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.