Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Well, sadly, my gut was wrong.

My oncologist says my brain cancer is growing back.

We will have to decide on a course of treatment in the next few weeks, which probably (hopefully) won’t start until the first of the year to allow us to take a couple of trips we already have planned (including a trip celebrating Marshall’s and my 30th wedding anniversary in October).

The doctor says there are four possibilities for treatment:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Have another surgery
  3. Have radiation + chemo
  4. Have chemo by itself

Doing nothing (at least for very long) probably isn’t the best idea at this point because it’s very likely the tumor will keep growing. That would probably have the worst result.

Surgery is always risky, and we’re not even sure it’s an option until we talk to the surgeon (probably on Tuesday). While it could potentially remove a lot of cancer cells, the tumor is very near my language area, which could be damaged and cause me to lose some of my speaking/verbal expression abilities. We’ll have to see what the surgeon has to say.

Radiation destroys most of the cancer and keeps it from progressing again for awhile, but it also keeps killing off more and more brain tissue forever after, causing continuing cognitive decline and endocrine problems.

Chemo may not do enough on its own and has lots of side effects. It can also cause the disease to “upgrade” to a worse form of cancer. It helps some people with my kind of tumor. Others, not so much. It’s really not possible to predict ahead of time.

Choosing a course of treatment is an exercise in balancing quantity of life (how long I’ll live) with quality of life (cognition and side effects). But the “gold standard” for treating this kind of cancer is subject to much debate in the medical community. Radiation and chemo after surgery (or in my case, after a second surgery) seems to maximize overall outcome, but comes with serious consequences if the person lives 15 or 20 years, because the radiation keeps killing off more and more parts of the brain, affecting cognition and personalty.

I’m feeling overwhelmed by having to make this decision. It has such far-reaching consequences.

What do I care about most?

Do I value quality or quantity of life more? Do I want to be able to think clearly and retain my personality for as long as possible and perhaps live a shorter amount of time or do I want to go for the possibility of meeting my potential grandchildren?

Expressing myself is so important to me. Writing – being able to voice my opinions and coax my thoughts into form – is such a big part of my life and my process of living. Surgery and radiation both significantly threaten this part of me. Doing nothing isn’t really a long-term option. Does that just leave me with choosing chemo and hoping for the best?

But what if I opt for chemo and it doesn’t work? Or what if it pushes my cancer to a higher grade?

I think the Mayo Clinic doctor I visited for a second opinion last November would tell me to get surgery, then do radiation and chemo. That would give me the best chance of living for the longest amount of time. But what kind of life would that be?

The problem is, no tumor and no person is alike and it’s impossible to predict with any accuracy what the result of a particular course of action will be. We can play the odds, but when the dice roll against YOU, the odds don’t maintain any real significance.

I have to figure out how to make this choice. And feel comfortable with it.

I am sad tonight. And so very, very tired.

I am going to go to sleep. Hopefully, it will feel a little better in the morning.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers. If I know one thing, it’s that I cannot do this alone.


49
Leave a Reply

avatar
25 Comment threads
24 Thread replies
3 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
26 Comment authors
FranHerb ElyEmily Smith-LeeDaveJeanne Liedtka Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Herb Ely
Guest
Herb Ely

We were at St Francis Basilica Cathedral in Santa Fe today and lit a candle for you.

Emily Smith-Lee
Guest
Emily Smith-Lee

Fran, I am so sorry to hear this development. You and Marshall are incredible people with such strength- holding both of you and the rest of your family in my heart right now….

Dave
Guest
Dave

I’m sorry to hear this news, Fran. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and openness.

Jeanne Liedtka
Guest
Jeanne Liedtka

Wow. That’s a lot to process. I’m sorry you have to make such difficult choices, but I know whatever your decision is, it will be the right one because you already know the fundamental truth: every single day is a gift, with or without a diagnosis. Your life, however you choose, is rich because you value it all. Enjoy your weekend – you have our prayers to support you.

