God has blessed me with 2  years …and hopefully more! 

How amazing our wonderful God is! He is the Giver of Life, the Creator, Sustainer, Healer and coming King! 

There are so many ways I see Him in His word and now more than ever, experientially. It was 2 years ago today that Troy rushed me to the emergency room with a total blockage. Of course we were in shock as I prepared mentally to head into surgery not knowing how bad my cancer would be. Christmas was so bittersweet as I wondered if stage IV colon cancer meant that would be my last christmas with my family. 
My first visit to the oncologist was definitely sobering. One month after that first big operation I was disappointed to learn that the median survival for a stage IV colon cancer patient was 9 months…and the “good news” was with Avastin ( a chemotherapy drug I only got 4 treatments of) you could hope for 22 months. That was a tough day.
But God gives more grace! When it is easier to fear than to trust, when it is physically difficult and consequently mentally challenging to hope, when every hurdle seems to have another one beyond it…God is still sovereign. He is still faithful to His word. He is still able. His steadfast love endures forever. The challenge for me is to stop looking at the circumstance and to grip tightly to the One who is all the above and so much more! He alone truly satisfies and wants to be our delight. And when He is, we can have joy in hard things and know we have all we need when He is our portion.
Unbelievably to statistics keepers, I am about to celebrate Christmas 2 years later. It is hard to express the blessings God has given our family through this hard road. They are too many to list here. It truly is a miracle that this trial drug I am on seems to work for the colon cancer patients with Lynch syndrome. It is a miracle how God has provided for our travel to Houston through Troy’s work, generosity of friends, family, our life group at church and Corporate Angel Flight. It is a miracle that I got one of the few spots to be in this trial with only 98 people in it worldwide. It is a miracle that He makes it possible for me to be able to be at Bible Study Fellowship almost every week and continue to feast on His word. It is a miracle that He lays us on the hearts of praying people at just the right time. It is a miracle that my cancer has appeared to have stopped growing and my tumor markers are below the normal line since starting this trial in late January of this year.   
We prepare to travel to MD Anderson for my next scan this coming week. My scan will be Dec. 22nd and we will get results and hopefully more treatments Dec. 23rd. The apprehension that comes with CT scans is difficult to avoid, but we are praying and anticipating that God is healing me and hopefully this scan will show it. The last scan showed that the vascularity to my tumors had changed dramatically…for the better. What a blessing to be on this amazing immunotherapy drug with very few side effects! Even so, God is the One who has carried us through so far!  
As we all are making and shopping for just the right gifts for everyone on our Christmas list, it is hard not to get carried away with it all. God is the best gift giver, isn’t He? God is the giver of every good thing. He gave the world the perfect gift to never be exceeded. All we have to do is accept this precious gift. We have it all when we have Jesus as our Savior. Beyond that, when we are His, He continues to give us Himself as we walk with Him. He gives us so many good things out of the overflow of His love for us, including time. Every day with Him is a gift and so is every Christmas!  
God bless you this Christmas with life, hope and healing in Him!
Amy
“Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

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Scan Results

Just a quick note to convey that Amy’s scan results today continued to show the disease to be stable and not growing. We also saw a decline in CEA tumor markers back to normal levels.  Doctor Garrett indicates that he is pleased with where Amy is at this stage.

Of course we still desire to see actual disease regression ( and someday Lord willing -No Evidence of Disease) through these scans but Dr. Garret warns that fast regression many times means that tumors can also grow back rapidly.  One of Amy’s friends, who is a cancer survivor, refers to the emotional roller coaster prior to each scan as “Scanxiety”.  It’s sometimes difficult to manage what our expectations should be, but we know that our real hope is in our sovereign Lord.

Amy is now preparing to receive her treatment and blood draws in the clinical research treatment center.  We have a long night ahead of us with finishing treatments, snagging a cab, and a late flight back to Tulsa.  If we are up to it, we will drive back and be in our own bed by 1:30am.

