To Be Known

“And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.”  Exodus 33:17

“And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.”  Moses 1:6

Huntsman 140 Team Jarem 2017 (2 of 91)

As per usual, I’ll give a health update and then a few other thoughts, this time on the concept of God knowing each of us and working together all things for our benefit.

Health Update

It has been over 30 days since my last heavy dose of chemo and I can tell.  I feel like a human being and not like a zombie (although I still look like one).  The weekly Erbitux infusions have gone well.  I experience some fatigue for 24-48 after the infusion, but beyond that and a moderate skin rash, I have no side effects.  I felt well enough last week to play a few rounds of golf with some buddies in Arizona.  My drive still slices and my fairway irons still hook.  Must be the cancer because I remember everything I used to strike being dead straight.  Weird.

I’m in a good place right now.  We are happy.  I’ve enjoyed the heck out of life the past month.  We just got back from a week in Arizona.  Something about that place just lights me up.  It is the family and the friends and the sunshine and the memories of simpler times.  And Camilla has really embraced Arizona as well so it is special to be able to share it with her.

I’ve been battling osteoradionecrosis for about 7 months and treatment requires a partial jaw reconstruction surgery.  March 8th is the scheduled surgery date.  And yes, I strategically scheduled it so that during my 4 week recovery I’ll be able to binge watch NCAA March Madness.  I’m no dummy.

The radiation therapy I did in 2017 killed the right side of my mandible (jaw bone).  The soft tissue and skin slowly dies and peels back which exposes the bone underneath my teeth on the inside part of the jaw bone.  It has been the source of chronic pain for months and continues to get worse.  So with the good news from our last scan, we feel like this is the right course of action and should be a long-term fix.

The surgical procedure is called a mandibulectomy (don’t google it) and will be performed by the two surgeons that did my hemiglossectomy in January of 2017.  I’m not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but the surgery is similar to the hemiglossectomy.  They will be cutting out the bad part of the bone and tissue, pulling tissue / bone / blood vessels from my arm and leg, and then reconstructing the right side of my jaw with my own tissue and a metal plate.  Like last time, I’m planning on about ten days in the hospital post-surgery and a total of about four weeks recovery.  My doctors have told me that they can usually put things back together in a way that has minimal aesthetic impact (doctor speak for ‘you won’t look like too much of a freak but you will look different’).  They’ve also said that in the long run they don’t anticipate my speech to be much different than it is today (I’ve got a slight lisp and speak a little bit out of the left side of my mouth).

I’m not afraid to say that I’m afraid of this surgery.  While I enjoyed a speedy and complete recovery from the last major surgery, aspects of it were almost unbearable.  Plus, I went into that surgery last January a much younger, stronger man than the old bag of bones that I am today.  I was a full forty pounds heavier and my body hadn’t spent the previous year being blasted with about every imaginable poison and fire-torture known to oncologists.  I just can’t imagine that the incredibly quick recovery I had from the hemiglossectomy is going to be my experience this go round.

But despite the anxiety of thinking about what is staring me down on March 8th, I’m mostly peaceful about things and know it is the right next steps.  So what else is there to do except square up my shoulders and walk into this thing head first.  In fact, I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to have the surgery because if I wasn’t doing this it would only be because I didn’t think I had enough time left for it to be worth it.  Camilla and I are thinking longer term now.  That is invigorating and motivating.

So I’ll try to update the blog a little more often during my recovery from surgery and I’ll put lots of gross pictures up for those of you that like the gore.  Plus, sharing some of the war photos makes me feel tough.  [I am so tough that I will have a note card with “more morphine” printed on it that I flash every time I see a nurse while in the hospital].

To Be Known

If you are like me, you regularly long for the assurance (and reassurance) that God knows you.  But, it is more than just that He knows me or is generally aware of my existence.

