Bridging the Gap

For those who aren’t familiar, I’m Sarah, Rachel’s twin sister and Kevin’s sister-in-love (he’s more like a brother than a brother-in-law).  I have asked Rachel and Kevin if I could write a post to ask for your help. I am not a beautifully talented writer like my sister, but even so, please read to the end and should you feel so moved, act.

First, let me back up.

The last three weeks haven’t been easy for the Hill’s, not that the past 2 years were any cake walk either. But the recent news that not only did the TIL trial not work, but that the tumors progressed very quickly, and then there was the brain and bone metastasis.  Well, that wasn’t an easy bit of news to digest.

I have been known to call Kevin a Beast to describe how vehemently he holds onto his ability to work – from home, from the plane, from the hospital and yes, from the ICU.  He is a BEAST.  He is so committed to his roles of supporter and provider for his family and dedicated team member at work, it really has made me think long and hard about my own work ethic.

Working in the ICU

But as they continue farther down this path, especially with the addition of the brain tumor, the likelihood that Kevin will continue to be able to work diminishes, but the bills and financial needs do not.  Many cancer patients become bankrupt within a short period of time of diagnosis, especially those who are advanced stage.  The Hill’s have been very very blessed to have stayed afloat for as long as they have; which is in no small part due to the extravagant gifts and donations of friends, family and complete strangers.

If I may digress for a moment:  My faith has been deeply strengthened by the AUDACIOUS and RIDICULOUS generosity of the community of people who have rallied around this family.  I start to tear up all over again thinking of the times when we stated a need – a plane ticket, money for gas for a car trip to treatment, help with groceries when money was tight –immediately y’all have responded. Not just responded, but selflessly and freely gave to a family which many of you have never met.  In those ways you have blessed ME, a bystander, watching God use others to lift up and carry the burdens of  my sister and brother.

Now I want to ask you to help carry some of their burden again. But this time, my ask comes with a big goal in mind – Let’s raise enough to Bridge the Gap.  You see, Kevin does not have a short term disability plan, and should he have to stop working, they need to have 90 days worth of bills, expenses and insurance premiums paid. In addition, they have some significant needs right now:

  • Rachel and Kevin’s mini-van, fully paid for but quite old with over 180k miles on it, is in need of major repairs.
  • The child care that Rachel’s doctors have strongly encouraged her to enroll Jude and Evie in isn’t in the budget.
  • And there are sure to be more financial needs in the future.

So here it is. Will you consider giving? Maybe you can’t give a lot at one time, but you can commit to a small monthly contribution.  There are several different ways you can contribute:

  • From Your Bank: If you wish to have a monthly payment go to them, you can set up an auto-pay from your bank to Kevin Hill and have it mailed to their address 746 Pearce Street, Atlanta, GA 30310. Or you can make a one time payment via this method.
  • From Your Credit Card: Or if you prefer you can make an electronic (credit or debit card) donation to their PayPal account–money.html. NOTE: Donation amounts are lessened due to the small administrative fee that PayPal charges.
  • Tax Deductible: Or you can make a tax deductible contribution to their Helping Hands account. NOTE: donations to Rachel and Kevin are lessened due to the 8% administrative fee that Helping Hands charges.–money.html

In the near future, we will hold fundraising events such as an online auction, restaurant nights where a portion of that days’ sales are donated, etc. that you can participate in and invite your others to as well.   If you or someone you know is interested in helping us with any of these events, please let me know.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for considering giving. Thanks for praying. Your love, support and prayers are a huge part of what keeps Kevin, Rachel, and the rest of our family filled with HOPE.

Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening… The post with the bad news

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This isn’t going to be a very cheery post.  In fact, it probably won’t be even inspiring or anything like that at all.  It seems we’ve gotten a lot of bad news lately.  Last Wednesday, Kevin and I flew up to D.C. for his follow-up appointment and scans to see if the TIL therapy had started working on his cancer cells.  He’d been feeling sicker by the day though, so we honestly would have been surprised if it had been good news.  Still, we weren’t expecting it to be as bad as it was.  Basically, the docs told us that his cancer had progressed and that tumors that they had been measuring had nearly doubled in size since the start of the treatment.  They also told us that they think the treatment didn’t work because they’d had to reverse it (you know, to save his life and all) through the steroids and plasma apharesis and cam-path.  Pretty much, they did such a good job of destroying all their hard work, that the TIL just weren’t able to get a stranglehold on his cancer cells.  And that pretty much meant we were done with the NIH.  It was the shortest visit we’d ever had.

We’d sort of been anticipating this news, so we’d met with our local Emory doc just a few days earlier and decided to have Kevin go back on vemurafenib immediately once he was officially off the TIL therapy trial.  Kevin literally took his first dose while we were still in the NIH doctors’ office.  We are hopeful that he’ll have the same fast response that he did last spring and that it will buy him some more time while we figure out the next steps.

But wait, there’s more!  Once we got to the airport and right as we were finding out that our flight was delayed by several hours because of weather and that we’d be probably trying to find a hotel for the night, I got a call from the NIH.  They politely asked to speak directly to Kevin, which never happens.  After I had our flight stuff figured out and Kevin got off the phone, he told me to sit down and dropped the bombshell.  He said that Dr. Ilyas had said that upon a standard second review of his scans, a tiny brain metastasis (tumor) was found.  It’s only 2mm in size, but still, a brain met changes everything.  Suddenly, there are all kinds of trials that he would no longer qualify for, and we’d also been told that once the melanoma reaches the brain, it is often very aggressive and grows very quickly and becomes EXTREMELY difficult to treat (as if the last two years had been cake!)

So with that lovely piece of news, we slowly made our way back out of the airport and to a hotel, still a long way from home.

As we were riding the hotel shuttle, I tried to pray.  But I was hurting so much, and frankly pretty stunned, and just also plain exhausted.  And Kevin, don’t even get me started on how he was doing!  That man had been pushing himself so hard and was about to pass out from sheer exhaustion.

A poem came to my mind, and I couldn’t quite remember how it started.  God bless those iPhones.  A quick google search later, I was reading the text of the Robert Frost poem, “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening.”  As soon as I started reading the first line, my memory took over and the verses started tumbling through my head.

Whose woods these are I think I know

His house is in the village though

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.


He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep.

We don’t know what’s going to happen next.  Honestly, we never really have.  We have sort of a plan.  Next week Kevin will likely have a radiation treatment called radio-surgery to try to zap the tumor.  It’s a one-time, highly targeted, super intensive treatment.  Next Thursday (8/22), the whole family has one-way tickets to LA (I booked the flights on spirit airlines b/c they were cheap, not knowing what I was getting into… pray for us!).  We have an appointment on 8/23 with Dr. Ribas at UCLA to discuss a new trial.  The trial would require visits to UCLA every two weeks though, so we have no idea how that would work.  I will be planning some photo-shoot events while I’m in LA and we will spend some time visiting and connecting with family.

So yeah.  I think both Kevin and I would like to just hang out in the woods for a while, giving pause, hiding our heads, or just holding each other tight.

And for a moment, we can.

But this battle is far from over, and we have miles to go before we sleep.