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Jan 29, 2020 Latest post:
Aug 26, 2020
We've created this Caring Bridge site so that family and friends can follow our Journey....a journey we never wanted to take, but we know that God's divine plan is perfect!
Our journey actually started last April, although we didn't know it at the time. Ray had a successful hip replacement surgery in April 2019. The therapy went well and he was up and moving in no time flat! However, his energy level just wasn't what it had been but we attributed this to having undergone a pretty big surgery. This man loves to work in the yard, it doesn't matter if its 95 degrees, but summer 2019 was different from other summers. He would spend a little time in the yard, but needed to rest quite frequently...this just wasn't normal for him.
We meet our insurance 'out of pocket' expenses with the surgery and subsequent physical therapy, so we decided that we would make all those doctor's appointments (the ones that we usually put off for one reason or another) before the end of the year. Because we spend so much time in the sun, the dermatologist was at the top of the list. There was only one appointment available during the time we were to be in Chattanooga (we couldn't get an appointment in Florence until February 2020). It was December 5th and we decided that Ray would take it (for no particular reason). The Physician's Assistant Ray saw identified a suspicious looking place on his left temple and biopsied that spot. The following Monday, we got the biopsy results....Melanoma. Definitely not what we wanted to hear.
Our wonderful sister-in-law, Kim Canaday, is a CRNP at the Northwest Alabama Cancer Center (NWACC) in Muscle Shoals, AL. She is our advocate, our angel! I called Kim to let her know Ray's diagnosis; she told us to be at their office the following morning (December 10th) to formulate a plan of treatment. Standard blood tests were done and we were referred to Dr. Mark Kelly at Vanderbilt's Williamson County campus for further excision of the biopsied site and to also biopsy nearby lymph nodes. Ray's outpatient surgery was scheduled for December 19th. We were happy that this was moving so fast and was happening before Christmas, but the bad news is that we wouldn't know the biopsy results until we went back to Franklin, TN for his one week checkup. I honestly believe this was the longest week of my life!
The night before we were to go back to see Dr. Kelly, Kim delivered bad news. Something had shown up in Ray's bloodwork that was alarming. His protein level was out the roof and he was anemic. No wonder he had not been himself and that his usual high energy level was basically nonexistent. This indicated that he may also have Myeloma, a non-curable, but treatable, relatively rare blood cancer that affects the plasma cells in the bone marrow. Two cancers? As if one wasn't bad enough! I was a mess during that two hour drive to Franklin the following morning for Ray's checkup! Thankfully, Dr. Kelly delivered good news....the Melanoma was contained to the original biopsy and had not spread! Thank you Lord!!!
Our next step was for Ray to have a bone marrow biopsy and PET scan in Florence. The bone marrow biopsy showed that 75-80% of Ray's bone marrow was affected by Myeloma cells; however, the PET scan showed no cancer in his organs! Another Praise the Lord!!!
We were immediately referred to the Myeloma Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. UAMS has a very successful outpatient stem cell transplant program that has shown great results. This institution has performed more stem cell transplants than any other hospital in the world....including MD Anderson and Mayo Clinic. I would say that's pretty impressive!
Had it not been for the hip replacement surgery, where we met our out of pocket expenses, we probably would have never made that appointment to see the dermatologist that found the Melanoma. Had we not found the Melanoma, we may have never found the Myeloma.....until it was too late.