Chutes, ladders, and staging

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Mike's cancer journey | 19 comments

I’ve heard people talk about the “cancer roller coaster” but to me, so far, this has felt more like a game of chutes and ladders. Did you play that as a kid? Do you remember how you’d be making careful, square-by-square progress, only to land on a chute and suddenly find yourself dropped down two levels?

I was standing in a crowded marketplace in Thailand when I met up with Mike after his initial appointment. I had Alex strapped to my chest in the Ergo and an unhappy Dominic on a toddler leash. Hearing “I have a tumor” come out of Mike’s mouth was a very big chute.

We used the hotel wifi to do some online research on his blood results that night and realized that we probably needed to be using the word “cancer” in relation to this problem. That was another sudden drop down the game board.

We had two dear Australian doctor friends come around to our house in Vientiane the next day, after we got home. They carefully and lovingly dismantled our plans for Mike to have surgery in Bangkok and commute for any further treatment and pointed us towards heading for Australia as soon as possible.


We went together to the first ultrasound scan here in Australia. I saw the technician raise an eyebrow at something he saw in the initial pictures, and then he oh-so-casually suggested that he do a quick scan of Mike’s kidneys and liver while he was at it.


The surgeon called on Wednesday to tell me that Mike was out of surgery and to confirm lymph node involvement. This meant, he forewarned me, that an extended course of chemo was probably on the cards.


So, the pathology results came back today. They’re not as bad as they might have been. On the other hand, they’re not nearly as good as they might have been, either.

There are only three stages for testicular cancer. Mike is at stage three.

“Only barely,” the surgeon reassured us. “Definitely in good territory as far as stage three goes.”

He’s right. The prognosis is still quite good. This is not pancreatic cancer or metastatic melanoma. We have good reason to be optimistic that Mike’ll beat this. But it’s going to take a while, and it’s going to get ugly along the way.

Big. Long. Chute.

Related posts:

Our not-so-happy New Years news... Mike has cancer
A note from the messy middle
Your Gift Of Witness During Our Battle With Cancer


  1. Lisa — Sending hugs and lots of prayers your way. So sorry to hear of the news of the bumpy road ahead — and hoping some ladders start appearing soon!

  2. Thinking of all of you during this difficult time. You and Mike are such troopers; if anyone can come out well on the other side of this it’s the two of you. Let us know if you need anything while you’re away.

  3. Bless you for taking the time to keep us posted along the way. I’ve followed you since your intoxicating MySpace posts, and am grateful for the wonderful window into your life. I know how hard it is to find time to write when you’re overwhelmed like this. Anyway, praying too that those ladders will start popping up for you… Hugs. 🙂

  4. Lisa! Just a short note to say that I am thinking of you all, sending extra good vibes and thoughts. Rooting for you all the way from Belgium.. (by the way, met a girl who works in my university. She read your book, recommended it to the people in her church and reads your blog! So the world is really not too big for my vibes to reach you! Praying too!

    • I think peirong refers to me 🙂

      Praying for Mike and you all, especially for a gigantic ladder (remember the ladder in Jacobs dream? your blogpost put my thoughts in that direction…)

      Take care!

  5. Just read a book by Larry Crabb titled Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy. I think it might offer you an encouraging perspective as you walk through these challenging days. We’re praying for all of you.

  6. Lisa,

    I’m sorry to hear that the cancer is at stage 3. Certainly not what any of us were hoping to hear. But thankful that even so, the prognosis is still in his favor. Mike isn’t one to give up easily, wouldn’t you say? Praying that all the strength he needs to fight will be provided and all that you need to keep caring for your family along the way will be provided as well. I’m so sorry you are facing this. Praying that God will be near and granting hope.

  7. Going to write to you guys. Praying for you. By the way, Josh was stage 3 with his cancer, 4 years later all clear!!!!

  8. Going to write to you guys soon!!!! Hang in there.

  9. Lisa, so sorry to hear that the news was not what you were hoping for. Wishing you both strength climbing the ladder back to full health!

  10. Thanks so much for Michelle’s forwarding to me.
    Lisa,cannnot tell you how very sorry I am for Mike, You, the chilldren and your Mom and Dad. Of course, you know, “when you hurt, they hurt”. Will keep all of you in our prayers.

  11. I am so, terribly sorry, Lisa and Mike! Cancer is one of the most difficult battles anyone can ever face and even though we don’t know each other personally, my heart really broke when I heard this. May God shelter you and yours. May God uphold you. Just like that man in the Footprints in the Sand story, I pray He’ll carry you through this difficult season. Sincerely keeping you in prayers. God bless you.

  12. My women’s prayer group in Langley BC is praying for you both at this time. Laura let us know so we could join with others in prayer. God is there with you battling for you.

  13. My heart and prayers are with all of you. Yes, lots of ladders and positive light, love and healing are being sent Mike’s way. Hang on tight, I feel and know you all will weather this hurricane of a storm with grace and much guidance and the support of all who love you. Hugs and bon courage dear Lisa and Mike. You write with such poetry even in the most challenging of times. Take care and know the hope of all your friends close and far is with Mike for a full recovery.

  14. I am so sorry and saddened to read this; I am praying for Mike and you and your family. I am a cancer survivor myself; I can relate to what you guys are going through. I hope Mike responds well to the treatment and will be praying for his full recovery.

  15. Oh no. I am so sorry you are confronted with this hard path. My heart and prayers go out to you and your family.

  16. Praying!

  17. So sorry to read this Lisa, will be praying for you.

  18. May God give you peace as you trust in Him.