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 and will probably move all of these posts to that URL and continue my blogging from there. I'll put a re-direct 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.