We met with Clay's doctors last week to go over the MRI, and although the tumor is stable, a new problem has developed. The tumors coating his spinal column have narrowed the passage where spinal fluid flows, causing a syrinx (a medical term for something like a cyst in the spine). We met with a neurosurgeon and he outlined the surgery that is typically done to help alleviate this backup of fluid. Unfortunately the procedure would not be straightforward for Clay, and the surgeon is not certain that surgery could successfully remove the syrinx. We are feeling pretty beaten down with this latest news, and instead of celebrating stability we are back to getting second (and third, etc.) opinions on what to do. Some syrinxs remain stable while others progress with debilitating symptoms, so we need to have our plan in place.
The four of us are going to Lourdes, France next week, thanks to our friends the Pizzano's, who put us in touch with the Order of Malta. For anyone unfamiliar with Lourdes, it is where the Blessed Mother appeared to a French peasant girl (Bernadette Soubirous) on 18 occasions over a period of months in 1858. Mary requested that people come to Lourdes on pilgrimage, which they have been doing for almost 150 years. Lourdes draws 6 million people a year, and it is second only to Paris in the number of hotel rooms. The Church has recognized 68 miracles there, and the International Medical Committee of Lourdes has recognized another 2,000 unexplained cures. The Order of Malta is a lay religious and Hospitaller organization that dates back to 1099 AD, and we are joining their annual pilgrimage. We will visit the baths at Lourdes to bathe in the waters of the Spring, walk along the Grotto, and spend time in mass and other ceremonies. If you are interested in reading more about the trip you can go to www.lourdes-france.com. Grace is still hoping that we are joking about this, and that we are really going to Disneyland. Truly, I am hoping to find some understanding, some peace, something, that will give me the strength that Clay needs from me in his journey. When we told Clay's birth-mother about his diagnosis, and some of what we he had been through, she said, "Now I know why God gave Clay to you, it was so you could save him." I hope with all of my being that she was right, and that God will hear us in Lourdes.