Thursday, September 24, 2009

What's Up With the Doc 76? - Cancer Keeps Rolling, Too

Monday night I experienced some shortness of breath when I went to bed. This was a new symptom for me so I called my oncologist on Tuesday. He examined me and everything seemed fine, but wanted a CT angiogram of my chest to make sure the shortness of breath wasn't being caused by a pulmonary embolism (I've lost count, this was either my 3rd of 4th of these for that reason). There was no pulmonary embolism, but the CT scan showed a new, small pleural effusion (fluid around the lung) on the right. It also showed continued growth of multiple nodules in both lungs as well as the liver and adrenal metastases.

The shortness of breath when lying down hasn't been bothering me since Wednesday - I don't know why - so I'm back to my baseline symptoms with shortness of breath after minor exertion, well-controlled pain and only occasional, controllable nausea. My activities haven't changed, just my knowledge of the scoreboard. Right now my cancer and I hold each other at bay and I'm very thankful for that.

Next week I go back for Zometa and Gemzar (who knows? maybe it's slowing things down and it doesn't bother me much so we'll keep it up). The leaves are starting to change but there has been no real nip in the air yet. Everyone is busy and enjoying life.


Friday, September 18, 2009

What's Up With the Doc 75? - Life Keeps Rolling

It's been a very busy week, hence Friday morning before I can get out my update. I had chemo on Tuesday and that went without any problems. My oncologist is out for a family emergency so I saw one of the other doctors in the practice and we talked a little about what may be coming. As I mentioned in my last note or the one before, my liver function tests are rising. This could either be because the tumors in the liver are growing or because of the chemo itself. I'm pretty sure, for my part, that it is tumor growth because they started up a little before I even started this chemo and, if you remember, they were going up pretty quickly before I started my very first chem over 18 months ago. If they keep going up, regardless of the cause, they will force stopping the chemo when they reach about 5 times the normal upper limits. Not to be a downer, but this is the last approved chemo for my cancer, so that would be the end of active treatment phase. I continue to get Zometa to slow down the progression of the metastases in the bones and prevent fractures. My bone pain has gradually been increasing over the last couple of weeks, so this week we increased the oxycontin to 30 mg twice a day and I am taking 3 - 4 doses of rescue oxycodone to keep the pain controlled. The really good news in that is that the pain is still very controllable and those are still moderate doses, so I presume I'll keep going to the oncologist for Zometa until something happens to make it moot - fracture through that hip lesion, for instance, that would probably put me in a wheelchair - or until I opt for Hospice only care.

Except for the day after chemo, when I felt truly awful for a few short hours with pain and exhaustion, my energy level is good, nausea is minimal, appetite is good and I haven't lost any more weight. There's lots of interesting stuff going on at the hospital regarding Employee Health, H1N1 flu, practice realignments, etc. so plenty of administrative work to do and I have felt well enough to throw myself into it with abandon. Only the CT DOT is trying to interfere, doing major bridge work over the CT River so it took me an hour and 45 minutes to get to work yesterday. Guess I'll be traveling the back roads for the next couple of weeks.

Other than that, volleyball season has begun! Hannah's team played Tuesday and last night and won both matches 3-0. She made the paper this morning for her 3 blocks, 2 service points and 6 kills! Next week will see at least one more challenging match plus their biggest rivalry with the next town over (although that team is starting out 0-2) so the excitement continues to build around her senior season. Philip is doing better in school than ever before in his short but tall life - go Philip!

The leaves have just started to show a little bit of color, temperatures are cooling and it really does seem like there is a touch of fall in the air. The air conditioner almost never comes on but it's always comfortable so I'm enjoying the season transition very much. The recliner is still the place to be in my house and we are enjoying all the great sports on TV.

The only directed thoughts I can ask for right now would be aimed at my liver function tests, so tell those hepatocytes to take a deep breath and chill out. Next chemo September 29.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

What's Up With the Doc 74? - 18 Months!

Just a quickie this week to say that all is well. I tried coming off the steroids and wound up feeling like a flaccid penis that was also nauseated so I'm back on the crack. I doubled my Protonix and the heartburn isn't bothering me. First volleyball scrimmage was yesterday and I made it through 2 1/2 hours thanks to the new stadium seats Robert snagged.

Having great fun helping (minimal help needed) Hannah with AP Physics.

Philip broke his finger in gym class on Tuesday so is out of gym class for a couple of weeks and SO VERY SAD ABOUT THAT. Not.

Emma's vet school applications go in this week.

Lindsay is coming out for the day tomorrow and says she has SO MUCH GRAD SCHOOL STUFF TO TALK ABOUT that it will probably drive me crazy.

Next chemo on Tuesday.

My one serious note comes after an email from my colleague who was diagnosed with stage IV cholangiocarcinoma in December. She is feeling demoralized because treatment is not producing improvement in her cancer and she knows of so many people who have been diagnosed around the same time or since and are finishing or finished treatment and being flipped over into the survivor column. That's the whole problem I've had with the survivor label. I've been alive (surviving) 18 months since diagnosis as of tomorrow. But I am not a survivor. I am still in active treatment and will remain in active treatment until I am transferred to hospice because there are no more approved, effective treatments for my cancer. I have been so blessed with these 18 months and the love and life they have contained. I just wish there had been that survivor column to even aim for.

Thank you all for all you have contributed to these 18 months.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's Up With the Doc 73? - A Much Better Week

Wow! I am very thankful to report that the last two weeks seem to have been an anomaly of feeling miserable and I am much, much, much better this week. I haven't had to take anything at all for nausea for the last 3 or 4 days, my pain is adequately controlled, I've made it to work every day and I got chemo and Zometa on Tuesday. Yay! I don't know whether I was dealing with a viral gastrointestinal illness or what, but I tolerated the Gemzar on Tuesday with only moderate fatigue the next day and some increased pain for about 24 hours. I'm still worried about those stupid liver function tests, but as long as I feel good won't ask to repeat them until early October. Maybe they'll give us an idea about whether or not the tumor is responding to the Gemzar.

I'm having some moderately severe heartburn today, even on Protonix, so I'll probably increase the Protonix and start to decrease the steroids. I can always go back up on the steroids if my misery index increases, but right now the heartburn is the most miserable thing I'm experiencing. I'm cut loose from the oncologist until September 15th, when I get my next Gemzar.

I continue to THOROUGHLY enjoy my recliner. It's amazing to me how much more comfortable I can be in that chair than just about anywhere else, including my bed. I've been working away on the last of Lindsay's quilt top elements (7 of 18 left to do) and enjoying baseball, football and even occasional golf.

All the kids are back in school. Hannah finds out about final volleyball teams today, first scrimmage is the 9th and first match of the season is the 15th. Philip is at the Percussion Ensemble meeting today and should be entertaining himself making lots of noise this semester at school. Emma is deeply into the semester and almost done with this round of vet school applications. Lindsay has been to her first World Politics class but is currently in Traverse City with Jacob for her sister-in-law's wedding, so school is on the back burner for the next week or so.

Robert has continued to keep himself busy painting the house and the weather in Connecticut has been as close to perfect as it gets for the last week or so. It's nice when feeling good and beautiful surroundings coincide so nicely!

Thanks for all the antinausea thoughts. They worked!