RIP Earl Duane Devault

 

Duane and Phil 2013-10-08

I’m now 4 days since FOLFOXIRI/bev treatment two of six (treatment #25 overall). This round was a lot better managed. I am now eating more and fatigue is waning. Diarrhea was not as bad and although nausea was an issue I seem to be beyond this as well. And as I previously reported, CEA dropped from 18 to 11, giving us encouragement that the poison is killing the cancer.

So, while things were looking up, well… On Monday we received word that my father-in-law passed away. Luckily we managed to squeeze several visits into the last couple months so at least we had a chance to spend some time with him before he passed. He was on hospice care for pancreatic cancer and we knew time with him was precious. Good-byes on each visit proved to be progressively harder to do. Although my father-in-law was 81 he was a very active person, up until his final days. And it was very sad to lose him at this time. He did live a wonderful life and his legacy will most certainly live on — through his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren… He will be dearly missed by many!

My first reaction to the news of his passing was to plan our trip for the funeral (which is on Friday). We discussed when to go with each child and we planned for how to best deal with my condition along the way. I was even considering “depends” as a precautionary measure given the symptoms I’ve been dealing with…

However my wife was concerned about me making the trip. Given low immunity, a ten hour road trip from Michigan to Tennessee, stopping at unknown gas stations along the way, with four kids, my wife, and me packed like sardines inside my truck…  Then sleeping in an unfamiliar location, being so far away from home, trying to eat smart in restaurants… Adding to that the emotional stress of the funeral, and being around many family and friends… All that while trying to recover from the chemo fatigue, diarrhea, and other symptoms.

The last words I heard from my father-in-law seemed to give perspective to the decision. As labor-day weekend came to a close it was time for us to return home. My wife, fourteen year old step son, and I said our final good-byes in the garage and then proceeded to walk to my truck. We paused in the street to wave good-bye one more time while choking back tears… Then we just stood there in the street with tears in our eyes while we watched Duane come down the driveway. He was rapidly pushing his walker over the cement cracks, over the curb, coming right up to us. He hugged us one more time. And as he hugs me, he told me in no uncertain terms “You get better!

He made his point. And my wife made her point. And now my family is there and I’m here.

I’m so sad that I’m not with them during this celebration of life and love. Even though I know it was the right decision I am still sad that I’m missing this time with my family.

Cancer has once again succeeded in steeling from me. Cancer seems to do that every chance it gets. Taking time away from watching my children in plays or sporting events, hanging out with friends at football or baseball games, productivity at work, home chores, playing golf, etc…. The collateral damage from battling cancer truly sucks!

So here I am feeling sad…  For my wife who lost her father. For my mother-in-law who lost her husband of 50+ years. For my step children who lost their Grandpa (he loved them so much). For me who can’t be with my family during this occasion…

I guess I will simply wipe away my tears and focus on resting, walking, recovering, working…  So I can be as ready as possible for round three next Thursday.

I will do a lot of praying and a little crying and suck-it-up as I focus on “getting better!”

Thank you all in advance for your support. Please send up prayers for my wife, children, and all of us as we grieve the loss of Duane.

Duane, I know you are now in a glorious place! Celebrating with the King of kings and all the angels in heaven! Praise be to God!

Love, light, hugs to you all!

Philip


Treatment 2 (09/19/2014 Update)

Buckle my shoe

One two buckle my shoe!

Well I started treatment two of six yesterday. And it was a long day. We left the house at 6am and didn’t return to the house until 5:40pm. And I think I laid down and fell fast asleep and didn’t wake up until a short time ago.

We are hoping to do better at managing symptoms this round. The doctor modified the anti-nausea medication I received during the infusion. I also received a shot of another anti-nausea medication shortly before leaving the infusion chair. That medication was more effective; however it causes drowsiness which partly explains the long sleep.

Because of that medication we chose (for the first time) to use a wheel chair to leave the hospital. However, the chair was only used to wheel out our computer bags (which each weigh over 30 lbs). I still managed to walk myself out of that place.  :-)

Treatment two will continue through Saturday (I will disconnect myself from the portable pump on Saturday). And this Monday I will inject myself for the first time at home with a post treatment shot. Last Monday we had to drive back into Ann Arbor to receive this injection. The excellent nurse practitioner at UMHS was able to work with the insurance company and get the prescription approved for a home injection (Thank you Kim). Saving us this trip is very appreciated.

So far, so good. I had to force myself to eat some breakfast today. Usually eating is not a problem for me but this chemo has robbed me of all appetite. And I have to force myself to drink liquids as well. I’m just hoping the anti-nausea medication helps me keep it down.

