John's cancer stories

John's cancer gave him the most wonderful gift he would have ever wished for... it brought our family physically together, as well as spiritually, and emotionally, and mentally!  John is the youngest of our living children, and the only boy after having 4 girls!  There were 6 losses along the way, and so when John arrived after two losses by mischarriage between him and the next oldest, Susan, plus the death of my sister, Mary, at age 28 to cancer... I was a weaping mess for a long time after that!  The girls would see me sitting in the barn crying or at home.  I say that I cried through the entire time I was pregnant with Susan.  She came into the world compassionate and caring for all around her - most especially her younger brother, John!  She cared for him, and even saved his life!  We were out in the yard, and the newly walking 2 year old John was out there with the family.  Suddenly Susan asked - "Where's John?"  We looked up to see him walking into the door of a shed just as Pat was backing out a tractor.  We rushed to scoop him up in our arms just in time!  Susan was always watching out for her little brother, and now that she is Little Sister Hallel - John jokes that he now has a his first little Sister! 
John with his 4 sisters at St Joseph hospital in the first week of his cancer journey.  John is really only the happiest when his family is around him. Being the youngest... there was the Christmas when Maria was studying in Rome - Nancy and Susan went to see her for the Christmas holiday and Ruth was working at a nurse in Sioux Falls.  John was quite miserable not having us together.  Then there was the time that we were driving Maria to enter the Poor Clare Monastery on Jan 1, 2004 - the Solemnity of Mary.  It was possible that Maria would go behind the enclosure, and we would never be able to hug her again, and she would live behind there always.  We would be allowed to visit her from time to time, but she would never be able to attend family occassions. John was devasted by this perceived loss, and laid his head in her lap and cried on our trip to Sauk Rapids that day.  "You can't do this!" 
Maria at John's side - she discerned that the Poor Clares was not her call - she is now married to Joseph and they have 5 children - 3 with them and 2 in heaven.  It was so important to John in his battle to have us all around him, and then there were the thousands of prayers from the prayer warriors!  His life was transformed by his journey/Cross - cancer/healing/seminary.  His story is a beautiful testimony of Jesus answering his prayer for Faith!  Here is the article in the January Prairie Catholic.  So moving to hear in John's words just how the Lord was at work answering his prayer for Faith with brain cancer  - looking death in the eye, and being healed and ministered to by the Catholic Church through - Sacrament, Saints, Our Lady in the rosary, Prayer, on and on.  John faced the giant -cancer - as a beautifully courageous young man of God - David!  He found strength in the arms of his family around him!  We were able to have Susan come home from France and be with John to support him.  How he loves and misses his Susan/Hallel when she is far away.  It was so uplifting for us to band together to fight the fight for John's LIFE and most importantly John's FaithLIFE!

The day we dropped off Maria at the Poor Clares - Jan 1, 2004.  Her considering a LIFE of prayer was very powerful for us, and although the enclosure protected her from the world, and in a way seperated us.  Yet, we were brought together to share his experience as Maria took this difficult step of Faith - listening to HIS Call!  If we all look like we had been crying - it was true!

Not able to hug - yet a kiss!  Such a powerful picture this has become of keeping that closeness alive.  John was determined to keep his sisters close to him, and so his cancer allowed that to happen for him.  He seemed to be so peaceful and content when they were around him as he faced the biopsy/surgery that finally diagnosed his cancer, and all the days of chemo and radiation as well as the ataxia/loss of coordination on his left side after the biopsy needle passed through the cerebellum of his brain!  All part of the plan as we were reminded by Hallel early on... that Jesus is in control!  We had just gotten the terrifying news, after going in for a CT scan in Marshall on Father's Day morning of 2009.  John had been having double vision and very tired - it seemed to get worse by the day!  Finally, I decided that I had to take him in.  When we were told that there was something in his brain, and we needed an MRI in Sioux Falls - we stopped at home to call France, and we got ahold of Susan!  "Mom, do you remember the Gospel for today?"  she asked me.  "Yes, it was Jesus calming the storm from Mark."  "Well, mom, this is the storm, and Jesus is in control."  This allowed me to let go, and let God.  Yes, I clung to my rosary beads as to a lifeline - repeating the prayers with each breath that I take and every beat of my heart.  I had to remind myself with each revelation of John being so rare to have this disease that usually strikes older men or people with AIDS!  Susan's words would remind me to TRUST!  Also the powerful reminder from our Bishop!  When John's cancer came roaring back through the chemo - "When things get tough or hard repeat these words - 'Jesus, I trust in you.' " Chaplet of Divine Mercy - St Faustina  Since then this is always with me, and repeating it as often as I do - it becomes easier and easier to actually give my life and my all to HIM!

