Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Plenty of Other Fish in the Sea

This first note doesn't have anything to do with cancer, but I don't have any other place to relate this story.  Today is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  For the last three years my wife and I (and our dog) have come out to our beach condo in Ocean City, MD for the entire TG week.  This year, to combat eating and drinking too much, we're trying to maintain our normal jogging routine for the first time over the holiday.

We've been pretty good. We came out Saturday afternoon.  Sunday morning we jogged 4.5 miles on the beach.  Monday morning we didn't jog but did get up early and let Bica off leash on the beach and went out for a few miles of wandering, frolicking.  Today, Tuesday, we ran for about 5.5 miles.  On the way back home, running south on the beach, I could see a fellow female jogger looking at a hulking mass lying in the waves 50 or so feet ahead.  "Please don't be a beached fish" I thought to myself.  As we approached, sure enough, it was a beached fish.  I say hulking mass but this wasn't a whale or anything so dramatic.  The other jogger thought it was a Rockfish.  I don't know what kind it was, merely that it was the biggest fish I'd ever seen that close up.  And it was still alive.

We stopped near the woman and I started taking off my jogging pants and jacket (I had on shorts and a long sleeve shirt under), shoes and socks.  I had on convertible running mittens, like these, that are fingerless in one mode and mittens in the other.  I had been running in the fingerless mode but converted them to mittens and walked over to the fish.

The sea was angry that day my friends (kidding).

I don't want to embellish the size of this (for lack of a better term) rockfish.  In reality I think it was probably 30 lbs and maybe 3.5  feet long.  Fisherman can tell me if that's a reasonable size or weight, or of those are even remotely close to reality.  He was big, heavy, and looked like he was about to die.

The other jogger had tried a few times to drag him out to the ocean, but each time she got him in the waves he washed right back up.  She didn't have any gloves and could only grab his tail.  I tried her method once too, but it merely filled the fish's gills with sand and probably made his breathing even more labored.

Cold waves washed over my legs and hands, but it was otherwise unseasonably warm out and I was flushed from running.  I tried picking the fish up and he was heavy and limp.  Not wiggling or trying to escape my grasp.  I waded out to the breakers, about waist high, and threw the fish as far out as I could (about 6 inches).  The tide was going out, so getting past the breaking point did it. 

He didn't swim away initially.  In fact the three of us thought he was dead as we watched him float on top of the waves, lying on his side, unmoving.  But the tide was pulling him the right way at least and he wouldn't wash back up.  As I slowly took off the fishy gloves and put back on my pants and jacket, his tail started to move a little and he righted himself .  By the time I had my shoes and socks back on he was swimming slowly.  And soon he disappeared from sight, and we jogged away (before he could beach himself again).

So that was my good deed for the day.  Maybe it makes up for the 3.5 lobster I ordered boiled alive for my dinner this past Saturday night?

As for medical updates, I had my first follow up on October 26th.  We had come back from Portland, OR, on a redeye that morning. I was off from work that day already, so I'd scheduled the appointment knowing it would be a miserable day, but not wanting to take another off.

The appointment went fine.  I gave blood and then had a chest x-ray.  I have to have a chest x-ray every 4 months, blood work at every appointment, and a ct-scan once a year.  In February of 2011 I have my next chest x-ray & blood work.  In June of 2011 I'll have my ct-scan. 

I assume the x-ray & blood looked good as I never heard from the doctor.  His office will call if there is ever anything wrong.  I have to believe I'll never have one of those calls.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

In my last update I forgot to mention my hair.  To start, I didn't lose it from the one super-dose chemo I had to take, maybe it thinned out a little, but nothing crazy or noticeable at all.  I had let my hair go, no haircuts, for months.  Six at least, maybe 8 months.  My hair was longish even before I stopped getting haircuts, so by the time our summer vacation rolled around my hair was as long as it had been since college.

So when we got out to Ocean City, MD for our vacation, one of the very first things I did was have Julie cut my hair.  It was long enough to meet the minimum donation length for one of those "we give sick kids wigs" charities, and I wanted to see if my hair could do some good.  Since I was at the minimum donation length, they might just sell mine off and not actually use it for sick kids, but whatever, it was something I wanted to do.

Julie had never cut my hair before, but after putting it up in several pony/pig-tails (6 or so) she chopped them off leaving me with about 3 inches of hair on my head.  Of course it was all uneven, so she spent a while cleaning it up and except for one spot that was cut significantly shorter than the rest (one of the pony tail spots) she did a good job.  Two weeks at the beach with a significantly lighter head was nice.

In fact since then I've kept my hair reasonably short, and Julie's been the one doing all the cutting. 

Two more brief items:

1.  Cold is still here, although just a soar throat and minor head congestion at this point.  I've already been to the doctors twice for this, but seeing as how this is week 3 of a cold I'm going to go to an urgent care today, assuming they're open on Columbus day.

2.  I ran my first post-cancer race on Saturday.  Not really a race so much as an obstacle course.  The Warrior Dash (Mid-Atlantic) http://www.warriordash.com/register2010_mid-atlantic.php.  It was a tough race to run, but I think only b/c I had not run in two weeks and I was still a little sick.  My lungs and legs were not up to  race, which was just a 5K with some easy and some tougher obstacles.  We were super muddy by the end, but had a good time. 

That's all I've got for now.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Time Off For Good Behavior

Been a long time since I last posted, which is mostly due to nothing new to add to the cancer updates.  But I thought it might help to put down some of what has happened in the last few months, and what will happen over the next few, in case I ever want to look back on this.

Late in August Julie & I finally got to take our summer vacation.  Two weeks at our condo in Ocean City, MD,with our dog.  It was a great time, sunny and hot almost the entire time.  We drank a lot of beer in the sun on our West (bay) facing balcony, watching people in the park and boats on the water.  We ate crabs, taco pizza (Julie's favorite), ate donuts (Fractured Prune, my favorite), took horseback riding lessons one day, laid by ocean everyday.

