Pilgrimage to Lourdes in Three Parts

May 1-8, 2024 Part 1 of 3: An Uncertain Beginning


May 1st

6 AM. Our flight to Lourdes France departs in 13 hours, but Cathy is having severe head pain – a 10 out of 10. She cannot walk, she is slurring her speech and she is very weak on her left side. She cries and mumbles a desperate request, so I half-carry and half-drag her to the bathroom. With more adrenalin, I get Cathy back into bed and immediately call for help from one of the trip medical team members we met last night. We arrived yesterday to the Baltimore Doubletree Hotel near BWI Airport in time for a trip team dinner and trip announcements. We were tired from a five-hour drive south and went to bed early. This morning’s twist in Cathy’s glio-recovery-road is an alarming surprise. A team nurse and two doctors arrive to investigate the state of their dinner companion. Text messages, voice mails and pages go out to all supervising glio-doctors. Phone calls are made to local hospitals to explore emergency room admittance and MRI options. Cathy is put on an aggressive steroid dosing schedule. Perhaps there is brain swelling or other inflammation. Perhaps some form of stroke is involved. Her MRI two weeks ago was stable but today’s situation seems urgent. We are not even thinking about making the trip to Lourdes. We are thinking about the minutes ahead while waiting for some treatment direction that would lead us further south to the Duke Brain Cancer Center, or back to our hospital in Sayre PA, or perhaps to a local Baltimore hospital.


9 AM. Cathy’s pain is lessening and she is able to sit up, although listing to the left. Her speech is clearer and she participates in her assessment conversation. The steroids are helping. The medical team decides to monitor her hourly and no decision will be made to move her as long as she is improving.


3 PM. Our flight departs in four hours. Cathy has dramatically improved. She is able to stand up and walk slowly with my assistance. Her head pain is minimal and she speaks of going to Lourdes. Our trip medical team is supportive of Cathy’s wishes, but cautious and uncertain. A purely medical recommendation would not favor Cathy making the trip. But this is a spiritual journey and perhaps Cathy is also fighting a spiritual war. We all agree to proceed to the airport and make a final go-no-go decision when it is time to board the plane.


Next Update: Part 2 of 3, Tuesday, May 14th