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.


  1. I've been talking to Paula about you guys, so most of this I knew already but it's so nice to hear it in your upbeat style of writing Eric. Just read on Facebook about Jolynne! Yikes! Hope everyone is managing okay. A broken leg while returning tupperware is the worst!

  2. Uncle Eric, you and your sweet wife and family are in our thoughts, prayers! Your names are in the temple too! We love you!