As my Creator, Father in Heaven, and God that I worship, does He know things about me that I don’t yet know about myself?  Can that level of personal closeness coupled with complete omniscience coexist?  And if it does, does that Intelligence have power over the events of this life, working them together for my benefit?

How can I come to know the answers to these questions?

Elder Robert Hales said it perfectly.

“Turn to the scriptures. Kneel in prayer. Ask in faith. Listen to the Holy Ghost. Learn that your name and needs are known by our Heavenly Father. Live the gospel with patience and persistence. And in the name of Jesus Christ, I promise, ‘If ye will … ask [Heavenly Father] in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping [the Lord’s] commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.'”

There really isn’t a lot more to say on the subject of how to know the answers.  Have a desire.  Go to the Source of the answers.  Believe that the answers will come and that they will be true.  Listen.  Act.

I’ve related quite a few experiences on this blog of times when I felt that the God of the Universe, the Savior of the World, and the Holy Ghost were hanging around an operating table or hospital bed or chemo stall or bedroom recliner, letting me know they were there for me, to comfort me.  Those experiences are a huge part of my relationship with and faith in God.

But some of the greatest faith building experiences I’ve ever had are the times when I feel that perfect nexus of God’s omniscience, our close personal relationship, and His orchestration of events in my life.  The dots all connect for a moment and this deep sense of awe covers every inch of me and a big smile breaks over my face as I whisper to myself “Wow, He really is in every detail.”

And I guess the reason why I cherish those types of experiences so much is because they seem to solve so many issues and answer so many questions all at once.

  • When I know that God knows all things including who the “eternal me” really is (present, past, and future) I can more easily communicate with Him through prayer and seek guidance through the Holy Ghost.


  • When I know that God has a deep vested interest in the “best me” that can be developed I can more easily trust Him with my deepest concerns and desires, and I can more completely follow His commandments with confidence that they are worth living.


  • When I know that God truly has the power to direct things and that life is not just a random sequence of events I can more easily hope in and patiently wait for God’s promised blessings in my individual circumstance.


Can’t you just see God sitting on the side of the room with a huge smile on His face as you unwrap the gift He’s been crafting and preparing for you?  He delights in those moments.

As a family, and personally, we had one of these ‘unwrappings’ yesterday.  I won’t go into the details on the circumstances, but it was a clear and unmistakable reminder that God cares about everything we care about.  No detail is lost on him.  He spares no effort and withholds nothing in His carrying out of His divine plan for us.  For me.  For you.

If it has been awhile since you’ve had that assurance (reassurance), maybe now is the time to seek it out.  I know it had been too long for me, and so I’m grateful for yesterday.

And to my brother Reed, thanks for letting us be a witness to one of what will be many ‘unwrappings’ in your life.  To see what God has in store for your life is exciting enough to want to stick around for.  Placentero nos es trabajar, en la vina del gran Rey Jesus.  Pa’lante, papa, pa’ Puerto Rico.



Scan results are in…

…and they are GOOD!

My CT scan this week was a momentous one. I had a scan three months ago that showed some promising signs that my current treatment regiment was shrinking the tumors in my lungs. It was the first scan in over a year when there was less cancer in my body than the previous scan. I’ve continued the same regiment since the last scan — nine additional weeks of regular poisoning — and while I was optimistic this scan was going to also show good results my batting average hasn’t been good on these.

Well, I caught a break. A substantial break by my perspective.

The scan showed that there are no new tumors in my body, that several tumors in my lungs and one in my tongue had fully resolved, and that the two remaining tumors in my lungs were mildly smaller than they were 9 weeks ago.

The poison was efficacious. Finally!! Hallelujah!

The prayers and faith have worked this entire time. Their efficacy have never been in question. That isn’t tied to getting a positive outcome or seeing a tumor dissipate or “mildly shrink”. The collective outpouring of faith from all of you healed me, and continues to heal me daily, from lots of things. Primarily it healed my vision of God’s plan for me and my willingness to accept whatever that is. Camilla’s faith and that if my kids has been the most precious and visible to me. And I know so many others have exercised similar faith.

