His battle with a non-Hodgkin lymphoma of the brain is just beginning
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
With incredible determination, faith and love for each other, Scott and Lisa Luing will be traveling down a path they never anticipated.
On Jan. 19, Scott was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma of the brain. It has turned their world upside down.
As Lisa said, this is a “It doesn’t happen to me,” event.
“When I was experiencing headaches and nausea, I went to see the doctor who told me it was probably vertigo and it would run its course,” he said. “But later I got tingling in my right chest area, then down my right leg and finally in my right arm.”
Scott said he knew he should go back to the doctor, but he just had to first go on a planned fishing trip to Lake of the Woods.
It was Jan. 18, when he and Lisa went back to the doctor who had Scott return the next day for both a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test and a magnetic resonance angiography (MRA).
The MRI uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to picture organs and structures inside the body. MRIs may give different information about structures in the body than what an X-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan can give.
During an MRI, the portion of the body being studied is placed inside a special machine that contains a strong magnet. Pictures from an MRI scan are digital images that can be saved and stored for more study.
The MRA is a type of MRI scan which provides pictures of blood vessels. It can find problems with the vessels that may be causing reduced blood flow. With the test, both blood flow and the condition of the vessel walls are studied. In Scott’s case, the test was used to look at the blood vessels going to the brain.
“We got a call in the afternoon with the results,” said Lisa. “They told us Scott has a lesion on the left frontal perital lobe and we needed to get to the St. Cloud Hospital immediately.”
The doctors, afraid Scott may have seizures, admitted him to the hospital the same day. On Jan. 23, he had a biopsy of the tumor taken by a neurosurgeon.
“There were nervous moments before the surgery, and we had to sign a release due to the risks involved,” said Lisa. “Afterwards, the doctors said they got a good core sample and that it was a treatable lymphoma.”
The bad news was that when lymphoma is in the brain, it tends to return.
While Scott was in recovery after the surgery, the nurse told Lisa there had been complications. Scott had lost vision in his right eye, the right side of his face was droopy, there was no movement in his right arm or leg and he had no squeezing reflex in his right hand.
“I learned that Scott, after the surgery, had hemorrhaged in his brain,” said Lisa. “A CT scan requested by a second surgeon showed a blood clot, but the first surgeon didn’t want to do another surgery.”
Lisa said she was furious when the surgeon told her that when the swelling went down, Scott would probably not regain feeling or movement.
“We got another surgeon to advise, thank’s to Scott’s sister Brenda Dvorak, a nurse at the University of Minnesota Hospitals,” said Lisa. “Between the three, it was decided to remove the clot that same day.”
Inadvertently, Lisa was told, the surgeons removed a lot of the one-inch tumor during the second surgery.
Scott was in the hospital for another four weeks. Because of his paralysis, he was given physical rehabilitation along with chemotherapy. His vision and the muscles in his face returned to normal, but the arm and leg did not.
“We were told there are no guarantees, but that we should give it a year of therapy to see if my leg and arm come back,” said Scott.
The current chemotherapy regimen is complicated. Scott takes methotrexate every other Monday. The treatment only takes four hours, but he needs to be watched for four days because of possible complications. Thus, he needs to stay in the hospital.
Scott is also given retuxin every Wednesday for two-three hours and temordar orally for five days, three times a day, monthly.
“It’s a busy chemotherapy schedule, but then we throw in both physical and occupational therapy five times a week,” said Lisa. Scott’s days are filled.
This current regimen of chemotherapy will continue through May. In June, a new consolidation chemotherapy will be added for four days that, he’s been told, will make him very ill.
The good news is that today, Scott is walking with the help of a cane and he can lift his right arm chest-high. He still has trouble squeezing his right hand. Lisa said it’s been an amazing recovery.
More good news came on March 5, when another MRI showed very little signs of the tumor.
“Our days can be both good and bad,” Scott said. “Some are full of tears and on others, we can joke. My only plans are to recover.”
Scott said he feels he has a good attitude, but worries about the future. He worries about his family and his work. Scott owns 1st Class Auto Glass in Little Falls, and while he is unable to work, three of his sons, Matt, Aaron and Stephen, and a friend have stepped up to help and keep the business going. Two other sons, Joshua and Joe, live out of state.
“This is definitely a life-changing experience,” said Lisa. “One has to re-evaluate what’s important. We don’t take a thing for granted any longer.”
Lisa said she has always expressed sympathy toward others when they have been going through life-changing events such as this. But, she then let it go and moved on with her life. She doesn’t think that will ever happen again.
“I’m now living it every day,” she said. “The support has been tremendous. People I don’t know come up to me and ask to help or ask how Scott is doing. It has been overwhelming.”
Scott, who loves to fish and hunt, is striving to be ready for a planned fishing trip this summer. He is also the president of Pheasants Forever in Morrison County and doesn’t want this event to deter him from his responsibilities.
He turned 51 March 12.
A benefit is being planned for Friday, April 27, at the Falls Ballroom.
“This is hard. How do we show our appreciation for all that people have done for us,” Lisa asked.