Another Milestone!

While Monday was my first day back at work, today was my first day going back to the IBM site in Tucson! It was great to see all my peeps that I haven’t seen for some time. I’m still feeling good, and the cold sensitivity that I had been experiencing seems to be diminishing a bit. Still no nausea, which is super good!

We went to a Jeremy Camp concert after work today, and had a great time. He has a song called “Overcame” with the lyric “Every victory is Yours.” That’s exactly how I feel about my recovery so far…every victory in the process is a victory for Jesus!

If all goes well, next week I’ll be in Houston! Rock on!

One Down, Eleven To Go

Got my chemo pump disconnected today and my Neulasta shot, thus completing my first round of chemo! Only eleven more to go.

So far I’m doing OK. I am absolutely having the cold sensitivity issue, where it hurts to swallow anything cold (like really hurts), with a nasty after taste, and my fingers are also more sensitive to cold when I get ice from the fridge. So far no nausea, which is super good, but I am a bit more tired than usual, which I don’t like. I had tons of energy before we started the chemo, and I’m kinda missing that. But, there could be worse things! I started back at work this week, which is super nice, and I’ll actually be going into the site tomorrow. My plan is to go to Houston next week as well, and I’m very excited about that.

I’m hoping all is well with everybody who is reading this blog! Thank you for your continued support and prayers…they mean more to me than I can probably communicate. You guys rock!

Disabling Site Registration

I’ve disabled allowing people to register as users of this site. I get nothing but bogus registrations all day long. It won’t prevent you from adding a comment to a post, which I moderate, or from registering for updates to the site, which you can do in the upper right-hand corner of the home page. If you do run into issues, just let me know!

First Day Of Chemotherapy

Well, the first day of chemotherapy has arrived! While I’m certainly not looking forward to it, I am looking forward to being done with it (March 2015), and being cancer free forever! Here’s how my day is going:

Many thanks to my beautiful wife Michelle for hanging with me all day at the chemo place. I love you very much!!

10:15PM : So, one of the side effects I was hoping to avoid kicked in during the Operations Team meeting at church tonight. Got there around 6:30PM with my ice cold bottle of Powerade, took a nice gulp, and immediately felt a pain in my throat accompanied by a not so nice after taste. That’s all due to the Oxaliplatin, and will likely resolve itself at some point. But, it may also stick around for a while, so I may have to curb my milk shake habit for a bit! I am very grateful that I’m not experiencing any nausea, because we all know how fun that is! All in all, I’m feeling well…even went out for my nightly walk. I’ll chalk this day up as a success and give all the glory to God!

2:45PM : Done! Off the IV tree, and hooked up to the pump. Gotta run with that for 46 hours, and then have it disconnected on Wednesday. Then I check back with the doctor on Friday to get my blood work done, and then I’m good until the next treatment. So far no side effects except some mild tongue numbing, and what appears to be an increased sensitivity to cold on my tongue. I do hear from Meta that it might be a few days before some of  the other stuff kicks in, so we’ll wait an see. But, for the moment, I’m doing super good!

Many thanks to everybody for their kind words, thoughts and prayers! As the saying goes, another milestone #inthebag!

2:00PM : Our good friends the Masons just brought me a super tasty mint Boba Tea! Thanks!

1:30PM : Apparently, along with the Oxaliplatin, I’ve been getting Folinic Acid…who knew! Next up, in thirty minutes, is another round of Magnesium and Calcium, for about 30 minutes, followed by Fluorouracil on a pump, which I’ll have for 48 hours.

1:20PM : Almost 90 minutes into my Oxaliplatin, and no side effects to speak of. No nausea, which is good. I seem to have a tiny bit of numbness in my tongue, but nothing big. So far so good!

12:00PM : Started my 120 minute (2 hour) course of Oxaliplatin. Hopefully no side effects! We did get to watch a little video about the chemo pump I’m headed home with. Bottom line…any issues with it, call the InfuSystem hotline!

11:22AM : Moving on to the Calcium and Magnesium drips. These are aimed at reducing the side effects of the other more vicious medicines. This will run for 30 minutes.

11:15AM : Stuff dripping through the IV…it’s all real now!

11:00AM : Blood tests came back normal…everything in the good range. Now it’s time for my pre-meds…anti nausea and some other stuff to help reduce the effects of the bad stuff. Who hoo!

10:45AM : After some waiting and the previous meeting, made it back to the chemo area. Got the IV hooked up to my portacath (PowerPort), got my blood drawn, and am waiting for the results (checking white/red cell levels). While not super painful, it did smart a bit when she (Jeanne) put the needle into my port. But, all things considered, it’s a super cool invention and a neat way to do an IV. It’s obvious that I’m going to be here today longer than I thought!

9:40AM : Met with Dr. Rosenberg to discuss a few things, and make sure everything was in order. Met with the financial person…wow, this stuff is expensive!

9:30AM : Arrived at Arizona Oncology

My First Trip As An Ostomate

I’ve just completed my first trip as an ostomate, and one word sums it up : WONDERFUL!

I’m just back from three days in Disneyland and California Adventure, followed by a day in San Diego, and I have to say this is one of my best trips ever. The time in Anaheim was spent with two families we are very close with (hello Hills and Masons!),

The Hills, Masons and Flemings take on Disneyland!

The Hills, Masons and Flemings take on Disneyland!

and we had an amazing time. The days were long…we closed down the park two of three days on the heels of getting there bright and early. The kids rode just about every ride in the park, and I logged 10+ miles a day of walking each day on my FitBit. Aside from the incredibly high prices for food in the park, and a parking fiasco on the first day, it was just about as perfect a trip as could be had. And I credit, for much, much of that to my ostomy.