But now we’ve got the drugs that are working. The modern miracle of medicine combined with the eternal miracle of God’s grace are working.

And that really pumps me up.

To say we are excited about the news would be accurate. But to say we are grateful is the ultimate understatement.

I’m by no means out of the woods. I have metastatic head and neck cancer. Don’t look up my odds of beating this thing entirely because it’s worse than my high school batting average and that wasn’t good either. But to receive this type of scan result is a gift of time. The future is still uncertain and who knows how this will play out and how long this type of response will last. At some point my body will probably spring another leak and we will have to deal with that when and if that day arrives.

But that day isn’t today, and it’s not going to be tomorrow.

We’ve been given an additional allotment of time and that is a precious gift. I refuse to get complacent with today and finding joy and happiness in the present. But now I feel like I can make plans for the summer. We can think about where we want to spend Thanksgiving and probably Christmas and not feel like that is a wasteful endeavor. We are booking the Newport Beach house in October. I need to think about what to get Camilla for her birthday in June and our 12th anniversary in December. How incredible is that?!?!

I don’t know how to articulate to you how exhilarating that feels.

So my next steps will be to continue on a weekly infusion of an immunotherapy drug called Erbitux. I’ve been doing erbitux alongside the chemo drugs for the past 18 weeks. Side effects are relatively mild and I can remain on this drug indefinitely. We will scan every 12 weeks and stay on this plan until something changes in the scan. Erbitux has shown to keep cancer in check over extended periods of time and so the goal here is to keep the tumors small and to prevent new ones from sprouting. My body has taken about all the chemo it can for the time being so this will hopefully provide me a prolonged window to heal and maybe put on a few pounds. What I weigh right now is about what I weighed in 8th grade! 😳

I won’t dampen the spirits in the post by posting about an upcoming surgery I have scheduled, but that will be a separate post in a few weeks to describe what I’ll be doing in March.

Tonight we Fly the W.

Tonight we kneel in deep gratitude.

Tonight celebrate.

Reflections on 2017

During most Decembers I look back on the previous 12 months and think “Man this year flew by!”  It goes unsaid that 2017 was different.  Like, A LOT different.

Before sharing some reflections on the past year, here’s a quick rundown of what the next few months hold for us.

  • I’ve finished 3 of 9 chemotherapy treatments on this current round.  My next dose is a “mega dose” and will be on December 29th (happy 11th anniversary Camilla!).  My last dose for this block of treatment is February 2nd.
  • The week of February 5th I’ll have another scan to see if the tumors continue to shrink in my lungs and to ensure no new spots have popped up in my mouth, neck, or anywhere else.
  • Assuming we get good results, we’ll probably stop chemotherapy for a month or so in order for me to get jaw surgery which I’ll share more about in a future post.

It isn’t very hard to put into words what 2017 was like.  It sucked.  Despite all the amazing lessons we’ve learned and the growth we’ve experienced by having this adversity pass through us, if I could choose to have avoided the whole ordeal I would.  No question.  No hesitation.  I know that isn’t what I’m supposed to say.  But it is the truth.

And that is what is scary about this life, especially when you have an eternal perspective on how these experiences should fit into the bigger plan of God in preparing you for life after death.  The things that prepare us the best for becoming who God wants us to become are the very things that we would avoid if we could.  I’m grateful that I wasn’t given a choice when it came to cancer.  I would have chosen incorrectly.  I’d be farther, not closer, to the ultimate goal.  God knows what’s up.  That is also the truth.

This post is just to share some of the many highlights and fond memories of 2017.  But first I wanted to share what I think the biggest learning of the year has been for me and for Camilla.

***** Trust and Rely on God *****

That is the lesson.

