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Help Jorge Luque Fight Cancer

$31,254 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 304 people in 5 months
Created April 6, 2018
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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Dear Friends,

I last wrote on Wednesday, just after Jorge’s surgery, before we had been in to see him. Soon after we were called down to the recovery room to be with him, and then he was transferred to a room. I stayed with him that night, and he was discharged from the hospital the next afternoon.

This has been a big operation, and it looks like it’s going to take a bit for him to recover from it. His pain levels have been quite high (both the surgical sites themselves, and also very bad headaches), and he generally just doesn’t feel at all well.

Yesterday we went to get the drains removed from his neck (the body tends to produce liquid at surgical sites; the wound heals better if this liquid is allowed to drain rather than being trapped under the skin, so for operations like this one doctors will often put in tubes to allow it to drain). They were very uncomfortable and were also causing the muscles of his neck to be extremely tight, so having them out is a good thing. Now that they’re out his overall pain levels seem to be more manageable as well, which is a blessing.

When we went in we had a long list of questions for the doctor (we didn’t see him in person, but passed them along): Why are the pain levels so high? How do we know the cancer has not spread beyond what we know about? Shouldn’t we do a scan to make sure the pain behind the eye that he had just before the operation is not caused by more cancer? Etc. We’ll see what he says, and also wait to hear the results of the pathology reports from the surgery, which should come back later this week sometime.

Obviously this has been a difficult last week, but I have been very thankful for having really good support. Matushaka Elizabeth came down from Wisconsin, as she has for other operations and so the three of us were together for everything (her grandchildren, who she was watching, came too, which was also nice). My parents spent time at the hospital with us, and of course so many people are praying. Lately Jorge and I have felt discouraged; we’ve prayed less, and I at least have felt much less connected with others and all the prayers that are being offered for us, even though I knew they were there. Somehow during this surgery and the subsequent days I’ve felt reconnected, which is a tremendous help. The night I spent with Jorge in the hospital, though of course it didn’t involve enough sleep, was a time when I felt very close and connected to him.

Jorge especially asks for prayers for guidance as we go forward. We’ve been the one’s catching the spread of the cancer and urging the doctors to action, rather than the doctors guiding the process, and we don’t want anything to be missed or the wrong direction to be taken.

With love,

Stefanida and Jorge
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Dear Friends,

At the moment Jorge's surgery is finished. He's waking up in the recovery room and it will probably still be a little bit until we can see him.

The surgery went fine, and we had a good discussion with the doctor afterwards, with opportunity to ask questions and get a clear picture of what's been done.

The bridge of the nose was cancerous, so they've removed bone and skin there (no more regular glasses... time for contacts). The small lump on the surgery site was not cancerous, which is a relief. They removed the lymph nodes under the jaw (with the associated salivary glands), and the doctor thinks they look cancerous and so he thought that it was the right decision to remove them first, before doing the radiation.

Last night, in the late evening, Jorge's pain levels shot up, and he was having searing, burning pain behind his eye. Of course we told the doctor this morning, and I asked about it again just now. They're not seeing evidence that the cancer has spread beyond what they've removed, and the face is an area with so much sensation that he sees a strong possibility for signals getting cross-wired and having referred pain. Hopefully that is both what it is, and the pain doesn't continue.

Jorge will stay in the hospital overnight, and if he's doing well can come home tomorrow morning.

His godmother, Matushka Elizabeth, has once again come to town for the operation, which is a big blessing. She and I have waited here together throughout the day, and then my parents came and stayed for a couple of hours, which was a wonderful support.

Thank you all for your prayers and support as well! As always, we appreciate them very much.

Stefanida
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Dear Friends,

After some fairly extensive discussions with the doctors last week, the decision is to have an operation first, before the radiation. That will be on Wednesday, the day after tomorrow. During the operation the doctors will remove the lymph nodes under his jaw. They will also biopsy the bridge of his nose, and if that is cancerous remove bone there, and finally biopsy the small lump on the surgery site (where his nose was removed). After the operation he will have to heal before it is possible to start the radiation, so that will start in perhaps three or four weeks. God-willing, nothing new develops during that wait.

Your prayers for healing, for the best possible outcome from surgery and radiation, and for emotional support are greatly appreciated.

With love,

Stefanida and Jorge
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From September 7th

Dear Friends,

It's been a little while since I've written. Jorge had surgery in the middle of August in which they removed part of his upper lip and then rejoined the two sides together. The surgery went fine and he's been healing well since. It doesn't impair the function of his lip as much as we were afraid it might.

He decided to do radiation, and that was scheduled to start on September 17th, a week from Monday, and last for six weeks (he would go in for a treatment five days a week during that time).

However, in the time since the surgery, we've been seeing several concerning things. His pain levels have remained very high, as high as when he's had an active tumor, including very bad headaches every day. He has ongoing pain at the bridge of his nose, which as far as I know is unexplained. Now he has developed a swollen lymph node (which could indicate that the cancer has spread to there), and finally, there's a tiny lump on the surgery site that appears to us to have been growing in the past week.

He had a CT scan yesterday and the word from the doctors is that they are sure the bridge of the nose is not cancerous nor the tiny lump, but that they think the lump in the neck is. Just tonight as I'm writing this Jorge was feeling that lump in the neck, and it seems to be a good inch in diameter, so it really seems like they are right there. We're still very nervous about the bridge of the nose because it's causing such high levels of pain, and of the other thing because it looks like the beginning of a tumor to us, but I guess we'll have to wait and see...

At this point the doctors are proposing to treat the neck with radiation, rather than surgery. We will have an appointment to discuss that next week. Then the radiation would be postponed a week because they need time to plan for the changed situation (in other words, originally they weren't going to do radiation to the neck, but now they would, and that requires preparation).

This is all so very scary. It is such aggressive cancer and is definitely not under control. As Jorge's doctor said to him, "we can't keep chipping away at your face," but the doctors don't seem to have much else to offer besides radiation, which in spite of all the severe side effects (in other words, how much it costs in human terms to do it) it still be no means guarantees success against the cancer.

So that's the basic picture. It has certainly been an exhausting week as we try to figure out and deal with what's going on now. We've been to days worth of appointments this week, and next looks like it may be a repeat of that. We're getting to know the downtown hospitals way too well!

So thank you all so much for your prayers, and please keep them up! Also that if there's some other type of treatment we should use that we become aware of it, and that the financial side of things works out in the best possible way.

With love in Christ,

Stefanida and Jorge
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$31,254 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 304 people in 5 months
Created April 6, 2018
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