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No Wrong Turns

Posted by on July 12, 2013 in My Health Updates - 22 Comments
Savannah wormsloe


Last week, I drove up to Virginia from Savannah.  It’s around 575 miles and on a good day, you can make it in under nine hours.  Without kids in the car, I was planning on seven.  But, of course July 4th traffic on I-95 foiled my plans.  I was just north of Richmond when I hit a wall of cars.  I was sort of prepared for it, but I had remained hopeful that perhaps I would hit a window just before the wall – I guess about 600,000 other drivers had that same hope.

Our friends Jeff and Michelle Solsby were about two hours behind me.  They were driving up from Charleston with three kids in tow.  I called to warn them about the traffic.  But, Jeff was way ahead of me.  He’d mapped out an alternate strategy – a plan to get around 95.

“What’s your exit?”

“Uhm – I don’t know.  I’m outside of Richmond.  There are cars all around me.  I’m in a parking lot.”

“Are you at Parham Road yet?”

“Oh, actually – yes.  It’s right here!”

“Take it!  Take 301 north.  You’re home free.  I’m looking at Google maps – it’s green baby.  Green all the way.  95 is red – fire engine red.  Get off 95.  Take 301.  Better to go 45 miles out of your way and drive 55 then to sit on 95 at 2 mph.”

I was nervous.  The truth is I don’t really know my home state of Virginia that well.  We rarely venture outside of northern Virginia and the 95 corridor that carries us south.  I didn’t recognize the cities or the roads I was passing.  And I was going to have cut back down through Maryland.  We Virginian’s can’t stand Maryland.  They’d probably tax me just for crossing the border.

While I was unsure of Jeff’s plan, my GPS was adamantly opposed.   Initially starting out with the cautious, “please take the next exit” or “Make a legal u-turn if possible.”  To screaming, “Where are you going?  Forget legal, just turn the car around!”

In my fear, I had punched in our location on google maps on my phone too,  so I was being yelled at by two different devices to get off of 301.

I ignored the electronic pleas and stayed on 301.   For about 20 miles, it was fabulous.  Not only was I moving, but I was clicking along at 55, sometimes 60!  The surrounding area was beautiful.  There were a few traffic lights here and there, but it was a small price to pay.  I was just beginning to feel delighted about my decision, when my phone blared out “Traffic warning ahead.  There is significant congestion,  delays are extensive.”  I ignored it.  I figured it was probably still thinking about I-95.  And look how smart I had been?

But, the phone was right.  Suddenly, in front of me I was once again met by a wall of cars.  They weren’t crawling, they weren’t moving at all.  I called Michelle.  What should I do?

“Stay the course, Jeff says it’s just a few miles to the bridge – once you cross the bridge, it’s clear again.”

Jeff was correct.  It was only a few miles to the bridge.  But, two hours later, I still hadn’t reached the bridge.

As we inched along, I started seeing signs that said, “For bridge escort, please call one hour in advance.”   When I stopped at McDonalds to use the bathroom, someone ominously called out to a friend, “Be careful crossing that bridge.”  A little trepidation started to set in.  What kind of bridge was this that we were all so anxious to cross?  Was it a swinging bridge?  Perhaps a grumpy old troll was involved?

The Governor Harry Nice Memorial bridge is not as nice as the name implies.  It’s two lanes with on-coming traffic in the other direction.  As you approach, there’s a steep assent that sort of makes you feel like your car might fall backward if you’re not going fast enough.  But, you don’t want to go too fast…because it’s narrow.

My heart was racing and I have to tell you that I didn’t come close to going the speed limit of 50 miles an hour.  There was a bit of a gap (about seventeen car lengths, give or take a few) between me and the car in front of me.

But, I made it.  And I felt a bit euphoric afterward.

Jeff was once again correct, the traffic was clear after you crossed the bridge.  Looming thunderstorms were approaching as I made the curve through Maryland back down to Virginia.  But, I didn’t mind.  I went slow when the rain was heavy and sped up when the skies cleared a bit.

