Monday, April 27, 2009

Here, There, and Everywhere

Were you beginning to think we were never going to post again? In order to get an update posted I will again be writing in place of Bradley. Our last post ended with Bradley’s 12th round of chemo, his 2nd round with the Irinotecan and Temodar. Unfortunately Bradley’s off week from chemo was still accompanied by severe cramping and feeling terrible. Bradley had a list about a mile long that he was experiencing as side effects from the chemo. I called Dr. D’Amato’s nurse at Emory to see if his side effects could be better controlled. Not only was Bradley feeling very badly, but his morale was also starting to suffer. After 12 rounds of chemo and a major surgery, he was just feeling as if he couldn’t handle anymore chemo and feeling so sick constantly. I also mentioned this to Dr. D’Amato’s nurse along with the fact that his weight was still dropping. Unfortunately, Dr. D’Amato’s office was not very concerned about Bradley. Their lack of concern made me even more concerned and overcome with helplessness. I decided to call Dr. Chou in New York and explain what was going on with Bradley.

I left a message with the receptionist and unlike at Emory, Dr. Chou personally called me back. Keep in mind he was not able to personally examine Bradley, but he too was concerned by the symptoms and feelings Bradley was having. Dr. Chou stressed the last thing they want is for Bradley to stop treatment because his chemo side effects cannot be controlled. I told him Bradley wanted to take an extra week off to try and recover his strength and appetite. I also asked him if there was any way we could move Bradley’s scans up from their scheduled date of April 28. I explained that depending on the scan results Bradley may decide to stop the chemo and continue with a less harsh treatment (more later in post on this). He agreed that Bradley should definitely take another week off and that his scans would be rescheduled sooner. By the end of the day, his scans had been rescheduled for Monday, April 13 the day after Easter. This left us with one week before we had to leave for NY.

Friday, April 3 Bradley had begun to feel slightly better, and I know we were both getting tired of sitting in our house day after day. We decided to go to my mom’s in Knoxville, TN until Monday. Gary was home for the week and Bradley and I had a great visit. Gary’s kids and their families came over for an early Easter dinner and egg hunt. We enjoyed many homemade meals, and Bradley was steadily regaining his appetite.

On Monday, April 6 we left Knoxville and continued on the rest of our week long adventure. We were headed for Newbern, TN where Bradley’s parents live. We arrived around 8 pm to find Bradley’s entire family gathered to welcome him home. We’re not only talking about brother and sisters and their families but aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody. Bradley was so excited, and it was really great that everyone came out to see him. Bradley and I hadn’t been to Newbern in over a year, since before his diagnosis. We had so much fun catching up with everyone.

Tuesday we just hung around his parent’s house and rested. We were still tired from the drive and Bradley’s welcome home party. Later that night Frankie, Doris, Dawson, Hunter, Lori, Steve, Grammy and our friends Chad and Jessica all came over for homemade pizza. We enjoyed more great food and Bradley was now even asking for “seconds”.

Wednesday Bradley woke up at 6:30 am to go Crappie fishing on Reelfoot Lake with our friend Chris. Chris bought a boat several months ago, and Bradley could not wait to get out on it. They did not have much luck with the Crappie, but Bradley felt well enough to stay out until the late afternoon. It was such an improvement from the week before, and I was thrilled to see him feeling well enough to enjoy getting out. Later that night we went to church with Grammy. Her church is small on people, but huge on love and prayer. Many, many members send Bradley cards weekly even though they had never met Bradley. Bradley really enjoys receiving these cards regularly, we know not faces but names very well. We really enjoyed visiting Lake Road Baptist Church and finally being able to put a face to a name. We felt incredibly welcome and Bradley was really honored for the wonderful prayers the congregation prayed for him and us. We were both so happy we could visit with everyone.

Thursday Bradley and I took Paddington and Yogi to a local groomer we like to get their spring ‘do’s. For dinner that night we went to Chris and Amanda’s house with Chad and Jessica. Chris grilled deer tenderloin and again Bradley filled his plate several times. We had so much fun hanging out with all of them. It was such a nice escape from what we are going through now, and it was a great reminder that life will be “normal” again soon.

