Monday, April 23, 2012

Trust in the Lord...

Okay, wow, sorry it has been months since I've updated. I'm just going to assume anyone reading this has been keeping up with us through Facebook or family and friends. Too much has happened since my last post and I really want to cut to the chase with this post. So here goes... Aaron's cancer is back. I know...it sucks. Believe me, I know. But I also know that God has a plan, and I am not going to let my fear get the best of me. Here's how it's all gone down... Two months ago (in February), he had a CT scan that showed one tiny nodule in his lung, but it was so small that there was no way to tell yet if it was in fact melanoma. So the doc decided we would scan again in 2 months, and if it grows, then we know what it is and we will proceed with treatment. We discussed a plan of action if that did happen, our number one choice being an Anti PD-1 trial that would depend on if there were spots available in the trial. Then we went on our merry way, and just ignored it for the next 2 months. No use worrying over something we're not even sure we need to worry over. Fast forward 2 months to April... He had the CT scan on April 11, and we met with his oncologist April 18. He and I went to lunch before the appointment, and we talked about how we were both expecting the news to not be good, but that we were ready to move to the next step if it wasn't good news. I think we were both prepared emotionally and mentally this time around. Which is something I prayed for--that God would give us both a peace that passes all understanding and get on with what needs to be done. Maybe that means we're a little bit mad at this disease at this point and don't have much time for being sad. Whatever gets us through, right?! So we went into the appointment knowing full well what was probably coming. And sure enough, the doctor delivered the news that the nodule found in the scan in February had grown a bit (to 10mm) and there is an additional small nodule in his lung and one in front of his liver (not in his liver, so they're not even sure it's melanoma but we're going on the assumption that it is). So we did what we came to do--we said, "Okay, what's next?" The doctor initially thought Aaron didn't qualify for the Anti PD-1 trial because he thought the qualifications stated that if you had had an adverse reaction to Yervoy, you could not participate in the trial. Aaron quickly reminded him that the qualifications state that as long as you haven't been treated for the reaction in a certain amount of time, then you are good to go on the trial. (A lesson in being your own best advocate--there are great doctors out there, but no one is going to advocate for your health as much as YOU!) The doc said he would re-read the paperwork to verify, so he left to go do that. In a few minutes, he came back and went into the room next to us where another patient was waiting. We noticed a woman in a doctor's coat standing in the hallway waiting to go in to that room with some paperwork. Didn't think much of it, but then Dr. C came in with the lady (who turned out to be Christine), and said that yes, you are right, you do qualify for the trial. We were just about to offer the last spot IN THE COUNTRY to the patient in the next room but they had one thing disqualify them from the trial, and Christine has the paperwork you need to sign to get in this trial. Folks, I have NEVER in my life felt God standing right next to me, but you better believe I did in that moment. I've never felt so protected throughout this whole ordeal. Unbelievable. Aaron and I were almost speechless, but I sure could speak enough to say, "You better sign those papers as fast as you can!" Another "God" thing--one of the qualifications is that you have to have "measurable disease", which is having nodules of 10mm and above. His largest one is exactly 10mm. If it had to grow, I'd say that's a good number to stop at! If it had been one millimeter smaller, we would not be in this study. So...next step, they need fresh tissue to work with for the study, so he has a biopsy scheduled this Wednesday. This week, we should find out when he will start infusions. Which brings me to what he has to do to get what some are calling a "miracle drug" (I'm not making any promises--that's just what I've heard.) The trial is called MK-3475 anti pd-1 and it is administered through an IV infusion once every 21 days over a 30 minute time period. We don't know how long he will be doing this. It's actually quite fascinating how it is supposed to attack the cancer, but it is getting late, and I need to head for bed so I may post a blog about the "science-y" part at a later time. In the meantime... "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5 And pray! :-) Love you all! We could not get through this without you!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quick Update

