Prior email updates

Update 1
8/4/2012
Dear Family and Friends,

As you all know, our lives got turned upside down last Friday (7/27) with the delivery of our beautiful daughter Audrey Julia Chang. She is healthy, beautiful, hungry, and constantly sleeping (thank God!). Little did we know that during that same weekend, our lives would once again turn upside down. However, this time instead of something beautiful, we received the worse news of our lives.

During the c-section, the doctors found 2 cysts in Carmen, one on each ovary. They removed one and ran some tests which came out positive for malignant cancer. It had characteristics of cells that usually come from the GI tract. So they ran a CT scan and found a tumor in her stomach. An endoscopy found a 5cm tumor. Further biopsy confirmed that it is most likely the same cell type as the one from the ovary.

The doctors are awaiting the final results on the primary source of the cells to see which tumor came first. Our consultation with the oncologist is scheduled for this coming Thursday. Hopefully we’ll get some favorable news and a detailed and routine treatment plan to battle this.

It’s been a tough week for us, so I ask you all to keep Carmen in your prayers continuously until she becomes cancer-free. I would imagine the initial onslaught against this will last months with many more months of recovery, and a lifetime of monitoring.

She’s resting from the c-section, so if she doesn’t pick up your calls, or reply to your texts right away, just understand we’re still overwhelmed.

Please pray for Carmen.

Thanks.

Jack

Update 2
8/20/2012

Dear Family and Friends,
A few weeks have passed since my last email and much has happened since then. We had our initial consultation with our primary oncologist, then a multitude of subsequent opinions, including one from one of the top GI oncologists in the nation, Dr. Randy Hecht. Dr. Hecht, along with the majority of oncologists we spoke with, agreed that chemo therapy should be the first line of treatment for Carmen, followed by surgery as necessary. We feel comfortable that given Carmen’s condition, chemo is the best first option.
Her chemo will begin this coming Thursday. She will receive about 4 cycles of chemo therapy, with each cycle lasting 3 weeks. Then our first milestone, a CT scan. She will then undergo another 3-4 cycles and get to our 2nd milestone, another CT scan. This will take us to late January, right around Carmen’s birthday (1/22). This 2nd milestone will be very important for obvious reasons. We need the CT scan to be “clean”. The hope is that we will NOT see any new formations or blotches in other areas of her body, aside from the stomach and ovarian tumors (hopefully these will have shrunk in size as well). The initial CT scan taken 3 weeks ago was “clean” and only showed the stomach and ovarian tumors. There was nothing in the lining of her stomach either when they first saw the ovarian cyst during the C-section. The only reason I’m being so specific with her condition is so that your prayers will be specific and bold.
Carmen has been recovering from the C-section extremely well giving all of her doctors great hope that she will respond well to the treatments. She has also been producing milk like a prized California dairy cow. You should see our freezer! We should be able to give Audrey breast milk for another 1-2 months after she stops breast feeding with the first chemo treatment this Thursday. Fantastic job.
We would like to thank all of you that have offered up your time, energy, and most importantly, steadfast prayer these past 3 weeks. This cancer is very aggressive and extremely difficult to combat, which is why we need everybody’s fervent prayer now more than ever. Our Good Lord will need to pick her up with His righteous hand and carry her across the finish line. This fight will last much longer than what I had initially anticipated, but if anybody is up to the challenge, it’s my wife. Her stubbornness will pay great dividends. That much I’m confident.
So, here are Carmen’s prayer requests.
– Spiritual healing.
– Give her doctors the wisdom to choose the right drugs and treatment plan.
– For our 3 daughters, Olivia, Ella, and Audrey that they may be blessed through this ordeal.
– For Carmen’s strength, peace, and hope
– Continued recovery from the C-section surgery.
– That her body can withstand the many negative side effects of chemo, and simultaneously respond greatly to the drugs’ positive effects of killing off cancer cells.
– That the first milestone will be clean.
– That the second milestone will be clean.
– That the cancer will go into remission ASAP.

We’ve begun to see God’s fingerprints these past 3 weeks which has given us much needed peace of mind. His pieces to this puzzle, though very difficult, all point to a full recovery. Here are a few miracles and ironies that don’t make much sense from a humanly point of view, but makes perfect sense from God’s perspective.

1) Carmen was seen by 2 OBGYNs, and 3 ultrasound techs over 12+ visits. Nobody saw or noticed the grapefruit sized (yes, grapefruit) ovarian cyst just under her skin. This blinding miracle was necessary in order to save Audrey’s life.
2) A C-section was done on the 3rd pregnancy after 2 natural deliveries. Olivia and Ella’s delivery both caused 3rd-4th degree tears allowing for a C-section. Normally if 2 are natural, they don’t do a C-section on the 3rd. We believe God was readying her for this moment because without a C-section, we would’ve been blind to her cancer.
3) Although normally stage 4 cancer is bad (it is extremely bad), it had to be a stage 4 cancer for us to catch it when we did. If her stomach cancer was in stage 1 when the C-section was performed, Carmen would be in serious trouble because we would’ve never known about it until it had manifested itself as large tumors all over her body. Knowing her she would’ve kept it to herself. How ironic is that?
4) And where did the spread go? To the exact spot that her doctors would not miss it this time, her ovaries. If the 2nd tumor was in any other organ, the doctors would not have caught it. This tumor in the ovaries is called a Krukenberg tumor. We believe that God in His infinite wisdom placed the 2nd tumor specifically there so we could act, but only after Audrey was safe in our arms.
We’ve come to realize early on that everyone praying for Carmen is being blessed (including me). Please know that as much as you are praying for Carmen, we are in turn praying for you, that God may bless you as much as you have blessed us with your prayers. There is a sense of peace in our house now that doesn’t make much sense either, but I feel is a result of your prayers.
We must apologize to Audrey one of these days as much of the focus has been on Carmen’s well being. But know that Audrey is an angel, in more ways than one. She has been so good to us. She sleeps and eats and poos all day long with very little fuss. At 3 weeks, she is able to sleep about 5 hours at night (not every night, but many nights). Olivia and Ella are a handful but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Again, thank you so much for your prayer and support.

