Monday, June 29, 2009

June 29, 2009

Anne was able to get her 5th chemotherapy treatment today despite having a neutrophil count of only 0.9 (it needs to be greater than 1.0 to get it usually). Fortunately, her white blood cell count was high enough (3.2) that Dr. Balcueva felt confident giving her the chemo. She tolerated it very well, as usual. He also started her on Neupogen, which is a drug that stimulates neutrophil production. She got her first dose today, then will get another tomorrow and then Wednesday. They'll check the neutrophil count again, and if it's still low, they'll keep using the Neupogen. Sounds good to me--she doesn't need an infection now because with neutrophils that low she wouldn't be able to fight it well.

She will be getting her repeat abdominal CT scan on the 16th or 17th of July and then we'll most likely be heading out to the Mayo Clinic again after that to meet with the oncologist, gastroenterologist and probably the colorectal surgeon as well. The response she's had to the chemo I think will have them rethinking things--while they thought about "palliation" I believe they need to think about "cure". They probably don't understand the power of prayer and how the Lord can work, but most of you do. Her response to the chemo has been nothing short of miraculous, and I thank you all for your prayers of intercession for us. God has been listening and working to rid her of the cancer.

Isaiah 30:41 says: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” This journey of ours is a lot like that. We have received our strength from the Lord. Right now, in fact, I feel like I'm flying on the wings of eagles, I'm so excited about the news we've had. To know that Anne is beating this cancer could not make me any more happy, and I thank God for all He has done and will do for us. Our journey will be tireless--we won't give up hope and give up on believing in His love.

1 Peter 4:12-13 says: "...don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through... Instead, be very glad-for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. " Yes, this is one heck of a fiery trial, but it has made us stronger. To know that Christ suffered for us, to make us forgiven to the Father, gives us great joy. We will be with Him some day to bask in His glory and spend eternity with Him. There is a hope and joy in knowing that God wants us to spend eternity with Him. I pity those who reject His truth and will never know what it will be like in Heaven. But despite this trial, Anne and I will not reject God. I just saw a movie required by my Centurions program: Tender Mercies starring Robert Duval. It was a bit slow, but there was one scene where his ex-wife comments after their daughter dies in a car accident: "Why did God do this to me?" Well, I hate to tell her, but God didn't "do this" to her, Satan probably did. But the response should be: "Thank you God for giving me this trial so I can grow in my faith and become a stronger Christian. I will continue to pray for your strength and love and protection." Trials give us perserverance, James says in his letter. I'd like to think that how we respond to trials shows God how truly serious we are and confident in His love for us. We should grow in faith rather than the opposite.

God Bless,

Monday, June 22, 2009

June 22, 2009

To those of you who are regular followers of this blog, I apologize that I have not written in a while. As I have mentioned before, rather than turn this into a blog about me, with political or even religious views, I had intended this blog to be about Anne, and her colorectal cancer treatment. I can happily report that she has been doing well enough that there hasn't been much for me to write about.

Last Monday Anne got her 4th chemo treatment. It went well, but she did have a bit more stomache cramping than she had had in the past. She did get better by Friday, thankfully, and her cramping has been a lot less since then. Unfortunately, she's convinced that chocolate cake (thanks Cathy M) and icecream may not be the best thing for her to eat. Today she got some labs again, and although most of the values were below normal, they weren't that bad, and will hopefully be high enough for her to get her chemo again next Monday--so keep praying. I'm convinced that the praying is working since her neutrophils haven't decreased enough for her not to get the chemo except that one time.

We had an appointment with Dr. Balcueva today. I now know what it's like for patients to wait 2 hours to see the doctor--but I have to say, it was well worth it. Our news was more than fantastic--it was remarkable--or whatever term may be better! Anne's liver enzymes have all returned to normal (3 out of 4) and the 4th is just a bit above normal. All of her other blood values have returned to normal. Interestingly, the CEA (carcino-embryonic antigen) which may not be elevated in colorectal cancer, was in fact 3600 (normal 0-6.0) when first checked--but it is down to around 200 now--a dramatic decrease! In addition to that, where her liver was palpable I think 10 cm below the ribs, is now not palpable at all. Yes--it shrunk in size. You gotta think that the tumors are responding to the chemo. Praise be to God!!!

Dr. Balcueva has recommended repeating her abdominal CT-scan to check the size of the colon and liver tumors. He has also recommended going back to Mayo Clinic for a repeat consultation to ask: 1) Do we continue the same chemo regimen? 2) Should we think about removing the segment of colon with the cancer? 3) If not, does the colon stent need to be replaced at some point in time--does it last forever? We may wind up going back there in mid-July, after chemo dose #6 and after the CT scan. All I can say is: THE PRAYERS ARE WORKING!!!!!!! KEEP THEM COMING!!!!

