Friday, July 31, 2015

Looking Forward

Looking Back

It's been almost a week since Ashleigh's funeral.  I almost said "my wife's funeral", but she's not my wife anymore.  The marriage vows say "til death do we part", and those vows have been fulfilled.  I'm very thankful for the fact that together we fulfilled them about as well as anyone could hope, given a shortage of years.  I have very few regrets, we had a whole year to say goodbye, and we loved each other well through the end.  For such a horrendous disease, Ashleigh only had about two weeks out of 13 months since her diagnosis where her quality of life suffered.  So I'm thankful for many things.

Jesus was clear about marriage as an earthly, not heavenly, institution (Matthew 22:30).  As new and foreign as it was 8 years ago to call Ashleigh "wife", now I have a whole different set of habits to unlearn.  I still call this building "our house", though it's suddenly much more vacuous than it has ever been.  If I were a director doing a biopic of this stage of my life, I would set the tone with several long, silent pans of the empty rooms and hallways after the boys are asleep.  I miss wearing my wedding ring; I often find myself absentmindedly going to fiddle with it, only to be reminded why it's not on.  I know no one would fault me for wearing it a while longer; I recognize my desire to press on is mostly self-imposed.  Well, it's what Ashleigh would have wanted for me, too.  To be uncomfortable, get out of the house and be around people, and generally embrace life moving forward.

Were it not for the boys I'd be tempted to sell everything I have, buy a motorcycle, (learn to ride said motorcycle), and ride until I hit an ocean.  I'm thankful for the boys, they're keeping me grounded.  A cross-country motorcycle tour (or equivalent boondoggle) would just be a kind of escapism.  I'm also thankful for so many friends reaching out and being welcoming and understanding, despite the fact I'm not particularly effervescent company right now.  I'm thankful for sympathy cards from so many people.  So many of you wrote in your cards how they feel like an insufficient gesture, but I assure you they are not.  Your words of encouragement and of Ashleigh's impact and legacy buoy me up.

It's been predominantly a week of logistics - cutting up credit cards, cancelling subscriptions, closing online vendor accounts.  I know it surprises you that it's helpful for an engineer to retreat into logistics.  Still, the last friends and family have returned home and at some point I will have to step back and survey the new shape of my life: as the dust clears, see what has become of the structure with one of its central load-bearing beams removed.  At least the foundation is intact.

Before Ashleigh died I told myself I wouldn't do this - turn to the blog or facebook to post morose and introspective thoughts as though loss had made my thoughts somehow weighty or worth sharing.  I scoffed at other people who over-shared like this, but now I'm eating my prideful words.  It turns out the reason I never felt compelled to over-share is that I always had a loving, listening ear nearby with whom to share my innermost thoughts.  So I appreciate you humoring me this once as I'm missing my usual outlet.

After the gala and a few more posts I still plan to wrap up the blog.  Not only was it Ashleigh's blog, but I'm somewhat afraid of what I might post without her editorial oversight.  That is a small example of the more general fear I hinted at above: what does life look like without Ashleigh?  If (ok, when) I do something embarrassing, who will help me laugh at it later?  What if I dress the boys in mismatched outfits for church?  How can I ever hope to make good decisions without Ashleigh to construct the objective function?

There are two books that have been comforting during this time, and I would commend them to your reading.  I have been tempted to post large portions of each of them to the blog, but I will spare you that (and myself the risk of copyright infrigement).

The Weight of Glory - an essay by CS Lewis whose central thesis is that our feelings of nostalgia point to our in-born desire to be a part of a heavenly, eternal frame.  He exposes man's desire for eternal things, and points out that desires don't make sense where they can't be fulfilled - that a man may starve to death without bread, but the feeling of hunger indicates at least that we come from a world of eatable things.

A Severe Mercy - a memoir by Sheldon Vanauken about the loss of his wife.  I hope it is not entirely hubris that causes me to see similarities between the love he writes about and the love Ashleigh and I shared.  "...he chuckled at the memory, and then, in the instant, tears were burning in his eyes and rolling down his cheeks.  That was always the way of grief: laughter and tears, joy and sorrow.  Almost from their first meeting they had been in love..."

