I love the way wet leaves will leave an impression on concrete.  Sometimes the impression is perfect in form and sometimes it is distorted around the edges.  Eventually, the impression of the leaves will fade with time due to weather.  But while they are there, some go noticed (by me) and some are walked on and/or overlooked.

Last evening as I was working on my book, I just happened to be at the part that talked about the influence and impression that one man made on Trey.  At the same time, he jumped on Facebook.  That would be Keith Cochran, aka Rev. Keith Cochran, or to most of us, Papa K!  We were able to have a short text conversation, talk about getting together soon, and I warned him to not be surprised that he might see me in Tupelo in his congregation for a visit.  What he doesn’t know is that before Trey died, Trey asked me, “Is Papa K leaving?”  That kid could pick up on everything.  That came from his relationship with Keith.  Keith did end up leaving Germantown Baptist to be called as a Pastor of his own church.  What a blessing!

I will never forget the night we got the news that Trey would need to have emergency surgery the next day and he might not survive the surgery OR he could attempt a procedure at West Clinic.  The youth were in New Orleans on a mission trip.  Trey’s first request was I want my brother home (and Julianne, Cody, Hunter and a couple of others). Keith had the worst migraine. We share in our love for those.  He was determined to go pick up those kids and get them home.  I told him absolutely not!  He couldn’t even see straight! It worked out that Bretta and another friend were able to drive all night to get the kids and bring them home.  And Trey’s procedure at West Clinic was successful.  Sacrifice for a young boy and his family.  Is that what Christ would do?  I think so.  That’s why Keith was the first person I called at 10 p.m. that night because I already knew his character.

Keith and Trey had years to cultivate their relationship.  Others have what are called “first impressions.”  I strongly believe that as Christians, our first impressions are very important.  We set the tone for our character, our beliefs, our attitude, and our boundaries.  Sometimes that first impression is as simple as a smile.  Some of our impressions are left on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. and not in a positive way.  Trust me, I know.  There is one fly in the ointment with impressions – people believe Christians are perfect.  WHAT? We are not? Of course we are not! The only perfect human to walk this earth was Jesus Christ and HE is the impression we need to base our life upon.

Hebrews 5:7-9

“In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.  Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.  And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation…”

Jesus cried, loudly, to the “One able to save Him from death”.  Jesus was human, yet in the same scripture it says “And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”  I do not want to be perfect because I cannot save anyone.  Only Jesus has the power of salvation.  But he “learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”  This is the impression I want to learn from and leave.

I would hate to think that my first impression would lead someone to believe that my Christian life is distorted like the fading of the leaf.  In reality, it will happen.  We all have bad days, make mistakes, but it is how we recover from those bad days that matter.  I have a question for you to think about.  How do you hold a Christian accountable for their impression?  Will your impression remain or fade? Here is our promise!

Isaiah 40:3-8

A voice is calling,
“Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
“Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Call out.”
Then he answered, “What shall I call out?”
All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever!

Yes, no matter what our impression has been, the word of our God stands forever!


Mayo Clinic Vacation

I have been at Mayo Clinic since last Tuesday.  I told a few close friends before I left but I just didn’t want to set off any alarms.  I have had serious migraine headaches since I was a child and for obvious reasons, they have not been getting better.  In the last six months I have had to make an ER visit because my meds at home would not work.  I am SO very blessed to have a friend in Dr. Bob Waller, President Emeritus of Mayo Clinic.  He was able to make a call and the next thing I knew I was making flight arrangements for my trip.  To say the last year has been a little stressful is an understatement.

I really did not know what to expect when I arrived.  I flew in on Tuesday alone and Jay did not fly in until Wednesday night.  So, Jay missed my initial consultation with the doctor.  The facility is incredible.  It is its own city!  As I waited for the doctor on Wednesday, I overheard a lady say, oh, that’s okay, I’ve been waiting for six hours.  And immediately, it took me back…back to St. Jude, back to those hours of waiting in the clinic to see the doctors.  Trey would get so tired of waiting.  I saw so many people with computers, books, papers, etc. and I thought WOW, I hope I have enough to keep me occupied.  I sat for maybe 15 minutes.  I don’t know why they were waiting.  And I don’t think that is the norm.

I really liked Dr. Boes (pronounced Bays).  He was very thorough and very, very interested in Trey.  During the reflex exam, I had to remove my socks and shoes. (REASON NUMBER 2,569 THAT I GOT A TATTOO) and he saw my ankle.  I laughed and said, yes, at age 48 I got a tattoo in memory of my son and I began to explain Simba, quote James 1:2-3, and tell how Trey received the news of his cancer and tweeted Hakuna Matata.  A smile came on his face and he just said, how cool.  Of course, all of my reflexes were fine.

