"God's Perfect Love"

At our September Forum, Lori Luedtke shared with us about "God's Perfect Love" in her life. She asked us to share her testimony with you . . .

Miracles DO happen; you just need to look for them.

On December 31st, 2011, I married the man of my dreams, Danny Aranowitz. Although he is not a believer in Jesus Christ I knew I was in his life for a reason. I was to show him the way. In February we had a wedding celebration at our home. In March we went on our honeymoon, highway 1 in California. My husband planned such an amazing and romantic trip, beautiful scenery, great food and great wine tasting, and simply enjoying each other.

At the time, I had been studying Revelations at home with a group of girls. It was very hard for me to study this and know that my husband would not have eternal life. One night, as Danny and I were talking, I prophesized to him that he was going to wake up one day and I wouldn’t be laying next to him. Of course he said, “Don’t be ridiculous!” I told him that something very serious was going to happen to him and he was going to drop to his knees and ask for the Lord’s help. Little did I know.

In May of 2012, my life turned upside-down. Mid May I started to have severe headaches. I found myself unable to complete or process my thoughts. There were times when I was just standing in a room with no realization as to how I got there and wondering just how long I had been there. It was very scary, but I didn’t go to the doctor. I just “chalked it up” to being over tired or over stressed. To the best of my memory, this went on for a couple of days. My husband had been traveling for business during this time. He got home late on a Thursday evening. I hadn’t mentioned any of this to him because I didn’t want to worry him. Friday morning I got up as usual to go work out. My husband got up shortly after I did and found me lying on the sofa. This was very unusual for me. He sat beside me and asked,” What is going on?” I told him I had another headache and that I had been having them for a few days. I explained that I was having a hard time completing tasks and processing my thoughts. He said, “Get up; we’re going to the doctor.”

1st Miracle - He was home.

I said, “What doctor?” He said, “A Neurologist.” I didn’t even have a primary care doctor at the time, much less a neurologist, but Danny is in the medical field and he instantly knew something wasn’t right. “We will go to the emergency room,” he said at my worry of not having a doctor. ”Just where I want to spend my morning!” I thought.

At the time I had a client, Randy, who had become a friend. He also happened to be a doctor. I decided to call him.

 2nd miracle - I had a doctor friend I trusted.

3rd miracle - He wasn’t working and answered.

I had worked for him a couple of years and he knew my personality quite well. I began to tell him I wasn’t feeling well. He asked me questions. After we spoke for about 30 minutes he said, “I want you to go to Florida Hospital South. I am not working, but I will call my partner so they will be expecting you and will take you right back to triage.”

He added, “ Lori, I don’t know what is going on, it could be a stroke, an aneurism. I do know, however, if you were my wife, I would want you to be seen immediately. At the hospital we have all the testing to rule out what it is not. You will have some answers by the end of the day. How quickly can you get there?” Danny had me in the car immediately.

When we arrived they ordered blood tests and a CAT scan. My husband of only a few months was in the lobby pacing and making phone calls while I was being tested. It was truly the beginning of being tested in more ways than one.

When I came out to the waiting room to wait for the results of my test, Randy walked into the waiting room. I said, ” What are you doing here? You’re not working today.” He replied, “I don’t know what kind of decisions you are going to have to make today, but you are not going to have to make them on your own. I will be right here with you and Danny.”

4th miracle - A friend who understood and was there to comfort us.

He asked if he could review my results first and of course I said yes. He told me he would let the doctor on duty come and talk to me, then once he left my room, he would come in and we would discuss whatever options available. I prayed and prayed, ”God I know this is a part of your plan, but I certainly do not understand this.” The doctor called Danny and me back. He said the blood work was fine and so was the CAT scan. They now wanted to do a spinal tap to rule out the following: meningitis, multiple sclerosis, and cancers of the brain or spinal cord. That was super scary to me, but all I could think about was my son. We had already been there most of the afternoon and it was time for my son, Connor, to be home from school. It was the 8th grade dance and he didn’t know how to tie a tie. He was texting me asking where I was, why I wasn’t home helping him get ready.

5th miracle - Texting. I didn’t have to talk to him.

