Category: Carrie-Anne (Page 1 of 11)

Penultimate Procedure

Dr. Manny walked into the examination room at the Allison Cancer Center Friday morning and victoriously declared, “The Penultimate Procedure!”

Yes, sir, the next-to-last “Red Devil” infusion intended to completely annihilate any remaining cancer cells hanging around my wife Carrie-Anne. Friday’s treatment was number fifteen out of sixteen total infusions, the third of what I’m calling the Final Four. These last four are the ones doctors and patients in the breast cancer community call the “Red Devil” because of its unmistakable color and its nasty side effects. For Carrie-Anne, these side effects have been minimal and short-lived, relatively speaking. But this past weekend was a little more difficult than the previous two. She was light-headed and woozy all afternoon and evening on Friday. She spent most of Saturday and Sunday completely wiped out physically and wrapped from her waist to her ankles in heating pads and electric blankets to soothe her sore and aching bones. But no mouth or throat sores. And no nausea (the only nausea C-A experiences is driving in the car with me to the oncology hospital while I’m eating a cheese and jalapeno sausage kolache). She is experiencing a loss of appetite for the first time and some minor changes in the way things taste, but none of the worst things we were assured would happen with these final four treatments.

Praise God. He has been very merciful to us, gracious beyond what we deserve. And we are so grateful.

Carrie-Anne has begun losing some of her hair in the past couple of weeks, which makes everything a little more emotional. But she started out with so much, I think she could lose half of it before anyone would notice. We’re still doing the frozen caps on chemo days, still keeping the temperature at 35-degrees below zero and changing them in and out of the dry ice and onto her head every 25-minutes for eight hours. And you can tell from the picture we’ve added another strap, the yellow one, to lock that thing onto her head even a little tighter. And she holds it against her scalp with her hands now, doing everything she can to save that hair. By God’s grace, it’s working better than anyone at the Allison Cancer Center has ever seen. In fact, during our past two treatments, two different doctors have come to the infusion room just to marvel at C-A’s hair and overall health. We keep being told by all the experts she does not look like someone who’s gone through five months of chemo. And, again, we give all the glory to our God.

One more infusion remaining. June 16. Less than two weeks away from completing the treatments and getting most of our lives back. At that time, I’ll write much more about the woman under that awkward cap. She is remarkable in more ways than I realized. And I’ve known her and loved her for 34 years.

Peace,

Allan

So Far So Good

It’s about 11:30am Saturday and the suspense is killing us. Carrie-Anne had her second “Red Devil” chemotherapy infusion yesterday and, so far, she’s experiencing the same low levels of soreness and high levels of exhaustion she endured two weeks ago. But her immune booster goes off at 3:00 this afternoon, and that’s when she gets the hurt. Right now the self-injector is attached to her left arm under a huge bandage and it’s blinking a constant green light to let us know it’s working. The needle is already inside her arm – so weird. At 3:00 it’ll beep a couple of times and then begin administering a booster to speed up her body’s production of white blood cells.

See, this “Red Devil” chemo takes her immune system down to almost nothing – it wrecks everything. So, this booster, 27-hours later, works to help her manufacture white blood cells more rapidly than normal, to build everything back up as quickly as possible. That’s her bone marrow, inside her body’s biggest bones. And she can feel it. The injector works for about 45-minutes, then it blinks red when it’s stopped. We check the gauge on the side – like a fuel gauge on a dashboard – and when it reads ’empty’ we remove the injector and wait for the pain.

If it’s like last time, it’ll build gradually. The soreness will be really noticeable at around 5:00-6:00pm this evening, she’ll be moving more slowly and then not at all by bedtime, and tomorrow morning she’ll barely be able to get out of bed. Then, again, if it’s like two weeks ago, the pain will slowly recede Sunday afternoon into Sunday night, and by the time she goes to bed tomorrow, she’ll be fine.

So far, none of the really awful things that typically happen with this treatment. No mouth or throat sores, no throwing up, no loss of appetite or digestive issues, no loss of taste, and she has complete control of all her functions. And, thanks to the Penguin cold caps, she still has all her hair. Praise the Lord. We know it could possibly change each time. It could be better, worse, or the same each time – it’s all different and nobody really knows. But our God is being very merciful to my wife. And we are grateful.

