You will have significant experiences.
I hope that you will write them down and keep a record of
them, that you will read them from time to time and refresh
your memory of these meaningful and significant things.
Some may be funny. Some may be significant only to you.
Some of them may be sacred and quietly beautiful. Some
may build upon another until they represent a lifetime of
special experiences.
- Gordon B Hinckley

Thursday, March 19, 2015

When the Hits Keep on Comin'...

Dear Family and Friends,

Today Zac was diagnosed with a tumor on his spine.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A tumor…on his spine.  He’s been battling back pain for about a year, with a huge increase in pain in early January.  We attributed it to an injury at work and have been actively pursuing treatment via that avenue.  If you’ve ever dealt with worker’s comp yourself, you might know it is a SLOW process.  So slow that just getting physical therapy took three weeks.  Zac has been dedicated to the physical therapy exercises, doing them faithfully with no improvement.  For 10 weeks we’ve been begging the work comp company for a MRI of his spine.  They denied the referral three times.  Then, last week, Zac’s symptoms suddenly increased, taking him out of work.  He began experiencing numbness in his lower extremities along with other symptoms that I won’t go into here.  But suffice it to say, they were scary to see in someone so young.  On Monday, we finally got approved for a MRI.  And on Tuesday we got the call that he has a 10cm mass on his spine.  Yes, 10 cm…that’s huge.  

We saw two neurosurgeons today who feel that it is a ependymoma.  I have not done a lot of research on it other than how to spell the diagnosis.  But from what we are being told, it’s a tumor in the spinal canal, next to the spinal cord, but not in the spinal cord.  Zac’s is so big that it’s compressing his spine over the length of four vertebrae.  They are *typically* benign and can occur in the brain in children and are often found in the spine in adults aged 30-40.  The location of Zac’s is at T12-L4, which is fairly low on the spine.  This is good news for location.  At the end of the spine is a bundle of nerves where the spinal cord divides into lots and lots of small nerves.  This area is called the cauda equina (horses tail).  This location is good because rather than compressing the main spinal cord, the tumor is compressing lots of little nerves.  It makes the prognosis for functionality after the tumor removal much higher, but makes the actual remove of the tumor more complicated as it has to be removed from lots of little nerves rather than one big one.  

We have very little time for action.  He needs surgery ASAP to prevent further damage.  He already has weakness to his left leg which will likely be permanent.  Once the tumor is removed and biopsied, then we will know if we are dealing with a malignant or benign mass.  Removal of the tumor will be tricky as I said before.  It will have to be scraped off the nerves and if the doctor is unable to get all the tumor out, then Zac will have to undergo radiation to kill the remaining cells to prevent reoccurrence.  This radiation could be required even if the tumor is deemed benign.  We are tentatively scheduled for surgery a week from today.  But we are also seeking a second opinion just to cover our bases.  

So how are we???  Terrified!  But keeping things in perspective, this isn’t the worse thing we’ve ever been through.  We know how to navigate major medical issues and we know how strong we are individuals, a couple, and as a family.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t have one moment of “Why us?”  I’ve mistakenly been going through life thinking that we paid our quota on this type of stuff.  But clearly, that not how life works.  We have lessons yet to learn.  Life can always be worse and we will chose to be thankful for the blessings before us.  We are making a conscious effort to stay in the moment, not looking too far to the future or what scary things it could hold.  While it seems that we are often ending up on the hard end of luck, as Zac said after we got the diagnosis, if we used every bit of our good luck on finding each other and on the health and lives of our beautiful boys, then it has all been worth it.  

If you could once again hold our family up in prayer, we would really appreciate it.  We have already experienced a miracle and are hoping for another one.  I will keep the updates coming.  We are so lucky to have such friends.


The Bollinger Family

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