Kraston After SurgeryAfter Kraston was newly diagnosed, I spent the following 3 days (while he was still in the hospital recovering from his brain surgery) researching glioblastoma treatment options.

Clinical Trials

The very Sunday before his diagnosis, 60 Minutes aired a story about a promising glioblastoma treatment from Duke University involving the polio vaccine. Many people shared this information while we were in the hospital.

I discovered that this treatment was a phase 1 trial for recurrent glioblastoma. Phase 1 means the trial is new and experimental, testing for the optimal dose. Recurrent means the tumor has to have started growing again after treatment for a newly diagnosed tumor, meaning he did not (yet) qualify.

I did a little bit more research and compiled the following considerations:

  • There are many more clinical trials for recurrent glioblastoma than for newly diagnosed glioblastoma.
  • Most recurrent glioblastoma trials have the standard treatment as a prerequisite.
  • Some newly diagnosed trials included treatment that could exclude you from the more promising recurrent trials.
  • Most newly diagnosed trials included the standard treatment with simply an additional experimental drug added. Nothing overly groundbreaking jumped out during my research.
  • No trials were recruiting in Tulsa, meaning we would have to travel or live away from home for treatment.
  • Our 4th child was expected before he would finish radiation.

Taking these factors into account, we determined that we would complete the standard treatment with home town oncologists. If he had a recurrence, we could consider a recurrent clinical trial like the Duke polio vaccine trial at that time.

 

Standard Treatment

A radiation oncologist and a medical oncologist each visited us describing the current ‘gold standard’ glioblastoma treatment options. We did meet with another radiation oncologist for a second opinion, who basically proposed the same radiation treatment. So at that time, there were three components to this standard treatment:

  1. Standard brain radiation therapy
  2. Concurrent temozolomide
  3. Adjuvant temozolomide

Brain radiation therapy

Kraston rings the bell after last radiation treatmentRadiation is measured in either a unit called a gray (Gy) or a unit called a millisievert (mSv). 1 gray (Gy) = 1000 millisievert (mSv). For reference, a chest X-ray is approximately 0.1 mSv.

Based on the size of his tumor, the standard is (33) treatments of 1.8 Gy fractions, for a total exposure of 59.4 Gy. So his radiation exposure would be approximately equivalent to 594,000 chest X-rays.

He would receive one treatment per weekday, so the 33 treatments would take him just shy of 7 calendar weeks to complete. The type of procedure was called intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and only took 10-15 per day.

The main side effect of the radiation was hair loss. His radiation oncologist recommended putting an ice pack on his head before and after the radiation in order to prevent permanent hair loss.

Concurrent Temozolomide

Starting the same day as the radiation, he would start taking an oral chemotherapy called temozolomide (TMZ) every single day until he stopped radiation. Since TMZ is a pill, he would get a prescription filled at a pharmacy and take the pill each night at home. He did not have to go anywhere for an infusion like most other chemotherapy.

The main side effect of TMZ is nausea. Kraston’s regimen to mitigate the nausea was the following:

  • One hour before bed, take 8mg of ondansetron (generic of Zofran, expensive anti-nausea drug developed primarily for chemo patients)
  • At bedtime, take his TMZ dose.
  • The next morning, take 10mg prochlorperazine (generic of Compazine, cheap older anti-nausea drug).

Adjuvant Temozolomide

One month after radiation ended, he would start adjuvant temozolomide. He got a new prescription for twice the original strength of the chemo pills. For 5 straight days each month, he would take this new dosage. He would do this for 6 months. The same regimen of anti-nausea medicines have worked for the increased dosage.

Novocure Optune

Glioblastoma Treatment OptionsWhen Kraston was first diagnosed, the Novocure Optune had only recently received FDA approval for use by newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients. It was not until after he completed his radiation that the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) announced their recommendation that the Novocure Optune device be added to the standard glioblastoma treatment options.

The optune device consists of 4 arrays hydrogelled to his head, with cords connecting to the device in his backpack. The device creates tumor treating electrical fields which confuse the cancer cells. They get so confused that they forget to reproduce and die off, reducing the total number of cancer cells.

