Saturday, November 22, 2008

Game On!

Well, it's true, Alan has had a pretty crummy past few months (to put it nicely), but his hunting skills are still working great. These are his "prizes" from the past two weeks...two 8 points and a bobcat. Alan is doing pretty good. He is about to start his third week of Sutent. He is feeling some side effects that just started these past few days. Each day it seems to be something different. We prayed so hard that he would not have to deal with this, but maybe this means it is doing what we need it to do. Kind of like being pregnant and being sick, they say the sicker you are the healthier your baby is...the old wives tale. Of course, I had to throw a few of Sydney and Carson in there too. Carson is just getting over Strep with the rash. Yes, I he ever well. I think he was completely well for 4 days a week ago, but he is doing better. It's just that time of the year when my kids just seem to stay sick. Sydney is doing great though!

And no, Alan did not lift these deer by himself. My dad was there for one deer and Mr. Steve Shields was there for the other. He is still not able to lift much weight.

30 lb. cat

29 lb. kid!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Houston's Medical Center

Here are a few pictures I took of the Medical Center. This area is made up of 13 hospitals, 2 specialty institutions, 2 medical schools, 4 nursing schools and a few other health care related career areas. This places is on 1100 acres. It's huge. It looks like a downtown area in a large city, but as you can see, it's not downtown. There is a picture below of downtown Houston as well. The only areas we did not get to see was MD Anderson. It is not directly on the main street that most of the hospitals are located on, but we will defiantly check it out when we go back in December. I'll take a picture, lol. All of these pictures were taken inside, so there might be a little glare. Of course, these pictures do not do this place justice. There are still buildings behind these, but this is just the main street that I could get pictures from.

This is the sky walk that connects Memorial Hermann Hospital to MH Plaza. This is where I took most of these pictures.

I took this picture standing in the sky walk. Every building you see here is either a hospital or something I mentioned above. That very last building you see at the end in the middle is Texas Children's. It was huge!! I know it doesn't look like it in the pictures, but believe was huge. You can see all of the cranes on top of the buildings. This place is still growing.

Another picture taken from the sky walk. Most of these buildings are related to Methodist.

This is a side view of Memorial Hermann. I never did get a front view...very pretty though. This is also a very large hospital. We saw alot of air traffic coming to this hospital during our waiting.

This is downtown Houston. I took this picture from the 16th floor of Hermann Plaza while waiting for Alan to have scans done. This is a really neat city, but we just didn't get to check out any of the "attraction areas." By the time we had a day of walking waiting, scans, waiting, Dr. appt, waiting...waiting some more, we were worn out and just wanted to grab something to eat and crash.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Houston Update

We got back from Houston around 8pm last night. These past three days have been long and tiring, but we survived. We met an amazing man...Dr. Amato. He has been working with RCC patients since the 80's. He has been and still is involved in many trials and production of different drugs for RCC. He is a great guy and very much down to earth. He spent alot of time talking to Alan and I. We are extremely happy that he will be handling Alan's plan. Probably for at least the next year or so Alan will be in the care of Dr. Amato. Alan will be in Houston for appts. every 5-6 weeks for the first 6 months. Each one of these appts. will include scans and blood work.

Let's start with the bad news.
While we were in Houston, Alan had actually 2 CT scans done. The first one was not done to Dr. Amato's liking (long story), so we did another one Wednesday morning. The second scan did confirm that there are two nodules in Alan's lower left lung where the cancer has spread. This is not lung cancer. It is the RCC that has spread to the lungs. It is not uncommon for it to spread to the lungs since it is a vascular cancer. It can also spread to the brain and this is why Alan will have MRI's of his brain too. We have questioned these areas from the beginning, but some of the Dr. in LR felt like it was probably nothing, but Dr. Amato says they have grown since the PET scan. This was a big blow. It was basically like hearing it all over again that Alan has cancer. These areas are small, but there are actually a total of 5 areas on the lungs that will have to be monitored. Two that are obvious, but the other 3 are about freckle size. We just take a deep breath and again keep praying.

