This is an ode to the joy and pleasure of dealing with a huge company in this day and age. When Grady died, he had a credit card that also had Gorman listed on it. He called this cc company in an attempt to inform them of Grady’s death, pay the balance and close the account. You all can guess where this went: he was transferred from one person to another and another and then the call was dropped. My husband has very little patience in this type situation and said, “To heck with them” or something close to that. So I called the company and had a similar experience. In all this, somehow someone decided that it was Gorman who was deceased. Furthermore, they would be reporting this to the credit reporting agencies. I protested vigorously, telling her she could not do that but she said that was their policy. !#*!#+*! Upon the advice of our attorney, we went to our Social Security office and requested a letter stating that Gorman is not deceased. The lady who helped us was very nice and stated she had never dealt with that particular request but she did indeed give us the letter. Gorman thinks this is hilariously funny and wants everyone to know that “According to Social Security Administration Records, John Gorman Schaffer is currently alive as of 7/10/2015”!
Are there any sweeter words than “There’s no evidence of cancer”? Not to Gorman and me! That’s what Dr. Nabors told us this morning after reviewing the MRI. We talked some about whether Gorman should continue with the Avastin infusions or not. We were so thrilled and relieved that it was a little hard to focus on what was being said, only that he and Dr. Meshad, the oncologist here would discuss it and maybe move the infusions from every three weeks to every four weeks. Dr. Nabors talked about the advantages of giving the body a break from all the chemicals, although Gorman has tolerated it just fine with no side effects. Then he said there was something to be said for continuing on with what seems to be working. His final words were, “Mr. Schaffer, you are part of a very small group of patients who make it this far and we just don’t know the best way to proceed”. Gorman and I thank God that he is included in that small group and lean toward not rocking the boat but we’ll see.
So we are home, exhausted and road-weary but overflowing with thankfulness.
I think I said before that if you don’t hear from us, that’s a good thing because all is well and we are busy having fun but that is not the case this time.
Most of you who read our blog already know that our younger son, Grady, died in March. He was only 32 years old. We have been surrounded by the love, care and prayers of friends and family. I have heard it said, when someone loses a child that having a second one never takes the place of the one who is gone. That is certainly true but it has been a blessing beyond belief to have our older son, Charlie and his precious wife, Kathleen, at our side, not to mention our six-year-old grandson, Ryland. Whenever it gets gloomy around here, we focus on them and thank God for them. We had Grady’s remains cremated and his service (it’s still hard for me to say funeral) was held at our church here in Fairhope, St. James Episcopal Church. We initially said no to a service, then said it would be family only and finally decided a regular service might help us and, sure enough, it did. It was comforting to plan the service with our pastor, Don Smith (another blessing to us) and have our former pastor from Jackson, MS, Chuck Poole,come to be with us and deliver the homily. Chuck really knew Grady and beautifully summed up Grady’s short life. Grady’s ashes have now been placed in our church columbarium, right next to the space reserved for Gorman and me. Charlie and Kathleen have a portion of the ashes and will go to Colorado to scatter them on the Rocky Mountains since Grady loved those mountains and moved there so he could mountain-bike and hike.
Throughout all this, Gorman and I give all the praise and glory to our Lord God, who has walked with us every step of the way, has covered us with His peace, that peace that surpasses all understanding and has given us the strength for each day.
And now we come to Gorman’s next MRI. So much has happened in the past three months that it’s hard to believe that it’s time for the next one which will be next Monday, June 1, at UAB in Birmingham. It has been three years and four months since his diagnosis. All his doctors are amazed. We hope we get another three months. As always we thank you all for your prayers. We feel those prayers and they keep us going.
Last week we visited Charlie, Kathleen and Ryland in Santa Monica and had a wonderful time. We stayed at Loew’s Santa Monica Beach Hotel. Some of our friends will remember that is where we had the rehearsal dinner almost eight years ago when Charlie and Kathleen got married so it was pretty neat to be there again. The photo below is a view of the beach from our room. Also there is a photo of Gorman and Ry playing checkers in our room. We celebrated Charlie’s 43rd birthday with dinner at the Saddle Peak Lodge, a lovely restaurant up in the Santa Monica mountains (see my three guys below). I picked up Ryland from kindergarten every day and took him to get an ice cream sundae. Gorman and Charlie went out to the Northern Trust Open golf tournament one day and saw some big-name golfers. An exhibit of many paintings from The Hudson River School was showing at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art so I drug everybody out to see that and it truly was stunning. That city is amazing in all that it has to offer. Also the weather was delightful, sunny and about 70 degrees every day. OK, that’s the end of the travelogue but it was good to be distracted and be with loved ones the week before the MRI.
