Monday, October 12, 2009

Sandy's Journey So Far - An Introduction

I'm John Gilson and I want to tell the story of my wife Sandy. It's a story that started about 20 months ago and continues to this day...

It's best that I begin at the beginning for any of those who don't know Sandy's background with cancer. For brevity's sake, I will give the "10,000-foot view" and skip over all of the complications and extended hospital stays resulting from surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, and medications.

All of this started in February 2008 when Sandy was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in her right breast and told that the tumor was embedded in her pectoral muscle. She had a radical mastectomy of her right breast shortly after that. The surgeon said that he got clear margins on the pectoral muscle and also took twelve lymph nodes...all of which were clear of cancer. After recovering from surgery she underwent four treatments of IV chemotherapy. She was supposed to have six weeks of radiation therapy as well, but after the chemotherapy was completed she was declared cancer-free and told that she would not need to do the radiation treatment. That was in July 2008.

Fast-forward to July 2009...I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer a month earlier and had opted for a radical prostatectomy as my treatment option. While I was in the hospital recovering from my surgery, Sandy happened to run into the doctor who had performed her mastectomy and was talking to him about some severe pain she had been experiencing in her right chest and shoulder, (the site of her original tumor and her mastectomy), as well as a persistent cough and shortness of breath. He told her to make an appointment with his office so he could look into it more closely. When she went in for her appointment he revealed to her that he felt a lump and said he wanted to do a biopsy on it as well as an MRI. When the results were all in she was told that the cancer had metastasized and there were tumors on seven of her vertebrae, on her lung pleura, and in her pectoral muscle...nine tumors in all. She was devastated. It was her worst fear.

Sandy decided to go to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for her treatment this time. After more tests and scans there she was told that her condition was "serious" and that her cancer was treatable, but incurable. She could expect to be on chemotherapy for the rest of her life. She was accepted into a clinical trial for a pill form of chemotherapy that was already being used to treat leukemia but had been found to be effective for breast cancer as well. On September 23rd, 2009, - after a week and a half at M.D. Anderson - she began the chemo pills and returned home.

Before going to Houston, Sandy had been working at her job all day and was able to get around on her own, drive, clean house, go to the store, etc. By the time she got home she was physically exhausted and unable to return to work or do much of anything without assistance. Her transformation over the past couple of weeks was so disheartening. I couldn't believe the change!

After about a week of being home and Sandy's condition still deteriorating I started calling the kids to come home. I told them that I didn't know if this would be the last time that they would be able to see their mom alive, but I also didn't know how much longer she would be able to carry on a conversation with them. They all responded and were home by that weekend...from as close as Waco, TX and Lawton, OK to as far away as Olympia, WA, Goldsboro, NC and Ludowici, GA! Sandy's condition by the time they got home were best described by Sean as a "drug-induced coma". While it definitely lifted her spirits to see them, it still wasn't enough to overcome the cancer and the medications.

I'm going to leave off this first post at this point. It will serve as the introduction for the next...and more exciting chapters of this journey.


  1. Sandy, you are an amzing, strong and very loved woman. Though I have never met you, I am impressed with you. I can feel the love your husband has for you by just reading his words. I know your daughter Jessica. We met in Junior High. She is such a vivacious person, I can only assume she gets her determined spirit from you. I want you to know my family and I will be praying for you. In fact I would like to share this prayer with you. I pray in the name of our loving Lord Jesus. I pray blessing upon you and your family. I do not only pray for You to heal Sandy, but pray also by giving thanks for the healing that You have already done. I know that she is a loved woman and that her family needs her. I thank You for healing her of this monsterous cancer. You are loving and faithful God. Your word says that when one or more are gathered in Your name You hear us. Please stay with this family and let them feel Your loving arms around them. I raise them up to You Lord. Thank You for hearing this prayer and for following through on all Your promises You give us. We love You and we thank You for all that You've done and all that You will continue to do. In Your holy and mighty name we say this prayer, Amen. God has a plan that none of us can even begin to fathom. That is why it is hard to understand certain things at certain moments. But remember, God has a plan for you, and He has it all planned out. And please know that there are so many who love you Sandy, your family, friends and even people you've never met. God bless you!!

  2. Sandy,

    I'm Amanda's cousin and I wanted you to know that we are praying for you and your husband during this time! We've also put you on our church's prayer list. May God's hands give you strength and love!