Thursday, July 29, 2010

Post #10

Mark has decided that the projected results are not favorable enough to undergo chemotherapy.   Quality of life is important - especially if you want to use your time with family and finishing up important projects.   Chemo which is hoped to increase your life by 3-6 months, but which will make you exhausted and nauseated, does not promote the quality of life Mark desires.

That does not mean that Mark has given up - quite the contrary!    We are doing everything we can to boost his immune system, and his body seems to be responding.     He has also received several Priesthood blessings and many, many of you are keeping him in your prayers.   We are encouraged and hopeful and grateful.

We have enjoyed immensely the visits from all of Mark's eleven children who are spread far and wide across this continent.   How fortunate and blessed we are!

We so appreciate your continued prayers on our behalf.    Please keep up the good work - we believe it is working!

Love, Laurel

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Addendum to Mark's "Last Testimony"

As of today, July 11, 2010, I am a five-week cancer survivor, and I’m still learning lessons of life.  When I am not unworthy, the Spirit of God is my constant companion and comfort, but I don’t always feel it with the same intensity.  On two occasions in the past five weeks, however, I have felt the Love of God in an overwhelming way.  One of those occasions was the afternoon of June 10, when I wrote my ‘Last Testimony’ which Laurel posted in an earlier message.  The other special occasion was the morning of Saturday, June 20, the day of the annual local city parade.  I went outside to see Laurel, who was waiting to watch the parade, and two sisters from the Second Ward told me, “You look really good; you are glowing.”   I don’t know what was externally visible to them, of course, but I know I was glowing internally with an overwhelming sense of God’s love for me.  Here’s what I learned from reflecting on these two experiences:

*When you’re wrapped in the arms of God’s love, it’s impossible to feel sorry for yourself—you just can’t do it.  The love of God is fulfilling—it eliminates grievances and douses feelings of deprivation.  

*When  you’re in the love of God, you can’t feel resentment toward others, or hostility to anyone.   When you are loved so completely and unreservedly, all you can do is respond in kind.   It’s simple: when you’re loved by God, you want others to be loved, too.

*When you’re in the love of God, you can’t be critical of others, only generous and forgiving.  Now, I’ve been guilty all my life of sins—large and small, both of commission and omission.  But in the time I spent caught up in the love of God, I heard nothing of that.  Instead, it was all positive:  I was shown the good things I’d done and all I wanted was to do more.  Instead of being reminded of my weaknesses and doubts, I was reminded of what I’d done to receive ‘a testimony,’ the Holy Spirit’s witness of the truth, and the times I’d been faithful to that truth.  Now, there may yet be a time for judgment.  But that judgment is sure to be based on a complete inventory of, and generous assessment of, all my strengths and accomplishments.  Most importantly, it will be done with love, based on the love of God for me.

*When you’re in the love of God, you can’t blame others because you can feel only gratitude in response.  There’s nothing to blame anyone for—everything is good!  When what you have is not just sufficient but abundant, actually in surplus, you can’t complain.  And you want to share, to be generous with others, when you are faced with such plentitude.

*When you’re in the love of God, there’s no need to sin.  I’ve learned, not from God’s love but from life, that we mortals sin because we nurse petty grievances, and justify ourselves in favored self-indulgences even though we know, in our better moments, that they not good for us, that they hurt, or cause us to neglect, others—in other words, that they are wrong.  So, everybody who sins has an excuse.  When we believe our own excuses, we are trapped; lying to others is bad, but it’s the lies you tell yourself and believe that destroy  your happiness and cripple you—all this I learned from living life outside the love of God.  What I learned from being inside that love on these two occasions is that we don’t need any of this—we can do without our grievances, our self-justification and our excuses, and be happy.

