"How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back?"
I know a bit dramatic, right? For those who don’t already know, this is a quote from Frodo at the end of the Lord of the Rings series “Return of the King.” We love this trilogy and watch the extended cut versions of each movie every Christmas. We’ve been doing this since the first movie came out in December 2001.
The line above has been wafting through my mind this week when trying to "return to normal" which is not really possible. So instead we enter a new season of normal. Some things are comfortable and familiar like our home and own bed, instead of a hotel or hospital room. For me (Jenn), it means returning to work and music classes – but still wondering how Josh is feeling when I am away from him. For Josh, this means resting a lot more and continuing a daily schedule of daily radiation therapy, chemotherapy pills along with other meds and doctor appointments as needed. It's relying on a lot of friends and family to help us out in new ways. And all of us trying to trust the process and God when we don't always feel like it.
To be honest, it all feels a bit fragile and subject to change at a moment’s notice. The treatments are not too hard on Josh and he feels okay most days but still very tired. What you don’t see behind the smiling photos is how hard Josh is working to do the basics. I could write a whole other post introducing “Josh, my husband with a brain tumor” and what this looks like to the outside world – I probably actually will (soon).
We’re hoping and praying that a lot what was “normal” for Josh will return. My biggest hope and prayer is that Josh can both think and communicate more clearly and that he will find hope and peace in the midst of treatment.
As we navigate all of this, we ask for your continued prayers, grace and patience as we walk day by day in this "new normal" that we find ourselves in.
I am still so thankful today and the wisdom and strength that God provides. It is in HIS strength that we continue day by day.
If you are curious, Josh is doing basically a minute of radiation therapy every day, Mon. - Fri., along with a good dose of Temador (chemo pill), steroids and a new medicine called Avastin to help with swelling.
We had a good week as I celebrated my graduation, we spent time with friends and family and even celebrated my cousin Adam's graduation and soon send off to Army boot camp. There were tiny moments when things felt pretty normal and even even joyful. We love our friends and family!
How I wish you all could have spent several hours with us driving the backcountry roads of Iowa. I know it doesn’t sound that glamorous but in so many ways it was. As we drove mostly backroads listening to music and counting red-winged blackbirds, we soaked in the “what’s next.” (View our travel map.)
The “what’s next” is happening quickly, actually today.
The prescribed treatment for this type of brain cancer is six weeks of radiation concurrent with taking a chemo pill. The hope is that the radiation will work to control or shrink the tumor. This is definitely the hope and our biggest prayer. This treatment plan is the same one we had in mind when we headed to Mayo. Of course, we wanted to see about additional options and wanted a second opinion on surgery.
We met with the clinics’ top neurosurgeon who kindly advised against surgery as it could cause more significant problems for Josh all around. The location of the tumor really presents a big challenge because of its depth. Even though I knew this, it still was hard to hear and quite disappointing. Yet at the same time, we don’t want to take that kind of risk. Instead, we move forward with what we can.
We did find great hope and wisdom during our appointment with the brain oncologist. He offered additional advice for radiation treatment. There are many complicated factors with Josh’s tumor, including finding a way to not make things worse physically and mentally in the process of treatment. Radiation can help but can also cause additional swelling which makes things worse. This is where our Mayo doctor provided the most wisdom and guidance as we move forward with a few more resources.
Even though a visit to Mayo did not mean provide a lot of quick solutions, they did confirm we are on the right path. Our doctors there also are continuing to study the DNA of the tumor to better understand it and guide us forward. Our doctor described our “what’s next” much like a destination stop on a cruise ship. Stop 1 is radiation. We’ll hop off here and explore it completely and see what happens. Once we know what happens, we’ll move on to the next stop.
Believe me, I’d much rather be on a real cruise -- Mediterranean cruise, anyone?
I’ve said it before, but I will again. This is tough stuff. And it’s layered with questions, frustration, sorrow, doubt and more. It's also mixed with prayer, friendship, family, community and of course, hope.
There is hope because God is writing a story of hope in each of us. It can be found even in the middle of the stupid stuff like cancer tumors. It can be found in the moments I hear Josh singing laughing at me and when we look at non-so great waterfalls in Iowa.
At times the hope might be hard to see, but it’s there. We believe and trust in a God who is good and with us in the hills and valleys.
Thank you again for joining us on this journey and for your continued prayers and support in many ways.
Reporting live from Des Moines Iowa . . . Jenn Brown. Okay, so maybe not live by the time you read this but that's what popped in my mind as I began to share today's update.
While taking a trip to a cancer specialist on Mother's Day weekend is quite a heavy thing to process, having time on the road to think and just breath has been good. Not easy, but still good. Here are some of the bright spots:
• Starting the day with coffee with Josh's mom on Mother's Day. (Love you Kim!)
• Finding 48 cents by our upgraded rental car
• Hearing Josh sing along with some of our favorite tunes on the road (He's not talking much so hearing him sing is really encouraging).
• Eating KC BBQ with Josh, then finding $5 in the parking lot! (We're up $5.48 for the day!)