On my way to see John in Sioux Falls after we knew that there was something in his brain.  We prayed so hard to know what to do!  There was a surgeon in Sioux Falls who wanted to do horrific brain surgery on our 20 year old son!  It was the first time we heard the word "tumor" used, and there was no way that we could allow this to happen.  It sounded like he could die, or be permanantly brain damaged!  So we took him out and looked for one of the best brain surgeons in the world to tell us what we should do, and we found him at St Joseph's hospital in St Paul!  We took John out and up there!  And he told us that there was no way that he would consider doing any kind of this surgery on John!  We definitely were led away from there, and that door was shut tight!  It is terrifying to think that there might be those that would allow such a thing!  Lord, we know that you held us in the palm of your hand!

As we brought John up to the Cities - we had a homebase at Maria and Joe's home close to the St Thomas campus in St Paul.  It worked out well for this to be family central, as Nancy also lived with their family as well as 3 law students!  It was a lively place where we could make big family meals and since it was summer - grandma bought this pool complex for the kids to enjoy in the midst of the craziness and emotions of this shocking outcome for our 20 year old John!  As the family was all around John  - I took a day away to make FOOD!  I just needed a down day to make some homecooked food for the family, and get some mental health time.  I ended up at a big Cub Food store that was nearby.  As I slowly walked the aisles picking out what I needed... I got in line of a black checkout woman about my age.  She asked me the ususal - "How are you doing?"  I just couldn't say the usual "fine."  I said - "Not that good."  "You at least have money for food." she says, "unlike that guy ahead of you."  she points to a black man bagging his own groceries that has just paid with food stamps.  "That's true," I say, "but my 20 year old son has brain cancer!  Could you please pray for him?"  She looks shocked at me and slightly nods her head.  At that exact moment a young girl in the next lane says - "Are you from Marshall?  I think I went to school with some of your girls.  Did you say that your son has brain cancer?  Can I pray for you right here and now?"   I was shocked and nodded my head in astonishment by it all.  She bowed her head, and said a simple short prayer asking for John to be healed and protected as well as his family.  I looked up to see the checkout lady and the man bagging his groceries also bowing their heads in prayer - united in prayer!  That changed me!  I might have lost a bit of my fire since.  But for a long time after this happened I would pray in the street, on the phone, in an email  - I would no longer say that I was going to pray for someone - I would do it right then and there!  I call this the Grocery Store girl, and she started me into a virtual prayer warrior!  I was reminded of this the other night - John and I were talking on the phone, and we were talking about my working the overnight shift at the nursing home that night.  This is a hard task for me, and John knows it.  He said that he would pray for me, and immediatly launched into a wonderful sweet prayer asking Jesus to go with me and to use me!  I thought of my grocery store girl, and smiled all the way to work and many times during the night remember the blessings that we have received.  Just yesterday I called a special friend/daughter that is struggling with her faith, and we prayed on the phone!  Such a powerful connection!  Prayer is something REAL and powerful!!!  We certainly have discovered that on this journey!

