The Tough Stuff

I apologize for being absent lately. While baking the scones for my last post, I called my Mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day and received some really, really unexpected news. I’ve felt like I was underwater ever since that phone call, and I’m just now beginning to breathe again.

My middle brother, Austin, had been having some strange things going on with his health over the past few months. Nothing too out of the ordinary; nothing I would have given a second thought to, had they happened on separate occasions. Night sweats, weight loss, fatigue… Fortunately, being married to a nurse has its advantages and he was encouraged to go get a check-up. Several weeks and doctor’s appointments later, his physician told him she was concerned with a few of his blood tests and was worried about the risk of Lymphoma or Leukemia and thought it best for him to go to the ER immediately, so that he could be admitted to the hospital for further testing. This is the news I received on Mother’s Day. My poor Mom…her heart was breaking on a day that should have been a celebration of how great she is to all of us. But that’s the irony, isn’t it? She had to be a mother that day. She had to be stronger that day than she ever had, because it meant being strong for her child.

[A few days later] After a round of tests, my brother received word that his blood looked healthy. It was not Lymphoma. A brief moment of relief. BUT…I hate the “but”…during a routine CT scan they came across something kind of shocking.  A large mass in his liver. Hearing my Dad say that the specialist at Duke was “caught off guard” by this was terrifying. He works at Duke. He should have seen it all, right?? This can’t be real. [A few more days later] The biopsy came back benign, but due to the size and appearance of the mass, the doctor didn’t believe it. In addition, even if it was benign, it appeared to be so close to vital structures in the liver that he was concerned they wouldn’t be able to operate. He brought in a specialist, scheduled an MRI and would do another biopsy, this time from the center of the mass. [Two days later] The MRI looked positive. The doctor, Dr. Clary, felt confident that he could remove this thing. Whatever it was, malignant or benign, he wanted to get it out – ASAP.  Finally….good news.

Fast forward to less than three weeks from that phone call in my kitchen. Through much persistence and a few family connections, my brother managed to get a surgery date scheduled for just 7 days after that MRI appointment. Dr. Clary warned us up front that there was only a 75% chance that this thing could come out. He was going to open him up, triple check the location, and if things looked good he was going to operate. He said Austin would either be in there for an hour and a half, or he’d be in there for six hours – and that we should pray for six hours.

And so we did.

We prayed, and prayed, and prayed…

And then we got the BEST news.

48 hours post-op with his amazing wife Ashley

Almost exactly six hours later we were called into a tiny consultation room and Dr. Clary – the man who had just had his hands inside my brother – came in and sat down with us. He was confident with the results of the surgery. He felt they had successfully removed the entire tumor in addition to any surrounding tissue that may have been affected. We won’t know the results of the pathology tests for a few more days (the surgery was Friday June 1), but he feels that even if it is cancerous, he is confident that it was contained in the liver and that he removed it all. Here’s the craziest part: the tumor, itself, was slightly larger than a grapefruit. The entire mass? It weighed 8-10 lbs and was about the size of a small basketball. A BASKETBALL. A month ago he didn’t even know it was there. I’m still not sure why I needed to share this story with strangers – maybe to update friends who read the blog, maybe for my own release. But I hope that if nothing else, you read this and it sparks something. Maybe you spend a little more time with your loved ones this weekend. Maybe you take more time to listen to your body and take care of yourself. Regardless, don’t take things for granted. Love, life, people, health. My brother is 28 years old. The conversation in that consultation room was the last thing I ever expected to happen at this point in his life, but it did. And it all happened so fast. And I’m still in disbelief.

Just 4 days post-op, Austin is recovering so well. They had him get up and sit in a chair just 24 hours after surgery and the next day he actually walked around (albeit, very slowly). Truly AWESOME – as in, I am in complete awe of the power of prayer and modern medicine. This journey isn’t over yet, it’s going to be a long road and a lifetime of a new perspective, no doubt, but for now we couldn’t be happier with the results and his progress. Whomever you pray to, whatever you believe in – BELIEVE IT. Faith is an amazing tool. Me, personally? I prayed. We all did. And God listened.

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9 thoughts on “The Tough Stuff

  1. You are a true writer. This brought tears to my eyes! Yes, we are very fortunate!
    God certainly listened to all of the prayers that were coming in around our country for Austin! XX

  2. With Father’s Day just around the corner, let the world know how proud I am to be the father of these three wonderful and loving children, Peyt, Austin, and Leila!
    Dad

  3. Oh my goodness. How incredibly scary for you, your brother, and your entire family. I’m so glad to read that Austin is doing well. There is nothing more important in times like those than having a strong support network, and it sounds like you guys are solidly there for each other. Best wishes for continued recovery and a healthy future for Austin!

    • Thank you so much Julie! It’s been kind of surreal but he’s back at home now and doing SO well. Family is so important in times like these, but kind words from strangers mean just as much sometimes! 🙂

      PS I made your Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars twice last week….TWICE! haha I still have one left and my boyfriend and I will be fighting over it later. Then I’ll be updating the blog with the recipe 🙂 Glad to have found your blog! I love it!

    • Thank you Victoria! Oddly enough, “talking” about it here with a sense of anonymity (even though I know it’s anything but anonymous) is really therapeutic.
      I also knew immediately that I wanted to share this to hopefully help bring attention to the subject. We found out shortly after I wrote this post that the tumor tested positive for Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma, a very rare and unstudied form of Liver Cancer that only seems to attack healthy young people. There is very little research done for this type of cancer, and I know I’ve been having a hard time finding information about it, so hopefully someone else going through this will stumble across this post and feel some sort of comfort.
      Everyone’s kind words have been warmly appreciated. 🙂

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