Friday, December 21, 2007

God is Good!

I would like to update this blog with the last two doctor visits. On 10/31/07 I went to have my blood checked and had good results. My labs were all normal except white blood and IGM protein level. My white blood level was 3.1 (normal is 3.5-10.5), and my IGM level stayed basically the same, lowering to an even 1200. The nurse also explained another test they do on my blood called LDH. That level was 109 and the normal range is 100-190. She said that it was very good to have a lower level because that showed that the cancer was not active. I was glad for another sign that I was getting better.

I went to have my blood checked on 12/03/07 and then had my 3 month visit with Dr.O on 12/05/07. Everything checked normal except my white blood and IGM. My white blood was 3.0. I asked her why it wasn't normal yet. She said that my level was good, but the reason it still wasn't normal was because the chemo that I had could supress the immune system for up to a year! My LDH was 124 which was good as well. The big answer to prayer was that my IGM was 905!!!I had been praying that it would drop below 1000 and it did! I still have a ways to go before it's normal(40-200), but this was such a nice blessing. I asked her what she thought was going on with the cancer. She said that she believed that it was not progressing, but the only way to know how much was left was to have another bone marrow biopsy. We both don't what to do that yet. Dr. O said to just keep doing what I was doing. She said that I could wait 3 months(March) to have my blood checked again and 6 months (June) for an exam with her. We were very excited to have the good news. Just continue to pray that I can keep up the diet and juicing. Thank you for all the encouraging cards, words and prayers.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Our Faith is Strengthened

Once again we would like to say we're sorry for taking so long to update this blog! Four children sure keeps you busy! But no news is good news, in this case!

On July13 we met with Dr. Lola and she informed us that I still had 20% of the cancer left. I began with 80% saturation. She suggested that I try a new chemo drug called Valcade. Brian and I told her that we wanted to wait and mointer my blood levels. My labs showed that my white blood count was low 0.8. (Allowing my body to be suceptable to infection)The doctor told me to be careful and to call her if I got a fever. I had lower white blood levels before and had never gotten sick, so I wasn't very concerned.

The following weekend July 21 we were at a reunion at Brian's parents when I began to feel sick. I was up all night with fever and chills. When I took my temperature the next day around 3pm it was 104 degrees. Brian called the Dr. Lola and she called in an antibiotic and told me to go to the ER if I felt nauseous. While Brian was out getting the medicine, I began to feel worse and nauseous. I made it to the bathroom and collapsed on the floor. Brian's mom stayed with me and tried to help. I now know that I was going into septic shock(a drop in blood flow and blood pressure due to an infection in the blood)Brian was having trouble getting the medication and called and they told him to come right back. He had to carry me to the car and rush me to the hospital. I had to stay in the hospital for three days to get my blood pressure, potassium level, white blood count and fever back to normal. Needless to say it was a very scary experience, but the Lord sustained us. We returned to Raleigh on Tuesday and I met with the doctor on Friday. My levels had rebounded and I was feeling better.

August 2 - lab results showed increasing white blood count 3.o(normal is 3.5) and a Igm protein level of 2o42. We stayed with the course of no treatment as long as the levels remained steady.

August 14 - lab results showed white blood level 2.2. and Igm protein level 1310! The doctor said that our decision to wait was a safe one and that we could monitor the levels once a month.

August 30 - went to the retinal specialist. No retinal hemorrhage! The other multiple hemorrhages were almost all cleared up ! Praise the Lord. Another sign that the cancer was diminishing.

Sept. 5 -lab results showed 3.6 white blood count! First time it has been normal! My Igm protein level was the lowest ever at 1232!

