Chemo #3 update and Alaska Trip

Sorry for delaying this update. We've been busy.

Teresa is doing well with Chemo. Kudo's to the treatment team at Texas Oncology. They have done an outstanding job at keeping the side effects of chemo at bay.

Her third chemotherapy session went well. She's been a little more physically challenged and tired after this round of chemo. The biggest side effect this time other than that is the ongoing issues with cold sensitivity. She's not able to handle cold items or drinks. She also has issues with numbness in her extremities. They have prescribed gabapentin for that and that is helping somewhat. She's also having some issues with her rheumatoid arthritis because they need her to stop taking her NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for a time because of their blood thinning properties. She'll be taking a blood thinner for a couple of weeks to avoid the risks of a blood clot for our trip to Alaska.

Time to let you know some of the ways we've been spending your money. We've been buying warm clothes, jackets, boots and thermal underwear for our trip to Alaska. The trip will be from April 7 to April 12. We are quite excited about this trip. The biggest thing on Teresa's bucket list has been to see the Northern Lights. We'll be visiting Anchorage, Seward, and Fairbanks. I will also soon be purchasing 2 burial plots, one for her and one for me eventually.

We are flying first class to Anchorage and spend the night there, the next day we'll drive to Seward to take a boat to watch the whales as well as see some of the sights there. We will be spending a night there, then driving back to Anchorage for another night there. After that we will take the Alaska Railroad for a 12 hour trip to Fairbanks. This goes through the Denali mountain range, which we are quite excited to see. We'll spend two nights in Chena Hot Springs resort. We plan on trying out the springs if we can. The second night in Fairbanks we'll get on a bus to take us about 90 minutes north to see the Northern Lights. Then we'll fly back from Fairbanks and then drive home.

To save some money, we are flying from DFW Airport, and driving at night to save on hotels.

One of my friends has loaned us a camera for the trip (Thank you!) and we'll also be taking a GoPro we also bought with your donations.

I plan on posting video's and pictures when we get back, to share with you all.

As always, we thank you for your generousity and for your prayers and love.

https://journal.dread.ink/

https://www.gofundme.com/f/teresas-cancer-journey

https://www.giveinkind.com/inkinds/Q6C2G6W/supporting-the-nials-family

Chemo #2 update

This update is coming after Teresa started her 3nd chemotherapy treatment.

The first treatment went well, and while she is constantly tired, she had minimal side effects so far. She is regularly tired now, which is a side-effect of the chemotherapy. She hasn't let it slow her down much, but she's having to learn that she cannot be SuperMom and SuperWife. That's really tough for her.

We were able to celebrate my birthday with all the kids home, and that was really good. Then we were able to celebrate with a number of our friends at Church in a "joint party" arranged by one of our dear friends whose daughter has her birthday 1 day before mine.

I have added a travel trailer to our vehicle collection (2 vehicles, not much of a collection) which we will be using to make a number of trips to visit familiy and friends. We are planning trips to Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Louisiana and Florida (Disneyworld and Epcot) along with locations in Texas. This will allow us to not have to worry about hotel rooms, and allow us to take our comforts with us.

On to more recent news. We have the results of the PET scan mentioned in the last update. Praise God, there are no additional tumors right now, and the tumor on her pancreas has not grown in size since the CAT scan. Hopefully, the chemotherapy keeps this in check. Wednesday (3/10/2021) she started her second session of chemotherapy. This one has hit her a little harder, but mostly being tired and shaky. She is also extremely sensitive to cold foods and touch. This is a known side-effect of one of her chemotherapy drugs. Friday she will finish her chemotherapy and be free of devices for a couple of weeks. Saturday, she'll get her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and will get the second shot 3 weeks later. The ascites I mentioned in the last update is very minimal right now, and is not causing her problems right now, so there's no need for intervention on that.

Needless to say, the good news about the cancer being in only one location has buoyed our spirits.

Working with a travel agent friend we are planning a trip to Alaska, hopefully at the end of the month. That's due to the generousity of so many of you.

As always, we appreciate your help, your prayers, and your good wishes. So many people have sent cards, sent food, and sent their prayers. We are SO grateful for the love you have shown us.

I have added the blog link so you can read about previous updates. I have added all the newsletter updates to the blog.

https://journal.dread.ink/

https://www.gofundme.com/f/teresas-cancer-journey

https://www.giveinkind.com/inkinds/Q6C2G6W/supporting-the-nials-family

Chemo #1 Update

Today is Chemo day. Finally started this part of the battle against Teresa's cancer. More on that later.

Last Saturday, Teresa and I were privileged to go to Holy Archangel's Monastery in Kendalia. We were blessed to be able to spend a few hours with Father Ephraim. Father Ephraim blessed us and prayed for healing for Teresa, as well as annointing her with myrrh from the Iveron icon. He also gave us prayer ropes, and we bought a few things from the Bookstore.

