Tag Archives: day to day with glioblastoma

Glioblastoma – Long Term Survival

This information is easy to find when newly diagnosed with Glioblastoma:
“The median survival of glioblastoma patients is approximately 12 months. However, 3-5% of the patients survives for more than 3 years and are referred to as long-term survivors.”
 
This part, however, somehow I never came across until Mike experienced it:
“When long-term survival does occur it is often accompanied by severe treatment-induced dementia.”
 
I remember so clearly Mike talking about the “life reset button” that he felt he was given. If he had known the future, he probably would have been tempted to opt out of treatment. I’m glad he didn’t know because he wouldn’t have understood the plans God had for him or understood the lives he’d touch by his tenacity to face each day.
 
By the time a person is diagnosed with Glioblastoma, their ability to research and advocate for themselves is usually pretty limited. Due to brain swelling, Mike was severely confused. I’ve walked many people through the first weeks of diagnosis…the hard part is knowing that long term survival is rare…and even if they are “blessed” with long term survival, chances are their lives will never be the same. I’m about as thankful as they come…but some days don’t feel so blessed. That’s the reality of what we are living.
 
May was brain cancer awareness month and I’ve learned that GBM is more common than I ever realized. God placed in our path a widow who had walked out GBM with her husband before Mike’s pathology even came back. She was a friend of a friend. Because of that, I felt two steps ahead because I was able to research. Sitting in the doctors office and hearing GBM – I already knew what we were up against and I had already done research. When the surgeon told me NOT to go to Duke or ask for a second opinion, I already had my mind made up that we were going. Had I not already done the research, I might have never pursued the brain tumor center at Duke.
 
Just some random thoughts as Mike’s official 4 year date of his first surgery and diagnosis is coming up. 4 years ago he had a deadly brain tumor that was growing and causing havoc, we just didn’t know the extent of what was going on in his head just yet.

Christmas Baby!

I am sorry that it has taken me so long to update. Things have been crazy, as you can imagine. I’m so proud to announce that our Grandbaby was born on December 25, 2015!  She is 3 weeks old and we all love her so much. The labor and deliver went smoothly and our daughter was amazing throughout the whole process. I was able to be in the room for the entire labor and delivery because my sister, brother and law and mom all stayed at our house to take care of Mike and the other two kids. Another cool fun fact is that they came home from the hospital ON MIKE’S BIRTHDAY!  What a birthday gift!

As you look at these photos, I hope that you see God’s grace.  I’m so proud of our daughter for choosing life.  Becoming pregnant at 15 was overwhelming, but God’s grace has really been present through this entire situation.  We are closer than we have ever been as a family and we have more joy than we have ever had. I am devoted to guiding Kayla in  motherhood and making sure this sweet baby is loved and provided for. We’ve got this.

Mike was able to meet his grandbaby in the hospital and I will share the video that captured him meeting her. The very last few second is the best.

Another exciting fact is that this month we celebrate that Mike has been on hospice for TWELVE MONTHS!  Praise God!  He is 43 months PAST GBM DIAGNOSIS!

Caralyn Elizabeth Emmons born December 25, 2015. 7lbs 2oz, 19 inches long.

 


Glioblastoma Survivor 2015 – September

I don’t want to ever feel like I glamorize brain cancer, or that I make it all look like it was all rainbows and butterflies. I focus on the good in life, so its natural for me to want to share the good, but I try to be intentional and honest in sharing the reality of the bad days of brain cancer too.  If you have read my posts you know that I have such a thankful heart and that I do feel honestly blessed, even with this hard life we are living.  I try to share the hard stuff, but I never quite feel like I can find words to even scratch the surface of how hard the days can be. I don’t usually blog unless I feel something really heavy on my heart, and this morning I have that feeling. Someone needs to read this.   I’m not exaggerating when I say that some days I have thought that the days are impossible.  Psalm 30:5 helps me in those times when I feel like life is just darkness and I need to cling to something to get me through the darkness.  God promises us morning after mourning.  I’ve experienced many seasons of darkness and mourning and have eventually seen the joy of a new day or new morning of joy. I hope that makes sense in the way I worded it.  I know that there tends to be a theme throughout my blog and that I tend to share the same things more than once, but I just share whats on my heart when I sit down to write.  I know that people don’t always read back to previous posts, so I write about what I think someone needs to read today.

