Health

Cancer Journey: Home Again.

homemovieAs some of you may or may not be aware, I have been battling stage 4 kidney cancer since 2013. Let me rephrase that. My wife Tanisha and I have been battling this cancer since 2013. This cancer has invaded my body, but my wife is battling it just as hard as I am. I couldn’t make it on this journey with Jesus Christ and Tanisha by my side.

Since last December, I have been receiving treatment at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ. I have received excellent care from my oncology team. However, the distance to the clinic has always been a struggle. So, I have had to say “goodbye” to Mayo Clinic and go “home” again.

Where is home you may ask? Well in for my cancer care it’s a place in Goodyear, AZ called Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA).  Why do I call it “home”? Well, I began my treatment for stage 4 cancer at CTCA in 2014. I spent two and half years surrounded by a staff of stakeholders, clinicians, and doctors that genuinely cared about my treatment and well-being. These wonderful folks have been with my wife and I when the cancer closed in and nearly took my life in the early months of treatment. Then they rejoiced with my wife and I when the tumors began to shrink and some of the severe effects began to loosen their grip. This team of people make a hospital for cancer patients feel more like a home than a hospital. They are like family.

Do you remember the TV series “Cheers”? Each time the character of Norm would walk into the bar, his friends erupted and said, “Norm!”. They knew him and were excited to see him enter this fictional bar. Each time I walk through the sliding doors of CTCA I can hear someone on staff say, “John!”. What a great feeling!

It is for this reason, that I am so glad I have made it back home. I was able to meet with my new oncologist this week. I was very glad to hear the treatment plan he has in mind moving forward in this fight against cancer. Once again, I can walk the main corridor of the center and meet fellow patients as we encourage each other in this journey and fight.

 

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Cancer Journey Update March 2017

Houston. We have shrinkage. hqdefault

My wife Tanisha and I received some great news last week concerning my treatment for stage 4 kidney cancer. The tumors are shrinking. I have been on my 5th line of treatment in the past 3 years. I am now on a targeted oral therapy called Cabometyx. I have been on this drug for 3 months now. I started off at a low dose of 40 mg and am now tolerating 60 mg dose. The scans showed that many of the tumors that are spread to my lungs, liver, and lymph nodes have shrunk by almost half of their size from a scan 3 months ago.

They also did some lab work and an echocardiogram. The test showed my heart is still healthy and functioning well. The labs showed my thyroid has a low function. They have put me on a low dose thyroid medicine for now. The next CT scan is scheduled for late June.

We are so thankful for this wonderful, encouraging news. The Lord Jesus has been faithful throughout this journey of battling cancer. I thank Him for sustaining me through all the procedures, treatments, and side effects. Thank you all for your prayers.

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Pain in the Neck

What the heck!Car accident

So earlier this week I was just getting on the I-10 freeway heading to my cardiology appointment at Mayo Clinic.  It was just before sunrise and I noticed as I got on the freeway that traffic was slowing in the lane I was in. I reduced speed and got on the brakes. The next thing I know, “WHAM!”. I was hit from behind by a truck, who was hit from behind by a Dodge Durango.

All three of us pulled off to the side of the freeway. Even as we are off to the side of the road trying to call DPS the cars on the freeway were still moving pretty fast next to the accident scene. I am shocked that this didn’t cause folks to slow down. But everyone seemed to be in a hurry to get to work I suppose. The DPS officer got all of our information and about an hour later we were free to go. I noticed right away that my neck was stiff and lower back was bothering me.

I then returned to the 101 Loop freeway to head to North Phoenix for my appointment.  But, I was really freaked out and got off the freeway to drive back home. I wouldn’t have made my appointment anyway due to traffic. I have never been afraid to drive before. But that day I was terrified. Can anyone relate to my fear of this?

