Sunday, March 30, 2008

Prayer by the Elders

Today was a special morning for us at church as the elders of North Point Ministries prayed for us. They come together for requests for prayer when a member at North Point has a specific need. They prayed for us back in August of 2006 after the cancer had come back. Now they gathered again to pray for us as it has come back in a new and more intimidating way. It was very moving for us. I believe almost every elder was there and each read something from the Bible to encourage us. As I listened to the verses they read, it was very powerful to think about how much God knows us and loves us. They read about how he made us, how he cares for us, how we can turn our desires to him, and how he can take care of us. It was a great reminder of how powerful and loving God is and very meaningful. Then each of them laid hands on Jen and I and prayed for us. They were prayers of hope, prayers of healing, and prayers of concern for our family. We left feeling very encouraged and very thankful for the incredible body of Christ. We are incredibly blessed to have such an amazing God and to be surrounded by so many of his amazing servants. We are indeed blessed and can't wait to see what God will do. May he heal me. May he answer these prayers. But first and foremost, may he be honored and glorified through our situation.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fun Saturday Visit


We had a fun time on Saturday with a visit from the McLaughlin household. Cathy and some of her friends headed down to the beach for a long weekend so Evan was holding down the fort with the kids. He brought Keller, Hynds, and Miller over around 11am and we got to play at the Colwell household. We took turns with the Wii, played outside with the Power Wheels (until it started raining on us) and had a great time together. The kids all did really well and it was great fun to have them with us. Evan also brought over some food for us and Jen and I were able to enjoy some delicious steaks tonight--quite the treat.

After the McLaughlin's were gone I was able to take a great nap and then Jen headed over to Karen Stubbs' house for a massage. Karen had invited the ladies in her small group(s) to come over for an afternoon to have massages and someone generously offered to pay for Jen's. So Jen headed over there, enjoyed a great massage, and then spent time with the other ladies who came over. It seemed like a great break and time well spent for her. The boys and I meanwhile watched "The Land Before Time" and "Toy Story 2" as we were also taking it easy. All in all a great day.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sleep


(OK, so this isn't a picture of me sleeping, but it is a cute picture of Kaleb wanting to curl up with Jen as Noah took a nap on her. How can I resist not posting it?) I have had a hard time sleeping ever since I started the steroid that I am on for the brain. Usually the problem is that I will go to sleep, but then I'll wake up sometime between 2-4am and I just can't fall back to sleep. I get up to read a book or watch TV or play Wii, start feeling tired, but simply can't fall back to sleep once I'm in bed. So I just lay there. Finally I decided to call Dr. Weaver (the neurosurgeon) and he's written me a prescription for a sleeping pill. I took one for the first time Thursday night and it worked great. Friday night wasn't quite as good, but better. Overall, though, I'm very excited about working my way back to some good nights of rest. Not sure why I feel so low energy most days, but I'm sure getting back to regular sleeping will help a lot.

Last Will and Testament

Doesn't a will sound like so much fun? It is easy to put one off but really there is absolutely no reason not to have one. So last week I went on
legalzoom.com and filled out a simple one. They were very fast and I had it signed and notarized on Thursday. It feels all official and one step that we definitely needed to take. No worries on it as Jen gets everything (as she more than should), but crazy to actually fill one out. Hopefully we won't need it for a long time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jen's Tuesday update email

Hi Friends!

I hope this finds everyone well after having a great Easter weekend. Ours was nice having my parents and my aunt and uncle in town. Michael did really well on the chemo pills. He didn't have any additional side effects at all. He had to readjust his pill taking times though since he was do take the chemo pill without food and the steroid with food, which meant setting his alarm again to get up in the middle of the night. Since he is now done with his first round of chemo pills hopefully he can adjust again so not to have to get up in the middle of the night.

Yesterday Michael also met with his neurosurgeon. We were hoping to start to get off the steroids since Michael is still having a hard time sleeping, but that didn't happen. The doctor said he needed to stay on his current dosage (3 times a day) until his next MRI. The MRI is scheduled for April 11 and then we'll meet again on April 14 to get the results. Please pray he will start to get some continual sleep. I know this is wearing on his energy level and is very frustrating.

