Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Milestone

Dennis is at the ½ way point today with the radiation.  As we have said before, fatigue is normal with the radiation and both drugs he is on.  In addition, hair loss and sensitive/painful skin at the radiation site is normal.  He is dealing with all of these.  He met with one of the radiation doctors and his case coordinator yesterday and they had some helpful suggestions for the painful skin.  He also has had some problems with is left eye.  There is a lot of tearing in it.  They suspect it is an eye infection so they gave him some antibiotics for it.  If it does not respond, then it could be from the radiation.  Please pray it is a simple infection.  Overall the staff at the hospital repeatedly tell him how well he is doing for all he has been through.  We find their words very encouraging as they see with people all the time who face this exact condition.

We both have our days when all that this diagnosis means just overwhelms us.  I was there yesterday.  Early on in this journey, when I would have a rough day it was about the fear of losing Dennis and being on my own.  Although that still looms in my mind, now it is more about how hard it is to see him go through all of this.  I grieve for the life we had before this diagnosis.  Simple things like getting in a car and being the passenger not the driver.  For Dennis being able to go where he wants, when he wants or to take Brooke on a date without me having to go along or drive them there.  I really hate being the garbage person.  There are two things he is not to do, clean up after the dogs and handle garbage.  We don’t have curbside pick-up so that means gathering it up, loading it into the truck and taking it to the dump.  Yuck!  Mostly, the tough days hit me when I am overtired and over extended.  Then even routine things appear like mountains.  We are both learning to accept offers of assistance and to ask for it when we need it.  This is not easy for us but at this point it is necessary.  There are things Dennis cannot do right now and that I am unable to do by myself.  We are grateful for so many of you who have offered to help.  Thank you.  

Also, so many of you who do not live close by have expressed their desire to be closer so they could help.  Please know your prayers for us are a vital part of our support and encouragement.  

Ultimately, our hope and peace rest in the Lord.  He walks with us, sustains us, lifts us up when we are struggling and gives us hope.  I’m so often reminded of Peter.  He stepped out of the boat and walked on the water with Jesus until he took his eyes off of the Lord and looked at the waves around him, it was then that he began to sink.  Like Peter, when my focus is on Christ, I don’t become troubled by the waves around me and can walk in the peace of Christ’s presence in this storm. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Specifics to Pray About

Dennis is still handling the various treatments well.  On Wednesday he will be half way through the radiation.

Here are a few specific things to pray for as you pray for us:

  • Sleep - Dennis has been having trouble sleeping at night.  He will be tired, sleep for a few hours and then be awake.  Please pray he can get a full night's sleep.
  • Pray that the radiation, chemo and trail drug kill every remaining cell of the cancer and it does not come back.
  • Please pray that Ellen is able to prioritize what she needs to do and be willing to ask for help when she should. (I'm not so good at that last part.)
We have also added a link to our Helping Hands site.  This is the site where we list specific needs we have.   If you are interested in getting information on our needs, please follow the link to sign-up for the list. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Is It Working?

We've been asked how or when we will know if the various treatments they are doing for Dennis are working.  There really is no simple way to know this.  Because the tumor itself was removed, we can't judge if this is working based on the tumor shrinking.  The cells that are left behind that can cause the future regrowth are tiny and not able to be seen by MRIs.  The only thing we can know is that regrowth is not occuring based on MRI results.  The MRI they did the week before he started chemo, radiation and the trial drug showed no regrowth and good healing.  He will have an MRI again about 10 weeks into treatment which will tell us if there has been any regrowth.  From that point on, he will have frequent MRIs to monitor his status as he continues with the chemo and trail drug.  For this type of tumor that is all you can do.  They also do weekly blood work and so far all of his levels have been normal which means his immune system is working well so far.

So far Dennis continues to handle the treatments well.  He is tired.  We are noticing that the trial drug he gets on Wednesday and Thursday tends to tire him out a lot.  By Monday or Tuesday he is starting to gain some stamina back.  We find that about 2-3 hours of any activity is about all her can tolerate before needing a nap.  His body is using a lot of energy to repair itself from the cells that get destroyed from the treatments.  Keep in mind both cancer cells and other cells are destroyed during treatments.  Healthy cells will repair themselves but cancer cells do not do this as well.

Keep praying for Dennis' complete healing and for no regrowth of the tumor.  This week at church our pastor spoke about how sometimes God chooses to deliver us from the trials in our lives but at other times he delivers us through the trials in our life.  In other words, sometimes God removes the trial and in others he sustains us as we continue through the trail. We don't know if God will choose to completely heal Dennis or if He will choose instead to walk with us through this journey but we know we can trust Him either way.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Yesterday Dennis attended a support group meeting for people with brain tumors.  He met a man at the group who had the same type of tumor that Dennis had 18 years ago!  It was very encouraging to meet someone who has been so long without the tumor returning.  It was also encouraging to hear other people comment on how well he is doing.

