Just over five years ago before Jason's cancer diagnosis, I would not have called myself a religious person. Heck, I would not have even said I was “spiritual” as people sometimes say. Jason and I used to argue profusely about life after death; college buddies over drinks around the campfire held in-depth conversations about “what it all means” and whether or not religion held any bearing at all. Jason was always at the center of those conversations – always a believer, always in-step with some sense of faith; hope that life after death meant something more and what was in store for all of us would be something beautiful, something important. Never did any of us imagine we’d have to really worry about it this early in our life. That we’d be forced to come to terms with the reality of the possibility of life coming to an end.
|Back to TX.|
After Jason’s lung surgery, his pneumonectomy (his left lung was removed), we thought we were finally done; finally the future would be all shiny and bright. We were wrong once again and now here, with Jason, not only are we faced with these realities, I pray every single day in hopes that my prayers will be answered.
Jason’s recovery seemed to be going well initially. His one month checkup appointment at MD Anderson went as expected, though he was still taking pain medications and having slight pain in his back and front chest wall area. The doctors in Texas said this might continue for a bit longer and to expect it to decrease as he healed, but everything checked out. Onward & upward!
The healing seemed to take longer than expected, though & Jason needed more time off of work than he had hoped. He finally was able to return to work in January, just as the Department was planning their big move to the new building in Grand Ledge. It was all very exciting. He was happy to be a part of it and was feeling pretty good, too, enough to exercise a few times a week in the new workout room. We were on top of the world – life was finally going our way!
As you all know, though, what goes up must come down. In February, Jason began having problems again – his pain level near his incision site and around his chest wall, continued to increase. Little by little he came home more tired each day, and we just knew something wasn't right – the dread in the pit of my stomach began to gurgle & work its way up. It was time for a CT scan and oncology appointment, my least favorite time of the quarter.
As anticipated, there was a problem. In the upper section of his remaining lung, a smidgen of growth glowed brightly for our doctor - enough to send us back to MD Anderson for more tests, more consultations, and most certainly, more treatment eventually.
We were on a plane back to MD Anderson Cancer center within two weeks, leaving Madeline in the capable hands of her grandparents, our fourth trip to Houston in hopes of hearing different options, news of a breakthrough drug, or that somehow it was all a big mistake. Instead we heard more bad news and felt like we saw our lives flash before our eyes.
There was another CT Scan and a few more tests that resulted in finding the cause of all of Jason’s pain. Along the chest wall was a tumor that had grown in pretty tremendous size given the time that it had last been scanned. Back home, Dr. Rapson, our oncologist, felt it was simply scar tissue or inflammation on screen, but it had grown since the last CT Scan in March, so evidence suggested otherwise. The bad news was that it was more cancer & it had grown fast. The good news was that it could be radiated and with radiation the pain could probably be taken care of as it was, literally, striking a nerve along the side of his chest.
|Dancing through the pain. 2014|
The oncologist in Texas, Dr. Garrett is a wonderful guy – thorough, knowledgeable, and truly caring. He has this great bedside manner that Jason and I appreciate especially as we've traversed this nightmare we've yet to wake from. He presented his findings to us and my heart sunk. I felt as though I’d been punched in the gut, my mouth had that feeling you get just before you’re going to lose your lunch, my eyes welled up and tears streamed down my face. Just as every time I imagine my life without Jason, I couldn't talk, but kept swallowing and found myself chewing on the inside of my lip.
Dr. Garrett suggested radiation for the tumor on Jason’s chest wall along with a chemotherapy pill to begin as soon as possible at home. He suggested then Jason begin FOLFOX-5, a heavy dose of chemotherapy that is platinum-based, 12 treatments and takes 6 months, one in which Jason has had before, one that is hard on the system but is proven to work. In conjunction with FOLFOX, he suggested Avastin, indefinitely, another known medication to treat cancer. Dr. Garrett had a great suggested regimen prepared for Jason to take back to our local oncologist. He was equipped to help us fight this.
Finally, tears still coming down, even though the good doctor had supplied me with tissues, I asked the toughest question I've yet to ask “So, are we looking at Jason having a certain amount of time to live now that it has spread again?”
|Forever & Ever. Always.|
His answer was not the one I’d been hoping to hear but it wasn't the one we’d been dreading, either.
“Well, that's not what I said,” he started. “I didn't say Terminal. From now on, you’ll be treating his cancer as a chronic illness, one that will always need to be treated. Like a diabetic always needs to treat his/her diabetes, an epileptic treats their epilepsy. You’ll stay on top of this regularly, Jason will simply always be treating this cancer." A part of the Cancer Club for the rest of our lives.
With that, though we moved on as we've always done… praying each day that Jason’s cancer doesn't breakthrough, doesn't spread or that it miraculously disappears!
We are thankful for what we have - friends & family that support us along the way. We are hopeful for the future, and have faith and trust in our doctors and yes, in God.