I'm also planning to re-read Lewis's A Grief Observed.  Doubtless I will quote it here if I find it as relevant as I expect.

There are two stories I would share with you from Ashleigh's last week on earth.  I'm tempted to keep them to myself, as though a miserly attitude about memories would make them last longer.  If Ashleigh taught me anything through this blog, it's that sharing thoughts and experiences is what makes them meaningful and grants them longevity. 

Three nights or so before she died (I was on the night shift then), we were alone in her hospital room.  I was sitting next to her bed holding her hand and talking to her, not really expecting a response.  She opened her eyes and very lucidly asked me "what about the boys?"  A mama-bear to the end.  I assured her that the boys would be well-loved and well-cared-for by me and an army of others.  She closed here eyes and nodded, and I thought that was the end of the conversation.  But then something odd happened.  She turned her head to face to the opposite side of the bed and put her arms up in an empty circle, as though hugging someone's neck.  She sometimes did this to me or Jim when we leaned in close to tell her something.  She nodded again, smiled briefly, then said "ok then, I guess it's time to go".  She dropped her arms and went to sleep.  Say what you want about terminal delirium or drug-induced hallucinations.  This was the second-to-last interaction I had with her where I know she was lucid.  And I believe that there was Someone Else in the room with us that night, holding her other hand.

The next night, two nights before she died, there was only one very brief moment where she woke up.  She didn't open her eyes or talk to me or shift positions.  You see, one of the things that I frequently did by her bedside was sing to her.  Mostly hymns or songs from our past.  I was singing "How Great Thou Art", and for about two bars during the refrain, she started singing.  I went looking for a video clip to link to the title of the hymn, but nothing I found did justice to my memory of it.  She joined me on the high harmony, as perfectly and clearly as any duet we've ever sung together.  Then she fell back asleep.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Live Stream of the Funeral

Hi Folks,

Wanted to post a quick update to let you know that if you would like to watch Ashleigh's funeral tomorrow online, the address is

Again, the service will commence at 10:30 AM tomorrow.  I look forward to seeing some of you tonight.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


The official obituary is up on the Turrentine Jackson Morrow website.  It points people to the blog, so if you're already here you obviously don't need to go there just to get directed back here.  Still, if you'd like to leave a memorial comment on the funeral home website you can do that there.  Note that there is also a link on that page to send flowers, but please see the logistics post for our memorial preferences.

The obituary is copied below for your reference.

 Ashleigh Royalty Range, age 30, of Allen, Texas, passed away on July 19, 2015.  She was born on November 23, 1984 in Dallas, Texas to James Malcolm Bruce and Rebekke (Gillyard) Royalty. She lived her childhood in Carrollton, Texas and later moved to Melbourne, Florida, graduating from Satellite High School in 2003 where she wasValedictorian and voted “Best All Around”. On July 7, 2007, Ashleigh married Brad Range in Melbourne, Florida. In 2007 Ashleigh graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering with highest honors. She had a successful career at Alvarez and Marsal as a business consultant as well as in the human resources practice of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. In 2013 Ashleigh earned her Master’s Degree in Systems Engineering and an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was the recipient of the Miriam Sherburne award, a prestigious award given to students who promote and support the Sloan School of Management community. She invited Jesus into her heart at the age of 9 and lived for Him throughout her life, as was evident by her unconditional love for others. Ashleigh became an advocate for inflammatory breast cancer research and journaled her fight with cancer at Ashleigh was an avid runner, participating in marathons and triathlons. She was known for hosting parties and a passion for singing. She was an active member of First Baptist Church in Allen, and a previous member of First Baptist Churches in Carrollton and Dallas. Ashleigh was a loving mother to Noah (2 ½) and David (1); she will be greatly missed by all that knew her.

She is survived by her husband, Brad Range of Allen, Texas; sons Noah James and David Bradford; parents, Jim and Bekke Royalty of Allen, Texas; brother, Andy Royalty and wife Christi of Greenville, South Carolina; grandmother, Nancy Royalty of Hernando, Florida; mother and father in-law, Alan and Jane Range of Marietta, Georgia; sister-in-law, Marjie Posey and husband Jordan, and their daughter Julia, of Alpharetta, Georgia.

