Thursday, June 28, 2012

MRI done

I finally got through the two MRI sessions.  During last Friday's scan, the machine broke down so that was rescheduled for today.  It was a long session, took 2 1/2 hours for the brain and neck scan.  I'm glad that I have no pain when laying on the table and am content laying in a confined space for long times.  Getting up off the table took some help and was painful.

The last few days have been the roughest yet of the journey.  All the other times I had pain or stiffness, I had more hope that it would get better.  When you are recovering from surgery, you have hope you will heal and things will get better.  The worst pain is when I sit up after laying down on the couch or being in bed.  I haven't really got on a good routine of pain med yet, which I need to do, so maybe that will help some.  It's about all I can do to bend over and get my socks on or off.  I even notice that my walking is going a bit slower, I just can't take as long a stride as before.

I'm not trying to complain.  I want you all to know that I would not trade places with anyone.  But as before I find it hard not to be open and share what is going on.  Pray most of all for my attitude, and that I can remain upbeat and smiling.

What I'm Learning from Cancer #1

Our Faith is the “Real Deal”.  What we have been taught about salvation is true.  When I come to the edge of life, I can see the peace in my heart and the confidence that I am ready to die.  I guess another way of saying this is that when I look back at my decision 19 years ago to put my faith in Jesus Christ and repent for my sins, I don’t regret that decision.  It has been worth it, and any short-term “sacrifices” were worth it.  If you are “sitting on the fence”, let me assure you that our faith is one that you can die by.  I gave this analogy to the Sunday School kids.  When you decide you want to be a fireman, you probably have a little nervousness of whether you would really be able to put out a true house fire or not.  So you train every week, the chief sets practice fires, and you learn how to put out a fire.  But you still don’t really know if you’ve been taught properly until you have a real fire call.  And then you are able to put out the fire, and see that the things you were taught about fighting fires were correct.  So it’s like I’ve been to the fire call now, I know what we have been taught about salvation is able to give me peace as I face death.  I don’t wish the pain and anguish on any of you, but there is a certain comfort in being tested in this way and being more convinced in my mind that what we believe of salvation is true.

Derek & Leann

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

1st Treatment

Just a quick update, as I'm sure there are a few wondering what it was like yesterday.  It is in Pekin where I will get my treatment, every other Monday morning.  they have a room with 10-12 chairs in it, and there were probably 5 other patients plus some family members in there at the same time.  The Avastin is mixed in to an IV bag, the nurse starts the IV, and I sit there for 30-35 min while it drips in.  Total time there was about an hour.  I didn't feel anything, other than my arm getting cool from all the fluid.  No side effects in any way that I could feel now.

The biggest shock was the culture shock.  I guess I must live a pretty sheltered life.  I have said before and will say again that I would not trade places with anyone in life.  A couple grandmas were talking about their grandkids, what kind of home life they have, etc.  I won't give you any details, but let me just say I have a hard time relating to them and I'm thankful for how I grew up and how I'm trying to raise my children.

Derek & Leann

Monday, June 25, 2012

Avastin Starts Today

Thanks everyone for your prayers over the last couple weeks.  I feel myself needing them more each day.  The last week was a bit rougher for me.  My back has been hurting more, and the stiffness and pain has moved to my lower back and upper legs.  There were a couple days where I was pretty discouraged, but this weekend seems to have revived me somewhat.  Just pray that I can keep a good attitude as I feel my body slowly declining in ability.  Leann was playing the piano Sunday after church and it just made me cry.  Something about the hymns just seems to do so much good for my spirit.

In a few hours I go for my first Avastin treatment.  It will be by IV, supposed to take about an hour.  I had an MRI scheduled Friday but a little bit into it the machine broke, so now I have to go both Tuesday and Thursday.  It takes 4 different scans to do my whole brain and spine, and they can only do two of them in a single day.  So, this will be a busy week as far as medical appts go.

On the home front, we are getting anxious for our little baby to arrive.  July 20th is the due date.  Leann had an appt Friday and found out the baby is breach, so we are praying that we can turn the baby soon.

