August 4, 2017

How Cancer has changed our lives

     Welcome back, I know it's been a while....My family and I have gone through a lot of changes since February of this year. To start of telling you about our journey...I have to back up...November of 2017, my husband (age 39) started having night sweats and feeling tired all the time, I encouraged him after a while to go to the doctor to first test his testosterone levels and if that came back good, have his thyroid checked (those where the only two things that I suspected could possibly be the culprit at his young age) never suspecting the worst.
By the time he went to the doctor, his lymph nodes in his lower neck had swollen, the doctor didn't run any scans, did blood work to check his testosterone levels and gave him an inhaler, telling him it was probably just a bug he caught and that he should be better within the week...we were awaiting the test results to come back on the testosterone levels when my husband called me and said he was in horrible pain and needed me to come home, I took him to our local Emergency room about midnight after the pain didn't stop, they ran a CT scan without contrast thinking it was kidney stones found, they said it was probably viral and they gave him a pain shot and some nausea meds and sent him home, the next day the pain started all over again and began increasing, I drove him to the E.R. the next town over, because it is a little better than our small town E.R. They ran a CT scan there this time with contrast dye of his lower abdomen...they told him that they found an area on his spleen that didn't look right, but because he had been in a severe wreck several years ago, it could be scar tissue from that wreck, to have an ultrasound down and to come back in 6 weeks for another one to compare the two, to see if there is any change. Now, at this point...we are thinking "Maybe it is just viral and  maybe we are over thinking this thing" they sent him home with a prescription for pain pills, the following day was better, the pain pills kept the pain at bay. The following day, I return from the grocery store to find him in unbearable pain, he could hardly stand up, he told me "I don't know what is going on, but they are missing something!" I had our older daughter get her little brother and take him home with her and we headed out for the next best hospital in Nashville, Tennessee which is about an hour and a half away. When we arrived at their emergency department, we had to wait for over an hour with my husband in so much pain, he couldn't even sit, finally they got us back and started listening to our story of how many emergency room visits, CT scans, etc....the doctor listened to the symptoms that my husband had been having, he ordered more testing....he came in and said, I am fairly certain that you have Lymphoma, but we are still waiting on the rest of the test to confirm. Our lives stopped for a moment, we looked at each other with tears running down our faces, I knew in that moment that our lives and our children and family's lives would never be the same. The doctor came back in after a little while and said, "The tests are back, it isn't Lymphoma like we thought, I'm sorry, but you have lung cancer!"
In my head I was thinking, "Is that worse?" "What does that mean?" "Was Lymphoma better?"
I finally choked back my tears and said, "Ok, what can we do?, what do we do for it?"
He told us he was going to admit him to keep him comfortable, run more test and we'd meet with an Oncologist the following day. We learned that the pain had come from a blood clot that was formed by the type of cancer he had, it caused his blood to thicken and resulted in a massive blood clot that thankfully went to his spleen instead of his heart or brain or he would of died instantly. That is what the other hospital was seeing in their CT scan, but failed to recognize it.

      We didn't tell anyone that first night, we stayed up and talked and mostly cried the entire night, it was unbearably painful and numbing all at the same time, we were in a state of shock,  it was the longest night of our lives, the pain of uncertainty and what we were going to do and how we were going to do it was would we tell our children. The following day, it was confirmed by the Oncologist (Cancer Specialist) that he had stage 3b Adenocarcinoma of the Lung, that had also spread to the lymph nodes in his neck and chest. we called for his Mother and Step-Father to come to the hospital, so we could tell them, to prepare them to be supportive of our children when we told them.
It was a hard conversation to have, but I think trying to remain calm and strong enough to tell our children was the worst, Our daughter is 22 and our son is 12, we told them together, we tried our best to answer their questions with optimism, even though we had no idea what we were facing or how this story was going to end.
After returning home and going back to meet with Oncology team, it was decided that they would do 4 rounds of chemo (once a week for 4 weeks) and if he didn't respond to that, he would be gone in 6 months to a year. I was mad, he was young, text book perfect health before this cancer diagnosis and we weren't giving up that easily. We started with his first round of Chemo, within a three week period, he began having major DVT's almost filling his right leg with blood clots, then he threw multiple ones to his lungs, which Thankfully were small enough that it didn't obstruct his breathing completely, we had to have an emergency procedure to put in an IVC filter, it is designed to catch any large blood clots from entering the heart, lungs or brain and it isn't without it's risks to, at this point, we were just trying to keep him alive to fight the cancer, it was overwhelming and scary,  We finally were able to get him stable and  home long enough to start looking into other facilities that could do more that what Nashville was planning on doing. We tried get into MD Anderson in Texas as it was rated #1, but because he had already started chemo, he would have to complete and fail all four rounds before they could accept him into their program, we didn't have to time to waste, we contacted The Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Atlanta, Georgia and they accepted him, even though it was out of our insurances network, they told us that they had assistance to help pay for the costs and that it could possibly cover all of what our insurance wouldn't pay.  We decided to travel to Georgia for a consultation, meet with the team of Oncologist and hear what their plan was and make a decision to seek treatment options with them or stay with Nashville.
     After, being at CTCA and meeting their doctors, it was evident to us that he could get the best care there, They don't just treat the cancer, they treat the whole body and that was important to us both.
They decided to do 32 rounds of radiation and 5 rounds of chemo, we would have to stay at a hotel in the Metro Atlanta area for 7  1/2 weeks, now came the hard part (not that any of this was easy)  our 12 year old son was still in school, and our 22 year old daughter worked 12 hours shifts at a job she hadn't been at long, so it was feasible for her to take off,  we made the tough decision to leave our son with my husband's mother and head to Georgia without any of our children to start this next chapter in our journey. We were able to come home a couple of times and spend the weekend with our kids, but it was a short, turn around trip...our driving to and from would usually take 6 hours or more with the wonderful Atlanta traffic (nightmare)
At this point in our journey, after countless bumps in the road that I am leaving out...
as of right now, my husband is in remission!!!!! That's right REMISSION!
With that being said, they told us it would eventually come back and probably somewhere else, The grace of God has gotten us this far and I am praying that it never returns or that if it has to, that it is many, many years from now. I want to grow old with this man, we were high school sweethearts, married at 19  (he was 18) I cannot imagine my life without him.

     We return at the end of this month for another scan to make sure he is still in remission, he still has bad days, his health isn't great, the chemo and radiation has been hard on his body and organs, but he is able to work some and do some things around that house and for that I am grateful, not for my benefit, but for the simple fact that he is still here and is still be continued.............

If you have cancer and would like to share your story, leave me a comment. I'd love to hear what your experience has been. God Bless
#Godisgood #cancersucks #adenocarcinomawareness

**Update May 3, 2018**
We return to CTCA in Atlanta this coming week for follow up scans, we've been doing this every three months, for the past year, if these scans come back good, then we will be able to start going every six months...this has been a long, hard journey...there has been some wonderful blessings as a result of this cancer though and I'd like to share those as well, first of all to be diagnosed with stage 3b-4 lung cancer and given six months to a year to live, to being in remission within a few months is a blessing in of itself (Praise God) This diagnosis made us stop and think about how we were living our lives, how we were failing ourselves in our own marriage by not spending quality time together, taking each other for granted, etc. We started going to church together as a family, as a result, both of our children accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and were saved (Praise God)  We slowed down, stopped arguing over things that didn't really matter and started spending more quality time together, making memories, taking pictures and just loving each other. We are not promised tomorrow, we don't know how this chapter in our lives will end, but I am thankful that we are writing "our story" together. To be continued................

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