Writer’s Block

I’ve figured out the source of my recent writer’s block.  I don’t like sharing bad news.  I keep waiting…hoping…for some good news to write about, but when it comes to my health right now, there’s more bad than good.

In a nutshell, here is what is going on.  My tumors are growing.  My blood tumor marker numbers continue to rise.  The side effects of chemotherapy are taking more of a toll…and I’m less optimistic about my future.  But it’s not all doom and gloom…so stick with me.

Recent scans show that the tumors in my liver are growing.  Not at an alarming rate…but anytime the big c is on the move in your body…it’s not a good thing.  The largest of my tumors is about the size of a plum.  Most of the tumors are in the top of my liver, so 90% of my liver is unaffected by disease…which is good.  It’s also good that the tumor in my pancreas is not growing.

After dropping to as low as 15, my blood tumor marker numbers have been steadily rising for the past six months.  Two weeks ago my number was 798…now it is 1,283.  This isn’t a dire number as some patients are in the tens of thousands…but it’s obviously not moving in the direction we want.

Dr. Ocean has been trying several different chemotherapy regimens in hopes of turning things around.  We just started a new one this week and I’ll also have another scan next week to get a base-line of what direction we go in my next round of treatments.  But being on chemo for more than a year is taking a toll.  I’m having more “bad” days than “good” as my body is getting weaker.

Finally, one thing that has popped up…literally…is that I can now feel the tumor in my chest.  It is just below my sternum and while I wouldn’t call it painful, the pressure is a constant reminder that I don’t like.  It makes me think about the big c more often and where all of this might be leading.  I don’t like having these thoughts, but I can’t help it either.

Good News!

Since my last blog, there have been a lot of good things going on too.  In Dr. Ocean and Dr. O’Reilly, I’ve got two of the best in the country working on my case and we still have a number of treatment options.  And despite me feeling weaker, Dr. Ocean says I am still one of her stronger patients and she remains optimistic.

I have been approved to receive one of the newest and most promising new drugs on the market called a PARP Inhibitor.  The FDA has approved PARPs for the treatment of Uterine cancer but everything for Pancreatic is still in the trail stage. Well thanks to my insurance company, Aetna, I have been approved to receive the PARP Inhibitor pills.  This is great news as my doctors look for ways to treat my disease.

While my activity level is slowing down, I’ve still tried to keep as active as possible.  In the middle of March, I skied six days in a row during our annual family ski trip in Vail.  I avoided the bumps/moguls more than usual but we still went at it pretty hard with an average of 20,000 vertical feet per day.  I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed and appreciated the beauty of Colorado more!


Trips to Florida and then Texas yielded 10 rounds of golf…so I’ve been “feeding my soul” in abundance.  I haven’t been able to break 80…but that will get my handicap up and make me an ideal partner in a handicap event when my strength returns!

Finally, Maria and I had a wonderful time in Texas three weeks ago seeing so many friends from our 10 years at Texas A&M.  It was so encouraging to feel the genuine warmth and love from everyone and to hear how much we are in the thoughts and prayers of so many.  We are truly blessed!

Jeff and Maria

Prayers Appreciated

First, it is a time to give thanks.  It’s been almost 14 months since my diagnosis and I am truly thankful not just for the time I’ve been given but especially for the quality of life I’ve been able to experience.

I am at a critical stage in my treatment.  We still have several options…but the reality is we have to slow down the growth of the tumors or my time remaining will be limited.  That’s the reality of life with the big c.

Maintaining physical strength, having fewer bad days, having a good appetite, and keeping a positive attitude are also requests.  And please don’t forget Maria and Zach as they are on the front line with me battling every day.

Finally, if you’re a fan of The Last Train you can say a little prayer that my desire to write will return.  I still have a lot of topics and thoughts to share…but I’ve been lacking in the inspiration department.

In closing, as part of the new Ken Burns PBS documentary on cancer, Nebraska Educational Television featured several local stories entitled “Living with Cancer in Nebraska.”  The Schmahl’s were one of the families that were featured and I want to thank Joe, Ralph, Gary, Jim, and Tyler for their work on the piece.  The crew at NET is among the best in the country at producing Public Television documentaries.

Click on the link below to see the NET feature.

Living with Cancer in Nebraska

Next Stop: Just keep swimming