Bryan’s Journey: Part Ten

Bryan’s Journey: Part Ten

“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 145:3

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So, I guess the saying “no news, is good news” is true in this case — no news about Bryan has meant good news! 🙂 Bryan had follow-up appointments in both July and October, with nothing to report. His labs still show some of his blood counts still getting back to “normal”, but nothing concerning after the hit his body took with chemo. There hasn’t been any visible lymph node activity, and Bryan is feeling overall great! The appointments just consist of blood work and a physical exam –he won’t have any more scans for now as there aren’t concerns and to limit the amount of radiation his body is subjected to from the scans. He will have another follow-up appointment in March. We are happy that these appointments go further and further out, as that is yet another sign of Bryan staying in remission.

We were able to participate in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk again this year, and Bryan was able to walk with us — such a huge praise! Last year, he sat at home not feeling up to a walk in the rain, and this year, he was able to hold my hand while I walked alongside of him. It was a great chance to fundraise for LLS and just to raise more awareness about blood cancers. It is an unfortunate truth, that there probably aren’t many people whose lives haven’t been touched by cancer in one way or another, and societies like LLS, really help draw awareness and raise funds for research. I don’t take lightly the fact that while I believe Jesus is the One who healed Bryan, the medications and treatments that they gave him have come so far from what they used to be!

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We are approaching the date that marks a year since Bryan’s last chemo treatment (November 24th) — hard to believe it’s been that long already. It seems like just yesterday at times that we began this journey, and I know for Bryan it’s something he still thinks about daily. The chances of his cancer relapsing have been highest this first year for Bryan’s exact type of lymphoma, and so you better believe we have been watching the days pass by on the calendar this year. The chance for relapse doesn’t go away completely, but the percentage chance of it staying away increases greatly (somewhere in the 90% range after two years). We know nothing is guaranteed, but we are so thankful that Bryan is healthy and feeling back to himself.

This world is a crazy, crazy place, and I know none of us are immune to the health issues, relational issues, political issues, and moral issues that we all face on a day to day basis. I am so thankful that I have a Rock to continue to come back to. I don’t know where we would be without God’s grace and protection over Bryan and our family this past year. I know that I used to often take for granted my health and all the things God has blessed me with — and while I still feel immensely blessed, my eyes are so much more open to those around me who are not healthy, and who need to know that their Savior is walking right beside them, just as He did for Bryan. I had my fair share of emotions throughout the past year and a half, and my moments of disbelief and anger, but you know what? More often than not, I felt God’s presence right next to me — even in the anger and confusion.

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

I know I am speaking for Bryan here, but until I can get him back on here to finish writing out his story, I want to ask for your continued prayers for him. The physical side of this challenge he faced may be over, however, the mental and emotional side of having gone through cancer remains to be something Bryan will have to deal with. Understandably so, any sort of bump or lump or odd feeling can send Bryan back to day one of where this all started. Please continue to pray that his cancer stays in remission, and that he would have peace of mind and the strength to continue to live in the moment! We know our God is a mighty and good God, and that He will continue to walk beside Bryan and our family as we prayerfully wrap up this challenging journey in our lives.

I am so proud of Bryan, and the way he has handled all of this. It’s a true testament to how much he loves Jesus, and I am so thankful that I get to walk beside him as his wife. His upbeat attitude and joy, even in the midst of something so challenging has been an encouragement to so many people around him. Love you, Bryan!

Thank you guys for continuing to pray and support us! It means a lot to us when you ask how we are doing and how you can continue to pray for us!

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part One

Bryan’s Journey: Part Three

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

It’s Been a Year

It’s Been a Year

So, I have decided to dust off the old blog today and try to get back in to posting once again. Life has been nothing short of chaotic this past year as we dealt with everything with Bryan’s health and building a new home together. Now that we officially moved and settled into a routine at our new house, I feel like I can breathe again! Moving with two kiddos under the age of four was as adventurous as it was stressful 🙂

We celebrated our oldest’s fourth birthday this week, and I can’t help but think back to where we were one year ago. It was on June 18th that I posted my news publicly about Bryan’s lymphoma. We celebrated Father’s Day last year not only celebrating Bryan, but celebrating his last “normal” day before his first chemotherapy treatment. The reality of that situation has come to weigh heavily on me as we vividly remember the details that unfolded as that journey of life began.

But, what I can tell you, is this: God came through. Just like He always does. It wasn’t how I wanted Him to deal with the situation. Bryan’s lymphoma certainly wasn’t what I thought He would put in our paths, but there it was. I have often wondered what life would look like for us now had we not gone through that trial. For me, the reality that I am not in control was a harsh one. A reality that I did not want to face.

I also sit here full to the brim with thankfulness. I am SO thankful that Bryan is now healthy. I am grateful that he has had another whole year to be here with our family, and to grace the world with his joyful presence. I am overjoyed that I am able to sit here and type out how thankful I am for his complete helping, as for the past 12 months, there was so much uncertainty.

What I want to do today, other than to get back to my blog, is to just reflect on where life has taken us. I want to let you know that God is good. Even when it doesn’t seem like it. Even when you want to be in control and think that you know better. My absolute favorite worship song of all time is “Oceans”, and these lyrics in particular:

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

This anthem could not have rang out in my life more truly than it did over this past year. I felt like I was deeper into a situation than I possibly ever could have wandered on my own, and yet in the midst of something I was so upset about, so sad about, so emotional about, I clung to my faith in Jesus more than I had ever before. I felt His presence as Bryan and I labored over decisions about what to do and what steps to take. I felt like at the end of the day, all I could do was relinquish complete control and trust. Trust that had no borders.

Bryan remains cancer-free today and is healthy as can be! The chances of his lymphoma returning are highest in the first year, so we would love continued prayers that God keep watch over him. Bryan has some remaining scar tissue and slightly enlarged lymph nodes that cause him some discomfort, and the mental struggle of having gone through what he did continues to weigh on him. I know that he would also appreciate prayer that anxious thoughts would stay away, and that he would continue to focus on living every day to its fullest potential.

I am so thankful as well for the community of friends and family that surrounded us during the entire time. I had read on another blog that part of the tough thing about going through cancer was that everyone reacts when you first post something with offers to help and encouragement, but it dies down after that. This definitely rang true to us, but, I can tell you that we had family and friends who stuck by the entire time and it made a huge difference to Bryan and I. He had cards of encouragement to open through the whole journey, we had our children cared for so I could help Bryan, and Bryan had family that went with him to keep him company during chemo treatments. Our lawn was mowed by neighbors, we had food and meals offered and prepared for us. I will never forget these acts of kindness, as they truly made such a huge difference to us. God showed us His perfect and powerful love through everyone that walked with us.

But, most of all. I am thankful and I am SO happy for a God who pulled us through when we couldn’t see the light at the end — when it seemed like we were in the worst possible spot. I just can’t even grasp the depth of love and grace He has for all of us.

