I Heard Feet Running Up the Stairs

Last Friday, I was working at home because Jenny and I were waiting for a call.  Jenny and her parents had taken the children down to the neighborhood park to play and I was working in the upstairs bedroom on my laptop.  I heard the front door open.  I heard feet running up the stairs.  The bed room door opened.  It was Jenny, and she was on the phone.  It was The Call.

The day before, Jenny had gone to a clinic here in Austin to have a lump in her breast biopsied.  This was the call to tell us the results.  “The test came back positive for cancerous cells,” the voice on the other line said.  In one sentence the world changed.  It’s like waking up in a dark forest, not knowing how you got there, how far it is to the edge of the forest, or even which way to go.

I am writing this blog for the people who love Jenny, and for the people who love our family.  I will try to use the forum as a place to relay updates and keep everyone up to speed regarding the cancer, the prognosis, the treatment, and our general state of our emotional and spiritual health.

The Current Diagnosis:

Extensive Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) – Stage 0 – with “suspicion” of microinvasion


I’ll take it a word or phrase at a time…

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) is a noninvasive, slow growing, though potentially malignant, cancer that is still confined to the milk ducts.  “In Situ” means “in place” and refers to the fact that the cancer has not moved out of the duct and into any surrounding tissue.  This is generally considered a “curable” cancer with a successful treatment rate somewhere around 96% or better.  Tumors under 1 cm in diameter are unlikely to spread systemically.

Stage 0 is the default stage for DCIS.  It sounds better than it really is.  That is not to say this is bad news.  It isn’t.  It’s more like no news.  It would be more accurate to call it Stage X.  It means they really don’t know if or how far the cancer may have spread.  It means they haven’t found any cancer cells outside of the local tumor… but then again, we haven’t really checked at this point.

Extensive means exactly what it sounds like it means.  Jenny’s tumor is at least 7-9cm long, and potentially much larger.  It is large enough that it can’t be removed by a simple “lumpectomy.”  Another word they often use for large tumors is “High-grade.”  High-grade DCIS lesions have a 50% risk of becoming invasive breast cancer.

“Suspicion” of Micro invasion means that there is a good chance that the cancer is already invasive, but they can’t say for sure.  The only way to find out if the cancer is invasive is a procedure called a “Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy.”

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy is basically a procedure where they put dye into the tumor, follow which lymph nodes the dye drains into, and then remove those lymph nodes.  Those lymph nodes are biopsied.  If there is no cancer in those “Sentinel” lymph nodes, then there is a 99% chance that the cancer has NOT spread.  If there is, cancer has spread to those lymph nodes, and the cancer is confirmed as invasive.  IF this were the case, the diagnosis would likely change from DCIS to Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC).

I won’t say more about IDC right now, because we are not there.  We’ll cross that bridge if and when we get there.

What We Are Doing:

So far we have been to Jenny’s OB/GYN, the radiologist, and one surgeon.  Next week we are meeting with another surgeon here in Austin, a plastic surgeon, and Dr. John Bandy of Austin Holistic Health.  We are also trying to get into M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.  We are awaiting recommendations from my uncle Dr. Scott Ballard and his mentor Dr. Lindsay.  We have had dinner with our friend Dr. Brandi Loomis, and will be speaking soon to another dear friend in med school Kat Lusk.  We are investigating alternative therapies such as Gerson’s and Dr. Burzynski’s. 

In other words, we are basically in information gathering mode right now.  We are trying to face this head on, find out all we can, and get it on the table.  At this point we are considering everything, and nothing is off the table.

What has been recommended:

The only official recommendation so far has come from the first surgeon that we went to see, Dr. Martinez.  Her recommendation is a full mastectomy and removal of the nearby lymph nodes for a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (with potential for a bi-lateral mastectomy and removal of the ovaries).  Depending on the results of the SLNB, further treatment may be needed, such as radiation or chemotherapy.