He would have heard the fear in my voice. I explained I was at a doctor’s appointment and would be home shortly. Randy came in and gave me the reasoning as to why a spinal tap would be beneficial; it could rule out more. I was worried about Connor and told Randy that I had to get back home to my son. He needed me. My ER physician and Randy made a follow-up appointment for me with a neurologist later that week in her office. At that point, the current diagnosis was severe migraines and this happy momma was able to get home to take her son to his 8th grade dance. As scheduled, later that week, my husband and I went to the neurologist. She did numerous physical tests, similar to the DUI test. She concurred that she thought it was migraines and they were going to prescribe a medicine for me to take. She also said she wanted me to have an MRI. She scheduled the appointment for the following day. I am very claustrophobic, so when I arrived at the imaging facility they gave me valium.

6th miracle - Valium

The MRI was very loud, but thankfully went by quickly. Upon completion, I was told they would call me in a week to ten days for results. My husband took me home, because I was very sleepy. When we arrived he tucked me in and I was out like a light. Two hours later he woke me. The results were back and we needed to go to the neurologist office. I was so confused. I asked him how long had I been sleeping.

He said, “The results are back and they want us in NOW.” My initial thoughts were racing all over, thinking this can not be good. Why do we have to go back in there? Why can’t they give us the results over the phone? What is wrong with me? Can it be fixed? How serious is this? Oh God, please help me through this!

Back at the neurologist office, they escorted directly back to a room. The PA came in and began with, “there is no easy way for me to tell you this, but you have a brain tumor.” I replied, “You must have the wrong MRI.” She suspected that I might say that and proceeded, “I am sending your films to this computer so you can view what we are seeing.

As I stared at the computer I saw a very large white mass that looked like the shape of a tooth. I looked at the side of the screen, it did in fact have my name and my birthday.

7th miracle - the valium had not worn off.

She told me they need to get me in front of a neurosurgeon right away. Scary! She recommended Dr. Melvin Field and said he was the best, then added that the quickest way to see him was to be admitted to the hospital now. Now? That just did not fit into my plans. It was Memorial Day weekend and my step-kids were on their way to the airport to come visit for the weekend. I asked her to give us a few minutes to process all of this. Danny was on his phone calling the kids before they got to the airport, telling them to turn around and not come. He told them that we were not sure what was happening or when it was happening. At the same time, I called my parents. They were hosting a wedding shower in their home. My daddy said, “We can come tonight”. I told him, “Let me get to the hospital, meet with the doctor and find out how much of an emergency this brain tumor is, then we will make necessary arrangements.” I still had not fully digested the gravity of my situation. Then I had to make sure I had someone responsible to care for my son. I text one of his teachers, “911-call me.” Thankfully she had become a friend and tutor for Connor.

8th miracle - Someone Connor and I both trusted to take care of him.

She called immediately and I explained that I was headed to the hospital and I was not for sure for how long, could she please keep Connor for me until my family from Texas arrived?” She replied, “Anything you need. Consider it done.” The neurologist came back in and told us to go home, pack a bag, and wait for the hospital admitting department to call. She said they would call when a bed was ready. We waited, pacing for about six hours. We made phone calls to make arrangements and let people know what was going on. A friend told me that she had a friend that worked at that hospital and she was going to find out who the best brain surgeon was.

9th miracle - Dr. Melvin Field was the best brain surgeon.

I had another friend who ran with Dr Field’s wife, she personally called him and told him I was checking into the hospital and to treat me with VIP care.

10th miracle - Friends making sure I was well taken care of.

My next door neighbor said that another neighbor’s granddaughter worked for Dr Field in the control unit. She highly recommended him.

11th miracle - Dr. Field was highly recommended.

At this point we knew Dr Field was our man. We decided just to head to the hospital. They didn’t have a room available on the neuro floor, so they put us in an old room on the other side of the hospital. My friend called me and said Dr Field was back at the hospital looking for me. It was late. We never saw him that night. My girlfriend had called the church to let them know I was in the hospital and to pray for me. Pastor Matt came to the hospital to look for me. He asked the nurses station where the Luedtke family was. He went where they directed him for the Luedtke family and introduced himself and asked if he could pray with them. They held hands and he said a beautiful prayer for Lori Luedtke. After the prayer, they said, ” Who’s Lori?” He was with the wrong family. They had a boy in the hospital. Pastor Matt said, while I’m here can I pray for your son. They said absolutely, we have just moved here and don’t have a church home.

