AFP Results

Well, we finally received the results from the Interventional Radiologist for Nicks AFP (tumor marker)…and I am so relieved to report that the number is down! Nicks AFP was around 1050 three weeks ago, and Friday’s bloodwork is showing its down to 678. The IR feels that his numbers are showing “solid progress”…but also said that sometimes the numbers can be misleading so the MRI scheduled on the 9th will show us where we really stand. All in all, we are taking today as a big fat win!

Just to recap, we need to get Nicks AFP down in order for his case to be even slightly considered for a transplant. In a perfect world, his AFP would be as low as 250…studies show that when patients go to transplant with AFPs above 250, their risk of the cancer reoccurring increases. Nicks transplant surgeon really thinks he could make a case for transplant if we got it down to 500, tho. At least this was his thoughts prior to starting treatment. All of this being said, his AFP isn’t all that matters. We need to see how things look in his MRI. Once the scans are done his team of physicians will be better able to plot out next steps. So SO many moving parts, but today’s news feels so hopeful and positive.

Nick is still feeling pretty darn good…such a champ. Trying to keep as busy as possible in these waiting days and he’s waking up and choosing happiness each and every day, which is such a beautiful thing to witness.

So now we continue to wait until 9/9 scans. Until then, we will keep hope and faith front and center. Thank you all for your constant prayers…we really and truly feel them carrying us along. I will be sure to update you if anything comes up. Enjoy these last days of summer…lots of love to you all! Xoxo

Short Update While We Wait

Just a quick update for those of you asking…

Nicks still feeling well. No pain which we are so grateful for…and his energy levels are still great, all things considered. He continues to get pretty tired, but overall he really is doing awesome. It’s been so nice to be home as a family…we are soaking up these last days before the kids head back to school!

He had bloodwork done on Monday and we received his hepatic lab results…everything’s looking pretty stable with regard to his liver function which is wonderful. We have been trying to wait so patiently for his AFP (tumor marker) results to come back..only to find out last night that the lab didn’t draw for his AFP. He had to go back in this morning for another draw..so we are hoping to have those results next week by Tuesday. Just more time to pray, I suppose:)

As of now Nick is scheduled for scans in NY on 9/9. The bloodwork results along with the scans are what will determine what next steps will be. Things really could go a million different ways, but right now we are so hopeful that his AFP has come down and that his scans are showing improvement.

I will be sure to update you as soon as we get his AFP results back. In the meantime, your prayers and positive thoughts are so very appreciated. We hope that you are all well…sending you many hugs! Xo

Second Treatment Completed

Hi friends and fam. It’s been a good few days in NYC. Here’s the lowdown..

Nick had his second Y90 treatment on Monday. The procedure went as expected and the interventional radiologist, Dr Malhotra, was very pleased with the distribution of the Y90 beads…nearly 100% of them went directly to Nicks second largest tumor. He was able to be a little more aggressive with the dosage because of this…so we are very hopeful. Nick will have bloodwork done back home in two weeks to see how things look. All in all, we are happy with how the treatment went. Nicks not in any pain and walked out of an incredibly long day of treatment like nothing even happened..I’m telling you, he’s a beast;) And while he still has bouts of fatigue, he’s been feeling great ever since. Plenty of energy and in great spirits.

As of Monday morning, pre-second treatment, they saw a slight increase in Nicks afp (tumor marker) in his bloodwork. The doctors consider the number to show things are “staying at bay”, but we were really hoping to see a decrease in that marker. The doctors are hopeful that we see a decrease when he has his bloodwork in two weeks…that will give time for the second treatment to kick in. If we don’t see a decrease, we will reassess with the team of physicians. But as of now, in the meantime, we will just pray away that the beads do their job and bring his afp down.

Nick had his cardiac procedure done on Wednesday and I am so so SO happy to report that all things look good with his heart. They were concerned that they saw increased pressure in his pulmonary valve through an echocardiogram that was done over a month ago..but we can rest assured that his pressure looks perfect now. The interventional cardiologist said Nicks mechanics and function look great..and we are thanking our lucky stars for this. Such a relief, as any abnormalities or complications with his heart could greatly affect transplant being an option down the road.