We talked about all the different meds I have tried from antidepressants, beta blockers, anti-seizure meds, preventative meds, narcotics, etc.  Then he ordered tests.  He ordered the standard MRI and since I had at once been diagnosed with sleep apnea, he ordered an oxygen sleep text.  Basically I wore an ET probe on my finger all night and slept in my own bed for them to monitor the dips in my oxygen and if I stopped breathing.  The results of that test were minimal.  Not enough for me to go back to Memphis and see the sleep doctor! Yeah!

When I left the office, they gave me about three pages of appointments for my tests, directions, instructions, etc.  I walked out of the office, got on the elevator (that could probably fit 50 people) and I felt everything suddenly closing in around me.  All I could hear were people talking about their tests, chemo, appointments and the flight or fight feeling kicked in.  Jay wasn’t here yet, so I just went in a lobby area by a grand piano and sat and sat and sat.  Oddly enough, I had posted “If I only had a brain…” earlier in the day and later on Thursday, someone was singing from the piano that song.  Whoa.

I went Thursday afternoon for my MRI.  They ask you 10 times if you have any kind of metal, but why would they ask you about a tattoo? So, reason number 2,570 I was able to tell why I had a tattoo and they so sweetly told me, it’s only for eyeliner.  Well, you asked.  While I was in the MRI, I thought of Trey and Collin, my sweet boys.  I thought of how I was just getting this done just for preventative reasons and how Collin will have these for the rest of his life not knowing what will show.  And Trey, he knew.  And only had one.  There was no time or reason for another.  I just began to feel so insignificant for even being here.  Migraines, bah.

There was another thing I thought of while being in the MRI.  My mother has always blamed herself for the reason for my migraines.  If you have hereditary anything, you will know that you cannot control how it passes to you.  I know my mother will be pleased with this visit.  You always hurt for your child.  Just like we hurt for Trey and Collin.  We have no control over the hereditary P16 gene and know that it is all in God’s hands and in his control, just like my headaches.  All we can do in BOTH cases is educate ourselves, take care of ourselves, and bring awareness to help others.  I hope I have done that.

My MRI turned out fine.  They only saw one enlarged blood vessel, but nothing that would be contributing to my migraines.  We talked about the future for my migraines and his suggestions.  All of his notes will be forward to my doctor in Memphis.  He did tell me to get off one of my medications, which I have already done.  It causes major fatigue and that is really a big problem I am having right now.  I can sleep anywhere, anytime.  But, he did say, after the last year, that is not uncommon.  I didn’t like that answer.  I want energy.  You know what you have to do to get energy? Exercise! OH SHUT UP! Did I just say exercise?? Jay and I both know when we get home that exercise and diet is in our future.  It won’t cure my headaches, but I will feel better.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that his recommendation was to begin botox injections every three months.  My doctor in Memphis suggested this a year ago.  The FDA has approved these injections.  Just have to make sure insurance likes it!  Relpax has always worked for me, if I catch my headaches at the right time.  That’s the problem, catching them.  They will start on Wednesday or Thursday and by Saturday it’s too late.  He wants me to switch to Imitrex, but it causes chest pressure.  If you have panic attacks, like I do, I told him that is why I have not tried the drug.  He said the plus with Imitrex is that it is in shot form, gets in your system quicker, and then I might not have to use my heavier drugs.  Makes sense.  He has other ideas if these simple solutions do not work.  If this doesn’t work, try this.  If this doesn’t work, do this, etc.  Some I have done any may have to tweak.  Like Jay has always said, that’s why they call it “practicing” medicine.

Overall, I am very, very thankful for my visit here.  Second opinions are always best!

Jay and I spent the rest of Friday at the Mall of America for a little light shopping.  On the ride back in the shuttle, we both had a good laugh.  We renamed our trip – Mayo Vacation.  The driver told us he had to make another stop before returning to Rochester.  We thought, okay.  He said he was going to Target. Huh?  He picked up a gentleman from Target.  This gentleman stepped in and sat in the very front seat.  He had not been on the van for five minutes and my throat began to close up.  The heat was on high and I just hung my head on the seat in front of me.  The driver asked the gentleman, do you live in Rochester? He said no, I just go in to see my girlfriend, I work at Target.  I told Jay, he must have walked down every aisle and used every tester bottle!  The next sign said, 4o miles to Rochester.  Ugh.  I leaned against the window because the rattling of the plastic in the van made it sound like we were going to fall apart. Fa ra ra ra ra, Ra ra ra ra!

It will be good to get home, where I can sleep in my own bed with my two labs asleep at the foot of the bed.

A Mission to New York City

I had so many people ask me if I went to New York on vacation.  I wish it were vacation.  I want to call it a mission, a very important mission.  So I would like to take this opportunity to explain exactly how I got to this point.

