Category: Carrie-Anne (Page 1 of 9)

Chemotherapy

One down, fifteen to go.

Carrie-Anne endured her first round of chemo yesterday at the Allison Cancer Center here in Midland and I’m posting here mainly to keep everybody up to speed with her treatments. I don’t really have any deep theological thoughts on this thing yet. We’re flooding Carrie-Anne’s blood and bones and organs with a mix of poisons that kills all fast-growing cells – the healthy ones and the harmful ones, the cancer cells that are hurting her body and the normal cells that are supposed to grow quickly – in the hopes that the cancer cells will die and never come back and her good cells will withstand the torture and be okay. Naturally, we’ve got mixed feelings about all that. It’s troubling and complicated.

The first infusion was set to last 90-minutes, but it’s not just sitting in a chair and watching the clock. We’re using what are called “Cold Caps” during her treatments in an effort to save her hair. The caps are made out of a weird gel that must be kept at 35-degrees below zero and tightened onto her scalp with a series of Velcro straps. So on the morning of the treatment, I wheel my Igloo ice chest into the Market Street grocery store, load up with 50-pounds of dry ice, and pack the caps inside. During her treatment, we change out the caps every 25-minutes and continue it for five hours at home after the infusion. On top of that, we’re also rotating frozen gloves and slippers – not quite as cold as the caps – every 30-minutes in an attempt to save her fingernails and toenails. Needless to say, there is no relaxing during the chemo. We roll two ice-chests, an electric blanket, and a whole duffel bag full of accessories into the fusion room, set up shop, and work hard together for a little over two hours. It takes almost five minutes to get a cap out of the ice chest and onto her head, five minutes to get the cap off her head and repacked and, during the fifteen minutes while she’s wearing the cap, I’m rotating out the gloves and slippers. It got easier and better as we went along, but it was a stressful couple hours. More math.

Twenty minutes into the chemotherapy, Carrie-Anne did have a scary reaction. She began experiencing severe chest pains and couldn’t take a deep breath. She described it as stabbing pains through her chest and into her back, through her entire body, and she wasn’t breathing very well. They stopped the infusion, checked her vitals, and shot some steroids into her port. Her oxygen levels and pulse stayed good through the whole thing, but it was a little scary. They contacted our oncologist, gave her Benadryl and Pepcid through her port, waited about 20-minutes, and began the chemo again at a slower pace. Things calmed down, we finished out, and got home at 1:00 in the afternoon.

So far, she’s handled the whole thing really well. No nausea, no pains, no bone soreness. She slept almost ten hours last night and feels a little tired and run down this morning, but she seems to have come through okay. The encouraging thing is that the first treatment is supposed to be the most difficult one. Her body will supposedly get used to these treatments over the coming Fridays and each one will be easier. If that’s the case, we’re in really good shape.

We feel like we’re in really good hands with Texas Oncology and we’re overall very confident in the plan. Earlier this week, Carrie-Anne and I had a serious conversation about going forward with the chemo and came to the quick conclusion that it’s silly to talk about second opinions. We’re with M.D. Anderson! Who are we going to call? We’re also trying to temper our expectations with the hair. The results are mixed and the medical opinions are varied as to the effectiveness of these Cold Caps. If it works, if she only loses 30-percent of her hair, which is the goal, then it will have been worth it. If she loses her hair, we will know we did everything we could to save it. And it will grow back. It always grows back. They can’t guarantee it’ll grow back the same color, but it will grow back.

And, again, we are overwhelmed by the love and generosity we are receiving from our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Our church family at GCR is simply unbelievable in blowing way past our expectations as they take care of my wife. Food, cards, phone calls, flowers, texts, visits, prayers – it’s over the top. We’re hearing from Amarillo, Mesquite, Fort Worth, and Marble Falls; we feel so much love and are so grateful to God for the wonderful friends he’s given us over so many years.

By God’s grace, we’re in a good place today. Thank you for your love for my wife and our family.

Peace,

Allan

The Thing

Nobody gets out of this life without going through a thing. Something unexpected that changes everything. Something hard. Something painful. Sickness. Loss. Betrayal. Divorce. Death. I’m certain you can look back at your life and tell me about the thing you went through. It might have happened a long time ago or you might still be in the middle of it, but everybody goes through a thing.

Carrie-Anne and I are in the thing right now.

