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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

More cancer - more discouragement

Once again, not the news we were praying for today. This afternoon, the Tulsa doctor shared some hard news with Kelsey - it appeared from the chest x-ray the cancer in her lungs may be spreading. I was not there when the news was shared, but it sounds like it may be in the two lower lobes of her lungs (I'll talk with the doctor more tomorrow for clarification). One things seems to be certain, it is not disappearing. This explains why Kelsey has been coughing up some blood in her mucous.

He ordered another round of blood work to compare her stats now versus a month ago to see if there is progress being made on the treatment. He did share with Kelsey and Marilyn it is not time to give up, we have really only just begun more holistic treatment. He said it is time to fight.

In other news, the colonic went well for her today, so we are grateful that was not a painful procedure as it is a somewhat awkward position and not as cushy as a bed or recliner. The roundtrip to Tulsa was not as painful as the trip from Houston to Coppell last Friday, which is a big praise!

We continue to unashamedly ask for bold and persistent prayer. At the end of the day, God is the ultimate healer and we know He can heal Kelsey. Here are our requests:

-- Healing - complete and total healing. No more spread of cancer and wisdom on the part of doctors to know how to get this cancer under control.

-- Encouragement, hope and a sense of purpose for Kelsey. After a calf tumor resection and dealing with the pain and long process of getting the stereotactic radiation, this was definitely not the news she wanted to hear.

-- A good appetite for Kelsey - she is definitely not gaining weight, it would be healthy for her to do so.

-- Wisdom on our part to know the best way to continue to fight.

-- Kelsey will start at-home IV infusions again tomorrow. Pray for complication-free, highly effective therapy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Post stereotactic update

We are back in Norman after another trip to Houston. You will clearly notice this is an update from Chris (short and scant on details).  I am sure Kelsey will fill you in on more in the future, but she is in a bit too much pain to sit and compose a post at the moment. Here is a brief rundown of the trip - I'll see if you can figure out the acrostic.

Had a meeting with a pain management doctor, which was informative and helpful.
Once again, another new prescription. We pray it helps Kelsey with her pain.
Unusual, but very appreciated, Kelsey got in to her radiation appointment a bit early.
Stereotactic radiation - Kelsey was finished with the procedure in an hour and a half.
Tons of prayers answered - the procedure was less painful than anticipated.
On the way home, Kelsey experienced the worst pain she has dealt with to this point.
Now, her pain has subsided some, but she is still dealing with very constant pain.

Okay, the non-acrostic version now to pass along a bit more information. It was a very quick trip - we made it down to Houston on Thursday night, had an appointment with a pain management doctor, had her radiation and then headed back to Coppell on Friday, then headed back to Norman on Sunday. Kelsey was concerned she would be very uncomfortable during her stereotactic radiation due to being kept in one position, but thankfully, she was not. The trip home was actually the most uncomfortable part of the trip for Kelsey - seemed like the radiation may have aggravated her nerve a bit more than normal.

Here is how you can be praying:

-- Kelsey is traveling to Tulsa tomorrow to meet with her doctor there and pick up another round of infusions. Be praying the trip up and back will be as painless as possible.

-- She is getting a chest x-Ray tomorrow because she has been coughing up a bit of blood along with mucous in the morning. We are praying the mucous is being caused by healing reactions in her lungs as her doctor in Tulsa suggested.

-- She is also getting a colonic tomorrow, be praying it will be helpful in cleansing her liver and easing some of the liver pain she has been experiencing.

-- Pray Kelsey will be able to deal with her pain as well as the side effects of the medication she is taking. And, for once the pain is not me, what a relief!

-- Continue to pray for wisdom and confidence in treatment.

-- Total healing. No more pain in Kelsey's back and hip. No more cancer.

We so appreciate all of your prayers. It is encouraging and sustaining to know you all are praying!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Warm-up the toaster!

Okay, I seriously doubt the folks at MD Anderson call their multi-million dollar Tru-Beam radiation machine a toaster, but that is exactly what I intend for it to do tomorrow to the tumor that has decided to take-up residence on my nerve root. It is high time for this tumor to get fried like no other. And, I hope that's exactly what my lovely warriors have been praying for as well.

I have to admit, this is a first for me. I am composing this blog with my left hand on my iPhone while laying down in the back of our minivan en route to Houston. So fair warning - this could be a total disaster.