I’ve asked God all sorts of questions this year.  I have felt God continually by my side, probably more so than any other previous year.  And while I have heard God many times, especially through the words of Prophets in the scriptures and General Conference addresses, I still grapple with the answers to many of my questions.  And I’m okay with that.  Wrestling with the answers to hard questions is a worthy endeavor.

The question my mind most commonly comes back to is:

Am I going to make it?  Will I survive?

I think it is a question that we all ask on a regular basis about all sorts of different issues.

Whether asking if we will survive an illness, a financial challenge, a family issue, raising small kids, a crisis of faith, a stage of life, or anything else, we are usually getting at the same core issue.  While we want to know how to get through something, ultimately our deepest desire is just to know that we will get through it.  It will be resolved.  It will be okay.  Soon enough it will be in the rear view mirror and we can get back to normal.  When I know that the end is going to work out how I want it to my anxiety goes down and I can put my trust in that outcome.  If I know I’m going to get my way in the end it makes going through whatever it takes to get resolution a heck of a lot easier.  But knowing the end from beginning can make you complacent in the present, and it certainly requires less reliance and trust in God.

When you don’t know that it will work out, doubt and fear and anxiety feel like they are always nearby and ready to pounce.  Things get hard and your mind can go crazy on you.  This might be it.  You are screwed.  You’ll never feel well again.  This isn’t a stage, this is all you’ll ever know.  There isn’t really a grand plan to life.  This life is all just a series of random, uncontrolled, and purposeless events and you have horrible luck.  Nothing you are doing will really make a difference.

The mind is volatile when you are outcome dependent and you don’t trust that God is in control of both the journey and the destination.  The only way I’ve been able to find peace while having no assurance that I will be healed is by learning to trust in and rely on God.  Trust Him today.  And when you wake up tomorrow, make the decision to trust him again.

As I’ve asked God the question — will you heal me? —  I’ve been surprised by the answer I feel but it really goes back this concept of trust.  What God has said to me and Camilla in response to my question is:

I’m not going to tell you whether you will be healed or not.  Surviving isn’t the point.  The point is for you to trust me, regardless of the outcome. 

And then He flips the question on me:

Will you trust me?

That has been a harder answer to accept than I thought it would be (maybe that is why I keep asking the question in case one day God slips up and spills the beans on how this movie ends 🙂 ).

But I think it is the best answer for me / us, at least for now.  It requires us to trust God on a daily basis and look for the little piece of manna that He provides to get me through the day.  It reminds me that it is more important to not shrink than it is to survive.

Maybe at some point in this journey God’s answer to me will evolve into something else, but for now that is what he is saying.  And I’m good with that.  That is the truth.

(Note:  if by chance He has told you the answer to our question, please shoot me a note.  Please and thank you.)


So on to the highlights of 2017….

The Huntsman 140

I wrote about the experience here.  A few talented individuals at TruHearing pulled together this video below totally pumps me up every time I watch it.

It is worth watching — Huntsman 140 Team Jarem

The Family Time

We spent more time together as a family this year than any previous year.  People have been so generous with their time and resources to enable us to do some fun things we wouldn’t have otherwise done.  We also made a concerted effort to be together more often in just the normal routine of our day.  Camilla has really the driving force in making sure we do dinner together on most nights, that we do a family night on Mondays, and that we stick together rather than divide and conquer.  She has read the Book of Mormon to our kids almost every night as they go to sleep, and I know if you asked the kids what matters most to “Mom” they would say “being together”.  I think it has made a big difference.

Newport Beach and the annual Balboa Island bench picture with the Millers


Encinitas,  CA with our favorites SPALY


Lasted 4 innings at a game with my whole crew.


Razoring in the mountains with the Millers


My people always came to sing and pray with me each night when I couldn’t get out of bed or my chair to be a part of the bed time routineIMG_7171

Normal shenanigans when the spiritual thought for family night gets too stale and the kids are restless.  


