Friday, July 31, 2009

Friends With Cancer Update

I thought I would give a few details regarding the list of friends with cancer:

Colin is the nephew of our long time friends, the Ngs, and he lives in Alaska with his family. He just reached the one year mark of his leukemia diagnosis and has finished one of three years of treatment and has been doing quite well for which his family is very encouraged. Friday, the doctors in Anchorage thought his cancer had returned, but after doctors in Seattle examined the labs they said everything was fine. He'll continue receiving his daily chemo treatments at home. The 24 hour roller coaster ride was tough but praise God for the great outcome!

Gabri is the daughter-in-law of a former piano teacher and friend. She and her husband, John, have been married three weeks and her thyroid cancer diagnosis is newer than that. They need prayer for financial decisions. She only has health insurance through the end of August. Pray for wisdom for them as the face so many decisions that can rock the boat of seasoned couples. Pray for grace, strength and wisdom beyond their years.

We met Joe (liver) and Judy (pancreatic) at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center. We haven't seen either of them for a few weeks so I don't know their recent specific prayer needs. Pray for wisdom, strength, courage, lack of side effects, encouragement and hope; these are the needs of all cancer patients.

Julie, like all of these friends, needs a miracle. Her breast cancer has metastasized extensively to the bone. Pray for comfort and lack of pain.

Mike, my cousin's husband, is in a clinical trial. He travels to Southern California from Southern Oregon every three weeks for his treatments. He has continued to work through this time but is currently not feeling well. Pray for healing and encouragement.
Day by Day
Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best--
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.
Ev'ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As your days, your strength shall be in measure,"
This is the pledge to me He made.
Help me then in ev'ry tribulation
So to trust Your promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation
Offered me within Your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Words by Carolina Sandell Berg, 1865; translated by Andrew L Skoog
Music by Oscar Ahnfelt (which can be found in the playlist at the bottom of this page)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another Adventure

Bryan awoke Wednesday morning with a fever of 101.6. Not a good way to begin the day. We went to see his primary doc and Bryan was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia. He had two instances of burning gastric reflux, Monday night and Tuesday afternoon, where he knows he aspirated the gastric juices. A simple treatment of amoxicillin and hopefully we will be back to battling only cancer. He was also given some medication to control the reflux which has been successful. His throat is quite sore and he is hoarse from the burning and coughing. Pray he recovers by Sunday to deliver his sermon.

Also, please pray for Bryan's primary physician, Dr. Retailliau. He was hit by a car while riding his bike to work recently. He has 3 broken ribs and a collapsed lung. As a result, he is not seeing patients, but was willing to see Bryan, for which we are thankful.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's Hot in the Pacific Northwest!

We are breaking all kinds of weather records here this week. With the excessive heat there are many warnings for the elderly and frail patients. We contemplated staying in a motel for a few nights so Bryan could be cool and not dehydrate too quickly! Then, we considered a window air conditioner.

Our friend, Denis, was at the house yesterday morning around 10:00AM to measure the front porch for a handrail. He heard our discussion and said he would install it, if we could get one. Pollocks usually move rather slow in this kind of major purchase. We research Consumer Reports, price compare and shop, wait for a sale and then, still question whether or not it is the right thing to do. Once it is purchased, the instructions are read multiple times to determine the perfect installation process and then wait for the perfect time to install. Not yesterday! Time was of the essence--it was getting hot as we spoke. Sarah checked CR online and called Lowes; they were sold out of the CR Best Buy. Next option? Costco! It was 11:00 when I arrived with David to get an air conditioner. We saw people leaving with them. I asked one guy if he bought the last one--"No, Ma'am, but they are going fast." We got one and Denis had it installed by 1:00PM!! It has maintained a comfortable temperature in the living area. Thank you, Denis!

Bryan's bilirubin level continues to drop. Although, it is still too high for the CPT-11, thus we continue with Erbitux, and 5FU/Leukovorin only. Dr. Chen would really like to start this again since Bryan's last infusion of the CPT-11 was May 26. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then!

Today, his white count was high and red count low, again. He was given a Procrit shot to help increase red cells. The "stomach" spasms continue intermittently and he has developed a very burning acid reflux. It was so harsh last night that it gave him a sore throat and raspy voice most of this day. Please pray his voice recovers for Sunday and the reflux ends.

