In this appointment, I also asked Dr. Cohen more about Scott's Aphasia (language deficits from his initial surgery) and what we can expect as far as recovery. Recovery is still very slow and gradual, and Dr. Cohen said we should still expect months of recovery. Ever since Scott completed the 6.5 weeks of chemo and radiation, he's been trying to go to work/school every day, for about 7 or so hours. During the first week and half there, he finished an assignment from the class he was given an incomplete in, which resulted in his teacher giving him an A (yay!). He also started to try to review papers, learn C++, and work on some programming. It's been a real struggle for him. The first few weeks were very hard on him. Reading is still extremely difficult. He says the comprehension aspect of reading is what is the hardest. Reading a sentence is just too many ideas all at once that he can't grasp and understand. One morning he was trying to review a paper and he told me that he tried for a couple of hours to just get through the first sentence. I don't even know how he pushed through long days and weeks like that, but he did. I can't imagine going to work and trying to learn, study, and perform on a PhD level when reading is as hard for him as it is. All I can say is, he's been a trooper trying his best to move forward, and doing all he can to exercise his brain and try to get back to where he was. At this point, Scott says he hasn't really noticed a difference in his reading skills, but he says he's gotten use to going in to work and it's not as overwhelming as when he first went back. Right now, he's signed up to take a class fall semester. He's going to give it the first two weeks to see how it goes, and depending on how he feels, he may drop it if he feels he's just not capable at that point.
Back in mid July, Scott started his first of 6 to 12 monthly rounds of chemo. His chemo (temodar) is just a pill that he takes for 5 straight days, has 3 weeks off, and then starts again. During this first installment, they upped the dosage he was taking while he was doing radiation. Because of the increased dosage, they said he may be more likely to experience nausea, more fatigue, etc. Surprisingly, Scott handled it very well, and still didn't have any nausea. He still experienced a lot of fatigue, however. Throughout all the treatments, Scott's vitals and immune system have looked completely normal. The nurse said no one would even be able to tell he was taking chemo based on how his vitals look. That has been a huge blessing! Especially considering we have two kiddos that aren't exactly awesome at keeping germs to themselves. . . :)
On Thursday, we visited with Dr. Cohen again. It was a pretty routine visit, with no new information. They decided since Scott handled the last round of chemo so well that they are going to put him on the highest dosage of Temodar they can. He will start taking those pills tomorrow through Friday. We are really hoping he can handle this new dosage well - if he can handle this dosage, it will be as hard as it will get.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about hope and faith. There is a lot of information and research that talks about how important hope is when you have cancer. We've heard time and time again how having hope can make a difference in how well treatments go and also with prognosis. I recently took the time to read through a talk by President Uchtdorf, that he gave in October 2008 when I was still on my mission. It really stood out to me at the time, and re-reading this talk again, there were new insights I was able to gain after going through all that we have in the past few months. One section in particular really stood out to me:
"The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.
Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. It encourages and inspires us to place our trust in the loving care of an eternal Heavenly Father, who has prepared a way for those who seek for eternal truth in a world of relativism, confusion, and of fear."
First of all, this quote solidified for me the importance of having hope when dealing with some kind of sickness. An apostle states right here that the absence of hope can advance sickness. It's amazing to me how connected the body and our spirits are, and how taking care of one can effect the other. Second, I feel that throughout this whole process, Scott and I have been on both ends of the spectrum described here. When we first found out he had cancer, I felt overwhelmed. For the first little while, despair did set in. I feel like I started mourning over opportunities I was sure would be taken away - growing old together, watching our kids grow up together, serving missions together, having more kids, Scott being at our kids weddings and graduations, etc. I also felt a lot of fear when I would have thoughts about being a single mom, raising kids alone, becoming a financial provider, and taking on all the roles and responsibilities that Scott fulfills in our lives now. All I can say is, the more I would think about those things, the more life seemed to lose it's vibrancy and joyfulness, as President Uchtdorf described here. It truly can feel like a 'staircase that leads only and forever downward.'
However, after the initial sting of all this, I felt the power of hope. I accepted that Heavenly Father loves us and had given us this trial out of love. I truly believe there is a purpose and reason for trials and suffering in this life. I don't exactly know all the reasons why we were given this trial, but I know we were meant to have it. Once I let go of all my fears, I feel like I was finally able to completely put my trust in Heavenly Father, and accept whatever he has planned for our future. We tried so many times to look into our future and plan for what could happen and what direction we thought we should take. The truth is, sometimes you really can't see where you're going next. Each day, week, and month brings something new and trusting in the Lord and relying on him is sometimes all you can do while trying to move forward. Sometimes you just have to let go of having the control and trust that He will provide and take care of you each step of the way. I know that is happening in our lives, and having hope has truly restored our happiness, joy, and gratitude for all that we do have.