Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone, sorry for the delay since discharge.  As many of you know Christmas came a few days early for me in 2010, when on Wednesday the 22nd I was discharged from my 6th and final round of chemotherapy treatment.  The last cycle went really well and my family and I are just so thankful that it is all over and we can move on to the next stage of the treatment plan.

As I look back on the 38 days I spent in the hospital since Labor Day Weekend, I really can't believe the end came so quickly.  I can remember when I was about to be admitted for my first cycle, thinking man Christmas seems so far off in the future.  I can honestly say that without such great family, friends, and coworkers, this journey would have been that much more difficult and lonely.

During this last treatment I was approached by the nursing staff to spend some time with another young sarcoma patient.  There was a young man on my floor who was having a lot of problems with both the physical and mental aspects of chemo.  He lived over 2 hours from Emory and his family couldn't afford to take off work days, so he spent a lot his treatment alone in his room wondering what would become of him after all of this.  On Monday when I first talked to him it was one of the most sobbering things I've seen since beginning treatment.  The poor kid had lost probably 75 pounds and was fighting back tears as we made small talk.  I realized during this how fortunate I  have been not only for the way my body has reacted to the treatments, but also how I have had so much help mitigating the emotional/mental aspects as well.

As we continued to visit you could see his spirits improve, and over the next few days he would come over and just hang out in my room to avoid being all alone, which I was happy to cater to.  The good news is like in my case, his treatment was actually proceeding quite well, and his chances of being back to normal come summer are as good as mine.  When I think about him now I am reminded how lucky I am, but also how even the little things (like just lettting him sit in my room in silence) can make all the difference for a lonely patient.  When I said farewell on Wednesday I promised him I would visit during his next cycle, so hopefully I can continue to help him where I can as he fights this tough battle.

It is fitting that the end of chemo coincides with the end of 2010, so I can close the book on both and look to a new start in 2011.  Radiation is going to start on January 6, so for 25 weekdays after that I will basically have the equivalent of a dental cleaning every morning.  When compared to nearly 40 days and nights of hospital time, that seems like a piece of cake, but what do I know right?

Merry Christmas again to everyone, and thank you all so much for playing such a huge roll in my fight against sarcoma.  I really mean it when I say I couldn't have gotten to this point without all your support!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One Day Delay

Morning everyone, I hope all are enjoying the last weekend before the holidays.  It has been pretty dang cold here in Atlanta, which is compounded of course by the fact that I am totally without fur save on my arms;  luckily I won't be going outside until next Wednesday.

So as you all know I was scheduled to be admitted Thursday morning, but due to the treatment being pushed up 4 days from the normal schedule, my platelets hadn't received the memo and they weren't quite high enough for me to start.  Luckily, they were high enough though that I was able to start on Friday, so one day is no big deal.  I feel sorry for another guy who is literally on the same schedule as me, about to start his last treatment, and he ended up being delayed for the same reason until Monday, so I feel bad for him, especially since I almost suffered the same fate.

So far so good though here in day 2.  I can't tell you how much easier it is to deal with the daily routine here when you know you won't ever have to do it again.  As excited as I am, it is a little bittersweet to say goodbye to the great nursing staff over here.  I have really gotten to know all the ladies up here in unit 71, and I am definitely going to try and stay in touch as, they have such a difficult job that goes without a lot of glory and praise.

Fun fact I learned this week about cancer:  for you guys out there, statistically you have a better chance of getting male breast cancer than you do a synovial sarcoma (which is pretty dang low), so please don't forget to keep an eye on those man boobs!

Until next time from my penthouse suite at Emory Midtown!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ahead Of Schedule?

Good afternoon everyone, I hope all had a great weekend!

It was really nice to be back at work today after a long quarantine last week.  It was Wednesday afternoon when my doctor called to tell me that my immune system had dropped to the point where I was extremely susceptible to infection.  Not wanting to risk getting the flu or pneumonia I worked from home from Wednesday afternoon until the end of the week; it just isn't worth the risk this time of year to be around so many people and potentially end up in the hospital for 3 days- right before I'm going to be there for 6.  I was hoping my white counts would bounce back before the weekend, but they dropped even lower on Friday when I went in for labs; a bit of a weekend buzz kill.  All told between Wednesday afternoon and Monday morning I left my house exactly once, so it was a pretty slow weekend.

I had a radiology consult today, where my doctor pushed up the beginning of my radiation treatments to 12/27 which was great news.  In my head I had assumed that radiation wouldn't start until sometime after the new year, which meant it wouldn't end until potentially late February, and then you take a month off before surgery so best case I was looking at surgery sometime in mid March.  Now that we are starting in December, I feel like I was just given about 3 weeks of my spring, so I am very excited about this turn of events.  I think a lot is due to how well I've handled the chemo, so they aren't scared to just jump right into the next step.  So now we are looking at radiation going until the end of January and then surgery at the very beginning of March, this would hopefully put me back on my feet fully recovered by the beginning of April, just in time for The Masters. 

So here we are only a few days before beginning the 6th and final chemo treatment.  I can't believe it is nearly over after already logging 37 hospital days, I'm only 6 away from being done.  I am confident this week will go well as my attitude will be even better than normal knowing that it is the last go around.  Even more exciting is that approx. 2 month from next Tuesday I will begin to see some hair grow back!  While the convenience associated with being bald has been nice, I'm more than ready to have a head of hair to deal with.  Now that I know what my head looks like, I definitely may consider a bald cut down the line, but in the mean time I'm going to grow these locks as long as they are appropriate in the business world.  I am deciding between two iconic hair styles to wear as I welcome myself back to the haired world:

1.  The feathered look of 80's movie bullies:

2.  The "Legends of the Fall" Brad Pitt look:

Such tough decisions!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Home Stretch


Well finally after a cozy and luxurious 6 day stay I was discharged from Emory Midtown this past Saturday afternoon.  Being ahead of schedule apparently isn't a big deal on the weekend, because with only one Dr. doing rounds across two hospitals, I ended up delayed by 4 hours.  No matter how anxious I am in that situation, I always try to realize that the reason I'm not being dealt with is because sicker patients are receiving care.  Would I rather be one of the guys the Dr. has to treat for four hours, or would I rather watch tv and wait?  I will take the latter all day.

So here we are with just one treatment left, I usually hope that the week(s) between cycles go slowly so I can enjoy the time and food on the outside.  It is different this time though, because I would check in tomorrow morning if that meant I would be done for good the following Sunday.  As usual the big issue to avoid this week is infection.  I am enjoying some time at the office early this week until my white blood counts dive into the danger zone, in which case I will quarantine myself at home to avoid the dreaded fever.

Due to how well I've handled treatment, I have had the luxury of maintaining a fairly normal life between cycle, which not many Sarcoma patients can also say sadly.  Though this normal life has included a variety of exceptions, mainly involving not being around crowds nor consuming alcohol (which are often done at the same time/place).   My quarantine from these activities will be over very shortly though, and I am looking forward to my first beer since August 7th (not that I was keeping track).  Despite my excitement for that first beer, I have thought long and hard about drinking & bars since my diagnosis.  After having had some of the most toxic substances known to man go through my heart, kidneys, and liver since September, the last thing I want to do is cause anymore strain on my body by filling it with booze.  Of course it is tough when going to bars is still the common entertainment choice for people of my age and social group.  Regardless, I am committed to a healthier lifestyle going forward, I mean after all I spent all this time effort and money to keep this body upright, the least I can do is treat it with some respect and try to make it last.  It will be a difficult transition to not be living it up with friends as much, but in the end I think I might just enjoy the journey more so by taking this path.  Who knows?


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cycle 5

Hello everyone, I trust all had a great Thanksgiving holiday!  For me it was great to spend some time with family I hadn't seen in a while.

Well I checked in to Emory here on Monday morning, so we are into day 3 of 6.  This cycle got off to a great start in that my bags were hung 5 hours earlier than last cycle, so hopefully I am going to get out of here pretty early on Saturday morning.  Time has moved a bit slower with no football, but I am making up for it by watching a few more movies on my computer.  Health-wise I am doing great and cruising through this cycle, so hopefully that will lead to another smooth recovery week.