Now I have to deal with the stress of insurance claims and medical visits. I have a case of whiplash according to the doctor and chiropractor. I am so glad I have my wife to help me to sort out some of the mess this has created. I am grateful that our Mazda 3 only had some rear bumper damage. The car is still driveable. Now I pray that the LORD will continue to give us favor through this process.

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Cancer Journey Update Feb 2017

Well it has been too long since my last update. A lot has changed since then so I will bring mc-boeing-ctr-for-excellence-8colyou up to date. I had been receiving treatment for stage 4 kidney cancer at Cancer Treatments Centers of America in Phoenix (CTCA). As of December of 2016 my wife and I decided to change treatment centers to Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. We had been thinking of changing care facilities for several months prior to making the change.

CTCA was a great place for cancer care for my first two years of treatment. However, this last year we noticed that the changes management was instituting were not positive to my overall care.

My new oncologist is an expert in the area of kindey cancer and runs the clinical trials at Mayo Clinic Phoenix. He ordered a battery of new scans and blood tests to get a baseline to start my treatment. I had never had a CT scan using contrast before. I finally received a CT scan with the contrast and it proved most valuable in determining what was going on in my body. It showed that the cancer was more widespread than previously thought. It has now invaded my lungs, liver, lymph nodes, and left kidney.

I have been given a new targeted therapy drug to attempt to combat the cancer. It is called, Cabometyx.  It was approved by the FDA recently and has had good success in clinical trials. This drug is now my 5th line of treatment. My oncologist has told my wife and I that if this doesn’t slow down or shrink the tumors my survival will be spoken of in terms of months.  However, we are trusting in Christ our Lord for complete healing of this disease. I thank all of you for your continued prayers and support.

I recently had an MRI on my brain. I had been experiencing headaches and they wanted to make sure the tumors hadn’t spread to the brain. Praise the Lord!  There was no evidence of tumors in the brain. The LORD is definitely at work here.

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Cancer Update August 2016

colonoscopy-s2-why-is-colonoscopy-doneHello faithful followers of this blog. I apologize that it has been a while since my last post.

I recently had a CT scan at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Phoenix. Again, I have been treating at CTCA for two and half years for stage 4 kidney cancer that has spread to both lungs.I am currently being treated with an immunotherapy drug called Opdivo.

The scan showed that the tumors in both lungs are fairly stable. There has been some growth but it is not significant enough for my oncology team to state that it is growing. That’s good news! Yet, the scan also showed that the mass that is where my right kidney used to be is growing. My team thought that it might be pressing against my colon and intestines. I had a colonoscopy last week. Fortunately for me the colonoscopy showed that the mass is not invading that area. On a side note, the procedure was very easy, but prepping for it was not. I had to drink this solution called Moviprep on two separate occasions. It tasted like a thousand lemon flavored sweet tarts in water. Needless to say I had to stay close to the bathroom after drinking this stuff.

The next step in this process of determing what to do about this mass will be a CT guided biopsy of the tissue. I am having this procedure this week. From my own observations of previous scans of this mass I am pretty sure it is cancer. It responded to treatment with the drug Votrient and was shrinking along with the other tumors.  So far some of the options to removed this tumor include possible surgery or radiation therapy. But, I will leave the final determination up to the experts and my wife and I will determine what treatment option will will take.

More updates soon.

 

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Cancer Update March 2017

photofrinI just had a CT scan a few weeks ago to check on the state of things in my lungs. The scan had some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the pneumonia I was dealing with has finally cleared up.  The bad news is that the tumors in both lungs are growing not shrinking after 2 months of treatment using Opdivo. Again, I am being treated for stage 4 kidney cancer that has metastasized to both lungs at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Phoenix.

My pulmunoligist has recently begun treating one of my symptoms with something called Photo Dynamic Therapy. The drug used is called Photofrin. So, the upper part of my right lung in not only partially collapsed, but it is also blocked by the tumors. This new treatment is designed to open that part of the airway up by burning away the tumors using the drug Photofrin. 

