Friday, September 19, 2008

What's Up With the Doc 25? - Cancer Complicates Everything

It's been an interesting 10 days since my last update. I started Tarceva on Thursday, September 11. On Friday my neck started hurting. More than a little. So I took Ibuprofen and even a dose of oxycodone over the weekend. Sunday saw the first red splotches on my face. The neck pain was no better on Monday morning so I called the oncologist and said, "Good news! Rash! Bad news! Neck pain!" Basically, once you have cancer every little stupid thing makes you worry that the cancer is progressing (or coming back, if you've been lucky enough to beat it completely into submission). He ordered MRI scans of my cervical and thoracic spines, which were done at 6am! on Tuesday. I actually wound up spending 105 minutes inside the scanner and by the time I was done, not only was my neck hurting but my old cancer related back pain was back and my shoulder was a little achy. Bleargh! The scan results actually DID demonstrate a metastatic lesion in my 5th cervical vertebral body, but before you get too disappointed, my oncologist and I don't think it's a) the cause of my pain, or b) necessarily new. It's a small, polite little metastasis, completely encased in the vertebral body. It hasn't broken through bone endplates and isn't threatening vital structures. I have never had an MRI of my cervical spine before and this is small enough that it could easily not have been picked up on the PET scan in March. So, really, not as bad as it sounds since we already knew I had metastatic disease. Changing treatment time is a hard time - we knew my cancer responded to the traditional chemotherapy. We knew it acted pretty aggressively before we started chemo. We're all worried that it will go a little crazy if the Tarceva doesn't work on it so the neck pain made me worry that that was happening. But it really, really doesn't seem like that's the case. The scan DID show herniated discs at C5-6 and C6-7. Especially the C6-7 disc DOES correlate with the location of my pain and I have to assume that's where it's coming from. How did I manage to herniate two cervical discs? Jumping around like an idiot at volleyball games is the only thing I can think of. Whatever. The pain is easily controlled with moderate doses of Ibuprofen so that's what I'm doing.

That was during the day on Tuesday. Tuesday night Hannah's volleyball team fought hard in a losing campaign against East Haven (1-3). Hannah came home in pain and told me that she had hurt her thumb in the third games. To make a very long story shorter, she gave herself a gamekeeper's thumb - pulled a little chip of bone off the lower thumb bone by pulling too hard on the ligament that holds that joint together. She was adamant that she wanted to keep playing (this is her left hand, not her hitting/serving hand) and her dad and I agreed that she wouldn't do herself any significant harm as long as she was able to tolerate the pain. So she went to the trainer to have her thumb taped for the Wednesday night match (also a losing campaign against Shelton, 0-3). Swelling and pain were a little worse after the match, but she played well and satisfied herself that she's not going to lose the rest of her season over this. Which was all good news, but by the time I went to bed Wednesday night my old friend the right shoulder had gone ballistic. I honestly cannot think of anything I did to it to bring on this awful pain again. It happened in August, about four weeks after it was injected and I was worried that I would have to have it injected again before the cruise, but with Ibuprofen and a little phonophoresis and electrical stimulation from my friendly PT it cleared up after about 4 days and had been pain-free until Wednesday. Once again it went from 0 to 10 in a couple of hours and I needed oxycodone for sleep Wednesday night. Thursday I visited the PT for more phono/e stim. And today it's about 50% better. I can't even begin to figure out what's going on with this shoulder but it's given me more pain and grief since February than cancer and chemo have.

As the last great insult, I have come down with Robert's nasty cold. It's just a cold, but cancer complicates everything so I have to be on the lookout for any sign of pneumonia, sinus infection, etc. Meanwhile I'm snotty, achy and have a very sore throat. Again, bleargh.

The Tarceva rash has become progressively worse since Sunday morning - I now have painful pustules across my chin, around my nose and scattered across my scalp. The remainder of my head, face, neck, upper chest and back are covered with blotchy red bumps. So, yay! Right? I will see the oncologist for labs on Tuesday and first scan on Tarceva will be sometime around October 21.

Meanwhile, the Free to Breathe Run/Walk is Sunday in Glastonbury. I am doing an interview on the Mary Jones Show (local AM radio) in 15 minutes and I think an on camera interview on Saturday morning for WTNH Channel 8 to promote the fundraiser. I'm still trying to collect donations to meet my goal. I'm pretty close! Lindsay and Jacob are coming up to walk with me. Robert, Hannah and Philip are also walking with me. My dad and stepmother are coming up to walk with me and some friends from work are walking as well. I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the support.

So I think that covers the last 10 days. Eventful but not so much from a cancer standpoint. Keep rooting for my Tarceva, donate for the race if you haven't already (, and enjoy every day. We're starting to feel just a little fall nip in the air and have turned off the air conditioner. How great is it that I'm about to enjoy another spectacular New England autumn?


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