Saturday, October 9, 2010

One Day at a Time

The Williams clan is here now…well, some of them.  My mom’s family is huge, and they’re amazing.  Once they heard about the severity of Billy’s infection, a bunch of family from Massachusetts got in a van to drive down here.  They left as soon as they could gather at my aunt’s house, and they got here at 4am yesterday (Friday) morning.  Here are some recent photos of most of the family who came…

From Left:  Aunt Robin, Billy, my mom (Jill), Aunt Chrissy
Location:  Loveland, CO  (Bobby and Blair's wedding)
June 20, 2009
**Robin and Chrissy are here from MA.

Cousins! From Left:  Billy, Steve (Chrissy's Son), Ben (Jack's son), Kyle (Kelly's husband), and Bryan (Robin's son)
Occasion:  Kelly and Kyle's wedding
August 21, 2010
**Kyle and Bryan are here from MA.

Billy and Aunt Robin
Location:  Kelly and Kyle's Wedding
August 21, 2010
**Aunt Robin is here from MA.

Kelly and Kyle
Location:  Kelly and Kyle's Wedding
August 21, 2010
**They're both here from MA.

Justin and Uncle Jack
Location:  Kelly and Kyle's Wedding
August 21, 2010
**Uncle Jack is here from MA.

I didn’t get to see them until I woke up much later.  I walked into the ICU and saw my Aunt Chrissy.  We hugged, and I cried.  After a while, I let go.  I turned toward Billy’s bed, and someone handed me a t-shirt.  “This is for you.  Aunt Robin made it.”  It was camouflage, and it said “BILLY’S BRIGADE” in army font.  It has a picture of an apache helicopter below the army text.  And below the picture, it reads “Flying High and Fighting Hard.” 

We know the details aren’t 100% accurate—but the shirts are perfect.  They helped band us together yesterday as our clan traipsed around Walter Reed.  Eventually, people started to recognize our shirts.  One guy even said he wished he could have one.

Our whole immediate family is here now.  Blair, my dad, and my brother Chris joined us yesterday.  We're all here, trying to love each other, be in this together, and to love Billy.

Four of the Five McCotter/Bohren kids. Despite what modern medicine says, we're hoping for a miracle. There have always been five of us in this picture. We want there to be five again.

People all over the hospital know Billy’s story.  It was a urology doctor (Dr. McLeod) who fought to get us here.  The oncologists have been collaborating to help Billy the best they possibly can.  There have been GI doctors and surgeons involved.  The doctor who’s in charge of the medical center has asked for regular updates on Billy’s status.  In the ICU, there are policies on visitors—like a max of two people in the room at a time, and no one stays overnight with the patient.  But for Billy and our family, those things don’t seem to apply.  The ICU team know what’s going on, and they’re try to do everything they can to serve our family and to make Billy as comfortable as possible.  Billy’s story is a big deal.  It doesn’t make any sense to anyone here.  It’s very heavy and very sad.  Everyone seems to be impacted.

Yesterday, we had a family conference with the doctor who’s in charge of the ICU.  He wanted to make sure we were all on the same page, and we understood what was going on.  The details are very much the same as I wrote about last time.  Billy has stage IV gastric cancer.  In and of itself, that can be a devastating diagnosis.  In terms of statistics, gastric cancer doesn’t do well.  But on top of that, Billy has a major infection that could easily threaten his life.  The cancer has been very aggressive (many of the pictures above were taken within the last 6 weeks), and put Billy on a “decline” health-wise, as the surgeon told us.  But the infection sharpened the decline. 

At this point, the medical team is doing whatever they possibly can to help Billy beat this infection and to extend his life.  He’s already had one round of chemo.  Whether he could ever tolerate another is completely unpredictable.

The doctors don’t know what tomorrow will look like.  They’re just focusing on one day at a time, and they’ve encouraged us to do the same.