Hard to believe that the college football season is over and Christmas is right around the corner.  I started my treatment on the first college football Saturday and now here we are with championship Saturday coming up and I will be finishing treatment 5.  I confirmed my 6th cycle dates will go back to my original Thursday - Tuesday schedule for my last cycle (12/16 - 12/21) so to prevent being in treatment on Christmas.  Then by just after New Year's I will be back to "normal" and totally done with Chemo and its side effects, can't believe it is nearly over!

Next week I have my 2nd Radiology consult, where they will give me my schedule for the 5 weeks of treatment.  Again, Radiation is simply a local treatment where they zap my tumor with rays of some sort, and it should only take about 30 minutes per appointment.  Basically I will just do this on my way to work every day and that will be that.  They say that some people get really tired from Radiation, but also it can depend where the radiation is focused (for example a throat cancer patient might have more symptoms).  In my case I am optimistic that I have no real fatigue seeing as how it is on my leg.  Either way I am going to power through it, because as I have already mentioned, my main goal for the winter is to get in really good shape before my surgery so that my recovery time is less of a strain and I can get back to normal in time for Spring and Summer.

Beyond that, I'm just hanging here at the hospital.  I'm in good spirits because I know I am so close to the end, so hopefully everything goes off without a hitch.  Have a great couple of days!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving week to all! 

Despite all that has happened this year, there is a lot to be thankful for in my mind.  Here is my list:

1.  That my body and tumor are receptive to treatment
2.  Family, friends, coworkers, and everyone else that has been so supportive during my illness
3.  Early detection (does anybody remember that Tom Green song about checking for testicular cancer?)
4.  Aaron Murray, for playing far better than anyone could have expected for a freshman

I know everyone else has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season, so please take a moment and think about all those things and of course enjoy the food and football.

I check back in to Emory for round 5 early Monday morning, and I am excited to get this round underway and behind me because of course that will leave just one left and then I will be done!  It is hard to believe that I first went in for treatment just before Labor Day, that seems so long ago.  I still can't believe I have survived nearly 40 days of sitting at the hospital, but somehow I've managed, with much help from friends and family of course.

My next post will be from the hospital next week, so until then everyone travel safe and enjoy yourselves!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scan Update

Much like President Obama's popularity, my tumor continues to shrink per the MRI results from yesterday.  My surgeon Dr. Monson was very impressed with not only my progress medically, but with how I am doing so without submitting to really any of the annoying side effects of chemo.  He said he has seen a lot of people who get home from treatment and they promptly spend the next 5 days in bed throwing up.  I am very thankful for everything to be going 1000x better than I ever dreamed, and I hope it continues through the last two cycles.

Based on my blood work on Monday I was supposed to get a blood transfusion today.  On Monday the doctor said I should be feeling the effects of anemia (light headed, dizzy, short of breath, heart pounding), though when I told her I felt great and had worked out just that morning it was met with I guess some confusion on her part, because she had nothing really medical to say in return.  I felt great and the transfusion was to be in 48 hours, so obviously it was not an urgent matter.  Regardless I didn't argue much further and agreed to the transfusion begrudgingly.  I did though request labs to be redone on Wednesday morning before the procedure (4 hours or so of just sitting there).  What is crazy is that they were not planning on redoing labs to confirm the order, even though a lot can change in 48 hours.  Sure enough, this morning when I went in for labs before the transfusion it turned out my counts had bounced back to the normal levels.  I am glad I had the sense to ask for an extra test, or else I would have been subjected to a useless 4 hour procedure that I would eventually have to pay for!  Got to love the healthcare industry.

Now there is nothing really going on between now and Thankgiving, so I probably won't post much until the holiday and the lead up to my next round of treatment on the 29th.  Thank you again everyone for reading and supporting me, I will be back online right before the holiday!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Footloose and Fever Free

I hope everyone has had a great weekend! 

So far so good since discharge on this past Tuesday.  If you recall it was the weekend after cycle 3 in which I came down with a fever and thus had to spend 4 nights in the hospital rather unexpectedly.  It appears as if I have made it through the weekend fever free and at home thankfully.  I became sick late Wednesday night and into Thursday midday.  I had a noon appointment for blood work and fluids on Thursday, so as the hour approached I became very worried that should my temperature show I had a fever then I might be going in for an appointment on Thursday only to finally leave on Monday.  I probably took my temperature 20 times between 10 am and 11:30, hoping that it would remain below 100.  It was ranging from 99.1-99.9 so I was literally freaking out because as I have made it clear, I do not want to spend extra days in the hospital.  It became time to go and once I arrived they took my temperature and it came through at 99.4, whew, no fever.  They next said I had to get set up for a fluid IV for about 3 hours.  By this point I had recovered from my headache and nausea that visited me during the night, so I asked if it was really necessary.  Thankfully I asked because I believe they would have put me on the bag without looking at the labs otherwise.  My labs came back good, which was what I expected, I was sent home.

One thing I have learned through this experience is that the medical profession bases care on standards and averages.  This allows for consistent care for those that are handling treatment below average and also for those that are handling it well above average.  In my case, through 4 cycles it is clear that I am handling the medicine well above average, so it comes across to me at times as I am receiving too much care.  This is a good problem to have, trust me, as when I was waiting for my labs to come back the other day there was a guy in his 40's who was also waiting on his labs.  I overheard his wife on the phone talking about how weak he was and how they were hoping his labs would show he needed a blood transfusion.  Contrast that with me who worked out right after leaving the doctor that afternoon.  In the end I don't hold it against the doctors for being careful and cautious, because there are many many chemo recipients that don't handle the treatments as well as I have.  I have learned though that I must continue to question certain aspects of my treatment to ensure that it is being catered to my individual needs and that I am not receiving unnecessary medicine or wasting the time of great nurses/doctors that need to be caring for people that really need the attention.

Now that I have made it through my low period for cycle four, I am turning my attention to my 2nd MRI and first CT Scan since treatments began, which are scheduled for this coming Tuesday.  I expect continued shrinkage in the size of my tumor, as well as a clear report from my chest CT.  I asked the doctor if there was a chance of any surprises on these scans, and she said that most likely everything should be fine, especially given how responsive my tumor was to the treatment per the first MRI.

After Tuesday's scans I will have a nice break from treatment until the 29th, right after Thanksgiving, so I look forward to a normal week and then a nice holiday!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

1 Day Short Of A Week

Happy Tuesday everyone!  I am still sitting here at Emory, though I have been assured that once this last IV ends at 1pm I will be out the door.  Overall this has been a good cycle, just a day longer as I mentioned last week  Knowing that I only have to do this two more times makes me all the more excited about having just finished this cycle.

When I look back at this cycle, it is amazing to think that I basically sat in the same little room, save my walks, for nearly 6 days!  Think about any normal 6 day period of your life and recall all the different environments you find yourself in.  You are home, in the car, at the gym, at the office, at lunch, at the bar, etc  I bet your scenery changes 4-6 times on a given day, yet for the last 6 days mine hasn't changed at all.  Honestly, I'm not sure how I've been able to stay sane through all of it. 

The food system worked pretty well this cycle, as I am proud to say that I have not touched a single morsel of patient dining in the last 6 days, pretty impressive if I do say so myself.  I do have a soft spot for the ladies of patient dining, so after they bring me a tray I throw the food in the trash and hide it to look like I joined the clean plate club.  I don't know what it is, but I just hate leaving my food on the plate when they pick my trays up after meals.  For me it is the smell, I am like a dog, I've always smelled any food before I've eaten it, and that is what really gets me here at the hospital.  The aroma of patient dinning will never do it for me, no matter what is under the magical maroon lid.  Although I've eaten my own food all week, that doesn't mean I'm not craving a big old Chipotle burrito, and you better believe mom and I are B-lining it to the nearest one right at 1 o'clock when I'm discharged this afternoon.

I hope everyone is having a great week, and I thank you all!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nurse Talk

Greetings from Emory Midtown room 7139!  Everything is going well thus far with cycle 4, though they did have to extend my stay until Tuesday as opposed to the normal Monday discharge because they want to spread admission of one of my drips over an extra day to avoid any complications.

