Saturday, October 16, 2010

Time to Celebrate!

Billy’s Birthday Celebration
We were all looking forward to Billy’s birthday.  I’m not sure about everyone else, but for me, it seemed like we had even more reason to celebrate this year:  despite his having been septic, and the doctors thinking he would not have made it through last weekend, he did!  And every day, it seems like he has gotten just a little bit better.  So a party seemed especially fitting.

There was no official time for the celebration.  We tried, but schedules in the hospital don’t seem to exist.  Or maybe it’s more like the patient’s life just revolves around whatever the doctors and nurses need.  We collaborated with friends and family to prepare some fun things for the day, and sometime in the afternoon, we started celebrating.

Even though Billy can’t eat cake (he still isn’t eating anything), we got one anyway so we could invite doctors and nurses to celebrate with us.  It’s a family tradition to get a picture of the birthday kid with the cake.  Billy complied.

People keep asking us how Billy got the middle name José.  Well, it is and it isn’t his real middle name…

His legal name was William Joseph McCotter Bohren.  (A long name, I know!)  When he went to fill out his name with the army, he couldn’t fit all the letters in the spaces.  So he adjusted it:  MCCOTTERBOHREN, WILLIAM JOSE.  And that’s how the hospital knows him.  Nobody can quite figure out the 14-letter last name, or how in the world José came to be his middle name…

We sang when we brought the cake in the room, and then Danny used the remote control to make the Blackhawk launch off of the cake.  Bobby had found it somewhere on Amazon, and it actually flies!  (Believe me, I know.  My brothers tested it the night before, and had fun making it dive-bomb toward my head.) 

We had lots of guests, lots of laughs, and lots of fun…

The birthday guy!

Friends and Family [See Nate, no mustache yet. :-)]

Kelsey's hand-made pillowcase

A highly-appropriate birthday card.

Billy and the "Mr. McCotter Head"...complete with his own NG tube (a gift from Kelsey)

Bumper Stickers from Rob

Medically-speaking, Billy’s birthday didn’t start out the greatest.  Over the past two weeks, he had undergone several procedures to remove extra fluid from his belly.  One of the more recent ones resulted in an infection on his left side, starting at the procedure site.  Over time, the redness and swelling had moved down his leg.

During the morning of his birthday, the medical team came in for their rounds, strongly suggesting that Billy have surgery on his left side to drain any infected tissue.  There was possibly a risk of dead tissue, but also a risk that he wouldn’t heal well from the surgery.  Given Billy’s situation, surgery poses a lot of risks.  But not having surgery poses risks as well.  The stakes are high. 

In most cases, higher-ranked members of the army have authority over those with lower rank.  For his age, Billy’s rank is fairly high.  (Warrant Officer 1)  But he’s still well-below most of the doctors.  In this situation, however, Billy has the final say-so.  The doctors make their recommendations, and then Billy gets to decide.

For his birthday, Billy decided to forego surgery.  He wanted to wait and see if the infection in his side would go down.

Billy’s birthday was fun—but it wore all of us out.  We all crashed early...

After the Party
“Normal life” in the hospital resumed on Friday—as normal as things could be.  The doctors came back to evaluate Billy, and recommended surgery again.  The infection hadn’t gotten any worse—but it hadn’t gotten any better either.  The surgeon wanted to drain everything he possibly could…but Billy wasn’t so sure he wanted to undertake such a risk.  He decided to wait again.  If the infection in his side became more painful, he’d be more inclined toward surgery.  But if it wasn’t absolutely necessary, he wanted to avoid it.

Today, the doctors came back again.  And this time, we heard some good news!  Billy’s white blood cell count is coming back down (it had been elevated due to the infection in his side), and the infection seems to be getting a little better.  The surgeon—who reminds my brothers and me of Matt Damon—seems incredibly confident.  He thinks surgery is best, and he wants to go for it.  This morning, he admitted that he never expected Billy to do as well as he’s been doing…that Billy is defying the odds, in a way.  (First, by surviving past the weekend, and second, by his infection in his side starting to go down on its own.) 

But Billy is still very sick.  The cancer is nasty and aggressive.  There’s fluid around his lungs, and over time, it’s increasing.  His stomach wall is thickened, as is the intestinal wall.  There are pockets of fluid all around his belly that they can’t extract, unless they do a huge, invasive surgery (different than the surgery on his side).  And Billy might never recover from a surgery like that.  It’s a delicate, risky situation. 

It’s a tough road to walk, watching your brother battle cancer and infection and boredom in a hospital bed.  A couple of days ago, we had a really good time praying with Billy as a family.  We listened to Healer, and ended with one of Billy’s favorite Psalms—Psalm 46.

It’s a hard thing to stare cancer in the face and hold onto my faith at the same time.  It’s hard to know how to live when day in and day out, the doctors paint a grim picture.  Billy is making small steps forward, but he still has a nasty form of cancer that is medically incurable.  Sometimes, the journey still feels impossible. 

In the past, running has been a good outlet for me.  It’s a place I’ve prayed, thought about life, and fought with God.  And it’s a place where God has taught me things about life and about myself. 

Many of you know that about me, and you know that I’ve been fairly disciplined about running—in the past.  But it has been hard to run here.  In leaving, I feel like I’ll miss out.  But I’ve found a few new running partners (Bobby, Danny, and Rob).  We’ve gone out a couple of times, and it’s been good.  I hear it’s important to do some “normal” things in the middle of times like this, so I’m trying.  Danny, Bobby, and I are going for a run now…


  1. I love that you were all able to be together and to celebrate Will's bday. Love the presents, the heads on sticks. All of it! What a beautiful family that Will has to support and love him.
    Still praying, for peace, for wisdom, for strength, for healing.

    With much love,

    psalm 46 is one of my favorites as well.

  2. Pictures are great - the warrior in Will shows! Prayers and hugs and healing your way. <3

    I loved learning the middle name paradox~

  3. I booked a flight for Nov 5-7 to come out and visit. Just wanted to come see him! Hope all is well and thank you Michelle for all the undates. I know it must be hard, but you are a great blessing to me and all the people that love Will and can't be there!

  4. Glad you were able to celebrate. What a testimony to all at the hospital. Also glad to hear of the improvements. I am continuing to pray and won't let my guard down until God leads. I also added a special post for Will as well as another young man we are praying for at this time (titled Be Still). I think he will like it. ;)

    Much love and plenty of prayers continuing to surround all of you.

  5. We're so glad that everyone was there to help WIll celebrate his birtday. We're praying that there are many, many more birthdays to come and that this disease and the infection will be defeated. Keep up the fight, Will. We love you.

    The Patterson Family of Long Island, New York

  6. Please tell Bill that Case's KY family is praying too. He is on the prayer list at the Cathedral in Lexington and is prayed for daily, as he is in my prayers. I am so grateful that your family is so strong and amazing and that Bill is making such strong and faithful decisions. Blessings to all of you. Janey Wilson+

  7. I have added Billy and his family to my prayer list,


  9. This is an awesome birthday present. Thanks for sharing this story with all of us. We love Billy and you. Love you


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