I bought a couple of kites, a regular one and then a stunt kite which uses two kite strings and allows you much greater control which you can use to make the kite do fun tricks.  It took me a few days to get the hang of it, but once I did I really enjoyed it.  By the second week of our vacation the winds were fairly consistent, and I was able to spend hours (really, hours) in northside park with my wife and dog, performing stunts with the kite.  Julie even managed to fly it a few times really well.

But all good things must come to an end, and eventually our vacation ended.  It was hard coming back to work after that much time off.  But both Julie & feel back into our daily routine of eating better and not drinking (weekdays), running 5 or so miles a day, and spending some weekends at the beach.

Now jogging has caused me some problems.  I assume that the chemo is to blame for this, but my legs/body do not recover from the runs like they used to.  It used to be that after running 5 or 6 miles a day four days in a row, I'd be tired but could still do well on Friday before taking weekend off.  Now I find I can only run 4.5 to 5.5 miles a day, and that by Wednesday my legs and body are already exhausted.  When Friday rolls around I am barely able to run, my body is just too tired.  But come Monday my legs feel fresh as ever.  I want to believe this is temporary and that eventually I'll get back to my earlier stamina, but even if this is my new running reality it's not that bad.  In some ways it is nicer than before, as now I also can't run very fast so I'm now only a little faster than Julie.  So now we run and talk more, whereas before we ran and I yelled (coach Tony) at Julie to run faster, harder, etc. 

I'd also been pushing myself harder in push-ups and pull-ups/chin-ups in the evenings.  3-4 days a week I would come home from work and walk Bica as normal, but then I would spend 20-30 minutes on push-ups and pull/chin-ups.  I used to do those exercises in the morning after running, but switching to the evenings was a much better way to do it.  I was stronger in the evenings, and it curbed my appetite (always hungry when I first get home) and enabled me to wait for dinner until Julie came home.

But all of that has been on hold for more than a week.  Last weekend Julie & I went to NYC, me for a long weekend with Julie staying longer for a conference.  We had a great time in the city but on Monday morning I woke up feeling rough.  I had an 8 am train back to DC so I said my goodbyes to my wife and walked to Penn Station.  It was a really nasty day, but the train wasn't crowded and I had a good book to keep me occupied.  But as the train rolled south I kept feeling worse and worse.  I'm pretty sure I had a fever and defintely had chills.  I still had to pick Bica up from her daycare so instead of walking her home so I reserved a zipcar while on the train.  When I got to DC I took the metro home feeling worse and worse.  I put on warmer, more comfortable clothes, took some tylenol, and then grabbed the zipcar and drove up to get Bica.  She was crazy excited to see me, and I her, but I was more and more out of it.  I got her home and she was exhausted from daycare so we both laid on the couch and snoozed for a few hours.

When I woke up it was around 4 pm.  I was shivering and felt horrible.  I took Bica for a walk, came back and heated up soup, and slept for another hour.  By 6 I took Bica out again (for her last walk of the day, I'm ashamed to say), took Nyquil, and slept until 1 am.  At 1 I got up and ate some soup, drank some juice, and emailed my office to say I wasn't going to be in on Tuesday. 

I didn't make it to work for the rest of the week.  The Nyquil helped me sleep, but I was almost delirious, and each time I woke up I was drenched in sweat.  I'm not kidding, I was soaking wet.  So much so that when I would wake up not only would I be soaked, but so would the sheets and the bed.  I'm used to sore throats that after a day or so turn into head colds, that a day or two later are gone.  This one did turn into a head and chest cold, but the sore throat never left.  In fact it still hasn't, I still don't feel good.  But I do feel better, and there is no way I'm staying home from work again this week.

I did go to a dr, who thought it was just a tough cold but still gave me a z-pack.  I always thought it was a virus and not bacterial, as the z-pack hasn't done anything yet I suspect that's the case.  Wednesday night Julie came back from NYC to take care of me and she was great, but of course she now has the cold so I'm taking care of her.  We went to Ocean City this weekend on Friday and made our homemade chicken noodle soup.  We ate that Friday and Saturday.  Took Bica to the beach on Saturday, it was a very pretty day and we all had a great time, even with the colds.  We just slept on the beach for hours, but it was great. 

Came back earlier this morning and made another batch of chicken noodle.  Julie's sleeping the day (and I hope her cold) away, I'm here taking care of her and the dog.  What I don't know is if my cold was so severe because of cancer/chemo (just like my legs don't recover from running as quickly as before), of if this was just a particularly nasty cold.  Is my immune system just in bad shape right now?  Will I now have to deal with more severe colds for the foreseeable future?

In my last update I talked about the inflamed vein in my groin/lower stomach called phlebitis.  I can still feel the vein, although it no longer hurts (I've also not been touching it).  I will have to make an appointment to have that looked at again, as the doctor thought it should already have gone away by now. 

At the end of this month I will also have to go back to the doctor to begin my follow up cancer treatment.  This will involve getting regular tests to see if my cancer shows signs of coming back.  While I want to believe the cancer is gone forever and there will be no further treatments needed, each test will certainly be stressful.

I'll write again when the tests are scheduled or have happened.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Inflamed in the Membrane, Inflamed in the Vein

Since about the time of the chemo I've had this pain, really a tenderness to the touch, on the lower left of abdomen.  This pain kept me from really basking the glow of the good news from my last update.  I brought it up with the doctor that Friday (the day I got the all clear) and he felt around the area, but couldn't feel anything and assumed (I think) that it was gas/stool pain. 

But I could feel something.  Not just the tenderness, but something under the skin, close to the surface.  About 4 inches long, and very narrow.  It only hurt to the touch, otherwise I had no issues.  Exercising, going to work, etc.  No problems at all.

