Thursday, September 19, 2013

September Update

It has been four months since my last post. It has been a crazy Summer. We have been through many ups and downs. Judy progress and scan were going well up until June. The scan were showing no additional spread and tumor shrinkage. The Mid-Summer scans indicated that the soft tissue tumors were still responding but the cancer was spreading in the bones and a new tumor showed up in the liver. They decided to take Judy off of maintenance therapy. They started weekly chemo and daily radiation to the lower spine and hips. Judy has endured some severe nausea and fatigue through most of her previous treatment. She never complains and continues to worry about whether everyone has brushed their teeth at night. Once a Mom, always a Mom. The new treatment caused her immune system to crash  in August. She contracted a severe blood borne infection. We had to rush her to the hospital after she spiked a fever and blood test confirmed  her counts were dangerously out of balance. She was placed in isolation to protect her from additional infections. This was an incredible scary time. The CDC was called in to help determine what infections were in play and how to treat. It was decided to treat everything. They gave her three antibiotics and one antiviral medication. She had IVs in both arms delivering blood, playlets, medications, potassium, magnesium, and fluids. It took 16 days for her immune system to recover well enough to bring her home. There is no place like home.

I must back up a little. Before an appointment to review her latest progress, Judy's brother Keeler forwarded some information on a new drug in clinical trials. It I a immunotherapy based drug that targets the PD-1 protein. During the consultation, Dr. Wang discussed the fact that we needed to proceed in another direction. He placed her on the new chemo with which her body would issues. We brought up the information and PD-1 targeted treatments. He was aware of the trials and had been following the progress. He indicated it was an exciting outside of the box approach that was showing great hope for future treatment. He jumped on the computer and found that Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa was conducting clinical trials. It appeared Judy could be a potential candidate. He submitted the information and we received a call within a week. The hospital stay caused us to postpone the appointment twice but we finally made it to Moffit.

Judy has had three days of extensive tests and screening. We are currently at Moffit for the final round of tests followed with a biopsy on Wednesday, September  11. If everything goes well, her participation in the clinical trial will start Monday, September 16. We are very hopeful. This is a phase II trial of an immunotherapy drug. It uses your own immune system to attack the cancer. Most cancer is overlooked by our immune system because it is our own cells that get off track. The cancer also depresses the immune system. This drug helps ramp up the immune system and aids the body in identifying the cancer as something to target. This greatly simplifies the process but you get the idea. We thank everyone for the thoughts, prayer and support. I don't know what people do without friends like ours. Love from all of us.



This a link with the detailed information of the clinical trial Judy begins Monday. We are very happy that she was able to get included. There are only 20 patients with her type of cancer allowed. The timing of this unbelievable. Her adverse reaction to the chemo caused her to discontinue treatment. The referral to Moffit happened within days of Moffit finding out that Medimmune was going to start a phase II trial of the a PD-1 inhibitor that has shown great results and low side effects. The trial was set to open only a week or so after the required flush out period for previous treatments. She will be the one of the first patients to begin this new phase. People wait months and have to fly all over the country to find trials and this one is within driving distance. We know the odds are not good. We also don't know why events have happened that uprooted our lives and family. It may be that we are here for this chain of vents to happen. Whatever the reason, we are hopeful. Judy and I just enjoyed a cup of coffee on the porch. We laughed some and talked about normal daily things. Flash back to December 17, 2013. Judy had lost 90% of the use of her left side and needed 12 Advil a day to function and still experience constant pain. This morning was a gift. She passed a milestone today. Statistics show that 9 months is the mean time period where half the people with her Stage 4 NSCLC are taken by the disease. So having a cup of coffee after a good nights sleep is a miracle. Doing all this without any medications, painkillers or even Advil is a miracle. To have that cup without depression, anger or self pity is the miracle that is my wife Judy. Love to all.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Early April Update

Family and friends are some of the greatest treasures one can enjoy. I am so thankful for the family that both Judy an I are a part. The out pouring of love and support from our families is amazing. The timing of a card, phone call or email is always at that perfect moment. When we are discouraged, down or feeling overwhelmed.

