Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back at Home

I was discharged from Karmanos yesterday at 2pm and am now resting/recovering in the comfort of our home. Thankfully I was able to get some good sleep last night and I've had a great appetite. Deb, my brothers Chuck and Steve, my sister Meg, and I enjoyed Chinese take-out from a favorite restaurant of mine. I don't think I could have handled any more hospital food trays.

The twins greeted me with hugs and kisses when we pulled into the driveway, which was just amazing. Landon held my hand while walking me up to the front door. They both thought that my head dressing was hilarious (think massive white turban). I showed them the stitches on my head and Landon exclaimed "why does your head look like a baseball?" Funny, but true (I'll put some photos up later). I have swelling around the incision site which should go away within a week. The stitches will come out on June 9th.

The follow up MRI showed the surgery site to been clean of cancer. My surgeon couldn't see any evidence of disease in the scans. There is a small spot above my left eye (<0.5cm) that the radiation team will look at but it will not require a surgical procedure. It would be a few weeks before any radiation treatment occurs (if it is necessary at all).

I feel blessed that the surgery went well and the recovery has been better than I expected. Hopefully this will give me relief over the next weeks/months to enjoy life as full as I can.

Thanks again to everyone for your love and support.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

When you hear of someone having brain surgery you would think because of the seriousness of it, recovery would take a long time, but we are finding that is not the case. Nate was in the ICU for the first night after the surgery and woke up hungry and wanting to watch SportsCenter. By 4 in the afternoon he was transferred back to Karmanos and we were told we would most likely be sent home in the next 24 hours! We were shocked to hear this and excited at the same time. A doctor just came in and took off Nate's head bandage, which revealed a scar starting at the front of his ear, goes up the side of his head, then curves back down forming a question mark shape. Nate is feeling well and hopes to return home today. Thank you for your continued prayers and words of encouragement.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surgery Complete

Nate's surgery was completed by about 4pm. The doctors said it went as expected and they removed a large portion of the tumor. Nate is going to spend the night in the ICU here at Detroit Receiving and will most likely complete his recovery on the 5th floor of Karmanos where we have spent the last 6 days. When they took me back to see him he was awake and breathing on his own. His head is wrapped with a thick white bandage that covers his ears so I have to speak loudly for him to hear me. He was able to speak shortly after coming out of surgery, but it took a lot of effort. He feels pressure where the surgery was performed, but no pain other than a sore and swollen throat left from the ventilator tube.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We have elected to do surgery

To all of my dear friends supporting us in their thoughts and prayers-

After weighing all of the pros and cons of each of my options regarding treatment of the brain metastasis discovered last weekend, we have elected to have the tumor surgically removed. We had hoped to have this procedure done by now, but due to the holiday weekend we were not able to schedule this until Thursday (28-May) at 8am. Please ask the Lord to guide the surgeon's hands in this delicate procedure that in total will last between 4 and 6 hours. Deb will take the reigns of updating everyone, hopefully just until I have regained the strength to share after my recovery.

We have received such over-whelming support from so many friends and family to help us navigate this difficult time. I firmly believe that prayers lifted for wisdom, grace, mercy, and hope have guided Deb and I to this decision. Of course there are very dangerous risks associated with this surgery, but we trust in God's love and I have comfort knowing that on the other side of this procedure I'll either see those I hold near and dear here on earth or I'll be in Christ's kingdom re-united with the Lord and loved ones who have gone before me.

I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your caring support. I have trouble finding adequate words to explain how many of your blog comments and personal emails have lifted our spirits.

In His Love,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The cancer has metasticised to my brain

Over the past week Nate has had headaches during sleeping hours that would subside soon after waking up. On Friday his headache worsened as the day progressed so we paged our oncologist who recommended an immediate MRI (brain scan), which required us to go to the Karmanos ER. We arrived at the ER around 2:30pm and Nate was treated with a steroid to reduce the swelling in the brain. Fortunately his headache subsided about one half hour after getting the steroid drug (Decadron) and he finally was taken for the MRI at 10pm. The scan showed a large tumor (4x4x5cm)behind his right eye near the back of his skull, sitting on top of the right hemisphere of his brain. He was admitted to Karmanos and was taken up to a room at 2am.