I know how it feels at diagnosis to realize that only about 2% will live to see 3 years. The odds have always been against us, from the moment we were given the diagnosis.  I’d love to say that it is because of prayers Mike is here, but I’ve also seen mighty men of God who were surrounded in prayer die from GBM.  I’ve seen a child cry out in prayer to God asking God to save his Daddy in front of a church full of people in agreement.  I don’t know why those prayers weren’t answered, and I don’t try to have all the answers on healing.  I’ll be honest, there have been times that I’ve thought “Wow, if God didn’t heal that mighty man of God, then we don’t have a chance.”  I learned really quick that being worthy or not has nothing to do with it. God’s plan is not something we will ever understand. Dying from brain cancer means that there is the joy and peace of heaven ahead for that person.  There is sorrow for us who remain on earth, but pure joy for those who enter the gates of heaven.

I know how it feels to have the diagnosis in your family and to have to wonder if this will be the last summer, Christmas or birthday together.  I know how it feels to want to climb in bed and pull the covers over my head and not to want to face any of this.  I know how it feels to think “Next year at this time life will be different and he probably won’t be here.”  Mike was never expected to live this long.  I’ve always tried to find a healthy balance of facing reality and trying to prepare myself for the worst while also having a healthy hope for the future and for healing and restoration.  I have already chosen a funeral home, cemetery, casket and prepared his dress blues.  Trust me, I don’t take this time we have had for granted. I realize what a gift each day and each good moment is. We have experienced 41 days of radiations, 2 years of constant chemo and weekly doctors visits knowing that we would never ring that bell in the cancer center like so many patients do after completing their treatment plan, (Glio famililes, you aren’t alone!) decadron, anger, weight gain, then 100 lbs of weight loss, seizures, falls, ambulances, swelling, incontinence, hospital stays, feelings of isolation, confusion, short term memory loss, sleeping for days, Mike not even speaking a word for 8 days at a time, and all kinds of daily battles that I can’t even put into words.  I have been home bound with my husband for weeks and months at a time, not even being able to drive my kids to school, go grocery shopping, or take them to appts because he couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t be left alone.  Hospice has brought us some calm in the storm. So when you see my posts about being happy, blessed and thankful, know there is so much history behind why I’m so happy and thankful for a good moment.  Please, if you have a good moment with your loved one, be in that moment…grab a camera a capture it.  Don’t let the reality of this diagnosis steal a single moment that has the potential to be a moment of joy.

This last week we spent a week at a beach house with a pool in the Outer Banks and it was so amazing. We are so thankful to The Semper Fi Fund, Dreams for Veterans, and Seaside Vacations for their roles in making the week happen.  Mike faces so much confusion, pain, and scary days, so seeing this spark in his eyes and pure happiness on his face says more than any words than I can come up with. For years we felt like we didn’t deserve to request a dream, so we never did request the dreams that Mike initially had in mind.  Initially when I brought up the idea of submitting for a dream, Mike talked about how he always wanted to see Montana (so random, lol!) or go to a Saints game and have a meet and greet with Drew Brees.  Meet and greets require travel, so now that Mike is at the level of functionality and comprehension that he is at, travel isn’t a good idea for him.  Once he reached hospice I was inspired by seeing a few other families who made their loved ones dreams come true.  I realized that I wished we had requested it earlier and I wished that we would have done something when he was more able.  I also realized that his dream at this moment is simply to spend quality time with his family, so we requested to spend time in a house at the beach. I realized that requesting a dream wasn’t taking advantage in a bad way and it was silly to feel like we didn’t deserve it.  All summer he has wanted to get out and do things, but he doesn’t last long once out of the house, so I knew he needed a get away that would allow him to rest when needed.  I did some research to find a house with a pool because I knew that we wouldn’t be able to leave the house much and the kids would need to have an outlet for their energy.  I always feel guilty asking for anything, but I told myself we do deserve to try to squeeze a lifetime of memories into whatever time we have left.

