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Help Jorge Luque Fight Cancer

$35,465 of $60,000 goal

Raised by 347 people in 12 months
Created April 6, 2018
Fundraising team
on behalf of Jorge Luque Martin
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 this year, 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 seems to be growing quickly.  He is scared because the doctors so far have 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).  If he loses his nose he will no longer be able to be a priest.  He is looking for a way out of this long trial, a way to fulfill the vocation that he is called to.

Jorge and Stefanida (now fiancée) are seeking a second opinion at Mayo Clinic April 17th. This is a huge financial challenge as Jorge is an international student without health coverage, and even the most routine scans for his situation cost $5,000 to $10,000, and the initial consultation with multiple specialists costs $5,000.

Will you please help us help him?  Your prayers and monetary donations will be greatly appreciated by all who love Jorge and are touched by knowing him.

Offline donations may be by check mailed to:
     Elizabeth Kulp
     18426 Chezik Road
     Blue River, Wisconsin  53518

Please also consider sharing this page via social media so that we can spread the word further. Thanks!
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Here is the latest from Stefanida:

Several people asked me to give an update on the appointment with the oncologist today, so here it is.

We described Jorge’s symptoms to him; they clearly didn’t ring a specific bell with him. He ordered an abdominal CT to rule out something there, since some of the symptoms are abdominal (there was an opening and Jorge did the CT this afternoon, so we will have the results soon). He referred Jorge to an infectious disease doctor, in case it’s something like a bacteria or a virus. A return of the cancer could also potentially cause these symptoms, and as an oncologist his mind was clearly going in that direction. Jorge has an MRI coming up as well, which hopefully would show if there’s an infection of the bone at the wound site (in addition for checking for cancer in the facial area). So continued prayers for being able to find out the cause of these symptoms would be appreciated!

Stefanida and Jorge
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More photos of the End of Radiation Party - Stefanida's dad, Father Stevan Bauman and Jorge's godmother Matushka Elizabeth Kulp
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Dear Friends,

The radiation is finally over, as of Wednesday! We are so relieved. It really was a long haul. For some reason it was emotionally too hard to write to you while it was all going on, so here is your long-delayed letter now that it is over.

On Wednesday, as we were leaving the hospital from the final (!) treatment, I started asking Jorge what he wanted to do to celebrate. It was going to be something quiet, in any case, because he was not feeling good, but he interrupted me to explain the proper celebratory procedure: he wanted to be instantly transported to Jordanville, Blue River, Holy Cross and Pittsburgh, and then back here by evening. He wanted a party with no people (he wasn’t feeling up to people), and me wearing a silly party hat. He wanted 45 presents, all electronic devices…(!) I did make some of these things materialize… At the bottom you can see a couple of pictures from our “party without people” over dinner that evening.

For those of you who have been wondering, let me explain radiation a little bit (for those who aren’t, just skip on ahead!). It’s administered five days a week, in Jorge’s case for 32 sessions (we were originally told 30 and given a schedule of treatment that confirmed it. Believe me, it was a tough day when he went in thinking he only had three more treatments to go and was told that in fact he had to come two extra days!). Chemo, which is drugs injected into your system, is designed to treat cancer that has spread throughout the body; radiation, on the other hand, is directed specifically to the places where there is, or has been, cancer. Jorge’s cancer has been extremely aggressive in the nasal area and has drained into the lymph nodes, but it hasn’t spread beyond that, so he was given only radiation, and not chemo (he could have done some chemo because there’s evidence that it increases the effectiveness of radiation, but he declined).