Well, as John's cancer returned after some steroids caused it to temporarily get smaller - we faced another scary treatment at the U of M.  We were once again uncertain.  I thought that this type of chemo could be dangerous as they threaded a catheter up past the blood brain barrier to attack his cancer.   We were directed away from it and to Mayo by an email and a call to a top rated cancer doctor!  Feeling the direction of the Holy Spirit once again!  Now we had to have the biopsy to know once and for all what it was.  Suddenly there was another small area at the back of his brain and not right down in the middle where it had only been at first.  We opted for this less dangerous spot for the biopsy, of course!  There was no good results from the biopsy, and it wasn't looking like they would find the answer there - finally they found a few lymphoma cells in some of the blood they removed from the area of the brain!  They had a diagnosis!  Yet, we were devastated when John was unable to touch his nose with his finger with his left hand, or control his left foot!  ATAXIA came to visit, and had not totally left - we now have the new John! 
We were so ministerd to by our amazing Church - just as John was to go to his biopsy the following day - Fr Craig Timmerman came to Rochester and annointed John as well as another woman from our area!  Susan and Little Sister Benedict walked in just as he was to begin.  Then lately we found this beautiful gift - 
Adoramus Te Domine, we adore thee
 look at the 7 minute mark of this beautiful sharing of the power of the sacraments!  John was annointed 3 times over his months of battle! The Church gave us strength to Trust and find Peace in the midst of the battle!  Broken and very sick we attended Sunday mass in a tiny chapel just down the hall from where John was starting his first chemo.  His entire family was there around him, and suddenly John just began to wail loudly in an agonizing cry!  It was brutal to hear him in the back in a wheelchair with Susan and Nancy beside him.  He shared that this was when it hit him that the Faith he had half-heartedly asked for was coming to him in the form of this horrible life-changing and altering way - brain cancer!  This was the turning point for him, and the seed of Faith was planted and grew within him - through the Cross - the Tree of LIFE -called cancer John found LIFE, and LOVE, and LIGHT and this gave him the Faith that he had longed for and asked for!

Once we had the diagnosis - a very sick John was launched straight into his chemo. Unable to walk on his own... his dad fit under his armpit - at 6'5" his taller height made them a perfect pair to walk together.  Such a powerful image of a parent taking the weight of his child.  That feeling that a parent gets of wanting to take the place of their child when they are suffering... was somewhat helped by this allowing of John to move around with the help of his shocked and loyal dad!  We took turns taking John for his 3 day chemo treatment, and we learned that he could drink a ton of liquid after the chemo was in to flush it out super fast... get to the levels that he could come home for the week and a half until the next go round.  We waited for him to get sick and his hair to start to fall out, but we soon discovered that this chemo did not have those side effects.  He would start to feel better and get better instead! 

How he loved having his Susie at his side - they have such a loving and silly relationship!  John feels that Susan modeled for him sainthood in high school, and she better watch out because he has her on a very high pedastal!  But he gained peace, joy, and strength by having her come once again to spend some time with him right around his biopsy and first chemo.  Then she returned to France as she had a huge step to take with her Community.  You see, we had gotten tickets to fly to France in August to be there as she took her habit and changed her name.  Pat, I, John, and his sister, Nancy, had purchased our tickets!  When this happened we felt that there was no way we could still go!  Little Sister Benedict in Kansas City asked us to not be too hasty in getting our tickets refunded, but looking at John - unable to walk and so sick and starting chemo - we thought she lived in a dream world.  Nancy kept her ticket, but the airlines agreed with us that this was a circumstance - a 20 year old with deadly brain cancer - in which we needed to get our tickets refunded and they did! 
I must add this picture of the crucifix of St Peregrine - the patron saint of cancer victims... Jesus reached down from the Cross to heal him of cancer!  This is in the chapel at St Joseph's in St Paul and many tears and prayers were said here, we were a fixture there and at mass each day!  He too reached down and touched John with His Church - there is so much there to comfort and heal the sick and the dying!
John was staying in our bedroom on the main floor of our house, and there is a bathroom right there.  Unable to walk on his own - he would call his dad on the cell phone during the night to help him to the bathroom.  After returning from his second chemo, he was unable to get ahold of his dad on the phone, so with a lot of effort and some stumbling around he mananged to get to the toilet and back on his own, and with the help of his platform walker that therapy had rigged up for him.  The day before his sister, Nancy, had flown to France to be with Susan at this special time in her religious LIFE!  I started to think a crazy thought - maybe we can go to France!  If John can get himself into a airport bathroom, maybe we can do this crazy thing!  Twenty four hours later we had bought our tickets to France and John and I left! 

