Memo: At the Journey’s End: April Update 6.10.22

I have started and stopped a hundred times. The depth of emotion tied to this moment resides beyond the bounds of keystrokes, black lines, and white spaces. No good means exists to say…what must be said.

We have decided to shift April’s care from oncology to hospice.

Though her cancer has responded positively to her last three chemotherapy doses, her liver has only continued to worsen over the last month. Even this week, her bilirubin numbers have increased from 20 to 22. No cure remains. No secret path to health exists. Additional chemotherapy treatments would only inflict unneeded nausea upon an already weak stomach and further her complications from low hemoglobin and a lack of white blood cells. Death’s dark’s cloud has settled over our hearts as dense fog. Only a few more misty steps remain.

As the days progress, April will become increasingly fatigued, requiring more and more sleep. Her cognitive abilities will also become weaker as a result of her liver failure. And then sometime soon, she will go to sleep and never awake.

Though April and I intellectually grasp the bleakness of death and its cold, temporal finality, we do not fear it. For the believer redeemed by the blood of the lamb, death is but the final encounter with sin before an eternity of peace. It is the portal through which all men and women must pass and through which all who have believed will successfully pass for Christ has rolled away the stone. The apostle Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44,

“What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor: it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body…The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus.”

Though she dies, she will live.

As our many tears and hugs evidence, Luke, Lily, Lacey and I (as do a throng of others) would happily prolong April’s life if given the option. Together, we fervently prayed for such an outcome. Still, we do not begrudge our heavenly father for this state of events. As Paul makes clear, April will soon experience a glory that defies our earthly imaginations. We should not so much want to keep her here with us as make plans to join her in paradise.

Though she must go and we must stay in this bleak world a little while longer, we are not alone. God has promised us that he will never leave us nor forsake us. The Word of the Lord will stand forever. Jesus will be with April, me, and our kids as we walk through this crucial hour. His character is defined by grace and mercy and abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness. Though the days are dark, our God is good.

As we shift from pleas of healing to pleas for eternal preparation, we ask you to join us in beseeching God for the mercies needed to steward these lasts weeks and days well. April and I long for this short season of physical sorrow to be defined by spiritual joy and hope. We hope to rejoice even now in God’s goodness and mercy. Pray also for God to draw the hearts of our children to himself and to provide them and me with comfort as we grieve the loss of April and then enter of time of unprecedented transition and change.

May God be merciful.

Contact/Support Info

Please note, we long to responded to all texts and messages. But with the many challenges facing us, our responses will probably be increasingly slow.

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

Of Fading Hopes & Renewed Sorrow: April 6.2.22 Update

Our hearts ache.

Yesterday, we encountered words that every soul dreads, “Do you want to continue treatment?”

Last week, April began her second chemotherapy treatment plan in as many weeks. According to the results of April’s latest blood work, her cancer has responded positively to her one dose of Adriamycin. However, the drug has not improved her liver function. The high bilirubin numbers that came in around 8mg last week have risen to 17mg this week. April has acutely felt the deterioration of this vital organ. She has faced a daily onslaught of constant nausea, rapid swelling in her abdomen, and jaundice eyes and skin.

Though the odds of April wining her race against time remain precariously slim, April’s oncologist still believes April could receive some benefit (however minimal) from another week of chemo. Ever motivated to care for me and our three kiddos, April resolutely decided to endure another round of chemo yesterday afternoon.

The chances of this latest round of treatment succeeding reside somewhere in the 5-10% range. We stand in need of a miracle, a suspension of the rules of nature.
If April does not improve, she will die within a couple weeks’ time. If her health continues to deteriorate in the days ahead, we will shift her care from oncology to hospice.

This decline will cruelly afflict both April’s body and mind. Her nausea, pain, and fatigue will become more pronounced, requiring ever more powerful nausea and pain pills. Poor liver function will also produce some mental confusion. The days ahead promise to be hard.

In this time of sorrow, we find great solace in the love of our family and friends. Though April may lack the energy needed to respond to every message and card that comes her way, please know that she sees and appreciates all of them.

We find even great hope in the heavens above for we know our God can and does rescue men and women from the depths of Sheol. Still, we do not know what tomorrow will bring or whether April’s deliverance will take an earthly or heavenly form. A miracle could occur. We pray for life. Yet prudence demands that, we plan for death.

