My Radioactive Adventure

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.

 

 

Radiation Week

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.

Prayer Requests

  1. Pray that the radiation will obliterate Tony (or at least shrink him as expected).
  2. Pray that the port installation goes well.
  3. Pray that God will continue to give me strength, as it’s going to be a long week.
  4. Pray that God will give me and Leanne wisdom while we research the various services and supplements the naturopath offers.

 

 

 

 

Tony vs. Radiation

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.

Radiology Date

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!

The tattoo on my right hip

Tony the Tumour

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.

 

 

In His Hands

Every doctor and nurse I have met with has, in a subtle way, attempted to make sure I know I am going to die. The conversation usually begins with, “I see that you met with Dr. So-and-so? What did they tell you?” At first I thought it was a listening comprehension test as I began rattling off every detail I could remember, regretting that I had not taken better notes. Then I finally figured out that they probably just want to make sure that no one dropped the ball and that I was aware of my impending demise.  Even my family doctor called me up, basically just to make sure I knew I was going to die. Cheery bunch, those doctors. I want to live if only just to be able to tell them, as Nelson Muntz would say, “Ha Ha!”

I know doctors are just scientists, and as someone who appreciates data and logic, I understand their thinking in not wanting to offer me potentially false hope.  Their data says I will die, but so what? God’s will can’t be determined by data and analytics. I’m reasonably confident the doctors can extend my life a bit, but they have all adamantly said they cannot cure me. I know God can. It is an incredible feeling to have to rely so much on God. I am absolutely powerless. I am totally in His hands and I know that is the best place for me to be.  

Prayer requests

Discomfort: I’m starting to feel greater and more frequent discomfort in my rectum. I guess it is getting closer to being classified as an ache or pain. I tried Advil today which seemed to help. 

Bowel Movements: As my tumour grows, pray that I will still be able to poop have bowel movements. It is possible my bowels may become blocked at some point. 

Warning: Juvenile Humour Below

If you find songs about cancer, poop or bums offensive, please do not watch the following video.

I admit you will get to see one of my cute little redheads singing her lungs out and it may be interesting for some of you who have not seen me play guitar before. But I realize some people just might not appreciate my twisted sense of humour. Really, I am taking my cancer very seriously, but why can’t I have some fun?

After being inspired by Mr. Padfield’s video, Daisy and I decided to write our own little ditty. The lyrics aren’t exactly based on scripture, but they do describe my situation quite accurately, albeit in a somewhat juvenile way. The music was flat-out ripped off and my sister told me not to post it.

Medical Oncologist

Leanne and I met with the medical oncologist today. The doctor took pity on me and did not do a rectal exam this time. She did give us some insight on her plan for my chemotherapy. I will be starting on 3 chemo drugs as soon as she sees the results of a genetic mutation test done on the biopsies taken during my colonoscopy. The samples were sent earlier this week and are expected back within 3 weeks. The mutation test will help determine the best drug to fight my specific cancer. 

In the mean time they will be installing a port under my skin to make delivery of all the drugs easier. I hope the port is as cool as it sounds. I am picturing a Matrix-style Headjack. The other option was to install a PICC line in my arm but that would mean I could not get it wet or even lift my kids.  

Prayer Requests

Please continue to pray for my doctors, especially when they get together to discuss my case, likely this Friday or next.

Pray that there are no complications when I get my port installed.

Pray for Leanne. She is still working part time, taking me to my appointments, and homeschooling the kids. The many appointments are kinda nice actually; they are like little dates.

Thanks!

We are so encouraged by all the comments we receive. I regret that I just don’t have time right now to reply to them as I am incredibly busy with balancing work, appointments and family. I do read each and every comment and look up every scripture reference. I am planning on re-reading them all again, as I fear there are some dark days ahead.

I wanted to mention a special piece of encouragement I received from my friend Adam Padfield. Upon reading the news of my diagnosis he sat down at his piano and recorded one of his songs from his Psalm 23 “You are my Shepherd” album. 

Radiation Oncologist

I feel strong. My state of mind is usually pretty stable but I think God is giving me an extra boost this week in response to all the people praying for us.

Thank you all so much for praying! We keep receiving messages from so many people saying they are praying for us and we find each message very encouraging.

Today I met with a radiation oncologist. It was just an initial introductory meeting and an excuse for another rectal exam of course. We are still waiting on the doctors to get together to discuss my case and come up with a treatment plan. It sounds like radiation, chemotherapy and surgery will all be involved.

I have another oncologist appointment on Wednesday.

Please pray for wisdom for my doctors.

Physically: 9.5/10
Mentally: 10/10
Total number of rectal exams: 4

God is Good

Do you know what’s worse than being told you are going to die? Being told you are going to die and then having a rectal exam immediately after.

Unfortunately I experienced both this past week. I wasn’t quite expecting my cancer to be that bad. I only learned that I had a tumour on Dec. 19, 2018, and that it was cancerous on Dec. 24, 2018. (Merry Christmas!) I was led to believe I had a curable cancer and that my tumour could probably be removed somewhat easily, so I was a little surprised to see how much it had spread as the doctor scrolled through my CT and MRI scans pointing out the various “lesions consistent with cancer”.

I have stage 4 rectal cancer and it appears to have spread to my liver and lungs. The tumour in my rectum is a T3 in case you are curious. The doctor did not give me much hope, but so what? I know God can fix me.

Death is not to be feared for a Christian. I am not afraid of death; in fact, in some respects, I am looking forward to it.  One of my first thoughts after the diagnosis was that I get to hang out with my Dad again and meet our first little baby that died in the first trimester of pregnancy. But then I remembered that I have a few people here on earth who would prefer that I live for at least a few more decades. Being a husband and father was one of my primary goals in life and I want to be with my wife and kids as long as possible.

We are going to fight this disease as hard as we can and for as long as necessary. Our number one plan of attack is prayer. 

Before my diagnosis I had been learning a lot about prayer. I found John MacArthur’s sermon Pray Boldly particularly helpful and inspiring. The parable Jesus tells in Luke 11:5-13 is incredible. I don’t like asking people for anything, never mind asking the Creator of the universe over and over to do something. But Jesus tells us to pray boldly, to pray without ceasing, and to be shameless in our prayers.

Pray boldly for God to heal me and pray without ceasing.

This week I meet with two oncologists. Please pray that God will guide these doctors in their treatment plan for me.

I don’t want to give people the wrong impression. Lest you think I am bed-ridden in pain or something like that, I am not (at least not yet). With the exception of depositing blood into the toilet every few hours, I feel surprisingly fine right now considering what is growing inside my body. I have a little discomfort (not pain) in my rectum but that is it. I still work full-time (between appointments) and am fortunate to work two days a week from home. I am still doing other contract work on the side. I feel pretty good physically and excellent mentally.

I am excited to see how God will use this situation to His glory!