On Saturday we met with a team of neurosurgeons who showed us the scans and gave us information on various options to treat the brain tumor.

1) I can have the tumor surgically removed which will required a sizable hole drilled through my skull. This method will enable the neurosurgeons to remove approximately 90% of my brain tumor b/c the last 10% would potentially damage healthy brain mass and critical blood vessels for proper blood flow to my brain. Unfortunately leaving this amount of cancer will likely result in the tumor continuing to grow. Unfortunately tumor growth in the brain tends to be fairly rapid for Melanoma cancer. The recovery time for this surgery would be 2-3 days in the hospital.
2) Following surgery I would have the option of high dose targeted radiation (gamma knife) to kill off remaining cancerous material. More frequent subsequent MRI scans would determine if additional radiation is necessary. The tumor size must be small for the gamma knife technology. None of my other tumors are eligible for surgery or radiation treatments for various reasons. The risk of high dose radiation is that healthy cells in my brain utilized for motor function and healthy blood flow could also be damaged which could cause numerous health issues
3) My final option would be to use medication like steroids and pain killers to manage the headaches and brain swelling, but this would not reduce the size or slow the growth of the brain tumor. The neurosurgeon's best guess would be 1 to 3 months before I would drop into a coma from the pressure on my brain stem if I went this route.

The latest CT scans (neck to abdomen) from 2 weeks ago showed that the mets in my liver and lungs are still growing, so I am no longer taking the phase 1 clinical drug. At this point there really aren't many systemic (i.e. root cause) options for the treatment of my cancer. I have tried multiple conventional and alternative therapies each of which offered approximately a 10% chance of effectiveness.

We obviously have a difficult choice to make regarding how to treat this new tumor in my brain, since we most likely won't be treating my cancer systemically it is likely that the tumors in my liver, lungs, and brain will continue to grow. Please pray for us to have wisdom in our decision and that which ever route we choose that the best possible treatment will be delivered by the medical team. We will likely make our decision in the next few days, once things settle after the holiday weekend.

Thanks to all who continue to let us know how loved and cared for we are. I wish I had the energy to answer all of your thoughtful messages individually, but please know that each and every one of your notes and responses to my blog lift our spirits and touch our hearts.

God bless,
Nate and Deb

Monday, May 11, 2009

Relay For Life May 16-17

Hi! I will be participating in Relay For Life again this year and wanted to see if you might be interested in coming along side me in this fight against cancer.

Last year with the support of family and friends I raised $1500! I hope to equal that this year.

Relay For Life is a wonderful community event that raises money to combat this disease and to spread awareness about how we can protect ourselves from cancer. It is a fun-filled event that brings together people of all ages to camp-out and take turns walking around a track for 24 hours to signify that cancer never sleeps. It's a time of celebrating those who have battled the disease, remembering those who have died and a chance to fight back against a disease that takes too much from too many.

Together, we will celebrate, remember, and fight back!

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Friday, May 1, 2009

How cancer has influenced my faith

Cancer is not only a physical battle but also an emotional and spiritual journey. Commonly, at diagnosis, cancer patients will ponder why this has happened to them. Many who believe in God will wonder why He would allow such a terrible thing to occur. This often either leads to a resentment of God or spiritual growth in trying to connect closer to Him.

Of course cancer isn't the only cause of pain and suffering that leads to these type of questions and responses. It could be the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship with someone close to you, or maybe a financial hardship.

One of the leaders in my church asked me to share how my experience had influenced my relationship with God. A link to my video interview is below.

Nate Trask Interview from John Miller on Vimeo.

Love to you all,