Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Life is in the Blood

So what is going on right now is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that there appears to be significant reduction in the cancer, whether it is from the radiation treatment and its residual effects, the "light duty" chemo I was on for several weeks in Feb/Mar, or the "heavy duty" chemo I have been on for two weeks, or any combination of the above. I know that ultimately it all comes from the hand of my sovereign Lord.

The bad news is that the bone marrow is not making good blood, probably due to the radiation therapy whipping down the marrow, and the fact that the marrow is too gummed up with cancer cells to be very productive. This also comes from the hand of my sovereign Lord, who loves me with a love I am not able to begin to comprehend. As Job declared (Job 2:10) "Shall we accept good from God, and not accept adversity?" Anyway, I was forced to go in recently to get two units of a blood transfusion. There was no choice about it. The Bible declares that "the life is in the blood," and as I sat there for hours watching it go into my body, I had to agree, and was very grateful for it.

Ending Radiation and Resuming Chemotherapy

On March 28, I resumed the heavy duty chemotherapy of a drug that had been successful in fighting my cancer a few years ago, but not before I had a few adventures along the way following completion of the radiation therapy. The radiation had lowered various parameters in my blood to make it too low for me to start chemo. Then, an opportunistic bug came along just three days after completing radiation, that had Carol rush me to the ER with a high temp and me pretty well out of it, and kept me in the hospital for four days with what turned out to be pneumonia. I did not like being in the hospital, but God used it as a time when we could minister to others, and I certainly appreciated all who came by to minister to me during this time.

On March 28, I resumed the heavy duty chemo. As I said, this drug was effective several years ago at decreasing the cancer. At that time, I was on it for 14 months. Our prayer is that it will still be effective (that the cancer will not have developed a resistance to it) and that it will be effective quickly. Your joining us in that prayer will be appreciated.

Ring that bell!

On March 14, I completed my 14 sessions of photon radiation treatment aimed at removing the tumor between my spine and pelvis. The treatments were successful, the tumor was dissolved, pressure was taken off of the nerve which greatly relieved pain, and mobility was improved. Now the bone eaten by the tumor must repair, and chemotherapy will begin as soon as the blood is healthy enough to allow it. And it was a lot of fun to ring the bell!


Part of the purpose of this blog is to not only communicate with the many who ask about how I am doing, but to also chronicle the different aspects of the cancer battle. Therefore, I think I need to take a moment to discuss some of the recent months in my life, to raise an Ebenezer, if you will (1Samuel 7:12), and to declare, "Hither by God's help I am come."

The period from late September 2015 to early February 2016 can be described as life going from difficult to very difficult to bizarre. The transition from difficult to very difficult was from late September to late November, as pressures and demands at work increased, coupled with the rising level of cancer in my body rendering my body less able to meet the demands of work and ministry. After Thanksgiving, we moved into the bizarre stage with the intense physical pain in hip and leg, and coping to survive that is almost beyond my ability to believe. Only Carol knows a measure of what that time was like for me, and I have only an inkling of what that time was like for her. Fortunately, I think those memories are fading with time. We went down several blind allies of misdiagnosis and physical therapy, and the holidays are just not a good time to try to things done in the medical community. But it was a time of spiritual growth and seeing God's faithfulness in our lives.

The "bizarre" stage ended the day following an elder meeting at my church on the evening of 2/4 where I was in such pain I had to stand for most of the meeting. I was seated next to a fellow elder who is a nationally renowned neurologist in research, treatment, and teaching. After the meeting, he gave me a brief check over, and then interceded to set up a meeting for me with a pain specialist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center by 7:30 the following morning. As part of diagnosis (not treatment) I received an electrical shock along a nerve path that resulted in (once the shock wore away) in much reduced pain. The UTSW Pain Doctor also prescribed some steroids that began (along with heavy duty pain meds already from my cancer doc) to alleviate the pain. Towards the end of January, the cancer docs at Texas Oncology were getting back involved (I was on a two month checkup schedule) and a CT scan the week following the elder meeting of 2/4 identified a tumor between pelvis and spine that was pressing on the nerve, dissolving the bone and the real cause of the problem.

The cancer docs also confirmed what I had known all fall, that the cancer was back in full force and it was time to hit it with the chemotherapy again. The strategy became to first treat and eradicate the tumor with radiation therapy, and then to hit the cancer itself with chemotherapy. I was on what I call "light artillery" chemo for several weeks, with the "heavy artillery" to begin following radiation. Both drugs are oral, meaning I just take the appointed pills on the appointed mornings, and do not have to go in for infusions, a real blessing.

The "heavy artillery" drug is the same one that I was on several years ago that was very effective and without as many serious side effects as other drugs I had taken. It is very potent, very strictly controlled, and incredibly expensive, yet I have absolutely $0 co-pay on it. Sometimes, as Carol and I sit in our bedroom for our evening Bible readings and prayer, we just marvel at how much God has chosen to bless our lives. If things go with this drug as they did last time (and we pray they will), I will probably be on it for about a year, it will make me tired but not too sick, and should not stop me from ministry or work. Above all, we hope it will once again be effective at knocking down the cancer. Your prayers in this regard are much appreciated.