I apologize I have not updated the blog sooner. It truly has been so difficult to be in the constant pain I have been in along with the constant rotation of narcotics to even think about composing anything that makes sense. I am so excited about the prospect of being able to sit-up without wincing pain.

Thanks to your many, many prayers and a faithful God, the stage hass been set tomorrow for the death of more evil in my body. Along with this answered prayer, my insurance has approved the procedure without a hitch! I finally got smart and started working with my BCBS caseworker. Sweet Jane Anne took care of every detail for me, and we didn't have one hicc-up. Praise the Lord!


10:55am - Appt with a pain management doc

2:30pm - Stereotactic radiation to the tumor near my T6


-- My post-op appointment concerning my calf resection went very well. My incision is healing beautifully, and I am very close to walking without crutches. Please continue to pray for total healing of my calf and the ability to fully weight bear on my foot when I take a stride.

-- Pray for an encouraging appointment with the MDA pain management doctor. We realize the pain I am experiencing will not be instantaneously relieved by radiation. It may take several weeks. Pray for wisdom for the doc to know what to prescribe for me that would allow me to function during the day and also alleviate the pain.  Throughout this journey, I have been very concerned about long-term damage to my organs. The hydrocodone I take every four hours has acetaminophen in it which is very hard on my liver. I would love to be able to ease up on that medication.

-- Please lift-up Dr. Brown and his entire staff as they perform the stereotactic radiation sequence. I never want to take for granted that this just works. I want to trust God completely with every high-powered beam that is blasted into my tumor. Pray for no short-term or long-term side effects. Pray for total death to this tumor and any other cancer cell that thinks it wants to take host on or near my spine.

-- Pray for my ability to lay very still for over an hour in a very uncomfortable position with my hands above my head.

-- We had our first full week of IV infusions at home. There were several hiccups along the way, but we have some brilliant friends who are helping us with great grace. The learning curve to my holistic therapy is quite overwhelming but with God's grace and lots of laughter, we are making it through.  Continue to lift us up, especially my mom, who helps me with the therapy. My infusions take about five hours a day, so we are also trying to adjust to a lot of time connected to a bag.

-- Since my diet is very restrictive, we are struggling, once again, to help me gain weight. At my doctor's appointment this week, I tipped the scales at 115 lbs. I never dreamed that my weight would be the reverse of my height, which is 5'11". Of course, since I am in constant pain, I have no appetite. Please pray I will stop looking like a member of a concentration camp very soon. I hate looking & feeling so weak & frail.

In closing, I wanted to share a very encouraging devotional from my mom about faith defined. The last couple of months, my faith has been under fire. With constant pain, I question God's hand in this. Doubts creep in as I examine all my body has been through - is healing really possible with this wicked disease? As we commit ourselves to a very aggressive & expensive holistic therapy, I question if we chose the right path. Faith is a constant struggle. 

As this devotional reminds me, faith is never to be placed in the circumstance but the One who controls the circumstance. Lord, help us all to trust you with whatever you are allowing us to face. Remind us you are our ever-faithful, always loving, never-changing God. And help us glorify Your name as we learn to trust You more.


"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:6-7 NASB)

How do we express our faith? We express our love for Christ through worship, missions, tithing, learning more about Him through Bible study and church attendance, but how do you express faith? Our greatest expressions of our faith come when we face uncertainty.

If asked, “Do you have faith?” I am sure you would respond “definitely!” How would your friends, coworkers and neighbors respond if asked how they had seen you express your faith? Uncertainty allows us the opportunity to live out our faith. Daily, sometimes even moment-by-moment trusting God fully and openly. Marriage troubles, unsolvable or long-term illnesses, problems with our children, caring for our aging parents, financial difficulties, and unforeseeable circumstances that bring us to our knees knowing there is not a thing that we can do to fix our circumstances. Not knowing what will happen or what we will face next, we look towards heaven and say, “Lord, I know you have this under control, so I rest in your love and wisdom.”

It has become my opinion that our struggles are our opportunities to glorify God most. Our heavenly director calling out “ACTION!” Sure, people see you each day, some even watch who you’re with, how you drive or spend your time or money, but when hardships come you have the opportunity to show friends and family, neighbors and strangers, coworkers and your community what a mighty God we love and trust. It is faith defined – walking the talk.

