“Well that didn’t do shit. Let’s do something else.”
I seriously have the best team of doctors. There are five doctors that I work with on a regular basis: 2 medical oncologists, a radiation oncologist, a surgical oncologist, and another general surgeon. I am confident in their expertise and training, and they all make me feel like they are on ‘Team Jarem’ doing everything they can to help me fight this cancer. Two of them in particular do a good job reading me emotionally and communicating to me in a way that hits home.
When I walked into the doctor’s office this week I was a little pensive because I had already met with another doctor who had given me the news that the cancer had progressed while I was on the clinical trial. So I got a kick out of that opening quote which is how my doctor informally gave me his own interpretation of the results and just as quickly tried to focus me on the next steps rather than living in the past of failed treatments. I walked out of the building with a little more swagger and fight in me than I walked in, and now I just need to start thinking about my Spotify playlist for when I come back in a month to restart chemo infusions.
Specifics on the results
There are two new spots showing up on the scans that the radiologists classify as an “area of alveolar infiltrate, possible metastatic disease”. That is fancy speak for “there is a bunch of hud showing up in this guy’s lungs and if he’s lucky its pus / blood / fluid but it could be more tumors”.
The other 4-5 tumors that I have in my lungs are “cavitary”. Think of it like a small balloon that is expanding and the inside of the balloon just looks like a black hole on the imaging. That is classic squamous cell behavior when it metastasizes to the lungs. But I have these big and growing areas where the scans are a dense white color. The radiologists reading the scans have said for two months now that the white spots are signs of serious infection but my oncologists feel like it is more likely to be tumors because I have no other signs of infection (fevers, coughing up blood, change in certain chemistry measurements in blood draws, etc.).
So what we’ve decided to do is get a “CT-guided biopsy” of some of my lung tissue. While I’m in a CT scanner they can guide a needle through my back and between my ribs to the different spots in question in my lungs and retrieve cells. The CT imaging helps ensure they get the needles to the exact right spot and get the cells we need. I had this done one other time when they wanted some samples of my hip bone to find out what type of cancer I had there (it was Hodgkins Lymphoma which has since cleared up).
The biopsy will also give us some new cancer cells to repeat the next gen sequence testing that we did through the IHC Genomics Lab about 18 months ago. They will look for any new genetic mutations that we can target with newly approved drugs. This process is what yielded the hope for the Pablociclib clinical trial and is one of the areas of cancer research in vogue right now.
Most likely outcome is that I start a new chemo regiment in about a month called Taxol and I do weekly infusions for 12 weeks or so before doing another scan.
So what does this all mean
I heard from many that my last post was pretty sobering and bit of shock to the system for them as I talked about preparing for death. I think my friend described my current state of mind best when he said “accepting the likely fate but not giving up the fight.” That sounds about right. And by dealing with the prognosis in a realistic and honest fashion I think it is allowing our family to make the most out of each day and really try to learn everything we are supposed to be learning.
So I’m breathing deeply, both literally and figuratively. I can feel that things aren’t normal in my lungs and I’m having some increased chest pain but I’m not having any problems breathing, again both literally and figuratively. We are mostly a happy bunch over here at the Hallows home. No moping around or letting time pass us by. I even hopped on a bike for a short ride yesterday and played in a pick up football game that broke out at our company party last night.
Like most Christians, I believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God, meaning that He is both all-knowing and all-powerful. I also believe that this life is a school for our learning and development, and its ultimate purpose is to prepare us meet God as a new creature made great through Christ’s grace.
I suspect that sometimes God is the instigator behind tough things that happen in our lives but that other times it is just “time and chance that happeneth to us all”. In either case, God knows what we will go through before it happens and as such he prepares us to “come off a conqueror” through prior life experiences, people he places in our lives, and through help he will give us in the very moment we need it. His omniscience also enables him to know what growth experiences we need and how far our souls can be stretched before they break.
His omnipotence allows him to deliver us from any situation even when it requires a miracle or inexplicable event to make that happen. But it is his omni-loving attribute, or his all-lovingness, that holds him in check from delivering us every time things get hard. Read up more on this from Neal A. Maxwell in his book “All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience” or read this snippet I found from someone online — it is worth 15 minutes, I promise!
Imagine if you had the power to remove all pain and suffering from your child. I know I would use that power too often and to the detriment of my child’s development. Shoot, if my kid whines enough when she’s bored I hand over a Netlflix-loaded screen just to end the agony for both of us!
If it is the hard stuff in life that helps us grow, it must be the hardest stuff that provides the most critical refinement. The greatest good that ever happened was Christ atoning for our sins and behind it all was the most loving Father with most the power to deliver his son from that agony and he restrained himself because he loves us. That is supernal, omni-loving fatherhood. And that is the same God we worship and trust and ultimately submit our will to.
This experience continues to teach and show me things I knew only superficially. That includes things about God and about myself and about people around me. There is more love and goodness and hope and strength than I could have ever imagined.
And so that is why I can breathe deeply. I can accept any outcome while still fighting for every additional day God will grant me. I’m in good hands. Hands that were nailed through and still bear the tokens of that sacrifice. Omnipotent hands. Omniscient hands. Omni-loving hands.
And now for some fun pictures of the past several weeks: