Tom Carroll

First post: Feb 10, 2019 Latest post: Jul 26, 2019

Hello Family and Friends, 

On January 5th, we took Dad to the U of M Emergency Room because he was having some challenges with his balance.  His strong gate had become more of a shuffle and he was leaning a bit to the left.  It took some serious nudging by my mom to get him to agree to go get checked out,  but he did and off we went that Saturday afternoon. 

Within a few hours of arriving, and many tests later, an MRI revealed three lesions on his brain.  The doctor gave the searing words, "You have cancer."  Other scans were given of his torso and lungs but all were clear.  We were told based on the clear results on the other tests that the lesions had originated in his brain.  While the news was devastating,  it was reassuring that cancer originated there instead of ending up there after starting elsewhere in his body.   The gravity of the experience was balanced by my dad’s unwavering faith and a positive attitude. His strength pulled all of us through that day. He met the news with grace and a confident “I’m ready to do whatever it takes. “   The plan was to spend the next several days on the oncology floor to prepare for a biopsy of the largest lesion. 

The biopsy was scheduled for January 9th. The days on the oncology floor were spent in OT and PT and thankfully, years of physical activity certainly helped him regain his strength and the ability to walk safely.  He had a bed alarm because he needed assistance when he wanted to get up out of bed.  He thought he could just put his feet down and sit on the edge of the bed. Boy was he wrong! Nurses came running from all directions as the alarm sounded! He liked to crack jokes about it and found humor in the new challenges he faced.  On the oncology floor, Dad and Mom made friends with every staff person, nurse and doctor that they encountered. Dad’s unwavering positive attitude and gratefulness to be alive impacted everyone he met.  My parents are a formidable team. Their love and compassion for each other and their strong faith coupled with being best friends was evident to all that met them.   The seizure medications and steroids were making a difference and the reduced swelling reduced his symptoms so just as the doctors hoped, he was in good shape going into the biopsy. 

January 9th, he underwent the brain biopsy.   When we arrived in his room that morning, he had little round stickers placed all over his head. The first words out of his mouth were, “ Hey look, someone threw lifesavers in my hair!”  It was so sweet and funny. His humor certainly helped put us all at ease.  He showed off by walking to the transport bed and we sent him off in typical Carroll fashion with kisses and waves.  He was in surgery for almost seven hours.  At the end of surgery, the doctor came out and gave us the results of the biopsy, Glioblastoma Multiforme Grade 4 brain cancer.   The primary tumor was large in size and in a ‘high rent’ district of the brain which meant it was inoperable.  The plan for his care would be to once again work on recovering from surgery and regain strength to prepare for what lies ahead.  On January 11th, he was moved to Presbyterian Home in Bloomington, MN for transitional care. 

In the two weeks to follow, the team of doctors assembled and the rollout of his treatment plan was revealed.  Dad was elated to hear that the absolute top doctors from the U were his team. Dr. Neal, chemotherapy, Dr. Dusenbery, radiation and Dr. Chen neurosurgery.   Many doctor appointments ensued over the two weeks.  While there is no cure for this cancer (yet) there were advances that helped patients maintain a quality of life while treating the fast-growing nature of it.   Dr. Chen is the head of Neurosurgery at the U of M and he offered a state of the art laser  LITT surgery that ‘cooks’ the tumor and reduces the number of cells that the radiation and chemo need to fight.  With better cell ratios, the more likely the chemo and radiation will effectively keep the cells from growing. Dr. Dusenbery and Dr. Neal followed up with details surrounding the first round of radiation and chemo which would be six weeks, M-F. starting a week after the LITT surgery. 

The plan was in place and Dad was ready to ‘do his part’. He was upbeat and full of gratitude for everyone who took care of him. At the care facility, the doctor appointments, the valet staff, etc.  he acknowledged people for their role in helping him and brought smiles and love everywhere he went. Seeing him find gratitude in the toughest of situations has been such a gift to all of us.  In Dad's words, this was the start of his 'sabbatical'.  
**Please read all of the additional  journal posts from oldest to newest. That will give you the full story on Dad's journey. ❤**