Thursday, July 19, 2012

"As for me and my house..."

Sean again. It has been a crazy last six days. That is all it has taken. A headache that becomes bleeding and a possibility of a mass in the brain. Then it IS a mass and the mass is an aggressive tumor. Surgery. Doctors tell us it is malignant. It is cancer. And yesterday came the diagnosis. Glioblastoma multiforme, grade IV.

Let’s back up to the day of surgery. We all waited anxiously as they took our dad into the operating room. After about an hour and thirty minutes he (the chief OR nurse) came into the waiting room and let us know that they had made their first incision. We were expecting a 3-4 hour surgery but it ended up taking only about an hour and fifty minutes. Dr. Gaufin came to us while we waited to say that things had gone well. They were just closing him up and had removed the entire tumor. Upon their analysis and inspection of “the matter” in the operating room they were able to tell that it was in fact malignant. It was a glioma, or a tumor made up of glial cells. With this type of tumor there were three different kinds of possibilities. We would have to wait 10-14 days for the official pathology report to come in (after they could treat the tissue with special drying techniques and dyes).  We asked many questions about the different types. The picture didn’t seem very pretty. Dr. Gaufin couldn’t tell with certainty what grade of tumor it was, but because of its aggressive nature and growth speed we could assume with certainty that it wasn’t the most docile form of the cancer. He described to us the different prognoses of the other two. The oligoastrocytoma was one that was a bit slower in its growth speed and had a much brighter outlook after being treated, often with several more years of normal life. Worst-case scenario was the glioblastoma. Doesn’t it just sound bad? “Blast” is not something you want included in the name of a thing growing inside of your brain. This is a cancer that is not cured. It is an infiltrative type of cancer that, even if the majority of a tumor be removed, continues growth further into the brain depending on its grade. That is a strange thing to type. We all felt a bit overwhelmed when we heard about some of the grave possibilities. We took some time to cry together. But once again, my mother pulled us all close around her and offered inspired words of comfort. She said that this was not a death sentence for our father. He was not going to give up. Obviously the statistics were frightening, but we were only looking at this from a scientific point of view. She suggested that we allow ourselves to look at this from God’s point of view. He had made miracles happen to get us to that point. We need only trust in Him. He would continue to perform miracles. That is what He is. A God of Miracles. The future was unknown but she felt calm that things were going to work out for the better.

In the meantime we headed back up to our room in the Neuro Shock Trauma ICU. We had been fasting since the previous morning and together we would end our fast with a prayer. Many more tears were shed. But we needed to be strong when Dad came back. We needed to show him our full support and confidence. Fear and sadness would only make our situation more difficult. Sidenote: Earlier that day, while my dad was in surgery, I had the chance to take a short walk outside the hospital with my mom. We were talking about the situation. Obviously we couldn’t change what was going on. We were going to have to live through it whether we liked that or not(...all of us were leaning towards the "not" part…I don’t think many people would like that). But we couldn’t and can’t change that. What we can change is the way that we decide to face it. We can be bitter and sad and upset and disheartened. That is our prerogative if we chose. Or we can choose to face it with optimism and bravery, trusting that things are going to work out. Either way, we are going to have to live through it, so why choose to suffer more than necessary? (For all of you people reading who have served a mission for the LDS church you can probably agree with this statement. It is actually very similar. A mission is hard. Two years away from your normal life, family, friends, etc. doing something that can be VERY far outside of your comfort zone. It is a hard thing. And you can totally choose to be miserable doing it. Or you can choose to laugh, learn, and enjoy it. You are going to have hard times, but whether you decide to suffer or laugh, you are going to have to get through it! Why not choose the latter?)

Back on track. We were waiting for my dad to come back from surgery. We had received news that all the post op tests had gone well and he was responding to questions, movements were good, no loss in mobility. We were happy. And we were going to be positive and optimistic when Dad got back. He needed and still needs us through this trial. We said a prayer to finish our fast and thanked our Heavenly Father for our blessings and waited for Dad to get back up to the room.

Seeing him after surgery was one of the hardest moments for me. We had just had our sob fest and now I was going to be strong, but when they wheeled him through the big doors all I could do was cry. They were mixed-emotion tears though. I was so happy to see him doing alright. He had made it through surgery where they had left him with ¼ less of his brain. He had even thrown up his peace sign that had become customary in the last couple days. He was still in there! But at the same time, I HATED seeing him lying there loopy, in pain, swollen. It was scary. This was not Dad like I wanted him to be. It took me a second to collect myself, but I pulled it together. Time to start the fight.

The next few days were rough. Dad was in and out of sleep, but even when he was awake he was often in pain. It is a big deal to have my dad made of iron pound on the side of his bed because the pain was so unbearable. There were many priesthood blessings and many prayers. We tried to give him rest and to speak as softly as possible to not aggravate his headache. There were a lot of ups and downs. That brings us to Wednesday morning.

