Friday, February 29, 2008

Sutures out

I was able to go see Dr. Weaver to have a couple of staples taken out and to have the sutures removed in the morning. So hopefully now my scar in the back doesn't look quite like it did. Then Jen used the shearers to clean up the back of my head some. So I'm getting back to normal with my head. My neck is still sore and tense but it isn't very bad at all. Each day it is closer and closer to normal. I'm very grateful.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Moving Forward

Jen and I had an appointment with Dr. Steis, my oncologist this afternoon. It turns out that we will push forward with gamma knife radiation down at St. Josheph's for the next step. This will be on 3/11 and hopefully will just take half a day. Then we will have a full body PET scan, CT scan, and MRI on my brain to make sure we have everything under control. Then I will meet with Dr. Steis again on 3/24 and we'll go over the results. At that point I'll go back to Dr. Schwaibold down at Piedmont and remove the two tumors in my lungs. I'm not terribly excited that we are going to wait until April until that happens. I'd rather them come out now, but the ones in the brain are more important and it would be best to have another full scan before I go through the radiation in my lungs. The other aspect we talked about is that I'm going to stop taking they Leukine shots. I've been on these since 7/06--when the tumor showed up under my skin in my abdomen. Now that I've discovered six new tumors in the span of a few months I think we can say that the Leukine shots (which are still in clinical trials for melanoma), aren't quite as effective as we had hoped. As well, the liquid version of Leukine is being called back by the FDA. Unfortunately there aren't many treatments available for melanoma, so it appears that we will continue taking out these tumors, having scans, and then seeing if we need to go to something else. I've been ready for a long time to stop taking the shots. They aren't bad, just a constant reminder that I have this disease. But it does feel like I should be doing something. We'll see.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hanging at home


Today was a good day at home. I stayed around with Jen and the kids and tried to be as helpful as possible. It was good for Jen as she was able to get the house back in order and the many things she had been putting off for the past week. It was great to be with the kids but they are definately energy intensive. So I rolled into bed almost after they went down. One funny thing is how Noah doesn't like my cool scar in the back. He'll ask me a couple of times a day if it is still there. He's ready for it to go away, but quickly forgets about it and heads on to the next thing. I did make an appointment to go see a nurse at Dr. Warren's office to have the sutures taken out on Friday morning at 10am. Hopefully that should be pretty easy.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Visitors


We had some great visitors come see us Sunday night. Several friends from back in the Clemson days rolled down to see us. Thomas Marquis (Greenville), Ryan Allred (Rock Hill), Kevin Krick (Columbia), Rob Allen (Greenville), and Clint Pollard (Marietta) came over to our house. It was great to see these guys after a long time and great to have their company. I was very appreciative of the fact that they chopped off a day to come see me and always grateful for the incredible people who have come to my side during this. Thanks so much.

As well, a great friend of ours, Mark Anthony, had some very kind words to say about us Sunday morning at his church in Columbia, SC. He asked his church to pray for us with an incredible heart. You can listen to it here.

I'm on the way home

Very thankfully I am on the way home. After a week in the hospital and brain surgery Thursday afternoon I am clear to go. I need to continue taking some steriods for the inflamatition and then schedule the gamma knife radiation for my brain and Trilogy machine radiation for my lungs. But I am headed home right now and am vey excited about it!

The boys



The boys have been so great. They've come to see me at the hospital several times. And While they like seeing me and all, I pretty sure they enjoyed the elevator even more so.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Out of Neuro Tramua


another step closer! michael was moved out of the neuro icu today around 6:00. he had some nausea this morning in the icu, but after some good drugs that had subsided by lunch. he was even able to eat some lunch. they also got him out of bed and into a chair this morning. by the time they moved him to a regular room he was feeling pretty good. he is not attached to any machines either. the iv needle is still in his neck from surgery, but only used to draw blood or give medicine through. he is still sore and has limited movement of his neck, but considering they just cut his head open yesterday he is doing amazing. he hasn't needed any pain medication since this morning. such a tough guy! he's having some dinner as i type this and has walked a little to the bathroom once already. the last we heard we will be here till sunday or so. we'll see how is goes. i don't think michael could be doing much better (except for being bored sitting in a bed for the last several days). we are so thankful! God is SO good!

love,
jen

Surgery successful

we did it!

michael has made it successfully out of surgery! he went down to the pre-op area around 1:15 or so. we then had to wait for the neurosurgeon who was running a little late from a previous surgery at another hospital. michael went into surgery around 3:15. i was able to get updates from the surgery nurse twice letting me know that things were going well.