Friendship on the other hand is not something we are born into or purchase. This is something that is earned over time. If we want to reflect our how we have lived our lives, we shouldn't look at our bank statements. We should look at the number of people that we have affected in such a way that they call you a friend. Life has a way of moving friends to other areas, both near and far. I am amazed at the friends from present and 30 years ago that have rallied to Judy's side. Some she had not seen or talked to in 10 or 15 years. WOW.

Judy had her fourth round of chemo last Wednesday. They have taken an ever increasing toll on her strength and endurance. She has continued to eat and drink even though the nausea is curbing the desire. Her brother Keeler and his family are making frequent trips across alligator alley. The visits are a welcome distraction from the new routine. Judy's sister Rhonda packed up her two dogs and traveled from Montana to work from the Naples office and have more time to visit and help out. One of Judy's oldest high school friends, Shannon, has come on extended stays to visit and when I had to be out of town. She has said she will keep one bag packed and will hit the road from Orlando 24/7. Others are in the wings with the same offer. WOW

Friends and family. If you need to know the definition, please see above.

Thanks to all. If you have called, visited, emailed, sent cards or prayed. It is felt and deeply, deeply, deeply appreciated.

You are in our thoughts and prayers


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hello From Judy!

Hello everyone!
This is Judy. So far today had been a good day, finally today i do not have nausea! For the last ten days I was suffering from pretty bad nausea, especially in the mornings. But now, with some medicine as well as an anti-nausea patch, I am feeling much better. Yesterday was my third round of chemo. I was administered Carboplatin and Paclitaxel, as well as Bevacizumab. This was my first treatment of Bevacizumab. They also gave me a steroid and anti-nausea patch, so when i came home i was able to spend time with Tess, who is in town this week for Spring Break. I also was able to eat dinner with the family together at the table, which is something i hadn't been able to do recently.
            I have really enjoyed all of the company recently. First, Carol, Shannon, Bev, Stephanie, and Susan were in town. Then my sister Rhonda came into town for 10 days. She was here for work, but we got to have lunch, see sunsets, and have a few other meals together. We also had a wonderful day at the beach on Saturday with my brother Keeler, his wife Beth, and their kids, Elizabeth, Sarah, Michael, and David. After Rhonda left, i pretty much stayed in bed until two days ago. I was feeling very tired, and the nausea also kept me feeling pretty bad. But now that I have the anti-nausea medicine, I am feeling much better!
            I am looking forward to seeing Sarah Irwin (from Tuesday Morning Bible Study at our Richmond, Va church, West End Assemly of God) on Saturday! Shannon Skinn is coming again on Sunday and will be staying until Thursday.
            On March 5 we met with Dr. Wang to discuss the results of my MRI and Pet Scans. The results were sort of a "mixed bag" according to the doctor. The tumors in the brain and lung showed signs of shrinkage. The activity within the tumors has slowed to half what it was prior to chemo and radiation. I was very thankful for this good news. However, they did identify several areas that had not shown up on the previous PET Scan. There were two spots on the liver and multiple spots within the bones. We are keeping in mind that there was a five week period where critical radiation had to be performed on the brain tumors before systemic treatment using chemotherapy could be started. The positive side of this discovery is that the tumors show a reduced level of activity. Their activity level is in line with the tumors that are being affected by the chemo. Our hope is that the additional chemo drug they have added to my regimen will further the improvement we have seen. My next scan will be in about six weeks. That should give us a firm benchmark to base my progress. I am so blessed to have such support from near and far. The cards that come in the mail daily remind me of all the people I have praying for me, and the love that the Lord has for me.

18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.

*I worked with Tess this morning to complete my "About Me" section, if you would like to know more of the details about my life, as well as the cancer treatments. Also, if you look on the right-hand side there is an area that says "Follow Me By Email". If you enter your email in that box and press submit, you should receive an email whenever the blog is updated!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Heaven on Earth

Hello everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog and get updated on the weekly statuses of my mom! Last week she was able to enjoy three wonderful days with some old friends from high school. It took her a full hour to tell me all about it and she could have kept talking about it! she had a marvelous time! Below, one of her friends, Shannon Skinn, wrote a little something about the weekend. Thanks so much for sharing, Shannon!

