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40 Years Old, 10 Years Married, and 5 Years Cancer Free

This summer was one of many milestones. I turned 40, had my tenth wedding anniversary, and last week I met with my oncologist for my regular post-cancer follow-up appointment.

My blood test showed zero sign of cancer.

Five years of remission is significant because it’s widely acknowledged in the oncology world that when there’s no reoccurrence recorded in that interval it’s long enough to say statistically that a person is cured.

That acknowledged, it’s telling to me that this fact is now less significant then the other two big number related events of the summer: the start of my fifth decade and my second decade being married to my amazing wife, Renee.

All in all, tons to celebrate and I’m so grateful for each part of it.

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Two Years Clear

I had my ‘two year post chemo’ test and scan last week and my oncologist confirmed via quick chat that it’s still showing no new tumor growth.

I have a proper appointment next week to discuss future surveillance schedules and to really understand the statistical significance of the two year mark. I’ve previously understood two years to be significant, but I’ll be listening more closely than before now that it’s here.

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One Year Clear

On Tuesday June 29th I got a call from my Oncologist, telling me that my recent CT scan looked “terrific”.

The conversation marked one year since I finished my Chemotherapy.

I will now get quarterly chest X-rays and a CT scan every six months.

The first two years carry the highest risk of reoccurance, so I’m halfway there.

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Six Months of Remission Behind Me

I saw my oncologist earlier this week for my (approximate) six month surveillance follow up. Based on a recent blood test and a CT scan from about a month ago, I’m still Cancer free.

When I started, two years ago this past February 15th, there was very clear consensus about how long I’d have a heightened risk. As part of the total population of those with Seminoma based tumors, there was enough data to make statistically significant conclusion about the period of likely re-occurrence.

Since then, with my second tumor and treatment choice, I’m part of an increasingly narrow population, and there is no concensus. So, it required some discussion, but we agreed to the following plan:

  • Monthly blood screen for tumor markers
  • Immedediate CT in case of any suspiciiously elevated blood levels
  • Otherwise, CT Scan of Chest, Abdomen and Pelvis every six months

That plan will continue for two years, until March of 2011, after which I’ll likely go to an annual CT and less frequent blood screens.

So, if all goes well, I won’t be posting here until September!

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CancerCare’s Walk for Hope

cclogoI continue to be extremely grateful to all of you for your help during the last four months.  I’ve committed to taking all that kindness that I absorbed and returning it back to the world, and doing that in honor of all of you.  Ironically, this means returning to the well (that’s you, people 🙂 ).

In Fairfield on Sunday, September 13th  Renee and I will be walking in CancerCare’s Walk for Hope, an annual CancerCare fundraiser.  If you can, please donate, walk with us, or even just spread the word to others who might be interested.  All the funds will be used by CancerCare to help other cancer patients in their fight.

So far we’ve raised $595 $645 $745 $870 and added three team members, which is an awesome start. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed $$ and will contribute their time.

To donate yourself or learn more, please visit our team’s online home. (will open in a new tab or window).

sponser Ted

More Info About CancerCare:

continue reading »

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Thank you, thank you, thank you

Thank_you_smallIt’s been a blazing fast five weeks since I got the all clear from Dr. Motzer. Everything that had been put on hold for this cancer battle roared back to the foreground. Work, socializing, normal exercise and activity…they all returned to center stage. On the other hand, cancer stuff (like this blog) were neglected almost immediately.

Not surprisingly, the question I hear the most often is: “how are you feeling?” The answer is that I feel great! My hair is finally back, and I only have one niggling remaining symptom. Otherwise my energy is more or less normal, my fitness level has improved, and I even got some sun. It is/was a big shift going back to work after months off, but it was nice to focus on something else besides my health.

But enough about me. This post is really about all of you.

I really don’t know the words that can express how important all of you were in helping me maintain the right attitude during this whole thing. It’s just something you have to experience to truly understand, although I certainly don’t wish it on anyone. But let me just say this, it is of critical importance and you all delivered it in bountiful quantities. continue reading »

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Remission Mission

victory

It’s been a few days since I found out my tumor was gone. I returned to work yesterday; a big transition from the life I had gotten used to. It was a big transition for Renee too. We had become an efficient family unit. When I wasn’t having treatment and I was feeling decent, we took turns with the daily tasks, a well oiled nuclear family unit.

The news that I am in remission continues to sink it slowly. I will never be return to my pre-cancer life. This seems like an obvious statement but it is something I think I did after my initial diagnosis and surgery. At that time I “only” had a 15% chance of recurrence and in my mind, body and psyche I was done with cancer. Of course this was only to find out a year later that I was part of that unlucky 15%. That mental state made my second diagnosis as shocking as the first. So, as a result, I’m taking this “all clear” message with the proverbial grain of salt. I’ll really feel relieved in two years, after which the chance of recurrence lowers to close that of the rest of the population. (The most likely location of a third recurrence is unknown, so it’s really like the rest of the population.)

