About

In March 2016, at the age of 35, I was diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer. Only 3% of patients live 5 years or longer after receiving this diagnosis. Most die within the first year. I have a beautiful wife and two young children. This blog chronicles my experiences with cancer and the lessons I learn along the way.

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Recap of Round 1.

An airport layover visit from my good friend Holly

The last full week of October was a hectic week of appointments and planning. However, I am thankful that there was speediness in the process. I had a follow-up with my oncologist on the 24th and nothing was in place for my port placement, PET scan, or chemotherapy approval. My oncologist, Dr. Juvvadi, was still optimistic to schedule my first treatment for Friday, October 27th. On Wednesday, the 25th, I had my port placement procedure. Thursday, the 26th, I had my PET scan and received a phone call that my chemotherapy treatments had all been approved and I was set to start treatment on Friday as scheduled. 

The results of the breast MRI showed more clearly that there was one large mass (6.5x3.8x6.2) in my breast instead of two smaller ones. A PET scan is necessary to monitor the spread of the cancer to other lymphatic areas or organs. The scan showed two small nodules in my lungs but they were too small to biopsy. Therefore, the oncologist went forward with the assumption that the cancer has not spread beyond my left breast and left axillary lymph nodes. 

My treatment regimen is shortened to TCHP. It is a combination of two targeted therapies, Perjeta and Herceptin, and two traditional chemotherapy, Carboplatin and Taxotere. The schedule for TCHP is one treatment day every three weeks and I will have six rounds. I am praying that this treatment is found to be 100% effective on the cancer. After the six rounds, I will be evaluated for surgery and radiation treatment. I will also continue with Herceptin for an additional 12 rounds (occurring every three weeks). 

The side effects are varied but the most likely are fatigue, weakness, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, and hair loss. The side effects do not normally hit until day 3 or 4 of the cycle/round and last for 5-6 days. On day 8 and 9, I was on track with this normal progression, I had the full list of side effects, but nothing had been too extreme. I had still been able to be with my children for the important parts of the day. After a relatively positive 24 hours, I began to lose my voice, followed by intense abdominal cramping, unable to eat, and other side effects. I went back to the doctor's office on Monday, under the assumption that I had caught a virus. However, all of my symptoms aligned with another chemo-related side effect called mucositis. It normally occurs in the mouth but can occur anywhere there are mucous membranes along the digestive tract. For me, they presented in my throat and intestines. Fortunately, the doctor ordered me to hydration for two days and gave me some extra medications to help with the abdmoinal cramping. Although, I am still feeling some side effects, the mucositis is calming and I have more energy every day. 

My next treatment is scheduled for November 17th.

I am so thankful for friends and neighbors to quickly step in and help me take care of Matthew and Raegann especially these last few days. Matthew and Raegann are doing relatively well with the changes, although I know deep inside, especially for Matthew, he is scared and does not understand all that is happening. I have been surrounded with support in caring for my children, meals, and housework. Although I do not desire this journey, God has made it very clear that I am not walking it alone. I am very grateful for each kind comment, letter, gift, and prayer being sent our way. Thank you.

 

Prayer Requests:

-          Beyond belief effectiveness of TCHP with minimal side effects in the coming rounds

-          My family and friends who are sharing so willingly in this fight

 

Cancer. Breast Cancer.

Rob was always the one with the ability to express himself in written communication. So I went back and found his post on Facebook when he was first diagnosed. His first sentence was “Cancer.”. Well, here we are again.

Cancer. Earlier this week, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I found an enlarged lymph node in my left armpit on October 8th and noticed some changes in my left breast tissue also. Three days later, I saw my regular doctor who quickly scheduled me for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. The results of the mammogram were “highly suspicious” and three biopsies were completed even before leaving the imaging center. The next day, the results came back that cancer was present in all three locations. Since then, I have met with a surgeon and a medical oncologist to discuss the specifics of the cancer and a treatment plan. As best as they can determine from the biopsy samples, there is a mix of both invasive pleomorphic lobular carcinoma and invasive ductal carcinoma. The good news is that my type of cancer is not as important as the biomarkers of my cancer. All three biopsies came back as HER2 positive, which mean I am a candidate for targeted therapy, in addition to chemotherapy. This particular treatment is known to be highly effective. The doctors also continue to reiterate that this cancer is "treatable".

As of Friday, I am awaiting the approval and scheduling of a PET scan to evaluate the spread of the cancer, the scheduling of a port placement procedure, and approval of the planned course of chemotherapy treatment by my health care coverage. 

