I woke up today thinking about where we were and what we were doing a year ago today. So I opened up the calendar on my laptop and saw where right about this time last year we were about to board a flight to take us to Seattle, to board a ship that would take us to Alaska.
We were part of a music cruise with some other country artists (a lot of them are heroes of ours) and we all spent seven days traveling by ship up the Western coastline, playing concerts, and stopping in ports in Alaska and Canada… and then working our way back down to the harbor in Seattle. Joey and I and our three girls made the trip together when Indy was only about 5 months old, and Joey was less than a month out of her first Cancer surgery. Joey’s mama even got to come with us to help take care of Indy while we were performing. It was a wonderful family adventure that none of us will ever forget. This is a video I made from clips I took on our trip last year.
Needless to say, our July this year looks a little different than last. And though Joey’s mama is again with us helping take care of Indy… it’s for different reasons.
But this time here is also an adventure that none of our family will ever forget.
Joey got up and walked again today. She made 4 laps around the ICU on her walker and she celebrated by getting to have her first cup of ice water (they removed her NG tube today… so she hasn’t been able to have anything to eat or drink since last Tuesday night), so she was so excited! Next up… vegetable broth, and jello… and then hopefully soon she’ll get to eat some real food in the next day or two. Her strength is coming back and though it hurt her to… she even laughed a couple times today. It was so beautiful to see her smile again. I love her so much and am so proud of her.
She’s recovering well and who knows, maybe we’ll get to go home a day or two early (no one has said that… it’s just me wishful thinking).
God willing, we’re going to be part of another “Country’s Family Reunion” music cruise to the Caribbean in late January of 2016. I sure hope Joey is fully recovered by then and we’re all able to again as a family. It will be not long after all of Joey’s chemo’s and radiation finishes up and I’m pretty sure some time on a beach chair in the sun will be a dream come true for her, and all of us.
As I sit here next to Joey’s hospital bed, there are bouquets of flowers lining the nurses desk outside her room door (they can’t bring them into her room, until she’s out of ICU and in a regular room) and behind me get-well cards line her window sill. Joey is resting soundly and all I can hear is her breath and the sounds of the machines monitoring her heart rate and oxygen and administering IV’s and pain medicine into her veins. It’s a an eerie, beautiful quiet after the storm.
Today was a good day. After a long night of chills and fevers and her body temperature rising and falling…late this morning Joey started stabilizing and coming out of the remaining effects of deep fog the anesthesia had put her in. By noon the nurses had her on her feet and “walking” down the hall – holding onto a walker and her IV tree, as she made dozens of very small steps in the right direction. An hour ago, two of the nurses were gently bathing my bride, telling her stories and french-braiding her hair. This place is truly wonderful.
Yesterday in the waiting room, one of the patients family members here came up to our manager Aaron and told him that she recognized us and that they were big fans of ours. Then she told him, “tell Joey and Rory not to worry… in here, everyone is treated like a celebrity”. I love that.
The surgery took almost ten hours, so we didn’t get to talk to the doctor or see Joey until after 10 pm last night. When Joey’s surgeon finally came out into the waiting room and sat down with us, he was so kind and wonderful and he talked with us for a long time. He told us that everything had gone well in the surgery and that he believes that they were able to get all of the main tumor removed, along with two infected lymph nodes and other places that were affected. They also did intra-operative radiation on some areas where they weren’t able to get a clear margin. All-in-all, he was very positive and hopeful. So we are too.
Joey is going to be in recovery here at CTCA for 7 to 10 days, and then we’ll be able to go home for a week or two, then we’ll come back here for 5 weeks of chemo and radiation. Once that is completed, Joey will start a more aggressive form of chemotherapy here that will last for 18 weeks. And during that phase, she’s going to be given the opportunity to look more like our sweet little Indiana. She’s gonna lose all of her pretty dark hair.
I took this of pic of Joey and Indy at the hotel before we left for the hospital. She was telling her mama that she was gonna be brave…with a kiss.
Some roads we go down in life are smooth and easy, and some we take are rough and rocky. This one’s gonna be a little bumpy and scary at times… but we’re gonna go down it together the same way we’ve gone down all the ones before – hand in hand – taking it one moment, one hour, and one day at a time.
We woke up this morning in our hotel room to the sound of Indiana rustling in her playpen at the foot of our bed. She was cooing and talking to her hands as the 5:30 am light was streaming in through the curtains. I turned over to Joey and put my hand on hers. She was already awake – covered in sweat, head to toe. We both laid there and listened to our baby for a minute or two, then she turned to me and said, “this is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”.
