Sunday, August 17, 2008

News on Nick

Last week was one of the busiest weeks we have had in a long time. Nick's scans and trip to Birmingham were mostly uneventful. There were little glitches along the way, but certainly nothing major.

Nick's scans showed that the cancer is stable. We are thankful for that good news. Nick has three suspicious areas that the oncologist has been watching. One of the areas is in the same location as the large mass we dealt with two years ago. The best news was that particular mass, although still there, has decreased in metabolic activity on the PET scans. That is some of the best news we could have gotten. PET scans measure metabolic activity. Cancer cells are highly metabolic, so the PET scans are able to measure the "heat" that the cancer cells put off. The fact that the scan didn't measure any "heat" from this mass is a huge answer to prayer. The other two masses were still referred to as "hot" on the scans, which means there are active cancer cells in the masses. We are still praying for complete healing for Nick.

This is his third battle with cancer. So far, this battle has been the easiest. The other two times Nick has had cancer, he has had to endure surgeries and chemotherapy. We aren't there yet this time. Although every time Nick has to have these tests run, I do find myself wondering if this is when it starts up again.

When I think of how long we have been dealing with cancer, I am amazed. The power of God is truly awesome. Here's a history lesson. Nick will be 14 next week. He was 15 months old (December 1995) when he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He went through chemo from December 1995 until his liver transplant in September 1996. Nick got his new liver 1 week after his second birthday. The doctors told us when Nick was initially diagnosed that there was NOT a cure for his liver cancer. The best we could hope for was that the chemo would slow down the growth of the cancer. The transplant was truly a God thing. They didn't come up with that option until ALL other options had been rejected. Everything else was rejected because Nick would not have survived any of the surgeries to try to remove the tumors from his liver. The transplant was our only hope of curing Nick's cancer.

Fast forward to December 2003. Keith is admitted to the hospital for tests because he is having severe stomach pain. After scans and scopes, it is determined that Keith not only has a genetic condition that we knew nothing about, but he also has colon cancer at 33 years old. Keith's battle with cancer caused us to have some tests done on Nick and Kacie. Nick's tests reveal that he also has the genetic condition and that alone predisposes him to various forms of cancer. Nick had some pretty major surgeries to reduce his risk for developing colon cancer. We were advised to go ahead with this because of Nick's earlier cancer diagnosis and he was already developing early signs of the disease. After a long ordeal, Nick was finally well. Six months into his recovery(January 2006), Nick was diagnosed with PTLD/lymphoma. That is a type of cancer that is a rare side effect of taking anti-rejection medication for a transplant.

My thoughts were all over the place from "He can't have cancer the same time as Keith!" to "He's already had cancer once. He can't have it again!" I could not believe that the thing that saved Nick's life gave him cancer all over again. After almost a year of various treatments, a couple of surgeries, and chemo, the cancer went into remission.

January 2008 we found out the cancer was back. I mentioned earlier that this fight has been easier so far this time. The doctor has been watching it. There hasn't been any surgery or chemo yet. I guess it is safe to say that I expect there to be one day. That may sound like a lack of faith, but it isn't. I have faith that God can and will heal Nick. However, healing may have to come the hard way...the way it has twice before.

Cancer has lived in our house for nearly 13 years. It is only the rare day that goes by that I don't think about cancer at least once. We try to keep the focus of our family off of the fight that Keith and Nick have. We've lived with cancer for so long that we know how strong, how devastating, and how evil it can be. We know how Satan uses it to tear apart families, to wreck havoc on lives, and to turn people away from God. We choose to limit cancer by holding onto our faith in the Almighty Healer. We choose to limit cancer by laughing with our children, finding joy in the simple things, and fighting with a strength that is truly God given. Sometimes when there isn't any fight left in us, we limit cancer by crawling into God's lap and just holding on.

Thanks for sticking with me throughout this long post. This is the time of year that my thoughts and memories of the last 13 years flood back. We only had one birthday with Nick before he was diagnosed. One birthday that I didn't wonder if he would have another one. However, we've had 12 almost 13 that I've been more thankful than the year before!

God is awesome!

Friday, August 8, 2008

It's been a little while.

I realized today that it has been awhile since I've updated here. Things have been incredibly busy around our house. Keith has had another treatment and a visit with his oncologist. The good news there is that his counts have remained high enough for him to tolerate chemo. I have been worried that his counts wouldn't be able to tolerate the treatments much longer. With the help of the platelet shots, Keith has not had to miss a treatment yet. Praise God!

Keith will have another treatment in two weeks. Then the following week he will undergo CT scans that will measure the tumors and check for any other new sites of cancer. The results of these scans will tell the oncologist how well the chemo has been working. If the tumors are smaller (indicative that the chemo is working), then the chemo regimen will most likely be left alone for as long as Keith's body can tolerate it. If things have worsened (chemo is not working), then some adjustments will need to be made. The oncologist said that he would most likely leave Keith on the most of the same medicines. The frequency Keith gets the medicine would change. No major decisions will be made until after the scans are done.

Nick and Kacie have started back to school. Nick is in 8th grade and Kacie is in 3rd grade. Wow! Where did the time go? I don't feel like we had much of a summer break. I am not ready to tackle homework. I imagine the kids aren't either. Nick struggles so much with school and learning that the school year wears on all of us. I am hoping this year will be better. Kacie enjoys school. So far, she says that third grade is her most favorite year ever.

Nick will be having PET and CT scans next week. The PET scans will be here in town on Monday morning. We will take the discs with us to Birmingham for Nick's oncologist to review on Thursday. Nick will also have "neck to knees" CT scans done on Thursday morning. All of these scans will tell us if Nick's cancer has grown or progressed any. If it hasn't, then we might be able to take a break from having these frequent scans for a few months. If it has grown or any new spots have shown up, then the oncologist will have to make a plan for a biopsy and chemotherapy. We are praying that this won't happen. We would love to hear the news that Nick is cancer-free again.

Thank you for praying for us. We are trying to continue to rely on God for His will in our lives. It gets hard though. I find myself worrying and fretting over things that I can't change or control. That is when I have to make myself give things over to God and leave them be.

I wish we could return to a more "normal" lifestyle, but I am realizing with every passing day that this may be how our "normal" will be. I went through some of these same feelings when our life changed so dramatically after Nick's initial cancer diagnosis and liver transplant. After a few really hard years, we were able to settle into a new " normal" that meant we had to go to Birmingham routinely. However, our life was mostly calm with flareups that were bad when they happened, but ultimately didn't last very long. I never thought I would long for those days back, but I do.

I am tired of cancer living in our house. I would like for it to become a distant relative again. We seek to find joy daily, and not in material or earthly type things. A quick side note: One way we have found joy lately is by watching hummingbirds. We noticed that we had one feeding from a basket of petunias I hung on the front porch. We bought a feeder and the nectar began disappearing very quickly. We started watching the feeder and so far have counted three hummingbirds that are feeding from it. Today we're going to hang another feeder to see if it will attract a few more.

Take a few minutes today and find some joy, whether it be in watching hummingbirds or canning tomatoes or jam. (I've learned how to do that in the last two weeks. I have really enjoyed that too!)