Today, we enjoyed the festivities of the season.

Unicorn and jaguar face paint at St. Francis Oktoberfest

We were always so thankful for the love and support given to Rob. Once again, I ask for your thoughts and prayers in this new fight against cancer. 

 

Memorial Service Details

The memorial service to celebrate the life of Robert Yale is scheduled on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 2:00pm with a reception to follow. The service will be held at Northwest Bible Church, 8505 Douglas Ave, Dallas, Texas 75225.

Should friends desire, contributions may be sent to a fund for Matthew and Raegann (PayPal account using rob@robertyale.com), the University of Dallas, or a charity of your choice in honor of Rob.

No longer with us in body

It is with great sorrow that I write this update. Rob, also well known as Dr. Yale and Daddy, died in his sleep early morning on April 25, 2017. 

On Sunday, he started wearing the oxygen cannula because he was finding it so difficult to breathe on his own and he had lost almost all control of his hands. Yet, he still had his dad and I typing responses to many of the messages and texts he received. He was still making plans to have visitors and phone conversations. One of the many things I loved about him. 

Rob was always the one with the right words and the compeling narrative, so I will just say that he may be gone in body but his teachings, both in and out of the classroom, will live on in all who knew him. For me, he taught me most about trust, love, and friendship. Those are the three words I had engraved in his wedding band, but they are so much more true today after twelve years of marriage. He lived his life as an outpouring of God's love in him.

Thank you so much for the overwhelming support that has been given to us over the past year. Rob and I were speechless so many times by the generosity of funds, food, and time. Details of the memorial service will follow once it is scheduled. 

One week into hospice care update

After several days in the recliner, it became apparent that if I could find one that was comfortable, a hospital bed would provide much more flexibility and make it easier for my caregivers to attend to my needs. Given the difficulty moving because of the tumors in my large back muscles, I was anxious about the process of transfering me from the recliner to the hospital bed. Further, given my experience with the hospital bed during my two night stay in the hospital several weeks ago, I was somewhat worried the transfer would fail and I would have to move back to the recliner.

Rob's setup in hospital bed

We are so thankful that none of my fears came true. With the help of four people, a bed sheet was placed under me in the recliner, and I was lifted without significantly changing my position as I moved from the recliner to the hospital bed. Even better, the new hospital bed from hospice is much more adjustable than the one I received in the hospital and so, on the whole, I have been much more comfortable in the hospital bed compared even to the recliner. I also know it has made caring for my specific needs much easier for Melissa, my parents, and my hospice nurses. I am so thankful that I was able to make the transfer to the hospital bed with minimal pain and that has been such an improvement over my previous circumstances.

Physically, the paralysis has continued at a rapid rate; I can no longer wiggle my toes or move my knee joints. My abdominal, chest, and back muscles are all paralyzed. My left hand can move at the wrist and fingers but have very little dexterity and strength. My right hand can still move from the elbow down and I have somewhat improved motor control compared to my left hand, but this does make using my phone and computer very difficult. Please know that I read every message, post, text, card or letter that is sent but please do not expect to see much in the way of a reply from me anymore, simply because it is so difficult to operate a keyboard now. You will have the best chance of getting a limited reply if you send me a text message, as I can dictate to my phone fairly acurately. I expect soon that I will lose complete control of both hands, and at that point it will be up to others to respond for me to those messages that require a response. If you are local here in Dallas, I still welcome seeing visitors, or you can always give me a call on Skype (robert.yale), Google Duo (708-762-9253), or a phone call or SMS (708-762-9253). If you do plan to stop by, you can call or text me for the address and we can work out a time that will be best. 

Given the complete paralysis of my chest, abdominal, and back muscles, it is becoming more difficult to breathe, as my diaphragm must do all the heavy lifting. Although my ability to interact significantly with my children has been greatly reduced, I love seeing the art work they are making and viewing pictures of them playing outside and receiving snuggles on my arm from my baby girl and my sweet little boy. Melissa continues to be a rockstar caregiver for me, our children, and my parents while they are here assisting us. I cannot imagine that I could possibly have married a more capable and loving woman. 

As you pray for us, and we are so grateful for your prayers, please remember these requests:

  • Strength, peace, and endurance for Melissa and my parents as they care for me
  • For a merciful transition and no prolonged suffering in these final days
  • For my children, as their schedules are disrupted, and as they process the loss of a parent
  • For continued joyful experiences personally, and with my family, in spite of what is happening with my body