Ashleigh was preceded in death by her grandparents, Bryce Royalty, Jim and Marquita Gillyard.

A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m., Friday, July 24, 2015 at First Baptist Church, 201 E McDermott Drive, Allen, Texas. Interment will follow at Restland Cemetery, 13005 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, Texas. The family will receive friends during a visitation, being held from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., Thursday evening at Turrentine-Jackson-Morrow Funeral Home in Allen, Texas.

Memorials may be made to the IBC Network Foundation c/o Terry Arnold, PO Box 908, Friendswood, Texas 77546, or visit her blog at to donate online.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Logistics Update

I will post Ashleigh's full obituary as soon as it's online at the funeral home website.  For now, I wanted to give you a quick update on logistics so those of you making plans can continue to do so effectively.

To friends who don't live in Dallas TX (and even those who do), please hear and understand that we understand other obligations, plans, and financial constraints - that for those of us not in a casket, life goes on.  Eventually.  What I'm trying to say is you shouldn't feel any obligation to move heaven and earth to attend Ashleigh's services.  Your name will not be stricken from our list of friends if you can't make it work.  That said, if you are able to attend I would love nothing more than to see you, trade fond memories and hugs alike, and celebrate Ashleigh's life.

For those out of the country or otherwise unable to attend, we will be broadcasting Ashleigh's service live online.  I'll post the web address once we get the details worked out.

For folks in Atlanta, my parents are planning to do a memorial service at their church in Roswell at some point in the mid- to late-August time frame.  Again, details as they're available.

And the final option for folks unable to attend services this week would be to plan for the gala as an alternative.  I think given a choice between a funeral and a party, Ashleigh herself would rather attend the gala.  There have also been some noises about the potential for a satellite gala in Atlanta, so I'll let you know if that comes to fruition.

But in the near-term, here are some more details for this week (some of this is re-hashed from last night, so apologies for repetition):
  • Visitation will be at Turrentine Jackson Morrow funeral home in Allen TX on Thursday night from 7 to 9 PM
  • The funeral service will be Friday morning at First Baptist Church Allen. at 10:30 AM
  • Graveside service will follow immediately at Restland Cemetery (likely ~12:30 PM).  I know it will be HOT by this time, so I promise this part will be quick.  
  • After the committal at Restland, there will be lunch served back at the church (~1:30 PM or so)
There are two options for memorials:
  • The IBC Network Foundation c/o Terry Arnold, PO Box 908, Friendswood, Texas 77456.  Or online via Ashleigh's FirstGiving page.
  • Noah and David's college fund via direct transfer to the PayPal account, or via the PayPal link here.  (link should be fixed now).
We have some blocks of hotel rooms reserved for Thursday and Friday nights if you're coming in from out of town.
  • Option 1: Hilton Garden Inn, $89.  Ask for Amy Persyn at 973.649.2933 or
  • Option 2: Homewood Suites, $129 Thursday and $99 Friday.  Larger rooms available at two levels: $134 Thursday and $109 Friday or $144 Thursday and $129 Friday.  Contact is Rebecca Rohwer at 214.383.6673 or
  • Option 3: Holiday Inn Express, $129 Standard King or $139 Suite.  Contact Lisa at 972.727.2000 or
In all three cases you can reference the Ashleigh Range memorial.  There is also a Hampton Inn slightly farther north from us near the outlet malls.  Finally, there are a limited number of spaces available for "couch-surfing" with local me directly if you're interested.

As always, thank you for your continued prayers.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Worship

Dear Friends,

I know this is old news by this point for most of you on Facebook.  As much as I would have loved to make an official announcement before it went viral, I recognize that particular wish is a tall order in the era of social media.  I especially apologize to those of you who I would have liked to call in person before you heard through the grapevine.

This morning at 8 AM was a bright, sunny, Sunday morning in Dallas Texas.  It promises to be one of the hottest days of the year so far, but behind the windows of UT Southwestern is was a cool 70 degrees.  The view of the Dallas skyline was especially beautiful in the morning light, with just a few fluffy white clouds in the sky.  All over the city and country people were getting up to attend services where they would worship God - by singing hymns and praise songs, by listening and learning more about God, and by giving their time, talent, and money in service to God.