Aaron started feeling side effects over the weekend (GI issues, severe abdominal pain). I felt really bad for him. He basically stayed on the couch all weekend. He felt better yesterday, but not 100% so he stayed home from work. He went in today and so far has felt okay. Still not 100%, but MUCH better than Saturday. Our street had a block party Saturday evening out in our cul-de-sac and he didn't get to go out and enjoy it. The boys and I had a wonderful time--kids were FILTHY! I'm surprised the bath water didn't turn black the night! Great time was had by all. Really enjoyed meeting all the neighbors. It really created a great vibe along the whole street. Hope we do it again soon so Aaron can go. It would have been a lot more fun if I had gotten to share it with him.
Right now, we are waiting to hear from Lackland AFB (San Antonio) about orders to move us back to Texas. There is a "patient squadron" there that he will be assigned to, but obviously we need to be in Houston, so we are working on getting that squared away with tremendous efforts from his old boss in Houston. (Thanks, Mr. Hess!) :) Will keep ya'll posted on that as I get more information. I don't have any idea when this might happen, but we both have VERY mixed feelings about it. If you had asked me a year ago if I would ever choose anywhere else on Earth to live besides Texas (if I were given the choice), I would have laughed in your face. But now that we have been in California for 6 months...I LOVE it here. Our neighbors are the BEST, hands down. The weather is incredible--our kids can be outside playing almost every day of the year. There is so much to do here--and a lot we haven't gotten to do that I really wanted to do in our 4 years here. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to live here forever. But we at least wanted 4 years. That being said, with regard to Aaron's health, I feel we will be in much better hands at MD Anderson. Honestly, UCLA has not instilled much confidence in us that they are doing the very best to treat Aaron's illness. I know at this point MD Anderson will do the same treatment (Yervoy) that UCLA is doing, but it's the patient "care" at UCLA that makes us question their ability to do the very best. MD Anderson is the #1 cancer treatment facility; UCLA falls in at #10. We have seen the difference between #1 and #10. And this just isn't cutting it. We are understandably scared, and we need the best right now. Okay, I'll get off my soap box. :) Like I said, I will keep you all informed on what I find out regarding Aaron's medical reassignment. (This turned out a lot longer than I intended!) Have a blessed day!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The News We Were Expecting...

I'm just going to blurt it out...it's Melanoma. Aaron had the biopsy on Wednesday, and he had an appointment to start immunotherapy infusions on Friday. We're still not sure why they made the appointment when they didn't know whether the pathology report would be back yet. We are pretty frustrated with the lack of communication that goes on at UCLA. Someone in the office where the infusions take place called on Thursday to confirm the appointment, and when Aaron asked if the biopsy results were in--because why would we start the treatment if the biopsy came back negative for melanoma--the lady "looked it up" and said, yes, the results are back. We were quite surprised by this because this was only about 24 hours after the biopsy took place. So...she obviously couldn't tell us what the results were--that has to be done by a doctor, so we asked if she could have the doctor call us. We never heard anything. We went in Friday morning for the scheduled (but unneeded) infusion appointment, and since we didn't have biopsy results yet, we spoke to the doctor first (Dr. Chmielowski--pronounced Him-a-lou-ski). He told us Aaron would not be starting the Yervoy infusion (which is immunotherapy, not chemotherapy as some genius at UCLA misinformed us) because the biopsy results were not back yet and probably would not be until Monday. We were obviously very anxious before we spoke with the doctor and I am almost glad we didn't have any news at that point because it gave us the clarity to ask Dr. C all the questions we needed to ask. We also had time to relax and just put this out of our minds until Monday. Let's just enjoy our weekend, is what we decided.
Then we got the call that confirmed our suspicions. Dr. Chmielowski called around 4:30 on Friday afternoon and said that yes, the cells they took in the biopsy tested positive for melanoma. However, they were not able to perform the genetic mutation analysis that they needed to do in order to determine if Aaron could get the latest drug that was just approved by the FDA last week (Zelboraf) because the cells they took out were dead cells. Which, in my understanding, means that Aaron's body is already fighting this nasty disease and is killing them off. Even without the immunotherapy. As I said, that is what I took away from that--I am not a doctor, so I could be totally wrong. But we are ready to fight whatever remains in his body with healthy diet and the Yervoy treatments.
Aaron will begin the Yervoy immunotherapy infusions on Monday at 2pm. It takes 90 minutes to receive a full dose, and he will receive the doses every 3 weeks for 4 total doses. (So a total of 12 weeks.) The side effects of the therapy are very minimal especially when compared with traditional chemotherapies. There won't be any hair loss, nausea, lethargy or other completely debilitating side effects. The most severe could be some gastro-intestinal issues and potentially a skin rash. This will be quite appreciated as the Interferon treatments he received last October were very rough, with respect to side effects. At the end of the doses, they will perform another CT scan to see if anything remains. It WILL be gone! God WILL see us through this!
I am completely humbled and overwhelmed at the amount of prayers being lifted up on our behalf. We want you all to know that we love and appreciate every single one of you, and your prayers are not going unheard! We feel God's presence every minute of every day! I will never be able to express how thankful I am that you all care so much about my husband and our family. Thank you thank you thank you! Praise be to God, our Great Physician!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What we're facing...