I made an appt with my GP b/c it didn't seem to be getting any better (or any worse) and went to that appt on Thursday.  He could feel it as soon as he touched the spot, but immediately tried to put my fears to rest by saying he didn't think it was anything serious, and certainly not cancer.  Cancer, of course, was my fear.  The abdomen is one of the primary spaces my cancer would return to if it were going to return.  I shot Julie an email to tell her what was going on, she wanted to come by but I told her just to wait at her office as it was probably  nothing.

But he also didn't know what it was, and sent me to a radiologist on another floor in his building for an ultrasound.  Up I went, the technician felt the spot then began the ultrasound exam.  About 5 minutes into the exam the tech turn to me and says "I need to get the radiologist."

Uh-ho.  I email Julie "you better come down here just in case."

The radiologist shows up with the tech, and he begins to ultrasound the spot.  They're talking to each other, as if I'm not in the room/can't hear them:  "I've never seen anything like this before," was stated more than once. They bickered back & forth about which image on the screen was the thing you could feel in my abdomen, finally settling on where it was and that blood was flowing through it.

I don't mean to leave you all in suspense, as far as they can tell it is not serious and I'm not in any trouble.  The best guess is that it is phlebitis, which is an inflammation of a blood vessel/vein.  It can be serious (blood clot) and require medication, but there was no evidence of a clot and by all accounts I have nothing to worry about.  Tylenol and heat were the recommendations to treat it, the expectation is that it will go away after a month or so.  If it doesn't I have to head back to the dr.

For a few days this week I was also experiencing a shortness of breath, what I imagine mild asthma must feel like.  That cleared up after two days, and the dr also listened to my lungs to make sure there wasn't any problem. 

Having had cancer all these little aches and pains which I would have self medicated with Tylenol and rest are now much harder to ignore.  I don't want to go to the dr for every bump and bruise, but now I'm more aware and worried about these things.

I've also noticed that since the chemo a few weeks ago I sweat a lot more now.  I've never been one to sweat much, no matter how much I ran or exercised, it was always with minimal sweat.  But now I sweat all of the time.  I have to admit, as disgusting a feeling as it is, this is one change I don't mind.  I've always felt my lack of sweating was a negative, I felt less manly when others would be drenched in sweat exercising, and I could run 6 miles with just my brow being damp.  Well no more, my pours spout liquid like I'm a sprinkler.  The only negative is I used to be able to wear the same shirt several days in a row to the office (I wear an undershirt always, so the dress shirt remained odor free) but not any more.  I have to get them cleaned after each wear.

Our summer vacation is just around the corner.  By the time we get out to our condo in Ocean City it will have been 13 weeks since we last saw it, 10 of those weeks occupied by weekly renters.  I know it will look beat up when we first arrive, but I can't wait.  Owning a beach condo is something I'd always dreamed about, and worked hard to achieve.  It seems that some people really think they want something, only to find disappointment when they achieve their dreams (the phrase "be careful what you wish for" springs to mind).  Since I can remember, I always knew I wanted to be with someone I loved, and who also loved me; I wanted a dog; I wanted a beach condo; I wanted to live in a high rise condo in a city.

Well I've got all those things now, and at a reasonably young age (although I feel a lot older after testicular cancer), and I can tell you there is no disappointment here.  I can't believe it's all here now, all mine.  Once I landed in DC I stoped screwing around as much with my life.  I worked hard a job that rewarded hard work.  I paid great sums of money each month to credit card companies to pay down thousands of dollars in debt that I had built up in college.  I still did stupid things now and then (still do), but I really wanted to find the person to share my life with, and I finally did.

But what really put me on the track to the happiness and total satisfaction I've had for the last decade was meeting and falling in love with Julie.  All the rest of it can come and go, the condo(s), the lifestyle, the dogs (well, maybe not the dogs).  I know how corny it sounds, but it is true.  Once Julie & I met things just clicked, once our relationship was cemented in mutual love and trust, the other good things came so much easier, and the bad stuff was easier to get past. 

I don't know how to end this post, it turned into something I didn't expect.  I've just been so incredibly happy these last 8 years, a kind of happiness that's deep down, a satisfaction with life.  I've had a few people say, after hearing about my cancer diagnosis:  "I bet this was a real wake up call, huh?"

I tell them honestly no.  It wasn't a wake up call.  I didn't need a wake up call.  Julie & I tell each other every day, usually several times a day, that we love each other.  We buy each other little gifts all the time for no reason, except we're thinking about each other.  We talk all the time about how great it is to have a dog like Bica, to live in the heart of downtown DC, to have a condo in Ocean City.  To run among the monuments on the Mall each morning.  We hold hands when we walk the streets, we kiss when someone goes to take our photo. 

Well I've got to end this post eventually, so here goes:  These years with Julie have been the happiest of my life.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Update 7/31/10 Got The All Clear

Had my follow up appointment with the doctor yesterday (Friday). Tests on the blood I'd had drawn a few days earlier came back showing perfect results.  No blood count problems, no cancer markers, everything looked perfect.

I've been back at work all week too, and went for a run everything morning.  Monday through Wednesday mornings my runs were short, 2 to 2.5 miles.  Thursday & Friday I added another mile or so to the distance and also did more push ups, pull ups, and stretches.

I only worked until 2 pm on Monday, but then worked normal hours for the rest of the week.  After getting the good news from the doctor yesterday, Julie & I went out for a fun dinner in the city, had a great time.

Unless I start to feel poorly, I don't go back to the doctor for another three months.  At that point I start the follow up observations (CT scans/blood work) that will happen 1-2 times a year for the next several years. 