How We Are Doing:

I am here only speaking for myself, but if there is an emotion available, we have probably been there in the last five days.  Rage (feeling like screaming the f-word over and over again in the parking garage… fortunately, I did not), depression, exuberant hopefulness, love, fear, anxiety…

For me personally, the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer have been the only stable ground I can find.  Somehow, saying those ancient prayers both provides comfort in my present need and takes me out of my immediate context to places of gratitude, worship, and thanksgiving that I almost surely could not go unaided.  After saying evening prayer last night, I laid down next to my sleeping wife and felt a more profound sense of gratitude and contentment in that simple act than perhaps I ever have.  For me that cannot be separated from getting things like the Phos Hiliron:

O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

or The Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Or the Nunc Dimitis:

Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel.

into my spiritual bloodstream.  The constant re-grounding in the teaching of Scripture to “give thanks always for all things” is a refuge without which meaninglessness would, I’m afraid, prove dehabilitating. We (Christians) offer thanks not “from time to time,” or “whenever we feel grateful,” but always and for all things. Such an offering is itself an act of communion, a receiving of the love of God through acknowledging His presence in the most unexpected and unlooked for places… not too unlike the cross.  We, as Christians, are a strange people… people who see God in a crucifixion and give thanks for the same. The insane activity (or so it would seem) of giving God thanks for cancer is in some moments more than I can bear.   I literally can’t make my lips say the words.  However, to refuse to give thanks is potentially to miss some of God’s most powerful and important work.

Lord, open our lips

And our mouth shall proclaim your praise


~ by jdballard on February 8, 2012.

61 Responses to “I Heard Feet Running Up the Stairs”

  1. Dearest Jenny and Jason-my soul resonates with your process in ways I can’t express. What I can say is, we love you and will be praying that the firm and grounding love of te Father will carry you, heal Jenny and abide with you at every turn. Call if you want to talk (720-363-9595).

  2. We are praying my friend!!!! Love you guys!!!


  3. Absolutely praying for your wife and you and your children all day — even in my most insignificant tasks — always. She comes to mind when I wash dishes, kiss a forehead, or switch laundry. And it will be just like that until God has finished your story for His glory. Love to you all from the Greens.

  4. Jason, thank you for sharing this news and your feelings. Obstacles are more easily borne on the shoulders of many. I am sorry that you and Jenny are having to deal with this when you would surely rather be just delighting in all the beautiful things going on in your lives these days. We shall be praying for you both at St. Stephen’s Church in Beaumont and consider us standing with you for the fight ahead. God’s Peace and Miraculous Healing Power be with you.

  5. Our prayers are with you and the whole family. We Love you dearly. Nate

  6. Beloved Ballards, Thank you so much for taking the time to update your community. What I’ve just read is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Brit and I love you so much and partner with you in prayer. Jason, I grew up singing the Phos Hiliron, and I will join you in singing it now with new meaning. We live very close to MD Anderson and will always have a bed available for you and your kids.

  7. Jason, Thank you so much for the update. Since Jenny spoke with me earlier this week I have been thinking of your family non stop. I will continue to pray for all of you and ask others to do so also. Your family is so loved….

  8. Jason and Jenny,
    Trust in the God of miracles and unsurpassing love. We want you to know that we will be in continual prayer for you all. Our love is with you.

  9. Dear Jason & Jenny,
    I am not sure if you know me, but I am Christin’s mom…I met you while visiting my grandkids…Jenny, I love your parents they are wonderful. I am a cancer survivor myself 12 years ago I experienced similar feelings and I know how fearful it can be not knowing what is ahead. I lost both breasts. My cancer is so rare that no one really knows what to do with it. But I can tell you having cancer brought my husband and I closer to one another….it enhanced family relations but more importantly it brought me closer to the Savior. It became a spiritual journey for me, it lifted my faith and trust in our Savior. It empowered me to fight for my life. I know you have been taught to turn to the Lord and Savior…I know this will become a Spiritual journey for you as well…I will be praying for you and Jason and your sweet children everyday. Please keep me posted….God Bless you, Pat

  10. I have all of my prayer warriors praying for you..god bless you both and give you peace and love.

  11. Hi Jason & Jenny– I saw your blog post from Amy’s facebook page, and I don’t know if you even remember me from K-CO forever ago. I haven’t seen y’all in years, but I remember you both vividly as being just incredible people, inside and out. I will be praying for you both and your sweet family. And, you always have a place to stay in Dallas. Much love.

