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I’m Back

Daily_entry_41Well, I survived chemo.

I still have the usual suspects of side effects for this time in the round but as per the cycle I’m starting to feel better.

What I’m coming to terms with is that this isn’t another cycle. We’re discussing return dates to work, non-medically related plans and other normal life things.
Still, it feels good to be done, at least as far as we can predict.
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It’s the Cure that Gets You

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It struck me today as I was resting and feeling fairly awful that I’m most likely cancer free.

Of course I don’t know that for sure, so I’m tempering the thought, but I have completed the recommended treatment, which in 90% of cases of good risk pure Seminoma tumor like my own does defeat the cancer.

I’m reminded that on day zero of treatment back in the beginning of April and of course the time when I had a fast growing six centimeter tumor on my lymph node I was feeling physically excellent. Now 70 days later I feel awful, have had nearly no physical activity and spend that time eating mostly only what tasted good whenever. I am probably in the worst physical shape of my life in terms of fitness yet, unlike before, I will live.

I’ve taken some periodic pictures of myself during the course of my treatment which I haven’t looked at all together, because I know I’ll probably be shocked. Perhaps I’ll post them. In any case I’m looking forward to reversing the process, getting active again and eventually back in the gym, regrowing some hair, etc. Here’s hope that it’s not a false start before another round of treatment. I have some time before I’ll be able to do all that I want to anyway.

In the meantime, my daughter had a beautiful day today; her first dance recital, which went perfectly. Renee has posted some pictures on FaceBook and elsewhere. It was such a treat to see our daughter be so happy.

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Fighting Drowning, Literally and Figuratively

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Over the course of my week’s treatment, they put over two liters into my body intravenously per day. By the week’s end, like today, I’ve had 10 1/2 liters forced into my bloodstream.

This is in addition to one and a quarter liters that I’m supposed to drink per day, for another six plus liters orally.

IG_Fluids

By today, I feel like my skin is going to literally burst. My veins have retreated into my doughy flesh and my face takes on a completely different shape. My legs are tree trunks.

I wish I could say that I’m overjoyed that today is my last day, but I don’t feel that way. This has been my life now for nearly three months, and the next steps, like the outcome of the treatment, and returning to work, and to a more normal life; they all can seem like scary prospects.

So, instead I’m still taking things one day at a time, and over the next few days I’ll be focused on detoxifying and resting, counting the days until I feel a bit better, and following the remaining course of my non-chemo medication.

I guess the tumor is the thing that I have to remember. If all went according to plan, as of today or earlier the final nails have been driven into its coffin, and that’s why I’m here in the first place, to Live Live Live.

P.S. I feel like this is a really negative post, and I wish it wasn’t but it is an honest post. I expected day 20 to be different.

I have higher hopes for about 10 days from now, when the side effects from the round have usually diminished, and my whole outlook changes almost overnight:

Actually the nurses here have just said that it’s a common feeling for the last day of treatment to be anti-climactic, so I guess I’m more or less normal.

Renee and the kids were here today, and my parents were here yesterday which really helped. More thanks to you and to everyone who has been keeping me in mind as push through this final day.

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Transitions

I’ve decided to make some changes as this blog and I are transitioning to a new phase.

Lately I’ve felt that it had too much orange and since the beginning I’ve been looking for some artwork that made sense for the banner.

RedzikowoB_791722cWhen we lived in Poland we became familiar with an interesting road sign convention that was language neutral.

When entering a town, like Redzikowa in this case, the sign looked like this. When you were on any road heading out of the town, there would be a red diagonal stripe across the city indicating the town center was now behind you and you were moving away from it.

(On an aside, I remember seeing a few minutes of Amazing Race where they were in Poland and one of the teams didn’t get the convention and lost a lot of time going the wrong way).

Anyway, I am putting cancer town behind me, as reflected by the new blog banner.

Like many Thursday’s I can’t say today was easy. I am keenly aware that tomorrow is my last day of treatment, but I also know that Saturday is Neulasta day, and Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are the dreaded steroid days, so I feel like while tomorrow is symbolically important, it’s just another step in the journey to July 2nd.

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85.3% Done

Yesterday was a crappy day. I’m not sure why but I felt lousy all afternoon and evening. I was surprised because I’ve come to rely on ‘the pattern’ from prior rounds to help me anticipate the side effects and this was out of the ordinary.

I kept reminding myself that I’m almost done and the good news is that I’m feeling much better today.
I’m on my first medication today (hence the .3% added to end of the 85%) with visitors planned for tomorrow and Friday to help make the time go faster.
I’ll still have the recovery period to go over the next two weeks but at least it’ll be (hopefully) for the last time.

