Saturday, June 28, 2014

Going for Gold: Reflections from Ericlee

We can all remember the day when we felt like life was changed forever. Good events and bad events happen that change us. I am talking about in all realms - physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, and mental. In 1982 as a 8-yr-old my... life changed as I witnessed the extreme poverty in Haiti for the first time. In 1988, as a 14-yr-old my life changed as I stood up in the midst of a huge crowd of teenagers at Hume Lake Camp and committed my life to follow Jesus wherever he told me to go. In 2003, my life changed as I said "I Do" and married Dorina after waiting patiently for 29 years. In 2006, my life changed again as I witnessed the miracle of childbirth and became a Daddy for the first time. In 2007, my life changed again as my family and I embarked on the uphill battle of trying to eat clean, unprocessed, organic, in-season food. In 2009, as a 35-yr-old, my life changed as I was let go from a job I greatly loved as a teacher and coach at Fresno Christian School. In addition, that same year my life changed as I stumbled upon CrossFit! Finally, in 2011 my life changed as we put up our house for sale, and moved to Haiti for 3 months so I could have a crash course lesson on how to direct a 65-yr-old ministry and a non-profit.

So once again my life is drastically changed as one month ago I was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma cancer. It is now an all out war with these cells that have mutated in my body and gone awry.

On Wednesday, we had an appointment to see Dr. Algazi at UCSF. He surprised us and recommended no surgery and no radiation since the cancer has already spread to multiple places. As a leading expert in melananoma, his recommendation is to start using a combination of two potent drugs followed by "immune therapy." The first drug has had a 50% success rate with patients, the second a 20% success rate in decreasing tumors. There are serious possible side effects, including blindness, heart failure, other auto-immune diseases and possible spreading of the cancer, to name a few. I would have to take these drugs for many years. The doctor was kind enough to say that the choice was mine and to let him know in a couple of days what direction I want to go. On a side note, these drugs are not cheap ($16,000 a month for one set and $120,000 for the other set).

From 1998-2000, I took a break from teaching and trained 100% in hopes of making the Olympic games in track & field. I had a strict training program that included specific nutrition and sleep. (I wish I had all my knowledge from CrossFit then). I did not make it to the Olympics, but I can never say "what if." 

Now I am in strict training again for a "gold medal" in wellness as I battle this cancer. I do not feel peace about taking the drugs recommended by UCSF. I have decided to commit to Gerson Therapy for at least two years as my method of treatment. My diet and sleep are very specific and I must follow the therapy exactly. So today we leave for San Diego to see Dr. Azar who is an M.D who is a also certified in Gerson Therapy. She will help us navigate some things in the therapy and make it specific for fighting my cancer.

I will leave you with this. No matter what, I want my Lord to be glorified in it all. It is not about the carrots, the coffee enemas, or any drugs for that matter. God is the Great Healer and I will trust in Him for His will. Whether training hard for a Crossfit competition, battling injustice in Haiti or fighting cancer, I will give it my very best with the tools that God has given me to ultimately give Him Glory.
**If you want to learn about more ways to join Ericlee in his fight against cancer, join the Facebook group "Help for the Gilmores." Donations for medical bills and needs can be given online here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

UPDATE: Results of Ericlee's PET scan

Dear Friends & Family,

Three weeks ago we first received the diagnosis that Ericlee has melanoma cancer in his lymph node at the right hip/groin. Through a good friend, we connected with a local oncologist, Dr. Liu, who works for UCSF in Fresno. He ordered a full-body PET scan for Ericlee this past week. We received the results on Wednesday, revealing that Ericlee’s cancer is not just in the right groin but there’s another mass above that in the iliac crest and a small nodule on his right lung. Dr. Liu said that the cancer is in Stage 4. This was devastating news for our family but we trust that even this was not a surprise to God and He holds us in His hands today.

