Monday, September 15

Drug Trial Approval

Just got back from Steve's appointment at Mayo. Back to the room anyway...we're staying an extra night just to decompress a bit. Not sure my prose will be up to par so I'll just list what we learned...

-- Steve DOES qualify for the drug test.

-- The test has shown very good results in those who have used it. It's not a cure for cancer, but does shrink the disease.

-- CT showed that another tumor has appeared, this time in the clear lung. It's very small, but we still...it's a tumor and it shows the cancer is spreading.

-- Cancer is also showing up in two lymph nodes in Steve's lung. Chances are, it was there before, but the tumor was hiding it.

-- The radiation helped shrink back the tumor so now Steve's bronchial tube is less than 50% blocked.

-- A woman who took part in the first trial had a chronic cough that DISAPPEARED three days into the trial. This is such good news! If you haven't been around Steve in the past year, you have no idea how good of news this really is.

-- The study runs in a 16-day cycle. We have to be here for some of it during the first cycle, but after that only once every 16 days.

-- He can start the first cycle on October 2 (we think, it may change by a day or two).

-- If the drug is effective, he can stay on it for as long as he wants. We were concerned that once the study was over we'd have to wait for the drug to be approved. This is not the case. We are grateful for this opportunity!

-- The NP we saw today said something before we left that really touched me. I mentioned that cancer is now not always terminal...it's sometimes chronic. She said she agrees and that while there may be a point where they stop treating the cancer aggressively, they'll NEVER give up on Steve.

Through everything we have experienced a lot of hard times, but also moments of grace, love, hope, and joy. Last night I started feeling scared and just then my aunt Ann texted me the following verse:

I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. --John 14:27

We're never alone. You aren't either. Thanks for reading our list and for all the support you give us. Go Team Zieser!

Wednesday, August 27

Options

Steve had his oncology appointment today and they were glad to see how good he was feeling. That's always a good thing! His sister met him at the appointment, which was really nice for both Steve and 

I. Sometimes appointments are a lot for me and while I want to be there for Steve, I know he needs me when home the most. Having Jennifer go with him gave him support and let me save my energy for talking and caring for him afterwards.

We were given three options for treatment...one of which stands out as the best for Steve and what, for some reason, I was expecting even though it hadn't been brought up before.

1. The newly approved chemo pill. This was what we expected to use, but further research showed that the benefits were greatly outweighed by the fatigue. Quality of life...for all of us...is important and no one enjoys life while unable to do anything except sleep.

2. There is a new trial going on at Mayo in Rochester. Dr. Ghosh thinks that Steve would qualify. It's a drug to use in combination with one he has already used. We know the drug he used has few side-effects, not sure about the new drug combo. We may be able to do the trial here, we may have to do it at Mayo. Contact with Mayo is being made to see if Steve qualifies and what the next step will be.

3. The U is doing a new blood workup that types the patients blood against chemo drugs to see if there is overlap. I truly don't know what that means other than it could show what drugs to use and which to avoid. Seems like we'd want to do this one right away, but I don't know if it's as helpful as it sounds and insurance is iffy on covering it. We've used so many drugs already that we know what works and what doesn't. This test may not show us more than we already know anyway.

Those are the option and while the thought of going back to a hospital usually exhausts me (yes, just the thought), I was somehow prepared for this. It didn't surprise me, it didn't even worry me. It's like I heard what Steve said and thought "Yes, this is what we will do." Option 2 is what he wants so it's reassuring to know we're both feeling good about the same thing.

So we feel hopeful. Very hopeful, actually. That's all for now. (smile)

Monday, August 25

Complete Peace

The report is that I have little to report. This is not a bad thing, really. Steve finished radiation a week ago last Friday. The side-effects of radiation often start several days after the first session and then last several days after the final session. The first week of radiation went fine. Little fatigue (other than the norm) and no other side-effects really. Then, during the second week, the fatigue set in and that lasted for about a week afterwards. Steve is finally starting to come out of that, but still requires extra sleep during the day and not a lot of activity otherwise. His breathing has improved greatly and the coughing is finally quieting some.