And. This guy. My Bryan. So happy that he’s mine.

Natural Photography for your life.

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part One

Bryan’s Journey: Part Two

Bryan’s Journey: Part Six

Bryan’s Journey: Part Nine (Bryan’s Perspective)

Bryan’s Journey: Part Nine (Bryan’s Perspective)

*Bryan is going to continue his reflection on his journey today here on the blog. He finished his last chemo treatment the week of Thanksgiving, and is starting to get his energy and “normal” feeling back. His last PET scan showed that the areas previously showing cancerous activity remained clear (Praise the Lord for that!), although they are watching some things in on one of his lungs which may just be an infection/negative reaction to one of the chemo drugs that he received. Continued prayers would be appreciated as we wait to figure out all of that!

As promised, I wanted to continue with the detail regarding my journey.  My last post ended with the dark moments of June 2nd, where my diagnosis was officially confirmed by my amazing surgeon.  I ended that post at that moment given its weight for me personally in my time of grace thus far.  It certainly was simply the beginning of my grieving process as I continue to learn to deal with something that is generally not ideal.  Today, I want to continue the timeline as there was so much that needed to occur yet before even beginning my actual physical battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Friday, June 5th.  My first official meeting with an oncologist. I am almost ashamed to admit I feared this day would come in my life far before it actually occurred, I just didn’t expect it to be quite this early in my life (who ever does, right?).  Cancer is no stranger to my family and I’m sure almost everyone reading this can relate as it seems to be everywhere these days (Social media bias or true expansion in cancerous activity?  Perhaps this would be an excellent topic for a future post…), but there is something far more real when you are actually sitting in that chair with the oncologist addressing you.  I learned a lot at this meeting (I did my absolute best to do ZERO online research before knowing anything for certain and I highly advise this if you can enlist your self-restraint). We reviewed my likely staging, early indications showed a Stage 2 or 3, and I was further defined as a subtype “A” as I was non-symptomatic. This meant that I showed none of the typical physiological signs of Lymphoma.  The oncologist then educated me about the options to combat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after a brief history of the disease. He explained that most likely we would use Chemotherapy, with the potential add an element of radiation as needed, based on the effect of the chemotherapy regiment.  I learned about several chemotherapy treatment options, ABVD, BEACOPP, Stanford V, all of which have been quite successful against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma since the early 70s (and earlier) especially with patients as “young” as me (although I fell in the “old” range for younger sufferers as it typically affects males aged 16-35).  I learned about the likely temporary symptoms — hair loss, energy loss, nausea, immune system weakness, neuropathy, and more.  I also learned about some potential long-term risks, sterility, being the most likely.  I thanked the Lord that I was already blessed with two beautiful children when we came to this point, which is yet another example of how God had this all planned out for me far in advance.  We also reviewed the potential to develop other cancers, Leukemia being the most common, but still quite rare.  The oncologist then explained that before committing to a treatment plan, I would need to complete a barrage of tests in a relatively short time period in order to properly confirm staging and to ensure my body’s ability to handle a plan that would include a chemotherapy regiment.  I was incredibly impressed with the bedside manner of this oncologist — you could feel his care and concern as we discussed every detail, no matter how important or unimportant it may have been.  He dismissed us to the nurse, and I arranged the previously mentioned barrage of appointments.

Monday, June 8th.  The “baseline” testing begins.  First up, a MUGA heart scan.  This was the simplest of the tests. A radioactive tracer is injected via IV and you sit for a while to allow it to get to the heart. Then you sit under the scanner as pictures are taken of your lower chambers of the heart as they are pumping.  The objective of this test is to confirm that your heart can handle the potential treatment plan.  I passed with flying heartbeats, and prepared for the next test.

Tuesday, June 9th.  This was the day of my Pulmonary Function Test.  This was actually quite a workout, even with my singing and running background.  The objective of this test is to establish your lung health, as well as a baseline for future follow-up tests.  In short, you hook up to a mouthpiece and perform several breathing exercises. Once I was done with the exercises (took about 40 minutes), I felt as if I had just completed Al’s Run.  I was rewarded with the knowledge that I would begin my treatment plan with “Rock Star Lungs”.  My confidence continued to gain traction after learning yet another area of my body was prepared for battle.

Wednesday, June 10th.  I arrived at the facility for my PET Scan at 7:15 AM. As I was about to have the radioactive tracer injected via IV the tech came in (Marcus was his name–one of the few names I actually recall from the baseline testing as I was stuck here for a while), and let me know the scanning equipment was not properly functioning (of course!) and they had the manufacturer on the phone attempting to troubleshoot.  While I was waiting, I could hear Marcus rescheduling all of the other patients for the day.  At first, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that there were all of these other people dealing with a similarly scary situation and now they would also have to deal with delaying confirmation of their battle with cancer.  Talk about adding insult to injury!  After a moment of empathy, my brain quickly refocused to myself:  ”if they are getting rescheduled before me, how long will I have to wait to get back in here?”  I got up and went over to Marcus, and asked if I could tentatively reschedule.  Luckily, he was able to get me in again just two days later, the same day as my final baseline test:  the bone marrow biopsy.  He then shared his doubt that the machine would be up and running today, so he suggested I head back to my day, and plan to come back in two days.  However, I had a followup with my initial surgeon (from my lymph node removal) scheduled in this same building at noon, so I offered to wait in the building just in case the machine was fixed.  He agreed, and I headed upstairs to my next stop, albeit four hours early.  I checked in, asking if there was any chance I could be seen early, and was assured this was unlikely.  So I decided to set up a temporary office site in the waiting area, and got to work.  I worked in the waiting room for about 4 hours — no word from the PET tech — but I did hear quite the barrage of stories from the other visiting patients.  My name was finally called about 40 minutes after my planned visit (why are doctors always so far behind?) and I walked in to meet my surgeon.  After some personal chit-chat, I passed my inspection as all looked to be healing amazingly well.

Friday, June 12th.  PET scan attempt number two and Bone Marrow Biopsy.  All systems were go on arrival for the PET scan, and Marcus successfully injected the radioactive tracer.  I was told to relax for 45 minutes or so while the tracer worked its way through my system.  After some forced medication, I was walked into the scan room.  The goal of this test is to establish the severity and staging of the cancer cells.  The PET scanner is much “deeper” than the CT scan equipment–while the CT scan is a “donut” type scanner at about 1 foot deep, the PET scanner is a bit more like a cave with openings on each end, where at times your entire body is encapsulated.  I was in the machine for about 30 minutes as images were captured.  Once complete, I travelled home and got myself ready for my afternoon Bone Marrow biopsy.  At this point, I’m beginning to personally feel a bit cavernous as I was unable to eat or drink anything for this procedure since 10 PM the previous evening.  I was quite nervous about the biopsy as I had heard many horror stories about the pain of this procedure and I am happy to report that it was better than advertised.  Outside of the discomfort after the biopsy procedure, the biggest annoyance during this procedure was the fact that there were several “students”  there to “enjoy” the process of watching a massive needle be injected into my hip bone area.

