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Help Jorge Luque Fight Cancer

$29,179 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 281 people in 1 month
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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Here's an update from the surgery, this time from Matushka Elizabeth rather than me:

This is just a quick and partial update. Stefanida and I are still in the hospital with Jorge. He has been up and walking already, although his pain level is high and the medications are not doing much. He ate a little for supper and is resting. The bandages under his nose need to be changed fairly often because of the drainage. He has a large round bandage on his nasal area, which is sewn in and needs to be kept dry. The tumor was large and most of the nose was removed. They left a bit of the bridge so that he can wear his glasses and a bit of his nose on the edge of one side. His upper lip was, thankfully, not removed. There were several reasons for this, one being that the doctor thinks, from the look of everything and from the preliminary lab work, that the margins are clean. If the more detailed lab work shows cancer cells in the tissues, then the lymph nodes in his neck will have to be removed. This will also make it harder to do a reconstruction later, but has no consequences if a prosthesis will be used.

One thing I would like to mention is that we expected the surgery to take an hour or two longer. Everything went so well that the doctor decided against removing the lymph nodes in his neck. There is still the possibility that they will have to be removed in a week or two, but the doctor doesn't think that will happen.

Jorge will be released tomorrow. It seems early, but there is little chance for sleep in the hospital. The room is a double one and is very small. The floor is also rather noisy. He will be glad to leave.

Thank you all for your prayers. I am sure that the positive things that were experienced today were the direct result of all the prayers that were said.

with love to all,
Matushka Elizabeth
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Dear Friends,

I just got a call from the nurse. The surgery scheduled for Wednesday. We're to arrive at the hospital at 9:00 and the surgery will be at 11:00. The doctor estimates about five hours for the surgery, and we were told to be prepared for Jorge staying about five days in the hospital.

By the way, the surgeon and his wife are the couple that bought the garden lot next to the church apartment buildings that we had to sell last year in order to buy the church (they're planning to build a house on it). I found this out since we last saw him. I'll to offer to give him a tour of his new land if he ever wants it--where my pet rabbit is buried, where my friends and I almost set our playhouse on fire, where we spent months digging to China... :)

So please pray for Jorge, myself, his godmother Matushka Elizabeth Kulp (she's coming down with Jorge today to be here for the operation) and for all the doctors and other staff at the hospital, that God guide their hands and decisions. The surgeon's name is Dr. Montravade.

Thank you so much for your love and prayers!

Stefanida
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Dear Friends,

Here’s the short version: the surgery will happen on Wednesday, if there’s an operating room available. If not it will happen at some unknown later time, at the very latest June 5th. Please pray that there is an operating room available on Wednesday, because the cancer is growing quickly and any delay means that more will need to be cut away, particularly of his upper lip. On Monday we will find out if Wednesday is the day, and will let you know.

It’s been, and continues to be, a difficult period of waiting. Today, on top of everything else, Jorge and I were rear-ended by a city bus as we were driving down to church to go to an event there. We both got some whiplash and Jorge’s car was damaged (but still driveable). I had my breakfast, a large smoothie in my hand… Can you imagine how that smoothie managed to spread itself out all over each of us, our seats, the dashboard, the ceiling, and just about every other part of the car?

Later in the day, after the accident, Jorge drove up to Wisconsin to see people in his community there before the operation, and will come back on Monday. Please pray for safe travels for him.

Stefanida and Jorge
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Dear Friends,

It’s been so very long since I wrote an update. I guess it was just too hard to write while nothing seemed to be moving. Well, things were moving, but not, apparently, in a helpful direction.

While we were still in Rochester we let the ENT who Jorge had seen earlier in Indianapolis know that he was ready to go ahead with the surgery. As Jorge thought about it, though, he really wanted to have the surgery done at Indiana University, which is a comprehensive cancer center, rather than at the other hospital where he had seen that doctor. And once we were back in Indianapolis a phone interaction with the doctor confirmed that Jorge really wasn’t comfortable with that particular doctor, either. He made an appointment to see a different ENT at IU, who had been recommended to us by the ENT at Mayo.

Then we headed out of town, this time to visit the myrrh-streaming icon of the Mother of God in Taylor, Pennsylvania. We knew that they had a moleban service at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, and arrived for that. The church is very plain, even angular on the outside, but very beautiful on the inside, and packed with people, over 200. The service had started as we walked in, with paschal hymns, and shortly after we found our places the clergy brought out the icon into the center of the church. Jorge turned to me: “Can you feel the grace?!” Later he told me he felt so overwhelmed by the grace he needed to check in with me just to ground himself.

It was a beautiful service, with most people in the church singing full-voiced. The icon itself is amazing. The whole surface exudes myrrh, which drips down constantly. At the end of the service they carry it around the church, and people catch the dripping myrrh in their hands. Later everyone goes to the front and gets anointed, and they give out pieces of myrrh-soaked cotton for people to take home.

As we were leaving the church a lady came up to us and asked if we were Jorge and Stefanida—she recognized us from the GoFundMe (and we recognized her name, because we’ve been praying for the people who have given on the site, including her). It was a very warm meeting; she’s been reading our updates, and she said what we going through, and what people go through in life, is like being dough that is being kneaded, and pushed down, and shaped, so that it will rise….

It’s a long drive between Taylor and Indianapolis; we only got a little way that night, before we were too tired to safely keep driving and stopped to spend the night. The next day we had a very long drive ahead of us, and on top of that one thing after another happened. First, although we both knew in our minds and probably accepted on one level that there likely wouldn’t be an overt miraculous healing of Jorge’s cancer, I think we both really hoped that there would be, and even counted on it, because that was the last hope before submitting to the surgery. So we woke up in the morning having to face our hopes being dashed and going back to the surgery. We had felt so much grace there with the icon, and although as Jorge said both before and after the visit he expected that there would be a miracle of some kind, he just didn’t know if we would be able to perceive it (or if it would be the external one we wanted), still, we couldn’t perceive anything that next morning, and it was just hard. His nose even looked considerably worse.

As we were driving we got a call from the nurse of the ENT with whom he had the appointment the next day; it turned out that nose surgery is not her specialty, and she wasn’t the appropriate person for him to see. The nurse was helpful and agreed to contact the two ENTs who did specialize in what Jorge needed and get back to us. When she did, the first available appointment was not until May 17th, about two weeks away! Nothing was going very well. And Jorge was in a great deal of pain, and we were both exhausted, and there was rain and construction and traffic… It was a rough trip.

The whole following week and more we felt like we were experiencing temptations as we struggled with feeling disconnected from each other and with misunderstandings.

After we arrived back in Indy we were pretty much waiting for the next few days, but then the nurse of the doctor with whom we had the upcoming appointment called; the doctor (Dr. Montravade) had been willing to squeeze us in much sooner, and we could come in the next day, Thursday. It was a comprehensive appointment, but because we’d been to other doctors, not much was new. The differences were that, as the cancer has grown, he sees the necessity to cut away part of Jorge’s upper lip. Also, he was proposing less extensive radiation afterwards than others have, but we would need to wait and meet with a radiation oncologist to get an accurate picture of that.

Jorge has called the doctor and confirmed that he’s ready to go ahead with the operation [Jorge corrects me to say, with the horrible operation with the butchers], and I expect we’ll hear early in the coming week what day they’ve scheduled it for. We’ll let you know when it is!

Please pray for us while we wait, and obviously for the operation itself, that God guide the hands of the doctors. Thank you for your continued love and prayer for us.

Jorge and Stefanida


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$29,179 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 281 people in 1 month
Created April 6, 2018
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