Thanks so much for your prayers,

Troy

Update and Prayer Request

{Amy’s 2nd set of scans since beginning the immunotherapy trial}

This week Amy is scheduled for another set of PET / CAT scans to determine the effectiveness of the immunotherapy treatments. We arrived in Houston late last night for a couple of days of scheduled labs, scans, doctor’s visits and, Lord willing, another treatment.

It’s been a couple of months since our last post, so here are some fast facts to bring everyone up to date:

– Amy began receiving her first round of the immunotherapy drug Nivolumab on January 23rd

– We have travelled back to Houston every other week since then for continued doctor’s visits and treatments and she is now scheduled for her 7th treatment on Friday.

– The study requires her to have scans every 6 weeks during the first 24 weeks. We were very encouraged following the first scan to determine that disease had stabilized with no further progression. She also saw a significant decrease in blood “tumor markers”. Praise the Lord!

– Amy has experienced several types of side effects since beginning the treatments, but thank the Lord these have been manageable so far and have not dramatically affected her day to day activities. (At least not to the degree of Chemotherapy). Because this immunotherapy is a research drug, and has the potential to cause the immune system to go into overdrive (thus attacking non targeted tissue and and vital organ functions) she has to be very careful as she experiences new side effects to make sure that these aren’t serious and need immediate medical attention. We found this out the hard way while on a late February business trip in Orlando when Amy’s legs and feet started having significant swelling. We were instructed by Amy’s study nurse to go to the local ER and have a battery of tests conducted. Fortunately nothing serious was found, but this was only after spending 6 hours at one of the busiest ER’s in central Florida.

As I am writing this post, Amy is having her scan performed. The radiologists will read the scan and we will hear the results at her oncology visit in the morning. Our prayer is that she will actually move from disease stabilization to actual disease regression. Even better, that God would allow the disease to be completely eradicated.

It is a continual blessing to us to be reminded of so many people regularly praying for Amy and our family. I’m thankful that God has blessed us with so many dear, wonderful friends and family. He continues to teach us and refine us through this journey, and we are humbled by the constant displays of encouragement at just the right time. Sixteen months after a difficult and scary diagnosis, four surgeries, three regimens of failed chemo, and one clinical trial later we experience just as much encouragement and support as the day Amy went in for the emergency surgery. We know that God is at work, we see evidence regularly, and we are so appreciative that He gives us His grace and provision.

This journey has opened our eyes to see many people that are going through tremendous trial and suffering. It has also given us a platform to speak the truth of the gospel. For our brothers and sisters in Christ, we pray more fervently and try to be sensitive to ways that the Lord might allow us to be an encouragement. To those that are lost and don’t know the presence and peace of Jesus in their lives, we ask the Lord for courage and grace to speak more intently of how He is everything to us and that He can transform their lives and give them peace and hope even in the midst of trial and uncertainty.

We hope to write an update tomorrow, and it’s our prayer that this would be very good news to share.

Troy

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (‭Psalm‬ ‭73‬:‭25-26‬ ESV)

Immunotherapy Clinical Trial

But you, O God my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it! (‭Psalm‬ ‭109‬:‭21, 26-27‬ ESV)

The Lord continues to provide and to encourage in special ways

It’s been quite some time since our last BLOG post. Every so often Amy and I will discuss posting an update, but because the process is pretty emotionally draining we’ve tended to procrastinate.