Afterwards, we headed home and stopped in Johnson City and did a little shopping and went to lunch. It was a very nice and peaceful time. Afterwards, Teresa said it was a very good day.

Monday, we took some time and bought a new truck to replace our SUV. I was able to take some money out of my 401K (Yay for being almost 60!) which allowed us to make the down payment. I'll be pulling some more money out in a few weeks to buy a travel trailer so we can travel without having to worry about all the various Covid restrictions.

We are going to take a few short trips after this first Chemo session. We want to understand how the Chemo affects Teresa before we plan any longer trips.

Monday Teresa will get her PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography) https://www.healthline.com/health/pet-scan which will allow the Oncologists to understand how extensive the cancer is and later on how well Teresa is responding to treatment.

After the second chemo session assuming she is well enough, we plan on taking a trip to Alaska. Teresa's greatest wish is to see the Northern lights. Even if they aren't active though, we want to see this beautiful area together.

Teresa's chemotherapy is a three day process. Day one is the longest part. Teresa will have a series of 4 drugs inroduced to fight the cancer. These drugs will be inserted into the port she had implanted in her right shoulder. This port has a catheter going from the jugular vein into her heart. This is to allow the drugs to be blasted to everywhere in her body.

The drugs are introduced one at a time. The fourth drug is adminstered over 46 hours via a pump she will wear home. Thursday is a rest day, and then Friday we will go back to have the pump removed. Then 11 days later we get to do it again. This is the pattern we will follow until we know if the drugs are helping or not.

Along with these drugs will be a number of drugs to deal with nausea and to strengthen her body.

Additionally, there are fluids bulding in her abdomen that may periodically need to be removed. This fluid buildup is called ascites. https://www.medicinenet.com/ascites/article.htm. This is a common problem with abdominal cancers.

As always, we appreciate your help, your prayers, and your good wishes.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/teresas-cancer-journey

https://www.giveinkind.com/inkinds/Q6C2G6W/supporting-the-nials-family

Update 2/17/2021

This will be a shorter update.

A number of things have happened in the last week. We've had record cold in Texas that has led to snow, sleet, and freezing rain. We were fortunate that we were able to go shopping before all this hit us, so we've had plenty of food. We had a few hours of no power the first night but power returned pretty quickly. Unfortunately at some point in spite of our best efforts the pipes into the hot water heater froze. We put a lamp and an electric space heater near it and eventually they thawed out and we have hot water again.

The cold weather caused the oncology clinic to close (not that we would have been able to get there anyway). So Teresa's chemotherapy has been pushed back at least a week. The doctor has put her at the top of the priority list in the backlog. It's frustrating, but we just try and see the will of God in all this.

It's been pretty hard coming to terms with this diagnosis for all of us. What has helped a lot is the amount of love, and the people praying for her. What has amazed us is the generousity of people around us. We set the gofundme at $20k and expected we might get half of it. But as of right now, $16,560 has been contributed. We have been delighted, shocked, humbled and grateful in turn at the generousity people have shown to my wiife and family. This has also pulled a great burden from me because now I have time and funds to deal with her final expenses while I am not grieving.

Additionally, friends have set up a site where you can help directly if you prefer doing things like cooking. I'll post that below. I plan on updating this next Wednesday after her next chemo session.

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/f/teresas-cancer-journey

GiveInKind: https://www.giveinkind.com/inkinds/Q6C2G6W/supporting-the-nials-family

Update and gofundme

I hope everyone is staying warm in the unusually cold weather. As I write this in the hill country of Texas, we aren't expected to get above freezing, and the lows over the next few days will be in single digits.

Last week we got the chemotherapy regimen explained, and yet more tests. The latest tests were to see if this is a genetic cancer or what they call a sporadic cancer. The latter (and I will stand correction on this) means that' it's just something that happened. The genetic testing will tell us if we need to be on the look out for problems with the kids and her other family members.

Wednesday she had a port put in. This is a small medical device that went into her shoulder. This port provides a way to get chemotherapy drugs into her system quickly and safely. The port has a small catheter than runs into her heart. She says it feels weird. The idea is that as they introduce the chemotherapy drugs into her system her heart will blast them out everywhere a cancer could be.

Her chemotherapy (tentatively) looks like it is going to be starting on Wednesday February 17th. The way that works is that she will go in on Wednesday, receive 4 chemotherapy drugs in sequential order. The last drug needs to be put into the system over 46 hours so a pump will be attached to her port and she will come back on Friday the 19th to have it removed.

After the initial chemotherapy she will go back every 2 weeks. During that downtime from chemo we are going to make some car trips to visit friends, family, and places we were going to visit in our retirement.

