Monday, August 22, 2011

Here we go again

Mark and I just got back home from taking the boys to the first day of school this year. I can hardly believe we have a 1st and 2nd grader now! The boys did really well going in to their classes. I think they will have another great year. I’m so proud of those sweet boys!

It’s just been a few days since we got back from our Disney Alaskan cruise. It was wonderful! The scenery was just beautiful and it was nice to be in some cool weather for a change. We were able to see some amazing things. We saw a black bear up close and personal, the salmon swimming upstream, some sea lions, some whales, some dolphins, and bald eagles! Mark had a fabulous time taking pictures. He was so happy and that made me so happy. :) The day we went whale watching, the locals couldn’t stop talking about the weather. It was sunny ALL day, and that just NEVER happens there. It was just perfect weather. I was telling the whale watching guide that I believe the sun was out for Mark. I told her his story and about how much he wanted to see all the wildlife, especially the whales. She said that she never sees so many of them and never as close to the boat as they were that day. I was just praising God for that blessing!

At the beginning of summer, I was really feeling like I was ready to go back to life as “normal” as possible. Mark was doing so well, and I was feeling good, so I thought I would like to get to work with kids again. I was being kind of funny and said to Mark, “Are you going to die this year?” He said, “I’m not planning on it!” I said, “OK. Good! Are you going to get another tumor this year?” He said, “I’m not planning on it!” I said, “Good! I think I’m going to go back to work at CLC”. I can’t explain the joy I got from working there the 3 years prior to Mark’s diagnosis. I LOVE those 2 year olds so much and they brought me so much joy. I just have this thing about kids. I think they are amazing and I love being with them. Anyway, I called to see if I could go back to work there and was told I would get a call back. I never did. I was so sad, but something told me to not try to push it. I prayed about it and started to feel a peace about not being able to go back to CLC now. I just knew that God was in charge of that and there must be a reason I needed to be home this year. I didn’t want to think negative thoughts, so I just said that maybe there was going to be something really good happening and I needed to be home to enjoy it to the fullest extent. It was wishful thinking, but I didn’t want to walk around expecting something bad to happen.

After Mark’s last MRI, the doctor scheduled another perfusion MRI for 8 weeks after that appointment. It would normally be a regular MRI 3 months out, but since she saw those cancer cells “waking up”, she felt it would be best to have the more detailed scan at an earlier time. That MRI was on Thursday. We got up early to drive to my mom’s house and she drove us from there to the imaging place. Mark did the MRI and then it was time to wait 3 hours for the results. We went to eat at the mall and then we headed to the hospital, where Mark’s neuro-oncologist is located. I kept saying that we would go soon and get the good news. I just was feeling a little anxious and felt like I should talk more positive than usual. Finally, it was time for the appointment. The doctor’s assistant came in and did the neurological exam on Mark. I noticed it was quicker than any of the other ones, but wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or what. All that was left was to wait for the doctor to come in with the films and the results. I seemed to take FOREVER for her to come in, but she finally did….

As soon as Dr. Fink walked in the door, she did her quick hello and then it went like this…[the words in quotes are what she said and the words in parenthesis is what I said in my mind]
“Well, I’m really glad we decided to do the perfusion MRI now.”
(Hmmm… She usually says that this is what a good scan looks like or that everything looks ok)
“There is a spot that showed up clearly on here”
(Great, another thing to keep watching and for me to try to not be anxious about)
“I think it needs to come out right away”
(Oh, she means a tumor – not a spot - this is why I didn't get to work at CLC this year)
“I’m sorry”
(Oh no! This is my worst fear! It’s back and this is the end! I’m going to lose my husband!)
I started crying uncontrollably at that point. Dr. Fink is such a nice lady and she gently put her hands on mine on my lap and said, “I know. He was doing so well.” I looked at her and saw tears in her eyes. I tried so hard to settle down so I could hear what she had to say next. I looked at Mark and he looked sad, but very calm and collected. Dr. Fink told us that she had already called Dr. Barnett, the neuro-surgeon. She said he was expecting us to go see him right then and he would work us in. I had so many questions about what would happen with treatment, but Dr. Fink really didn’t want to talk about that until after surgery. She said she would not exclude any option so that we could have as much chance as possible to battle this. I think a lot depends on how the surgery goes. She said the Chemo Mark had been on would not work at all, so he could possibly go on a different type of chemo after surgery but we would just have to wait until the time comes. I remembered reading about other patients when brain cancer that had a wafer inserted during surgery. I didn’t really know much about it, just that it is put in the place where the tumor is removed and it releases Chemo directly in that cavity. So, I asked about it, and Dr. Fink said that she actually thinks that could be a good option. She said she would call the surgeons office and let him know that she gave the ok for him to insert the wafer. We went upstairs (his office is in the same building) and did some more waiting to see Dr. Barnett. I just kept crying. My mom and Mark were both trying to comfort me. I told Mark that he shouldn’t be comforting ME, but that I should be having to comfort HIM. He said he was really expecting some bad news so he had prepared himself for that. He is so brave! I’m so proud of him.

