One year ago today I woke up with two voicemails on my phone from the MSU Sports Medicine Clinic, urging me to call them as soon as possible. Not good, I thought, Luke probably has a broken foot or a torn achilles. His foot pain had been getting worse all summer, but in spite of multiple visits to various doctors we had no idea what was wrong. I went and found Laura, because I wanted her to know what was going on, and called the number from the message. Immediately we knew this was something far more serious. There was an awkward pause from the woman on the phone, and she went to get the Doctor right away. Never good. Then the Doctor was describing a large tumor in Luke's leg, 10 inches in length, encapsulating the bone and all of the blood vessels and muscles in Luke's calf. Probably cancer. No way of knowing until you get a biopsy. Call DeVos Children's Hospital and set up an appointment immediately.
Humanly speaking, it's been a terrible year. Terrible. Four surgeries. Ten months of chemotherapy. Six weeks of radiation. Countless trips to the hospital, blood draws, scans, visits to the ER, hair loss, medications, and all kinds of other unimaginable things. Luke's body is tired and his soul is weary. All very, very terrible.
Biblically speaking, our hope is in Jesus (I Peter 1:3) because our times are in His hands. (Psalm 31:15) One of the ways we have experienced God's hope through the love of His people. If the number of people praying makes any difference, Luke is going to be fine. Thousands of people are thinking about Luke and asking God to intervene for him. That brings up tremendous hope. So many people have come to visit Luke or have provided food or rides or gift cards or whatever else we might need. That brings us tremendous hope. We are very thankful.
Luke's diagnosis was very serious, but he is not terminally ill. His surgeries removed most of the visible cancer in his body. They've attacked the rest with chemo and radiation treatments, and the scans have been mostly encouraging, showing decrease in both the size of the tumors and the activity level of the cancer. It's very scary and hard, but hope remains.
Here are a few updates / specific ways you can be praying:
1) Tomorrow is Luke's 16th birthday. We're expecting over 300 people for the celebration on Thursday, including Brian Regan!
2) The picture I included is from last summer, before Luke was diagnosed. It captures Luke and Laura perfectly. Please pray for Laura...it is so difficult for a mom to watch her son struggle.
3) Luke will be in the marching band this fall. The first home football game is on August 26th!
4) Luke will be full time back at school this fall, beginning on august 29th!
5) Luke is soon going be upgraded to a new prosthetic leg, one with more technology and power. Pray for quick learning and perseverance as Luke works to figure out his new leg.
6) They will scan Luke again on August 29th. Pray for the cancer to be completely gone from Luke's body. No new cancer, no tumors, everything gone. Pray also for peace for our family as we await the results.
Our prayer remains the same. We can't stop, WON'T stop praying for God to heal our boy. (James 5:14-16)
James & Lu,
(for Sam, Jay, & Luke)
Several months ago Luke and I were talking about the summer and he said, "I am NOT looking forward to my birthday." His 15th birthday was on 8/15/15, and it was terrible because he found out about the tumor in his leg on the day before. We would like to make his 16th birthday one to remember. Here are the details:
DATE: Thursday, August 18th
TIME: 5:30 - 10:00
LOCATION: Riverview REO Town Venue
FOOD: Heavy appetizers and desserts
FUN STUFF: Music, games, and time with Luke!
Here's the best part. For years our family has enjoyed the comedy of Brian Regan, and we have seen him live a number of times. He's hilarious. Per our request (via the Make a Wish foundation) Brian has agreed to come and perform live at Luke's birthday party! The party will be open house from 5:30 - 7:30, and then Brian will do his live comedy show beginning at 7:30. We would love for you to join us.
There are 300+ seats at the REO Town Venue. Currently about half of those are spoken for. If you are interested in a ticket, please take a moment (it'll be less than a minute) to submit a ticket request here so we can plan accordingly. Right now there's still plenty of space, so if you request tickets you'll probably get them.
One final detail. Luke is not looking for birthday gifts this year...honestly your presence will be the biggest gift you can bring for him. Luke has requested any gifts for his party be items we can donate to kids and families battling cancer over at DeVos Children's hospital. Our family has been blessed by the P.O.R.T. program at DeVos, and Luke would like to bless others in the same way. A list of potential items is included below, and we will donate any cash Luke receives to P.O.R.T. as well.
As always, our prayer remains the same. We can't stop, WON'T stop praying for God to heal our boy. (James 5:14-16)
James & Lu,
(for Sam, Jay, and Luke)
P.O.R.T. gift ideas:
1) P.O.R.T. Care Bags are canvas tote bags filled with a variety of personal care items and snacks, as well as a handmade quilt. These are usually given to families when their child is hospitalized or at the time of diagnosis. Items include:
•non perishable snack foods
•toys for kids of any age
•books for kids of any age
•coloring books with crayons / colored pencils
2) P.O.R.T.'s inpatient family snack pantry is available to all in-patient families. Located on 7-South, this pantry is stocked with snacks and quick meal items.
3) Phone/gas cards are available to qualifying families who commute from outside the Grand Rapids area, and gift cards are provided for birthday gifts and other special occasions. Ideas:
•pre paid phone cards
The past few weeks have been pretty uneventful for Luke. He has settled into a steady rhythm with chemo treatments every Thursday, and the side effects have been noticeable but manageable. Luke continues to work hard at his physical therapy, and he is gaining confidence and ability in walking on his prosthetic leg. We are very proud of Luke and thankful for any "uneventful" we can get.
We were able to go up north for a few days of vacation. We visited Jay, who is on Work Crew at TimberWolf Lake, and then spent a couple of days in Traverse City and with the Santens in Petoskey. These are bittersweet experiences for Luke. He loves getting away and hanging out with people, but he is also regularly made aware of many things he used to do that he cannot do right now. Very difficult.
On Monday Luke left for band camp at Adrian College with the entire Mason High School band. He is having the best time with all his friends. He will be playing the vibraphone in the marching band this Fall at all the home football games. He loves the band and we are grateful that he's had such a good experience at band camp this week.
Please pray for Luke...tomorrow he resumes his chemo treatments. They bumped him back a day so he could finish band camp. He will receive three medications tomorrow, which means he'll be exhausted by the end of next week. None of us are looking forward to it. He will need courage, patience, and peace from God in order to navigate these next days. We all will.
We are so thankful for all who are praying, encouraging, providing meals, and standing with us as we fight for Luke. Our prayer remains the same. We can't stop, WON'T stop praying for God to heal our boy. (James 5:14-16)
James & Lu
(for Sam, Jay, & Luke)