John resting at the airport at Amsterdam where we had a 6 hour layover.  John used it to sleep a lot in the lounge!  The travel was humbling and hard, but we were a team and the airlines was amazing in getting us on a cart, and to the head of the line, and on and off the plane.  We were in a crazy state of feeling like we were in a dream world to be internationally traveling just weeks after knowing that John had cancer, and all that we had been through - most especially the total body altering of the surgery/biopsy that left our son changed forever!  I called his doctor, and although she was surprised that we crazily wanted to go to France - she said that there was not danger for John being in that tin can for 7 hours with many people.  It seems that this chemo doesn't effect his immune system as the chemos he had for his stem cell did.  All she said is that he needed to get up and walk around the plane now and then to prevent clots in his legs.  When I called her, I thought that the door would be shut for sure, but she sent us off with her blessings!  The doors flew open, we were to go to France after all!  And that we did to everyones amazement - most especially Susan and Nancy and our cousin, Fr Craig Timmerman, who had made the trip to support Susan.

In Saint Pierre!   Susan sees John for the first time, and look at the smiles all around.  We had done it!  And it was a very powerful time to allow these two children of mine to share one with the other as they each had these huge life altering experiences going on at the same time!  So interwoven as we shared and blended the experiences as they threaded in and out of each other.  Living a life of poverty - yet, we had most wonderful places to stay right there with beds and showers and we made our own breakfast each morning.  I went down the hall and made Krusties pancakes each morning!  This is another cute story.  Susan had written us one of her rare letters and described the pancakes she had made from scratch one day in France - "but they sure weren't Krusties."she wrote.  So for Easter I had a crazy idea of sending her a huge package of Krusties pancake mix - all you need to do is add water to it!  Well, it ended up like costing like $50 to send it along with all the cards, letters, and Easter candy!  Then we get there months later and they pull out the exact bag for me to make us our breakfast!  They say that it is a second one, but...  So now whenever we want to remember our time in France - the day needs to have Krusties in it somewhere!
John walking by our rooms - Saint Pierre was at one time a very old farm in the foothills of the Pyrannies Mountains in Southern France.  It is quite rustic with steep gravel roads and trails - it was challanging for John to slowly get around.  Many times they would move him with one of their little cars around from this area to that.  You might notice that John is wearing blue clothes - his suitcase did not arrive in France with us, so he had to borrow clothes from the little brothers for a few days.  He is a head taller than them, but shorts worked out for him.  To be honest... if John came and said that he wanted to discern to be a Little Brother, I wouldn't be overly shocked!   It was like the Lord was giving John glimpses that he should consider the priesthood from the beginning of this cancer journey!
John in little brother blue with the foundress, Little Sister Marie!
We arrived with just a day to spare before the vigil of the feast of the Queenship of Mary - August 21 is the vigil and that evening Susan was to take her habit and choose her name to be known as in her community.  Susan was on retreat, so seeing her walk by just as we arrived was a gift... otherwise she was away from us praying for the Holy Spirit to assure her that taking this big step was right for her.  She had fallen in love with the Community while studying in Rome in 2006.  And battled with this call - it came to her easily when they came and opened their first house in the U.S. in Kansas City, Kansas in the summer of 2008.  She went there to help them transform the old Belgian rectory into their chapel/home, and we picked her up there in July on our way to a family wedding in Colorado.  She told us in front of the icon to Our Lady of Guadalupe altar in their newly formed chapel that she was going to France to join the order!  She then left on Sept 11, 2008 to start her formation - most formidable was learning to speak fluent French!  She shared that it did not allow her to express her unique joking and kidding attitude, and that was quite hard for her. 
The evening of the vigil of the Queenship of Mary was our first night there, and Susan was one of 10 girls, who were taking this big step!  It was like a dream for John and I to be here in France!  To have the unexpected gift of sharing this powerful moment with Susan!  Jet lagged and filled with the weakness of this last month of cancer journey - we felt that we were limp dishrags in the hand of the Lord.  More like tiny helpless sheep being carried in his strong and loving arms!  I have come to realize with the help of Susan and this situation that was totally taken out of human control - brain cancer.  But even before this - I had just undergone my second joint replacement in 2 years - my left hip after 2 years previous I had my knee replaced on that same side - the result of a downhill ski accident when I was 16 - 40 years before!  I was talking to Susan on the phone - she was then in France - I was telling her that I was so weak compared to my mother-in-law, who had had her hip replaced just a week after me!  "Mom, when we are weak is when we need Jesus."  I thought - well, I want to be so weak, because I want Jesus always and without any reservations!  I realized that when he comes and carries us - the single set of footprints in the sand- that for sure we are going in the direction He wants us to go as He is carrying us there!  Now I revel in being so weak and humbled and lowly.  The more the better!  It hurts - the Cross - but it is where we find the Tree of LIFE! 