I have always been very complimentary of the nursing staff here in Oncology, they are really nice and very friendly.  I imagine a lot of that is because we can't help to be here; we didn't have a drug overdose or we didn't drink and drive and slam into a tree.  After 3 cycles and a fever visit, I have gotten to know these ladies quite well, which has led to some pretty interesting conversations, which for some reason have ended in me giving some sort of advice to these sweet nurses.  Even more puzzling, the topics of such advise I often know nothing about.  Much like in politics or business though, sounding like you know what you are talking about is 90% or so of the game.  So here are some of the conversations I've had, some of which were at 5am during room call:

1.  My nurse tech has a 9 year old son who is apparently pretty gifted.  He does all his homework in his had and watches the news (including getting upset at election results).  We discussed how to balance staying challenged and also being a kid.  I of course recommended she watch "Little Man Tate" staring Jodie Foster, who wouldn't?

2.  My night nurse's son is a football prospect with offers to SEC schools as well as Duke and Stanford.  I gave her my thoughts on all the schools and programs (not going to present those here with some alumni of these schools are readers, ha) and what I thought their priority should be.  No big deal, just helping to determine the launching of her son's adult life.  Coming from a single 28 year old who has 3 degrees and had 3 different jobs.

3.  These ladies go crazy over The Home Depot when I tell them I work there.  I literally thought one time I would have to check my nurse's vitals after she showered HD with glowing praise.  Yesterday I consulted with my nurse regarding buying a new dishwasher and what sort of deals we are currently offering (thank you Same Page for you HD'ers reading).  Of course I know so much about dishwashers, mainly how to load and unload, either way, it looks like she is planning on heading over to check them out, so maybe I got one of these little talks right.

So as you can see, you get into some pretty random conversations at the hospital when you are here for so many days in a row.  Here is to the next few days going by quickly!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Round 4

Hi everyone, hope Halloween was fun.  Thank you to all who gave great bald costume ideas.  I decided to go as a disgruntled sports fan.

Thursday morning I check in for round 4, which means that come Monday afternoon I will only have 2 chemo treatments left.  As I have talked about in the past, we are learning something new to improve the quality of my stay each time, and for this cycle I am going to make a bunch of sandwiches and bring a cooler full of food so that I don't have to rely on takeout and "patient dinning" for sustenance.  Also, when I saw the doctor last week during my fever weekend, I informed her of the weird day I had during treatment 3 when I became moody and then so weak I couldn't even keep my eyes open to watch football.  She said it could be due to the toxicity of on of my drugs, and they are probably going to change the schedule for administering it during the last 3 rounds.  Apparently this drug can really get to you, so if you begin to see signs such as those I saw, a change needs to be made. 

Since my last post after finally being let out of the hospital for low white blood counts, there was the possibility late last week that I might have to receive blood transfusions due to low red blood counts and low platelets.  They never called me to schedule a transfusion, so unless it is done via the internet I guess I didn't need them.  I guess red blood cells have a life span of 120 days or so, which means that mine were low because they were just now dying from the start of my treatment, and with the chemo running through my veins it was stunting the replication and thus resulting in a low count.  White blood cells on the other hand have a life cycle of about a week, so your count can bottom out and then turn around rather quickly after that, which is what happened in my case.

One of the questions I always get asked regarding this entire process is whether or not I've lost any weight.  Surprisingly, my weight has stayed constant, though I was noticing yesterday that I carry it a little different than I did before this all started.  I was working out a lot beforehand and I have totally lost any muscle tone I once had, to the point where I am a bit flabby.  Thankfully I have such great role models like Subway's Jarrod to help motivate me to tone it up a little bit.  In all seriousness, since I have been feeling so good especially during the week leading up to treatment, I have begun to push it a little bit more with some jogging.  I have definitely noticed a difference in my endurance and heart rate max between now and and before treatment.  If I had to guess it is a combination of the medicine's toll on my heart, and the lack of hard aerobic exercise I have participated in since this began.  Either way, I am going to take even more advantage of the days I feel good and start to get my body back in shape, because once I have surgery, I'm bound to need physical therapy, and I would prefer to go into that somewhat prepared.

My next post will be from beautiful Emory Midtown, so until then, have a great week!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Boy In The Plastic Bubble

Good evening all!

Did anybody ever see that amazing 70's movie "The Boy In The Plastic Bubble" starring John Travolta?  Well I did, and I can tell you I felt like him this past weekend as I waited for my immune system to recover in the hospital.  Now in the movie he rides off on a horse with a blond girl, which is slightly different from me, as I rode off in a gold car alone.  Either way, I can empathize with the guy.

So yes, my white blood counts finally rose above the critical level Tuesday morning, and I was eventually free to go once the doctor signed off on my case.  They warned me of a potential need for blood transfusions as I was leaving, due to my red blood cells steadily dropping near critical levels.  This wouldn't involve admittance to the hospital, but it would take a few hours from what I gather.  I had to go back this morning for blood work, and since I didn't get a call from the office indicating my red count has become severe, it must mean that they finally turned back up as well.

So I sit here after an unexpected 4 day hospital stay, and I can see my next treatment cycle fast approaching.  I will be back in the hospital for the usual routine next Thursday for cycle 4.  I am starting to see the finish line off in the distance, so hopefully this will help pull me through cycles 4 & 5, as I've heard they can be some of the most difficult of the treatment process.  One very positive sign that I hope is the beginning of a trend is the way my body is reacting to the chemo once I'm done with treatment.  The amount of time I've spent actually feeling bad post discharge is really getting less and less.  I mean even though I had to go to the hospital this past week, I felt very good the whole time, and in reality my fever had broken by early Saturday morning, the remaining time spent was just precautionary. 

I hope this means that instead of being worn down by the cumulative effects of the chemo, my body might be adapting and getting used to the treatment.  I have really had very little nausea, and only lost my appetite a few times over the entire course of treatment.  I have yet to develop these mouth sores people keep talking about, and my energy level has remained steady if not quite 100%.  Of course this could all change with cycle 4, but I am really trying to convince myself and my body that I have this thing licked, so hopefully this mental "strength" will help pull me through these last few cycles.

Until I go back in next week though, I am going to enjoy this next week on the outside.  I am looking forward to a great weekend, and heck, I'm even looking forward to some productive days at work.  Thank you again to everyone who has sent cards, called, and checked in via email, it all plays a role in how well I've done to this point!

Oh, and any thoughts to the best Halloween Costume involving a bald man?  I mean Dr. Evil is a given, but I wonder if something funnier exists?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Change Of Weekend Plans

Happy Saturday all!  Since I last wrote on Monday I have been discharged from the 3rd round and experienced an illness free 3 days.  I felt really good on Tuesday - Thursday and really thought I might be able to sneak past the side effects this cycle.  I was very wrong. 

I woke up with a headache and nausea about 2am on Friday which was what I was sort of expecting to feel at some point this week.  The rest of Friday went about as expected, just resting and trying to subdue the illness with meds.  My parents came up to make me dinner, when we decided to take my temperature, as I was a little warm.  Turns out I had a 101 fever, which means you have to go to the ER to receive treatment.  Of course this is right before the Ranger game is about to start, so I am doing everything I can to convince my folks I don't need to go (and strangely enough, I feel about 100% at this point).  But in the end we went by the book and drove over to Emory Midtown.

To say I was a fish out of water at the Midtown ER is probably an understatement, but thankfully we convinced the staff to switch the tv from CNN discussing Islamic profiling to baseball.  We watched the entire game save the last pitch from the waiting room, when just before we went in to see the Dr.  The combination of my fever and low white blood cell counts made it impossible for them to not admit me for observation for an undetermined amount of time.  I am furious because I feel just fine, yet now face the prospect of spending my entire weekend in the hospital, whereas I could be doing all the things they want me to from the comfort of my couch.

I argued a bit with the doctor again this morning, but again, since my blood counts have yet to bottom out, they can't afford to send me home, because infection could strike at any time.  I finally resigned myself to my fate for the weekend, but still I feel if my stupid counts can turn tonight I might be able to salvage Sunday and enjoy football from home.  The first step towards discharge has been met in that my fever has broke, so no I just have to hope these silly white blood cells will start replicating a little faster.

