Garret and Jennifer Jones

Garret and Jennifer Jones
Garrett and Jennifer Jones

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brandon Remembered #4: I See a Pattern

With the report of the cancer being 98% eradicated, our focus and talk turned to his right leg. The tumor located in his hip was mega-size, and growing (turns out after surgery it was determined to be the size of a pro football, no I'm not kidding). And his health other than the tumor was the best it had been in 9 months. So surgery options were examined and teams of surgeons discussed pros and cons. The course of action they decided on was one of replacement of the femur bone with either a cadaver bone or a metal one, specially designed and built to his specifications.
(I will add here that when cancer was discovered and a chemo regimen was decided on, the doctors wanted Janell or I to sign the authorization papers to begin it. One of us were going to take off work and go to the hospital and do so. Yes, we were working, because Brandons request from the diagnosis of cancer was that we not treat him any different, keep life as normal for his brothers as possible, and should the time come, care for him ourselves and not hospice. The last one almost did us in, but thats another story. He was to call us when the doctors started making rounds on the floor. He didn't call and finally after a couple of hours past normal, Janell called him to see what was wrong. Brandon said nothing was wrong. He had researched things and knew that in the state of Alabama, a 16 year old has the legal right to make his own medical decisions So when the doctors came around he signed the paperws himself, because if something went wrong and he didn't survive chemo, he didn't want us to be able to blame ourselves)
Anyway, we are meeting with the surgeon and discussing the surgery, and right out of the blue Brandon asks the doctor "What about amputation of the leg?" I looked at Janell and said "Where did that come from?" She looked at me and said, I'm not surprised. I looked at Brandon and then at the doctor. He was as surprised as I was. He told Brandon " Well, thats always an option, but only as a last resort" Talk went back and forth for a few minutes, with me throwing in my two cents every once in a while, but in the end, when we walked out the door, Brandon made the call to take the leg off. I was beside myself. On the way home, I asked him, "Son, why not let them do what they feel is best?" He looked at me and said "Dad, don't you think I want to walk again? Don't you think that if I thought that was the best option I'd tell em to go for it? But the truth is God told me it has to come off". Again, I looked like I'd just seen a ghost. I said "GOD said to do it? He looked at me and said "Yes sir. He told me that people wouldn't understand. But He's always right, Dad." I was beginning to see a pattern here. Didn't Jesus say he came to confound the wise? But He didn't say he'd be shut up juice for Dad's. Oh well.
Surgery was set for two weeks later on a Monday. On the morning of the surgery, Kevin told Brandon. "You be sure to tell the doctor I left a brother here and he better not send me a sister home! Typical brotherly love! Now for over a year, we had been used to seeing this swollen mass of a leg (he was 6'-5") and it was always propped to ease the pain and discomfort it gave him. But when we walked into the recovery room (yes Janell's threats of unit destruction were taken seriously) we were not prepared to see a blanket laying flat below his torso, and we both almost passed out from the shock of it. We walked over to his bedside, with the tube still down his throat and he peeked through swollen eyes lids and grinned. "I told you I'd pray you through it, son". He raised his hand in the air and pointed to Heaven and shook his hand and pointed again. I got his message, God got him through it. And I said to him "Yes He did, yes He did". The next afternoon a bunch of his buddies have shown up, and are in his room trying to come up with a new nickname, they said "Bubba" had to go. The two finalists were "UNO" and "Ilean". About that time the doctor came in, asked how he was feeling, checked his bandaging, and then got serious. He said "Brandon, I don't how you knew what you knew, but you made the right call. Had we done the surgery we wanted to do, we would have cut about 2 to 3 inches lower than we did. However, your amputation decision required we cut higher in the groin. By cutting higher, we missed slicing into the tumor by two inches. The surgery we did kept the tumor with the leg. Had we cut into it, the cancer would have spread throughout your abdomen and groin. Your decision probably saved your life". Well, it did add about three years. Brandon asked when he could go home. The doctor said probably a week. He would have to do all the exercises in Physical therapy's regimen and that usually takes about 5 days. The next morning, Brandon goes to physical therapy, does every one of the required functions, and we left the hospital in time for him to be at church that night. He drove himself!
I'll be back..........