  12. I was just as floored to hear this, as you were. I’ll be praying without ceasing for you and especially Jenn. Sometimes it’s really hard to take “For I know the plans I have for you……” to heart when something as dark as cancer comes along. But rest assured in your faith, that God will use this for His glory in a miracle!!! Love to you both…… please keep us all posted.

  13. I do not know exactly what you are going through, but I hurt for you because I know it is completely overwhelming. I went months without a diagnosis which was just as terrifying as hearing that I had cancer. You have little control over the situation at hand which is so scary. There is not a single day that it does not impact my life, but I am a stronger person because of it. You are very wise to take things one step at a time. Please know that I am hear for you. The one thing that really helped me in the beginning was trying to maintain as much normalcy as possible. Be vocal with what you need and do not need. People will want to help, but won’t know how. Just know that you are loved and that you do not have to be strong all the time. We are here for you! Also, I would highly recommend MD Anderson if you need any further treatment than surgery. I have been very happy with how well they coordinate everyone’s care and take time with each patient.


  14. Jason & Jenny – I heard about your great sadness this evening at St. Mark’s choir practice. You both made a great impact on us and your family will always be part of St. Mark’s family. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

    Jane & Neal Nielsen

  15. I was diagnosed with IDC stage 2b, grade 3 5.5cm with lymph node, triple negative receptors. I know you have no clue what all that means yet, but you will soon become very educated from reading all kinds of medical Stuff you had no idea you’d ever need to know.

    I immediately went to MD Anderson after accidentally finding a large lump, where I was diagnosed, went through 16 rounds of chemo, a lumpectomy and 38 rounds of radiation. Through the power of prayer, I never got sick… Not once. I am a high school teacher and did not miss school until surgery and only three weeks, then. From diagnosis to complete healing, it’s all about keeping a positive attitude that this will not beat you. My husband was my rock through it all. If I started to have any doubts that God was carrying me, he reminded me. There is NO better place to go than md Anderson. In so many peoples’ lives that hospital has been the difference between life and death. Please, please, please do not let anyone talk you out of going there. I am 100% cancer free. I will be on a drug called tamoxifen for 5 years that will help the cancer not to return. Please feel free to email. Everyone’s cases are a bit different, but I am a success story and I would love to talk to you and your wife about my experience and healing.
    Tina Bernard, 43yo

  16. Jen and Jason, I am so deeply sorry to hear this news. I cannot begin to imagine how you are feeling and what you are going through. I know that you are both incredibly strong and that will carry you through this trying time. You and your family are in my prayers and I am sending you strength!

    Jason thank you for keeping us informed!
    Jen- I love you girl! You will weather this storm! You are beautiful and I am thinking of you always!
    Love B

  17. Our prayers and thoughts are and will be with you throughout your ordeal. God be with you and your family.

  18. Dear Jenny & Jason,

    Received Russ’s email last night and was able to finally really read Jason’s blog all the way through just now. You both live in the light of God’s glory and bring blessings to this world daily. Please know that the St. Marks’ community is praying vividly and constantly for healing, blessings and your uninterrupted soul journey. Rom. 8:38-39 keeps coming to me – just knowing that God is with us no matter what the world brings. Love you all – Jenny, Jason, Titus and Eden, you are so precious in His sight and in ours!


  19. Bob and I will be steadfast in our prayers for Jenny’s healing and restoration. We love you both dearly.

  20. Dear Jason and Jenny:

    I will say a prayer each day for your full recovery. Although we are thousands of miles away, anything else we can do please let us know.
    Jack and Debra Jensen

  21. You are on so many prayer lists. We DOK prayer warriors will be awaiting updates as we pray. Several of us are cancer survivors, some are still fighting it. Doctors have said every body has cancer cells; some get activated, some don’t. I know you will be guided to the right treatment for you. Please know how much you are loved.

  22. Hey thanks for doing this blog…..this will be a good way for all of ur friends and families to know about Jenny….I will keep her in my prayers.

  23. Jenny & Jason– Please find comfort in knowing God has surely wrapped his loving arms around you and your family.
    Your names will remain on our lips with heartfelt prayer.

  24. Pruning vines and praying. Doing laundry and praying. Driving across the white prairie and praying. Praying for peace. Praying for healing. We love you. Sue, Steve and Sierra

  25. Jenny and Jason,
    Please know that my personal prayers and the prayers of the Daughters of the King are lifting you and your family and friends to His loving embrace. We’ll follow along and pray this path with you.