I'm not sure if this is the last post for a while or not.  I'm tired of writing about cancer though, so I'll probably be taking a break for a while.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Update 7/27/2010 FU Cancer, FU

My of favorite lines from the movie the Odd Couple is from one of the first big blow ups Walter Matthau (Oscar Madison) has with Jack Lemmon (Felix Unger), in a movie full of his blow ups.  I could cheat and get the exact wording from the internet, but I'll give you my falty memory of it instead:
Oscar:  "I can't take all your little notes Felix.  Every morning there is a note saying 'we need milk, FU' or 'dinner at 7:15 tonight, FU'.  It took me three days to figure out FU was Felix Unger!"
In trying to keep this a family friendly blog I'm not cussing.  But sometimes I feel like it, although not necessarily for the reasons you might think.  I'm not sitting around thinking "poor me," or angry that this happened to me when things are otherwise going so well in my life.  Like a lot of people I thought if I had to face a disease like this, it would be much later in life, but I haven't had a bad attitude yet. 

The point I'm belaboring is that the cussing I want to do is pride.  And I know pride isn't something you're supposed to feel (uh, be proud of?) but I do feel bad-ass about some of this.  My pride thoughts are cleaned up below, but these are the ones that cause me to stick out my chest and say FU to cancer.
  • I had my left testicle cut out of my body at 4 pm on 6/15/10 and I walked myself out of that hospital 4 hours later.  I didn't get wheeled out in a chair, I told them I wanted to walk.
  • 2 days after surgery to have my damn testicle removed, I stopped taking prescription pain pills and switched to tylenol. 
  • 6 days after surgery, I got on an exercise bike for 30 minutes, then went on to work a full day.
  • 7 days after surgery, I went outside for a jog with my wife and dog, then went to work a full day.
  • The day after I had chemo I went out for a jog with my dog (granted, I was still feeling a steroid high)
  • 5 days after chemo, I went for a jog with my wife and dog, and then went to work.  Hell I was back to "coach tony" mode yelling at Julie for running to slow behind me (I later apologized).
Now I'll admit that a follow-up cancer diagnosis would kick my butt right now, and I might start in on the poor/why me stuff.  But for right now?  FU cancer, FU.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Update 7/26/10 Working & Working Out

I got up at 5:45 this morning, about 30 mins later than I usually wake up.  This was a concession on Julie's part, she had planned a longer run for Bica and herself since we had a system come through on Sunday and lower the temp a little.  But I was feeling better Sunday night and wanted to give a short run a try, but I also wanted to sleep in a little.  Julie didn't mind, of course, she was just worried I wouldn't be up to a run, even a short one.

By 5:45 I was really already awake.  I slept most of the night soundly, but woke up sometime before the alarm, probably 5:15 (the time we would have gotten up normally) feeling a little nauseated and out of  it, but not bad.  Bica stirred as I drank some water, but didn't come to bed as she sometimes will when it's close to wake-up time.  I fell back asleep and when the alarm went off the nausea was gone.

I did go for that run with Julie and Bica, and it felt good.  Temperature was much more comfortable than it had been, and being laid up had rested my weary legs.  We didn't run far, 2.5 miles at the most.  But I ran it well, and took Bica on a romp through the grass to chase an angry flock of geese.  When we got back home I did my usual stretches, although not as hard as usual, and couple of sets of push-ups.  Any stretch that engages my stomach muscles would cause me to feel a little nausea and to burp, but otherwise it felt fine.

I showered and shaved off my 5 day beard, had my normal cereal & fruit breakfast (but with just one cup of coffee instead of my normal 4-5 cups), then got ready for work.  I didn't feel bad, best I've felt since the chemo really, but I knew I'd get tired before the end of the day.  Work wasn't bad, everyone was happy to see me and asked how things were.  I told them I was likely to go home early, and sure enough, by 1 pm I was fading fast.  I stuck around until almost 2:15, then came home and walked Bica for several blocks.

I suspect my schedule will be that way the rest of this week.  Upcoming events are as follows:
  • Wed (7/28) I have to go to the drs office in the morning to have blood drawn.  Should only be a little late for work
  • Fri (7/30) I have my first follow up drs appt at 3:15 to see how my blood looks, and how I'm feeling overall
This next part could have been its own post, but I'll just throw it in here to cover the last few days.

Sat afternoon (when I wanted meatballs) one of our friends in VA offered to pick up Peruvian chicken from a place by them that Julie & I love. I was feeling so sick, but still somewhat hungry, so I said yes to that so long as they didn't mind just dropping it off. I didn't want to see anyone.

Well they brought over a whole chicken, fried yucca, plantains, and beans & rice. Julie went downstairs to pick it up from our friend, and I set up places to eat and queued up the most recent episode of Burn Notice on Hulu. Julie set the food down in front of me and went to go get drinks, while waiting I ate one piece of yucca and immediately felt horrible; I was sure that was all I was eating of that meal.

But then something happened, the feeling passed, and I ate with gusto. More than 1/2 a chicken, 1/2 of the yucca, a few plantains. All went down, and not just down but I really wanted even more, but I could tell it would be a bad idea, I didn't want to push my luck.

I didn't feel 100%, but significantly better. Later than night I ate half of the leftover beans and rice for dinner. Sunday morning I felt decent, but a little queasy.  Breakfast was again cheese eggs, but this time Julie fried up bacon too.  Normally I love bacon, but this time the smell really put me off, I'm not sure when I'll eat bacon again.

Sunday night Julie finally got me the spaghetti & meatballs I'd been asking for since Saturday (Peruvian Chicken preempted my meatball craving) and I ate all of that & a little pizza too. Food was now going down much better, and I was seldom feeling any nausea.  Went to bed early Sunday night.  And well, you know the rest from my update at the top of this post.

I still burp and make other nasty sounds, it will be a while before my stomach is back to being completely normal. The part I hate now is not knowing what is next, and I really don't think the drs/nurses know what to expect either.  They can tell you what to expect when you are on a chemo course that lasts several weeks or months, but just one dose?  I don't think any of them have any experience with this.  The Dr did not think the symptoms would be bad because the chemo won't be building up in my system the way it does for people who get several doses, every week or so. 