Saturday, June 13th.  My daughter, Madalyn’s, 3rd Birthday celebration.  This was quite the emotional day for me as all of our family was together in one place.  I thought this would be exactly what I needed as a distraction as I awaited word of our treatment plan and PET results.  I was strong as the get-together began, distracting my thoughts with pleasantries and conversations with people who I love the most.  However, as I began the prayer before mealtime, while saying words of thanks about our beautiful daughter and amazing family, I just couldn’t hold it together.  My fears and insecurity were as evident as the tears in my eyes. I tried to fight through it, but could not get any proper function out of my neck and mouth muscles, so I dismissed myself as someone else finished the prayer.  I escaped to my room upstairs, and continued my breakdown privately.  How could I be so sad at such a happy event?  As I prayed to God for strength in this moment, the answer was clearly given to me:  I was fearful that I may not see my little girl grow up.  I was terrified that I may not see Gavyn become a chivalrous man.  I was frightened that I would not be there to support my beautiful wife through many more celebrations and challenges.  So many deeply rooted fears that I had been ignoring and burying into the depths of my soul were excavated as I was surrounded by so much love.  My privacy was unexpectedly interrupted, but by someone I least expected for such a moment:  my dad.  I love my dad greatly, but he has never been one to show emotion.  Like many from previous generations, there was a massive attempt to never show weakness or emotion, and my dad typically demonstrated this knight-like armor of “cool”.  Not in this moment.  We shared tears and fears.  We shared insecurities that had never been verbalized between us since the early 90s when our family fell apart.  My stepdad joined the “party” after a few minutes, and furthered the depth of this moment.  Yet another “tough” man who rarely showed emotion, and we continued the “bromance”.  More fears.  More confidence.  More forgiveness.  It was a beautiful moment that I will never forget.  We wiped our tears and dusted off our smiles, and one by one, we re-joined the party to celebrate my daughter.

Wednesday, June 17th.  Treatment plan day.  This was my second visit to the oncologist, so my awareness of details was a bit less callous than my last visit.  As I waited to see the doctor, I watched as countless other patients waited in fear.  I took some time to “tour” the treatment area.  While it had a gorgeous view and lighting, all I could see were other scared patients, looking lifeless in chairs as they received treatment.  I noticed that the majority of people there were much more “experienced” than I was.  There was a black cloud of doubt in this room.  I had heard so many stories from staff and friends of how cancer patients and survivors were some of the most positive people they had ever met.  This was definitely not evident in my experience, neither in the waiting room or the treatment room.  I was guided to my meeting room, and the doctor shared the details of my PET results. In his opinion, I was confirmed as a stage 2A.  He then shared his treatment plan suggestion:  6 cycles of chemotherapy to begin on Monday, June 22nd using the ABVD regiment.  He shared the statistics on the survival rates using this regiment (generally in the 80% range).  He also proposed I have a power port installed on that same day my treatment would begin(more on this later) in order to aid in safe administration of the toxic mix.  I left with fears, but was happy to have an action plan with a generally positive prognosis.

Friday, June 19th.  In order to be certain of my treatment plan and options, I arranged a meeting with a second oncologist, a Lymphoma specialist with quite the list of accomplishments.  While I was incredibly comfortable with my first oncologist, I was not very comfortable with the facility, specifically in regards to the environment in the treatment room, but also in regards to some of the support staff I was supposed to be working with.  Initially, the second oncologist provided a less than stellar first impression (we waited over two hours to see him).  However, it was evident as to why this was the case pretty quickly.  His experience, knowledge, and focus were top-notch, and he also had some interesting research-based insights for us that were not shared in our initial meetings with oncologist number 1.  First, in regards to staging, he pointed out an area of my PET scan that was not mentioned in my first meeting with oncologist number 1 which could cause my staging consideration to be anywhere from a 2A to a 4A.  He actually showed me the PET scan images showing the extent of the tumors in my chest and neck area.  Although the technology amazed me, this was the first time I attached visual proof of my cancer, and could not believe the extend of the tumors.  How could I not have noticed this sooner when it was this widespread?  If my staging was a 4A, I would also have the opportunity to participate in a blind clinical trial, which would remove one of the more troublesome chemo drugs from the mix (Bleomycin) and replace it with a non-chemo drug (a drug that was able to differentiate cancer cells from healthy cells as defined by a cell marked with a trait referred to as “CD32”–which is found only in cancer cells) called Brentuximab.  As he described this new drug (only approved by the FDA since 2011), I was quite excited about the potential for a future without cancer.  I was currently scheduled to begin chemo with facility number 1 the following Monday — so just in case I selected facility #2, I scheduled my chemo to begin there for the following Tuesday.  As we left the meeting, we received a quick tour of the facility and I was very pleased to see that the treatment area was a series of private “pods” or private rooms–which was very valuable to me as I was completely uncertain of how my chemo experience would be.  If I was going to feel miserably, I would really prefer to experience my misery in privacy.  Each little area also had a television w/ DVD player, another nice touch to provide some distraction during an unpleasant experience.    I also noticed that many of the patients and staff there had a very positive demeanor.  Smiles and appreciation were obvious everywhere I looked, despite the internal fears and pain that may have been occurring.

June 20th-21st.  This was the weekend of debate, and it also happened to be Father’s Day weekend.  During a weekend in which I normally would spend reflecting on the blessing of my fatherhood, instead, my mind overflowed with treatment planning decisions.  Which facility should I work with?  Should I sign up for the clinical trial?  What if this non-chemo drug has an unknown long-term side effect that we have yet to learn about given its infancy stage?  How could I choose someone other than oncologist #1, who had guided me through my initial shock, confusion, and fears?  If I chose facility #2, would I be disappointing facility #1?  I turned to some visualization techniques per the suggestion of one of my mentors, and began picturing defeating this cancer, and picturing what facility provided the strongest visualization of success.  This exercise provided the answer I needed. No matter how much I felt connected to oncologist #1, victory seemed the clearest with facility #2.  I kept my appointment for Monday to surgically install my power port at facility #1, but cancelled my scheduled chemo treatment for that same day.  Knowing how stressed I was about the upcoming challenge, my amazing wife scheduled a massage for me this weekend as a bit of a “Father’s Day/Prepare for Chemo” surprise.  I think the masseuse would have needed a week to get the stress out of my body!