I had the drug injected into my body on Monday.  On Wednesday I had a bronchoscopy procedure where a cool laser was placed into my airway and turned on to activate the drug internally. Basically, the tumors are now light sensitive and by using the laser it will destroy the tumors by burning them and flooding them with oxygen.  Oxygen is a natural enemy to cancer cells. I will have up to four more procedures in the next week or so to clean up the dead tissue from the soon to be dead cancer cells.

While this will help to improve my breathing and overall quality of life, it is limited to only clearing up this one particular symptom. The remaining cancer cells in my lungs will have to be dealt with in other ways by my oncologist. I am hopeful that I will be cancer free soon.

 

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Cancer Update December

No-CancerI had yet another CT scan to check on the progress of the stage 4 kidney cancer in both lungs.  The scan showed no new growth in the tumors.  That’s great news.

Now my pulmonary doctor wants to go in and look around with another bronchoscopy procedure.  This is scheduled for next Tuesday. I take this news as my Christmas present.  The cancer will not beat me.

Thank you for your prayers.

 

Categories: Cancer, Health, Personal | 1 Comment

Cancer Update October

Well last week I had yet another CT scan to check on the status of the tumors in both lungs. The scan showed that the No-Cancertumors are stable. My oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America is going to continue my treatment using the oral medication Votrient. He has a couple of other treatment options ready to go in the event the Votrient ceases to be effective. Votrient is a targeted therapy rather than a form of chemotherapy. This means my healthy cells won’t be damaged by the treatment.

I have been learning quite a lot from a 9 part internet documentary series from www.thetruthaboutcancer.com. ICancer does not mean a death sentence any longer.  It can be cured. In the last week I have been making the transition to a more plant based eating plan. I am using my Nutribullet quite a lot these days.

Since I am being treated for stage 4 kidney cancer that has spread to my lungs I also found out that my one remaining kidney has begun to lose quite a bit of its filtering ability. I met with my kidney doctor and he has made some changes to my blood pressure medications. He told me that he is making these changes to “buy me time”.  I am not accepting this statement and I am believing the Lord Jesus to restore my kidney as I make the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes.  Thank you all for your prayers and support.

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A Second Opinion

A cancer diagnosis no matter what stage is an alarming news to hear.  After hearing the news all kinds of questions begin tophoto2 swirl around in a person’s mind.  What are my options? Where will I get treatment? What is the prognosis?  In my experience dealing with stage 4 kidney cancer that spread to both lungs I had to get these questions answered.  The one big question that I had to get answered was where can I get a second opinion. A friend of mine had told me about a place that sounded great, but also expensive.  That place was Cancer Treatments Centers of America (CTCA).  Let me share with you my top reasons to seek a second opinion at CTCA.

The center will pay for your travel to CTCA for your second opinion.

Once you decide to check out CTCA for a second opinion and call to speak to representative things are set in motion including your travel to CTCA.  The travel department of the center books a flight for you and a caregiver to generally the closest regional medical center. Once you and your caregiver arrive at the airport you will be greeted by a limousine driver who will drive you to the center.  Upon arrival to the center you will be given a quick tour of the center.  Then you will be driven to the hotel that you have been booked into.

The center provides discounted lodging at local area hotels.

Another advantage to seeking out a second opinion at CTCA is that they provide discounted lodging a local area hotels.  The lodging isn’t the Motel 6 no frills style.  They are various Marriott properties, Homewood Suites, and Holiday Inn.  The rates are highly discounted for CTCA patients and caregivers. The average cost for the evaluation week is under $100 for the entire week.  After that, the average rate is around $40 per night.  Each of these hotels also provides free breakfast meals.

The center provides very low cost dining at their cafe.

CTCA has its’ own fully staffed cafe on site.  They use only certified organic products for its menu.  In fact, much of the produce used in the cafe is grown on site at their organic farm called the Hope Springs Farm.  For patients and caregivers this is a large discount on meals.  Two people can eat most meals for under $10.  They have both prepared hot meals as well as a grill for made to order breakfast meals and sandwiches.  There is a full soup and salad bar as wells as a  juice and smoothie bar.