Sept. 18 - had a cough that just wouldn't go away so I called the Doctor. She gave me an antibiotic and told me to have a chest xray to check for fluid in my lungs. The results were all clear for my lungs, but she thought my lymph nodes in my abdomen looked enlarged. She said that I would need to have a CAT scan be able to get a better diagnosis. If they were significantly enlarged, she would suggest I go back on chemo. Needless to say, this upset me and I had to pray and give it to the Lord, who know all.

sept. 28 - today I had the CAT scan and lab work. The results showed normal size lymph nodes!!! God is good! My lab work was good with 2.8 white blood count, normal red blood count(a first!) and a steady Igm of 1237. Normal Igm is 40-200; However, I came into this with level 6383. Dr. Lola said we would just keep doing what we're doing. For those who don't know, I've been eating a diet of mostly raw vegetables. I am staying away from meat, dairy, wheat and sugar. That doesn't leave much left! My mom has been staying here on and off over the last 6 months and has really been a help. She helps by making carrot and vegetable juice which I drink up to 4x a day. It actually tastes good! Josiah loves carrot juice! I also am taking various vitamins and minerals. I'm going to continue on this course and we are praying that God will heal me without taking any further medical treatment!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Renee's Improvement

First, I would like to apologize for taking so long to update the blog.

On Wednesday, June 13th, Renee had a bone marrow sample taken, and a bone sample. These were sent to the Mayo clinic for analysis, as the original bone sample had been.

On Wednesday, June 20th, Renee had a PET scan which returned as "normal".....Praise the Lord.

Around Thursday, June 28th, we received the results from the Mayo clinic. When Renee was first diagnosed, there was 80% cancer "involvement" shown on the bone sample. The latest test showed 20% cancer "involvement", which is a great improvement.
Since there was still IgM protein in her blood, we did not expect to see the cancer completely gone, but we praise God for the great improvement.

Renee is in Charleston visiting her family for the week of July 4th, and will return next week to have a blood sample taken on July 12th. We will then meet with her oncologist the next day(July 13th) to discuss the future direction for continued treatment. Please pray for wisdom, and the continued grace of God for Renee and the family.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Renee's blood count going back up....praise the Lord.

Renee has had her blood checked each Tuesday for the last 3 weeks.

May 22st - Renee's new white blood cell count (Neutro Abs) was down to 0.9, and her red blood cell count was just below the limit, causing her to receive a Procrit shot. (boosts reb blood cells)

May 29th - Renee's new white blood cell count was down to 0.7, on the same "schedule" as she has followed after the previous chemo. Her RBC count was high enough that she did not receive the Procrit shot.

June 5th - Renee's new white bood cell count went up to 0.9, showing that she is past the low point. This is a quicker recovery, and could be caused by not having Rituxan treatments this month as before. We give God the glory, and look to him for Renee's continued improvements.

Renee is basically doing well, although she still gets tired. My parents left last Sunday, and Renees' mother is not here this week, so Renee has her hands full with all 4 kids. She would be tired without cancer, but considering all, she is doing well. Thanks to all for the continued prayer, and love shown to our family.

Friday, May 18, 2007

2nd chemo week ends....

Renee completed her second week of chemo, and did not experience any real problems. The treatments were much faster, with only a small bag of anti-nausea, and then a small bag of chemo needed. (Renee might not think they are that small)
Renee had a heplock inserted into her arm, and kept it there all week so it could be used each day. Since it is wrapped in a bright colored wrap, the baby tries to grab it when he gets a chance.

All the children have adjusted well to this "new lifestyle."(We know that prayer has much to do with this! Thank you!) Charity (8 yrs old) understands the most, but wants to know the least details! She is very squeamish when it comes to blood and needles. However, Faith (6 yrs old) likes to investigate, as she wants to be a Dr. someday. She has wrapped Renee's arm in the coband to cover the heplock. Hope (2 yrs old) is most sympathetic, as she questions: "mommy does it hurt...did you cry and cry?" , "mommy, you get shot?" Josiah has bonded with grammy, which has helped with all of Renee's appointments.

Renee will be going in for her procrit shots each Tuesday ongoing for now, and she will be scheduled to have a bone marrow sample taken in the next month. This sample will tell us how she is progressing, and hopefully will be clean of cancer.
Please pray for God's healing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

2nd chemo week begins......

Renee had another blood sample taken, and the new white blood cell count was up to 1.6 (1600). The Lord is good, and this allowed Renee to start her second week of chemo.

Renee is eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables, to help her body become stronger. Her mother is staying with our family, and juices a lot of carrots, broccoli, apples, and other assorted foods for Renee to drink.

Monday, May 7, 2007

2nd chemo week delayed....