A number of things have transpired over the past several months, and this next week will mark a significant new chapter in Amy’s battle with colon cancer. As a little bit of background, Amy started a second round of chemotherapy (FOLFIRI) in August following an unsuccessful HIPEC surgery and recovery. These treatments were pretty difficult for her and she had a lot of tough weeks. In November, we went back to MD Anderson for follow up scans and genetic counseling. We had hoped and prayed for good news that the new chemotherapy was working effectively, but instead Dr. Garrett told us that the tumors were increasing in size and that she would need to switch to a different oral chemotherapy drug. The hard news included the fact that there were no other approved chemotherapy protocols that would attack the colon cancer metastasis and this new oral chemotherapy was to buy time by slowing the growth through restricting new blood vessel growth. He also told us of a new promising phase II immunotherapy trial that Amy could consider that would potentially be opening in January, and she was placed on the waiting list. The immunotherapy drug is not a “chemotherapy”, but will help the immune system itself to better attack cancer cells. We also learned that the trial was limited to 96 people around the country. While we were in Houston, we also confirmed that Amy has a somewhat rare genetic predisposition to certain types of cancer and it’s known as Lynch Syndrome. This genetic issue is something that we now need to test our children for so that they can take more frequent and aggressive screening steps if it’s been passed on to any of them.

Amy started taking the new oral chemotherapy drug in November and it had some very difficult side effects. Our local oncologist and nurse temporarily took her off the drug and then later re-Instituted it with a lower dosage which seemed to help it to be somewhat more tolerable. We had asked many of our friends and family to pray that Amy would be accepted into the clinical trial. In fact, one of Amy’s good friends from BSF shocked us a little bit by saying that she was praying for the Lord to give us an answer by December 20th. I guess the Lord had impressed her and she was hoping that we wouldn’t have to wait too long to hear and that we could have some hopeful news over the Christmas break. As it turns out we were in Arkadelphia moving Lauren to her new apartment on the afternoon of December 19th and while Jordan and I were wrestling a sofa down some stairs my cell phone was ringing. We set down the sofa, and I saw a Houston number pop up on the phone. The lady on the line was from MD Anderson and she had unsuccessfully been trying to contact us at various numbers all afternoon. She started telling me that she needed to get in touch with Amy about her admission to the trial. I can’t say that I was really enjoying moving heavy furniture up and down stairs, but we were all smiling and thanking God after that phone call. One bonus benefit besides getting into the trial was that Amy got a reprieve from chemo for the past month.

So we travel to Houston this week and have a number of appointments set up for tests, scans, a needle biopsy, and Amy’s first immunotherapy treatment. Please pray for safe travel and that Amy will have a successful needle biopsy and that she will meet all of the criteria to proceed with the treatments. Also pray that Amy’s side effects would be minimum.

We’ve experienced some setbacks along this journey, but God has always been faithful to give us encouragement and to keep us hopeful. There are some promising reports about this immunotherapy drug and we are praying that it will be very effective, but our ultimate hope remains in the Lord’s sovereignty and purpose.

Safe in Him,

Troy & Amy

Beating Statistics

December 16th 2013 is a day that I don’t think my family will ever forget. That was the day that Mama had her first surgery and we found out that she had colon cancer. After we got all the results back and found out that she was considered stage 4 Mama had her first appointment with the oncologist. At that appointment the doctor tried to offer some encouragement by telling Mama that with chemo the average stage 4 patient lives for 9 months. Even though he meant it to be encouraging, 9 months seemed really short.
We are so excited that today Mama beat her first statistic and is ready to beat many more. We are celebrating these little victories every day! Mama told us that she wants to celebrate every day, so we started doing things like using the party napkins that we used to save for special occasions. 🙂 We have been so blessed to see how God has brought us through all the challenges of the last 9 months.
“All kinds of trouble will strike the wicked, but your kindness shields those who trust you, Lord. And so your people should celebrate and shout.”
-Psalm 32: 10-11
Today was Mama’s third treatment on her new chemo protocol. It was the first time that I got to go to chemo with her. I took turns with my grandparents sitting in the infusion room with her. I was so proud to see her talking to the wife of another patient and offering encouragement to them. Mama brings home a pump that she wears for 46 hrs. She is doing pretty well but deals with nausea, blisters on her feet and hands and a few other side effects. She is taking things one day at a time and is celebrating along the way and she can’t wait to beat the next statistic.