I have been dreading writing this post for a couple of weeks now, but I want all of you to know what is going on right now and I thought this would be the best way to make sure everyone knows all the information I have about this ugly monster that is rearing its head in our lives again.
Just to recap: As most of you know, about a year ago (almost exactly), Aaron was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma. He had surgery to remove a cancerous mole from his back as well as 2 lymph nodes to determine whether it had spread to those lymph nodes. One of the lymph nodes came back with less than 10 cells testing positive for melanoma. So the good people at MD Anderson performed a 2nd surgery on him to remove all of the lymph nodes from his left side. They all cam back free and clear of cancer. He also underwent 4 weeks of immunotherapy infusions to further combat any rogue cells that may have been lurking in his body. We got through that and put all of this behind us. He goes to the dermatologist every 3 months to get checked for moles, and he also has to have regular CT scans to look for any masses in his body. Which brings us to the last 4 months...
Back in April just after we moved to California, he had a CT scan at UCLA Medical Center, which is where his doctor at MD Anderson referred him to. They found a couple of spots on his lungs that had not been there before (both were 4mm in size), so they said it could just be an infection, so we'll do another scan in 3 months to see if they are still there and whether there has been any change. Which brings us to the last 2 weeks...
On August 9 (Tuesday) he went in for his CT scan. On August 10, he went in to go over the results with his doctor. The spots in his lungs have grown, one is now 7mm and the other is 12mm. Panic immediately set in (for us anyway, not for the seemingly incompetent staff at UCLA Medical Center--don't even get me started on them), and my mom flew out on Thursday and Aaron's mom got here on Friday. My mom stayed that weekend, and Aaron's mom is still here to help with the boys and whatnot while we go to appointments and make decisions. Aaron had a brain MRI last week that came back normal, which means nothing has spread there, thank God. But the big indicator of what our next move is will be the biopsy he is having tomorrow morning. The biopsy is on the actual spots on his lungs and will determine whether it is an infection or we are dealing with cancer. We are obviously praying for the former, but with his history, it's most likely the latter. He already has an appointment scheduled to begin chemo infusions on Friday. I'm not sure why they are beginning the infusions when we may not even have the results of the biopsy by then, but maybe they just want to be ready for it. We're not sure when we'll have the results of the biopsy. I assume they'll tell us tomorrow when we go for the biopsy. The chemo they will be doing is Yervoy, and there is also a new drug that was just approved by the FDA (you've probably seen it on the news in the past week or so) to treat melanoma. It's called Zelboraf, and they are talking about doing that too. You can click on both of those links to learn more about the treatments.
Another possibility is that if the biopsy comes back saying it is cancer, we do have the option of returning to MD Anderson in Houston. We have already been consulting with his doctors there and we want to be treated by the best. I think what will happen is that if they have a different plan of attack than UCLA does, we will go with theirs. We're not sure of the logistics of getting back to Houston right now, we are just trying to make one decision at a time.
Please pray that we will be strong but at peace during this time. The scary part of the biopsy is that the outcome is already decided. It's not like a test you can study for and either ace it or fail it. God already knows whether there is cancer in my husband's body, we just have to wait and find out ourselves, and then be ready for battle if needed. We are ready to fight and we will win. I will accept no less than a win. Thank you all for your support and constant prayer. I know God is hearing those prayers and He will take care of us in our time of need. We love you all, and we could not do this without you.
I will try to keep this updated frequently so that you all know what is happening. I will post on Facebook any time I do an update on here so if you are on Facebook, you will see there when there is something else to read.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oh my, it's been a while...

Oops! I have obviously let this blog go to the wayside a bit. Oh well, better late than never. Not making any promises, but I am going to try to revive this thing. Starting with...