When uncertainty tries to take over my thoughts, I go back to what I know and what I want to show. God is my Creator and the author of my days. He is wisdom, and He has a perfect plan for my life to lead me to His glory. He loves me more than I can understand. That is all I need to know. I do not need to know what will happen tomorrow or how things will turn out. I do not need to know what, when, why or how – I just need to know God. My prayer for you today is that you would know God – know that He loves you more than you can understand and know that He has things all under control – just trust Him.

Kathy Branzell

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A “simulating” experience

My apologies for a delayed update post. Traveling takes such a toll on my body and since I am already dealing with chronic nerve pain, it seems I am out-of-commission the few days following a trip to MDA.

God answered our prayers. We met with Dr. Brown and my tumor is treatable with stereotactic radiation. It will be treated this Friday, May 16 at 2:30pm. According to the MRIs, all of the other areas Dr. Brown has treated previously with stereotactic radiation looked great, including my left hip/pelvis. Praise the Lord!

The tumor is just outside of my T6 and appears to crawl from my T5 to my T7. He said it is in the paraspinal area outside the vertebral body. The reason for the crazy pain I’ve been experiencing is that the tumor is on the root of the nerve radiating from my ribs to my sternum.

He reiterated how difficult it is to treat nerve pain. There just aren’t adequate medications for it yet. He said I would probably begin experiencing relief from the nerve pain about three weeks after the radiation. So, please continue praying for God’s grace and ample pain management in that area. We haven’t found anything that works well yet and nights are especially rough on me. I struggle with pain from about midnight – 5ish am. My best sleep is normally 6am forward. It is truly so crazy when I have had a surgery and the pain in my surgery site pails in comparison to the nerve pain in my back. I do become weary. I wish I didn’t but the pain really gets to me.
I digress . . . I had my simulation following my appointment with Dr. Brown. It was quite an experience, I must admit. I feel like I know what to expect with a simulation since I have had six rounds of stereotactic radiation. I wear a sports bra and spandex capris. I have several brilliant people buzzing about me, forming a bean bag like table around my body, then aligning my spine to a million dollar machine followed by sticking my head and arms through a super-strength form of saran wrap that is then suctioned to my body by a medical vacuum cleaner hose. It normally takes 1-2 hrs and is followed up with placing tape and marker lines in the appropriate places so my torso resembles a sort of sci-fi target for the week leading up to radiation.

Well, all of this happened on Friday with a few tweaks. There were only two people performing my simulation (thank the Lord). I was in a very uncomfortable position with my hands above my head for about an hour and a half (very painful, I might add). But the real kicker was I was topless. Yes, you read correctly. As they began the simulation, the sweet physicist was lining my spine up and then paused and asked, “Are you wearing anything under your sports bra?” I don’t know about you other women, but I generally don’t wear anything else under my sports bra. I thought that was the point. I told her no and then she reluctantly told me my tumor was in a position so they would need me to remove my sports bra. At the beginning, they laid a hand towel across my chest for modesty. But when they kept lifting it up and down to check measurements and alignment, I just said, “You can just take the towel off.” I am sure I had provided enough of a peep show at that point it didn’t matter. Then, I had the privilege of having my body suctioned into a transparent sack. I know, I know. I can hear the women gasping in horror right now. There is nothing like laying stone still and letting a handsome 20ish-year-old man mark you up for radiation, including a tattoo mark in the very center of my chest. Then, he proceeded to take several digital images of me for the procedure on Friday. I had to laugh. I was like, “Seriously God, after all I have been through and now this!” It was definitely a moment I will never forget and the exciting thing is that I will get to repeat it again on Friday. Oh, when He promises sufficient grace, I know He means it . . . but then there are times like this and I wonder.

Well, enough on that mini-saga. But let’s be honest, we all need a bit of comic relief in this journey and I wanted to give you some. Since then, we have been reunited with Pop and Alexa Hope – a wonderful moment indeed. We have traveled from Dallas to Norman. And thanks to two very dear friends, we have had two in-home IV infusions of vitamins. We will have six total before heading back to MDA. The infusions are long (2 1/2-5 hrs, so you can be praying as I adjust to that). Once I start the full holistic therapy, I will do five at home IV infusions a week unless I need to travel to Tulsa for other needs.

Alright, I am going to stop for now but wanted to offer a bit of an update. God continues to move in mighty ways and reveal He is still in the healing business. I am thankful to know another tumor will see its death very soon. I am encouraged to know the tumor in my calf is gone (and my leg will be back to normal in the next several months). We continue to pray for complete and final death to all the microscopic cancer lingering in my body and we pray this new therapy will send this dirty stuff to its grave, never to return.