Twelve hours after leaving Savannah I arrived home.  Jeff and Michelle apologized profusely.  “If we had known, we wouldn’t have told you take 301.  We’re so sorry!”  But I waived them away.  Who knows how long I would have been on 95?  I picked a path and stuck with it.  It brought me home and it felt a bit like an adventure on the way.

Sometimes, you just can’t know the right path to choose and so you pick one and you don’t look back.

This past week, Chris decided not try the immunotherapy drug Ipilimumab (Ipi).  It was sort of our last treatment option. It is not approved for kidney cancer and was in fact canceled in trials for kidney cancer patients because of its level of toxicity. The chances of success hover around seven percent, and Chris’ quality of life would  be compromised due to the drug’s toxicity.  Like I95, we know what it looks like.  We’ve decided to stick with Cabo and see where it takes us.  Even though Cabo is not stopping the disease like it was, perhaps it will slow its growth some.

We’ve also decided to stay on Tybee Island for awhile.  We’ve strung together a few beach rentals that will carry us to August.  Think of it as a clinical trial of saltwater and sand.  Big eyed kisses from Josie, thoughtful conversations with Kate.  Family, laughter, too much food, crabbing in the tidal marshes.  Big porches and cool breezes.

There will be traffic and storms and maybe some scary bridges ahead.  But, this is God’s path and we’re on it.  There are no wrong turns.

  • Wendy

    I am so happy that you managed to stretch your time on Tybee. What a good thing for everyone. As always, you leave me feeling a bit awestruck, but always hopeful. Because there are so many different things to be hopeful for and Chris and you are so very aware of that. All my love and good thoughts, as always. Wendy

  • Connie Abel

    You sound at peace.Bless you all.

  • Christine Fegles

    God bless your family, you Dena and especially Chris. Thank you for the update and as always . . . we keep praying.

  • Julie.corrigan@mybga.org

    Dena, What a wonderfully written story. I appreciate that you took precious time and energy to update all of us who keep you and Chris and the girls in our prayers. The beach has healing and calming properties. I hope you enjoy every minute. Take lots of photos and videos. Those girls grow so quickly. And you inspire each other. As always, sending positive thoughts to Chris.

  • Tom Schranck

    Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Chris, and you, Josie and Kate. I know that you are right about there being no wrong turns on God’s path. All my best to you all.

  • joi

    You guys are such a inspiration. Every time I read one of either of your updates I am so encouraged. I pray for you all often.

  • Pam Hendricks

    Hi Chris and Dena, I always love reading your posts. Have a wonderful summer. I am keeping you in my prayers and think of you all often. I have to believe God has a plan. Pam Hendricks

  • Diana Ludlow

    I know what u r going thru. Went thru it with My parents and then Jay. My thoughts and prayers r with u, Chris and family.

  • Bonnie Walsh

    I love your post, Dena, and I love YOU and Chris even though we have not known each other very long. A very old nun that I knew for a couple of years had her trials at the end of a long life and she always told me, “Bonnie, God has a plan and that’s all I need to know”. I think you are being guided by the Holy Spirit and know that you are in my prayers continuously.
    Bonnie W.

  • Minnie Kriek

    Thank you for an honest and beautiful expressed message. May your path be blessed with some smoothness in the days ahead and bright sunshiny weather in Tybee. May you be restored by the love of those around you and be comforted in the knowledge that above all you are loved.
    You are in my prayers

  • Michelle

    I have been reading your blog for quite some time. The two of you write posts that are humorous, informational AND inspirational. I have been checking in frequently since you headed off to Tybee Island. I knew as I started reading your tale, there would be a message at the end. I wish you peace going forward and will continue to keep all of you in my prayers.

  • Dana Moon

    You two are amazing! Thank you for continuing to share your journey with all of us. It helps keep us grounded and headed in the right direction on our own journies. God has blessed you and will continue to. Enjoy your Tybee treatment.