Here’s a typical visit to the hospital for radiation. Jorge gets ready, which includes spending time cleaning the nasal cavity of accumulated scabs, etc. (a painful process, but necessary to keep it clear and because there’s a silicon device that gets inserted into the cavity during radiation). We drive downtown to the hospital, around back to a special entrance that’s mostly used by radiation patients. That is one thing that’s designed well: you just pull up to this entrance, valet parking is paid for, you hand over your keys and step inside to the elevator right inside the door that takes you down to the radiation waiting room (It would really add to the strain to have to park in the regular garage and walk through the long hospital corridors to each day’s appointment). After checking in and waiting a few minutes the radiation techs come to walk us back to the radiation machine, located in a special room with foot-and-a-half thick walls and doors (to protect those outside the room from the radiation). Jorge lies down on the table, a hard, narrow one that the machine rotates around when it’s in operation. To get ready he has to insert a few things: a small roll of cotton under his upper lip (the radiation doesn’t transmit as well through air as through skin; the little bit of air-filled cotton protects his gum a little bit from the radiation which is targeting the lip where the cancer was); a silicon form, molded to the shape of his nasal cavity into the cavity filling it (that has the opposite purpose of the cottton roll; it helps transmit the radiation to the back of the cavity which needs to be treated); and finally a block of foam that he has to hold between his teeth (I never did find out what that was for). Then they ease a mask over his head, lock it to the table (to hold his head still), and are ready to check by a scan to see if he’s in close enough to the right position to begin. If all goes well he’s in the right position on the first try and they can do the treatment straight away and the whole thing takes less than ten minutes. That happened once or twice. Other times the correct position is elusive and they have to make minute adjustments to his position over and over again, sometimes as many as a dozen times. We’re very thankful that they’re taking care to direct to radiation exactly to the place where it needs to go, but I don’t know how Jorge stands all that lying there and being adjusted over and over again. Once the treatment is complete the techs come in, release the mask, collect the other paraphernalia, and we’re free to go home, until tomorrow.

Jorge started feeling the effects of the radiation right away. At first it was strong fatigue and a nasty, metallic taste in his mouth. Later all food started tasting horrible and his stomach was upset, to the point that he could hardly force himself to eat even a few bites. He lost six pounds in the first three days without appetite, and I was really worried about it going on at that rate. It evened out though, and overall he lost about 16 pounds. The radiation burned his skin, leaving it red and sore in some places and an unusual dark color in others. In his mouth the effects were stronger--open sores on the inside of the lip and his gum, extremely dry mouth, sore throat, etc. In the nasal cavity the edges have been raw and crusting and painful, increasingly so as radiation has progressed. Towards the end of radiation the fatigue and weakness have been pretty extreme, to the point where (along with the other symptoms) he said it felt like his body was dying.

It took a lot of courage for Jorge to go in for those radiation treatments each day, and lie there passively, knowing that what they were doing was damaging his body, and that afterwards he would really feel the harmful effects.

In the week or so before the beginning of radiation Jorge was visibly developing growths in the nasal cavity, and they were growing and changing from day to day. Within the first week of starting radiation they were gone, which is very encouraging. We had been told by one doctor that this type of cancer is often not very responsive to radiation, and the disappearance of those growths is visual evidence that the cancer has been responding to it.

Already, just two days after finishing radiation, Jorge’s starting to feel better. He’s having a foretaste of returning energy, and today he ate half an omelette for breakfast! Believe me, we cheered about that! There were days during radiation where he ate two bites or less the whole day… He’s starting to get some of his taste back, too. That’s very encouraging, because there was a possibility that it could all be gone permanently.

Thank you all so much for your prayers. I know many of you were wondering where things were at and what was going on--thank you for your patience! It’s such a relief to have the radiation over with, but of course going ahead there are many, many unknowns, so we ask for your continued prayers. Basically the next step (apart from a few checkups in the meantime) will be a PET scan in three months to try to assess if there is any cancer at that time. We are also working on applying for a green card for Jorge; we see a lawyer in two weeks and will submit the paperwork after that.

We love you all, and thank you for your love.
Stefanida and Jorge
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Jorge began radiation treatments this past week. Please continue praying for him and Stefanida. Thank you!
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$35,465 of $60,000 goal

Raised by 347 people in 12 months
Created April 6, 2018
Fundraising team
on behalf of Jorge Luque Martin
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