Saturday, October 10, 2009

How Would YOU Feel If Santa Brought You EVERYTHING On Your List?

Well, I had planned to post Thursday after we met with Dr. Glenn and received the results of the PET scan and LDH test, but then I learned I had to return to Huntsman on Friday for another test (more on that in a minute), so I decided I would wait till after Friday to post.

So, here's the update for both Thursday and Friday...

Thursday Lisa, Barry and I went to HCI to meet with Dr. Glenn and receive the results of both the PET scan and the LDH test.  You'll remember that the LDH test is a blood test which indicates how aggressive the cancer was.  The results indicated that the cancer is not aggressive, which is good.  Actually, you can argue that it's NOT good, as if the cancer were aggressive, it would be treated with chemo right now, and quite posibly could be cured.  So, normally one would not want to hear that their cancer was aggressive, but in this case it would be a good thing.  So, since my cancer is not aggressive, immediate chemotherapy is not a course of action we will/should take.

The PET scan results were also very interesting.  The PET scan is combined with a CAT scan and shows "slices" of the body from head to toe, both horizontal (across your body from head to toe) and vertical (across your body from anterior to posterior).  As indicated in my last post, the glucose and radio isotope travel to areas where they are metabolized, which is normally in rapidly active or multiplying cells, hence cancer is a place where much of the IV solution travels.  Normal areas which are working showed up- heart, kidneys, bladder, etc.  "Showed up" means that the scan is black, and the areas where the solution is "glows" on the screen.  It seems to me to very umambiguous- if it's glowing, something's going on, if it's not, nothing is going on.

So, we saw the lymph nodes from the biopsy ("retroperitoneal", or towards the back of my abdomen down by the aorta), and they of course were glowing.  No news there- we knew that's where the cancer was.  But, we also saw another chain of lymph nodes which were glowing, and they were down in the "iliac" area.  So, that means the cancer is Stage II (cancer staging) because it's localized in two areas, but on the same side of the diaphragm.  I had understood from Dr. Glenn last week that if it was Stage II, we would not be able to radiate.  So, a little dejectedly, I said, "So, we won't be able to radiate?" and she said "No.  I've already been on the phone with the radiation oncologist, Dr. Million, and she's already familiarized herself with your case, and she indicates she can radiate the two lymph node chains in the same radiation field."  She went on to explain that the Dr. Million's office would get with me early next week and set up an appointment. We'll meet for 4-5 hours to set things up, then starting mapping out the areas on the body to be radiated.  I'll go five days a week for four weeks, and could start as early as a week from next Monday (10/19).  Sessions will be 15 minutes or so, and they expect very few side effects.  No expected nausea, as we will be radiating away from the stomach.  Possible diarrhea, as we will be closer to the bowels, but I'm happy to have to take that risk to be able to radiate.

I asked Dr. Glenn if we would still do a bone marrow test, and she indicated we would.  I asked her if the chances were that it would be a good result because my blood count is normal, and she indicated that the chances were good it would be great.  The purpose of this test is to ensure that the cancer is not in the marrow, as if it is there is no need to radiate- it wouldn't be effective.  We would then most likely go to "watchful waiting".

So, bottom line, we had wanted the result of the PET scan to be that the cancer was localized, and that we would be able to proceed with radiation, which Dr. Glenn indicate can actually cure this cancer, even though it's an indolent NHL and "incurable".  We prayed for this result, and I know many others offered those same prayers, and the Lord responded by answering our prayers and granting to us what we had asked for.  As I've told a few folks since, the only possible better outcome would have been if Dr. Glenn had pulled up the PET scan results and said "Todd, we don't know why, but for some reason the cancer is no longer in your body."  Could that happen, of course it could.  But, the more feasible option is that the Lord simply grants the next best things, which is the route we will take and the potential of a cure.

So, I ask you- "HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF SANTA BROUGHT YOU EVERTHING ON YOUR LIST?"  That's how I feel- the Lord granted us the blessing we most needed and asked for.  I have no doubt he'll continue to do so- the bone marrow test I have faith will show no cancer, and we'll be ready to start with Dr. Million next week and begin radiation the following week.

Yesterday then was the bone marrow test.  If you didn't follow the link above to read about bone marrow tests, I'd suggest you do so at this time, as it was VERY MUCH what my test was like.  Not only was marrow aspirated and sampled, but a core sample (biopsy) was also taken.  I have to admit I went in yesterday with some apprehension, as I've only heard bad about bone marrow tests, mostly that they're extremely painful.  That may be, but it may also be that an experienced medical professional makes all the difference, and I have no doubt that was the case for me.  Renee, a Nurse Practitioner at Huntsman performed the test, and was wonderful!  Except for the "pin prick" pain associated with the anesthetic, I felt no futher pain.  There was some pressure- how could there not be when a fit, skinny woman has to crank on a needle and press it into the hip bone of a big guy?  Props to you Renee!  I'd do that again with no fear if I had to (as long as Renee came along!).

Just an observation- for some reason, I've always pictured bone marrow as white/creamy in color, and somewhat gelatinous.  Turns out it's red and very "watery"- basically like bood.  I had no idea what it looked like, and now I know.  Not that that means anything, it perhaps means I didn't pay attention in anatomy/medical subjects in my school career.  Guess that's why I'm a business guy with an MBA and not a medical professional?

So, here's the bottom line- bone marrow test results next week, meet with Dr. Million to get going on the radiation, begin radiation most likely the 19th of October, and then I already have a follow-up booked with Dr. Glenn for January 19th, at which time we'll do a follow-up PET scan, blood tests, etc. and I will then meet with her.  Very good chance at that time she tells me the cancer is all "gone" and that I'm "cured".  I use quotation marks, as it's also possible it won't fully go away, and may not be cured, but I'd already resigned myself to the fact that this cancer may be like a chronic disease for the rest of my life, and I've already received a peaceful assurance that I'll get through it.

That's Thursday and Friday's update.  Have a GREAT weekend, and I'll plan to post more when I hear back on bone marrow test results on Monday, and then start meeting with Dr. Million, etc.

Public thanks to the Lord for hearing and answering our prayers. We still have a way to go in all this, and I am cognizant of that, but I also have a strong testimony that the Lord does hear and answer prayers, and this just reinforces and substantiates that!


  1. Todd and Lisa,
    I love the updates. I love the explanations along with the feelings. Great blog.
    Vickie Vega

  2. Todd.....Kelly and I are thrilled to hear the good news!! You and the girls are in our thoughts and prayers. Stay strong brother!