As of yesterday, Dennis has completed one week of treatments.  He will have radiation for five more weeks.  The chemotherapy and the trial drug program will continue after the six weeks are up but on a different dose and schedule.  Overall he is doing well although he gets very tired following the treatments.   This is expected as his body is processing the treatments and repairing the healthy cells that also get damaged during treatment.  He saw the doctor in charge of his radiation yesterday and they told him not to lose weight. (Don’t hear that from my doctor.)  It is important to maintain his weight while going through therapy.

Prayer Requests
  • Please continue to pray that these various treatments work and remove any remaining cells. 
  • Also, pray he has a good appetite.  The fatigue and treatments tend to reduce appetite and taste. 
  • Pray for me as I struggle with being at work when my heart cries out to be with Dennis every day at his appointments.  
We are blessed to have so many in our lives who are helping us at this time.  We don’t know how we would do this without your support.  Prayers, rides, words of encouragement, emails, cards, meals…the list goes on and on.  Some of you live close by and others are literally around the world but your love is felt and appreciated. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Psalm 33

 Psalm 33: 20-22
20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

I’ve been reading through Psalms recently and last night I was reading Psalm 33.  The verses above jumped out at me.  On so many these verses spoke to my heart.  

I’d been having a rough day Sunday.  Sometimes the simple things bring home the reality of what we are dealing with.  Because Dennis is doing so well overall, it is sometimes very easy to “forget” how serious this cancer is.  But then little things remind you.  Like, I am the only driver. In the past when we would go places together, I would very rarely drove.  I much prefer to ride than drive but now, I do all the driving.  The other reality check was Sunday, when we got home from church Dennis was exhausted and slept for about three hours.  Just not what he normally would have done.  

So I come to these verses and once again, God is reminding me to wait on Him.  This has been what I have repeatedly heard from God since the beginning of this journey.  Waiting is not what I do well but I’m learning.  But in this passage, God reminded me that He is our help and we can be glad – even in trying circumstances – because our trust is in Him.  I love that this passage ends with the reminder that God loves us and our ultimate hope is in Him.  Although we trust the medical team working with Dennis and the treatments they are providing, it is God who provides our hope for healing or for His protection and love as we walk this path.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers.  Here are some specific things you can be praying about:
  •  Dennis finds the radiation treatments the most difficult part of his treatments program.  Pray for peace as he does these each day.
  •  Pray for Dennis, Brooke and me as we deal with the day-to-day aspects of a new “normal” for our lives. 
  • Pray for wisdom as we try to discern what we realistic can do and what we need to ask others to help us with.  (Frankly, I’m not great at asking for help.  I’m learning to do this and we both have been overwhelmingly blessed by the outpouring of your love in helping us with rides for Dennis to his appointments.  Thank you!)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Overwhelmed by the Ordinary (and Not so Ordinary)

Some days the ordinary is overwhelming and sometimes even if life was still ordinary, it would be overwhelming.  I'm having one of those days today.  Most of my day was just ordinary stuff but sprinkle that in with a bit of the extra going on right now and it just gets crazy.  So, on the ordinary side of today, the car needed to have the oil changed, one of the dogs threw up breakfast on the clean carpet, another one had a tick on her, Brooke has a cold, the house needs to be cleaned (there is still a piece of furniture in the kitchen from when the carpets were cleaned) and Dennis had a headache.  (Headaches post-surgery and during radiation can signal brain swelling.) So we call the oncologist to see if there is reason for concern and what to do at this point.  We get a very nice on-call doctor who said Dennis may need to come in for an MRI to confirm if this is swelling or not. Then our regular oncologist calls back and in the course of the conversation again asks us if we have met with the psych staff because we are uptight about all that is going on.  That was the part of my day that put me over the edge. It seems like when we ask questions, that is the response.  Don't get me wrong, he is a great doctor and actually answers calls and talks to his patients. I appreciate that but I'm going to ask questions.  The more I know and understand the better prepared I am to help Dennis along the way.  I'm far worse if I'm not told.  The fact is, the chance of Dennis having swelling that would cause problems is low because of the size of the space left after the tumor was removed.  Ok, that would have been a good piece of information to have told me.  By the way, all of the above happened before noon.  UGH!

So, we decided to get in some fun together and headed to a county fair.  Not the best plan in 90 degree weather.  We stayed for a little while.  Brooke got to pet a pig, sheep and goat; ride a pony and see the sea lion show.  We then headed to Grandma's house for a little while.

On the way home, God graciously reminded us of His watch care over us by providing us with a full arch rainbow with a slight double rainbow over it.  It was lovely and so unexpected in the midst of the crazy, hot, dry summer we are having.

Yes, this is a crazy time in our lives.  We are not sure of the outcome but we are sure of the One who watches over us, loves us and provides for us.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

First Chemo

Just a quick note to let you know that Dennis did the first chemo last night and it went really well.  He did not have nausea during the night.  He woke up this morning saying he fells like you do when you are in the first couple days of a cold - tired and run down - but otherwise is doing well. He will rest this morning and then head to the hospital this afternoon for treatments.  Thanks for your prayers.  Keep praying that the drugs do what they need to and that he has minimal side effects.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

First Day of Treatments

The day was busy at the hospital.  Our appointment for the trial drug got delayed and so the day ran very long.  We had left the house around 6 and by about 2:30 I was starving.  When they realized we had not eaten for so long, a wonderful nurse gave us vouchers for food.  I went down and got it and brought it up where Dennis was getting the trail drug and we ate together.