The mass and clothesure - taking of the habit!  We were front and center - sitting in chairs arranged on the grass behind the Church of the Trinity with a raised stage for the mass and the girls to stand for their ceremony.  They were given each part of their habit with a special meaning for each part.  Fr Jean Claude - their spiritual director of the Community, described their habits as the color of the heavens and the shape of the Cross!  I wept!  Laying on the ground with their arms out in the shape of the Cross and humbly presenting themselves to their Spouse, Jesus Christ!  So powerful!  I could go on and on about the meaning of it all, but due to space and time I will hold back.  There should probably be a page for Susan/Hallel and her life, yet there should be a page for each of our children and the lessons of LIFE, LOVE and LIGHT that they each teach and share with me and the world around them!  I am so blessed to be taken so much deeper in my journey of Faith in our True Amazing Catholic Church by each one of my children and of course my Most Cherished Cross, Patrick!  My cup overflows!  
 What JOY!!!  We were shocked when we heard a name that puzzled us - "Your name will be Little Sister Hallel."  What?  If is looks familiar - it is the first part of Halleluia, and means just that - the highest praise of God.  "When people say my name they are giving all the praise to God!"  Hallel shared.  It is very appropriate for her and is a ministry just in her name.  She loves our Lord without reservations, so this just spoke to her - the Spirit directed her to Hallel!  We discovered that the last 5 psalms are called the Hallel Psalms - 145-150.  And the ones around 100 are called the grand Hallel Psalms - the word for Grand also means tall in French, and they laugh to realize that Susan is a head taller than the small European sisters - so fitting!  So wonderful to share in this important day for our new Little Sister Hallel!  Walking through St Pierre the next day with Little Sister Sarah - she shared with me for the first time the motto that they live by in the Community of the Lamb - "Wounded, I will not cease to LOVE."  Just looking at the spotless Lamb/God - Jesus hanging on the Cross - these words come to LIFE and LOVE!  I told her that this must be very hard to do.  "Yes, but we find true LOVE in striving to do this at all costs."  I shared in my marriage/family page - "The world needs LIGHTS." about the letter from Susan/Hallel to her sister on the occassion of her engagement... describing her future husband as her Most Cherished Cross.  Now we were given the way we are called to embrace that Cross - although we are hurt we should not return it with anger, or hurt for hurt, but with LOVE.  So often in conversations with those in the Community - you hear them speak of someone as "such a lamb."  They mean that they are embracing the Cross in their lives, and finding eternal LIFE and LOVE through the Cross!  This is what Christ asks us to do as we take up our Cross and follow after HIM. 

On one of our final days in France - we took a trip to Lourdes which is also located in Southern France!  This was a huge intention for John's healing.  This is the location where St Bernadette met Our Lady and when she was asked to dig in the mud a miraculous spring came forth in which there have been many healings!  John was helped through the baths by Fr Craig, as he entered into the area set aside for the men that are sick.  John asked them to pour water over his head - "That is where I need the healing."  Fr Craig also had mass for us up in the church surrounded by plaques of many who had been healed over the last 150 years.  The entire inside of the church is filled with the witness of the work of Our Lady interceding for the sick!  John said of the day that it was "GOOD!"  And when we returned to France 2 years later for Hallel to take her first vows - he returned there healed and thankful to her.  He was in love with our humble loving Mother of God!