Renee was scheduled to start her second week of chemo, and we met with Dr. O to see how her blood levels looked. Renee's new white blood cell count was up to .6 (600), but they needed to be around 1.2 in order for her to be given chemo. We would delay this week, and check next Monday.

Renee's Igm (protein) level was down to 1602, praise the Lord. This is the indicator of the cancer, and the effectiveness of the treatment. When the chemo began, the level was 4055, with normal levels being between 40 to 230. If the treatment was not working, we would expect to see the IgM going higher.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Rituxan treatments end....

Renee took her last rituxan treatment, completing 4 weeks of one shot per week.
Her blood was also checked, and her levels had dropped. She was given a drug called procrit, which helps to increase the red blood cell count.
Her new white blood cell count was .2 (200), and this was dangerously low in regards to catching any sickness. Her IgM level was also being checked.

Friday, April 13, 2007

First week of chemo complete....

On Thursday - April 12th, Renee had a blood transfusion since her hemoglobin was low.

Renee completed her first week of chemo, and did not get sick during the treatments. She did experience nausea about 1 week later, but was fine after taking an anti-nausea pill.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chemo and rituxan begins.....

Renee's schedule was for 4 complete weeks of chemo, spread of 4 months. She also was to take 4 treatments of rituxan, one day a week for 4 straight weeks. These treatments work independently of each other, so they did not need to coincide.
The chemo would be adjusted to give 5 days worth in 4 days, as we were starting on Tuesday. Renee was to take both on this day, and the rituxan would take a long time, since it has to be given very slowly at first, to determine if Renee may experience any dangerous side effects.

Renee had to take some benedril first, for fever like effects of the rituxan. The benedrill made her drowsy, and Renee fought the drug, since she was nervous and did not want to go to sleep, as she knew the rituxan could have bad effects. This put her into a "fight or flee" mode, as described later by a nurse, with her adrenalin kicking in. She got over this, and was able to relax.
Everything Renee took was administered intravenously, including the benedrill, anti-nausea medicine, chemo (fludorabine), and rituxan. It was a long day, and the rituxan did not have any bad side effects. The day lasted between 6 and 7 hours.

I kidded Renee later telling her that she did fine with the chemo and rituxan, but had trouble with common things like needles and giving blood, and taking benedrill.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Blood phoresis (dialysis) before chemo.

Renee could not start the rituxan and chemo without having a blood phoresis to clean her blood. The cancer also has the hyperviscosity condition, which means that Renee's blood had an enormous amount of a protein called IgM. Her level was 6383, and a normal amount would be between 40 and 230. This is why there were hemorages in her eyes, as the blood vessels are very small there.

Renee started the week with this blood phoresis. Renee was nervous and sitting up, and almost passed out when they started taking her blood. She lay back helping the blood pressure, and was ok. The phoresis lasted about 2 hours, and was successful. When Renee's IgM level was checked, she was down to 4055.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Renee and I met with Dr. O to go over the Mayo clinic results, and plan for treatment. It was determined that the spleen would not be removed, as this is not a spleenic cancer. Instead, we would treat this with a combination of a chemo called fludora, and a drug called rituxan. Both of these would be administered intraveneously.

There was an urgency to begin treatment since the hyperviscosity was present, and there could be permanent damage to Renee's eyes, or other areas. Since it was a short week with Easter coming up, we would have to wait for the next week.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hyperviscosity tested for....

Renee had to go in to give a new blood sample, to be tested for the hyperviscosity condition.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lymphoplasmactic Lymphoma (Waldstrom's disease) identified....

I received a call from Dr. O, and the Mayo clinic identified the cancer to be Lymphoplasmactic Lymphoma (Waldstrom's disease). This is a non-aggressive lymphoma.
This cancer is accompanied sometimes by a condition called hyperviscosity, which basically means there is a specific type of protein found in the blood, in a large amount.
We saw the Retinal specialist also that day, and he confirmed that this was most likely the cause of the 100's of hemmorages in Renee's eyes. The blood vessels in the eyes are some of the smallest in the body, and they were affected by the hyperviscosity first. Other cancer patients with this condition would also have this, but may not be aware, as the hemmorages should clear when the blood is treated.
God had used this, as he directed the hand of my child Faith, to give us an early alarm to this cancer.

