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On May 22, 2017, Larry went to Silver Lake Medical Center for a chest X-ray in preparation for his second back surgery. This is a routine procedure that is typically done prior to surgery, just to ensure that the patient is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. The surgery was done the next day, and everything went well. Larry's back was healing, and he was looking forward to a summer of recuperation and "hitting the gym" to strengthen himself. It was going to be the summer to, in Larry's words: "reclaim his body."
As a family, we had also been through some difficult months and years of coping with my mom's debilitating disease of Alzheimer's, and her passing in April of 2017. This summer seemed like a good time to schedule a long overdue family vacation. I arranged for a flight to Hawaii. We were scheduled to leave on July 24th and return August 3rd.
Then, on June 27th, Larry felt a strange pain in his side. He reluctantly went to Urgent Care, and the attending physician ordered a CT Scan. That evening, Larry got a phone call from that physician. The doctor asked Larry, "Are you driving right now or are you at home? Are you sitting down? Is your wife with you?" Fortunately, Larry was at home, and he texted me to come downstairs to the living room. I went downstairs, and we spoke with the doctor. He explained to us that scan showed a mass in Larry's lung and on the liver. I asked if it was cancer, and he said, "We have to assume that it is until we find out otherwise." We were devastated by the news.
The next day Larry remembered the X-ray that had been done in May. He thought the mass that showed up on the CT Scan must've been very new, since nothing had shown up on the chest X-ray taken less than five weeks beforehand. On June 28th, Larry drove to Silver Lake Medical Center and requested his medical records. The X-ray results were documented on two separate pages. One page had the statement "Chest X-ray - negative." Another page had an entire paragraph describing a 6 cm. mass on his lung. Larry shared this information with a very good friend who happens to be a medical doctor. This friend told him that it sounded like malpractice, but that Larry should focus on his health first. Two days later, Larry met with Dr. McKenna, the oncologist at St. John's Hospital who was to initiate his care.
Shortly after that a liver biopsy was ordered. Because of a few missteps on the hospital's part, the biopsy was needlessly delayed, but was eventually scheduled for July 18th. On the day of the biopsy, we were told he would receive the results in about three days. When three days had passed, Larry called the hospital to see if the results were available. He was told they were not in yet. Realizing that our vacation was soon approaching, he told them not to call him with the results unless it was serious.
On Friday, July 21st, we were at our neighborhood park with PJ. We were talking with friends when suddenly Larry told me he had a really bad headache and winced in pain. I was very worried. I said, "Larry, we may need to cancel our trip. Go to Urgent Care and see what's going on." Larry agreed and left for Urgent Care right away. I stayed at the park with PJ, but made a few phone calls to discuss my concerns with friends. Two of the three friends I spoke to that day said it was probably just stress.
When we all arrived home that evening, Larry told me the doctor had said his headaches were caused by stress, and gave him some exercises to do. Feeling relieved, and based on that diagnosis, we went ahead with our vacation plans.
On July 24th, we arrived in Hawaii. PJ was exhilarated, but it was almost immediately obvious that Larry was not doing well. Day two of our trip, I told him I was worried about him and that he should probably go to Urgent Care during our trip. After considering it he said, "I'll think about it." Days went by quickly, and by the time Sunday came around there was no more denying it. Larry had a severe headache and needed help. That evening we planned that on Monday, July 31st, Larry would take a lyft to the nearest Urgent Care, and that I would stay at the resort and keep things as normal as possible for PJ.
When Larry walked to the lobby that Monday morning, one of the hotel receptionists noticed him looking a little lost and confused. After asking him a few questions, she decided to call the paramedics. Unbeknownst to me, Larry was whisked off to the nearest hospital emergency room at Queen's Medical Center. There an MRI was done, and the attending doctor discovered the true reason for the severe headaches.
Around 2:00PM, I received a call from the doctor. She was very clear and direct about the situation. "Your husband has two golf-ball sized masses in his brain. He needs immediate surgery to have them removed," she explained. She went on to say we could extend our trip and have the surgery done there, but they would not be able to schedule it for a week. Or we could end our trip early and see if we could get Larry back home and scheduled for surgery as soon as possible. She also told me that there were three prescriptions he would need to pick up before we left. Immediately after that phone call I knew I would need help. I called our dear friend, Joanne, and explained what was going on. She was so very loving, kind, and supportive. I asked if she could send out a prayer request, and before you know it we had hundreds of our church family and extended church family members praying for us. I made the necessary changes so that we could leave for home the next day.
By the grace of God, we flew home safely and arrived at LAX at 5:30AM on August 2nd. My brother, Stephen, came to pick us up, and Larry helped him lift the suitcases and load them into the car!!!
On August 2nd, Larry went to St. John's hospital and was admitted immediately. Brain surgery was scheduled for the following day. When I arrived the next morning to see him before he went to surgery, Larry was already anesthetized and singing, "I am comfortably numb . . . " as if he were performing on stage. That was quite a long day, and I am so grateful to family and friends - Natalie, Renee, Deborah, Luann, Doris, Suzanne, and Paul - for coming and hanging out at the hospital with me while Larry was in surgery. The surgery was successful, and I was able to see him by 8:00PM that night.
Larry remained in the hospital until August 8th, and was transferred from there to the California Rehabilitation Institute where he stayed until August 14th. There he received physical therapy to regain his ability to walk. His eyesight had been affected by one of the tumors because it had been located near the occipital lobe, so he needed to practice walking with the vision challenges. He made great strides in his recovery while there, and the nurses were impressed at how quickly he met his physical therapy goals.
On August 14, the day he was discharged, Larry had his first appointment with his oncologist, Dr. Sean Fischer. He explained the extent of the cancer and what the treatment plan would be. We were fortunate to have two friends who are both in the healing profession with us that day. Dr. Fischer was very thorough, and answered all of our questions as well as he could. There are just some things that doctors still don't know about cancer. How long has Larry had the cancer? There's no way of knowing. All we know is that it is a fast growing cancer called Adenocarcinoma. How did Larry get cancer when he was never a smoker? Again, there is no way of knowing.
Dr. Fischer summed up the consultation by saying that Larry would need to meet with a radiation oncologist before the end of the week. He would be going in for brain radiation first before he could receive the chemo treatments. When the radiation was completed, he would then be receiving three cycles of chemotherapy.
At the time of this writing, October 8, 2017, Larry's treatments have all been successful. Praise God!!
He has recovered incredibly well from the craniotomy, and he has responded better than expected to the whole brain radiation. (See journal post of Oct. 6th.)
In addition, he seems to be doing well with the chemotherapy treatments. We'll find out more when he goes for the next full body scan within the next couple of weeks.
We attribute this success to all of the amazing friends, loved ones, and prayer warriors who have been praying for us continuously since we discovered Larry might have cancer back in June.
Although Larry has a serious diagnosis - Stage IV Lung Cancer with metastases to the brain, liver, bones and lymph-nodes - there are such things as 'spontaneous remission' and 'radical remission.' It is entirely possible that he will be in that minority of people who live beyond expectations or even manage to beat the cancer completely. With God all things are possible!!