For all those reasons, this morning at 8 AM was a fitting time (if there ever is such a thing) for my wife to breathe her final breath on this Earth.  She traded singing hymns with a praise band for a choir of angels.  She traded hearing about God from a preacher for looking upon the face of her savior.  Instead of giving her time, talent, and money, she gave her life for the glory of God.  And she was there in time for the for the early worship service in heaven (in stark contrast to our usual punctuality).

We Christians use a lot of platitudes to describe death; phrases that, despite their underlying truth, become saccharine and trite in how they seek to make death's reality and apparent finality more palatable.  "She went home"; "she went to be with Jesus"; "She passed away"; I've even heard "graduation day" used to describe this.  I was there in the room, so let me be perfectly clear: she died.

Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?     -1 Corinthians 15:55

The use of this passage at funerals has always struck me as slightly misguided.  Where is death's sting?  It's right. here.  I'm feeling it's sting as I try to make arrangements, answer a hundred "how are you doings?", and most of all when I sit down with my two-year-old and try to explain how it is that mommy can love him very very much but that she won't be here with us any more. How hard she fought to stay with us.  How even though she was very sick, now she is all better.  How she is in heaven with Jesus.

But the promise of the passage is not diminished just because it points to a future state.  And the truth that Ashleigh is in heaven with Jesus is more deeply true and comforting than just being something you tell a two-year-old.  And the present sting of death is actually a temporary inconvenience.  You may know the end of 2 Corinthians 4 from the T-shirt fundraiser:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

But what you may not know is what immediately follows it in chapter 5:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling... So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

And that is Ashleigh.  Whether here or in death, her aim was to please God and point people to Him.  Her "earthly tent" - her body - was destroyed by cancer.  But she is celebrating now in an eternal building built by God.  She is enjoying her eternal weight of glory.

There are many logistics in the coming days.  Let me share some with you.  We will have a visitation at Turrentine Jackson Morrow funeral home in Allen TX on Thursday night.  We will have a funeral Friday morning at First Baptist Church Allen.  We will have a graveside service immediately following...somewhere.  I will post more details as they are available, but I wanted to get the timeline nailed down so you could "save the date" so to speak.

In lieu of flowers, you can donate to Ashleigh's FirstGiving page to help meet her goal to raise money for IBC research.  Or if you'd rather, you can donate to Noah and David's scholarship fund by donating to the PayPal account as a friend (if you also have a PayPal account), or you can donate directly here if you don't have a PayPal account.

The gala will go forward on August 13 as a tribute to Ashleigh in her memory, so we can meet her goal of raising $100,000 to research her disease.  More details to come.

Finally, the blog will continue for the foreseeable future as a way to communicate what's going on with me, the boys, the gala, funeral services, obituaries, etc.  There are a few posts from Ashleigh still in the 'draft' folder that I'll get around to editing and posting at some point.  There are a few more posts that I'd like to write.  At some point we will wrap up the blog (since it's Ashleigh's blog), but in the meantime you should continue to check here for updates.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Last week was our 8th Anniversary.  There's not too much to show or tell - this year's anniversary dinner was a pretty low-key event for obvious reasons.  In spite of everything, we had a lot to celebrate.

A simple meal from EatZi's with some of Ash's favorites - green beans and shrimp

Since her metastatic diagnosis, Ashleigh and I have often discussed that the last year has been pretty amazing.  Despite being a year marked by cancer treatments, most treatments had relatively few side-effects and up until two months ago we have predominantly been able to live our lives unaffected by cancer.  We have watched David grow through his first year into a speedy crawler with a toothy grin and infectious laugh.  Noah has blossomed into a wonderfully verbal and happy (if stereotypically contrary) two-year-old.  We have been loved and supported by family, our Sunday School, friends, neighbors, and strangers alike in ways we would have never dreamed.  We have reveled in simple joys as God has been teaching us to never take for granted a new sunrise.  And our love has grown deeper and more mature as we have lived out "for better or worse" in real life.