My beautiful wife has an echocardiogram at Midland Memorial Hospital at 10:00 this morning and we have a mandatory Chemotherapy Orientation class at Texas Oncology this afternoon at 2:45. Tomorrow it’s blood work and a couple of other labs. She gets her port installed under her right collarbone on Wednesday. And then the first of her 16 chemotherapy infusions will be at the Allison Cancer Center here in Midland on Friday. Carrie-Anne will have an infusion every Friday for 12 weeks and then every other Friday for the last eight weeks. After that, a 92% chance we’ll never see the cancer again.

As I’ve said before, we are both committed to paying attention to our Lord together while we’re faithfully dealing with this thing. We want to hear what God is saying to us, we want to see what he’s trying to show us, we want to receive the gift he is giving us through this thing. We are trying, by God’s grace, to adopt the apostle’s attitude in 2 Corinthians:

“This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” ~2 Corinthians 1:9-10

The Scriptures say these tough times are to teach us, to show us, not to rely on ourselves, but on God. God is at work during this thing. He hasn’t abandoned us. He hasn’t left us. It’s not like God is on vacation and can’t see us until a week from Monday. He is near. He is with us. Where can we go to flee from his Spirit? Nowhere!

So, Carrie-Anne and I are really leaning into the formation zones right now. All four of them. We are reading and learning and listening to testimonials to continue gaining knowledge about breast cancer and its treatments and about how God has been powerfully at work through other cancer situations around us. We are fully engaged with our community of faith at GCR Church and all our Christian brothers and sisters in this congregation, and we are moving forward with our plans to start a new small group with Alan and Jo Douglas. Carrie-Anne and I are in Word and Prayer together every day. And we’re focused on ministering to others. We do not think it’s a coincidence that on two of our trips to M.D. Anderson, Ashleigh Reedy and her family were there at the same hospital at the same time.

The thing gets all of us. God is at work in the thing. And we need to pay attention.

It’s just life. And when life happens, we can wring our hands in despair and say, “I don’t know!” Or we can lift our hands to the Lord and exclaim, “God knows!” We can align our lives with Christ Jesus. We can say with Peter and the apostles, “Only you. Only you, Lord, have the words and the way to eternal life.”

God’s promise in Christ is that everything that’s broken is being fixed and everything that’s gone wrong is being made right. He has proved that promise in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Everything is being made perfect. You and your circumstance. You IN your circumstance.

The Holy Spirit says God will bring to completion the good thing he has started in you. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Amen.

Peace,

Allan

We Have a Game Plan

Kickoff is set for February 3, two weeks from this Friday, and the plan is to completely eradicate this cancer thing.

Carrie-Anne and I met today with our oncologist here at the Midland Allison Cancer Center to work out the treatments and the time frames for her chemotherapy. Dr. Manny Mangat didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, but he certainly assured us that what M.D. Anderson is prescribing is the right thing and he’ll do it for us exactly as prescribed.

It’s a six month process – once  every three weeks for three months and then once a week for the next three months. The infusions will be on Fridays, to give C-A a couple of days to rest before she goes back to work. (Yes, she intends to work through this. Have you met my wife?) Each infusion will last between 60-90 minutes and we’ll get to do them all at the Allison Center, less than three miles from our house.

Between now and February 3, she’ll have an echo-cardiogram, some blood work, an outpatient procedure to install her port, and a one-time orientation class for those about to undergo chemotherapy. We also have one more  trip to Houston January 26-27 for an adjustment to her reconstruction they wanted to accomplish before the chemo begins.

It felt a little different today. Walking alone from the front door of the hospital to the car in the parking garage, it felt really heavy. Talking to the oncologist about side effects and risks and hair loss, seeing the rooms where it’s going to happen, finalizing the dates – it felt/feels more real than maybe it has since we got the news 12-days ago. Definitely different. Carrie-Anne felt it, too. We both had tears in our eyes when I pulled the car up to get her at the door.

This is happening. And it’s okay. It’s not what either of us would have chosen, not at all. But it’s where we are and we’re doing it together with our Lord. He is with us. He is asking us to walk faithfully through a difficult trial and to lean on him and to point others to him. His desire is to use this season in our lives to grow in relationship with him and with each other, and that’s what we intend to do. We will be open to what he says to us along this journey and we will pay attention to what he shows us. We are confident. And he is faithful.

May our God’s holy will be done in and through my beautiful wife just as it is in heaven to his eternal glory and praise.

Peace,

Allan

Retiring Tom Brady

Congratulations to the Dallas Cowboys.  Seriously.

