Sunday, January 29, 2012


First of all, thanks for everyone who prayed for me as I drove yesterday. It was a smooth, uneventful drive. I passed a few state troopers who watched me fly by, yet didn't try to stop me. I didn't get tired. I only had to stop once to fill the car and empty me, and twice to fill my tummy. I made the trip in way under the 9:54 that maquest gave me.

Here's what's going on with Bev.

She was originally diagnosed with leukemia (ALL, Ph+) almost exactly 5 years ago. She had a bone marrow transplant from her own bone marrow cells. She was in remission for about a year, then relapsed. They were able to find a matching bone marrow donor, so she had another bone marrow transplant 3 years ago. She has done reasonably well over the last 3 years. The most difficult thing she has dealt with is graft vs. host disease (GvHD), in which the donor bone marrow recognizes Bev's body as foreign and attacks it. She has had to be constantly on steroids to ward of the GvHD. The effects of long-term steroids are devastating to the skeletal system. She developed Avascular Necrosis (bone death) in the majority of her joints, and has had several joint replacements and other surgeries to address it. She has dealt with chronic fatigue and pain.

Last week she relapsed again. The prognosis for a third relapse is extremely poor. Her body is weak from all she has been through, and she can't have another transplant. Joe and Bev decided to give the chemo one last try in hopes of putting the leukemia back into remission. If effective, this can buy several months. Bev's cells immediately responded to the chemo, and they were really excited. However, after a few days, the side effects of the chemo hit. Night before last was the worst night in the last 5 years. Bev's blood pressure plummeted, pushing her right to death's door. Yesterday morning her husband emailed asking us to come up. I threw some stuff in a suitcase, rented a car, and hit the road. By the time I arrived last night, Bev had been moved back into bone marrow transplant ICU where the amazing oncologists and nursing staff were able to get her stabilized. She was stable but in tremendous pain when I arrived. A generous friend purchased a train ticket for Matt, and he will be joining me here tomorrow. Another wonderful friend is keeping our kids for us. I am {yet again} blown away by the goodness of God.

Last night I stayed with Bev for a few hours. She was unbelievably swollen from the fluids they pumped in to raise her blood pressure. The swelling caused her skin to stretch, blister, and crack. I was able to rub a mineral cream all over her body, which brought some relief. The doctor came in and started Bev on a heavy dose of steroids. Since there is no long-term for Bev anymore, they can use the steroids without worrying about more bone damage. It doesn't matter anymore. I headed to a friend's house where I crashed for the night.

I came back first thing this morning. The steroids and pain relievers worked their magic, and Bev got a solid night of sleep. The swelling was down significantly, and she felt a whole lot better. We had some great conversation this morning and watched a church service online. Right now her boys are here visiting, so I am hanging out in the family waiting room.

The goal for Bev right now is to get her stable enough to survive the hour-long drive home. Once she gets home, hospice will come in and the end will come very fast. Bev does not know it yet, but Joe learned this morning that the leukemia blasts are back in force. The chemo slowed them for only a few days. At the very best, she will only be able to survive for a week or two. If she goes home and stops blood pressure medication, she will slip away within a few hours. She cries for the two little boys and husband who will miss her. But she is also ready to meet Jesus face to face and to be in a new, healthy, pain-free body.

That's the update.

As for me...I feel--almost tangibly--the many prayers that are going up on my behalf. Smell is a powerful emotional trigger for me. A whiff of my mom's perfume can reduce me to a sobbing heap of loneliness. Being in the hospital usually strikes anxiety and claustrophobia in my heart because the medical smells take me back to my mom's illness and dredge up all the old pain and loss. I prayed almost continually on the drive up yesterday. I asked that God would strengthen my spirit and prepare me to be here. He has been my rock, my strength, my comfort. Though I have experienced crazy waves of deja vu as I've walked the hospital halls, I have been strangely unaffected by the smells. They are the exact same smells that usually mess me up. Much of what Bev is physically experiencing is what my mom experienced. But my heart is strong and I am holding up well. Amazingly well. Only-by-the-power-of-God well.


Stef said...

Em, I am so sorry to hear this. I sat here sobbing as I read, just knowing how close this hits home for you and yet what a blessing you and Matt are to their family.
Please tell Bev I am praying. I started praying as soon as I saw your note on FB and will continue. I cannot imagine what life would suddenly look like to me, if I knew the end was very close. I think I would suddenly only want to spend time with my family and getting ready to meet and Worship God forever! She definitely does have total excitement to look forward to and yet, I can completely understand, as a mom, feeling that horrible pull to stay and watch my kids live out their lives.
I will be praying for all of them and for you.
Again, please give her a hug for me and tell her I've loved and prayed for her long distance and I will continue to pray for her husband and boys, even when she's with Jesus.

Tara said...

Emily, I am sorry that you are having to experience this again but you are such an awesome friend to stay right by Bev's side through her sickness. You mean more to her than maybe you even realize.

Because I was away from my computer, I had no idea you were even in NC so the FB message caught me off guard. I am saddened to know I wasn't able to help you out while you were here.

I will definitely pray for Bev, her family and her friends. ((HUGS))

Smarshie said...

Been thinking about you a lot since I read this post, Em. Thinking and praying for Beverly, too.