  • Susan

    What a lovely reminder that we have to trust our hearts and God. May every moment of your summer be filled with love.

    I’m keeping Chris and your family in my prayers.

  • Lisa & Chris Morton

    Beautiful. Sending love, a runner’s high, and good karma for working plumbing all summer… We love you all.
    PS – Tell Kate Ferris is storing up wet doggie kisses for her return.

  • Tina

    Hi Dena, Have you heard of MPDL3280A? http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/804303 It seems to be better tolerated than Ipilimumab from the current data so I am wondering whether this can be a choice to consider. Also, would it be possible to take the drugs once effective again after a long pause? I’ve heard about people doing that- Although the drug cannot keep being effective for a long time, maybe you can earn more time by rotating or sth. All the best.

  • Pamela Jean

    Perfect analogy! You are lucky to have the beach rentals for the summer. My brother didn’t want that option, though money was an issue for us. I guess we could if had a fundraiser, but not sure how well that would of went over. Give us money so we can vacation on the beach for the summer….yeah, right. I thought renting a beach house for the late spring early summer would be nice for all of us to be together and Paul could enjoy the views. Since Paul’s kidney cancer had caused paralysis by May 2011, options were limited for him without wheelchair accessibility or a hoist. His Renal Cell Carcinoma-Single Cell, had invaded his bones, his spine and pelvic area , the doctors in Boston were perplexed as to to why the cancer ‘skipped a step’ and missed his lymph nodes. Anyways, that idea was squashed, Paul just wanted to be home in his little tiny apartment in the downtown Saco area, no a/c just a fan. When the time came, the hospice was his final stop. He slept a lot and it was sad. I couldn’t take it really, I felt so helpless. I kind of wished I could go on his journey with him, but you can’t say that too loud or the funny farm will come a knockin’. I’m better now, will never be the same, but boy was that a rough time. Enjoy your time together, your husband’s blog was beautifully written, I love sarcasm, I tend to be quite sarcastic myself. I’m a teacher, so I’m learning sarcasm doesn’t go over so well with some of the other educators, so I have to remember to ‘tone it down’. What fun is that, right?

    I’m sorry you all have to go through this. Life is not fair and, as you know, it’s alright to scream and yell from the rooftops. There’s nothing I hate more when people comment to, ‘be strong’ or ‘hang in there’. Act however you need to act, no one knows how you feel but you and your family, and maybe a few of us who have had to live through the misery that is cancer.

    Pam Lacy

  • Vicki L

    So glad you have the sun and sand to warm you all summer. The drive up 95 and 301 are pretty do-able once you get used to it. Hopefully you can score some of those mega cheap Southwest airfares and skip the traffic. Sending peace, healing and much love from the Loucks.

  • Anne B.

    I’ve been following your blog, and it’s been incredibly touching. You are such brave and beautiful people. Thank you for sharing your story and beautiful insights.

    Just curious if you have you heard about anti-PDL1? I think trial in RCC is available at Hopkins.

  • Patty Roe

    Love you guys so much. Thinking of you always.

  • Pam Hill

    Chris and Dena,
    Glad that were able to extend your time on Tybee Island. It sounds like a wonderful place to make precious memories with your kids. As individuals and as storytellers, you guys are so important to so many people.
    Best wishes and hugs from Arkansas,
    Pam Hill

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  • Vicki

    We made our own many houred drive up 95 last night and as we turned down route 1 in search of relief from the wall of cars on 95 I couldn’t help but be reminded of your journey 2 years earlier.

    Sand, salt water and laughter with friends were a perfect prescription this past week and the weeks ahead will be filled with visitors. We will savor each conversation, each shared memory and hope that the Cabo continues to slow the disease. No matter what, we will move forward with grace, knowing that in God’s hands that there are no wrong turns.

    With many blessings to you and your beaitful expanded family


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