The 31-14 blowout of the Bucs was the very last thing I expected to see last night. Yes, I figured the Cowboys had a 50-50 shot of winning their first playoff game on the road in 30 years against a bad Tampa team that entered the postseason with a losing record. I expected them to win it or lose it in a tight game in the 20s, say 27-23, something like that.  I wouldn’t have been surprised by a back and forth barn burner in the 40s or by a modest 13-6 score, either. But Dallas’ total domination last night was shocking, and they deserve a lot of credit from the coaches to every player on the team not named Maher.

Tampa Bay is not good. We know that. Still, that should not take away from what the Cowboys accomplished. They played a perfect game against the scheduled opponent. Flawless.

Coming off arguably his worst career game in D.C. last week, Dak Prescott turned in an all-time beauty last night with four passing TDs and one running on a spectacular 4th down bootleg. At one point, Prescott led the Cowboys on four straight scoring drives. He threw no interceptions and he completed balls to every receiver. Tony Pollard opened things up with his tough running. The defense put constant pressure on Brady, batted away every other pass he threw, and totally shut down the Bucs’ running game.  No turnovers for Dallas and they only committed two penalties.

And they officially retired Tom Brady. Didn’t they? Didn’t Dallas last night finally put Tom Brady out of his misery? And ours?

Brady did not want to be out there last night. His facial expressions, his body language, his posture – all of it looked like a guy who had ended up in a neighborhood he didn’t recognize. He didn’t want to play, he wanted to get out of there. He didn’t want to get hit, so he took one step away from the pressure and drilled the ball into the ground. Like a dozen times. He wasn’t scrambling to make a play as much as he was getting rid of the ball so as to get off the field without getting hurt. It was clear he didn’t want to be out there and he had no intention of doing anything extra or special to try to win. He just wanted it to be over.

And it is, right? Dak has never looked as good as he looked last night and Brady has never looked as bad. Never. Tom Brady looked like a third-string QB on crack. He underthrew, overthrew, and threw behind his receivers all night. He attempted 66 passes and most of them were ugly. He was out of sync, out of rhythm with his receivers, and out of sorts all the way around. And out of time. It’s over. Right?

If you had an NFL team that was really good on both sides of the ball and all you needed was a quarterback to take you to that next level, would you call Brady? Not me. He’s done. Finally.

Brett Maher missing an NFL record four PATs was my glimmer of hope last night. Certainly those historic misses would turn out to be a deciding factor. The Cowboys always lose playoff games in the strangest way imaginable. It’s always something you’ve never seen before, something that drops your jaw and defies explanation and gets talked about for months. Like missing four extra points. The perfect script had the Cowboys losing by one point last night. Can you imagine? Of course you can, because things like that have happened to this team regularly for the past quarter century.

But not last night. The Cowboys were too good and the Bucs were dreadfully awful.

It won’t be the same thing in San Francisco on Sunday. The 49ers are the most dominant team in the NFL since November. They are on an eleven game winning streak and they are solid on both sides of the line. They will run the ball 35 times against Dallas, Brock Purdy will scramble away from pressure and make big plays against the Dallas secondary, and they will stuff Zeke and Pollard and show Dak defenses he’s never seen before. It’s a road game for the Cowboys, all the way to the West Coast, and on a short week. The string of consecutive seasons without a divisional playoff victory will extend to 27 years. And the Cowboys will lose Dan Quinn and make Kellen Moore an assistant head coach.

But that’s next week. For one day, the Cowboys deserve to celebrate a postseason road victory, the first one since before my 30-year-old daughter Whitney was born.

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Our middle daughter Valerie flew in from Tulsa to spend almost a full week with us as we acclimate from Houston back to Stanglin Manor here at home. While she was here, we celebrated her birthday a little early with a Hibachi dinner at Hayashi – her call. Of course, she wore the cheesy inflatable pink princess crown when they brought out the birthday drums! Valerie helped with the cooking and cleaning, turned Carrie-Anne on to a couple of TV shows she’ll be streaming for the next several weeks, and provided a real emotional boost during this up-and-down time of transition. It’s always good having our Val Pal around.

We meet with the doctors at Texas Oncology here in Midland tomorrow to work out the game plan and finalize the time frame for Carrie-Anne’s chemotherapy. C-A was scheduled to return to work on February 9, but that may be the same week we start her infusions. We’ll see. They told us at  M.D. Anderson that this type of chemo isn’t the kind that knocks you out for a week. They say she’ll be able to go to work the day after each treatment. But, of course, everybody responds differently. We’ll see.