Praising God for His sustaining grace,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


We had a special guest visiting from Virginia this week, Craig Figgers, one of our "military missionaries." Craig serves in the Air Force, and he and his wife, Trish, attended Pilgrim Bible Church. He was able to accompany us to the cancer center today before Susan drove him to the airport for his flight home. It was a great visit and we appreciate the Figgers' continuing friendship across the miles and years!

Today, the blood work indicated a drop in the bilirubin level which causes jaundice. The hematocrit indicates a minor drop of one point which means it is holding its own. It would help if I could walk more but the oppressive heat precludes that for now. Add to this the fact I have to lug around the heavy TPN bag, and walking becomes quite a chore. Pray for cooler weather when I can walk in the morning or early afternoon when I'm not connected to the TPN bag.

I seem to be developing bothersome spasms in the stomach. Don't know yet what that's about, but please pray. We are encouraged by the blood work though, and for my ability to receive a full chemo infusion today. Pray the nausea won't be too bad.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Home from the Hospital

After 14 days of hiccups which plagued me virtually day and night, I am home from the hospital hiccup free! I now possess, thanks to a 45 minute radiological procedure, which took place yesterday morning at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, two drains in my bile duct. One of these is an interior drain which drains excess bile into the duodenum. The other is a drain which removes bile into an external bag from my liver through the right side of my rib cage. These will remain at least until the jaundice is resolved. The duodenal stent was blocking the bile duct preventing it from draining properly. Thus, the backup leading to jaundice.

I was mildly sedated throughout the whole procedure which proved to be quite painful even in spite of the pain meds they gave me. The pain has persisted since the surgery, but seems to be resolving this evening. The greatest news of all, though, is that I have been hiccup free for nearly 36 hours! Again, thank you very much for sustaining me with your prayers!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A New Procedure

Tomorrow morning, at 7:30, Susan and I will be at Swedish Hospital reporting for a stent placement to drain the bile duct. Today's CT scan revealed a dialated bile duct, but there is no apparent tumor associated with it. I will spend one night for observation following this procedure. It is hoped that this stent will relieve the jaundice. Please pray that it will also stop the hiccups (day 13) and help restore strength to my body. Again, thank you for your ongoing prayers for us. We continue to trust the Lord for healing. We will update you when we return home from the hospital in a couple of days.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

More Hope!

After the disappointing Tuesday meeting with Dr. Cunningham,where he suggested the chemo was proving ineffective, Thursday, Dr. Chen negated practically everything Dr. Cunningham said. Dr. Chen informed us that the most recent CEA blood test was 6.4, and this was down from a previous reading of 16 after one infusion of Erbitux and 5FU Leucovorin! That sounds pretty effective to me! In addition, Dr. Chen re-started the TPN to help me stay hydrated and insure extra nutrition. We are praising God for these blessings and looking forward to what God has in store for us. We are to set our hope on the Lord's mercies and blessings, but we're also thankful for the instruments God uses as channels of hope!

Due to a critically low hematocrit of 23 on Thursday, I received 2 units of blood yesterday and have had more energy today as a result. On Monday, I will undergo a CT scan at 8:00AM at St. Joseph's Outpatient Radiology; please pray that the findings would furnish further cause for hope. Pray the scan may reveal the source of the hiccups that are on going. At times they are so severe I must struggle for my breath! I am getting some relief from a medication that gives me up to four hours hiccup free, God be praised! But we'd like to find a permanent answer!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday Evening

I've had these uncontrollable hiccups for one week now, and we're trying a new medicine which is supposed to relax the diaphragm and keep it from spasming. Some spasms are so intense they take the breath away! The only escape I get is when sleep mercifully comes upon me and I'm able to snatch two or three hours from the night. As a result, I nap the day away and don't really wake up until 5:00 or 6:00PM. We're still hopeful the new drug will kick in and totally relax the diaphragm.

The blood work is not encouraging. Liver function is completely abnormal and there may be a blockage in the bile duct. I'm very jaundiced which means the liver is secreting bilirubin into the blood stream. My white counts are critically high, while my hematocrit is critically low at 25; no wonder I am so fatigued! It's difficult walking since my legs are so weak. In short, I'm a mess. We see Dr. Chen tomorrow. Hopefully, he'll have some answers. Please keep praying especially for Susan whose having to bear up with so much: care for the family, care for me. She is such a wonderful trooper!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday--or Monday Morning

I am staying awake to observe Bryan. The hiccups have continued and now interfere with his breathing. It seems he gets a hiccup caught and is not able to get his air. Very disappointing! Also, the jaundice is becoming more severe; I think the doctors will see it on Tuesday.