Right from the get-go things were better than any previous trip. We decided to caravan to LA, which never would have happened in the past. I’d be way to nervous about all the bathroom stops I would have to make along the way to even attempt a caravan. But this time, we made it from Tucson to Blythe, CA without having to stop once! And then it was only to get a bit of gas and take a quick pee break. Things were already looking up!

It only got better as the trip went on. Mornings used to be my bad time, requiring several trips to the bathroom before I could even contemplate stepping outside. Thinking about going from the hotel to Disneyland, trying to find parking, taking a tram into the park, etc, was enough to install more fear in me than you could imagine. And, of course, I’d never even fathom eating anything until we got into the park, because I didn’t want to add anything to my digestive tract. But not this time! I started my day with a HUGE breakfast – two omelette’s and a bowl of cereal. Then we hopped in the car, tackled the LA freeways to get to Anaheim, got in lines for parking, got in lines for tickets, and got in lines to actually enter the park. And I didn’t care! I could have stood around for hours (well, I kinda did) and not have had to use the bathroom. It was literally amazing!

The rest of the trip proceeded pretty much the same way. If I wanted to go on a ride, I just got in line. No, “Yeah, give me a minute to go to the bathroom” before getting in line and then worrying literally every second if I could make it through the line AND the ride before having to use the bathroom again. I felt so free with regards to my intestines…it was very liberating and the least stressful trip I’ve every taken.

Bonus : never having to sit on a nasty toilet seat in a sketchy bathroom again! That in and of itself almost makes having an ostomy worth it.

Now, lest you think that everything is perfect, the trip was not without its challenges. Without painting too graphic of a picture, I’ve learned that, being right-handed, placement of toilet paper dispensers does indeed matter. And quality of toilet paper is somewhat important as well…in one bathroom, they were out of toilet paper, but had provided a roll of hand towels (that brown stuff). No absorbancy there at all. But, aside from that, the challenges were minimal, my appliance held up just fine to the rigors of Disneyland (in fact, I got five days out of it!), and I was so relaxed I was able to fully enjoy the trip.

Life is good for sure. Having an ostomy has opened up the world to me in a way that it hasn’t been for 14+ years. There are so many things I can do now that I literally can’t wait to get out and do them. My six weeks of doctor mandated recovery ends on the 20th (which is when my chemo begins), so I’m anxious to get back on the bike and back into my Jeep and start living life again! God had truly blessed me in so many ways!

Octreo Scan All Clear!

Hello!

Praise God! I got a call from my oncologist today, and the results from my Octreo scan last week are negative! That means there was no cancer found. So, as a result of my brilliant surgeon Dr. Schluender, both my PET and Ocrtreo scans show no discoverable cancer. We’re still on for chemo starting next week, but that’s just to knock down any rogue cells that may be lying undetectable at the moment.

In a nutshell, the Octreo scan injects radioactive isotopes (Indium-111 with a half-life of 2.80 days) into my blood, which seek out and attach to certain receptors on any carcinoid cancer cells. That happens on Day 1 of the test. The next day I went in (to Tucson Medical Center in this case) and began with a few 10 minute scans of various sections of my body (I had three of them). Then the resident doctor took a look, and decided on which scans he wanted more detail on. For me, that was one section. The next test is was a 45 minute 3D scan of that particular section. That’s a long time to hold still with your hands stretched above you head (my left shoulder was killing me!). Depending on the results of that scan, there may be more detailed scans required, and you may have to come back a third and possibly fourth day. Fortunately for me, I only had the one extra 3D scan, which I took as a positive sign. I left the hospital with a copy of the images on DVD…how cool is that!

There is no doubt in my mind that this is all God’s work. Given the size of my tumor, the fact that it had spread to my appendix and lymph nodes, and that it was particularly aggressive, this could have gone many different ways. But I had a God-provided surgeon who did an amazing job cleaning me out. And I have a God-provided oncologist who knows exactly what tests to order, and what the best next steps are. I feel comfortable that I’ll beat this thing in totality, and will be able to call myself a cancer survivor!

Next up is chemo on October 20th. I plan on doing a play-by-play blog of what happens and how I feel…provided I’m not getting sick or something. We’ll see how it goes, but check back just in case it works out!

Many thanks for all the prayers and support…we appreciate them very much! We ask for continued prayers for the effectiveness of the chemo and no crazy side affects (especially the neuropathy….I like my cold drinks!). And please pray for all the medical staff and doctors who are part of my treatment…that they know exactly what to do, and that the right ones are directed my way.

Much Love!

Mark

It’s The Little Things That Count

So, today we started out on a trip to Southern California with some very close friends of ours. We did the caravan thing the entire way which, pre-surgery, would never have happened. I would have come up with every excuse not to caravan because I knew that I’d have to stop for the bathroom all the time. The stress of that was usually too much for me to handle.

But not this time! I literally could have driven all the way to LA without having to stop for the bathroom. Didn’t even give it a second thought. Had it not been for all the Gatorade I drank during the drive, I would have made it longer than the 267 miles we made it! Life is so good after surgery…I’m loving it!

Thank you God!

Mark

A Collage Of Inspiration

A good friend of mine, Ian, sent me this today. He and a good friend of his were talking about my situation, and they decided to make a collage of inspirational stuff for me. Not only am I blown away by them doing this for me, but I love the verses they picked! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!Thank you Ian and friend!