Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Results Are In

What is a PET/CT scan? This test is very useful in determining where tumors may be within the body and also allows the doctors to see just how active the cancerous cells are. The process actually begins the day before the test with a controlled diet. I have to eliminate all sugars, breads and grains, which leaves me feeling hungry all day, but at least I get to eat something. Thank goodness they scheduled my test first thing in the morning. Bright and early the day of the test, I arrive at the cancer pavilion and get checked into my preparation suite. I hang out watching Sports Center for about an hour while the radioactive glucose they inject me with has time to circulate through my body. After that initial sixty minutes or so, they take me to the freezing cold exam room. They cover me up with several warmed blankets, get me aligned properly, and inject me with some addition contrast. The process is pretty cool. This stuff really warms your body, so you can feel it rushing through your veins. The test itself only takes about twenty minutes. How does it work? Well, keeping it very simple, any active cancer within the body will feed on this serum and literally glow on the scan like a little light bulb.

The results are in and we couldn’t be more excited. Although the scan indicates that there are still active cancer cells present each place they were originally found, the tumor has reduced significantly in size and the metabolic activity at the other sights has slowed down considerably. The two months of chemo did exactly what it was suppose to do. All glory be to God. Sure it would have been awesome to hear the doctor say that the cancer was completely gone, but getting the cancer under control and reducing the size of the tumor was really the goal of Phase 1. We are now ready to move on to Phase 2 of this process, which is radiation and daily chemotherapy.

Although I am extremely grateful for God’s mercy on me at this point, I can’t help but accept this news with a heavy heart. For the first time in this entire process, I am asking “why me.” Why is God putting me on the path to remission, but not saving others of strong faith? Don’t get me wrong, I feel so blessed and I am extremely thankful for the success that I am having, but I know others aren’t so lucky. Cancer is such a horrible disease and it can affect anybody. Over the past couple of months, my wife and I have learned about some great people around our age that are fighting cancer battles of their own. Some of them are having similar successes and I am so happy for them, but there are also some who aren’t receiving such good news from their doctors. My heart just bleeds for them and I feel so helpless. It’s hard to imagine how they keep it all together after more and more devastating news. The Lord is the ultimate physician and he is working miracles in my life, but because of the connections we’ve made, I find myself asking why he has chosen me. I am hardly out of the woods at this point and still have a long journey ahead of me with no guarantees, but right now I’m getting encouraging news with a hopeful future. This gift of life is so amazing. I have wanted to be a better man and a better Christian for a long time, but now it is so much more. I don’t only want to change myself, but I also want to find a way to bring all those who haven’t found the Lord into His awesome kingdom and forever change their lives as well. I have felt His love and His embrace, and there is nothing like it. I now pray that everybody can be so blessed, and experience His indescribable love.

So, as I move on from this PET scan, I will continue to praise God and pray that He will continue to keep me on this path to survival. I popped in my chemo pills today for the first time, so I also pray that he spares me of any heart-related side effects or any other painful side effects for that matter. As always, thank you for your amazing, continued prayers. God is answering them and I am humbled.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Phase 1: Completed

I take a deep breath and then sigh in relief, I have completed phase one of my treatment. Two months of inpatient chemotherapy and all the fun and fantastic side effects that came along with it are finally behind me. The last round in the hospital went just as I could have expected, exactly like all the others. It is funny that of all the treatments, this final visit was the most dreaded. I had so much difficulty focusing on the fact that this was going to be the end of a very rocky road. I guess I was just thinking about all of the crazy side effects that were inevitably going to happen, or possibly I was just so eager to be done that time seemed to stand still. The nurses were all so great and did everything that they could to make me feel comfortable and got me anything that I needed. Perhaps that is why it was almost sad leaving the hospital that Monday morning. I developed friendships with a handful of my nurses and it was somewhat bittersweet to say goodbye. I can’t say that I am going to miss a single element of the chemotherapy, but I know I will never forget the experience. Thinking back at all the curve balls and strange and unexpected surprises I endured, I have to say that I am proud of what I have accomplished up to this point and I am eagerly awaiting phase 2 of my journey.

September 20th marks the first day of radiation treatments, which will be accompanied by daily oral chemotherapy. The doctors have warned me not to take the new chemo too lightly, though. They described the pills as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I won’t actually know for a few more days just how the new drugs will affect me, but I’m hoping the lower daily doses won’t slow me down nearly as much as the stuff in round 1. It is incredible to me just how far science has come and the amazing treatments that are available today. Just a few short years ago when radiation was administered, it was directed at the affected cancerous areas, but anything in the line of fire, healthy or not, would also get zapped. Think about all the goodies that are down in your lower abdomen and pelvic region: bladder, intestines, etc . Thank goodness for new age technology, hopefully now I won’t have to borrow any of Hudson’s diapers. Today they can actually avoid causing collateral damage to healthy tissue and focus the radiation on just the cancerous cells and tumors. Hearing that was sweet music to my ears. As you might expect, this phase of treatment is very precise. As part of my initial consultation and dry run of the radiation procedure, they made a body mold from my pelvis down and actually gave me three little tattoos as reference markers to ensure that my body will be positioned exactly the same way each day when I come in for treatment. I am told that radiation really doesn’t cause many side effects of its own. If anything, I may experience something like a bad sunburn on my keister where the radiation passes through the skin.