Peace,

Allan

Change in Plans

Well, we are a long way from where we were five days ago. We have gone from “It’ll be a significant surgery and a tough four or five weeks but you’ll be completely done and cancer-free,” to “Six months of chemotherapy and regular scans and check-ups for five years.”

My beautiful wife, Carrie-Anne, is being prescribed multiple rounds of fairly aggressive chemotherapy because the cancer she has is fairly aggressive. It’s classified as a “triple-negative breast cancer,” a fairly uncommon form found only in ten-percent of women who have breast cancer, and typically in African American women and other women 40-years-old and younger. That’s not my wife; but here we are. We’re doing our best to arrange the chemo infusions through Texas Oncology in Midland – it looks very promising. It’ll be once every three weeks for three months and then once a week for three more months, hopefully beginning in the next ten days or so. When it’s over, in June, they’re saying we’ve got a 92% chance of the cancer not returning. Then M.D. Anderson will see her here in Houston every quarter for scans and checkups for two years, and then twice a year for three more years. If she stays cancer-free for the whole five years, then they believe we will be totally in the clear. We have learned over the past week there is no such thing as 100% when you’re dealing with cancer.

So we’ve moved from recovering from soreness and three or four trips to Houston for reconstruction to a five-year journey of chemotherapy and constantly looking over our shoulders. That’s a different deal than what we were initially told.

We have our final follow-up appointment with the plastic surgeon today at 11:30 – we’re not really sure how the chemo is going to impact her reconstruction, but we do know her final two drains are being removed – and then we’re heading home to Midland. We’re hoping to arrive at Stanglin Manor before 11:00pm, where our middle daughter, Valerie, will be waiting on us. She arrives in Midland later today and will stay with us through Monday morning.

The last four or five days have been an emotional roller coaster for us. The pathology report Friday was a gut punch in many respects and the meeting with the oncologist yesterday signaled lots of changes in plans and expectations and lifestyle for us. But we’re in good hands all the way around. And our Lord is faithful. We are sure of that.

Peace,

Allan

33 Sundays in the Gym

Sunday was our first Sunday in the gym, the first of 33 Sundays we’re worshiping together in the GCR Church gym due to the remodeling work being done in our worship center.

Who’s ready to sign up right now for 34?

It was absolutely fabulous.

Oh, yeah, we were crowded in there – nearly 500 of us crammed together on those plastic chairs. We were sitting in unfamiliar places a little too close to unfamiliar faces. Not much of a buffer zone between seats and rows. Some of us hadn’t had to pick a seat on Sunday morning in decades and it was a bit disorienting. We couldn’t find our spouses, we weren’t sure where the kids were. It took a while for us to get settled in.

But, man, it was wonderful. So wonderful.

When I asked the church to say something to the person next to them, every single person in the room actually had somebody next to them. Nobody ate and drank the communion meal alone. And we were all singing. All of us! Nobody felt like they were singing by themselves. We could hear the people around us because they were right next to us and it encouraged us to sing together. I could see everyone’s faces while I was preaching. I could hear their responses to the Scriptures and the proclamation. I could react to puzzled faces or out-loud questions or tears I could see after a particular video. I was a better preacher Sunday because I was preaching with the congregation and not at the congregation.

The close physical togetherness on Sunday generated some serious energy, a vibe you could actually feel, in the air, on the faces,

Now, I’m not naive to think everyone had the same experience as I did. Not everybody is going to like being that close to so many people. Even those who loved this past Sunday in the gym might grow weary of the inconvenience after weeks 20 or 21.

But God is doing something with us during these 33 Sundays. Our Lord is changing us, transforming us, shaping us more into the image of his Son. He is making us a Holy Spirit community. This time in the gym is forcing us to consider the needs of others more important than our own. As we sit in the middle of the rows instead of on the aisles, as we make room for others, as we sit farther back or closer up than we’re used to, as we compromise and accommodate, we are becoming more like Christ. Yes, God is doing something in us and through us while we’re in the gym and we should pay attention to it. We must be open to it. We need to turn on our radar and tune in our antenna to hear what God is telling us, to see what God is showing us, and to receive what God is  giving us during these 33 Sundays.

We’re going to be changed by this temporary arrangement. We’re going to be a different congregation in August. And we should all be really excited about that.

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Carrie-Anne and I are meeting with an oncologist here in Houston at 2:00 this afternoon. We anticipate getting answers to our hundreds of questions and deciding on some kind of game plan and time frame going forward. I’ll keep you posted here when I am able.

Peace,

Allan

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