April’s Cancer Update: November 2021

As some of you know, I (April) went through my usual rigmarole of scans last week.  Shots of dye, drinks of contrast, and CT machines provide my doctors with data about the current state of my breast cancer tumors. Peter and I went into these scans expecting some dramatic or at least definitive results. After having punched my tumors with the full power of my chemo drugs, we thought the scans would report that my tumors had shrunk. Sadly, that was not the case. But my scans weren’t without some good news either.  There does not appear to be any new growth in my tumors.  The cancer cells also seem more inactive. This is positive news for sure. 

What’s Next  

My chemotherapy (Abraxane) has done as much as it can do to fight back my tumors. Now, we move into a maintenance mode. The goal is to stay on my current treatment as long as possible. Until those nasty cancer cells start growing again, we will use the chemo to hold them back.  My doctors project the chemo will be effective for about three to six more months. When the cancer morphs and starts growing again, then we will discuss and decide on a new treatment plan.

For now, I will continue to use the Abraxane in a decreased dose.  Instead of three weeks on, one week off, I will transition to taking chemo every other week. This has the benefit of less time in the Infusion Center as well as less side effects per week/month.

Chemotherapy has proven to be brutal at times for me.  In addition to losing all my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, there are the occasional fever and chills after the infusion, the constant stomach pains, the decreased appetite, the intense fatigue, and the neuropathy (losing feeling in my fingers and toes).  Some days these side effects are more than an annoyance and completely disruptive to my life. There is only so much that a person can push through. Over the last few weeks, I reach that point. Hopefully, a reduction in the Abraxane will increase my quality of life while still holding my cancer at bay.

How Are We Doing?

We walk a tightrope between the good and the bad. We remain hopeful in our God and continue to learn what it means to trust and rely on Him one day at a time. Yet we continue to grieve this incurable disease that has taken up residency in our lives. We can’t ignore the ways that it affects our day-to-day lives.

While we see the good news in these recent scans, we can’t help but still shed tears because the cancer is still in my body.  If we could will it away in our own strength, we certainly would have by now! Instead, I’m told my scans are increasingly difficult to read and interpret due to the scarring nature of the disease on my insides. 

So I try to focus on the positive aspects of less chemo in the coming days. Still, I know that I will dread Infusion Center building each time I pull into its parking lot.

The idea of better days ahead does not mean easy days. Forcing myself to eat my meals and struggling with the pain in my fingers while fixing my girls’ hair each morning may not go away. 

As thankful as I am for the makeup that enables me to draw on eyebrows, the flash lashes that replace my own and wigs that are stylish and complimentary, I miss my own hair and know I’m not getting it back anytime soon. I sometimes feel like cancer has taken away my youth and a sense of who I am, especially when I look in the mirror first thing in the morning.

On this tightrope that we find ourselves, I can confidently say that God has kept us from falling to the ground. We sway from side to side, but He is always there is steady us again. Our faith is not great and our emotions are tumultuous, but our God is good, powerful, and true. He loves me, Peter, Luke, Lily and Lacey. We are learning that His mercies really are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!

How to Pray:

Please pray for God to heal me, to push back the cancer and to bless my treatments. Nothing is impossible with God.  

Pray that I will have the strength that I need each day to endure side effects and to accomplish the tasks that are before me, especially caring for the needs of my family.

Pray that we will experience the mercies of God afresh and that we will know the joy and peace of Christ even on the bad days.

Pray that God will increase our love for our three kiddos. Under the best of circumstances, parenting is no easy feat (much less in the midst of scans and trips to the infusion center).

Pray that God would redeem our three children. Of late some have expressed an increased interest in the gospel.

Contact Info

EMAIL US AT: BIBLEFIGHTER@GMAIL.COM 

SNAIL-MAIL: P.O. BOX 637/ AMISSVILLE, VA 20106

CALL US AT: 540-937-6159.

SUPPORT US AT GOFUNDME.COM: APRIL WITKOWSKI MEDICAL FUND

SUPPORT US AT PAYPAL: ID: PAWitkowski

Memo: Summer Update – August 2021

As some of you know, on August 23, April once again walked the gauntlet of breast cancer tests, enduring multiple pokes, odd tasting contrast drinks, and the rumblings of CT and bone scan machines. Thankfully the scans returned favorable results. According to April’s oncologist, the breast cancer tumors scattered throughout her breast, liver, and bones are stable. They have neither significantly shrunk nor grown since April. The scans reaffirm our anecdotal conclusion, that April’s chemotherapy regime has prevented her HER2- ER+ PR+ cancer from advancing further into her life. Today by God’s grace, she finds herself in a state of good health. God is good!

Until her next scans in December 21, April and I will attempt to live out the well-used 1939, British slogan: “Keep calm and carry on.” At times, keeping calm is easier said than done. The experience of watching a 38-year-old woman struggle with periodic bouts of chemo fatigue that causes her to curl up into a ball in her favorite chair proves difficult for all of us. If we allow the bad days to define or set the trajectory for our thought life, the skies over our souls do darken and our heart rates begin to increase. Thankfully, Jesus still reigns on high. When the knowledge of his love infused promises shapes our thoughts, the clouds part and the calm returns to our souls. Indeed, addressing the troubles of today through prayer while trusting the unknowns of tomorrow to the Lord never gets old. Pray that we will continually prefer the promises of God to the fears of today.