Over a year ago when Trey was in the stage of being diagnosed, Trey’s oncologist at St. Jude contacted Dr. Dave Tuveson to ask his opinion about a child of 15 being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  He said it was not possible. (Dr. Tuveson tells me now that he was contacted then.) Dr. Tuveson is a world renowned physician, scientist, speaker, you name it!  Trey’s doctor had attended a seminar type study under Dr. Tuveson and he had served as her “preceptor”.  So that is the connection between St. Jude (Dr. Federico) and Dr. Tuveson.

I did not know, but Dr. Tuveson kept up with Trey’s short progression and knew of his passing.  After Trey’s passing, I was a guest of The Orchard and it was my first time to speak.  In the congregation was a man by the name of Bob Bean.  Bob came to me and said I think I know of a man you need to talk with.  It was Dr. Dave Tuveson.

In October of 2012, I called Dr. Tuveson and he asked that I email him a brief history of Trey’s story.  We knew at that time that Collin had been diagnosed with the P16 gene, but we were reluctant to share this information to protect Collin.  I think Dave was still a little resistant that Trey had pancreatic cancer (I’m giggling).  He forwarded our information to someone that he thought could help us at the National Cancer Institute and it was a dead end, but Dr. Tuveson never knew this fact.

About a week ago, Dr. Tuveson sent me an email that began:

Mrs. Erwin:  I hope you and your family are doing well….I would like your permission to borrow your story as a motivation point….

The email immediately got my interest.  I contacted him to find out exactly what he would be using and why.  He told me that the Cold Springs Harbor Institute has an annual fundraiser and as a part of that fundraiser they chose what he spoke about to use in their mission statement.  He told me he did not remember a lot of what he said except that when they asked him what made him so passionate about pancreatic cancer research, Trey’s story came to mind.  He told me on the phone that he remembers being so angry that a 15 year old would die of pancreatic cancer.  I had to agree with him.

We gave them permission to use the video, of course, knowing that each person that viewed the video would also view Trey’s faith story.  My sister, Donna, and I ended up in staying at Cold Springs which sprawls over 120 beautiful acres on Long Island.  We arrived on Sunday night late at Cold Springs and they housed us in an apartment on the property.  There are many apartments on the property for visiting scientists, etc.  Early Monday morning, Dr. Tuveson met us for a tour of his lab.  There are many things I can say about the tour.  The one thing that stuck out the most is that all of his staff are so passionate about their work.  He tells them their job is to put HIM out of a job.  They are working very hard!  But MY mission was for each scientist there to look at me and know WHY they are working.  I did not hesitate to pull out my pictures of Trey nor did I hesitate to talk about Collin.  To say they were stunned is an understatement.  At one point, I just spread Trey and Collin’s pictures across the table from October of 2011 until senior recognition at the football game a couple of weeks ago.  Pictures tell many stories.

On the way to the fundraiser in Manhattan, I gave Dr. Tuveson a St. Jude pin.  He said that he had never been to Memphis.  I asked that he put it on his desk somewhere so that he will not forget Trey and why he was working.  He laughed and said he would never forget Trey.

Sure, Donna and I met celebrities; talk over an hour with Dr. Jim Watson who discovered the structure of DNA and won a Nobel Prize, but what I remember the most was the beginning of the dinner and the video.  It’s actually THEIR mission statement.  When it got to the part where Dave began talking, I didn’t hear a word he said.  All I could do was look at Trey and cry.  Luckily, I was turned to look at a screen, the room was dark, but Dave saw the tears rolling and he asked if I was okay.  I just smiled and said yes.  The emotions of the day had caught up with me.  And there was Trey, my buddy, not saying a word, but smiling for a video that he never thought would be shown to people that would promote awareness of pancreatic cancer.  He was smiling because he just because he always did.

I was able to talk to Deborah Norville after she had me on the stage.  We talked about being moms and how well we know our children.  She said, if people will just listen to moms!  I laughed and told her that I am usually right when something is wrong with the dog!  It made me think a little more.  God did instill something in mothers.  I’m not sure what it is.  Donna told me a week ago, “Just think, two years ago you were just a regular mom with two teens.”  God knew what the path would be for me, for Trey, for our family.  As a mom, it’s been hard.  That is one thing that I have told a lot of people.  You can separate yourself as the speaker, the writer, the teacher, and stand pretty tall.  But when it comes to being the mom, well, I tend to crumble.  I’ll always be Trey and Collin’s mom.  That will never be taken away from me.  And as hard as it is to explain all of this to Collin right now, we are doing our best for him.  I think he understands more than he lets on and that’s okay.  I do the same thing when I say I’m okay when I’m not.  It’s called self-preservation because no one can walk in your shoes.  Believe me, there are days that I wish some of you could!

At the end of the evening, there were many hugs from people who were grateful we had attended the event.  I am hopeful our mission resulted in many dollars for the Institute.  It was just a small part that Trey and his mom played, but it was our mission that God had ordained.  I just pray it is fruitful.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8