I’m still alive. The radiation symptoms have been in full swing this past week. I have been frequenting the toilet rather often and have been going to bed a little earlier than normal but otherwise I feel fine. Unfortunately I was unable to work many hours this week. I also didn’t make it to the AWANA Cubbies’ Teddy Bear Picnic at church. Since I couldn’t be there Little Daisy decided to bring my bear, Joe Bear, to the picnic.
Friday, Feb. 22 at 9:20am is my first chemotherapy treatment. I’m not looking forward to the possible side effects. Adding diarrhea to my already painful bowel movements does not seem pleasant.
I met with the naturopath again today and signed up for the loco-regional hyperthermia treatments and also vitamin C and mistletoe injections. In my opinion there seems to be a reasonable amount of data showing that these treatments may help my situation. My first hyperthermia treatment is scheduled for this Saturday morning and the next one on Monday, where I will also receive my vitamin C and mistletoe injections. The hyperthermia doesn’t sound too bad. I get to lie on my back for two hours while a machine uses radio frequencies to heat up the cancerous parts of my body. This is supposed to make the cancer cells more susceptible to the chemotherapy drugs. The vitamin C and mistletoe may help reduce my chemotherapy symptoms and the vitamin C could even slow down the cancer.
Please pray that these supplemental treatments will help ease my chemotherapy symptoms.
With God’s help we made it through radiation week. During my last session the radiation therapists asked me if I was going to celebrate being done with radiation. The thought of celebrating never entered my mind. I would prefer to celebrate a CT scan showing the cancer disappearing. Better yet, I hope to be able celebrate when the baffled doctors tell me that my cancer is completely gone and they have no idea why. Radiation was only the first treatment but I am thankful to God for getting me through. I think I have finally started experiencing symptoms. My bowels constantly feel like my diet consists solely of chilli peppers. Ibuprofen to the rescue.
Please pray for my symptoms and thank God for getting me through radiation week.
I met with my medical oncologist yesterday and she said that the genetic mutation tests came back normal and there were no hereditary markers. (Apparently that’s a good thing. Praise the Lord!) She is going to start me on three chemotherapy drugs late next week. I will be having a treatment every two weeks for the next three months. The most common side effect will likely be diarrhea. It may only last a few days or may be the entire treatment cycle. There are many more exciting possible side effects like nausea, hair loss, rashes, etc. If I go bald, I already have a great art project in mind for the kids called Decorate Daddy.
Please pray that the chemotherapy will be very effective, with minimal side effects.
On Thursday, a home care nurse came to our house to change the bandages on my port incisions. Even with my partially shaved chest it still hurt when the bandages came off. I really liked the nurse though. She asked me how I was coping with everything and I told her, “My faith.” I told her I am a Christian and that God is in control, and that I have lots of support from my family and church families. I think I mentioned that I am hoping that God will heal me and that’s when she started talking about miracles. She told me a story about a stage 4 cancer patient last year who went from giving up on living to basically being healed. What changed? People started praying. I love hearing healing stories about stage 4 cancer patients; the “0% curable” thing really makes them that much more miraculous. The most encouraging thing the nurse told me is that she sees a few miracles per year. I had never heard anyone try to quantify the number of miracles before.
Pray that I will be one of those miracles.
Fun fact: It turns out that my home care nurse is actually one of the nurses that looked after my Dad as well. Actually, we almost had the same medical oncologist too, but the one my Dad had moved away and I now have his replacement. They assume my tumour has been growing for the past 5 years, which means if I had known about my cancer earlier, my Dad and I could have been cancer buddies and maybe had father/son chemo sessions. That could have been fun, right?
Radiation is a very interesting experience. I get to go into areas of the hospital with big scary warning signs. It’s pretty easy. I lie down on the treatment couch and slide off my pants. Sadly, I am all too familiar with displaying my nether regions to medical professionals. Then the radiation therapists move me around a bit to align the machine with my tattoos. Then they leave the room and turn on the machine. The machine is pretty cool. It spins around my pelvic region and zaps me a bunch of times. I don’t feel a thing though. I think I am still radiation symptom free (can’t shoot webs yet either) but I suppose it is still a little early.
I have a follow-up appointment with the radiation oncologist in a month to see how effective the radiation treatments have been.
Please continue to pray that God will work through the radiation to shrink Tony the Terrible.
God helped me through the port installation today. I almost died passed out on the table but otherwise everything seemed to go fine with the installation. I especially enjoyed the “classical” music selection playing in the background: Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, etc. The YouTube video I had watched beforehand to learn about the procedure helped me identify the various steps the surgeon was performing on me. It was a little unnerving feeling him pushing on my chest to squeeze the port inside the little pocket he made in my upper torso. I think I felt him feeding the catheter from the hole near my neck to the port device. I wasn’t too thrilled about the removal of my chest hair but it was either have it shaved off before the surgery or have it ripped out by the nurse who changes the bandages tomorrow. They were nice and let me keep my jeans on though. (Years ago for my eye surgeries they made me remove all my clothing just so they could operate on my eye!) Another bonus is that I am not allowed to shovel any snow for two weeks. (Sorry Leanne, or I guess the boy can do it!)
