Thursday, August 30, 2012

A new plan of attack

Well, it has been a busy week.  I feel like I have been running from one appointment to another.  Yesterday we returned home from Mayo with a new plan of attack to kill this cancer once and for all.  Mostly the news was very upbeat.

We flew to Minnesota on Sunday and started our consultations early Monday morning.  We met with various doctors until Tuesday evening.  After much discussion this is the tentative plan.  I am to return home and have two rounds of chemotherapy here in Provo to try and shrink the tumor.  Basically a round includes three days of chemotherapy, about 5 hours a day followed by 18 days of recovery.  They will be using a different chemical combination this time, Ifosfamide and Etoposide.  Along with several other support drugs.  These drugs are supposed to be less damaging than the last ones that I was given.

If the tumor  shrinks substantially in 6 weeks they may continue on with chemo for one or two more rounds.  If it doesn't shrink or grows then I will be off to surgery.  Everyone believes that the two tumors that they found are regrowth of the original tumor. Our doctor said today, "You can fit a million cancer cells on the head of pin", in other words, it's easy to miss something in surgery and not even know you missed it.  The new surgery will be much simpler.  They intend to take out the top tumor through my nose and the lower tumor through my mouth.  It will be outpatient surgery!

After I have healed for about 4 weeks they intend to start radiation.  For that part I will need to move to Minnesota for 6 or 7 weeks for radiation every day, five days a week.  The doctors felt strongly that the radiation should be done at Mayo.  The radiation oncologist is also the Stake President and a very nice person.  He said that because the tumors are small the radiation beam will be very small and have very little effect on adjacent structures.  Just a good sunburn on my right cheek.  I could do that in Mexico for free.  I should  have mentioned that to him.  I can't say that I am too excited about being in Minnesota for the winter with my newly bald head.  Oh well, I have lots of hats.

After radiation I may have two more rounds of chemo or perhaps I will just be done.  It kind of depends on how effective the first rounds of chemotherapy appear to be.  The only other piece of depressing news came from my blood test.  The numbers have come up but not really enough to call them normal.  They talked about possible damage to my bone marrow from the first chemotherapy.  Hmmm... I would offer to eat more liver but then I would have bad blood and an upset stomach.

So after hearing everything we were trying to decide if this was the right thing to do.  JoLynne and I were out walking along the river talking about our options.  Generally we felt good about it but still some lingering doubts.  It was a beautiful evening and the sunset was beautiful.  I was trying to get a picture but there was too much in the way.  Finally I found a place to snap a picture.  After taking it both JoLynne and I realized that the rays of sun all focused right on the building where my radiation and surgery would be performed.  Maybe it was coincidence but it gave us both goose bumps.  We think we are doing the right thing.

Tuesday evening we stopped at the temple in St. Paul.  Again a beautiful sunset but this time the sun's rays were pointing to the Minnesota temple.  I really felt like this was God's way of telling us that in these two places we would find the answers to our prayers.

Today we went to set up the chemotherapy appointments with my doctor.  They drew blood again and by some miracle my blood levels have now returned to normal.  It feels like God keeps clearing obstacles out of our way.

Sometimes when I think about this whole adventure I wonder why things are happening the way that they do.  I don't really know the answers but this is what it seems to me.  It feels like this whole cancer thing is like a big brain teaser puzzle.  The kind where you have to move each piece in just the right way and the right time to solve the puzzle.  Of course God could just heal me but instead he is managing my disease with the resources at hand, orchestrating events.  For example, if they had a positive biopsy the first time they would have started me with chemotherapy instead of surgery.  We now know that standard chemo didn't work against this cancer and it would have grown and probably made the tumor inoperable.  If they had done radiation the first time it would have been a large area.  The result would have been much greater damage to my other structures.  Now the tumors are small and the radiated area will be small as well.

Really, all I know is that God is in charge and that I am going to get better.  It just takes patience.  In the meantime, thank you for your prayers.   Please pray for my family.  I sometimes think it would be just as hard to watch someone you you love go through this as it would be to go through it yourself.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Moses and the Red Sea

I'm sorry that I didn't follow up on my last blog sooner.  To be honest it has taken me a few days to get my emotions under control enough to write about it.

