Journey with cancer 6 June 2012 – the good, the bad and the ugly

Dear family and friends

feetI’m sitting on my favourite bed, in my favourite room, writing to my favourite people! We’ve just got home from another visit to our oncologist. These are always anxious times and I tend to get fairly stressed around each visit. We were keen to learn about the results of my CT scan on Monday and to talk about what happens next. I’d been feeling more unwell than usual over the past week and we had a few questions to ask.

The good news is that the primary lung cancer has continued to reduce in size. This is a cause for rejoicing and I thank God for the positive benefits of the chemo. The shrinkage is unexpected, given that I’ve been on a maintenance chemo program and we were simply hoping to keep things in check. Six months ago the tumour was 26mm in diameter and it’s now shrunk to only 12mm. It makes me wonder if it can’t keep getting smaller until it vanishes altogether! However, the oncologist doesn’t see this happening and there are other factors involved. Seems bizarre to be held to ransom by something the size of a marble!

The bad news is that there is now clearer evidence of metastases. The cancer isn’t all in one place. Nothing new since the last scans, but evidence of the spread of cancer nonetheless. It would be so good if all the cancer was contained in the one tumour and all they needed to do was operate. Just cut it out! No more cancer! Clean bill of health! Sadly, this isn’t my story. Chemotherapy is designed to attack the cancer wherever it pops up, even in the places you can’t see, and thankfully it seems to have been doing it’s job pretty well.

This brings me to the ugly. Chemo has it’s side-effects and they can be pretty nasty. I’ve catalogued the various symptoms previously. Nausea, constipation, aching, skin rashes, lethargy, and so on, are all pretty standard. At least I’ve got my hair! But, I’ve begun to experience another effect that we need to take seriously… peripheral neuropathy. I get a burning sensation on the soles of my feet and palms of my hands, and it’s been getting worse in the last week or so. It’s a bit like pins and needles and makes my feet and hands feel tingly, hot and heavy. I walked into town the other day and had so much pain in my feet that I considered getting a taxi home. It’s been very concerning because walking is the easiest exercise for me to keep up.

While not a common side effect from my treatment, some patients do experience neuropathy in varying degrees. If ignored, it can leave severe and lasting damage. It’s resulted in some people becoming housebound or confined to a wheelchair.

Our oncologist is concerned by my symptoms and he’s recommended we cease the chemotherapy for a couple of cycles to see if the neuropathy improves. This will mean dropping Alimta, but continuing with the Avastin (which is not a chemo drug). I’m learning more and more that my treatment is a balancing act. You get wins in one area while accepting losses in another. I just want a lot more wins than losses! I’d love to keep charging on, bashing the cancer as hard as I can cope with, but it seems that I’ve found one of my limits already.

If you’re one who prays, then please speak to God about me over the next few weeks. We’d love the respite in chemo to clear up any symptoms of neuropathy AND we don’t want the cancer to grow or spread in this period. I hope this isn’t too much to ask for!

Thank you again for your support and for sharing this journey with us,

With love, Dave (and Fiona)

25 thoughts on “Journey with cancer 6 June 2012 – the good, the bad and the ugly”

  1. You are a brave man Dave. Keep on looking at the ultimate Goal and that is your salvation in Jesus Christ. All in Christ will see a time where there is no pain and an eternity to dwell with God and fellow ones of God’s elect. Your story of courage is being told in many churches worldwide.
    Steven Scott

  2. I am mobilizing other students from the seminary here in Kenya Highlands Evangelical University to pray for you. I strongly believe that God will heal you and see you through.

  3. Hi brother, feeling (a little bit of) it with you. The heaviness is palpable. It’s a pity you write so well because you are able to communicate the gravity of it all. But thank you for being transparent. Can appreciate the rubbish skin stuff. Read Psalm 1 and Isaiah 1 this morning. It’s clear that the temptation is to run from thinking God can do what He says. Isaiah 1 is testimony to the fact that He can and will! I’ll be praying the Father keeps you (and Fiona) from temptation and sticking to His realized and potent Word in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  4. My sister and I are praying hard for you. Keep up the spirit and your wonderful courage.

  5. Hey Dave, praising God for the continued shrinking! Asking that it may continue and that the neuropathy will be resolved by the treatment change and/or by His powerful hand!

  6. Thanks for the update Dave. Just me in a room, like your room, surrounded by books, praying that the respite in chemo will clear up any symptoms of neuropathy. Also praying for you still to know joy and God’s kindness while you battle through the various types of treatment. Also praying for Fiona and your kids as they deal with this in their own way. Trevor

  7. Dear Dave, sorry to hear about the neuropathy. I’m currently undergoing chemo for breast cancer and am quite fearful of getting it! Isn’t it awful that you become increasingly aware of all the nasty side effects….that you didn’t know about when you agreed to start chemo? I read about using L-Glutamine as a treatment for avoiding as well as treating neuropathy. My cautious oncologist doesn’t want me to use it while on Chemo as it may interfere with the chemo drugs …but once off chemo it’s fine. You can google it and find out some more information. It’s available at the health store. It’s a cell builder, good for nerves…Regards, Tracy (friend of Neri and Shane)

    1. Thanks Tracy. We specifically avoided a particular drug so as to decrease the risks of peripheral neuropathy, but apparently about 3% get it on the drug we chose! Praying for a good outcome for you. Keep your trust in God who loves you. Dave

  8. Hi Dave and Fiona. It hurts to read your messages but it keeps me praying for you. Never too much to ask God for. So will do.
    Luv to you both Julie

  9. Hi Dave. Remarkable that God can use you for His purposes even while on your bed in your room undergoing treatment! I love your blog, and I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been praying for you and your family, and will continue praying.
    Stu from C3Church Watson Canberra

  10. Dave we never cease to pray for you, Fiona and your family. We rejoice in the ‘wins’ and pray for continuing ‘wins’ but pray also for the faith and strength to endure! Love and many strong prayers, Gail and Bill
    P.S Thank you for all that you have shared and continue to share with us all – we have in turn been able to share much with others.

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