Four Years of Brain Cancer

I am not what some would call, an ambitious person. The things I have done in this life I have done simply because they were the next thing which presented itself to me that needed doing. I am ambling about, sometimes forward, often pausing to look left and right until I am dizzy, when I bump into something, nearly face plant from the tripping over it, actually. I’m a gawky walker, often lifting my legs a bit higher in step than one would find necessary for a casual stroll. So writing came to me in this way, as well. A side effect of my husband’s brain cancer, really. It came to me in the night as I tripped over the parts of him spilling out of his person onto a dirty hospital floor. Words poured out unbeknownst to my rational, lucid self whilst I sat, a bag of crumpled flesh in a plastic chair of avocado green in a tiny room, my dying husband beside me in a bed draped in white, which seemed suspended by wires rather than resting on a frame, with creaking wheels beneath.

Last night, on the four year anniversary of that first sleepless night, I climbed into bed reluctantly and did not sleep in any consistent fashion. I awakened repeatedly, certain my emotional overwhelm would spill physically from my mouth in the form of a cheeseburger eaten much too late at night. I watched the hours tick by, mentally reliving four years ago as the numbers shifted. The smell of the stand alone ER. Jesse’s crumpled, confused frame in a waiting room chair. Texting my family that everything was ok, that Jesse was just severely dehydrated. The expression of the doctor when he told me Jesse had brain cancer. Looking at the first images of Jesse’s brain, left side overtaking the right and lit up bright white with tumor. Texting my family to tell them he had brain cancer. The way a wisp of hair gently floated across the face of the nurse who ran out to me with Jesse’s paperwork as an ambulance took him to the main campus of a local hospital, blonde strands moving in lazy contrast to the rapid pace of my heart. My sister’s voice as I turned under the overpass, tailing the ambulance to the hospital. My own voice sputtering out the words to her, “I wish I could melt into yesterday when this wasn’t my life.” The sounds of his body being moved from gurney to bed. The doctors telling me he would not survive the night. The texts I sent to a handful of people to ask for prayer. People showing up in mass to the hospital. Telling them out loud that God is still on His throne. Calling Jesse’s dad to tell him his son had brain cancer. Having to charge my phone repeatedly because it could not keep up with the onslaught of contact. The peace. I remember the peace. Indescribably consuming peace.

I remember every smell, every sound, every face (though, if you know me, you know I don’t remember most of the names) of every place we inhabited those first few weeks. I remember picking up my phone to check the time on September 7, 2015, and seeing the contents of my mind dumped out into my notes. I remember posting them to this place, laughing at how I had told Jesse two weeks before that I would never use the blog he insisted on setting up for me. I remember sharing the link to my (then, infrequently) used Facebook page, and not being able to keep up with the responses of people afterward-a pattern I have been surprised to see continue these several years since. None of this makes sense to me, still. That Jesse lived. That Jesse can speak and think with such mass in the part of his brain controlling those processes. That so many have stood beside us in prayer and support for what feels an impossibly long time. That we have been allowed to come alongside the wounded and weary in such an intimate way these four years.

There are plenty of hard things about this I don’t understand, either. That our kids have been forced to live in this trauma. That Jesse still has seizures. That Jesse still has tumor when God is capable of healing him in full. That we have asked in earnest, for years, for miraculous healing and not received it. I can never say in any definitive way why we face the things we do, why healing comes to some and not to others, limited as I am in foresight. I know our suffering has purpose. I know we are soul-healed by the blood of Jesus, and no earthly disease can ever bring its ruin to that kind of health. I know there is a God, and I know He is good and faithful and near. I know He is Sustainer. I know He is Comforter. I know He is Healer, even when the healing we seek to our earthly bodies does not come. I do not know why you may be aching right now, beloved. But I know Who to run to: Jesus. And I know What to do with this life: to Hesed love (a kind of all-encompassing love we do not have human words enough to adequately define) the souls around you. I am finding I do not need to know the answer to every why, when I know the answers to the other questions.