It actually could be worse though, because I am only on a drip for 20 minutes at a time every 4 hours, I am much more mobile than during treatment, which makes a big difference in getting comfortable under these 7 thread count sheets.  Also, I don't have CSS at home and would be unable to watch the Georgia game, but they have it here, so there will be no need for me to listen to my alarm clock radio, haha!

Thank you everyone, and have a great weekend!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Survival Of The Moderately Fit

Happy Monday all!   I hope everyone is doing well after a big football weekend, lots of upsets on Saturday really skewed the landscape.

Well I am still here at Emory University, set for discharge after lunch sometime.  This has for sure been the roughest stay thus far.  Yesterday was particularly frustration in that I became very weak and tired, I literally couldn't keep my eyes open most of the afternoon.  I hated to be in such a state because my sister and dear friend Captain Rudy drove down out of their way for a visit, but I just couldn't keep my head up and visit much.  I have bounced back this morning though, and I am feeling much better.  Perhaps in small part due to the fact that I will be leaving early this afternoon.  It really makes a difference knowing that you will be at home the next time you go to bed. 

The next step is of course the all important recovery week, so hopefully this one will go as smooth as the last two.  Thank you everyone for checking in this past week, it has meant a whole lot!

Go Rangers tonight!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ah The Healthcare System

Hello everyone from Emory Midtown University Hospital.  Things are going well this morning, though humor me as I walk you through a scenario:

Imagine you have an 8:30 flight one morning.  You go through security and get to the gate on time, where you find out that your flight is actually departing from another nearby airport surprisingly.  This is no big deal, so you drive over to the other airport and get past security and get to the gate.  You find out that the flight is running late now, so you sit at the gate for 2+ hours waiting to board.  Finally you board the plane, but now you are informed that you have to wait on the plane for another 5 hours before taking off.

If this happened to you I bet you'd be pretty mad huh?  Yeah me too, but for some reason we have to live with these inefficiencies regarding the healthcare system.  This is basically what happened to me yesterday, as a series of delays kept me from starting my drip until 7pm, whereas I usually start around 2pm.  The problem with this is it will delay my departure on Monday from around lunchtime to potentially after dinner.  As someone who has studied healthcare a little, I can't help but not get too upset over this, after all, this is the most inefficient industry in the country, but I digress.

But yes, I'm back at University Hospital off Clifton Rd this weekend, room 702.  This is where I was during my first cycle and there are huge differences between the two facilities.  For one, the rooms here are bigger than at Midtown, and the window is wall to wall, which really opens up the natural light.  That definitely makes a big difference when you are to be here for 5 days just sitting around.  Another weird aspect of this facility is I strangely feel like there is a greater attention to detail by the nursing staff than at Midtown.  Here there is more double checking and oversight, but maybe that is just me.  This is no indictment of Midtown, but just a slight difference we noticed.

Tonight is a special night for me, as a lifelong Texas Rangers fan, this our first trip to the ALCS to face the Yankees.  I have been a Rangers fan ever since spending my first 9 years within earshot of their stadium in
Arlington, TX.  These years have been hard, as until this week's victory they were the only MLB team to never win a playoff series.  I wish everyone could have seen or heard my good friend Adam Powell (big Rangers fan) as we watched the game at my apartment on Tuesday.  If you could only hear us when the game ended, it sounded like Justin Bieber walking in on a room full of 5 young girls; I mean we were squealing with excitement.  For those of you that haven't watched this series but might tune in tonight, there are a few hand signals you can do at home that you will see the Rangers do:  "Moose" -  this is where put your hands up by your head like antlers, you do this after one of the Rangers steals a base or has a great play involving speed, then "Claw" -  for this you outstretch your hand in a claw shape when a Ranger gets a hit.  It sounds weird I know, but please join me from wherever you are, because I will hopefully making lots of "Moose" and "Claw" signals here alone in the hospital.

Thank you again everyone for the well wishes, I hope the weekend is great for all.  I leave you with another underdog team that also was also trying like heck to get to the World Series:

Thank you for the support!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Round 3

Greetings all!  I trust everyone had a great weekend.  I know I had a good one even if some baseball games didn't go my way.

So here we are on the Tuesday before my 3rd admittance.  I am starting to get myself ready for Thursday morning, because I know it will be another grind.  As I posted before, I need to take some time to plan a menu so that I can avoid the nausea that inevitably accompanies patient dining.  Outside of a few sick days and some other minor side effects I have really felt good over the last few weeks.  I think that is going to make it all the more difficult to go sit in a hospital bed for 5 days.  Now that I am about to get over the hump, there is also the very real possibility that the side effects and sick days start to ramp up, as chemo is such a cumulative process.  I know having talked to a few other survivors who have had similar cocktails, it was really after the 3rd treatment and beyond that they started to succumb to more invasive side effects.

I saw the other day that baseball great Tony Gwynn was recently diagnosed with cancer in his salivary glands.  You think about him, Michael Douglas, Michael C. Hall, et the list goes on and on of famous people/athletes that have been diagnosed with cancer.  It just goes to show that cancer isn't a poor disease or white or black one for that matter.  Cancer can affect even those with the most healthy of lifestyles (Lance Armstrong).  It really is amazing how prevalent this disease is; according to men have a 44% chance, and women have a 37% chance of developing cancer over the course of their lifetimes.  That is not meant to scare people, but just help understand that at some point you very likely could be affected by this disease.

Something that a few people ask me about is what you can/can't eat in order to fight off or prevent cancer.  You see so many advertisements these days about how y causes cancer or x wards off cancer.  I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I do know that my doctors haven't said anything about avoiding x or doubling up on y.  I would take any claim with a grain of salt and just focus on eating a balanced diet, as that is all the nutritionist and doctors have told me to do.  I think you should use common sense in regards to your diet and lifestyle, because the other factors (genetics, environment, randomness) are mostly outside of your control.

I can't thank everyone enough for the prayers and support during this fight, they really mean the world to me. I look forward to seeing everyone who has reached out once I receive a clean bill of health, but until then, I am focused on fighting and surviving round 3 at beautiful Emory Midtown.  I have requested a room with a view of downtown, as staring at the Renaissance Hotel wasn't terribly scenic last time.  I will post again from prison the hospital, so hopefully everything goes well and I can report on a successful admittance!

Go Rangers tonight!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shrinkage Confirmed!

Quick post on this Thursday afternoon.  I had my MRI and appointment with my surgeon Dr. Monson this afternoon.  Monson looked at the MRI and definitely noticed some shrinking and smoothing of the edges of my tumor.  He said this is all good news, and a sign that I am responding well to the chemo treatment.  I will have my next MRI in mid-November, so there should be even more shrinking yet again (knock on wood).  This is great news, but of course it also guarantees that I continue on the chemo cycle, which obviously involves more super fun hospital visits.  I don't care though, because it is working and I am on the road to recovery!!

Hope everyone has a great weekend, go Braves/Rangers/Dawgs!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Does Cancer Smell Like?

Greetings all, happy hump day.  I was hoping to post this afternoon with good news after my MRI, but of course after I showed up at the clinic I came to realize it isn't scheduled until tomorrow, so hopefully something good to report then.

I posted awhile back about how you should never be embarrassed to have something on your body checked out.  Nobody is going to call you a hypochondriac or anything, I promise.  As many of you know I am very fair skinned, and have always been literally scared of getting skin cancer.  I have always feared that I would get melanoma on my head (under my hair) which led me to always spraying my hair with sun screen, which of course gives even the cleanest hair the look of a sticky matted grease ball.  My passion for high SPF sunscreen is to the point that I get playful grief all summer long with friends, I recall one exchange on the golf course last summer:

Andrew:  Michael, that sunscreen stinks, stop spraying it everywhere
Me:  You think that stinks?  What do you think cancer smells like?!

Andrew, to answer the question I posed, there is no smell.  There is no taste and very little feeling (in my case), which makes it so scary.  Cancer is silent in many forms, which is why so many people literally stumble upon it and discover it via luck.  I think back to say the day before my lump popped in and I went to the doctor; I technically had cancer that day (the cancer didn't develop and grow in one afternoon, but over a period of months), yet had I undergone a full physical by a good doctor, there would have been no way he/she would have discovered the cancer.  They say hypertension (high blood pressure) is the silent killer, but I'm convinced you could argue that cancer could claim that title as well.

