The C Word

I'm writing a post I never thought in a million years I'd be writing.  This blog has settled into a little place where I occasionally update my friends and family with cute pictures and goings on of our two adorable children (they are so adorable, aren't they?)  And here I am turning this into a place to share updates and connect with family about something we really really hope isn't as serious as it sounds right now.

Kevin has cancer.  There I said it.  We've talked a lot amongst each other and our immediate family for the last two weeks, but I haven't written it down and told anyone else.  Honestly, we've just been trying to figure it all out and see what the next step is and get him into the right doctors, etc.  But somehow, posting to this blog makes it more real.  I've resisted doing it, because I didn't have the right words.  I still don't have the right words.  Look at me, I'm rambling already.

Anyway, here's what's going on, and here's what happened.  Kevin has a type of skin cancer called melanoma.  Less than 10% of all skin cancers are melanoma, and we won the lottery in that respect because his melanoma appears to be a rather aggressive kind even more so than most melanomas.

Earlier this summer, I started noticing blood on his bed pillow.  It appeared to be from a cut Kevin had gotten on the skin beneath his left sideburn that just wasn't healing.  It took a while to get in to see a regular doctor, then a dermatologist (two tries for that one).  Once he did, they removed what appeared to be a very large mole and sent it to a lab.  Never in a million years had cancer crossed our mind.  I don't know why, honestly.  I guess you're supposed to think about that with moles that are changing size, bleeding, etc.  But we couldn't really see it under his sideburn and didn't really know how bad it looked.

The day we were leaving to go out of town, Kevin got a call that the lab reports had come back cancerous.  They scheduled an appointment for another doctor a week from then, and we continued on our trip, feeling confident that if it was really bad, they would have scheduled something for sooner.  We assumed he'd be meeting with another dermatologist type to have it completely removed in their office and have his whole body checked over and then we'd be on our merry way.  We were concerned, don't get me wrong, but again, the odds suggested that everything would be fine.  Most types of skin cancer are not dangerous and do not spread.

We didn't know until the appointment the following Monday that the cancer had was melanoma and that the doctor we were seeing was a surgical oncologist who wanted to schedule surgery as soon as possible.  We were still pretty stunned as we walked out of the office, trying to process everything we'd heard and still not freak out.  They had scheduled him for a major surgery with general anesthesia called a wide local excision.

It means that they will take out the whole melanoma lesion (which is only the size of a nickel right now, but rather thick) and an additional 2cm in all directions around the lesion.  In addition, they would perform a sentinel node biopsy to detect if the cancer had spread to any of his lymph nodes in that area.  If the cancer had spread, then they would remove all the lymph nodes in that area.

Normally, a sentinel node biopsy and a wide local excision are not very tricky to do, except, of course, on the face, and near the eye which is exactly where the lesion is for Kevin.  Because of this and because of encouragement from Kevin's uncle who had done a ton of research for us, we got transfered over to Emory's Winship Cancer Center where they have a whole team of people who work on melanoma.  We got in with another surgical oncologist this past Monday for a second opinion.  He agreed with everything the first doctor had said, including the urgency to get it out, but also explained to us why this melanoma is more serious than most.

The lesion is greater than 4mm in thickness above his skin, which suggests that it has grown equally thick down into his body, suggesting a possibility for spreading.  The lesion is ulcerated, which I believe is just a fancy way of saying it's bleeding.  It's bleeding because the cancer has grown so dense in that area that it has outgrown the blood supply so the skin can no longer keep up in that area.  And the lesion appears to have grown very quickly.

Honestly, hearing these things has scared the bejeesus out of us.  But they also encouraged us that we definitely made the right choice by moving over to Emory.  The team over there are some of the best in the nation and this doctor is a leader in his field.  This is a huge blessing to give us peace.  We have surgery scheduled for Kevin for next Thursday, November 3rd at Emory Midtown.  After the surgery, there will be a few days of recovery (he'll most likely go home the same day as long as no skin graft is needed)  Then we wait to find out if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.  It will take 3-5 days to get the results and I'm sure they will be the longest 3-5 days of our life.

In addition, the doctor has already discussed the possibility that, because of the aggressive nature of the melanoma, he may treat Kevin with immunotherapy, something called Interferon Alpha.  As best I understand it, it would be medication that would be injected three times a week for a year that would encourage his immune system to search and destroy any rogue cancer cells that might be hiding out in other areas of his body.  This therapy sounds like it has the potential to be pretty rough, similar to chemo type side effects for a year.  But it's not always rough, some people have only flu-like symptoms and some even less.  Plus, we don't even know for sure if the doctor will want to go that path.  Based on what we understand, it sounds likely, but again, we are praying and will wait and see for the next step.

In addition, our personal life has been pretty crazy this past month.  We closed on our first house in the middle of September, and were set to move in the middle of October.  Some delays with the contractors have pushed things back and so as I write this, I am surrounded by moving boxes.  We are hoping to finally get moved in this Saturday, so please please pray that that happens.  Moving is chaotic on its own, but adding all this into the mix is overwhelming.

We have so many blessings though, for which we continually praise our Heavenly Father who protects us.  If Kevin was going to get cancer, he managed to get it in 2011 in America where we have access to the best medical treatments in the world.  We live near my parents who are able to help out with childcare at the drop of a hat when needed.  We have our dear family friend Lila who came out from Los Angeles to help us move and she is staying an extra week through the surgery to care for the kids and get us all settled in to our new house so I can focus on Kevin.  She has pretty much single-handedly packed up our old house.  She is pretty much amazing.  We have family members who have helped us with our super-high deductible health insurance (which really did seem like a good idea at the time, because who gets cancer the first year they have a high deductible plan, seriously?)  Another blessing is that, while the plan pays nothing for the first 10K, they pay 100% for anything after that, with no copay, no percentages we have to chip in, nothing.  It's starting to sound like we'll be blazing through that deductible pretty quickly so to know we don't have to worry about the rest is huge.

We are blessed that we have an amazing church family who is praying diligently for Kevin and being our hands and feet in this time of need.  We know they are there when we need them with food, childcare, etc.  We are blessed with wonderful friends and family .  We are blessed with an amazing house and beautiful calling to a broken neighborhood that is now reaching out to help US instead of how we thought things would be the other way around.  We are being blessed as we learn right now in this season to ask for help and to receive it graciously because we just know we won't be able to do it all.  This is a blessing that reminds us how much we depend on Him and the church body.

We are blessed in knowing that our Heavenly Father is carrying us in His arms and that we can find joy in even the darkest places.  I could go on and on and on of the many and amazing blessings, for which we are so grateful.

For those of you who are the praying sort, please keep these things on your heart:
  • Surgery for Kevin Thursday November 3rd at 2:30PM
  • Moving this Saturday October 29th
  • Encouragement and endurance for us over the next few weeks.  We are TIRED!
  • Peace for Lila as her husband has been ill back in Los Angeles, but they have chosen for her to stay here to help us right now.
  • Healing for her husband Paul
  • The continuing knowledge from our Father that he is carrying us and healing Kevin
Thank you so much dear friends, and please look to this blog.  We will try to keep it updated as often as we can with the latest news.