We had a great conversation over dinner about an a capella competition that doesn't exist - possibly inspired by recently watching Pitch Perfect 2 together.  Still, it was the most interactive conversation we had in a few days, and I relished it.  We discussed whether Redline was going to win (I assured her they would).  Maybe it's not the healthiest thing to play along with delusions, but I wouldn't have tried to jolt her back to reality (and the associated confusion and uncertainty) for anything in the world.

Something Ash got in her head somewhere along the way was that she wanted to wash each others' feet as part of our wedding ceremony.  For those not familiar - this is based in a story in John 13 where Jesus washes his disciples' feet as a way to show how we should love and serve one another.  The wedding planner initially balked at the logistics - removing footwear is not something attempted in a typical Baptist wedding!  Still, you won't be surprised to learn Ash held firm to her vision and I (the dutiful husband-to-be) tried to support her.  I think the result was great; we weren't front-and-center while this occurred in the ceremony, we did it off to the side while an A cappella group performed "Take my Life and Let it Be".  We re-watched our wedding video on our anniversary and I'm still really happy with how that turned out - shout-out to Jason, Shane, David, Nikki, Matt, and Rachel, our awesome GT A cappella buddies!

7/7/07 - We each wound up with one foot cleaner than the other

Each anniversary since then, we have repeated the symbolic act of washing each others' feet.  It served as a yearly reminder to us that our goal in marriage was to serve one another, to put the other's needs before our own.  This year the foot washing was a bit less symbolic than in previous years.  I helped Ashleigh walk back to bed after dinner in the picture above and she stepped in some spilled dinner along the way.  A perfect segue into our tradition!

The reason I tell the story is what happened next: I washed her feet and put away the basin, fully intending to let her end of the tradition slide this year since she wasn't really in a physical or mental state to reciprocate.  In a rare moment of lucidity (and, after 8 years, a not-so-rare moment of Ashleigh letting me know in no uncertain terms that I was being an idiot), she demanded I bring back the basin. :-)  Despite the pain and limited range of motion for which I would have gladly given her a pass, she insisted that tradition be followed - she wanted to communicate to me that she still, even now, wants to put my needs in front of her own and serve me, insofar as she's able.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is a love that deserves at least 62 more anniversaries to celebrate adequately.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Amazing People and Exciting Plans

In my last rather somber post I mentioned that despite a downturn in Ash's health, there are still many reasons we have to continue to be excited for the future.  Many of our big "praises" currently are closely tied to some amazing individuals who have been going above-and-beyond to honor Ashleigh.  The ball is rolling on some exciting plans that I want to share with you.

Just about all my posts reference that I'm not a big Facebook guy.  Still, if you are someone who makes regular use of that tool I might ask you to consider re-posting, or sharing, or whatever it is the kids are doing these days.  There are a few initiatives in the works to honor Ash that are in process, and I want people to be aware of them.

The first is an awesome T-shirt Fundraiser spearheaded by the amazing super-mom Andrea over at the blog Momfessionals.  Ever since the passing of the tutu Andrea has been a real friend of our family and has used her status and influence in the blog-world to help us out at every turn.  She is a great example of how to use whatever sphere of influence you have (whether that's cancer or just being an "average" mom) to effectively express faith in God.  I wanted to get this in front of you today, dear reader, since the deadline appears to be wrapping up soon.  Thank you, Andrea!

The famous tutu.  I should really post some pictures of Ashleigh wearing this out on a date with me - she got so many stares of open avarice from teenage girls who think she looks like a princess (and I agree)!

Along similar lines, there is a whole committee of folks actively working to make Ashleigh's dream of a gala event a reality.  The progress these folks are making is truly phenomenal and a fulfillment of Ashleigh's vision.  She couldn't plan it better herself - and that's saying something!  We have a date: August 13, 7-10 PM at the home of a truly gracious lady in Preston Hollow.

The Gala Location!

I'll share more details here as they come available, but for now save that date!  Several influential friends in the cancer community that Ashleigh has made along the way have been instrumental in helping make this happen, along with two different fantastic event planners and a group of Ashleigh's close personal friends.  The folks of Ally's Wish are helping to make this happen, and many many people and organizations are donating to the effort.  It's shaping up to be exactly the swanky shindig that Ashleigh dreams it will be (though I think everyone involved would shy away from wanting it called a 'shindig').

