Sunday, December 17, 2017

No Mo Chemo (for a while, anyway)

At 2:30 today I disconnected the pump and removed Tim’s needle for the last time for a while. Tomorrow he begins the time necessary to recuperate before the surgery to resect his liver.  Even though, these last few rounds were rough, he handled what was considered the worst cocktail of chemo for colorectal cancer with relative ease.  Both Dr. Nelson and Dr. Chun were shocked that he continued to work and maintain as normal a life as he did.

We are so very thankful for the care he’s received thus far and are anxiously preparing for what’s next.  Tim has several appointments January 3-5 to prepare for surgery and to consult with the rectal surgeon to make plans for after the liver surgery.  With that being said, surgery to remove about 60% of his liver has been scheduled for Friday, February 2.

Until then, we are looking forward to spending Christmas without cancer dictating our time.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Not Uncertain for Long

Jeremiah 17:14 says, “Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.”  We have cried out to the Lord for healing and today we are celebrating plans for Tim’s cancer to be eradicated. 

When we left the doctor’s office two weeks ago we were expecting to be referred to a surgeon sometime in January.  Once again, those were our plans and timeline, not God’s.  We received a message Friday afternoon at 4:30 saying Tim had an appointment today (Monday) at noon.  We travelled downtown to the medical center today to consult with a liver surgeon at MD Anderson.   

From the very beginning, we were both very comfortable with her PA and with the doctor. Dr. Chun felt that he was an excellent candidate for a resection and that the timing was perfect.   

Current plans are to have one more chemo infusion this Friday and then wait 5 to 6 weeks before performing surgery. In that time, he will have another scan with contrast downtown to get exact measurements and volumes on January 3 and see the doctor again on the 4th to finalize plans for surgery. She explained that in order for Tim to be a candidate for a liver resection, he would need to have at least 20 to 30% of healthy liver. God has created the human liver to be able to regenerate itself in a matter of weeks!

She showed us the scans and explained that his entire left liver is consumed with tumors and at least one extends to the right side.  Her initial estimates are that she will remove about 60% of his liver. She explained that this could not be done laparoscopically, but would require a full incision to open his entire abdominal cavity. 

She said she expects that he’ll be in the hospital about a week and then home with a recovery time of about 6 weeks.  We know this will be a difficult time as I try to split my time between the medical center and home with the kids, but we are blessed with such a huge support system that I know the Lord has placed in our lives for this time.  

Tim’s official diagnosis was stage 4 colorectal cancer, but all of this is about the liver....he is also being referred to a colorectal surgeon to consult about the initial tumor.  We don’t know exactly when this will happen. Maybe January. That treatment could include radiation, surgery, chemo, or some combination.  It is secondary at this point because of the liver being such a vital organ. 

All of this was a lot to take in and most unexpected, but for the first time we are talking about “curing him of cancer” versus “treating his cancer.” For this, we give all of our praise and glory to our savior and healer, the Lord Almighty. 

“We proclaim how great You [God] are and tell of the wonderful things You have done.” Psalm 75:1

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Uncertainty about Surgery

Yesterday we received a phone call from Dr. Nelson’s nurse letting us know that Tim has been referred for a surgery consult in January.  This doesn’t mean he will have surgery.  This just means a surgeon is now going to be involved in the treatment plan going forward.  While we are waiting on the official appointment notification and his visit to Dr. Nelson next Thursday, my mind is reeling with uncertainty. I don’t know what to pray for or against.  On one hand, I feel like a liver resection would be good because it might possibly be what leads to physically taking the cancer out of his body and making him cancer free.  On the other hand, I fear that surgery may lead to other things that I don’t want to face.  If they remove all of the cancer from the liver, then will they attempt to remove the rectal tumor? And can they do that and put him back together? What about infection? Blood clots? God is definitely teaching me that I have NO CONTROL in this.  I’m reminded of this in Isaiah 45:6-7. That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me.  I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Despite all of this, Tim seems to be feeling better.  I’ve noticed this week that his energy level is up and his spirits are better.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

V Week

If you know us very well, then you know that if you come to our house we are most likely watching ESPN or at least some other channel that has a football game, basketball game, baseball game, car racing, or golf on. Jim Valvano and many others are memorialized and honored on ESPN and through basketball games each year to raise funds for cancer research. This week is V Week and we are seeing the videos from a new perspective. Some things that have stood out to us:

1. “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” These words of Valvano’s were one of the first things I said to Tim after the diagnosis. I remember telling him in the car on the way home from the doctor that he couldn’t give up. The kids and I need him to keep on fighting.

2. “Cancer is just a speed bump in life that makes us slow down.” Tim pointed out that his diagnosis has definitely put things in a different light. I know of a couple of people who have called Tim an Energizer bunny.  He’s always been one to always be doing something until he just couldn’t physically go anymore.  Well now he can’t keep going. He’s tired, sick some days, and his eight hours of infusion forces him to be confined to a hospital bed.  He doesn’t have a choice but to slow down.

3. Stuart Scott said, “Fight like hell until you can’t fight anymore. Then lay down and rest and let someone else fight for you.”  We had no idea how many people would be supporting us through this journey and are willing to fight for us when he can’t and I’m just too tired.  I can’t say enough how blessed we are to live and work in this community.

4. Cancer research is saving lives. Because of previous research, trials, and studies, Tim is being treated with a regimen of chemo drugs that has proven to work and is working in his body.  Tim had a follow up scan on Monday and we went to the doctor yesterday to get the results. The report showed that the tumor and lesions on his liver are all responding to the treatment and have decreased in size.  Praise the Lord! At this time, Dr. Nelson is presenting Tim's case to the tumor board at MD Anderson within the next few weeks to see if he is a candidate for a liver resection.  Until we receive further information regarding this, he will continue with the same treatment plan.  He will receive his 5th round of chemo tomorrow and is scheduled for a 6th round on December 15.

