Oh happy day!

Oh Happy Day

This morning started out gloomy. However, the sun is shining brightly for us now. I received updates from my doctor, from Friday’s tests.

The Thursday 6/25 8.0 CEA test was NOT confirmed. The Friday 6/26 retake came in as <1.0. This was the result we have received for some time now. This is the result that indicates NO CANCER. Furthermore the Scans are showing clear as well (e.g. no cancer). We are still waiting for the CT of the abdomen but the MRI and CT of Chest are showing ALL CLEAR. And my doctor expects that the CT of the abdomen will show clear as well, given these other results.

Who knows what the 8.0 CEA was? Maybe it was just a glitch? Maybe it was supposed to be 0.8 instead of 8.0? Whatever it was it sure sent us on an emotional rollercoaster ride. And it sure reminded me of how lucky I am to be NED (No Evidence of Disease). The remission continues! Praise the Lord, Halleluiah!

And THANK YOU for your many Prayers. You all are awesome prayer warriors. And I am so thankful to have you all praying with me.

Now we are looking forward to the Anna’s wedding and ready to truly celebrate! Thanks be to God!

Love and Light to each of you on this beautiful Monday!

Sincerely,

Philip


Bad News Today (06/25/2015 Update)

EmotionalRollercoasterMore prayers requested…

We’ve been in a very comfortable six month remission since my December 5th surgery. And today we hit a bump in the road. I went in this morning for another blood test and Erbitux chemotherapy treatment.  

We were all confident that I would receive another <1.0 CEA, just like the previous ten treatments. My wife was confident enough that she decided to work and let our son go with me to this treatment (this was the first doctor visit that she missed and the first visit that Bryce went ). My doctor was confident enough that he decided we can skip this treatment to let my face and chest heal a bit more from the Erbitux rash. This was a welcomed decision given my daughter Anna’s upcoming wedding on July 4th.

So I left my doctor’s office, happy that I had another break from chemo, and fully expecting a text message reporting my stable CEA level (my CEA test takes several hours to be processed so I usually get results later in the day, after the blood draw and after the doctor visit).

However, instead of the usual text message I received a call from Dr. Krauss. He quickly started with his too familiar opening “I’ve got bad news.

My CEA jumped to 8.0 in two weeks. This is not a good sign.

He continued, “It could be a false read.  However, I want to move your scans up sooner rather than later.” 

So now I’m going back to Ann Arbor tomorrow for a CT and MRI scan.

We need to stay focused on the upcoming wedding and try to choose to be happy and keep faith that this is all in the Lord’s hands.

Meanwhile, your prayers are formally requested once again.

And I know and appreciate (more than you know) that many of you have continued to pray for me and my family. Thank you so much.

Sincerely,

Philip


More Good News (4/30/15 Update)

Working while in the chemo chairHear all about it! More good news keeps coming in. Praise be to God!

Treatment 5 of Erbitux was completed on April 30, 2015. We also received the April 22 CT scan results.

The CT scan was ALL CLEAR

and

The CEA blood marker remained stable at “under 1”

Thank you all for your continued prayers. Thank you Jesus for continued good news!

The plan to receive Erbitux treatments every two weeks will continue as long as CEA levels stay low and scans remain clear. I’m scheduled for Erbitux treatment and CEA tests on 5/14, 5/28, 6/11, and 6/25. The next scan is also scheduled for 7/22.

While the Erbitux rash is a little irritating it is NOT intolerable. The best thing is I have energy and can even work while in the chemo chair. I do seem to get tired but heck, I can deal with that!

God willing we’ll keep hearing good news rolling forward!

Thank you for keeping us in your prayers and supporting us through this fight!

May you be showered in Love and Light as this spring unfolds!

Sincerely,

Phil


4/16/2015 Update

Last week we had a wonderful vacation. Tony, Bryce, Connie and I traveled to Boston to visit with Sarah and Matt. I skipped my last chemo treatment (which would have been on 4/2) as this conflicted with our vacation plans.