Today we went to church as a family! Our friend, Ken Millar, is visiting from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada and also attended church with us. By God's grace and mercy, Bryan was able to preach today even though he hiccuped all through it. His mom and brother were also there.

As always, the support and encouragement we receive from the people at Pilgrim Bible Church is overwhelming. Love is outpoured from the youngest to the oldest. It is so precious to have young people (under 10 years) come up to Bryan and say, "I'm praying for you, Pastor!" Sometimes they make cards or draw pictures. Thank you, each and everyone, for all the notes and pictures, fasting and praying. God hears your prayers!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hiccup Day 3

The hiccups continue...not sure the cause. Bryan does have small breaks. He says those occur with peristalsis, obviously related to digestion; or could be a tumor pushing against the diaphragm. Guess, guess, guess.

Last night was a repeat of Wednesday--two hours after we began his TPN he started shivering with a fever and had elevated blood sugar. We called the infusion nurse, he would pass the information on to the pharmacist on call. Three day weekends make it difficult to communicate effectively with medical personnel. Anyhow, fever is gone this morning, we finished the TPN. It seems if it was an infection it wouldn't improve over time, only get worse. It seems that would be the case, I'm only the wife; the frustrated with medical practice wife.

A negative post--sorry--I should have spent time in the Word first. Off to do just that!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lazy Days of Summer

After a busy morning, I have not been able to get motivated. Just sittin' around enjoying the summer breeze through the open window! It sounds picturesque, but doesn't tell the whole story!

Tuesday's chemo appointment went well. Bryan weighed in at 110, just a pound shy of his weight prior to the week in ICU! We discussed his chemo drugs with Dr. Cunningham and have determined to eliminate the CPT-11 since it was causing severe diarrhea and extremely low white counts. He attributes this to the reason for the hospitalization. As a result, we continue with the Erbitux, 5FU and Leukavorin. This makes the infusion day much shorter!

The staph infection in his arm is still improving, doctor wants to continue another seven days of oral antibiotics to insure complete healing.

Last night, Bryan was feeling well enough to attend prayer meeting. Off we went with two IV infusions--5FU and TPN. Following our prayer time, we tested his blood sugar which is required two hours after start of the TPN. We were shocked to see a 342 reading! He was cold while praying and we assumed it was due to not allowing the TPN to get to room temperature before hooking him up. We went straight home to call the infusion nurse for instructions with a high blood sugar reading. She asked us to test again and then Bryan's blood sugar was 377. She asked if he had any signs of infection--I told her about him being cold earlier so I took his temperature and no surprise to her it was 102.9! She suggested we call the doctor. Dr. Cunningham assumed Bryan had an infection of his central line which the TPN uses. He had us discontinue TPN for the evening, give Bryan tylenol and come into the office first thing this morning!

We arrived at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center at 7:45AM today. As always, Bryan was weighed and vitals taken. His weight--drum roll please--113! We haven't seen that in quite some time!! His blood pressure was another story--78/45. Dr. Cunningham said it would have put him back in ICU if we went to the hospital. He pulled the central line and sent it to the lab to culture for infection. As a result, Bryan will only have TPN five days a week since it is not compatible with the 5FU and his only access now is the power port. If he keeps packing on the weight, we will be able to discontinue the TPN since he is able to eat on his own now. Yesterday, he consumed about 1500 calories. We need to get that to a consistent 2000 a day in order to discontinue, but it shouldn't be that difficult. The VitaMix has been such a blessing--it purees everything to a consistency which is compatible with his stent.

Another loop on the roller coaster, but we are still on the track! Two things to add to your prayer list, hiccups and possibly, jaundice. He developed a case of hiccups yesterday afternoon and they kept him awake most of the night. They still continue today. He finds gargling with ice water stops them for a short time, but then they return. The children and I think Bryan looks a bit yellow, but the doctors don't think so. This could be from the TPN, it is hard on the kidneys and liver or this could be from tumor growth in the liver. He had a CEA drawn on Tuesday and today we were told it was 16--significantly up since the 6.8 in May. There are many possible explanations--no chemo for two weeks, multiple hospitalizations and drugs, the infection developing in the central line, the staph infection, tumor growth or tumor necrosis. Bryan is not concerned and is glad we are not in the hospital and we are still moving forward today, resting in the goodness of God!

Thus, I am resting in the goodness of God, just sittin' around enjoying the summer breeze!