Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend Update

I have successfully gotten through my 4th round of chemo.  The 4th and 5th days were long, slow, and anxiety producing since being on a hospital bed for 6 hours a day getting pumped full of various fluids was getting to me.  I've been pretty tired and really low appetite the last few days.  I started getting back into things today with a series of events with my mom and sister Tracy being in town.  We made the customary trip to the Arch, and things started turning for the better around lunch.  Anna joined us for a trip down to the Schlafly Taproom for a pig roast/garage sale.  Surprising enough I didn't have much of a problem getting down my pulled pork sandwich and beans which was a big change of pace from the chicken noodle soup I'd been thriving on the few days during chemo.  We spent half the afternoon at the zoo which was pretty manageable too.  Tracy was complaining more than me about being tired from walking around so I consider that a good afternoon of exercise.  Unfortunately walking is about the most strenuous exercise I'll be doing until after I recover from surgery.  Half due to fatigue and half to my lack of confidence in my cancer ridden vertebrae which is marked for removal.  My scans next week should prove very interesting both to that bone's integrity and how well chemo has been working so far.

My pelvic tumor ablation is also quickly approaching.  I met with my interventional radiologist on Thursday, and it was very informational.  First of all, Jack Jennings (the good doctor) is a very interesting and intense guy.  He strongly reinforced that my team is treating my cancer "very aggressively" and that they're going to "watch me like a hawk" as I proceed through treatment.  He told me to text or call him with any questions any time of day and will probably be walking me through my scan results over the phone Tuesday after his plane lands in Italy for a conference he's attending.  Secondly, I now know how the ablation will go.  Jack will be using heat ablation using a radio frequency needle instead of freezing the tumors which is what they were thinking at first.  They can be more accurate with the bendable heat needle than with making ice balls.  It's a little safer for my nerves too since I will be semi-sedated and will be able to alert him if I'm getting shooting pains down my leg. Ice ablation would numb the nerve so that I wouldn't feel the damage happening.  Jack isn't concerned about nerve damage with my procedure, but I'm happy playing it on the safe side.  Another benefit of heat over ice is that I can go home that afternoon instead of being admitted for a day for pain monitoring.  

The procedure is minimally invasive with only two small nicks in my ass for the instruments to get access to my tumors.  It will be CT guided so that he will have a very accurate and real time view to the areas that he is ablating.  Jack said he would be doing multiple ablutions over the whole area where my tumors were at my last MRI to get any little pockets which might not be visible in my upcoming scans which will likely show a reduced tumor size (knock on wood).  I'm hoping for the best, and I'll put up pictures from my new scans this weekend after I get back from a department retreat in backwoods Missouri.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Round 4

Today is the first day of my fourth round of chemo.  It's been a pretty quiet day so far with only rain storms and a very talkative man in the bed across from me interrupting the peace and somewhat quiet.  Chris, the talker and a very nice guy, has stage four esophageal cancer.  He and his wife are hoping that the chemo and radiation will work and he'll be enough to go on their big trip to Jamaica.  Today is actually his last day receiving chemo, but he doesn't seem very optimistic about life.  We talked for awhile when his wife was getting breakfast and he told me that he wasn't afraid to die and was almost a gift to know you're going to die. Now he has to wait two months to see whether the treatment worked or not.  I'm not sure what to think about Chris, but it was interesting having a candid conversation with someone who likely has terminal cancer.  It helped me put things in perspective a bit since I have completely opposite feelings about my cancer since I am banking everything on being cured by the end of treatment.  My next round of scans should be informative on how effective my treatment has been so far.

I'm getting about every scan there is before my surgery.  I have two MRI's, a CT, a bone scan, and a PET scan set up for next week.  I've had all of them but the bone scan before, and it will be interesting to see how much bone is left in my cancerous vertebrae.  I'll know the results next Thursday morning with more pictures to be put up on the blog after.  They'll be some delay since I'm leaving town immediately after the meeting to go to the dev bio dept retreat.  I'm happy that I can still do some traveling this summer even if that means just to the 'resort' in the boonies west of STL.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Balanced once again

The past week was nice and uneventful.  My body fully balanced out from the last round of chemo on Wednesday with my taste, smell, sleep, and GI tract returning to a normal state.  I've been working fairly normal hours in lab too with my experiments coming along at the regular rate of two steps forward and one step back.  I ended up leaving early for one reason or another about every day last week.  I wasn't feeling the best towards late afternoon each on of those days which was alleviated by laying around and resting.  I'm planning on working a nap earlier in the day to see if it helps so that I can work longer each day.  Hopefully my favorite couch in the library basement will be unoccupied.