• Smooth travels and good weather all around with only 3 hours to go tomorrow.
While this might seem a bit too optimistic, it's still nice to find the bits of hope and joy in the midst of such chaos. Even in this joy, anticipation builds with each mile we drive. It's tough to see how the tumor is impacting Josh's communication skills and just how hard he's working to do the basics. It's hard not to think about what could happen in the future.
As we (and mostly me) prepare for our time at Mayo, we ask that you continue to pray for wisdom for us to know the best questions to ask while we are there.
Pray also for Josh's physical strength and for the clarity of his mind.
Pray for courage and strength as I navigate many different pieces and parts of this journey.
We continue to trust in our God who is able to do immeasurably more than we think or imagine.
The past week has been a whirlwind of activity as we continue processing literally everything. We are fortunate to have received a quick referral to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. We check in and begin conversations on Monday, May 13 at 4 p.m. and have a couple days of meetings with experts including a brain oncologist. When I was asking the schedule and they casually threw out, "in the morning you'll meet with a brain oncologist," I thought. "Wow, that sounds super important" -- which of course it is for a slew of reasons.
There is comfort and hope in seeking a second opinion from a place that is known for dealing with tough issues. Of course, I'm nervous about it because it is a new venture and there is a whole lot to learn and discover on this particular trip.
As we go, we know so many of you are praying for us. Thank you. We ask for your continued prayers as we travel. Pray that we will know what questions to ask these amazing doctors and specialists and what steps to pursue.
As many of you know, Josh and I have had lots of road trips. We love the adventure of getting in a car and driving. There is so much joy and peacefulness we find in loading up a good audiobook (currently the Harry Potter series) or singing out our finest rendition of the Hamilton Soundtrack on highways across America. Being on the road again is a nice feeling.
This trip will be just a Josh and Jenn road trip but to a destination that we have not yet had to encounter. We take off Sunday driving. Don't worry, we have lots of family and friends on stand by to rescue us if it gets dicey, but we are looking forward to the time together, even if the end destination means continuing to talk about the not-so fun reality of brain cancer.
Stay tuned for road trip and Mayo Clinic updates and again thanks for your amazing, beautiful, humbling support.
When your world is spinning all around, you tend to seek out normal things to do. Things that you (or I) may have mindlessly done many times over just because. Things like scrolling social media, finding cute new things to wear, buying toilet paper, more unnecessary candles, another cup of coffee from a local favorite shop or some Chick-fil-A.
As I do these things, I often stop for a moment and think, “Why am I doing this?”
The answer: Because, for one moment, maybe even 10 seconds, I want everything to return to normal. To pretend my husband doesn’t have a significant tumor in his brain and that our world has not just flipped upside down.
Of course, in the flip there is beauty found in so many amazing conversations, along with acts of kindness and encouragement in every way possible. While I don’t for any reason want to appear ungrateful, I still wish this good could appear in a different way. I suspect several of you might feel the same way.
Can we just go back to a month ago when we were planning a summer trip; six months ago, as we figured out when to have the Christmas get together? Or a year ago, as we went to a fun concert, maybe even __ years ago when we went on that epic trip, etc., — the list goes on.
Within this paradigm, I think it’s pretty normal to wish and hope for something different. Even in the midst of this “crazy,” I am reminded to stay in the moment and to keep trusting God with what is next - believing that whatever is to come is still filled with goodness.
Is it hard to really do this? Do I have my doubts? Yes, of course. But I am trying. And holding tight.
We’ve got this friends! Because we have each other and God by our side. As we sit here, let’s keep celebrating the good we have seen.
In April of 2019, we learned that Josh had a large brain tumor, a glioblastoma, in the middle of his brain. At the age of 41, this was quite the surprise. Josh sadly passed away after a short battle on September 30, 2019.
View his obituary
These past months, we've navigated the complexities of treatment, and hospice care and learned that there wasn't really treatment and that in Josh's case, the tumor was inoperable.
We're sharing our hearts and experience as we navigate this unexpected turn and God's goodness in the middle of it. We hope to encourage others by sharing our story.
Thank you for following along with our journey even in grief.
Feel free to message us.
If you'd like to donate to medical expenses, here's a link or you can email us questions
More about Josh & Jenn
Jenn Brown is the author of this site, a loving wife and communications guru.
Josh Brown most recently served on staff at Fellowship Bible Church in NWA as a Springdale Community Pastor. We've served in ministry in Missouri, Texas, Virginia and Nevada.
Cancer has been big part of our story. Josh has battled cancer three times already with the first to being non-Hodgkins lymphoma at ages 15 and 25 and the third thyroid cancer last year and a GBM, brain tumor this year.
Jenn's mom, Carol passed away from breast cancer 21 years ago and her father also went through treatments for Chronic Leukemia (CLL) in 2017 and is doing well now.
Friends & Family
We have been so encouraged by friends and family. Thank you for the practical ways you are caring for us! We love you all! This is just few photo highlights of some meaningful moments.