House of Cards

There are many foundations on which we build our lives; assumptions that guide our actions. Once in a while, we are reminded that change is the most reliable assumption of all. Unfortunately, while maybe reliable, change is not very predictable.

A few years ago, Sherri’s health was one change we didn’t think would hit us this drastically, or this soon. We’ve had some runway to deal with Sherri’s cancer, and she’s acted bravely, pragmatically, and with focus on what really matters. It’s a precarious balance between being hopeful while shooting for positive outcomes on the one hand, and preparing for the inevitable on the other hand. Of course, it’s just a matter of time for all of us. We’ve been focused on positive action and trying to make the best of Sherri’s time, carefully building our house of cards. We do not regret that. But when the first card pops out of place the rest of the house starts to waver.

Sherri has been on a biological treatment called Herceptin for the past few months. This is an approved breast cancer drug that addresses a gene mutation that was found in her pancreas tumor. Her oncology team speculated that some of the same mechanisms may be at work in both types of cancer. For a while, it seemed like this treatment was keeping things stable (which is a noble goal for anyone in this predicament). Recently though, Sherri has been a little worse for the wear.

Medically speaking, Sherri’s pancreas is not her main worry. The panceatic tumors had already spread to other organs (which is what defines a cancer as Stage 4) when it was first detected in August 2013. The biggest problem is her liver, which has tumors encroaching from one direction and has been damaged by the chemotherapy from the other direction. Slow the chemo, and the tumors accelerate. Speed up the chemo, and the liver damage accelerates. That’s why the immunotherapy trials have been important; we needed something to slow the tumors without toxic chemicals. Dodging back and forth between chemo and immunotherapy trials has been a balancing act, but slowly we’ve been noting the progression of pseudocirrhosis. In this scenario, eventually you lose your body’s filter and other toxins start to make it into your bloodstream. There are signs that we have hit the point of convergence where there is very little left to balance. For example, a recent check of her ammonia levels showed 4 times higher than normal. That would make you really, really tired.

We are having ongoing discussions with our primary oncology team at Fox Chase Cancer Center to consider whether there are any treatments that might still work, how well they are likely to actually work, and what the cost in time and comfort might add up to. There is no obvious course of action. Either way, we’ve decided to start looking at how this fight might come gracefully to a close, whatever the timeframe might be. That first card is bending…

21 thoughts on “House of Cards

  1. Oh… so much love to you all, Coopy and Sherri! Graceful seems a good word to describe Sherri, along with brave, pragmatic and focused. Wishing you ease and grace and all the love. Please call on me for whatever I can do. <3 Chara

  2. Dear Sherri, I continue to hold you and your family in my thoughts and prayers and wish you peace and clarity as you make hard decisions. I wish that I was closer and could offer more support. Blessings. Cynthia (“Cindy”)

  3. Sending prayers that your little family feel the presence of the angels extra close as you navigate these next steps. Sending so much love to you!

  4. Sending love and prayers. Really appreciate the amazing attitude you both have shown through this whole journey. I wish there was anything I could do for you. Would be more than happy to. I’m guessing just love and prayers is the main thing. May the Lord’s peace be strongly present in your hearts.

  5. If I, the least of all, am able to convey a message of hope, then I have to believe there is a greater hope. At this moment, Sherri is my messenger, so much closer to the Lord than I am. Thank you Dave for creating this forum and filling it with meaning. Thank you for being Sherri’s messenger.

  6. You have fought long and hard. All choices are sacred. If we could fly out to a one thousand year perspective on Providence’s intentions, perhaps we would not be sad. But it seems we humans must endure sadness – an integral component of the Doctrine of Love. I know you are feeling and have been feeling the tidal wave of love coming toward you over these years, as well as perhaps now the swelling wave of heartbreak.

  7. Love to you all, Cooper Family, and many continued prayers for peace, comfort and joy. Thank you for sharing these intimate details, so that we may have the honor of praying for you all.

  8. All our love to you wonderful people. We so look forward to seeing you later this month. OUr hearts and our prayers go out to you.

  9. Peace be with you. Your graciousness and fortitude is an ongoing lesson. You are a class act, Coopers. When tested, we should all hope to follow your example.

  10. Sending thoughts and prayers to all of you! Thank you for sharing, and please know that we are here for you.

    Love and prayers,

    Joanne and Lindsey

  11. Such gratitude for your sharing your journey with us. Graceful is how you both live life…..sending love.

  12. Dave and Sherri,
    I can’t imagine the strength it takes to carry yourselves as you have. I pray you feel the Lords warmth.

  13. Continuing to send you and your family much love and keeping you in my prayers, Sherri, with much hope and faith and deepest respect.

  14. You are an incredible inspiration to us and an amazing display of grace. We send our love and prayers.
    John, Heather, Max and Elise

  15. Living seems so tricky sometimes. On the one hand it’s a huge challenge to clear out all the bacteria from equipment we mean to send off to explore other planets because they are so tenacious. On the other hand, keeping the good & life-affirming cells alive either in a dish or in transplants is so incredibly challenging. Cells have to have a hall pass in our body all the time or our own immune system will destroy them. They have to be working to be allowed into the network, and they seem to compete for resources in ways that demonstrate survival of the fittest regularly in each microcosm niche within our bodies. It seems so ultimately unfair for an allowance of any such cells as cancer cells. Dividing out of control, usurping resources, and bringing no apparent usefulness to the table. My Mom once helped out on a field-trip my class took when I was in grade school and I remember her pointing out that the bad kids always got too much attention, and that we have to work to acknowledge the good kids for what they’ve done. Here’s an example. The good cells that make up what I know and love about Sherri have helped her be an incredibly useful force in our world. She’s been so kind to me and my heart aches that she feels so internally overwhelmed by cells that seem so unwilling to participate in her master plan.

  16. As always, you are all in our thoughts, and we send much love and many healing prayers to you. As we ready ourselves for the busy-ness, and the peace, of the upcoming holidays, I can truly give deep thanks for you all, Dave, Sherri, Zia, and Anji — and especially for the courage, determination, and beautiful grace that Sherri exemplifies. You are integral to our lives, and we all love you all. We will be back up to see you soon. I hope you have a joyous Thanksgiving! Much love ~

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