Laura "Lori" & Jason's story is beautiful and heart breaking. Going thru their family video gave me such an insite into their family and Lori. She was an awesome Mommy, she would just take video of her kids playing with their toys, you could tell her family was the love of her life and she gave them everything she could.
Underneath my writing is a letter her husband Jason wrote:
My wife’s name is Lori and we’ve been married for over eight years now. This is our story.
I proposed to Lori some warm Wednesday evening, not sure of the date. She’s good at remembering things like that, as are most women. Our church at the time called her to help teach a high-school class that night. Lori didn’t have a curriculum and she was concerned about that, but they told her that it was ok and they’d make due, they just needed the help. She arrived at the church and all the kids were in the auditorium waiting for the class to begin. The topic was something around “what it was like to be a knight during the crusades” and they showed a Christian music video that had a knight in it. At that point she was wishing I was there, as I’ve always been fascinated by the medieval times. After the video, the youth pastor said that they have a special surprise for everyone and they exited the building to the front lawn. Someone dressed up as a knight, in armor, was trotting around the front lawn on a horse. The horse made a couple circles and then a handler came up and held the reigns. Lori really thought this was awesome that the church went to such lengths to get the kids interested. The knight dismounted and walked through the crowd. The kids parted like the red sea. Lori started to look nervous as he made his way to her. Needless to say, the armor was clanking a little extra that day, not just by the walk but by the bundle of nerves that was inside. He grabbed her hand and crouched down on one knee. She was shaking now too. I opened my visor and she lost it. I could barely get the words out “Will you marry me?”. From that point on, I’ve done my best to show her that I love her. I can’t tell you it’s been perfect…we’ve had our moments. But we are best friends and all is forgiven in time. Since then, we’ve been blessed with two beautiful children, a house in the suburbs and all we’ve ever needed. Again, I can’t tell you it’s been perfect. But the outcome has always been the same. We’ve stuck together and God has seen us through it.
Two years ago I, like many have been, found myself laid-off. On my birthday no less – balloons tied to my chair and empty box on my desk. A month after my son was born. I spent eight hours a day and seven days a week looking for a job. I had to find something quick because I had a three year old daughter and a newborn. There was nothing for one whole month. I was desperate, but faithful to my education and that narrowed my search even farther. I asked Lori if she remembered the name of a place in Pontiac that I had interviewed at several years back. She couldn’t recall and I couldn’t find it in the yellow pages. That very next day I received a creative magazine in the mail that had a section in it where companies could have a little P.R. by telling who’ve they recently hired and for what position. That company that I was looking for had changed their name, but stayed in Pontiac. So, I gave it a shot. I cold-called my resume and emailed it to the owner. Not two minutes later, I received a phone call from the owner and he was inquiring about my portfolio. I gave him the web-address and he called back about fifteen minutes later. He wanted to set up an interview either that day or the next. I asked him “how about today?” to which he quickly responded “how about 2:30pm?”. It was the best interview I’ve ever been on. I was sure that I got the job. The owner called me about ten minutes to nine that night with an offer. While at my new job, I’ve been privileged to meet some wonderful caring people. You’re probably asking yourself if this is going somewhere and I promise that this is important. My art director invited us to his church because he knew we were looking for a church that was a bit closer to home, one that we can get involved in helping others and raising our children in a loving church home. It took a few tries at a couple others to actually visit his church, but once we did we knew it was right. We were getting right with our head and our hearts. Our strengthened faith and church helped us through some trying times.
Shortly after the birth of my son, Lori noticed a lump in her left breast. She figured it was just hardened ducts that commonly occur after breast feeding. That was, until she noticed a lump under her arm. We made a quick decision to get it tested. I confided in my creative director, that Lori found a lump and needs to get tested. He told me to have a talk with the co-owner of the company that I was working for, as he knew of someone that could help. The next day, Friday, I mentioned the suspicious lump that my wife found to the co-owner. He said that he’d call his buddy to see if he could arrange something. On Monday, we received a call from someone at Karmanos saying that we had an appointment. We met with the doctor and after a few visits and tests, the suspicions were confirmed. Lori had cancer. It was under her arm affecting her lymph nodes too. Because of the type of cancer, she was considered to be in stage III. It took a minute of shock and disbelief before I grabbed Lori’s hand. Tears welled in her eyes and she instantly thought of our kids. I told her that we’ll fight and God will see us through. Her faced hardened and she looked like she could take on the world. She was empowered and we were going to let everyone know that we were going to make it.
The doctor chose the best course of action for Lori. Chemo first, followed by surgery and then radiation. The chemo was administered every week in lower doses for months. It was nice to have a great church, family and friends to help watch the kids every Friday as she would make her one hour trek to get her treatments. The results were astounding. The doctor was amazed with the response that the drugs had on the tumors that Lori had. They shrunk considerably…enough that the mastectomy was now a lumpectomy. The surgery on her breast and lymph nodes went well. They discovered that Lori had two types of cancer and that they found three active cells during the surgery, but they got them by a wide margin. They were going to blast the areas with radiation and that would take care of anything that remained. Lori drove everyday to Flint to get her radiation. After six weeks, we were very excited to finally be done with it all…or so we thought.