Sadly, because we know this is a disease where the treatment is about extending life, not curing it. I'm having to face the reality of preparing for a funeral. The biggest part of that is burial plots. I should have that underway soon. I will purchase 2 plots so that I can eventually be buried next to her.

Which leads to this last I have set up a GoFundMe campaign. I do NOT want anyone to feel obligated. I don't even like to ask, but for her I will. If you can spare some money, I would appreciate it. Don't give if you don't have, or just don't feel it's right. All monies will be used for some short trips in between chemo sessions or for incidental expenses we run into that aren't covered by insurance, and for Teresa's final expenses. Fortunately, I've reached the age I can make a withdrawal from my 401k without extra penalties, which is what I will be doing to cover anything else we need.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I am trying to keep the best information here. I will probably be taking all this and putting it on a blog in the next couple of weeks, but it has been kind of crazy here.

Teresa's GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/teresas-cancer-journey

Definitive Diagnosis

So, we talked to the new oncologist today and got the definitive diagnosis. It iss hard to hear, and hard for me to type.

Teresa has stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

This is tough. There is no cure for this. There are treatments that will extend her life, but not for terribly long. The doctor was honest and compassionate in her explanation, but there is no sugar coating this. Most people don't last a year with this. This was a hammerblow to my heart.

Teresa is tough, and she is going to fight this as long as she can. The treatments will help until Teresa either cannot or will not fight any more. The doctor said any timelines are in God's hands, and that is true.

So now, we begin this journey with an end in sight. And that end terrifies me. But the strength of this magnificent woman that I married is making all of us in our family stronger. She told me today that she is lifted up and carried by the love that you all have shown us, and will continue to show us as we walk down this path together.

Teresa is working on a bucket list we are going to work on. Not too long for now, I'm going to set up a go-fund-me to help us accomplish that. I'm probably going to bother some of you to help with that as you are able. Because she wants to see more of this beautiful world that God gave us before the end.

Pray for us, send us your good wishes for those of you who are not praying sorts, and all of you continue to carry your love for her.

Coming Home

Teresa came home today. She's in good spirits but also a good bit of pain. The kids (Aidan and Ginny) were both glad to see her along with the pets. The challenge will be to keep them from jumping on her.

The next big step will be getting the pathology results and the surgical followup. In about 4 weeks (enough time to heal just enough) she'll likely start chemotherapy. That will be a new challenge on this journey.

Teresa wanted everyone to know how much she appreciates your love, support, and prayers. Keep it coming.

I'll update this again when we have the pathology report, or any other news. But that may be a bit.

If you have questions, ping me at jnials@gmail.com and put "Teresa's cancer journey" or something like it in the subject line and I will try and answer you as quickly as possible.

PLEASE check with me if you want to call Teresa. I want to make sure she is getting enough rest, and don't want her woken up by unexpected (BUT WELCOME!!!) phone calls.

Diagnosis

So, Teresa had not been feeling well. She'd lost some weight but noticed that her abdomen was getting bigger. She also had some abdominal pain. So she decied to go to the doctor. He immediately sent her for some blood tests and a CT (Computed Tomography) imaging scan. The radiologist immediately recognized signs of possible ovarian cancer. Our doctor called her and asked her to come in immediately and explained what had been found. He told her he would get with an oncologist immediately. To his credit, he called us with information about 7PM that evening. This was on the 19th of January, 2021.

The next day, she had an appointment with a gynecologic oncologist (cancer specialist for womens reproductive organs). After reviewing everything, the oncologist let my wife know she had a volleyball sized tumor, and possibly cancerous lesions on her upper bowel, kidney, and pancreas. She scheduled the surgery for Monday, January 25th. The plan was to remove any possible cancerous tissue, and examine the tumor and determine exactly what type of cancer it was, and how far it had progressed in her body.

She is in surgery now. God bless the hands of the surgeon. May God's will be done.

Surgery is over, She's in recovery

So, Teresa came through the surgery fine. Her oncologist confirmed that it is definitely cancer. She's waiting on the pathology report to verify what kind. She was able to get every cancerous bit she saw, along with a rather large tumor and about 1 liter of excess fluids built up around it. They also removed her appendix while she was there, in case it was involved (and seriously, who needs an appendix?)

Now for the harder knews. The cancer is stage 3, and will require a good bit of chemotherapy. The oncologist indicated she has good treatments for the type of cancer she thinks it is. So I am hopeful, but Teresa has a tough road ahead of her. Your continued prayers and good intentions will go a long way to sending this disease into remission. Chemotherapy will probably start in 4 weeks. That gives her body some time to heal, but we need to start fighting this as soon as possible.

I'll update next when we know exactly what the cancer is and what our treatment options are.