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November
15
2020

November 14, 2020 (Zach)

Good evening family, friends, and prayer partners around the world,

Today marks ten days since Mom underwent the biggest surgery of her life.  So many of you have poured out so much love on all of us, and we truly don't know how to thank you.  This has, without a doubt, been the toughest time we've ever gone through as a family; and knowing that we have a worldwide community that we can lean on through the uncertainty is second only to trusting that our Heavenly Father has a perfect plan.

Many have asked how Mom has taken to the arduous stage of recovery, so here is an attempt at keeping you updated.  The day after the surgery, November 5th, felt pretty surreal; especially when Dad connected all of us kids, Nana Amick (Mom's mom), and Aunt Deb (Mom's sister) on a FaceTime group call to see her for the first time since she'd awoken.  Even through the fog of a lot of medicine in her system, she was beaming with a big smile and bright eyes; and just as seeing someone after they die is for closure, I felt like this was "closure" that she had really made it through!  

The next several days were thankfully uneventful.  Haley drove out and was able to take her new little service puppy, Teddy, into the ICU to cuddle with Mom in her hospital bed.  On November 6th, she was transferred to a normal room; and even though her nerve block wore off the next day, we are all grateful that the pain that she feels now is almost a "good" pain that takes her toward full health (as opposed to the escalating "bad" pain that was slowly sucking the life out of her over the last two years).  On November 9th, the medical team determined that she had hit some targets regarding her digestive system and decided to take one of her tubes out.  Those of you who have been getting some of Dad's little video updates could tell that there was a renewed sparkle of hope and strengthened belief in his eyes.

Unfortunately, Lexi's time with Mom on November 10th, 11th and 12th proved a little more frustrating and scary.  After dealing with some considerable cavity drainage issues and realizing that her stomach was leaking later in the evening on the 10th, the doctors scheduled a CT scan for the next day.  Dad then sent out an urgent call to prayer on the 11th, as Mom's blood pressure dropped, one of her lungs partially collapsed, and she started going septic in her stomach.  It was decided pretty quickly after her oxygen levels plummeted and she passed out that they would do an emergency surgery to drain the extra fluid.  Lexi, now 20 weeks pregnant with Dad and Mom's seventh grandbaby, was given the opportunity to stay in the room, and then watched as they reinserted the nasogastric (NG) tube.  Following the surgery, Mom was taken back to the ICU due to the immense amount of pain and her fluctuating oxygen levels.  Thankfully, instead of just opening her back up completely, the doctors had agreed to use the NG tube to keep her stomach empty with the hopes of giving it some time to heal itself.  Before heading back to North Carolina, Lexi voiced that although Mom seemed a little confused, agitated, and sometimes giggly on the pain medicine (she was quoted telling the doctor that she "could've done the surgery better herself" ;)), she could breathe freely again after the new incision drained about a liter of fluid from around her lungs.  She had also gotten quite dehydrated, but was receiving lots of fluids now that the complications were under control.

Dad has spent the past two days with Mom in Pittsburgh, and physically, she is back to a stable state.  Yesterday, the medical team took the uncomfortable NG tube back out, and although she is still on oxygen, she was able to ingest some broth and ginger ale.  There is still a large amount of fluid draining from her cavity, but right now, it seems that this is a good sign.  Mom has been mentally disoriented and confused, and to add to the emotional burden on Dad and the nursing staff, she has been pleading with everyone to be able to "just go home".   With all of the medicine playing tricks on her, she believes many of us/you all have been there in the room or the hallway...so you might have had a conversation with her without you even knowing it! ;)

Even miracles have their own timelines; and as we all can see so clearly, God is using Mom's experience and battle to challenge, bless, and inspire people across the globe--as well as right at her bedside.  Please continue to pray with us that she get the very best care from the medical providers (a prayer that's been answered time and again already), and that we could get her home as soon as it's safe to do so.

 

Thank you for being there.  It means more than you could possibly imagine.