Lori developed a dry cough. It seems to me like it was days after her last radiation treatment. I encouraged her to go the doctor. Her family physician felt like it was bronchitis and put her on steroids and an antibiotic to clear it up. She took the entire dosage for the time frame given and her cough wasn’t responding. By this time, the cough had turned into shortness of breath. I was at work when she called to tell me that the clinic she was at was taking her by ambulance to Karmanos. My employer told me to go and not worry about work. When I got there, Lori was pale and hooked up to some tubes supplying her oxygen. She was in the E.R. first and then transferred to I.C.U. 6. The scans showed that she had lesions in her lungs and that was causing a build up of fluid around them. The doctors first thought that it was something that typically happens after radiation – some kind of irritation. They drained one liter of fluid around one lung and it would take a couple days to get it analyzed. The removal of fluid helped Lori breath a bit better, but she was still pretty weak. The results came back from the fluid and a catscan. She had breast cancer around her lungs. I asked the doctors to check Lori’s brain for cancer too. I asked them to do this because I had researched “lung lesions after radiation” on google and found a similar story to Lori’s. The M.R.I. results did show that Lori has cancer somewhere in her frontal lobe. Over the course of two weeks, Lori has been moved from I.C.U. 6 to an intermediate I.C.U. 8 and then to Karmanos medium care. I was at home visiting with our two young children, now a five year-old and a two year-old when I received a phone call from the doctor. She wanted to tell me first what we’re dealing with. Lori is stage IV metastatic. Which means there is nothing they can do other than treat the symptoms. They can’t stop it. I was given a time frame of six to nine months if her body responds to the chemo – couple of weeks if not. I was hyperventilating. Luckily, my brother and his wife were at the house and stayed to watch a movie with myself and my two children. My kids were napping when I was in hysterics. My world was collapsing. How was I supposed to be a single father? How am I supposed to explain this to our children? Those and a million other scenarios played out in my head. During my shock, I asked my brother to find me a suit of armor.
I have spent weeks in the hospital with Lori. I watch her sleep. I watch her breaths. I watch her chest rise and fall. I pray without ceasing. I sleep on uncomfortable little, unfolding chairs and couches. I love her and I miss those days when I get up in the morning to go to work and kiss my family goodbye. I miss the long hours at work. I miss Lori complaining about it. Lori is being prayed for by thousands of people now across the globe. One night I prayed and prayed and prayed. I prayed myself to sleep. I awoke to every little noise in that hospital and continued my prayer. The following night, I feel like God spoke to my heart. It felt like sand was in my eyes when I tried to shut them. I opened up Lori’s bible and found a couple of notes that she had stuffed away in it years prior. One note was from one of her employers that wanted to share her faith and thankfulness to everyone in the office. It said that “Sometimes things happen that we don’t like or quite don’t understand but we have to know that everything has a purpose. God is the healer and he heals everything. We just have to be patient and wait on Him.” I was feeling better. I wanted to know a bit more about heaven and I opened the index in the back of her bible. The third reference in under heaven read something like “knowing God is more important than learning about heaven”. I quickly shut the index and randomly opened to James 1. It talks about perseverance during trials and tribulations. A man will gain wisdom if he asks and believes but does not doubt. I was comforted. I asked for God to heal Lori and eliminated doubt from the equation. I fell asleep. The next day, the doctor came in to talk to Lori. The prognosis is that the cancer is not responding to the chemo. They can’t use any more of the original chemo that was used during the early stages of the breast cancer because of damage to her heart. Lori is allergic to one chemo drug and her platelets are down. If her platelets are too low, they can’t try the next class of chemo and will make arrangements for Lori to go home. They are going to check on Monday. Lori is so strong. She asked the hard question “how long?” and I watched her beautiful blue eyes swell. I hugged her head as she is completely bedridden and gets winded even lifting her arms. I watched her face come from a liquid to a solid as I told her miracles happen everyday and we have to wait on God.
All the while that I’ve been there at the hospital, I have had to help her use the commode, clean up her vomit, wash every nook and cranny of her – basically everything that would cause the loss of dignity of a person. But I don’t care. I wanted her to know that I don’t care. I want the world to know that I don’t care. I want the world to know that I love her and I’d do it all over again and again. This past Saturday, my brother came through with the armor. I invited family, friends and all of the nurses in Karmanos floor 8 to watch. They got her into a wheel chair and paraded her down the hallway. I came out of the guest courtesy room and marched down the hallway. I clanked and was nervous the whole way down. I brought her a single red rose and her wedding ring. She hasn’t been able to wear it for weeks. I dropped to one knee and asked her “will you marry me?”. For once floor 8 was silent. She was breathing heavy and had to pace her breath just to get a “yes” out. Everyone clapped and cheered. I paraded her down the hallway – one lap around the floor, all the while I held her hand. My son carried the rose out in front of himself like a baton and my daughter held my other hand as it made her feel like a princess. It was a beautiful day. Monday is here now. I decided to let Lori’s mom stay with her alone overnight and I am home with our children. I am going to watch them sleep. I am going to watch their breaths. I am going to watch their chest rise and fall. I am going to pray without ceasing and wait on God.