Conversations

Friday morning we had a long conversation with our oncologist. It was one that we were both ready for, or, at least, one that we, together, knew we needed to have. Over these last few weeks, as I’ve watched Chris’s body stop working as it should, I’ve been so burdened by the thought that things must be much worse than we had anticipated them becoming. The changes in his body didn’t seem like mere expected symptoms of something amiss inside anymore. The changes had taken over his ability to move easily, to sit, to be awake, to even breathe well.

Communicating with Chris about my observations and thoughts has been difficult for me, in very large part because I’m not a student of medicine and the body, and I don’t know if what I’m observing and wondering is valid. Our interpersonal dynamic has been touchy in these matters. I’ve worked subtly while being here at the hospital, attempting to extract information from our various doctors, trying to ask questions that lead to some clear answers while not being too pointed in front of Chris. I’ve been afraid of his fear, and I’ve been afraid of his misunderstanding, and I’ve been afraid of him perceiving me as being controlling or belittling. I see the irony in that–trying to shape a conversation so that he hears something I think he may not understand is manipulative and controlling. I can’t say I’ve navigated the waters of this new territory between us well. Sometimes I have, and sometimes I haven’t. It’s been tricky and sensitive and painful in new ways. We have new insecurities, new grievances with one another.

But Thursday I read some things on the internet that I couldn’t hide from Chris–scary things pertaining to the symptoms he has. I’ve avoided Google this entire time, amazingly enough, but I had a term from the surgeon, and I decided to look it up. I had to understand more of what was going on with Chris. So I read some things, and I cried. He asked me why I was crying, and I had no choice but to tell him. It was scary prognosis stuff. Without an actual diagnosis, we haven’t been given any sort of prognosis in this process. Chris was still under the impression that he had a GIST (a slow-growing, very treatable) cancer. But that is not where we are. We both received this new information, in the quiet of our room, and purposed to talk extensively with Dr. Windsor the next morning.

I told Dr. Windsor what I had read. He didn’t rebuke me for googling, but he said that he is unwilling to attach a timeline to Chris, in part because we don’t yet know the cancer type, and in part because of his young age and relative health. But, yes, he said, Chris is very very sick; his cancer is very advanced. If Chris were 70, he said, we would be talking about hospice, not treatment. He doesn’t believe Chris’s cancer is curable.

But, he still has hope that treatment could meaningfully affect Chris’s life. If we can determine the best treatment. (Chris’s tissue sample is being studied now at MD Anderson, and is apparently marked as a priority.)

All of this information came to Chris like the initial news of his cancer: it was shocking, painful, so very heavy. It has come to me in the same way, but more gradually and over a longer stretch of time. The news is difficult even to call news, because there are still no real answers. But the reality of Chris’s present health and the danger he is in is much more clear to us now, and mutually understood. I admit that a certain burden has been lifted from me: the burden of quietly bearing something so heavy apart from Chris and without his knowledge. Now we, together, are living these days, one at a time, in light of this extremely hard reality.

Our conversation with Dr. Windsor was not our only conversation on Friday. We got to spend time getting to know our beloved Dr. Jijelava, the Georgian hospitalist who “continues to delight” Chris. He shares with Chris a love of Orthodox iconography and has offered such kindness and hospitality to us here. We got to know our nurse Jennifer a bit, and enjoyed her company throughout the day. Our dear friend Riley came to be with Chris Friday afternoon when I went home to see the kids, and Father Michael even came by to serve the Eucharist. Chris, Riley, and Michael had sweet time together that afternoon.

There was, of course, the difficult conversation that Chris had with his parents over the phone. It felt, he said, like that first call he made to them from Chicago in August when he had a CT scan for what he suspected was appendicitis. A new grief has broken over everyone.

Conversations are needed still with our children. How do we talk about with them something we can hardly explain in any concrete terms? How do we dignify their personhood by keeping them in the light of the truth, while considering their youth and the toll of anxiety? We need wisdom.

