The Diagnosis and the Current Plan

Posted in From Al & Libbie at 10:47 am by Al

Well, it’s hardly been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon (for those unfamiliar with this “place,” it’s a takeoff of Garrison Keillor‘s introduction to his radio monologue on his weekly radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.”)

I have been trying to get this written for a couple of days, and to succeed tonight, it will need to be short.

First of all, let me explain some of what we’ve learned about melanoma, since others may be as unclear about it as we were. The tumors in my lungs are not “primary” lung cancer (i.e. cancer that originates right there in the lungs, from smoking or whatever). Some people do survive primary lung cancer. My tumors are a result of melanoma which spread there from elsewhere in the body. Melanoma is a skin cancer. If a melanoma is removed when it is still just in the skin, it is usually no longer a threat. If you know people who have “survived” melanoma, that is probably what it means-that they had the spot removed and were then fine. When mine was removed, testing indicated that all of it had been removed. If melanoma goes beyond the skin and gets into any of the major internal organs of your body, there is no cure for it (at least not yet).

Read the rest of this entry »


Biopsy Results

Posted in From Al & Libbie at 2:10 pm by Al

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, it’s been an interesting day so far. We had adventures getting down to Penn for our appointment with the oncologist (traffic was so bad that finally I got out of the car, ran the last many blocks and beat Libbie by 20 minutes!).

While we were there, a call to Abington revealed that the biopsy results were available, and apparently the tumors in my lungs are indeed melanoma.

The oncologist laid out various treatment options and recommended one that involves a combination of chemo and “molecularly targeted” treatment, both taken orally and both with only relatively light side effects. Strides have been made recently in melanoma treatment (the one she is recommending being one of them), but she was honest about the fact that there is no cure; there are only ways to try to extend life expectancy. She had one patient with lung melanoma who lived 10 years, but a typical span is more like 1-2 years. (Some aggressive melanomas can give you only 6 weeks, but she does not see any indication at all of that in my case.) Once she reviews blood work, etc., we may begin treatment this week or next.

This has been sobering news, but not unexpected. I will not hide that there have been tears today; still our hope remains in his unfailing love (Ps. 147:11). We continue to find rest in his mercy and grace. Your encouragement and prayer has meant the world to us.

We will continue to keep you posted. Your prayer for our children is much appreciated.

Blessings, Al and Libbie for all the Groves


MRI result and biopsy

Posted in From Al & Libbie at 2:08 pm by Libbie

Dear Friends and Family,
It’s Libbie writing this time, since Al has a few more things to do this evening and we’re hoping to get to bed soon. I’ll keep it brief.

Al had his biopsy today, and all went smoothly. He really had no discomfort and even now is feeling pretty good after sleeping several hours this afternoon—thank you for your prayers! We don’t know exactly when we’ll have results; maybe Monday-ish. When we do, we’ll let you know.

Also, the MRI of Al’s brain came back clear. This is good news. Borrowing a quip from a friend, Al likes to say (with a grin) that, “They scanned my brain and found nothing there.”

By way of update I should also tell you that our trip to Amsterdam was very, very good. Thank you for praying for that too. The Lord worked out all the travel details with amazing smoothness, especially on such short notice, so that everything came off without a hitch. It was so good to be able to be with our friends at this sad time and to share their grief, remember stories of Lies, laugh, cry, pray and mourn together in the hope of the resurrection. We were sooooo thankful to be able to go together! What a blessing that was. And our kids were well taken care of here, which made it easier for us to be away. Thank you to all of you who helped out in many ways with the whole thing. The wonderful friend we stayed with even arranged to borrow bikes for us, so Sunday we biked about 30 miles through Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside—to church and back, and then along one of our favorite rides in all of Holland. Ahhhhh….so beautiful! (Although I have to admit that after not biking for the past three years I was terrifically saddle-sore by the last couple of miles.) Friday night I managed to lock our hostess out of her apartment late at night, and she had to go to the police to call us to get back in. Not too smart, I’m afraid…

So, thank you all for praying for us. We feel tremendously surrounded by the love of the God through you all. He is giving us great peace and trust in him in answer to your prayers.

Thanks for loving us,
Libbie (for the Groves)


On the way to Amsterdam

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Prayer Requests at 2:07 pm by Al

Dear praying friends and family,

A real quick note before we head out to Amsterdam this afternoon. First, thanks again for all the encouragement and prayer. God is using it mightily in our lives.

PRIMARY PRAYER REQUEST: Pray for our children while we are away. This is a difficult time and our being away makes it more difficult. To those of you who are at New Life Glenside, if you wouldn’t mind giving our kids, especially Alden, a hug, we’d be grateful. The difference between 14 year old girls and 12 year old boys when it comes to knowing how to comfort a friend and talk about hard things is noteworthy. So Alden hears through us that people are praying for us, but it would encourage him to hear it straight from others too. Thank you!

1. God’s hand has been evident—we are able to go to Amsterdam! Providentially on Tuesday morning the pulmonary specialist had a cancellation so I went in for my consult in preparation for the biopsy. Then tickets were still available (at a reasonable price) for a Thursday to Monday trip to Amsterdam. Someone has helped us with the airfare. Someone else has stepped in to help us with the children. We have a place to stay (in fact more than one if we need it). The flight times are good, especially on the return (i.e., not crack of dawn arrival at the airport on the way back.)

2. My biopsy is scheduled for Wednesday, February 15, 2006 at 8:30am. It’s a “needle” biopsy done in conjunction with a CAT scan. I will need to be at the hospital most of the day. Not sure when results will be in, so we will let you know the first moment we know anything. There is something to note here: Even if the initial biopsy comes clean both the oncologist and the pulmonary specialist independently indicated the same thought—they will continue to test until all possible tests come back negative. That is, a needle biopsy may give a false negative. So, until cancer is definitively identified, I will undergo testing (PET scan and then surgery to do a fuller biopsy). If all these come back clean, then the verdict would be it is something else. At the moment I don’t sense anyone expecting this. But God is able to imagine more than doctors!

3. How Motown muted my madness: Claustrophobia is one of my great challenges in life. So, when I had an MRI of the brain yesterday, which involves having my body inserted into a tiny space for the process, I felt a real clutch of fear, even though I had my eyes closed (I could still feel the closeness of the walls, etc.) They provide you with music, and the radio was tuned to Motown. I”d asked about classical, but apparently Motown was what the Lord had in mind as the answer to my prayer… 35 minutes later I emerged sane to tell the tale.

Well, this turned out longer than I expected!

Next week I will only be in town Tuesday and Wednesday. So I may not get much emailing done. Let me rephrase that: I almost certainly will not get much emailing done!

God is sovereign. And he is good. This is great comfort.

Blessings, Al