This week we had the gift of going up to the mountains as a family. We are grateful for generous friends who opened their getaway home to us so we could enjoy some time with our dear missionary friends, Jeremy and Marcy Pusey and their kids, who just arrived Monday from Germany. We have been planning this getaway for several months as a chance to catch up with them and all of us to enjoy some margin from the high demands of our ministries. As God would have it, we were still able to go on this retreat. We enjoyed a time of resting, playing games, hiking to a waterfall, quiet mornings for journaling and reading God’s Word.

Although our cell service was spotty up in North Fork, we did drive down the mountain a bit to call the doctor and hear the results. We realized how perfect this timing was as we were able to process this hard news as a family. We have shared the news all along with our girls. We know they do not have a full understanding the circumstances, but we pray God will usher them along this new territory. They pray for Daddy multiple times a day and provide us a model of hope. We are deeply touched by the frequent prayers of our 2-year-old Zayla, who will go put her hand on the mass on her Dad, close her eyes and pray “for Daddy’s leg.” We are moved by the inquisitiveness of our 5-year-old Giada who wonders, “How will they cut that big bump off your leg?” and “When will all the good nutrients kill the bad guys inside you, Daddy?” Our 8-year-old Meilani is quieter these days, expressing her heart in drawings and paintings. We know we each process differently, and this is her way.

Ericlee’s appointment at UCSF is still set for this coming Wednesday, June 25. We appreciate your prayers as we travel to San Francisco and hopefully go into surgery right away to remove the mass. Ericlee will also be consulting with a doctor in San Diego, who is Gerson-certified, and offers advice specific to his case and needs. Ericlee feels 100% confident that we should continue the Gerson Therapy, which has had high success at healing melanoma cancer naturally. We do not believe that it is an accident he has been studying this method for several years. He has always believed that God created nutrition to heal the body of disease.  Ericlee will not do radiation or chemotherapy after surgery. We ask you to support us in this decision and ultimately honor Ericlee on the journey.

We are convinced that God is right here beside us during this trial. As we strolled through the mountains this week with our girls, we saw the intricacy of butterfly wings, majestic trees pointing toward heaven, rushing waterfalls speaking of His glory and power. He shows us His tender care as we read our Streams in the Desert devotional, and each day seems written just for us. He reminds us of His personal love as we open our mailbox brimming with encouragement cards, heartfelt letters and packages from friends like you. He shows His provision as so many have donated toward our medical bills and gifted us with organic produce for the juicing. Ericlee is filled with His peace that passes understanding. We pray this for each of you as well.

We have been steeping ourselves in this beautiful and challenging song by Shane & Shane with an excerpt from John Piper. (Click HERE to hear it for yourself!) The song reminds us that no trial we face – no matter how difficult - is meaningless. This is our hearts’ cry today: “Though you slay me, still I will praise you.”

For His Glory,
Ericlee, Dorina, Meilani, Giada and Zayla

Ways you can Help:
-Give toward our growing medical bills through Paypal or personal checks.
-Join our “Help for the Gilmores” facebook group for tangible needs.
-Send cards of encouragement to Ericlee Gilmore, 4711 N. Harrison, Fresno, CA 93704.
-Pray, pray, pray!!!

Monday, June 09, 2014

June 2014 - Gilmore Gazette - URGENT PRAYER REQUEST for Ericlee

Dear Friends & Family,

As many of you may have heard, we received the news 10 days ago that Ericlee has melanoma cancer on his lymph nodes near his right hip flexor. This has been a difficult week for our family as we have tried to process this news and continue to wait for a consultation with specialists at the Melanoma Center at UCSF. The earliest appointment they have available is June 25.

The History

Ericlee first noticed a long black and blue mark on the inside of his right thigh back in February. He dismissed it as a bruise from a workout. At the end of February, a bump/small nodule started to form at the top of that mark near his hip flexor. He had a friend who is a physical therapist check it out, thinking it might be a torn muscle. However, he never felt any pain or loss of any strength in that area. During this time, Ericlee was training for a half marathon. Throughout March, he also was competing over five weeks in the worldwide CrossFit Open Competition.

