The Final Stretch

Hello!

Last week completed my third of four chemo treatments, so I’m 75% of the way done! One more in two weeks and then I can hopefully, forever, close this chemo chapter of my life.

Not gonna lie to you…it’s been getting worse and worse with each treatment. The hair loss seems to have stabilized, and is starting to grow back in, which, to be honest, I was enjoying it being gone! But, everything else gets worse with each treatment. The fatigue, lack of energy, shaky muscles, and dark places my mind ends up continue to get the best of me during treatment week and the 4-5 days after the last infusion. To be blunt, it completely, totally sucks, and I’m tired of the toll it’s taking on my mind, body and family. I would not wish this on anybody, ever.

Today I’m feeling like I’m starting to recover from the infusion finally, so that’s keeping me a bit optimistic. We’ll get this last one done at the end of May, and move on…to radiation! Fortunately, I’m told it’s nothing like chemo. Let’s hope.

I hope everybody has a great week…thank you for the continued prayers, thoughts and support…and I’ll let you know how things progress!

Mark

Half-Way!

Hello!

Today ended my second cycle, marking the half-way point to being done with this craziness! So far, not much is different than expected. The fatigue hits me pretty hard during the end of the week, and my appetite is pretty much gone, but aside from that, all is well. Except, my hair situation!

No Hair!But, amazingly, I still have my eyebrows! So I’m very grateful for that! Using lots, and lots of sunscreen these days! By the way, that’s only a difference of 8 days!

I hope everybody has an amazing weekend!

Mark

And There It Goes…

…my hair, that is!

Hello! Last week I started loosing my hair. It pretty much started exactly when my oncologist said it would (Day 17). I first noticed it when I tried pulling some from my head it it worked! Fortunately, I keep my head pretty closely shaved, but you can for sure tell it’s starting to go on its own. I’m honestly starting to look like I have a case of scurvy (you can look…seriously…I don’t mind). But, there is an upside to all this! I’ve noticed that (1) the haircut I got a few weeks back is lasting way longer than usual, and (2) I’m not having to shave as often because it’s not growing back as quickly as it usually does. To me, those are two bonus items that make it all worth it! The one downside is that Alex is constantly trying to mess with my eyebrows…the only area that I don’t really want to loose!

This week I start my second cycle of chemo. By all accounts, this week should be worse than my first week. So, if you try to get in contact with me, and I’m slow to respond, I’m probably just taking a nap!

I’d like to ask everybody a favor. If you don’t mind, I’d love it if you shifted your thoughts and prayers a few different directions this week. First, for Samantha, that she has an amazing week and that she is able to be at school every single day, feeling absolutely wonderful, loved, and being able to do all the things a teenager should be doing! Second, for my brother, Scott, who is facing some health issues himself. That his insurance approves the necessary tests quickly, and that they yield the results that help define the perfect treatment regime to help get him healthy again. Third, for Michelle, that she feels amazing this week as well, that she feels rested, and that she gets a break from all the medical junk that she has to deal with on a weekly basis. And finally, for Alex, that he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, that he feels empowered in every aspect of his life, that he has laser like focus on the things that are important in his day, and that he knows he’s loved tremendously!

I hope everybody has an amazing, healthy week! We can’t thank you enough for the continued prayers, thoughts, gift cards, and general well wishes. You are all an amazing family to us!

Mark

Week One…Done!

Hello!

Well, chemo week one of twelve is now history! Overall, I’m feeling super fatigued, weak, bloated (gained 5 pounds of what better be fluids!), but not a single bit nauseous. I think I’m basically experiencing the traditional effects of the treatment, so I’m going to say that all is going as expected.

I met with my radiation oncologist today to discuss the delay in getting that started. He said that this sort of chemo would heighten the effects of the radiation in such a way that it would not be good for my body at all. He doesn’t know of any literature that suggests doing the chemo and radiation in tandem was a good idea. I was fully prepared to convince him otherwise, that I could handle them both, but I decided to heed is professional advice. So, we’ll look at starting it up about 6-8 weeks after chemo is done (probably in July).

We want to thank everybody who visited us, prayed for us, thought about us, and did some very cool things for us! Thank you for the visits at chemo, the food brought there and to our home, the gift certificates, the offers for assistance (rides, etc), and to the person or persons who did that thing for us at AZ Oncology…we can’t thank you enough! We love you all, and are so blessed to be able to call you our friends and family!