Monday, June 22nd.  Power Port Surgery Day.  Given the level of toxicity of the chemo drugs, and given my plan to have 6 cycles of treatment (12 total treatments), both doctors suggested I avoid IV injection, and instead install a Power Port underneath my skin, about 2 inches below my right collarbone.  This would provide excellent access to my bloodstream, and essentially eliminate any potential for severe skin burning during the treatment process.  At this point, I am beginning to feel like a seasoned vet when it comes to surgical procedures, so my nervousness factor had approached zero as I received my pre-operative “cocktail”.  However, as I approach the surgical area, the surgeon completing my brief procedure walked out with the power port and described the process one more time to Abby and I before moving forward.  My nerves began to run rampant as I saw the hugeness of this thing, it was far larger than I expected, and despite the best efforts of the “calming cocktail”, my heart began to pound a bit.  I looked at Abby, calmed myself, and decided that all I could do was trust God here, so I uttered a quick “let’s get this done”, kissed my lady, and got it done.  Once complete, I was the proud owner of an internal power port — massively protruding from my upper chest region (far more than usual due to swelling).

I was now physically prepared to begin my battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I prayed for mental strength as I went to bed that night. I recall getting very little sleep and praying more than I think I’ve ever prayed before — for tomorrow was chemotherapy treatment number 1, and I wanted to be ready to conquer.

**More to come.

 

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

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**My wonderful, handsome husband, Bryan, is taking over my blog today to write out some of his thoughts and feelings that he has had during this whole journey. I am thankful for his openness and courage to share his heart, even when it isn’t easy to deal with. Love you, babe.

Here I sit, patiently awaiting my medical activities for the day, and I can’t help but think back over the last several months of my life. A blur of events — I can hardly believe there actually was a “summer” this year, primarily because there has been a bit of a frigid and icy atmosphere surrounding my reality for the last few months. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am blessed beyond belief — and I still believe this wholeheartedly, in fact, more strongly than ever, but no matter how I look at the last few months of my life, two words come crashing into my mind: This Sucks.

As many of you know, I have been relatively silent regarding my current life battle — I’ve been using a bit of a “focus on silently destroying this challenge” mentality — but I am finding that inside, my thoughts are screaming to be released. This should make perfect sense if you even know me just a bit; I certainly enjoy a great conversation, especially when that conversation includes meaningful feelings that fuel one’s soul. So today, in what I fear may turn into a series of thoughts, I begin to unlatch my thoughts. I’m not sure what this will accomplish, but I yearn for two things

  1. To free my mind of all these pent-up thoughts/details/feelings
  2. To provide the potential that my suffering may be of service to someone else (thanks to my mother-in-law for sharing this vision with me!)

Today, I want to start by sharing a timeline of important dates, so that you might know what actually all went down over the last few months. If you find this to be dry, boring reading, please do not hesitate to click the “x” on the top right corner of the page but if not, let’s go back to the beginning.

Friday, May 8th. A normal day in my life (I can’t believe how much I long for “normal” these days!); I recall the day well. I had just completed an enjoyable effort of mowing the lawn, a favorite activity of mine as I have my favorite music on blast and it provides a break from the day-to-day efforts as a parent/husband/businessman. When I came back in the house, I took a minute to rest on the couch (picture me in full “hands resting on my head mode”) as I released my hands from my head, I noticed an odd protrusion on my neck, just above my left clavicle. Instantly, my reality turned from relaxation to curiosity. My lymph node was not happy and I immediately prayed this was not what my heart feared in that first moment. I tend to be a positive thinker and I believe this was one of the last truly positive thought moments I would have for several weeks.
Monday, May 11th. After a weekend of concern, I scheduled a walk-in appointment to have my doctor check out my lymph node — I had hoped it would “disappear” over the weekend, but unfortunately this was not the case. My doctor was not available on such short notice, so I saw his Nurse Practitioner. After the usual tests and questions, she hoped it was a simple infection, and commented that this was “the most impressive lymph node she had ever seen.” I scheduled to stop by later that week to follow up, gave some blood for further testing, and prayed.
Tuesday, May 12th. I had a previously scheduled checkup with my dermatologist due to my regular “skin issues” and the moment she saw the lymph node, I could see it in her eyes that she feared this was something more serious. I remember her asking if it hurt when she palpated it. When I said it did not, she was especially concerned. She definitely did her best to play “poker face”, but I have a bit of a gift in this area, and was certain of the depth of her concern. I let her know I had a follow-up scheduled with my doctor, and she asked me to keep her posted. The treatment for my skin issues she had planned would have to wait until she had more information regarding this lymph node.
Thursday, May 14th. This was the date I was able to see my primary doctor. The first thing he did was review my lab results — everything looked fantastic. He checked out my lymph node, looked at my labs again, and I remember exactly  the way he said “hmmmmm” as he mysteriously looked into my eyes. He shared a series of words and thoughts here, but one word stood out as he spoke.  This was the first time I heard “lymphoma” thrown out as a possibility. I can still see him saying that word in slow-motion today. He was suspicious, but was confused by my lack of symptomatic behavior. He ordered an ultrasound to take a deeper look and briefly prepped me on the process should this be an item that needed greater attention.
Wednesday, May 20th. This day marked my first visit to the clinic — this time, for an ultrasound. I really hoped this was the last time I’d be there. I briefly waited for my turn, and when I was called, I was met by a pleasant woman. I was instructed by my Doctor that they were trained to keep results from me, to preserve myself from unnecessary worry. I can still feel my heart beating as she thoroughly checked my neck area. It felt like an eternity. After completing the exam, I couldn’t help but ask, “I know you are trained not to say anything, but do you have any insights for me?” She replied, “All I know is you have several lymph nodes that are not happy campers.” My doctor called me a few hours after my ultrasound, and urged me to schedule a CT scan as soon as possible as he wanted to thoroughly see how far this “unhappiness” had progressed.
Friday, May 22nd. I arrived at the clinic for my first ever CT Scan. I had no idea how this worked, and was quite surprised when a tech delivered two cups of this disgusting liquid to drink. I actually thought he was kidding, but unfortunately he was not. I was then warned that while getting the scan, it may feel like I’m peeing — oh the joys of medical stuff (I can’t say I agree with this description)! The CT Scanning device was not what I pictured. I had envisioned the fully enclosed machinery I often saw in shows like “Greys Anatomy”, but was pleased to learn it was much less intense and was nothing but a small “donut-like” circle that moved and adjusted to take internal pictures. And then, the waiting began.
May 23rd – 25th. Memorial Day weekend. My doctor advised that I meet with a surgeon right after Memorial Day in case I would need to schedule a procedure to remove the lymph node so it could be properly tested to determine what this actually was. Likely she would be able to review the results with me as well as they would be available by this point in time. I scheduled a get-together with this surgeon for the following Monday. This was possibly the longest weekend of my life — very little enjoyment, very much stress and fear, not things I am used to feeling given my preference to enjoy every bit of life.
Tuesday, May 26th. This was the day I met with the surgeon. As Abby and I arrived for this appointment, I was met with uneasiness. Perhaps it was the heavy rain and cloud-cover or perhaps it was the cloud of hope that was slowly disappearing in front of my eyes. The surgeon was a pleasant woman, the kind of person I would envision having a beautiful chat with, but her first words shared were nowhere near what I’d want to be talking about: “Have you spoken with the oncologist yet?” There were more words shared after that, but I can tell you, my heart and mind were racing. She shared a written summary of the analysis of my CT scan, which was like a foreign language to me, but there it was, right at the end: “likely lymphoma”. These two words teased me for the next week. Why couldn’t it say “certain lymphoma” or “not lymphoma”? My surgery could not be completed for another week and until reviewing the chemical results of that biopsy, we would not be certain of anything.
Monday, June 1st. This was the day of my first surgical procedure (unless you count wisdom tooth extraction—which in my opinion was more like a “mob visit” than surgery). I was incredibly nervous for this day despite the fact that I was aware that this was very simple procedure. My lack of experience here left me keenly aware of each moment of fear. So many small details stick in my mind from this day: The warnings and the disclosures. The uncomfortable attire. The conversation with the anesthesiologist as he pumped me with the magic elixir. The discussion between the surgeon and the anesthesiologist—a regular conversation about scheduling-issues and casual friendly conversation. The lights above the surgery table. The conversation with the assistant’s… and then… nothing. Next thing I knew, I was awake in recovery, drinking apple juice and eating shortbread cookies. This idea still frightens and amazes me. What did I say? Was I funny? Annoying? I guess I’ll never know. 🙂
Tuesday, June 2nd. I remember having a particularly busy and exciting day at work, and when I arrived home around 8:15 PM, I was ready to rest and relax for a moment. As I sat down after helping get the kids to bed, my phone rang. I ran to our bedroom so I wouldn’t disturb the kids, and on the other end of the line was my surgeon. I’ll never forget the hope in her voice, almost an excitement in her voice, as she said “It’s Classical Hodgkin’s!” All I heard in that moment was, “I have cancer.” And as she rattled off statistics about the cure rate being 70% or higher, my heart and soul sank deeper than they had ever been.