John discovered that with the help of his two sisters - he could walk much quicker with their support.  From behind it just looks like Christ on the Cross!  Cancer was certainly John's Cross, and through it he found LIFE and LOVE everlasting - the Faith that he had longed and prayed for!  His family, although distressed to have him suffer, yet we supported him in any way we could and rejoiced with him at his seeing the LIGHT and the Truth of Jesus, and his Bride, the Church!

Such a gift to share in the Faith walk of these two youngest in our family, and how the two experiences were shared is miraculous!  Hallel remains in France with a trip here now and then.  She was here for some time when John took the final step in his battle - his stem cell transplant!  We had a big terrifying bump in the road when suddenly John's cancer came growing back through his chemo!  I noticed that he was having real problems with his memory, and the MRI showed that it was much larger!  We were told that he should have radiation, which was the one thing that we said we would never do!  With John's young brain we were terrified of the dementia that is possible.  But when I yelled - "No!"  John quickly said - "But mom I want to live!"  So facing this scary step our prayer warrior friends set up a Week of Prayer.  Starting on Dec 1- Dec 7 for 168 hours - around the clock there were usually more than one person every hour praying for John!  We heard about many powerful experiences of prayer during this week.  My brother took his 5 young children and asked Fr to put Jesus in the monstrance on the altar at Church to pray for their hour.  Stories of swans landing on the lake as they looked out the window during their hour of prayer.  Hundreds prayed and they took a real part of John's healing!  It happened that he had a scan just at the end of the week and the cancer was gone!  Just in that time my parents rushed a relic of Venerable Solanus Casey to us!  He was a priest, who lived locally not far away in Wisconsin, and died just in 1957!  He had a powerful ministry in healing and is up for sainthood, so we thought who better to enlist in interceding for John's healing!

We put the word out that at the 8a mass in November of 2009 that John would be prayed over with the relic and annointed!  The church was full of people!!!! Fr Paul had us come out into the aisle during mass, and all those there raised their hands in John's direction and joined us in the trusting prayers for healing.  My parents said that for there to be miraculous healing that John would have all the cancer gone as well as the healing of his ataxia - he would have been running and leaping down the aisle - a living miracle.  It didn't happen that way, but we do add this to the combined work of the Church, and his army of prayer warriors in his eventual healing which has lasted to this day - now over 3 years later with all cancer gone!  I had a dear Emmaus sister share with me a few years later that she had been suffering with a stomache ailment for quite sometime, and prayed for healing at that mass - "I was healed!  It was gone!"  So uplifting to hear this added part of the big picture of John's healing and Saints at work in real ways!

John surrounded by his faith filled grandparents!!!  So much LOVE and Faith surrounded him and he showed this in the peaceful and courageous way that he faced all that came at him during the journey!  One beautiful story a year later, as Pat and I were teaching a group of 9th graders in Faith Formation.  We shared that John had been cancer free for a year.  A young girl got very excited - "I was there that Sunday, and I have been praying for John ever since, and now he is healed?!?"  Her prayers had been answered - prayer became very REAL for her!  This is one of the beautiful parts of John's story - he taught people the Truth about the power of Prayer!  He was learning it right along with everyone else too, as he admits that his faith was born and his prayers for believing in Jesus and his Bride, the Church, had been answered!

Hallel with her Goddaughter,Therese in St Paul in the midst of John's 6 weeks of radiation.  She was able to come and be with us for the week of Thanksgiving, as we used Maria and Joe's home for our home base for the daily 10 minutes of radiation John had of radiation of his brain. Yes, he lost his hair once and for all as a result of the radiation -  a small price to pay for ridding his brain of the cancer!  It was totally gone after the 6 weeks and has never returned!  We give most of the credit to our prayer warriors and The Church, but the doctors at Mayo also factor into the miraculous healing!  John had so much support - visible!  All 25 of his fraternity brothers shaved their heads in support of John as did his dad and brother-in-laws.  The girls, however, did not join in this way.  Hallel could have with her veil, but there is hair on her head under there.  She supported John by driving him daily the week of Thanksgiving to Rochester for his 10 minutes of radiation each day, so that I could have some time at home with my husband after the craziness since Father's Day!  It was hard for me to stay away, as all 5 of the kids and their families gathered together up there for a few days, and, like John, those are my most favorite times ever, to be with all of my kids!  That is why I always doctor pictures to add the ones that are missing so that I can "see" with the eyes of my heart the togetherness that we share on the spiritual level although it is hard to be able to do it physially!  It is good medicine for me, and just what the divine physician/doctor ordered to keep me filled with the wonderful gift of Faith and Family! 