On March 16, he ran the California Classic Half Marathon with our friend Steve Ganzenhuber. He still felt no pain but following the advice of our chiropractor/holistic doctor Ericlee made an appointment with our family practitioner. The first appointment available was April 23. In the meantime, he had another physical therapist take a look, and he said he had never seen anything like it before. He was surprised that Ericlee experienced no pain given the size of the bump.
Ericlee traveled to Haiti with a Construction team April 11-19. During that time, he experienced the first strange pain in that area. Upon return, Ericlee met with the practitioner who ordered an ultrasound. Nothing showed up in the ultrasound. Ericlee participated in the Wildflower Half Ironman Triathlon on May 3 to celebrate his 40th birthday. (Yes, this man is crazy!)

The following week on May 14 he had an MRI done. That revealed a torn labrum muscle in his hip and a swollen lymph node where the bump was growing. Those were two separate things. The doctor arranged for a biopsy on May 26. Results from that biopsy came to us last Friday, May 30, indicating he had melanoma. He had a small spot of melanoma removed two years ago on the outside of the calf. It appears it may have traveled up the same leg to the lymph nodes but we can’t be sure at this point.

What’s next?

We are waiting for the June 25 appointment. We have been encouraged to call UCSF daily to check on cancellations. We have several friends who are using their connections and knowledge to help us explore some other options as well. In the meantime, we have decided to follow the Gerson Therapy for curing cancer using nutrition. As God would have it, Ericlee has researched this therapy in depth over the last four years and has even taught about it in his Nutrition classes at Fresno Pacific University and DeVry University. The therapy includes drinking 13 glasses of organic fresh-pressed juice daily, a vegan diet and coffee enemas. This method is carefully designed to pump the body with maximum nutrients and to rid it of any toxins. (See Gerson Institute online or The Beautiful Truth documentary if you’re interested in more details.)

How you can help

We have already been humbled and overwhelmed by the rally of love and support from our community of friends and family in the last week. We consider the most powerful help you can offer is your prayers. Please pray with us for a timely appointment with UCSF, the right doctors for Ericlee’s case and discernment for our family as we make decisions about the future. Our most pressing need is for help with medical bills. We have a $10,000 deductible through MediShare. The biopsy alone cost $5,000. If you are interested in other tangible ways you can help, our friend Cori Schmidt set up a Facebook group called “Help for the Gilmores,” which anyone can request to join.

Our future & summer in Haiti

As you can imagine, the future feels scary and uncertain at this point. After several days of praying and weighing the factors we do not feel a peace about our usual travels to Haiti this summer. We considered going for a short time but the appointment falls two days after our scheduled departure. More than this timing, we are concerned that we will not be able to maintain the Gerson diet in Haiti and we risk exposing Ericlee to other more serious diseases when his immunity is already compromised.

It’s hard for our family to fathom not going to Haiti this year when it has been such a part of our mission and summer routine for the last six years. The good news is we have board members and friends we trust are well-equipped to lead the five teams scheduled to travel to Haiti this summer without us.

We have heard many people question: How could something like this happen to Ericlee? He’s so healthy, so fit, such a good guy, works so hard, sacrifices so much for Haiti, etc. etc. We want to underscore that we do not believe in that theology. We do not believe that just because you are “good,” “hard-working,” “healthy,” or even “doing good in the world” then you will be exempt from trials. In fact, the Bible gives example after example that we will ALL face trials. Every trial is an opportunity to reflect the God we trust, who holds the future and loves us deeply. This year we have been memorizing the book of James with our kids. We leave you with these challenging words from James 1:2-3:

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you can be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.

For His Glory,
Dorina & Ericlee
Meilani, Giada & Zayla

Mailing address: 4711 N. Harrison, Fresno, CA 93704