We were supposed to meet with Dr Halazun, the transplant surgeon, this morning but he called Nick first thing and said he was unable to meet as he had an emergency transplant to do. He and Nick had a great talk, tho. Dr Halazun spoke with the interventional cardiologist immediately after Nicks procedure on Wednesday and is elated that the heart tests came back favorable-i think he was as worried as we were:) With regard to Nicks afp, he thinks we will have a better idea of how things are looking after bloodwork in two weeks. He and Nicks interventional radiologist both agree that scans should be done in a month or so to see how things are looking..so they will work together to map that out for us.

All in all, the week went well with very minimal hiccups. The days were very long, but it certainly didn’t feel all that bad considering we were constantly surrounded by the most uplifting, kind, wonderful care teams. Not only the doctors…but the nurses and staff are really starting to feel like family at this point. They always welcome us back with such open arms and make us feel so loved. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know these people..it’s really amazing the bond you can create in these types of environments. Special isn’t the right description, but it’s all I can come up with at the moment. So incredibly special.

Back home I’m pretty sure the kids had the best week of their lives. My sister came from Omaha with her three kiddos to stay with them and I’m not so sure they even missed us for a second! My sister from St Paul and nephew spent a little time with them too…so we can probably chalk this week up as being their best week of summer. My heart is so grateful…it is so much easier to leave knowing the joy the are experiencing while we are gone. The best❤️

So now we head back home and get back to business as usual; trying our best to keep Nick healthy and feeling well, family time, and as much “normal life” as we can possibly experience. We will be praying fiercely for positive lab results in a couple weeks, but we are not going to let that worry stop us from enjoying the days ahead..way too much to be grateful for at this point.

As always, thank you for your continued calls, texts, prayers, thoughts, kindness…all of it…we feel so blessed to have you all on this journey with us. Sending you all the love…and Ill be sure to keep you informed as anything arises. Xoxo

Ps I’ve heard “i feel bad asking” so much lately, you guys…and that’s not good! If you have any questions about Nick, the processes, the doctors, anything, please feel free to ask…we are happy to help answer any questions at all. After all, you are a part of this, too…we are taking you along with us in our hearts every step of the way❤️

Quick Update

Haven’t written in a while, so thought I’d drop a few lines to touch base. I hope this update finds you well!

Not much new around here, which is always good news. We’ve had a wonderful few weeks at home living pretty normally and it’s been the biggest breath of fresh air. Nick has been feeling really well. He still gets a little tired, but overall he looks and feels great and isn’t experiencing any pain. We had a pretty intense family game of kickball tonight and Nick didn’t need a nap after…always a good sign;) Soaking up every ounce of him feeling well and having the five of us together…makes my spirits soar.

Nicks bloodwork is looking good. His hepatic/liver bloodwork is back to where it was pre-treatment which is a sign we are incredibly grateful for…this tells us that the Y90 wasn’t as rough on his liver as it could have been. His tumor marker number is down a bit as well..praying that number continues to trend downward.

We head back to Cornell early Monday morning for Nicks second treatment which will be that afternoon. Wednesday Nick will also have a procedure done with his heart to rule out any cardiac complications. He will have a right heart catheterization…they will likely go in through his groin for this as well. Asking for any extra prayers and positivity you may have…we are so hopeful that Nick checks out ok. And Thursday we will meet with the transplant surgeon just to check in.

It will likely be a tough week on Nicks body, but you guys, I feel more confident than ever that he can do this. Every single day I am blown away by his physical strength…it truly blows my mind. He continues to eat well and his appetite is still greater than that of a large army…all very hopeful signs:) He is mentally prepared for what’s ahead, and while moments of worry obviously occur, he is incredibly positive and overall still the same old mellow, bright-smiled Nickyboy we all know and love. I’ll say it till I’m blue in the face, but my gosh I am proud to call that man my husband.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and acts of kindness. We still continue to be amazed by your love and care…and we will be holding you close with us this upcoming week. I will be sure to update you as new info develops. Sending you love❤️

Counting Our Blessings

I hope this post finds you all well. It’s so hard to believe we are halfway done with summer..where is the time going? I hope these last few months have been wonderful for you!