Camilla’s favorite holiday is 4th of July.  Pool weather, BBQ-ing, and family all day long.  This is us at the Provo Parade and is a great tradition we have with the Clarks every year.


Fall family drives on the Alpine Loop and walks around Cascade Springs are great consolation prize for losing the summer pool weather that our family loves.IMG_8504

Chicago Trip(s)

I was fortunate enough to go to my favorite city in the US three times within 6 weeks.  Once for work, once for a trip with Camilla and friends, and once with just my Dad and Brother.

Eating our way through Chicago and swagged up at Wrigley


My dad and brother making their first trip to Wrigley with me


Architecture river boat tour of the cityIMG_7679


Fantasty Fishing Trip

My eighth year in the Dad’s Life Fantasy Football league has been epic.  I’m in the championship game this weekend for the second year in a row this weekend and hoping to finally be a champion!  The other 11 guys flew out to Utah so that we could do the draft in person and spend time together.  Was a killer weekend of fishing, golfing, and getting to know the human side of Brian Willey.

Fly fishing on the Provo


Golfing Gladstone in Payson, Utah (missing Darowski and Flake)IMG_4007

Reel for Recovery Cancer Retreat

There is a phenomenal not for profit organization called Reel for Recovery that takes men with late stage cancer on guided fly fishing trips at no cost to the patient.  I went with a group of 12 guys (all of whom were 30 years older than me :)) and was partnered with a guide who taught me all the tricks of the trade.  We fished, we talked, we recharged, and I left the three day event optimistic in continuing the fight.


Light Up Puerto Rico

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you probably got pretty burned out on all my Puerto Rico posts from September 20th through now.  It was been a bittersweet experience to be involved in some humanitarian relief efforts for mi gente boricua.  Something went off inside of me when Hurricane Maria hit and I was incredibly energized (almost to a frenzied state) by trying to help organize relief efforts with Camilla and many close friends from my time as a missionary.  It was and continues to be a life-altering experience.  And while we’ve been able to achieve some miraculous results, I’ve always felt like I wanted and could do more but was held back physically.  That was incredibly frustrating.  One of my darkest and lowest weeks of the whole year was actually in early November when I reached a breaking point physically and knew I could no longer run as hard on Puerto Rico and work and family and had to pull back in all three facets.  It is hard to explain how I truly felt inside so I’ll just leave it at that.  But serving the Puerto Rican people who have had such a lasting impact on my life since living from 2004 to 2006 was certainly a 2017 highlight.

A group of mostly returned missionaries from Puerto Rico formed “Light Up Puerto Rico” and partnered with Tifie Humanitarian.  To date we’ve raised almost $500k and placed 100+ solar generators, 75 temporary shelters, hundreds of water filters, and thousands of solar lights.  Over 100 people have spent time in Puerto Rico distributing supplies, repairing roofs, cleaning up damage, praying with and blessing the people, and sometimes just sitting on their porches and crying with them.  Camilla went down for 3 days in October.  I’ve had to watch it all through social media posts as I’m unable to travel there for now.

Light Up PR logo

Satellite pictures before the hurricane hit and about two weeks after the hurricane hit.  100 days after the storm, 40% of the island is still without power.  

PR before and after


There are so many other wonderful memories and experiences from 2017.  It certainly wasn’t a lost year despite all the physical limitations and all the time that went into treatment and recovery.  I wish I could post a full list of every act of service that was performed for a family.  There isn’t enough room on the internet to fit it all.  I feel that almost every day of this year there has been some touching and thoughtful gift of service someone has provided us.  I would estimate that out of the 365 days this year we have probably had 175 meals brought in and another 50-70 plates of treats — that is not an exaggeration.  We’ve had an endless stream of treats, cards, visits, texts, emails, and gifts delivered to our home.  I think we had written about 45 thank you cards by the end of January and couldn’t keep up and had to stop that practice.  All I can say is THANK YOU, to all of you, for being in my corner.  For cheering me on.  For taking care of my family.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Thank you for a wonderful 2017.  Let’s get after in 2018.