I’m thinking about skipping at least some of the steroids that are normal prescribed for the days following my treatment. They have nothing to do with the cancer fighting drugs; instead they augment the effectiveness of the anti-nausea drugs. For me, I haven’t had a lot of problems with nausea, but I have had really bad side effects from the steroids in terms of my sleeping. Anyway, we’ll see and I won’t make any changes until I discuss it with my doctor.
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The Final Countdown

I can’t believe I’ve begun the final round; that I’m incrementing the 16-20 set of treatment days; that I’m in the last box in the upper left widget of this blog.

On the one hand it’s taken forever to get here, but on the other I feel like it’s surprising that I’m this close to the end. (Although I’m hesitant to call it the end because we don’t what the PET scan will show.)
Today was easy, routine. I’m exclusively going to the same office most of this week. It’s the one which is slightly further from my home but I prefer it.

My Red Blood Cell counts are still low, and my onc says that it’ll take up to three months for them to get to my pre-chemo levels. They don’t give pro-crit (a RBC stimulating shot, which is similar to Neulasta for WBC stimulation) because some studies have shown that they have long term cancer implications. The only other treatment besides time is a blood transfusion.
The symptoms of my low reds are that I get winded from next to nothing, like walking up a single flight of stairs. With a more serious effort I see spots and need to sit down. (Red blood cells carry the oxygen from your lungs through your circulatory system to your organs and other body tissue. With less of them, the body inefficiently oxygenates).
But in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor complaint. Overall I’m handling the chemo very well, so I’m happy about that.
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Next After Chemo

With the forth and final round nearly upon us, I wanted to share the schedule post-chemo for the evaluation of my cancer.

There are two appointments I have which will determine what, if any additional treatment I’ll require.
On June 30th I have a PET scan at Memorial Sloan Kettering. The PET scanner is also a CT scanner and will tell us and the doctors two things. First the CT aspect will indicate the new size of the tumor. Secondly, the PET scan shows the level of biochemical activity in the tumor, but the most useful determinations will be made by comparing the June 30th PET to the one I had on March 24th.

The second appointment is on July 2nd with Dr. Motzer. On the 2nd Dr. Motzer and his colleague will review the scans and make their recommendation. His colleague is the surgeon who does the lymph node surgeries when they are required. continue reading »

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Additional Thanks for Saturday

Avi let me know that he was not the only contributor to our Saturday night dinner gift. Our check was taken care of by a group called the “jillies” (of which Avi is a founding member). They are a secret society of sarcastic supporters of a silly singer and a set of super supporters.

So an additional special thanks for the generosity of the jillies in making an enjoyable weekend even better. We certainly were surprised! The execution was perfect and we love you guys. (Sorry we misunderstood the note).

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A Most Excellent Weekend

People’s unbelievable generosity continuously overwhelms me.

Renee and I are back from our weekend getaway and we had a really amazing time.
On Friday night we met an old work colleague of Renee’s for a drink and then I left them to catch up while I went to meet my friend Bob. They ate at Pearl Oyster Bar, the restaurant of an author they both worked with, and were generously comped a treat.

Bob and I went to a tapas bar in his neighborhood, which was loud and yummy with excellent sangria. I hadn’t been in such a lively place in so long, I actually felt like I was in my 20s again, albeit with less hair đŸ™‚

Perhaps strangely on our actual anniversary date, it was so much fun for us to do our own thing and then meet back at the hotel. Usually we would never spend a children free night apart, so it felt somehow luxurious to do so. Anyway our true celebration plans were for all the following day, so we felt like Saturday was the more important day to spend together.

continue reading »

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Wedding Aniversary

Today is my five year wedding anniversary.   As crazy stuff happens in life (like Cancer), it loads the elements in your life with additional burden.  Under that burden, two things can happen.  Stresses and cracks can appear and previously hidden flaws can be rent open, or it can flex and compensate and bunker down, shouldering the new load, leaving it stronger now and in the future.

After five years in this marriage I can’t think of a better decision that I’ve made in my life.  And that becomes more and more clear with each year, each crisis, each joy; anything life sends.
To celebrate tonight Renee and I are going to New York city for the weekend.

We have many things planned; dinner at Tribeca Grill, lunch at Pearl’s Oyster Bar, a non-kids party, a Broadway show, Cirque de Soleil on Sunday and lots of uninterrupted sleep in a quiet hotel room with blackout shades and the Do Not Disturb sign on the door.
Children, while they are absolute joys in their own right, don’t always foster the ideal environment for chemotherapy rest and recovery, so it’ll be a nice change to be just Renee and I for a few days.
I’ve been feeling better since I stopped the steroids on Wednesday, although I was surprised to find that last night I was ready for bed at the same time the kids were, and I slept about 12 hours straight through.
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