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Brandon Remembered #3: Incredible Faith

After 5 months of massive swelling in the broken leg and bone that wouldn't heal, June '97 brought xrays that showed behind the steel plate and rods and screws, the bone had finall healed together. So Brandon was given the ok to walk on crutches. July 5th Xrays showed 5 inches of bone disappeared. And on July 10th, a biopsy showed a mass in his upper right thigh and spots in his lungs. A quick lab examination brought the diagnosis PNET (primitive neuro ectodermal tumor), a cousin to the terminal Ewings Sarcoma. The doctor offered to go into his room and break the news, but I told him that was my responsibility. After leaving recovery, I met Brandon in his room. As I got close enough for his fogged over eyes to focus on me, he saw a face with swollen red eyes, that had lost it's usual lighthearted glow. "It's cancer, isn't it Dad?" I choked up, pause and answered "Yes sir". He said, "From the look of your face, I'd say that it's pretty bad". "Yes sir, it is, at least according to the doctors. The swelling in your leg is a massive tumor that has eaten part of your bone. And there are tumors already in your lungs." How long do I have Dad? "The doctors say probably no more than six months."
He dropped his head for a minute, then looked back up to see the tears covering my cheeks. ". Thats a real bummer, isn't it Dad". I wasn't expecting that, and a grin popped up and I agreed, "Yeah, a REAL bummer, son." His next comment made me look at my son not as a 16 year old, but as a young man, wise beyond his years. "Well dad, in 6 months I get a miracle or in 6 months I get to go Home, I don't lose either way do I?" I silently, in the midst of tears, thanked God for what I had just been shown. A faith that put mine in the shade. A faith that over the next four years would seven times, deliver him from deaths door, just to confound the wise and show others, not Brandon 'cause he already knew, but to show others who was in control. It was his faith and gift of speaking that God bestowed on him that led four different pastors to describe my son as "the closest thing to a modern day Paul", that they had ever seen. My son taught me true faith.
In November, when the chemo had quit working, and his oncologist brought us in for a conference, we were told he had less than 3 months. His lungs were 60% covered in cancer, and she saw no way that that would change. Brandon asked her how his death would probably come and she explained breathing problems, shortness of breath, and congestive heart failure, probably dying in his sleep. He thanked her for her honesty, her care and her handling his case. He then told her to schedule a lung scan for March and he would see her then. She tried to tell him there was no need for
it. He told her that if he wasn't here, she could give his appointment to someone else. "God and I are now gonna make the calls, and I just ask you to do what I ask" She agreed. And in March when we returned for the scan, 98% of his lungs were clear. His energy and appetite had increased and he had grown 1/2 an inch. Now 6' - 4 1/2" and 250 lbs. Once again God and my son showed me what faith is all about. Little did I know a foundation was being poured inside of me that would one day hold me up like I had never needed it before.
I'll be back..........

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jones' Progress (not Pilgrims')

Janell went back to work today and managed to get in eight hours! She has been somewhat sleep deprived in the last week, due to taking care of the grandkids for a few days. But, oh, how she enjoyed that! If I made enough on my own, she could stay home and do just that, if Tina (their other grandmother) would let her! Does anyone out there need a good Christian salesman/customer service/mfg rep (no insurance, financial planning or home remod. sales, please!) I love where I work but I'd need to double my salary! Back to Janell, she is doing very well. This week will be rough on her mentally moreso than physically. But I believe she was ready to go back.
I spoke in my home church yesterday morning and I have a new appreciation for preachers who have so much to say and try to get it in within 30-40 minutes. I omitted the special music portion of the service, giving myself an extra 5 minutes and still filled up 50 minutes. And I left some out as I went along just in case. But the congregation was so polite. No one got up and left, I heard no cell phones or watch alarms at 12:00, and though there were no public decisions, so many kindly spoke to me afterwards. My pastor described it as the most incredible down to earth testimony he's ever heard. He knew nothing of Brandons journey except that he was called home. I think he was being kind by saying down to earth because a speaker I AIN'T! But people, it did feel right. I had the same feeling there as I did the time 20 years ago when I went in studio and recorded a casette project (yes between 8 tracs and CD's). I knew my first minute behind that big ole'mic w/windscreen that I was where God wanted me at that moment in my life.
I am still praying that if God wills it, I will be asked to speak or sing somewhere Sunday evening, the 27th., as I return from Gulfport. But if not, I'll just stop in somewhere between there and home, and worship with unknown brothers and sisters. How many people visit somewhere on Sunday night anymore? Still yet, how many churches have dropped their evening services? Why this old Southern Baptist geezer just might take in a Pentecostal, Church of God or Holiness service. But bet your bottom dollar, I'll check the stage area for those snake boxes! I didn't follow through last week on my Brandon Remembered Series, and I apologize. I was so involved with laying out my story for Sunday and taking care of grandkids, I just forgot. But I will start again this week, I promise. Also, I heard from the writer for the Birmingham News this week that our story will appear sometime the week of Thanksgiving.
I'll be back....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Brandon Remembered #2: Change in the Chapel

