Praise the Lord – Good News

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It’s like a breath of fresh air.  Literally, like I can breath a little deeper and see a little clearer.  Lately, I have to admit I’ve been starting to suffocate.  Gasping for air.  Trusting….but even through the trust knowing I can’t know what’s next and feeling a little helpless.  This journey is all a bit overwhelming.

But today.  Today was a good day. Praise the Lord.

We saw Kevin’s surgeon today for a follow up.  He again told us he was so happy with how the surgery went.  He admitted he (the dr.) needed pain killers for several days after the tedious 12 hour surgery.  But it went very well.

Then he told us the pathology of the tumor/masses/lymph nodes that were removed.   And here is the best news we’ve heard in close to one year.  Everything came back as fibrosis, or DEAD/SCAR TISSUE.  There was no active cancer in any of the retroperitoneal area.  Did you hear that?  It was all dead.  These areas had a complete response to the chemotherapy.  I do believe in miracles.  At the beginning of this journey people would ask me if there was anything they could do, and my standard response was give me a miracle.  So I know lots of you prayed that for me.  THANK YOU.

There are still some questions, and we’re not completely out of the woods yet.  But definitely feeling a huge victory today.  There is still lots of ‘stuff’ in his lungs.  Doctor said there is 70% chance that what is in the lungs will be same as what was already removed.  So basically we watch and monitor his blood and his chest and hope things either shrink or stay the same.

In the meantime, Kevin is on the road to recovery.  He gets a little stronger everyday.  Due to the removal of the lymph nodes and the section of the inferior vena cava, he continues to have a ton of swelling and fluid accumulation in his legs and his abdomen.  This is all to be expected after this type of surgery (though we didn’t know that until now!) and it should continue to improve some each day.  He continues to experience quite a lot of pain, but is getting stronger and stronger each day.   The road to recovery is still long, but we can see the light.  And it’s looking beautiful!

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Here we go!

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Medical Update

We’ve had a busy past few weeks and the road is quickly getting more traveled.   All pre-testing is done.  All boxes have been checked and on Saturday, Kevin will be starting chemotherapy.    It took a little longer than we had anticipated to get all the pre-requisite work done, but we have finally completed everything and are good to go.

Saturday morning we check in.  The time is TBD based on the availability of a bed.    We will be calling in the morning to be advised what time we should arrive.  Kevin will be inpatient at USC’s Norris Cancer Hospital for 5 days.  He should be released on Wednesday if all goes as planned.   Then he will have through the weekend at home to ‘recover’ and prepare his body for stem-cell harvesting.  This will be done by taking neupogen injections twice a day while at home to stimulate the bone marrow to produce extra stem cells and to push them out into the blood stream so they can be collected more easily.  The following week, he will be back at USC for 2 – 5 days of all day outpatient stem cell harvesting.  Basically he hangs out for the day and lets his blood be filtered through a machine and put back into his body less some of those floating stem cells.  Once collected, they will be frozen and saved for later when he will be receiving 3 rounds of high dose chemotherapy and between each of these rounds, his own stem cells will be reintroduced back to his body to rescue his immune system from the chemotherapy.

Kevin is very anxious to get this process started.  The sooner he kicks cancer’s ass, the sooner we can go back to ‘normal’ life.

The details are a little tedious and of course there is nothing…I mean nothing that is set in stone (expect his admission on Saturday!)   So….I will do my best to keep you posted.  But know that for the next 12-15 weeks, Kevin will be mostly at USC with a few days of reprieve at home.    The plan is to hit the cancer hard.  Wait for his immune system to recover just enough to be ‘safe’ and then hit it again.

just for fun

Adventures in LA

So, in the past 2 weeks, we have had 3 trips to USC.  Each trip had a few fun story moments.  We like to share some of those to keep things interesting and a little less boring.

The first appointment was a consultation with the hematologist/Bone Marrow Transplant Specialist.  We actually met her the prior week, but had to have an official consultation to get the correct box checked off to move forward.  So we arrived for our 11am appointment around 10:30, got situated in the waiting room around 10:45am.  Now the previous week, we waited about 3 hours to have our names called and 4 hours until we actually saw the doctor.  So we came prepared this time.  We brought some cards and our backgammon set.  We get out the backgammon set, set the pieces, roll the dice….and they call Kevin’s name.  What?  Early?  NO COMPLAINTS!  It was great.  We were seen early, the doctor was fantastic, very informational, and then we were out of there.  My favorite day in LA.