I want to pause here because this moment in my life feels big — intense, an inflection point in the most meaningful of ways. As I pressed the “end” button after that phone call, I was encapsulated by darkness and doubt. I’m certain my wife could see it and feel it based on the look in her eyes. I have often been told that I have an amazing ability to affect the energy of a room, usually in a positive way, but in this case, in the darkest of ways. There were no words — just the embrace of a scared couple. That embrace was one of the most intimate moments of my life. I don’t think it was possible to be any closer, physically or mentally, to one human being. I think this was the first time I let tears out in front of Abby since the tears I shed as I saw her for the first time in her wedding dress — quite the paradox of moments — equally powerfully, but on opposite ends of the spectrum.

I have experienced darkness in life on a few occasions, but none that couldn’t be solved quickly with a smile, confidence, and prayer. This darkness seemed deeper, but as God usually has a knack of doing, it was pretty evident that through this darkness, a faint light began to shine.

**More to come. We would love continued prayers for health, energy and a lifted spirit for Bryan and continued health for our family as we enter cold and flu season (we really want to keep Bryan from getting sick!). Side note: our kids have been sick ONE time this entire last five months which is nothing short of God’s hand in our lives and protecting Bryan. He is SO faithful. Bryan has TWO treatments left and we are so happy that the end is near! Thank you for praying!

Bryan’s Journey: Part Seven

Bryan’s Journey: Part Seven

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

Bryan has three treatments left! Praise the Lord — seriously! The thought of only a remaining 1/4 of treatments left, is very exciting.

We were able to participate in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk, and it was an inspirational and emotional experience. Bryan did not attend the walk, given the amount of people who would be there, as well as his lower energy level, but I can tell you that he felt extremely loved and supported by the people who walked alongside us, as well as those that had donated to the cause. This walk will be one that we continue to participate in, and next year Bryan will be there walking with us!

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So awesome to see lanterns lit everywhere. I was brought to tears to see everyone supporting Bryan, and as the words played to “Fight Song”, I just couldn’t handle it. Bryan has been such a strong fighter, and even more so, God has been fighting on his behalf, and I am so, so thankful. The weather was perfect, and our team raised over $1,000 to support blood cancer research, which is what it is all about. Thank you to those that were a part of this night!

Bryan is still tolerating treatments well, but is more fatigued after each one. It takes him a little longer each time to recuperate, which is what we expected would happen at this point. He is otherwise staying healthy, which is a huge blessing in itself!

We would love continued prayers for Bryan, that he wouldn’t be nauseous, that he would have energy to continue working and doing things he loves, and that he would continue to stay healthy and avoid any cold and flu germs. Actually, prayers that our whole family would stay healthy, would be wonderful as it seems that if one of us gets sick, we all do. If you think of it, continue to encourage Bryan as well — cards and phone calls and texts have really meant a lot to him, and while we know the chemo is working (the biggest answer to prayer!), treatments are tough, and it is hard for him to not feel like himself. Thank you to everyone who continues to ask what they can do to help — to our neighbors who faithfully mow our lawn, to our friends who send us encouraging Scripture verses and texts, to our family who helps with our kids and brings us food, and to those who are faithful in praying. We appreciate you!

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part One

Bryan’s Journey: Part Two

Bryan’s Journey: Part Six

Bryan’s Journey: Part Six

Bryan’s Journey: Part Six

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(Photo Credit: Bryan took this picture last night — pretty great timing!)

I can not believe we are already at “part six” of this journey! I am just beyond excited to be able to share with you that Bryan’s PET scan came back completely NEGATIVE!!! There were NO signs of lymphoma! You guys — I can’t even type that without sobbing. I know that as Christians we say this all the time, but God is SO good. So, so, so good. And there isn’t even any other way to put it!

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He sent forth is word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.” Psalm 107:19-21

Throughout all of this, God continues to show me over and over again His goodness, His power, and His presence. I hate that it took something like going through this to strengthen my faith, but I know that is how He works sometimes!

Bryan’s treatment plan will continue on as planned — he will finish out his remaining eight chemotherapy treatments. *sigh* We would love continued prayer that he stays healthy, has minimal side effects and that he is able to finish up these last few months as quickly as possible! Please also pray that the kids continue to stay healthy, and that I am able to be whatever Bryan needs for me to be as we tackle these next treatments. Chemo is still really not fun, so we would appreciate continued prayers. We know God will continue to walk with him through the rest of this, but in the meantime, we are going to be jumping up and down and praising Him with all that we have!

Thank you for your love and prayers — we are so grateful!

Bryan’s Journey: Part Five

Bryan’s Journey: Part Five

“The storms in my life have become workshops where I can practice my faith in God’s sovereignty.” Jill Briscoe

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Yesterday was treatment #4 — 1/3 of the way done! Some days are going by so slowly, but then I think about how this entire journey really began around Mother’s Day and everything that has transpired since then, and then it seems like the days are flying. I guess it might depend on who you ask…Bryan may say the days are slower as his days don’t all look the same as they did before this all happened. I, however, see that most of my days remain the same, maybe with some additional duties, which I suppose is why I think the days are going by more quickly. All that to say, Bryan has 1/3 of his chemo treatments done! We are excited about that!