Tickets will be $100, and I'll publish the Eventbrite registration page as soon as it's up.  This is significantly less than the cost for a 'typical' society-event; Ashleigh wants it to be accessible for our friends to attend as a thank-you for all that they have done for us over the last year.

All of these efforts feed in to one goal that Ashleigh has: she wants to raise $100,000 for research into her specific type of disease.  Triple-negative, inflammatory, metastatic: any of those adjectives in isolation are bad news in the cancer world.  They are all indicators of aggressive, deadly disease and none of them receive very much attention from funding sources.  Ashleigh's post on Pinktober covers some of the issues at play - suffice it to say (in an admittedly sweeping generalization) that the rarer, more aggressive types of cancer are generally under-funded but are actually what kills people.

On top of directly funding primary research, Ashleigh wants her legacy to be funding research for many years to come.  So the funds we raise will go into an endowment that will pay out each year to directly fund research projects that would otherwise be overlooked and unfunded.  Our hope is that this will allow our cancer charity of choice, the IBC Network Foundation, to have a consistent source of funding they can count on each year, indefinitely.

To this end, the central page we are tracking all progress towards our goal is here.  The T-shirt funds, gala donations...everything is going to funnel to that central progress bar to track our progress against our $100K goal.  If you won't be able to attend the gala in August, consider donating there, or send a check directly to the IBC Network in Ashleigh's honor.

I can't say thank-you enough to all the individuals who are making strides like these to honor Ashleigh...though you will likely grow tired of hearing me try over the next month.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Deja Vu All Over Again

Hi Folks.  Many apologies once again for the long delay between posts.  We wanted to give you all time to revel in the joy of Ashleigh's previous post, and give ourselves and the doctors some time to investigate and process recent developments.  It's unfortunate that when you realize I (Brad) am the one writing the post, you can pretty much assume it's not going to be great news... 

Current Status

We were admitted to the hospital a little over a week ago because Ashleigh had a persistent fever she just couldn't seem to shake.  The severity varied greatly - generally it would rise through the day (sometimes as high as 103, but typically more around 101) then break overnight.  You will recall that fevers are generally bad things if you're on chemo due to a depressed immune system.  However, Ashleigh's immune system (specifically her ANC for the medical folks out there) was actually a bit elevated - either because of the booster shot she gets after chemo, or potentially as a response to an infection.

Over the last week despite the doctor's best efforts (and the involvement of the infectious disease team - think a real-live "House" without the surliness or limp) we haven't been able to pinpoint the cause of the fevers.  Since there seemed to be no infection to blame, the leading theory is that they are a direct symptom of the cancer in her liver.  The good news is they have been predominantly non-existent for at least the last few days.

Just like our last hospital admission about a month ago, what started as an isolated concern (the fever) seemed to rapidly spiral into several other issues.  Over the last week her "functional status" has decreased significantly - we're about back to where we were at the worst point last time with regard to her lucidity (or lack thereof).  She is regularly in pain, and the drugs it takes to manage that have their own deleterious effects as well.  The latest concern has been her platelets.  Healthy platelet counts are generally around 150, and anything below 20 represents a significant risk for bleeding.  I've lost count at this point of the number of platelet transfusions she's had - somewhere around 5 or 6.  Despite that, her counts regularly bottom out in the 6 to 8 range.

So we are facing some serious issues, and doctors unfortunately don't have all the answers.  Still, we have hope in God, who we know does have all the answers. 


I would be remiss in this update if I didn't mention a few specific prayer requests:

+ Continued prayers for a miracle - that God would heal Ashleigh completely
+ That Ashleigh's mental state would improve
+ That her pain would be well-managed
+ That her platelet count would stabilize and not require more infusions
+ For wisdom for the doctors to continue to work out treatment options
+ Wisdom for us through difficult choices ahead

We have several things to be thankful for, praise God for, and even be excited about - but I'm going to update you about those in a future post :-) 

Deja Vu

It's ironic that we posted the last update about Ashleigh's miraculous recovery on the night we were admitted back in the hospital - simply because waiting around to be admitted in the emergency room gave us time to do final edits.  I am thankful beyond words for the intervening week between the two hospitalizations - to have Ashleigh at home and 100% "with it" mentally and physically was a real gift.  She and I discussed it, and I think the last hospitalization will end up being a very gracious gift from God, actually because Ash was so close to death.

