Monday, September 10, 2007

News From Houston

Hi y'all! I just got back to my hotel room after my visit with Dr. Legha. He looked at the CT scans and said they show that the existing tumors in my abdomen have grown slightly and that there are at least four more tumors. The new tumors are both in the liver and outside the liver, between the kidneys and liver and pancreas. He acted concerned but not panicked about these. He said the primary focus right now is to treat the brain. At the same time, he said it is critical to hit physical therapy hard to regain as much use of the leg as possible and to minimize muscle atrophy in the leg.

Dr. Legha said I should proceed with whole brain radiation, which I am scheduled to start on Wednesday. He said I should complement the radiation therapy with a chemotherapy drug called Temodar. Temodar is an oral chemotherapy that "interferes with cell growth" in the brain. It generally does not affect tumors in other parts of the body. Dr. Legha said the tumors in my abdomen, although larger and more numerous, are stable enough at present that we do not need to treat them at this time. He said it is more important that we get the brain metasteses under control and regain strength and functionality in the leg. Once we deal with those issues, we then can pursue chemotherapy treatments for the abdominal tumors.

The only other possible treatment we may pursue in the near future concerns the subcutaneous node on my right ribcage. This surface tumor, which was growing under the skin, has begun to penetrate the skin. Dr. Legha said I should talk to the radiologist about using radiation to treat this tumor before it breaks through the surface of the skin. He said we can wait to apply radiation therapy until the node begins to cause pain (Dr. Legha said it will become tender and sore as it nears the surface of the skin).

So that's the long and short of it. I was happy to hear him say the cancer has not metastasized to my lungs. I'm even happier that I can pursue treatment at home and that I should be able to attend my brother's wedding in October. But as much as I try to put a positive spin on things, the fact is that the news--once again--is not good. I would be so grateful to hear a doctor just one time tell me something that is undeniably good. As in "all of the tumors are smaller" or "some tumors are gone." There's no point getting too distressed about things, and I continue to hope that future treatments will lead to good news in the future. It's this hope that helps me stay positive about the whole situation. But, as my neurosurgeon Dr. Mueller said to me, "You've had a grand slam hit against you," and each time I hear that the scans have detected another tumor or that my LDH levels are up (LDH levels provide an indication of tissue damage in the liver) it feels like another batter hitting one over the fence.

But that's enough about me. : ) I need to send out thanks to all the people here in Houston, who have made this an enjoyable trip. We ate a delicious Italian dinner--prepared by a native of Rome, which is the best way to get an Italian dinner--on Friday night at the home of Stefano and Betty (Hanigan) Costantini. Betty was my babysitter when I was a kid. She has four impressive children, two handsome boys (Mattheo and Tomaso) and two beautiful girls (Anna Maria and Isabella). The whole family made me feel right at home, and I hope I get another chance to visit Ristorante Costantini! We followed that up with an authentic Texas barbecue with Jerry Toomey, his wife Margaret, daughter Ann, and son-in-law Greg. Jerry is an ND grad, and Ann and Greg have a son who is a senior at Notre Dame. We were joined by Cathy Connors, the president of the ND club of Houston. We watched the Notre Dame v Penn State game. The football skills of the Fighting Irish were the only disappointing part of the evening. The dinner was prepared by Margaret, who has proven time and again to be a master chef. The Toomeys offered to take us out to dinner or have us over for a meal in their home. The decision was a no-brainer: a meal in their home is better than any restaurant I've ever eaten in. Tonight we will be dining with my college roommate Kevin Gardner and his wife Melissa and son Trey. They are always so welcoming when I come to town, and it's fun for me to see how much Trey has grown between visits. He's one of those kids who just make you smile when you see him. With friends like these, it's no wonder I'm almost beginning to feel like a Texan!

And thanks to everyone for posting their blogs. Please don't feel guilty about not posting or not emailing. I know you're out there, and the fact that you even read the blog humbles me. And no, you're not technologically challenged if you can't figure it out. I work with computers for a living, and I still come across things on the Internet that leave me perplexed and cause me to give up.

Finally, thanks to my sister Michelle for accompanying me on this trip. It has been a real privilege for me to spend so much quality time with her. She was eight years old when I moved away to college so I have missed out on so much that has happened in her life. I have enjoyed getting to know her better during our time together, and I am awed by the person she has become. And the best part is that we have resolved all of the world's problems in the last four days and are ready to provide personal counseling to Britney Spears whenever she is ready to get her life in order. : )

Take care y'all!


Jennifer said...

I graduated from Pius in 92' and your story has been passed on to many. Please know your family is in our prayers. You are so blessed to have a strong family to gather strength from. I really believe at difficult times in our lives, God circles us with people to help us go on. You have many in your circle!
Jennifer (Stewart) Novacek

Patricia said...

WOW! Your postive outlook and gratefulness are inspiring! It sounds like you have truely made the most of your trip to Houston!
Know that you and your family are continuosly in our prayers!
Many Blessings,
Patricia Hrnchir (Patti Dailey)

Kara Smith said...

Well, Jeff, I wish your news had been as you wanted...wouldn't it just be nice to have the doctors say that it was just gone. signs of it anywhere!

That is what I keep praying for. I just keep asking God to take all of the cancer out of your body. I get so frustrated that His will isn't always as I wish.

I know we become stronger through our challenges, so you must be able to bench press about 250 or so now!! Your emotional strength appears to be stronger than ever, so keep fighting and hopefully your postive thinking will have positive results.

