Maybe That's Why They Call It "Practice"

Posted on July 26, 2018.

It has been over three months since the last of 28 radiation treatments, and so far there have been no positive results from it.  That’s highly unusual, but it happens sometimes, the docs say.  Maybe this is why they call what doctors do “practice.”  In this case, the radiation treatments were a swing and a miss.

My most recent CT scan showed a further thickening of the esophagus in places, which could be due either to tumor growth or tissue damage and inflammation from the radiation.  Whatever the cause, swallowing has become even more difficult.  I’m able to take only very small sips of clear liquids, and virtually all of my nutrition comes by way of a feeding tube that was installed since I last posted.  At least the feeding tube has allowed me to take in enough calories to level off the weight loss, and we’ve been working at increasing the caloric intake further.  When the digestive system is so inactive for so long, you can’t just start throwing 2,000 calories a day at it.  I’ve had to work up to it, but I’m getting about 1800 calories a day now, and will be speaking with a dietician next week about increasing that.  Of course, the hope all along was that as the damage and inflammation from radiation treatments healed, I’d be able to take in more calories by mouth, but that simply hasn’t happened yet. 

Further, that troublesome CEA number is inching up again (to 11.2), which indicates some cancer growth somewhere, so tomorrow I will be speaking with the oncologist about changing strategies altogether.  The proposal will be to stop the Herceptin treatments, along with the Xeloda chemotherapy that we suspended several weeks ago since it would have delayed healing from radiation damage, and to replace those therapies with an immunotherapy regimen. 

So please pray with me 1) that the immunotherapy will be effective at attacking the cancer wherever it is growing, 2) that any new or different side effects will be manageable, 3) and that I would get to where I can swallow significantly again (both for caloric intake and for just the blessing of being able to – you have no idea what a blessing it is to take a nice long drink when thirsty, or to be able to eat when hungry!). 

The church has been extremely kind and accommodating.  Because of the extreme exhaustion and the nausea and other gastronomical adventures that can present themselves without a moment’s notice, I’ve preached only three times since Mother’s Day.  Our sister Free Churches in Knoxville, Two Rivers Church and Fellowship Church, have put us in touch with good teachers like David Hooie, Joe Bubar, and R.D. McClenagan (with more Fellowship staff scheduled to preach in August); our old friend Larry Stamm has stood in for me a couple of times; and our good friend Paul Boling from Bryan College will be preaching the next couple of weeks.  I preached the last two Sundays, if you can call teaching from a wing-back chair on the platform preaching – the sermons are online at the church website – you decide. 

Thank you for your prayers.