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As I have said before, no news from us is good news. After Gorman’s last MRI in July, we hit the road and have been traveling so much that I’m afraid I have neglected this blog.
In August, we flew to Montreal, rented a car and spent some time in the Quebec countryside, then drove to Vermont, where we celebrated our 45th anniversary, thanking God that we still have each other after 45 years! Then we had our supper club at our home, which was fun because we felt just like regular people doing regular things.
In October we drove to Atlanta to spend a couple of nights visiting with Charlie, our son from California who was doing some catering business there and we celebrated Gorman’s 70th birthday, quite a cause for celebration. Two years and nine months ago, we never thought we would get to celebrate this birthday! We then flew to Boston for a long weekend, then boarded a cruise ship for a 10-day cruise through Nova Scotia and Canada. The leaves were beautiful and we had a grand time; even had a butler while on the ship. I could get used to that!
In September we got a phone call that our younger son, Grady, was in a terrible car accident. We flew out to Ft. Collins, CO to be with him for a few days. The photos of his car made my heart stop. Praise God, he is doing just fine, which is a true miracle. I will have to admit that, for about one day, I walked around saying, “Really, God? How much more do you think we can handle?” but after much prayer I got over myself. I know that’s not how life works. And what really happened was that our Lord was with us through that ordeal, just as He has been with us through Gorman’s illness. Gorman and I both had that sure sense that we were not alone and sure enough, God gave us strength and courage. There is a hymn/canticle that we sing at church called “The First Song of Isaiah” and the words are straight out of Isaiah 12, “Surely it is God who saves me. I will trust in Him and not be afraid for the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense and He will be my savior”. Gorman and I both find much comfort there and I go around singing it to myself. It’s especially comforting when I am anxious or afraid.
Speaking of which, Gorman has an MRI tomorrow. This is his routine, every-three-month MRI and we have no reason for concern but these MRIs are always scary. Because it is scheduled for afternoon, we probably won’t have the results until Thursday. Tomorrow night I’ll be singing to myself “The First Song of Isaiah”.
Yesterday we met with our oncologist, Mike Meshad. He had talked with Dr. Nabors, UAB neuro-oncologist, and had seen last week’s MRI. Usually he’s very friendly but we’ve never seen him so effusive and upbeat. He walked in the room and said, “I know you two are thrilled!” and then, “Looks like Gorman is going to be around for a while”. Apparently he had not anticipated a clear MRI. At two and one-half years out, this seems to be quite a milestone.
Last week when we met with Dr. Nabors, he suggested that Gorman begin receiving the Avastin infusion every three weeks, as opposed to two; get another MRI in three months and then go to every four weeks for the infusion and eventually stop it altogether. When I asked what medicine would come after that, he said, “There’s nothing after that. We don’t get too many patients who have made it this far”. I immediately told him it was because of prayers.
I have given much thought to that conversation with Dr. Nabors and my comment. I don’t know what to say about someone who has prayed for healing or for remission and didn’t get it. I don’t know what to say to my friend whose daughter died with a brain tumor. Certainly we all prayed for her. All I can say is that I have known for sure, throughout this cancer journey, that God has been with me every minute of every day. I am not a brave person; He has given me strength. There have been times, oh so many times, when I was scared to death and He comforted me and filled me with peace. And I know without a doubt if Gorman’s cancer returns, God will be with us and see us through it. Someone said the basic religious principle is that God isn’t there to take away our suffering or our pain but to fill it with His presence. He has done that for Gorman and me.
It’s so much fun sharing with all of you these positive comments from our doctors. We are so encouraged and it feels good to spread good news. But please keep us in your prayers.
Gorman’s MRI was perfectly clear! Thanks to every single one of you who prayed for us. More later ………
Two weeks ago we flew to Colorado to visit our younger son, Grady, who lives in Ft. Collins. It’s such a nice city with the mountains in the background; warm temperatures but no humidity which makes it so pleasant. On a beautiful sunny Saturday we met our guide and went fly-fishing on the Poudre River. We drove up in the mountains where the river was so clear and really moving fast. There were loads of white-water rafters out there too. Gorman and Grady caught lots of brown trout and rainbow trout. It’s catch and release in Colorado but they had fun. Monday we drove into Denver to see the Dale Chihuly outdoor glass exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens and that was fabulous. We had seen his amazing glass pieces before but never these large architectural pieces mixed in among the plants and trees of a garden. It was amazing. For anyone who’s interested, go to ChihulyInDenver.com.
And now the MRI is looming. It has been a lovely three months since the last clear one and we have enjoyed every single day, especially the regular ordinary ones where we do nothing special but just go to breakfast, say our prayers, read, cook, work in the yard, take a drive. Those days are a treasure. But Sunday afternoon we will drive to Birmingham. Gorman’s MRI is scheduled at UAB Monday (July 14) at 9:30 and then we meet with Dr. Nabors at 11:00 to hear the results. Of course, we are praying for a clear MRI but also for the peace that God gives us, that peace that surpasses all understanding that will see us through, no matter what the future holds.
All it takes is a clear MRI and the Schaffers hit the road! I realize it’s been more than a month since my last post and that’s no way for you to keep up with Gorman, is it? Sorry but we’ve been too busy having fun.
Last month we made a trip to Galveston and Houston to visit some good friends. This was one trip we had long talked about so after Gorman’s MRI, we headed west.
