This is the page where we posted updates on Carla as her fight progressed.
To read from the beginning, scroll to the bottom and follow the postings up.
Carla with Marissa
Carla was laid to rest today
after a beautiful service. Her many friends
were in attendance and the scent of the multitudes of beautiful flowers
filled the rooms of the funeral home. Her funeral procession was estimated
at a mile in length, as we took her to her final resting place.
Carla passed away today at 1:22
PM. She went peacefully and all of her
loved ones were with her. She had Jesus in her heart and I thank him
for taking away her suffering.
Little to report different from
the last update. Carla still isn't eating
very much and continues to weaken. She is asleep more often than
not, but that means she is handling the pain enough to allow her to
sleep. She is losing weight. Can't say how much because there is
no point in weighing her and bringing it to her attention, but it is
quite evident when you see her. There are other things happening
too but I see no point in going into every little detail here as to
everything that is taking place. As you can all imagine, it is a
very difficult thing to watch. Carla is being very brave. She is
taking everything very well and facing each day like nothing
extraordinary is taking place. I'd like to think that if I were in
her place, I could handle it as well as she is.
There hasn't been much change
in Carla's condition in the
last several days other than increasing weakness. She doesn't
walk around much now. Once or twice a day she may get up
and walk to the bathroom but not without assistance. She sleeps
more than she is awake. But she does wake up to talk to us and
is pretty lucid when she does. She has managed to keep the
dosage of the pain medication down where she isn't so out of
it when awake.
Carla is at home. Has been for
a couple of days. Hospice
brought a Hospital bed to the house and visit her every couple
of days to check on her. No more treatments. It's all about
pain management now. She is relatively pain free now that
the pain medicine dosage has been increased and she has
the pump to augment the I.V. continuous feed of narcotic.
At times it keeps her a bit on the "high" side but for the most
part it allows her to maintain her composure in a sober fashion.
For those of you who don't quite understand exactly what
this means I will come right out and say it. The end, barring
some miracle, is getting pretty close. I was concerned about
how that end would come. The actual process involved. I was
afraid that it would be some horribly painful thing akin to
peritonitis because of the rapid growth of the thing in her
abdomen. But I am assured by the Doctor that this will not
be the case. Rather it will be the result of what they call
"tumor burden." Simply put, the resources that the tumors
steal from her metabolism will soon be more than the rest
of her system can spare. When that happens we are told she
will simply slip away.
Carla is dealing with all of
this very well. She is taking care
of things she feels need to be taken care of.
And she's trying to take care of us too.
Carla had herself put back into
the hospital last night. The pain
had gotten so bad that she couldn't even sit up. The Doctor gave
her the "pump." Now Carla can give herself pain medication 6
times an hour by pressing a handy little button. This morning
the pain was under control. More precisely, under Carla's control.
As it will be from now on.
A short trip and a short stay.
Dr. Williams was very nice. Very
easy to talk to and to understand. Unfortunately, he had no good
news for us. The tumors are too widespread to have any hope
of getting them with surgery. More chemo and radiation could
possibly buy Carla a bit more time. But it would also keep her
from her babies that much more. She won't allow anymore of that.
If it were a person doing this
to Carla, the last thing that person
would ever see would be me, choking the life from them. But there
is no one to strike out at. No one to blame. And only one last place
to turn to for help. I've been seeking help there all along. I'll just
have to keep asking.
Carla has not been dealing with
the radiation therapy well.
So yesterday and today we began exploring our options. After
a lightning round of phone calls we finally got in touch with
Dr. Lawrence Einhorn of the Indiana University Medical Center.
Dr. Einhorn is world-renowned and probably the leading
authority on Germ Cell Cancer in the world.
Remember Lance Armstrong? The young man who won the
Tour De France after beating cancer? IUPUI was where he was
treated. Mr. Armstrong had Germ cell Cancer too.
Dr. Einhorn feels that Carla's
recurrent tumors are of the
primitive neuroectodermal type. Otherwise known as PNET.
