Update on Courtney – #2

This afternoon we finalized an appointment with specialists at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. We will fly out next Tuesday and begin to meet with the MDA team next Wednesday morning.The first day or two they will do a complete work-up, review labs, re-read pathology slides, and previous scans. They could order new scans, and possibly do other forms of testing. They’ll be able to determine if in fact the cancer has, or hasn’t spread. The best possible news at this point would be to confirm that it has not. That is what we’re believing for. Once they determine that, they’ll put their heads together on treatment options moving forward.
We are continuing local visits and consultation with our doctors here. Courtney has a PET scan scheduled for Friday to help clarify some of the images seen on the CT. Our hope is that nothing new will be found, and the specialists at MDA will work with our local doctors to come up with a treatment plan that can be done locally.
We’re already thankful for the care and expertise we will experience in Houston. They have every specialty represented, every type of oncologist, every type of test, clinical trials, research studies, and more, all under one roof. We are going to see the best in the world.
Please pray for us as we prepare to go. We’re scrambling to line up travel arrangements to, in, and from Houston in less than 6 days. There are a lot of logistics and needs to work out. We have been told to plan on being there 5-7 days. The kids will stay behind in Cleveland.
Thank you again for all the prayers. They are absolutely helping! We praise the Lord for that!
Thank you for all the words of encouragement, advice, texts, Facebook messages, offers to help, etc. We have not been able to respond to them all, but have read each one. 
Please continue to believe and pray with us as we take the next step of this journey. Peace. Healing. Wisdom. Thank you!

Adam & Courtney

Update on Courtney

We got the call while out of town for a short beach trip.  Courtney had been diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma.  What started four weeks earlier as a trip to the dermatologist took a sudden turn in a different direction.

img_2202

A small pea sized bump on her left temple along the hairline grew over 4-5 months and we finally decided to have it checked out.

Courtney self diagnosed herself using pictures, and Google.  Without a doubt she knew she had Basal Cell Carcinoma.  This was of course confirmed by the doctor at the dermatology and skin cancer center here in town.  A small biopsy was done, and we awaited results.

At her second visit we learned that the biopsy sample was not large enough, and pathologists were unsure what it was.  In fact, it looked more like Spindle Cell Carcinoma (still a skin cancer).  So the entire lump was removed and the skin around her temple sown up with 16 stitches.  Again, we waited for the results.

We left town for Orange Beach, our annual trip with two other families, and  got the call just before lunch on Day 1.  Good news!  They got it all!  Her margins were clear.

Then came a second call from the doctor’s office informing us they’d missed something in her results.  This call was a stark contrast to the first just 10 minutes earlier.  The spot on her temple wasn’t a spot anymore, it was a tumor.  It wasn’t a benign tumor, but a malignant one.

Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) was the diagnosis, and we needed to see an oncologist as soon as we were back in town.

The conversation ended with the nurse encouraging us NOT to Google it, but as you can probably guess, Courtney had already accomplished that before the phone call even ended.

We went about the rest of our trip informing friends and family who knew about the initial scare of possible skin cancer.  The beach, the pool, seafood, friends and charcuterie were all a welcome distraction from what awaited us back home.

The day before we left Alabama to go home  we spent the day with Courtney’s family, and the morning at her home church.  There they gathered a group to pray with us.  For healing.  For peace.  For wisdom.

Her first oncology appointment was scheduled with a surgical oncologist in Chattanooga on Tuesday.  The visit was mainly a consultation and our first real chance to ask questions of a medical professional in this field.  He put us at ease by answering every question we could think of.

He then did a full body exam to ensure no other superficial tumors or spots could be seen.  None were found.

He ordered a PET Scan, blood work, and a chest X-ray.

We learned in that first meeting how rare this particular cancer is.  Of all diagnosed cancers each year, Sarcomas make up less than 1%.  There are 30 different types of Sarcomas, and of those diagnosed each year LMS represents only 5-10% of those.  Of that 5-10%, the majority of cases are found in men over the age of 40, and found in their lower extremities.  Courtney is a 33-year-old female, who has it on her head.  The doctor was unable to quantify the rarity of her case.  If you know Courtney, you are not at all surprised that SHE was diagnosed with a cancer this rare.  🙂

The chest X-ray was completed, and showed no abnormalities.  Praise the Lord!

The PET scan was scheduled for the Friday after her first oncology appointment, only three days into this process.  The day before the PET Scan was to be done we got a call stating that insurance had denied the scan.  Many times these scans are denied by insurance complanies because they are “not medically necessary”.  In this case, they simply did not have enough information to merit any kind of approval.  The test had been scheduled so quickly that results of the blood work and X-ray had not made it through the proper channels.

I spent the better part of that day on the phone with the imaging office, my insurance rep, and the oncologist’s office.  We spoke so often that day that they actually memorized Courtney’s birth date, and stopped asking me for it every time I called.