Prayers, as always, appreciated for endurance with the continual nerve/back pain. Love to all of my mighty warriors and happy early Mother’s Day to all of you beautiful mamas!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Solidarity & sisterhood


Now those are some beautiful faces, aren’t they!? Today was our last day for Bible Study Fellowship until it starts again in September. The last day of BSF is called “Sharing Day,” and it provides an opportunity for the entire class to get together and share what God showed them this year through the study of Matthew. Of course, I was unable to make the last day of BSF since I am at MD Anderson undergoing scans, an appointment and a simulation for my upcoming stereotactic radiation.

This image, however, indicates just how special BSF is. If you have known me any amount of time, you know how much the Lord has done in my life through the study of His Word with other incredibly “salty” women at BSF. I highly, highly endorse it. I have made lifelong friendships through BSF and this year didn’t disappoint.

Although I wasn’t able to physically attend today, my sweet sisters made sure I was represented in spirit by wearing “Sarcoma Awareness” t-shirts that said, “Faith, Hope, Believe.” The design also incorporated a butterfly with a burst of yellow (which is the official color for sarcoma awareness). The gals made sure the t-shirts they purchased went directly to sarcoma research as well. I was so humbled by their effort to continually support me in this battle.

Here I am representin’ in Houston today . . . I love you ladies!! I know God divinely placed your precious hearts into my life this year to be my cheerleaders, my shoulder to cry on, my iron-sharpening-iron and my hardcore warriors. As I promised in my FB message to you today, my goal & prayer is to return to BSF next year hipper, healthier and (hopefully) holier. Big hugs to my discussion group and all my unbelievable warriors through BSF. I am indebted to you for your partnership in this battle with me.

And speaking of t-shirts, we are excited to let you know we will be unveiling some customized t-shirts very soon that will help us raise funds for my holistic therapy, which is not covered by insurance. Many folks have been asking how they can help. We have been reluctant (perhaps too prideful) to share the most obvious need, but the greatest way people could help us as I venture down a new road in this journey is financially. More to come on that. We are currently working through all of the details but it will be on the blog soon, and I am so excited about it. My prayer is that the t-shirts will not only unite warriors across the country (and the globe) but more importantly provide an opportunity to share the Gospel and boast in our great God. I get goose bumps thinking about it.

Okay, enough about that . . .


-- I survived my first two MRIs (hip/pelvis yesterday & full spine today). God provided me with sweet techs who patiently worked to ensure I was comfortable. However, I am so grateful they are over. I was able to lay still and the pain was tolerable. Ty so much for praying!

-- My tummy troubles (from constant narcotics) have been temporarily relieved. Please pray we can continue taking care of my tummy as I am swallowing so many meds.

-- Tomorrow, we head to MDA early (9:45am) to discuss my MRI results & treatment options with Dr. Brown. Then, the plan will hopefully be to undergo a simulation that afternoon (3:00pm) for my upcoming stereotactic radiation (planned for Friday, May 16).


-- Continued endurance with the constant pain I am trying to endure with grace. The pain is mostly in my upper back radiating around my ribs to my sternum. I also deal with continual nerve pain. This afternoon, I honestly questioned if I can wait another week and a half for radiation. The pain makes doing anything very difficult so I mainly stay reclined or just lay in a bed. I know this is redundant, but I am so, so looking forward to getting my life back (preferably – tumor/pain/narcotic-free).

-- Great wisdom on behalf of Dr. Brown and his team as they evaluate my spine & hip/pelvis on the MRIs. We pray for accurate assessment and effective treatment. Eliminating this pain is the missing piece in my ability to address the holistic therapy full-on.

-- For great wisdom on behalf of the simulation team who will be prepping me for stereotactic radiation. It requires all sorts of measurements, accuracy and the ability for me to lay very still. Prayers for that as well.

-- Safety & comfort of travel as we pack-up and head back to Dallas tomorrow after the simulation, and then on to Norman Friday morning. Hooray for getting to see Lil’ A and Pop too!

-- If stereotactic radiation is the answer and we pray it is, we also need to be pleading with the Father for smooth/speedy approval with my insurance. I have already talked with my case manager at BCBS today and she will be on the case, as will I. So, hopefully, this process will go much smoother than the last two times we have faced stereotactic radiation.

