Reactions to treatment

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Photos at 2:32 pm by Libbie

Dear family and friends,
Libbie writing this time—
It’s been a little while since we sent you an update, so I thought I’d fill you all in.

The short version is: this past week Al has had severe reactions to the targeted molecular therapy drug he’s taking (not the chemo, ironically), so the doctor wants him to stop taking it for a few days or however long it takes to let the reaction pass and then start up again and see if the symptoms recur. Hopefully this means he’ll be feeling markedly better in a few days. Please pray that this break from the medication will improve his pain and ability to function.

The long version, for those of you who are interested in more detail, follows.

Last Thursday Al began to have a rash on his face, which has since spread all over, but he’s barely even noticed it because of one other more prominent symptom. He’s also had super-sensitivity in his scalp, some arthritis in a few particular joints, and of course fatigue. But more significantly, Thursday he also began to have deep, bruise-like blisters and tenderness in his feet, which is a common side effect of the molecularly targeted treatment. These increased slowly over the next few days, but he was still able to get around, go to Eowyn and Alden’s play, go to church, etc. Sunday his feet were becoming pretty uncomfortable, but he toughed it out.

By Monday his feet were so sore that he stopped driving and had trouble walking. By Tuesday he could barely hobble, and by Wednesday walking was completely out of the question. It was hard to see him crawl slowly back and forth from the living room couch to the bathroom and to go up stairs on his knees and down stairs on his backside.

The good news is that he had almost no nausea at all from the chemo! Yay! Thank you for praying! By Tuesday he was done with the chemo until next month. Wednesday he was pretty uncomfortable with constipation, and the laxative that helped with that made his stomach uneasy, and he was definitely more fatigued. Also, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings he spiked a fever—all from the chemo—but all in all it wasn’t too bad. Nothing like the feet.

We’ve borrowed a wheelchair (several, actually, from friends, and Alden has gotten REALLY good at doing wheelies in one of them—you should see him) and bought one of those chairs that you sit on in the shower, both of which help. I’m going to try to get a walker as well. It’s starting to look like a nursing home around here… The wheelchair was invaluable yesterday and today for getting downtown. (Although a the local station you still have to climb up and down the steps to the train. Plus, I’m just learning about how to push Al in it, so I hit a few high spots in the sidewalk that jolted him rather badly, and once I nearly dumped him forward right out of it. Poor guy! I had some funny conversations with some of the other wheelchair pushers at Penn, though, about needing to be licensed and what not. But I’m starting to get the hang of it.)

Groves Family Wheelchair Portrait

Yesterday we saw the doctor at Penn again, and she was horrified to see Al in such bad shape. She wants him to stop taking the drug until he can walk comfortably again, and then they’ll restart it and see what happens. Some people have found that when they do that their bodies have built up a tolerance to the drug and they don’t repeat the reaction. That would be nice. She said that if there are problems or reactions in the future to PLEASE call her immediately. The quality of life Al’s experienced in the past few days is absolutely unacceptable to her. That was encouraging.

It’s amazing what a difference a week can make. For several reasons, including Al’s reaction to the medication, we’ve come to a hard decision: he will be taking time off from Westminster starting now. That’s been sobering. We’ve been trying to find time to start planning practical matters on the home front, and that’s been sobering too. And sad. I’ve done a lot of crying. Al’s been a brick. Both of us have found enormous comfort in the Lord, his love for us, his promises, the hope of the resurrection and the wonderful life to look forward to with Jesus on the other side of death. I’m trying to face each sadness squarely and then to set it in the context of the bigger picture—that this life from beginning to end, even if we live to 100, is just a blip compared to the indescribably wonderful eternity we’ll enjoy with the Lord. Paul said that to live is Christ and to die is gain. I’ve always cherished the “dying is gain” part, and all the more so now. It’s the “living is Christ” part that I still feel fairly wifty about, although I think Al has a much better handle on that. When I spend time in God’s throne room, amazed at the glorious and majestic, powerful and good God who sits on the throne of the universe and yet knows me intimately and loves us with a fatherly tenderness that I’ll never fully grasp, it helps put things in much better perspective. I have a feeling that in the months ahead, occasional visits to the throne room will not suffice—I’ll probably need to just move in there and stay. But then, I suppose that’s the best place for any of us to be all the time anyway, so it’s a blessing to be so keenly aware of needing to be there.

Today Al and I went down to the flower show (his idea—it was beautiful!) and then used the gift certificate that all of our children gave us for Christmas to Le Bec Fin. Wow. We are definitely not used to having a dozen men in tuxedos waiting on us! Quite an experience of a different world! Al survived the day, thanks to the wheel chair, but he heaved an enormous sigh of delight and relief when we finally made it back home and he could crawl onto the couch and put his feet up. Now I think he’ll just stay home for a while. We’re waiting for the stoppage of the problem medication to begin reducing the pain in his feet; so far they are still on fire.

On the family front, Eowyn and Alden were in the school musical “Footloose!” this past weekend and did a great job. I tell you, if we could bottle the energy that was on that stage, there would be no further need for foreign oil imports. Friends from out-of-town came and stayed with us Friday to see the play, and then Sunday was Eowyn’s birthday and party. So it was a full and fun time. Now I’m ready for things to slow down a bit. Maybe I’ll even get back to doing some of my class work, who knows…The other happy news is that Becky will be coming home for spring break next week, and we can’t wait to see her!! It will be so good to have her around again.