Rather than draw out the process of getting approval for a PET Scan the doctor ordered a CT Scan instead, and the imaging office worked us in at the last-minute for the next day.

During the first oncology visit our surgical oncologist also referred us to a radiological oncologist to discuss potential treatment options.  That appointment was Friday morning.  The oncologist at this appointment was honest in admitting he had never treated a patient with Leiomyosarcoma.  He was still able to go through a number of treatment scenarios based on “what if” results from the CT Scan.  We left his office with many more questions answered about what the immediate and long-term future might look like.

That afternoon we completed the CT Scan and ended a very long, very tiring week.

One silver lining ironically, has been the rarity of the cancer.  Because it’s so rare there has been quite a bit of interest in her case.  On Tuesday of this week a Tumor Board will meet in Chattanooga to discuss her case.  This “board” will consist of multiple pathologists (including the original one who read her case), surgical oncologists, radiological oncologists, and medical oncologists.  Some 15 or so medical professionals, all studying her case.

The first question they will seek to answer is whether or not the cancer has spread to anywhere else in her body.  If not, then the question will shift to how to treat her moving forward and prevent any spread.

Doctors are not clear on how aggressive her cancer is, or if it has spread. These are the questions weighing heaviest on our mind right now.

Another difficult aspect of this is the fact that no one in our area is very well versed in this type of cancer.  Because it is so rare there really isn’t  an “expert”.  Pending the outcome of the Tumor Board on Tuesday we are praying about exploring a second opinion.  We’ve begun to research various sarcoma centers around the country like MD Anderson or Mayo Clinic.  These institutions are equipped to diagnose and treat Sarcomas in a way that our local physicians can’t.  Depending on the results of her CT scans, other testing, and decision from the Tumor Board, we may decide to reach out and explore other options.

We have been very happy with our doctors so far.  The attention they’ve given us has been amazing.  It has done a lot to calm many of the fears we had early on.

It’s only been 10 days (at the time of this posting) since we learned of the diagnosis.  A lot of poking, and prodding, scans and testing have been done in that time.  We are thankful that so much has been done in such a short amount of time.

We’re also thankful for the hundreds of people praying.  We have been overwhelmed by the comments on social media, texts, calls and emails from family and friends.  In some cases we’ve heard from total strangers!

Our prayer and faith remains the same:

  1. We’re believing she is healed.
  2. We’re asking for wisdom (for us and the doctors).
  3. We’re praying for peace.

We know God is in control, and we know he is already working on Courtney’s behalf.  We have seen the fruit of His working even this week.

Many of you have asked how the kids are doing. They understand that Mommy has cancer, but aren’t entirely sure what it all means.  Kids are smart.  They pick up on things, even if you don’t explain it all to them.  They know something is up.

Please continue to pray for us.  Pray WITH us.  Pray for healing.  Pray for wisdom.  Pray for peace.

If you’ve read this far, thank you!  We appreciate all the love and support we’ve received so far.

Stay tuned…we believe and look forward to sharing good results with you soon.

A Snowflake’s Guide to Not Being Offended


Has society slapped you in the face?

Do you find yourself lost in a world of protest hashtags?

Did your candidate flunk out of the Electoral College?

Are you bothered that a Muslim can be elected President in this day and age?

Can you believe what Madonna said?!

Then this article is for you!!

It’s easy to constantly be offended in today’s world. Recent studies have shown that being offended increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, and hypocritical intolerance.

These 12 steps are designed to help you prevent being offended.  Follow them closely and see the difference they can make in your life today!

  1. Stop taking yourself so serious. No one else really does.
  2. If you weren’t offended or even aware of the problem before you saw it trending on Twitter, then get over it! Can I get a #Kony2017
  3. Recognize that celebrities (although over-paid disproportionally by gender, apparently) also have a right to free speech. It’s just more annoying when they complain about stuff.
  4. Keep things in perspective. I survived 8 years of Obama, you will make it through Trump.
  5. For Christians: There is a reason we have a special term. So don’t act surprised when the world, acts like “the world”.
  6. Repeat after me – “There is a difference between being offended and simply disagreeing with someone.” Rinse and repeat as needed.
  7. Train your brain to ignore any breaking news alerts that include the hashtag #SCOTUS.
  8. Back away from the keyboard or keep scrolling.  Either one is a necessary response when you read a post that makes your “Oh no he didn’t!” flare up.  Reality is, no one is going to change their voter registration, or become un-gay because of your Facebook response.
  9. Accept the fact that “Privilege” is a real thing, and it comes in ALL the colors of the rainbow.
  10. Use the “Family Restroom” at Target.  It is usually cleaner, more spacious, and it’s a one-seater.  Problem solved.
  11. Unless you’re one of the 300k+ homeless veterans in this country, don’t get too worked up over the refugee “crisis”.
  12. Let go of your hostility toward the inanimate objects that hold our society hostage with their hate and violence. I.e. Flags, Guns, Chicken Mini’s, etc.

