Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Final CT Scan

The final CT scan is scheduled for this afternoon at 1pm. I just finished choking down my first 430ml bottle of Barium Sulfate. The taste hasn't improved since my last CT and I look forward to my second bottle in the next few hours. While sitting at my desk, performing my Application Engineer responsibilities, I ran my hand over my peach fuzz and was quite surprised to see my finger tips covered with little hairs...here we go again.
On a brighter note, I've started to go on the offensive against post-traumatic stress by learning to meditate. My last class is tonight and I have taken a shine to meditation. In the mid-90s, my wife and I moved into a funky enclave of Grand Rapids called Eastown. We lived in a huge 1900's beauty and were pleased to find that our next door neighbor was the local TM training center. We quickly befriended and enjoyed the 3 couples who lived there during our 5 year tour but I never participated in the training. I mentioned in an earlier post that my Onc suggested that I check out the work of John Kabat-Zinn and his mind/body approach to disease so I decided to contact the national TM organization through their website. They gave me a local number and I left a voicemail. A woman returned the call and after chatting for a few minutes she shouted, "I know you, Paul!" Jim and Kathy were one of the couples that lived in the house next door to us and I've had a great time catching up with them and how the other two couples are doing. I look forward to continuing meditation as part of my healing process. Here's hoping that this will lower my blood pressure, reduce my stress level and assist me on my road to recovery.
Stay tuned as I get involved in "Cancer Fit," a local post-chemo fitness program.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Long Time...

I just looked at the date of the last post and realized that it has been some time since I posted an update. As mentioned, this one threw me for a loop. I expected to sail through like the others with a minor bit of discomfort but I hit all the off ramps. Queasiness, lethargy, tingling finger tips and toes, burning while eating or drinking, eyesight getting fuzzy, constipation, high blood pressure, etc. etc. - "She's breaking up, she's breaking up!"
I had blood work yesterday and my neutraphils were 240. That is the lowest since my first chemo back in December. When I visited LHCP for the blood draw yesterday, for the first time they had me wait in the infusion center for the results. I must say, I was very uncomfortable and started to get nauseous just being there. I have heard stories about this but every treatment seemed to go fine and I started to feel welcome in the my little cubicle for the day.
I need to pick up a LCD BP monitor. My parents loaned me an old school version and just trying to read the dial while releasing the air and listening for the heart beats increases my BP. I end up doing it 3-4 times just to get a reading.
After a brief discussion with a colleague, I decided to slowly move my blog to a recovery blog and record my "return to normal". This will give me an opportunity to list all the steps I'm taking to rewire my physiology after months of poisoning. Laurie and I were discussing this because I'm convinced that my body has accepted the wave of medications as the "new normal". I'd prefer the normal to be more in line with the "no cancer" normal I was accustomed to during the majority of my days.
For now, I'm hoping to avoid catching a virus or an infection while my blood levels get back into fighting shape.
Last note: As we were walking out of the infusion center, I remembered to ask for my 2 liters of barium sulfate required for next week's final CT scan. To my delight, the nurse entered a closet labeled, "Cleaning Supplies." She exited, handed me the two bottles and I smirked, "How apropos..." She laughed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

and Done

Apologies for the belated post. That last go round knocked me silly. I faded in and out most of the day and felt queasy the whole time. 20 minutes after the Aloxi was infused, things started to get much better and that was followed by a phone call from my long-time friend, Ronny Las Vegas. He always has a story from Sin City that brings on good cheer. My eldest daughter paid a visit to feel the entire LHCP experience. Unfortunately Liz was having a rough day so Barb took over the delivery of H and O today. Although I wasn't the last one out, I was intrigued throughout the day about a fellow traveler across the way who had been infusing a bag the size and color of a 2 liter bottle bottle of Coke. Turned out to be an Iron infusion so if you have ever spent any time in the U.P. and marveled at the tannin water in the rivers, that bag looked mighty close. We were out of there by 4:30 after giving Liz a hug as she was desperately trying to finish up her paperwork to go home and rest.

Felt queasy the rest of the day so I just layed around the house glad that the easy part is now over and the tough work of healing is starting again. Blood work in two weeks, final CT in 4 weeks. It is winding down folks.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lymphemo #6

Well, I never thought this day would come. We were running a little late and if you know me, this a perfect way to get me worked up. My BP was 140/101. Oh, is that wheelchair for me? I think some of that was anxiety over the last poisoning but...ooofh...that's a new high.

We discussed a few things with my Onc:

  • Get out and get moving this high BP may be coming from the weight gain.
  • The edema in my left ankle and foot is back and more pronounced in the evening...we should keep an eye on that
  • I should secure a portable BP cuff and regularly take my pressure to make sure I don't have white-coat hypertension something that was suggested in my past.
  • Look into programs by Dean Ornish and John Kabat-Zinn
  • Look into meditation classes to reduce your stress level.
  • The adriamycin can cause long term effects on the heart muscle. My genetic proclivities lean toward heart disease and diabetes so I need to be more attuned "heart healthiness"
  • Tonic water has a little quinine so that may help my night time foot cramping. These bouts have me waking up with a start in the wee hours of the morning only to find my toes trying desperately to form an OK sign. Me = Yelping and struggling to find my contorting appendages. Agony.

We pulled the blood work from my port and it appears that my stats are better than Lymphemo #5 so we are good to go. On to the final RCHOP while trying to stay very relaxed and peaceful all while Howard Dean's infamous 2004 primary primal scream is looking for overdue release "YEEEAAH!"

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Final Chemo Bloodwork

Early Tuesday afternoon, Laurie and I made yet another trip to the LHCP for my regular blood draw. We are usually given early appointments but for some reason this one was scheduled later in the day. The waiting room was quiet for a change. Very few infusers milling about as my anxiety level started to rise. I have heard stories of chemo patients getting nauseous when they enter an infusion center but I have not had that sensation. My manifestation is butterflies or panic even though my side effects have been minimal. Odd.

After tightening the band around my upper arm, the phlebotomist slapped my inner elbow a few times and felt around for some good veins but the right side was not cooperating. I offered the left arm and she was still finding it tough to locate a proper target. Eventually, she shrugged and took aim. She drew my blood into a large syringe instead of the two vaccumn tubes normally used. After withdrawing the needle from me followed by the obligatory Looney Tunes band-aid, she stuck the needle into each of the test tubes to fill them up. This was a new approach and it made more sense because no matter how careful they are when switching the tubes with the needle in your arm, there is still a little pain that is avoided with this new technique. Bravo to nuance.

Several minutes later, Liz emerged with the results. All the numbers were as expected but my neutraphils are down to 700. Those who have been taking notes know that this is too low. Normal is in the 3500 range. After my first chemo treatment, this plummeted to 180. Neutraphil levels indicate your ability to fight off infections. The number will continue to climb over the next week and I have yet to wander around with a mask on. The work I do does not require me to leave the house and I'm a habitual hand sanitizer now so my threat level is probably BLUE.

Looking forward to Lymphemo #6.