Another ironic story that technically took place after I probably already had cancer growing in my body took place Memorial Day weekend.  I was again lathering up with sunscreen, when some buddies informed me of an article that had recently been published expressing concern over some key sunscreen ingredients, and how they might potentially promote the development of skin cancer.  Of course I freaked out when I saw said ingredient was in my bottle, so I immediately switched to a brand that was considered safe, good thing to, ooops!

The moral of this story is that there is very little you can do to prevent cancer from growing in your body.  No matter how much broccoli or whatever "anti-cancer" food you eat, if your cells allow one mutated cell to grow and replicate, then you could very well come down with cancer.  You can however wear sunscreen and get annual checks to ensure you don't have skin cancer.  I don't care whether you are tan or pale, you can get skin cancer, and melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, so it can be a huge deal.  Please for my sake wear bullfrog SPF 15 or greater, and go see your dermatologist annually.  I prefer to not have to read a friend's cancer blog, because they were careless in regards to simple sun protection techniques (that and I will have used up all the good cancer jokes).

Thank you all again, and please stay tuned to hopefully some news of shrinkage tomorrow evening!

Go Braves and Rangers!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Only 25 Times? Sure!

Happy Friday everyone!  I can imagine everyone is excited about getting home for the weekend, though I will say I am hopeful that I will continue to feel good this weekend so I can get out of the house and enjoy the nice weather for the first time in a while.

I was pretty sick on Wednesday with similar symptoms to those I felt at the low point of the first cycle.  I bounced back a bit on Thursday, and by this afternoon I feel 100%.  I hope being sick on the 2nd day of recovery isn't a sign that I will struggle as I reach my valley (Monday - Wednesday), but at this point all I can do is take it one day at a time.  The key is to recognize a good day and maximize what you get out of it, because trust me, you ain't doing much on the bad days.

I had my first Radiology consult yesterday and it was interesting to learn more about what that process entails.  Basically I will receive 25 treatments that last about 20 minutes (5 days a week for 5 week) each.  The goal of radiation is to shrink the tumor even further through local treatment before surgery.  Some of the side effects she mentioned were short term:  fatigue & irritated skin, and long term:  local discoloring, local hair loss, sterility, and 2nd cancer (remote).  She said that it is a good thing that I stored my sons and daughters, because with the location of my tumor, there will definitely be some rays that hit the testicles (which are very sensitive to radiation apparently).  2nd Cancer is cancer that is caused down the line by old cancer treatments, isn't that great?  I can cure this cancer by doing something that could cause it further down the line.  I feel like the U.S. Gov't constantly refinancing debt, just to put off the inevitable a few more years.  The chances of this are very low (1-2% tops), which normally are good odds unless you somehow developed a .001% chance cancer recently.   Speaking of odds, did anybody hear about the Maryland guy who just won his 2nd lottery jackpot this year?  I mean what is going on here!?

In the mean time I'm focused on  getting through this recovery period and hopefully receiving some good news after my MRI that is scheduled for next week.  I am hoping for the type of shrinkage that you only find amongst polar bear club members, so please cross your fingers! 

Good luck to all the college football fans this weekend, I am not going to predict a UGA victory anymore this season, so perhaps that will put us over the top.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

.333 (Repeating Of Course)

In baseball if you hit .333 you will get in the hall of fame, in basketball if you shoot 33% from downtown you will be rewarded with an 8 figure salary, and if you do anything at a 1/3 clip in the NFL then you will be out of a job.  In my case 33.33% is how far into my chemo treatment I am after yesterday's discharge from the hospital.  Although I still have 4 treatments (and 20 hospital days), it is really nice to have 2 notches on the old belt, and at this point I know I need to start preparing to make the next 4 go as smooth as possible.

As I mentioned on Sunday, the food was pretty brutal during this last admittance.  I actually thought about the smell of "patient dining" this afternoon while walking to get the mail, and I nearly got sick on the sidewalk.  Either way, it is clear now that I can no longer subside on these meals during my stays, so I am going to have to plan out an intricate mix of takeout for Dad to run out for.  We have Quizinos, Moe's, and Mellow Mushroom all within a mile of the hospital, so I think I might plan a mix of meals that will maximize taste and nutrition for the 5 days.  Any favorites from these respective menus that I should try? 

I was discharged yesterday around lunch, and I have been at home trying to rest up ever since.  Draining is the only word to describe these hospital stays, as it just chips away at you one day at a time.  Thankfully I am out though, and I'm looking forward to hopefully going into the office tomorrow and regaining some sense of normalcy.  I am still awaiting the "valley" that tags along with recovering from chemo, so as with the last time I am just taking it one day at a time, and doing as much with my days as I can depending on how I feel.

Later this week I have my first appointment with the radiologist as we begin to plan for the next stage in treatment after chemo.  I would imagine in my case radiation will begin sometime after the first of the year once I'm finished with chemo treatment.  I admittedly know very little about radiation, so I am hoping to get some information on Thursday that can help understand the process a bit better.  Either way, it is sort of nice to be planning for the 2nd stage of the treatment, it definitely beats discussing the side effects of chemo.

All in all, I'm still upbeat and feeling alright (relatively speaking).  I am entirely bald now, and actually that has brought some challenges I hadn't foreseen.  When they say that hair moderates body temperature they weren't kidding.  I continually find my bald head sweating to the point of sticking to the couch or pillow, so I've had to combat that with wearing some of my fashionable skull caps while I rest. How does Bruce Willis do it?

Thank you again everyone who has been checking in and praying for me during this trial, it means the world to me, please stay in touch!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Round 2, Nearly In The Books

Morning everyone! Its day 4 over here at the hospital, and while it hasn't been as smooth a visit as last time, I have to think that my trials have been comparatively better than Mark Richt's over the last few days.  Time to face the fact that UGA just isn't good at tackle football this season.  Despite that, I want to thank whomever mysteriously sent me the amazing signed football this weekend.  Please identify yourself so I can thank you properly.  It was a thoughtful gesture and I appreciate it very much, thank you.

What I have learned here during the 2nd round that this is so draining as it builds up.  I have had bouts of nausea the last two days and really lost my appetite, especially to the hospital food.  You are walking a real thin line when it comes to hospital dining, so if you are feeling even just a little out of sorts then it is really tough to get in the mood to eat this stuff.  Thankfully mom and Lauren have brought me little snacks to supplement what little I can keep down. 

The time is moving somewhat quickly, do in large part to the visits and college football viewing.  The first round was a new experience and thus not necessarily fun, but it was new.  Now that I have been there and done that, the stir craziness creeps in a few days earlier, so you really have to mentally hang in there and stay busy.  It is hard to believe it is already Sunday, which means that I'm headed home tomorrow sometime.  I will say though minor bouts with nausea this week could be foreshadowing of what I have to expect during my recovery week to come.  Either way, I am still feeling relatively well and hopeful for a smooth recovery week ahead.

My next post will be from the outside, so please cross your fingers for a quick and easy discharge tomorrow!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

BYOP (Bring Your Own Pillow)

Good morning everyone!  The hair is really falling out now, I am rocking the "Hulkamania" bandanna at the office this morning due to some pretty fierce bald spots that have appeared.  What is weird is that my arm hair is still holding on for dear life.  The part that I have eagerly been anticipating though is that I haven't had to shave since Friday.  If for some reason my facial hair never comes back after all of this than you wouldn't hear any complaints from me.  Although that would mean I could never again grow a mustache, it would be worth it to never have to shave again.

I check back into the hospital tomorrow morning for round 2 of my chemo treatment, this time at Emory's Midtown campus (was at University Hospital last time).  I will be enjoying the amazing accommodations for 5 days and 4 nights again this time, so I will hopefully be out sometime Monday afternoon.  As I mentioned during the last treatment, I didn't feel any side effects as they were pumping the poison into me, but I wonder if that will continue this time?  I have talked with a number of people who have enjoyed this same cocktail and they have indicated that the treatment begins to take a toll on you the deeper into it you get, so who knows what will happen this weekend. The Dawgs play at 7pm Saturday night, so I am hoping that maybe there is something to the luck of the hospital and we can finally get a conference victory.  Although with the way we are playing I am wondering if I'm not better served to pop an ambien before kickoff and sleep through the disaster that is UGA football.

