On Monday June 27th, I was hospitalized with an acute case of pancreatitis. During my five-day hospitalization I came to learn that the tumor in my torso has grown and is beginning to push against my pancreas. It is also resting on the opening to my small intestine. This caused my sudden illness. As a result, I’m eating a modified diet. Many common foods that I once enjoyed are now provocative to my pancreas and digestive system.
Two months ago, on the advice of my oncology team, I elected to switch to a different drug that had the potential to be more aggressive in decreasing the size of my tumor. Clearly this did not happen and, in fact, the mass grew while I was taking this drug. After consulting with my oncologist I will, in the short term, be transitioning back to a drug therapy that I used most recently and which demonstrated a strong ability to hold and, at times, even shrink the cancer. There are various tests and trials that have the potential of finding another type of treatment. While the odds of success in this area are slim, they are still worth pursuing.
In the long term, I have been advised to consider immune therapy. That means using drugs that will enhance my immune system to fight the cancer. Being a kidney transplant recipient, this would involve stopping anti-rejection drugs which suppress my immune system to keep my transplanted kidney alive and healthy. Stopping these drugs would allow my immune system to come back on line, but would surely cause my body to reject my kidney. I’m sure you can understand how difficult this decision would be.
The good news is that I am confident that your prayers and support keep me feeling far better than is humanly possible. I continue to be grateful for them. I will keep you informed of any further news or information that I am able to share. In the midst of this difficult time I give thanks for the presence of Fr. Joe Hartmann, Fr. Greg Ames, our deacons and our amazing staff, all of whom have been heroically present to me and have kept the parish running without incident.
I regret that I have to share this news with you. It ‘s certainly not the news we have hoped for; however, it does serve as a constant reminder to give thanks for each and every day that God blesses us with good health and vitality. Many of you might be wondering “Is this the beginning of the end for Fr. Steven?” The answer is not clear. But it might help you to know that after many days of thought and reflection I see this only as another part of the journey, a journey I have undertaken hand-in-hand with Jesus Christ. This brings me peace.
In the end I would like to leave you with one of my favorite poems by Saint Teresa of Avila. My mother gave it to me as she was going through her illness and I have found it very meaningful: Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.
Father Steven Voss