  26. Jason and Jenny, I will be praying for you every day! Thank you for sharing the news and process with us. Much love to you and your beautiful babies.

  27. Jenny and Jason, Just read your blog and we have no words. What we do have is prayers and they will be going up without ceasing. We love you both.

  28. Jason and Jenny,

    Our hearts are heavy for you. You and your sweet children are certainly in our thoughts and prayers.

    We rejoice that you have found comfort and gratitude in the scriptures. He is faithful and all is grace.

    ~Kevin & Erin Duplechin

  29. Lifting you both up in prayer, that God would give your strenght and peace. Much love from the Anderson’s.

  30. I am praying for you, powerful blog. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Joining with so many others in praying, praying, praying…

  32. Jen & Jason-

    My heart goes out to you. I’m praying and believing for healing for Jenny. So thankful that you are finding comfort in our God. May He continue to lead you, guide you, give you comfort, strength, endurance, and courage to face this.

    Love to you all,
    Amy DeMars

  33. Jason and Jenny,

    I was told your news last Saturday by my dad. I was shocked and saddened to hear this news. I have been praying for you all since I heard about it. (I even shared it with my church family w/o giving names and so you have been prayed for all week). I would like to have reached out sooner but wanted to give you your privacy and the time it takes from such reeling and emotional news.

    It is always so confusing to understand the why and what next at first but over time it will come. I pray for God’s guidance for the next steps.

    I remember a sweet little Jenny that I got to care for (and learn to love even while you were still being wonderfully made). I know how much you were loved way back then by your mom and dad and your big sister and all off the rest of your family. He knitted you together for His Purposes and has placed you in a remarkable family at just the right time. He knows all about you! I am thankful you have all of them to draw strength and hope from.

    I hope you know how much we think of you and care about your next journey that you have here. We are thankful for the privilege to get get to pray for you! We will be anticipating what you need prayed for next.

    Love and Blessings – even in the rain!

    Love from the Mader’s – Jodie

  34. Jason and Jenny –

    My heart is with you both and your precious babies! Travis and I are praying for you. I’m around the corner and I want to hang out soon! Vince and I need a play date!

    Can’t wait to see you soon,

  35. Thanks for posting this blog Jason. It’s comforting for family to hear more details when we’re miles apart. Praying continuously for you all and our family.

  36. Jenny and Jason,
    Our hearts ache for you and your sweet family. But this aching is a reminder to “pray without ceasing” which we will be doing.
    Love to all,
    John & Elaine Jackson

  37. Oh man you guys, prayers of peace, healing and blessing at this time all to you and the kiddos. Thanks for letting us in, Breon

  38. Precious, precious Jenny,

    Put on your battle gear, imagine yourself with weapons in hand and armor to protect your body and put your beautiful mind into fight mode, as you have done before in circumstances that were beyond most of our scope of understanding. I love you as my own child and treasure your spirit. Just knowing you are in the world makes me feel hope for this planet. Your family is so precious and love you so much! I know you are going to get through this with your usual dignity and grace, putting us all to shame for the petty things we get upset about sometimes. I love you, I love you, I love you! I am praying and thinking about you and Jason and the kids, and of course, your incredible mother and father and brothers and sisters, all in your corner!

  39. Jason, Jenny, I’m praying for you both.

    God, the source of all health: so fill Jenny and Jason’s heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy they may make room for your power to possess them, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  40. Jason and Jenny – God woke me at 5am to pray for you yesterday. Sherri read me parts of your blog last night and we prayed again.

    Every time you turn YOUR eyes to FATHER, whether for comfort, wisdom in treatment decisions, or to release emotion – know that HIS eyes are locked on YOU! He never looks away. He sees you!
    Continue to behold your FATHER, you will meet His loving gaze.

    With hearts open and swords drawn on your behalf,

  41. O my. I’m shocked as I’m sure most are. I think of jenny’s perpetual smile and her heart for the LORD and others that is bigger than herself. Thank you for sharing this way. I will be praying. We serve a mighty God.