Zach

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November
6
2020

November 5, 2020 (Dean)

I am sitting in the ICU at UPMC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Teresa is resting peacefully, attached to many different machines via tubes and wires.  Yesterday, November 4th, was a life-changing day for all of us.

The early morning began at 12:30am as we left our home in Bloomsburg and began the four-hour drive to Pittsburgh.  At approximately 4am, we got a call from our dear friends, Orrin and Laurie, who prayed with us and asked God--the Chief Physician--to take over, to guide the doctors through this major surgery, and to provide healing for my girl.  At 5am, they began the process of preparing her for the surgery, and at 8am, I kissed her and told her I loved her as she was wheeled away. 

For the next 8-10 hours, I received a couple of calls from nurses in the Operating Room, reassuring me that things were going well but that there was a lot to do.  I also communicated with many of you and received lots of prayers and encouragement throughout the day.  At around 5:45pm, I was asked to go into a special small conference room and told that the doctor needed to speak with me.  In all honesty, my heart was in my throat, as it sounded like something might be wrong.  After waiting for a bit, the head surgeon came in and gave me the update.  He said that the surgery was a success and that they had removed approximately 30 pounds of tumors, along with her spleen, appendix, a slice of her liver, some of her diaphragm, and portions of both her small and large intestines.  He also said that he believed that they were able to physically remove 99% of the cancer, and that the coming chemo soak would take care of the rest.  He told me that she should fully recover, but that it would take time.  

I was so overwhelmed with grateful emotion that I could hardly speak.  It was like pressing reset and getting the opportunity to have a whole new life to look forward to again.  It was deeply spiritual and compares only to how I felt when I first accepted Christ as my Savior and realized how much I had to live for.  Looking into your future and having dreams, purpose, and a reason to live makes all the negative “stuff” and circumstances seem insignificant.  We had not given up hope, but the possibility that Teresa was ever going to be healthy again seemed to be diminishing.  Every day was a mental struggle to keep believing.  But God is faithful, and through the prayers and support of our family and friends, now we can dream again. 

Once more, I want to thank all of you so much for your texts, prayers, meals, financial gifts, and just being there when we need it.  It's been great to see the comments on social media and chat lists and realize how much this has brought us together and positively impacted all of you, as well.  I know we still have a long way to go, but we are expecting the miracles to continue.  Most importantly, I want to give all the credit and a very special thank you to our Savior Jesus who has walked--and continues to walk--with us through this journey.  My heart is bursting with gratitude. 

To God be the glory!

Dean 

Here’s another great encouraging song: https://youtu.be/0WocDzfSWXc

October
25
2020

October 25, 2020 (Dean)

It’s another beautiful fall morning in Pennsylvania. I am once again reflecting on this journey that our family is taking and realized that I need to give you all an update. The past two months since we have returned from Mexico has been challenging, to say the least. A daily battle with pain and nausea have created a constant struggle to help Teresa get the nutrition she needs. The size of the tumors and quantity of fluids put intense pressure on her organs and make it difficult for her GI tract to function. Keeping food down is a daily battle. After a trip to the ER due to dehydration, we were able to get some nausea medication that helped some. When she does have a good day and feels up to it, I take her for a drive to just get out and enjoy the foliage and typically stop by her parents to love on them for a bit.

Since the tumors and fluid in Teresa’s abdominal area are increasing in size/amount, her discomfort and pain/nausea has continued to worsen. We decided to pursue the possibility of her having a surgery to try to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Even though we knew this included some big risks, we were running out of time and options. After jumping through many hoops we were able to get a consult with a surgical team from UPMC hospital in Pittsburgh. The head surgeon had studied all of the scans and bloodwork from the past two years and had a pretty good picture of the situation. His confidence, given Teresa’s condition, in the ability of his team to successfully remove the cancer has given us a glimmer of hope.

