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!

A Message To The Men

This post is primarily for men. But, if you’re a woman, and there’s a man in your life that can benefit from the information here, by all means, please read on and share what you’re learned!

Let me cut to the chase – if you’re 50 or over, and haven’t yet had a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer…get off your butt (pun intended) this instant and make an appointment!

Let’s review some of the facts, according to the “Colorectal Facts and Figures : 2014-2016” paper published by the American Cancer Society:

  • Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer
  • Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States
  • The majority of these cancers and deaths could be prevented by applying existing knowledge about cancer prevention, increasing the use of recommended screening tests, and ensuring that all patients receive timely, standard treatment
  • in 2010 only 59% of people age 50 or older, for whom screening is recommended, reported having received colorectal cancer testing consistent with current guidelines
  • Arizona ranks 44th in percentage of men 50+ who get the recommended screening
  • Getting a colonoscopy is way easier than you think! Literally, the worst part about it is the prep, which requires you to be very near a bathroom for about 12 hours. Other than that…it’s a nice nap!

Now, let’s posit for a moment that you’re younger than 50, and thus aren’t in the group yet for which regular checkups are necessary. If you have any of the following signs or symptoms, you should immediately check with your doctor:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Seriously, guys (and gals)…if you have any of these symptoms, go see a doctor. They can also be related to many other things like infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease, each of which needs to be treated in it’s own right. Don’t pull the man card and disregard the symptoms…think about your family and go in and get it done!

Let’s take a few moments and talk about some risk factors for colorectal cancer, as outlined by the American Cancer Society. If any of these fit you…well, I think you get the idea by now:

  • More than 9 out of 10 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are 50 years or older
  • A diet that is high in red meats (such as beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (hot dogs and some luncheon meats) can increase colorectal cancer risk
  • If you are not physically active, you have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer
  • If you are very overweight, your risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer is increased
  • Long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from colorectal cancer
  • Colorectal cancer has been linked to the heavy use of alcohol
  • If you have a history of adenomatous polyps (adenomas) in the colon or rectum, you are at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer
  • If you have IBD (Inflammatory Bowl Disease), your risk of developing colorectal cancer is increased, and you may need to be screened for colorectal cancer more frequently
  • If your family has a history of colorectal cancer, or several other types of cancers or syndromes, there is an increased risk

So, what happens if you blow all this off and throw the proverbial dart? Well, you might have the following to deal with in your life:

  • Surgery – you may have your entire colon and rectum removed, or maybe just part of it
  • Colostomy – you may have your small intestine attached externally to your abdomen, requiring an ostomy bag. This could be temporary or permanent, depending on your situation.
  • Chemotherapy : you might have to endure a rigorous routine of injecting super poisonous drugs in your body to combat residual cancer cells
  • Radiation : you might have targeted radiation therapy to treat colorectal or associated cancers
  • Other : there are a few other things that are on the fringes, like targeted therapy, that might be called for, and are situation dependent

Dudes, let’s be straight up about this. You have a life, work, possibly a family, and keeping yourself healthy is important to all that. Yeah, the possibility of having to deal with the above stuff stinks, but it is possible to detect things early enough that you can have a positive impact on the outcome. If you’re predisposed to potential colorectal cancer because of something like Ulcerative Colitis, like was in my case, then it’s even more important that you have regular colonoscopies. My cancer grew super quick…from almost nothing to a 6 cm tumor in about 7 months…so getting screened is not something to dally on! Think it can’t happen to you? I have a friend, about 47 years old, who had no reason to think he had colon cancer. After all, he was below the 50 year mark, and was generally healthy. But then he started seeing blood in his bowel movements, and decided to have it checked out. The diagnosis was colon cancer. He was fortunately able to be treated with a colon resection (just removing part of the colon) and some chemo, but the point is that, had he not decided to have it checked out, it could have been much worse.

Get screened…do it now for yourself, your family, and for God. Make the call now and get it done!

Mark