Before my dad checked out of the hospital, both of his surgeons came to visit and check up on him. Both were impressed with his speedy progress. They would have sent him home a day earlier, but we as a family had thought it better to try and get his pain more under control. Several CT scans had been taken after his operation and all showed no signs of any complications. As Dr. Reichmann was explaining to us what the next steps were we asked about how we would find out the exact diagnosis. We wanted to be able to get together as a family and we didn’t know whether to just expect a phone call or if we needed to be calling back to the hospital to see if the results had come in. As he was explaining this to us, his assistant was looking things up on the computer. “It’s in. His pathology report is in.” Dr. Reichmann was shocked. “It is already here?” And he turned to us and explained (as we had been told several times before) that it was usually much longer a wait until the pathologists were able to give an official diagnosis. In the past 5 years he could count on one hand how many times a report for brain cancer had come back this fast. He went to the computer and looked it over, then he turned to us. Unfortunately the news was not what we wanted to hear. It was glioblastoma grade IV. Dr. Reichmann would send up the oncologist and radiologist to come speak to us. We needed to prepare ourselves for what they would tell us. As a part of their job (dealing with cancer all day everyday) they were going to paint a horrible picture. They would give us the worst-case scenario. But Dr. Reichmann expressed to us the hopefulness of our father’s situation. Everything that could be on our father’s side was and is. He is young. He has always been healthy. He expects to stay healthy as soon as he can get back on his feet. It was a total resection. There was no tumor left. Radiation and chemotherapy were MUCH more effective in a person like him, and they would treat him as aggressively as possible to stop the spread and to give him the highest quality and length of life as possible. That is the focus. Quality and length. This is not a cancer that is cured. The news was shocking, but after speaking with our surgeon I did not feel afraid. There is so much hope. Plus we are talking about my dad here. He is made of iron. My mom called each of my siblings to tell them and invited each to meet us at home that night so we could all talk about it together and have a family prayer. My brother Ryan sent us all a very special message during the afternoon before we all met in South Jordan. He said:

“When you get news like we got today, and considering what we've gone through in the last week, it's easy to feel down and think "Why us?", "Why my Dad?", I know I've felt it and still think it, but maybe we'll never know exactly why and maybe we don't really need to know, but I feel good. I feel at peace and even though I cry like a little baby when I think of what Dad is going through, I know that this will make us a stronger family and better people.  I know it will draw us even closer to the Lord. Who knew that a family that is already so united and strong could become even stronger and closer.  I know that Heavenly Father is watching us and completely aware, and in charge, of Dad's situation. He's already performed many small miracles to get Dad to where is he is now and there are more to come. I know that our prayers, and the prayers of countless others are being heard.  In talking to Mom today after getting the pathology report back, she said "We are going to do everything we can to help Dad, everything!"  When she said that I thought, that's all we can do, and when we've done all we can, the Lord will do the rest!  We need to be strong for Dad.  We will be strong for Dad.  This is the beginning of the toughest challenge in Dad's life and we're going to be there to help him every step of the way…We need to keep fighting and do all we can.  We will keep fighting!  You guys are AMAZING! (stealing from Sean :)) I want you to know how much I love and appreciate all of you.  I didn't think I could love my family more that I did before this happened, but I do.  Dad will overcome this challenge and we will all be better for it…”
I can’t describe how amazing it is to receive a message like that. I share this sacred and special letter because of its faith-building power. I hope all who read it will cherish it too. We are facing extremely dismal odds, but we are not without hope. Heavenly Father is showing us his love in so many ways. He is the leader of Team IronDean.

Another sidenote: Dad wasn’t in too much pain the first 24 hours after surgery, but when it came on it has had no mercy. It seems like he is either in no pain but knocked out by the narcotics, or on a scale from 1-10 he is at a 10. My siblings and I made a list of the things that helped us make it through these last couple days. The little glimpses of Dad. These are those tender mercies from the Lord that allow us to see that it is still him, despite the pain and fatigue that have seemed to rob us at times of our Daddio. Here are a few (Warning: some have already been shared. I apologize for the repetitiveness.)

·    Because of the nature of his illness, nurses were doing an hourly check of his vitals and asking him routine questions to make sure that his memory had not been affected. Well, sometimes the nurses would have him tell them who all the people in the room were. Sometimes he got a little creative. My mom had the widest range of names, some of which include: Gloria, Mamma Uganda, Rapunzel, and Miss South Jordan City. Greg was Bert Lancaster. Our nephew/grandson Easton was “Lou”…and that was all mixed in with his usual name switching of the siblings. Needless to say he got a good laugh out of all of us and his nurses even though it scared us sometimes if he wouldn’t let the joke go. He is ruthless!

·    My dad is a whistler. He always is walking around whistling some sort of tune. One of the best moments in the hospital was while my brother and I were walking around the nurses’ station with him and he started whistling. It is one of those moments that reminds you that life is still good. For a brief second all my worry was gone.

·    After one of our walks Greg was helping my dad get back in to bed. My dad wrapped his arms around Greg and then stuck his mouth on Greg’s neck to give him a zerbert. Another moment where you just know everything is going to be okay.