We will head back to the specialist in about three weeks for a simple check up before starting the second round of chemo pills. I've contacted MD Anderson (a highly respected cancer hospital in Houston) to see what needs to be done if we feel we need to go there. They have been helpful. Please pray we would make wise choices concerning all the next steps we take.

We are in a waiting stage right now. We are trying to rely fully on God and wait to see where he leads us next. We know he will show us as long as we are listening! Pray our ears and hearts would be open for whatever comes next.

Thanks for your love!

love,
jen

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday meeting with Dr. Weaver

I met with the neurosurgeon Dr. Weaver on Monday. I was hoping that he would reduce the amount of steroid I'm taking for my head as it does seem to impact me a lot. I don't sleep well, am hungry a lot, have a puffy face (my cheeks look like chipmunks), have some breakouts on my face (just like middle school), my gums have drawn back some, and I sometimes feel like I have arthritis in my joints. All together not too bad (other than the sleep), but it would be nice to be a little more normal. Well, he wasn't convinced that it was time to draw me off of the three pills I take a day, so we'll wait. The good news is that we've scheduled an MRI for April 11 and then a follow-up with my neurosurgeon on the 14th. Those dates were sooner than I thought so I'm excited about getting a quick report on what is going on in my cranium.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Pictures






Here are some happy Easter pictures from the weekend.

Happy, Glorious Easter

Today is the day we celebrate the most amazing event that has ever occurred. Our Savior was resurrected after submitting his life on our behalf. And now we have the life and the intimate relationship with the God of the Universe that is hard to imagine. What a glorious day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Egg hunt


The Brietzkes arrived on Friday to spend Easter weekend with us. Unfortunately we staid up to watch the late Clemson game and were amazed that the Tigers blew an 18 point lead to end up losing. Oh well. I certainly hoped we were going to have a great tournament run, but alas, it is basketball.

Then the Peters arrived for lunch on Saturday. Definitely great to see them and right after lunch the whole crew headed over to the movies to see "Horton Sees a Who". The boys enjoyed it and had a great time.

Then afterwards we had a fun Easter egg hunt outside. The boys had a blast and then enjoyed hiding the eggs outside and then inside for us to find. They had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Halfway there

Well, I've taken three out of the five chemotherapy treatments thus far and it hasn't been bad at all. I didn't sleep very well Wednesday or last night. I was up for several hours, either laying in bed or listening to an audio book on the iPod. But my stomach felt well, which was what they were most concerned about. At least Thursday night I slept good--probably my best night of sleep in a while. So I'm pretty excited I'm almost half-way done. I take the pill at night--three hours after a meal and three hours before I plan to eat again. I'm definitely hungry when I wake up so I take full advantage of breakfast. But overall I'm excited.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Noah playing tennis on Wii

Here is a fun video of Noah playing tennis on the Wii. He did a really good job as he was playing the Wii fitness part.


video

Kaleb's alphabet list

Here is a video of Kaleb organizing a list of toys that matched up with letters. I love this guy so much and how he likes to organize things. Jen and I are so blessed to have him.



video

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It is official. I'm on chemo.

Just took the first chemo pill. We will see what happens.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jen's update email on Tuesday

hi friends!

We had our appointment with the melanoma specialist, Dr. Lawson, at Emory yesterday. We are so thankful they were able to fit us in so quickly. After considering all of Michael’s medical history, his recommendation was to do something systemic (something aimed at treating the whole body). One of the last few things out there as far as treatment is a chemotherapy pill called, Temodar. It is effective in only 5-10% of patients which isn’t great news, but there is always hope he will be part of that small percentage. We have contacted the pharmacy and the pills should be here as early as tomorrow. Michael will take five days of pills, then have three weeks off. We will do two rounds of this and then have scans again to see what kind of affect the pills are having. In between rounds they will also check out Michael’s platelets (making sure they are not too low) as that could be one side effect of this treatment. After the scans we’ll reevaluate and decide from there to either keep doing the same thing or try something different. The only real side effect is nausea. They will give him medication for that too. So we are going to give it a shot! At this point clinical trials aren’t really an option the doctor said because of Michael’s recent brain tumors. He said more often then not patients with recent brain nodules aren’t considered for trials because the risk out weighs the benefit. If Michael’s next brain MRI shows up clean in the next few months, then he may be eligible for some trials at that point. I’ve been in contact with a doctor in Boston who is also a specialist and he agreed that this course of treatment sounded reasonable. Hopefully we’ll get in contact with maybe one more doctor in Houston (MD Anderson) to see if they agree also or have any other ideas.