"But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank. " Jeremiah 17:7-8

We have turned our trust over to God and He has responded with incredible results. I am fully confident that God has prevailed in our fight against this cancer so far--causing the liver tumors to shrink, and returning most of Anne's labs to normal. Maybe some of you think this could happen by chemo alone, but I'm not convinced. She has only had 4 doses of chemo so far, and yet her tumors are shrinking like crazy--and most importantly, she has remained mostly side-effect free during the whole process. That in itself is a miracle. Most people who have seen her remark on how well she looks--and she does. She still looks as beautiful as ever (even though her hair is getting thinner--but she still has a ton more than me!). Her weight is remaining the same, and her appetite is good. Other than having the cancer go away together all together--what more could you ask for.

I hope all of the dads out there had as good a Father's Day as I did. We went to church together (Michelle was home from East Lansing fsince Saturday), then ate leftovers from Famous Dave's for lunch. Anne and I did a bit of shopping and then I got to do some paperwork while the 3 of them gabbed. Then I got to cook dinner--and clean up! We had a great time Saturday night. After eating dinner at Dave's, we decided to go to the movies to see Up- the Disney Pixar film. If you haven't seen it yet, you need to go. It was very cute, but also a great film for adults, with a wonderful message. I had the 3 of them rolling at the theater when I had a hard time getting into my seat. The darn seats were too narrow! I'm about as fat as I've ever been, but that didn't explain my trouble. The darn cupholders on the armrests made the entrance to the seat too narrow for me to get in. Mind you, I played it up a bit--but it was indeed not easy to get in and out of the seat--and I must have had to do it a dozen times. I love making them all laugh. I think the other people in the theater were having fun with it too.

God Bless

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 16, 2009

I do have great news to report again. Anne was able to go through the chemotherapy again yesterday. Her neutrophil count had dropped down to 1.4, but that was high enough to get the chemo (it needs to be above 1.0). She did great as usual! She did have some stomache cramping last night but it's already gone. She was able and continues to be able to eat well. She was asked to be in another study--this time to see if blood levels of the administered 5-FU chemo drug are high enough based on height and weight dosing.

I received another email from Mayo Clinic concerning our participation in their fund-raising efforts. Apparently, they would like us to do another interview for them. No problem! We'll help them any way we can. We have high praises for the institution, and the work they do for people. I've heard other places are also great, and I'm sure they are, which is fantastic. We definitely need more places like it. I can only hope that this would be able to happen with "universal health care" but I have my doubts. I don't want to turn political here (too much) but my impression of government run health care (remember, I spent a year in Canada for my pediatric orthopaedic fellowship) is that it turns into something like the Secretary of State or Post Office--impersonal, poor service and apathy. That's not the way God wants us to take care of patients, but unfortunately it inevitably goes that way. In Europe, it is difficult to speak with the doctor unless you "bribe" him, wait times in countries with socialized medicine for care becomes longer and longer as a way to control costs, and quality of care doesn't necessarily go up. How many times have you heard of people going to these countries for care? Not many--most people are coming here, and for good reason. Well, enough of that or I could go on for pages.

I thought I'd pass along the following verse this time:

"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your guard.” Isaiah 58:8

I still find it amazing that people think I write well. But if indeed I do, and people who read this blog have been getting the (right) idea that I've turned into a "Jesus Freak" over the years---GREAT! We are supposed to be light to others in the darkness of this world, encouraging others ("Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11) and trying to bring them to faith in Jesus. I recently ran across an old friend I have not seen in a couple of years. Amazingly, she had heard about the blog and had been reading it. "You need to teach me how to be as faithful as you are" she said. You betcha. I'd first start by praying--opening your mind to be receptive to God's word, and not being "hard of heart" like people you'll read about in the Old Testament. Trust that His word is true, and that most of all, He loves you. Try to spend a part of every day praying and reading. For books, I'd start by reading any of Lee Strobel's books ("The Case for Christ", "The Case for Faith", and my favorite "The Case for a Creator") and of course, the Bible. I'd pick an easy-to-read translation, like the New Living Translation--and probably a "Life Application" version which goes into more detail than the usual "Study" version, and has more "stuff" to read, like interpretations and questions for you. I'd start with the New Testament (probably the Gospel of John, or at the beginning with Matthew) and leave the Old Testament for later. I have read a bunch of other good books over the past 14 years since coming back to the Lord as well. I wish I had more time to read because I have a ton more sitting in my den just waiting to be picked up!

Please pray for Anne's continued good health and tolerance of the chemo, and that her neutrophil count continues to be high enough so that she can get her chemo. By the way, both her brother John, and Michelle's boyfriend Greg are doing well since their surgeries. See, prayer works!!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

June 7, 2009

Anne continues to do well, thanks to all of your prayers. She has had essentially no side effects (a little tummy ache tonight has been about it). We were able to get to a few graduation parties over the weekend, and helped Michelle and Greg move (temporarily) into an apartment in East Lansing. Michelle will be taking 3 classes at Michigan State University this summer (and graduating early so she can do her student teaching in the spring--instead of after school would start in the fall--and hopefully be available to GET A JOB!), and Greg will be working in Lansing this summer and starting at Michigan State Law School this coming fall. Anne made it through all events without so much as taking a nap! We even went to dinner to our friends Andy and Sharon Saturday night and watched the Red Wings cream Pittsburgh 5-0. Go Wings!