On November 4th, Teresa will have HIPEC surgery. It will take 10-12 hours to remove the tumors, cancer fluids, appendix, spleen, and some of her intestines. She will be hospitalized for around 12 days and will take multiple months to recover. This is obviously a major surgery with risks and potential complications, but we believe God has lead us to take this step. Our faith in the fact that He still is in control through this all, has given us a sense of peace in the storm. 

Teresa’s fighting attitude and resilience amazes me daily. Even as she physically has gotten weaker, her emotional and spiritual strength remain. I am so proud of her as she goes through all of this without complaining or feeling sorry for herself. I am blessed to be married to such a champion.

Thanks for all your prayers and support. The flowers, cards, texts, food, and financial gifts have truly been a blessing and encouragement to us. God has used you all to show us His love. He also gave me another song that exemplifies where I am right now.

(Hallelujah Even Here by Lydia Laird - https://youtu.be/jc-WPCQs6RI)

 

In His grip!

Dean

 

My verse of the day this morning was...

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

Mark 8:35 MSG

August
14
2020

August 13, 2020 (Dean)

Dear Friends and Family,

 

I am sitting at the end of Teresa’s bed, holding her feet, as I write this.  We are in the Hope4Cancer Treatment Center in Playas de Tijuana, México.  I am reflecting on the past 24 hours and this roller coaster ride that we are on.  I am grateful for the many friends and family who have been consistent prayer warriors with us, and I've come to realize that I need to give you all an update on what’s been happening. 

 

Since returning home from the clinic at the end of October 2019, Teresa’s cancer had seemingly been idle and even though they had put a tube in her belly to drain excess fluid at home, it had stopped progressing.  The tumors were still obvious and not shrinking, but they didn’t seem to be growing either.  She continued to undergo multiple treatments daily and had bloodwork done occasionally to monitor the cancer's activity.  In November, we grieved the loss of Teresa's older brother to a massive heart attack; but then in December, we were all blessed to celebrate our son, Levi, and his fiancée, Paulina, as they got married down in Florida.

 

In late spring 2020, it became apparent that the tumors were growing and the fluid returning, so we knew that we needed to do something more.  We were doing some research on immunotherapy clinical trials, and Teresa attempted to participate in one at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.  Although it looked like she was going to qualify for it, after studying the CT scan, the doctors noticed that the cancer had spread to the lining of her right lung; and she was, therefore, disqualified from participating.

 

The other option was to return to the Hope4Cancer clinic to get more IPT treatments, which had proven effective before in slowing the growth.  So, on July 19th, the journey back to Mexico began.  Upon arrival, Teresa started with the IPT, along with several other treatments. In addition, to relieve some pressure and diminish the constant pain and nausea, she had surgery to remove as much thick cancerous fluid from her belly cavity as they could, while also to extract the now ineffective drainage tube.  Complications, including infection among other things, made the first few weeks in Mexico very difficult.  Our youngest, Haley, has been amazing in taking care of her momma, while at the same time being an encouragement to so many doctors, nurses, and patients at the clinic. 

 

We are currently walking through week 4, and will probably need to be here for at least 2-3 more.  As of yesterday morning, it seemed that things were starting to improve.  By lunchtime, however, Teresa was experiencing tremendous pain in her lower back.  After numerous attempts over several hours with different strengths of pain killers, she was still in excruciating pain.  A quick X-ray revealed some blockage in her intestines, which could potentially require an emergency surgery.  The doctors recommended that she be sent to a larger hospital back across the border in San Diego.  After an ambulance whisked her away and COVID-19 restricted us from riding with her, I scrambled to find a way to get to California.  Upon arrival at the ER, I encountered armed security and a roadblock, and was told that there was no way I would be allowed to get close to the hospital for any reason.  After contemplating if I wanted to go to jail or not, I decided that it would be poor timing to make a scene (although I think some of your prayers may have played a roll at this point). :)

 

After enduring many tests and scans, Teresa was told they didn’t think that there was anything they could do.  The issue appears to be that the tumors are so large that they are smashing some of her bowels.  Accordingly, around midnight, she decided that she didn’t want to stay at the hospital, so Haley and our nephew Eli--who drove down from LA for moral support (thank you, Eli)--went across the border again and brought her back.  Today she has not been able to eat or drink.  Her nutrients will be delivered through an IV until her GI tract is working again. 