I mentioned last week that I would try to share stories of our journey with Brandon, which I hope you will enjoy.
In January of 1997, Brandon was in a classroom where some horseplaying was going on before school started. Some guys wrestling around fell against him as he stood leaning against a chalkboard. They feel against him and his right femur (upper bone in the leg) split longways, and he was rushed to Childrens hospital. Because of his size, about 6'-4", 275 LBS. and only a sophmore in high school, the head orthopedic specialist for UAB sports medicine was called in. Surgery involved plates, pins and screws to put everything back together. But severe nerve damage was done during the break and he experienced excruciating burning sensations in his foot. At times, he could not stand to have a Kleenex touching it. In March, he was admitted to UAB so the pain management team could try some medications and a TIMS unit to try and improve his condition. During this stay, I came into his room one day after getting off from work, and Janell's mom, who stayed with him during the day while we worked, told me she could no longer stay with him. His personality and demeanor was changing. He was becoming combative, argumentative and disrespectful. She left to go home. I asked a nurse for a list of his medications. She brought it to me, and I told Brandon I needed to go to the chapel and pray about what to do. I was going to eleminate some of his medications, not even knowing what they were, but I wanted God to guide me. I asked Brandon if he wanted to get in a wheelchair and go with me. (note: cancer had not yet been found, but the bone was not healing in normal time and they were getting concerned, but never suspected cancer) He said he'd go with me, and down to ground floor we went. With him sitting beside me, I sat on the end of a pew, and prayed. After several minutes, I told him I was through and asked if he needed to pray or wanted me to pray for him about anything special. He looked at me very sternly, and said "Yeah, there's a few things I want to tell God", and the way he said it sent chills down me. I thought this doesn't sound good. Brandon's anger was intensifying weekly. He knew that football had been taken away from him, even though Auburn coach Terry Bowden had shown some interest already. I watched as he prayed silently and I saw the trembling lips, the tremoring fists, and the cold stern expression on his face get worse. And this silent battle went on for ten to fifteen minutes. I then saw a change starting to come over him. Stillness took the place of trembling, color returned to his relaxed hands, and softness replaced sterness. After about another 10 to 15 minutes, with tears coming out of his eyes, he opened them, looked at me and said he could go back to his room now. I asked what had taken place. He said "Dad, everythings OK now. I am saved now, and I wasn't when I came in here" Talk about shocking! I asked what happened. He said he just told God he didn't appreciate having everything his future had held being taken away, what kind of thanks was that for all the church services, prayers, choirs and things he had "done" for God? He said he pretty much told God if that was what being a Christian meant, having your dreams crushed, he could do without Him. And jokingly, I asked "What did God have to say about that?". Then he replied, "God told me He had listened to me, and now it my turn to listen to Him. He said I knew in my heart I wasn't one of His, that all those things I tried were to fool everybody into thinking I was a Christian, when I was just a hypocrite, and I wasn't fooling Him." By this time I'm beginning to feel like my eyes are gonna pop out of my head. I asked him, "You literally heard God say that? Brandon replied "As clear as I'm hearing you, Dad." I was blown away. Never had I heard an audible voice from God. Just that small little "voice" that speaks when your doing something you shouldn't be, or going over options of a situation, and having that voice let you know when you said the right one. And so I had to ask the obvious follow-up: Did He say anything else? And Brandon replied "Yeah, He said that what I'm fixing to go through, I won't make it without Him." I said What does that mean?" Brandon said, "Dad, I don't know but that's what He told me. But I don't have to worry, cause He's in control now. I just gave it all over to Him. We're in this together." Four months later, cancer is found.
I'll be back......