Archive for May, 2006

Radiology Oncologist Followup

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

After reviewing my latest PET scans and conferring, both of my doctors came to the conclusion that the best course to take is not to give me radiation treatment. There is not enough showing up on the scans to merit targeting any particular area. Instead they’ll monitor me closely with periodic scans.

It’s certainly a great relief, but I hope it really is the best course of action.

Next will be my final appointment with my oncologist, which has been rescheduled to 16 June.

Why this blog exists

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

It has recently occurred to me that I had launched directly into these writings without any explanation whatsoever to my potential readers. I now feel that I owe everyone at least that courtesy.

One of the main reasons for creating this blog was to keep family, friends, and coworkers informed of my progress. Due to side effects of the chemotherapy it hasn’t been as timely as I would have liked. Getting the laptop helped, especially since my desktop computer has been out of commission for about a month.

[So if you’ve emailed me (or not) and I haven’t contacted you yet — please email me again so that I can save your address on my laptop. My emails up to the start of May, as well as my address book, are on the desktop, still unavailable for now despite a new power supply, motherboard, processor, memory, and video card.]

Another reason for this written account is to provide myself with a historical record of the whole ordeal, with dates and treatments on file for easy reference.

But the third and perhaps most important reason is to let others know what to expect should they or someone close to them be facing the decision of whether or not to receive chemotherapy treatment.

When I made my decision, I wasn’t aware of what I would be facing – and maybe that’s for the best. A quote from “Coping With Chemotherapy” by Nancy Bruning struck home with me:

“The chemotherapy experience can fall short of what it might be – how it can be used, how it can benefit, and the degree of comfort the patient maintains while undergoing it – because chemotherapy patients suddenly find themselves plunged into a maze without a map. Cancer care for most people is completely foreign territory – full of half-truths, myths, and misconceptions, of personal issues and dilemmas, of complicated new words and procedures, of hot and cold running hope and fear.”

That statement was written in 1985 and unfortunately is still true over 20 years later.

My hope is that this blog will be forwarded to those who are facing chemotherapy, have already started it, or have loved ones who are facing or have already started chemo.

That it will help them in some small way, to know a little better what to expect, in addition to what their doctors tell them. The doctors can’t tell you everything. I knew a little more from what friends and other survivors could tell me, but if you haven’t lived through it yourself, you can’t relate it to anyone else.

So among my next posts will be a retelling of how this ordeal has affected me, mainly physically. The psychological effects obviously vary from person to person, so I may not have much to say about that, aside from how support from friends and family has helped.

I won’t be relating what symptoms others have related to me if I haven’t experienced them myself. I can only say what has happened to me personally.

Thank You’s

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

Follow me, don’t follow me
I’ve got my spine, I’ve got my orange crush

— R.E.M.

No more chemo, no more orange crush. Or tang, or whatever you want to call the Red Devil’s (Doxorubicin) side effects…another thing I won’t miss.

I seem to be back to where I’m sleeping a lot (except at night) and am sore all over. My last blood cell counts were higher than they’ve been since I started chemo, so it’s not anemia. Maybe I have to go back through the cycle backwards before returning to my old self.

I wanted to say thanks to members of my family who have been supportive, as well as friends, coworkers, and total strangers. Special thanks to Mike S., Danny R., Larry F., Manda, and Gwen.

Thanks for the emails even though I haven’t gotten around to answering them (sorry!). Thanks to Diana G., Barb, Rose, and others for the cards. Every kind word is read and taken to heart.

No man is an island – a hermit perhaps, but not an island. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the prayers and positive thoughts of others, added to my own. Collectively it has a powerful effect.

The person I have to thank the most is the most caring and selfless person I’ve ever met. She manages my appointments as well as making sure I get out of bed in time and driving me to them, which takes a lot of things off my mind so I can rest, but unfortunately places a lot of burden upon her. And she’s not only doing all this for me, but for her father as well, who is going through health problems of his own right now. And never once have I heard one word of complaint. Sandi, you’re the greatest.

Thanks again to all. I may not have mentioned everyone, but if you’ve contacted me, you know who you are.

Scan Results

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

After last week’s period of activity, I’m back to sleeping a lot and having no energy this week. It seems to come and go. Hopefully it will do so more frequently as time goes on.

Visited my oncologist today and he said my scans were night and day compared to the last ones. However, there were still some questionable areas. I asked him what they were, and he said it’s difficult to tell if active spots are due to RA inflammation or cancer. On one hand, symmetrical uptake (i.e. both hips) are probably due to RA, but random spots are usually cancer cells.

He’s under the impression that I may need a minimum treatment of radiation therapy for three weeks. He’ll be speaking to the radiation oncologist prior to my visit next week.

My bone density scan showed some bone thinning, so he prescribed 1200mg/day of calcium supplements, as well as 1 Fosamax per week. Also 1000 units/day of Vitamin D along with 15 minutes of sun daily.

He wants to see me again in four weeks, and to have a CAT scan in eight weeks (not CT/PET). And after all my treatment is completed, to see the cardiologist for a final 3D echo cardiogram.

He seemed to think that I should be driving myself by now, although I still experience times when a wave of exhaustion hits me so hard it’s as if I lose consciousness rather than fall asleep. It can hit me at any time, but is guaranteed to happen whenever I’m out doing things for several hours. Which is why Sandi is driving me to appointments and everywhere else we go.


Thursday, May 4th, 2006

I’ve been having a little more energy and motivation this week and have been able to get some things done. In my lethargic periods it takes a lot of effort just to get out of bed in the morning and get myself something to eat. But I managed to do some yardwork this week and get some handyman work done inside the house.

Before the bone density scan, I had a fasting blood sugar test and my level was 92, which I’m told is normal. So that was good news. The bone density scan took place inside the faciility (as opposed to the PET scan in the trailer) and didn’t take long at all. No injections.

The PET scan took much longer as they waited almost an hour for the isotopes to circulate and accumulate. But at least it was painless. I fell asleep while waiting but managed to stay awake during the whole scan. That may be a first.

My oncologist should have the results in a few days, and I can pick up my copies next week.