Friday around lunchtime we packed up the car and returned home. We had such a busy, but WONDERFUL week. It was exactly what we both needed. Spur of the moment trips are always fun, and I am glad despite the short notice we were able to visit with all of the family and friends. Hopefully that visit will be the start of more frequent visits.

Saturday, April 11 my family celebrated Easter dinner early so Bradley and I could enjoy it too. There was another Easter egg hunt and excited nephews and of course, more great food. Bradley had gained back about 7 lbs. by this point.

Sunday, April 12, Easter Sunday we left for our 14 hour drive to NY. We drove about 9 hours so we would only have 5 to go the next day. We were upset we did not even get to attend an Easter Church Service, but we pleased the scans were able to be moved up.

Monday, April 13 was scan day. We woke up and drove about 5 hours plus one hour of sitting in traffic. It was a good thing we left early enough to make it to his scans on time. We were on time, though not by much. We had to drive straight to the hospital instead of dropping off our luggage first. Bradley’s PET Scan was scheduled for 4:15 that afternoon. He had to be fasting, so neither of us had eaten all day. His scan lasted 3 hours. Afterwards Bradley told me of the ordeal he had to go through. Apparently, the PET scan portion of the test went fine. However, they always do a CAT Scan simultaneously. Before this was performed more contrast had to be given to Bradley in his IV line. There ended up being a leak in the tubing and all of the contrast went all over the floor. Bradley had to lay there about an extra hour while they called in the Radiologist to see if the scans needed to be redone. The Radiologist believed he had gotten “good enough” images with the contrast that was still in Bradley’s system from the PET scan. It was also decided that there was too much radiation exposure for Bradley to repeat them that same day. We left around 7pm and went to drop our stuff off at The Ronald McDonald House, where we were staying again. We had a very quick dinner and went right to bed out of pure exhaustion.

Tuesday, April 14 we woke up to meet with Dr. LaQuaglia and Dr. Chou to receive scan results. Dr. Chou found us in the waiting room only to tell poor Bradley that he would have to repeat the CAT scan that afternoon. Anticipating this, we had not eaten that morning. So, more fasting and more gross contrast drink. This pushed not only the results back a day but also our departure and follow up plans.

Wednesday, April 15 we arrived for our 1pm appointment time. After waiting and more waiting, we finally received the results. The PET scan showed a small spot in Bradley’s colon. The CAT scan measured this spot to be about 1cm. Dr. LaQuaglia, Dr. Chou, and the Radiologist all discussed the results and decided that while it may be a small tumor, it was more likely left over scar tissue or inflammation from surgery. PET Scans can show infection, inflammation, all sorts of things really that may be nothing. It was reassuring having Dr. LaQuaglia there to review the results with us and to show us the scans. This area will be watched closely, but it did appear in an area where Dr. LaQuaglia had done some work. It was decided that Bradley would do 2 more rounds of Irinotecan, Temodar, and Avastin. Though the Irinotecan would be given at half dose to try to cut down on side effects. We will return to NY after those rounds for another set of scans. They are confidant the spot will be gone, and we are praying this to be the case. We got out of his office after 5pm, packed our bags and headed out. We were off to Nashville, TN.