-- We haven’t unwrapped the dressing from my calf yet. We thought it would be best to deal with that after the simulation since they may be moving my legs in awkward positions and I don’t want my incision to be ultra-sensitive – especially as I will be expected to lay still.

In closing, I believe the devotional today from Jesus Calling was a great encouragement to me as I continue to face an ugly disease that brings with it ugly pain. May the “evil” I sense in my body continue to bring about the “good” God purposed before time for it to accomplish in and through me.


If you learn to trust Me – really trust Me – with your whole being, then nothing can separate you from My Peace. Everything you endure can be put to good use by allowing it to train you in trusting Me. This is how you foil the works of evil, growing in grace through the very adversity that was meant to harm you. Joseph was a prime example of this divine reversal, declaring to his brothers: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”

Do not fear what this day, or any day, may bring your way. Concentrate on trusting Me and on doing what needs to be done. Relax in My sovereignty, remembering that I go before you, as well as with you, into each day. Fear no evil, for I can bring good out of every situation you will ever encounter.

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” – Genesis 50:20

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4

Monday, May 5, 2014

“Hair” we go again

At 8:30am tomorrow we will depart for three days at MDA land. I have been waiting almost three weeks for this trip and am so thankful we are finally moving forward. We have a makeshift bed for me in the back of the minivan we’ve been using for trips to Tulsa. Now, we’ll see if with the bed, narcotics and oodles of God’s grace, I can make it 6+ hrs to Houston. There is so much more I want to say about God’s amazing provision over the past week, but this will be a speedy post . . . most of the posts will be until we can eliminate this pain (for good), and that’s definitely the biggest prayer request.


6:30pm – Blood work
7:15pm – Check-in for MRI of hip/pelvis
8:00pm – MRI of hip/pelvis

4:15PM – Check-in for MRI of full spine (C/T/L)
5-7:00pm – MRI of full spine
** This will be a doozie esp with my pain, please be praying.

9:45am – Appt with Dr. Brown
3:00pm – Simulation (for stereotactic radiation)

**Please note, this will be the following week, not this Friday.
2:30 pm – Stereotactic radiation


A sweet pic of Aunt Hol and Alexa Hope “working” mama’s crutches.


-- Pain management – I know this seems redundant but the pain I am experiencing is more than I have endured thus far. It is pretty sad when pain from my calf resection is a non-issue compared to my back pain. I am currently taking 10mg of Hydrocodone every 4 hrs, Lyrica every 12 hrs and wearing 3 Lidocaine patches every other 12 hours. I am so ready for this pain to be eliminated. My life in a recliner and/or bed just isn’t living. I’m pleading with the Lord to be cancer-free and feel good again. Grace, grace, grace.

-- Safety of travel. Pop and Alexa will be staying in Dallas this go ‘round, so pray for them as well as Mommy who is sad she will be missing her girl.

-- Grace to lay still during the MRIs – especially the lengthy MRI of my full spine. I had a momentary panic attack last time I had one in January, so I am deeply concerned about my ability to lay still during this procedure as my pain has elevated.

-- Wisdom for Dr. Brown and his staff to know exactly what is going on in my back and for it to be treatable with stereotactic radiation. We don’t want them to miss anything. Our heart’s cry is no more cancer in my spine!

-- We are also asking the Lord that the previously treated areas are healing and cancer-free. I have had troubling pain in my “treated” left hip/pelvis. I am hoping it is due to the fact I have been putting so much weight on that side of my body in light of my tumor resection.

-- For complete healing of my right calf. For it to remain cancer-free from here on out. I can put some weight on my right leg but am still unable to take a step with my complete weight on it. We’ll unveil the wound site for the first time on Wednesday. I have a follow-up with Dr. Smith, Thursday, May 13.

-- As always, we are boldly asking the Lord for total, complete healing and a cancer-free body in 2014.

-- We are almost full swing into the holistic therapy. It is intense. Prayers that everything going into my body is attacking bad cells, healing my weakened body, and “beefing” up all of my good cells. Death to dirty cancer. More on my therapy in another post . . .


Had to share these beauties. My sweet friend, Shanna, brought them to me yesterday. White tulips are my absolute favorite flower in the world. I carried them in my wedding, and when we are independently wealthy, I will have them in my house every day. Ha!! Ty Shanna. I’m smiling.