Friday, July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch

Life for another member of the cancer family came to an end today according to this article from Bloomberg.

Randy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in mid 2006. He became famous when he delivered his "Last Lecture" at Carnegie-Mellon University last September.

I read his book which was given to me as a gift recently. The book far exceeded my expectations. After all, who needs yet another book about cancer. But, the book wasn't about cancer. It was about how he realized his childhood dreams. There were many excellent life lessons in the book.

It is also a grim reminder that no matter how smart, rich, popular, loved, innovative and determined you are to beat this disease, sometimes the disease wins. Randy left a terrific legacy for his 3 young children by leaving behind his story such that he might be able to guide them as he would want as they grow older.

Take care everyone.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chemo Cycle 9 Round 10

Yesterday was my 10th round of chemo cycle 9. For the sake of clarity, that means that this is my 9th chemotherapy drug (or drug combination) and yesterday was the 10th administration of that drug via an IV. This cycle counting does not include the chemo pill that I take daily. To say that they have thrown everything at me including the kitchen sink would be an understatement. But, it seems to be working. The pain that I had and wrote about last Friday subsided on Saturday. I talked to my chemo doctor about it yesterday. I see him in clinic before each chemo round. He wants to make sure I’m still healthy enough to proceed. He said I looked great and although the pain was bothersome to not worry about it. There are no new lumps and bumps so the chance that an ultrasound would turn up anything was too slim to warrant the test. It was a long day yesterday. I waited a little over two hours to see my primary chemo doctor and then almost 5 hours after that to have the chemo orders get from the chemo clinic to the chemo room with the medication. Needless to say… a lot of waiting. Waiting is just part of the “living with cancer” protocol. One gets used to it and makes the best use of their time as the clock tics.

The plan: Two more rounds of this chemo, then another scan (maybe one that covers the full body versus just the head and neck area). That will place me in the mid-September timeframe. If that scan is clean, then I’m pretty sure my doctor will want to stop the chemo. If it’s not clean, that means the effectiveness of this chemo has reached its limits and we’ll have to regroup. At this juncture, that seems like a good plan.

Chemo factoid: Most of you probably thought, as I did until recently, that the chemo drugs are mixed into a liquid solution by the pharmaceutical companies and delivered to the hospital. The reality is that the drugs are delivered in powder form to the hospitals and the pharmacy mixes them based on the exact prescription supplied by one’s doctor. The doctor takes into consideration the patient’s weight, health, side-effects, tolerance, and drug goals in determining how much medication to deliver in each round.

Take care everyone.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Am I Angry?

This is one of the benefits of having good friends or others that are close to you. They ask the really tough questions. They are questions that others may be thinking or wondering. Or, if they’re not close or they haven’t given it much thought, it’s not even on their radar. I’ve had a good three weeks until today. Today, I woke up with what feels like a pinched nerve in my jaw/cheek area (very close to the location of my most recent tumor removal) and it’s causing pain (electricity like) across the low left side of my face, jaw/teeth numbness, and most importantly a high degree of anxiety. I was with a friend today and he asked me how I have dealt with all this cancer stuff (he said it a little more diplomatically). I explained that it was frustrating and at first denied that it made me angry. But, with a few minutes reflection, I said, you know what, it does make me angry, it has robbed me of much of the happiness in my life. It should have been a glorious day. We were playing golf. The sun was out. It wasn’t too hot. The course was beautiful and in great shape. There was no one holding us up in front. There was no one pushing us from behind. My golf game was reasonable given that I only began playing again last month after almost a year off. I had some terrific shots. But, I was angry and annoyed by this new pain.

It ruined a perfectly beautiful day.

Is it a new tumor pushing again a facial nerve? Is it a new tumor growing on a facial nerve? If it is, what will they recommend? Will it be surgery that will cut a major facial nerve? The thought of that is too depressing to think about. I’ve been fortunate compared to others and have escaped major deformities. This would surely lead to some deformities, plus more difficulty talking and eating. Both of which are already difficult. My next clinic visit is Wednesday. I’ll ask my doctor what he suggests. I’m thinking an ultrasound of the area may provide some insight followed by a biopsy if the ultrasound turns up any suspicious areas. Or, maybe it will just go away. Wouldn’t that be nice.

If you haven't seen the "Bucket List" with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, I recommend it. It's about how two people live through the last year of their life with cancer. At one point during a difficult treatment period, Jack Nicholson says, "some lucky person out there is having a heart attack." It's sad, funny, and ironic all at the same time. They did some good research for this film.

Take care everyone.