A Confession and Turning a Corner

Blog posts have been sporadic for 2-3 months.  I love writing in the blog.  I also hate it now.  It is a beautiful blessing to share my story, but most importantly to really reflect on and articulate what we are going through as a family.  But every blog post I write now is reminder the original plan was that I was supposed to be in remission right now and this was going to all be in the rear view mirror.  My story was different than God’s story and now it just about me developing more trust in His story.  I’m learning to surrender my story.

I have completed 9 weeks of chemo.  It was more challenging than I could have imagined.  Some days were absolute torture and other days were just fine.  Mostly I struggled emotionally to keep things together.  I’ve noticed things in my body that scare me.  I can’t bounce back like I used to.  Everything hurts most of the time.  I walk gingerly and like an old man, but for no reason I can tell.  I find myself curled up or hunched over for no reason.  I have felt closer to death than anytime since Jan 6th which was the day I was pretty sure I was going to die.

And in the same breath I can say that there have been times during the past two months that I’ve never felt more alive. I got involved in some disaster relief efforts for Puerto Rico which lit a fire in me that I was afraid may have been previously and permanently squashed by the disease.  For short stints I’ve been able to sprint hard on projects and feel so fulfilled and called to a cause.  It has been a beautiful thing.

The big SCAN NEWS came in two weeks ago.  9 weeks of chemo did exactly what it was supposed to do — made my tumors in the lungs smaller by an average of 25%.  That is a big deal.  Especially from where I’ve been.  It is the first scan I’ve had in a year that DID NOT show tumor progression.  This is the first time Dr. Chandramouli has called with good news.

I’ve mostly just tried to take it in stride and not get overly hyped up about it, but I think it’s okay to yell out a HECK YEAH! every once in a while.  I was able to take the last two weeks off from chemo and now I’m starting back up this Friday December 1st on 9 more weekly treatments.  It is a full repeat of what I went through already.  Makes me shake in my boots just thinking about it.  This treatment is in my head.

So while I’m going to enjoy my next 36 hours before this Friday’s poisoning, I’m ready for this next wave.  I’ve got a better sense of what it will be like and how I can manage the suffering.  More time in bed.  More anti-nausea and pain medication.  More time on my knees rekindling the desperate dependency on Christ that I felt more regularly during radiation.  More time with Camilla.  Less time with the five crazy kids that run around my house (just kidding, sort of).

Thank you for the faith and prayers and support.  This really has been a victory.  Our victory.



Aaron Evans hijacking the blog…

Thanks, Jarem for letting me hijack your blog for a single post.


If you are reading this post it is likely because you know Jarem or are battling cancer, know someone battling cancer, or are striving to stay positive in your own personal battles inherent to life. In the few years that I have known Jarem, I have been inspired by his exuberance and love of life, optimism, and care for others. When he was diagnosed with cancer, these attributes (among so many of his other positive attributes) were magnified as he chose to fight cancer. What has been amazing to see is that Jarem’s fight to beat cancer has not turned his focus on himself, but rather he has maintained an unrelenting focus on helping others face their individual challenges. His focus on individuals is what makes Jarem so special- he cares for individuals, he helps individuals, he uplifts individuals, he prays for individuals- it is this focus on individuals that allows Jarem to have such a significant impact on so many of us. He doesn’t try to do everything for everyone, but he does strive to do something for someone. To that end, I want to do something for someone. I want to help Jarem in some small way in his fight to beat cancer.


I was going to approach this “No shave November” with a goal of raising $500 for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation before shaving my admittedly ugly Fu Manchu that has been growing for 6 days now. However, I decided that such a goal was too low and that I want to challenge myself and each of you to get out of our comfort zones and try to do something a little more substantial for Jarem. To that end, I would like to raise at least $2,000 this November for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.