What circumstances would prompt to say that you felt like you were living in heaven on earth? Would it be that you were recently diagnosed with 4th stage lung cancer that had already metastasized to your brain? Or maybe that you had completed 14 radiation treatments to your brain, and were in the middle of an aggressive chemotherapy regimen? How about if you had to learn to adjust to the complications of a wretched disease AND the side effects of the treatments & medications that altered your physical and mental capabilities in uncontrollable, unpredictable and difficult ways (not the least of which is the life-altering side effect of not being able to drive)?  Maybe it’d be the challenge of having just moved your family and your belongings into a home that is half the size of the one you left a year and a half ago, and 1000 miles away. Maybe it’d be that you were parenting a daughter in high school and a son in middle school and a daughter attending a university in another state. Or perhaps you were supporting your husband in a necessary career change that required uprooting your family from the friends and community you enjoyed for over two decades. What if the responsibility to quickly and completely transition the multitude of tasks associated with your job were forced upon you? Would any ONE of those circumstances cause you to tell people you felt like you were experiencing “heaven on earth?”   What about ALL of them at once?  Hard to even imagine, right?  Yet, it’s just a glimpse into Judy’s life, and she walks around saying she feels like she’s living in heaven on earth!  She is glorifying God every step of the way on this treacherous journey, and I highly recommend spending some time with her.  It is nourishment, actually a grand feast, for the soul!

Throughout our brief visit, Judy astounded and blessed us with her constant state of peace that passes understanding, her awareness of God’s abiding presence, her complete surrender to her Creator, her sincere love for others, her generous heart, and her appreciation for fun, fellowship, and beauty.  We went to Naples for the purpose of blessing her, and instead received blessing upon blessing FROM her.

Although most of us hadn’t seen each other even a handful of times since we graduated from high school, we enjoyed a deep sense of unity.  We had a blast, walked the beach, ate good food, drank good wine, told good stories (including some that will never be printed in a blog), had deep theological discussions, and were entertained by strangers brave enough join us by the poolside fire (actually, one stranger was completely silent, one was completely inebriated, and one was maybe marginally brave).   Most importantly, we prayed together.  Thanks, Susan, for initiating that - your heart is a treasure!

At Stephanie’s request, we showed up with mementos from TKA Class of 1979 and current family photos.  It was fun to walk down memory lane aided by Susan’s hand-written Senior Trip journal!  Carol had some great photo albums that captured treasured memories off campus - usually surrounded by water!  If you ever attended TKA, we probably saw a picture of you & shared a fond memory of you. Bev shared some great photos of the entire Anderson Clan, including their three generations of missionaries to South America.  It was great to see everyone’s photos of their beautiful and talented kids.  Tim provided a major highlight of our trip when he showed up at the hotel with Jenna and Austin.  Judy and Tim have precious, precious, talented, gorgeous kids!  We missed Tess, but heard lots of stories about her.  Maybe we can plan a future trip around one of Tess’ visits to FL, soon!

There’s so much more I could say, but I’ll summarize it by saying this - if your soul needs some nourishment, go see Judy.  Christ joined us together in his body, and when we are with each other in authentic relationships, the Holy Spirit can transform us more into Christlikeness.  If you yearn to hear your Heavenly Father say to you, “this is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased,” go see Judy (I can’t explain it, it’s part of the mystery).  If you need to see what life looks like when you live it with a grateful heart, in complete surrender to the Lord, go spend time with Judy.  Go alone, or grab a few friends, just go.  She is one tough warrior in an all out cancer battle, yet is full of grace and joy.  Go figure.  Go see her.  It’s not something to just read about, it must be experienced.  Go.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gifts, especially Judy, Tim, Tess, Jenna, Austin, Keeler and family, and Rhonda and Jeff.  I give thanks to God for each of you, and join you in expecting God to grant that full pardon for Judy with a complete removal of cancer in her body, while we are on this earth, in this life.   Thanks also to Susan, Stephanie, Bev and Carol for quickly rearranging the demands of your daily lives & joining me on the inaugural visit to “love on Judy” a little bit.  Let’s do it again (& again, ...).