-Megan Scarbrough

August 19

With God all things are possible. Mark 10:45

Much has happened since I received the disappointing news that the cancer metastases had multiplied and the HIPEC portion of the surgery could not be performed at this time. It is funny how as a believer in Christ we know that He is the true anchor for our hope, yet to do hard things we often feel we have to gear up mentally that there is something here worth this hard route we are about to take. He is once again the hope that is an anchor for me and not the next surgery, treatment or supplement. All of these things can be and are tools He may choose to use, but He is my portion, shield, savior and healer. Nothing is too hard for Him. (Jeremiah 32:17)

After staying in the hospital for a week, I was blessed to go back to Hope House and recover a few days before seeing the oncologist and then seeing my surgeon. The Lord continued to send timely evidences of His tender mercies as I faced my own weaknesses exposed by the change in circumstances. I was discouraged meeting with the oncologist and that afternoon God used several people to remind me of truth and hope and that I am not a statistic to God. The Lord even allowed me to meet a wife of a colon cancer patient who was also upset about hard news her husband had received that day. She volunteered that they (Lucy & Richard) needed prayer. What a privilege to pray with these believers as we were waiting to get our car outside MD Anderson. The next day my surgeon reminded me of several medically positive things I had going for me. Most encouraging was what he emphasized last: “we see miracles all the time.”

I was so glad to be allowed to come home to prepare for what is next. The next step in the battle plan is to heal up and start a new type of chemotherapy. Since we came back home even, there is so much more that God has done to answer prayer, I could not fit it all in a brief post. We know His love and mercy have been shone to us through things we could not have thought to ask for, but other people told us they were praying. At the same time, there have been little trials both physical and otherwise that could steal away our/my resolve if they become the focus. These things too will hopefully serve a purpose and refine us and produce real lasting fruit in our lives.

As we waited to see my doctor here to get started on the chemotherapy, Troy’s mom was hospitalized battling her own liver related health crisis. Troy was able to go to Little Rock and be with her and his stepfather for a couple of days until she was starting to improve. We continue to see God’s grace in this and other things. We also wanted to savor the little things that might have seemed sad to me in the past like sending our daughter back to college. God was gracious to let Troy and I take her back with all her college things and squeeze in visits here with my brother from Alabama, my parents, some good friends from Fayetteville & Little Rock, good friends from Bible Study Fellowship, church and neighbors. He knows how to encourage me even when news is bad and the way ahead looks steep.

All this culminated in my incision healing enough to start my next type of chemotherapy today. I know it is because God answers prayer. All this has prompted me to pray differently as The Lord has made us aware of people we love going through trials of their own. How can we count it all joy when we encounter trials of various kinds? (James 1) It is possible as we dwell in His presence & ask God for His help & wisdom. The scripture for today in Streams in the Desert was… As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10). The devotional describes how both sorrow and joy can walk hand in hand as in His presence we see our beautiful savior as king of both.

If you would like to read this devotional from Streams in the Desert here is the link:

http://www.christianity.com/devotionals/streams-in-the-desert/streams-in-the-desert-august-19th.html

Under His wing,
Amy

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:7-11 ESV)

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6 ESV)

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:8, 9, 14-18 ESV)

Progress, Prayer, Patience

My mom is making progress, she’s been able to take short walks and seems to be healing. She’s still trying to catch up on sleep, as many of you know, it can be hard to actually rest in the hospital.

Her attending physician came by today and said he expected she could leave the hospital as soon as Tuesday and possibly go back to Fayetteville a week after that.

We really have been blessed by the continued prayers and encouragement by our friends, family, and by friends of friends we don’t even know. We know this is a gift from God. Thank you for being His instrument and our encouragement!

Here are a few things I am praying for:
-that the disease would not spread or invade any further as we wait to start treatment
-that God would take captive our fearful thoughts
-that we would wait patiently on The Lord to complete his work in this situation

I’ll leave you with a passage that brings me much comfort. Praise be to God that even when we don’t know how to pray, the spirit intercedes on our behalf in His will.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no
hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:24-28 NIV)

In Him,
Lauren Scarbrough