There are several ways to donate.

  • You can Venmo me directly (@Aaron-Evans-2) and I will make one contribution at the end of the month, or
  • You can donate directly to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. If you donate directly to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, please make sure that we get the funds to the right place by filling out the form as noted below.

aaron pic


Once you have donated, please add your donation to the following Google Doc so we can track our progress. If you wish to remain anonymous, write “anonymous” in the name field.


Additionally, please share this information with others and invite them to donate to this wonderful cause. I imagine there are many people like me wanting to do something, but just don’t know what to do. The Huntsman Cancer Foundation uses all donations for cancer research.


Together we can make a difference.

But If Not

Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them…fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Daniel 3:14-18

I guess you know where this post is going with that intro.  The scan results came back and the cancer has progressed.  Immunotherapy (Keytruda) wasn’t successful.  I guess that is not a totally fair statement.  The specifics:

I had four small tumors in my neck and those were resolved as the radiologist eloquently reported.  Sweet.

The tumor in my tongue is less pronounced.  Awesome.

There is no evidence of disease in my pelvis.  Aight, aight.

Then the pathological prose —  multiple large cavitary masses in both lungs which are compatible with metastatic disease.  Wham-o.  Also, [insert favorite expletive here].

But here is the deal.  I feel better than I have all year.  I have no symptoms.  I have energy.  I am sleeping well.  My feet don’t hurt as much as they used to.  My saliva is coming back.  But I’m not getting better.  I have 5 squamous cell tumors in my lungs that are each around the size of a quarter.  I don’t get it.

I found answers and inspiration in a great sermon by Martin Luther King that I will share at the end of the post, but first some logistics.

Back on the chemo train

(feel free to skip this part, it’s really just for the medical geeks and my mom)

I’m switching off of immunotherapy and onto a chemo regiment that will start this Thursday September 14th.  The regiment will contain 6 cycles and each cycle is 3 weeks long (18 weeks total).  A cycle is like this:

  • Day 1 – IV infusion of carboplatin, 5FU, and erbitux for several hours.  I leave the infusion center with a backpack pump that stays connected to me for the next four days and drips in the remaining dosage over 96 hours.
  • Day 4 – I return to the infusion center to have the pump removed
  • Day 8 – IV infusion of erbitux for a couple of hours
  • Day 15 – IV infusion of erbitux for a couple hours

The plan is for me to do this three times in 9 weeks and then do another scan to see what the lungs look like.  Assuming we’ve made a dent in the tumor growth we’ll keep on this path for another 9 weeks.

In all honesty, while chemo is the pits, I’m really not dreading it that much.  I just need it to work.  I don’t care about all the side effects.  We can get through those.  I just need a serious cancer-cell-killing-chemo-cocktail.


Striving for “Though” faith

Camilla and I are doing fine.  We really are.  We probably wouldn’t tell you if we weren’t, but we are actually doing fine.  We’ve already been through this mental, emotional, and spiritual blood bath enough times that we really just took the news in stride.  When we got the news last Friday night I pouted for a couple of hours while she wrangled the kids.  And then we went to Culvers.  And then we proceeded to have an epic Labor Day Weekend with the kids.  This is just another step in the process.  We are taking each day as it comes.  Each is a gift and joy can be found within it.

I’ve always joked with Camilla that I might join a Baptist church as a part-time member in addition to my membership in the LDS church.  I just love hearing the Good Word preached with emotion and passion and even flair.  If they ever let me teach early morning seminary, watch out!

You have probably already read or listened to Dr. Martin Luther King’s impassioned sermon called “But If Not”.  It is worth spending another 23 minutes to re-listen to or read.  Daniel 3 is the text for the sermon and faith is the topic.  Many similar sermons have been given from this text and on this topic, and I just love listening to Dr. King preach it.