May you find comfort and hope right where you are tonight, dearest. There is a God, and He loves you so.

 

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” 1 Corinthians 1:3-7

5 thoughts on “Four Years of Brain Cancer

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  1. Ashley, I don’t know why things happen the way they do, but I know we’ll know one day. My wife (Ellen) and I were introduced to you and Jesse 4 years ago as you began this happening. Our financial planner (Howard Rush) introduced us to you. He’s a Praying Christian and knew that I had gone through what you are going through. I lost my first wife (Melanie) to brain cancer 15 years ago. From her dx to death was 8 months. She was 48 and the love of my life. We were married for 27 years and our 2 children have grown since without their Mom. She is in heaven watching our lives unfold. Since that time God has introduced me to another amazing Christian woman (Ellen). We’ve been married for 13 years and about 4 years ago she developed breast cancer. We went to MD Anderson and lived there for a year going through tx. She has recovered (PraiseGod) and 3 yrs cancer free. As we were finishing tx, I ask her if she wanted to go on a vacation. She said I want to go on a mission trip and give back to God. We’ve now been on 4 mission trips to Ecuador taking the message our Lord brought to us. We have never been happier and believe the cancer led us in this direction. I’m a retired (Army) dentist and she’s a retired dental hygienist. Howard ask us to pray for you guys 4 years ago. We’ve Prayed daily to you and Jesse knowing God has a plan that we can not see but trust in him.
    Blessings,
    Phil and Ellen Patridge

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  2. Continuing to pray that God will reveal His purpose. May you all be surrounded by peace and the love of us all prating for you and your family.

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  3. You are such a talented writer! You move me every time I read your posts. Still praying for Jesse and your family at Bay Area Christian School!

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  4. Ashley, You and your family are so deeply embedded in my heart. My grt/gr/mtr had the same arm as yours, and she LOVED and cared for SO many children. She canned, sewed, raised 21 kids, rarely missed Sunday or Wednesday service, and was the nursery keeper for over 20 yrs. So watching you w/your kids just made want to hug you all the time. You are beautiful, tuff and gritty, like her, with such a presence & a love for God.
    Jessie served as associate pastor for so long at BAC, working diligently, faithfully, often being called to do many other’s jobs along with his own. He did an excellent job, and we were so sorry to see you guys go, but so glad for him to be able to serve as Sr. pastor.
    I don’t know if Jesse remembers it, but in 2013’s trip to Israel, he literally held my life in his hands (& I don’t let that happen very often!) as he swung me around the top of rocks on Gamla. He encouraged me to put one foot in front of the other as I laboriously climbed the stairs up Masada. (I know he must have been wondering what he’d gotten himself into as he patiently & consistently spurred me on). I saw a new Jesse that I’d not seen, or maybe not notice, in all your time at BAC. He was so focused & stoic. (His socks got wet and he had the worst blisters on his feet. He never even limped) { He also taught me to spell Israel correctly 🙂 }
    All the time I’d know you guys, he’d been funny, and lighthearted, ever ready for a laugh or a joke. (That doesn’t mean that his job as pastor was ever taken lightly) In Israel it had been a while since I’d seen him, he’d matured, I guess you’d say. When I argued with him in Israel that I would not let him swing me over, he barked at me. I was shocked, but complied, as I should have done in the first place. (The Jessie thought I knew didn’t bark.)
    I am so sorry for how arduous this life’s journey is on you and your family. Through it all you both have been so encouraging to others. You radiate God’s love and faithfulness. God had gifted you with the ability to write down words that others can’t even imagine, much less live. But you do, with God’s ever faithful grace.
    I just want you to know that you and yours are do much of my life, I pray for you regularly, and often. I just wanted to try to express my love and gratitude to you both.
    I appreciate the postings. Love & prayers.

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