Kara Smith

gardiner said...

Hi Jeff, Meaghen and Brendan here.
You were especially on our minds today. Glad to hear about your nice weekend with good friends. Keep strong, keep strong!! Your ability to handle each step of the treatment process, one at a time, with such patience and strength is why you are beating this. Safe trip to you and Michelle going back to Wauwatosa. Love and prayers, M & B

TheRamFam said...


Your strength to keep fighting and faith and hope that you can beat this continue to be an inspiration to us all. Keeping fighting, even when it seems the breaks just keep going against you. You are a true Notre Dame Man. You and your family remain in my thoughts and prayers, as well as those of NDNation. Heal Like A Champion Today.


sean.stevens said...

Jeff -

I wish that the news was better but what I continue to find amazing is your positive outlook and sense of humor during your struggle.

We continue to pray for you, Kelly, and the kids. Your strength to continue the fight and continue to believe that this disease can and WILL be beaten inspire me.

Keep the fight, and know that we are thinking of you here in Omaha.

Sean and Heather (Keslar) Stevens and family

John & Peggy said...

Just want you to know that I read your blog constantly. You and your family are in our prayers always. You all are an inspiration to us.
God's blessings to you.
John & Peg

Laura Gilbert said...

Hey, Jeff. Just as you won't lie, I won't either -- I was hoping that you'd get either "no growth" or "miraculous shrinkage," even as I knew that the odds are against it. But if you can settle for "not so much growth", I guess so can I (although I'll step up the prayers) :)
Please do whatever you can to help Ms. Spears. It's clear that she needs you desperately.
Love & Prayers, Laura G

Laura Gilbert said...

Hey, Jeff. Just as you won't lie, I won't either -- I was hoping that you'd get either "no growth" or "miraculous shrinkage," even as I knew that the odds are against it. But if you can settle for "not so much growth", I guess so can I (although I'll step up the prayers) :)
Please do whatever you can to help Ms. Spears. It's clear that she needs you desperately.
Love & Prayers, Laura G

Dana Ryherd said...

Decided to check in this morning-
You and your family came to mind yesterday, and I took that as a reminder to pray for you all. Keep up the fight. I am glad that Dr. Legha is helping you- it was his protocol that got my husband, Steve, into remission 6 years ago.
Your "cloud of witnesses" (see Hebrews 12) includes many on this earth- even a family in South Texas that you have never met!
May God bless you and your dear family-

Runges said...

Dear Jeff, Kelly, Aubrey, Regan Jack and Finn,
I don't always post, but am always thinking about all of you. I'm so glad that we were able to visit with you the other day for a few moments and see Finn in such a peaceful state. I let Charlie know that you will be receiving treatment back here, so he can stop and see how things are going.
I enjoyed chatting with Aubrey the other day about middle school when she was faithfully selling the magazine subscriptions. Longfellow needs more industrious kids like Aubrey to bring in the orders!!!!
Through all your difficult times, remember that the strength and faith of your whole family is helping MANY others by inspiring them to make the most of each day. All our best wishes and prayers to you each and every day. Love, Cheir Runge

Ann R said...

Well the news was not good but the hope and courage is very good. I am praying that all the prayers can bring you and your family some good news. You have taught us all so many great lessons in courage and hope we can all be very unappreicated at times of all that we have untill we hear stories like your's.
For this I thank you for all you have shown me.
God Bless and Have a great day !
See you in Oct. at the Wedding
Ann Reins
(Tracy Dodd mother in Omaha Ne)

Tonyn'CC said...

Hey Jeff,

If I had not created such a unique userid and password to this blog, I could actually remember it and you'd see my posts more frequently. Seems like guessing my login and then getting a new password/userid each time takes about as much time as writing you, so I look forward even more to our phone calls, emails, and especially seeing you in person in Milwaukee. Although you're fortunate to now take most of your treatment in Milwaukee, it gives your family and friends a great deal of solace in knowing how good of friends you have in Houston, especially your former Flanner Hall roommate (hey Kev!). Through all this, you have truly been a ROCK, and that is undoubtedly the product of a strong faith, an extremely loving family, and your caring friends.
God speed!!!
Tony and CeeCee Popanz

mark murphy said...

hey jeff - once you get strong enough to rake your leaves...keep right on going and rake ours!

we love you all

The Murphys

ps - there's another racoon roaming our lot line -- archery anyone?

Domer95 said...

Blast from the past...this is one of your 5 freshman roomies from ND (the one who was never around). Your story has been so inspiring that I couldn't help but to try out the bloggin' thing. You've got a beautiful family and an amazing network of support.

Once you beat cancer, please share some of your amazing strength with the Irish offensive line. They could learn a thing or two from you!

Susan (Hund) and I are praying for you.

Jay Kochman

Katie Clancy said...

Hi Jeff,
I am sorry that the news wasn't what you hoped to hear. What a relief that you can take the next course of treatment in Milwaukee and see your family as often as you wish. Our prayers for strength, stamina and continued good humor as you begin radiation and chemo. Our love, Katie and Ed

Sheila said...

Sending my love and a warm hug Jeff. You and your family continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. Sheila Kuchta

Sister Mary Ruth Dittman said...

Jeff and Family:
I read your blog regularly and I want you to keep up your spirits! I pray for you very very much. Continue to enjoy time with your family and friends and keep up your positive outlook. I have enjoyed the pictures posted of your beautiful family.I think about you and pray for you daily.