What I mean is that we have never really feared being dead, simply because we believe that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians).  However, I think we both still feared the actual dying part.  But if dying looks like Ash made it look a month ago, it's really not that scary.  She was out of it, sure, but always in good spirits, slept a lot, and as comfortable as we could make her.  What I'm saying is that her last brush with death gave us both the confidence that, when the time comes to face it again, we will be able to face it together, unafraid.

So there's a lot about where we're sitting right now that looks very similar to how things looked a month ago.  Last time God heard our prayers and allowed Ash to recover at a neigh-miraculous rate.  We hope He does the same thing this time around.  After a pretty crazy month of highs and lows, there is only one fact that we can continue to rely on, one solid ground where we still find sure footing: God is still in control.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Remember that time I almost died in the hospital....but then DIDN'T?!?

Yeah, I don't totally remember it either so this post will be mostly made up of first-hand eyewitness accounts and some super depressing pictures that will probably make you cry. They made me cry. But then again, everything makes me cry, even with my super-duper happy drugs!

I read over the blog posts Brad wrote while I was in the hospital (way to go Brad! way to stay on top the blog and be totally awesome like that! goooo Brad go!!). Then I spoke with some friends that flew in town to be there to help me (and the boys) while in the hospital.

The two posts immediately preceeding this one were intentionally somewhat vague about how I was ACTUALLY doing at the time. I think the main motivation was that we didn't need 100 people in the waiting room of the hospital - but we DID need 1,000,000 prayers. So Brad tried to deliver accurate reports on my status without actually saying in so many words that the doctors thought I was dying.

If you've been following our story since the chemo days (oh, those good ol' chemo days...), you'd remember that I was one of the really twisted ones that loved getting chemo because I knew that I was being given something that could fight the cancer. So same deal now: I was excited to get the treatment plan (...ANY treatment plan) executed. We spent a lot of time hemming and hawing about what to do first. While we were trying to make a good decision, the cancer was filling up my lungs with fluid and my liver had a 6 cm met on it (I've never, ever heard of something like this before, ESPECIALLY in a week). I feel like I'm running out of ways to say I have the most aggressive breast cancer possible.

Somehow in the time it took to sign paperwork, or whatever else it is you do to get onto a clinical trial (looking back, what were we doing anyways?) - I took a nose dive. A great big nosedive. My body was shutting down. I was no longer coherent. I literally couldn't see straight.

The doctor was very forthright with my family and me - or, as much of me as was actually there. The options she gave us were: A) don't take the chemo and die peacefully at home (5-7 days), or B) take the chemo, my liver potentially fail (there was a high risk my liver wouldn't be able to handle the chemo at that point), and die in the hospital (1-2 days).

The Sunday after I was admitted, folks brought the boys by to see me - and, we thought at the time, perhaps to say goodbye.

We originally didn't share these photos since they look so sad.  But now they are a testament to how amazing my recovery has been - Thank you Jesus!!
 So this is how I saw my options: if I was dying either way, at least the chemo gave me a shot, however small. So I said go big or go home: chemo!

Thankfully when you are in this stage of dying they give you some excellent drugs that make these decisions not as stressful/scary. I was at total and complete peace. And mostly out of it. I feel bad mostly for Brad trying to make those types of decisions with a clear mind. Of course, I'm not sure I would prefer the reverse, either. :-)

Each day after the infusion we waited for the gauntlet to fall. For all my numbers - blood counts, liver function - to start tumbling. Instead, every morning I asked, "has my liver failed?" They kept telling me no. Something was working. Jesus performed a miracle in my body and instead of getting worse, day-by-day things improved. I had doctors with the most shocked looked on their faces - one even actually used the word "miracle". So I'm here. We don't know how long I'm here for, but I'm here right now- and I will take it!

Another visit just before discharge from the hospital - what a difference a week can make!