Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV)
Since our return from MD Anderson a few weeks ago, we have been working to get the insurance to approve one of the drugs for Mrs. Barbara's clinical trial. One of the drugs was initially denied by insurance. Since it would cost $8000/month to pay out of pocket, they then reached out to the drug company to see if they would cover it. Unfortunately, all avenues to get the drug paid for haven't worked out, and currently, there are not any other trials at MD Anderson for Mrs. Barbara to participate in.
So, we then made the decision to look for a new doctor in Nashville to get a plan in motion. Trials will always be an option in the future, but the time it takes to wait for that opportunity in Houston is not a luxury we have. I made several phone calls to find a doctor who would take Mrs. Barbara on as a patient. At the reccomendation of a friend, we were pleased to find a doctor who asked to see her records right away, took a look that same day and scheduled her an appointment. The doctor is also conveniently located only 10 minutes from Mrs. Barbara's townhome!
While waiting for the first appointment, Mrs Barbara was blessed once again by surprise visits from Chad and Nick. We all travelled out to their home in East TN and helped clear some fallen trees from the ice storms back in February. She LOVES to be at her home there. There is more space, and the land is serene and peaceful with a mountain creek running at the property's edge. She had some great mother-son bonding time...just what she needed to recharge as she faced the uncertainty of a new doctor and hopefully a new plan.
Her first appointment was last Wednesday. (I have been out of the country for my sisters wedding the last week, so I apologize for the delay in posting the update!) Her name is Dr Blakely, and she is a medical oncologist with the TN Oncology group in Nashville. She did her training at MD Anderson and has treated other patients with carcinosarcoma. She was very personable, spoke in laymans terms and seems to have the heart of a teacher. Her reccomendation was to get new CT scans ASAP (thank goodness because we have wanted these for over a month now!), order a blood test called NextGen (would locate cancer cells in the blood and isolate the cancer's DNA and test it for mutations), and start on a chemo called Gemzar while waiting for the results of the NextGen test. If those results aren't helpful, she reccomends biopsy of a tumor to send off for the FoundationOne mutation test. The benefit to having answers about mutations is that she could enter a clinical trial that is targeted towards a specific mutation. There is a lot of promise in this "targeted therapy". Apparently, the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center here in Nashville has access to more of these Phase I clinical trials than MD Anderson. We are very encouraged by the knowledge and practicality of this doctor and her reccomended plan.
So, the upcoming plan includes CT scans today, then additional bloodwork, a chest X-ray and starting the Gemzar tomorrow after meeting with Dr Blakely about the CT results. The Gemzar will be given in cycles...1 cycle = Gemzar 1x/week for 2 weeks, then off a week. After 2 cycles (~6 weeks) she will recheck the CT scans. As long as the treatment is working, they will continue to do it. If it is not helping or stops working, that's when we will look at the trials.
In all honesty, aside from being with her family, the last few weeks have been tough. There are feelings of isolation when doctors don't seem to have a plan for you and abandonment when things are not getting covered by insurance. Tiny bumps in the road can feel like speed bumps that made you bottom out. It is tiring dealing with multiple phone calls to doctor offices and insurance companies, and there are moments of great anxiety when time is not on your side. You can lose focus and purpose. But it is getting to that place when I then realize our faith has been put in humans, and even in the best circumstances with the people that love us the most, even those people will still fail us, but He never will. And He has been there all along...quietly whispering "It's OK. I got this. Trust Me."
So, today, we move forward, press ahead towards the prize, with faith in our Lord and not always in humans.
Heavenly Father, Thank You for never leaving us alone. For being by our sides, though we stray from noticing You and even stop listening to You. Thank You for not abandoning us when others do. Lord, I continue to pray for a miracle to happen in Mrs Barbara's body. That the doctor's would be blown away by what they see on the CT today and that all the glory be given to You! And if that is not Your Will, I pray for continued strength and sense of Your presence as Mrs Barbara battles this Cancer together with You by her side. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen!