Don and Jo Ann are precious dear friends. They are members of my Sunday School Class, and have been examples of strength, courage, and faith as they once again journey down the cancer path.
Several years ago, I remember that JoAnn had breast cancer. It was found early. She had a lumpectomy and was treated with medication to prevent its return. Her cancer has been in remission since then. In fact, she may be classified as cured.
Don and Jo Ann watched a grandson, Sage, fight and lose his battle with rhabdomyosarcoma, a fast growing cancer in children. At the age of 12, Sage was told, after enduring cancer treatment, that nothing more could be done. During his remaining two or three weeks of life, Sage showed strength, faith, and grace that could only have come from God. Yes, Sage may have lost his battle with cancer, but he was victorious in the way he faced death, inspiring everyone who knew him.
Don has battled Non Hodgkins Lymphoma three times. This form of cancer is treatable, but not curable. Don has been a patient at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, and the two of them have made countless trips there.
Lymphoma first appeared in 1997, in a testicle. It was small, the size of a BB. In 2003 it returned in the form of a volleyball sized mass around Don’s right kidney. After four chemo treatments, this cancer when into remission. Don was placed in a stem cell transplant clinical study. His blood was enriched with neuprogin injections and then his own stem cells were harvested. After another procedure in which they ‘burned him out’, he was reinjected with his own stem cells.
Don’s remission this time lasted only 3 1/2 years, and returned in Nov, 2007, in his lower abdomen. Once again the cancer has been put in remission by chemo treatments, and there is a possibility that he could have another stem cell treatment. This time, however, the cells would come from Don’s brother who is a perfect match. Don may decide to wait on the stem cell treatment, because hopefully this cancer treatment will keep the lymphoma in remission for a long time, and there is always a danger of rejection with stem cells even from a perfect match.
Don has one more chemo treatment to take which is basically an ‘insurance’ treatment, just in case the scans missed some malignant cells.
The challenge for Don with this recurrance is that his body is not recovering from the chemo treatments as quickly as it once did. His blood counts and platelet counts have been very low, and they have been very slow to come up. Normal platelet counts are from 140,000 to 440,000. Don’s counts have been as low as 4,000. He has had a total of 29 transfusions of blood and platelets since Dec, 2007. In fact, his last treatment is being delayed due to low platelet counts.
It is so amazing to watch the faith and courage they both display to all of us. Even when blood tests don’t come back with the news they hoped for and prayed for, they know that God has all things in His hands, and they rest in His Peace and Comfort. Oh, yes. They have had a wonderful sense of humor about all of this also. I know that has helped.
Please pray for Don. Pray that his current state of remission will last, that his cancer will not return. Pray that his blood counts and platelet counts will come up so that he can have his last chemo treatment.
Pray for Jo Ann. She is truly an amazing person and I consider it an honor to know her. I know that she has times of exhaustion, frustration, and fear, but she is so very in tune with God that His Strength and His Grace meets her needs day by day. Those of you who have been caregivers know what she needs and you know how to pray for her. Please do so.