Thursday, October 27, 2011

Round Three

Time flies when chemo is behind the wheel! Patrick finished his third chemo round on Tuesday of this week. We now have two weeks of potential ups and downs [read: fatigue, neutropenia (where his immune system is compromised, and he can easily catch all sorts of bugs), fatigue, digestion issues, some nausea, daily injections, have I mentioned fatigue??] before he begins again on November 11th. For anyone out there who may imagine that chemo is a walk in the park, show me the soft, freshly cut grass of Park Chemo. Seriously. Our two weeks "off" after our one week "on" (with chemo treatments) are filled with daily visits to NIH for blood-work, scans, or appointments at other physicians' offices. He's unable to drive for at least 6 months (due to the seizures he had following his brain biopsy), so we are "enjoying" quality, 24/7-togetherness time, as Ceci and I shuttle him around town.  After spending most of my days in the car circling the beltway, fanagling Ceci through NIH security, and handling her oh-so-pleasant 2 year old moments, I'm exhausted by 4pm, and still have to stare down bath time, bedtime and our own dinner time. (Let's just say 4pm has now been dubbed "Julie's Vodka Tonic Break").

Overall, Patrick continues to handle the treatment remarkably well. He's much better at self-care than I am, so he embraces the frequent urge to nap or drink green tea whenever his body beckons. We continue to rejoice (with you!) over the good news of his recent scans. His doctors have decided to proceed with the remaining chemo cycles, in order to ensure that they get every last lingering cancer cell. So, he should have 3 more 3-week rounds following our current cycle. I believe we are slated to be through with this sometime in early January. (Happy New Year to us!) NIH will run scans throughout to check on the tumor's progress, but his doctors remain cautiously hopeful that the little bugger is gone. We feel very relieved that his tumor responded so quickly to the protocol, and thankful that radiation is mostly likely off the table.

His primary oncologist, Dr. Wilson, is adding some additional drugs to the protocol, in order to specifically cater the treatment to Patrick's unusual CNS Lymphoma. Besides adding a few new chemo meds to the ongoing "cocktails" (a cheeky name for something so toxic, eh?), he's added (rather ground-breaking) modulators, which are supposed to further breakdown the cancer cells so that they will better respond to the chemo. One of these drugs was used in the 40s or 50s to help pregnant women deal with their morning sickness, I believe. Apparently, it produced scores of disfigured children, and was then quickly taken off of the market. It is only just now being reintroduced alongside chemo treatments. The potential of severe birth defects remains, so Patrick has to sign a pile of papers each week, acknowledging that we understand the dangerous side-effects, and commit to actively using birth control. Before we were visited by the friendly Cancer Committee, we were hoping to get pregnant, and grow our little family. Baby #2 has now been put on the backburner, (as have many of our former dreams and plans) so that we can focus solely on Patrick's health. This is (understandably) hard for me/us, and yet I continue to trust that God has a good plan for us through and after all of this.

Just as the leaves change outside of our windows, I am reminded that life is made up of changing seasons, where the death of something leads to the new life of something else. We die to dreams and expectations of success, and await the rebirth of new, good (hopefully better) things.  In the midst of our challenges, Ceci is growing up and blossoming before our eyes. She's (SO!) tall now, and full of words, expressions, new realizations and emotions. Some of these are annoying/exhausting. Most of them are delightful. As a newly-minted two year old, she's able to tell you that "we take Dada to the ho(s)pital to get some hair". I know, it's not the greatest teaching moment of my life, but it's too funny to correct at this point. (If she's afraid of receiving medical care in the future, for fear of losing her hair, you know who to blame....) If she believes that dinner isn't made, but rather appears magically on one's front doorstep, we have many of you to blame! I haven't cooked a meal in two months, and somehow our fridge remains stocked full of meals ready to be enjoyed. I owe hundreds of thank-you notes, but want to (for now) say THANK YOU here to all of you who've driven 30 minutes out of DC to feed us. THANK YOU to those who have generously donated to Take-Out Taxi so that our cravings for Indian and Thai deliciousness can be fulfilled at the last minute. THANK YOU to those who have mailed us restaurant or grocery store gift cards. THANK YOU to those who have offered/provided us play-dates, "mansits" and rides to NIH.  I really hope that someday I can give back to each of you with at least a measure of the kindness you have shown us. We are daily amazed at and grateful for your prayers, love and generosity for us in this time. We are blessed beyond measure to have you in our life, and thank God for your abiding friendship and love.

Well, Patrick and Ceci just stepped outside to go on a "bear hunt" of sorts. (They're guaranteed to find some deer in the gorgeous woods of Great Falls, but hopefully we'll be spared a trip to the ER, due to nasty bear claw encounters.) I suppose it's time for me to make dinner. Oh wait, it's already made. (Thanks to one of you.) 

Well, then, bonsoir, for now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Good News!

We just heard from Patrick's oncologist, who was able to read his MRI scans from last Thursday, that, according to the scans, the "area of enhancement" (ie: the cancer) no longer shows up on his scans! We're kind of in shock, not wanting to get our hopes up too quickly, but according to the scan, the cancer is gone. Yay! (Okay, let's be honest, it's a BIG YAY!)

He is going to go through one more round of chemo, beginning this Friday, and then there will be another round of tests (a Petscan and MRI) on Thursday, November 10th. At that point, his medical team will assess what to do next. They may say he's "good to go" and that no more treatment is necessary, or they'll have him do a couple more rounds of chemo to make sure the cancer cells are all gone. We don't think radiation is still on the table, but we'll know for sure on the 10th.

Thank you for your continual prayers and support! The large multitude of prayers from around the world on Patrick's behalf are (obviously) being heard and answered!

Please continue to pray that this 3-week chemo cycle will annihilate any remaining cancer cells and that the scans on 11/10 will clearly indicate that he is cancer free!

Feeling (a bit more) hopeful,

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A very quick update & request for prayer

Patrick is scheduled to get an MRI tomorrow (Thursday the 13th) at 12:15pm. His NIH medical team is re-thinking his treatment plan, and hoping to avoid radiation if at all possible. If the MRI reveals that his tumor is either a) gone, b) shrinking or c) responding well to the chemo protocol, they may adjust the plan by either avoiding radiation altogether, limiting the rounds of chemo or adding additional chemos to the mix. If it's not shrinking, or if it's getting bigger, they'd likely stick with the current plan (4 more 3-week rounds of chemo and five weeks of radiation).

Please pray that the tumor is shrinking, and that he can avoid getting his brain radiated! Apparently, once it's been radiated, it can't be repeated. So, if his cancer were to return, once he's received radiation, there would be nothing that could be done to help/heal it. If we don't do radiation this time, it would always be there as a treatment option, should his cancer return a 3rd time.

Sorry for all of the technicalities.....but we wanted to send on this bit of news, for those checking in regularly. We'll post as soon as we have the results!