Evidence of Brain Metastasis
"Four punctate enhancing brain lesions, suspicious for metastatic lesions," the study result indicated from the MRI and PET. For 2.5 years, I've been walking around with enhancing brain lesions. I did know of the one discovered in May of 2017. That's why my oncologist at the University of Michigan placed me on Alectinib chemotherapy. Two tumors in May 2017 (one larger than the other) were noticeable because they showed up on a CT scan. By July 2017 enhancing lesions became significantly less conspicuous without evidence of new or enlarging intracranial masses. For whatever reason, the University of Michigan Cancer Center had only done one MRI on May 2015 as part of a clinical trial study. At that time, my lung cancer had not metastasized to the brain, and Crizontinib chemotherapy was working well. Unfortunately, I withdrew from the clinical trial AT1338 due to significant side effects that hindered my quality of life. But be it as it may, from September 2017 through June 2019, University of Michigan Cancer Center (by CT scan reports) reported NED, meaning No Evidence of Disease while on treatment. Based on Stanford University Healthcare, there is evidence of disease. And more importantly, we don't know how long the brain tumors have been there since the last MRI at the University of Michigan on May 2015.
As of September 2019 (about two years later), there are four punctate enhancing lesions and enlarged bilateral intraparotid and cervical lymph nodes. My Stanford Health Care Team all met in full force yesterday, October 1, 2019, ready to serve. Yes, I began progressing on April 22, 2017, with CT head showed multiple lesions in the supra and infratentorium. These lesions were 5-9 mm. But on Alectinib they never disappeared. They shrunk; this confirms that Alectinib chemotherapy is still working. Those are just the ones we know about based on a CT scan. But today the lesions are there, and I feel fine. A team of doctors wanted to see for themselves. A neurological examination concluded that I'm conversant, pleasant, cooperates with the exam. I'm also fluent in comprehension, naming, and repetition intact. In short, I am neuro intact and asymptomatic, even with four tumors and enlarged lymph nodes. Is this a miracle?
Miracles are Everywhere
First, let's define a miracle. A miracle is a noun, meaning a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency. So, yes, even this part of my cancer journey is a miracle. You'd have to know the whole story to even understand. I've decided to write a book called "Hope. It Will Not End with My Death". In this book, you'll find a positive approach to facing trauma in life. The book, packed with illustrations, medical reports, strategies, and the blessed Word of God will encourage any seeking to overcome any trial or tribulation. I would argue that my very walking around with brain tumors is not the only miracle.
Despite the questionable use of the term NED by the University of Michigan for the past few years, I still believe those doctors there were a godsend to me. The timing of my diagnosis and the release of next-generation chemotherapies at certain times was spot on when I needed it. Period. There was nothing in the cancer world for the advanced disease I've been diagnosed with, and I should have been dead and buried in my grave in 2014.
Furthermore, how God used my circumstances and led me to Stanford University Healthcare is nothing short of a phenomenon. My state-of-the-art patient, health care team, is Dr. Neal, Medical Oncologist; Dr. Gibbs, Radiation Oncologist; and Dr. Li, Neurosurgeon. I have not yet met Dr. Pollum, Radiation Oncologist, but she too is part of the team. Together, we've decided to hold off on cyberknife SRS at this time and repeat MRI in three months. If there are any new or enlarging lesions, we will treat them at that time. This procedure or treatment is my new normal in my cancer journey. Thanks to doctors like Dr. Gibbs, she helped to invent the Cyberknife Stereotactic Radiosurgery. From now on, every time those brain lesions pop up I know, there's a treatment for it. Praise God! Cyberknife SRS is my new standard of care for a while, maybe years even. That's a miracle.
Enjoying Toasted Marshmallows and Life
There is no cure for my disease, but in hope and with faith in Christ Jesus, I know that I'm not giving up now. "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13) I didn't know how to handle my heart when I would still have these dreams and goals that I wanted to accomplish. My mind was saying one thing, and my brain was attacking me with tumors that have metastasized. I wrestled with survivor's guilt for too long. But I didn't know what was next. I decided to face fear and respond to God's call. I asked God, "What if I die during this next assignment in my life?" He questioned back, "What if you LIVE?" My obedient response now is, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: night cometh when no man (or woman) can work." (John 9:4 KJV)
I am enjoying life right now and am working passionately on a variety of projects that are meaningful and purposed. I will most certainly not dwell on brain tumors. I will eat toasted marshmallows tonight with my grandkids and thank God for all that He has done. I pray continually for the doctors and patients and the advancements made daily. Whatever your faith, color, or creed cancer is not prejudice. Another divine agency (miracle) is that we are living in a country where many walks of life are coming together to help conquer cancer and invent tools and medicines to do so. So, have a marshmallow, and trust God to do what He does best, perform miracles.