Pray that my chest incisions heal quickly and properly.
I found out yesterday afternoon that my radiation treatments are starting this Monday, Feb. 11. That was a bit of a surprise. However, the bigger surprise was finding out that I am scheduled to get my port installed on Wednesday, Feb. 13, and no one called to tell me about it. I only discovered this appointment accidentally when scheduling my radiation treatments around my other appointments.
Here’s what my week looks like…so far!
Monday: Radiation Tuesday: Radiation Wednesday: Radiation and Port Installation Thursday: Radiation and Rectal Surgeon Friday: Blood Work, Medical Oncologist, and Radiation
I still plan to fit in as many hours of work as I can.
I met with a naturopathic doctor yesterday. He provided us with some good diet suggestions and supplement recommendations while I undergo radiation. As soon as I know which chemotherapy drugs I will be on, he will have some more recommendations on dietary supplements and services to complement the chemo.
I suppose I am most concerned about the port installation. I’m not really thrilled about anyone digging around inside my chest and leaving behind a foreign object. (That may be a tad facetious.) I watched a YouTube video on the procedure and it was quite fascinating.
Pray that the radiation will obliterate Tony (or at least shrink him as expected).
Pray that the port installation goes well.
Pray that God will continue to give me strength, as it’s going to be a long week.
Pray that God will give me and Leanne wisdom while we research the various services and supplements the naturopath offers.
Leanne and I had our radiology date this past Wednesday. We met with my radiation oncologist again and I was pleasantly surprised by his demeanour on this visit. He seemed a lot more jovial than last time. He was even cracking jokes. This was in stark contrast to our first visit. Perhaps they are supposed to be more serious upon first meeting with a Stage 4 patient. In any case, he did walk us through the first part of the plan.
Step one of the plan is to zap Tony. Sometime in the next few weeks, I will be getting 5 consecutive days of radiation, possibly with a weekend break in the middle. It should take 30 minutes out of my day (plus the travel time). Ideally, the radiation will shrink Tony, which should improve my symptoms (less frequent bowel movements).
The radiation side effects do not sound too horrible. The doctor explained that the radiation treatment is like getting an internal sunburn. The walls of my bladder and bowels will become inflamed which will result in more frequent bowel movements and urination. I may need to set up a desk in the bathroom as I already spend way too much of my day on a toilet. The side effects won’t be immediate; I’ll feel the worst of it about 7-10 days after the radiation ends. After that, my urination should gradually return to normal and bowel movements should become less frequent than they are now. I would expect less pain in my rectum as well if Tony has indeed shrunk.
Step two of the plan is chemotherapy to attack the rest of the cancer cells in my body. I should find out more details about that when I meet with the medical oncologist again on Feb. 15. Surgery is not currently part of the plan, so I am curious as to why I am meeting with the surgeon next week.
Before I met with the Radiation Oncologist I had my CT Simulation appointment. That was pretty easy. They put me inside the CT machine and while I was pretending to be a photon torpedo they moved me around a bit to position me correctly, then marked my alignment by drawing x’s on me. Once they reviewed the scans to confirm the alignment, they tattooed a little dot in the middle of the x’s. I received three tattoos, one on each of my hips and one about 2 inches below my belly button. I learned an important life lesson: Don’t mess with people that have tattoos, because they are tough! Tattoos hurt!
I have been finding church most invigorating lately. I seem to be getting more out of everything, from the sermons to the music. I feel closer to God now than ever before. After all, I may be getting to see Him in person sooner than most.
I’m so glad that I am still able to attend church. People are constantly coming up to Leanne and me to encourage us and tell us they are praying for us. We still get many encouraging emails, blog comments and even paper cards. I gotta say though, nothing says, “We’re praying for you,” like receiving a knock-off LEGO set in the mail. Thanks Allan! We are so blessed and very thankful to have people from many different churches praying for us and supporting us.
My doctors discussed my case at the Tumour Board meeting this past Friday. I have yet to actually talk to a doctor to find out the plan, but I have been booked for a CT Simulation appointment at the radiology department on Wednesday, February 6, and another appointment with the rectal surgeon is scheduled for February 14. This may be an indication that they will be frying big Tony and then attempting to cut him out before chemotherapy. This is only speculation at this point. We should find out the actual plan on Wednesday. I’m also meeting with a naturopathic doctor on Friday to see what he can offer me.
Please keep praying for my healthcare team.
Tony is now making me take an Ibuprofen almost every day for the pain. I suppose that is pretty insignificant compared to the stuff my Dad was taking during his treatments. I checked his notes, and before they put him on the really good stuff, he was popping 8-10 Advils a day. I loathe taking any sort of medication, but pain isn’t really my thing either.
Pray that God will continue to strengthen me both physically and spiritually as treatment is just around the corner.