More than once I’ve been asked, “What have you learned by going through this battle with cancer?” So I decided to try and capture for my own thinking what my conclusions were.  As I started typing, I originally used the title “What I Learned from Cancer”. As we moved back home and I tried to get back into the swing of life, I realized that it is present tense, not past, so now it is titled “What I Am Learning from Cancer”.  Why I say that is I found that I thought I had learned a few things, and then the normal pressures of life started pulling at me again, and I found that I maybe had not fully learned my lesson.  For example, I will still find myself worrying about the distant future and have to remind myself to take one day at a time.  So some of these lessons I have not learned 100% yet myself.    Please don’t misunderstand me here.  I am not trying to be overly preachy.  It just seems that God has brought me through experiences which bring life into a different focus, and give me a different credibility upon which to speak.  I don’t want to abuse or waste it.  So when you read my thoughts, if you feel God’s Spirit pricking you, then listen.  If you feel Derek just rambling, then ignore it.  There are approximately a dozen “things” I am learning, and my plan is just to share one a week with you over time so it’s not so much to read.  They will come in no particular order, as I really haven’t been able to put them in order of importance.
      Derek & Leann

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Oncologist Meeting

Thanks everyone for your prayers this week.  Over the last couple months, the decision about any further treatment such as chemo looked like a hard decision, but I believed that when the time came, God would meet us there and make the decision easy.
Thursday we met with Dr Gomez, a local oncologist.  He has not had experience with Grade 3 Meningiomas like mine, since it is so rare.  The Mayo oncologist had recommended starting on Avastin.  Dr Gomez has experience with Avastin and has used it for treating glioblastomas, which are a more common type of brain tumor.  The main focus of our visit with him was trying to understand the severity of side effects relative to benefit from Avastin.  He said he expects very few if any side effects to putting me on Avastin.  There are a few potentially serious side effects but he doesn’t expect them in my case because other than the cancer I have no health issues.  He said I won’t be sick or really even notice any difference once I start it.  The way Avastin works is that it prevents the formation of new blood vessels, thereby slowing the tumor’s ability to grow.  We asked if he expects that it would have a significant effect on growth of the tumor.  He said with glioblastomas he notices a significant difference in how long patients who are on it live compared to those who do nothing.  The treatment regimen is every 2 weeks, about an hour long, and it is delivered by IV.  He would plan to continue giving it until scans show it is no longer being effective at slowing the tumor.  So in summary, he seemed convinced that it would extend my life and not cause me to have worse quality of life during that time.
We’ve decided to go ahead with the treatment.  The first one will be a week from Monday, the 25th.  Next Friday and the following Tuesday I’m scheduled for MRI’s in Morton, which will coincide with the start of Avastin so he can tell how it is working in the future.
The other thing helping make our decision is that my back pain has been getting worse, not better.  I took it pretty easy this week and still it did not subside.  It’s not unbearable, but just seems to be generally present.  A tightness and soreness in the center of my back is the best way to describe it.  Ibuprofen helps quite a bit, which I take once in a while.   In general I feel like I’m doing ok, but I’ll confess at times I’ve been more discouraged.  I haven’t had as much energy for tackling projects around the house, and that is discouraging to me.
Pray that I can keep up the good attitude I’ve had till now.  Pray that my back pain would be controllable.  We appreciate so much all of you that pray for us regularly.  As I said at the beginning, God gives us grace as we need it, so I know when I look to the future, there is no reason to worry or fear.  God will be there with us whatever we have to face.
One last encouraging note.  We went out for breakfast Friday morning in Morton.  When we went to pay, our meal had already been paid for.  There were two different people we saw there that we know, so I'm not sure who it was.  The waitress said "This happens all the time in Morton".  So to whomever it was - Thanks.  And by far this is not the only example of generosity that has been showed to us.  We appreciate it greatly.
Derek & Leann

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mtg this week with oncologist

Not a lot to say today, but just wanted to thank everyone for their prayers and ask that you pray this week for our meeting with the oncologist on Thursday afternoon.  I have been in more pain the last week in my back.  The last few days it is painful when I get up out of bed.  It's funny, the pain is not when I stand up, but about 5 seconds after and it only lasts a few seconds.  I've also been much more sleepy and less energetic.  I've been doing more physically since I don't really have any pain when lifting or working.  It seems like my back might be getting stronger as it relates to all the surgical areas.

Our plan for Thursday's meeting is to discuss our Dr's experience with Avastin, ask a lot of questions, and then pray for direction on what we should do.  If I knew the pain meant the tumor was growing, I'd probably be inclined to do the chemo, but it's still hard to know.  I guess I'm more concerned about my quality of life than the exact length.  I don't want to go through a lot of pain just to add a few weeks or months.

Thanks again for all your love and prayers.  We feel unworthy and thankful for all the support we feel.
Derek & Leann