A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, directed me to a story on caringbridge.org. The post was written on May 13 by a man, Nick Keller, honoring his wife, Elizabeth, for Mother’s Day.
The Keller’s son, Joey, has been battling medulloblastoma for the past year and a half. Medulloblastoma is a highly malignant primary brain tumor that originates in the cerebellum or posterior fossa. The things Nick said about Elizabeth brought tears to my eyes. Here is a small portion of their story, outlining Elizabeth’s strength and the struggles they have gone through with Joey’s disease:
Here’s the thing, she doesn’t get a break. Think of the most demanding jobs in healthcare or “caregiver” jobs…they get to go home at the end of their shift. No matter how demanding, after 8 or 10 hours, they clock out, and go about their lives. Certainly it’s a calling, but there are professional boundaries. Elizabeth has slept with Joey since this started. I know in many ways apples and oranges, but Elizabeth is at his side every minute, of every day, of every month. When the radiation caused the skin over his spine to crack and bleed and he’d cry all through the night, she was there. When he passed a kidney stone and screamed so loud EVERYBODY in the huge lobby of Riley turned, looked, and ran to help (I was there, I saw it), she was there. When his brain shunt pushed through his scalp and exposed the deep ventricles of his brain to the outside world, rushed him to the ER on a Sunday morning…she was there. When the “routine” (so I was at work) MRI showed he had relapsed and his chances for survival dropped, in an hour, from 30-50% down to 5%, she was there. When he had thrown up from the chemo every hour for basically 2 days straight, she was there. When he had appointments starting at 7 in the morning until 7 at night, and I had work commitments I simply couldn’t get out of…she was there. When he relapsed a second time, and he could read the looks of despair on our faces and Dad had no words (shock)…she was there, with love and encouraging words of how we’ll get through this together…somehow, we will. As my wife, when I wanted to wrestle God like Jacob one night at 3am, or argue with Him like Moses late one night after she’d been up all night the night before…she was there, telling me of God’s love, and why I could trust Him; she was there. When Joey got C-Diff, and had water diarrhea every half hour for a week and half, no break, Joey writhing in pain, sometimes punching his stomach it hurt so bad. We’d clean him up, put him back to bed, then minutes later the pain would wake him up, and we’d run to the bathroom. Sure I helped when I could. But when I was at work, or too tired to hold Joey up on the toilet…she was there, doing the heavy lifting. You know, it’s funny. Our culture seems to worship beauty, and wealth, and “I don’t care what they’re really like, they seem so cool in the movies, or on TV.” Symbolism over substance kind of thing. Or, “They’re so HOT,” outward appearance obsessed, etc. I have seen this woman when no one is looking. Seen her after 3 days with no sleep. Seen her when the doctor has said, “You’re son isn’t going to live.” Seen her when her son looks into her eyes and says, “I would rather die and be with Jesus, than go through this…I want to die.” My wife is a ROCK. She is as beautiful on the inside as I think she is out. She is patient, kind, and always prefers others over herself. The only time I’ve seen her confront somebody or use firm boundaries, is when someone is threatening Joey. I am a blessed man.
Elizabeth and Joey
Find the rest of Nick Keller’s journal entries at www.caringbridge.org/visit/joeykeller.
My friend was so touched by Nick Keller’s tribute to his wife that he said he wanted to do something special for her. He wanted to purchase a gift card for her from Salon 01 (www.salon01.com) so that maybe sometime she could get away, even just for a couple hours, and maybe take her mind off the struggles she faces daily. Being a member of the Sussy Squad, I suggested to him that he nominate her for a sussy.
I sent Nick an email, explaining the Sussy Project, and explaining how it was that Elizabeth came to be nominated. Nick replied:
I just, finally, had some time to jump on your blog…wow, that is REALLY cool! What a creative and generous effort. Love it!…. I know how cheesy this sounds, but she is really unbelievable. And as I told my parents after writing that one Caring Bridge blog about her, I am in the cat-bird’s seat, in terms of seeing her in action. She never talks about herself and b/c of our situation and Joey needing to be in isolation so much, nobody ever sees all that she does. All those times I spoke about where she serves him tirelessly, I am the one who sees it. Who better to tell the world than me. She is amazing. Thank you for wanting to recognize her publicly. That is very cool.
The gift card was sent in the mail, and the other day I received a response. Nick wrote me another email on behalf of Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was both surprised and blessed by the gift card. I explained the background and rationale for the gift and organization/blog you guys have started, and she was so impressed. Said, “what a great idea!” You may have heard, we had a really tough week, spent a night in Riley ER, and got less than the news we’d hoped for on Joey’s most recent MRI. This gift is a shot in the arm, encouragement to get through another week, and keep fighting for Joey.
Thank you so much!
There are many lessons to be learned from Nick and Elizabeth Keller, including strength, faith and perseverance. Even as I sit here writing this post, I am overwhelmed with admiration and pure emotion for the Keller’s, whom I have never met, but who have touched me beyond belief with their pure desire to persevere. They are an inspiration to anyone going through struggles, big or small, and I am glad I am able to share this story of their’s.
Yesterday, Nick Keller wrote an update. Here is a small portion.
Once again, for those of you new to our Caring Bridge page, after 2 relapses, Joey has a 5% chance of survival…but we serve a big God that has made many promises to us in His word….we are standing on those promises.
Unfortunately, our arsenal against certain kinds of cancers isn’t as strong as it should or could be, and Joey is certainly in that category dealing with relapsed medulloblastoma. It breaks our hearts. We are fighting, and very much feel like we’re in a battle. In war, there are no breaks, there is always the threat of death, and the battle monopolizes ALL of your time, energy, and emotional resources.
He went on to thank many people for the texts, notes, help, support and prayers they have received. Nick also recognized the Sussy Project for what we have done for his wife, and thanked the anonymous friend who nominated her.
First, what a GREAT idea, The Sussy Project. In day where it feels like everybody has an agenda, wants something from you, or is trying to sell you something, how refreshing is this? An organization that exists to “call people out” doing something admirable or kind, or special leadership skills, service, or just doing the little things, to serve people and make the world a better place. I had never heard of The Sussy Project before and really love the concept. I said all of that about war, and battle imagery, etc. to say, that this was really a shot in the arm for Elizabeth. I know (hope :p ) it meant so much to her to know that her husband sees first hand how hard she works, literally around the clock, to get Joey healthy again. All of our focus and energy is spent on this. But to be recognized in the public forum like this, and receive a gift like that, really meant the world to her. She has no idea when she can use it, maybe if Joey stabilizes or better yet, goes into remission, she’ll have a chance to get more than just a quick hair cut, her nails done, or more, this place does all kinds of stuff, including taking care of the grooming needs of dudes. I will likely go with her and check it out. Again, when things let up a bit. Anyway, what a great gesture, and a shot in the arm to my wife. THANK YOU. Whoever you are, you have no idea what this meant to my wife, new energy and zeal to carry into the next battle, that is our week, this week.
Please think of someone you know who needs that “shot in the arm.” We want to honor them. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org