These types of tumors are extremely resistant to Chemo drugs
and radiation therapy. Carla's original tumors contained cells
of this type. Some of these cells could have remained hidden
during all of the therapies which have gone on before, only to
grow anew when the therapies ended. If this is the case with
Carla, surgery is the only why to eliminate these tumors.
We are going to Indianapolis
tomorrow evening. Thursday
morning Carla and us will meet Dr. Williams. Dr. Williams is a
surgeon specializing in Cancer and Dr. Einhorn will be the
consulting physician. This may very well be our last and best
hope to turn this disease around. And, of course, there are no
promises. but these men are the best. We feel honored that they
are acting so rapidly to see Carla and are so anxious to help.
There is one person to thank
for this new development. I won't
say who that person is at this point. You know who you are. Know
this as well. No matter what the outcome, we can never hope to repay
you for your help, compassion, and efforts above and beyond the
call of duty. Be that as it may, we will never stop trying to repay you.
Two weeks have passed since
I've found the time or the words
to make an update. I'm sorry. There has been much to do and
a lot to learn again. I'll start with the good news. A year ago,
just before all of this cancer story began, Carla and her boyfriend
(Nate) were talking about marriage. The cancer put all of that on
the back burner for awhile. Well, Carla decided they had waited
long enough. She decided to take control of her life back from the
cancer even if it was to be just for one weekend. On Friday, Dec. 10th,
Carla and Nate flew to Las Vegas for the weekend. They were
married on Saturday the 11th, in the Wedding Chapel at the
Imperial Palace Hotel. Carla looked beautiful. You can see for
While they were in Las Vegas, friends and volunteers were busy
all weekend at Carla and Nate's house. Patty Weaver (the lady who
coordinated Carla's last fundraiser party) had another idea. She
wanted to decorate Carla's house for Christmas. Area businesses
and individuals came forward once again to help. Raoul, an
electrician friend of mine, re-wired the house to accommodate
all of the lights. The mission was accomplished. When Carla and
Nate returned from Vegas, they had trouble finding the house!
They didn't recognize it. They were thrilled by the surprise. Carla
was moved to tears when she realized what had happened to her
home. The house lights can be seen here.
Carla's doctor has begun
treating the new tumors with
radiation. This will continue for 4 to 6 weeks. After that,
she intends to try another round of chemo. The radiation
is making Carla sick. It's just been one week so far. She
goes in for it twice a day, five days a week.
I must stop for now. Carla is
in for another surprise tonight.
A group of Christmas Carolers will be stopping by her house
at 6:30. We want to be there for that. I made some of my
famous vegetable soup today and we're taking some over to
her (a good excuse to be there when the singing starts).
She loves my vegetable soup.
Bad news. A scant three short
weeks ago the cat scan was
clear. Yesterday it wasn't. Carla has been experiencing
abdominal pains of increasing severity for over a week.
Another cat scan was run on her and our worst fears have
been realized. The cancer is back. And it is growing very
fast. Even faster than the last time it returned. She is back
in the hospital tonight. The doctor will try yet another kind
of chemo on the tumors. Even if it works, it appears as if it
will only be a temporary respite. This disease seems
impervious to everything they throw at it. It goes away
during treatment, then springs right back even more
aggressively than the last time once the treatment stops.
Carla seems to be taking this
go 'round better than the
rest of us. I don't know what else to say at this time except,
God, please give us strength.
Good news. They ran a cat scan
on Carla this week and the
results were clear! So far, so good. Carla's ability to walk
continues to improve. She is feeling good and looking forward
to the fundraiser party next Saturday. I pray that this is the
only kind of update I have to post here for years to come.
It's been a few weeks since the
last update and I'm sorry
about that but being back to work has greatly reduced the time
I have to get things accomplished. Carla's condition is improving
faster than we had hoped it could. She has been working very
hard at regaining the use of her legs and can now walk without
a walker again! Of course she is still pretty shaky on her feet
and Marissa could probably pull her over but it certainly does
my heart good to see her walking around. Tests are being
conducted on Carla this week to see if there are any signs
of her cancer left. Keep praying.
