The Suburb Woman
What Happens In Vegas...
Posted on February 1st, 2014

… Doesn’t always stay in Vegas. 

The week following our trip to Houston and the MRI, we had a planned trip to Las Vegas for Mike to attend an annual AICPA conference. The conference and travel was confirmed prior to his diagnosis, but as the date approached we felt like Mike could go.

The timing was not great.  The next part of his fight against cancer includes cycles of five days of increased dosages of oral chemotherapy (temolozide/Temodar) and 23 days off all this year and maybe some into the next.  The side effects are not predictable, but other than fatigue and hair loss, Mike went through six weeks of radiation/chemotherapy with flying colors. However, he was scheduled to start the first three days while we were there and traveling home.

Neither one of us is a Las Vegas fan, but we decided to make the best of the first “non-cancer-related” trip we’ve made in quite some time. Despite gambling, Vegas is also known for some of the best culinary arts in the world … and we do like to eat.

Mike confirmed a beautiful room at Bellagio that faced the water fountains. It was relaxing. And despite being in the heart of “Sin City,” we met amazing people each evening who were obviously placed on our path to share their faith, inspiration and personal experiences.
Of the four dinners, our waiters/waitresses three of the evenings all had someone close to them who were fighting courageous and successful battles with brain cancer. 

The hair loss Mike has experienced on his left side exposes the scar from his surgery. He is quick to put people at ease by explaining he had a brain tumor removed and is in the midst of treatment.

One of the waiters shared his brother-in-law is a three-year survivor of glioblastoma even with a sizeable tumor remaining in his brain.  He shared about focusing on your faith, nutrition and having a positive outlook.  The last night, however, was the most meaningful as well as the most revealing for both Mike and I – good and bad.Bellagio's Sensi Executive Chef Royden Ellamar. Our favorite dining experience in Las Vegas – we dined there twice.

We dined at one restaurant in Bellagio – Sensi – twice because the food and service was fabulous. Our waitress greeted us and Mike explained his condition in short order. Tears filled her eyes as she told us of her then 11-year-old son who had a grapefruit size cancerous tumor removed. She said he had three more surgeries, rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, and as her story continued we expected to her to tell us of his death.

“…He’s now 20 years old and in college and doing wonderful!” she said. “He can’t drive because of his risk of seizures, struggles with his memory and word finding on occasion, but he’s a miracle – so don’t give up,” she told us. Our hearts were full with the realization that God was truly putting angels in our path.  We were so encouraged and it was the closest I’ve seen Mike since surgery to be on the verge of tears – happy ones of course!

In the course of our dinner, she told us how her entire family had come to know God and were active in church because of her son. She said a friend invited him to church as a teenager and as a result their entire family started attending. She explained in addition to college he had started several bible study groups with friends in the Las Vegas area and “is just a joy to be around.” This trip, this night, this moment was no accident.

But, where there is good, bad usually follows in an effort to discourage and deceive us.
The restaurant started filling up and two gentlemen were seated next to us who didn’t have the best of manners for a place of four-star caliber. Initially, the atmosphere, food and service made up for their boisterousness.  Mike excused himself early in our meal and I noticed the men next to us were pointing and making fun of Mike’s hair loss as he walked off.  Mike couldn’t see them, but I clearly could and my blood pressure shot up.

I calmed myself as the evening was going so beautiful I didn’t want them to steal our joy.  However, as Mike returned, and still not able to see them, they were even more noticeable in their laughing and pointing. I whispered a prayer that I could stay focused on this inspirational moment with my husband and the sweet waitress.

But, as we departed I saw the now intoxicated -------- engaged in their “fun” at Mike’s expense.  I felt so incredibly protective and angry as we walked off, but my wish to have Mike remain encouraged by the evening and exchange with our waitress was stronger … until Mike said he was going to stop off at the men’s room.

This was my chance. I spun around and walked back in the restaurant and right up to the unsuspecting jerks. I pointed my finger and leaned in to tell them directly [in so many words] – “That man you’re making fun of is courageous and fighting a brave battle with brain cancer. He is a husband, a father and a friend we would be devastated to lose. So next time you plan to use someone else’s misfortune for your entertainment – you better stop and think about how much pain it causes and how much of a jackass you both are.” And, before throwing drinks in their face … I turned back around and walked out.

Mike was casually waiting and smiling for me at the front.  He never knew what had just happened – which is exactly what I wanted.  In fact, I didn’t tell him until this week.  He said it didn’t surprise him that I responded, but he was thankful he didn’t know about it at the time.
As I’ve shared in previous posts the biggest blessings we’ve experienced is the love that has surrounded us by so many people. We’ve truly experienced the best in people. But we’ve also seen the worst in people. It’s unfortunate.

These men are just one example of what I know others have experienced as well – whether it’s bullying at school or in the workplace, pain caused at the expense of a child or loved one with a disability, or just general mean-spiritedness. I know people who engage in this type of behavior are the ones who are lacking in character and integrity – but it doesn’t make it hurt any less at the time. The consequences of their actions can be permanent in some cases.

The good with the bad … that is part of our journey. It requires a lot of faith.

Mike went through the five days of chemotherapy well last week. Even though they say the week after can be the toughest, other than some increased fatigue and a slight decrease in appetite, he’s done well.  Work has been busy for both of us, but socially we’ve had to be more conservative than in the past to conserve Mike’s strength and avoid as much germs as possible this time of the year.

We truly believe we would not be where we are right now if it were not for the prayers made on our behalf by you. In fact, Mike received an email just this past week from an attorney he cannot place that shared he was on her church’s prayer list and is prayed for by name each week. We still receive weekly notes of encouragement from family, friends and people we’ve barely known.

So, as for the jerks in Las Vegas and others who have made life more difficult at times … Love wins.

In the words of one of my favorite authors and human rights activist Bob Goff, “When Jesus invites us on an adventure, he shapes who we become with what happens along the way.” I know we are not the same people we were before Sept. 26, 2013. I’m thankful for that in so many ways.

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous … He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” –Psalm 112: 4, 7


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