Three days before we were to leave for Maine, we were sitting in our living room one night when the door bell rang. When I went to the door, there stood Charlie and Ryland (son and grandson from CA). Amidst joyful tears and smiles, I kept repeating all evening, “I can’t believe you’re here”. Gorman was in on the surprise and he had a hard time keeping it secret but he never spilled the beans or “dropped the beans” as our little five-year-old grandson said. It was a wonderful and quick visit.
Next we went to Maine for 10 days. We spent three days in Cape Elizabeth and Kennebunkport. Yes, we drove past the summer home of former Pres. George H.W. and Barbara Bush and took photos with all the other tourists. Then we read in the paper that they were in residence, celebrating their birthdays with family. We spent a week in Booth Bay Harbor, where we had rented a condo so that Gorman could cook, of course. We ate lobster in some form almost everyday and also ate lots of blueberries. The weather was erratic with a sunny day and 82 degrees to rain and a high of 54 but it was mostly pleasant and we so enjoyed it.
We still have ahead of us a trip to Colorado to visit our younger son, Grady. Then the next MRI is July 14.
We are fortunate in our small town of 16,000 people to have a very good independent bookstore. It is in the heart of downtown Fairhope and adds a lot to our community with author appearances and other events. They recently selected a book to be a sort of “One Town, One Book”, encouraging everyone to read this book and then they brought in the author for a discussion and book-signing. The book was “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry”. Spoiler alert: I am about to drop the beans. It is a lovely book, really an ode to a bookstore and I was reading along and enjoying it, liking the characters. Then right toward the end the protagonist is diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme. This is Gorman’s exact diagnosis. Needless to say, the man in the book died. I felt as if I’d been punched in the stomach. It is such a rare cancer that I’m sure our bookstore didn’t realize that there are three men in our area with this form of cancer. As we are approaching 29 months since Gorman’s surgery, I like to think that we’ve developed some resilience and that we’re not nearly as fragile as in the beginning so it surprised me how much that book upset me and stayed on my mind for days. Of course I’ve recovered and moved on, knowing that this is life and these things will happen. God is so good. He holds our hands and walks with us through the dark times and I am reminded of all our many blessings, including the gift of 29 months. But I can’t help but pray for more.
Since Gorman’s clear MRI (thanks be to God) we took a little trip to Hilton Head Island, SC, one of our favorite places. We rented a condo overlooking the bay and marshes, lovely. We walked down the road to breakfast every morning. I do think that is Gorman’s favorite thing to do. Folks around Fairhope know that we go to breakfast every morning and read the paper. No big food fest, usually just toast and coffee but it’s another small pleasure in our life. Now I have digressed. Back to Hilton Head, we had fun riding bikes one day. We took walks and enjoyed driving around to look at all the impressive new homes built since we were last there. We are planning more travel before that July MRI.
Fortunately, we were in Hilton Head when all the terrible rain and storms hit the Fairhope area; glad we missed that excitement. I think our town had about 16″ of rain so there was some flooding but we were not affected.
We are treasuring every wonderful, ordinary day. Most evenings we take a ride and usually end up watching the sunset over Mobile Bay. Every Thursday morning we attend the healing service at our church. It is a source of comfort and peace for us. It’s a small service, usually 15 people or so, held in the chapel. At the end of the service, we kneel at the alter rail and our priest approaches each person and one by one he says, “(person’s name), I anoint you with oil, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, making the sign of the cross on your forehead. Then he places his hand on your head and says, “I lay my hand upon you and ask God’s blessing on you. I pray that He will fill you with his grace and that you will know the power of God’s healing love”. Isn’t that the most peace-producing blessing you could ever imagine? The oil he uses has the scent of cloves that lingers for a while afterwards, a reminder of that prayer.
Thanks be to God, Gorman’s MRI was clear! I know our Lord has been hearing Gorman’s name all day long and we thank you all for those prayers!
Our oncologist, Mike Meshad, told us last week that he wants Gorman to have the next MRI in three months (we’ve always been on a two month schedule) and to have it at UAB in Birmingham so we can meet with Dr. Nabors and keep him in the loop. So we now have three glorious months ahead of us. We are walking on air.
We managed to put off the next MRI for a few weeks but it is now scheduled for next Tuesday morning, April 22. Prayers, please.
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid”. Psalm 56:3-4
The azaleas are beginning to bloom; beautiful flowers are planted downtown on every corner and Fairhope is a fairy land. Gorman and I have enjoyed working in our yard, cutting back the remnants of our frightful Winter and planting new pots of flowers. Who would think that a man with brain cancer could work so hard outside, then come in and cook a great meal? And the next day, I am the one with a sore back, not Gorman!
Now that DST is here, we often go down to the bay in the evenings and watch the sunset. If that’s not a gift from God, I don’t know what is. Each one is different with streaks of pink clouds one day and a huge orange ball of a sun the next. We have discovered a new favorite song, “Ten Thousand Reasons (Bless The Lord)” by Matt Redman. We drive around listening to it and singing at the tops of our voices. Fortunately no one can hear us. It’s impossible to feel sad or anxious after listening to that song. The very cool video is on YouTube if you’re interested http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtwIT8JjddM
March has been a month of lots of company which is lots of fun for us. No travels planned right now but if his next MRI is clear, I’m sure we’ll begin talking about going somewhere.
Gorman has an appointment with Mike Meshad, our oncologist, next week and he will probably schedule the next MRI then but for now, we are enjoying life and thanking God for each day.