Now, I know that these five points are not mere illusions because my experience has changed me.  Since being in the love of God on these two recent occasions (which were a renewal of a few previous such experiences), I have lost my self-pity and hostility, I feel to be less critical of others, do not feel the need to blame others, or to indulge myself in sin.  I’m not yet perfected in these ways but I can see the change clearly, and that’s how I know these things are true, and the Love of God is real. May you feel it, too!     Mark

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Post #8

Today, July 9th, we spent the afternoon in the Huntsman Cancer Center.   It is everything it is advertised to be.   The staff is absolutely kind and helpful; the facility is beautiful and state-of-art; there is a library full of resources for patients and their families.   Each patient is assigned a team of professionals, including a social worker who is charged with getting the patient any needed emotional, spiritual and social support.    Of course we told the social worker that we had an amazing network of supportive friends and family.   We are so blessed!

The tumor was C-kit negative, which means that Gleevec (which has the best success rate of all options) will not be effective against Mark's particular form of melanoma.    And I guess that is the really bad news:   Mark's type of melanoma is rare, having started in the mucosal membranes.   There are not nearly as many options for treatment as with the usual type of melanoma.     At stage IV, the doctors say that it is not curable, but that it can be treated.   Treatments are hoped to extend life a few more months.

The next step is to do a BRAF test on the tumor.    BRAF (whatever kind of chemo that is) is the next best choice; it shrinks a tumor in 70% of patients, but the tumor generally comes back in 7-9 months.   Other possible chemo drugs proposed have a history of shrinking tumors in 15% of patients, with a re-occurance of tumor growth in 3-6 months.  Doesn't sound very promising to me, and the thought of having nausea and other side effects for so little gain doesn't sound like a good trade-off.    

Additionally, Dr. Grossman ordered more of some of the same kinds of scans and tests done last month.    He wants to see if there is any change in the spot found on the spleen.   If it has grown, then the idea is that the cancer has spread and surgery would be pointless.   If it has shrunk, then Dr. Grossman would question whether or not the spot found on the spleen is actually the cancer (I would say it is all the good nutrition and Mark's body fighting back).   In that case (deciding it is not cancer), they will proceed to test a spot found on the thyroid, which could actually be a nodule commonly found on people without cancer.    If both spots turn out not to be cancerous, then the proposal would be to do a radical surgery, removing much of Mark's natural plumbing, along with lymph nodes and surrounding tissue.    Of course, it is yet to be seen if Mark would  agree to all of that.   My own gut feeling is that the thyroid spot is not cancerous, but that the spleen is.   However, I would not be surprised to find that the spleen spot has shrunk because we are fighting hard to stimulate Mark's immune response. 

To summarize what I think the doctor said today:   1)  Mark's best chance at survival is if the cancer really isn't stage IV and hasn't spread as far as originally thought.   They are willing to do more tests before they rule that out.   If the new tests show that Mark is at a lesser stage, they would want to cut out as much tissue as possible, which would mean a colon bag and possibly five more years.    2)  If Mark is really at a State IV, then they would propose a few (limited choices available) chemo options which may add a few months  to the year or so they think he has without treatment.   3)  Mark should eat whatever he really likes, because it is important that he keep from loosing weight and besides, he should do what makes him happy and comfortable.   In other words,  "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow . . . .".

In spite of the very bad news, I really liked the doctor and all of the rest of the team.   They really seemed to care and I liked the fact that they were honest and straight-forward in approach.    However, I believe there is another side to the story - and that is that Mark seems to be doing better.   He has more energy, he no longer deals with bleeding, his color is better and some of the melanoma spots which I have personally observed have disappeared.    These new tests may confirm my own observations. 

I've said it before, and I really mean it - I truly believe in miracles.   I believe they can come in answer to prayer, provided that it is in the Lord's plan.    I also believe that we need to do our part.   And that is just what we are doing, praying and changing diet and doing whatever else we can to support and encourage Mark's body to heal.   Mark is in the care of the Great Physician and we trust Him with all of our hearts.    We will also accept whatever His will is for our lives because we know and trust that He will continue to love and bless us in the ways that are best for us.     Please continue to pray for us - we so appreciate and need your love and support.     Love,   Laurel