I have this week off from treatment, with the following week taken up by a 5 day chemo treatment.  This will be the last one before my surgery.  I currently have an MRI set up on May 28th to see what my tumors are currently looking like so the many different doctors can plan out what they want to do.  My cryoablation to freeze-kill my pelvic tumors is on June 4th.  My surgery remains on the 10th, and radiation will follow once I recover from that.  Each step in that process and exactly what they are going to do remains very ambiguous since it all depends on how my scans look.  For instance, I met with my radiation oncologist last week to see what his plan is.  He might radiate only some places or all, for 1 heavy week or 6 lighter weeks, or not radiate anything at all.  My surgery is in the same kind of situation with Van Tine saying the room and people are all booked, but they don't know what they will be doing yet.  So that means I have nothing to do but what and see.  Fortunately, I have plenty of stuff including lab work, visiting family, program retreat, and organizing my new apartment to keep me busy.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Round 3

It has been a really long week.  I had my third round of chemo on Wednesday which was a breeze compared to the last round which took up 5 days in a row.  Unfortunately, the odd chemo rounds hit me harder than than the even rounds which snuck up on me over a few days.  I felt off most of Thursday and Friday, with the chemo side effects peaking Friday night.  No sleep, frequent bathroom visits, hot/cold, and total body soreness wasn't pleasant.  The side effects have been tapering off a bit with some sleep last night and my stomach starting to feel like normal again after eating a couple of tacos tonight.  Once again, one of the worst parts is my messed up taste/smell.  The lounge of my new apt complex smelled completely foul to me and only me for some reason, and Papa John's yesterday was a very disappointing blah.

Another reason for the incredible length of the week was moving.  My girlfriend Anna and I got the keys to our new 2 bedroom on Wednesday and moved the bulk of our stuff in on Saturday.  We couldn't have done it without the assistance and generosity of our friends who did the majority of the work moving our collective possessions.  Unfortunately, we got done early in the afternoon so not all could come back to enjoy their meager compensation of pizza.  (To those people, please remind me to put the next couple beers at the bar on me...once I'm able to drink again).  We now have about everything inside our new, spacious apartment.  It will be a week or so before it is all unpacked and put in a more permanent location.

The most enjoyable part of the weekend was catching up with a group of my college friends who came into town to visit.  It wasn't planned out that I would be moving the same weekend as the visit, but it worked out very well.  Nick, Quinn, Andy, Timmy, and I enjoyed a bountiful breakfast at The Majestic Saturday morning after they got into town the night before.   It is not everyday when I see them all completely full from a single meal with some leftover.  I then put them to work moving about everything from Anna's apt up to the new one.  Unfortunately, her box spring didn't fit in the freight elevator which then required Quinn and Andy to haul it up 8 flights of stairs.  (The effects of the move and several beers can be seen in a facebook picture put up by Nick).  We rounded out the weekend with a trip to the Arch and lunch at a random pub located next to Bogart's BBQ which is apparently closed on Sundays.  The food was better than expected so it wasn't too disappointing of a transition. Unfortunately, I couldn't join them on the AB Brewery tour due to the need to nap and run some genotyping reactions in lab.

Overall, it was a long, but good week.  My friends and family help me everyday whether they know it or not.  Emotions are running much higher than normal these days with chemo pain trading off with tumor pain.  I've found that I'm still not used to or comfortable thinking a lot about my cancer and the road ahead.  My mood is now apt to transition as quickly as a pregnant sitcom mom, and I'm pretty sure I've cried more in the most 2 months than the past 10 years.  Surgery is approaching quickly, and it makes me nervous, worried, and optimistic at the same time.  Thank you for everyone out there thinking and praying for me.