On the same day as my last
update, Sept. 23rd, Carla was
able to attend a party/fundraiser that her friends held for her.
That was the first time in months that Carla had a really good
time. There was a hog roast, an auction, and two terrific bands
performing. Carla got to see a lot of friends she hadn't seen
in months. There were a lot of powerful moments that night.
Not the least of which was when one of Carla's friends
(who was sitting in with the band) called on us to bring Carla
upfront so he could sing a song to her. What a great evening it was.
There is to be another event
held for Carla and the kids on
the 20th here in Findlay. This one is being put together by
some of the ladies that Susie works with and is shaping
up to be a pretty nice event.
Carla came home on Tuesday, the 19th, this week. A day we have
been waiting for a long, long time. Although restricted to the use of a
walker, she seems to be making good progress. Just awhile ago,
she walked part of the way across our living room and back without the
walker. It will be a few weeks yet before they can run the tests
to see if Carla is again, cancer free. More when we know it.
Thanks for all of the wonderful words of encouragement on
the guestbook. Especially from all of my USF brothers and sisters in
California. Good to hear from you folks.
On Wednesday this last week, we got Carla moved from the Cleveland Clinic
to St. Rita's hospital in Lima Ohio. St. Rita's has a rehabilitation unit
where all off their efforts are directed towards helping people recover from
debilitating conditions. Carla has to get herself to the dining room for
meals (they don't serve the patients in the rooms). They have a fully
operational apartment where people can work on doing things for themselves,
even a car they can practice getting in and out off.
Carla is enjoying it. Hopefully she will be home in a week or so and able
to get around with a walker. It will take much longer before she will be able
to walk unassisted.
I return to work tonight. I had hoped to stay off until Carla was back
home but 5 weeks is as much as I can afford to be off. I only had 2 weeks
vacation coming so I have to get out there and make some money. At least we
have her closer to home now. We will keep everyone advised as to her progress
just as we have been doing.
Susie and I learned today that Dr. Elizabeth Klenk will be rotating
to the other side of the treatment program tomorrow. This is something the
Doctors do on a regular basis in order to keep current with all of the facets
of this Bone Marrow Transplant Therapy.
Elizabeth, I know you've promised to look in on Carla everyday and to
continue calling Susie and I to answer our questions and tell us what is
going on. But you need to know this anyway. I don't think any of us could
have made it through this ordeal, with our sanity intact, without your warm
and caring compassion and willingness to be available to us anytime we needed
help understanding things.
God Bless You.
Susie and Dave.
As I said in the last update, before we went to Chicago, Carla is
experiencing some paralysis and numbness in her legs. Contrary to what the
doctors told us before, they now suspect a rare Syndrome as the cause for
this. Guillain Barre Syndrome strikes about 3000-3500 people in the USA per
year. It usually strikes with no warning and escalates quickly. Often leaving
them completely Quadraplegic and even to the point of requiring a ventilator
to breath for them.
Carla's current state of paralysis indicates that (if this is indeed the
cause) the affliction has stopped short of that point. Thank God for that at
least. The doctors can't say for sure that she has GBS, because the only way
to diagnose it (as there is no test for it) is by elimination of other
possible causes. This elimination process is difficult to complete due to
Carla's lower blood counts.
As a result of all of this, She won't be coming home just yet. In fact,
she may only be able to get as close to home as a rehabilitation center.
Sometimes it takes a long time to recover from GBS. As if everything else
going on wasn't enough. I'll keep everyone posted. The following is a brief
description of Guillain Barre Syndrome:
What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)?
Guillain-Barré (Ghee-yan Bah-ray) Syndrome, also called acute idiopathic
polyneuritis and Landry's ascending paralysis, is an inflammatory disorder of
the peripheral nerves, those outside the brain and spinal chord. It is
characterized by the rapid onset of weakness and often, paralysis of the
legs, arms, breathing muscles and face. Abnormal sensations often accompany
Many patients require an intensive care unit during the early course of their
illness, especially if support of breathing with a machine is required.