Later that week we had to go back.  Kevin had a battery of tests that need to be done prior to stem cell transplant being approved.  So he was scheduled to do some of those tests on Friday and then the last test they couldn’t get him in until this coming Friday (the 12th).   We got there about an hour early, were met by one of the schedulers at the reception lobby about 5 minutes later, and she escorted us through all the tests Kevin needed.  We moved from one thing to another with some short wait times in between.  At 10:30am we were just finishing up….when our scheduler came back to meet me while I waited for Kevin to be done with a test.  She said hey….I was able to change the test for next Friday – to today at 2:30pm.   So this was really very cool.  Now we had a few hours to kill before the next test.  We were getting a little hungry, so Kevin finally got his Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles again.

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In case you don’t know……wherever we go, Kevin is always on the lookout for fire apparatus.   This is an obsession that has not waned in the least since he became a firefighter himself.  He just loves to photograph other equipment. I was warned in the early days of dating about this from his Grandmother!  She told me about an adventure he took her on.   I was even dragged into fire stations on MY HONEYMOON!

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So 16 years later, it’s pretty much a fact of life.  (you take the good, you take the bad….right?)

He was excited to see this:

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and this:

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but then….on our way back to the hospital for the last appointment…..he saw this:

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It was just a few blocks from the hospital.  We saw the smoke as we were approaching our turn.  Instead of a right…we went left, and got to the bush fire just before the first responders arrived.  It was quickly put out, but needless to say…this was Kevin’s favorite trip to USC so far!

We had one more adventurous day this week.  It was pretty much a comedy of errors.  Appointments not properly scheduled, lab work not coming up in the system.  But, the people that were helping us were so kind and apologetic that even though we were delayed by several hours, it wasn’t so bad and we were just happy to get everything done.

So originally we were scheduled to have that last pre-test on Friday the 12th and Kevin was really thrilled about that since the SBFD does their annual charity golf tournament on that day this year and he was hoping to go to that.  If he wasn’t in treatment.  Since the pre-test was that day, he couldn’t be in treatment and the test was scheduled for early enough that he could have done both. But somehow they switched that appointment to earlier and still decided to wait to start the chemo until Saturday so he could enjoy this yearly highlight prior to turning himself in for 3 months of brutal attack on his body.    So tomorrow will be a special and fun day with his fire family and Saturday…..the battle will rage on.  Kevin is prepared to kick cancer’s ass!

Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvationand the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people

First step on a new path

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Yesterday we had our appointment at USC with Dr. Quinn.  This was the first step on the new path of treatment with doctors who are specialists in testicular cancer.   We felt so comfortable talking to him and he was confident that Kevin will have a full recovery.  He agreed that high dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue is indeed the next course of action.  They do it a little differently there so the protocol is to do ‘triple tandem’ which means instead of two rounds, they do three.  It sounds like the ‘high dose chemotherapy’ may be a little less gnarly each time, so the recovery from one round to the next is quicker, but there are three rounds instead of just two.    Each round would require some hospitalization, with a minimum of 8 days, and up to as long as it takes to get the immune system back up and running well.

The treatment will start with 4 days of regular chemotherapy (inpatient) followed by preparation to get the stem cells harvested and then 3-5 days of outpatient stem cell harvesting.  This will be followed by the triple tandem rounds of high dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue.

When will it start?  Well, the doctor was contacting the insurance to get authorization for the treatment plan (while we were in the room with him)  and we will get started as soon as the authorization comes through.  They like to start the 4 days of chemo on Thursdays, so it is possible if everyone cooperates that Kevin will be checking in to his new hospital room next Thursday, September 4th.  This is not set in stone and I will update later as we know more for sure.

We left this appointment feeling confident that we had  a doctor who is now leading Kevin’s care that is comfortable with this position.  Ready to take each step as they come and rid his body of cancer.