There are only a few radiation oncologists who have trained with Novocure and are permitted to prescribe the Optune. Part of the reason we choose the radiation oncologist that we did was because he had this option available for Kraston.

The main side effect of this treatment is skin irritation. Kraston’s hasn’t been too bad.He has been able to maintain wearing the arrays approximatelt 90% of the time.

 

Newly Diagnosed Glioblastoma Treatment Options

So there you have the glioblastoma treatment options for a newly diagnosed patient. At the time of publication of this post, Kraston has completed radiation and concurrent TMZ, 5 of the 6 cycles of adjuvant TMZ and 3+ months of Optune treatment.

Since his is coming up on 6 months progression free survival after completion of radiation, he has responded well so far to the standard treatment.

 

Amanda is the founder of Survival With Kids. She is the mother of 4 kids (two boys and two girls). She became a brain cancer widow in April of 2017 at the age of 32. She writes about surviving and preparing for unexpected events.

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Samaritan Ministries ReviewAre you curious what sharing a large need, such as brain cancer, looks like as an uninsured member of a health care sharing ministry? If you don’t already know what a health care sharing ministry is, you can read the Samaritan Ministries FAQs. Since it is not insurance, we generally deal with our healthcare providers as cash pay or self pay. This is our Samaritan Ministries review of our experiences (so far) sharing my husband’s brain cancer medical bills.

My husband has been self-employed since 2013.

Health CareIt was difficult finding good health insurance options for him, especially since the ACA was passed. Before that, he had a decent individual plan with a $1000 deductible for around $150 per month. A plan with similar benefits now costs more than $600.

As an electrical engineer, I make just enough too much for us not to qualify for any ACA tax credits. I work for a small business, so insuring him through my work is expensive.

Sometime in the summer of 2015, I saw an advertisement for a healthcare sharing ministry. I was intrigued by this “non-insurance” alternative concept to traditional insurance. Researching further, I found that there were 4-5 organizations that had been around long enough to qualify for the ACA exemption.

As I researched, I kept coming back to an organization called CMF Curo, which is a Catholic member organization of Samaritan Ministries. Since we are Catholic, I felt the extra layer of protection CMF Curo offered was worth the slightly additional cost. By joining CMF Curo, you are effectively joining both CMF Curo and Samaritan Ministries.

Needs are administered by Samaritan Ministries, so whichever organization you join, your experiences will be similar ours. My family joined CMF Curo and Samaritan Ministries on December 1, 2015.

Sharing Our Need With Samaritan Ministries

My husband was diagnosed 7 months ago today with Glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.  You can read more about our journey on My Husband’s Glioblastoma page.

Samaritan Ministries has been with us ever step of the way. I called them after his first CT scan that came back clean. I called while we were in the hospital and they said there weren’t going to be any problems covering his hospital stay and brain surgery. The next week, I called again to ask if they would cover chemo drugs (they do, even though most drugs are not).

How Much Does Brain Cancer Cost Without Insurance?

To date we have submitted 40 bills representing approximately $200,000. We have negotiated, on average, 35% discounts on those bills. So far we have received and cashed 277 checks from other Samaritan Ministries members. Almost everyone of those 277 families included a card or note of encouragement and prayer.

GBM Need Status 12-20-16

This does not include his chemo drugs (name brand Temodar), as our pharmacist got us approved for free chemo through the manufacturer’s patient assistance program (estimated $12,000 per month value). Thank you, Merck!

This does not include his Novocure Optune device, which is also being covered in full by the manufacturer’s patient assistance program ($21,000 per month list value). Thank you, Novocure!

The only other medical expenses we have not shared with Samaritan Ministries are a few prescriptions. He takes antibiotics every weekend to prevent opportunistic infections and he takes an anti-seizure medicine as a preventative measure due to the tumor’s location. Together these are less than $30 per month by using the discounts available with our Sams Club membership.

