Hello Team Tom !
It has been quite a while since my last update. A lot has been going on during the past 2 months.
When I wrote you last, I was a few days from heading to Houston to begin radiation treatments.
We’ve been down a few roads since that time.
There are a couple of things to be grateful for in/during this process. First I was able to locate some housing for the entire month with very little expense. Hotels in Houston are expensive, and the taxes on them are even higher :-0 Lisa was able to come down and stay with me for a few days. One of my daughters came to stay with me as well, and I spent some time with my oldest that is in the area.
One of the other things I’m thankful is that we were able to consolidate the treatments a bit. The plan originally had been to administer radiation to my lungs for 3 weeks, then follow with 2 weeks of radiation for my liver. After a few days on the treatments, the Dr's thought I could tolerate the effects well enough to overlap a few days. So, for the last week or so I had two treatments per day. This reduced my stay in Houston by over week.
When your lungs are bathed with radiation, the effect on the body is very much like targeting it with the rays from a microwave oven. Another way to describe it is like getting a very severe sunburn on the inside of your lungs. The affected areas become more and more inflamed as you continue the treatments. Also, like something you’ve removed from a microwave oven, it continues “to cook” for some time afterward. Your body’s response is to send lots of immune agents to try to repair and heal the area. This increases the inflammation and continues throughout the healing process. As you may guess, this creates an increasingly high level of difficulty breathing, continuing to escalate for weeks after the treatment is concluded.
Another one of the blessings I enjoyed during this process – I was added to a clinical trial several days into the treatments aimed at improving the breathing process. It was virtually no risk because it was using an existing drug that is commonly used for other purposes and known to be safe. I can tell you that after three days on it, I was able to breathe almost at full normal capacity. Thank The Lord for the relief.
I completed all of the treatments with the plan to return for CT Scans in 4 weeks (End of April). The tumors should be/continue shrinking for several weeks, maybe a few months. The scans will tell us what kind of impact we’re making with the treatments. I went back and had scans done on Sunday Apr 24th, and met with the oncologist on the 25th. We did see significant shrinkage in the tumors, which is the really great news!!! Thank The Lord. There was however some enlargement of lymph nodes. She said that’s not necessarily terrible news. When I mentioned that I had taken the COVID Vaccine while at home (1st shot right after returning, 2nd shot 3 days before going back to Houston), she said that could definitely be the cause of the enlargement and swelling.
Answered prayers for reduction of tumors !!
I came home on Monday evening. That night I couldn’t sleep felt terrible and couldn’t breath very well.
The next day was the same with the night much worse. My watch has a monitor that will measure and record my oxygen saturation level from the skin. You can imagine that this is very useful in my position. The SAT level should always be above 90. Since beginning this battle, I’ve been tracking mine. Like most of us I usually take the watch off and put it on the charger overnight. Monday and Tuesday night I had it charged already and wore it during the night. What I saw was that my SATs ranged from 80-89 during the night. No wonder I couldn’t Sleep! There is no way to breath at those levels. I contacted MD Anderson. My oncologist indicated I may need to get some supplemental oxygen, and should see my local physician, which I did on Wednesday. What was happening is I was going into acute respiratory distress, due to the inflammation in my lungs. This came on very suddenly. Sunday morning before having my scans in Houston I went for a bike ride, now 2 days later I couldn’t walk to the kitchen without being completely winded.
My local doctor suggested I go to the emergency. These could be symptoms of a pulmonary embolism/ blood clot, or COVID, and needed to be ruled out. It also didn’t help that the most common side effect of the chemotherapy that I’m on is that swelling of the feet or hands, and one of my feet was quite swollen. We went to the ER. More X-Rays, CT Scans, Pokes, blood samples, sonograms etc…. Some good news, no pulmonary embolisms or blood clots (life threatening stuff) Just the inflammatory response to the COVID Vaccine on top of the Radiation treatments.
However, that doesn’t lessen the severity of the condition of the difficulty and risk it presents. I did come home with a little 4 pound best buddy, my 24 x 7 oxygen generator, complete with tubes and cannulas. I also was given inhalers and a nebulizer for breathing treatments every 4 hours. Right now the slightest bit of exertion or physical activity takes all the breath out of my and I'm winded. This also prevents me for talking for any length of time as well. Its like I run out of air while talking. I guess technically that is what’s happening. As a bonus, I’m subject to spells of coughing when my oxygen gets low.
Hopefully the effects of the Vaccine will wear off in a couple of weeks. The natural healing process of the lungs from the radiation may continue for a number of weeks after that. Its an imperfect science for sure, so we don’t really know.
So, for you to pray with specificity and purpose, we would ask that you pray for:
- Relief from the immediate, acute breathing difficulty and return to normal functional ability
- Continued reduction, even elimination, of the radiated tumors
- Continued reduction, even elimination, of the lesions in my brain
- Long term repair and relief for the irradiated areas
- Encouragement and support during the difficult times
The next step, (along the planned path), is that we’ll return to MDA at the end of June for my scans. These scans will be looking for continued reduction in all tumors.
We know that The Father hears the prayers of his children, so I covet your continued prayers.
Thank you for all your support and God bless you all