To maintain this season of physical calm, April’s oncologists has increased her Abraxane dosage by 20%. Lord willing, this drug increase will further strengthen April’s defenses against her ever-invasive breast cancer, keeping her safe until her next scans. Until then, she will carry on through another three cycles of chemotherapy. Each cycle consists of three weeks of chemo infusions followed by one off week.

The administration of April’s treatment has not radically changed. She still rides the same elevator to the second story infusion center and sits in the same oversized orange chairs as the drug flows into her blood stream. But the increased Abraxane dosage has already exasperated April’s side effects, reintroducing her to the sensations of pain, nausea, and neuropathy. Please pray that these side effects will ease and that her chemotherapy will prove effective for the next three months.

With our hope in Christ, we plan carry on for now. Even when April can barely walk, she keeps the laundry going, organizes photoshoots, and facilitates our kiddos back-to-school preparations. When having her good days, April reads stories, cooks meals, and keeps us with a sense of normalcy. On both her good days and her, she provides the other four with the organization we possess. The three amigos are both eagerly and apprehensively looking towards the new school year which will commence with our oldest two children at Fresta Valley Christian School. We remain ever thankful for our Fresta family. Lastly, I too carry on in the pulpit of Amissville Baptist Church with the help, care, and understanding of my fellow elders, deacons, and ABC members. With fits and starts and a good deal of grace, we are slowly starting to craft a new normal around April’s bad days that makes the most of her good days! We will drop another update in December. Until then, we hope to keep calm and carry on.

Thank you for loving us well!

Contact Info

EMAIL US AT: BIBLEFIGHTER@GMAIL.COM 

SNAIL-MAIL: P.O. BOX 637/ AMISSVILLE, VA 20106

CALL US AT: 540-937-6159.

SUPPORT US AT GOFUNDME.COM: APRIL WITKOWSKI MEDICAL FUND

SUPPORT US AT PAYPAL: ID: PAWitkowski

A Tribute to Daryl Summey: An Extraordinary Friend

When Daryl Summey died last week, the world became a little bit darker. Though Daryl is now ‘the late Daryl Summey” in the most profound sense of that sad phrase, his legacy of love, compassion, and faithfulness lives on in the grand mosaic of our memories. He was a friend to the friendless, a leader to the lost, and a father to the fatherless. Below is my small contribution to the grand story of Daryl Summey, a narrative that extends across five decades, multiple continents, and thousands of hearts.

Reflections Daryl Summey

Daryl Summey possessed a special knack for making the ordinary the extraordinary. He turned the collection of a few Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes into a multi-thousand box enterprise that trafficked in massive loads of t-shirts, crayons, toothbrushes, toy trucks, balloons, and balls. He took normal disciple now weekends and transformed them into Encounter Weekends that were full of shaving cream, massive decorations, and passionate sermons that resonated with thousands. He appropriated ordinary mission trips and led students to the edges of the persecuted church, exposing many souls to the glories and the cost of missions. And perhaps most remarkably of all, he and Leigh Anne took their ordinary home and made it into extraordinary place of love, laughter, and faith where family, teenagers, college students, missionaries, and the weary could find rest.

Daryl’s extraordinariness flowed from his commitment to his Savior. When the downtrodden showed up at First Baptist Church Eastman, Daryl shelved his already crazy schedule to care for the stranger within our gates. Many a morning, I saw Daryl walking broken souls over to the Station in hopes of forming a new relationship that would end in friendship and salvation. If widows needed decks built, Daryl called his guys, ordered supplies, and got the deck built. When the uncool kids slunk into the Station on Wednesday nights for Youth Group, Daryl immediately walked over to those on the fringe of the building, introduced himself, and began making them feel as if they were a part of his family. And when three orphans needed a home, Daryl sacrificed his schedule, his budget, and some of his sanity to send Leigh Anne to rescue their three youngest children from abandonment.  Like the great physician, Daryl Summey was a friend to the friendless.

He also cared deeply for the body of Christ. Daryl’s ministry extended well beyond the bounds of the Station. His prayers encouraged many a weary soul worn down by family tragedy or sorry hospital beds. Though the sign on the door said “Youth,” Daryl’s office also served as FBCE’s counseling center. Inside Daryl’s cluttered mess of books and papers, countless souls heard how the glories of Jesus could transform everything from addiction to broken marriages. Even when he took the roll on Sunday nights, he would stop to talk to the souls manning the Children’s Ministry Center Desk. If students or pastors who knew far less about ministry and life attempted to instruct Daryl about theology, philosophy, or ministry, he took their comments in stride, transforming his antagonists into his friends. To know Daryl Summey was to experience the love of Jesus.

It was also this love that made him an amazing Dad who hid easters eggs that no one could find. It was this love that enabled him to push most every youth trip to the limits with calm assurances that the trail really would come to an end around the next bend…ok well the next one, well actually…and…you get it. It was this love that could make a room explode with quiet laughter as he guided professional conversations to craziest of conclusions through his calm suggestions. It was this love that somehow made all those odd pictures of Clay Layfield as a bodybuilder plastered across the church ok. And it is this love that April and I and thousands of others will miss.

Daryl Summery was a good husband, father, son, brother, and pastor. He was a good man.  

Postscript

When Daryl first learned he had cancer, we talked of hope of healing and of the need never to surrender to the gloom that can sometimes ooze out of the oncology world. April and I then watched with aching hearts as that determination met setback after setback. When Daryl and I last talked a few weeks back, we spoke of future visits. Though I knew his end was near, we exchanged no final goodbyes that day. And we needed not do so then or ever for one day soon, we will see each other again in the land of eternity a place where there, “no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” Until then….my friend. Until then…