While it has been a tough week, we’ve seen God’s hand in quite a bit of it. One of Samantha’s doctors called out of the blue (literally minutes after a prayer request was sent) and set in motion some things that would otherwise take months to get done. I’m tolerating my treatment as well as expected, and we’re about to celebrate Easter!

We hope everybody has an amazing Easter weekend!

Off to take a nap! 😉

Mark

Day Two Update

Hello,

Thought I’d post a quick Day Two update on my chemo! Yesterday, Day 1 (obviously!), I received the full gauntlet of “Carboplatin + Etoposide” as was scheduled. The whole thing was kind of interesting. When I arrived at the chemo area, the nurses had to do a ton of research to ensure that I was getting the treatment they thought I should! The reason for that is because the treatment I’m getting is not typical for colon cancer patients, but more for lung cancer patients. After some very thorough research, they started my day off with three different anti-nausea drugs! I’ll admit that had me a bit concerned. But, after all was said and done, I finished a very long day feeling tired but not nauseous. No neuropathy (which is to be expected), and just some fatigue. So far so good!

Today I received just the Etoposide meds, and no anti-nausea drugs. The day was much shorted, and I’m doing great!

Tomorrow is another Etoposide treatment, then Neulasta on Friday, and then I’m off cycle for two weeks.

They did say that I would loose hair this time around. But, that’s not really an issue for me.

Thank you very much to those who have visited and/or brought me and the family food! You are all amazing friends! And thank you to my awesome family for traveling this road with me with so much strength and love. You guys are the best!

Have a great day!

Mark

Chemo, Take Two

Hello,

Last week Michelle and I met with Dr. Rosenberg to discuss my chemo plans. I knew something was afoot because earlier that day my radiation guy’s assistant called and left me a message letting me know that my planning session in two weeks was cancelled, but that he still wanted to see me. I was hoping that meant no radiation at all! But, that was not the case.

Michelle and I spent a good hour with Dr. Rosenberg listening to what he had to say, and peppering him with questions. The short of it is this:

  • I have/had a “unique” form of colon cancer that doesn’t act like traditional colon cancer. He basically figured this out when he sent my tumors from the two surgeries back to pathology for more analysis, and got some information he didn’t have before. The good news is that they were the same both times. The “bad” news is, that because they don’t act like traditional colon cancer, my first chemo treatment – the 5FU minus the Oxaliplatin (if you recall it gave me neuropathy) – isn’t very effective against what I have/had.
  • “My” cancer acts more like small cell cancer, which is typically found in areas like the lungs. That being the case, the chemotherapy that we’re going to be using is called “Carboplatin + Etoposide,” and it has a 50 – 85% effective rate against small cell cancer.
  • However…despite the fact that it is so effective against “traditional” small cell cancer, because my situation is unique, the actual cure percentage for people like me is less understood. But, he’s estimating it at better than 50% for sure (of course, that’s just saying it may or may not!).
  • The side effects I’ll likely experience this round are fatigue (worse than the first time), hair loss, and a decrease in my red/white blood cell counts, as well as platelets. We’ll be monitoring those closely. It’s unlikely there will be any neuropathy or cold intolerance this time, and nausea isn’t a problem because of the anti-nausea drugs they give at the same time.
  • I’ll be doing four three week cycles, for a total of 12 weeks of chemo. It will be one week on, with two weeks off. The “on” week will entail three visits to Arizona Oncology for chemo drugs, and a fourth visit for a shot of Neulasta, which helps keep my white blood cell counts up. So, a Monday thru Thursday regimen every three weeks.
  • Here’s the kicker – after chemo is done, they still want me to do radiation. That will be five weeks of radiation every day (Monday – Friday). Fortunately it’s only like a 15 minute session, but I’ll spend more time driving there than actually getting treatment! We’ll probably start this sometime in June or July.

That, then, is everything in a nutshell. I start my treatment next Tuesday, 3/22. I was going to start on Monday, but it’s Michelle and my anniversary, so we figured we’d go ahead and celebrate while we can!