Family time is such a gift any time we can find it! 

A final shot just before Hallel headed back to Kansas City!  She was close by here in the U.S. from Thanksgiving 2009 til July 3rd, 2010.  We all went there to say goodbye - 4 carloads of Verlys at 4 different times before she left.  Then Pat, John, Pat's mom and I flew there a year later on July of 2011 for Hallel to take her first vows!  John returned to Lourdes and was so smitten with Our Lady and how she touched him when he was weak and lowly with his brain cancer battle! 

So much LOVE and gratitude to Our Lady of Lourdes!  John healed for 1 1/2 years when he returned to say "Thank You, O Mother of Heaven and Earth! "

John and his dad went into the baths and both had them pour water on their head!  It meant so much to return there with his dad after we had to leave him home after his second chemo for Hallel's taking of the habit! 

Waiting in Rochester after the radiation to hear the plan - there had been a national conference of world over doctors in New Orleans just at this point in December.  John's rare case had been presented there, and it was decided that he should have a stem cell transplant and just how that should be done.  It was very powerful to realize that the Lord could use time in this way!   Setting up a world conference probably the year past so that all the best minds in the world for PCNSL- Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma - John's diagnosis!  We felt very loved and cared for by our Lord and the best minds in the world - Mayo and the world! 

We rented a little yellow house on a quiet residential street for the 5 weeks that we were there for this procedure of killing John's immune system, and then replanting his own seeds - stem cells which are harvested from him!  Rather than staying with others at the Transplant house - this allowed us to have family stay there with us and be an important part of our healing and support! 

We found tremendous support in the Echaristic chapel of St John the Evangelist as well as daily mass!  Many hours spent with Jesus and his Community of Faith in his Bride, the Church!  John and I joke that the closeness we had to have due to this journey - it was like the umbilical cord reappeared!  Being a nurse really entered in for some of the day to day things that I needed to do for him.  I left my job with hospice to care for my son!  This was the battle for LIFE!

Healing and basking in the warmth of Family in January 2010!  "Nothing can replace the Family!" from Moonstruck  Family is so close to Faith for us!  That is where we find the support of Faith, and where we find the peace to face all that comes to us.  It might have been interesting and nice to meet others in the same battle, but we have such a large and close Family that we knew we wanted them to come to our little house and share with us whenever they could manage it!  As I have shared - this is John's greatest JOY... His loving and prayerful support from his Family and his Church!


John was called a Rock Star on the transplant floor in Mayo - being just 20 years old and healthy in every way - he sailed through much of the tests and procedures!  He amazed all and gave so much HOPE to his trusting family and Prayer Warriors!  His sense of humor came through in his rare posts on Caringbridge -  People just loved it when John would write, and he rarely did so it was truly a treat to hear from him personally!  As awesome as this was - the Gospel for the day of John's rebirth - the planting of his stem cells in the wiped clean bone marrow after a week of intense chemo - was the sower and the seeds!  John's newbirth was January 27, 2010 and it was just a week before his 21st birthday on Feb 3rd!  Together Team Verly, with careful monitoring by the transplant floor, sailed through all that came with a stem cell transplant!  John left for home to recover and rest there after about 5 1/2 weeks in Rochester!

