Yesterday was a roller coaster. We began the day with Walter’s surgeon, fellow, and resident (we call them the entourage) coming in with fantastic news. His white count was normal. He was going to be discharged from the hospital! Happy dancing ensued.
Ten minutes later his surgeon came back in with the surgical pathology report. Walter’s tumor was cancerous. Although they feel they removed it all, he would need to see a medical oncologist specializing in GI cancers.
We took a deep breath and I went into my usual take-action mode. I sent two texts. One to our dear friend/GI doctor, the one that first found Walter’s tumor. Another to the President and Executive Director of The Wunderglo Foundation, my amazing friend, Becky Keller. Becky immediately reached out to the Cofounder and Director of the Wunder Project, Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz, an internationally renowned GI Oncologist, whom
I’ve had the honor of meeting and the pleasure of serving on the Wunderglo advisory board with for the last couple years. Heinz-Josef Lenz, M.D., FACP, is the Associate Director for Clinical Research and Co-Leader of the Gastrointestinal Cancers Program at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Lenz is Professor of Medicine and Preventive Medicine, Section Head of GI Oncology in the Division of Medical Oncology and Co-Director of the Colorectal Center at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. He’s a very big deal!!! And yes, Dr. Lenz just happens to be at USC, where we are! Patient’s come from all over the world to see Dr. Lenz. He’s the best of the best. And he was coming now to see Walter. Within minutes we had a consultation referral for Dr. Lenz to come across campus for a consult before we were to be discharged. Becky also sent me a link to a tremendous amount of information about the rare cancer Walter has been diagnosed with.
While I was setting up appointments and learning about rare GIST tumors, Walter had begun his daily routine (I’ve daily watched this for 29 years) of reading God’s Word. Every day. First thing. Before breakfast. Before coffee. Always first the Bible. He said it’s the food he needs to eat every day, the bread of life. Faithfully. He used to start at the book of Genesis, and read straight through to Revelation and start over. Over and over. A couple years ago I gave him the gift of a One Year Bible. It’s still the same Bible but has been arranged, by calendar date, to read the entire Bible once a year. Each day you read from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. So, while I’m busy making calls and texts, he’s reading. He said, “Diane. You need to hear this”. In his reading on May 16, yesterday, right after getting “the news “, here’s what was in the selection from Psalm 112: “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have NO FEAR!
We both just sat with our mouths hanging open. Oh, my goodness. What spectacular, comforting timing. Ten minutes after being given very bad news Walter reads “no fear of bad news!!!!” After he read it, while we’re rejoicing, my friend Becky, oblivious to what we were reading, was texting the words “no fear” to me. The comfort (and especially the timing) of that verse was beyond just comfort, it brought excitement and joy to see what was next. Incredible!
While waiting for Dr. Lenz, I printed out/read/highlighted information on the kind of tumor and cancer Walter was diagnosed with. We were ready. So here’s the breakdown from Dr. Lenz, as we understand it. Walter has a rare form of GI Cancer called a GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor). It’s very different than most other cancers, like colon or breast cancer and is not epithelial but is in soft tissue. These cancers are not staged 1-4 like colon or breast cancer. They are given a score of Low Risk, Intermediate Risk or High Risk, based on many elements. It’s a better diagnosis than colon cancer so that’s good. One part of the scoring is based on where in the peritoneal cavity the tumor is, higher being better. If it’s up near the stomach, that’s good, as low as the rectum not so good. Walter’s was as low as you can get without being rectal, in his sigmoid colon. Another part of the scoring is whether the tumor has invaded any other organs. Walter’s has invaded his colon. They also look at the lymph nodes; Walter’s was NOT in his lymph nodes. They also look for metastasis to other parts of the body. So far that looks good, but he will need a PET Scan to be certain. Then they look at the actual pathology of the tumor itself and that is also given a score. Based on all these factors, Walter is intermediate/high risk. So. Even though they believe they “got it all” because it’s an intermediate high risk, he will need chemo (pill form) for at least 5 years.
We ADORE Dr. Lenz. He’s the best. But here’s what his recommendation is. He has a very close friend that is a GI Oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. Yes, near us in Arizona! And not only is he a great (according to Dr. Lenz) internationally acclaimed “GI” Oncologist he is a leading specialist in rare GIST tumors. And he’s in Arizona!!! Near us!!! And given Walter will need treatment for at least 5 years, WOW!! No wonder God told us not to fear bad news. He had already provided.
Consider everything that fell into place and join us in praising God. According to Dr. Lenz, we should have already known this was cancer. It was not a surprise yesterday. It was only a surprise to us. We believe God revealed it in the best time for us, after surgery, after the bowel leak complication, after the infection healed, and OBVIOUSLY, on the date, Walter would read “don’t be afraid of bad news!!!” Also, consider how easy it was for us to be in the hospital when Walter needed to see Dr. Lenz. We had not gone home. We were right there. Also, consider that about 4 years ago I agreed to join the advisory board of The Wunderglo Foundation because of my hereditary cancer advocacy. I didn’t know then how instrumental that would be in getting Walter the AMAZING treatments he’s had in the last month and especially the last week. We didn’t know then that Walter has a rare tumor, but they can now see it on a previous CT scan from exactly 4 years ago, right about the time I joined Wunderglo. We didn’t know. GOD DID. Here we go again with my mom’s favorite verse, “ and we know that God works ALL things together for good, for those that love Him and are called according to his purpose.” Wow!!!!
Little side story. While we were rejoicing about the Bible verse, our favorite housekeeper, Rico, came in. He asked what we were excited about. We told him the new story. We began sharing our mutual joy in the Lord. Walter told him about our incredible encounter with the other housekeeper Sunday and told him how this man was deeply hurting. Turns out Rico has known him for years, they went to elementary school together. He’s going to reach out to him. Wow!!!
We spent a very restful night with family last night. We both got much needed sleep. Thank you, Mama Lilly, for giving us a home away from home. We love you so much. We are headed home tomorrow. With hearts full of joy and comfort. We ARE NOT AFRAID !!