12th miracle - Mistaken identity lead to a potential church home.

Dr. Field found us the next morning. He walked in and said, “I don’t know who you are, but I have had five phone calls in the last 24 hours telling me about you and asking me to take good care of you!” He told us he had come by the night before and had looked all over the neuro floor for us, but I wasn’t checked in. He continued by saying that he wanted to look at the films before we talked. When he came back and told us, “Well we have some good news here!” My husband and I were looking at each other thinking, ”Good news?” He said, “If you were going to have a brain tumor, you got the right one. I believe it is an Astrocytoma (not cancerous) and it is located in the frontal lobe, which is very easy for me to operate on. I think this is something we need to do soon, but I wouldn’t suggest it this weekend. It is Memorial Day weekend and we will be short staffed. Why don’t you go home make the arrangements you need and I will operate later this week. Florida Hospital South has just revamped the Neuro Wing, Neuro Institute, and has added a new operating facility that offers neuronavigation and an intraoperative MRI. The physician can scan patients during surgery and after the craniotomy is complete.”

13th miracle - A great state of the art facility right in our own backyard!

Because my brother had passed six years earlier of Melanoma, I knew my parents were going to be a wreck. I thought it might comfort them to meet the surgeon, so that he could explain the procedure and give them some sort of peace of mind. Over the next few days, the family began to arrive. My mom and daddy, my youngest brother, Chris, and my Godparents all flew in from Texas. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law drove up from South Florida.

On May 28th, my family had an appointment in Dr Fields office to discuss the procedure that would be taking place the following day. As I suspected everyone felt comfortable with Dr. Field and what he had to say.

On May 29th I checked into the hospital at 10:00 am to be prepped for surgery and the preoperative MRI, scheduled at 2:30. Because I was having surgery, I had not had anything to eat or drink since 6:00 pm the evening before. Just before they were supposed to wheel me back, Dr. Field comes in to say the previous surgery was taking much longer than expected. He wanted to use that particular operating room and he wanted the Neuropathologist to review his findings post surgery. However, the other procedure was not going to be completed any time soon. He strongly suggested we postpone until 10:30 the next morning. The first thing I asked was, “Does that mean I can eat?” I stayed in the Neuro step-down unit with Danny that night through early the next morning when they began to prep me again for surgery. The surgery itself, we were told, would take approximately two hours. When it was said and done, I heard it took 7; I was sound asleep. Dr Field told my family he was able to get most of the tumor, approximately 97 percent.

Miracle 14 - 97 percent of the tumor was removed!

Miracle 15 - Having such a loving and supportive family and network of friends that REALLY pulled through for me and my family.

I was in the hospital for about a week; I really just wanted to go home and get a good night sleep in my own bed without someone taking blood or checking vitals all night long. Several days after being home we received the call from Dr Field that said that he had met with numerous other Neuro-Disciplines, otherwise known as the tumor Board (tumor does not deserve a capital letter) about my findings. Unfortunately, it was a Glioblastoma. CANCER. Grade 4. I needed to start radiation immediately. Everyone, except me, began researching. I stayed calm knowing GOD was in charge and in control.

Miracle 16 - I kept repeating what has always been my favorite verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13.

Miracle 17- My husband, an avid researcher and having worked in hospitals gaining many contacts, was determined we were going get the best treatment, no matter the cost, no matter the location.