We did go to M.D. Anderson in Houston on Wednesday this week for a check-up and appointment with our plastic surgeon. Carrie-Anne is testing out really well, everything is on track, and her surgery was confirmed for July 13. This is to remove the temporary stuff and install the permanent stuff – and that’s all I’ll say about that. No drains this time, but it’s still going to take two to three weeks to recover. We’ll be in Houston from July 10-15 for that surgery and she’ll definitely miss the first week or two of work, which starts back up July 19.

I want to thank you again for all the kind attention you are giving Carrie-Anne and our family through this season. We are overwhelmed by cards, gifts, phone calls, texts, and food. Overwhelmed. Another undeniable witness to our gracious God who uses his people to take care of his people.

Peace,

Allan

Defying the Odds

We can’t explain it. We can only, as the Bible directs us, give all the glory and praise and thanksgiving to God. In spite of all the evidence, in the face of incredible odds, in opposition to everything we have been told, Carrie-Anne is not sore and she is not nauseated after receiving her first “Red Devil” chemotherapy treatment on Friday. The chemo and the white-blood cell booster were supposed to knock my wife for a loop. The side effects – throwing up, muscle soreness, bone pain, nausea, loss of appetite, mouth and throat sores, exhaustion – were supposed to take Carrie-Anne out of commission for two to eight days. Well, I am thrilled to report that she is very tired and sleepy but she was never nauseated and her body soreness lasted a little less than 24 hours.

Yes, Carrie-Anne spent a lot of time yesterday and Saturday dozing off and falling in and out of sleep in her chair. She never does that – I’m the one who dozes off on the couch or in the recliner, not her. But no nausea. No pain. We kept expecting it to come. I asked her about it every 20-30 minutes. Are you sore? How are your arms and legs? Nothing! We tried to make the pain come. Does this hurt? Does that feel bad? Nothing!

By 7:00 or 8:00 Saturday night, she was experiencing some soreness. Oh, no, we thought, here we go. By the time she went to bed at around 9:30, she was reporting serious muscle pain. Terrible soreness. When she woke up Sunday morning, it was worse. She told me she felt like she was 110-years old, everything hurt. She was shuffling around the house, slowly, and stooped over. Things had improved a bit by lunchtime yesterday. And by 8:00 last night, it looked like the pain was gone. Like, it’s over. Are you sure you don’t want to throw up or something? Just so it’ll feel more real? I mean, it ended just as quickly as it had come on. This morning, she was completely pain-free. Nothing! She went to work as usual and seems to be having a really normal day.

She still feels really exhausted and overly tired, but she’s not hurting anywhere. The Tylenol and anti-nausea medicines are doing their jobs. And our Lord is being abundantly merciful to her. We are so very thankful to God.

As our Midland oncologist was complimenting Carrie-Anne Friday on her diligence in doing everything exactly right to give her the best results from her chemotherapy treatments, as he was marveling at her commitment to the cold caps and her still luxuriously thick head of hair, he told her in all seriousness, “I don’t think you’re going to be able to save your hair through this next round.”

Carrie-Anne looked right at him and said just as determinedly as you can imagine, “We’ll see.”

You know, this type of “triple-negative” breast cancer Carrie-Anne has is found mainly in African American or American Indian women under 40 – about 90% of all cases. She’s been defying the odds on this all along. And, by God’s grace, she still is today.

Peace,

Allan

Final Four

The cold caps, gloves, slippers, and eye masks have been placed in the freezer, Carrie-Anne’s medicine charts have been color-coded and reviewed,¬† and we are ready for tomorrow’s next phase of her chemotherapy treatments. As ready, I guess, as we can be. Medical professionals and breast cancer survivors call what Carrie-Anne is receiving tomorrow the “Red Devil.” The chemo cocktail is red in color and bad to the bone. The side effects are typically much worse and longer lasting, the impact to one’s heart and digestive system is more dangerous and, overall, it makes the patient feel really bad. All we’ve heard about this treatment is bad. C-A will be taking many pills before and after each of these infusions to mitigate the side effects – several pills every day over these two months. They’ve prepared us for the worst. And, yes, we’re a little anxious about it.

