Monday, March 6, 2017

New plans

     Hi, family and friends.  Steve here with an update.  As some of you know, Gabrielle has been having worsening symptoms for the past month with more stomach pain, back pain, loss of appetite, and more.  It got even worse while we were on vacation on Maui last week.  So bad, in fact, that we tried to get an early flight out of there just to get back home, which is the only place you want to be when you don't feel good.  Gotta feel pretty lousy if you can't wait to leave paradise, don't you think?
Anyhow, while we languished in the Pacific, doing our best to make the most of our forced exile, Gabrielle was in contact with her doctors back home.  They arranged for her to have some tests the moment she got back.  We got in late last Thursday, rolling home after midnight.  Six hours later, it was time to get up and head down for an endoscopy (“upper GI” study) to be followed shortly afterwards by a CT scan to see what could be causing her symptoms. 
I spoke with the GI doctor just after the test and it was pretty good: no ulcers or significant findings.  We had a nervous time over the weekend, waiting for her appointment at 8:00 this morning to go over the CT scan results with her cancer doctor.  Unfortunately, the results were less than favorable.  In a nutshell, the cancer has spread to the liver with at least three new spots that were not there on the scan in late December.  Several lymph nodes in the abdomen have gotten larger as well and appear to be compressing some of the important structures in the area such as the main vein that enters the liver (portal vein).  Doctor said that this could also be causing “gastric outlet syndrome” in which she is hungry, but the food just doesn’t leave the stomach all that easily.  Can also account for all the horrible back and abdominal pain she has been having.
So, in clinical terms, the cancer is progressing and clearly the two medications she had been on since the first of the year weren’t doing a lick of good.  Treatment of cancer involves trial and error.  Some drugs are winners, and some are not.  New plan is to step things up to a much more aggressive approach with weekly chemotherapy which starts tomorrow.  Plan is to get two drugs: Taxol (the one which makes your hair fall out) and Avastin.  Had labs today to make sure that her blood counts are good enough to get Taxol, which we are hoping for, as this is the cancer fighting component of her new treatment.  Avastin is supposed to cut off the blood supply to the cancer cells, but doesn’t have any cancer killing properties of its own.  She has had both medications before.  We are a little nervous about the Avastin as that’s the one that has a potential side effect of bowel rupture, which is potentially life threatening, but we do not have a whole lot of other options at this point.   
Doctor said she had been in contact with our insurance company (Regence, not like I’m naming any names or anything) and they are being downright persnickety about approving the Avastin, unless it is combined with the Taxol.  So far, so good, since she is supposed to get the Taxol as well, but the concerning thing is that if she can’t get the Taxol due to low counts, they may not approve Avastin by itself.  When the doctor told us about this, she said it was infuriating that they would not approve it, and plans to go toe to toe with them soon.  She is, after all, the expert’s expert on ovarian cancer treatment, not the insurance companies.  We are confident that things will work out such that Gabrielle will get the drugs, but it is still very frustrating to deal with insurance issues in the midst of all this.  Having said that, am thankful for the insurance that we do have.
            This is all quite an adjustment for us, to see such rapid change in the CT scan and see such worsening symptoms in such a short period of time.  We are all nervous about what lies ahead, but are confident that with God’s strength we will weather the storms.  His grace is indeed sufficient.  We appreciate your kind thoughts, prayers, and support.  It looks like we are in for a bumpy ride ahead.
            I will end by saying that this sad news comes as a shock to all of us.  It also seems a tad incongruent in light of how good she looks.  Time and again, people have commented on the fact that she appears so healthy.  This is a testimony to her iron resolve and determination not to let the cancer define her or bog her down.  Being around her a fair bit, I have been so impressed with how she has faced this cancer from the very beginning with an attitude of strength, determination, and sheer guts.  She has never let the setbacks get to her.  She always has kind words and smiles for the medical staff attending her, and thanks them for their service.  She faces pain with a fortitude that I cannot even begin to fathom.  Her faith in God and His providence and goodness is unwavering and an inspiration to us all.  In short, she is my hero.  As she goes into this next battle, I have no doubt that she will continue with the same bravery and courage that she has demonstrated all along.
            Even now, as I am finishing this little note, she is sitting across from me, reading passages to me from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity (phenomenal book by the way).  She just hit on a passage about the contrast between this life and the next being similar to the difference between cold stone statues and the real living, breathing organisms that we all are.  There is a hush about the sculptor’s studio as there is a rumor that some of us statues are going to come to life some day.  That will indeed be a glorious day.
Maui, last week.  People always say "You look so good!" which, of course, is nice to hear.  But just like in much of life, what you see on the outside is not always reflective of what's going on on the inside of a person.  Best to get beyond the surface if you really want to know what a person is going through and if you want to learn how best you can come alongside them in the journey.   



9 comments:

  1. I'm just at a loss for words. There in the middle of it all is Jesus, that I do know. Guiding us and loving us. I pray for the abundance of peace that comes through him, and that he enables you and the meds to kick this cancer out of your body.

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    1. Thank you, dear Laura! Please keep praying!! :-)
      Love you,
      Gabrielle

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  2. Love you all. Sending love from down under. So beautifully written Daniel - thanks for sharing. Gabrielle you're my rock and hero and your Paw Paw is coming soon!!! <3<3

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    1. Thank you, dear Becca! Your love and prayers mean the world to me, and you are my hero too!!! Even though the posts say published by Daniel, Steve wrote that one. We just have Daniel set up as administrator of the account. :-)
      Much love,
      Gabrielle

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  3. I love you so very much Steve for your loving care of Gaby and your steadfast commitment to her well-being. And Gaby, I'm in awe of you and love you so very much.

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    1. Dearest Xan,
      Thank you for this sweet post! I am in awe of you too, for with all the challenges you have faced in life, you have kept on going with inner strength and optimism that things will get better. Love you too, Sis!
      XOXO Gaby

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  4. Aloha My New Friend. Well it's time to fight again as only a woman with great love for a wonderful husband and children can. I know you have had to do it before, but I know you can do it again. You are a strong and brave warrior, like all of us who have had an intimate relationship with taxol; embrace that amazing drug as it attacks the cancer. You my love, deserve to win this fight, and even though I just met you, I am with you in spirit. If there is anything I can do for you, say the word. When you are ready to eat again I will send Chocolate macadamia nuts and pineapple. but first you have to fight. And eat lots of popsicles. Do they have head coolers there? They didn't in my day but I have read it can prevent hair loss, which might give you a psychological edge. And anything that works in your favor is a good thing.

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    1. Dear Joan,
      Yes, even though we just met in Maui, we are both survivors and had an instant connection. You made our time in Maui so special, despite the pain I was in. I am grateful for you, my new friend! We actually planted a Yew tree in our backyard the first time I was on Taxol, since the drug comes from the Yew tree. It is growing tall and healthy and beautiful and I look out my window at it with gratitude and somehow, a renewed energy to fight. Much love to you and great hope that we will meet again on the beautiful shores of Maui or if you ever make it out to Seattle!
      XOXO
      Gabrielle

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  5. Thanks Steve for your update and the glorious photo. I'm sure this news is tough on everyone. Me too. I keep praying for relief and keep repeating Jos. 1-9. Our Lord is there by her side and yours - His strength will give you what you need to bear this new direction in Gabrielle's treatment. My love ❤️ to you all.

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