Imagine searching your whole life for meaning and a deeper purpose. Imagine you find it in more ways than one. You discover that God is calling you to serve him as a priest in the Orthodox Christian church and has, along the way, introduced you to a woman with whom to share this incredible journey! A woman who has the same hopes and who has been waiting for you all of her life! You fit together beautifully in Christ's love and begin planning a life together. Imagine you learn that you have a very aggressive form of cancer. Imagine making sense of all the blessings paired with this awful news!
Please read Jorge's story of discouragement, hope, despair, and determination. Please be a part of his hope, his blessing, and his healing. Jorge Luque Martin
came from Spain 2 years ago to study for the priesthood at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, New York. After two months there, he began suffering intense headaches and double vision with added blurriness. To ease the pain, he could only find rest and sleep by sitting upright on a couch in the lounge of his dorm. After 2 weeks, the abbot insisted he go to the hospital. When it was clear to the nurses that he was having trouble filling out the intake forms, since he was not able to write his name due to the double vision, a mass in his brain was immediately suspected. Pain meds helped him get some rest that night. An MRI the following morning revealed that a tumor was surrounding the pituitary gland.
The following week, surgeons removed the rather large tumor in pieces through the nose. The tissue of the tumor was “dead,” and the pathology of the biopsy was not sufficient to determine if it was a benign tumor or a cancer. The neurosurgeon thought that in all likelihood it was a benign tumor. Jorge was excited to return to normalcy, resuming his rigorous schedule of classes the next day after being discharged from the hospital, as well as church services, (at 6am every day,) and work . Right after his release, the Hawaiian Iveron Icon was at Jordanville and Jorge was blessed by venerating it.
At seminary, he was the happiest so far in his life and was determined to continue recovering, despite the fact he still suffered from a crossed eye and no peripheral vision. Simple tasks like picking up a cup or pouring coffee proved difficult, so Jorge got creative and kept only one eye open.
As a result, he had no depth perception and fell more easily. After a neurosurgeon and an ophthalmologist told him he would probably not regain normal sight, Jorge felt depressed and exhausted.
Other first year seminarians were planning a 6 hour road trip to New Jersey, and although Jorge was not feeling up to it, he joined them, not knowing a great blessing awaited him. When they arrived, the Hawaiian Iveron icon was there, readily streaming myrrh from even the case. He was thankful to venerate it again. At lunch, a priest-monk looked at him and said, “You don’t know yet, but you will see that you are going to get a huge blessing from this trip.”
Less than 2 weeks later, Jorge travelled by train to his Wisconsin home parish for Christmas break. While on the train, his eyes suddenly began seeing normally and were no longer crossed. Glory to God!
However, just 1 ½ months after the surgery, Jorge began feeling pain in the tip of his nose. The pain grew to an excruciating level when touched. The pain was extremely intense and increased its coverage to the sinuses and head, causing a recurrence of headaches. Jorge battled through the pain, not telling anyone, and finished his first year.
That summer, while at home with his Wisconsin family, a lump appeared on the nostril through which they had extracted the pituitary tumor. Jorge continued the gardening work which he found was a good distraction from the pain. Between strenuous gardening and pain meds, he was able to ignore the difficulties a little. He visited some free clinics that told him he had either a serious sinus infection or MERSA and merely prescribed him antibiotics. He was convinced the new growth was just a cyst.
On his return to Jordanville, he detoured through Indianapolis to meet a nice girl his godfather had told him about.
It was a short but sweet visit. He thought Stefanida may just be the person he had waited for his whole life. He was right. But that’s another story.
When he reached Jordanville to begin his second year of studies, Jorge made an appointment with his ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor to get to the bottom of his new problems. The ENT took a biopsy and at first glance was leaning toward a cancer diagnosis. While waiting for confirmation, Jorge drove to Indianapolis to see Stefanida and fell in love. This visit bolstered his courage to endure the next trial.
A couple weeks later, Stefanida and her father drove to New York to be with him at his follow up appointment at which they learned it was indeed cancer. Another 2 weeks later, Jorge underwent 8 hours of surgery to remove part of his nose. Two weeks after that a 12 hour surgery to reconstruct his nose was done, using blood vessels and skin from an arm, skin from a leg, and bone from one of his ribs.
Despite all this, Jorge decided to finish his first semester.
In January of 2018, after doctors took a closer look at his pathology slides, his ENT called with news that there was a 50-100% chance the cancer would return and could be fatal. In February, the cancer did reappear and grew quickly. The doctors told him that the only course of action would be to remove his nose and then do radiation (which in that location has many lifelong consequences).
Jorge was afraid if he lost his nose, he would not be able to be a priest; his metropolitan has told him, however, that it won’t be an impediment.
After being told that his whole nose needed to be removed, Jorge was in shock. He was convinced that there must be a way out of the situation, another, better solution. Unfortunately, as an international student, Jorge had no health insurance or coverage under regular US programs such as Medicaid.
This is where all of you stepped in. Lori set up this GoFundMe, and we were overwhelmed by the love of people we have known for years and people we have never met. People all over the world have been praying for Jorge, fervently praying for him; and people’s financial generosity towards us is amazing.
Jorge says that this generosity has changed his view of the world. Growing up in a situation where he wasn’t around other Christians, and was imbibing a constant diet of negative news, he had no idea how many good people there were in the world.
Jorge was able to go and get a second opinion at Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately, it agreed with the first opinion, and it was necessary to remove his nose. The cancer continued coming back, first on the lip and then in the nasal area, and Jorge had two more operations to remove it. Then he underwent radiation in the fall of 2018. The process was grueling, and he continues to have side effects and to progress slowly with his recovery.
So many specific side effects could have been much worse, though. He has kept his sense of smell, has completely recovered his sense of taste, and almost all of his hair has regrown.
On July 15th Jorge and Stefanida were married in a beautiful ceremony attended by family and friends. It was a true community event, as so many people helped do every aspect of the wedding.
In the five months since the radiation the cancer has not come back. We are so thankful.
Although we still have medical bills and will have more, the hospitals in Indianapolis have written off over $300,000 in bills, and Emergency Medicaid has covered others.
Recovering is a challenge right now. He’s much better than he was at the end of radiation, but though it’s been five months since it finished recovery is slow. He’s only able to do a few hours of activity each day.
Nonetheless, we are hoping to return to seminary in the fall.
So now we are getting ready to move from Indianapolis to Jordanville NY, where the seminary is. It will be a big challenge and a big change in our lives, since we got married we’ve being living in a small house here in Indy, this has become our little cozy home and to have to leave all and move and start over in NY it’s hard, but we both feel it’s the right thing to do and that it’s the best for us.
With Jorge’s strength only beginning to return seminary will be a challenge to muster his strength complete classes and church services; he won’t be able to work as well until he is feeling better. We would greatly appreciate people’s ongoing support for housing, seminary tuition, and continuing medical bills.
For those of you who prefer to mail offline donations, please send them to:
Jorge Luque Martin
6135 King Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46228
You can also PayPal money (without fees) to email@example.com