Michael will also head back to our neurosurgeon on Monday for a follow up to simply see how he’s doing and plan the next MRI. Hopefully he’ll get to talk about when he can get off the steroids as they seem to be having a few annoying side effects (upset stomach, not sleeping as well, retaining a little water), but nothing too serious.

I’ll let you know how the pills go. We will be praying for minimal side effects and great effectiveness. Please pray also that we would continue to find the best options for Michael. As we feel we have been hit pretty hard with the latest news, we are confident that we will only come out stronger on the other side as long as we let God lead us. We are having to lean on Him more and more and rest in His perfect peace as we continue to battle this aggressive disease. Thanks for all your love!

love,
jen

Monday, March 17, 2008

Beginning Chemotherapy

I called Dr. Lawson's office this morning and they were fortunately able to fit me in. They called at 9:30am and wanted me to be down at Emory at 10:30am. Well, the PET scan CD was back at the house so I drove up there to pick it up, grabbed Jen on the way back and we made it down there by 11:15am. It was a long visit, but they did get around to us.

We were hoping for a magic bullet answer, but unfortunately that didn't happen. His main observation was that because of what happened in my brain, I was not recommended for most clinical trials. His advice was to start chemotherapy now, so I'll begin that as soon as I can get the drugs. It should be fairly easy. I'll take a temodar pill for five days in a row and then be off for three weeks. Then we'll do it again next month. The plan then is to have an MRI and PET scan done in three months and revaluate.

So at least we have a plan for now that we are going to push forward with. We are less than satisfied but hopefully will be contacting some other doctors soon.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Smallest ice cream cones ever seen

Kaleb has asked for an ice cream cone for desert the past few days, so when we were in Kroger we picked up some kids cones. When we opened the box, we were amazed at how small they were. They looked like they had been made for toys or something. But our boys favorite part is the cone, so we gave them two each and they went to town. It is always fun to watch them eat their desert!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A great visit


Today we had a great visit from some very good college friends of ours. Mark Anthony (Columbia), Scott Stevens (Greenville), and Matt Beres drove down to see us today. It was very kind of them to come down and just hang out for the day. They simply wanted to be with us and do their best to encourage us. I must say there are few things better in this world than great, long-lasting friendships. We played some Wii and watched Clemson amazingly defeat Duke to go to the ACC conference final (beating them with free-throws!). Bring on UNC for the third time tomorrow! Should be a great game.

We are so overwhelmed with such kindness that people continue to show us. We greatly appreciate everyone who is praying for us and has offered so many things for us. Thank you so kindly.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jen's update email on Friday

Hi Friends!
I write today with a heavier heart. As we've taken great steps forward in treating the nodules in Michael's brain in hopes of success, today we took several backwards after getting the scan results. The scans revealed four new nodules. He has two in his liver, one behind his kidney and one in the bone of his upper arm. The one in his left lung has grown (though only one showed up instead of two?) and the one in his right lung grew minimally possibly still suggesting that is not cancerous. Regardless, we are now dealing with multiple nodules in various places.

Our oncologist has already put in a call to Dr. Lawson, a melanoma specialist at Emory, who we have seen once before when getting a second opinion. We have also called his office and left a message to get an appointment as soon as possible. In our oncologists opinion there are no more "standardized" treatments to help Michael. He thinks michael's best option is to try and find a clinical trial to be a part of. Of course we will get Dr. Lawson's opinion and see what his knowledge is about the clinical trials going on right now around the country and I any would hopefully benefit Michael. After speaking to him we'll then decide if we need to go visit other melanoma specialists. So it's wait and see right now until we get our appointment with Dr. Lawson. We are sad with this news, but know it all rests in God's hands. He knew what was going to happen today and has already paved the road we need to follow in the upcoming days and weeks. We know He will hold us even closer as times get a little more stressful and complicated. He will never let us go and we are going to hold on tight! Thanks for continuing to pray. He can hear you and we can feel you!