Nick is feeling pretty good one week post treatment. He continues to be tired and sore, but each day gets better which is an absolutely wonderful sign. As of now, they plan to do his second treatment on Monday, August 5, pending it’s smooth sailing until then. He looks great and his spirits couldn’t be better, which is the real reason I am writing…

Monday. Monday our amazing family at Olympic Hills Golf Club pulled together the most incredible day of our lives.

We spent the entire day witnessing Gods love right before our eyes. We looked around the room(s) in awe, over and over and over. How do we even know this many people? How is possible that each one of these people were able to take time out of their busy lives to get here? How could the people who organized this pull this together so beautifully? But more than anything, how is it possible for us to feel this sort of love and joy in such a trying time?

We have been and continue to be surrounded by more light and love than I can possibly tell you. And Monday was a true testament of that. Some of you traveled many many miles to be with us, some of you our neighbors. Some of you we haven’t seen in years, some we are blessed enough to see daily or weekly. Ex-colleagues, childhood friends, college friends, hockey friends, best friends, church and school friends, mom friends, golf friends, friends of friends, our beautiful family and everyone in between, all together in one place, showing their hearts in the most incredibly selfless way by standing there along side us. We golfed together, we ate and drank together, we danced together, gave thanks and prayed together. And we will never, ever, forget how that felt. Indescribable.

Which takes me back to Nicks spirits. At one point on Monday evening I pulled him aside and said “just look around this room. You are being healed right before our eyes”, and I believe that with my whole heart. While no amount of love is going to directly shrink those tumors, the love in that room shrunk the stress, the sadness and sorrow. It cleaned him of worry and filled him with hope. And it wrapped him in strength he didn’t even know he had room for. Real, raw, organic healing; how absolutely beautiful. Since Monday, I can physically see it in Nick and I can feel it in my own heart.

The golfers had to come in a few holes early because of the most insane storm. Everybody squished inside, waiting it out. The fierce wind, the lightning, the absolute downpour. And in that time we gathered together for a bite to eat, to pray and hear a few beautiful words from Nick. And then it happened like clockwork. Just as we wrapped up inside, the storm settled. The rain, the wind and lightning stopped; It was calm. We all made our way out to the deck as the sun began to shine, only to find the most beautiful sign from God I have ever in my life witnessed: The most picture perfect double rainbow shining directly down over our army, like He hung it there just for us. To remind us that through all of the storm, all of the wind and sad and lightning and fear, is the most magical, pure, whole light imaginable, as long as we wait it out together. It’s impossible to translate what that moment meant while being surrounded by our dearest people, but it will be forever embedded in our hearts.

We laid in bed last night and Nick grabbed my hand. I gave him the usual “how you feeling babe?” and here’s what he gave me in return

“I’m feeling good, I’m feeling love. I have a renewed sense of hope. I feel strong and ready”

And I want you to know that is because of each one of you that showed up on Monday. From the absolute bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for healing and loving and never leaving our sides. Thank you for waiting out the storm with us. Nick could not fight this hard without you, and I’d never find the strength alone. We love each one of you so very much ❤️

here are a few photos taken so generously and graciously by Jamie Stoia. I can not say enough good about this woman’s talent and heart..you can find her by clicking here

First Y90 Treatment Update

Hello family and friends…hope this update finds you well!

Nick had his first Y90 treatment at Cornell on Tuesday. The treatment procedure went well and as expected..the beads went almost exactly where they showed in the mapping. Nick is feeling ok…he’s beyond exhausted and sore and probably will be for the next week, but no other symptoms of concern at this point which is positive.

