Friday, July 27, 2012

An Opportunity

Ryan here.  A couple of weeks ago I would have never imagined I would be in the situation I was in today.  Driving my Dad, Mom and two of my brothers to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to meet with an oncologist.  I still don’t like using the “C” word, as one of my co-workers calls it.  It’s just an ugly, unwelcoming word that has too many sad stories and bad feelings attached to it.  Heck, I don’t even like using the words  “Brain” and “Tumor” together because that sounds just as bad.  I’m not even sure what to call my Dad’s “situation”...a disease, a sickness, an illness?  Those words don’t seem right either because to me they sound like something that can be cured or will go away, and that, we’ve been told, is not something that applies to my Dad.  He has a cancer that is not “curable” by medical standards.  We had heard it before but it’s never easy to hear it again, especially when the incurable disease has invaded your Dad’s brain, his life and by extension each of our lives. That is why most people like to say, and I agree, "Cancer Sucks."  Anyway, back to our visit with the Oncologist.


If any of you have seen or been to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, it is a beautiful building, high on the mountain side above University Hospital and overlooking the Salt Lake Valley.  I figure they designed the building to evoke feelings of beauty and peace to help families who are dealing with such an ugly situation.  We even took advantage of the free valet parking.  It was a nice little perk.   Today we met with the first of two oncologist who will be helping my Dad through the treatment phase of his cancer, Dr. Howard Colman, a Neuro Oncologist.  He is the physician who will be in charge of the chemo portion of my Dad’s treatment.  On Tuesday of next week we will be meeting with the Radiation Oncologist who will be in charge of the radiation portion of the treatment.  Dr. Colman was forthright and honest in laying out the grim statistics that face many people who have a GBM. (that’s what people who are “in the know” call a Glioblastoma Multiforme. Too bad we’re “in the know”).  The good thing about my Dad’s situation, and it’s been said before, is that he has everything going for him that many other patients don’t.  He’s in great health, relatively young, physically fit, has a great support system, is motivated, and more importantly, and something that the doctors don’t take into account, is our faith and belief that God is aware of and in charge of this situation.  So whatever, statistics were laid out before us today, we have the peace and comfort of knowing that we have a Higher Power on our side and there is nothing that He can’t do.  Score one for Team IronDean.


The first of many visits to the Huntsman Cancer Institute
Dr. Colman also laid out the treatment plan.  My Dad will start radiation and chemo therapy around the second week of August.  He needs to wait 3-4 weeks after the surgery to begin treatment to allow the brain to heal from the traumatic experience of a surgery.  Of course, our concerns were focused on the fact that if his tumor grew to the size of a tangerine in a few short months, what’s it going to do in the next 3-4 weeks without treatment.  Dr. Colman emphasized that while it is a concern, the tumor cells that were rapidly growing have been removed and they will monitor him closely during the treatment phase to ensure that any flareups can be handled accordingly.  That’s the problem with a grade IV GBM, it’s usually not a question of if the tumor will return, but when.  Of course, we’re hoping the treatment will eradicate all the remaining cancerous cells or at least put them into a dormant state where they will not divide and replicate. Dad will receive the radiation treatment everyday, Monday through Friday for 5 weeks.  During this time he will also be receiving chemotherapy which comes in the form of a pill, and a ridiculously expensive pill I might add.  Side note, I should have been a scientist who invented drugs, it’s got to be a good business based on what they charge for these medicines.  Good thing my Dad’s been blessed with a good health insurance policy at his work. Score another one for Team IronDean.   After completion of the radiation and chemo, he will get a 28 day break with no treatment. This gives the body a chance to recover from the toxic effects of the radiation and chemo together.  He will then start with the Chemo pill again for another 28 day cycle then off again for another month and back on again and so on and so forth for around a year.  Any further treatment will be based on how his body and brain react to the treatments. The doctor said the side effects from the chemo and radiation should be minimal when compared to other types of cancer treatment. The radiation will probably cause hair loss, which may or may not grow back, and fatigue. The chemo also has light side effects including fatigue and constipation. Considering the horror stories we've heard about other types of cancer treatment, we feel blessed that it's a pretty simple treatment. Team IronDean scores again! One doctor stated that they only want the treatment to be an inconvenience in Dad's daily routine. We're hoping that is the case. Unfortunately for people with GBM’s and the doctors that treat them, there isn’t much of a protocol for treatment beyond a year or two years because many of patients sucummb to the cancer within that time frame.  We’re hopeful and praying that Dad is one of those outliers that skews the statistics to the good side.