Bryan will have a PET scan next week and we will finally be able to see how his body his reacting to the chemo. It will be nice to “see” what is going on inside his body. We won’t find out anything about the results until his next treatment, but I will make sure you to keep you all in the loop. Bryan’s 3rd treatment left him feeling more nauseous and “off” than the first two, and the symptoms followed him for a few more days directly after than they had in the prior two treatments. So far, the fourth treatment went better itself, and we are praying the side effects are less and more manageable this time around. Other than fatigue and occasional nausea, I think Bryan seems to be doing really well physically. We are grateful for that. The mental part of all of this, continues to be a struggle, but as we are getting into somewhat of a routine, it seems like everything is really seeming like a normal part of our life — not a fun, part, but a part, no less.

A dear, sweet friend of mine, texted me this Bible verse yesterday morning before Bryan had his treatment, and it just really spoke to my heart and how I was feeling at the moment:

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:21-25

We are not consumed. He never fails. So often during these last weeks, I have felt overwhelmed and really consumed by fear, doubt and just the unknown. But we have a God whose Love is GREATER than anything we are going through. We have hope and He truly makes each morning new. Every morning, of every single day, we know that there is a God who has an unfathomable amount of grace awaiting us.

Passion’s, “The Lord our God” is now a family favorite song these days as I have been playing it nonstop in the car lately.

In the silence, in the waiting
Still we can know You are good
All Your plans are for Your glory
Yes, we can know You are good

I think I speak for the majority of people when I say this but it is SO hard when God gives you that silence, or you feel like you are just waiting for answers. As an obsessive planner, this is especially hard for me, and I am willing to admit that. But, both Bryan and I believe that His plans, whether confusing or not, really are all for His glory. However this journey continues to unravel, we can know that He is good. He is here. And He has a plan.

I know this post isn’t really much of an update, but I wanted to make sure to keep you prayer warriors updated and let you know that Bryan is continuing to fight this with strength and a smile. We would still appreciate any and all prayers! Specifically, pray that Bryan would continue to be healthy, as his neutrophil count remains low. Please pray that he would feel well, and that symptoms would be minimal. Pray that he would have strength and energy to keep working and to keep living life as normal as possible! I would appreciate prayers for energy, understanding, peace and strength as well. While we know we have a Mighty God on our side, it is easy to forget that in the midst of stress and uncertainty. Your prayers, love, and support are amazing! Thank you for your texts, calls and all the ways that you are helping! Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.

xo,

Abby

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part One

Bryan’s Journey: Part Two

Bryan’s Journey: Part Three

Bryan’s Journey: Part Four

Bryan’s Journey: Part Four

Bryan’s Journey: Part Four

“In Your everlasting arms, all the pieces of my life, from beginning to the end – I can trust You. In Your never failing love, You work everything for good. God, whatever comes my way, I will trust you.” Chris Tomlin, “Sovereign”

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I am starting this update on Bryan with a really positive thought — Bryan is 25% done with his treatments! WOOHOO! We will take any reason to celebrate through these chemo treatments, and being even a portion done, is super exciting. Yes, my accountant side is revealing itself as I keep track of treatments done and treatments left to go. 🙂

Bryan is still doing pretty well — I mean, really, check out the handsome guy up there! He has moments where he is just feeling “off” and not himself, moments of fatigue, and moments of nausea, but it is a huge praise that the moments of nausea (the biggest fear Bryan had with side effects), have been minimal and manageable. He is having nights where he is not sleeping well, so that has been a struggle at times. Bryan had his third treatment early this week, and did not feel well during it, but he is feeling better and back to work now. I have been able to go with him to all of his treatments so far, and they are getting more efficient and going more quickly as we progress, which is really nice. The less amount of time we have to spend at the hospital, the better, especially given Bryan’s low neutrophil count. (Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cells.) It is expected that this count will continue to be low for him throughout the remainder of his treatment, so keeping him as isolated as possible from germs and infections are high on our priority list! Again, super hard to do with our two little ones running around the house, but so far, so good.

I am actually so thankful that I do not have any super bad news to report about how things are going so far — such a huge answer to our prayers. Bryan will have another PET scan mid-August, and we will then know how well the chemotherapy is working and are expecting to see great progress! I have sometimes been feeling that time is going SO slowly. Our life has been so different this summer than others. We are home more, and not making all those fun summer plans that we used to be able to participate in without a second thought. If you have ever talked to Bryan, even if just for a minute, you will know that “social” is his middle name. He thrives on human interaction and is such a social guy. While being home more often has its appeals to a quieter person like myself, it has been difficult for Bryan.

It is difficult to try to plan our lives out with so much unknown. We are definitely counting down the days to the PET scan as this will be a great indicator about how well things are going, but it is very hard to not be able to see what is going on inside of Bryan’s body and just trusting in the “unseen.” And of course, praying that God has got it all under control. I was talking with my mom the other day about how it is hard to make plans for things going forward — even just the everyday normal things. I am a planner extraordinaire, so it is not in my nature to not have a plan! But, as I was talking these things through with her, this verse came to the top of my mind:

 “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

We are not going to be here forever. We are, as God says, literally a “mist” in the grand scheme of His overarching plan. Now, while I don’t think this means that we shouldn’t plan and just make crazy decisions, I do think it is a good reminder. While the hope is that Bryan will overcome all of this and lead a healthy life going forward, who is to say that I will remain healthy? God has promised us that “in this world, you will have trouble” — but HE will overcome. This entire situation just continues to scream at me that today is today. We are here today, and we might not be here tomorrow. Life. Is. Short. I don’t mean this to be morbid, as I truly believe God has the power to heal Bryan and that he will be just fine, but I say this because, we are not guaranteed anything. I certainly didn’t plan to find out that my husband had cancer in June of 2015. So I am saying this: Live your life. Don’t worry about the petty things that don’t matter in the perspective of eternity. Don’t hold back doing the things that you love. Live today – for today.

Something else that has really helped me through all of this, is keeping a gratitude journal. How often I catch myself whining about something (something that really doesn’t even matter), that I could be spending that time being thankful. While, I don’t love that Bryan and I are dealing with this health issue right now, God has SO blessed us in so many other ways. It is so, so, SO easy to get caught up in the moment, and feel bad for yourself — wondering why you were dealt this unfair hand. But, you know what? There is so much worse in the world. And in the midst of it all, we are seriously drowning in blessing upon blessing. My entire outlook changes, when I remind myself how much I have to thank God for — the list never ends!

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7

So, how can you continue to pray for us? Please pray that Bryan would remain healthy, and that his treatments would go smoothly and as scheduled. Please pray that he would feel well, and that he would be able to have more restful nights of sleep. Please pray that Bryan would remain positive (the mental mindset is so important through all of this), and that he would continue to feel loved and cared for by the Maker of all. Please pray that I would have the additional energy I need to help both him, and keep up with everyday life with the kids, and our home. And, please continue to pray that these treatments are doing their job and that we would see great results at his next scan.