Everything in my life pre-cancer has always worked out.  Life wasn’t easy but everything seemed to resolve eventually into the best possible outcome.  It was easy to have faith in God and His plan for me because it always seemed to be exactly what I would have chosen for myself.  While I never verbalized it this way, in retrospect I can see that Dr. King could have been categorizing my relatively untested faith when he described the “If” faith.

If all goes well; if life is hopeful, prosperous and happy; if I don’t have to go to jail; if I don’t have to face the agonies and burdens of life; if I’m not ever called bad names because of taking a stand that I feel that I must take; if none of these things happen, then I’ll have faith in God, then I’ll be alright.

But it is the “Though” faith that I want to get to, the level of faith I believe the Savior deserves from me for saving me through His grace.

And the ‘though’ faith says “Though things go wrong; though evil is temporarily triumphant; though sickness comes and the cross looms, neverthless! I’m gonna believe anyway and I’m gonna have faith anyway; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, the LORD of hosts is with us;  Though he slay me, yet will I trust him. My faith is a ‘though’ faith.” And this is the essence of life and religion.

Right now, more than ever before, I know that this whole mess can be resolved.  I know that God can heal me and that the treatment plans can work and that I can live a long and wonderful life with my wife and kids.  I know that.

But if not.

Yet will I trust Him.  Yet will I worship Him.  Yet will I love Him.

Hope and Elephant Cookies



#hopefightschildhoodcancer is a wonderful fundraising and awareness campaign that Kneaders is putting on for the month of September.  It is inspiring and specific, which are my favorite types of initiatives to be a part of.

Here’s the deal:

  • Like all of us, the Worthington family (founders of Kneaders) has been impacted by cancer when several years ago they had a grandson diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma (which coincidentally is one of the two cancers I’m fighting right now).
  • There is some breakthrough research happening right now at the Huntsman Cancer Institute with Dr. Joshua Shiffman and the study of elephant proteins being effective at killing human cancer cells.
    • It is fascinating stuff.  I toured Dr. Shiffman’s lab at Huntsman this week and listened to him present some of his findings.  Hearing his enthusiasm and optimism for what they were finding was so energizing!
  • Kneaders has a goal to raise $300k to help move Dr. Shiffman’s research through the process of “laboratory bench to clinical bedside”, a process that usually takes several years and millions of dollars.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Eat cookies.  Kneaders will be selling elephant sugar cookies and other elephant paraphernalia throughout the month of September and all proceeds will go toward the fundraising goal.  Go to your local Kneaders and pick up a few dozen cookies and share with your friends.
  • Contribute online or at a Kneaders store.  Obviously this isn’t as much fun as eating cookies, but it saves your waistline and some of you think that eating cookies is what gave me cancer in the first place so this is a way for you to get involved and keep your conscious clear.  You can make a contribution here starting September 1.


I’ve been thinking a lot about HOPE recently.  You’ll remember from some of my initial blog posts that the formula we are trying to prove out is


My mom even had some shirts made up for our family because, well, when you don’t know if something is true but you really hope it is true you just make it into a shirt and then it starts to feel more real.


Looking at the shirt makes my mind jump to the conclusion that what we are saying is that HOPE can BEAT CANCER.  But it has been insightful for me to read the formula as it is written, that is, hope and patience are GREATER THAN cancer.  I don’t know if hope will beat cancer in my case, although I still hope it does.  Cancer is most likely going to be the cause of my death at some point (unless I die from overeating at my Fantasy Football Draft this weekend).  But, the ever-wise Camilla has often reminded me that

hope is GREATER THAN cancer because it contains a power to continue to feel joy and enjoy life in the face of uncertainty.

So then HOPE IS POWER.  Not necessarily power to change the challenge we are facing or the outcome it will inflict, but power to change our mindset.  That certainly sounds a lot greater than the uncontrolled dividing of cells.

“Happy is he…whose hope is in the Lord his God”  Psalms 146:5

Now go buy lots of elephant cookies.