·    In one of our quizzing sessions to see how well Dad’s memory really was we asked him, “How much money do you make?” That is seriously one of the mysteries of the universe. We didn’t get anything more than the usual, “A dollar three eighty.” BOOM! Dad was still in there haha!

·    He called Lindsey Lou Lou, and Jordan Jordie Anne

·    He still let Mom know how much he loves her. Snuggling in bed, lots and lots of kisses, hugs (she was the first to get a real hug from him), and even the little bum squeeze that he knew would get a reaction out of us! He always loved to come home at dinnertime and walk in the door and lay a big fat kiss on mom in front of all of us just to get an “ewwww”. (I’m sure that wasn’t the only reason he did it J)

·    Dillon has been having an especially hard time with all of this. This is a hard thing as a twelve-year-old. He and my dad have always had a special relationship and Dillon is one of the few of us that can get more than an “Okay” out of my Dad when we tell him we love him. The first night that Dillon was at the hospital he turned around before he walked out the door and said, “I love you Dad.” My dad opened his eyes and looked across the room at Dill and said, “I love you too bud.” Dillon was ecstatic. It brought a smile to all of us.

·    One final thing: as if nothing had ever happened, the very first thing that my dad did when he got home was walk to the dining room table and sort through the mail. He put the bills in one pile. He ripped the junk in half. He knew exactly what he was doing! We were trying to get him up to his room but he sat there for 20 minutes sorting through the pile of letters.

So, we are going to do everything we can. EVERYTHING. Glioblastoma has not heard the last of the Bullocks. Like I said before, our next steps will be chemotherapy and radiation. It will be a long road. We are taking it day by day. We are trying to learn patience as we slowly watch our dad in his recovery. It is a hard thing. But what a blessing it is that “recovery” is the word we are using here. He IS recovering. We all are. We all will continue to recover with our Heavenly Father’s help. 

Final sidenote: We got Dad some different medicine and it is already helping! Mom came into their room tonight and found dad on his knees by the side of his bed praying silently. It didn't take cancer to get Dad on his knees but he isn't letting it keep him off them! That man IS made of iron.


Jennica said...

I love how positive you all are being! It is a great reminder for all of us to be so positive regardless of the circumstances. I love your testimony of our Father's plan for each of us and that He is in control and He is the master healer, of ALL wounds. Love you Dean! Love you Bun-locks!!

As a side note: SEAN- you are the best writer! You really should think about doing it as a profession.

Tom McCoy said...


The Bentley's said...

Thanks Richard. Your the best. That was perf.

Kasey Lighten said...

God bless your are an inspiration! We are praying for you everyday.

Jordan said...

I am bawling like a baby. I was doing so good today. You are the best Sean. It is perfect in every way. Does BYU offer a major in blogging? If so you need to apply for that :) I think I will use the word of the year...amazing!!!

Jessica Hall said...

Man, you guys are all awesome! We will keep sending positive thoughts, prayers and love your way. Love you guys!

Renae Brady said...

I second everything that Jennica said! xoxo

Rich said...

Prayers, thoughts and love your way. What a family. We love you.

Rich said...

Prayers, thoughts and love your way. What a family. We love you.

Whitney said...

I believe your attitude has perfectly described D&C 123:17. This scripture has given my family comfort throughout the years, especially when my Dad was sick. Thank you for your faith to cary on, we love you!

Anonymous said...

We are amazed at your strength and positive attitude through this past week. We love you all! Mark is sending a hug to his big sister!

Anonymous said...

I can't even imagine what your family is goon through. I truly in awe of the attitude you have all had. My testimony has been strengthened because of the faith your sweet family has shown. In a world where there is so much evil and sadness your family has made me realize that miracles do still happen and that there is still go in the world. We love your family and hope for the best. You will always be in our prayers.

Amy said...

Our thoughts and prayers are with your whole family. Uncle Dean has always been a fighter and so strong. I still remember as I kid being in your home (not the one you live in now)and seeing Dean come in after a run (he has been an athlete forever!). He is a true inspiration. God Bless you all ♥

Anonymous said...

Sean, you are such an "amazing" example of faith and strength! I am so thankful to have a friend who is positive and hopeful, even in the hardest circumstances. I hope you (and your family) know that you have many prayers being offered in your behalf every day. Go Team Iron Dean.

Alexi Bullock Design said...

I love that Dean called everyone those funny names! What was goin around in his head during those times?haha How funny!! And I love that Dean gave Greg a zerbert. That is actually really sweet and makes me happy. :-)

Kelli said...

Once again, thanks for this powerful message on faith. My testimony is strengthened each time I read this blog. We have only met Ryan and Dillon (and maybe Sean one Saturday running??), but I am just in awe at what strength you are all offering to your parents and those of us following along here. WOW. Honestly, though, you would expect nothing less from the children of Dean and Kris. From AMAZING parents come AMAZING kids.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and faith with us!

Scott and Kelli

Liz said...

Sean, your dad is amazing and he has the love and support of your incredible family behind him! I will keep you all in my prayers! Tvb.