  42. Jenny, Jason and all the Family,

    Jim and I have you in our prayers. Your faith, courage and love will get you through this …I just know it. Thank you Jason for keeping us informed. Jenny wrap your arms around yourself and know that we are all praying for you….We love you and all of your family……

  43. Jason & Jenny – Paul and I are keeping you and the babies in our constant thoughts and prayers. MD Anderson is an amazing place. Paul has a football contact in the Administration Office and we would be glad to make a call if you need help. Do not, do not put off going to MD Anderson.
    Jenny, keep that bright smile and hit this challenge “head on”. Know that you will beat this monster !!
    We love you and pray for your peace of mind. Rest when you can.
    Dee Ann Robichau

  44. Sending love and prayers for you all..

  45. We join with all the rest of your family and friends in prayer for you all. God will never leave you nor will He ever be ashamed of your emotion and fear. TRUST in HIm.
    Mark and Lisa Thomsen

  46. Jason and Jenny,
    My prayers are with you both. I know your lovely parents from Rimrock church. I too was diagnosed with DCIS 3 years ago. I know you will have decisions to make and a journey ahead of you. God will be with you both through it all, He will guide your steps, answer prayers and reveal Himself in amazing ways to you. I kept a journal during my journey. Also, my husband and I read through Psalms, using the Max Lucado study Bible during my time of decision making, treatment, and beyond. You are blessed to have precious family, friends and faith…lean on all those!

  47. Dear Jenny and Jason,
    You and your family are being upheld in prayer from many corners of God’s world. Your blog, Jason, let us all know the necessary medical details, but also confirmed the necessary spiritual details. Thank you for sharing that. Please know, as many have said, that you will remain in my prayers often throughout the days ahead & I’ll pass it along to our prayer chain. We do believe in the healing power of our loving Lord. Donna

  48. You don’t know me, but I’m a friend of Kelli Ramsey’s. I was dx with stage IIIb ductal carcinoma a year and a half ago, just after our 3rd child was born. I’m now 39. . .and finished with my treatments! It’s a long road, and the first steps, as you know, very stressful and scary. I’ll be praying that the loving presence of the Lord will be so powerfully real to you.

  49. Jenny and Jason,

    The Kambestads (Loren, Bobbie, Marshall and I) are praying for you. We love you Jenny! You are a fighter and sending positive thoughts and prayers your family’s way.

    Lora Kambestad

  50. The Hocking Family will be praying for you and your entire family.

  51. fellow Rimrocker, sending prayer to you and your family.

  52. Will be Praying for You and Your Family

  53. We are holding you tight in prayer every day. Remember God loves you intensely, holds you by the hand and goes with you wherever you go. Hide between His shoulders. Books by Amy Carmichael have meant hope to me in the midst of extreme suffering, I love, “Gold from Moonlight” Your God IS God. Nancy and Bill Ewing

  54. Jenny and family,
    I am shocked at your news. I will definitely be praying for you! You have always been such a strong person and a shining light! There is nothing that will stop you! You have two beautiful children and I know you can do anything! You have God on your side! I love you as sooo many people do! You will get through this!

  55. your story is so heart-wrenching and all too familar. I am praying for a miracle from God ending . Much love and prayers, Helen Overall

  56. You don’t know me. I went to school and church with your Mom, Jason. Thank you for being so honest about your pain while sharing your great faith in our Lord who loves us so much. I will pray for you both. I have learned that grief and joy can “dance” together. That is a mystery one can only know by knowing the One who sings over us with His love.

  57. Our hearts are yours. We’re praying.

  58. Jason and Jenny,

    The Spirit is going to have to say words for me that speak to your heart since mine seem shallow right now. I am carrying you and your children in my heart right now and will be praying continually for you! My husband and I read the book of common prayer every morning, I will be encouraged to know we are praying the same prayers and united in spirit even though we are far apart. Jenny, we will dance together again soon!! I know this! I Iove you! -Lynn

  59. You are on our hearts!

  60. Dear Jenny,

    I just got back from San Antonio and heard the news. I just want you to know my prayers are with you and the family.

    Wills mom, Sandra

  61. Jason, your insights are incredible. What a beautiful relationship you have with your God and Father. We continue to lift you and jenny and your children up into the Father’s lap daily. We are counting on His faithfulness, His love abounding and grace without end.

    Nancy Ewing

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