Many war stories start with those words. For
instance: In August 1968, there I was, fat dumb and
happy, at 9,000 feet over the mountains north of
Pleiku, Vietnam, half finished with my second cup of coffee, when
the number one engine Fire Warning sounded on my U-21 aircraft. I
declared an emergency and landed safely at the Pleiku Air Force
Base. Turned out, the Fire Warning indicator was faulty.
And…in August 2017, there I was,
fat dumb and happy, enjoying retired life, planning
the 2017 OCS Reunion in D.C., and writing and publishing books, when
Sandy got sick. As she got worse, several doctors couldn’t figure
the exact nature of her illness. One thought it was a cold. Another
thought it was a bad sinus infection. Her lymph nodes were so
swollen and painful that she couldn’t lay on a pillow. One day, I
tried all day to get her to eat, but she was so exhausted that she
could hardly raise her head. When I brought in some dinner, I
couldn’t wake her, so I called 911. In the ER, they measured her
Calcium level at 14.5. At 15…you are comatose. At 16…you are dead.
The next morning, they did lymph node and bone marrow biopsies and
then did a Lumbar Punch (spinal tap) to check the brain fluid.
The next day, Sandy was still mostly out of it.
The oncologist took me aside and said that Sandy had Stage 4, Large
B-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s, Lymphoma. Since it was also detected in her
bone marrow and brain fluid, he estimated only a 3% chance of
recovery. At that moment, I think I would have experienced less fear
in that U-21, even with an actual fire. Sandy was not aware enough
for me to even tell her.
Even though she was very weak, the doctor said
it was critical that they start fluids to decrease the calcium (the
lymphoma had been pulling excess calcium from her bones) and start
chemo treatments immediately, in both her blood system and in her
spinal cord fluid. They treated her spinal cord and then did an
8-hour chemo treatment through an IV. After they sent her home, she
continued to get worse, from the chemo side-effects. She developed
mouth sores…her entire tongue, cheeks and down her throat were
covered by one huge canker sore. I took her back to the doctor and
he readmitted her for a week, just to treat the sores.
By now, we were both exhausted. One night, I
was holding her as she cried and she said, “I can’t do this. Just
let me go.” I held it together and told her that God had blessed
these medical professionals with the skills to give her best chance
of survival. We prayed and I asked God to work through them to heal
her. I started phone and email prayer-chains with everyone I knew.
We soon had friends and strangers all over the world, praying for
God to bless us and heal her.
Within six weeks, we had spent 30 days in the
hospital. Following her second round of chemo, she had a follow-up
CT Scan. The oncologist brought the results into the room…he had a
big smile on his face. The scan showed that the lymph nodes were
back to normal size, going into remission! I was stunned! (Oh, me of
little faith!) We cried and celebrated.
On October 21, 2017, our 52nd Wedding
Anniversary!...we were packing for another 5 days in the hospital,
for her fourth round of Chemo. The fifth round came and went and
during the recovery from it she got an infection with a 102.9
temperature and had to do another 6 days in the hospital, just to
get rid of it. Now, with just a week out of the hospital, we are
packing again for another 5 days inpatient to do the sixth,
AND LAST, chemo treatment. We will get out just in time for
the kids to get here for Christmas. We have done no shopping or
decorating…but, who cares? She is still in remission!!...that’s gift
Sandy has lost her hair and 30 pounds of
weight. When we finish, it will have totaled 62 days in the
hospital, since August 8th. The bill is already ½ million $, and
climbing. Praise the Lord for Medicare and TriCare for Life! Sandy
is encouraged that we can look forward to a future together, however
long it may be. We are indeed blessed…with our medical team…with our
family close by…with friends like you, many of whom have
been-there-done-that, and understand…with so many prayer
partners around the world…and with a Heavenly Father, whose love and
grace over-shadow us.
Looking back to day-one, I can see that the
fear of the unknown we felt has been replaced with confidence that
God has a purpose for us, and we are more focused now on
full-filling it. Whatever the future holds for us, we lean more on
the words in Jeremiah 29:11… “I know the plans I have
for you, declares the Lord; plans to help you and not to harm you,
plans to give you a hope and a future.”
My hope for all of you is a long future, filled
with personal excellence and the satisfaction of a life lived well.
I pray for your health and happiness. It is time to get out your
Bucket List and get busy doing those things you have been putting
off. Our New Year’s resolution is to dust off the RV and hit the
road. No more excuses! Have a blessed 2018!
Max Holt, Class 02-67
Prior Month Devotionals
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