5. God is still in control.  In the coming days, join us in praying specifically that all cancer be eradicated from his body and that Tim would be able to manage the side effects of chemo that is building up in his body.

To watch the two videos that inspired this post click on the links below.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful and Blessed

In our 21 years of marriage, we have experienced ups and downs and often wondered why the Lord didn't answer our prayers in the way we wanted.  We always knew He had plans for us even when they didn't align with our desires.  This was never more evident than when he lead Tim to HISD Transportation.  This move was never on our radar, but we now know that He was leading us to a group of people for just this moment.  There is not a more giving or caring group than the staff and bus drivers at transportation.  Over the past five years, we have seen them give time, food, and money every time one of their own was in need.  Now was our time. Despite our wishes, they organized and carried out a fish fry benefit to help cover Tim's medical expenses. These people worked tirelessly while still ensuring that the students were picked up before school and delivered home after school.  We were overwhelmed by their selflessness and by the outpouring of support by those in our community and there are no words to express our gratitude.

Now for the update...chemo treatments have continued as scheduled and we are at the end of the original eight-week timeline. Chemo has not been easy, but Tim has handled it much better than we could have ever expected so far.  The worst side effects have been severe abdominal cramping, cold sensitivity, and fatigue.  While he's on the pump on the weekends, he's also learned that "chemo brain" is no joke.  He's learned to manage the side effects as best he can and continues to do as much as he can at work, at home, and with the kids.  At his last doctor's appointment, his tumor marker was down again and liver function appears to be normal. This is all good news.  He will have another CT scan on Monday and we expect to get the results and the next treatment plan on Wednesday. We are prepared for another chemo regimen, as they have already scheduled time at the infusion center for Friday, but we will wait and see.

For reasons we wish we weren’t having to experience, we are truly celebrating this Thanksgiving. You see, 69 days ago, Tim received the phone call telling him they had found a mass. It feels like much longer than two short months ago and really puts life into perspective.  We know that all of our time on earth is but a blink in God's eternity and we must not take our moments for granted.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Tired vs Weary

Let me first say that I have learned true community and accountability over the last few years from a small group of women that was divinely put together.  We have spent time in Bible study, prayer, mourning together, belly laughing, and sweet fellowship.  We’ve experienced new jobs, new marriages, family struggles, and now cancer.  These ladies encourage me, support me, and call me out when I’m not being honest with myself.

Last night I made myself go meet with my small group - even though I just wanted to go home and hide away from the world.  As we were walking to the building where we meet, I commented, “I’m tired of being tired.”  Wrong thing to say - or maybe the right thing.  My friend Christine point blank asked if I was tired or “weary.”  Hmmmm.

I have not been able to stop processing this idea since then and know that’s it’s definitely weariness.   Here’s what I feel like the Lord has given me.

1.  Being tired is more about physicality.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect the mind, but it roots itself in physical fatigue and exhaustion. At the end of a long day, I’m tired.  After exercising or working in the yard, I’m tired. My tired body and mind crave rest - sleep.

2.  Being weary is about your soul and mind.  It’s rooted in emotions and thoughts.  When my mind and spirit are wrapped up in thinking about living life with cancer, I grow weary. When I think about people around me who are hurting, I grow weary.  When I think about a never ending to do list, I grow weary. My weary soul needs Jesus - prayer.

3.  I can’t allow weariness to take over to the point that I miss opportunities to serve others or follow the Spirit’s leading.  I have to lean into my shelter and refuge. I have to allow the Father to restore my soul so that I can pour into others for His glory.

What opportunities are you missing because you’re weary? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Grateful While Learning to Be Gracious

My last post was the day before the second round of chemo and here we are completing our third round two weeks later. Two additional drugs were added to the regimen on the second round - one to help the chemo work better and and the second to try to alleviate some of the side effects. Tim noticed that he did recover within a few days and was able to manage the side effects he did experience.

He returned for a check up this last Thursday and was told that his liver numbers look "excellent" and the tumor marker has dropped in half since starting chemo.  This was all good news and we are extremely thankful.

On Friday, he received the third round of chemo.  This time they decided to do all of the infusion in one day, so he had right at 7 hours and 45 minutes of infusion time.  This made for a long Friday.  When he returned home, he immediately noticed new side effects - eye twitches, spasms in his feet and toes, and hand shaking.  Another side effect is the insomnia, which just adds to his tiredness throughout the day.  Overall, he's just extremely weak and tires very quickly. However, considering what we were told to expect, he's managing the treatments pretty well.  We know it could be much worse.

This journey is not fun in any way, but we have been very blessed and are extremely grateful for everyone who has reached out to us with meals, rides for the kids, yard work, and we continue to receive numerous cards in the mail everyday.  We had no idea how many people would be there to support us through this fight and are overwhelmed each and every day.

Honorary Team Captain 10/13/17

Tim was honored by Head Coach Rodney Southern and the entire football team and staff when he was asked to represent those who are cancer survivors, those whose lives were taken to cancer, and those who are currently fighting cancer.  This was not something he wanted to do as it calls attention to him, but he did and it was a sweet moment.  

It's been extremely difficult to be on the receiving end of so much love and attention. At times, I've found it embarrassing. But I know the Lord is teaching me things through this.  Ephesians 4:2 says, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." It's this humility that I struggle with.  I don't like feeling like a charity case.  I know this is not at all what people intend or think.  It's my own insecurities. This is not something new for me, but through this experience I am practicing being gracious in my acceptance of the blessings of others.