Feeding tube, radiation, Carla does what she must for more good life


COOPER, Iowa, Jan. 27, 2020 — I have often said, cancer is a curious friend. And I still believe that – but sometimes it can feel like a friend has turned on you and causes you more grief than you deserve from a friendship. This is what I’m feeling right now with my friend cancer.

I am confident that we will make up soon and be back working together. But damn, right now, my adenoid cystic carcinoma cancer has me a bit frazzled.

Whether friend or foe, time flies when you’re fighting cancer. And a lot has happened since I last updated everyone last fall.

In October I started taking an immunotherapy drug, Nexavar. And I’m happy to report we are seeing positive results. A scan in December and another earlier this month showed, for the most part. the Nexavar is stopping some of my tumor growth, as we had hoped. That’s exciting and makes the minor side effects tolerable.

In January, our oncologist Dr. Matt Hill, of the John Stoddard Cancer Center at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, recommended that I have a rubbery feeding tube placed into my stomach to help me overcome a lack of appetite and incredible weight loss.

In January when he saw me, I weighed 107 pounds. I have since gone down to 100 pounds and am now back up to about 105 pounds. I need to find 20 pounds or more.

Carla with nutrition & bag.jpg

Carla Offenburger with two cartons of nutrition that she now receives directly from the infusion bag, into her stomach via her new feeding tube.

Four times per day, we pour 8-ounce cartons of “Osmolite” into an infusion bag, add some water, hang the bag on an IV pole, then connect the infusion tube into my feeding tube. About 15 minutes later, I’ve had my full meal. These feedings give me all my required daily nutrients and 1,600 calories. I can eat whatever I want in addition to these feedings. And, while I’m still struggling to eat much, I’m getting better at that, too. There’s no doubt that a priority has to be on my eating.

Carla eating a meal Jan 2020.jpg

Carla eating one of her “meals” in our farmhouse living room.

But that’s not my only challenge now.

While Nexavar seems to be working on many of my tumors and lesions, it didn’t stop a tumor that developed quickly in my pelvic area the last few months, one that almost escaped detection. But in the January scan, it showed up as a “softball”-sized tumor. Ouch.

The pelvic tumor is pressing against my bladder on one end and my rectum on the other. It is uncomfortable. And, most likely is the cause of much of my lower back pain and bowel issues. Go figure.

Defeated? Not at all.

Angry? Of course.

Scared? Absolutely.

Hopeful? YES!

Knowing that the Nexavar seems to be working on most of my tumors keeps me from feeling defeated. And with Dr. Hill having a treatment plan in place, that helps me be hopeful.

Yes, I’m angry that I have to add another treatment to my schedule. Yes, I’m scared. How can I not be? But, scared can be overcome with strength, courage and prayer. I’m using all three, plus the incredible support I get from friends and family.

Mostly, I’m hopeful. When Dr. Hill walks into my exam room and calmly explains what needs to happen, it is reassuring. He always seems realistically hopeful, and so am I.

The plan now?

Dr. T and Carla Jan 2019.jpeg

We’re hoping that radiation oncologist “Dr. T” can save Carla or the third time in just over a year. Here they were together in January 2019.

We’ve added 15 daily doses of radiation to shrink the pelvic tumor and relieve the pain I have. I started this on Monday, January 20. Daily trips to Des Moines are giving Chuck and me plenty of car time. This radiation treatment has me again working with radiation oncologist Dr. John Triantafyllos, or as everyone calls him, “Dr. T.” He is also at John Stoddard Cancer Center. He used radiation to successfully eliminate a large tumor in my lung last January. And last June he went after a tumor in my left femur bone. Both of those treatments were successful. Of course, I trust that this treatment will also be successful.

I’ll finish the radiation up on Friday, February 7. If all goes as I’d like it to, Chuck and I will be able to fly to Scottsdale, Arizona, the following week to watch our Vanderbilt University Commodores baseball team open the 2020 season by playing in a “MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament” sponsored by Major League Baseball. It’s a great field with Vandy, Michigan, Connecticut and Cal Poly. We’ll stay in Scottsdale with our step-daughter and husband, Janae and Chris Learned. We’ll take a much needed break from my cancer-filled days, soak up some sun and relax. When we come home, we’ll do whatever needs to happen next.

I am so fortunate to have cancer warriors who are helping with meals for the Offenburger household (otherwise, I’m afraid Chuck would make pancakes every night for my mother Suesy Burt). It is reassuring that my sisters Tammie Asmbaugh and Chris Woods, of Des Moines, and Chuck’s sister Chris Werner, of Cedar Rapids, make themselves available whenever needed for an overnight of care. I am grateful for all the cards of comfort and support I get. And I am forever in awe at how much I feel the love of so many.

Everything we do now is adding days, months, perhaps years to my life and we are very much aware that this is all we can hope for. I want to be present every day to enjoy what God puts in front of me.

And I want to do it with grace and gratitude. I don’t want to be angry or bitter at my circumstances. I want to dance in the glory of the wonderful life I have. Dance with me please.

You can write the columnist by email at carla@Offenburger.com or comment by using the handy form below here.

34 thoughts on “Feeding tube, radiation, Carla does what she must for more good life

  1. Your courage and faith never cease to amaze me! We are sending ceaseless prayers for you and your family to continue your courageous battle with ACC. Much love.

