Billy completed his aviation schooling in mid-August this year. He completed a PT test around the same time, and officially graduated from flight school on September 2, 2010. He’s officially a Blackhawk pilot.
Billy showing my mom the controls inside one of the older Blackhawks at Fort Rucker.
As my parents and I spent time with him in AL for his graduation, we often heard soldiers asking each other, “So where are you headed now?” Army soldiers and members of the National Guard come to Fort Rucker for aviation training, and then get sent out again. Some return home to places like New York or North Dakota. And others get sent out to new places. When people asked Billy where he was headed, he’d smile and answer, “Hawaii.” As one might expect, it was an enviable assignment. We all joked about needing to plan a trip to see him. It was a good excuse for a tropical vacation.
When news of Billy’s diagnosis hit Fort Rucker, people were shocked. The word spread quickly, and people rallied together to show their support. Captain Barnes and Major Smith called my mom and spent time trying to work out plans to get Billy to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. One of Billy’s flight instructors would call me almost daily to get an update on “Mac.” No one expected something like this, and people worked to do whatever they could to support Billy.
I can see that my family’s presence is good for Billy. He looks forward to spending time with us, talking, watching movies, and just hanging out. But there’s something different that happens when army guys come in the room. Friends from the army provide a kind of support and camaraderie that family doesn’t have. Army support has been a key piece in Billy’s fight against cancer.
Just this past week, he received a HUGE care package from a whole slew of people at Fort Rucker. I’d love to give credit to all of the contributors—but I don’t know who all of them are. In the box were t-shirts, hats, an American flag, medals, and a letter. I watched Billy’s face as we hung things up around the room, and I could tell he appreciated the gifts. The box spoke volumes.
Sometimes they call it "Mother Rucker."
My favorite hat from Fort Rucker.
A very special American flag, and a letter that explains it. That story to come later...
Many of the soldiers at Fort Rucker now don’t know Billy. Fort Rucker—for most—isn’t an army destination. It’s like college—a place a soldier goes for training to prepare him for army assignments elsewhere. But the soldiers who are now in training at Fort Rucker wanted to show their support for one of their own, so they dedicated an early-morning PT session to Billy. Last Friday, they gathered early (I don’t know what time exactly, but it was dark!) to run in Billy’s honor. Here's an article about the run.
The banner from the run.
An early morning start!
A video from last Friday's run. (Edited by my brother, Bobby.)
Thank you to everyone who has shown their support. My family greatly appreciates it, and I know it is helping Billy to fight hard. I know what I’m about to ask might seem impossible, but please join us in praying that he’ll be able to fly high again.
On the Matter of Prayer
On the subject of prayer, amazing things have been happening! I sent out a quick message yesterday afternoon, asking people to pray...
They want to do a CAT scan (with contrast) today. It requires inserting dye into his body, which means turning off the NG suction for 2 hours. (This will be very difficult because of the fluid that builds in his belly & makes him nauseous.) Pray for God's protection, for his body to tolerate the dye, & for his belly to be calm through the whole procedure. Pray for a successful scan! Thanks!
Billy's stomach has not been working for over a month. That's why he has the NG tube. It pumps the extra fluid from his stomach, so that he doesn't get nauseous. Throwing up all the time isn't good for his esophagus.
When I heard about the CAT scan, I got a little nervous. Thus far, Billy hadn't done well when the NG tube wasn't pumping. Too much time without suction would be miserable. I wasn't sure he'd make it. To make matters more intense, Billy would have to ingest 600mL of contrast--and keep it down--until the CAT scan was over. It seemed impossible!
So that's why I sent out the message.
And late last night, I sent out an update...
Guess what! There was a miracle! Billy was able to keep all of the liquid in. No nausea! They stopped the NG tube at 5pm, and started him on the contrast fluid. He finally got enough in him by 9:45pm, and they took him down for a CAT scan at 11:15pm. We were back in his room by midnight. 7 hours! I was amazed...seriously. Thank you so much for praying!I'm seeing evidence that prayer works.
We got the results of the CAT scan this morning, and I'm even more amazed.
Several weeks ago, when Billy was septic, the doctors told us that it was no longer possible to remove the fluid in his abdomen without an invasive surgery. The reason was that the fluid was in thick little pockets all over the place, rather than one large collection like before. Making several punctures all over his abdomen would have been fairly traumatic--as would a massive surgery to "rinse out" his belly. It seemed like there were no options.
So my mom started praying that the little fluid pockets would all come together.
Guess what! The CAT scan showed a large pocket of fluid on his left side, near the place where the surgical team made the incision last Saturday. That means that Billy could have a far less invasive procedure done to drain the large pocket of fluid! The surgeons plan to take him for surgery sometime today to insert a catheter to drain the fluid. It's probably infected, and antibiotics probably aren't going to take care of it, so a catheter seems like the best option.
Meanwhile, Billy went for a walk a few days ago, and he went even farther today. He told my mom that every time he walks, he feels stronger!
His will to live and his will to fight are inspiring. I am honored to have him as my brother, and I am grateful to everyone who is supporting us and praying for us. Thank you so much!
Ways to Pray
- God to stop the cancer in its tracks--that despite what modern medicine says the odds are, Billy would be able to beat this!
- Billy to be able to fly again
- Steady hands for the surgeons as they insert the catheter, with no complications
- Billy's body not to need antibiotics anymore (they're stopping one more of the antibiotics today)
- Perseverance and good health for my family as we work to support and care for Billy
- Creativity in battling the boredom associated with being stuck in a hospital bed!
Thanks for praying!