February, 2001

2/1/2001 Almost finished with the second week of chemo and radiation. Yesterday I noticed what felt like the start of a sore throat in the neck area. Candace checked it out and it is not a sore throat, but the effects of radiation. Met with Dr McCord after my radiation treatment this morning and he said the soreness is to be expected at this stage of the treatment. He also said it's going to get worse, but if it gets too bad, there is a narcotic that can be drunk 20 minutes before eating to keep the pain down to a tolerable level. Otherwise, everything else is about the same - lips are numb, not much sense of taste and the fingers do not have a lot of feeling in them. Still no nausea from the chemo, so things are good. The next big day will be on 2/12 when we meet with Dr. Yaffe. Asked Dr. McCord today about when I might expect my next diagnostic CT scan. He said the radiation will continue working for several weeks after the therapy is stopped, so he likes to go for a base line CT around 6 weeks after the end of radiation. However. Dr Moore, the surgeon, said he wanted to get inside me 4-6 weeks after the end of treatment. Sounds like we're getting close to the point where the good doctors will need to consult and figure out what's going to happen after radiation and when it's going to take place. We will approach all this with Dr Yaffe on the 12th.

2/13/2001 Lot's of stuff going on! First of all, I finally told the boss (2/6) I had to go on disability. The combination of chemo and radiation was just wearing me out badly and it was time to start taking care of myself. Work has been wonderful and it helps keep my mind off the disease. Walking out the door that day was about the hardest thing I've done. I just hate the way the cancer keeps taking parts of my life. It turned out that this was the right thing to do. On Thursday (2/8) I started coming down with a cold - one that has knocked Candace back pretty badly. The big fear was it kicking into pneumonia and bringing all the treatments to a halt. Got plenty of rest and was able to shake the cold by Saturday! Expect I had some antibodies buried down deep that came to my rescue. On Monday (2/12) I started my 4th week of radiation and chemo.
Saw Dr. Yaffe and we have scheduled a CT scan for 3/9. Really looking forward to see how the combined treatment has affected the tumor and hope they look at the scan and can't find the blasted thing! Once the CT pictures are in hand, we will then call Dr. Moore and see about setting up a date for surgery. Dr. Yaffe said he would like me to get 6 weeks of healing, so that should put surgery into the first couple weeks of April. I went back into the radiation simulator today. Dr. McCord wanted to shrink the area being hit with radiation to protect the outlying tissue and bone. Still not sure how much longer I will be going into the microwave, but should have some idea about that tomorrow. Will be receiving 4500 rads (as of last discussion with Dr. McCord), so I should finish up radiation around the middle of next week if they continue the 200 rads per day. The good news is that Dr. Yaffe said as soon as radiation is finished, I can come into the Confusion Center and get the 5FU pump pulled. The chemo on this go around is only to enhance the effects of radiation and if the radiation is done, so is the chemo. Given 6 weeks to heal should get me feeling pretty good again as well as give us an opportunity to build up some strength. The chemo has been reducing my muscle mass badly and it's going to take some work to get it back. However.... I have dropped to 198 lbs at last check - the first time I've been below 200 in more years than I care to think about.
Once again, minimum side effects from chemo and radiation. I seem to be getting some feeling back in my fingers, but still all sense of taste is gone. The biggest thing is the fatigue, but hope to shake that after we finish this round of treatment. No mouth sores, no nausea... I have been very fortunate to avoid the worst of the side effects. Radiation has burned the inside of my throat, but not so badly that I can't eat. Have been working on a soft food diet with lots of soup and avoiding bread. It seems to work to take off a few pounds slowly while still letting me eat well.
As I said, lots going on lately. Will keep you posted when some more news becomes available.

2/15/2001 Met with the Dr. McCord today and he said I would be finished with radiation on Tuesday, 2/20! So, just a couple zaps next week and we should move beyond radiation and chemotherapy. Dr. McCord suggested getting in touch with the surgeon as quickly as possible because if we go more than 6 weeks between the end of radiation and surgery, he wants me to have even more radiation. Called Dr. Moore and we have an appointment to see him on 3/13 at 9AM. If all goes quickly, should be in surgery before the end of March.

2/26/2001 It's been a TOUGH week. Here's the rundown. Was disconnected from chemo and finished with radiation on the 20th. Swallowing was getting very difficult by then, but I was able to get a can of soup down without too much trouble. Dr. Yaffe prescribed some fentanyl patches for pain relief and I got a box of 10 Tuesday afternoon. Radonc said, during the final meeting on Tuesday, that the radiation would continue to work for up to a week after the end of treatments and throat would get even more painful. Came home that afternoon and decided to try one of the patches. Didn't seem to notice much effect, but there was some relief of throat pain. Went to bed Tuesday and slept well.
2/21/2001 Woke up this morning feeling very tired and listless. After everyone else left for work and school, stretched out on the sofa and slept most of the day away. Candace came home and found me glassy-eyed, semi-conscious and running 103 fever. Not good! She contacted the oncologist and get a script for anti-biotics. Barely ate anything for dinner and just wanted to go back to sleep.
2/22/2001 Had some discussion with Candace today about her upcoming trip to North Carolina with Sarah for a college visit. Candace didn't want to leave me feeling so unwell, but I convinced her I was ok and would make it. 102 degree temp this morning and unable to eat anything. It was another day spent sleeping on the sofa, but I did check my temperature every 4 hours and it seemed to be coming down. Still no energy at all. Didn't eat anything for dinner since throat was incredibly painful.
2/23/2001 Woke up this morning still feeling very bad. Decided that the fentanyl patch was too strong for my system and this is what was keeping me asleep. Tore patch off and took another nap. When I awoke, was feeling much more clearheaded and the fever was gone completely! Candace's sister, Gretchen, came into town for a medical conference and we went out for some dinner together. Thought egg-drop soup would be pretty innocuous, but was unable to eat more than a couple spoons full. We returned to the house, waited for Candace to return and I went back to bed.
2/24/2001 Saturday... just another really bad day. Since quitting the patch, have been using lortabs for pain relief. Works pretty well, but still unable to get very much food or liquid down my throat. The throat pain seems to have crested and might be getting a bit better, but swallowing is still impossible.
2/25/2001 Another day like those before - spent most time sleeping. However, the throat is improving! Had a small amount of spaghetti and some vanilla pudding at dinner - the first real food in 5 days.

And back to today... the throat is feeling much better and the quantity of liquids being consumed is increasing . Swallowing own saliva isn't painful any longer (it was so during the worst of the week) and had some canned peaches for lunch. It's been a really bad week, but it appears we have turned the corner now and things will continue to improve. Might be getting some feeling back into my lips and the sense of taste appears to be erratic, but there. All I want right now is one REALLY GOOD meal - with taster and swallower working - before going into surgery. Not sure if the taster will be working 100%, but looks like the swallower might be. Not sure where my weight is right now. Was 195 when weighed in on Tuesday, but expect I've broken into the 180s after this week.

 

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