Will
Guest

Fran, Kelly and I are holding you, Marshall, and Hannah in our thoughts and prayers. You and Marshall have been an inspiration to us as married business partners and you’ve raised an amazing, intelligent daughter.

Susan Singer
Guest

Thank you for sharing your journey. It sounds like the options are clear, but the choice absolutely is not. What a challenging decision to have to make. I will hold you in the Light and pray for miracles or, barring that, clarity or, barring that, and acceptance.

Ann
Guest
Ann

Prayers for clarity coming your way

Mary Beth Slagle
Guest
Mary Beth Slagle

Fran. We barely know one another. My heart is breaking. I Will pray. I WEEP for your scary painful journey. I pray for strength for all 3 of you, and your loved ones. Mary Beth

Kathling Adams
Guest
Kathling Adams

Thinging of you and sending strength at this challenging time. ❤❤

Nadine
Guest
Nadine

Dear Fran,
I join in too with my thoughts and prayers for you, always, forever! Love and Hugs, Nadine — formerly of Charlottesville, now in Auburn, Alabama

Diane R Chen
Guest
Diane R Chen

I am praying for healing, for guidance, and have faith that whatever choice you make, you won’t be alone.

Chrissy D.
Guest

Rest, recharge, awaken and determine the battle plan. We are here to support you. ❤️Chrissy

Marcia Childress
Guest
Marcia Childress

Fran, Jim and I are holding you and your family in our hearts. This is hard, but we’re with you–

Chris
Guest
Chris

Oh Fran. Oh Fran. Sleep and in the morning may you begin to see a path forward. You are loved so so much!
Back when I was a mechanical engineer I did research on a novel delivery system for radiation or chemotherapy to the brain. I wonder if it ever got through clinical trials. I’ll look into it.

Anne Carbone
Guest
Anne Carbone

Fran, we are praying for healing and peace for you, Marshall and Hannah! You are not alone.

Rosanne
Guest
Rosanne

Oh Fran, I think of you so often when I’m writing. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since our debuts. I’m going to start a novena of grace tonight. Much love!

Teresa
Guest

oh, Fran. You have my hopes and prayers. I will get you on the list at St. Joseph’s and send to my sister who is the Regent for Catholic Daughters in North Carolina. We will STORM the heavens!

Ali Cox
Guest
Ali Cox

Praying, praying, praying. ❤️

Patricia Clifford
Guest
Patricia Clifford

Words are not useful. I will ask the Spirit to raise my prayers to the heavens for you and your family. With love to you.

Nancy
Guest
Nancy

Fran- yes, rest and wait for the wisdom to rise to the top. We will pray for guidance.

Lori
Guest
Lori

Fran, let’s pray together? Regularly? 434-962-5164. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Dottie
Guest
Dottie

Always with you in prayer. Praying now that God will guide you and bring you comfort, that he will direct you in what path is best for you. Much love ! Dottie

Robyn Nelson Jackson
Guest
Robyn Nelson Jackson

Jean is right. You are not alone. Brian and I are sending you, Marshall, and Hannah BIG prayers and lots of love. I’m also sending wishes for extra strength and stamina as you make this decision. xoxo

Amy
Guest
Amy

Dearest Fran, I am saddened by this news but also know that you will continue to face this challenge with gusto and grace! I will tell you that Matt had a LOT of success with cyber knife radiation to several brain tumors. The side effect from Cyber Knife were so much better than Gamma Knife and it was quite successful in keeping those tumors at bay! I am not sure if UVA does Cyber Knife – Virginia Hospital Center (connected with Mayo) does and if he is still there, Dr Robert Hoang is amazing! I know your head is spinning… Read more »

Jean DePiro
Guest
Jean DePiro

You are NOT alone!! You have so many prayer warriors that are surrounding you in prayer, Fran! Prayers that our awesome God guides you, Marshall and Hannah in making the right decision for you and your amazing family! Know you are loved and we are here to support you!

Get Fran's Blog Updates Delivered Directly To Your Inbox
Stay In Touch
We don't share your email address with anyone. Ever.