So what’s new with our family?

“You know how you let yourself think that everything will be all right if you can only get to a certain place or do a certain thing. But when you get there you find it’s not that simple.” -Richard Adams, Watership Down.

Christen and I were in Houston, TX at MD Anderson the 5th-7th this month and were able to meet with a few key people – specialists who research Christen’s specific cancer which is more rare. The most exciting result for me is the reassurance we received from the endocrine oncologist  that the surgery Christen had at UofM was excellent and exactly what she needed; some people had been suggesting to Christen that she should have had a different, more aggressive surgery. We also saw excellent results from her blood draws saying that her thyroid levels are normal, that her calcium is normal, her CEA level (a cancer marker) was almost zero, and that her calcitonin level (specific marker to this cancer) was back to a normal, non-cancerous level at only 6 weeks post-surgery. Yay! This means that, from here on out, we just continue monitoring at regular intervals via ultrasound, CT scans and blood draws. Because the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes prior to surgery, the reoccurrence rate is usually around 40%. Overall, Christen feels a normal energy level returning when she gets adequate sleep and time to take care of herself. She has quite a bit of tingling in her face and extremities but since her calcium blood work shows a normal level, we suspect this may be due to nerve damage that occurred during surgery or something else.

We also began the genetic testing process in Houston. This was a fascinating meeting where Christen detailed all she knew about the medical history of her family. Christen’s uncle actually was diagnosed with thyroid cancer 7 years ago although we aren’t sure what kind of thyroid cancer it was. This is necessary because there is a less than 10% chance that Christen’s cancer is genetic, inferring Samuel and Ada would each have a 50% chance of inheriting the gene. We should have results back in four weeks or so to let us know if our kids and Christen’s family will also need to be tested. Finally, Christen had a post-surgery ultrasound which showed no further signs of cancer in her neck. Yeah!!!!
On the way back from Houston.

On the way back from Houston.

I have 3 more weeks of being in a huge walking boot that I cannot walk on and also cannot drive with. The first splint / cast they put on created a pressure ulcer in my heel, but I caught that early and so hopefully we warded it off before turning infectious. It just hurts when I move around a lot. In 3 weeks I will be able to drive and begin walking again, though I will need to continue using the boot for a few weeks while I do physical therapy. My foot doesn’t hurt much, it is just annoying. It is frustrating to see how much more Christen has to do because I can’t help as much around the house. I can’t wait to be able to pick up Ada again and chase Sam around the house. While it’s frustrating now, I know it will be well worth the result – allowing me to run and play soccer again without my foot hurting every day.

My – Tony – family has had a rough summer. My brother had surgery two weeks ago and was hospitalized  for 3 days due to complications. I was thankful to be able to be there with him and my dad for two of those days. My mother had a 6hr surgery last week at Mayo Clinic for a lesion on her pancreas – doctors were suspecting it could be pancreatic cancer. We were excited to learn that it wasn’t cancerous and although she will have a long recovery, she has been progressing very well. She will be back at home by the end of this week.

As Christen and I have talked with many friends and family, they have all heard us say that this has been a very stressful 5 months. While things are looking up medically, we still feel overwhelmed and are having a tough time getting back to normal not that it’s normal to have three surgeries in 6 weeks time. So we decided that before we head back to Turkey that we are going to a counseling and renewal retreat up in Michigan at the beginning of October. Our plan at this point is to head back overseas after that retreat. In the meantime, we are trying to get back to a healthy place in all areas as a family, maintain work commitments, and help our kids enjoy the summer.
We are staying in Indiana currently and will be making our way back up to West Michigan this weekend. We are so thankful that a friend has offered his furnished rental to us and it is available as of this weekend.

One of the highlights for me {Christen} was a long weekend away that we had with my family up near Detroit. We stayed at the home of our family friends while they were on vacation. Their hospitality allowed us to have a place to enjoy meals together, excursions to a small beach, a cute downtown to explore, and deck where we could stay up late talking about anything and everything. Unfortunately, this was right after Tony’s foot surgery so his experience of the weekend was a bit different than everyone else’s. Sam and Ada loved all the extra cousin and family time!
Another highlight for us, as a family, has been the amazing support we’ve received from our family and friends in the area of help with the kids, prepared meals, and a lot of encouraging notes and phone calls. Thank you for walking with us through this crazy time.