home of the brave - Joey, courage and cancer

It’s been almost a month since my last post.  And though I had planned, and even written, some entries to share (like my trip in May to the Amish with my sister Marcy and the day I spent making homemade strawberry jam with Joey), it didn’t seem right to post stories like that right now…. not with the story that has been unfolding in our lives for the last six weeks.

In May, at a routine appointment with her gynecologist, Joey’s doctor discovered something that concerned her.  She said there was a mass on Joey’s cervix and that she wanted do a biopsy, and would let us know the results when she got them back.   A few days later, Joey woke up from a nap with a message from the doctor, asking that we come in and talk with her that afternoon.  When we walked into the her office, the doctor was clearly upset.  Before she could even say the word “cancer”, her eyes welled up with tears and sobbing she said, “I’m so sorry Joey…”.   My wife bravely smiled and said, “ it’s gonna be okay, just tell us”.   And so she did.

Joey has cervical cancer.

It’s a strange thing when your doctor starts crying before you do.  Especially when it’s a doctor you don’t really even know.  This was only the second time we had ever seen her.  Strangely, the first time was when we were at the hospital after the birth of Indiana, and she is the one who took me out into the hall and told me that she believed that our baby had Down Syndrome.   I was completely caught off guard.   In the excitement and joy of Indy’s birth, none of us had even given her little almond eyes a thought.   But from that moment on, I knew our lives and our story would forever be different.  And once again, as we heard this sweet doctor say “it’s just not fair” through her tears… we knew that our lives and our story was taking another unexpected turn.

When we got home and the news finally sank in, Joey only worried about one thing.  It wasn’t “why did this happen to me” or “am I going to be okay”, or a hundred other questions that I would’ve had.  Joey only thought of our baby.  She cried and cried worrying about Indiana, and what this might mean to her… what if she couldn’t continue breastfeeding her, or will Indy’s sleep schedule be interrupted, or worse yet…what if she won’t get to watch this precious gift grow up?

I can honestly say that in the six months that we’ve been off the road and taking a break from the music business, I haven’t picked up a guitar once and Joey and I haven’t sang a single song together.  But when I came in the house that day and saw Joey holding Indiana in her arms, singing “I Need Thee Every Hour”... I went into the closet, pulled out a guitar and came and sat beside her.  For a half-hour straight, we held our little one and we cried and we sang these words over and over.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain

Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain

I need Thee, O I need Thee

Every hour I need Thee

O bless me now, my Savior

I come to Thee

 And then, like turning off a faucet,... we said a prayer, dried our tears and decided to put our trust in Him.

A few days later we were in another office seeing a gynecology/oncology specialist in Nashville and he told us that though the mass was already 4 cm and growing aggressively, we had caught it early.  He recommended that Joey have a radical hysterectomy right away to remove the cancer and surrounding areas.

Joey surgery day-6
Joey surgery day-6

And so, this past Friday, we loaded up our four-month-old baby, and along with our older girls and Joey’s mama… drove to Centennial hospital in Nashville.  And soon after, my brave little wife, kissed us all goodbye and smiled as they wheeled her away to surgery.

Joey surgery day-2
Joey surgery day-2

About 6 hours later, they wheeled her out of the recovery room and though she was still groggy and in some pain, she waved to us and smiled again and we walked with her as they wheeled her to her room.

Joey surgery day-8
Joey surgery day-8

The next morning about 11 am, she got to come home to our farmhouse.

It’s been five days now, and Joey’s getting stronger every day.  Her swelling is going down and spirits continue to go up.  We had a follow-up appointment with the oncologist yesterday and he said that the margins and the lymph nodes he removed came back clean, so there’s no more cancer in her body and she won’t need chemo or radiation.   There in the waiting room after the appointment, we held each other and our baby, and we cried once more.

I heard a preacher tell a short story one time about God and a tandem bicycle.  I’m reminded of that story today.  It’s only 3 minutes long, but the lesson has stayed with me for years.

Yes, it has been quite a year for us so far.  In the past six months, God has taken us places we never dreamed we would go.  It’s been terrifying and thrilling all at the same time.  We never know what tomorrow will bring…none of us do.  But what an incredible journey life is.  We are just going to continue to trust Him and hold to each other and… pedal, pedal!