 

Many of you have kindly asked how I am doing.  Yesterday was probably the most difficult one in my life.  Holding my wife in my arms for hours while she was writhing in pain--helpless to make it better--was unbearable. Trying to stay strong, every day...for everyone...through everything, while crying out to God in the quiet times for more of His strength...As you can imagine, my thoughts and faith have been challenged.  But in the midst of pleading with God to take away her pain, I have found peace knowing that even though it is beyond my ability to fix, He is still in control.  He is not surprised by this cancer or this struggle.  We are still in His hands and He has great plans through it all. 

 

Next Thursday, August 20th, is our 32nd Anniversary.  We will be celebrating it down here in Mexico.  I have to admit that, over the years, we’ve celebrated our anniversary in some better places; but I am so grateful that God has given us 32 years and richly blessed us in ways too numerous to count.  Thank you for being a part of that blessing, and for being on this journey with us.  Love you all!

 

 

God’s got great plans!

 

Dean

 

 

P.S. Please take a few minutes to listen to this beautiful song.  God led me to it and its powerful words of encouragement today: https://youtu.be/hLCYTUaoqDM

October
11
2019

October 11, 2019 (Dean)

Dear Friends and Family,

In the past couple of months, Playas de Tijuana, Mexico has been in my travel itinerary quite often. As you can imagine, many thoughts and questions have been running through my mind while sitting on the airplanes going to and coming from the clinic where Teresa has been staying.  I can’t say that I have many of the answers yet...and maybe never will; but there are a few that I am sure of.  My belief in God and my relationship with my Savior is the only thing that gets me through sometimes.  I am so glad that He is not intimidated by cancer or anything else for that matter. I often wonder how people go through life and death issues like this without knowing the truth of God’s love and sovereignty. 
 
So much has happened since the previous update. After Teresa’s fourth IPT treatment, we waited with great expectations for the results of the scans and bloodwork. Unfortunately, it appears that even with this more aggressive treatment, the tumors still continue to grow and the tumor markers in her blood continue to increase.  There were some variables that were potentially positive, but mostly inconclusive.  In addition to the not-so-positive news, Teresa developed a fever and an increase in the daily pain that she's had to deal with.  The fever caused her to lose her appetite.  She also fights with nausea on a regular basis.  But I have to tell you that she is no quitter.  I am so proud of how she continues to fight through every challenge that is thrown at her and refuses to play the part of a victim.  I have never heard her once complain and ask “why me?”.  Her doctors continue to make adjustments to her treatments and look for solutions to help her fight this battle.  Many of the doctors, nurses, and staff at the clinic have become like family to us.  Teresa's upbeat attitude and beautiful smile is well-known and appreciated by everyone.  
 
Since the first type of IPT doesn't seem to have had a very good effect, it's been decided to try a different type that is also specific to Teresa's form of appendix cancer.  Please pray as we anxiously await the results of this new treatment over the next week or so.  In addition, we are excited for her to add some brand new remedies recently developed in Germany.  We are hoping to see some great results so she is able to come back home soon. 
 
Through this journey, there is so much to be thankful for.  As previously mentioned, God led us to a beautiful, clean apartment that is literally right next to the ocean.  The sound of the waves crashing on the beach is very therapeutic.  Our children have been so supportive, and Haley and Lexi have both spent lots of time in Tijuana taking care of their mom.  We also have been blessed by so many of you reaching out to help and pray for us consistently.  Many nights after Teresa has fallen asleep, I have had the opportunity to walk for miles on the beach and consider the journey we are on.  I have come to realize that it doesn’t matter how great the clinic is, how effective the treatments are, or how much we do to fight this cancer...it will only be through God’s hand that Teresa will be healthy again.  I don’t always understand His plans, but I trust His heart. 
 