We started visiting Radiation Oncologists. We started at Florida Hospital, then MD Anderson Orlando, Duke in North Carolina, then Moffitt in Tampa. We decided on MD Anderson. I was prescribed 30 consecutive radiation treatments as a part of standard of care as well as oral Temodar five days for one week, every month. Concurrently we were looking for Clinical Trials. We decided on a clinical trial at Moffitt Hospital in Tampa. It is called ICT-107. It is a randomized double-blind study. My entire family felt good about this trial because it used my own blood. The vaccine works by doctors separating the dendritic cells, part of the body’s immune system, from the patients own blood. Dendritic cells help introduce to the body’s defense system, antigens, molecules that kick start the body's immune response. Once the hospital removes the dederic cells from your body, through an apheresis process, it is sent to the lab. They combine the dendritic cells with human made antigens, similar to those found naturally on GBM ( Glioblastoma) cancer cells. The goal is to kill the remaining GBM tumor cells after surgery and chemotherapy. I started radiation on July 10th. During radiation, I had to wear a mask that was affixed to the table. It was very tight, and I couldn’t open my eyes. My forehead was always sore, from the mask being so tight. My table literally flew around the room to get radiation beams from various different angles. Because the tumor was in my brain, all my senses were extremely heightened. I could see bright lights, even though there were no lights; it was my optic nerve. I could smell a chemical like smell, but they said there were no smells. I could even hear the laser beam pulsating. Nonetheless it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but one that I had to face everyday, Monday thru Friday.

I ended up with a staph infection and was admitted back into the Florida Hospital. I was told no chemo or radiation until the staph infection cleared. I was in the hospital for several days. As anyone who has been in a hospital can attest, rather than being able to rest, people are in your room night and day. There was no rest for the weary. I just wanted to go home and get some sleep. My Infectious Disease doctor wouldn’t let me leave the hospital until I got a PICC line, a peripherally inserted central catheter. It was an extremely tough decision for me. I felt as if I had been through enough. At midnight, someone from the PICC line team came to talk to me, to answer any questions I might have. I had thought and prayed about this all night. The next morning Pastor Matt came in to talk to me and pray with me. I realized I was scared of the unknown. I knew that the PICC team worked 24/7, just like the rest of the people at the hospital, and just like the night before, they could wake me up in the middle of the night and tell me they were ready to do the procedure right then. When Pastor Matt left, I talked to the nurse and said if the PICC team could put it in tonight before 8:00 pm, I would approve the procedure. I also wanted a sedative to calm me. At 5:00 pm the PICC team came in; she knew I was scared and said she would talk to me through the whole procedure. They did it right there in my hospital room as a bedside procedure. I didn’t have to go anywhere! The person doing the procedure was so compassionate. It didn’t take very long and she talked to me through the entire process, just like she told me she would.

The next morning I got to go home! I had to do daily saline and heparin flushes and had weekly dressing changes from Home Health Care at the house. We soon found out that I was allergic to tape, making the dressing changes miserable. Before heading back to radiation, I had one more MRI; this seldom happens mid-treatment. At this point Dr. Field saw another, “Area of enhancement,” that he felt was another tumor forming closer to the center of my brain.

Miracle 18 - Because we had the opportunity to have one more MRI at this point, we were able to redirect the radiation beams to hit the “enhancement area” that was just discovered.

I continued with radiation treatments until September 18th, 2012. I had to make up for the one’s I missed while I was out with the staph infection. During my treatments, the radiation techs would place my iPhone in an iHome and my praise music would play throughout my room and the technicians watch room. I was able to count the number of songs played to know how much longer I was going to have to be strapped down to that machine. Towards the end of my treatments the technicians would come in singing and humming my Praise music.

Miracle 19 - Spreading the word of GOD through music and my positive attitude!

On my final day of treatment, my husband and my auntie got to watch me ring the bell & receive my “Certificate of Completion.” It was a big deal. The plaque above the bell says, “ Ring this bell…three times well…it is told to clearly say…my treatment is done and I am on my way”

Miracle 20 - I actually finished radiation treatments.

On Monday September 24, we went to Moffitt for my first round of vaccinations. These are given underneath the arm in the lymph node. I assumed it would be one shot each time. I was wrong. Each round of shots consisted of four to six shots each time, under your arm. They were very painful! These shots are subcutaneous, so they are given just under the skin to separate the first two skin layers. This is where the vaccine is injected. Because you are separating the skin layers it is very painful. Because you are pushing through a very thick vaccine it is very painful. This trial at Moffitt required me to alternate arms each visit. The first four appointments were weekly. I was miserable and wanted to quit! Once again I put my praise music on, and held my clinging cross in my hand; my sister-in-law, Barbara, had sent it to me from Texas to help me with my journey.