Billy has been in a lot of pain, and is pretty weak.  He now has a hard time moving in his bed on his own.  There is little strength left in his body.  I ran my fingers through his hair last night, and I got to use this interesting little shower cap to wash his hair.  (You don’t have to use water.  There’s soap in the cap.  You just put it on and rub the person’s head, and it washes his hair.  It takes just a few minutes.  And then you towel dry and comb the hair.)  Billy’s face said it all.  It was the power of human touch again.  A small taste of something wonderful in the middle of a painful and difficult journey.   As I combed his hair, it fell out in chunks.  It’s the chemo.  I knew it would probably happen, because his pillow had been covered with hair.  Billy’s body is weak.  He is fighting to survive, but he is so very weak. 

Sometimes, it’s hard for Billy to talk.  Sometimes, he’s really thirsty.  But he can’t drink anything at this point.  His stomach still doesn’t work, so everything that would go down would get sucked out by the NG tube.  His legs hurt a lot, and his ankles are swollen.  His belly keeps swelling with the fluid that’s being produced by the cancer cells.  And he has wires and tubes all over.  But he's more stable than he was two days ago, and that's a small miracle.  :-)

We rejoice in the little things.  Billy looked over the side of his bed and saw Rob yesterday (a army friend who had driven down from New York).  Billy didn’t say anything, but he smiled.  I love seeing him smile!  The look he gave Rob said more than words could ever say, and that is something worth celebrating.  The doctor told me that his white blood cell counts were coming down, and that seem like a small victory.  It means that the antibiotics are probably working to knock out the infection.  We have to keep watching them to make sure they don’t go too low.  But it looks like they’re working!

(Confused about white blood cell counts?  I know, it’s hard to understand all of this.  When Billy took the chemo, it attacked his body—as it’s supposed to do.  In doing its work, the chemo killed some of his white blood cells.  That can be dangerous, as it means that his immune system gets weakened.  So the doctors gave him neupogen to help his body to make more white blood cells.  When the body gets infected, it also produces more white blood cells.  An excessive level of white blood cells can indicate infection, which is also not good.  But it’s not bad that he has more white blood cells; it means that the body is doing its job to fight the infection.  And a decrease in an elevated white blood cell count can be good, because it can mean that the infection is going away.)

Billy is hanging in there.  We’re all living one day at a time, trying to spend time with him and with each other.  It’s a tough journey we’re walking.  Medically speaking, Billy doesn’t have much time left.  But I will hold onto hope as tightly as I can.  You never know what God might do.  


  1. One day at a time sounds wise. So glad you have such a wonderful team of people around. I'm sure that's healing for everyone, esp. Billy.

  2. So glad to hear Billy is more stable than he was two days ago. That is real good news that the antibiotics are working. I am glad friends and family are surrounding Billy, and he knows so many are praying for him. Miracles still happen. My niece had one last spring. I am a Goldstar Mother, and lost my son in Iraq in August 2006. My heart has a close bond with other families in the Armed Forces. Faith Hope and Love is all around Billy. My prayers are with you all, signed, Mrs.M. Woods, from Alaska.

  3. M: I found your blog a few days back and wanted to say something, anything, but didn't know what to say. Everytime I read, tears start streaming down my face. May I add my heart and hope to your prayers for a miracle. From a small corner of Canada.

  4. From Bratville (aka another small corner of Canada!) Prayers ongoing.

    One breath at a time, one step at a time and one prayer at a time.

    "THY Will be done.."...

    With faith and love..

  5. I'm glad to hear that Billy and Rob got to spend time together. Prayers are still coming strong from NY.
    Love and strength, Amanda

  6. Love, prayers, and peace. That's all that I know to say right now. The rest I continue to say to God. Thank you for continuing to write, Michelle. Thank you for allowing us to be in this with your family. ♥


  7. Linda B said: Continuing to pray,"Lord give them strength and peace and that they would feel your presence in a mighty way". My heart continues to ache for you all and just pray that God would heal Billy. Lifting you in prayer. Linda B(BVCOB)

  8. 'chelly, I'm so glad you are keeping us in the loop :). I went to a conference this weekend and our theme was Biblical Hope because we have Access to amazing Power through Jesus (Luke 8). Praying this for you, your family, and everyone who hears about Billy. <3 you!

  9. Thank you all for your thoughts, comments, encouragement, and prayers. We appreciate it so much!


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