The week of Thanksgiving, we received some devastating news: Corey’s cancer spread.
The technical term is called refractory. Basically, there were cancer cells in Corey’s body that did not respond at all to the chemotherapy he was receiving. Even though the major tumor shrunk and was removed, these tumors hung around and only grew. There were no signs or symptoms of the tumors. There was no explanation as to why one tumor shrunk while these festered and fed. But there they were: little grey spots, bringing with them weighted dread and uncertainty.
Yes, we had treatment options. The unfortunate news was that those treatments had about 50% chance of working. To Moffitt’s credit, they held strong with their dedication to fight for Corey. If one treatment didn’t work, they would move to another. By no means did the CT scan change their attitudes. But we also knew our journey through this storm just got extended, and we were headed for uncertain waters.
As you might be able to imagine, Thanksgiving was not the happiest of family gatherings for us. We were surrounded by family and people who loved and sympathized with us. But, for me, it was the most difficult week to get through. We still had so many questions and only inklings of any plans. We were told we had to wait until Monday before anything could be decided. And Monday decided to drag it’s feet.
When we finally met with Dr. Reed, he told us these were the things he hopes never happens, but he always prepares for. Prepared he was. Dr. Reed told us about an experimental study that showed very promising results. If Corey qualified, he would be receiving treatment likely to be more effective than any other treatments we discussed thus far.
This is how we ended up at St. Jude’s in Memphis, Tennessee.
Corey was accepted into the study conducted by Dr. Sara Federico, a previous protege of Dr. Reed’s. He would still be receiving the typical medicines for refractory or relapse cases, Irinotecan (I) and Temozolomide (T). The difference is the addition of a PARP inhibitor.
Simply, the chemotherapy would break the cancer cells’ DNA. Instead of having a PARP protein come in to fix the DNA, the inhibitor will allow the chemo to kill off the cancer cells completely. At least, that is the theory tested in mice and now being tested in people.
With acceptance into this study, additional tests and appointments were required. We flew into Memphis on Sunday, and since then have not stopped. Monday through Thursday was filled with back-to-back scans, doctor appointments, and waiting for the next scheduled appointment. Some of these tests brought good news: no cancer in Corey’s bone marrow or brain. Others brought more concern.
From what the initial CT scan showed, the cancer spread farther and faster than we thought. Not only is it in his lungs, but also surrounding his kidney, in the lymph nodes, and the lining of his lungs. There are no tumors nearly as big as the initial one. However, the wide spread of many small tumors means surgery would not be an option to remove any of them. The ones in the lining of his lung causes Corey to be short of breath and unable to take deep breaths.
I’m not going to lie: this situation terrifies me.
I never imagined my husband would have cancer. I certainly never imagined we would be in Memphis waiting to find out if this treatment is effective against the cancer. I feel like each time we have gained some sort of normalcy, we get upended again. But the doctors at Moffitt and St. Jude’s have never once given any indication this is the end. Dr. Reed assured us, while the trial may be our best option right now, it is not our last option.
For those of you following our journey, it may seem like the prognosis is terrible. To be here at St. Jude’s means there is still hope and there is still chances for Corey. A plethora of chances.
The important thing to remember is we still have hope. We are still fighting. This set back is just that. While I may be scared and question why this is happening, I know my husband will continue on until he beats this thing.
From refractory to recovered.
“Right now your life may be playing out in a way you never wished for. And you want out. Not even just out of your situation, but out of the haze that’s keeping you from seeing your purpose and leaving you to the prison of your doubts and insecurities. And how can anyone blame you?”
“But we serve a God of purpose and pain is part of a journey. Many times it’s much bigger than us, but He never wastes a hurt. He never wastes a season – even the darkest. In fact, He will restore you and your greatest ministry just may arise from this pit.”
– Brittney Moses