michael's parents and i were highly entertained and well fed by some amazing ladies who I'm so thankful to call my friends. (thanks girls for the laughs and pizza you helped make a hard day even seem fun!) the neurosurgeon came out around 7:00 saying surgery was done and successful. he thinks they have gotten all of the tumor and said all went great. we then waited about an hour while he was in recovery until we got to
see him. michael's mom, dad and i then got to spend a little bit of time with him. he looked good and was responding to us. of course he was still mostly out of it, but everything was looking good. he'll have a cat scan about 3:00am to check for swelling or any other problems. we left him in good hands with nurse stacy and will be able to go back in the morning to see him in the neuro icu. he'll be there about 24 hours and then moved to a regular room. thanks SO much for your big prayers! all is going great! we are now praying for a speedy recovery so we can knock the rest of those nodules out of him! the first step in this long journey is done and we'll keep taking steps forward to fight this cancer. i'll keep you updated!

we love you all!

jen

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brain surgery at 2pm

Just talked with my nurse and she says that surgery is scheduled for 2pm today. I've been without food since midnight, but well hydrated through the IV. Hopefully all will go well.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Brain surgery tommorrow

I just talked to Dr. Weaver and he has me down for surgey tommorrow at 1pm. He agreed with Dr. Cline that I could treat the other tumors (now that there are four of them due to the small slicing MRI that I had this morning) with the gamma knife radiation. He anticipated that this could happen at the earliest at the end of next week, but probably the next week. So I'll be on the table tommorrow and hopefully they will be able to remove this big tumor without any problem.

Brain tumors

Well, today Dr. Cline stopped by to discuss my brain tumors. He agreed with Dr. Weaver's analysis that we should surgically remove the largest tumor in my cerebellum. But he felt that gamma knife radiation should be able to take care of the other two tumors. It is a one time procedure where they bring me in one morning, screw a plate on my head, have an MRI, plan the procedure, and then will send me home after lunch. He said that he anticipated that this would happen probably not next week, but the week after. This was good to hear and glad they can treat the other tumors so soon.

Visitors

We have had many visitors over the last couple of days. Evan, Al, and Bob came by on Monday while we were still in the ER waiting for the CT scan. Then Bill, Bob, Al, and Stephen dropped by on Monday night to spend some time with us. On Tuesday we had even more visitors. Jiyoung and Amy dropped by and gave us a huge basket of snacks that Weekday collected for us. Then came by Al and the whole LTR team (Evan, Mauro, Katherine, Chris, Jeffery, Andrea, Melinda, Shara, and even Brian). It was great to have them all here and they dropped of a Chick-fil-a cow poster signed by people in our side of the office. Then came by Jason, Erin, and Norton to say hello. Next Bill brought over some Zacksbys chicken fingers and fries--much better that the hospital meatloaf. Durwood then dropped by and visited us for a while. After this Bryson and Cliff stopped by with several very nice cards that the marrieds team had written for us. Following them were Tomas, Billy and Jeff who were taking a break from setting up their Indonesian conference. They were quickly followed by Brad Smith and then Kelli came by and dropped off some homemade bread. We are incredibly loved and very grateful for all of the love shown to us, through visitors, emails, and posts to this blog for your concern and prayers for us.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Brain Surgery

This morning I received the MRI around 7:30am. Then I waited here until 5:00pm until Dr. Steis called. He said that the MRI actually showed three tumors (the same two from the cat scan yesterday and one more very small one). His opinion was to have surgery to remove the two bigger ones and then radiation for the small one (the same procedure we had planned for his lungs). He asked the neurosurgeon here to get his opinion about surgery. The neurosurgeon, Dr. Weaver, met with us around 7:00pm. He said that the biggest nodule was about 3.4 cm located in the cerebellum near the surface. The best treatment for that would be surgery. The second tumor was in the left frontal lobe and measured about 2.5 cm. This one is more complicated and he wanted to get the opinion of the radiation oncologist to see what he thought about radiation verses surgery. Usually when nodules are over 3cm, surgery is a standard. With this one being so close he wanted to get his thoughts. The last nodule is located in the back which was the smallest measuring 0.7 cm. Because it is so small radiation would be the best option. Of course with any option there are risks, but weighing them all out a combo of surgery and radiation looks best. Dr. Weaver will stop back by tomorrow to make final plans after consulting with the other doctors. The preliminary plan is to do surgery Thursday afternoon for the big nodule then give me the weekend to recover. If surgery is the best choice for the second nodule that would likely happen at the beginning of next week. All of this is probable, but may change. We’ve come to expect change and are learning to deal with it pretty well. We should have definite plans tomorrow some time. My parents are in town indefinitely and Jen's mom is here helping too. We've felt the support and prayers of so many people. Thank you for your goodness to us.