Although most people recover, this can take months, and some may have long
term disabilities of varying degrees. Less than 5 percent die. GBS can
develop in any person at any age, regardless of gender or ethnic background.
How is GBS Diagnosed?
Quite often, the patient's symptoms and physical exam are sufficient to
indicate the diagnosis. The rapid onset of (ascending) weakness, frequently
accompanied by abnormal sensations that affect both sides of the body
similarly, is a common presenting picture. Loss of reflexes, such as the knee
jerk, are usually found. To confirm the diagnosis, a lumbar puncture to find
elevated fluid protein and electrical test of nerve and muscle function may
How is GBS Treated?
Because progression of the disease in its early stages is unpredictable, most
newly diagnosed patients are hospitalized, and usually placed in an intensive
care unit to monitor breathing and other body functions.
Care involves use of general supportive measures for the paralyzed patient,
and also methods specifically designed to speed recovery, especially for
those patients with major problems, such as inability to walk. Plasma
exchange (a blood "cleansing" procedure) and high dose intravenous immune
globulins are often helpful to shorten the course of GBS.
Most patients, after their early hospital stay and when medically stable, are
candidates for a rehabilitation program to help learn optimal use of muscles
as nerve supply returns.
What Causes GBS?
The cause is not known. Perhaps 50% of cases occur shortly after a viral
infection such as a sore throat or diarrhea. Many cases developed in people
who received the 1976 swine flu vaccine. Some theories suggest an autoimmune
mechanism, in which the patients defense system of antibodies and white blood
cells are triggered into damaging the nerve covering or insulation, leading
to weakness and abnormal sensation.
By all indications, Carla turned the corner today. Today's White Blood
Cell count, was more than 4 times higher than yesterdays'. This means that
her stem cells are now multiplying at a very rapid pace. Her Neutrophils (see
blood count Calendar) were at 770. Better than half of the WBC count. Another
very good thing. Dr. Klenk told us that all of her cultures were negative.
So, with the WBC on the rise, they were able to discontinue all of the
Anibiotics and anti-everything else drugs today as well. Carla has been so
weak for so long that she can barely stand and can't walk at all. Physical
therapy is working on that. The Doctor says she expects Carla to come home,
maybe, by Tuesday. Thank God.
Susie and I will be leaving for Chicago tomorrow afternoon. We will
attend Carla's fundraiser Saturday night and will draw a winner for the
Harley. Good Luck ticket holders! Tell you all about it when we get back
Carla's Blood Count updates while at Cleveland
You will see three types of counts on the record. HGB, which is Hemaglobin.
These contain the iron which makes your blood red. They carry oxygen to the
body's tissues. Normal levels; 12-16gm/100 in women. Next, WBC or white blood
cells. These contain the leukocytes which help combat infections. Normal
levels; 4,000-11,000 in 1cm of blood. Also contains Neutrophils(ANC). ANC
makes up 40-60% of the WBC count and they ingest bacteria. Last(but not
least) PLT or platelets. These are small bodies which help your bloods
ability to clot. Normal levels of 150,000-400,000 cm mm of blood. Our
webmaster did a really nice job on the calendar. And this is the heart of
Carla's treatment. The Doctors run their program based on this daily
Susie and I came home from the Cleveland Clinic yesterday. Susie has
to watch Carla's babies this week and I thought I would be going back to
work, but I'm not. I found out that even though the chemo stopped a week and
a day back, that Carla's condition will continue to worsen for the next
several days. This is because she will not "bottom out" till 3 or 4 days from
now. I just can't go back on the road and be five or six hundred miles gone
if something goes wrong. Bottoming out means that her blood counts will reach
their lowest. They are already far below normal. You will see this for
yourselves, because I sent an attachment to post with this message. A record
of Carla's blood counts since the treatment began. We didn't leave Carla
alone up there. Her fiancé, Nate, will be there this week. I'll probably make
a couple of runs up there as well. Also, a real compassionate Lady Doctor named
Elizabeth Klenk, will be calling us each morning with the latest info on Carla's condition.
