Monday, October 18, 2010

Uncertainty and Hope

I spent the night in Billy’s room last night (Saturday night), and I woke up this morning to a doctor’s voice.  There were two of them, standing beside Billy’s bed, and my brain started working just in time to hear, “Your infection is getting better.”  Better?  The infection on his left side?  The one that the doctors doubted would respond to the antibiotics?  I was excited to hear it!  But how could I have missed the entire conversation? 

In the face of cancer, sickness, and the monotony of the hospital room, it has been difficult to remain hopeful.  On Friday morning, I was in the room when the doctors made their rounds.  The surgeon—the one who reminds us of Matt Damon and speaks with the confidence of Brad Pitt—told us that Billy’s infection seemed to be improving, despite what he had originally thought…but he still recommended surgery.  “Besides the infection,” he said, “there’s still the issue of cancer.  Even if you heal from this infection, I don’t know that you’ll ever be able to take more chemo.  And the kind of cancer you have remains incurable…”

It was a bleak picture, and I’m not sure how Billy took it.  He understands what’s going on.  Some of the doctors have asked him to repeat back to them what he knows of his condition.  He knows.  It’s a tough situation. 

I keep thinking about Anticancer (David Servan-Schreiber), the book I started reading.  The author talks about statistics and prognoses. 

In nature, the median is an abstraction, a “law” that the human mind tries to impose on the diverse profusion of individual cases. 

He’s right.  I think we use statistics to try to explain and predict the world around us.  But we can’t control it, and we can’t really predict it.  The doctors have certain ideas about how long Billy may or may not have.  But they don’t really know.  All we know is what they’ve seen, and they’ve seen gastric cancer to be a really nasty diagnosis.  But they’ve rarely seen it like this in someone so young.  (Billy turned 26 on Thursday.)

It’s hard to be in the hospital, not really knowing how long we’ll be here.  In a way, I hope we’re here for a long time.  I treasure every day I get to spend with my brother.  But I don’t want to be here for a long time.  I want him to heal quickly, and to be able to move forward in life.  He’s a Blackhawk pilot for the army, and he has yet to fly a single mission! 

When I think about what the doctors keep saying, it makes me sad.  When I get tired and weary, and I spend time with someone who makes my heart feel safe, I cry.  It’s not supposed to be like this! 

At the same time, I look forward to every day I get to spend with my brother… 

He seemed down yesterday, even after having a surprise visit from two of our cousins (Justin and Katie), and my mom’s brother (Uncle Jack) and sister (Aunt Robin).  He was pensive, sitting in a room full of people, but not really involved in the conversations.  After a while, people decided to go get dinner, and we planned to watch a movie as a family.  While people waited to start the movie, I went in to check on Billy—and we had a great time hanging out together.

We got to have a ‘Chelle-and-Billy conversation…just like the ones that started in high school when we’d ride to school together.  During my senior year, I had gotten a car (the same one with the missing speaker cover).  I had promised him that if he’d scrape my windows and warm the car up, I’d give him a ride to school.  It was a great deal…I didn’t have to spend much time in the cold at all, and he got a ride (5 minutes in the snow, getting the car ready, instead of 30 minutes walking to school in the freezing cold).  Those shared rides to school didn’t seem like anything big at first, but they were the beginning of something deep and special.

Many people see my confidence.  They think I’ve got things pretty well organized, and I don’t seem to ask for help all that much.  There aren’t many people who know the places where I feel weak.  But Billy does.  He makes it safe for me to share my heart with him—and I think I do the same for him.

I will always treasure the ‘Chelle-and-Billy conversation we had on Saturday night, just as I’ll treasure all the ones we’ve gotten to have over the years.  My heart feels full, because I know how much he loves me, and I see how much he trusts me.  My relationship with my brother is evidence of time well-spent, time just being together, talking about life, and being willing to share when the deeper stuff comes up.  Billy said things in that conversation that I’ll remember for the rest of my life—things that only he could say to me as a brother who knows me well. 

My relationship with Billy is incredibly special to me, and I can’t imagine a world where I can’t share life with him.  My heart breaks when the doctors talk about prognosis.  How is it possible that Billy might not be there?

The reality, though, is that we don’t know how much time Billy has left.  It could be very short, but it could be years.  We follow a God who does impossible things (Genesis 14:18, Luke 1:37), and I’m hoping for a miracle. 

But Billy needs help hoping too.  He has been more pensive these days, and I don’t know everything he’s thinking about.  But I do know that visits from friends and family provide things that medicine cannot.  I got to ask him about his birthday, and the best part for him was getting to see people he loves.  He really enjoys visitors!  So feel free to keep coming by.  We enjoy getting to spend time with you. :-)

Things to Pray For
  • The “distension” (swelling) in Billy’s stomach to go down
  • The infection in Billy’s side to be healed
  • Pain in Billy’s belly to decrease and disappear
  • Billy’s immune system to fight against the cancer…and win!
  • Tenacious hope—for Billy and for all of us

A note on visitors…It is important for visitors to be healthy!  Billy’s immune system isn’t as robust as it used to be, so he needs us to look out for him.  That means washing our hands before we touch him or hand him anything.  And it means that if you’ve had a flu shot, you probably shouldn’t stop by for a little while.  


