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Beginning our battle

I want to start by saying thank you to everyone who has read our story or shared with friends, encouraged, prayed, sent treats or anything in between. We have read every comment, post, email, text and note shared with us. They have been a true source of encouragement and will continue to help us push through this challenge.

Much has happened since I last provided an update so I apologize for the length of this post. Brad has had a bone marrow biopsy (cringe worthy), his port installed, two oncology appoints, a couple more blood draws and whole lot of needle sticks. He did not, however, have a PET scan because ultimately we were told it doesn't really matter. The drugs they will be pumping into his body will kill anything that may be currently unknown, but thank you for praying.

The two oncology appointments were the most crucial part of this week. We, again, confirmed that he did still have T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (but don't stop praying for a miracle), but more importantly we were presented with options of how we were going to kill this cancer.

Option 1: Hyper CVAD

Option 2: Pediatric ALL Treatment

Both options are chemotherapy treatments that ultimately have the same clinical outcomes. The biggest difference is the way the treatment is received in terms of cycles, what facility Brad could get the treatment at and the long term effects following each drug. After lots of opinions, weighing all of the pros and cons and praying through it we have chosen to go down the Hyper CVAD path.

What this means is that Brad will start chemotherapy treatment immediately, as in tomorrow. The perk of this option is that he will get to be at Largo Medical Center (where he works) throughout his treatment unless any special procedures are needed or complexity changes, at which time we will to go to Moffitt Cancer Center. The downside of this treatment is that a good amount of it has to be done in the hospital, at least for the first full round of Arm A. This means Brad will be a patient at LMC for the next 14 - 20 days. The first 4 of those days will be when he is getting the chemotherapy, the remaining days are to ensure stability and manage any possible reactions. Then, he has another treatment again during week 2. Hyper CVAD has two "arms" - Arm A and Arm B. They alternate every three weeks, for 8 rounds total (A = 1 Round, B = 1 Round). We are starting Arm A tomorrow. If all goes well he can be at home during the "in between" after the first round. However, for every "Arm B" we will be back in the hospital.

This drug is intense, but let's be honest, all chemo is. It will suppress his immune system making him extremely susceptible to fevers and infections. He will lose his hair. He will feel weak, tired, but we've been told the hardest part of it all is that he will be really, really bored. He can handle the drug. His body is strong, his mind is strong and his heart and spirit are like none other, but the fact that he will frequently be stuck in one room with very little options of "to dos" will be challenging. This week he referred to it like he was checking into jail. Told someone "yeah, I'll see ya when I get out."

We keep thinking this dream, or should I say nightmare, is going to end soon. That we will wake up and it will all disappear. Sadly, it hasn't and we are gearing up for a long road ahead. We are getting to the hospital tonight to access his port for the first time and begin pumping his body with fluids. We are taking all efforts to keep him strong before chemo starts at 7 pm tomorrow.

I won't lie, this week was challenging (& it won't be the last). The pressure of having to make a "drug decision" was hard for us. There was the fear of picking the "wrong one." Consideration of all the risks and long term impact. The news that we would be in a hospital room for weeks on end. It was the first time I saw Brad get frustrated; but, even through all of this I can't express the amount of bravery and courage Brad has upheld since we found out about this unexpected journey. All he has worried about is me and his family. He's special and strong and I will continue say it every day, but I am so lucky to be his wife.

We are both confident in the path we are heading down and continue to remain faithful that the Lord is at our right hand always.

What's next: we are settled in our hospital room as I write this. He is being pumped with fluids. His chemo nurses will come educate us on the details of his regimen tonight. They will start his chemo tomorrow at 7 pm. It will be at every 12th hour for the first 3 days.

Prayer requests: we should know if Brad's tumor responds well to the drug after both "arms" of treatment. Please pray that it does. Pray that we see significant change in the tumor size over coming weeks. Pray for Brad's reaction to the treatment, both physically and mentally. That he is able to handle it the way he has handled this entire thing - with courage, strength, wisdom, an amazing attitude and peace of the Lord. Pray for comfort while in the hospital and that time passes quickly.

I am now third wheeling with Brad & his new "buddy."

Stay tuned. Love you all,

Natalie Whitmer

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