When we left Carla yesterday she wasn't doing too bad except for the sore
throat and tongue that comes with the low white blood cell count. And when I
say sore, I mean sore. They started a Morphine drip to help her tolerate the
pain and it barely takes the edge off of it. Today it was worse. She could
barely speak to us on the phone this morning but that, and being weak, is all
that really bothers her right now.
9/9/99 The Cleveland Clinic
When you walk into Carla's room, you are greeted by a blast of air. They
call it a total filtration room. Nothing airborne gets in. You wash your
hands each time you enter. The walls are honeycombed with Hepa filters. As
clean as a man-made environment can be short of operating room conditions. The
sound of the blowers eerily transported me back to Auxiliary Machinery Room
one aboard the sub I used to ride. That's where we made our air.
The room is small. And you have to find a spot where you can see around
Carla's I.V. stand to see her. This I.V. stand is scary looking. Five digital
I.V. control pumps on two poles. Seven bags of solutions containing medicine,
chemo drugs and blood transfusion on the second day of treatment due to a
lowered hemoglobin count) five plastic tubes running into the three ports on
her Hickman catheter.
Day two of the treatment and it is dragging Carla down fast. The primary
drug they are administering right now, Carboplatin, is very strong and has
lots of side effects. It is rapidly killing off Carla's white blood cells (and
hopefully the cancer cells as well). Carla's white blood cell count today is
down to nearly half of what it was yesterday. She is also down on her
hemaglobin count (cells which carry Oxygen to your body tissues) hence the
aforementioned transfusion of two units of blood. I finally learned the
reason for this decimation of Carla's immune system in terms which I could
It seems that the Germ Cell cancer cells are cells of the same type as
other fast replicating cells such as White Blood cells, Lymphocytes, and
other anti-bodies which the body produces. You can't destroy one, without
destroying the other. Unfortunately, we really need those good cells. They
will put back the stem cells they harvested last week next Tuesday, as seeds
to get Carla's immune system back online. Between now and then, she is a
target for any bacterium or virus around. Could be there is a bug in her
which she already had but has been held in check by her immune system thus
far. That is what the Dr.'s can't anticipate very well. They will treat her
preventatively with antibiotics, anti-viral and anti-fungal drugs but nothing
is for certain.
Nausea is on the rise seemingly inversely proportional to the falling blood
counts. No sign of the dreaded mouth sores yet but they are sure to come. The
drugs will only flow into her for three and a half days (nearly half over
already). But their cumulative side effects will continue to increase for
several days after the infusions stop. You can practically see the light in
her eyes fading as the effects snowball.
I'm not trying to bring everyone who reads this down. But people out
there wanted me to keep this info coming so they can check on Carla and that
is what I'll continue to do. Those that care for her have a right to know
what's happening. And those of us who love her, can't find a way to
sugar-coat what is happening to her when we speak of it to others.
It's Labor Day. Already got here rather quickly didn't it? I took Carla
to lunch yesterday, at one of our favorite restaurants. We needed a chance to
talk, one on one, before she gets sick again. It is so difficult trying to
make sure that you've covered all of the bases. That all issues have been
resolved and everything is in order. And even though it was at a late hour, I
wanted to talk to her about her relationship with the Lord. After nearly 46
years of life I have, more or less, developed my own sort of personal
relationship with God. And I had to assure myself that Carla had this base
covered as well. I believe she does. I made sure that my children were
exposed to religion as they grew up and then let them make their own life
choices as I feel is everyone's right.
I'm leaving the house now to walk in Local 20's Labor Day Parade in
Toledo. I had hoped Carla could attend but she just doesn't feel she has
enough energy to make it today. Tomorrow we take her back to Cleveland and
Susie and I will stay up there with her for her treatment. The chemotherapy
begins on Wednesday. Keep the prayers coming.
I received a phone call this morning from Marissa (Carla's daughter). She
just wanted to talk to her Grandpa for a bit. Grandkids are so precious. I
just had to throw that in.