I think that’s about it. We continue to be amazed and blessed by the love, support and prayers of so many people. It’s humbling and wonderful. Thank you all.
More news as there is any,


  1. Sojung Kim said,

    March 14, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    Dear Prof. Al Grove

    Hi, I’m Sojung Kim, first yr M.Div student at WTS.
    (I was in the last Faculty meeting with my husband. )

    Every time I encounter you at the Seminary..
    I just didn’t recognize it is you..
    though I saw your picture in the catalogue!
    For I’m not good at recognizing people sometimes…
    And maybe you are too tall for little Korean woman like me. ^_^

    Now, I know who you are and what you look like exactly…
    Photos here gave me alot of informations about you…
    And the site makes me to pray for you alot more.

    Please remember that…
    Every time I hear about you..I pray from deep in my heart.
    And I believe that God hears the prayer..

    I pray for you to overcome those sufferings from your physical desease..
    Most of all, I pray that those sufferings do not harm your
    spiritual relationship with God.

    I also believe and pray …
    as Jesus healed those who were suffered physically and spiritually,
    may He guard your body and soul.

    I don’t know how to express those words of prayers in English well…
    However, do not be discouraged.
    We all know that God is with you and He is on your side.
    He preserves you from the sufferings
    and gives you strengths to overcome them.

    If God allows miracles like Jesus did unto our days…
    I believe that the miracle is going to be with you.

    Also, I pray for your families and friends.
    Especially, your wife and your children.
    I know God will keep their minds and spirit with peace and love.


  2. Chi-Yin & Chin-Fei Hsu said,

    March 14, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    Dear Prof Groves and Libbie:

    We are very encouraged by your courage. We are also very inspired by your handling of the unspeakable suffering and pain. You give us a model of children of God for who God is. We love you all, and in prayers always. We will be faithful in praying specific requests. We stand beside you all.

    Love in Christ
    Chi-Yin and Chin-Fei

  3. Arlene Navarro said,

    March 15, 2006 at 9:17 am

    Dear Libbie and Professor Al –

    Friends, family and our home group are continually lifting you up in prayer.
    Reading Libbie’s blog above gives me such a sense of reality of the suffering as well as the beautiful reminder to fix our eyes on our merciful Father, the author nad perfector of our faith and our Maker who knows us intimately.

    Thank you for inviting us to be on our knees and be in prayer with you.
    See you soon.

    As We Stand in HIs Grace,

    Arlene Navarro

  4. Debbie Matsinger said,

    March 15, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Dear Professor Grove and family,

    I have been blessed by your sharing of your health challenge. It brings back memories of my father-in-law’s battle with lung cancer. The Lord felt the most precious to us and the power of the Almighty God in even the smallest details was truly evidenced daily and we saw miracles happen.
    I am encouraged to pray specifically for you as you share the details of this trial. Thanks for allowing me to know and care for you.

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2Cor1:3-5

    In His Love,

  5. Beachtiglet said,

    March 18, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    Libbie and Professor Grove,

    Oddly enough, I found your story from the dental flossing thread (I have TMJ and chronic myofascial pain, so of course that would catch my eye). But your spirit and message have so ministered to me today. Thank you. I have also been amazed at how many of your students from around the globe have heard and have come back to pray for you and encourage you…that’s a testimony to how God has used you (and every teacher’s prayer honestly).

    Anyway, we have a ton of medical equipment. I think our walker is out on loan right now, will have to ask hubby, but if you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask. I hated the fact that you bought the shower chair when we have a perfect one, clean and hardly used actually right here at home. God has worked many miracles in our lives, and I’m praying he will do the same in yours.

    In Him,

  6. nickmuller said,

    March 24, 2006 at 11:40 am

    Dear Al and Libbie,

    Thanks for the blog page; the word the Lord brings to mind in these suffering days is, The Spirit intercedes with groans that words cannot express. May the Lord who is the Spirit give you grace this day.


  7. Mariana Viss said,

    March 30, 2006 at 11:25 am

    I am afraid I don’t have the words to express what I feel after visiting this site. Will and I are in constant prayer for you, and have every intercessor we know praying for all the Groves. William and I will be in Philadelphia in May, as we begin our time at Rutgers Law School-Camden. We are looking forward to serving you in whatever way possible. Please accept our love, you are amazing.

    Mariana Viss

  8. Chrissy Kind Baiocchi said,

    April 4, 2006 at 7:23 am

    Al and Libby…just got this website from Peggy Oliphint…had been praying for you and will continue to do so…my heart and love go out to you all…thanks for being willing to share this season with so many who love you and to be open books for the prayers and love of the body of Christ here and all over…you bless me with your vulnerability to so many…may the arms of Jesus continue to wrap around you daily…love in Him, Chrissy Kind Baiocchi

  9. Vern and Diane said,

    April 10, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    You know we are praying daily, taking you with us before our Father’s throne.

  10. Seong Il Park said,

    April 18, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Dear Al

    I pray to God for your recovery from illness.
    Lord, help us to taste the joy of your Kingdom in this life too.
    May God heal you with his power and show the presence of his Kingdom in our lives.


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