Thursday, December 13, 2007


We met with the UT-Southwestern neurosurgeon today. He said he would bet that Steve's lesion is not a tumor. He says it's unlikely that Steve could have a tumor and look so good. That said, he doesn't know what it is. And he's not ruling out a tumor.

He would like to admit Steve for in-patient care to run diagnostic tests. It is easier to take care of everything that needs to be done if Steve is a hospital patient, as opposed to an outpatient. That allows all the doctors to come see him in one place, and we don't have to go back and forth. We are working on scheduling admission for next week, though that depends on whether we head to Houston next week (more to come on that later in this posting).

The tests would include the lumbar puncture (spinal tap) and a chest scan. The scan would look for other signs of tumors. We need to be sure that the lesion isn't a metastasis (a secondary tumor, which would indicate cancer elsewhere in his body). They'll be looking for signs of infection or anything unusual that could explain what that unwelcome intruder is.

His plan would call for a biopsy, if necessary, after the results of all those tests are available. The surgeon we met with today would not perform the biopsy. There is someone else at UTSW who specializes in deep brain stimulation who would do the biopsy.

To recap the UTSW experience:
1. Steve needs more tests before a biopsy.
2. The surgeon is hopeful it's not a tumor.
3. A biopsy, if necessary, is possible.

Now, in the middle of this we're also working with M.D. Anderson's brain and spine center. We're sending an overnight package with his brain images to Houston. Tomorrow morning, M.D. Anderson will look at the images to determine if they want/need to see Steve. M.D. Anderson treats only cancer. If they look at the images and can determine right away that it's not a tumor, they won't treat him. If they think it is a tumor or think there's a good chance it is a tumor, they'll see him.

So, we have a 9:15 a.m. Wednesday appointment in Houston. (We'll cancel it tomorrow if they rule out a tumor after seeing the images.) We've been told to be prepared to stay a few days if necessary, depending on what they find.

Because we're still in the gathering-information stage, UTSW won't admit Steve for tests until we know which system we're working with. If M.D. Anderson tells us Friday that they don't/won't need to see Steve, we'll work on scheduling further tests with UTSW and commit ourselves now to their directives for care.

To recap the M.D. Anderson possibilities:
1. They'll receive Steve's images Friday morning.
2. They'll review the images and decide whether or not they can help Steve.
3. If they'll see Steve, we'll be there Wednesday. If they won't see him, we'll commit to UTSW for care.

One of the many struggles with this experience is receiving so much information, some of it conflicting, and having little clarity. My sense -- or desperate hope, at least -- is that at some point we'll receive just the right amount of information and will be able to make the best possible decision at that time. I'm finding that my journalism experience is coming in handy -- taking notes, interviewing people, reading documents quickly to find the most essential info. But this is the most personal assignment ever, and the stakes are so much higher than anything we've ever tackled. And, of course, our ability to control or influence the situation is limited.

Thanks again to all of you for everything. The notes have been great comfort (and in some cases welcome levity!). We are surrounded by the best support network, which seems to grow every hour as you all reach out to others. We are forever grateful.


Cindy B. said...

Tyra--I'm thinking of you guys, and will be praying for. I'm rooting for a lymphoma!
--Cindy B.

Rob Cook said...

I'm a friend of Steve's from high school. My father was also the Damm's pastor at Schreiber. I realize the information overload and conflicting recommendations are confusing- I'm a surgeon and those complaints all the time. Sometimes doctors just explain things differently. Ultimately, the recs are the same though- biopsy and then the picture will be clearer. I also spent part of my training at MD Anderson and offer the following advice. It is a great cancer center, but don't underestimate the value of being surrounded by friends and family. I would also recommend that the sooner you go about doing things, the better- not so much from a cancer point of view but a peace of mind point of view. Anderson may slow down your progress dramatically- they just have too many patients who all have cancer.
You and Steve are in our prayers.
Rob Cook

Gwen Ray said...

We have never met... a friend of yours forwarded your email along requesting prayer for Steve. Please know I am going to be praying for your family. I would like to offer this one piece of advice: Remember God is still on the throne and He is the chief surgeon. There is no diagnosis He can't handle. Put your faith in Him and He won't let you down.


DogBlogger said...

Hi Tyra -- We've corresponded regarding your Christ's Foundry column. Robin Russell passed your email about Steve on to me. Keeping you all in prayer, and adding you to my Bloglines account so I can keep up easily. Blessings to you.
--Amy Forbus

The Baumgardners said...

Steve and Tyra - I just want you guys to know we are thinking about you guys and the choir is praying for you too.

jhuckaby said...

Tyra & Steve...When I first heard the news, I prayed so hard for your families, the doctors, your faith and that in some small way (or large) that Steve's medical background with your journalism would arm you in this fight. I will continue to keep you all in my prayers, and please, please don't hesitate to let me know if there's anything at all I can do. You are in my heart and in my prayers.