After a long drive and some overnight stops, we arrived in Nashville. Bradley’s dad’s old college roommate is the General Manager at Hampton Inn there in Nashville. He was gracious enough to give us a room for the night, which really helped us out. Why were we in Nashville you may wonder? I believe in the past Bradley described the forum we are on for Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor, (DSRCT), patients. We have learned so much from everyone on there. One patient who is very active in his care and researching better alternatives to chemo, receives treatment from a doctor in Nashville. Dr. Cantrell, is the founder of NeoPlas Innovation. This is a treatment consisting of Interferon injections combined with oral Lovastatin. These are two FDA approved drugs used for two different purposes. Lovastatin is a cholesterol drug. Dr. Cantrell has combined these two drugs and is studying their response to certain cancers. Thus far, he has had a great success in many patients. He is working on getting a patent for this treatment. Our friend from the forum, is having great results from it. He stopped doing chemotherapy and started using this product about a year ago. He had several small tumors located in his abdomen and this treatment has not taken these tumors away BUT they have not grown either. That is wonderful news considering the aggressiveness of DSRCT. Our friend has been able to essentially “manage” his disease while living a pretty close to normal life. Of course these drugs, as all drugs do, have side effects but compared to chemotherapy and its toxicity and side effects ,it is a no brainer. Our friend has also done extensive research on alternative therapies and supplements. He has come up with a daily supplement regimen that he has been using for over a year also. He has kindly agreed to customize a supplement therapy and regimen for Bradley. Please understand, Bradley is not stopping chemo treatments. However, there is a point when your choice for maintenance options becomes limited. This cancer has an extremely high recurrence rate. Many patients after chemo sit back and do nothing. The supplements may or may not truly help to keep the cancer at bay, but at least we will have peace of mind that following chemo we did not just sit by and do no treatment. As long as these supplements do not cause harm, then why not try them when treatment options are so limited? Our friend has been told by 3 different doctors that if they were in his shoes, they would be doing the exact same thing. We also presented Dr. Chou with the research for the NeoPlas treatment. He reviewed it all and told us that everything about it made sense. He was very excited that we were going to learn more about it. So in short, in Nashville, we learned about the treatment and were given the necessary training and prescriptions. Bradley may begin it at any time, even during chemo. However, I think he is waiting to finish these two rounds of chemo and get his scans back. I know we are both praying that they come back clean so he can begin a less harsh treatment with a clean slate.

We returned home late Friday night. I must add that yes I despise flying, but I am at the point where I am beginning to despise driving. In 2 weeks time we drove here, there, and everywhere. The weather was nice over the weekend, and we worked a little bit around our yard. Monday, April 21 Bradley began his 3rd round of this chemo. As planned the Irinotecan dose was cut in half. Dr. D’Amato thought this would help greatly with Bradley’s side effects. She said that Bradley’s original dose was incredibly high for an adult. She said that is a pediatric dose (Dr. Chou is a pediatric oncologist). Children can handle higher doses since they metabolize things quicker. We spoke to her in depth about future treatment options. It is very frustrating how every doctor, everywhere we go,tells us something different. For instance she knows about upcoming potential treatments locally, not in NY. NY knows about upcoming potential treatments there. We are at an advantage because we travel, thus we get the benefit of hearing about more upcoming treatments. Nonetheless, it is still frustrating because no one in your care is really on the same page.

Today is Monday, April 27. This is his second week of treatment and next week he is off. While he hasn’t been feeling great, he seems to be doing slightly better than previous rounds. Next week will be the true test to see how this new dose is working as it is always his really “bad” week.

I apologize for the world’s longest post. Now everyone is up to speed with all of the decisions we are facing. Please continue to pray for Bradley, that his scans come back clean and that he makes the best decision possible regarding future treatments.

Another little tidbit of information-Bradley is now weighing 157 lbs., he is down about 16 lbs. from before surgery, but it is better than 25 lbs. Also, he is beginning to grow his hair back. His eyebrows and eyelashes are fully in. He is really looking fantastic!

5 comments:

  1. Bradley and Marissa - enjoyed reading your blog. Really keeps me informed. I am praying that you will both get to start leading a normal life. Love, mom

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  2. It was great to read your latest post. I'm so glad that you were able to get some fun family time in before heading back to New York. That's great news about the latest scans and I am certainly keeping my fingers crossed that the next ones will be even better. As always, you are in our thoughts.

    Lots of love,
    Helen & Jesse

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  3. David & BeverlyMay 2, 2009 at 6:21 AM

    Thanks for sharing the update, and be assured of our continual thoughts and prayers. If we had known you were so close, we would have made plans to see you. We love you and are believing God for your complete healing.

    Love & prayers,
    David & Beverly

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  4. Lots of prayers and postive thoughts are being sent your way!

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  5. Wow - I haven't been on lately to see how things were going with you. What an amazing journey. You are BOTH an inspiration. I pray for continued blessings from God on both of you and your families.

    Beverly
    Las Cruces, NM

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