Jay Whitmer

First post: Sep 17, 2017 Latest post: Sep 25, 2018
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We truly appreciate your continual prayer support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting, and feel free to share with others who might find our story helpful.

That darn cough.  What a pesky and non-stop hack attack.  Thankfully my 10-month cough finally made me uncomfortable enough to do more than just get a chest X-RAY telling me that I was in the clear for a simple cold, bronchitis, or post-nasal drip.  Courtney set up an appointment on July 24th for me to see one of her doctors who specializes in functional medicine, and thus started my journey to learning I have cancer.

The speed of action since late July has been remarkable as God quite visibly turned up the clarity dial after the first day of blood tests (by far the most exhaustive I've ever done, which is one of many forms of common grace received over the last couple months).  Rather than a normal 2-week vetting process, my doctor called me to come back in within 2 days with a recommendation to get a full CT scan from my neck to my pelvis.  I had one of these 2 years ago with an enlarged lymph node that led to a biopsy, but it came back benign then, so I really didn't think much of it this time either.  So we knocked out a CT scan rather quickly, and we received an immediate call to come back in to discuss the results.  Now our blood started pumping a bit more since that was clearly a signal that all was not well.

My scan showed an enormous spleen with a couple different masses along with more enlarged lymph nodes.  Combined with my blood tests and a few other major symptoms such as my weight loss (I'm down 50 pounds) and now night sweats, the word lymphoma was first mentioned as a strong possibility.  We obviously shared the news and initial shock with my family and a few close friends, including my boss of 18 years who already had a doctor in mind for me to call.  But as men of action like to do, just calling his office wouldn't do - he called a friend on the board of directors at the Cleveland Clinic who called the CEO of the Clinic who called the recommended oncologist to me to get in sooner.  By sooner I mean the same day.  So Courtney and I drove to the cancer center at the main campus on Friday afternoon of the same week of my first blood draw.

At this point we have our sleeves rolled up for whatever God wanted to do next.  However it wasn't completely clear from my CT scan exactly what we were facing, so my new doctor said we're looking at a number of potential scenarios.  First test he wanted to do was a bone marrow biopsy, which we knocked out the following week.  And to our surprise, he called us by the end of week 2 saying the results came back "normal" - which didn't feel normal to us given the sequence over the previous 10 days.  But we celebrated and praised God for good news, which even looking at it now is still good news that I don't have problems leaking into my bone marrow.  Next recommended step was to schedule surgery to remove my gigantic spleen.

From the moment we met my surgeon, we felt like we found our biggest advocate and were very much in good hands - which reminded us that we're entirely in God's hands with such a firm and loving grip.  My surgery was set for August 25th, nearly one month after day one.  The expectation was to perform a laparoscopic splenectomy, but my spleen was just too big to remove without cutting a 6 inch incision into my abdomen (if you're interested and have the stomach, you can see a picture of  this bad boy in the gallery above).  The size and close-up look made my surgeon wonder if we were indeed looking at something more serious, but we had to wait for pathology to know for certain.

I was released from the hospital after 5 days, and it didn't take long for my oncologist to call asking us to come back downtown to discuss the post-surgery pathology report.  Unfortunately I could barely move from my bed to the chair, so I wasn't about to get in the car for a face to face to tell us what we now anticipated to be the diagnosis.  So he told us over the phone that I have aggressive diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), which is a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  The good news is that this is the most common form of lymphoma and is considered curable.  But we're now facing 6 rounds of chemotherapy over the next 4 months (DLBCL responds well to treatment).

I've been going through a few final tests this week, meaning the last step from here is to schedule round one of chemo.  We don't have a firm start date yet, but we've been getting used to the unknown over the last 2 months.  Please know that the unknown or uncertain will not lead us to panic or fear.  We have a BIG God with BOLD plans and an even BETTER purpose.  For His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).  My story is really just wrapped up in His story, which is what I'll be intentionally reflecting on and writing about in the days and weeks ahead.

Thank you again for loving me and my family during this season.  The outpouring of support has been overwhelming and uplifting.  We have quite a community surrounding us in all walks of life, and we already see God profoundly and purposefully at work in the lives of others through my cancer.  With purpose there is hope.  My unwavering hope is found in Jesus Christ, and if cancer will help others find the same hope, we're absolutely ready to roll.

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