Today we had lots of appointments with nurses, oncologists, lab technicians, etc... it was a busy day. We met a lot of people who were incredibly nice - this place just amazes me with how helpful and positive everyone is, from the food preparation workers all the way to the doctors and nurses and front desk workers at the hotel. The patient is clearly the focus here at this institution... anyway, I digress. I'm sure that you're wondering why I titled this with the word "hope" in it. Let me tell you why!
The oncologist that we met with today, Dr. Mellihor (can't guarantee that is spelled correctly), was very upfront with us about what we're facing. He confirmed that yes, this case of cholangiocarcinoma IS inoperable. But, he encouraged us to not start planning a funeral yet. Every case is different, and he didn't want us to think that we were just going to be another statistic. He is planning to take a much more aggressive approach than our Mayo oncologist. The Mayo oncologist basically told us to do a conservative approach to chemotherapy (so as to extend life, not really to fight the cancer). The CTCA oncologist's exact words were "Let's go after this". I wanted to pump my fist in the air and shout out "Darn right, let's get after this right now!" It's so encouraging to have someone that is willing to give us a shot!
Dr. Mellihor said that if chemotherapy will shrink Ryan's tumors, then we might be able to do an operation in the future to remove any remaining cancer. Radiation might be useful at some point to "kick start" the shrinking of any stubborn tumors. Transplantation wasn't even discussed... that would be far in the future, I imagine.
So the next few days are going to be full of more tests and appointments... a more extensive CT scan, meetings with nutritionists, GI doctors, even a possible ... sigh ... colonoscopy (small chance there might be some intestinal involvement). We will meet with our team of doctors next week (probably Tuesday) and get the full picture and put together a treatment plan. Ryan will most likely even get his first round of chemotherapy Tuesday or Wednesday. This will likely knock him on his butt, to say the least. But he is definitely the toughest person I've ever met - I'm confident he will handle it well.
While this is a wonderful piece of news, we won't start saying "Phew, we're free and clear." We have a long road ahead of us, and odds are still against us. Chemotherapy has about a 30-40% success rate of shrinking tumors. But on the other hand, we continue to place our hope in the healing hand of our Lord, not in modern medicine. If it is God's will that Ryan is healed, then He will make that happen in one touch of his hand. One touch of the cloak heals us; chemotherapy is only a tool.
So here is an updated prayer list: please pray for a miracle, peace, grace, answers, open doors to share with people why we have so much hope, and for Ryan's body to respond to treatment. We continue to be appreciative of you thinking of us, praying for us, and all of the cards, gifts, spa treatments!, and kindness that have been poured out on us. We are so amazed and humbled. We love you guys.