The center provides with you an entire team to look over your options.

Unlike many other hospitals, CTCA provides and entire team of doctors and clinicians to treat cancer.  During the initial week of evaluation patients will meet with a medical oncologist that specializes in a particular type of cancer.  Patients will also be assigned a naturopathic doctor who will assist with possible side effects to treatment with different vitamins and supplements.  Patients also are assigned a nutritionist to help with dietary choices to boost the immune system and help with any negative taste changes due to treatment.  If radiation is needed as part of fighting the cancer a radiation oncologist will be assigned and will work with the primary oncologist.

The center provides and encourages patients to be in community with other patients through the program Cancer Fighters.

CTCA believes in treating the whole person battling cancer.  One of the ways that they help with this is to encourage patients to be in community with each other for support.  The primary avenue for CTCA to accomplish this is through the program called Cancer Fighters.  This group is comprised of many volunteers who themselves are cancer survivors.  This group facilitates weekly meals in the cafe for patients to get to know one another as well as providing various outings to local restaurants and sporting events.   According to their website, Cancer Fighters® was created for and by our patients, their families and friends to support one another to win the fight against cancer. It is a community of inspiration for people who have been touched by cancer.”

Treatment and services are all done under one roof.

Have you ever been frustrated having to travel from one location to another to see a specialist or to have a scan performed?  This doesn’t happen at CTCA.  All of the doctors, clinicians, surgery, treatment, scans, and lab work is done under one roof. For a patient of CTCA everything is under one roof.  Whether you have an appointment, need a massage, need a hot meal, or even a pedicure, everything is in the same building.

The center provides both psychological and spiritual support to patients.

Battling cancer is more than just a physical battle. It can take a toll on a person’s emotional and spiritual condition as well. Having a positive mental and spiritual outlook goes a long way in fighting this disease.  CTCA has a team of licensed psychiatrists who can help patients with the psychological components of battling cancer.  CTCA also provides a team of trained non denominational  chaplains to help with patients spiritual needs.  They provide weekly worship services, communion, and prayer support.

The center provides the latest technology and treatments to fight cancer.

CTCA uses the latest technology and treatment options available to treat cancer. They do not use a cookie cutter approach to cancer treatment. Each patient is unique and it takes an individualized approach to battle the cancer. They use the latest approved medications and chemotherapies to treat patients. Some examples of these treatments include diagnostic imaging using PET scans, MRI, and CT scans.  They also can perform genomic testing to find what is driving the tumor growth and treat it more specifically.  There are over 50 different methods used in cancer diagnostics at CTCA.

Today treating cancer has improved greatly with new technology and therapies.  It is no longer a death sentence to hear the news of having cancer.  When a new patient walks through the doors of Cancer Treatment Centers of America they won’t even feel that they’re in a hospital.  Patients are treated like family and greeted by staff with hugs and support.  If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, don’t fret.  Rather, make a simple phone call to CTCA for a valuable second opinion and the best care.

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Who Am I?

a6586d6ca2096149168d2ab5ae8362b7“What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?”  Psalm 8:4 NKJV

Who am I Lord Jesus that You were mindful of me?  You put my cancer case on the heart of my pulmonologist.  She went to a conference in Maryland and asked all the experts about my case involving a stent that moved from my right lung to my left lung.  She found some great answers and told me she wanted to try again to remove that stent causing my breathing difficulties.  Then one week ago You gave her skill and favor to remove that troublesome stent without any complications to the amazement of myself and my care team.  Now in spite of still having tumors on both lungs, I am breathing better now than in the past year.

I thank You Lord Jesus for Your presence, Your love, and Your healing touch on me.  I am so glad that You are in me and I am in You.  That is why You are mindful of me.

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