Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Chemo Tomorrow... Already

It's that time again. I go in for round two of chemo cycle 5 tomorrow morning. This drug, Gemcitabine, has had tolerable, but unpleasant affects. It put me in bed for about half a day on Thursday and Friday last week due to fatigue and a general feeling of malaise. These effects came on sooner than previous chemo drugs. By Saturday, most of the negative effects had dissipated. The lingering side effect is slightly more numbness in my toes, feet, and fingers. This really bothers me. But, as I was browsing the Internet today, I came across an interesting article on Yahoo about a running athlete who has only prosthetic legs below his knees. The moral here is that, it could be worse. I say that, but then I think to myself, but he doesn't have cancer. Cancer puts you in a state of the unknown. This athlete in the Yahoo article will wake up tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and know he has no legs. It's a given. He'll also probably know how he'll feel day to day. With cancer and the chemo drugs, I never really know how I'm going to feel day to day. I think there is a joke in here somewhere. What's the best thing about having Alzheimer’s... you always get to meet a lot of new people. It's kind of like that for me; I get to wonder each day how I'll feel. For the most part, pretty good right now. So, I'll take that and move on to the next beating (I mean chemo treatment). I'll let you know how this infusion was tolerated in a few days. Take care everyone.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chemo Cycle 5

I began my new chemo regimen yesterday. I had blood drawn, a clinic visit with my doctor, and then waited a few hours until the orders and drugs were available to me in the chemo center. They used to be able to hit my vein on the first try every time, but after 2 years of treatment, my veins aren't what they used to be. It took three tries to get a good IV going. I think this is a common problem, the longer you're treated, the harder it gets to treat. The IV elapse time was the shortest of any past treatments, about two hours. I will have another treatment this coming Wednesday. Yesterday's treatment and the one this coming Wednesday are considered a cycle for this drug, Gemcitabine (aka Gemzar). Since this an adjunctive treatment, my doctor wants me to have 4 cycles. There will be a one week break between each of the four cycles. Also, my white blood cell counts are low, so I began Neupogen shots again today. I'll have another one tomorrow. Future shots will be based on future blood cell counts which are taken prior to each chemo cycle. I was a bit tired today, but was not running any fever. I'm really hoping this chemo is tolerable. My next scans will be in mid September. So, I have two months of waiting to see if things are looking up or not.

Ruth left a comment for me yesterday on this blog. I don't know how to contact you, but please feel free to e-mail me with your e-mail address if you feel like corresponding. It sounds like we're in a very similar boat. For me, the ability to eat anywhere close to normal is the hardest part. On top of no appetite and jaw pain when chewing, it takes about an hour to consume a simple meal of soft foods. Plus, I have to concentrate on the eating so that I don't choke. That means no talking while eating and eating alone in a reclining position most of the time. I'm considering the value of a feeding tube, but I hate the thought of something unnatural like that in my body. I also feel like it would be a sign that the cancer is winning. My speaking is compromised, but not terrible at this point. People can understand me, but to me, it just doesn't sound like me. This may sound completely corny, but as President Bill Clinton once said, "I feel your pain." And, I mean it.

Head and Neck (H&N) cancer represents 3% of all cancers. As such, it doesn't get much attention or funding. The war on terrorism and cutbacks by the National Institute of Health (NIH) have left funding for H&N cancer flat at best over the past few years. I've decided recently to make a donation to fund H&N research at my cancer center. It will not be a large donation, I don’t have that type of wealth, but I hope it will be meaningful and send the message of thanks to the hard work and dedication of a talented group of people attaching a debilitating disease. The amount is something that I'm comfortable with given the unknowns in my future and that of my family.

Take care everyone and once again thanks for sticking through this with me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Chemo Treatment Begins Today

Well, I got my time off, about 7 weeks since my last chemo infusion and 4 weeks from my last surgery. I made the best of it. Saw lots and lots of family, friends, and relatives. My golf game is somewhat back. It dawned on me the other day, as if the proverbial light bulb went off in my head that golf is my mental therapy. Much of the time I'm too weak or tired to play 18 holes and the aftermath of playing can leave me exhausted, but while I'm out there, I can forget about my ailments and really enjoy myself. Thanks to all and any of you that have joined me on the course or practice range.

I leave for the hospital in about an hour. I'll be there about 8 hours... blood work, waiting, clinical exam, waiting, more waiting, and then 2 - 3 hours of chemo. They are planning to use a drug called Gemcitabine. It is for treating non small cell lung and other cancers. I have a lot of questions for my doctor as this seems to be used only on cancers other than what I have. I think they have run out of traditional options for me. But these are the best and the brightest in the Head and Neck cancer field in the world and I'm going with the recommendations of my medical team. There will be three treatments in total for this chemo cycle. Today, July 25th, and August 8th. I'm not looking forward to the treatments, but am more than pleased to have a plan of attack.

I'll be thinking of you all today and hope to write an update tomorrow. Take care.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Current Status

Surgery was 12 days ago on June 19th. Time flies when you’re having fun. I was beginning to feel a bit recovered from the chemo, which had last been administered on May 23rd, 5.5 weeks ago, when surgery was performed. Yesterday I removed the white tape covering the incision. The incision is about 5 inches long and runs in a small crease in my neck from about my earlobe towards my adams apple. It is almost invisible. It was closed with dissolvable steri-strips. The incision is mostly healed and almost invisible. There is still a little swelling and the surgery site is tender to the touch, but all things considered, pretty darn amazing.

My stamina is returning. I began working out this past week and plan to continue that compulsion, there are worse addictions. I played a little golf over the past 2 days and am not too far off (maybe a stroke or less a hole) from where I was pre-chemo last December. I have also put on 3 - 4 needed pounds, but more is required. I have reduced my pain and anxiety medications. I’d love to eliminate them, but am not there yet. My attitude is good, but I’m anxious about the new chemo regimen that will probably begin in about two weeks. I have very little information about the exact timing and drugs to be used. I’ll try to close that loop within the next day or two. The unknowns and uncertainty drive me crazy.

Here are a few other items of note before signing off. People continue to show incredible generosity. My sister visited with us so that she could help us during the actual surgery timing. My youngest brother came and stayed for 4 days two days after surgery to help take care of things and keep us company. I wasn’t capable of moving around or doing much of anything during those days. Many of you have stayed in close touch with calls and e-mails, some have brought food over, and some have even helped drive us places. All of this is tremendously generous and appreciated. An in law, knowing how much I enjoy playing and watching golf, went to the US Open at Oakmont Pennsylvania on practice Wednesday two weeks ago, obtained a 2007 US Open cap, and actually found six PGA players to sign it. She sent that to me a few days ago along with the program guide and a hand drawn diagram deciphering the signatures. Some signatures required deciphering, some didn’t. And, she doesn’t even play or watch golf. She knew how much I’d enjoy this, which I do. Now, that was special. So, again, thank you everyone for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers and helping me feel better.

Since this blog is primarily about how I’m dealing with my cancer and I’m trying to forget Cancer World (a term I picked up from the Leroy Siever’s cancer NPR blog) for a little while, I may not write again for a few weeks until chemo begins and I’m forced to remember. Take care everyone.