We are so thankful for everyone that has spoken kind words and prayers over us. We have had neighbors show up at our door unannounced with food. Bryan received a care package from a friend who went through this same journey years ago, filled with necessities. My mom’s group at church dropped off a basket of “sunshine” filled with so many wonderful things. We have a neighbor that texts me at least weekly asking specifically what our needs are for the week, and how they can help (and really meaning it – i.e. showing up to mow the lawn moments later!). My family put together a care “bag” for Bryan and included with it were notes and cards from many of you — these notes are truly moving Bryan to tears at times as he can’t help but feel so loved. I am taking notes about all of these things so I can use them to bless others, because these intentional ways of giving and caring for us have meant so much. The cards, emails, texts, and phone calls are also so motivating and really helping us get through this. God is truly using you in our lives, and for His glory. If you are mentioned here, I pray you know who you are, partially because I have not been good at sending out thank-you cards, but also because I want you to know that you have made this journey more bearable, and we are so appreciative.

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part One

Bryan’s Journey: Part Two

Bryan’s Journey: Part Three

Bryan’s Journey: Part Three

Bryan’s Journey: Part Three

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“Hardships often prepare ordinary people, for an extraordinary destiny.” C.S. Lewis

Bryan had his second chemo treatment yesterday which means we are 1/6 of the way done! I will take any excuse to celebrate being partially done 🙂 I haven’t updated much specifically here, because, honestly, so far Bryan seems to be doing well. I know that it is definitely still early and the cumulative effects of treatments may add up, but for the moment while he is not quite himself, he is doing better than we thought he would be.

He has taken anti-nausea medication a couple of times so far, and his appetite has stayed fairly normal. While Bryan is definitely more tired than normal, the fatigue isn’t causing him to be unable to do his usual activities, but it is still noticeable at times. He has been working pretty much as if his life was normal, although some slightly less longer days than what he would usually do. We are so thankful that his job is flexible, because without that, this would have made everything even more difficult. For the moment, we have managed to avoid all of the terrifying side effects that they warn you about before you start your first treatment. We are praying that that remains the case and that he continues to handle the treatments and side effects with as much ease as possible.

The treatments themselves, have gone smoothly other than some unplanned waiting time as they figured out scheduling and orders and all of that. Those of you who know Bryan, will not be surprised to know that he has already been making friends with the nurses in the day hospital, and they are getting to know him. I love watching Bryan interact so joyfully with the people around him during treatment, because even in the midst of this struggle, he is still doing what he does best — connecting with people. These nurses are seeing the light of Jesus shine right through him, and that is so, so awesome. The treatments are long, but they have gone smoothly, and we are really thankful for that.

His labs yesterday did show that his white cell count is pretty low, and so risk of infection is now probably going to stay high for him through the rest of treatment. It is really tricky to find a balance between isolating yourself, yet still living. Not to mention, having two kids ages three and under make germs almost impossible to completely avoid. The first oncologist we met with, referred to kids as “little petri dishes.” Gross, but probably true! We are taking greater measures with hand washing for everyone as well as sanitizing what we can and avoiding others that we know are sick, but we are also just praying hard that he will avoid getting sick.

While the physical side effects are definitely not nonexistent, our biggest struggle this past two weeks has been mental and emotional. I have so much respect for the spouses of people who have gone through cancer with their other half. I do not mind in the least picking up extra responsibilities because I love Bryan more than life, but it has definitely taken a bit of toll on our family. This past holiday weekend was spent doing some solo parenting and celebrating, and that was tough. Tough for me, and also tough for Bryan who would have rather been a part of everything, instead of resting at home. I think it has been a natural instinct for me to just take off running with all of this, and in some ways, that’s been really good. I am planner and an organizer, so as my sister said to me, this has been my “moment to shine”, in some ways. I am positive that God gifted me with the skills I need right now, to help Bryan.

However, all of the running around and scheduling and additional chores taken on, have also taken away time for me to process everything. I had a moment last week when I was with my mom and sisters (sans kiddos and husband), and in that quiet, it was like everything all of a sudden hit me. I haven’t really had the time or energy to think and process, and sitting there at dinner with them, talking about my husband…my husband who has cancer…it just really, really sunk in. And, my heart just hurts for him. I never could have imagined while we were holding hands and saying our vows less than five years ago, that here I would be — sitting next to him while he gets chemotherapy. This situation would have never crossed my mind. Honestly, it gets hard to even go on social media sometimes and see everyone enjoying normal fun activities with their family while we are planning chemotherapy treatments and keeping Bryan as safe and comfortable as possible. This is hard stuff!

The further I take these thoughts, though, the further I see myself sinking away from the truth. We have so much hope. The God who died on the cross for our salvation has already walked this path for us. He has already suffered it all. While it doesn’t make our current struggles any less real, it does give us such great peace.

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

See? A guarantee that we will have trouble. And while I hope that this is the worst of what we deal with for now, that isn’t even a guarantee. But the God of all, is telling me that I can take heart. I can relax. I can have peace, in the midst of such uncertainty. He has overcome it all and I am so thankful that we can rest in that truth.

So, where are we at now? We have ten treatments remaining and while it’s less than twelve, it still seems so daunting. We would appreciate your continued prayers for Bryan to feel as normal as possible and that he would remain healthy and free of infection. Please pray that Bryan would have the emotional strength that he needs, as this has been a struggle. It is easy to quote yourself the truth from the Bible, but to let it really get in your heart and mind is not always easy, especially in the midst of something like this. Continued prayers that the treatment would work and rid Bryan’s body of the cancer would also be wonderful. Please pray that I would have strength, and energy and the wisdom that I need as I walk beside Bryan through all of this. I truly believe, that God is going to use this situation for good. I wish I knew what that was right now, but it is my prayer that He use it to make more of Him — and less of me.

Thank you to everyone who has continued to lift our family up in prayer, as well as those who have come alongside us already with helping with the kids, bringing food, care packages, sending cards, etc. I know there are so many more of you that have offered the same, and as we get further out with things, I imagine our need for that help will be greater. You have all been like an extension of family to us — and we are so grateful.

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xo,

Abby

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part One

Bryan’s Journey: Part Two

Bryan’s Journey: Part Two

Bryan’s Journey: Part Two

“When I said, “My foot is slipping, your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Psalm 94:18-19

This week has been a crazy whirlwind. Since my last post, we received a different treatment option and instead of starting chemotherapy on Monday, Bryan will be starting it today (Wednesday). Over the last few days I found myself constantly asking, “why is this happening?” “what is the purpose of going through all of this?” “why did the second opinion that was supposed to reassure us that we were making the right move, end up stressing us out and confusing us?” Valid questions, all around, but the problem is that there isn’t really a clear answer to any of those questions. Instead of finding peace, Bryan and I were busy going around in circles trying to make the right decision, having no clue if what we were thinking was correct.