Our vacation was filled with activities and fun. We explored the Freedom trail sites over several days. We walked up 293 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill monument (a bit of an achievement for me). We toured Fenway Park (the oldest functioning major league park in America). We attended a Boston Bruins hockey game and Shear Madness play. We visited Salem MA and toured homes from the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s; including a 200 year old home from China. We also went on the Hocus Pocus walking tour and were both entertained and educated on the history in Salem. Including learning about the witch hangings in 1693. One of the highlights for us was Easter service at Matt and Sarah’s new church and Easter dinner with Matt’s family in Connecticut. It was truly an honor and blessing to spend this time with Matt and Sarah.

Thank you Jesus for giving us this wonderful vacation. We will remember it forever.

So this week it’s back to work, and today, it’s back to chemo. I can honestly say that I didn’t miss coming in for the normal chemo treatment. However, I’m now in the chair, receiving the Erbitux and wondering (worrying) if my CEA count remains low (blood draw was this morning but I usually won’t hear back until later today). Well, I suppose we’ll know soon enough. And as I have always said, we’ll all be fine no matter what the future holds.

The Erbitux rash had definitely diminished quite a bit over this break. However, it didn’t go away entirely. And now I’m sure it will be back with vengeance. The rash is very annoying to me; but it is a small price to pay if the treatment helps to beat this cancer!

April is a big month in our house as three of seven have birthdays this month. Connie’s birthday was on 4/2. Bryce will turn 15 on 4/27. And Sarah’s birthday is on 4/30. Happy April Birthdays family. I pray that your next year will be wonderful and your birthday wishes will all be fulfilled.

Thank you all for your prayers and continued support throughout this battle. Your prayers make a difference! And my family and I truly appreciate them and you.

Sending Blessings to you all today.

Sincerely,

Philip

Picture2


I’m Doing Great! (03/19/2015 Update)

EasterHello friends and family,

It’s been a little while since my last update so I thought I would take a minute and blog.

I’m in Ann Arbor as I type, connected to a saline IV and waiting for the Erbitux to be delivered from the pharmacy. This is my third Erbitux treatment since my December 5th surgery.

Once again my dear wife Connie is at my side, doing her work from the Ann Arbor infusion center. She is a true road warrior! And today I felt good enough to do some work as well. Ever since switching Benadryl out for an alternative medication I tend to fair much better through this treatment. Benadryl caused me to fidget and fight and made me quite agitated. To the point where I wouldn’t even take my computer because I simply couldn’t concentrate.

Anyway, today I’m doing well!

I just received my CEA count for today. Under 1.0 again. This is a blood marker that is used to assess colon cancer activity and under 1.0 means no activity. So, latest scans were clear and the blood marker is indicating no new cancer growing.

The downside to the Erbitux drug is the rash. I have a pretty good rash right now but if this drug is killing any rogue cancer cells that may be trying to grow into a tumor, well, I guess I’ll just have to tolerate the rash.

And as we approach Easter, I will focus on a NEW BEGINNING, hopefully and prayerfully WITHOUT CANCER!

Once again, I thank you all for your continued prayers and support. I’m truly thankful for so many prayer warriors in my corner.

May God Bless and Keep you and may this upcoming Easter be a beautiful and joyous celebration for you.

Sincerely,

Philip


Phil Post Surgery Update (01/22/2015)

It’s been a while since my last update. And since so much has transpired I will try to do a high level update to cover the ground quickly. As a matter of fact I’m guessing that most of you already know some of the details as they have been communicated via word-of-mouth and other means.

The chemo I took before the surgery truly was tough. I suffered through more severe side-affects than any previous treatments. Nevertheless, we toughed it out through all six planned treatments before doing the surgery. That brings me up to 29 total chemo treatments (to date).

The surgery took place on Friday, December 5 as planned. However this surgery was a bit more involved than previous procedures. They ended up taking out 40% of my liver and gallbladder. In addition to that I lost blood during this surgery and required a transfusion. All that said, the surgery was a success:

  1. Three tumors were removed from my liver, all with clear margins.
  2. My post-operative CEA level dropped to less than 1.0 (very good sign that cancer activity has ceased)
  3. I made it out of the hospital in record time. I expected to be in the hospital for seven days following surgery. I was only in the hospital for 4 ½ days. Wow!