But I'm always aware (and the doctor stressed often) that my chemo was a huge dose comparatively.  The doctor & nurses repeatedly told me it was a big one, and that the symptoms could be bad.  While I was waiting for the chemo on Wednesday (I left this out that day, so my family reading the blog wouldn't worry even more than they already were) I could hear the nurse whispering to the doctor in another room about how much chemo this was; NURSE "this is a really big dose, are you sure?"  Doctor "we have to follow the guidelines laid out for treatment."

Not what you want to hear when you are sitting down to your first (and I pray, last) chemo treatment.  So the nausea might be leaving, but who knows what is next?  Mouth sores?  Low red/white blood cells?  Much worse fatigue?  The ever-present in my mind hair loss?  We'll see, I'll keep updating.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Update 7/24/10 A Day in the Life

I was given two different anti-nausea meds.  One was a 3 day dose, where I take a pill every 12 hours.  The other I could take as needed every six hours.  I finished off the 3 day pills yesterday, and by last night I was feeling pretty awful and took the first of the as needed pills.

The problem with the as-needed pills are they knock me out.  That's fine over the weekend, but if the nausea hasn't passed by Monday, well, I don't want to become a vegetable.

It's hard enough now, just four days after getting chemo.  I go from the bed to the bathroom to the living room.  I harass Bica for attention, use her as a pillow or kiss her belly until she growls.  Cravings for cheeseburgers, scrambled eggs with cheese.  Then I try to eat those foods and fill up to the point of sickness after a bite.  I fight it all down, then feel horrible for a long while.

Read books in the bedroom, on the toilet, on the floor in the living room, again using Bica as a pillow.  But that doesn't last long.  Bica moves, and so do I, back to the bedroom.  A 10 minute nap, then another craving; this time it's meatballs.  I know I only have to say the word and Julie will run out to get me whatever I want.  I hate that she's stuck inside with me, having to listen to my complaints.  She wants to help and there isn't anything for her to do.

Last night it was noodles.  I wanted long, flat, asian noodles from the thai place in our building.  Julie got them, I ate two noodles and a small piece of chicken.  Took the pill described above that knocked me out so I was out for the night.  When I got up to pee at midnight, stumbling to the bathroom, Julie shot up and turned on every light in the house.  Worried, no doubt, that I was about to be sick.  I snapped at her, and then (well, eventually) apologized and thanked her for her concern.  I find my temper is even shorter than usual.

I've read almost a book a day since Wednesday.  Good books too, but I've just about had enough of them, and movies too.  I have more to read, and watch, though, so I know I'll keep at it.  If I'm going to lose my hair, it will probably start Wednesday or Thursday.  I wonder if I can hold out on shaving my head until next weekend.  I'd like to have a day or two with my bald head before heading into work.

I hope the worst of the stomach problems pass this weekend.  I can see that fatigue will be my real problem, but at least I can put in half days at work with that.  If I'm still taking anti-nausea meds, I can't do anything but sleep.

Meatballs.  I'm still thinking about meatballs.  I'll be calling out to Julie in a few minutes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Update 7/23/10 Feels A Lot Like The Flu

Wednesday night, the day I got the chemo,wasn't bad at all except I couldn't sleep.  I assume the steroids caused this, heart racing and impossible to relax.  At 1:30 I came out to the living room with a book (Bica followed me moments later) and laid on the couch for 4 hours reading.

When Julie woke up at 5:30 with plans to take the dog for a jog, I told her I felt fine (aside from not sleeping) so I took Bica instead.  Julie had yoga at 6 am, or she would have come with us.  Beeks and I went on a very short run, 2 miles (maybe less) at the most, and came home.  I felt a little out of it, but almost certainly from lack of sleep and not chemo.

The rest of Thursday morning I spend reading (finished my Hornet's Nest by 10:30), eating, and watching a movie.  By the afternoon I was onto another book, another movie, and more food.  Still no sleep or side effects though.  I also took Bica for a walk around the neighborhood.

Julie came home around 2:30, and I started to feel tired and took a short nap.  Read a lot more and ate a decent dinner, went to bed by 9 pm. 

Today, Friday, I woke up with the feeling that something was wrong.  Maybe 4:30 am, I could tell my stomach was a little upset and things didn't feel quite right.  Kind of like I'm floating a little.  Now food and drink doesn't appeal as much, and I feel instantly full or bloated when I have either.  As Friday has worn on, I'm feeling more tired, more bloated, and having to take more frequent trips to the bathroom.

No serious nausea yet, the medication I have has kept that at bay for the most part.  But the overall fatigue and light stomach problems make it feel a lot like the flu, or at least the start of the flu.  I finished another book this morning, walked to the public library to return two books and pick up two more, and it felt like I was walking in a dream the entire time. I came home from that walk (maybe 4 blocks) and slept for a few hours.

I hope the worst of this passes this weekend, I really don't know how long to expect it to last.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Update 7/21/10 The Toxic Avenger

Had chemo today, so far so good.  Julie & I arrived at the drs office about 8:45 am.  I had my BaileyWorks messenger bag filled with a couple of books, headphones, PB&J sandwich, a liter of San Pellegrino water, and a small box of cookies for the other patients & staff (I hope to only be going through this one time, these poor people have to get treatments all the time).  I also had in my pocket my iphone with a recently rented movie on it (The Man Who Would Be King), and a small card/charm for Saint Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer patients which Julie had picked up for me at the National Cathedral.

Side note:  I love San Pellegrino water, so it was somewhat ironic to find out that Saint Peregrine (as noted above, the patron saint of cancer patients) in Italian in San Pellegrino.  I was doubly blessed...

So after checking in and paying my copay, I had my vitals taken and then went back to the treatment room.  There were a dozen or so padded chairs with side tables attached to each arm.  I rested my left arm on a pillow on the left side table while Julie laid out my book (The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest) and water.  The nurse spent a few minutes getting the iv needle into my hand (not farther up in my forearm, which surprised me), shot in a syringe of saline, and then started to get together my various medicine bags. 