Thanks again for your support and prayers.  
 
Dean

October
7
2019

October 6, 2019

Good Morning and Happy Sunday,

 

First, I want to apologize for taking so long to get an official update out for so many of you that have been asking and praying. The last four months have been full of ups and downs and craziness for the entire Frey clan, but we are continually reminded how amazing it is to have such a beautiful community of prayer warriors, family and friends all around us. I will be writing the blog in different sections as there is a lot of information to tell!

 

On August 27th, Dad and Mom headed back to the Hope4Cancer Clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, after a few months of following the treatment and diet schedule laid out for her back in May. In the first few days, Mom got some bloodwork done, and went in for her fourth paracentesis where they were able to get 3 liters out right away. She also got a root canal tooth pulled so that they could treat an infection underneath it. This ended up being a pretty significant deterrent to the healing that should have been taking place within her tumors. 

 

Dr. Quintana, who has been with Mom since the beginning, sat down with the two of them and started to go through some of the results of the bloodwork. Her bloodwork in general had been good from the beginning (organs/health levels), but her tumor markers had gone up by another 40% since May. This basically means that the activity in her cancer cells had picked up and become more aggressive. With this information Dr. Quintana explained that there were not a lot of options besides introducing her to IPT (low-dose chemo/immunotherapy) treatments. They would start out with 1 round of IPT each week for 6 weeks. At 4 weeks they would do an evaluation and scans to see how much of an effect it has had on her cancer. From there we would know what to do next. Dad asked Dr. Quintana if mom should go home and prepare for everything coming up. The Dr. said that they needed to start right away instead of going home first as he was concerned about her weight loss. Mom and dad talked about it and agreed that this was her best option.

 

Before mom could start her IPT treatments, however, they needed to take a biopsy to see if it was in fact colon cancer or if it had originated somewhere else. This is because there are a bunch of different IPT drugs that are for different types of cancer. Without the origin they wouldn’t be able to battle her specific cancer effectively. (Mom had never had a biopsy of the tissue, only the fluid which had simply come back as GI Tract) The doctors also decided that they were going to put a permanent drain in her belly during the biopsy surgery, so that the nurses could drain the fluid for her whenever she wanted without having a painful paracentesis.

 

Doctor Moscarano performed the 3 hour biopsy and drain input surgery on mom on September 3rd. He also extracted another 4 liters of fluid from her stomach during the operation. They took the biopsy tissue from the tendon that used to be her umbilical cord. This means that she had a painful few weeks after the surgery with sitting up or doing anything that requires engagement of her stomach muscles. Once she woke up from the anesthesia, mom was taken back to Hope4Cancer to spend the night in the clinic so that she could be monitored.

 

Originally dad was supposed to leave a few days before the surgery but changed his flights since I was not arriving till the 4th. Dad left to go to the airport at 5 AM and I arrived around 10:45 AM. Mom was still at the clinic being monitored so we sat and caught up till she was ready to head back to our apartment. We got back and got settled in with a movie and some pain killers for mom. ;)

 

The apartment we are staying in is about a block and a half away from the clinic on the beach, with a beautiful ocean view. There is also an open rooftop on the complex, which is perfect for mom to get some vitamin D and watch the dolphins in the afternoon. We are blessed to have found such an amazing place to stay for the time we are here. The credit is all due to Natalie, another fellow IPT friend! I will be continuing to write and update all of you as time and information permits. Thank you so much for your patience, love and continued prayers as mom kicks cancer’s butt! 

 

Love you all!

 

May
21
2019

May 21, 2019 (Zach)

Good Afternoon to all of our dear friends and family.

It's been almost two and a half months since we updated this journal, so I figured I'd catch everyone up as well as I can on Mom's progress.

First, let me say that the vast support and love shown to our family, no matter where we are in the world, is mind-boggling. As most of you know, we usually like to be the ones on the "serving" end of things--and not so much on the "being served" end--but it's very humbling to realize that God has brought so many amazing people into our lives over the years for such a time as this.