Two brain tumors

On Sunday I woke up with a headache that just wouldn't go away. We got ready for church and I just didn't feel up to it. So I slept in and didn't wake up until a little after noon. The headache was better at that time, but still there. I then woke up Monday morning early (4:30 am) and felt dizzy, so I took a motion sickness pill and went back to bed. I then took another motion sickness pill and tried to get ready. But unfortunatly I just went back to bed. I tried to get ready at 10:30am but again I just went back to bed. Jen called a little after noon and decided to head home early. When she arrived she called Dr. Schwaibold and asked them what we should do. Well, Dr. Schwaibild called Dr. Steis and they decided I should go in for a brain MRI . My headache was about 8 out of 10 so they sent me to North Fulton hospital. I went to the ER and was checked in quickly. Al, Evan, and Bob came to visit which was great of them. Then I had a CT scan done and the results were not good.
The ER doctor told me that I had two big nodules in my brain. The inflamation and bleeding surrounding the tumors were likely causing the headache. Dr. Steis dropped by later around 6:00pm and let me know our options. He said that we would have an MRI in the morning and then we would decide. If it was just those two tumors then they would open up my head and surgically remove them. If there were more than those two then we would move to radiation. Obviously, not news we wanted to hear, but now we know what is next.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hiking

Once again the Colwell family went over to Sawnee Mtn Preserve to go hiking. This time we chose the Laurel trail, which is rated moderate and strenuous, but wasn't all that hard. We did catch a glimpse of the treehouse that they are building. On March 15 it will be done and they will open it up for visitors. Noah made it almost the whole way and I carried him for the last part. The boys again had a great time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

And another phone call

I received another phone call today on the way home from work. Here's Jen's email:

hi again!
plans have changed again already! this time for the better. all the people involved with michael’s treatment were able to work all the pieces out, so we can start on monday. this moves the treatment up a couple days. now the projected treatment schedule looks like this- monday (18), wednesday (20), monday (25), wednesday (27) and monday (march 3). we are glad to get started and hope for no more surprises!

thanks again for your continued support! i’ll write again when anything changes!

love,
jen

Got the phone call

Here is Jen's email about my treatment:

hi friends!
it's been an up and down week here. we were all ready and excited to start treatment on tuesday, but that didn't happen. we went to the hospital for the treatment on tuesday, but when we got there our radiation oncologist brought us into his office area and told us he couldn't do the treatment. after looking through all of michael's previous paperwork he noticed a discrepancy in one of the radiologists reports. it appeared that michael's biopsy was on a nodule not noted in any reports or one we even knew about. our doctor was looking into it, but didn't have any answers yet, since he was waiting to hear back from other doctors. he was also waiting to get the actual scans themselves, which still hadn't arrived at his office yet. because of the unknown it was not wise to do treatment until everything was figured out. of course their was immediate disappointment and frustration since this would only set us back in terms of treatment time, but we quickly realized and appreciated our doctor's thoroughness as it's much better to find out now than have it show up later. so we left his office not knowing what was next and he said he would call when he figured out exactly what happened and then what needed to be done.

we heard from the doctor today. he said michael does in fact have two nodules in his left lung. somehow it was not communicated that a new one existed. though
there is a new one, our doctor thinks he can treat them both using the radiosurgery. we wants to do five treatments instead of three though. as of today, we
will reconfirm with the doctor on monday and then michael will have his first treatment next wednesday. we don't really know too much more than that. michael
only spoke with him briefly on the phone. i'm sure we'll get more answers and find out more as we go. we are disappointed to find out their is another nodule, but are thankful it was found now and hopefully something can be done about it.

hopefully my next email will let you know how the treatment went. thanks for continuing to pray as this process seems like a long one. i am sure it is your prayers that keep us sane and at peace. we could not stand up and fight this without you. though at times this all seems so big and overwhelming i just have to remind myself that my God is bigger- SO much bigger-and that makes anything possible!

love,
jen

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

No treatment

Well, I thought I was going to have my first radiation treatment today but that wasn't the case. When we arrived at Piedmont we went to see Dr. Schwaibold directly. It turns out that he is confused about the reporting from my needle biopsy on Jan 25. It seems that the radiologist biopsied a second tumor in my left lung, not the one that had grown to 13mm. Apparently the radiologist, Dr. Levy, felt that this other nodule was easier to access. So Dr. Schwaibold wants to see my actual CT films to make sure if we need to radiate one or two nodules in my left lung. He anticipates receiving those films today or tomorrow and will call me when he has made a decision on our course of action. So we will see what he says.

