I received this update in late December, but forgot to post it immediately. I thought I’d put it up now, though. Thank you, as always, for keeping our family in your prayers. As you’ll see from this note from my uncle, things are not as bleak as we thought they were in late November.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, all!
First, time out for some necessary detail regarding our address:
Some of our mail has arrived with an incorrect address on it (some of the numbers on the street address having been incorrect). I assume that some has not made it, too, esp. mail that hits town when our regular letter carrier is not working. The correct address is:
Now for the purpose of this note.
Time flies. It’s been a while since I sent out an update on B******’s health situation, so here goes. It contains some early, discouraging news, some recent, encouraging news, and a miracle that we experienced in between.
First, the early, bad news. B***** had an MRI scan on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Three days later, we enjoyed Thanksgiving at our son S******’s house. Along with our boys, our daughter-in-law K******, and our grandson A******, we enjoyed the company of B******’s brother A**** who’d flown in from Arizona and her brother G****, his wife G********, and his son B***** who’d flown in from Maryland. That was a good day.
The next day, Friday, was lousy. B****** was an inpatient at the rehab facility at that time (she’d been readmitted in order to reverse a trend of weight and strength loss), and we were visited by the neurosurgeon, Dr. F, who had reviewed the results of the MRI. He gave us a very discouraging diagnosis, saying that the tumor had grown, that the illness was progressing, and that B******* had a handful of months to live. He suggested three options: doing nothing, allowing nature to take its course; looking into experimental chemotherapy protocols at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston; and performing additional, desperation surgery to buy time.
As you might imagine, we were devastated by this news. We left rehab a few days earlier than planned, since there was really no motivation to continue rehab when survival was unlikely.
We went to see the oncologist at ********* Cancer Center the following Tuesday, and then scheduled a visit to MD Anderson for the following Tuesday.
Now for some encouraging news… At MD Anderson, we saw Dr. Alfred Yung who’s head of the Brain and Spine Center. He reviewed all the scans that had been done, including the one that had been performed two weeks earlier (the one that Dr. F had evaluated prior to giving us very discouraging news), and said that he wished we had additional scans so that he could determine what was going on with the tumor. This struck me as surprising and encouraging, because I expected him to confirm Dr. F’s evaluation and give us suggestions as to “what’s next?” Instead of giving us bad news, he suggested having an MRI performed two weeks later so that he’d have two MRIs to compare, with a 4 week interval in between.
So, last week we went back to Houston for more scans – a PET scan on Monday and an MRI scan on Tuesday. After the MRI scan we again met with Dr. Yung, who said that he’d looked at the two most recent MRI scans and they were so similar that it was hard to tell them apart. We had received so much bad news over the past four months that this was unexpected so I asked him “Let me get this straight. This is good news, right?”
He agreed that it was. For my part, I realized that my hope and prayer had been answered – that Dr. Yung’s non-reaction two weeks earlier (esp. since he is the brain cancer specialist who sees this stuff all day and all week long) was correct and that Dr. F’s diagnosis wasn’t. Basically, four weeks of non-spreading of the tumor just wasn’t consistent with Dr. F’s opinion.
The PET scan showed that the cancer is still present, since it was not possible for all of it to be removed during July’s surgery.
Dr. Yung presented several alternative chemotherapy treatments but clearly was encouraging us to follow an experimental approach that is more aggressive than the standard treatment. We decided to follow one that combines the earlier medicine (Temodar) with an additional one (Accutane) at a dosage and schedule that’s different from the standard approach. Because of pharmacy-related Murphy’s Law problems, B****** started the Temodar on Monday and the Accutane Thursday.
B******* is feeling fine, although she’s frequently tired. Her appetite has returned, coincident with a recovery of her sense of taste (which had been adversely affected by the radiation treatment), and as a result she has regained almost all the weight that she lost a couple or so months ago. She generally gets a good night’s sleep, too.
Now for the miracle. The Saturday following our having received the bad news from Dr. F, we decided to ignore the lousy, rainy weather and to attend Confession and then Mass at our church, St. ******. Prior to the Mass, people who arrive early recite the Rosary as a group. We were sitting at the front of the church along with B*****’s brother A*****, saying the Rosary along with everyone else, when I was struck by a sweet fragrance of flowers. I looked around to see where it had come from but just couldn’t identify a source. Perhaps 10 seconds later, I noticed the same fragrance but again I was unable to find a source. About 5 minutes later the Rosary ended and Mass began. When Mass was over we returned to the car (in the midst of a continuing downpour) and headed toward home. Less that a block from church, B****** told me that she’d had the strangest experience, in that she’d smelled roses during the recitation of the Rosary. At first, it didn’t sink in so I said “what?” When she repeated it, I was filled with such happiness that I started crying. I realized that the flowers I’d smelled were roses, and I remembered that roses have long been associated with visions and other events related to Our Lady. B****** had also looked around (as I had, independently) to see where the scent had come from, but had been unable to identify the source. Although he had been sitting right next to me, A***** later was unable to recall having smelled any flowers, roses or otherwise.
B****** and I believe that the roses were Mary’s way of letting us know that she’d heard our prayers. It wasn’t the parting of the Red Sea, but just as that miracle was “right” for that situation, so were the roses “right” for us. Things are going to be OK, one way or another, for B******* and for the rest of us. The misery resulting from hearing the terrible prognosis just the day before was replaced by a feeling of peace and love. That’s carried us through the past several weeks and will continue to be one of our supports as we deal with B******’s illness.
Thanks so much to all of you for your help, your love, and your prayers. I wish we could thank you all individually, but that’s just not feasible. Please know that we do think of you and value you among the blessings that we have received.
Take care. Love, B******, B*****, and the boys
Side note: Those of you who read this blog regularly will recognize that story from a previous post. Thank you, again, for your prayers.
Footnote: For information on Mary and the Rosary, see this page at Catholic Answers. They also have a wealth of information about Mary and the Saints that you can access from this page. Catholics’ devotions to the Blessed Virgin are often misunderstood, but these pages can help shed light on the practice, and if you are perplexed over the subject (and the “praying to Mary” idea), I highly recommend looking at this information. Very often, non-Catholics make judgements on Catholic devotions based on faulty information; I’d recommend reading some good, Catholic teaching on the subjects to get an idea of what we believe about Mary and the Saints, though. Many misunderstandings can be cleared up this way.