I was the only patient at the time, maybe 9:30 by now.  As they connected my first drip, a combo steroid and anti-nausea medication I think, I had Julie head back to her office (teary-eyed).  There was no pain and I was able to recline the chair and relax and start reading.  I was nervous, of course, but able to lose myself for the most part into my book.

The first bag took about 30 mins to drip into my vein, and was followed by five minutes or so of a smaller saline rinse bag.  About this time, maybe 10:15 or so, 4 other patients had arrived so there were minor delays in getting the bags changed.  By 10:30 the chemo bag had started.  It was a relatively big bag, and set at a slow drip.  Maybe one drop per every 2-3 seconds.

By 11 am I was hungry and had consumed about 1/2 of my bottle of water.  I was also a good ways into the book.  I leisurely ate my PBJ and drank the rest of the water over the next 45 mins or so, and at noon I was disconnected from the drip bag and went to the bathroom.  The chemo bag was about 1/2 empty.  When I came back, I was reconnected and the drip started again.  Unfortunately the restart on the drip was going even slower, maybe one drop ever 6-10 seconds.  Unfortunate b/c no one, myself included, noticed this. 

Julie had come back to the office about 12:45, my thinking originally was that I'd be finished by 1:30.  But the bag was still a 1/3 full b/c of the slow drip at that time, and the nurses noticed something was wrong and got it moving at a faster speed.  Two drips per ever 2-3 seconds.  Still I would have at least another hour there, maybe 1.5, so Julie walked to a nearby grocery store to pick up a few things for us for the week. I took the opportunity to disconnect and pee again (Julie had brought me another San Pellegrino), but that was a 5 min delay at the most.

By 2:30 Julie was back and the drip bag was just about empty.  Several other patients had come (and gone), everyone was in a jovial mood.  The cookies I'd brought in had been passed around and everyone seemed to like the treat.  When my bag finished, I had another 5 minute saline drip, and then was disconnected for good.  I had to give blood for testing, but the needle in my hand wasn't producing good quantities of blood so I had to get stuck in my forearm.  But after filling a test tube with blood I was disconnected and finished for good.

I went to the bathroom one last time, and when I came back I got blasted with silly-string by one of the nurses.  They have a little celebration after your last chemo treatment, this was my first and last (I hope forever) so I had my celebration same day.

We said our goodbyes and walked from the office back to the metro (about 5 blocks) and took the train back to our neighborhood (2 stops).  I was tired, I guess, but didn't really feel bad at all.  I suspect the tiredness was more from lying down reading all day, not medicine.  I'd also gone running in the morning as usual, although only 3.5 miles.

When we got home Bica was super excited to see us.  I usually come home at lunch around noon, so here it was 3 hours later that normal.  We took her on a walk around the neighborhood, then picked up milkshakes and went home.  After milkshakes Julie made BLTs, and while my stomach was now feeling uncomfortable that was from the milkshake-BLT combo, not any drugs.

I know this is the calm before the storm, once those steroids wear-off I'll be fatigued and nauseated.  But the day-of treatment wasn't bad at all, and hopefully the anti-nausea meds I have will keep the worst of the symptoms at bay. 

I go back to the drs office on Wednesday morning to give more blood so they can check my white & red blood counts, and the markers.  The Friday after I give blood I have an appointment with the doctor to go over the results of that blood test and to see how I'm feeling.  I'll have to give blood again the next week, and probably the week after that.

I'll report back certainly after the Friday appointment, but maybe earlier if the things get worse (or hell, better).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Update 7/16/10 Reality Bites

Had my follow up appointment with Dr Fishman before I get chemo next week. Dr was nice as usual, as was the chemo nurse I met who I'll be working with.  The nurse was a lot more down to earth about the treatment though, it sounds like I'm in for a miserable time.

Wednesday, 7/21/10 I get the chemo at 9 am.  Because I only have to get chemo once, I'm getting a much stronger dose than usual.  So the side effects might be significantly worse than for a normal dose.  Still I only have to get this once, people who take the normal doses have to get many, many more treatments than I do.  I know, deep down, that I'm lucky to be in this position, all things considered.  But I walked out of the drs office in a daze, the reality of sitting in a chair Wednesday morning for three hours while toxic chemicals are pumped into my body... well I'm more than a little scared.

It sounds like I have a good chance of losing all my hair, or most of it anyway, after all.  The dr had originally said I could expect thinning, but the nurse who actually sets up the patients told me I was likely to lose enough that I'd want to shave my head.  I'm glad I let my hair go these last 6 or so months, I would feel worse about the hair if I'd never given my head the chance to grow crazy one last time.  Of course my hair will grow back, but I'm not sure I have the patience to let it go this long again.  Hell I might have gray hair after all of this.

After I left the drs around 4:15 pm today, I walked to get Bica from daycare.  Normally I'd have taken a taxi to get to her, especially when it is so hot & humid outside, but the mile or so walk did me some good.  I felt better by the time I got to her.  I felt even better by the time I got her back home, which was another mile or so.  I went back to the office for 30 minutes or so after that, to clean stuff up for the weekend.

I have Wednesday off to get the chemo, and it sounds like I might be taking a few more days off over the course of the next 7-10 days after that.  I hope not too, and I hope to get back to exercising by the start of the following week.  We'll see.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Update 7/11/10 Decision Day

Decision: Chemo

Emailed the oncologist yesterday to ask what the next steps will be. Do I just have to make an appointment to get the 3 hour IV drip? Or do I have to have more blood work, etc.?

No response yet (he was on vacation this week), but I'll call the office on Monday if I haven't heard from him. I'm hoping to get this out of the way this week if at all possible. I had my last beer this afternoon at the Nats game (loss to Giants), no more drinking for me until this is over. Not doctors orders, but I thought I'd give my liver & kidneys a break since my body is about to be flush with a new toxin.

