Hello Friends - I have a few moments of quiet around the house before I head out, and realized that now is as good a time as any to give you an update. Two major things have happened since we last wrote...both new, and both pretty unexpected.
1. We bought a house. Yup, it's true! Just a few months ago, this was not at all on our radar and even as we considered it, we didn't actually think it would be possible. But here we are, in our own place.
And completely unexpected.
Several of you have already done so much to help as we transition, and saying "thanks" really minimizes the gratitude we feel. Just the same: thank you. Most days (all days?) we are pretty overwhelmed by His goodness and kindness to us in the midst of all this. We heartily welcome visitors, and look forward to lots of hosting in the future. If you're in the area and need a place to eat or lay your head or grab a cup of coffee...remember us! (Did you know that in China, dropping by without warning is perfectly normal and socially acceptable? So if you do that here, we promise we won't think you are weird. You might even be speaking our love language.)
Do we still hope to return to China one day? Most definitely. Pretty much every day. To be honest, buying a house in suburban America when you actually want to live and be and minister and raise your kids somewhere else is a very odd experience. If nothing else, though, these feelings keep us very grounded in the reality that this is all very temporal, and that one day it is all going to burn...so we don't have to get overly attached to any one place. This world is not our home, yet it is my Father's world. So we will live and grow and be and enjoy where He has us.
2. About a week ago, we got a call from Dr. Einhorn with results from the genetic testing that was done on James's cancer. Initially, everyone thought that in the rare chance that there should be a mutation, it would be one that could be treated with oral chemo. As it turns out, ever the oddball patient, James didn't have those...but he has a newly discovered mutation that they would like to treat with a very new drug that is not chemo. It is considered targeted therapy, which means the drug goes after cells with a certain genetic makeup to keep them from reproducing.
And completely unexpected.
We met with the doctors last week and heard about how they discovered it, how they tested James, why they think this drug might work, and what they expect as the outcome. To be clear, even in the best case scenario, no one there feels that this drug could actually save James's life. The best they are hoping for is that it would stop progression of disease. Doctors and researchers have not yet seen it cause remission for lung cancer, and the doctor said that even if James did go into remission, his chances of surviving are still slim to none.
My best guess is that the doctor means that based on statistics, most lung cancer patients don't make it five years. (Which is the marker they use to measure "survivability.") So they can't speak with any certainty about this being some kind of new miracle cure. That being said, most lung cancer patients are 70-something lifelong 2 pack-a-day smokers who already had compromised health. So...maybe not the best pool for statistics on survivability?
If I heard correctly, they have been using this drug for about 4 months, though longer for breast cancer patients (where they have seen the most positive outcomes). It is experimental in the sense that they don't yet have enough data to know expected outcomes for lung cancer patients. If I could go back to that appointment, I would have told the doctors that whatever they are expecting as the outcome, they should most of all expect that James's cancer will not react in the way they expect. Whatever happens, we can be sure that God is going to have this go the way He will have it go.
The team at IU is working hard already (before we even met with them, actually) to procure this drug for use on James. (Prayer request number one, I guess.) They expect it to take 3-4 weeks. The next step will be for James to meet with Dr. Einhorn and perhaps do another scan to get a new baseline. As James gets treated with this drug they'll need to compare new scans with old ones to see if and how it's working. So maybe James will start treatment in November or so?
In the meantime, James is working with friends of ours to help several of his family members get visas to come this way towards the end of November. If things go according to plan (ha!), our family will get visas, James will return to China in November for a few weeks of work and ministry, and will return to the States with his dad, three siblings, and two sisters-in-law. I personally look forward to seeing them all here, especially James's dad who is 74 this year...first flew on a plane when James and I were dating...and has never been out of the country. Amazing. And I'm sure Haoping, our niece, will enjoy getting to see her parents. We will all enjoy some really, really good Chinese food from our family.
As I sign off, allow me to share a story from the doctor's office. Neither James nor I often get the opportunity to share our faith with the doctors and nurses we come in contact with, though we seek those opportunities out and get excited whenever they present themselves. Last week, as the doctors explained things to us, and how we could call often to check on the status of getting the drug, I got the sense that they most commonly deal with patients who are in a state of desperation. Desperate for answers, desperate for a cure, desperate for efficiency, desperate for hope, desperate for life.
Yet there we were, not feeling any of those things. Through your prayers and God's grace, we have peace with where God has us, and perhaps more importantly, peace that God has us. He's got this completely under His control. Circumstances have rarely gone the way that we have wanted them to go, and yet we have tremendous confidence that nothing is happening to us that is not sovereignly orchestrated by our loving, all-powerful Father.
That's a pretty sweet spot to be in.
And so, in response, this is what I was able to say to the doctors treating James
I just want you to know that we are not going to do that [call repeatedly until we get the drug]. We are happy to use this drug, but my husband will not live or die based on whether we get this drug our not. My husband's life is in God's hands. No drug or lack of drug will extend his life or cut his life short. Nothing will cut my husband's life short. God has the number of his days, and we have already seen how He has sustained him. You know James should not be here, yet here he is. We have three young girls, and we most definitely want him to live. But that is not up to us. So we'll wait to hear from you.
That was a pretty good day.
Until next time...
lots of love & thanks,
~james and kristen