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Feb 25 / grace

It’s been awhile

We have been thinking about writing a blog post for awhile – an update is in order.

Matt has completed his initial phase of treatment. Now it is time to make decisions about Matt’s long term treatment.

The end of November Matt had a bone marrow biopsy that came back with some “questionable” cells. We certainly had some concerns as we weren’t sure what that meant (neither were the doctors). However, they continued Matt on the study’s plan. That course of treatment hits pretty hard. So the holidays were somewhat planned around Matt’s intensive treatments. It was great that Matt was able to spend some time with Lindsay’s family in Oregon. He was to fly back early for treatments, but a major snowstorm in Philly and flights being cancelled, and then Matt getting shingles, changed the treatment schedule. It was great having Matt, Lindsay and our whole family together over New Years in Ohio too.

Matt had intensive chemo treatments the first three weeks of January. Matt’s doctors also requested that Jon and Amanda be tested to see if they would be bone marrow matches, in case he needed a transplant. The hospital clinic sent out a kit, the EMU health center was great to help out with doing the testing and sending it in.

On January 24th, Matt was to have another bone marrow biopsy.

On January 23rd, a very special occasion happened. Matt took Lindsay on a snowy walk and guess what, he gave her a ring, she said yes and we will have another daughter! But that is their story to write about.

Matt’s counts were too low on the 24th, so his biopsy was put off for a week. It is so hard as a Mom to wait for test results. That waiting time was very hard for me. It certainly developed my prayer life. I prayed that God’s spirit would touch every cell in Matt’s bone marrow and heal each one.

It was great news two weeks ago when Matt called to report that the biopsy results were back and showed no cancer or questionable cells.

Next Tuesday we have an appointment with Matt and his doctors to make decisions about his long term treatment. The main decision is whether to have a bone marrow transplant. Both Jon and Amanda are 100% matches, and since he has such good matches, the doctors say we should consider it to just make sure. The standard course of treatment in the study would be for him to have chemo treatments for the next 2 and a half years, and radiation on his spinal fluid. These are hard decisions and we are greatful for the wise advise of the Dr. Luger and Dr. Dinardo at the Abramson Cancer Center. Matt has a lot to consider, and we continue to appreciate your prayers.

Dec 16 / grace

Treatments Continue

Many of you continue to ask about Matt. The current update on Matt’s treatment is that he is on schedule and continuing on the plan of the clinical trial.  So that means that he is in the final intensive phase of treatment. This treatment will be more intense than what he had this fall.  He gets to have 4 day a week treatment starting again on December 27th. Merry Christmas!!

This treatment phase should be over by the end of January or mid February. After this phase he goes on a maintenance program. That will be for the next two and a half years. He will go in for chemo treatments once a month, take pills everyday and go for blood work maybe twice a month. I believe the doctor told me he was scheduled for treatment through October 2013. The good news about this, is that he should be feeling better in the spring and be able to have a more normal life.

Matt is hopeful that by mid-March or April, he will have his strength back and feel more like himself again. He is also looking forward to being able to finish his last semester of graduate school. His doctors suggested he not enroll yet for the spring semester.

One small area of concern is that while his last bone marrow biopsy shows that there are no cancer cells and that he continues to be in remission – but they did find some unidentified cells.  The doctors are not overly concerned and are not changing any of the treatment plans, but nonetheless, they will watch and observe these cells.  Mom is the one that gets overly concerned!

Matt and Lindsay are going to spend a few days in Oregon with her family, then Matt needs to head home to have chemo treatments, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (Dec. 27-30).  This certainly was not the plan that they had originally made for Christmas, but the treatment schedule takes priority.  Then we are looking forward to having them home for Christmas over New Years with the whole Witmer clan, in Ohio.

Nov 13 / grace

Endurance and good news…

We are all so proud of Lindsay for finding out a few weeks ago that she passed the Bar!  That was such good news!  Lindsay spent many hours studying in Matt’s hospital room last summer and in the midst of all the choas she must have been able to learn all she needed to learn!  Lindsay is working for a Federal Judge in Philadelphia this year.

Matt it seems to me is enduring.  Enduring the chemo treatments, enduring the side effects, of tiredness, sore throat, sore mouth, upset stomach…   He does have days that he feels better, and he  took the Megabus from Philly to Pittsburgh and spent a few days with us in Ohio and visiting friends in Pittsburgh.  It was so wonderful to have him home for a few days.  I know that he takes advantage of the days he feels better to go to the farmers market, go for walks and find some project to get involved in.  His projected treatments will last into January, then taper off, and continue monthy for the next two years.

It has been a while since any of us have updated this blog, but we are also so glad Matt has stayed out of the hospital and we  thank all of you for your continued prayers and support.

Sep 26 / lindsay

Freedom (finally!)