Today we had an appointment with the oncologist, Mike Meshad. When he walked in the room he said, “Gorman, you are amazing! We shouldn’t be having this conversation; you shouldn’t be alive!” Well, that was a little unnerving but we got his point. The fact that Gorman was diagnosed with Stage Four Glioblastoma three years plus one month ago and is still here is really unusual. We discussed whether to continue with the Avastin infusions. Mike said they have no studies of patients this far out and he couldn’t make a recommendation one way or the other so we all decided there was no need to stop what seems to be working! It doesn’t make him sick and he has had no side effects. If nothing else, the fact that he’s getting some kind of treatment helps him psychologically and that’s worth a lot.
So we will keep thanking God for every day that He gives us and, as Gorman says, go forth hopefully and gratefully.
Yet another “normal” MRI! Thanks be to God! More later but wanted to let everyone know our good news, three years and counting! Thank you for your prayers.
Gorman and I are enjoying these cool and sunny days; just hanging out together, running errands and, as always, thanking God for every day he gives us. Last week we walked out on the Fairhope Pier, overlooking Mobile Bay. Right now Fairhope is filled with tulips and daffodils in all the beds along the streets.
Next we have a trip to Santa Monica to visit our California children and then Gorman’s MRI is scheduled for Mon., Feb. 23. He had been having some headaches, which is frightening but we think they were sinus and they have subsided.
We are so focused on Gorman’s brain but it occurs to me that my brain is something of a problem also. I have to work at not letting myself anticipate the worst and get bogged down in despair, dwelling on all the “what ifs”. Here’s what I read recently in Jesus Calling, my daily devotional: “Follow me one step at a time….you see huge mountains looming, and you start wondering how you’re going to scale those heights. Meanwhile, because you’re not looking where you’re going, you stumble on the easy path where I’m leading you now….But you don’t know what will happen today, much less tomorrow . Our path may take an abrupt turn, leading you away from those mountains. There may be an easier way up the mountains than is visible from this distance. If I do lead you up the cliffs, I will equip you thoroughly for the strenuous climb……walk by faith, not by sight.” Such truth and such comforting words. Then I climb out of despair until the next time.
Thanks to each and every one of you for your prayers in advance. My next post will probably be the MRI results
Today has been a sad day for us. Mark Wilson died earlier this week and today we attended his funeral. He was our dear friend and pastor at St. James Episcopal Church here in Fairhope. When Gorman has his first surgery, it was Mark, along with Gorman’s sister and another good friend, who sat with me for many hours at Mobile Infirmary, waiting and waiting for the results. He was a gift from God and helped us through some dark hours and we will miss him. He was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, after Gorman’s diagnosis (I think of everything in terms of “before Gorman’s diagnosis; after Gorman’s diagnosis”). He had surgery and treatment and we thought he was just fine but several months ago it came back. He was only 63. A friend once said to me, “Why does God have to take the good guys?” I can’t help but think about that. I had expected Mark to preside over Gorman’s funeral. He wasn’t supposed to go first. With all the mean and hateful people in this world, why Mark? Why does Gorman have brain cancer? I know we’re not supposed to think this way and my pea brain cannot fix my logic on this. I want to say that I will have some questions for God when I get to heaven but what I really want is for God to fill me with His peace so that I don’t feel the need to understand every single thing on this earth.
On this Christmas day, Gorman and I are especially grateful for another Christmas together, one we never thought we have! Our younger son, Grady, is here with us and he is so much fun. He and Gorman are always either building a fire or in the kitchen cooking. Am I lucky or what?
Gorman is having ongoing sinus problems. Probably a year ago, one of his MRI reports mentioned that, by the way, one of his sinus cavities was totally blocked and that has continued. He has taken several rounds of antibiotics but never quite gets well. I dragged him to an ENT doc, who did a CT scan and highly recommended surgery to clean out his sinuses. Here’s the kicker: as long as Gorman takes these Avastin infusions, he cannot have any kind of surgery. Avastin thins the blood and, to quote our oncologist, he would “bleed like a stuck pig”. He started Avastin 11 months ago and will probably have to stop taking it before long but we don’t even bring that up because he, naturally, likes feeling that he’s doing something to keep the cancer at bay. After Avastin, there’s nothing else left to take. Other than sinus problems, Gorman feels great so we will just press on for the time being and thank God for every single day. Merry Christmas to each and every one of you, our prayer warriors and support group!
When I spoke with the oncologist this morning, he said the radiologist who is to read Gorman’s MRI is off today; however, he looked at it and said he could see no change at all since the last one. There will be a report from the radiologist at some point but I think we can call this one clear!
As we had anticipated, we had to go through last night not knowing the results of the MRI. A year ago, we would have been jumping out of our skins over that but we had prayed about it, asking God for His peace to cover us and we did just fine, actually had a nice evening and we both slept, by the grace of God!
Thanks to each and every one of you for your prayers. Gorman and I do feel those prayers and live each day knowing that we are not alone, that our Lord is walking with us every step of the way and our friends surround us. Thanks be to God!