    Molly Bates, Centerville, TN

  2. Carla, your lucidity and positive attitude is an example to all those fighting cancer and even those who are not. I wish you the very best as you meet the challenge of the stage you are in with, understandably, fear and anger, but especially the grace and gratitude that you speak of. I can think of any number of people who would dance with you to celebrate your wonderful life. I’m definitely one of them. Thanks so much for your inspiring emails and for being you.

    Harriet Welty Rochefort, Paris, France

    • Prayers for you, Carla. I didnt know about your cancer journey. I am an 18-year breast cancer survivor, and I know some of those feelings you talk about. I’m so grateful for all the prayers, doctors and medicine that helped me get through my surgeries and chemo. God bless you and Chuck, so glad you have a support network. Keep trusting God and staying positive! Will continue to hold you in my prayers. I did meet you and Chuck, years ago, on RAGBRAI, can’t remember where? Blessings!

      Paulette Rasmussen, Defiance IA

  3. What a great example you are setting in the power of a positive attitude! Our thoughts are with you!

    Larry Stone, Elkader IA

  4. Oh Carla, thanks for sharing your journey. I admire your strength, courage and faith. Your post reminded me of a beautiful song — “I Hope You Dance” — by Lee Ann Womack. I just danced this song for you! Praying for you!

    Cindy Jensen, West Des Moines

  5. You are an amazing woman! Your positive outlook has kept your progress going as you surround yourself with friends, family and tremendous amounts of love.

    Mary Hilliard

  6. Carla, I am a friend of your sister-in-law, Chris Werner, and have followed your journey. You are such an inspiration and I will continue to keep you in my prayers! Keep up the fight!

    Mary Jo Swanson

  7. What a journey! I fought the bitterness of having cancer by replacing “why me?” thoughts with “why not me?” thoughts. I became quite arrogant about my ability to handle it better than those I love. To this day, I’m happy it was me and not them. You are courageous! You got this!

    Lori Myers

  8. Carla, I am inspired by both you and your writing. I love that you keep finding ways to fight, and that words are such a significant part of your journey. You’re in my thoughts.

    Annamaria Formichella, Storm Lake IA

  9. Anything but the waltz, Carla. Kent and I didn’t do well on that one in our dance lessons. (Or any others, really, but it was the worst.) Seriously, your writing about your journey is a gift you give, and I thank you for it. Prayers for you and Chuck.

    Lou Ann Sandburg, West Des Moines

  10. Carla, you are beautiful! Thank you for allowing us to share in your journey of hHope and recovery from this latest bout. You and Chuck are special to not only us from Iowa but all around our great nation that your stories have touched. As Jimmy V said “Never Give Up!” You are an inspiration to us all.

    Whitey Whitecotton, Larrabee IA

  11. Carla, I’m holding on to good thoughts that this will work for you. Keep fighting and I know you will. With admiration.

    Mary Huggins, Urbandale IA

  12. Dear Carla, yes, thank you! I happily accept your invitation to dance and hope and pray with you every step of the way! Praying God’s comfort and peace as radiation and infusions help you fight the good fight with grace and gratitude. Sending you special love.

    Lou Blanchfield, Churdan IA

  13. You are the epitome of how we all wish we could handle such adversity — wonderful positive outlook, such faith and grace. I’m sure everyone who knows you is praying powerful prayers ❤️

    Phyllis Fitzpatrick, Des Moines

  14. Carla, thanks so much for the update. I check your website periodically and have been waiting, patiently. You are surely in a battle, but one I know you can handle. God’s blessings to you!

    Joan Hakes, Solon IA

  15. Thanks so much for sharing your journey. Your courage shines through the words. May your strength give others, who have similar challenges, strength as well.

    Irene Hardisty, Des Moines

  16. Thank you for educating readers on what it takes to outwit a wily disease. I hope that pie sounds appetizing to you soon, and that friends and neighbors bake them for the expert. Hoping your next update is from the baseball stands in Arizona.

    Allison Engel, Iowa & California

  17. We pray for you weekly at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church. You are such an inspiration! May God continue to watch over you!

    Sharman Blake, Des Moines

  18. I can’t think of anyone in this world who is as strong and courageous as you are. We continue to pray for you and would love to join in your “dance.” Keep up the good fight and wish you and Chuck a great time in Scottsdale. “Go Vandy!”

    Lois & Sam Kauffman, Audubon IA

  19. Such an update, Carla. Thank you for the reminder that you are one courageous woman and that the fight is never ever out of you! It would appear that God is indeed granting your prayers for serenity, and I pray that Chuck is a also a recipient. Hope to hear you are in sunny Scottsdale soon. Keep fighting. Prayers continuing from our end.

    Kathy Lashier, Des Moines

  20. I am not a good dancer, so can we stick to the polka? I’ll try not to step on your toes. Best wishes. Carla.

    Allan and Carol Sieck, Rippey IA

  21. Carla, (thanks for) your words of hope as you face challenges that would cause many to climb into a cave, and as you bravely dance on through the journey ahead with cancer and life.

    Nancy Hanaman, Rippey IA

  22. Carla, I know we haven’t connected for a very long time but I want you to know that Gordy and I have thought of you and Chuck often. Feeding tubes and radiation suck but if they give you some relief and fatten you up, God bless them! You are truly a survivor and I don’t think cancer knew who it was up against when it picked you!

    Barb Allen, Johnston IA

  23. Carla, I am dancing with you out here in San Diego, and I want to thank you for being so cool!

    Jim Siemann

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