Day 13- Blessed are those who mourn

Things keep moving along here at the hospital. As expected, Ian’s counts have begun to drop and to explain this phenomenon I feel the need to bore you all with an anatomy/pharmacology lesson. Feel free to let your eyes glaze over for the next few paragraphs…

The stem cells in everyone’s bone marrow are responsible for producing three main blood products that keep you alive and your body healthy:

-red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all of your body
-platelets, which are essential with forming clots so bruises don’t keep growing and wounds stop bleeding
-white blood cells, of which there are many different types, which help identify and combat infection

A specific type of white blood cell, the neutrophil, is followed closely during the transplant process. Neutrophils are some of the “first responders” in the body. Anytime there is cell injury or an invader (virus, bacteria, etc.) identified, neutrophils are some of the first white blood cells on the scene. They start cleaning up the mess and fighting those invaders. They are the most abundant of the white blood cells and are essential to preventing infection. All of that info jiving? Ok, then here’s the next part…

All chemotherapy drugs have a point at which their effect is strongest on your bone marrow. This point is called “nadir”. With the type of chemo regimen Ian received to start his transplant, all of the drugs reach nadir about 5 or so days after the transplant. Today his neutrophil count is very close to zero, his red blood cell count is low and he feels the fatigue of anemia, and his platelets are low as well. He will stay at this point for the next few days. He is at highest risk for infection during this time and he is being closely monitored while his body is in this compromised state.

He continues to walk the pod for at least an hour everyday and gets down the majority of all of his meals despite having significant nausea and multiple diet restrictions while his immune system is so compromised. His heart rate has been elevated so they are giving him extra IV fluids and that seems to be doing the trick.

For the most part though, things are slow and in these quiet moments here at the hospital we have begun to grieve. These last few years have been punctuated with a series of lost experiences, unfulfilled hopes, and bittersweet celebrations. Cancer casts a long shadow in our lives.

I think most people who have experienced grief understand that it is not just the big loss that hurts, it is all the little losses along the way and the rippling effects that are felt unexpectedly so many years afterwards that hurt as well.

So many of the experiences that we had imagined would look a certain way have been pervaded by the echos and ripples of this battle with cancer. Ian has missed an opportunity to go into the Oval Office when he was honored as a Champion of Change. He was home recovering after having a lymph node resected. Ian had to go get chemo just two days after our son was born. Our son turned one month old and shared the celebration with Ian finishing his first course of chemotherapy. When Ian was in remission, we contended with the fear of cancer returning. Like a child who fears a monster under the bed, at every whisper of illness we have shuddered. In the darkness even what we knew was true became distorted and frightening. We have had little peace.

I was reminded that Jesus said “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” and despite the pain and sadness we feel during this time, we have had comfort. We have had two couples in particular, the Maloufs and the Ryans, who have provided us with deep comfort. I have found that those who provide the best comfort are those that have been marked by great suffering as well. We thank you Pam and Joan and Ed and Rick. You have given us so much permission to feel during these last few days.

In the next days we hold our breath until those new stem cells reach a critical mass with production and we begin to see Ian’s counts go up. That will mean that he has engrafted and then we will have only a few days until Ian gets to go home. We still welcome visitors if you are not sick. We thank you for your prayers and encouraging words during this time.

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13 thoughts on “Day 13- Blessed are those who mourn

  1. Hi Ian &Shiloh,
    As I read your story & events of the day I’m amazed by your strength & resistance. You are both an inspiration. You & your family are in our prayers. We love you and I’m truly sorry that you are having to go through this. -Mary

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  2. Prayers continue for peace. Through this journey God’s will is perfected. Receive His love today. Your strength is inspirational. Thank you both for being so transparent and laying open your personal lives before us. Rest in His loving arms dear ones. Love you. Luci b

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  3. Dear Ian and Shailoh,

    Reading about your post reminded me when of the very first bible lesson I thought at church for the life teen program. This was about six years ago. It was a lesson the the beatitudes. I could not helped but to think about “blessed are the meek.” At that moment being I was very reserved and I always saw the word meek as someone who was weak and let his/her emotions take controlled of the situation. Since then, I have seen how much courage and power someone who is “meek” could be.
    I don’t know why I felt the need to share this. I just wanted to let you know both of you and Mr. T are in my prayers. I’ve been wanting to go and strategize with Ian but I got a stupid flu, so I don’t want to risk it (I’m way better and hopefully I can soon swing by).

    In this world many things are hard to understand. But there are other things that are so easily understood but hard to articulate. This for me is summarized in the following bible verse “At the end three things remain: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of them all is love.”

    I know the love Ian is receiving will continue to be its biggest weapon in this battle.

    Blessings,

    Reyna

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  4. Shiloh and Ian, your losses are so real and hurt so much. I am sad with you . It’s not just the “it’ll all be better real soon” that we need to hear, but also the validation that “your pain and your losses are real! They are not fair. They suck.” They make me feel angry, sad, confused and hurt. Yet I’m also grateful for the beauty of your love for each other, Mr. T, family, friends, God community. I’m thankful for your tenacity, strength and humor and beginning of recovery. The good news to me is & was embracing God adores the broken, angry me just as much as when I’m feeling anything else. For me I’ve learned I do ultimately lean in to Him more when I’m in the midst of suffering.
    Hugs and tears shared with you over every single “little loss” bc they stare too big to grieve alone. xo M

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  5. Shiloh thank you so much for keeping everyone updated on Ian progress. I love reading your blogs. I am praying for you and Iand and baby Taylor. Also I have been praying for the rest of the family as well. Shiloh you are a very strong mom, wife and woman. I look up to you. Again thanks again for the updates… love u guys.

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  6. Thanks for continuing to tell your guys story Shiloh. We are joining you in thought hope and prayer and we mourn and rejoice with you as well. May the love and life of God quicken the critical mass point. Love.

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  7. Hi Shiloh and Ian!

    I know that we don’t know each other personally but I am BJ Richardson’s wife. Nice to meet you. 🙂 I just wanted to let you know that we have been praying for you both. For peace, for comfort, for health, for your sweet little kids who have to be away from their mom and dad right now. You are on my heart each day and I write your names down in my prayer journal even morning. We would love to help in any capacity that we can! Please let us know what we can do!!!

    My heart aches for you and for your family. I want to cry with reading every sentence. I want you to know that you have people who love and admire you and your family! People you barely know!!!

    Suffering comes in so many forms, in different moments of life, and in each we can see true glimpses of who Christ is. How he loves us and cares for us, in our very darkest moments. His hope gives us peace that he will use each moment for good and to build us to whom He wants us to be. Thank you for being such a beacon of strength and light to those that read these posts. Your strength is amazing and I am so glad you are open to sharing your story. I pray that God’s story for both of your lives is filled with happiness and peace.

    Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

    xoxo-Ashley

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