My Samaritan Ministries Review

  • Product: Samaritan Ministries
  • Website URL: SamaritanMinistries.org/
    • If you decide to join based on this review, please note Kraston and Amanda Colby of Oklahoma as your referral. We will receive a small one-time referral fee.
  • Price: $180 – $495 per month depending on family size.
  • Owner: Samaritan Ministries International
  • My Rating: 4.9 out of 5
  • Target Audience: Christians interested in an alternative to traditional health insurance.

Reasons Why You Should Join Samaritan Ministries

If you are young and healthy, with zero health problems, this is almost a no-brainer situation. You never know what medical issue may come along next year or even next month, so take advantage of joining now. It is likely cheaper than your insurance.

If you have some health issues, but the are well-controlled for the past year, you may not be considered to have a pre-existing condition. Do call and verify before you sign up.

Samaritan Ministries is a reasonably pleasant way to handle medical issues. Depending on how much they deal with uninsured patients, it may require a little bit more conversation with your medical providers.

Reasons Why You Might Not Be Interested in Joining Samaritan Ministries

If you don’t meet all of the membership requirements, unfortunately you would not be allowed to join.

If you have many expensive preexisting conditions, you will need to do the math for your situation. Expenses for preexisting conditions are shared via a Special Prayer Needs list and some members may donate to help with those needs which are not normally publishable. There are many people with preexisting conditions who still find Samaritan Ministries to be more affordable than the exorbitant deductibles of the Bronze level plans.

Target Audience

BibleMost Christians will qualify for membership. The following are the first 7 membership requirements from the guidelines (see the guidelines for full requirements):

  1. Be a professing Christian according to Biblical principles.
  2. Be in agreement with the member statement of faith. Also See this CMF Curo letter for comments on the Catholic interpretation of the Samaritan Ministries statement of faith.
  3. Attend a Christian church regularly (at least three out of four weeks per month that your health or weather permits).
  4. Believe that you are to bear one another’s burdens as taught in the Bible.
  5. Agree to: not abuse any legal or prescribed substance, abstain totally from illegal drugs and recreational use of marijuana, and abstain from tobacco use (a rare celebratory cigar or pipe, e.g. at the birth of a baby, is an allowed
    exception).
  6. Choose option one or two regarding the use of alcohol.
    1. Option 1. Abstain totally from all beverages containing alcohol (wine used for communion only is an approved exception).
    2. Option 2. Limit consumption of alcohol to moderate amounts so as to never drink to drunkenness.
  7. Abstain from any sexual activity outside of traditional Biblical marriage as designed by God between one man and one woman.

Support

I have contacted Samaritan Ministries via both phone and email. They have always been prompt and helpful. Whenever I have called them to start a need, they have always ended the call with a prayer, which has been very reassuring.

Price

The current cost for my three or more person family is $495 for Samaritan Ministries (click to check the current cost for your family size) plus $84 for our CMF Curo membership.

Conclusion

We feel blessed beyond belief to have joined when we did. Cancer is not a pleasant addition to our family, but Samaritan Ministries has relieved a great deal of stress from our situation.

If you decide to join based on this review, please note Kraston and Amanda Colby of Oklahoma as your referral. We will receive a small one-time referral fee.

Thank you and have a blessed day.

Amanda is the founder of Survival With Kids. She is the mother of 4 kids (two boys and two girls). She became a brain cancer widow in April of 2017 at the age of 32. She writes about surviving and preparing for unexpected events.

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Narrow Convertible Car SeatAre you looking for a narrow convertible car seat?

Perhaps you are trying to squeeze 3 across in the backseat of one of your vehicles?

Or maybe you want to get full size passengers on one or both sides of your child’s car seat.

Whatever the reason, finding a narrow convertible car seat is a frequently asked question which is why I have written this list.

How is this article organized?

When it comes to convertible car seats, there are three ranges of height and weight limits, which are roughly equivalent to how much you want to spend.

The cheapest seats on the market right now do not accommodate a child from age 0-7 according to the American Academy of Pediatrics current recommendations. This is why those cheapest car seats are not included in this list. This leaves two broad categories: Extended Rear-Facing and what I will call Standard Capacity.