One of my main goals for this round of treatment is to try and rest a little bit more.  Last time I mentioned how difficult it is to rest despite sitting in an uncomfortable hospital bed for 5 days.  I think the key to this is to do some more reading, and bring a comfortable pillow from home.  I recently finished Lance Armstrong's book and I really enjoyed the read.  I think it is a quick and easy read for anybody regardless of interest in cancer or cycling.  My next literary hurdle is "The Count of Monte Cristo".  I really liked the movie so I thought I'd give Alexander Dumas' book a shot.  Though I shouldn't call this a hurdle, it is more of a mountian; because according to IBooks this is over 1,800 pages long!  I am currently on page 126, so any bets as to what page I am on when I leave on Monday?

Something else to look forward to with this 2nd treatment cycle pending, is that before round 3 we will take an MRI of my tumor to check to see if it has shrunk any.  If the MR shows shrinkage (different than George Costanza's shrinkage mind you) then that means the chemo is working.  It also means that the chemo is killing any cancer cells that are floating around inside my body.  This is the first big mile marker of my treatment so please cross your fingers for some major shrinking!

Thanks again to everyone for the support and prayers.  My next post will be from my beautiful $1,100 a night suite, so I will let you know how the other .001% live (the unlucky .001% that is).  Until then, please let me know if there are any good pranks that I can play on the nursing staff while I'm locked up!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

So It Begins...

Evening all, hope y'all had a better football weekend than I did. I guess there is more to life right? Quick post because I wanted to say that my buzzed hair is starting to fall out. I scratched my head and came away with a small clump of hair. It's really pretty crazy, because although I've been expecting this, you are never prepared to pull out hair clumps. On the bright side, if enough comes out by morning, maybe I can wear my "Hulkamania" bandanna to work tomorrow.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gameday Luck

Happy gameday all!  I hope everyone is ready for a great day of college football.  I wish my sister luck as she is up in big orange country with the Dooley family preparing to take in the UT/UF game this afternoon.  I'm hoping she gets some t.v. time if the cameras ever pan to the family during the coverage.

After being sick from Sunday evening into Tuesday, I really bounced back quickly this week and I've felt great ever since.  Dr. Movva even mention how amazing my blood counts changed from critical on Monday to very good on Wednesday.  I think that goes to show how fortunate I am to be young and healthy when faced with this fight.  I can only imagine what a 55 year old obese person with lung cancer must feel during treatment.  Since I have put my first recovery week behind me, I get a few days of normal health until it is time to check back in for round 2 on Thursday.  They are potentially moving me from Emory University to Emory Midtown for this cycle, which would mean very little other than the view from my window could improve.

This past Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend the monthly Sarcoma Support Group meeting at the hospital.  This is a great organization that allows sarcoma survivors to get together and learn about new treatments, raise awareness, casually talk with the doctors, and just get to know others that have been through a similar fight.  I met some inspirational people the other night who were quick to share their stories and also offer assistance to me during my struggle.  One takeaway from Wednesday that still blows my mind is just grasping how rare sarcomas are.  I believe they said there are approx 300 or so new cases a year in Georgia.  From there you have something like 40+ subclasses which skew the stats even further.  Take my case, I have a Synovial Sarcoma, and Ned (the group leader) noted that they have only had 2-3 Synovial survivors come through during the 3 years of the group's existence, that is crazy!  For a guy who struggles to win the red/black bet at roulette, it is so my luck to develop such a rare cancer, but I digress.

Speaking of luck, I am starting to get concerned with my gameday luck this fall.  The Dawgs are 1-0 when I watch from the hospital, but 0-1 when I watch from home.  Granted the sample size would hardly be considered significant, it is still spooking me a bit.  If this trend should continue then I will have to figure out a way to get admitted for the GA/FLA game in October, since that is a non-hospital week for me.  Anyways, with all that said, does anybody have any weird superstitions about where you watch your team play?  I know all the Dawg fans are consumed with how/where they watch the Florida game and its bearing on our overall performance.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Who Needs P90X?

Good evening everyone.  I just wanted to post a quick update after last night.  Last night was pretty rough, I had trouble keeping down food, though I'm not sure if that was because of the chemo or watching the offense on display in the Jets/Ravens game.  I have officially lost my appetite, and am proud to say that I have joined the select club of 70 somethings who enjoy a diet of Ensure on a daily basis.

I have definitely started to feel a little bit better after last night, baby steps for sure, but still improvement is improvement. I am hopeful that I will be back to feeling good again in another day or so.  I will say I think I might be on to a new weight loss program.  When they weighted me at my appointment yesterday it indicated I'd lost 6 pounds since Thursday.  What is amazing about that is I didn't lose my appetite until Monday, so it wasn't due to a lack of eating.  I guess there is no "normal" when you have Health Ledger's medicine cabinet flowing through you on a daily bases.

On another note, I wanted to share some of the songs that I have put together that help pull me through when I am feeling down.  As I have blogged in the past, I am by no means a music xpert, but hey, I like what I like.
Here is a sample of some of the songs I listen to when doing my laps in the hospital:

"Armageddon It"  Def Lepard
"The One And Only"  Countdown
"Video Killed the Radio Star"  Buggles
"Dancing With Myself"  Billy Idol
"Train in Vain"  The Clash
"Somebody's Baby" Jackson Brown
"Silly Love Songs"  Wings
"Wake Me Up(Before You Go Go)"  Wham!*

*Yes, I really like this Wham! song, so shoot me

Anyways, that is a little snapshot into what I am listening to during the rough times.  What would be on your playlist?


Monday, September 13, 2010

Hit By A Bus

Greeting all, hope the weekend was good!  My weekend was rough with that putrid showing by the Dawgs, but at the end of the day I guess that stuff doesn't matter so much.

I survived the early part of the weekend side effect free, but last evening I started to feel some discomfort sneaking in.  I woke up this morning feeling like I was hit by a bus.  I have lost my appetite, and have a splitting headache.  The worst part of the headache is it becomes darn near impossible to relax and rest when your head is pounding so.  I had blood work taken this morning that pretty much confirms what I've been feeling, in that my blood counts have dropped and I am entering that valley period that could last a few days.  

Once you start feeling poorly from this, you realize how as a healthy adult you rarely feel bad, even when you are sick.  I think the affect of these symptoms might be multiplied for me since I am so unaccustomed to feeling sick.  Either way, I know that I have to suck it up and get through the next few days, because sooner than later my  body will bounce back and I will have a week or so without any ill effects.  In the mean time I'm trying to understand how the Dawgs only scored 6 points, and also figure out what is going on in AMC's "Rubicon".

Not much else to report this week, other than offer my little home as the location for the college football pity party:  UGA,UT, GATech, VaTech, FSU,  and Miami fans are welcome to drown their sorrows with me this weekend, talking about a culture clash... Those are 4 really different universities.

Sorry for the lack of humor and other information this evening, but I just wanted to reach out and let everyone know that I am fighting like a rabid dog this week..  When I recover a little bit I will try to do a better job.

P.S.  I hope the Jets lose by 45 tonight.


Saturday, September 11, 2010


I just want to post this morning and give a quick shout to all of my amazing friends in Nashville that put together a great care package for me.  I am so touched to have the support, and I hope you all know that I will be right there for each of you should you come upon hard times.  A big thanks to Andrew and Virg for coordinating the whole endeavor, yall are the best!  Thank you again everyone for the many different forms of support you've shown me!!!

Enjoy your college football saturday, go dawgs!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Getting Tired From Rest

No matter what, you are tired when you get home from vacation.  Whether you climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro or sat on a hammock in St. Barts, you always come home tired.  Why is that?

I would not consider my recent 5 day/4 night stay at Emory a vacation, but it was a a trip that entailed a whole lot of laying around.  Despite that, I find myself so incredibly tired now that I am home.  But I am home, and with that comes so many of life's luxuries, such as showering and rolling over.  I spent the rest of Tuesday after discharge getting prescriptions filled ( how do you keep all these pills straight grandma!?), and picking up some groceries with mom and dad. I finally got to relax a little on Wednesday when I spent the day trying to catch up on rest and meds in order to stay ahead of the side effects. With that being said, I am still here waiting to see what each day brings in terms of side effects.  The doctors have said that days 7-10 will be the ones where I will feel the weakest and most sick, so if the schedule stays true than that will be this coming Tuesday - Thursday.  I am hoping that the side effects pass me by, but I am ready for whatever is in store just the same!