Work these 12 easy steps to take your life back. You deserve it!

*Results may vary



We Are Better Than This


A friend put into words the real truth about this election.  Thank you Jeremy Harrell for sharing!

Over the past several weeks, I’ve watched as good people on every side of the presidential race abandon or outright destroy longtime friendships with good people they’ve known for decades but who happen to see the election differently. I’ve seen the same thing happen among family members. 

Good people are calling other good people racists, hate mongers, traitors, anti-American, anti-Christian, RINO, crazy, lunatic, stupid, baby killer, evil or worse because they disagree over which of two people – neither of whom they have ever met – they should or shouldn’t vote for. 

Good people have decided it is ok to abandon our common courtesy and be rude to other good people. None of this is one-sided, and I’m both guilty and a victim myself. 

Presidential candidates should call us to something greater than ourselves, but this election is bringing out the worst in us. 

Over the next four weeks we’ll each have to justify for ourselves why we will or won’t vote for one of two deeply flawed people to lead our country. For some of us the decision will be easy, and for some the decision will be extraordinarily difficult. Regardless of the decision (for either candidate or just to not vote) most all of us will have to abandon some personal principle or standard in order to make it. If we say we aren’t we’re fooling ourselves.

I pray for our country, and for those who seek to lead it. I hope that when this is over we can bind up the wounds and divisions that have been created by this race. I hope we’ll all remember who our friends are, and regret the terrible things we said to and about one another, and find our better selves. I hope that those of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ will remember who we are, remember where we find our identity, and recommit ourselves to reflecting His character and nature. And I hope we’ll look back on this last year with profound sadness for what we became and commit to one another that we will never again let this happen. 

I hope.

Post Debate Wrap-Up

Another GOP Presidential debate is in the books.  

This was the debate CNBC should have had…
  
It was nice to see less candidates on the stage tonight, although I hated to see one of my favorites (Chris Christie) demoted to the “kids table”.  The smaller number of candidates on the big stage really gave us a chance to hear more specific proposals.

Here’s my rundown.  Keep in mind, I’m evaluating them through the lense of viability in a general election.  After all, that’s what we should be aiming for here, the best candidate to win next November.

BEN CARSON – Came out swinging after a week of intense scrutiny.  “I don’t mind being vetted, I mind being lied about.”  Welcome to the NFL Dr. Carson.  He didn’t get as much talk time as I would have expected for a front runner. His closing statement was on point.  It’s time to change the narrative.

DONALD TRUMP – What is this, his 4th debate?  Nothing new, and likes to repeat himself.  I get it Donald. You want to build a wall.  John Kasich is lucky Ohio struck oil. He’ll be the best on the military.  America isn’t winning anymore. He’ll rip up the deal with Iran.  For everything else, he watches “the shows”.  It’s way past time Donald,  you’re fired!

JOHN KASICH – John wants to talk, a lot. One of the more experienced candidates on the stage, he’s too moderate to get the nomination.  He needs to learn some manners when it comes to interrupting.  His response when pressured about bailing out the banks was very disjointed, and scary. He won’t rise in the polls, which only means it is a matter of time for John.

JEB BUSH – I actually thought Bush had his best night of the debate season. Bush claims we don’t need to be the worlds policeman, but we do need to be the world’s leader.  Something about American Exceptonalism gets me every time.  Still not a strong enough night to jump out of the rut he’s in.

CARLY FIORINA – Carly is really good at pivoting from the question to answer one that wasn’t asked, it’s an art. She’s sharp, she’s articulate, she’s for zero based budgeting!  She tells the truth in a way that just makes sense.  Another solid performance from Carly.

TED CRUZ – After a standout performance last debate, Cruz did not capitalize on that momentum tonight.  He regularly throws out lines that have been scripted well in advance, hoping to rack up as many zingers as possible.  He committed a Rick Perry by promising specifics he couldn’t remember.  You can find out more by visiting TedCruz.org,  which he mentioned thrice.

MARCO RUBIO – “Welders make more than Philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”  He made a good point when it comes to higher education, but he probably lost the philosopher vote. Pro Family, one of the reasons I like Marco.  His diagnosis of Vladamir Putin was spot on. Strong night for Rubio.

RAND PAUL – Rand took a swing at Rubio’s tax plan, but I think it fell flat, as evidenced by audience response.  I appreciate his conservative stance on all spending. He’s too far right to be a viable candidate in the general, and ironically he’s too far right to win the nomination. With Christie and Huckabee gone, Rand Paul needs to be next.

Winners = Rubio and Fiorina
Biggest Losers = Kasich, Bush and Paul



Thanks for letting me share a quick gut reaction to each candidate.  What were your thoughts on tonight’s debate?