Unfortunately, it's time to resume the updates here. We want to be sure that everyone we know and love have the opportunity to stay informed about the new status of Erica's journey with Metastatic Melanoma Cancer.
Since Erica's last surgery in March 2010, the dozens of follow up appointments were luckily "all clear". About 6 weeks ago she began to experience symptoms that seemed to mimic acid re-flux. This continued and progressed a few weeks ago to the point of pretty severe abdominal pain. On Tuesday April 10th, she visited her local general doctor to discuss the symptoms she was having. The prognosis from that appointment was suspecting a peptic stomach ulcer. She was prescribed Prilosec to control stomach acid and completed a number of samples for lab testing. We were waiting on the lab test results to confirm if there was some form of detail that supported the likeliness that she was dealing with an ulcer.
Midday on Monday April 16th Erica was feeling a very sharp pain on her right side just below her ribs. She was also feeling fatigue and dizzy. She went home early from work that day and followed up with the local doctors office. They informed her they were referring her for a colonoscopy and a endoscopy.
On Tuesday April 17th we woke up and got the boys off to school. The pain experienced the prior day was persistent and she described it as probably being worse. We went on to the emergency room at Health South in Burleson that morning about 8:30. The emergency team there worked quickly to control the pain and anxiety. About 90 minutes after we arrived they performed a sonogram of the pelvis and a CT scan of the pelvis. The doctor came in to inform us that the CT scan detailed 25 plus lesions on her liver. This was a very sad moment, a moment we will never forget.
Because Erica has been a patient at the Melanoma Clinic at MD Anderson since 2010, we were able to immediately contact them. The emergency room doctor also contacted MD Anderson and provided them the test results. Both of our mothers and some of Erica's other family were able to make it to emergency room quickly to be there to support us. The emergency room provided her pain and anxiety medications to help as we moved forward.
We arrived home from the emergency room about 1:15. We decided we needed to get the boys from school and inform them of what we found out. We spoke to MD Anderson again within a few hours and they informed us that she could be seen the following day. We took a long nap and packed up for the drive to Houston that night.
On Wednesday April 18th Erica had an MRI of the brain and blood work at the hospital. On Thursday April 19th she had another CT scan to cover the portion of the chest that hadn't been scanned at the emergency room back in Burleson. Later Thursday afternoon we had an appointment with a Medical Oncologist at the Melanoma Clinic. This is where we received the sad news that there were 11 lesions detected in the lungs and 6 others detected in the brain. Devastating news to say the least. The decision was made at that appointment to admit her the hospital within MD Anderson.
The hospital was able to start controlling her pain and continue blood tests. During the hospital stay the team of Melanoma specialists collaborated to determine the initial scope of treatment to be pursued. They decided to get things rolling to administer a relatively new treatment referred to as Immunotherapy. They also began preparation to administer a type of "pin point" radiation therapy to alleviate/cauterize the brain lesions. Based on blood work results and the history of metastatic Melanoma they are fairly certain the lesions are malignant metastatic Melanoma. The metastatic portion of the description details that the cancer is a result of exposure from the previous malignant tumors found in her lymph nodes back in 2010.
The Immunotherapy is a combination of the drugs Ipilimumab and Nivolumab. The first dose was administered on Saturday April 21st and is scheduled to be administered three additional times, three weeks apart. The drugs are intended to stimulate the immune cells and their functions which can attack the cancer cells. There have been numerous breakthroughs in the treatment of Melanoma over the last 8 years, several have become FDA approved treatments. At the time of Erica's original diagnosis there weren't any treatments at all, only that tumors capable of being surgically removed had that option to be dealt with. Although there is the new treatments available, they only serve to try to shrink existing tumors and fight spreading/progression. This is now a disease that must be managed from here on out, but we will never rule out a miracle that 100% rids her body of the cancer.
On Wednesday April 25th Erica has additional blood work and an appointment with her primary Medical Oncologists Dr. Patrick Hwu at MD Anderson. You can read more about this amazing man and doctor by clicking here. Dr. Hwu has been out of town since we arrived in Houston, so this will be our first visit with him.
On Thursday April 26th she will be meeting the radiology team for her consultation in preparation for the brain radiation therapy that has yet to be scheduled. We are anticipating the radiation therapy will be scheduled within the next week to 10 days.
Whew...that's it for now. The outpouring of thoughts, prayers, support, and financial assistance has been beyond belief. We are so blessed and we "feel" the army of support behind us each and every moment. We will try to keep this site updated as often as possible. It's so much less stressful for both of us to explain updated information this way, than it is repeating it and talking about it over and over. The battle has just begun, but Erica is a fighter and every single avenue will be pursued to win this fight. We are blessed beyond our wildest imagination!
Erica and Harvey Braden
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Harvey & Erica Braden
Journal of our journey with a Metastatic Melanoma Diagnosis. Erica was diagnosed Stage 3 in January 2010 and then Stage 4 in April 2018.