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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Brad hadn't updated his blog lately, until today. So here is an update on his progress. This young man has such faith and strength fighting this battle.

No Impossible with God: I Will Break Cancer, Cancer Will Not Break Me
Journal entry by Brad Hook — 4 hours ago

You see both the good and the bad when you are part of social media groups exclusive to cancer.

The bad lately: A young mom (mid 30's like myself) has left behind 2 kids (slightly older than Emerson and Reagan) after a vigorous 3.5 year fight against the monster. Then there is a young dad (early 40's), beautiful family, likewise leaves behind his 2 children and his wife after giving it his all for so many years. Finally, there is another dad that is doing everything he can to hang in there as he currently fights liver issues that have ate away at his weight and made him jaundice due to complications from the cancer.

And the good lately: A young dad about my age slays the beast and achieves NED status after a successful combined liver resection / colon resection to remove the remnants of the tumors in his body. You also have a young mom (3 children) that refused to accept being told she was inoperable on her liver and found a liver surgeon willing to do the liver resection and clear her liver of 13 liver mets which was followed by successful colon resection surgery to get her to NED status. And finally, a father that had 90% of his liver covered in tumors makes it to NED status after many rounds of strong chemo (FOLFOX) and successful liver resection / colon resection / gall bladder removal (perhaps a spleen removal as well if my memory serves me correct!) and placement of the HAI pump (the remaining tumors on the right side of his liver are amazingly all dead).

When you see the bad, it can mess with your head and make you ultimately wonder if you are going to come up short in the end no matter how much you push yourself and how much you believe you are going to be a success story. In your head, you ask yourself, what makes me any different than those individuals? Will my fate ultimately be the same?

I continue to write my story at the moment, 19 months since I was diagnosed, and who knows how long since cancer decided to make a home in my body (I was looking at pictures on my phone with Emerson a couple of weeks ago and noticed the change in my complexion (the look of my eyes and my overall color) start around late 2016 / early 2017...)). So, where does that story stand at the moment?

First and foremost, we were able to set up all of my treatment at Saint Luke's in Kansas City in the interim while travel to NYC was not an option. Honestly, this was a blessing because it meant that we did not have to travel to St. Louis even for the FUDR treatments in my HAI pump. Rather, MSKCC coordinated with Saint Luke's to make it possible for me to get my FUDR treatments locally. It simply was a matter of communicating the criteria / dosages to my oncologist and having the pharmacists between the facilities get on the phone so that they knew how to mix it properly at Saint Luke's. I received my 5th FUDR treatment on April 20th (just a 2 week delay) and my 6th FUDR treatment this past Monday (May 18th). I have also received 14 cycles of FOLFIRI (systemic chemo) since starting this regimen back in November. My CEA continues to remain low (1.6, 1.5, 1.5, 1.6, and 2.0 have been the past 5 results). Finally, I had a CT scan on April 17th which showed some increased calcification of the liver mets with everything remaining stable for the most part (i.e., no growth in the liver mets or rectal tumor, maybe some shrinkage in the liver mets).

On Friday (May 22nd), I had a telehealth appointment with Dr. Connell (my MSKCC oncologist) to discuss the scan results as well as next steps. Having known my scan results for several weeks prior to this appointment, I went into the appointment / call with two questions in mind: (a) How are we going to get me to liver resection?; and (b) Can we address the rectal tumor at the very least?

Addressing the liver first, Dr. Connell discussed my scans with Dr. Kingham (the liver surgeon) and at the moment liver resection is not an option because I would likely end up in liver failure since I do not have enough healthy liver to leave behind given the location of the tumors. It likely will take some combination of more chemo through the HAI pump (perhaps at an increased dosage if possible without harming the liver) as well as other procedures (ablation, etc.) to get me to liver resection with no known timetable still for when I will get to that point. Put differently, at some point we probably are going to have to take some risks with the liver.

However, in the interim, for the rectal tumor, we are heading back to NYC on June 13th for a CT scan and MRI. I will see the rectal surgeon (Dr. Garcia-Aguilar) that Monday (June 15th) to review the MRI and determine next steps to address the rectal tumor (this will be in addition to treatment that day). Dr. Connell suggested this being the time to perhaps take a break from chemo since everything is stable in the liver and remove the rectal tumor. Translation, more to come after the June 15th visit, but I believe we will be preparing to finally remove the primary tumor at long last as it is not going away without surgery.

As you can imagine, there was a part of me that was pissed and frustrated that the January scan showed so much progress and then the recent one showed everything was stable. However, in the cancer world, stable is not a bad thing, because it means no progression, nothing new, and everything is under control. Obviously there is work to be done on the liver tumors still, but there are many ways to get me to liver resection, including a more aggressive surgeon if that becomes necessary. Most important to me is just doing something, and if that something is taking out the primary tumor, that is a start and I will take it! With the rectal tumor gone, at the very least we can focus solely on the liver without having to worry about what is happening with the rectal tumor.

Now, the really amazing part about all of this, perhaps I have just been hardened by this whole journey as I get further into it, or maybe it is the Taurus / stubborn side of me that just has no breaking point whatsoever, but I am strangely at peace with everything at the moment and know my day will come, it is not a matter of "if", but rather a matter of "when". If this were last year, I would have had my moment and broke down for a bit after the phone call after being told I am still inoperable on my liver and not being given any clear indication if and when I will get to liver resection. This time, I had a brief moment, then went back to being focused on how far I have come to this point and how I will be nothing short of a miracle when I find my way through everything. To be in the condition I am in at the 19 month mark after diagnosis is unbelievable given the shape I was in back in October 2018. I look and feel like a person that does not have cancer even though my liver is still covered in tumors and I have a rather large one still lodged in my rectum. I have gone through 41 cycles of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation, and I will be damned if I am not going to find my way to a liver resection and no evidence of disease (NED) status. I will break cancer, it will not break me. With every bump in the road, I just dig deeper, become more determined, more relentless, and more resilient, and push right through it.

With all that said, my song of the moment is "No Impossible With You" by I Am They. Some of the lyrics (as well as a link to the song) are below:

"Right now You're fighting all my battles,
Right now You're breathing life again,
And I know You're mighty in my weakness,
So right now my soul will say amen

There's no heart You can't rescue,
No war You can't win,
No story so over, it can't start again,
No pain You won't use,
No wall You won't break through,
It might be too much for me,
But there is no impossible with You"


Four very powerful words, no impossible with You, I believe it and will never stop believing it. There is no quit in me, I will never give up. Cancer is taking on a relentless force.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

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