In other news: When Julie told her friends about my cancer via email, she titled the message "A Little Lighter On The Left Side." I loved that subject, hell if I ever wrote a book I'm pretty sure that would be titled. As such I registered http://www.lighterontheleftside.com/ and will probably move all of these posts to that URL and continue my blogging from there. I'll put a re-direct dc2oc.com though, so you can visit either site.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Update 7/4/10 Delayed Independence Day

On Friday, 7/2/10, I saw the radiation doctor.  Finding out on Wednesday that chemo sounded like such an (all things considered) easy option was such a surprise, I didn't think radiation could compete.  I was wrong.

The treatments would be a low dose of radiation, compared to other cancer treatments like brain/breast/lung.  The dose for my cancer was about a 1/4, maybe less, than what it is for some of those other cancers.  I would have to have 13 treatments in total which would produce the same basic short-term side effects as chemo.

And the facilities!  The cancer center at Sibley hospital was incredible.  It was modern & clean.  The staff was incredibly friendly.  If you have to have treatment, Sibley is the kind of place you want to have it at.

So what would be better, chemo or radiation?  With the same basic short-term side effects, I'll have to pick my poison. Radiation & chemo have about the same short-term side effects, all of which I can live with easily. Both have possible, but extremely unlikely, long-term side effects that are different. But how do you choose which possible long term side effect you can live with?

All of the doctors (surgeon, chemo, radiation) say the same thing: 3 treatment options, all equally successful. Observation (no meds, monitor quarterly with ct scans & blood), 1 dose of chemo, or radiation for 3 weeks. I've narrowed down that I'll do either chemo or radiation, but how I'll decide between those two, I don't know.

So what is delayed independence day?  July 11th, the day I decide which treatment I'll take.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Update 6/30/10, Chemo Consult

Met with Dr Fishman today at 1:30 for a consultation about chemo as the follow up treatment to my TC.  I didn't think chemo was going to really be in the running for treatment options, it sounds so miserable (and no doubt it).  But this is a very tempting follow up procedure.  Details below.

1. Cancer stage. I'm in the second best stage possible, what is called stage 1B (1A, obviously, is the very best). The b is b/c of the vascular invasion I noted from the pathology report

2. Clarifying "vascular invasion" -- Turns out this isn't as bad as it sounds. What it means is that there is still no evidence that the cancer left the testicle, but there is evidence that it left the tumor. So the chances are still the same, tiny, that the cancer has spread outside the testicle, but it had begun to move outside the tumor. Again this is the best possible scenario with the same treatment options.

3. I never thought I would say this, but chemo looks like a great option; of course there are caveats. The chemo recommended for my condition is a single dose (approx 3 hour IV drip) with minimal side effects. The downside to this treatment is that it has only been studied for a very short time (less than 10 years) so there is no confirmation that the treatment is as effect long term. But short term (4-8 years) it has the same success rate as radiation, which is around 97%

So we meet the radiation dr on Friday, and he'll try to sell us on his treatment. But right now the idea of a single dose vs weeks of radiation is very tempting. Both options have the same follow up schedule. First year is heavy on CT scans and blood work, years 2-5 much less observation.

I'll update again on Friday after the radiation consult.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Update 6/27/10, More Doctors Appointments

Had a great weekend with my mom & sister up from Florida for a visit.  We went out to eat Friday night and then spent most of Saturday cooking, eating, and drinking.  Opened a bottle of vintage port Julie had bought for me years ago after I got a big raise at work.  The port was excellent, but the company was what really made it special.

This looks to be an interesting week for updates as I've got appointments on both Wednesday (chemo) and Friday (radiation) for consultations.  Details are:

  • Wednesday, 6/30/10, Chemo consultation at 1:30 pm (21st & K ST NW)
  • Friday, 7/2/10, Radiation consultation at 9:30 am (Sibley Hospital)
As I've mentioned before radiation is likely to be the treatment and it will likely take place at Sibley, which is a bit of a hike.  Although my family insists I should not do this (they all live in Florida and drive everywhere) there is a bus that picks up right outside my downtown condo that goes to Sibley.  It is a long ride but an easy one, and I suspect it will be my primary method of getting to/from treatments. 

But all of this is guess work right now.  First we have to see what the various doctors say about the CT scan & pathology report.  I'll update probably after both appointments.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Update 6/22/2010 The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

I'll start with the ugly:  The spots on my body that were shaved for surgery which were never meant to be shaved.  I think it will be months before the hair is back and I start to feel normal again.

Before I get to the good & bad though, a quick update about the last few days:
  • Healing continues very well, worst part now is the itching from the stitches (and the fore mentioned newly shaved spots).
  • On Monday I got up early and went to the gym in our building and peddled away on the stationary bike for 35 minutes (at a pretty slow speed) and it went fine.  Went to work that day and felt like I was starting to get back to normal finally.  Or at least my new normal.
  • This morning I went out with Julie & Bica for a jog.  Just 1 week after my surgery the jogging went very well.  We did a scenic 4, maybe 4.5 mile run on the national mall including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the White House.  Very pleasant to jog again, and although I ran very slowly (Julie was faster than me!) I had no pain at all, no shortness of breath, just a hell of a lot of itching.  Felt even better at work today and was very busy, so the day flew by.
So the good & the bad from my Drs appointment today which was to discuss the pathology report on the tumor:

The good -- The case was what is called pure seminoma, which as I understand it basically means it was just one type of cancer.  If it were mixed that would be bad (worse, I guess) news.  But if I had to have cancer, this was the kind we wanted it to be.  This cancer responds very well to radiation.

The bad --  There was evidence of vascular/lymphatic invasion, which (again as I understand it) means there is a higher chance the cancer could have spread.  If you've read below you know that as far as they can tell the cancer has not spread, but this bad news makes it more likely (slightly, perhaps, but still more likely than before) that the cancer could show up later.