love,
jen

Not good news


Well, my visit to my oncologist, Dr. Steis, did not go well. The PET scan results were not good. I've included a picture of me from the CD they gave me. Not only do I still have a tumor in my left lung (1.6 cm), I now have two tumors in my liver (one of them is 2.3 cm), one behind my kidney (2.3 cm), and a small tumor inside the bone of my left arm. Obviously this is the news that I was not hoping to hear. So far it has always seemed like I have something, now let's take it out. Now, however, it seems like things have gone to the next level. I'm definately more concerned now--now that the cancer is so rapidly spreading, and spreading to so many different places--that I'm in a different situation.

Dr. Steis basically told me that I'm done with him right now. He recommended that I go see Dr. David Lawson down at Emory. I saw Dr. Lawsom about a year-and-a-half ago. His specialty is melanoma so obviously he would be the best person to talk to now. We'll discuss what clinical trials are going on and what treatments are available. Dr. Steis doesn't believe it is wise to go after each tumor individually, but to find a treatment that will hopefully hit my whole body. I'm also going to start trying to contact other doctors around the country to see what other options are available. I've got a few names I can call or schedule appointments with. We just need to figure out what is next. I'm definately saddened by the news and beginning to realize just how limited my days might be.

Thanks to everyone who reads this, makes comments, and prays for me. I sincerely appreciate all that you do for us. Our God is so big. He can heal me. I pray that he will.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gamma knife in the books

Yes! I have been waiting for the gamma knife procedure on the three tumors in my head to be done and apparently all went well. They screwed the headplate on me, took an MRI, planned the procedure and sent me in. Basically all three tumors looked the same as they had, so I was very excited about the fact that they had not grown. Then they put me in what looked like an MRI machine. They would lay me down on the table and then screw my headpiece in to a different angle. They would send me inside where there were individual pistions that would fire at the right time. Each session would last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Then they would bring me back out after each one, make adjustments to the angles and then send me back in. They did this about 15 times but it wasn't bad at all. The treatment part took about 3 hours and then they let me rest for a few minutes afterward and then let me go. All in all it went very well.

Next I go see Dr. Weaver in two weeks to check up, schedule an MRI in 6 weeks, and then I will go see Dr. Cline. Hopefully everything will show that God was able to knock these out. I'm very excited and looking forward to moving to the lungs.

Gamma knife radiation

Today is the morning for the gamma knife radiation on the tumors in my head. We left our house at 5am and headed down here at St. Josephs. It took us a little while to find the right place but we made it here in time for our 6:15 appointment. They put an IV in me and some relaxing drugs before screwing a faceplate on my head. I'm assuming it makes me look tough, so watch out. Then they moved me over to have a full MRI on my head. Now Dr. Weaver and Dr. Cline will be planning the procedure over the next couple of hours and then we'll push forward with it. We are certainly praying that all will be amazingly successful.

Monday, March 10, 2008

PET scan today

I have a PET scan today down at Northside to check on my body. Hopefully all will go well. I'm definitely praying that there are still only the two tumors in my lungs and three in my head. And hopefully they have neither grown or changed much. Can't wait to see what is there and then we'll schedule the radiation on my lungs after the gamma knife on my head tomorrow.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Time with the family


Saturday was a fun day with the Jernigans. It was pretty crazy because it snowed for part of the day. Not something we were quite expecting, knowing how nice it had been the week before. But the weather called for it and sure enough it came down. Noah was hoping it would stick so that we could go sledding but unfortunately the ground was too warm. It was a very relaxing day as we all hung out. Jen and Erin went over to Vickery to have their nails and toes done and enjoyed the experience. Clay and I hung out with the kids and fun playing with them. It was great just to be together.

Dancing Kids

One of Noah's favorite things to do is to play music out of our DVD player and then run around the couch dancing. It is quite fun to watch him do it and to run with him and Kaleb as they do laps. Since Eliana was down they got her in the mix and had a fun time running around. The song (hard to hear) is "Happy Day!" Enjoy.