Our eyes and those of our dear children now burn red with the tears of sorrow. We grieve not because we fear tomorrow. Our God, who is faithful today, will be faithful yet again when we reach the next horizon. Tomorrow is not our great concern. Rather, I grieve the threat of losing my dearest of friends and our children grieve the threat of losing the bestest of mommies. We grieve the possibility of having to go through life’s milestones with a bride and without a mommy. Indeed, those who find a good thing should not surrender it lightly.

Our prayers remain simple: May God help us and comfort us (Ps 86:

May God be merciful.

Contact/Support Info

Please note, we long to responded to all texts and messages. But with the many challenges facing us, our responses will probably be increasingly slow.

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

The Threat of Liver Failure: April Update 5.25.22

Editors’ Note 5/27/22: Since the posting of this blog, April has undergone another paracentesis. Doctors have removed more than 7 liters/14 Lbs of fluid from April’s abdomen during the two procedures. And still her abdomen continues to swell. April returned home on May 27 because we can duplicate the care that she was receiving in the hospital through prescription medicines and outpatient paracentesis procedures. The days ahead will be long and hard. Their outcome is anything but certain. But April is home. We rejoice in small mercies.

The last few weeks have unnerved us.

What started as a race to avoid a week or two of inconvenient breast cancer symptoms has become a race for April’s very life.

Last Week

As many of you know, April went into the hospital on Monday, May 16 because of some slight bloating which evidence the very early stages of liver failure. The visit proved to be more precautionary than essential to her care. Given the slight deterioration of her liver and quality of life, her medical team decided to respond more aggressively to her new breast cancer growth. They abandoned the Xeloda chemo pill during that hospital stay and began giving her the IV Chemo drug gemcitabine. After her first receiving her first dose on Wednesday May 18, April was discharged from the hospital. We still believed we had an upper hand.

This Week and Today

By the following Sunday, May 22, I was sneaking out of church early and running April back to the ED because she had spiked a high fever. Guessing that she had an infection (a suspicion that was empirically proven today and that is being successfully treated), the ER doctor admitted her to the hospital on Sunday night. While receiving antibiotics for the infection, April’s abdomen continued to swell to the point that she took on the appearance of a full-term pregnant woman. The other day, a well-meaning cleaning lady clumsily asked April, “You, have baby?” We chuckled at the thought. But alas, she faces something far more serious. The abdominal swelling (which has caused her so much pain over the last 48 hrs.) and her high bilirubin numbers has indicated that her liver is failing and could fail.

Though the doctors can and have performed and will continue to perform a procedure called paracentesis which removed 3.25 liters of fluid from April’s body and reduced her level of discomfort on Tuesday, May 24, her abdomen has already returned to pregnancy size as of this writing of the post on Wednesday, May 25. To cure her liver and to reverses the symptoms associated with her poor liver function, her medical team must find a medication that will shrink her tumors and not further aggravate the compromise state of her liver. This afternoon, April switched to her third treatment plan in as many weeks and received the first dose of the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin (happily nicknamed the red devil). She will take the IV chemo drug weekly. If all goes well, her liver function will begin to improve over the next 2-3 weeks, and she should be discharged from the hospital this weekend. If her breast cancer tumors do not respond or do not respond quickly enough, her liver will fail. Her race will end.

Though the stakes have been raised, April possesses a great desire even in the midst of great pain to keep running this race. As she said earlier today, “I never thought I would say this, but I want to start chemo.” She wants to embrace drugs that will punish her stomach, cause hair loss, and possibly damage her heart. Though exhausted, scarred, and worn, onward she goes…onward all of us go along with her in hopes of a better tomorrow. And yet the reality of the moment is not lost on either of us. Either the chemo will destroy the tumors, or the tumors will destroy her liver. The next days and weeks will prove decisive.

How to pray

Our prayer today is simple, “Lord help us.” Pray for God to restore April’s liver. Pray for us, our children, and our families to find our hope in the things above….in the steadfast love and faithfulness of our God and father. The days are long, hard, and unsettling, yet are God is good, loving, and powerful. May God be merciful us.

Contact/Support Info

Please note, we long to responded to all texts and messages. But with the many challenges facing us, our responses will probably be increasingly slow.

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