Being discharged early left me with expectations that maybe I was on the FASTEST road to full recovery yet? Unfortunately, there have been several challenges on this trip.

The first challenge was a bout with the flu. Just before Christmas I fell victim to the flu, not unlike many of you. The complication turned out to be related to the coughing brought on by the flu. The coughing caused trauma to the surgery site resulting in increased fluids draining from a surgical drain. I was down to a level where the drain would have been removed had this trauma not occurred. But instead of getting it removed the drain stayed in and the fluid levels stayed high for a lot longer than expected.

After the flu ended I seemed to continue to battle flu-like symptoms. Low-grade fevers, chills, increased fatigue. This was challenging in that we didn’t know if this was another flu virus or an infection. I started an antibiotic and a week later I seemed to be over these symptoms, however the drain activity continued remain elevated.

The surgeon suspected that the antibiotic and use of ibuprofen may have been affecting other symptoms so he had me stop these medications. So last week, not taking any medication, I seemed to improve. Including the flow of fluid through the drain – it started to diminish. However the low-grade fever, chills, and fatigue has returned (this week).

Yesterday we drove into Ann Arbor for an appointment with my oncologist (Dr. Krauss) and another appointment with my surgeon (Dr. Knol). The snow made it a much longer and more treacherous drive than normal but we made it there and back safely. This visit was to get scan results, talk about next steps, and follow-up on the surgical drain.

Dr. Krauss (my oncologist) quickly gave us the update that the scans were all clear, and the CEA continued to be under 1.0. He then discussed that he wants to begin a conservative chemo treatment in four weeks, assuming I continue to heal and don’t have any major setbacks. He is going to have me begin taking Erbitux once again. This is a drug I used in the past that seemed to have maximum impact on cancer activity. Unfortunately, the side-effects of this drug is a nasty rash. Reference the 2/16/2013 update where I blogged about the Erbitux rash.

If my healing progresses as we all hope he will add additional drugs to the treatment to make it a more potent concoction. Although he assures me it will not be as rough as the six rounds I did pre-surgery. The hope is that this follow-up chemo (over the next year) will kill any remaining cancer cells and prevent a reoccurrence.

After discussing the return of the chills and fever with Dr. Knoll (my surgeon), he decided to put me back on a different antibiotic and to begin the “process” of removing the surgical drain. In the past the surgical drains were simply pulled out while I was in the hospital. There was some discomfort but it was done quickly and really wasn’t a big deal. I guess I should have expected that there may be a different process for removing this drain given that it was in me for over six weeks.

The “process” is to remove the drain one inch every two days. And he warned me and my wife, the first inch is painful. And he wasn’t kidding. I about hit the roof when he pulled out the first inch yesterday morning. The issue with the first inch is that tissue begins to grow around the surgical drain and that is pulled lose when pulling the first inch out. Additionally, the tube has a larger coupler that has to be pulled through a small (and very irritated and sore) hole in the skin. OUCH!

In addition to the doctor visits we also learned that the insurance has denied a claim for a PET scan. They are claiming that the PET scan was not medically necessary. The odd thing is that the insurance has paid for PET scans in the past without issue. And so we stopped in to visit with a UMHS administrator to find out what to do about this financial issue. We need to file another appeal with the insurance company. I pray the insurance company will ultimately pay for the test as this is a significant bill that we do not have in the budget. As if the cancer battle is not enough?

Anyway, I had a rough afternoon yesterday and a tough night trying to sleep last night. Nonetheless with the help of a little Tylenol the pain seems to be dissipating.