Monday October 15th was the last of my first four weekly appointments. I had an MRI that same day. It showed the tumor was stable, a mini victory. On Tuesday my husband and I flew to upstate New York to see the foliage change. The weather was so beautiful, cool and crisp, and the colors were such an inspiration, not something you see in Florida. I was still very sore from the previous day’s shots, but just driving to our hotel with the windows down was such a nice and welcome change.

While there I started to question if these shots were right for me. I didn’t even know if I was getting the real thing, for all I knew it was a placebo. It wasn’t the quality of life I was looking for. They were painful and kept me down to the point where I wasn’t able to move my arm for days. To my family, this was a sign that it was not a placebo. I began to pray. I could not hear GOD, he wasn’t listening to me. I typed a long and detailed text message to my friends and family, asking them to pray for answers. Maybe someone else could hear Him. I began to cry. For the first time since all of this has happened, I cried. My husband said, “Honey you just need your praise music.” I had no reception in the hotel, so I couldn’t listen to it through my phone. He logged on to his computer and typed in “praise music lyrics for someone feeling lost, questioning, feeling hopeless.” He began to read the lyrics. We both recognized the song and began to sing I Will Praise You in the Storm, by the Casting Crowns.

Miracle 21- My husband knew just where to turn to help me.

He then opened bible.com and we read scriptures. Trust in the Lord. Trust in the Lord; those who trust in the Lord shall not be disappointed: Jeremiah 17:7, Isaiah 49:23, Romans 10:11. Then we prayed together. God spoke clearly to both of us. I had to stick with it.

My vaccines were now just once a month, so they weren’t as frequent, however, we figured out that I was having an allergic reaction the whole time. I began taking Benadryl which helped me cope, though the injections were still very painful. The December MRI showed the tumor stable and a slight decrease in size.

Miracle 22 - It appeared the vaccine was working!

During December, my family came from Texas to celebrate the Christmas early, because I was going to be on chemo Christmas Day. What a blessing to have everyone here! Though, we did not celebrate December 25th, Christmas Day, we had a beautiful meal together with presents, and celebrated the birth of Jesus. The February MRI showed an even more decrease in the size. Alleluia!

Miracle 23 - The vaccine was definitely working!

We were taking a family cruise for spring break and I wanted to be able to get into the ocean, start exercising again, go back to a little more “normal” life. I missed all last summer and the water activities that I love so much. So, we pulled the PICC line out. No more dressing changes! We went on the cruise with all three children. I was able to get in the pool, the Jacuzzi, and the ocean. I was so happy.

March 31st was Easter Sunday. My husband was going to go to church with me. This in itself is a rare occasion as he is Agnostic. While we were having coffee he says, “He has risen!” I looked at him in shock and said, “He has risen indeed. Alleluia!”

Miracle 24 - He is risen!

April 8th and 9th was a two day appointment at Moffitt. I had a port placed under my skin replacing the external PICC line. This would enable me to still get medicine, give blood, and get contrast during MRI’s, but without out the constraints of the PICC line. I had another round of vaccines in the same area. I also had another MRI. The PA read it and told us that it was a significant reduction. About 50% to the one in February! We were so excited my husband cried.

Miracle 25 - A significant reduction!

Friday April 12th, I had my follow up with my Brain Surgeon. He read the films and he saw no active brain tumor. No active brain tumor! He told me, “It looks as good as the day I operated and took it all out.” He said what they had seen at the previous appointment on the 9th was necrosis from the surgery and radiation. Praise the Lord! He told me, “I’ll see you again in 6 months!”

Miracle 26 - We were excited with 50% reduction…but to say it is gone! I have been healed. Wow! Only God can do this. Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ!

My husband was traveling again. I called him and told him the news. I said you know you have just witnessed a miracle before your eyes. I knew this was going to happen. God is good! Psalm 21:2-6. He said, “Lori, I’m on board”.

Miracle 27 - He was on board!

I am still continuing with my “standard of care” treatments of chemo and vaccines through September 2013. We are continuing to look for the miracles as they happen each and every day.

I am truly a walking Miracle. Praise Be to GOD!  John 15:7, Matthew 13:58, Hebrews 11

 

Below are some links to articles and videos that Lori has done:

"Say Something" 

 Team Lori Luedtke Facebook Page

Moffitt Video

My Glioblastoma Journey