Just a quick update that Matt was discharged from the hospital yesterday afternoon. What was supposed to be a day or two turned into another day… and another day… It was frustrating but we knew it was just the doctors taking every precaution. Matt kept having fevers so they were waiting until they knew he didn’t have some infection other than the pancreatitis. He has to take some antibiotics but most likely it is nothing. The pancreatitis is gone and he is now on several medications to lower his triglycerides so that it doesn’t come back.

The week took an emotional toll on Matt, and not being able to eat for basically 4 days was just terrible. I felt so bad. It was not the best birthday ever; but I tried to make up for it a little bit by taking him out of the city on a little adventure up to an area we hadn’t been, New Hope/Lambertville along the Delaware River. It was a good place to see the leaves changing and to feel like fall is coming. We went to a fun flea market, and an amazing farmer’s market, and Matt finally got to eat some good food!!

Tomorrow he has a doctor’s appointment, and they may begin Phase 3 of chemo. That will be every 10 days. Matt and I (as always) really appreciate your prayers as Matt continues to go through this process. He is pretty wiped out from this last week and so I hope that if they do start chemo tomorrow, it will not be too hard on Matt’s body – he really needs a few days to just relax and gain back some energy!

Sep 23 / lindsay

Happy 29!

Matt is still in the hospital. He has been diagnosed with a mild form of pancreatitis, due to the high triglycerides in his system that was a result of chemo. He hasn’t been able to eat since he got to the hospital – and yesterday, he spent his birthday there! Thanks to his family for the balloons and to a few friends who stopped by, it did feel like a birthday, even though not ideal. The worst part was not being able to give him any food when he kept saying how hungry he was! :(

He was supposed to be released today, but then had another fever this morning. So another day… but at least he can start eating today, clear liquids and jello starting at lunch time. I’m hoping that helps him feel better, as he has been complaining of stomach cramping/pain for the last day. 60+ hours is a long time to go without food or drink!!

Please pray for Matt, that he gets through this next obstacle with as little pain as possible, and that he gets out soon and can enjoy being 29.

Sep 21 / grace

Unwanted but I guess not unexpected…

This morning I woke up about 4:30 am and just could not sleep so I was reading.  Then at 4:50 am I got a text message from Matt.  This was our conversation.

Matt:   in the er.

Grace:  Oh no, fever? Are you ok?

Matt:  Yeah, I’m ok.  Just sad.  Fever, vomiting and chest pain.

Grace: What is it? Flu? Can I call you?  Need me to come out?

Matt:  Call Lindsay she is here.

These are some tweets that Matt has sent today…

mstyer: Sick of sick  4:49 am

mstyer: Really don’t want to be in the er today. Not this week. Really hating cancer. 8:59 am

mstyer: 13 hours waiting in the er. 2 hours away from my personal record.  4:54 pm

Matt had to go to the emergency room early this morning.  Fever, stomach ache feeling sick.  They have been running tests all day, to figure out the culprit.  He is waiting to be admitted to a room.  Pain meds help him to cope with it all, so he says he is comfortable.   Lindsay is amazing and has spent the day with him.  Wish I could be there to support them both.

However, tomorrow is Matt’s birthday!!!  I know this is not how he wants to spend his 29th.   We hope that he will only be in the hospital a few days.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support..

Sep 8 / grace

Acts of Kindness

The last few weeks we have been the recipients of many acts of kindness.   Listed are a few examples.

1.  Luke and Hannah cousins of Matt,  made our family woven bracelets.  They gave them to us so we could all wear them on our  beach vacation.  Of course we had to take a group photo.

!

2. We were all able to gather on Sandbridge Beach, for a few days of family time and to be together before Amanda headed off to Oregon for the semester.  We so appreciate the Beachy family for sharing their Beach house with us! (Their last name really is Beachy)  It was a precious time together as a family and great that Matt and Lindsay could come between treatments.  We were happy to be together at the beach and not all in a hospital room.    However, Lindsay did say that we actually all get along very well in a small hospital room.  Thanks so much Dan, Tina, Ben, Hannah and Lydia for the warm hospitality, canoe rides, beach walks, and game playing.  ( The Uno scores were Lydia 13, Grace 1, how does that happen?  I thought Uno was mostly luck!)  Thanks to Isaac for being friends with Amanda and reacquainting  us.  Dan, Tina and I were all in the same VS unit in Phoenix, back in the 1970’s.    We all missed Isaac being at the beach, well maybe not as much as Amanda did.  Also thanks to Isaac,  for doing important work in Colombia.  Check out isaacbeachy.blogspot.com to read about his work.   Jon cooked up some incredible meals for us,  as you can see by the many photos of us eating.