With much love,

Monday, February 11, 2013

Judy's status

I want to provide a brief summary and timeline for clarity. On December 17th
an MRI indicated multiple brain tumors that were causing swelling within the
brain. This swelling was causing partial paralysis to the left side of the
body. It was also causing excruciating headaches and other symptoms. The
neurologist suspected that it was cancer and very likely secondary. Further
tests and a later biopsy confirmed that Judy had stage IV Lung Cancer. It is
officially NSCLC or non-small cell lung cancer. On January 3 she began 14
treatments of whole brain radiation. These treatments are designed to kill
the active metastases and tumors in the brain and relieve the symptoms and
swelling being caused by their presence. She completed those treatments and
has moved directly into systemic chemotherapy. This involves 2-3 different
drugs administered by intravenously over a two hour period once every three
weeks. She has had the first and receives the second on February 13. There
will be a total of four at a high dosage. These will be followed by reduced
dosage every three weeks as maintenance. There will be additional scans that
will be completed in about 4 weeks. These will provide a benchmark for how
the treatments are working and if there needs to any modifications.

We are so fortunate to have so many wonderful friends and family. The cards
and prayers provide support that feels so local even though many miles
separate us. We have also met many great friends in Florida that are
providing that local support network. Judy's care givers have been amazing.
Their compassionate bedside manner could not be better. Judy has regained
full use of the left side of her body that was lost. The strong steroids she
was prescribed were limiting her to one hour of sleep per night up until a
week or so ago. They have taken her off those and she is now sleeping 6-8
hours per night with a light sleep aid. This is a great thing. She is
feeling more fatigue without the steroids. Overall she has done very well
with the treatments and we will continue to update everyone on her progress.

One very bright note is that five of Judy's high school friends came into
Naples yesterday. She has joined them at The Edgewater resort for two days
of relaxation and reflection. The years fell away when they sat down and
started talking about all of their memories. What an amazing thing to
witness. More to come......


Friday, February 8, 2013

It has been six weeks or so since we were told that Judy has Lung Cancer. This was such a shock for anyone that knows our family. We absolutely do not allow smoking in or around us. Judy has never smoked. That is the first thing every doctor asks. How long have you smoked and when did you stop. I get so frustrated when I see so many young people smoking. I look at Judy's diagnosis. It's as if someone you love is being convicted for a crime they didn’t commit. Now, the fight is a physical one instead of a legal one. We are praying and battling for a stay or continuance. Our ultimate goal is that God will grant a full pardon for an innocent victim. We pray with expectation. We cherish good days and ones that aren't. Judy is doing great. She is sweet and stubborn, funny and direct. Our biggest challenge is getting her to rest. She was always busy doing something. More to come……

P.S.  Please ask your loved ones to stop smoking if they do. Why raise the risk?


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 29, 2013

Welcome to my wife Judy's blog. This was her idea to keep all of our friends and family informed of her progress in battling this disease. We will also be adding some information and links to products and services that have made coping with the disease a little easier. I want to thank all the people who are continuing to pray and offer their strong support to Judy and our family. Please feel free to send notes and post comments as you feel led. I will post updates, pictures and information as this journey continues. Judy is incredible as anyone that knows her can confirm. Her kind heart and soft kindness has be witnessed by so many. What many have not seen is the strength she continues to demonstrate from the minute she received her diagnosis. There was surprise of course, but no anger. She calmly accepted that God was in control and she accepts his plan for her life. Wow is all I can say. I hear people talk about faith but have never witnessed such a bold confirmation of what real faith looks like. Her positive attitude has been such a blessing in helping us adjust to a new normal.

Tim( Judy's other half)