Houston, We Have a Problem

Jenny and I spent this past Thursday and Friday in Houston for more testing and opinions.  We spent Thursday and Friday morning at MD Anderson Cancer Center (we finally got in), and Friday afternoon with Dr. Darrell Lindsay, DC.  Also, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent were this past week.  The overlap of the physical, emotional, and spiritual journey known as cancer with the Christian liturgical calendar’s “season of penitence and fasting…self examination and repentance,” and prayer could hardly be any more meaningful than it is for us this year.  As the priest put the ashes on our forehead in the shape of the cross and said:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return

every cliche about the preciousness of life, the shortness of life, the beauty of life, gratefulness for all God’s gifts, the futility of striving for vain things, love for my wife, the end of life, and the yawning expanse of eternity rushed upon me with a force and power that was anything but a cliche.

It is quite a journey we are on (all of us), but here is the latest update from the Ballard’s progress:


MDA did another round of mammograms and ultrasounds.  They apparently go much better pictures, because they were able to give us some very precise measurements of the tumor (6.5cm x 3.5cm x 1.5cm).

The BIG NEWS of the day was they did a fine needle aspiration biopsy of a lymph node that was enlarged on the ultrasound, etc.  It came back NEGATIVE for cancer.  This is only a preliminary result, but it means the likelihood that the cancer has spread is meaningfully decreased.  They still won’t know for sure until they do a full biopsy, but more on that below.


We had the good fortune of being assigned to Dr. Henry M. Kuerer, MD, PhD, FACS, who is the director of Breast Surgical Oncology Training Program at MD Anderson.  In other words, he is so good at breast surgeries that he trains other people to do them.  He has done over 3,000 surgeries similar to Jenny’s and seems very capable.  His bedside manor is a bit strange, but exactly what you would expect from a man with that many letters behind his name (He is the only MD/PhD in the whole breast oncology unit).  His PA, however, more than makes up for it as she is an absolute sweetheart.

The diagnosis remains the same: Extensive, High-Grade Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), as does the recommended course of treatment: Full mastectomy with sentinel lymph node biopsy.

Friday afternoon, we met with Dr. Lindsay at his chiropractic clinic.  Dr. Lindsay was/is my uncle’s mentor, and I have been hearing about the “miracle man” my whole life.  It was nice to finally meet him, and he certainly lived up to the hype.  He was eccentric and brilliant, and gave Jenny what she describes as “the absolute best adjustment I’ve ever had in my life,” which really means something coming from a woman who, after a broken neck in a car accident in Nepal, avoided spinal surgery by pursuing chiropractic treatment.

Dr. Lindsay gave Jenny a number of dietary recommendations & supplements in addition to the adjustment with the advise, “Whatever you decide to do, you can’t have too much information and you can’t go wrong with a good diet and a properly functioning nervous system.”  We agree.


We go back to Houston next Monday to meet with Jenny’s reconstructive surgeon at MD Anderson.  We are tentatively scheduled for surgery (full mastectomy, lymph node biopsy, and first-stage reconstruction) on Tuesday, March 13th. After the surgery, they will examine the tumor as well as the lymph nodes.  In seven to eight days, we will have the results of those tests.  Those results will include whether or not the cancer is invasive, and whether or not it has spread.  Those results will then determine our next steps (nothing, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, etc.).

What You Can Do

As routine as a mastectomy sounds, it is not routine for Jenny.  To be very personal for a moment… a breast is an intimate part of a woman’s body and self-identity.  It is, not least of all, where our beautiful children were nursed when they came into this world.  To have it cut from her body, even in these dire circumstances, is a sadness and a heavy burden.  It is scary, and she will live with the effects of it for the rest of her life.

Many of you ask us every day, “How can I help?”  My answer, as honestly as I can give it, is “Pray.”  If you don’t know what  or how to pray, may I suggest the following:

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We humbly beseech you to behold, visit, and relieve your sick servant Jenny for whom our prayers are desired.  Look upon her with the eyes of your mercy; comfort her with a sense of your goodness; preserve her from the temptations of the enemy; and give her patience under her affliction.  In your good time, restore her to health, and enable her to lead the rest of her life in your fear and to your glory; and grant that finally she may dwell with you in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

A Few Thank You’s

First of all:

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.  We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.  We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.  We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.  Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.  Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

Next, we would like to thank Jenny’s parents, and my wonderful in-laws, Joan and Craig Uhre.  They have been flying back and forth from South Dakota to Austin to care for the kids, to keep Jenny’s spirits up, and to help in any way that they can… dishes, laundry, waking up with children at 3:30 am, grocery shopping, and changing diapers to name a few things.   Most recently, they stayed with the kids in Austin while we made the trip to Houston.  They have been a tremendous blessing, and the very picture of two loving parents caring for their daughter.

Also, we would like to thank Brit and Katie Carpenter for opening up their home to us while we were in Houston.  Friends and hospitality are potent treatments for fear, worry, and exhaustion.  Their medicine has been the best sort.  A special thanks to Brit for driving us to and from MDA so we didn’t have to pay the $20 parking fee every day.

And finally, to all other friends and family and your “loving care which surrounds us on every side.”  We will never be able to say thank you for all the blog comments, Facebook well-wishes, letters, notes, checks, cards, phone calls, emails, and text messages that we have received.  We have read each and every one, often with tears, and they have been like a light to us in a very dark place.

For the Ballards,



~ by jdballard on February 27, 2012.

5 Responses to “Houston, We Have a Problem”

  1. Grace under fire…thank you for being an inspiration even under these extremely trying circumstances. Much love to all of the Ballards!

  2. Thanks so much for continuing these updates. Catherine and I are praying for Jenny and for your whole family.

  3. Love y’all so much. I have no way of expressing how sweet it was to be all together in Chelsea’s house this last week. I am praying for many things for y’all, but I will especially pray as a nurse, for all the nurses surrounding before, during and after surgery that they do their jobs with integrity and compassion as it was meant to be done. And I am putting together a little package for Jenny’s stay…!
    Again, if you ever need another hand down there, we are more than willing to relocate.
    Always here for my brother and his sweet family
    Amy and Matt

  4. You two are so amazing! Your approach to everything (and especially this illness) is a lesson to us all. We loved seeing you at St. Mark’s with the best parts being Jenny’s sweet smile and the hugs. You are such an amazing example of the love of God and we cherish you both. Know this, we WILL be praying without ceasing for sweet Jenny and her wonderful husband and children. May God continue to fill you with his love and hold you close as you continue on this journey to complete wellness.

  5. I, too was so happy to see both you and Jenny in Beaumont. You are such a wonderful example of what is “right” with our younger generation. You are an inspiration to us all. My prayers, as well as Jim’s are with you always. With God’s Love, Jim and Sandy Farnsworth

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