I spent most of this morning waiting on a FedEx shipment from CVS that included my post chemo shots.  The point of these is to take them within 48 hours of the end of your chemo cycle.  These shots trigger your bone marrow to start producing white blood cells that will then help keep your cell count high during the valley days (~7-10 after treatment).  Finally the big refrigerated box arrived this morning and I went about the process of trying to figure out how to shoot myself up with a needle.  Due to the fact that I haven't spent much time with Roger Clemens or Amy Winehouse, I was admittedly a little skid-dish about my first self-administered injection.  I did find the directions helpful (do dealers provide these?), and I was able to stick the needle into my right abdominal, it really didn't hurt (perhaps because of the lack of muscle?), so that was a relief, seeing as how I will have to do this 5 more times between now and the end of the year.

So once you get over the hurdle of administering the shot, the next natural step (as with everything in this process) is to understand the side effects.  For this particular drug they told me to expect sever joint pain in about 24 hrs.  This is because the blood cells are manufactured in the joints, so the pain is caused by the triggering of cell generation.  The other side effect is "you may feel crazy"...  That seems pretty vague, don't you think?  If "crazy" should hit me, I hope it hits me like the anesthesia did after the biopsy, when I broke into the them song for "California Dreams".  Have any requests?  The only other thing I can ask is please don't hold it against me if you see me in a crazy daze running down Howell Mill in nothing but my reverse snuggie (bath robe).

But seriously though, I have gotten through the first few days really well, and thank you to everyone who has checked in on me since discharge.  I was even able to come into the office this afternoon and catch up with all my coworkers, who have just been a tremendous support group for me during this battle.  I can't begin to thank the entire AMP Team at The Home Depot enough for what they have meant to me. 

For the record, Dawgs 24 - USC 13


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Numbers Game

Morning everyone!  I am still here at the Emory hospital, waiting on the Dr's okay to check out after rounds later this morning.  As I reflect on my 5 day/4 night excursion, I thought summarizing my stay with  numbers would be interesting, so here it goes:

7  The number of total miles I have walked around the ward between Friday and Monday

750  Ounces of water I have drank since being admitted.  That would be 93+ 8 oz glasses FYI

0  Actual showers I have had since Friday morning.  I've had to settle for self-administered sponge baths due to being on the IV constantly

12 Consecutive hospital meals I've consumed.  The best meal is breakfast (how can you screw that up?), but overall the food wasn't half bad

14  Amazing visitors have come to spend time with me while I sit hear watching my 18" TV.  Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart for stopping in and keeping me company!

53  The lowest heart beats per minute I observed during all the times my vitals have been measured this week

5  The highest number of IV bags that were being sent into my veins at one time

 $150K  I am estimating this with no inside information, but I would imagine that this might only be a low guess as to exactly how much this 5 day treatment stay would cost retail.  It could very well be 3x this, that my friends is crazy

25  The number of days I still have to spend in the hospital until I have completed all 6 of my chemo cycles

I hope everyone has a good start to the short week.  I will post again once I get home and settled.  I am fully prepared for the nausea and worn out feeling that will accompany being off the drip.Thanks for the support!



Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Holiday Getaway

Good evening everyone!  Before I begin I would like to offer my condolences to my Ole Miss friends on the death of their football season.  I watched the end of that game and I couldn't believe what I had witnessed, it must have been so devastating for an alum/fan.   It was the opposite for us Dawg fans, the boys put on a show and I think they are ready for the Cocks next weekend.  I know we have a few USC alums who read, so hopefully they won't be too hurt after the Junkyard Dawgs silence that damn bird next weekend.

I am writing this from my all-inclusive resort; a place where all meals are served in the privacy of your room and where activities are planned on an hourly basis, it is great!  Yes, I am talking about Emory University Hospital!!  In all seriousness, this first hospital stay has been pretty good thus far.  The nurses have been very kind, and it has been great to have family and friends stopping in to help pass the time.  I have felt no side effects yet from the drugs, so that has allowed me to feel good over these past few days.  I am on a constant IV drip that is comprised of chemo drugs and some meds that help prevent side effects and pave the way for the chemo drugs.  The chemo drug doxorubicin is so toxic that a normal sized IV bag can only be distributed over a 24 hour period.  You can probably get through the same sized bag of basic hydrating fluid in a couple of hours, so it is pretty wild how slow it drips.  My IV stand has about 5 wires going from the machine into my port (Think "The Matrix", but with better acting).  I am encouraged to walk around the perimeter of the oncology wing, of which 21 laps equals a mile.  I have walked 30 and 32 laps the last two days respectively.  The only reason I haven't done more is because I want to spend time with my guests, and it would be silly for us to do such walking in a single file line.  For my walks I unplug my IV dispenser and I wheel it around with me on battery power, so it is tough to move to fast with the creaky old cart at my side.  

To this point I feel no different than I did when I was admitted on Friday.  They told me that some people begin to feel nauseous, but I haven't felt it yet (one of my drips prevents this).  I think that is the main question I have been asked by friends and family is regarding how I feel with this stuff pumping into my veins, and my only answer is that there is no feeling, you barely know it is going on.  The difficult thing to this point has been trying to figure out how to sleep.  They offered me an ambien last night, but I was a little worried about how long it would knock me out for into this morning, so I asked for a half.  That was a mistake, as it wasn't enough to put me under, and I then had trouble falling back asleep after the routine checkups they do during the night to observe my vitals and monitor my drip.  I am going to take a full one tonight, so hopefully I can catch a few more z's.

As a healthy 28 year old, the weirdest part about being here is that I am the only one of my kind.  The other patients on the wing are much older, and some are further into their treatments (I assume, or else they were looking pretty rough "nornally").  I feel like I don't belong here when I take my walks and get to see the poor souls fighting similar fights as mine.  I mean, it probably isn't much of a boast when I say I can walk the fastest mile on this hall, nurses included.  But again, I am in my first cycle, and even with a great attitude, I bet things will be vastly different during cycle 5, after ~4 months of destroying my body and then  letting it recover only to destroy it to the brink all over again.  Without a doubt this will test my resolve and mental toughness, but as I have maintained from the beginning, I am going to roll with every punch thrown, and do my best to keep my sense of humor regarding the whole situation.

In closing I would like to recognize some other hospital news, the good kind:  loyal friends Matt/Kate Boyer and  Barry/Lucy Strozier are both set to receive visits from the stork later this week.  Congratulations to you both, and thank you especially for the amount of concern/care you've all shown me despite your current situations! 

I will post again before I head home for recovery so enjoy the weekend, and don't forget to root for VaTech to beat Boise St.  Also root for occasional reader Stewart Cink(only guy I will have more hair than in a few days) this weekend in the PGA TOUR playoffs.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Its Go Time!

Well, I got the news that tomorrow is the beginning of the next step of my journey.  I am scheduled to be admitted at Emory to begin chemo tomorrow morning.  I will be in the hospital on a constant drip until sometime on Tuesday.  Obviously this is a new way to spend the Labor Day Weekend, so I will be sure to let yall know if this is more fun than going to Georgia games and the lake, haha.  I will have my own room and t.v. so I should be set for watching inter-collegiate tackle football on Saturday.  It was actually kind of funny, when she asked me if I had any questions, the first think I could think to ask was what the cable t.v. package was like at the hospital.  My guess is that wasn't the usual first question in that situation.

One thing she did tell me today is that I shouldn't eat fruit that is peeled by Denny's employees. I think this is excellent advice, and I would recommend this advice to cancer patients and healthy people alike.  I could be wrong, but I believe this advice holds true to Shoney's and Huddle House as well.

