The Butterfly Effect

“A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, we get a hurricane off the coast of Florida.”

Perhaps you’ve heard this quote or something similar. The idea is that something as small and insignificant as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world could change certain conditions that have an enormous effect in another part of the world, such as a hurricane.

The “butterfly effect” as it has come to be known can actually be traced back to a man named Edward Lorenz, who, while working as an assistant professor in MIT’s department of Meteorology in 1961, developed an early computer program to simulate weather patterns. One day, Lorenz allegedly changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions from 0.506127 to 0.506. That very small, seemingly insignificant change utterly changed his long-term forecast. Lorenz wrote about this effect in 1972 in a paper entitled “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?”

In popular culture today the “butterfly effect” refers to seeing the interconnectedness of two events that at first may seem unrelated. For us, we’re experiencing our own “butterfly effect” as it relates to Jen’s health situation. Let me explain.

Jen meets with the nurse at UCLA before seeing the Rheumatologist.

February was a busy month of doctor visits for Jen. Most notably, we had two different trips to UCLA to see Pulmonary and Rheumatology experts. As part of her next steps in treatment, Jen’s doctors are trying to determine whether they should subject her to another round of chemo-therapy. And if so, should they prescribe Rituxan, which is the drug Jen received last fall and was interpreted to be only partially effective, or should they prescribe a different drug known as Cytoxan?

The problem is that Cytoxan apparently has a lifetime limit. Doctors have discovered that administering this drug in dosages beyond this limit could put the patient at greater risk for blood diseases like leukemia.

As you may know, Jen had cancer when she was 3 years old and was subjected to about 18 months of radiation and chemo-therapy. We weren’t sure if Cytoxan was one of the chemo drugs that Jen had as a child so we’ve been working to get access to her records so we can determine if Cytoxan is even an option for current treatment. As you can imagine, gaining access to medical records from 40 years ago has proven to be a challenge.

But Jen had a brilliant idea! For the past 40 years, she’s been a part of a long term study conducted by the National Wilms Tumor Study (NWTS). This is the kind of tumor Jen had as a child and Jen thought that this research group might have information about her treatment 40 years ago. She was right! The person Jen contacted at the NWTS was able to pull up her medical profile right away give her a bunch of information about her surgery and treatment. Jen talked for about an hour with the person about her treatment and we now know that Cytoxan was NOT one of the drugs that she had as a child.

The person Jen talked to also said that what Jen is experiencing is not uncommon with people who have had her type of tumor and treatment. Apparently, others who have been a part of this ongoing research study have had issues similar to what Jen is now experiencing. We have long wondered whether the issues Jen is experiencing are related to her cancer and treatments as a child. It now seems as if there might be a connection though we’re not sure exactly how the two things may correspond. The “Butterfly effect”.

We want you to know that we are extremely grateful for you. Your investment in our lives through your prayers, notes and financial gifts, may seem small and insignificant but it has had a HUGE impact in our lives, especially during this current season in our lives. I guess that’s another example of the butterfly effect in action!

Please continue to pray for the doctors to have wisdom as they determine the best course of treatment and pray for us too as we navigate the next steps in Jen’s treatment.

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