I’m not planning on doing a blow-by-blow account of my experience like I did last time, unless I feel that what I have to say could potentially help somebody else going through the same thing. So, the old saying, “no news is good news” will be in play during the course of my treatment. If you don’t hear anything, you can assume that all is well!

Our family thanks for you for all the support everybody has given us as we continue to battle this and the many other health issues we’re experiencing! Your thoughts, prayers, visits, gift cards, meals, rides for the kids, and everything else means a ton to us! We truly love you all!

Have an amazing week!

Mark

Double Shot Of Fun!

Good Evening!

Had my oncologist appointment today, and the verdict was as expected: the cancer has returned. Total bummer, but not unexpected news. As I mentioned before, my surgeon did get all the suspect nodes out, including an additional one that was hiding, so, again, I’m theoretically “cancer free.”

A few things are going to happen before we settle on a treatment. If you recall, way back in 2014 when this all started happening, I basically had two different cancers. So, my doctor is requesting some additional pathology work done on that 2014 sample and the one from last week to determine exactly which of the cancers we’re dealing with. But, regardless, it looks like I’m in for a two-fer: radiation and chemotherapy.

The radiation is for making sure everything is destroyed in the local area of the nodes. Had it not returned to a place that it previously existed, my doctor might not be recommending this course. But, it did, so here we are. I meet with a radiation doc this Friday, and we’ll figure out a plan. From what I’m told, we’re looking at possibly 4-6 weeks of radiation treatment every day. Fortunately, each treatment, I’m told, is only like 15 minutes. But, again, we’ll know more soon.

The chemo is for hitting the cancer systemically again…trying to get the bugger wherever it might be hiding. My previous chemo treatment was for the same purpose, but didn’t seem to do the trick. So, we try something new.

For what it’s worth, my doctor can’t think of another case he’s had where cancer has returned like this before. So, I’m pretty unique! And, in somewhat uncharted waters.

That pretty much sums it up! I’ll fill in the details as they become more clear to us. We appreciate all the thoughts, prayers, dinners, gift cards, and love that has come our way!

Mark

Some Good News!

Good Afternoon!

Michelle got her biopsy results today, and she came back all clear! That’s a very direct answer to prayer, so we appreciate everybody who spent time praying for that result. God is good!

I’m meeting with my oncologist on Monday to see the results of my biopsies. I think we know what they’ll be, but hopefully the chemo will be easy peasy. But, you never know…they could just come back clear as well! Stranger things have happened. For the moment, I’m healing well and slowly getting back to normal activities.

Many thanks to everybody for meals, smoothies, prayers, thoughts, calls and social media comments. We love you all very much!

The Flemings

Well, That Was Fun!

Just a quick update to let everybody know that both Michelle and I are done with our surgeries and back home resting! Each procedure went well, and now we just wait for our biopsy results so we can meet with our doctors. How crazy is it that two people in the same house have surgeries in less than 12 hours!

We want to thank everybody for their prayers, thoughts, well wishes and help in pulling this all off. Thank you to those who visited us at the hospital, even if we didn’t get to see you, and to those who helped with the kids and all the driving that needed to be done. We love you all tremendously! God is good!

We’ll of course update everybody with results when we know them!

Have an awesome week!

Mark and Michelle

 



The Surgery 411

Hello,

Michelle and I met with my surgeon today – the same one that’s done my previous two operations – and we now now just slightly more than we did going in!

The gist of it is this: there are two nodes that need to be removed, and she knows pretty much where they are, but their exact location she can’t know until she gets in and can see for herself. PET scans are only so good! Her intent is to go in laproscopically and remove the nodes but, when she gets in, she may have to bail on that method depending on their placement. And if she has to bail, then the alternate method is to go in through the abdomen with a standard incision. It appears that they’re very close to the artery that supplies the small intestine and if she finds them attached to that, she won’t be able to excise them at all. That would mean something like radiation treatment. But, again, she can’t know until she crawls inside!

Best case scenario, the procedure takes about 45 minutes and I’m home that same day. Worst case, it takes longer, involves an incision in my abdomen, and I’m in the hospital for a couple days while they make sure everything starts up again.

Let’s all pray for the best case to be the real case!

They’ll be calling me in the next few days to schedule the procedure. But it won’t happen until at least the first week of March.

Good news is that she’s cleared me to resume all my activities…including riding a bike! Just in time for the awesome weather!

Mark