Moving Forward

Good morning everyone and happy Monday to you!  I will join into the typical Monday moans and groans with you as I start a new regimen of chemo.  I will go into details in a little bit.  First, I hope your weekend was filled with as much joy, happiness and laughter as ours was.  We enjoyed each others company, and that is all that is important to me.

Last week, as in any re-staging scan week, was an emotional one for us.  To be honest, the few days leading up to the scan, the scan itself, waiting for the results, and the numerous consultations afterwards take more of an emotional toll than chemo ever does.  With chemo, I do the regimen, get beat up, but I move on in the hopes it is working.  The other stuff brings us into reality, whether good or bad.

These past consultations were sort of indifferent for us.  We went in this time knowing what to expect for the most part.  Our main goal was to determine, as a team, what the next step would be based on the latest scan.

With that said, the further you go along on this journey, the more you realize oncology is just as much an art form as it is medically based.  There is no right or wrong answer in the decisions you make.  You make the decision, albeit tough ones, on the therapy as a team with all available information, accept what you decided, and never look back.  The last part is important:  never look back.  A tumors reaction is always random.  You never know what regimen, if any, will work.

As for the consultations at Mayo Clinic, we met with both my oncologist and surgeon.  They at least agreed with Sparrow’s PET scan findings that there was little to no change.  If any change was noted, it was in a positive direction.  However, it was determined that we have maximized the efficacy of this current regimen of Doxorubicin/Ifosfamide.  Dr. Tap from Sloan Kettering and Dr. Dorn from Proton Therapy agreed.

Unfortunately, it was also determined that surgery won’t be an option.  The risks involved with surgery are too great.  The statistical increase in long term survivability with this surgery compared to without is minimal, if any.  It was a hard pill to swallow because it is never good to hear a treatment option is off the table.  However, we picked ourselves up and discussed our arsenal of other options.

As we discussed moving forward with our oncologist, it was decided we have two options at this point.  We can do Proton Therapy with chemo (Taxol), or we can do two cycles of Gemcitabine/Taxol and re-scan.  We decided to do two cycles of Gemcitabine/Taxol which is a different regimen of chemo than my last 4 rounds.  I start this regimen today, August 13, 2012.

The risks involved with doing our choice are:  I could react differently and my symptoms could be severe, and the tumor could be unresponsive, grow and/or spread.  The second risk is what scares any cancer patient.  For the time being, we know the current chemo of Doxorubicin was having some effect metabolically.  At the very least, it was keeping the tumors at bay.  It is always worrisome to start something new.  However, we made the decision and will respect our decision because we made it as a team with input from everyone involved.

The side effects of my new chemo are said to be mild compared to my previous regimen.  Furthermore, I am infused at my doctor’s office instead of 5 days in the hospital.  The chemo works in a different way than my previous, but ultimately is still antineogenesis (works against cancer cells).  It will have the same systemic effect on my body, including hair loss, nausea, aches and pains, and muscle wasting.  I am doing my best by eating very well and exercising to minimize the effects on the body.

After two rounds, if the re-staging scan shows improvement, we will continue with 2 more rounds of this regimen.  However, if it is the status quo or God forbid, worse, we will quickly switch to Proton Therapy coupled with the chemo drug Taxol.  Again, the Proton Therapy will be in Warrenville, IL so will be moving and living there for 7-8 weeks.

This regimen entails 3 weeks of therapy for each round.  Today, I get infused with antinausea medications and Gemcitabine.  Next Monday I get infused with Gemcitabine and Taxol.  The following week I have a break.  We will be doing 2 rounds of this regimen.

Lastly, we have never discussed with my oncologist treatment options beyond what I am about to undergo.  The last thing a cancer patient wants to hear is that we have run out of options and there is nothing else we can do.  Those statements scare me so I asked him that very question of other options.  Thankfully, he named off 3 from the top of his head for my disease and said there were others too.  We have not even discussed clinical trials either.  Phew!  Please continue to pray as we are, and please keep my family in your thoughts.

As you go about your Monday, please remember my family.  These are very difficult times we are going through, but we make it work.  We can smile, laugh, and live life.  Life is too short to dwell on sorrows and the unhappiness of day to day obstacles.  Support is what will get you through anything.  Love is what will prevail and help you conquer everything.  In spite of this disease, we are very blessed.  The positives in my life far outweigh the disease that is in me.  You, as our support group, are an integral part of everything positive we witness on a day to day basis.  We have a great life and hopefully this is just a small bump to a very fulfilled life of memories, laughter, love, and joy.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for everything you have done, are doing, and are planning in support of our family.  So many of you have volunteered your precious time from family, friends, work, and busy lives to help our family.  We are so very humbled and grateful.  Thank you!  Make it a great everyone, and we love you all!  🙂

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6 Responses to Moving Forward

  1. Rachel Peters says:

    Best of Luck today, Ryan! I will keep you in my prayers as always, and pray for a miracle!

  2. autumn m says:

    Continuing to pray for you and your family. Stay strong!

  3. Barb L says:

    You and your family have not been far from my thoughts and prayers since I “met” you last week. I ordered the anti-cancer book for Zach. He and his parents are very interested in reading it. Thank you for reaching out to them. Keep up the good fight!! 🙂

  4. Dan Sadlier says:

    You are a gift man. It is pretty amazing to track your faith and optimism in the thick of an uncertain season. Know you are a huge blessing and story of faith for a ton of people in a ton of different uncertain seasons. I’m praying for healing and that your story would continue to spread.

    With you in prayer

  5. Sarah Coates says:

    Your family is an inspiration. Keep up all the hard work and we will continue to pray for your health and your family’s strength!

  6. Jeff Stepek says:

    Stay strong & brave Ryan. Your positive attitude and optimism toward this and life is inspirational to many people on many levels. Thank you!!! Get Well Soon!!! Kick Cancers Ass!!!
    Jeff Stepek (a cousin)

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