After a long day at the hospital and having taken some time to think, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can call this “situation”, and what I believe it can be for our family, an opportunity.  It’s an opportunity to become closer to each other and to our Heavenly Father. It's an opportunity to strengthen our testimonies and our faith. It's an opportunity to trust in the Lord and His will.  
Team IronDean scores three more!! I think we’ve made the most of our “opportunity” up to this point but there are still many trying times ahead that we will need to overcome, but I know we can do it. I got an email from another attorney that I work with whose wife recently passed away after a long battle with cancer.  His wise words gave me comfort...“Cancer truly makes one walk by faith, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.  We learned that we must have faith not in a specific outcome, but faith and trust in Christ and His will. Period.”  I know my family believes that and while we are hoping for a great outcome, we will be a peace with whatever comes of this "opportunity".  Team IronDean with the Win!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I came here from the it just gets stranger blog. I don't know your family but you are in my prayers. Thank you for being such a voice of hope. I'm working through a similar situation in my family and your family's thoughts on this have been comforting to read.

Rob

W. Nielson said...

I love how you wrote this Ry...we have already racked up quite a few points for Team IronDean! I really think we would have all been completely happy without this "opportunity" but I think you're right - that is what it is going to have to be for us. I have to keep reminding myself that Heavenly Father knows the big picture and why this is happening...I just wish we did too. Now we just put our faith and trust completely in Christ ans His will, like your coworker said...it's hard to do though.

Trag said...

I also got here from It just gets Stranger. Best wishes to your family. What I've read this morning was truly inspirational. We don't always know how things will turn out, but with faith in God, nothing really seems as bad. That hasn't always been easy for me to remember. But when I do, my life is a lot better.

Jordan said...

Thanks Ry. I love everything you have said and agree with Whit. Not an "opportunity" I want, but at least we have such a strong family and such strong faith that Heavenly Father loves our family and will be with us every step of the way. I love you!

Renae Brady said...

Wow Ryan...you explained and expressed everything so well. You guys do have an amazingly wonderful and strong family. In my eyes,I don't see how your family could get any better and therefore, you don't need any more strentening experiences. Obviously, I don't see the big picture as does our Heavenly Father. I do know that you are loved deeply and your example through this experience is very uplifting and inspiring for so, so many people. President Shumway bore his testimony a few months ago referring to cancer. Basically, he said that even though we don't understand or see the fairness in our trials, he believes that when we pass through the veil, we will thank our Heavenly Father for these trials. We will be grateful for them. It is a nice thought to hold on to, but also difficult to keep in persepective. Thanks for the updates and posts. We love you all so much.

Creed Mangrum said...

This was amazing!!!!! Praying for you guys all the time.

Kristin said...

You are amazing Ryan. I've never met anyone in your family, but I want to be part of it. Your faith amazes me, and inspires me...thank you! Your dad, your mom, and your whole family are in our prayers.

Heather said...

Hi guys, I have been praying for your family. This is all just heartbreaking! I am just so happy how close unguys are and how much support Uncle Dean will have in thus "situation". Love u guys :) - Heather

Mama Janet said...

Hi all, I am reading this blog and also having a memory of my own valiant husbands fight with GBM, 22 years ago. He was diagnosed with this same tumor at age 30. He like Dean was an athlete and a fighter. This experience certainly has changed my life as I take so much less for granted. My heartfelt love to each of you. Thanks for the update. Janet Reed

Trevor Lighten said...

Great post Ryan...thanks for the update. I love your perspective (except for the jab on drug companies ;)

We love you guys and pray for you and your Dad daily

Jennica said...

Thanks for the update, Ryan. And thanks for your positive, uplifting spin on this "situation". I like that it's an opportunity. It's definitely been an opportunity for me to remember what is most important in life.

grammajill said...

Yes, Ryan, thanks for the update, I love how you and your family put on such a brave face and try to make all of us feel better. I can't even imagine how hard it must be driving Mom and Dad to Huntsman. I hope you feel all our love and prayers.

Lourie Rabe said...

Ryan and family... Thanks for all your wise words and information. I love you all - and admire your words and courage and spirit. Each day must be a trial for each one in the family - and most of all for your mom and dad - but you are looking to the right source for comfort and hope and joy. You are a wonderful example. My prayers and thoughts continue to be with you throughout every day. Love, Lourie