Answered Prayers

For a little over three years, my heart has been heavy, my mind has been consumed, and my computer bookmark folder has been filled with research.
Not only was I looking for answers, treatments and advice to help Chad through his journey, but I was also looking for information about IT’s ability to invade our children’s lives. Early on, we were told our daughters would have a 50/50 chance of developing the same type of tumor as Chad. This thought brought Chad & I to our knees many, many times.

Most primary brain tumors (meaning the tumor started in the brain, and wasn’t a metastasis from another type of cancer somewhere in the body) are formed from two different types of cells; astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. These cells, when healthy, are vital parts of the brain’s tissue. Sometimes, and for unknown reasons, these cells mutate and go bad.

Each time Chad had surgery, tissue was sent to biopsy because his tumor was so large and didn’t behave they way his medical team anticipated.
With the very first biopsy, we were told it was a mid-to-high grade mixed glioma – oligoastrocytoma, with a higher astrocytic component. Which meant IT was likely going to morph into a glioblastoma (GBM). GBMs are one of the most prevalent malignant brain tumors; highly aggressive and hard to treat. We were scared to death.
After further investigation of this same sample by Johns Hopkins, we were told there was no astrocytic component. It was a well defined oligodendroglioma. Which was better news. These tumors usually respond better to treatment than astrocytomas, especially with the 1p 19q chromosome deletion (which Chad possessed).

But how can you reconcile two vastly different pathology results from the same tissue?
We always questioned it, quietly to ourselves and obnoxiously loud to Chad’s doctors.

Our neurosurgeon strongly felt that Chad’s tumor was mixed, even though the pathology didn’t confirm his suspicions. He was confident that IT’s behavior was proof of an astrocytic component – he thought the tumor had two separate supporting cells, and the astrocytes (GBM) were invading and taking over the tumor all together.

This terrified us both.
What would this mean for our sweet, innocent, precious girls?
We had, unknowingly, given life to these two amazing little people that may be hit with a genetic disease beyond anyone’s control.
We had been small-talking about having another baby shortly before Chad was diagnosed; but very quickly ended those talks when we were told our children could suffer from IT. He was very matter-of-fact: he could not, would not, bring another child into our lives after knowing IT could, eventually, take over.

Every time my girls have a headache, I want to rush them over for an MRI.
Which I know it’s a little over zealous.
If IT is going to show up in their lives, there is little I can do about it.
Chad reminded me that we could only be prepared…

When Chad decided to end all treatment on June 29, 2010, I supported him.
But I desperately wanted another biopsy; and I wanted multiple opinions on the pathology results.
He declined, but did remind me that he wanted his brain to go to science; a decision he made when this journey first began.
He wanted me to wait until his death to get a biopsy – and then he wanted the medical community to use his tumor for research.

I carried out those wishes.

Chad received a brain autopsy at Duke the same day he passed away.
After talking with the team there, I understood it would take 60-90 days to receive the pathology findings.
I have had a knot in my stomach for many reasons since the day he died; but also because I knew I would soon know if IT could take me (and our daughters) hostage for the rest of our lives.

Ninety days came and went.
After a call to the appropriate people and clearing up a few clerical errors, I received the report Saturday.

When I reached into the mailbox and saw the Duke logo on the envelope, my hands started shaking.
The girls and I were outside, enjoying the beautiful weather.
I walked closer to the house, ripping the envelope as fast as I could.

As I read the words, hot tears rolled down my cheeks.
The first page was a condolence and some contact information. I scanned.
I shuffled to the second page and the tears fell larger, quicker.

Tears. And tears. And tears.
Mixed with overwhelming shortness of breath.
Mixed with relief and laughter.

Anaplastic Oligodendroglioma.
NOT a glioblastoma.

While it’s possible for this type of cancer to be hereditary, it’s extremely rare.
Extremely rare.
IT, at its devestating size and at end stage, behaved more like a GBM.
But it was not.  (!!!)
You cannot imagine the blessedness, alleviation and absolute relief I feel.

I’m sure there will always be a small part of me that will always wonder if the girls will ever be affected.
Right now, though, I feel a calming hand on my shoulder, reassuring me that we will be okay.

We are okay.

This entry was posted in Chad, Chatter, the girls. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Answered Prayers

  1. Leanna Fann says:

    As soon as I saw the link on facebook I immediately read it. I had no idea that this was going on, but I am glad that you received this good news.

    Thank you for this weekend.
    I love you all.

  2. Jproffitt says:

    That is such a relief I know for you..You and the girls are always in my thoughts and prayers..

  3. Emily says:

    Wow. Medical science is amazing. So glad for you to hear this news!

  4. Cbwatson says:

    God is an amazing GOD! Praise the Lord! Much love to you and the girls!

  5. Elizabethel25 says:

    Ms. Lanford, I found out about your husband through Peyton Armstrong. After I told him about me, he told me about Chad. I've read all your statuses and a lot of my past came back to me. I didn't know if it would be appropriate or not to share my story with you or not, but Peyton said it would be okay.
    When I was 15, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I'd been having lots of problems for three or four months, like weight loss, neusea, fatugue, neck pain, poor balance. One day I was in class and I started seeing stars and feeling the worst I'd felt in those months. I called my mom to come get me and she took me right to the drs office and his final suggestion was to have an MRI. I went the next night and they said it would be a couple days for the results. The next day, February 14, the dr called my mom at work and told her I had a brain tumor. My parents came to the school to get me and from there I went straight to ECU where I had my surgery a few days later. After 8 – 9 hours of surgery, drs told my family they removed all they could of the tumor and they were giving me 4 – 6 weeks to live. When they did the surgery, the tumor was thought to be a glioblastoma. When they got the results back from Johns Hopkins, it was an oligodendroglioma. I started chemo at Duke in March of 96, but it didn't help kill the tumor, it was just making me weak. After several months of trying with the chemo, they reduced the dosage and I finished taking it in December. Next step, radiation. I started it March of 97. After six weeks of intence radiation, the tumor was gone. My hair fell out where they did the radiation and I have severe hearing loss in both ears, damaged by the radiation, memory loss and my balance will never be the same.
    I am almost 31 years old now, and whenever I have headaches or neckaches, I panic, so I totally understand where you come from with your daughters. I have read so much about the type of tumor Chad and I had, but I will never fully understand it. I just pray that one day, a cure will be found for all types of brain tumors.

  6. Alison G says:

    I haven't checked in for a while but I started reading through your most recent posts and wanted to comment on how wonderful it is that you found out that IT was not a GBT. I know you have so many strangers commenting on here and although I have commented before, I am still a stranger to you. However, I want you to know that your previous struggles and your continued struggle is on my mind. I continue to stand in awe at the love that you have for your family and the ability you have to act strong even if you may not be feeling strong. XOXO take care.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *