Saturday, August 27, 2011

The News We Were Expecting...

I'm just going to blurt 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.