New small group

Last night we went over to Mike and Jen Tamborello's house to hang out with what could be our new small group. Our last group ended in December and the plan was to attend GroupLink in March and start a new one. However a couple of weeks ago Jen T called Jen and mentioned that they had gone to the January GroupLink and were still looking for two couples. It turns out that Alecia had talked to Jiyung and Jiyung mentioned that we were looking for a group. So we asked Steve and Amy, our neighbors from our last small group, and called a few babysitters to see if Monday night would work. So we showed up and all went well. It will be fun to see how it goes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Buzz Lightyear

Over the weekend at Erin & Clay's house Noah decided to make himself a costume which consisted of four shoes. He wore Kaleb's Buzz Lightyear light-up shoes on his feet and he wore his shoes on his hands. When he was dressed this way we were to call him Buzz. He would not answer to Noah. Ahh the imagination.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Summerville

We headed over to Summerfield, SC on Friday after the visit to the doctor. It was a five hour treck through Augusta and Columbia before arriving at Erin & Clay's house. Jen had met her mom in Gainsville on Thursday and droppe the boys off. So we met them there. Saturday was Eliana's second birthday so we were gathering there for the party.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Test run

I went down to Piedmont today to get ready for the radiation treatments next week. Rob was the person who helped me and he did a great job. It started out by having me lay on the tray of a CT scan. Underneath me was this bean bag-ish blanket that formed to the underside of my body. Then they put a plastic sheet over me and vacumed out the air underneath me. In this way everything from the neck down was forced to be still. Then they gave me some VR goggles where I could see the desktop of a computer. There I could watch my breathing go up and down like a sine wave. During the actual procedure I'll be asked to either hold my breath at exhale or right before inhaling. They looked at my breathing for a little while and then they gave me a full CT scan. I'll come back on Tuesday and get all stapped up and everything before they put me on the real machine. The only problem today was that my arms kept falling asleep as they have to lay above my head. That was annoying but obviously
something I can deal with. Looks like I'm ready to go.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Consultation

Jen and I had our consultation today with Dr. Schwaibold where he went over the radiosurgey information. The plan is for me to go in on Friday for them to make a mold for me so that I will be completely still for the procedure. Then they will treat me three times: next Tuesday, Thursday, and the following Tuesday. I'll go in each day for treatment around 3pm and they will start right around 5pm. The actual procedure will last about thirty minutes. Then I'll be able to leave and go home at 6pm. He said that I won't be able to feel anything during the procedure and that I should feel fine afterwards. So no real side effects. He said that I was a good candidate for this procedure and hopefully it will kill this tumor. This news was very encouraging and I am glad that we will be able to start so soon.

Carrots?

Can you believe it? The Colwell kids currently love carrots! I would have never have guessed it, but they actually enjoy eating a vegetable. They have always eaten fruits--grapes, apples, bannanas, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, etc. But we've never quite found a veggie they would take to. Until now. It actually started new years eve night when we were over watching the Peach Bowl with the Pollards. They had some carrots out for snacks and Kaleb just kept eating them. Since then we've gone through several bags and they love them. The appetites of our kids.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Sunday

From start to finish Sunday was a great day. It began with me giving the Bible story to the first and second graders at both hours of church. The story was introduced by a game of "Are You Smarter than a Second Grader" which turned out to be a lot of fun. The kids certainly were into it and I hope they stayed tuned in for the Bible story that followed. The afternoon was filled with getting the house ready for Matt, Sheri, Matthew, and Kaitlin to come over. Jen and the boys made some cool gigerbread cookies for our visitors. One of the things that I fixed up, to the diasappointment of the boys, was the flusher on the toilet downstairs. It had broken earlier in the week and I simply pulled it out and ran fishing line out of the hole for them to pull on. They thought it was greatness, so my effort to repair it went unappreciated. Matthew and Kaitlin came over for a little pre-Super Bowl dinner. While I cooked the burgers Kaleb showed off his Smartcycle. Then after dinner we pla
yed Wii through the end of the first quarter. Matthew absolutely loved it. Then Matt and I were able to watch the second quarter while the kids ran around upstairs. And what an amazing game it turned out to be. Our friends left at halftime and Jen and I were able to watch the second half after the boys were down. We were both cheering for the Giants and were floored when they scored the winning touchdown with 35 seconds to go. Definitely a Super Bowl to remember.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Imagination

I love it when Kaleb plays with toys in new and imaginative ways. It is fascinating to watch him come up with scenerios and pull different toys together to form new worlds. Today he and Noah had pulled all the cushions off our couches to form a road between one couch to the other. At one point he had quite a collection of toys making the treck over their road: several magnetic letters from the fridge, a few cars, two musical instuments, a yo-yo, and a bell from their Lincoln Logs. The yo-yo was their leader, using his string to help them across the gaps between cushions. It inspires me to watch him take random items and put them together to make a story.

Appointment

Dr. Steis, my oncologist, gave me the name of another doctor, Fred Schwaibold, who works out of Piedmont Hospital. He is a radiation oncologist and Dr. Steis recommended that I go see him to have the lung tumor removed by Piedmont's Trilogy machine. As I've read about it, it is an impressive machine and will hopefully kill the tumor with little other effect on the rest of my body. I'm incredibly grateful for modern medicine, and for having health insurance that gives me access to it. I'm scheduled for a consulatation with Dr. Schwaibold on Wednesday. Hopefully we'll be able to schedule the treatment soon.