Since rear-facing is 5 times safer than forward facing, it is recommended to rear-face your child until they are 3-4 years old. So if your budget can accommodate one of the extended rear-facing seats, these are your best bet if you need the narrowest seat. Otherwise the standard limit car seats are still highly recommended, especially if your child is on the smaller side.

So what are you calling a standard capacity seat?

Right now the majority of convertible car seats in the US have the following height and weight limits:

  • Rear-Facing Weight Limit: 4-5lbs up to 40lbs.
  • Forward-Facing Weight Limit: Up to 65lbs.
  • Forward-Facing Height Limit: Up to 49″.

The following is the list of the 5 narrowest convertible car seats with those capacities:

  • Diono Radian R100 – 17″ wide
  • Britax Boulevard ClickTight – 18″ wide
  • Safety 1st Grow and Go (Basic and Air) – 18″ wide
  • **Graco Size4Me – 18.5″ wide
  • **Graco Contender – 18.75″ wide

**Please note that the two Graco car seats are the only two which I have owned. Please read the Amazon.com descriptions and reviews prior to purchasing any of the seats mentioned in this post in order to ensure they will meet your individual situation.

Extended Rear-Facing

The five convertible car seats allow rear-facing 45-50lbs instead of the standard 40lbs of the car seats above. They are typically narrower but also more expensive than the car seats on the previous list.

  • Clek Fllo – 17″ wide
  • Clek Foonf – 17″ wide
  • Diono Radian R120 – 17″ wide
  • Diono Radian RXT – 17″ wide
  • Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air – 18″ wide

Do you have a narrow convertible car seat?

As you can see from the measurements above, there is a 5-way tie for car seats that are 17″ wide. Some of these car seats sit low on the car’s seat and some sit up high. If you are looking for a 3 across situation, then you will need to look at how the other car seats you own puzzle together with these car seats.

Amanda is the founder of Survival With Kids. She is the mother of 4 kids (two boys and two girls). She became a brain cancer widow in April of 2017 at the age of 32. She writes about surviving and preparing for unexpected events.

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Graco Contender 65 (Glacier)If you have a little one (or are expecting), you are hopefully considering buying the Graco Contender 65 (Glacier).

It is a black convertible car seat with white accent piping, which makes it suitable for both boys and girls. If you have an infant under the age of roughly 3 months, you get to use the light grey infant body support pillow.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on a link to a product, I may receive, at no extra cost to you, a small commission when you make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Want More Information About The Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat?

Then you will want to read my more thorough review Things I Love About The Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat.

I currently own 5 Graco Contender 65 car seats in various prints and Glacier is one of my favorites. Since the Glacier print has the black fabric in the seat area, it shows less stains than the prints with the lighter gray fabric in the seating area.

Ready To Buy the Graco Contender 65 (Glacier) Convertible Car Seat?

This print is available from many sellers online. Check the pricing below and select the lowest price.

The cheapest I have ever seen this car seat in this print was $107.99 from Amazon.com. If the price below shows at or close to this price, then now it the time to buy.

Just click on the “Shop Now” buttons below to head to the product page to purchase your new car seat.

Do You Have Any Final Questions?

If you have any questions about the Graco Contender 65, please ask in the comments below. I respond to every comment.

Amanda is the founder of Survival With Kids. She is the mother of 4 kids (two boys and two girls). She became a brain cancer widow in April of 2017 at the age of 32. She writes about surviving and preparing for unexpected events.

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This post is part of a series of emergency food supply company reviews. If you haven’t already, start by reading the beginning post “Oh So Many Emergency Food Supply Companies“.What Is Augason Farms? An Emergency Food Company Review

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on a link to a product, I may receive, at no extra cost to you, a small commission when you make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

screenshot of augason farmsThe first thing I notice when I go to the Augason Farms website is that there is so much variety and choices. For practically every kind of food you can imagine, they have kits, mixes and individual ingredients. Much of their food comes in #10 cans, which seems to be a popular size in emergency food storage.

To go along with the theme of variety and choice, they offer smaller and bigger sizes than the #10 can. They have the smaller “Everyday Size Can” which is “about 4.75 inches tall & 4 inches in diameter” and even a dozen or so products in the Pantry Pouch, which holds roughly half as much as the everyday size can. They also offer some products in large 4 or 6 gallon plastic pails.