Anne's brother John is doing very well since his back surgery. No complications there and he's home recovering. Anne's parents stayed until last Wednesday to take care of Anne--and thankfully didn't have a lot to do. Greg is also progressing from his surgery--healing very well.

On the way home from Andy and Sharon's Saturday night, I heard the song "God You Reign" by Lincoln Brewster and Mia Fieldes, woke up singing it, and then we sang it at church. Coincidence? I don't think so. Words from verse 2:

My song remains
God you reign
You hold my life
You know my heart
And You call me by name
I live to say God You reign

God does reign, and He is so incredibly powerful. He can wipe out Anne's cancer if He wants (and I know He will), and He can read what is in our hearts and minds. I give it all to Him. I want to do His will. Right now I am struggling with trying to figure out what He wants me to do. I think my mind is so full of taking care of Anne, that I haven't been able to spend the time with God that I need to be able to hear His voice about my own discernment. It is not an easy thing to give up control, but I know that is what I have to do to hear His voice. I'm so used to running my practice and taking care of everyone else, that I usually leave little time for taking care of me (mentally and bodily--hence the "Buddah Belly"). So maybe I'll ask you all to pray for me too (just a little--I want most of the prayers to keep coming for Anne).

Speaking of prayer--wouldn't you know that was the subject of today's sermon? Read James 5:13-18 if you get a chance. It is perfect. I like verse 15: "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him (her) up". And even Psalm 46 was mentioned. Verse 5 (which I now love): "God is within her, she will not fall." Although I think the psalmist was talking about a city here, I'll assume he was also talking about Anne. God IS within her, and she will not fall. She has been raised up by all of your prayers--God is our fortress, our refuge and strength. God, You reign!

God Bless,

Monday, June 1, 2009

June 1, 2009

I have some incredible news to report on tonight. Anne was in fact able to get her chemo today (session #3) because her white blood cell count, and more specifically, her neutrophil count (neutrophils are white blood cells that fight infection) rose past the minimum number they needed to be. In fact, the neutrophil count rose from 0.6 to 3.2--a rise of over 500%! (They need to be over 1.0 to be able to have chemotherapy, and normal is over 2.0) From all that I have read about neutropenia (low neutrophil counts) the neutrophil count can take 4-6 WEEKS to come back, not just 6 DAYS, like in Anne's case. Let me tell you---that is not something that can happen normally, so the only way I can explain it is that is was a MIRACLE. Praise God and thank you all for your prayers--they worked!!!! She went through the chemo today with NO PROBLEMS as well--no reaction to any meds whatsoever. This is just amazing and I don't know if I am really getting across how fantastic I feel about all of this. Interestingly, one of Anne's cousins from Scotland, Yvonne (actually, she lives in England now) commented on one of my blogs, with a verse of scripture: "I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you." 2Kings 20:5. That He has!

I also received a neat email today from the Mayo Clinic. Apparently, they liked the blog I wrote for them and asked if they could use it in a fund-raising campaign, along with pictures of Anne and me. Of course, I gave my (our) permission. That's pretty awesome as well.

I was going to write about patience today--something I mentioned before in one of the blogs. Most of you who know me know that I have none--lots of patients, but little patience. I remember a physical therapy student mentioning that to me once while she was observing me in the operating room years ago. "You don't have any patience, do you?" she asked. "None at all" was my response. I want this whole chemo thing and treatment to be over NOW. But I know I have to be patient and wait for Anne to be healed in "God's time." "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:12. Maybe easy for him, but not so much for me. I have little patience for most things, least of all medical things. That's why I went into orthopaedics and not something like internal medicine. I want to fix things and I want to fix them NOW. But I'm learning patience in this whole process. I know God will heal Anne, and the process of chemotherapy isn't like surgery where you can cut things to straighten them out (of course you still have to wait for the bones to heal), or replace a joint with metal and plastic and fix it today (although again, you have to wait for soft tissues to heal). But in relative terms, this is much shorter time than the chemotherapy treatments. but thankfully, we can see progress thanks be to God and all of your prayers.

The next week will hopefully go as smoothly as the last couple in terms of side effects from the chemo. Anne is shedding a bit but still has a very good head of hair. Heather talked about shaving her head if Anne lost her hair--mine is half way there already! At least women look good in wigs. Men look crappy in toupees, but I may just shave the rest off anyway. Too bad I didn't still have the pony tail--I could have cut it off for Anne--but then again, it wouldn't have covered much!

God Bless,