And the best news of all for me was the CEA level. Two weeks ago my CEA level had climbed to 18. We suspected it would continue to rise given the recurrent disease. However, the important news was that the CEA had dropped from 18 to 11 after treatment one. While this is not definitive it is an indicator that this regimen is working.

Also, the doctor reported that we will do four treatments (two more after this one) and then do a round of scans. We are hoping that the scans will give us more evidence that the treatment is succeeding. If things continue according to Dr. Krauss’ plan, I will likely have surgery sometime after treatment six.

And today I pray…

Thank you Lord for giving me this time on this great Earth. Thank you for giving me so many beautiful people to share my life with. Thank you for my wife and five beautiful children. Thank you my father and mother, and six siblings. Thank you for my wonderful extended family. Thank you for my career and so many supportive colleagues. Especially thank you for the Love you continue to bring into my amazing life.

Thank you for the giving us this wonderful sunny day today. Guide my decisions and actions today so that they may be pleasing to you. Teach me how to share the Love you have put into my heart so that others will experience what I have been lucky to know for so long.

This I ask through Jesus Christ, our Living Lord, King of kings.

 

Hugs to you all today! And thank you again for your warm wishes, positive thoughts, and countless prayers for my family and myself.

 

Sincerely,

Philip


Chemo III

Knockout CancerWe met with the surgeon at UMHS on 8/28. After a lengthy discussion with the surgeon we agreed with the recommendation to start chemotherapy and reassess surgery after treatment. The chemo will be used to kill/stop the cancer. After verifying that the treatments have been successful we will then do another liver resection. However, at this point the liver resection will be completed with a higher degree of confidence that the cancer is truly in remission!

So here we go again. Like a bad sequel I am here at UMHS once again receiving chemotherapy. We are hoping and praying that this will be THE episode where the antagonist is defeated! Where the opponent is knocked out for good!

I once read that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Well, luckily this chemo will be a little different than the first two cocktails. The first eleven chemotherapy treatments were labeled as FOLFOX. That regimen included 5-FU, leucovorin, and oxaliplatin. The next twelve treatments were FOLIRI + Erbitux. That regimen included 5-FU, leucovorin, irinotecan, and Erbitux.  This cocktail will include 5-FU, leucovorin, irinotecan, oxaliplatin, and avastin. This is nearly all the drugs previously received plus avastin. The latest studies have shown that adding avastin (aka bevacizumab) can increase the effectiveness of the other drugs. And we are hoping and praying that is precisely what will play out in my case.

Side effects. Of course there are side effects. You know the part of the commercial where they talk very fast? Or the very fine fine fine fine print? That is the downside of chemo. It comes along with baggage. And there lies the “battle.”

So, yes, I’m ready for the battle. I’ll surely endure these side effects. I say bring them on! I’ll fight with every ounce of energy I have.

To see the smile on a future grand-child’s face.

To walk my daughters down the aisle and give them to their future husbands.

To see my talented older son in his first Broadway performance.

To watch my younger son play sports, graduate, and grow.

To rock in a rocking chair with my wife.

 I will fight!

 

Father in Heaven, King of Kings,

Thank you for today. For a chance to fight. For the energy to fight. Thank you for the love you have surrounded me with. Thank you for all my beautiful family and friends. Thank you for the countless blessings you have bestowed on me. Thank you for giving me peace and strength and endurance. Amen.

And thank YOU for your continued support. And for your countless prayers for my family and me. Please know that I truly appreciate each of you.

Sincerely,

Philip

 


Sometimes you just have faith (08/18/2014 Update)

Sometimes

When I was first diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer a friend told me that I was now in a marathon. He advised me that there would be many challenges and I had to prepare for the long run. After six surgeries, 23 chemo treatments, countless tests, scans, and doctor visits (in a two year span)… Yes, it is a marathon! We were hoping I had crossed the finish line. But the race continues.

The scan results found three suspicious masses on my liver. I am now facing another reoccurrence of the cancer. The doctors are determining the best approach for this next battle. We are weighing pros and cons between a couple options. The first option (which we are leaning towards) will be surgery followed by intense chemo therapy. I will be undergoing a PET scan on Wednesday this week to determine if the three lesions found on the MRI are the only signs of cancer. Assuming the PET scan does not show any other evidence of cancer I will likely do the surgery soon and then follow-up with six treatments of intense chemotherapy. If the PET scan shows additional signs of cancer we will likely adjust the approach. In that case we would start with intense chemotherapy and reassess surgery after three treatments.

Both options will require intense chemotherapy. This chemo will include all the previous drugs, plus a new drug. It will be a double whammy. The hope is that this will make the difference in this war…

The good news is that there is still a chance for a complete remission! So once again we are asking for your prayers. For my family and me, my doctors, and all struggling with cancer (patients and support).