We currently are doing no treatment. While I understand how chemo works, I don't really know about radiation aside from the very basics. I do know that radiation damages cells and that when they try to reproduce, they can't and just die. This is a good thing where cancer is concerned, but the radiation hits other areas along the way, which is why being exposed to radiation, in general, is not a good idea to say the least. My point is that maybe we are doing treatment in the way that waiting a time after radiation is part of the procedure. Still...

I've mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating again and again because it's so easy to forget: Often, ending/stopping treatment is harder than beginning treatment. On the surface it doesn't make sense, but when you think about it, it does. Starting treatment means you are actively doing something. As hard as treatment is, you're fighting the cancer. Ending/stopping treatment means you're no longer fighting it (in the general sense) and that's a very scary thing. I had no idea that ending/stopping (there's a difference) treatment would be so frightening until I was told by others that it is normal. It just didn't make sense to me, but now it does and that's why I continue to repeat it...so others will know and remember.

There is a plaque in my kitchen, a little brown plaque that it easy to miss, but that reads: Be Still and Know that I am God. That is, in my belief system, one of the most profound and deeply desired objective of our God: To have Complete Peace despite circumstance.
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I wrote that last paragraph and then sat at my desk staring at it for a good five minutes. Complete Peace despite circumstance. Imagine. I get glimmers of that peace, more now than before. My human brain is gifted with a quick thought process so to tame my mind of splintering off like a lightening strike is often difficult. Still...that Complete Peace is something not beyond my grasp if I'm willing to quiet myself and trust.

That's where we are now. We have no idea what's next in terms of treatment. There are fewer options than we would like, but we are grateful that science continues to create new methods of fighting this disease. Still...while we desperately desire complete health for Steve (and for everyone, for the matter), we know that Complete Peace is what we need. There will always be something in life that is less than ideal, but that Complete Peace is available.

Please continue to pray for Steve's healing. Pray that we we are able to feel that Complete Peace. Also pray that YOU are able to feel it too. Share your stories (below or out in the world) of how you felt peace despite your circumstances. How you sat in the eye of the storm and were ok. Cancer is something not everyone has to fight, but worry is. Pray for peace and see what happens. I will too.

Wednesday, December 4

Recognizing the Miracle

While I sit here this morning contemplating the day before us, I start to let myself be hopeful for a miracle. How wonderful would it be to go into the doctor's office here at Mayo and have them say that they looked at Steve's tests and found no signs of cancer.

I've heard it happen and I believe it has happened, I'm not counting on it happening to us today, but there's that hope down deep that it might.

Hearing that news would be a miracle. The miracle we've been waiting for, praying for, desperately needing. Or is it?

I tend to think in metaphors, stories, parables. I have that in common with Jesus, I suppose. (smile) Today, as I was thinking about the miracle of no cancer, the bible story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came to mind.

For those who need a refresher (no shame in that!) these three men refused to worship the idol that Nebuchadnezzar had built and were therefore sentenced to death inside a fiery furnace.

So the miracle in the story was that they were not thrown into the furnace, but rescued by God and walked away to live out the rest of their happy lives, right?

Nope.

They were thrown into the furnace...the thing that should have killed them almost instantly, but instead of perishing (I chose that word specifically), they stood there un-singed.

That, my friends, was the miracle.

So...in light of that story, I'm thinking that waiting for the miracle of hearing "no signs of cancer" may be distracting us from the miracle we're already living.

Steve has cancer. Stage four cancer. It should have killed him. It didn't. He's still standing. THAT's our miracle.

We're standing in the furnace (yes, I'm right along with him in this one) and while we do smell of smoke sometimes, we do feel a little singed sometimes, the truth is that we're facing death and still standing.

Today I am grateful for the miracle.

There really isn't much more to say than that.