So it seems now extremely likely, almost a sure thing, that I will have to have radiation therapy in the coming months.  The good folks at TCRC have a lot of info up about this entire process, including radiation therapy.  But the therapy will most likely mean 2-3 weeks of daily radiation blasts (each weekday) which will have all the nasty side effects you'd expect (fatigue, nausea, etc.).  But at the end of that treatment period things should slowly being to return to normal.  I mean my new normal.  Not a fun outlook for the next few months, but by all accounts I'll be as cancer free as is possible for medical science at this point.

I still have to meet with the various drs about both radiation and chemo (chemo is still an option so one I have to explore).  I'll update after those discussions take place.  For the next few weeks I expect to have a normal life again, running in the mornings, working all day, walking the dog at lunch, etc.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Update 6/19/10 Returning to Normal

Not much to update now, I expect this will be the last update until I get more news from the doctor.  Physical pain in now greatly reduced.  I can't run or do pull-ups, but otherwise walking, sleeping, showering, and everyday activities are pretty close to normal.  Still a little pain sitting down & getting up, a little light headed sometimes, a little fatigued.  But overall significantly better. 

I can't imagine I'll be able to run any earlier than Tuesday, and probably not until later in the week.  And those first runs will be slow, short, and comprised of a lot of walking Bica in-between.  But it won't be long, I'd wager, until I'm back to running many miles and yelling at Julie that she's too slow.

Baseball game tomorrow afternoon.  It's about a 1.5 mile walk to the stadium which I think is how we'll get there & return.  So that 3 mile walk will be my most exercise since Monday 6/14.  Looking forward to that more than the game, in some ways.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Update 6/18/10 Physical vs Emotional Recovery

I managed to stay off Rx pain pills yesterday and today.  I took Tylenol three times yesterday but that was it, no other pain pills. That's not to say the pain is gone, but now it feels more like I ran a really hard race and my body is sore, no longer piercing pain like Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. 

But as the physical pain became more tolerable yesterday, I was having a harder time emotionally.  Not overwhelmingly bad, but definitely feeling the emotional effects of the surgery.  I'm hoping the second day of being clear-headed and less pain will help.  I was able to shower finally yesterday afternoon and I shaved today.  I think getting back into a normal routine will be a big help.

Jogging seems unlikely before Tuesday, maybe even later.  But perhaps I'll feel much better by Sunday and that will change.  I'm looking forward to walking Bica around a few times today, I think that will help too.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

6/17/10 Recovery

Yesterday was spent mostly on the couch under a slight fog of pain killers, playing video games & watching movies (with a nap or two for good measure).  But I was able to move around reasonably well and my appetite hasn't been bothered at all.  I'm just as hungry as ever, only now I can't exercise to burn some of those calories off.  Not only that but I'm eating a lot worse (Julie kindly bought me several containers of butterscotch pudding) that usual.

But today, two days after the surgery, I'm feeling a lot better.  Still a decent amount of pain, but I only took Tylenol this morning and not the pain killers.  And I've been walking around the condo with my cane all morning.  It's a pretty day outside so I plan to stroll the city with Julie and Bica soon.

I'll find out the next steps in a week or so.  In the meantime I'm looking forward to healing & starting back to jogging (even if slowly) early next week.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Update 6/16/2010--Lefty's Gone

Tuesday 6/15/2010 wasn't the best day of my life.  But after spending close to 9 hours at the hospital I'm now recovering at home and reasonably comfortable.  I didn't get a lot of sleep last night, between the pain, emotional confusion, and restlessness; well it was a tough night.  But not the end of the world, and I expect the pain to become more & more manageable. 

All of our friends have been great through this.  One friend hung out with Julie at the hospital during and after the surgery, that really meant a lot to me.  And we almost no notice our neighbor picked us up from the hospital last night.  That made it much easier to get home as they rent a parking space (from us) in the building so I was able to just get out of their car and get in the elevator to our floor.

Next Drs appointment is 6/25 when we'll get more details and learn the next steps.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

06/15/10 Update-- It's Showtime

Today is the big day.  I had the last food I was allowed to eat around 10 pm last night, and I was allowed 24 ounces of clear liquids (luckily that included black coffee) this morning before 8 am.  Headed to the hospital around 12:30 this afternoon and surgery is scheduled for 3.  Hopefully my next update will be all about what a piece of cake the recovery has been.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

6/12/10 Update

Follow up appt with Dr Shin went well, all good news.  No sign that it has spread.  Surgery on Tuesday at 3 pm (possibly moved up to 1 pm) which has a chance of being 70% curative.  We'll discuss future treatments in a couple of weeks, those treatments probably would not start until August.  Observation, rather than additional treatments, is also an option.

I ran the lawyers have heart 10K today in Georgetown.  It's a miserable out & back run, and always too hot.  But I persevered and finished with my best time ever on this particular course (only the second time I've run the race), and 8:10 per mile pace, for a final time of 50 Mins, 41 Seconds.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tony's TC 6/8/10 through 6/15/10

Well we reserved this website in case we ever wanted to rent-by-owner our Ocean City condo.  We won't be using it for that purpose anytime soon so we're doing this instead.
  • 6/8/10:  TC Day
    • Initial doctors appointment & diagnosis. 
    • Blood taken
    • Ultrasound performed
    • First consultation with surgeon (Dr. Shin)
    • Nationals Park for the first game of the Strasburg era.
  • 6/9/10:  Skirmishes 
    • First fight with insurance company
    • Appointments scheduled, then canceled
    • Truce with insurance company
    • Appointments rescheduled for 6/10/10
  • 6/10/10:  Battery of tests
    • CT Scan
    • More blood work
    • Liverwurst on rye with mayo, mustard, and onions washed down with two Miller High Life's.
  • 6/11/10:  The fun begins
    • @8 am I drop off a deposit at the sperm bank
    • Final consultation with Dr Shin
  • 6/15/10:  Lefty's last day
    • Surgery at 3 pm
    • Pain pills