's healing and that the pain will stop. Please let Billy know that we are thinking of him. You all are in our thoughts. It is so hard to know what to say, but know that God is in control of the whole situation. With much love, The Rostens

  2. Praying, never ceasing, for your beloved brother, Billy. You are such a wonderful sister and daughter. You must bring great comfort to your family at this time. Lifting your entire family up to The One Who knows all needs. I am so very sorry. Sending all my love upon the wings of a desert sparrow, Deb


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