Glioblastoma Survivor 2015

Seaside Vacations - Dream Foundation

Seaside Vacations - Outer Banks

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If you have airline rewards, but not quite enough for a flight, you might want to consider donating them to The Dream Foundation!

http://www.dreamfoundation.org/giving/


Valentines Day – Handwritten Engraved Necklaces, photos of our GBM warrior, and a detailed update

Our Valentines Day was nice. Mike felt okay for a few moments, but not for long throughout the day.  The girls and I went to a florist and picked out a couple of flowers to make a bouquet and I had Mike give the kids these gifts that we had made back in September.  He has lost his ability to read and write, so these gifts of handwritten engraved necklaces, a keychain and wooden “I love you” boxes are very special.  Kayla actually had to wait until this morning for Mike to sit with her for her to open her gifts because he wasn’t feeling well last night and she wasn’t here when the other kids opened theirs.

I don’t remember where I bought the boxes from, but the necklaces came from the following link: https://www.etsy.com/listing/156050883/custom-handwriting-necklace-with-the?ref=shop_home_feat_1

This is the flower the girls picked out for me…

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And I picked out my favorite flower….

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We ended up with a nice little bouquet.

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Most days Mike really has to muster up the strength to have even just a few good moments.  He often sits with his head in his hands in between those good moments.

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Kenzie wanted Red Robin for lunch, but we haven’t been able to go to a restaurant since August.  Mike doesn’t leave the house at all anymore.  About a month ago he left the house to go for a ride to the Krispy Kreme drive thru, and that is when we realized its just too hard and the enjoyment isn’t there.  Red Robin is just a half a mile from our house, so I ordered to go and brought it to them.  Mike wasn’t feeling well enough to sit at the table, so we all joined him in the room.  Most of the time he is in our bedroom still, but there are times that the adjustable hospital bed is needed to help him sit up.

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As far as whats going on with Mike these days…well, he has some really great moments still, and I’m so thankful for that.  That is what I dwell on day to day – the good moments.  But in all reality, he has some really bad moments too.  I’d say the pain is pretty well managed, so that is an improvement.  Its just the random brain shutdowns that are difficult. (for lack of a better way to explain it)  He can be doing so well one moment, and then have problems the next. For instance, last night all of a sudden he said “I can’t see.” When those things happen, (its not the first time his sight has gone)  I go into comfort mode.  I do whatever I can to help him have peace.  These moments are scary for him I’m sure. I tend to try to get him to the bed and try to get him to sleep when the scary things are happening and I hope that he can wake up feeling better.  We also wanders like an Alzheimer’s patient.  Other things that go during that brain shut down mode are speech, and sometimes the ability to stand or sit up. Sometimes he experiences just one of these things, sometimes all of them together, along with the Alzheimers/dementia type of behavior.  The hardest moments are when he’s having the dementia behavior along with the physical inability to physically be steady.  There have been times that he refuses to stay in the bed, yet he isn’t safe trying to get up.  This doesn’t stop him from trying though, and he has had falls.  Its really hard to describe, but my hope is that by trying to share our experiences I’m giving someone some insight and that it will help someone else in their care giving journey.  Sometimes the fact that we know that it is “normal” within the realm of GBM patients helps us as caregivers to get through the hardest moments and helps us know how to better help our loved ones.  I don’t have an answer on how to get him to stay in bed, but the biggest relief is when I can make sure he isn’t anxious, scared or extremely agitated.  There are medications to calm our loved ones so if you are experiencing this, just share the details with your doctor of what is happening, and they should be able to prescribe something to comfort the patient.