Last week Friday, we met with a different oncologist at a different hospital, for a second opinion. Hodgkin’s Disease, from what we know, follows a little more of a standard form of treatment. The people we know who have gone through treatment for Hodgkin’s have followed the same form of treatment that was suggested to Bryan by his original oncologist. We went to the second hospital assuming that the doctor would confirm that the “standard” of treatment would be what he would recommend for Bryan, and while he did agree, he presented us with a lot more detail about Bryan’s specific situation as well as a completely different option for treatment that we were totally unaware of. This second hospital is much bigger and a research-focused hospital. It is linked to a medical college so it makes complete sense that a lot of their staff is really interested in and knowledgeable about up-and-coming clinical trials and research.

This oncologist proposed a clinical study to Bryan that is in its third phase. Basically, the study proposes to take out one of the four “regular” chemotherapy drugs used for Hodgkin’s and replace it with another non-chemotherapy drug that is specifically used to treat relapsed Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The drug that they want to remove from the standard treatment can be really tough on the lungs and physicians have been looking for ways to take this drug out of the mix for a long time because of its lung toxicity. This new drug, the one being proposed as a substitute for the study, is one that is used often as a third line of defense for someone who would relapse with Hodgkin’s again a second time and it has high success rates used alone. The purpose of the study is to see if this using this new drug right away for treatment would help decrease the chances of Hodgkin’s relapsing in someone who had already beat it. The study actually makes really good logical sense and isn’t some crazy, risky trial.

To be in the study, you need to be a first time stage 3 or 4 Hodgkin’s (which Bryan is). The study is a random draw, so Bryan would be given either the regular four drugs, or the three drugs plus the newer one. He would know which arm of the study he is getting, but the study organizers would be the ones to choose. So, 50/50 chance that he would receive the new drug, and 50/50 chance of getting the standard treatment. There are approximately 1,000 people already in the study and they are looking to add around 100 more people (this is a nation-wide study). There’s a lot more to this clinical trial, but I just wanted to graze the surface so you could get a sense of where we are coming from.

We went home from meeting with this oncologist with a completely new option to think about. We were not prepared to make a decision on Friday and wanted to think about it over the weekend. There were so many questions we talked through and we wanted to ask some of the people closest to us with medical backgrounds, what their opinions were. Do we take a risk that the potential benefits of this study would outweigh the potential risks? Do we stick with the tried and true method? What in the world do we do? We had varying opinions from people we love and trust, and just realized that this was a decision that we needed to be comfortable with, which both oncologists echoed that fact. Neither doctor wanted us to do something that we were uncomfortable with, regardless of how they felt about the study.

Monday came around, and we still didn’t know what to do. We chose to have Bryan’s port installed (which by the way, I am quite sure I will never cease to be amazed by medical technology — really a crazy thing), which was already scheduled to occur anyway and then meet with the original oncologist to get his insight on the study. So, enter yesterday. We were now on day four of thinking about what we should do and being worried about making the right decision. Totally exhausting. And really, just running around in circles in our head, not getting anywhere.

There is so much unknown with this newer drug as it hasn’t been around long enough to know the exact long-term effects. This is scary when you are talking about potentially administering it to someone who you love more than anything. While the immediate results seemed super interesting and really promising, there was just no way for us to wrap our heads around the unknown. We thought about joining the study and just letting God decide what group to put Bryan in…I mean, He already knows which treatment route we will go, right? We wrestled with the idea of leaving the original oncologist that had first walked us through this whole idea of cancer and how we could handle it. We had built a relationship with him over the past couple of weeks and weren’t prepared to let that go. We still liked the idea of the bigger hospital with greater resources and a bigger sense of security. We prayed and prayed. And prayed. And we just did not have a resounding sense of peace about any of the options.

On Tuesday morning, Bryan woke up and still didn’t know what to do. He received a phone call  that morning from the research department at the new hospital and found out that the CT scan that he had had done was more than 30 days past from the start of when his treatment would be (32 days to be exact). Therefore, the researchers could not use that scan and he would need a new one done. The cost of a new CT scan would not be covered by the study and would likely not be covered by our insurance.

Okay, God. We hear You. I mean, could it have been made any more clear? I am still in awe of the fact that He quite literally closed that door for us. I was feeling lost, conflicted, and confused and now I have that peace I was praying for. And Bryan does too — we feel that the trial is just not right for us, right now. Maybe someday we will know why, and maybe we never will, but we are set in our decision and have that peace that we were desperately praying for.

Well, now that the trial was off the decision table, we needed to pick which hospital and oncologist to continue to work with. Bryan feels a greater confidence and peace with the bigger hospital because of the greater resources and great depth of staff, and while we really loved the first oncologist we met with, we are going to switch to the new doctor. The hospital he has chosen was decided based on the fact that it was the perfect combination of “head” and “heart” in Bryan’s mind. The moment that Bryan decided what he wanted to do, was such a freeing moment. Yes, we still have chemotherapy to be nervous about today, but we know that God is totally here. He is next to us as we make these super hard decisions. I think this was truly the hardest decision I have ever made in my life…because it involves a whole life. And not just any life, but the life of my best friend and the one person I love more than anyone else in the world.

So, Bryan starts his treatments today and there is a lot of unknown. Will you please continue to pray with us for Bryan’s overall emotional and physical health? The port procedure wasn’t as easy as explained or expected, and so this week continues to weigh heavy on both him and me. Our kids have been combating some sort of virus, too, so sleep hasn’t been great and attitudes have been a little down. We are praying that Bryan does not catch any of those germs. Prayers that Bryan tolerates the chemotherapy well and that he would have limited to no side effects would also be so appreciated. This is all so unknown to us and we would appreciate any prayers for comfort and peace as we begin!

On a positive note, again, we are beyond overwhelmed with all of the love, support, prayers, and positivity from our friends and family. Neither of us are very good at asking for help, and haven’t really wanted to, but that hasn’t stopped people from offering help and really coming alongside of us. Our neighbors have brought us food and mowed our yard for us. Our family has put together a care package for Bryan as he begins treatment, filled with encouragement and necessities. Friends and family have written encouraging notes to Bryan that will uplift him as he is bound to need throughout this journey. We have received some really uplifting cards in the mail. Our kids have been watched and cared for so I have been able to be with Bryan every step of the way so far. People we barely know, have been in touch with Bryan to share their experiences with beating Hodgkin’s and answering his questions. And we have had so many people just listening and talking us through things. It is truly amazing to me that there are so many people who care for Bryan so much. We feel so surrounded and so, so loved and supported, so thank you for every kind word, deed and prayer. I may not call you out on it, but know that it is not unnoticed or unappreciated!

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; stuck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We know that God is the ultimate Healer and we know that regardless of who here on earth is treating Bryan, He is the One whose hands are in this entire process.

Cancer — we are coming for you — and we have the strongest Fighter on our side! Let’s do this!

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

xo,

Abby