ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Saturday, September 13, 2008

(In honor of Post #500)

December 2005. I had decided to become a living liver donor. Thus, I was entering a new phase in my life. I wanted an outlet for my thoughts and a place to post news and progress to friends and family. So, I began a blog. I imagined that it would be a triumphant first few months of blogging. I could encourage more donations of organs (upon one's death) so that the kind of sacrifice I was making would not be necessary. I was to become a living liver donor.

My friend Victor Gomez had been diagnosed with liver cancer. He was so far down on the recipient list that a transplant was not going to become available for him before his time ran out. I had volunteered that Spring to be a living donor for him since our blood types matched. But his half-sister from Peru had agreed to go through the testing. However, after the painful liver biopsy in March, she opted not to donate. It delayed their even looking at me as a possible donor since a family member would be a closer match. After 6 weeks of testing, 22 vials of blood drawn, a liver biopsy and every test known to man (EXCEPT a Pap Smear and Mammogram, I might add), I was accepted as a donor. At age 55 I was healthy, but certainly older than the recommended age for living donors. I didn't even tell my primary care physician. I didn't think he'd like the idea. The University promised the best of care. And in the event that my liver ever failed, I would be put at the top of the donor list.

December 29th Victor and I both checked into the Transplant ICU at a hospital in Chicago. He was ill and could barely walk. I was hale and hearty. A tad nervous, but hale and hearty nonetheless.

The next morning in adjoining operating rooms, the two of us underwent separate 14-hour surgical procedures. Two teams of surgeons; two ORs. It was expected to be 8 hours, but when they opened him up, the remaining liver was again riddled with carcenoma. They had to keep a vein and the bile duct from his liver, because a living donor can donate 2/3 of the organ, but only one of three veins and no bile duct. With a cadaver donor, all of those items are also available for transplanting.

The bile duct was a problem from the beginning. At first it was leaking. They did another surgery and repaired it. Then it infected. It never did heal. The news was both good and bad from the beginning. The transplanted liver in him pinked up and began to work. But the wretched bile duct continued problematic.

I left the hospital after a week. I believed I'd be back at work in a month. It took almost two, and then I only returned because I was out of sick days and couldn't afford not to return. Mostly I was tired and weary. I returned to work February 21st.

For Victor, infection continued. His body became weaker and weaker. The last two week, they didn't bother closing the surgical incision. Daily procedures were done to try to combat the infection and entice his declining system to fight for health.

He was valiant to the end. The last week, each time I saw him tears ran down his face, and he'd whisper, "I'm sorry." I didn't understand at first. I kept reassuring him that I was fine, that he could make it.

But eventually I got it. He realized that his time was at an end and he was apologizing for the sacrifice that I had made. The pain he had endured was unbelievable with daily surgery and swelling of his body to the point that he could no longer speak. He was conscious, but just barely. I reassured him that it was okay to let go. The last thing I told him was to relax into the arms of God. That it would be alright. Two tear rolled down his cheek and he tried to smile. Two hours later he was gone.

That was February 22, 2006. I blogged rarely for several months. My strength did not return. I blamed it on depression. I struggled, emotionally, spiritually, physically.

Then before school started in August 2006, I decided that a mole on my left breast which had been there for years HAD to be removed. Immediately. Later my daughter-in-law said she really wondered about be because it was not characteristic of me at all.

My primary care physician said I had to have a mammogram and Pap Smear. Those were the only two test not done during December before liver surgery.

I knew right away at the mammogram that things weren't right. The technician became brighter and cheerier as the tests continued. She used every attachment there was on that wretched machine, leaving after each time to go see the radiologist. She'd come back even cheerier. And use another attachment. Finally, I had to have an ultrasound. That technician may as well have been made of stone. Absolutely no emotion of any kind marred her visage or impeded her movements.

When I got home, I sat down and tried to think. I was stunned. It was 4 pm on Friday. "I'd better make a note to call my doctor on Monday," I reminded myself. "This feel sinister."

The ringing phone interrupted my desperate attempts at reassuring myself. It was my primary care doctor. He gave me the name of a surgeon to see for a surgical biopsy and recommended that I call "Today" for the appointment.

And the whirlwind of breast cancer, mastectomy, chemotherapy, and breast reconstruction began. From August 21, 2006, the day of the mastectomy, until May 23, 2007 when the last of reconstruction was finished it was a wild run from doctor to doctor, treatment to treatment. And all of it had nothing at all to do with the mole. That was only my fixation for the feeling that something was wrong.

I blogged regularly. Blogging kept me sane. Most of the time I would simply write how I felt, what God was teaching me, or things that were happening. During the school year of 2006-2007, blogging was my regular contact with the world. I did not get out regularly except for church. Blogging was my window to the world.

So while I started blogging in order to tell a story, that story has made so many turns and twists, I barely recognize it. And that's in only three years (minus 2 months!). I keep blogging because I've made friends I want to keep in touch with; because blogging helps me keep my thoughts straight; because it reminds me where I have been and just occasionally, it points the direction in which I should go.

Here's to the next 500 blogs!!!


  1. What a beautiful post. I am honored to read about your sacrifice and being a Living Donor (my son had a heart transplant this past year) and heart broken at the loss of your friend and the following Cancer. You are so brave and strong. Thank you for sharing this with me.

  2. Wow, what an encouraging and courageous story. It was so brave and generous of you to donate part of your liver.
    Then to have to deal with it all on your own..
    Well, maybe I found you at a healthier time and place, but at least I found you!
    I love reading your blog...and hope to continue like you for many years to come!
    Have a super week!

  3. PJ, just came across your blog and this is an incredible post. So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, but thank you for sharing all of this.

    Donate Life Illinois

  4. This is such an amazing story. Not many people would make the sacrifice you do did for a non family member. So glad you have recovered your cancer surgery.

  5. Truly beautiful. I didn't know any of that. I am amazed and in awe of your bravery. Amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  6. wow, PJ these was a really beauitful thing you did what a generous heart you have ") we need more people like you !

    these story is good I think everyone should read these amazing stoy of yours why you could write a book.
    I am so sorry you went through cancer But the Lord bless you and heal you !!
    I am so glad you share these story you are one amazing person. love, marina

  7. I'm glad you continue to blog and thank you for sharing your story about your friend and your cancer.

  8. And I'll be hear reading the next 500! Thank-you for sharing that story. You have been on quite a journey, but your story is a testimony to the grace of God. When I have time, I'd like to go back and read more of your first 500 posts.

  9. I was so behind on reading, and my speeding through technique came to a grinding halt at this post. *wipes tears* so lovely.

    girl, you are such a wonderful picture of God's provision and grace. I am beyond blessed to know you.

    here's to 5000000 more posts!

  10. I'll be here for the next 500, too. Thank you for sharing this story. I don't think I'll ever quite forget it, and I did not even know one could donate 2/3 of one's liver. Remarkable. You did a very heroic, servant-hearted thing.

  11. Beautiful post, PJ. You are incredible. I'm so glad I found your blog.

  12. Wow, that is some story. You never know what lies ahead in your life. Good thing God doesn't spell it out for us. I for one would not be able to face it. How is your health now? I hope you are feeling much improved.


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