Monday, December 09, 2019
Here is Brad's latest blog and progress in his words. Our God is an awesome God.
Defiant Mentality: Nothing Can Stop an Unstoppable God
Journal entry by Brad Hook — 23 hours ago
"Cancer may have started the fight, but I will finish it!"
Reflecting back on last year at this time, I was 3 cycles into my treatment and my CEA (tumor marker) was measured for the first time since diagnosis. I recall coming out of the eye doctor to check the result on my phone and being ecstatic, and very much in tears with joy, because at a minimum I knew that the chemo was working as my CEA had gone from 1060 to 389. My determination to beat cancer became even stronger that day as I now had results to grasp on to, progress had been made, and that is all that mattered even with the enormous mountain that still stood in front of me.
Fast forward to today, I have now completed 29 cycles of chemotherapy to go along with my 28 radiation treatments. I have learned that the human body is an incredible machine. In the beginning, the treatments knocked me down pretty good. The weekends after infusion I spent in bed for the most part and I was eating anything and everything to gain strength / weight. Now, my ability to handle the chemo even defies my own expectations. I am 3 cycles into my new regimen now, with this week being the first one that I received both the HAI pump chemo (FUDR) and systemic chemo (FOLFIRI). My liver enzymes remained normal so I was able to receive a full dose of the FUDR again. As for the FOLFIRI, the main side effects, after 2 cycles of it, have been some stomach cramps right after infusion (and maybe a flare up or two within 12 hours as well), the usual fatigue, and my hair thinning out a bit. My infusions are on Monday, so my "down" days have been Wednesday evening and Thursday, but I have been able to work through it and by Friday I am feeling like myself again. Lastly, I am maintaining my weight with no real loss in my appetite (I have some slight nausea after infusion but I eat through it!). All in all, that is a win in my books!
Health wise, I feel incredible (energy levels are amazing) and my color is fantastic right now. We were able to travel to St. Louis for Thanksgiving this year, a sign of some normalcy in our lives. From there we had one day at home before heading to NYC last Sunday for my treatment on Monday. Thankfully the travel will slow down slightly now with just monthly trips to NYC (Saint Luke's is picking up the HAI pump maintenance + FOLFIRI treatments going forward).
Looking at my CEA, as I mentioned last time, it went from 6.4 prior to surgery to 8.9 after it. I had some nerves prior to cycle 28 as my NYC oncologist said it was possible it would go up again before starting to come back down (from a mental standpoint, my preference was for it to just start going down and let me know the chemo is doing the trick again!). I was excited to see it stay the same at 8.9! Then, prior to cycle 29 (this past Monday), it went down to 7.9, so the trend with my CEA is matching how I feel physically at the moment. In terms of doing my part to keep my strength up / my body in shape to handle the treatments, I follow a pretty simple daily regimen as follows:
Super B-Complex vitamin (daily)
Protein / Superfood shake with spinach (daily)
Lots of walking / exercise (averaging 4-6 miles a day (10,000 to 15,000 steps)) after treatment and 4,000 to 6,000 steps Monday through Wednesday of my treatment weeks)
Focusing on the exercise for a second, it has been my way of detaching myself from everything for 30-60 minutes a day to clear my mind / refocus on God and how awesome he has been to get me to where I am now. As I continue on this journey, I have developed a defiant mentality towards cancer. It does not strike fear in me anymore and I refuse to let it dictate my life. Cancer thought it could bring me to my knees but it actually brought me to my feet and gave me a new perspective on life. That perspective is one that appreciates just waking up to see another day, having a positive / optimistic outlook towards everything and not sweating the small things, and being there for others to lift them up when they are down. I most certainly have my down moments where I wish more than anything that the cancer would just be gone and I could go back to living a normal cancer free life. That is the future goal. For now, though, I will take what I am going through as a means of inspiring others and hope that the story that I am currently writing will one day be someone else's guide to get through a hard time.
One of my go to songs at the moment is "Unstoppable God" by Sanctus Real. It is on point with my defiance towards cancer, specifically, lyric wise:
"I will not listen to the lie that says it can't be done
I know my war is already won
And I'm claiming victory
Cause I know who's fighting for me
Nothing can stop an unstoppable God
He's not afraid of impossible odds
This is the promise that I'm standing on
Nothing can stop an unstoppable God"
This cancer in my body can and will be taken down, no matter what the statistics / odds have to say about it. It started a fight that I plan on finishing over the next year as I work towards NED status. Next steps, several more treatments and then a scan on 1/26 to see what everything looks like and whether or not we have made enough progress to make what seemed impossible back in April a reality, operating on the liver / a liver resection.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support!