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Friday, March 7, 2008

Jernigan Visit


On Friday the Jernigans rolled into town. Erin, Clay, Eliana, and baby boy came down to see us. It was great to have them around as we are always together with other family. The boys loved having Eliana here and she definately enjoyed all the new toys.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Kid's creativity


I'm really quite amazed at the creativity of kids. Kaleb and Noah have been into Lincoln Logs as of late that Aunt Sylvia and Uncle John gave them for Christmas. And really, they are quite impressive with them. Wednesday morning Kaleb made a house all by himself. He was up playing downstairs, found the little map, and built his own house. I was quite impressed. The other item he has been working on is K'nex. He'll look at one on the little maps that they have and sit there and make it. I know I spent hours and hours playing with the old Legos back in the day. It is great to watch the problem solving process work for the little man.

New computer

Ahh, the day has come. After three great years with my early laptop I was upgraded this week. Now I have a new MacBook with the new Intel Core 2 Duo processor. And in addition to this I inheritred Evan's old widescreen monitor so I come in and get to view two sweet cinema displays. Life is sweet.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dentist

Kaleb had his first visit to the dentist today and it went really well. They took him in the back while Jen waited up front. They did let her sneak back once to take a peek to see him. At that time he had some sunglasses on because the light was bright. They cleaned his teeth and gave him a flouride treatment. They also tried to do an x-ray but he was too wiggly. Overall no cavities but some plaque. Kaleb then was able to pick two pretty big dinosaurs out of a treasure box. He definately liked that part and is ready to go back.

Noah comes to visit the office

Today is a big day for Kaleb as he visited the dentist for the first time today. We have been putting off for a while but we received a great recommendation from Libby, so Jen took him at 10:00am this morning for his first appointment. As she did she dropped off Noah who was very excited about hanging out with me in the office. He started out by grabbing just about every ball from Al's office and took them down to an empty office down the hall. We threw them around for awhile and then explored around. Then, for some reason, we have a Leapfrog little table hanging around that he played with. It was definitely fun having him around and he did a really good job.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Latest update


michael is continuing to recover well! yeah! he's feeling almost normal again. he hasn't been getting a lot of sleep this past week as he's had to have medicine every six hours which means setting the alarm for midnight and 6:00am to stay on schedule. that's changed as of today and he'll only have to take it every eight hours now, so here's hoping for some really restful sleep for him. and it's never easy to rest too much with a three and four year old constantly at your side wanting to spend every minute with you since they are so glad to have daddy back at home. it is sweet though!

michael went back to work two half days last week. yes, i know that sounds crazy, but he was ready! he's one amazingly strong guy! he went back in today for his first full day back. he's a bit tired tonight, but overall doing great!

this will be another week to recover as we then get started back up next week. he'll go in for scans on monday, the 10th. our oncologist wants to make sure there aren't any other surprises before we continue with treatment (especially on the lungs). we'll get those results hopefully at the end of next week. On tuesday, the 11th, michael will have the gamma knife radiation on the other three nodules in his head. Our neurosurgeon thinks we can get them all in one shot.

we'll be down at st. joseph's hospital at 6:00am on tuesday morning and hopefully leave in the early afternoon to come home with everything being done. So basically, scans monday, brain radiation tuesday and scan results friday. after getting the scan results we'll plan what's next.

another change is that i will not have to give Michael shots anymore. we are excited about the not having to do them, but we are stopping since they don't seem to be effective (considering all his recent nodules appeared while on the shots) which is a little discouraging. so at this point we don't have any more proactive medicines/treatments we can be doing to fight this. thank goodness we know who is in control of ALL of this and that lets me rest at night. my God is strong and through His strength we will walk each day trusting in Him completely! thanks always for your love and prayers!

love,
jen

Nice weekend

We had a nice, quiet weekend at the Colwell household. Great weather let us go outside and enjoy some sunny weather. Kaleb was especially brave, wanting to ride his bike with training wheels around the driveway. He is definitely getting more used to it so we'll see how quickly he picks up on it. Most of the time they spent driving around in their power wheels, visiting each other's "house." By Sunday, though, they were starting to get on each other's nerves (and my nerves). I'm looking forward to a return to a very normal start to the week.