I need to wrap this up... John took the rest of the school year off to recover and get stronger.  He was to have been a junior at the U of M this year of battle, and did return after taking the year to "beat cancer's butt." in the words of John.  He did return to college and his Farmhouse Fraternity Brothers then, and graduated college with a degree of Agricultural Communications.  His Fraternity Mother told me that John was a changed person in his attitude towards others and living out his newfound Faith!  He was a prayer warrior, and gathered with his fraternity brothers to say a rosary when Nancy had a scare with her pregnancy... just as an example.  He certainly had discovered the power of PRAYER in his own life and rebirth, so it was always what he would come to prayer for others in their needs.  This last spring he graduated college, and came home to a full time job selling LIFE insurance - a huge selling point - "Look at what happened to me.  You never know what is around the corner."  As we walked this path- of young people with brain cancer -we did meet other young people facing brain cancer also.  Most notibly was Lisa, who is from our area and just a year older than John.  Pat met her mother in the elevator at Mayo, and they discovered the shared path.  John and I heard that Lisa was in a hospice room in a nearby town about a year ago, and decided to go and meet her and show our support for her.  It was very powerful to see her mother look at John with eyes of Hope and Joy.  "Here is someone, who had beat the enemy!"  She took a chair and placed it beside the very sleepy Lisa and told her that this was John - a fellow warrior in the battle against brain cancer!  John and I sat beside her, and John took her hand and told her that he knew of her fight and all the wonderful things she had done for others.  He told her how much it meant to him to have known her!  On the way home - John just wept and asked the Lord - "Why have I been spared?  I feel so unworhty, Lord!"  A week later Lisa died and John and Pat went to her wake - there they met the mother of Michael, who had died in his early 20s the year before of brain cancer.  She looked at John, once again, not with resentment, but with great JOY that here was a young man, who had beat cancer!  There were other young people, who lost the battle - William, Gage, and others.  This led to John's surprise announcement to me this past summer in Michigan.  We were in the car driving along the Lake to our cabin on the big Lake, and John said to me - "Mom, I am going to do something that is going to make you happy."  "What?"  "I am going into the seminary to discern a call to the priesthood."  It seems that the burning tearful question - "Why was I spared, Lord?"  just led to this path!

So amazing!!!  All I could say to the Lord - "The journey never ends!!!"  John has 6 years of seminary ahead of him to become a priest, and we know that it will be according to His Plan as to how it all turns out. John is having such faithbuilding experiences up at St Paul Seminary at the St Thomas Campus - having classes from the same professors that Hallel and Maria had!  The studies are hard for him,but the prayer, sacraments and having brothers amongst these amazing Catholic men!!!  How he is growing in his knowledge and LOVE of Christ, and his Bride, The Church!  John is even in a play that one of the seminarians wrote!  This is so awesome to have this part of his life given back to him.  John has been in many plays over the years and this was a huge part of the former John.  God is good - all the time!!!  The new and improved humble John is finding his way after Christ carrying his Most Cherished Cross - cancer/healing/seminary - and following wherever Christ will lead him.  Jesus, we trust in you.  Bless-bless

Following Christ's call to discern!!
Farmhouse Fraternity Fundraiser Oct 2009

Chemo running at mass at St John's the Evangelist

Young healthy in every way except cancer of the brain!  David in the face of the giant - cancer!

In the arms of our family in St Paul - my home away from home at Maria's and Joe's!
Nancy and Bill's engagement in the midst of our family coming together for John and Hallel!  True LOVE - Most Cherished Cross!

United force facing the regrowth of John's cancer through the chemo - now radiation!  Also the words to live and trust by - "Jesus, I trust in you."  a reminder from our Bishop at this time of need!

Two year old David and Therese... the beauty of LIFE and LOVE carry us through the dark times!

Hope in the LIGHT of Christ and His Bride, The Church!
John's good friend, Ailene, with him through the worst!

A story I forgot to share - Lilly, our farmdog, was very sick and near death just at the time John came down with his cancer.  His girlfriend, Ailene, and John took her to the vet nearbye, finally.  The vet called it "a mysterious farmdog disease," and gave her numerous meds to cover the possiblities.  John would put her pills in a chunk of velveeta cheese morning and night and feed them to her.  Such a beautiful way for John to get out of his own worries and concerns, and care for another.  Now 4 years later Lilly is the picture of health!  John will occassionally bring her in to snuggle on the couch and relive the healing that they both have experienced!  Such a symbol of the gift of newness of LIFE at the brink of death!

In France with his walker...


1 comment:

  1. Very Inspirational.
    What a loving family!! Genuine Love. How Blessed by God....for sure.