I am now a California girl! And no, I do not wear Daisy Dukes with a bikini on top. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit! We have made it to our next adventure in our Air Force life. Aaron is now stationed at Los Angeles AFB in El Segundo. I am quickly falling in love with this place. It is absolutely gorgeous here! We can see the water and Catalina Island out our back door--amazing! This was a hard move to make considering we are Texans and always will be, and we made such a great life in League City. But I have felt God's presence comforting me throughout the whole process of getting here. Before we moved here, I had never even visited California, so this was quite a scary jump. And I'm still scared, but it has been such a great experience thus far. We have absolutely wonderful neighbors! We live in a cul-de-sac, and literally within 30 seconds of us driving up to our house when we rolled into town, our kids were playing with the neighbor kids. They've been having a blast.

Our trip out here couldn't have gone any better. The kids did great on the road--such little troopers! And Boone did great too! We left our house in League City on March 11 (after a good cry) in 2 separate cars and drove to my mom's in Celina. Trent rode with me, and Drew rode with Aaron. We spent the night there and the next morning, a lot of our family members came over for breakfast/brunch and to say our goodbyes before we went further on our journey. A great time was had by all, and the only time I cried was when my sister and my new brother-in-law had to leave to go meet with their realtor. They just got married on February 25 after being together for 5 (or 6?) years, and I am so saddened that I can't be right there close to them to share in this special time in their new life together. They are currently searching for a house to buy, so keep them in your prayers. We do get to Skype with them frequently so that helps!

We took off from my mom's some time Saturday afternoon (this time, both boys rode with Aaron so I could get some quiet time!) and headed for Lubbock to stay with our best friends, Laura and Kyle (and Garrett and Carson). We stayed there a couple of nights because we wanted to take our boys to the Tech campus and take pictures. I really envy Laura and Kyle being in Lubbock and getting to take their boys to games. All 8 of us went to eat lunch at Spanky's on Sunday and then we went over to the campus and walked around to all the different landmarks that Trent has read about in his "Hello, Masked Rider" book. He knew what all of them were. The weather was perfect! We took tons of pictures, and it was one of the best days I have had in a while. To be able to walk around my alma mater with my best friend and watch our kids play together...wow. That's a memory I will always cherish. We went to Red Raider Outfitter to see if there was anything we just couldn't live without (Trent got a really cool hat), and then we went to The Arrogant Texan (quite appropriate--love it!), which is a candy store right across from campus. They have Amy's Ice Cream, which is made in Austin, and they have so many awesome flavors--even Shiner Bock and Guinness! Aaron got the Shiner ice cream and I tried it--I am not a beer drinker, but if Shiner tasted like that ice cream, I would drink the heck out of it!

Monday morning, we got up and headed for Albuquerque. Both boys rode with me that day. As soon as we got there, we headed for Aaron's sister Jenn's new kid's play club, Red Light Green Light, so our boys could play with their cousins. The place has really turned out great, and I am so proud of Jenn for having this vision and making it happen! Trent, Drew, Kody, and Jaxson had a great time together. We had good old Dion's pizza (Aaron's absolute fave) for dinner, and Jenn made us "Bull's Eyes" for breakfast Tuesday morning--yum! We weren't there very long, but we packed a lot of fun and catching up into that very short time.

After breakfast, we got in the car to head for Florence, AZ (Drew with me, Trent with Aaron), where Aaron's mom just built a house. Literally--they just moved in March 1st, so we were their first guests. The house looks amazing, and they have a great playground in their neighborhood that we took the boys to Tuesday evening. Again, we weren't there very long, but we had a great time, and we are glad we are a bit closer to Sally and Dennis so we can visit a little more often!

Wednesday morning was our last and longest day of driving--450 miles from Florence to San Pedro. Whew! I sure was glad to be out of that car!

So, 1800 miles later, we are now living in California. I never imagined I would live in California, but I am so glad to be here! Come to think of it, I also never imagined I would be glad to be here! Aaron and I have talked about how much League City meant to us. So much about who we are was formed in League City. We bought our first house there, had our 2nd (and probably last) child there, we found and fell in love with our church and both grew in our relationship with Christ, Aaron was diagnosed with and overcame Stage III melanoma...the list goes on and on. Yet here we are on the next leg of our journey, and we're so happy to be here, and I am so glad I have him to do this with! More soon...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Video: Happy Trails

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Am I on top of stuff or what?! This stuff just happened TODAY and I'm already done blogging about it! There are several posts below.

Video: Goodbye Kindergarten (to the tune of "The Mickey Mouse Club" theme song)

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