My wife was smiling bravely, but tears were streaming down her face, and mine.
Fast forward eight hours, and I’m sitting here in the waiting room, selfishly thinking… Joey’s right. This is the day that the Lord has made, cause I wouldn’t have made it this way. The day I would’ve made for my wife would’ve been much different. It would’ve been filled with nothing but joy for her… maybe spent at the farm working in her garden, or playing with Indy in her kiddie pool. If I had made this day, no one would be saying the words cancer or surgery, and we wouldn’t be anywhere near Chicago, or signing a living-will in a hospital bed, and I wouldn’t have to kiss my scared wife goodbye as they wheel her down a hallway to undergo something that no amount of preparing for, can prepare her for.
No, this is not the day that I would’ve made.
But God knows better than I do. He sees the bigger picture, I only see the one above.
He is writing our story, not me. He is planning our days, not us. Instead of a day at home in Tennessee, we’re here at Cancer Treatment Centers of America and my wife is being treated by some of the best physicians and nurses in the world. And all around the country, thousands of people are praying for her. They’re taking time out of their busy lives and days and lifting Joey up to the Lord in love, asking for healing. They’re texting, calling, emailing, and posting… pouring love out on my sweet, sweet bride.
Yes, THIS is the day that the Lord has made.
And His day is better than my day. Any day.
PS – last year when Joey found out that she had cancer, she sang this song over and over again. And today… she’s still singing and believing.
The doctors say there is a 9 cm tumor in Joey’s sigmoid colon. Even though the cancer is now in the colon, they said it’s the same cells as before (she was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year and had surgery last June to remove the tumor), and that the original cancer has now spread to a new organ and the tumor and cells are rapidly growing, so that is the big concern.
As I write this… my wife is in her garden, the baby on a blanket near her. She’s weeding her squash, and broccoli and kale, and the cucumbers that have just poked their heads up out of the soil. But she’s not just tending to her vegetables – she’s tending to her soul. Walking and talking with God.
And all the while, she’s growing healthy food for her husband and baby to eat. Food that God makes, not science. The kind that you can’t put a price on, at least not in a grocery store. That’s one of her passions. She doesn’t do it because it’s easy (especially for her right now), she does it because it’s important to her.
There are many things that are very important to my wife, and those things never change, they never waver. Not through good times or bad times, not through tears or joy. She knows what the good stuff in life is and she reaches for it and pushes away the things that don’t matter. She’s always been this way. I wish I was more like her… and that it came easy to me. I have to work at it. It’s just part of her… like breathing air, or loving Indy.
This moment was April 1st 2010…
So next week, we are going to Chicago to have Joey looked at at a cancer treatment center there. We will take Indy with us and one of Joey’s sisters will be with us while she’s there for a few days being evaluated. Our hope is that we’ll spend a good portion of the summer there, and then by harvest time in her garden, she’ll have her rubber boots on and will be up and down those rows gathering the harvest that the Lord has provided. And like most falls, she’ll spend countless days canning and freezing and cooking what she grew, the hard way.
We’ve been shown lots of love before from friends and family, from fans and strangers. But this… this is a whole other level of love. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.
There are few words scarier than the word “cancer”. In our culture these days, we usually think that’s as bad as it can get. But when you hear a doctor say the words “the cancer’s come back”… it’s a whole new level of scary.
Last year – this exact time last year actually – Joey went in to surgery for cervical cancer. The doctors felt like they got everything and after a few weeks of healing, she made a full recovery. And now here we are again, faced with a similar situation.
Over the last couple of months, Joey hasn’t been feeling well. She had hoped that it was just a stomach virus or an intestinal issue, but after many tests and biopsies, it turns out that it’s more than that.
On Thursday, Joey had a port put in for chemotherapy and radiation. She starts the treatments in the coming week.
Here’s what the doctors think…
With six weeks of chemo and radiation, the tumor may reduce in size and possibly even go away completely, and if so, she won’t have to have any further surgeries. If the chemo and radiation doesn’t work like they hope, Joey will be in for an even tougher road ahead.
Here’s what Joey and I know…
God has a plan, and His plan is our plan. Each day that we’re given is a beautiful gift from Him to us. And while we will pray each day for a miracle, we’re gonna live each day as if it’s a miracle. And it is.
“Lord, as believers… we trust you completely and pray for your will to be done. Not ours.
But as flesh and bone, husband and wife… we pray for complete and total healing in Joey’s body, so we can grow old together, holding hands in rockers on our front porch watching the sun go down.
So that our sweet little baby Indiana can not miss one precious moment with her mama.
Amen. Amen. Amen.”