In my last blog entry I explained that on the way home after one of our many trips to St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, Jerod had decided to become a combination doctor / truck driver so he could use the truck to shuttle kids to the hospital while curing cancer. While waiting on that cure, Samantha would go through cancer nine different times in her short life but after each diagnosis we thought that would be the last time she would have to go through another treatment.
One of those nine cancer battles developed when we all thought Samantha had the mumps, but after further diagnosis and a biopsy, we found out that the cancer had returned and once again Steven, Susie and Samantha made the trip back to St. Jude. The treatment, we were told, would involve some very high-powered radiation to her neck in hopes of reducing the size of the tumor. After several days of treatment Steven came back home to Chattanooga to go back to work and Susie stayed with Sam for the remainder of the treatments.
The intense radiation treatments that Samantha was having to endure day after day gave credence to the old adage, “Sometimes the treatment can be worse than the disease itself”. Samantha soon became unable to eat as the radiation treatments caused a lot of complications including swelling which began to close up her throat as she became more weak and lethargic with every passing day. As Sam’s health deteriorated the treatments were stopped and a feeding tube was discussed, but that had its own set of problems and potential complications. Everything came to a head late one night when Susie called Libby and said that Samantha had quit responding to everyone; through tears Susie told Libby that she was afraid Sam night not make it this time because she seemed to have given up, then she told Libby, “If you will come to Memphis I think she will listen to you because she will do anything for her Aunt Libby”.
It was close to midnight when we received that call from Susie and as Libby hung up the phone she turned to me and simply said, ” I’m going to Memphis”, I was not privy to the conversation and so I said, “Whoa, just a minute, can’t it at least wait until morning?” Now, Libby, at times, went into a zone where she developed this intense focus and determination, shutting out all outside influences as she zeroed in on her goal, this was one of those times. Libby hurriedly threw some clothes in a bag and began frantically searching for her car keys as I trailed along behind, still trying to find out what just happened. Libby was unable to tell me anything while looking for her keys as it took her total concentration (and normally everyone else in the house as well) until the task was accomplished. After finding her keys, Libby ran to get into her car, then, remembering me, she called over her shoulder, “Samantha needs me… I’m going to Memphis… Steven will drive me… I’ll call you on the way and fill you in… take care of the boys… I love you.”
After driving all night to get there, Libby and Steven pulled through the front gates at St. Jude early in the morning and within minutes Libby was kneeling at Samantha’s bedside cradling her two thin hands in hers, while talking with, and praying for her. Amazingly, within a few minutes of her arrival, Libby had convinced Samantha to sit up and begin eating (or rather drinking) her meal. Susie said that Samantha’s doctors were amazed when, after just 24 hours, Samantha had made a complete turn around and they were able to resume scaled back treatments to reduce the tumor.
Many of the hospital staff were left asking what had happened and so Susie explained that Sam and her aunt Libby had a special relationship and she just knew that Libby would be able to get her to eat and restore her fight to live when no one else could. “It doesn’t hurt”, Susie told everyone who asked, “To have Libby Gilley praying for you”.
But the best comment came from one doctors who, after seeing the near miraculous change in Sam’s condition in a matter of hours said, “I sure wish all all of my patients had an Aunt Libby.”