Now at the beginning the third week of a 16 week chemotherapy program, I am initiating this Caring Bridge site at the recommendation and request of loved ones who have blessed me with their prayers and very encouraging expressions of love over the past weeks. Consequently, the most important thing for me to say is a very humble and heart-felt “Thank you so much” to so many of you who are such a wonderful source of blessing to Carolyn and me as we go through this process. May the Lord bless each of you abundantly as you live to honor Him and bless the lives of others.
Also, I want to say that I am aware that some of you, yourself or a very close loved one, have gone through or are going through challenges of life that are much harder than what I am facing. May you also be blessed with a network of love and care to help you through what you are facing. And, may you always have a very keen sense of the great love that God has for you, and may you always have a very real awareness of His Presence in your life. In all that we face in life each day, may He in everything be honored and may each of us be a channel of His love to others. This is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior – King of kings and Lord of lords.
Finally, I want to mention my older brother Cotton, who is completing his series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments as I start mine. Please pray for his physical healing as he recovers from the process that he has been through. It is really amazing how advanced the medical profession has become in treating and curing cancer; but, the body really takes a beating and the spirit of a person faces a huge challenge. I am so thankful for Cotton’s spiritual health and my prayer for him is that his physical health will recover to the level of health of his spiritual health. I am thankful for his example and his life.
In early December I noticed a spot on my forehead, just above the hairline, that seemed to be different and abnormal. So, I got it checked out by my dermatologist the last week of December. She cut off a sample of the sore and sent it to the lab for biopsy.
The first week of January I got a call from the doctor, while in the parking lot at Aunt Winnie’s apartment in Lubbock, Texas, saying that she was sorry to report that the biopsy identified the spot as epithelioid angiosarcoma (I had to have her spell it out for me). And, that the proper forward step should be submitting the care and treatment of this cancer to MD Anderson. I agreed and she was very helpful in getting me under the care of a team of doctors at MD Anderson. So, I give thanks for Dr. Christy Woodruff in Brenham, Texas for helping us identify what the spot on my forehead was and how to address it medically.
The next day I received a call from MD Anderson to discuss my situation. They said it would take about a week to ten days to review the lab reports and my health records. This was on January 5, two days before my planned departure for a two-week trip with Carol Bailey of Spiritual Outreach Worldwide to visit with church leaders in 9 congregations of Christians in the mountains of west central Honduras. I asked MD Anderson if I should cancel the trip. After discussing it she agreed that my first appointment with MD Anderson could be after my return from Honduras. So, I went with Carol Bailey and was blessed with two weeks of spiritual encouragement from praising God, sharing His love, discussing His word and spending time in prayer with fellow believers in the coffee bean Mountains of Honduras. It is a blessing to have their love and prayers accompanying me also, along with so many other family (physical and spiritual) and friends in this journey.
My first week of appointments at MD Anderson involved a lot of testing, blood work, review of health and medical history and CT and full body PET scans. One of the concerns was that this type of cancer could be in other parts of my body that are not detectible on the skin surface. This type of cancer is aggressive, is associated with the blood and blood vessels of the body and characteristically grows in soft tissues, cartilage and bones. The very good news is that they found no other evidence of this angiosarcoma anywhere else in my body and we are blessed in that we identified it so early in its stage of growth. Two other small potential cancers were located in my upper chest, between my collar bones, and up on my throat under my chin that are not related to the angiosarcoma cancer on my head. In my final meeting with my medical team, on January 31st, we agreed that the plan of treatment is to be 16 weeks of chemotherapy to shrink the size of the cancer. This is to be followed by surgery to remove whatever is left of the cancer after the chemotherapy. Also, after the effectiveness of the chemotherapy is evaluated, the surgery may or may not be followed by radiation treatments.
Regarding the other two smaller potential cancers, we anticipate that the chemotherapy will kill them. We’ll be watching them as we progress through the chemotherapy.
I asked when we could start with the first treatment. The doctor said anytime. I said that I was ready to start “this afternoon or tomorrow”. He replied that there were three things that needed to be done first; a complete baseline of blood tests, map the spot on my head, and attend a Chemotherapy Training Class. He said that as soon as these were done he would set up my treatment appointments.
This was about noon on Tuesday, so Jennifer (my daughter who was with me as my care provider for the day – because Carolyn was still in the hospital in Katy, Texas – more about that in the next paragraph) and I went down to the blood lab where Joann the lab tech (a really sweet Christian sister) took all the blood that she needed for the baseline work, then we went to the barbershop (skipping lunch!) and got my hair buzzed, and returned to Dr. Ravi’s office to check in with his nurse Andrea to see what she had worked out on timing for my Chemotherapy training and to get my head mapped. She appeared amused that we had gotten the lab work and hair cut done so quickly (or perhaps she was amused by my buzz haircut). A photographer took a series of photos of my head so he can map it – as an engineer and familiar with oil field mapping, I am looking forward to seeing how he maps my head). And, Andrea signed us up for the Chemotherapy training at the next available class on Friday, January 3rd.
Regarding Carolyn’s situation. The evening of January 29th, Sunday evening, after throwing up several times she was having severe pains across her lower back. I took her to the emergency service at Memorial Hermann in Katy, Texas. They did a CT scan and identified a 6 mm kidney stone that was blocking the flow path from her right kidney to her bladder and the kidney effluent was just building up in her kidney, causing great pain.
About midnight they admitted her to the hospital, after giving her some medication to deal with the severe pain. First thing Monday morning they took her to OR and installed a stint between the kidney and bladder to empty the contaminated fluids from the kidney. The buildup of fluids in the kidney resulted in an infection of the blood. She was sent back to her room for a couple of days to treat the blood infection intravenously. They made enough progress on Monday afternoon through Tuesday to release her Tuesday evening. We are scheduled to return to Memorial Hermann in Katy tomorrow morning to remove the stint and break up the kidney stone so it can pass. They also plan to place another temporary stint in for a week to be sure that all of the stone particles have an opportunity to pass. So, please be praying for her as well as she recovers from this situation.
Back to my chemotherapy treatments. Jonathan went with me on Friday, February 3rd, to attend the Chemotherapy Treatment training. So, I was now qualified to start the Chemotherapy. We went back to Andrea and she got my treatments scheduled, starting Monday, February 6. We were able to set the treatments up at an MD Anderson clinic in Katy, Texas (about half the distance from our home to the MD Anderson facility in Houston). I’ll have another PET scan after 4 weeks of treatments to see how well the Paclitaxel chemical is doing treating the cancer. And, the team will re-evaluate the effectiveness of the current program.