The Good News!
The area on the outer left side of Alan's abdominal wall that was questionable, Dr. Amato feels pretty certain that is nothing to be concerned about. He does not see a mass in that area and thinks that it is just scar tissue and post op. The second area of concern was deep inside of Alan right around where the renal vien was (left side). This area had the appearance of tumor, but after looking at the scans we had done in Houston, Dr. Amato also felt like that was just inflammation or post op surgery tissue. He started to order a biopsy of this area, but it was just too risky. There is a blood vessel right beside it and if they hit it, then there is no was for them to make it stop bleeding. This questionable area also had staples all in it, so it is just hard to imagine that the surgeon put staples all in a tumor like that. These spots will still be monitored, but we feel alot better about these areas.

Dr. Amato showed Alan and I all of the scans, including the PET scan which we had not seen. Again, he was great and showed us everything and explained everything as we went through the scans. It defiantly helped to understand more after seeing them.

For Alan's treatment plan, he will start the Sutent Monday. Dr. Amato wants to start him on this first and if it does not do what it should, there are back up drugs. Surgery is also an option for the lungs, but we hope it does not come to that. There are side effects to the Sutent. Basically the same type of side effects that chemo would have. The drug works in cycles. Alan will take the pill daily for 4 weeks and then off for 2 weeks. During these 2 weeks off, hopefully Alan's side effects will diminish and he will be back up for the next round of pills. That is why they give patients the 2 weeks off. At the moment, Alan will be on this drug indefinitely.

I know there is more to type about, but I'm off work today to try and catch up around this house and just take a breath, but I'm also about to take Carson back to the Dr. This little man just can't seem to get well. I'm going to post some pictures later of the Medical Center in Houston. Have any of you ever been to this? It was crazy. I had to take pictures. Really an amazing place that is actually growing. Hopefully I'll post those tonight.

Just remember us in your prayers. I know everyone is. Just when we think things are looking up, then something else comes along. We'll get through this and Alan will live a healthy life again soon.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

To Houston We Will Go!

Quick recap of last weeks....thought we were starting radiation Monday, but that changed, went to see Dr. Beck Thursday thinking we were starting Sutent, but that changed also.

When we went for our appt. with Dr. Beck, he told Alan that he wanted to send him to Houston to see Dr. Robert Amato. He specializes in RCC and apparently he is #1 in his field in the states. So of course, that is where we want to be. Dr. Beck basically told Alan that yes, he could start him on the Sutent and see how it does and if Alan was a lot older then that is exactly what he would do, but Dr. Beck wants Alan to see Dr. Amato and hopefully he can get a great plan made up for Alan. Dr. Beck can still treat Alan in Little Rock after we get a plan, but he just would rather Dr. Amato get Alan's plan together. Dr. Amato does many interesting test and trials with RCC patients. Can you imagine the look on mine and Alan's face when he said Houston. We just weren't expecting that one. Again, we will go wherever we have to, but it was just another one of those unexpected moments in the crazy roller coaster ride. Dr. Beck said that Dr. Amato might want to do a biopsy of the questionable areas in Alan. Alan's Drs. in LR have not really wanted to do that because of the risk, but Dr. Amato might do it. We just don't have any idea what to expect. All we do know is that we have an appt. at 1:00 in Houston on Monday. Can you believe we got in that quick. No, we are not going to MD Anderson. We will be going to Memorial Herman Hospital. This is the hospital that Dr. Amato is associated with. We will leave tomorrow to head to Houston. The nurse said to plan to stay for 3 days, so I'm planning for 5..:-). Please remember us during our travels and remember our family and our kids. Sydney is really being strong thru all of this and has pretty much just come to terms with our situation.

Tricks and Treats!

Amazingly, the whole family was able to be together for the annual trick-or-treating. We usually just go around my parents neighborhood (since we live out of town). It's a great neighborhood and ALWAYS busy on Halloween. Here are some pictures from "Slime Time" at church, Sydney's crazy hair for "Crazy Hair Day" at school and Trick-or-Treating. I'm going to post later today about Alan's recent Dr. visit in Little Rock and we will be heading to Houston Sunday (tomorrow!!).
Hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween!

Sydney wanted hair bows all over her head, so this is what we came up with.

Is this not the cutest little pumpkin ever!!!

In case you are wondering Sydney was "Bratz Bat". She wanted to be a bat...I don't know!

Our good friends Julia and Grant McDougald...aka...Snow White and Dopey Dwarf.