Friday, March 23, 2007

No brain tumors found....

Renee and I met with Dr. O, to get the results of her scans. The MRI showed no tumors in her head (praise the Lord). The CAT scan did not reveal any other tumors, and did show the enlarged spleen, along with some slightly enlarged lymph nodes near the spleen. (the spleen is the largest lymph node)
Dr. O thought that Renee probably had a spleenic cancer(cancer of the spleen), and that we would remove the spleen, and treat the lymphoma with a drug called rituxan.
However, the bone sample and a new blood sample was being sent to the Mayo clinic, to get a more specific answer to the type of lymphoma.
Feeling somewhat relieved, we visited my mom and dad that weekend. Our friend, Diane B., let our church family know about Renee's condition.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The testing begins......

Renee had a CAT scan, which whould show any tumors, or other signs of cancer. There was also an MRI scan of her head, as it was feared that the hemmorages in her eyes could be caused by a tumor in her head.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Heart breaking news.....

On Monday, I worked from home, as Renee wanted me to take the call from Dr. O. However, the labs were not complete, and we had to wait another day.

Tuesday, in the late afternoon, the awaited call finally came. Good news first - leukemia was ruled out. Bad news - Renee tested positive for Lymphoma. Tests were scheduled for the next day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dr. O checks for the "C" word.....

Renee saw Dr. Olajide, who is a hematologist and oncologist. It was noticed that Renee's spleen was enlarged, which meant that the red blood cells would be "pooling" there, and explained her anemia (partially).
After reviewing Renee's blood, Dr. O wanted to take a worst case scenario approach, and check for cancer. An attempt was made to collect a bone marrow sample, but this was not successful. A small sample of Renee's bone was collected instead. However, the labs would not be complete until sometime the next week. This made for a long, prayerful weekend.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Renee saw a retinal specialist who confirmed that a blood vessel hemmoraged that was located in the middle of her retina, causing the "blind spot". He let us know that these spots normally clear up within about a month, as the blood is cleared from the fluid in the eye. However, he was also alarmed at the number of hemmorages in both eyes, and also wanted to pursue the root cause.
It seems that most patients who have this number of hemmorages are suffering from diabetes, and we suspected this could be Renee's problem.
While waiting in the retinal Dr.'s office, I received a call on Renee's cell from the Internal Dr.'s office, with the lab results. Her blood suger was fine, which seemed to rule out Diabetes. However, she had a low red blood cell count, and her hemoglobin was low. This indicated she was anemic for some reason. This explained her tired and drained feelings, and I had hopes that she could be given iron or B12 shots to resolve this.
An appointment was made to see a hematologist the next day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spot in vision has not cleared....Renee gets checked....

Renee's vision still had a "spot" in her left eye, and I (Brian) made an apointment for her to see an Opthmologist. This Dr. checked Renee's eyes and vision, and found 100's of hemmorages in both of her eyes. He was alarmed, and made appointments for Renee to see her "Internal medicine" doctor, and a Retinal Specialist.
Renee saw Dr. Merachuck(Internest) in the afternoon, and he performed a general physical, and drew blood for a lab.
Renee's mother, Ms. Parker, was driving up from Charleston, SC on this day to visit. Through the Lord's timing, she was there to assist with the kids as the rest of the week unfolded.

Monday, March 12, 2007

An "accidental" bump to the eye....enlightens......

Our son, Josiah Lee Hemric, was born on June 19, 2006. Renee did great giving birth, as she has with our 3 daughters: Charity(8), Faith(6), and Hope(2).
The months following this birth, Renee did not seem to "bounce back" as well. She was home schooling and caring for 2 in diapers, so her "run down" feelings were not so alarming. She was actually showing signs of anemia, feeling tired, weak, and having a lack of concentration at times.
Renee and the kids were getting ready to leave the house for Charity's piano lessons. While bending down to fix the baby gate, Faith accidently bumped Renee's left eye. This stung, but Renee was able to get the kids in the van, and leave. About 15 minutes later, Renee noticed there was a "spot" in her vision. This was alarming, but we thought maybe there was a scratch or bruise on her eye.