Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dennis' Doctor's are Puzzled

Today we met with Dennis' doctor and saw his most recent MRI.  Based upon this MRI, you would expect that Dennis would have increased symptoms but instead he is walking and talking better and has more stamina.  This has his doctor, his team and the doctors he has been consulting with puzzled.

MRIs are good at showing when brain tissue is not "normal".  They are not good at identifying what is causing the abnormality.

What we know

  1. There is a larger area of his brain that appears abnormal on the MRI.
  2. A small portion of this area is very vascular.  This means there is a lot of blood supply in that area which is a sign of it being a tumor.
  3. The rest of this area is not as vascular.

What we don't know

  1. Is this area that is not vascular dead brain tissue from the radiation he had 1.5 years ago?
  2. Is this area old blood from the bleeding he had from the tumor awhile ago?
  3. Is this the pseudo progression phenomenon that happens with some treatments for brain cancer?

What is happening to sort it out

Dennis is going to be part of a trial program that will do a new type of PET scan.  This scan will help the doctors figure out what is happening.  PET scans do a much better job of identifying what is being seen than an MRI.  In order to do this, he will be going into the hospital four times next week for various tests and scans.

After the scans

If the scans show that this is anything but actual tumor growth, we will continue with the NovaCure that Dennis is currently using.  

If the scans indicate this is tumor growth, the doctor is exploring a couple of options:
  1. Re-irradiation - in the last several years the possibility of doing a second round of radiation has been developed.  Since Dennis is well past  one year since his last radiation, this is possible.
  2. Surgery followed by re-irradiation - in this case they would remove the tumor, allow some healing time and then do radiation again.  

Keep praying please

Please continue to pray for us in the days ahead.
  1. Pray for Dennis as he goes through these tests and scans.
  2. Pray for the results to show that this is not tumor growth.
  3. Pray for wisdom for our doctor, Ian Robins, and for us as we make decisions if the scans show this is tumor growth.

Monday, April 14, 2014

News from Dennis' Doctor

More testing for Dennis

Dennis' doctor called on Saturday. Because Dennis is doing so well he wants to do a new PET scan they are trialing to help determine if what they are seeing is actual progression or is pseudo progression. He has been working on getting Dennis into this trial  so he can get everything in place for Wednesday. He will go into the hospital several times for about a weeks time and then we will have a much better idea of if Dennis keeps going with what he is doing now or goes onto something else.  We will post when we know more about what is happening.

Some thoughts from Ellen

We sang this song in church on Sunday and these words really were a blessing and encouragement to my heart.  This part especially spoke to my heart:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

As we walk through Dennis' battle with brain cancer, this song so well sums up my prayers for this time.  I want to keep my eyes on Christ, not on the waters that threaten to overtake me.  I want my faith to have no borders - in other words, nothing that keeps me from fully trusting in God and what he is doing in our lives.

"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)"

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dennis' MRI Report

We heard from the doctor this afternoon and Dennis' MRI shows growth. We don't know the extent of the changes just that there are changes on this MRI. We will see the doctor on Wednesday to discuss what happens at this point. He did tell Dennis that he has plans for moving forward. Dennis is feeling so good lately that this came as a bit of a surprise. We continue to pray and trust God for the outcome of this journey knowing he holds us in His loving arms.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

MRI Friday

Just a short note to let you know that Dennis has an MRI on Friday.  We aren't sure when we will get the results but his doctor has called us on the weekend before with results.  We would expect to hear no later than Monday.  We have a follow-up appointment on Wednesday.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we head into this MRI.  We both have been rather calm about this one.  Dennis said he is feeling good overall.  He did have some symptoms earlier and started a new medication and that is working well.

We will post here as soon as we have results.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Some Changes

Changes with Dennis

I haven't written much recently but not because nothing was happening.  I just haven't known how to put into words what we have been observing.  Basically we don't know a lot but have observed some things.

Last week Dennis had a day where he was struggling with finding the right words.  He also was having a hard time using the phone.  After consulting with his doctor, it was decided that Dennis should start a medication for swelling.  He was on this medication after surgery but had been weaned off of it and has done fine without out. Decadron, the medication he is using, is very commonly used in brain cancer and usually helps the person feel much better and have more energy. Along with the decadron, he is on a medication to keep his stomach from being upset because of the decadron.  He also is taking a medication to prevent thrush, a mouth problem that can come from decadron.  Dennis has been on these medications for about a week and he is doing better with words and has not had any problems with tasks.  However, he is extremely fatigued.  He has struggled with fatigue all along but this is different.  Before, he would be ok for a few hours and then need a nap but be refreshed by it.  At this point, he is fatigued all of the time.  This morning when he got up he felt better but within a very short period of time was tired again.  We have emailed his care team and they suggested it could be from the medication he is taking for his stomach and they are looking into another option to see if that helps.

We will not know the cause of these changes until the next MRI which is schedule for April 11.  It could be coming from a number of different things.  It could be swelling happening in his brain which is common with brain cancer.  The fact that the decadron helped leads me to believe that this is at least part of the problem.  It could be that his brain has shifted some due to the tumor or it could be that the tumor is progressing.

How to Pray

Please keep Dennis in your prayer that the fatigue will get better.  The fatigue is discouraging for him as he wants to be able to do things but is so often overwhelmed with fatigue.  Also, pray that his doctor can come up with a simple solution.  And mostly, pray that this is not tumor growth.

We continue to pray for complete healing and restoration.  While at the same time, praying for grace and strength for whatever is ahead of us.  We believe and know that God has a plan in this and will do what is best.  My heart aches as I walk this journey with Dennis but we trust in God's provision, wisdom and blessing along this path.

A Recent Picture

This past weekend Dennis rested up so we could go to a dinner theater to see Mary Poppins with Brooklyn and our friends George and Nancy Petak.  He was very tired but because most of the event required little physical activity, he was able to go.  When we got home he was exhausted.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Doctor's Appointment

What did the doctor say?

Dennis saw his doctor today.  The doctor, after reviewing all of the MRI reports said that what they show is pseudo-progression.  In essence, this is a false progression.  This is what he had expected to see at this point. 

He told us that his observation of Dennis in general was encouraging.  He felt that Dennis was doing better functionally than he was the last time he saw him.  Dennis has also been saying that he feels like his walking is better recently but this confirmation of that from the doctor was encouraging.

Dennis will continue on the current treatment until mid-April when they will do another MRI. 

What's happening now?

We don't have a lot planned right now other than the normal day-to-day things.  Like everyone, we can't wait for this winter to end.

On Saturday, our small group from church was at the house and helped us with a couple of projects.  The men installed railings for the steps from the garage into the house, installed a new water softener and fixed our kitchen light.  The ladies helped me organize Brooklyn's toys.  We loved the fellowship and time with these precious friends. 

What should we pray for?

  • Pray that this treatment continues to work.
  • Pray for Dennis' walking and balance that it continues to improve.
  • Pray for peace and encouragement on an on-going basis for each of us.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Doctor Called

I don't have a lot of details at this point but the doctor told Dennis that what he is seeing is most likely pseudo-progression.  (See previous blog for details on that.)  In short, this is what we were hoping we would hear.  He will see the doctor on Monday and get more information but will be proceeding with the current treatment.  We will update this blog more after we have seen the doctor.

We are thankful for this report as it is the best case scenario at this point.  Please keep praying.