Today we read Hebrews 11 and 12 together, about the sanctifying, merciful discipline of God towards his true sons and daughters; about the cloud of witnesses, the saints, who endured mocking, scourging, imprisonment, and death for the sake of being resurrected to a better life, those of whom the world was not worthy; about Esau, who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup–his precious inheritance for such a temporal hunger and relief. Father, hear us now: we are no better than Esau, but we do not want to sell our birthright for a bowl of soup. Give us the courage and endurance to walk in the way you have set before us, to a glorious end. Lead us closely, good Shepherd, and kindly.

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  25. Laura Leonard

    Sarah, you, Chris and the kids are never far from my heart and my mind. I’m praying for you all throughout each day <3

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  26. Kathryn McQuaid

    Sarah, I’ve been thinking about you and praying for you all so much the last week or so since I heard what you guys are going through. I’m so sorry. This is just awful. I will continue to pray.

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  27. Micah Thompson

    This news is so heavy, Sarah. We are continuing to lift you and Chris and your family up in prayer. We love you all and are still asking for a miracle for Chris.
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  28. Jeanette Prisk

    Love & prayers from Terry & Jeanette for whole family.

    8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
    then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
    9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
    May this scripture come to life in your life my friends – hang onto hope! Our God neither slumbers nor sleeps. He is seated at the right hand of the Father hearing our prayers & fighting for you.
    We may not know the outcome but we know the One who comes out for You❤️🙏

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  29. Allison Russell Shaw

    Sarah, Praying Isaiah 26:3 over you and yours. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” While it remains mysterious to me that we can have earthly peace amidst such heaviness, I hold fast to the hope that we can. My husband and I have been and will continue to pray for you, your marriage, your children, your hope and your peace. Much love, Allison (Russell) Shaw

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  30. Anonymous

    Sarah and Chris~
    I pray that you experience the burdens shared, the family of God joining you on many levels to hold you up. May our compassionate Father be close by each of you today.
    With love~ Sue Haack

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  31. Peirce Baehr

    Oh Sarah and Chris! I wish we were close and could help. Praying for God’s peace and strength, and for the local support you need through this valley.

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  32. Hailey Kingsley

    Praying for you all. Hurting to see/hear you hurting. Thank you for continuing to share with us, it cannot be easy to put it into words. Praying specifically for the nights (having had hospital stays ourselves, we know how tormenting the nights are). Not only is there a physical battle, but a mental/emotional/spiritual one as well. Praying.

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  33. Erin Francisco

    Praying for wisdom, comfort and an ever growing knowledge and experience of Gods presence and love, sweet friend.

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  34. Sara Baugh

    Lord, grant Sarah and Chris a special sense of your nearness to them. Hold them is Your loving hands and Your unsleeping care.
    I am praying continually for you both and your family.

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  35. John Wilson

    Sarah, this is very hard news. Thank you for sharing it with us. To have more clarity at last is good even as it is terribly painful. Much love.
    John & Wendy

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  36. Anonymous

    Oh mighty God and Father, I ask that you will make a way in this wilderness as you’ve done in the past. Remember these your servants Chris and Sarah and their precious children. Open the floodgates of healing for them. Oh Holy God with just one touch of your healing hand we beg you to restore and bring healing on your wings of hope.
    Our small group inMacon Ga will continue to pray.

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  37. Betsy Kopecky

    Dear Sarah,
    Prayer, prayer, and more prayer.
    I had a mentor- friend….she is with the Lord now.
    She faced many deep, deep trials. She would often look at me and say…”The Lord knows.”
    May that declaration bring comfort and help.
    He is near …..love to you and Chris ❤
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  38. Anonymous

    God’s blessings to both of you and may he hold your children in His embrace.
    Prayers continue.
    Your Mom’s friend, Mary.

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  39. Anonymous

    Loving Heavenly Father,
    Hold Chris and Sarah closely. Through your Spirit supply all they need each moment of each day…strength, comfort, courage, wisdom, peace that passes understanding.

    Our hearts and prayers are with you.
    Aunt April and Uncle Vic

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