Well, my tests are back and frankly the results were not what we had hoped.  The biopsy showed malignant, metastatic osteosarcoma, or in other words, my cancer is back.  When I asked how certain they were of their results, the doctor told me that they were certain.  An MRI was done on Wednesday and found that the tumor detected a month ago has grown 2-3 mm in a one month period and they detected a second tumor, slightly smaller than the first, growing about an inch away from the first one.  The doctor here thinks that they may have grown from a remnant of the last tumor.  Our oncologist here called the doctors at Mayo and it was agreed that I should be go back to Mayo for treatment.

The good news is this.  On Tuesday we had our visit with the oncologist where we received the news about the cancer coming back.  JoLynne and I were pretty disappointed.   We have been through so much and hoped that we could close that chapter of our life and move on.  We both felt like we needed a priesthood blessing.  After thinking about so many friends we might ask,  we decided to ask a dear friend, Ross Cole, who was the Stake President when I was called to be a bishop.  He now serves in the temple presidency.  I consider him to be a close friend and he was happy to give me a blessing.  He asked if our family would join with him in fasting before the blessing was given.  I have been fasting pretty often these days.  (I think that if I fast often enough maybe the cancer will die of starvation)

So, President Cole came by our home Wednesday evening.  I have great confidence in this mans ability to hear the voice of the Lord and I trust that he wouldn't say anything that he wasn't inspired to say. My son Peter was newly ordained as an Elder last Sunday.  He now has the authority to perform priesthood blessings.  I asked him if he would anoint me.  He did a wonderful job even if it did make me cry.  Then President Cole, my sons Peter and John, and my son-in-law Mike, placed their hands on my head and pronounced a beautiful blessing.  The cancer was rebuked, I was told that my body would be healed.  These are the words I needed to hear.  Later Peter gave his mother a blessing.  It was also wonderful, and exactly the words we needed to hear for her as well.  These blessings brought us great comfort!

In talking with our doctors we have arranged to return to Mayo clinic on August 27-28th for a new workup.  All doctors involved before and probably a few more will come together to formulate a new plan of attack to defeat this cancer once and for all.  I have great confidence in them but more importantly I believe that God will intervene and that a miracle will happen to heal me.

On Friday morning early I was driving over to the park near my house to work on a large triathlon that I host every year to raise money for our charitable work.  It is a huge task and with everything else that has been going on it has been challenging this year.  I'll be honest, I was a little depressed and unhappy about how things were going.  Anyway, the thought popped in my mind about the story of Moses and the children of Israel leaving Egypt.  The Israelites had so many miracles performed allowing them to leave Egypt and then they finally arrived at the shores of the Red Sea.  Suddenly the armies of Pharaoh showed up and had them trapped with the sea behind them.  At this point they begin to doubt saying thing like "Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness."  Then Moses tells them "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you to  day...The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace".  I have wondered sometimes about how the Israelites could doubt after so many miracles.  I think I won't judge them so harshly anymore.  Then, of course, the Red Sea was opened, the Israelites escaped and the armies of Pharaoh were destroyed.

Way back at the start of this whole adventure the first words that popped into my mind were these "Be still my son and know that I am God".  I am grateful to remember those words.  Miracles have happened, I believe that more miracles will yet happen.

About a month ago one of my patients told me, "You are doing so good we don't even pray for you anymore."  It was nice to think that I no longer needed to be in so many peoples prayers.  Unfortunately, it looks like I have a few more hurdles to cross.  Once again, I am very grateful for your prayers and faith in my behalf.  I will try to keep you posted as new things develop.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

biopsy pending

Family at "Mecca" (Tillamook Cheese)

We are just home from our trip to the North West.  It was a wonderful trip.  So nice to have all of our children but one together and Grandpa as a bonus.  It was beautiful, sunny, cool and relaxing.  We also got to see Eileen and her husband Kelly.  Their home is lovely and Eileen seems so happy.  I still miss having her as an assistant in my office but seeing her so happy more than makes up for it.

Part way through the trip I was finally able to got my doctors from Mayo to talk to my doctor in Provo and agree on a biopsy.  It looks like it will be performed on this coming Thursday morning and I will get the results back on Tuesday afternoon.   A lot hinges on the results of that biopsy!

It's good to be busy so that I don't have too much time to think about things.  On Sunday the other counselor in the Stake Presidency was kindly asking me how I was doing and I said the first thing that popped in my mind, "I can't let tomorrows storm ruin todays sunshine"  I felt like those words were inspired and wiser than I am.  Everything will be okay, I am certain of that.  In the meantime I am very grateful for prayers offered in my behalf.
Behind every storm cloud the sun is waiting to shine forth