The Grounding Things

August 8th marked the one year anniversary of Chris’s initial cancer diagnosis in Chicago. August 26th is engrained in my mind as the day of his first (of several) biopsies. I remember that day–or at least things about that day–vividly. We were hopeful. Energetic, even. Ready to start something concrete. Al was parked in the outpatient parking lot the whole time; she brought me coffee, she cleaned out her van, she played Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me loudly, windows open, as she waited. People were praying and checking in. People were waiting expectantly all morning. I felt the hum of the expectant.

The surgeon who attempted the initial biopsy was unable to get any tissue, as the tumor was fully on the outside of Chris’s stomach, not through the outer lining. He called me and told me the situation, but–so helpful!–another surgeon was there and ready to go ahead with a different procedure right away, to go in outside of the stomach and extract tissue. The second procedure was fruitful and the tissue was sent to the path lab, and even as I type I’m remembering what the surgeon said when he met me in the consult room afterwards: I’ve never seen anything like that before. The pathologist who was in the OR said the same.

At that point, the unknown–and the never-before-seen–still encompassed the possibility of hope. Oncological hope. The unrecognizable nature of Chris’s cancer meant that nothing was yet determined, and in that place we held hope.

I have a small green spiral notebook–my To-Do notebook I often keep in my bag–the kind that gets so beat up the cover gets fuzzy around the edges and eventually pulls from the spiral. The lined pages have water stains and blurred ink from leaky water bottles. I looked at this notebook recently and realized how much of a story it holds. Here’s how it starts, page one, and proceeds:

Biopsy Info: Aug 26, Arrive 6:30

Sunday Nights? Krosses + Ritches


Chore Chart

  • Brush Teeth
  • Get Dressed
  • Straighten Bed
  • Take out Food and Water Bottle
  • Homework
  • Backpack against Wall
  • Clean up Living Room/Dining Room
  • Brush Teeth
  • Water Bottle to Bed


-Pinky – Speech

-Heather Simpson

-John Wilson

-Christ Health


  • Citalopram
  • Dimatap?
  • Pads
  • wipes
  • phone case
  • screen protector
  • card holder
  • gaitor
  • goat cheese
  • Almond milk
  • Half n Half
  • Milk
  • hot dogs
  • string cheese
  • turkey
  • sliced cheese


Tom Alford – genetic testing?

Draining fluid





  • Talk to Charlyne
  • Text Katherine
  • Call Alan
  • 1:00 – Pinky Haircut
  • 2:30 – Jesse Haircut
  • Baby shower gift for Sarah?



  • Taize
  • Eucharist
  • Megan in December?
  • Brad bringing dinner
  • 5:00 – Running Club






7:00 – Healing Prayer Service


How long til diagnosis??

How much time do we have to wait?

  • Children’s?
  • Vandy
  • Emory
  • MDAnderson
  • don’t mail, drive it up
    • tissue
    • slides
    • blocks



SCHERF fund at CTK – Every Tuesday check is cut to drain fund

Investigate taxes – Brad and Emily? – and implications for Medicaid

*One person who has a grasp on our finances who we can delegate to – Jason?


Pure Oxycodone, 1-2 pills per dosage

  • watch your bowels
  • milk of mag + H2O


If the molecular lab doesn’t get an answer, what then??

How long til diagnosis? Should we take everything elsewhere? Vanderbilt?


Edema – all the time

Loss of appetite

Norco?? – liver

I. Feel. Helpless.

How can I not feel as helpless



Will he just keep swelling?

Nothing to do?


  • Schedule Kids’ checkups
  • Kids’ Dentist?
  • Puzzle Table
  • Draw names for X-mas
  • Trilogy Leather
  • New Swing
  • Puzzle mat
  • Pest Control
  • Flu Shots – Friday 8:30
  • 2:20 – Well visits J, M, A


Next Appt

  • Cough/Crackling
  • Scary to see progression
  • How will you know if Gleevec is working?
  • How could we know?
  • What symptoms are Gleevec or cancer?
  • What cancer symptoms should we expect?
  • No bile in vomiting
  • Esophagial Verises?
    • What should we be looking for?
    • What to do?
  • Palliative care therapy? Would it be helpful to have a PC consult?


  • Peanuts
  • OJ
  • Orange rolls (2)
  • Milk
  • Half n Half (2)
  • Yogurt
  • Cereal
  • Bananas
  • Bread (2)
  • Turkey
  • Cheese slices
  • Snacking veggies
  • Eggs
  • Shredded cheese
  • Berries
  • Salad?

I feel sick scanning through those days, returning. The unknown was drained of hope in such short order, as I watched Chris suffer and swell. Thanks be to God for the grounding things: phone case, goat cheese, turkey, Pinky haircut, new swing, Eucharist, Almond milk, bananas.

7 thoughts on “The Grounding Things

  1. John Wilson

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Sarah. The arc of the notebook entries is stunning. Much MUCH love from Wendy & me.

  2. Yvonne Green

    Your memories keep us all grounded in these very uncertain days. I pray for you as a single mom as often as the Lord brings you to mind. Many blessings on you and your sweet children today.

  3. Betsy Kopecky

    My Dear Sarah, in the looking back and remembering, may God bring assurance of His Presence with you all through this deep valley.
    I love you, Sarah 💙

  4. Wendy Williams

    Praying for you as you walk through the memories, that God will bring healing for you. It is a painful list to read and as I read it I grieve not only from the progression of Chris’s disease and the deterioration that it brought but also the reality of the injury that you shared with each new symptom and bad news. It is so much. Words seem like silly bandaids for such deep wounds, but I want you to know that you are loved and prayed for—that God will bind each wound and redeem your suffering as only he can. I am thankful with you, then and now, for things like grocery lists and haircuts. Sometimes it is those needful things that God uses to sustain us. Holding you in my heart and loving you.


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