Apr 23, 2018 Latest post:
May 15, 2018
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your prayers, support and words of hope and encouragement.
As many of you kow, Donald and Marlis are missionaries and were on the mission field in the Philippines in February when they received the terrible news that Marlis' daughter, Ruth, was in critical condition. Both immediately flew back to California and Ruth passed away on February 12th. On the night of Ruth's death, Marlis was taken to the ER for aFib. At that point, the doctor noticed that she was anemic and encouraged her to follow up on this when she returned home. After Ruth's memorial service, the pair returned back to Racine, Wisconsin where they had moved the previous September.
MARLIS: In the early hours of Sunday, March 4th, Marlis again experienced aFib and was rushed to the ER. She flatlined for 7 seconds and then her heart "reset" itself and, since then, has been beating correctly. After getting heart issues resolved, Marlis' primary physician referred her to a hematologist for a closer examination of her blood. Based on her blood counts, the hematologist ordered a bone marrow biopsy for Marlis. The results would be shared a week later on April 6th.
DONALD: Upon their return to Racine, Donald noticed some unusual bleeding and shared this with his primary physician. The primary ordered a colonoscopy to be performed. Donald was told that a mass as well as two polyps had been found in his colon. A biopsy of the mass was taken and results of the biopsy would be shared with Donald on April 6th.
APRIL 6TH: At this combined appointment, both Donald and Marlis received their results. On the exact same day, both found out they had cancer.
DONALD: Donald went first. At that time, he was told the mass was located at the juncture of the colon and rectum but looked to be primarily in the colon. Therefore, he was told he had colon cancer. It couldn't be "staged" yet because they needed to see if cancer cells had spread. So, a chest/GI MRI was ordered for him. On Tuesday, April 10th, Donald underwent a grueling two-hour MRI! Results would be given to him on Friday, April 13th. At that time, he was told that the MRI revealed no spreading of cancer cells to other organs...except the rectum. Since the rectum was now involved, the cancer has to be treated as rectal cancer and Donald has been diagnosed with Stage 3 rectal cancer. He underwent an endoscopic ultrasound to determine how deeply into the layers of rectal muscle the cancer had spread. Sadly, out of the 4 layers, 3 were cancer-infected. On Monday, April 23rd, Donald meets with a radiologist and surgeon at St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee to determine his next steps which will, most likely, include a course of radiation followed by surgery.
MARLIS: At that same appointment on April 6th, Marlis was told that she had acute myeloid leukemia for which there is no cure. With treatment, she was told she could have up to 3 years to live. Without treatment, the prognosis was grim. Naturally, Marlis chose treatment. Additionally, the oncologist ordered a brain MRI because Marlis had experienced episodes of "fuzziness" or lack of clarity. The doctor said she would also look for clinical trials. After this appointment, Marlis' nephew and niece-in-law were contacted. Both work for Novartis, a global pharmaceutical company. Marlis' nephew looked for a specialist while her niece looked for Novartis clinical trials Marlis may qualify for. Her nephew discovered that an expert in Marlis' leukemia was located in Milwaukee--just 45 minutes north of where Marlis & Donald live!!
Marlis bravely underwent the brain MRI and it revealed no cancer cells in the brain! Marlis' Racine oncologist then referred her care to the specialist at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. At the meeting with the specialist, 3 options for care were given to Marlis. She chose the one with the best chances for survival. So, beginning Tuesday, April 24th, Marlis will begin a 7-day round of chemo followed by 21 "off" days. This will continue for 4 months. At the end of 4 months, we will know if the chemo is being effective. If it is, Marlis will continue with this for the rest of her life. In the meantime, Marlis' niece-in-law is still researching possibilities for Novartis clinical trials.
So, that's where we are now. Donald finds out his course of action on Monday, April 23rd, and Marlis begins her chemo treatments on Tuesday, April 24th. Both sincerely appreciate your prayers. This is a hard road laid out in front of them...one they will walk together.