So, here it is, week six since surgery. I’m beginning to work, still struggling with some fatigue, chills, fever, and pain. When I started this cancer battle I was told this is a marathon. And here I am (maybe near the end of this race?) and I feel like I’m hitting the wall. I feel the pain and fatigue every morning and evening. I struggle with the cold and chills and frustration. But we simply keep on keeping on! With faith that our situation will improve. And in between the drops of gloom we manage to do a lot of living and loving. Some of the highlights from over the holiday season…

  • Our family Christmas was wonderful. The house was filled with kids and dogs and activity. And the activity continued for a couple weekends after Christmas as well.
  • Matt and Sarah announced their wedding engagement. So in addition to planning CJ and Anna’s wedding for July 2015 we are now also planning Matt and Sarah’s wedding for April of 2016.
  • We scheduled a spring vacation for April 2015. We are going to visit Sarah and Matt in Boston. And we are all looking forward to our time with them.
  • We finally accomplished a few of our home improvement projects as well. Note that these projects were planned over a year ago so getting them done was a good feeling. Bust through the wall

So, maybe I’m hitting the wall? But my plan is to bust through the wall! And Lord willing, I’ll be cancer free on the other side! Whatever lies ahead, we will continue to press on, for we know that the Lord has a plan.

Your continued prayers are truly appreciated!

Love and light to you today!

Sincerely,

Phil

 

 


From Treatment Six to Surgery Seven!

Happy Thanksgiving

Surgery #7 is scheduled for 12/5/2014.  Your prayers are once again requested.

If you followed my blog you will know that back in August scans revealed a recurrence of three tumors in my liver. At that time the surgeon was reluctant to do surgery. He wanted evidence that the chemo would work against this cancer. So we agreed with chemotherapy treatment before surgery.

The plan was six treatments of a pretty rough regimen of chemo. These treatments definitely proved to be tougher than previous. They came along with some pretty harsh side effects.

CEA dropped from 18 to 11 after the first treatment. This was very encouraging. “Bring on this chemo!”

CEA is an indicator of cancer activity. Increasing CEA levels usually means cancer is on the attack. So the drop was very welcomed news as it was evidence that the chemo was working against the cancer.

But then comes some anxiety. CEA went up from 11 to 12 between treatments two and three. This was NOT what we were hoping for. But we endured and prayed and hoped and kept faith. CEA remained at 12 between treatments three and four. Again, not the news we wanted to hear. So we continued to pray and hope.

And then it was time for scans after completing treatment four. And the anxiety of waiting for results. Scans revealed no new tumors. The three known tumors seemed to remain the same. The chemo seemed to have put them “in check” and that was better than seeing them grow and flourish.

Finally another drop in CEA! Between treatment four and five CEA dropped from 12 to 9. And then another drop to 8 between treatment five and six. And another drop to 7 after the final treatment.

This was what we wanted to see!

Meanwhile Dr. Knol (surgeon) was now on board with surgery. Surgery is scheduled for Friday December 5. He also ordered a colonoscopy to be completed before surgery. So today I’m doing prep for the colonoscopy. This will be the third colonoscopy in three years.

And so once again we are asking for your prayers…

  • That the colonoscopy will come back clear.
  • That surgery on December 5 will be successful.
  • That recovery from surgery will be quick.
  • That post-surgery chemo treatment will kill off any remaining cancer cells.
  • And that I will live a cancer-free life for many years to come.

My prayer of Thanksgiving

Father in Heaven, I pray to you today. You are most merciful. You are most loving. You are most wonderful. And I praise your holy name! Thank You Father. Thank you for walking with me through this trial. And for giving me time to reflect and repent and grow. And for continuing to show me the way. Thank you for this day. And for this time on this wonderful planet. Thank you for the many blessing you have given to me. Especially thank you for my family and friends. The people I have come to know and love are certainly the most precious and cherished blessings that I have. For they teach me about Love and you are Love.

My prayer for healing:

O merciful God. Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Use me as your servant. Show me the way so I may do your will. Father, grant mercy on me and send healing upon me. Be with Dr. Knol and the medical team at UMHS. Give them healing power as they plan and perform surgery. And be with Dr. Kraus and his team as he plans for future treatments. Give them all wisdom so they may direct maximum healing powers on me and others suffering from cancer. 

Two verses to ponder…

Oh, it’s hard to learn the lesson,
As we pass beneath the rod,
That the sunshine and the shadow
Serve alike the will of God.
—Anon.

I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said;
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.
—Stanphill

Thank YOU all for your prayers, support, and understanding as we endure through this trial.

May God bless you and your families, and God be with you through this Thanksgiving holiday and throughout the Christmas season, and forever more after that…

Sincerely,

Philip


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 361 other followers