Thursday, November 21, 2013

Attempting Normal

I’m beginning to believe that “normal” is highly overrated.  For the most part, as long as life is “normal” we don’t even think about it but once “normal” has been disrupted, it invades our core being.  We ask questions like, “Will life ever be “normal” again?” 

Frankly, life is never “normal.”  There may be patterns to life that makes us feel like all is “normal” but in essence, each day or season of life is diverse and by its diversity, makes our lives a beautiful tapestry rather than a monotone existence.

Some times are full of the vibrant colors of life – new children, major goals that are accomplished – and others are shades of gray or even black – illness, sorrow.  We are living in one of those gray areas of life.  Yes, there are smatterings of color along the way that brighten this time and help carry us along. 

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is important to look back at all those bright spots along the way that keep us going even when life is far from “normal.”
  • Friends who continue to pray for us.
  • Emails, cards and calls that come our way, often just at a time when we need someone to help carry us through the day.
  • Old friends that have celebrated with us the exciting times in our lives – marriage, Brooklyn’s arrival – and new friends who have only known us during this difficult time of Dennis’ illness but have opened their hearts to us.
  • Meals, rides, project help, packages, visits…So many ways people have encouraged us and so often they have come at times when we were at the end of our strength but had not even shared our needs but God placed us on their hearts.
  • Help with Brooklyn after school, during Dennis’ appointments or just to give her a break.
  • Medical staff who could see just one more person with cancer but instead, know Dennis as a person and show compassion.
Yes, we attempt “normal.”  In a few days, we will host our “normal” Thanksgiving gathering.  We will be surrounded by friends and family, enjoy a typical Thanksgiving meal, watch some football and enjoy some good conversations but under all of it is a current of "not-quite-normal.”  But in this "not-quite-normal” time, we have been blessed in ways we never would have experienced otherwise. 

So as we approach this holiday, we are thankful for so many blessings God has given us. As we move into yet another season of this cancer journey, although we enter it with much foreboding and dread, we know God is walking through this with us and will have many vibrant colors to brighten this path as well.

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Prayer requests:

  • Dennis’ new treatment starts on Monday, Dec. 2.  Please pray for him during this time. 
  • We are in the process of insurance approvals for this new treatment.  Please pray for their approval.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Treatment - What's Next

We met with the doctor today.  The original tumor sight had some bleeding in the tumor.  Because of the bleeding, Dennis cannot stay on Avastin.  The risk of a serious hemorrhage is too high.  Two options were available to us at this point.  They could use radiation again.  Until recently this would not have even been an option.  Radiation was used once on the brain and that was it.  Methods have been developed to do radiation a second time if over a year has lapsed since the previous radiation.  However, with radiation comes a high risk of cell death of healthy cells in the brain and the loss of function from it.

The second option is the Novacure or NovaTTF, it goes by two names, that disrupts the cell division in the cancer cells but does not affect healthy brain tissue and has minimal side effects.  The only real side effect is tender skin from the tape.  This is the option we have chosen.  There is planning and insurance approval that has to take place over the next few weeks.  Dennis will start the new treatments either the Monday before Thanksgiving or the Monday after Thanksgiving.  There are some drawbacks to this treatment.  Dennis will need to have his head shaved so that the device he will be wearing comes in contact with his skin.  None of us are looking forward to that.  He also needs to be plugged into the device at least 18 hours a day.  When he is home, he can plug into the house current.  He will have batteries to use when he is not home.  The pack weighs around 6 lbs that he will be carrying around all the time.  Although we think this is a good option at this point, it is very hard to process through all of this.  We hope with time that it will become somewhat routine.

Dennis also is scheduled for an MRI of his spinal column.  Since the brain and spinal column work together, the doctor wants to make sure that no new tumors have developed outside of his brain.  He is doing this as a precaution.  If they would find any tumors in his spine, they will use radiation to destroy them.

The second tumor in his brain is gone.  This one may redevelop now that Dennis is off of medication.  If it does, the doctor will direct the Novacure to that area as well.

We are totally spent emotionally.  This has been a very hard couple of days.  We don't like that this new treatment will be so visibly obvious to us all the time.  With all the other treatments, it was easier to "forget" all that was going on.  

We continue to trust and rest in the care of our loving heavenly Father.  We know he loves each of us and has a plan and purpose for this difficult time in our lives.

Please continue to pray for us.

  • Peace as we await the start of this next treatment.
  • That the spinal MRI will be clear.
  • Dennis - to gain strength now that he is off of the medication.  (It will take several weeks to clear out of his system.)
  • Ellen - I am emotionally drained.
  • Brooklyn - as she processes all that is happening and for us as we guide her through it.
We love you and appreciate all you do for us.  Dennis will be able to get out and about with this new treatment so don't hesitate to call and see if he wants to get out.  It helps him not to just be at home all the time.  Thanks for your prayers and care you have so generously given to us.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

MRI Report

Dennis’ MRI report was mixed news.  The tumors have not changed.  That is the good news.  The are basically where they had been when they did the last MRI.  However, there appears to be some bleeding so he cannot continue with the current medication.  This might explain why he has not been feeling great recently. 
So, where do we go from here?  We will know more when we see the doctor tomorrow but he is leaning toward a treatment that we have been asking about since early on in this journey.  There is a device that has been developed that delivers electric impulses to the brain that disrupt cell division.  (Normal brain cells do not divide whereas the cancer cells do divide.) It has shown some good results and produces almost no side effects.  Dennis will need to wear this almost all the time except when he is in the shower.  You can learn more about it at:   Dennis said he will have to get some new hats to wear with it. 

So, keep praying for us as we enter a new type of treatment and that this proves to be the one that will kill off these nasty cells. 

UPDATE:  The doctor took another look at the MRI and the one smaller spot appears to be better or gone.  This is encouraging news. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Today is THE DAY

Today is the day we both dread and look forward to.  It is the day our lives revolve around.  Eight weeks and then THE DAY arrives.  Yes, today is MRI day. 

Two weeks ago if you would have asked Dennis, he would have told you, “I just want to have the MRI to find out what is going on.”  He felt strongly at that point that he was ready to know.  For the last several days it has been more of a foreboding.  Do we really want to know?  What if the medication is not working?  Are the symptoms Dennis is having side-effects of the medication or are they an indication that this beast is growing and interfering with his movements and strength?  If the medication is not working, then what?  Frankly, our options to combat this are growing short.  If you look at statistics on survival after diagnosis, Dennis right now is at the point of the average months past diagnosis.
So, today we wait.  MRI is at 11:20am.  There is a possibility that the doctor will call this afternoon with results.  If not, he usually calls first thing the following day.  We will meet with him on Wednesday.  If the MRI is stable, it will be a routine check and Dennis will then receive his next dose of the same medications.  If the MRI has changed, we will discuss other options that still are available.
Please keep all of us in your prayers for peace as we wait and as we hear the news and for clear direction on treatments moving forward if we need to make changes.
We will post here as soon as we have any news.