We’re refusing to call it “Red Devil.” We’re just calling it the Final Four.

The first infusion is tomorrow and a booster follows on Saturday, then two weeks later another infusion and booster, another treatment two weeks after that, and the fourth and final infusion two weeks later. We’ll be finished with it all June 16.

We are both grateful to our Lord for the relative ease with which C-A has endured the initial twelve-weeks of chemotherapy. The side effects have been minimal and short-lived. It’s almost become – dare I say – routine. But these next few weeks are going to be a different story. We are both committed to what’s in front of us, trusting in our God, and confident in our doctors and in the Lord’s care. We are thankful for the love and support of our family and our brothers and sisters at GCR Church.

Thank you for keeping up with us on this and for your prayers on our behalf and the continuous encouragement. May our Lord’s will be done in us and through us tomorrow and for the next eight weeks just as it is in heaven.

Peace,

Allan

Fifty-Five and Fine

Happy Birthday to my darling wife who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. This is one talented, dependable, compassionate, and determined chick. She is stronger than ever, she is inspiring everyone who knows her, she is impacting the lives of dozens of kids, and she belongs to our Lord Jesus. She is funny and fiercely loyal and she has her own dance. She is high maintenance in the most non-traditional ways. Carrie-Anne is hot-natured, a little¬† impulsive, and very forgiving. And by God’s grace, she is mine. And I love her with all my heart.

Choosing to Hear

Happy San Jacinto Day!

Today was the last day of Carrie-Anne’s “Dirty Dozen,” the name I’ve given to the first stage of her chemotherapy treatments: twelve straight infusions on twelve consecutive Fridays. The cold caps are working – so far, I’ve lost more hair over these twelve weeks than she has. We’re diligently rotating the caps for the full eight hours, keeping them at -30 to -35-degrees below zero, to keep her scalp frozen so the blood won’t carry the poison to her hair follicles. By God’s grace, it’s working. And the side effects have been minimal and short-lived each week.

We’re getting this next week off as a break between the first and second stages of her treatment. Then on May 5, we’ll begin what I’m calling the Final Four: four infusions of what everybody else calls the “Red Devil.” One infusion every other week through June 16. This is what everybody says is going to be the hard part. Evidently the side effects are much worse. Maybe. Maybe not. We’re choosing to be grateful for our Lord’s strength and mercy to us over the past few months and confident in his provision for us going forward.

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Another truth or principle to consider as we engage the topic of hearing God is that a person must choose to hear the Lord’s voice. It’s the most important part of this. You have to make the decision to grow in your desire and your capacity to hear God.

What did you say back when everybody had CB radios? “You got your ears on?” You have to put on your spiritual ears and tune them in.

When you go to church, do you walk into the sanctuary expecting to hear the voice of the Living God? Church is one of the very best times and places to hear God. But you have to make the choice.

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen, rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” ~Ecclesiastes 5:1-2

When you go to church, God might have something to say, so, as the New Living Translation puts it, “keep your ears open and your mouth shut.” If you’re more comfortable with the King James Version, it says “sitteth down and shutteth up.”

Jesus says, “The one who has ears to hear, let him hear!” God’s choice, his will, is to give you spiritual ears. Your choice is whether or not you’re going to use them.

In Luke 10, Jesus is at Martha’s house. Martha’s running around trying to get dinner ready and Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet in a posture of listening. Why? Because Jesus is talking!

Martha’s unloading the dishwasher, putting out guest towels, dusting the ceiling fans – she “was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” She complains to the Lord, “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

I think Jesus very gently, but very firmly, tells Martha: “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This past week, when did God have your total, complete, undivided attention? How many times this month have you just sat down with Jesus and listened? I know things have to be unloaded and put away and cleaned up and dusted; I know there are things to do. But when’s the last time you chose to listen to God?

Peace,

Allan

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