3. Thanks to friends and family for helping this past weekend with the big move.  Matt, Ben and Lindsay have rented a row house in West Philly. Their new address is 4738 Osage Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19143.   Thanks so much to Bryce, Dave, Emily, Ashley, Scott, Andrew, and others for helping to move and clean in 102 degree weather.  I learned a new term from Ben, called projectile sweating.  We all experienced it carrying boxes, furniture and cleaning in very hot row houses with no air-conditioning!  After all the moving the painters, and cleaners arrived on Friday and Saturday.  Ellen and Greg, Lois and Gary, Matt’s Aunts and Uncles, Walter and Joy, Ben’s Parents, and Ashley, Lindsay, Ben, Alan and Matt and I painted and cleaned and painted and cleaned and put things away… A big thanks also goes to Gary for scrubbing the kitchen floor, with a scrub brush. The floor was a totally different color when he was finished.  Greg spent two days prepping and painting windows, and Ellen spent two days  helping to paint the kitchen and putting away all the kitchen wares.     When we left on Monday, the gold walls, and burnt orange paint was covered.  The house now has fresh white woodwork and turquoise, blue, green, lavender, and purple walls.  It looks so fresh, clean and peaceful. (except for the faintly lavender walls in the kitchen, oops, we may have to come back and fix that color!)  Also thanks to Jim and Beth again, for giving us a very comfortable bed, breakfast, picnics, hot tub and a fire in the fire pit!

4.  Lindsay and Ben have been long time friends, to Matt.  Living with a serious illness effects everyone.  Your friendship, support and understanding is a wonderful gift. I have so much admiration and respect for both of you.

5. Last of all I have to tell you all about the amazing person that Matt is.  Matt has lost about 25 pounds, his hair, muscle mass,  a lot of strength and had to rearrange his life plans,  in the past three months.  Last Thursday Matt’s red blood cell count was 7.9.  For those of us that are not medical people that number is supposed to be near 14.  Matt had to spend 4 hours at the hospital on Friday getting blood.  Despite all this, Matt hung with us during the move.  We all knew that his energy was low, but he has an amazing ability to say a kind word, show appreciation, crack a joke, come up with a pun, planned an Ethiopian dinner out for us, rent and return a U-haul  and kept us all encouraged.

This process of cancer treatment is so physically demanding, but the emotional toll is just as rough.  It has been almost 4 months now, and there are many months yet of treatment.  We have all appreciated the great community of support around Matt.  I just ask that you continue to pray for Matt and those of us who are also trying our best to support him.  This has been tough and it is not over yet.

Aug 19 / lindsay

Lovely weekend in Telford

Matt and I spent the weekend at Jim & Beth Styers’ farm in Telford. We really enjoyed their pool and their kitchen! When we found out that Matt could eat fresh/raw food for the next few days, we planned several fun meals (including gazpacho and bone marrow!) and invited various friends to join us. Here are some pictures of the delicious food.

Matt is feeling pretty good – he has more energy, and I have noticed that he seems to need a lot less naptime than previous weeks! Tomorrow finishes up the last 4 day week of chemo, so he is looking forward to less frequent trips to the hospital. He has two more weeks of this phase, with chemo on Tuesdays. Then we get to learn more about phase 3 which should start in September.

Also check out the new visitors page!

Aug 9 / lindsay

Canadian wedding

Matt and I are currently in the Toronto airport waiting for a flight back to Philly. We had a lovely weekend with the Witmers for the wedding of Jessie and Steve. Beautiful wedding and beautiful people. Thank you so much to Miriam and Jay for helping us make the trip, and for the amazing summer bounty especially sweet corn!

Matt starts another intense two week cycle tomorrow. But he is feeling ok today, as shown by his appetite and hunger for some poutine!!

Jul 29 / lindsay

July 29 Update

It has been too long since I wrote a blog post with an update! I have been frantically studying for the bar exam – which is finally OVER – and now have more time for the things I’ve been meaning to get to.

The good news is that things have been going pretty smoothly for Matt. This week and last week were his “off” weeks of the cycle he’s on now, so he only had to get chemo on Tuesdays. Last week his counts were really low so he had to get blood transfusions on Tuesday and Thursday, as well as some platelets on Thursday. Matt had been feeling extremely tired, and when the doctors saw how low his red blood cell counts were, they said that explained it. He has had more energy since about Saturday or Sunday, so I think the transfusions helped a lot.

Otherwise he is feeling pretty good, eating well most of the time, no fevers. He sleeps a lot. I am hoping that now that I’m not studying all day, we can plan some fun summer activities. We are thinking about going to Harrisonburg for the weekend, to see friends and family.

Last night we went to see a play in the park by our house – A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There is a group called Shakespeare in the Park that puts on a free play in the park every summer. This play featured a special guest – our tandem bicycle! We were so proud.

Also, some long awaited photos of my sister Jenna’s wedding in Oregon, which now seems so long ago.