In addition to this mental state, I will also have a PET scan and CT in October. This is to confirm that the changes in my armpit and neck lymph nodes that showed in the CT scan have resolved as expected. The conclusion is that those lymph nodes were irritated by the chemo, so they’ll be looking for those to have diminished. (It makes sense because the lymph nodes play a key role in the human immune system, and chemo has a major immuno-suppressive effect.)

In the short term, I still have a handful of small but annoying remaining side effects. The most apparent is my shortness of breath and lightheadedness. For example, after I go up a single flight of stairs I have to stop and lean on something as my heart goes into overtime. Or after sitting for a long time I stand up and stretch, I get an intense head rush where I feel like I’m going to lose my balance and usually grab onto something.

Both of these can be explained by my shortage of red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs throughout the circulatory system. Less RBCs, less oxygen to the brain and muscles. In a couple weeks my bone marrow should have reasonably replenished my RBCs, but it’ll be three or four months before I’m at my normal pre-chemo counts.

It’s amazing how life returns to normal during the minute-by-minute rush. But it’s during the rare quiet times that I’m reflective of the experience. Ironically I’m expecting some depression sometimes in the next few weeks or months, as I felt a couple of months after my initial diagnosis. We’ll see.

I also want to share a link that some of you have sent to me. There’s some truth to it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/30/health/30case.html

Regarding this blog, I have a few more posts in me. I have a few people to thank 😉 Stay tuned for a bit more.

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ALL CLEAR

Dr. Motzer says my scan results are what you’d hope to see, and no surgery or further chemo is required.

He recommended another ct/pet is 3-4 months for the armpit but felt the chemo just irritated the lymph nodes.

More later….

(Posted from my mobile phone)
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Big Day

(11:18 AM EDT) On the 11:17 to GCT for my chemo results.
(Update 12:29 PM EDT) Arrived New York, walking to 68th & York.
(Update 01:28 PM EDT) Waiting, relaxed.  Resigned to my fate. Waiting room is relatively empty. Could cancer be on vacation?
(Update 01:49 PM EDT) Waiting now in an exam room. Suddenly a bit nervous.
(Update 03:16 PM EDT) Lymph node is now 0.8 cm by 0.8 cm (1.0 cm is normal) with no abnormal sugar uptake. Previously the tumor was absorbing 6X what normal tissue requires, to fuel its growth. (All this info is only from the ct and pet report. We haven’t seen motzer). I did have some enlarged lymph nodes in my neck and armpit, but they don’t look cancerous. So far good news but we’re waiting for motzer’s opinion.
(Posted from my mobile phone)

(11:18 AM EDT) On the 11:17 to GCT for my chemo results.

(Update 12:29 PM EDT) Arrived New York, walking to 68th & York.

(Update 01:28 PM EDT) Waiting, relaxed.  Resigned to my fate. Waiting room is relatively empty. Could cancer be on vacation?

(Update 01:49 PM EDT) Waiting now in an exam room. Suddenly a bit nervous.

(Update 03:16 PM EDT) Lymph node is now 0.8 cm by 0.8 cm (1.0 cm is normal) with no abnormal sugar uptake. Previously the tumor was absorbing 6X what normal tissue requires, to fuel its growth. (All this info is only from the ct and pet report. We haven’t seen motzer). I did have some enlarged lymph nodes in my neck and armpit, but they don’t look cancerous. So far good news but we’re waiting for motzer’s opinion.

(Posted from my mobile phone)

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CT / PET Scan Day

Today I’ll be live blogging my trip to sloan to get the scans that will eventually be essential in determining my post chemo status: remission and surveillance, surgery or more chemo. I likely won’t learn anything myself, but some radiologist somewhere will. Ill hear the results on thursday, which I will also live blog. (Today is a bit of practice, blogging wise.). The posts will short, twitter style
(Update 07:58 AM EDT) On the 7:50 express to GCT.
(Update 09:10 AM EDT) Arrived grand central.
(Update 10:02 AM EDT) In the waiting room at MSKCC.
(Update 11:24 PM EDT) Drinking and shooting up (it’s not like it sounds; contrast fluid and radioactive isotope)
(Update 01:15 PM EDT) All done, super hungry!
(Update 04:36 PM EDT) “Bridgeport, bridgeport stop is next. Last four cars, bridgeport.”
(Posted from my mobile phone)

Today I’ll be live blogging my trip to sloan to get the scans that will eventually be essential in determining my post chemo status: remission and surveillance, surgery or more chemo. I likely won’t learn anything myself, but some radiologist somewhere will. Ill hear the results on thursday, which I will also live blog. (Today is a bit of practice, blogging wise.). The posts will short, twitter style

(Update 07:58 AM EDT) On the 7:50 express to GCT.

(Update 09:10 AM EDT) Arrived grand central.

(Update 10:02 AM EDT) In the waiting room at MSKCC.

(Update 11:24 PM EDT) Drinking and shooting up (it’s not like it sounds; contrast fluid and radioactive isotope)

(Update 01:15 PM EDT) All done, super hungry!

(Update 04:36 PM EDT) “Bridgeport, bridgeport stop is next. Last four cars, bridgeport.”

(Posted from my mobile phone)

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