Tonight he takes the first chemo pills.  He takes a pill to help prevent nausea an hour prior and in most people this type of chemo is well tolerated.  The pharmacist told us that any nausea he might have, usually is better in a few days and no nausea medication is needed after that.

For those of you who have volunteered to help with rides, I have set up the calendar at www.lotsahelpinghands.com  You can go in and sign-up for any rides you would like to help with.  We can't begin to express our gratitude for those of you who live close by and are helping with this.

Keep praying for the drugs and chemo to do their jobs.  We know God is with us as we walk with Him down this path.

First Day of Treatments

We are sitting and waiting for yet another appointment today. They are running a little behind at this point. From what the doctor told us, there should not be a lot of side effects from any of this for at least a few weeks. Radiation builds up in your system so that may cause some problems in a few weeks. He will start the chemo tonight before bed.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Treatments Begin Wednesday

We heard from the UW today and Dennis will start his treatments on Wednesday. It is always a reality check when we get calls from them with appointments. It is easy to live in a bit of denial when Dennis looks so good and is healing so well from the surgery but the reality is we need to get going on this in order to have any hope of killing any remaining cells.

Please pray for:
  • Chemo, radiation and trial drug to kill any remaining cells.
  • Dennis to tolerate all of these well.
  • Our contact with people along the way to be glorifying to God.
  • Our peace as we take this next step in this journey.
***To those of you who have volunteered to help with rides:  As soon as we have the full schedule we will post it on the Lots A Helping Hands site.  I plan on going with Dennis to the first treatment and if he does well with that one, we will be needing rides starting the following week.  Thanks in advance for your help.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Trust, Faith and Love

I wore this necklace while we were waiting on the adoption of Brooke as a reminder of the importance of Trust, Faith and Love as we anticipated her arrival in our lives.  I’m wearing it a lot again now as these three things have become significant as we battle Dennis’ brain tumor.

Trust – We trust that God will supply all of our needs. This includes our physical, emotional, material and spiritual needs as we move forward.  We have seen over and over again how God has prepared us for this time already.  If He was trustworthy enough to prepare us when we did not know we had this need coming, how much more can we trust Him for what is coming?  He knows the end of this journey and will continue to provide for us during this time.

Faith – This reminds me that our faith must reside in our heavenly Father to walk this road with us.  Yes, we hope the excellent medical care being provided to us at the UW will eliminate this cancer, but ultimately, our faith is in the care of God to do what is best for all of us.  This difficult time, will not shake us from our faith in Him.

Love – We are in the hands of a loving heavenly Father who has promised us that He will work all things together for our good.  Frankly, having a brain tumor does not feel like it is for our good but we know that God allows nothing in our lives that is not filtered through His love for us.  

I need these reminders sometimes when this all seems overwhelming.  Our new “normal” is not comfortable.  We’d love to have the old “normal” back for a day or even for a few hours.  But for now, this is our new “normal” that is directed by our Savior in Faith, Trust and Love.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Full Day

We had a good visit with his oncologist. We are thankful to be in the care of a leading cancer center and doctors who specialize in brain cancer. Very few places in the country have this level of doctor or are as actively involved in the research they are doing here.

We do not have a start date yet for his treatments but it should be in the next two weeks. They told us he is doing very well following surgery.   As soon as his treatment schedule is available, I will post it to our Lots of Helping Hands site so those of you who have offered to help with rides can sign-up for specific days.  We are so grateful to all of you who are offering your services.  If you want to be part of this group, please email me with your email address and I'll send you an invitation to the group.

The oncologist explained what to expect during treatments and the most common side effect is fatigue. We also was very positive about the trial Dennis is participating in. He discussed other options they would use if the tumor grows back.

We left with a positive outlook going into this first phase of treatment.  Yes, this is a very difficult cancer to beat but we know God can work through the doctors or choose to heal him outright.  We are confident that God loves us and will do what is best for all of us.  That may or may not include complete healing but God is walking with us through this and continues to provide us with the resources we need to meet this challenge from a medical standpoint and in our spiritual and emotional needs.

Keep praying.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Monday Prayer Request

Please remember us specifically on Monday in your prayers.  Dennis has a full day of appointments at the hospital that are in preparation for his treatments.  Dennis has days where he has fairly good energy and other days where he tires very easily.  This busy day will definitely tire him out.  Pray that he has the energy he needs to get through the day without it causing him to be so tired.  In general, pray for his fatigue level.  It is normal following brain surgery and is also part of what we expect from his treatments.  

Our anniversary was one of his best days in terms of fatigue.  We had a good time in the afternoon.  We went the the Disney store with Brooke, ate out and then went on the Upper Dells boat cruise.  It was Brooke's first time on a boat.  One of our friends gave us passes for the cruise - thanks Kris.  

All that has happened in three short weeks still seems very overwhelming at times.  We learn more every day about depending on God and trusting Him with the outcome.  We are so encouraged by so many of you reaching out to us to offer your help and at times, a shoulder to cry on. We love you all and appreciate you.