New Update on My Aunt

My uncle sent his regular update on my aunt late last week, so here it is. Thank you, as always, for remembering us in your intentions.


Greetings, all.

Apologies for having taken a little longer to send out an updated health report, but what with school having started for the boys and everything else, things have been pretty busy.

Where do things stand? Well, the cancer treatment seems to be going pretty well. I don’t like “not knowing” just how effective it is, but it’s good that B***** has had few problems with it. She occasionally feels nauseous, and I think at least part of that comes from the chemo. It’s administered in pill form, rather than intravenously, and is generally pretty easy to take but I do think it leaves her queasy once in a while. Fortunately, she can take medication to control this side effect. The doctor at the rehab facility says that the radiation causes some swelling of the brain tissue, and this probably also contributes to her feeling tired much of the time. The radiation finally caused some of her hair to come out, in areas where the irradiation was taking place. Rather than have a prominent bald spot on the top/side of her head, B***** decided to have all her hair cut off. This was an emotional thing for her and it was great that she had the assistance and support (crying together) of a dear woman who is part of the crew at the rehab center, and who herself is a cancer survivor. Now having a hair-free dome, B***** prefers to wear hats or scarves rather than opt for a wig. The guys and I think she looks good as-is, but she prefers to wear a hat when out of her room. Her friend (who held her hand through the haircut) gave B***** the pink baseball-style cap she’d worn during her own cancer treatment. Sometimes, B***** wears a USMC camo “boonie cover” that S*** gave her, but it fits a little loosely now that there’s no hair between it and her skin.

Also on the cancer treatment front: B***** has 6 more radiation treatments and then she’s done with that phase. They’ll take place Mon-Fri of this coming week and then the final one will be Mon, 9/24. She’ll continue her daily chemo regimen to that point and then it, too, will end. At that point, I understand they’ll wait a couple of weeks and then begin a modified chemo treatment, at a higher dose that is administered for five consecutive days every four weeks for a year. That’s about all I know for now on that front. We’ll provide additional information if/when we get it.

On the rehab front, B****’s walking continues to improve. Her balance is much better and she is getting steady and confident with transfers between bed, wheelchair, walker, etc. She has a nice, tight grip with her left hand, but sometimes it doesn’t like to let go. The rehab folks have some interesting procedures for working both her leg and her arm in ways that encourage her brain to resume control. It really is amazing. The other day, she flexed her toes and foot “up” while walking, which is a natural and proper way to walk. That happened “subconsciously”, and shows that the wiring is there, but B***** can’t yet make it happen consciously. She’s also become the terror of the pool. One of the activities they use for pool therapy is to play volleyball or basketball. I think the idea is that the patient concentrates on the “game” and the patient’s subconscious abilities take over and improve things like balance. However, B*****’s subconscious also includes all the moves she developed while playing with her brothers and our sons. For example, the therapists want her to stand and shoot baskets. B*****, unfortunately (?), can’t do that. Every one of her shots is a jump shot. Harder to block, I assume. It is supposedly quite a sight to see one of the therapists trying to keep B***** feet on the bottom of the pool, only to be herself launched the next time B***** takes a shot.

We believe that B***** may be discharged from the rehab facility just after her radiation treatments come to an end. At that point, she’ll be an outpatient, continuing to recover at home while returning to the rehab center a few times a week.

So, that gives everyone about 10 days to send those cards and pictures to her at the rehab center! Her room has been incredibly brightened by all the cards that you’ve sent, and by many pictures and drawings that have been included. Everyone who visits loves the view, and B***** is talking about making a collage to “capture” it for future enjoyment at home.

Don’t miss this great chance to be part of an awesome work of art! Send her a snapshot (or mug shot) of you and yours, hopefully having fun …

(address removed by me)

Do your thoughts, prayers, cards, and your love matter? You bet they do. I am deeply touched by the love that’s out there – it feels like a wave, just lifting us all up. As you pray for B***** and for us, so do we pray. Prayers of thanks, and prayers asking that God watches out for all of you, and that He fills your lives with things that count. Miracles happen. Please take a few moments to read the note below, which was recently sent to B*****. I’ve removed names, but the message is unchanged. Out of bad things, many wonderful things can come. Just work at it.

Love, (Uncle) B**** and the gang.


Dear B*****,

You have cancer.

I don’t dare say, “I know how you feel.” With my cancer diagnosis, I wasn’t married. I had no children. And anticipating the birth of my first grandchild was the farthest thought from my mind.

For me, I had the perception if invincibility which accompanies our twenties. Immortality? Of course, I’d survive – there was never a doubt in my mind… well, maybe a few….

I wavered hearing the insensitive radiologist blurt out, “We can’t treat you… the cancer’s all through your body.” Then as slowly and as inconspicuously as I could, I walked back to my room. Alone, as dignified as possible through the corridors of Hopkins wearing PJ’s, a long, blue velour robe, and white, bootie slippers. As I neared my room, I bypassed the nurses’ station, where so many healthy, young women – my own age – sat. Never before had a single room been such a private haven. Cancer… advanced… stage 4. I locked myself in the bathroom, sat on the floor and cried.

I wavered in the aftermath of chemo. The hour-long drive home from Hopkins with my sister, Lori, as my chauffer consisted of her driving while I wretched into a bucket. Dry-heaves took over long before we ever made it to Grove Point.. Once home, I laid on the bathroom floor – next to the toilet – for the next 72 hours, dragging my head up to the toilet when the next wave of nausea occurred.

I wavered the moment I arrived at work and told my colleagues I wasn’t feeling well… something wasn’t right. Relieved, they asked me – the fashion maven – if I realized I was wearing the same clothes as the day before. Tan suit with the peplum waist, green blouse, yep, same outfit – something was wrong. I turned around and drove the hour-long drive home. By the next morning, my right arm was useless. I couldn’t get out of bed. Lori got me dressed and into the car for the drive to Hopkins. I had a stroke.

I wavered when a 24/7 antibiotic regimen replaced the chemo. Somehow, with my reduced immunity, an infection occurred around my heart. The doctors believed the heart pumped off a piece of infection which traveled my blood stream to my brain, causing the stroke. Nothing like having your skull cut open to make you waver just a bit… guess you can relate!

And sometimes I wavered under sheer exhaustion… from physical therapy, from wondering if I’d recover the use of my right side, from not being self-sufficient.

Without me knowing, my life changed dramatically the first moment the word “cancer” was spoken. It’s a legacy I’ve carried in the near quarter of a century since then. Without cancer, I wouldn’t have met and married ___. Without cancer, our son’s birth would never have been so miraculous. Without cancer, how would I have learned the depth of my inner strength? … the strength and commitment of those around me? … the outpouring of love and generosity from complete strangers? Without cancer, I never could have joked that I was cured because God simply got tired of hearing all the prayers for me! Without cancer, I would have never been forced to evaluate my life and have such a fine gauge for determining priorities: health, family, happiness, balance.

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, wrote, “Life is a test. Life is a trust.” Beth, you are being tested… your family is being tested… your friends are being tested. And I firmly – devoutly – believe God sets nothing before us for which we lack the strength. But, life is also a trust. You’ve been entrusted with many gifts, including a loving husband (whose sense of humor will carry you through the rough spots!), four wonderful sons – and a daughter-in-law! – and now, a baby on the way! Our lives are a measure of what we do with the gifts entrusted to us, as well as a reflection of our growth as we endure the tests… And along the way, we may even get to experience a few miracles!

B*****, please find comfort in the prayers – from around the country – being said for you and your family… and let the outpouring of love and generosity surround you, amaze you, and give you strength!


(name withheld by [Uncle] B****)

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