We met with the transplant surgeon, Dr Halazun, this morning for a check in. No new developments, just reassurance that we need to keep the focus on treatment to treatment to get the tumors shrunk. He discussed how a living donor is not a likely option at this point. Nick has two aneurysms on top of everything else, and this limits him in doing a living donor transplant for several reasons. It doesn’t mean it is impossible, it just isn’t likely. We discussed the deceased donor route again with him…which would be several months down the road pending the treatments are effective….lots of moving parts with that. Bottom line is that we need to get Nicks AFP, or tumor marker, down so that the board would even consider listing Nick. It’s a point system and is incredibly complicated, so I won’t go into depth. But in a nutshell, we just have to continue to wait and see how the treatments go and how Nicks liver and tumors respond…every plan with regard to a transplant is going to depend on that. And in the meantime these doctors are trying to work angles and paths in any way they can to get us there safely.

Now we head home and hope and pray that the radiation beads do their job in shrinking the first tumor over these next few weeks..and that Nick feels better. If all goes well, we will likely head back here for a second treatment in around 3 weeks to a month….but all of that is up in the air based on the results of the treatment.

While there will be so much uncertainty for some time, one thing we are so certain of is that Nick has the most incredible care team imaginable here at Weill Cornell. Dr Halazun, the surgeon, and Dr Malhotra, the Interventional Radiologist, are two people I can’t even begin to describe to you. They are aggressive, brilliant and innovative. But more than anything, they are remarkable human beings. Their empathy for Nick shows through and through, on so many levels, and I believe it’s because they aren’t far off from Nicks age and place in life as a husband and father. They go out of their way time and time again to check in on Nick and have formed such a special relationship with him. They call in the troops when needed, they make the extra phone calls, and they are so passionate about making sure Nick is connected and set up with every aspect of managing all of this. This relationship seems to be as meaningful to them as it is to Nick and you can so simply see it in the way they light up when they walk in to see him. We went from institution to institution to hear “I’m so sorry, but immunotherapy is your only hope and it may not do much for you” to landing here at Cornell where we’ve heard from these doctors “we will do everything we can to go to bat for you, treat you and get you to transplant because we want you to live”. And they are living out their words. I wish you could all meet them first hand, they are absolute angels.

We are grateful for all of your thoughts and prayers. And to those of you who helped with cleaning services, play dates for the kids and meals while we were away… I just want you to know how much of a difference you are making in our lives..the load you have taken off of my mama shoulders while having to be away is so heavy, and I am forever grateful. To those of you coming to the golf tournament or dinner in honor of our family on Monday…we are looking so forward to seeing your beautiful faces. You lift us so high.

Will update you as we continue to see how Nick feels over these next days. Sending you all so much love…xo

Mapping Update

We are still at the hospital after a long day, but the treatment mapping and scans are done…Nick is feeling tired but really good overall, and I think we both feel great knowing the plan. He’s just laying down resting right now, we are hoping to be discharged in a few hours.

As I said a few days ago, the mapping was basically a test run of local regional therapy to see how Nick reacts and to help determine which treatment is best-the Y90 radiation or TACE chemotherapy-both directly administered into the tumors through Nicks groin. Nick was a total trooper for the mapping-he did great.

We just got the complete lowdown from the interventional radiologist-he reviewed the mapping results and scans with the transplant surgeon and they are 100% on the same page which is wonderful. They want to treat Nick with Y90. The mapping showed this treatment would be “favorable” for Nick-90% of the radiation beads will go right to his tumor, leaving 10% that could go into his liver-this is a more favorable ratio than we were originally thinking. That being said, that 10% could be enough to tip Nick over into liver failure, but it also may not be enough…we have to take that risk and see.

So Tuesday Nick will have his first treatment and they will Y90 his largest tumor. We will have to wait a few weeks after treatment to see how the tumor responds and then go from there. In the interim Nick will be monitored by both the doctors here and the physicians at the University of Minnesota-they will work together very closely. At that point, if Nicks liver responds well and the tumor has shrunk, they will go in and Y90 the 2nd largest one…but one step at a time. All in all we have a plan and are scheduled to move forward…so we are feeling some wonderful clarity.

We hope you all have such a wonderful 4th with family and friends. We are looking so forward to getting home to the kids and having some r&r for a few days❤️

sending you much love xoxo