We finally saw the surgeon. He agreed that the tumor should be removed. He said that he will be very aggressive with it so that he can get as much as possible. He explained that the tumor is in Mark’s speech area of his brain and since he will have to cut out so much of his brain this time, he will certainly have speech problems when he wakes up from surgery. And, unlike last time, it could be severe and permanent. Mark said that would be ok because he will do whatever it takes to fight for his life. We talked to him about the chemo wafer, but he didn’t seem to be a big fan of it. He said it has a high risk of causing infection, which can be very difficult to get rid of when it’s in the brain. He said it could result in more surgery and possibly the removal of his skull plate. He said that the company that makes the wafer makes it seem wonderful, but when you really look at the studies, you will find that it only increases life expectancy by about 2 months. Mark said that he is really thinking now that he does not want to proceed with doing the wafer. He feels like if it gives him 2 more months, he doesn’t want to spend them in the hospital with a brain infection or having multiple surgeries. We will need to do some more research and then call the doctor back this week to let him know one way or the other.

Dr. Barnett said he didn’t feel like this tumor needed to come out just immediately (Dr. Fink did), but I reminded him that he said that last time and the tumor doubled in size from that day to the surgery day a couple of weeks later. He agreed with me that it should be sooner than later, so we went to look at his schedule. He is very booked, but he said he can do Mark’s surgery after another surgery on another patient next Monday (Aug. 29th). We are to be at the hospital (Baylor Dallas) by 10:00 Monday morning for Mark to get his pre-op MRI. Dr. Barnett thinks he should be able to get started on Mark’s surgery between 2:00 and 3:00 that afternoon. It should be about 5 hours long. It’s hard to believe we are going through this again. I am honestly very frightened, but I still have faith in God. I was listening to Jim Bob Dugger on a Focus on the Family episode a few weeks ago and he said something that really stuck with me. He said that God’s will is what you would want if you knew all the facts. I had been saying that I trust the Lord 100%, but that His will is not always our will, and that’s what scared me. Now I keep thinking about that definition of God’s will and how if I were able to see the big picture through God’s eyes, my desire would be exactly what is going to happen by God’s hand. I have faith and I have never doubted God through all of this, but I am human also and I have human emotions. It sounds selfish, but I can’t help but think that it is harder for me than Mark. We know that if he is not healed here on earth, that he will be healed eternally and will forever be in the presence of our Lord. He will never have fear or pain again. He will experience only joy while I will be here grieving . I know that God will provide, but again, my human nature comes through and I think selfishly, “How can I manage without Mark here? How can I function as a single mom to two boys? “ I also worry about how to teach the boys to not lose their faith. The first thing Colin said when he heard that his Daddy has another brain tumor was, “but we prayed so hard!” I NEVER want my children to doubt God’s love for them and our family. I know this is all stuff that people say I should not worry about, but I just felt like I should post about my true emotions right now. Maybe somebody else that reads this is going through something like this and has the same feelings. I have had a couple of friends post things to me from the same book, so I am going to try to go buy it today. I think it will help me to remain focused on God. I know I need to do that so that He can talk to me and help me through all of this. Yesterday at church, it seemed like every song spoke directly to me. They all had something to do with healing. I don’t know if God will heal Mark physically, or if he will heal our family emotionally, but I know that we will be healed! I will Keep the Faith!

This week I am working on getting everything in order for next week. I have a friend who is blessing us in an amazing way by keeping the boys for us while Mark is in the hospital (I am staying with him there). She will take them to and from school, help with any homework, and most importantly, I know she will love on my boys and reassure them and make them feel loved. I have spoken to both of the boys’ teachers and the new school counselor. When I was telling the counselor about everything, she told us that her brother was diagnosed with brain cancer last year so she has more understanding than some people. She said it affected his speech, but after therapy, he regained it all and she said even talking on the phone with him, she cannot tell that he ever had a problem. That was so very encouraging to us! It certainly wasn’t a coincidence that she is the new counselor. It’s for sure another God thing! She is very sweet and I think she will be so helpful to the boys just like the counselor that was there last year was to them.

I’m going to end this super long post now so I can get back to working on arrangements for next week. I’m trying to set up a couple of special visits to Mark from some special people. ;) Please continue to pray for our family and ask others to do the same. It means so very much to us to receive all of the prayers, notes of encouragement, calls, etc. Mark is actually wanting to hang up all of the notes and cards he got last year on a wall in our home. If you would like to send any notes or have your kids make him a card (those are the BEST!), that would be so nice! Thank you for taking the time to read this long post. :)
Here is our contact info:

Mark, Becky, Colin & Carter Durrett
3518 Corkwood Dr.
Frisco, TX 75034
469-252-0598 (home)
214-592-3906 (Becky cell)

Next Monday Mark will be checking in at 10:00am at Baylor Dallas in the Hoblitzelle building. We are hoping that he will do as well as last year and only have to be there for about 3 days. :) Anybody is welcome to come visit. You can call me and I can give you a room number if you’d like. God Bless You!