When this whole thing started, I was in so much constant pain that I couldn’t wait for the next time I could pop in another pain pill. Times were really tough and each day was a struggle. Over the past couple of months I have been feeling better and better. The pain is slowly diminishing and I have been able to become more active, which has granted me many more opportunities to play with my baby man. He is almost 10 months old now, which means he is changing every day and having many “firsts.” I am so grateful that I am able to spend more time with him and my lovely wife. It may not sound like a gigantic triumph to you, but this week I was actually able to take a walk around the neighborhood with my family for the first time. Other than my routine daily pills, I don’t take any additional breakthrough pain medications and haven’t done so for about two weeks. I believe that the chemotherapy has been destroying Trudy, and I know that the Lord has his healing hands upon me working miracles in my life. Yesterday morning I got up before the sun and headed down to the cancer pavilion for a PET/CT scan. It is time to see just how effective all the drugs have been over the past two months. Unfortunately, the results won’t come in for a few more days, so we will all have to wait for the verdict.

Even though I feel so much better, I haven’t forgotten about the bad times. I bring this up for a very important reason. When you are in constant pain or are constantly feeling like dog dookie, it is extremely hard to focus on anything else despite your best efforts. From the beginning, I have been showered with warm wishes and prayers from friends and family, which has meant so much to me. Often times people would state that they wish they could do more. I have to say, those emails and prayers were so much more than you could imagine. Every time I would read a message, even though it may have only taken a few short moments, I tried to think of a funny story or experience I had with that person. Sometimes those short one line “I am thinking about you” messages would lead to 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour or so of great memories. This is so important because for that period, I was able to think about something other than being sick or being in pain. I don’t know how else to explain it, but those words got me through what has been the toughest time in my life to date. Thank you so much!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Outpour

Errick’s hopes for this experience are pretty simple when it comes down to it: to inspire, to spread the Word, and to live. The lack of recent blog posts is not due to fatigue or a dive in his health, but rather due to the decreased amount of pain Errick has had with each week, which allows him to spend more time playing with Hudson as well as the ability to even work a little, which is great for his state of mind! Errick is currently undergoing his fourth and final round of straight chemo. This cycle and the previous cycle have both resulted in several heart spasms again, but he made it through last time, so we are very thankful he was still allowed to stay on the current treatment plan and are very hopeful he only has to press on through tomorrow (Sunday) and we'll be in the clear.

Errick will go on Monday September 13th for another PET scan to see if the 4 rounds of chemo worked to stop the progression of the cancer as well shrink the original developments. We will discuss the results with his oncologist on Wednesday September 15th and if all looks good, Errick will start his daily treatments of chemo (new drug, pill form) along with daily radiation for 6 weeks.

We wanted to share a few tangible gifts with you, but wanted to make sure we didn’t undershadow anyone or anything. From silent prayers and containers of tangerine Altoids to prayer shawls and photography sessions, each and every thought, action, gesture has touched our hearts equally. If we can help the business of a few folks, we’d love to show you the talent of some of our followers.

We constantly feel “wrapped in prayer”; however, we can literally be wrapped in prayer by the following items.

Our church group back in Florida made Errick a prayer blanket and many members of the class signed a patch that was sewn onto the fabric. Here is Errick at his first chemo treatment getting ready to "wrap himself in prayer."

The officiator at our wedding as well as close friend made a beautiful prayer shawl with various colors & meanings. I enjoy “wrapping myself in prayer” at the hospital because Errick likes his room as a meat freezer, but who am I to complain. ;-)

A buddy of Errick’s from high school married an incredibly crafty young lady that enjoys the art of quilting among other things and put out a “call to action” to create Trudy’s Arse Kicking Quilt. Here are pictures of the resulting front and back sides and the following link is to the making of this "wrap of prayer."


I also wanted to share a few of my favorite photos from a very special visit. 7 of Errick’s closest friends were all able to make a trip up to the lovely Grand Rapids, MI pretty quickly to spend some time with Errick just after his first chemo treatment. They literally flew over 1,000 miles to “hang out”… and, of course, to pray on him.

We had another special visit by two amazing friends that live near Washington DC, a fabulous couple that oozes love and respect for each other. The husband has recently taken up photography and happened to bring his camera along on our daily adventures. Here are a few favorite pics, but please see the links below for additional pieces of art.


Along the topic of photography, we’ve actually had two scheduled photo shoots. We are anxiously awaiting the masterpieces from a local photographer, but would like to share one favorite photo and the following link below from a local photojournalist that so brilliantly captured the love of our little family in a cherished slideshow.

*For best viewing, hit “pause” first, then change the “360p” to “720pHD” at the bottom right of the picture viewer, then make it “fullscreen,” then “play.”

We hope this brings you up to speed on the amazing things that are happening in our life and truly hope everyone is fully aware that the shortest of prayers to the big man above is incredibly appreciated and never held on any other level than the rest of the outpour of love and generosity we’ve been receiving.

God Bless,

(Here are a
few more
to document
The Outpour.)