  1. Hey Michelle and Family!

    Your United Soul Ensemble Family at Penn State is praying for you! Keep the Faith and be encouraged. It makes my heart happy to see how strong you are remaining in this situation, it is truly inspiring. I personally pray for your added strength mentally, physically, emotionally, and above all spiritually! We love you Michelle and I will take these prayer request to our intecessory prayer group. Love you much!

    Always praying,
    Eric Williamson

  2. god bless you Billy keep faith the lord will guide you.Your familyand friends is your support and your courage is amazing.I feel truly blessed just being able to pray for you to give just alittle piece of something back that you have given to all of us. You have served our country so bravely and now you are fighting for your life as we watch helplessly. i wish i could do something to help you have my prayers Billy for all of your family friends but that seems so little. We in Manchester,Tn ar pulling for you i feel as i know you someday i hope to have the privilege of meeting you and your wonderful family.

  3. What a tremendous blessing that the two of you have each other! You have my prayers, and love. Please know that in the moments when hope is hard to find that we have it for you. It's okay to not be strong all of the time. That's why you have family. So that you can rely on each other and be in this together. May God's indescribable peace cover and comfort you all.

    with much love and abounding hope,

  4. Continuing to send healing wishes your way... so glad to see things are improving today.

  5. Blessed be God forever, blessed be His Holy Name. Lord, God, look upon your faithful servant, this oh so young American Hero and bestow upon him miracles of healing and hope, for as long as there is life, there is hope, for the everlasting life of God dwells within. Sending all my love, from the mother of an infantry soldier, Deb

  6. Hello Michele, Please tell your brother his courage has touched our hearts over here in The Netherlands; we're praying for him to get through this, get better. And for you too, sweetheart sister of braveheart.
    Thanks Deborah for showing us Billie and Michelle
    Lieve groeten en zegen
    Godeliva van Ariadone

  7. None of knows how much time we have left on this earth, and you're both so blessed to be able to share so many special moments together. As a friend said to me recently, quoting her dying nephew, "Death is part of life...don't be sad...make the most of every day and go gracefully to the next step."

  8. There are so many little things to be thankful for in this time of struggles. I can't begin to imagine the hurt you are feeling. I know I and many others on this blog go through the same emotions with you and feel so connected to you and your family, even though we are miles away. We long for that miracle for Billy. We won't give up that prayer. We will be praying for you in life group tonight. Thanks for keeping us posted. Linda(BVCOB)

  9. Michelle, I lost a daughter to cervical cancer 11 yrs ago and our police chaplains kept telling me when I'd ask the nurse how much longer does she have to suffer-and they told me it was in God's time-not our time. That kept me sane and I too had days with Michele that I wouldn't trade for anything. I am still praying for all of you and hope God's time for Billy is a lot later than my Michele's time was. Hers was only 8 months.

  10. Sending healing and strength prayers for both of you! xo

  11. Prayers for all of those issues are in progress. I wish I nhad a dollar for every time a medical expert told me that I wouldn't be able to: walk/run/see/move/live/etc etc etc...
    Don't sit in awe of the size of your opponent. And don't let others opinions dissuade you from fighting the good fight...
    When the entire army of Israel was in awe of Goliath, David refused to recognize his size and reputation, and said: "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine?" And told the giant, "I will cut off your head and feed your flesh to the crows." And that is what he did. There is great power in spoken words. Just speak them and you will believe them and put yourself in line for receiving God's blessings.

  12. Came over from Deb's blog; Billy is now on my prayer list.
    Cherish the time you have with him--there are many who leave their family in the morning and never get to see them again.
    I had time with my parents to say all we needed to say and laugh as well--I treasure that.
    And I hope for many many more days, weeks, months, years for you to share that with him.

    In Grace and Peace,

  13. I came over from Deb's blog to give you and your brother big virtual hugs from Maryland. I hope you can both stay strong, and I pray that Billy will be here for a very long time to come. Pam

  14. over from Deb's
    prayer said.

    peace to you in this time...

  15. Keeping you in my heart and in my prayers.
    Much love to you
    xx Michelle

  16. How do we go about coordinating stopping by? My biggest fear is impeding on your valuable family time.

  17. Hello Will and Michelle. Stopping by to leave some love and a lot of prayers. Praying for pain control, praying for a miracle. Sending all my love on the wings of a desert sparrow, Deb

  18. can find me on facebook and send me a message. Or you can send an email to Or you can just stop by.

  19. Hi Michelle and Cooter, I'm Kelsey's Grandma and have heard a lot of good things about you. I have put Cooter on several prayer lists. I'm praying for you for all the things you need. Lots of courage, strength, pain relief, and a fabulous cure. We all want to keep you around, your too good to let go. Know that you are loved and wanted Cooter.Some people never know that.Keep believing in God because he believes in you too. You will stay in my prayers.

  20. Praying daily and throughout each day. Glad to see the infection is subsiding. We serve a mighty God and every name must bow to His name, even cancer. What a blessing for you and your brother to have such a great relationship. It blessed me just reading about it.

    Much love!

  21. I just learned about you from the March of Honor facebook site. Sending (((Billy))) hugs and hoping he can beat this.


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