November, 2000

 11/1/2000  While it might be a small victory, we have passed from the month in which cancer was diagnosed to November. Friday will mark one month from the date of the diagnosis and, as preliminary as it is, now consider myself a "one month" cancer survivor. We take our victories where we find them. Nothing much has been going on at this end. Since the pump problem on Friday, the constant infusion has been working without a hitch. Lots of new things to learn including how to take a shower with your arm connected to tubing that's too short to allow you to reach anything. I can use the right arm/hand to shave and wash upper body parts, but that's about it. We hang the pump bag on a hook outside the shower and feed the tube over the top of the glass shower door. Sleeping hasn't been a problem since I am a side sleeper. We just move the belly pack around to my back and it stays well out of the way. Small problems and easy solutions will help us prepare for the bigger hassles that lie in the future. I have been going to work this week. Got really tired by 1:30 Monday afternoon and came home early. Tuesday I was able to put in a full day and today, I left around 2:00 PM feeling a bit crampy and tired. Otherwise, being at work is good therapy and hope to continue working for as long as possible.

11/3/2000 It's been 4 weeks since the diagnosis. Not much else to report from this end. Had another problem with the chemo bag - it leaked! Sitting at work yesterday and found that most of the drug had run out of the plastic bag. Here's a picture of what's inside the pouch I have at my waist:

Nothing very complicated. Just a plastic bag of 5FU solution feeding into a pump and then out to my arm. Went back to the Infusion Center yesterday and they replaced the bag with another 48ml of stuff which SHOULD get me through to tomorrow afternoon. At that time the visiting nurse will come over and disconnect the pump and I'll have 4 whole days of freedom. I had to promise the nurses at the Infusion Center that next time I would have more success with the pump. Otherwise, I'm feeling pretty good. A bit tired by the end of a full day at work, but - so far - none of the nausea so many chemo patients experience. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the next chemo session goes as lightly. Candace and I started attending a cancer patient/survivor/care giver support group at her church. It was the first meeting yesterday and was very helpful. One of the ladies there was a 23 year survivor! Finding others lends much hope for the future.

11/08/00 Back from second chemo treatment and still feeling fine. Well, I'm doing OK, but the hair isn't! It started coming out yesterday. Scratched my head and noticed several blond hairs dropping before my eyes. Reached up and it was easy to pull out a small tuft. Oh crap. It could be worse - I could be bald AND nauseous. Doctor Yaffe said they must not be poisoning me enough since there are none of the really bad things that happen during chemo: no nausea; no mouth sores (I do have a blister on the lip, but that's the extent of chemo sores), no severe pain in the joints. I just hope it stays this way! Only real effect from today's round is the aching is back in my thighs. Feel it when walking and climbing stairs, but a couple Tylenol seems to knock it right back to below detection level.

The upcoming schedule looks like this: will have the pump removed on the 18th of November and then back in for the third round of chemo on 11/22. A second CT scan is scheduled for 11/27 which will be used to determine whether the chemotherapy is doing anything to shrink the tumor (keep your fingers crossed!) and then an appointment with Dr. Yaffe on 11/29 to go over the results of the chemo and plan out the next stage of therapy. Should be starting radiation shortly after this appointment, but whether or not it will be combined with chemo will be determined by the CT results.

Candace is doing some "Going.... going... GONE" pictures of the rapidly thinning hair. Will get them posted here shortly as soon as it becomes obvious that the hair is going. Wonder how I'd look in a dreadlocks wig?

11/11/2000 In the interest of public safety and concern for any children within several miles, I am NOT putting the pictures of my rapidly disappearing hair in public view. It will be necessary to click the appropriate box below to bring up an image. You have been warned!

 Going...

 Going....

 Gone!

11/12/2000 This round of chemo seems to have left me more tired than the first one. It might also be a cold that I can't seem to shake. Started out as a chest cold a week ago and is now firmly lodged in the head and sinuses. Either way, my energy level is not as high as it was after the first session. Walking around the block yesterday wore me out. Hope it gets better as the cold passes.

11/16/2000 Problems...problems. Tuesday night I noticed that there was a swelling and reddening in the right arm above where the port is located. Called the oncologist and he had me in his office on Wednesday. He wasn't sure what the indications meant, but thought it was probably a thrombosis: a blood clot in the vein where the catheter is located. He sent me off to the vascular lab at Northside Hospital where a Doppler ultrasound machine was used to check blood flow in the area (major interesting for a geek like me!) There is a blood clot, but the vein is a minor one and the problem will be treated with an orally administered blood thinner called warfarin. The down side is that some blood characteristics have to be monitored closely and I'll be spending more time getting blood drawn. Needle sticks... yech. The REALLY good news is my father, sister and brother-in-law are coming to town tomorrow! Combine their visiting with the completion of the second round of chemo on Saturday when the visiting nurse will pull the pump and you know it's going to be a great weekend. Still fighting the cold. Seems to have lodged in my chest, but it feels like it might finally be passing.

11/18/2000 Everyone is here! Had a great time with the family last night and really looking forward to cooking up a Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.

11/21/2000 Time for an update. The family came and went and it was a wonderful time! The only down side was Sunday. Woke up Sunday morning running a fever of 102 degrees. Fever is NOT a good thing when on chemotherapy. Candace called the oncologist and he said I should get into the urgent care center to have the fever checked out. An x-ray of the chest showed a touch of pneumonia in one lung while the blood cultures and other tests pointed to a case of bronchitis. Doctor put me on an antibiotic and some bed rest. Dinner on Sunday was handled in style by my sister and a wonderful dinner it was! Spent most of Monday in bed resting and recouping and felt well enough to go into work for 4 hours today. Had to get my pre-chemo blood test done as well as the PT (whatever that is!) test for the blood thinner I'm taking. The warfarin seems to be working - the needle stick today wouldn't stop bleeding until I had pressed on it for 5 minutes! The clot in the arm is greatly reduced and looks like we are good to go for round 3 of chemo tomorrow.

11/26/2000 Looks like this round of chemo is causing some loss of sensation. Candace made her world famous post-Thanksgiving turkey gumbo yesterday and it was almost tasteless. I seem to be losing most sense of touch and taste in the mouth and lips. The good thing about that is the chapped lips don't hurt nearly as bad as they had. The down side is I love eating and it's not as much fun when you can't taste anything. Tomorrow is the big day with the post-diagnostic CT scan. Will have the results on Wednesday and will post them here. Keep your fingers crossed that the chemo has done some good!

11/29/2000 Good News! The report from the oncologist is good - very good! We looked at the CT scans together and, even to my untrained eye, it was apparent that there has been a significant reduction in the size of the tumor! Using the aorta as a ruler, the scans done on 10/9 showed the diameter of the tumor to be at least 1.5 times that of the aorta. Today, the tumor was barely larger than the aorta. Dr. Yaffe seems surprised and gratified by the amount of reduction. The bad news is that, as long as it's working so well, I have another 6 weeks of chemo. Thought we would be moving to the radiation/chemo treatment, but since chemo alone is working so well, the doctor wants to continue it. He likes to have a patient receive a total of 4 months of chemo. The original plan was 6 weeks of chemo alone followed by 4 weeks of chemo and radiation and then more chemo post-operation. Looks like it's back to the infusion center next Wednesday to start another round. To my sister who was thinking "shrinkie thoughts" - looks like it worked. Keep 'em coming and let's see if we can reduce this thing to nothing in another 6 weeks.

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