Father in Heaven, Thank you for gift of today on this great earth. And thank you for the gift of each other. Continue to teach us Father. Show us how to Love as you Love us. Give us strength to overcome the challenges in life. Guide is to increase our Faith so that we will always remain in you. Send us healing Lord so our ailments are removed. This we ask through Jesus Christ. Amen

I will keep my focus on Jesus. And ask him for the strength I need to continue this marathon. And I will remind myself that there is a plan. Albeit, one that we don’t understand right now. And sometimes, this time, I will simply keep the faith!

 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Thank you in advance for all your prayers and support during these challenging days.

Sincerely,

Philip


July Update (07/15/2014)

20140715 CEA ClipMonitoring Update…

July 7 has come and passed and unfortunately my test has detected yet another increase in CEA level. The July 7 test shows CEA climbing from 2.0 to 3.0.

3.0 is still within normal range (0 to 3) however, two increases likely constitutes a trend. We are now officially concerned that this may be the beginning of a new metastasis – e.g. new tumor(s). Keep in mind that my CEA has been as high as 40 in the past so an upward trend to 3.0 may not be good but I have survived worse.

I will undergo three different scans in early August, including a CT, MRI, and PET scan. We will review the results of these scans with the doctor on Thursday, August 14.

What we are hoping for is:

  • Best case scenario: CEA drops and scans are all clear – E.g. no evidence of disease.
  • Second best scenario: If there is cancer we hope it will be isolated, detected via the scans, and be easily removed via surgery.

We won’t talk about other scenarios for now. Instead we will focus on praying for one of the above.

Until then your prayers are very much appreciated.

Love to you all!

Philip


06/05/2014 Update

Monitoring for cancer…

As you all may know, I’ve been in a remission since my last surgery on February 7. What that means is that there has been no evidence of cancer since this date.

What the doctor has done is monitor CEA levels monthly and perform scans every three months. I had a stretch of CEA results “under 1.0” and one set of scans with no evidence of disease.

I went in for the monthly CEA test today. And I was hoping to add one more “under 1.0” result to the list. Unfortunately the test came back as 2.0. While 2.0 is well within the normal range (0 to 3) it is actually the rising levels that is most concerning. The only thing to do for now is wait until next month and test the CEA once again. If the CEA rises a second time we will begin to do more aggressive scanning to see if there is evidence of cancer activity. A CEA lower than 2.0 is the result we are praying for.

My next CEA test is scheduled for July 7.

Your continued prayers for a sustained remission are appreciated.

Blessings to you all on this beautiful summer day.

Sincerely,

Philip


05/08/2014 Update

Today I went in for another CEA blood test and to hear the results of the CT scan that was done last week. The waiting and anxiety build-up is now over. The CT scan was clear and my CEA level continues to be normal (under 1.0). No evidence of disease! Praise be to the Lord!

In addition to the anxiety that comes along with these sorts of tests; this week was also stressful for other reasons. Cancer Survivor Network (CSN) is an online support forum that I have used over the past two years. I have gotten to know quite a few people through their posts and through email. It has proven to be a very useful place where people help each other with understanding and managing through the cancer battle.

I connected to one person in particular on this site. We exchanged several emails and frequently posted replies on each other’s questions and comments. We were both stage IV colon cancer and our cases and treatments were similar so we had a lot to share.

In hind-sight the connection with Joe was predictable. We were both born in 1964. We lived within 1 ½ hours from each other. We are both married with children and engaged in children-related activities. Working professional we were both determined to not let cancer treatments derail our careers. We were both Christian men. Add we were both engaged in a battle against a common enemy, with common experiences.

Joe died this past Monday.

He was a kind and gentle person. He was supportive and encouraging to me and everyone on the CSN forum. Joe was a husband, father, employer, employee, coach, and Christian man who truly loved and was loved. There is no doubt that he will be deeply missed by many. A man like Joe makes more of an impact on the people in his life than he could imagine. And I consider myself lucky to have known him.

I feel loss and sadness with Joe’s passing but I know that he is shining bright in paradise today.

Thank you Lord for today. This is truly a beautiful day on this good earth. And thank you Lord for Joe. He was a kind and gentle servant and I know he is now with you in heaven. Shower Joe’s family and friends with Love and Light. Bring them to peace. Restore their souls. This I ask in the holy name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today the sun is shining. Warm weather has prevailed. And I can breathe easier and relax with the good news from the doctor. God is good.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. And know that I am praying for each of you daily.

God bless and keep you all.

Sincerely,

Philip

Please get a colonoscopy if you are 50 or over!!! It could just save your life!!!

Colon Cancer Awareness

 


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