Friday, March 16, 2018

Chemo Round Two Starts Today

Today is exactly six weeks post liver resection and the first possible date to start chemo, so here we are checked in and awaiting drugs.  This round - at least today - will be shorter than previously as they have removed two drugs while the liver and incisions continue to heal.  He’ll still go home with a pump for the weekend and I’ll play nurse on Sunday.  Praying that side effects are minimal.

Monday, February 26, 2018

3 Weeks Post Resection, Lung Update, and Ablation

Tim’s liver surgeon resected about 80% of his liver and removed his gallbladder on Friday, February 2.  It was a long, grueling 10-hour procedure, but a dear group of friends came and spent the day with me and kept me distracted from watching the clock all day. After a long wait in PACU, a bed finally became available in extended PACU that night about 10:00.   The next morning Tim was up walking and we were finally moved to a regular room late Saturday afternoon.  The doctor had prepared us for a 7-10 day stay, but Tim did everything he was told and we broke free on Tuesday morning after only four days.

After returning home, we found that energy and appetite have been almost non existent, but he has pushed through and has been walking almost two miles a day.  He’s returned for two follow up visits and the doctor appears to be astonished at how well he’s recovering.

Last week began what feels like daily trips to the medical center - not really, but it feels that way. On Monday he was scheduled for a CT scan to see how the liver is growing back and to get exact locations of the three remaining tumors in the liver.  On Wednesday, we had a consultation with the lung surgeon. He said, “I see nothing to be concerned about, and don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope I never see you again.”  He reassured us that they would continue to monitor and if anything came up, he would have a plan. Praise God! We needed some good news.

We returned Friday for a pre-op for an ablation if the three remaining tumors.  After the weekend enjoying Cooper’s last basketball game and church on Sunday, we left home early this morning for the 4th time in 7 days to check in for the ablation at 7:00 this morning.  Basically, the radiologist used a CT to guide long probes into the liver and microwaves “burned” or ablated the tumors.  We expected to be in recovery 3 hours post procedure, but Tim’s body did not handle the procedure well. He suffered severe pain and vomiting so the decision was made to admit him. We were moved to a room about 4:00 this afternoon and he’s been resting well. The good news in all of this is that his room is in a newer part of the building and much more comfortable than any of the others we’ve been in.

Next steps:
1. Plans are to be discharged tomorrow
2. Appointment with medical oncologist next week - praying we find out what the next treatment protocol entails and a timeline for that.
3. Appointment with colorectal surgeon early April and praying we get a timeline to get the rest of the cancer out of his body.

We’ve been fighting this 5 months and things have gone much better than we could have ever imagined.  Continue to pray for Tim’s recovery and health and for the kids as they are shuffled around on any given day.  We know many others are facing a much worse prognosis and we are not taking anything we are facing for granted.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Gallbladder and Most of Liver are Gone

It’s 8:30 pm and I’m sitting in PACU waiting for a room in extended recovery as Tim dozes in and out.  We checked in this morning at 5:15 and they took him back for surgery just before 7:00.  The surgery lasted right at 10 hours.  Dr. Chun said it went well when she came to see me about 5:00.   I am blessed by wonderful friends as they provided plenty of entertainment to distract me in between the updates every two hours. He’s resting fairly well but know the days ahead are will bring ups and downs.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Preparing for Liver Resection

We arrived at MD Anderson this morning for Anesthesia Assessment and a PreOp appointment with the surgeon.  Everything went smoothly in anesthesia and we were left with almost four hours until the afternoon appointment.

Tim and I ventured over to the McGovern Commons for lunch outside.  It only took us one new elevator, but Tim said he felt like we’d been on six.  After lunch we rode up to the observation deck on the 24th floor.  You can see all of the medical center, the ship channel, and back over to NRG on the side we were on.  From our chairs, all you could see were blue skies and clouds.  It’s supposed to be a quiet place, but others must not have realized that or cared. Nonetheless, we spent several hours reading and relaxing.

This afternoon, we met with Dr. Chun’s fellow who will be in the OR tomorrow morning and she explained that Tim’s case is one of the trickier ones.  When I asked to confirm the six- to eighth- hour length of surgery, she responded with “at least.”  She also explained that he will likely need a blood transfusion and explained the two possibilities for pain management. Dr. Chun and the anesthesiologist have already discussed that he will like have an epidural rather than tap blocks and they would get him up to walk on Saturday.

Basically, the most disappointing news was when the nurse’s aid said that he is on clear liquids from this point forward.  Too bad we didn’t have a good lunch. But then Dr. Chun came in and said he could eat a light supper.  We already knew we liked her, but he sure liked her more with that.

In all seriousness, we both really like her and have confidence in God’s work through her. Her bedside manner is excellent, as was her fellow’s.

We are now off to the Rotary House to attempt to get some much needed rest.  I know it’s going to be a long few days.  

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Lord is with Us through the Muddiness

I’ve decided that cancer is  like muddy water. You know that brownish green, stirred up lake water - it’s clear enough to see some shapes or what you think are your feet, but gunky enough that you can’t see what’s in front of you as you tread to keep your head above the surface? That’s what I feel like we are living in right now.

Over the Christmas break, we enjoyed life much like sitting lakeside and enjoying the subtle breeze and fresh air. We were able to spend that time with no appointments, no chemo, and almost no medications.  There were times that we could almost forget that cancer had invaded our family.  Tim continued to experience lingering side effects from the chemo, but was able to work at the farm and is still trying to build up his strength and stamina.

This week we went from enjoying the water lakeside, to jumping straight in the deep end.  Thank goodness we have a life jacket (more on that below).  Tim was scheduled for appointments at MD Anderson in the med center Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Wednesday he had an MRI at 8:15 a.m. and then was in a different building for blood work and a CT Scan at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m.  This sure made for a long day.

Thursday, he met with Dr. Chun to get the results from the CT and see if the liver resection was still a go.  The CT scan revealed that the masses on the liver are about the same size as the last time. But also confirmed that the “nodes” that were visible on both lungs are in fact malignant.  There are two  tumors on each lung and “multiple” lesions that are not of measurable size.  Dr. Chung explained that at this point, this information will not delay the liver resection, but does mean he will be seeing a thoracic surgeon to determine the next course of action.  When he called me to give me this news, I felt like I was sinking fast and couldn’t see more than 12 inches in front of me. Remember that muddy lake water, I was at the bottom stuck in the sticky silt and sand.

He also found out that his consultation with the rectal surgeon on Friday would include a procedure we weren’t previously aware of, so I made the decision to accompany him on Friday. While meeting with Dr. Skibber on Friday, we learned that the rectal tumor has extended through the rectal wall to invade at least one lymph node and some other close organs. He explained that at this time, the rectal tumor and directly connected sites are at the bottom of the priority list since the liver and lungs are both organs necessary for life. If and when we get to the point of removal, it will be a bigger surgery than initially thought due to the other areas involved.

If you read the first post after diagnosis, then you know that I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit gave me Isaiah 43:2 and now it is very clear that we don’t have a life jacket, but a life giver. The Lord is in the muddy water with us carrying us along and keeping our heads above the water.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Notice - He did not say “IF” you pass the waters or river or “IF” you walk through the fire.  He clearly said “when.”  We WILL have to pass through the waters and walk through fire.  This is our muddy water and He is with us. It is the only reason we continue to find joy and hope and peace when we can’t see through the mud what might be coming at us.

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