How About The Nutrition Information?

Augason Farms offers so many kits, entrees, mixes and individual ingredients that it is pretty hard to narrow down which products to analyze nutrionally. Since the pantry pouches are similar to the pouches reviewed in my AlpineAire review, I’m going to look at the nutrition content of the 30 Day Pantry Pack. This kit offers a total of 62 Pantry Pouches of 11 different products.

The “30 Day Pantry Pack” provides a total of a little over 50,000 calories and 1,780 grams of protein. At the advertised 30 days, this pack only provides 1,680 calories per day and 59g of protein per day. As discussed in my AplineAire review, most people need at least 2000 calories per day, so this is really only about a 25 day pack for one person. The protein content is only around 14% of the calories, so it is a little light on protein.

Is It Expensive?

Since I reviewed the 30 Day Pack above, I started checking prices on that product first.

  • The Augason Farms website was the most expensive at $274.89, with free shipping over $200.
  • Amazon.com did not offer this product.
  • SamsClub.com came in at $151.98, no free shipping options that I could see.
  • Today, Walmart.com was the lowest at $139.79 with free shipping over $50.

long term food storage rice noodles potatosSince Augason Farms offers so many other products, I decided to price a few ingredients in #10 cans that are important long term storage ingredients: nonfat dry milk, hard white wheat, pinto beans, macaroni, sugar potato flakes, and white rice. I believe that I will be able to use the pricing of these ingredients as a bench mark for comparing companies which offer #10 can options.

The prices below are from AugasonFarms.com, which had lower prices than the other three suppliers for these individual ingredients in single #10 cans.

  • Nonfat Dry Milk – $17.39 for (39) 1 tsp servings
  • Hard White Wheat – $7.89 for (51) 1/4 cup servings
  • Pinto Beans – $13.79 for (26) 1/2 cup servings
  • Macaroni – $11.99 for (26) 1/2 cup servings
  • Sugar – $11.29 for (595) 1 tsp servings
  • Potato Flakes – $9.99 for (30) 1/3 cup servings
  • White Rice – $10.19 for (47) 1/4 cup servings

These prices do not include shipping, so if you are ordering less than $200, you will need to evaluate if one of the other three suppliers might be a better choice for your particular order.

Review of the Reviews

The Augason Farms website does allow user to leave comments, but not all products have been reviewed. It looked like those that had were primarily 4 and 5 star reviews.

On Amazon.com, a search for “Augason Farms” yielded 630 products, of which 199 were rated 4+ stars. It appeared that only 30-40 had less than 4 star reviews. The remainder of products had no reviews. Many of these unfavorable reviews are related to various resellers, so you will want to check the seller if you order from Amazon.com.

Walmart.com showed 175 Augason Farms products, all of which appeared to be 4+ stars or unrated. SamsClub.com offered 232 products and appeared to have only 14 products rated less than 4 stars.

Are There Affiliate Programs?

I already belong to the affiliate program for Amazon, Walmart and Samsclub, so I have included link to those sites throughout this post.

  • Augason Farms offers an affiliate program with commissions of 13%.
  • Amazon.com offers an affiliate program with commissions of 4% on Grocery products.
  • Walmart.com and SamsClub.com each offer an affiliate program with commissions of 4%.

So Should I Buy Some?

The reviews are definitely favorable for Augason Farms products.  13% is a pretty high percentage for an affiliate program, but especially for a food storage companies with many prices lower than the other suppliers. I will definitely be checking out the AugasonFarms.com affiliate program. If you decide to order from Amazon.com, Walmart.com, or SamsClub.com, I would appreciate it if you used one of the links in this post.

I am excited to start looking at some more of their products besides the handful I mentioned in this article. Have you tried any Augason Farms products? Leave a comment below with your experiences.

Amanda is the founder of Survival With Kids. She is the mother of 4 kids (two boys and two girls). She became a brain cancer widow in April of 2017 at the age of 32. She writes about surviving and preparing for unexpected events.

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