Carla is feeling good. Last Wednesday they implanted the Hickman Catheter
in her chest. On Thursday they taught her how to care for the Hickman and
also how to give herself shots of Neupogen three times a day. Neupogen
stimulates the body's production of white blood cells. She was nervous about the
first shot (taken in the stomach) but has been taking it like a trooper and
giving herself the shots on time ever since. This afternoon we take Carla to
the Cleveland Clinic. Tomorrow the harvesting of her white blood cells
begins. It will take 3-5 days, depending on how many good white blood cells
they get. This part won't make Carla sick. She will be home for Labor Day
I hope that it will be a perfectly beautiful weekend. Monday will be Carla's
last good day for the foreseeable future. The day after, she goes back to the
Clinic for the beginning of the treatment which will make her so sick.
Hopefully, it will be worth it and produce the results we've been praying for.
Carla is feeling pretty good for the first time in weeks these last few
days. But the next round of sickness inducing (and hopefully cancer killing)
drugs looms ever closer.
On Wednesday this week, Carla returns to the Clinic for the placement of
her Hickman catheter. This device goes into her chest and a tube will be left
outside her chest to facilitate the "harvesting" of white blood cells as well
as the administration of the chemo drugs which will commence on Sept.7.
Between the time they place the Hickman and the time they start cell
harvesting, Carla will have to administer shots of Nuprogen to herself. These
shots help stimulate the production of white blood cells so that the Doctor
can harvest as many good white blood cells as possible.
I just want to take a moment to thank all of you wonderful caring folks
for your support in Carla's hour of need. Tickets for both the Chicago
Fundraiser and the Harley raffle, are selling very well. And God Bless my
friend, Rex, for donating his beautiful '59 Harley to help Carla. People like
Rex make it very difficult to remain cynical.
This week they completed Carla's testing and gave us the results. Good news.
The chemo did have an effect on the tumors. Of the three she had, only one(2
centimeters) remains. The doctor tells us that this means, the chances of the
upcoming treatment at the Cleveland Clinic being successful are now increased
from 25% to 50%. Keep those prayers coming! We'll get these doctors to
increase that again!
Carla is in Cleveland tonight for an appointment with the Cleveland
Clinic doctor tomorrow. I may post another update sooner than next weekend
when we learn what he has to tell her so stay tuned. And thanks to everyone
who has offered so much support for Carla's plight. Sometimes it seems that
this world is getting more impersonal and cold everyday, but there are more
and more folks proving that to be untrue.
The week started out badly for Carla. The nausea hung on so tenaciously
that she had to return to the Hospital twice for IV infusions to prevent
dehydration. Towards the middle of the week she began to feel much better.
Thursday marked the beginning of scans and tests which the Cleveland Clinic
requires prior to the beginning of the Stem Cell Therapy.
Saturday afternoon she attended a High School re-union party. She has
grown so accustomed to not having any hair that she didn't bother with her
wig (vanity has never been a vice for her). Her friends received her (and her
condition) very well. It was a good day. The old adage, "One day at a time",
has taken on new meaning for Carla. And those of us who love her as well.
This coming week, more tests.
Carla got out of our local hospital Aug.1st after
completing a second round of chemo and is resting
at home, feeling pretty good except for some continued nausea.
July 4 1999
This is my 23 year old daughter, Carla Epperson and
her children, Marissa and Brady. Carla has been
fighting ovarian germ cell cancer since the beginning of 1999.
After bravely enduring the reality of the disease, the major
surgery for removal of the tumor and a complete Hysterectomy
plus the sickness and misery of a long regimen of Chemotherapy,
Carla's Doctors proclaimed her cancer free in May. Six weeks
later, on July 2nd, Carla learned that she had three new tumors.
She had just moved from our home to one of her own. She had
been back to work for only two weeks. The shock of the
diseases return was greater than the impact of first learning she
had cancer in January. On July the 4th, she was re-admitted to
the hospital. That afternoon, surgeon's replaced the port in her
chest (a device to facilitate the intravenous infusion of drugs
to the body) which had just been removed a couple of weeks
before. This went smoothly. They used the scar from her previous
port as a guide for a new cut. That night, the chemo drugs were
again flowing into her veins.