After Mom got home from Mexico in February, she jumped right into a strict schedule of therapies, treatments, and an entirely new diet plan catered to her blood type. One of the first apparent changes was an overall loss of weight due to the major diet shift. Over the few months since then, she has tried to stay pretty active, even as her strength has noticeably decreased. I think one of the hardest things for Mom (and for the rest of us) has been to watch as others fighting cancer lose the battle. She has lost some old friends and some brand new ones to this horrible disease just in the last 3 months.

Last week on May 14th, despite the nerves about being around a lot of people and germs/sicknesses in the airports, Mom and Dad flew back to San Diego for her three month check up. What she didn't know was that Dad and I conspired to keep her in the dark about my family (Flora, our four children, and I) showing up to surprise her when they arrived. It was a wonderful reunion, and some of our long-time business partners from the West Coast decided to join us and help make the surprise even better. 😊

Upon arriving at the clinic in Tijuana, they realized that the place was overflowing with new patients. Over the next few days, Mom went through a third paracentesis (where they use a huge needle to painfully extract as much of the cancerous fluid from around the tumors as they can - 2 liters again this time), lots of blood work, a few scans, and a handful of meetings with the different doctors. Thankfully, there were lots of little free moments that allowed us all to spend some quality time together exploring some of the beautiful beaches, vineyards and landscapes of Baja California.

The good news, as one doctor put it, is that she is very healthy on all counts except for the cancer itself. Her major organs are still cancer-free. Unfortunately, there was a bit of bad news, as well. From what they can tell, the tumor counters that determine the cancer activity are up about 20% from February--meaning that there is more cancer than before. There are also a couple of new spots near her appendix and her liver that weren't there last time. The battle rages on.

Although all of us were praying and hoping for a better report, we are so thankful that Mom's quality of life has scarcely changed since she decided to go this alternative route with the cancer. The doctors gave her a few more therapies to add to her routine and reviewed all of the current remedies that she's already doing. They were disappointed by the outcome thus far, so basically they told her to continue on the path that she's on for three more months; and if the cancer continues to grow and eat away at her body, they will then keep her in Mexico for an extended period of time to perform some more aggressive treatments.

Please continue to lift up this beautiful person, Teresa Frey, to the Lord in prayer. It's frustrating not to know how to help, but know that your love and prayers and cards and support are so encouraging as she fights for her life. We continue to expect a miracle, and no matter what happens, God will get ALL of the glory.

Be Blessed,
Zach

March
8
2019

March 8, 2019 (Lexi)

Hello Everyone!

I’m writing this from my mom's car as we head to Florida.
First off, I want to say that we, the Frey family, are overwhelmed by all of the cards, gifts, visits and all-around support that we have received. Thank you.

I know everyone is patiently wondering, how is Teresa doing?
She is doing really well! As she ventures further on this path, she is definitely finding her stride. New routines are slowly becoming easier, food is not quite as intimidating. She has found some recipes that she really enjoys. She has finished up her vaccination shot routine (weekly ones in her booty), but all of the other therapies remain the same for now.

The most important thing in this leg of her marathon is consistency. Mom has always been a very scheduled person and this area is no different.

I am so proud of how she does everything even when she doesn’t want to. Some of her supplements are downright nasty (I volunteer to do sympathy supplements when needed), but she still continues.

Her plan right now is to stay down in sunny Florida for at least a few weeks. The warmth itself is a therapy, along with the much-needed vitamin D, for her system.

Join in prayer with us as she continues this monotonous routine. Pray for her to be invigorated by her body healing itself on a cellular level, and to keep her endurance for what may be a long journey. Rejoice with us for the great health and persistence that He has blessed mom with.

Also a special prayer request...one of the patients that my mom got to know well down in the clinic just found out that her son also has cancer. I cannot imagine how she is feeling. Pray for both of their healing, and the emotional journey that they are on.


We are forever in His Grip,

Lexi