Sorry for the long email. Promise the next update will be shorter.
Please forward this to anyone that knows Carmen and that I may have missed.

Jack

Update 3
11/22/2013
Dear Family and Friends,

It has been 3 months since my last update on Carmen’s condition, although sometimes it feels like we’ve been carrying this for years. During this time we had a few celebrations that gave us a break from this ordeal and allowed us to be truly thankful for our wonderful blessings. Ella turned 4 on 10/10 (looks like she’s 2), Audrey reached her 100 day milestone on 11/4 (she’s gigantic), and Olivia became more talkative than ever before (we didn’t think that was possible either). We also witnessed the power of prayer and God’s hand working throughout the cycles. It could be just our imagination, but it seemed like even the weather cooperated and coordinated with Carmen’s treatment. I’ll explain below.

Carmen has been on a 2 drug regimen. One drug is through infusion once every 3 weeks, and the other is taken orally twice a day for 14 days, then 1 week off. These 3 weeks constituted 1 cycle. The infusion took about 2 hours at the hospital and the effects were immediate. The most noticeable side effect of the infusion is that it creates severe sensitivity to cold. Touching a metal door knob at room temperature became hazardous for Carmen, and drinking anything colder than room temperature was dangerous. The nausea was immediate as well. The effects of the second drug took a bit longer to manifest itself, but the drawback of this was that it lingered and built upon itself with each new cycle. This second drug caused hand/foot syndrome in Carmen. Her hands and feet have discolored, peeled, and became very sensitive and painful.

She has completed 4 of these cycles so far and started her 5th cycle today.

As mentioned in my last update, she had a pretty important milestone after her 4th cycle (total of 8). This was a CT scan to check her progress internally. Externally she looks great and has been feeling much better. Her stomach pains have abated after the 2nd month and she’s no longer on Prilosec. She was on a fairly high dose of Prilosec for about 2 months to help with the ulcerated tumor in her stomach. I think it’s healed because she’s not in pain anymore and is off of Prilosec. Her tumor markers were on the correct downward trend after each cycle. So everything up to this point lead us to believe that the treatment was working. We just needed to confirm what was happening internally.

Here’s my very scientific scale of the possible outcomes of the CT scan after 4 cycles:
– Worst Case: tumor grows and new areas are noted on other organs besides the stomach and ovaries.
– Moderate Case: tumor grows, but no new areas are noted.
– Optimal Case: tumor stabilizes and no new areas are noted.
– Best Case: tumor SHRINKS and no new areas are noted.

Well, I’m happy to report that Carmen has reached the best case scenario thus far. Her stomach tumor has shrunk by about 50% and no new areas were noted. This is certainly not the typical outcome for this type of cancer so we’re very happy with these excellent results. Although the future is still uncertain, we’ve taken a big step in the right direction.

Carmen and I have been living by and hanging on to a verse that Pastor Billy shared some time ago. It is Joshua 1:9. This verse has helped us tremendously over these few months and it has been engraved in us. Every time fear or anxiety begins to creep in, we just recite this verse to calm our spirit. God has been really good to us. I truly believe He will continue this miracle that He began with the birth of Olivia 6 years ago. We have faith that He will see us through this and reveal His glory in Carmen’s life.

So as we wait for the 2nd milestone in early February after another 4 cycles, we’d like to thank everyone for their prayer and support. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would’ve been without it. Believe me when I say it means a lot.

Oh, the weather comment from above. It seemed to us (Carmen and I) that “coincidentally” the weather would get warmer at the start of each new cycle. Take for example this cycle. It’s supposed to get warmer starting today, then cool off again on Sunday/Monday. Carmen needs warmth during the first few days after the infusion.

Would God alter the weather to show that He cares for Carmen? In my mind and my world, yes. 🙂

Thanks for reading and your continued prayers.

Jack

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One thought on “Prior email updates

  1. Hi Jack,

    I came across your blog while searching for Signet ring cell CA stomach and to tell you the truth your writings are so close to my current life events.

    My wife has also been diagnosed with exactly the same condition, status & stage as Carmen and we are also going thru all the emotions which you went thru….not ready to accept the outcome of current conventional treatment & trying other alternative therapies.

    I have derived a lot of courage from your fight with this rare CA and it would be a great help if I could to speak to you to discuss about my wife’s current therapy and seek guidance from your experience. May Allah bless Carmen’s soul ! Amen.

    My email contact: drmujib.khan@gmail.com. Please drop me an email with your contact details so I can call you if it’s fine with you.
    I am a clinical Research professional and currently working in Miami, FL.

    Regards,
    Dr Mujib Khan

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