Many people have been emailing, facebooking, calling, and texting to ask about my grandmother Joyce, who is trying to recover from a major surgery and infection due to the recent and sudden news that she has colon cancer.  As many emails/calls/texts as I've received, multiply that by at least ten for the amount my mom and my aunt Elaine have received.  We feel so extremely blessed to be surrounded by so many people who love us and are praying for Joyce (and our family, esp. Mom and Elaine), so thank you ALL for the ways you have been loving on our family.  And while it's much easier to post one big response to give everyone the scoop on Joyce and an update on how she is doing, I will continue to try and respond to all of your emails, facebook messages, calls, and text messages individually. 

Mom, Joyce, & Elaine

Right now, Joyce is doing a little bit better than she was mid to late last week, although her condition seems to go up and down from day to day.  She improves a little, then takes a step back.  The doctors were hopeful that she might be able to come home today (today is the 18th day that she has been in the hospital), but when I talked to my mom a little while ago, she said the doctor had not come in yet and that Joyce was feeling a little bit worse and in more pain than she has been the last few days, so I'm not sure if they will approve for her to go home or not. 

The whole fam: Mom, Dad, Me & Ryan, Matt, TJ, & Jamie to the right of Joyce.  Elaine & Steve, Andrea & husband Jimmy, kids Alicia & AJ; Tina & husband Wes; & Eric to Joyce's left.
To give the whole background...

Joyce was fine as far as we knew last month - she had less energy than normal and had not been feeling great, but had not been able to figure out exactly what it was.  Two Fridays back, she was at home, getting ready to color her hair and had plans to go to dinner and a movie with a friend later that night when her doctor called and told her she needed to go to the hospital due to the results from her blood work a few days prior.  Her hemoglobin was at a 6 (normal should be 11 or 12), so she had less than half the amount of blood pumping through her body than normal, hence the major sluggishness and lack of energy.  Because her blood level was so dangerously low, they told her not to drive herself, so my mom went to pick her up and take her.  When they got there, they admitted her, gave her two units of blood, and proceeded to run tests on her for the next four days.  A CT Scan revealed something irregular on her abdomen and then a colonoscopy a few days later revealed that the irregularity was a cancerous tumor in her colon.  They scheduled her for surgery that Friday to remove the tumor and take some lymph nodes to see if the cancer was contained or if it had begun to spread. 

Joycie with her two daughters and her two sons-in-law
They successfully removed the tumor and about a 6-inch section of her colon last Friday (as in 11 days ago, not this past Friday) along with her gallbladder (decision they made once they had her opened up) and removed 18 lymph nodes to biopsy and did not see any other visible traces of cancer.  And I'm not kidding, half the waiting room was people there for Joyce's 2-3 hour surgery :)  The surgeon came out after surgery and said "I heard there was a whole crowd out here for Joyce". Anyways, when we met with the doctor after her surgery, he said it went as well as it could go, so we were very excited and just waiting on the pathology report on the lymph nodes to come back to let us know if she was cancer free or if it had started to spread. 

Mom & Joyce at the cabin
After a couple days, Joyce was supposed to be walking around and starting to introduce solid food gradually back into her diet, but instead started feeling worse and was in a lot of pain.  Her condition deteriorated rapidly to the point that she could not get out of bed, hold her eyes open, or even talk. They finally realized that she had gotten a very contagious intestinal (of all places) infection called CDIF that is very dangerous for a person of her age and who has just had trauma to her currently not-functioning-properly colon.  It was very serious and at one point on Wednesday, my mom told me that she thought Joyce was not going to make it.  According to Mom, Joyce didn't seem to think she was going to make it through that day either and started saying her goodbyes and making final preparations - that was a rough day for all of us.

The worst part about it all is that once they found out about the infection, they put her in isolation and no one could see her other than my mom and my aunt Elaine who had already been around her every day (we had not gone to the hospital to see her the previous couple of days because she was feeling so weak that she was not up for visitors).  This has been really hard for both my mom and Elaine as they have watched Joyce deteriorate before their eyes.  It has been emotionally and physically draining for them - for my mom because before this weekend, she had been at the hospital for 14 days straight and had only been home twice (she would go to Elaine's house to sleep when she didn't stay in Joyce's room because they live much closer to the hospital than my parents do) and with Elaine working full time and being sick (elementary school teacher at the start of a school year), Mom has spent most of the last two weeks up there going through this time of uncertainty alone, writing everything the doctors were saying in a notebook just so she could keep up.  And then for Elaine, in addition to going through all of this herself, she is working full time and has been it has just been exhausting for both of them, and hard for all of the rest of us to not be able to visit Joyce or be there for Mom and Elaine. 

Last week, we also found out that of the 18 lymph nodes that they removed, 16 were clean but 2 had traces of the cancer. They brought an oncologist on, who established that she has Stage 3 Colon Cancer, and has said that chemo would be an option, but only if Joyce is well and gets her strength back, so right now there has not been much talk or thinking about that decision at all yet...she still has a long way to go to get to the point of being able to make that decision.  There are a lot of risks with chemo, so there will likely be some tough decisions ahead.

Through it all though, God has used so many of you to remind us of His goodness, His love, and that His will and His plan are for His glory and His good.  The power of prayer is so amazing, and though Joyce's situation has not improved significantly and there remains so much uncertainty yet ahead, I have so many times felt God's peace that surpasses ALL understanding that I know has been prayed over us.  It is a comfort to know that our God is not only Joyce's Creator, but also her Great Physician.  And this weekend, God blessed us beyond what we could have even thought to pray for.  Mom says He sent us an angel...and He really did. 

Mom and Elaine have been so anxious about what they will do when Joyce is released to go home.  Mom has said so many times that many times it takes two or three nurses to help Joyce do things that she has to do in order to get better and she doesn't know what they'll do when they take her home.  Well, last Wednesday night, after talking to my mom on the phone and her telling me that she didn't think Joyce was going to make it through this infection, I put a post on facebook about Joyce's situation asking for prayer.  One of my mom's best friends who lives in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is a nurse and saw my post (they had just gotten internet and it was her first time online in several weeks), and messaged me asking all the medically detailed questions about Joyce.  I got the message during the night and since I couldn't sleep, I got up and went ahead and responded with all of the details.  The next morning, Ginny messaged me back saying that she had thought and prayed about a way to help and that she had booked a (15-hr) flight (!!) to fly across the world from Dubai to Atlanta to come take care of Joyce and relieve my mom and Elaine in a way that none of the rest of us could.  Ginny wanted to surprise my mom, so my dad and I went down to the airport to pick Ginny up early Saturday morning and brought her back home (mom came home Friday night to spend the weekend while Elaine stayed with Joyce since she is no longer sick).  Saying that Mom was shocked to see Ginny is an understatement.  She burst into tears and they hugged and cried for the next half hour. 

Joycie has sat through her share of football games. TJ introduced her to "the swamp".
I think having Ginny here for the weekend, while Mom caught up (some) on rest and Ginny recovered from jet lag was good therapy for my mom - we hung around the house in comfy clothes, we got pedicures, and just sat around sipping coffee and talking.  Mom cried when she called both Joyce and Elaine to tell them.  What a relief and an incredible blessing, not only for Joyce, for Mom and Elaine, but for ALL of us in our family who have felt so helpless to do anything to help any of the three of them.  A relief to know that Joyce is being cared for properly by someone who treats her like her own family member.  And a relief to know that now when she is sent home, Ginny will be there to help during the transition (she is here for two weeks).  And such a relief to know that Ginny is there with my mom and Elaine when all the rest of us can't be.  What an act of love from an amazing friend!

At another football game - Duke @ Clemson
I'll try to give updates as I hear things.  Meanwhile, thank you so much for praying for our family - we have been so encouraged by so many of you. 


Carrie said...

still praying, Miss Erin. thanks for the updates. love you!

crispy said...

Erin, thank you so much for the update. Dan and I have been praying and will continue. Please don't hesitate to call if there is anything that we can do.

Hervé Daumas said...

I didn't know Joyce was coloring her hair :) JK, thanks for the long version story and the update Erin. It's a little bit of a relief to know she's getting better even if she's still fragile. Hope she'll be home soon. We'll keep sending the prayers and positive vibrations non stop till then. Love, Hervé.