So with that in mind I am now trying to figure out how to pack for a 4 day stint in the hospital.  Thankfully I have my new UGA scrubs to wear on Saturday for the game.  I assume I have at least basic cable in my room, so that means on Labor Day I will be able to catch the "Police Academy" marathon or whatever cheesy hook TBS is pushing for the holiday.  I am expecting a few visitors to pass the time, as my dear friend Michael Patterson is driving down to watch the game with me (one year ago this same man was at the UGA opener in Oklahoma wearing an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, so I'm not the only one experiencing a different kind of gameday), as well as my sister Lauren.  Mom and Dad are coming up Friday, so it will be great to spend some time with them, playing board games and watching football.  My dad also promised to play golf in my honor tomorrow, though I have a feeling it will turn up being more of a slap in the face to me when he slops around and shoots 88 (sorry dad).

In actuality the process of receiving chemo isn't very traumatic or anything(from what I've been told), but it is the side effects that will follow a few days later when things get interesting.  But where I am sitting, I can't worry about the possibility of the side effects, and instead I will focus on staying in good spirits and passing the time while in the hospital.  Like many of you, I hate being in hospitals, but at this point I pretty much have to get over that uneasiness and just roll with it.

I'm off to enjoy my last night at home for a while.  My next post will be from the hospital, so I hope everyone enjoys the beginning of the college football season tonight, and of course, thank you everyone for the support!!!


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My First Big Break

Quick post, but I just want to pass along the great news that the results from my lymph node biopsy came in today.  I just received confirmation that the nodes were clean, which means that it is highly unlikely  that the cancer has begun to travel via the lymph system, so it is basically localized at this point.  This is amazing news and makes me all the more thankful that I identified my tumor early and took action as soon as possible.

As happy as I am, I am also confused at the medium chosen by the doctor to inform me, don't yall think this is a weird way to notify patients?

Thanks again everyone for the support, more to come later in the week as the first chemo treatment draws near.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Good Fortune In Bad Times

Hello everyone, I trust all had a great weekend.  A big thank you to all the Nashvillians who made the trip down to ATL to hang.  It is hard to believe that football starts this Thursday night with South Carolina vs Southern Miss.  I think DVR was invented for all those SoCar fans that can't watch "The Office' because they try to lead the league in Thursday night games (the only thing they can finish first in).

As I mentioned in the last post, this week starts slow from a medical standpoint, but one that is sure to end with a bang.  I get my chemo schedule on Thursday afternoon, and I just have this sneaky suspicion that they will inform me that I am to start treatment on Saturday.  I almost welcome it though, because the first day of college football is one of my favorite days of the year.  If I should start on Saturday then my favorite day will also coincide with the day that I begin the greatest test of my life, so it will be one I will remember for the rest of my life.

When I think about my current predicament, some would think that it would be easy to become angry and resentful at the hand God dealt me.  To be honest though, there are many things that could have made this situation unbearable for both me and my family.  For one, I am so thankful to work for a great company that has an amazing health insurance plan.  I have heard a number of cancer stories involving patients who were in between insurance plans and literally had to beg hospitals to take them as a charity case.  I simply couldn't imagine having to try and figure out where to get treatment and how to pay for it on top of coping with everything else that accompanies this disease.  Another thing I'm thankful for is the fact that I happened to take a job close to my family and friends.  As I was finishing up business school, I was looking at jobs all across the country, and I just couldn't imagine how lonely this experience would have been to deal with in St. Louis or someplace like that.  Not only would that have been tough on me, but also difficult for my parents who instead of being a 1.5 hour drive away, would have been a 2 hour flight.  

In both these cases the key event was when I obtained a job offer from The Home Depot back in April.  I knew it would be a great opportunity for my career, but I had no idea it would be one that might just save my life.  It is so weird to think about how one event can cause such a ripple effect.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Make This Weekend Count

Thank you all again for the prayers and well wishes!  I am nearly full strength after Wednesday night's surgery.  I have the green light to take off the dressings and shower later this evening (first since Wednesday morning), so that is exciting.  I am working from home today because I still hobble around a little bit and due to the placement of the stitches (right at the bend in the thigh when you sit down).

As if this isn't more real, next week is when things will really start to ramp up.  I have my benchmarking MRI scheduled for next Wednesday, and my final chemo consult on Thursday.  Now the big question for me is when will we start treatment?  I would imagine it will be very shortly after that, because they want the MRI to be taken as close to the beginning of chemo as possible.  This could mean I might have to enjoy the beginning of the college football season being pumped full of medicine at Crawford Long in Midtown.  I wonder how the tailgating scene is there?  Am I allowed to bring a flask?  Do they have Peachtree TV (the Dawgs will be aired here)?  So many questions..

I have begun reading Lance Armstrong's first book, "It's Not About The Bike", and I must say, I am really enjoying the read.  It is interesting to see how he went from a reckless and cocky young athlete to a very humble and grateful man after his battle with cancer.  While I hope I have never been labeled reckless and cocky, I will attest that cancer is a very humbling experience.  As I talked about in an earlier post, most of us take our good health for granted, so in a way we are cocky regarding our well being.  I have heard from a number of my friends who have taken a greater interest in their body after I shared how I detected my tumor, and I must say, I was really touched to learn that I might have helped friends in some way shape or form. 

Another way this disease humbles you, is it makes you realize that arguments and petty differences between friends are so stupid.  I know I had lost touch with a longtime friend for nearly a year until I made my diagnosis public.  Since then we have caught up and will remain friends for years to come.  There is just no reason to hold grudges or not communicate with friends for silly reasons.  I hope that all of you will think about if there is someone who is/was close to you that isn't so now because of a trivial reason, and then reach back out to them and reconcile.  There are much better ways to spend time than to be bitter or mad towards a good friend.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and I will hopefully have some decent stories to report on Sunday.  Thank you all for reading, and of course thanks for all the prayers and support!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Surf Dudes With Attitudes

Quick update all. My 12:30 surgery actually took place at 5:30, so we (mom&dad)spent a cool 4 hours waiting and making a dent into an iv. I will post more tomorrow, but the surgery did go well. I am very sore from the cut and from where they put the chemo port over my collarbone. Apparently I was singing the theme song to "California Dreams" as I woke up from the surgery, so the nurses got a kick out of that. Thank you all for the well wishes going into today!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

IPad? More Like IGrateful

Before I get started, I want to thank everyone for all the support, emails, phone calls, etc.  It really does mean so much to me.  I am not just saying that, it really does.  I want to call out an especially amazing group this evening, and that is my UGA/tailgating friends who pooled together and bought me an IPad.  Thank you all so much, especially you Ross for leading the charge.  Once Ross gives me the list of those who were involved I will thank you again individually, most likely in a nice calligraphy note.  Thank you all so much, this will really help during those long days at the hospital receiving chemo.

So my personal update for tonight is about my lymph node biopsy surgery that is planned for tomorrow.  Basically what they will be doing is shooting a contrast into my tumor, and then watching it to see which lymph node(s) the contrast drains to.  They will then cut out the nodes and test them to see if any cancer cells have made their way into the node system.  This will give them a pretty good idea as to if the cancer has begun to travel.  Also during this procedure, they are going to put a "port" under my skin that will make it easier for them to inject the chemo drugs into my system. Please cross your fingers for a clean report tomorrow, although even in that fortunate situation my future treatment schedule will not change.  This is a full on surgery, so I will be off my feet for a few days, but unluckily for everyone my fingers will still work, so I fully intend on boring you all with updates. 

In regards to my current mental state, at this point I am more anxious than I am afraid of what is to come.  I am anxious to start chemo, because I have no idea how I am going to react to the drugs.  I am really anxious to see how the MRI looks after the 2nd round of treatment.  If you recall, this is when we will first get indication as to if the tumor is shrinking, and thus responding well to the poison medicine.  This talk of my attitude reminds me of Showtime's new series, "The Big C".  Not sure if anybody has watched this, but it is about a middle-aged woman who has late stage Melanoma, yet tries to keep it a secret from her husband and son.  My thoughts on the first episode were mixed, in that she apparently had denied the option of undergoing chemo in an effort to stop the spread of her disease.  She spends the rest of the episode living like she doesn't give a flip (pouring wine on the couch, rushing to put a pool in the backyard, etc).  Maybe this show will turn and become more inspiring as it moves forward, but through the first episode it left a lot to be desired.  I realize that when some people battle cancer that has become terminal, it gets to the point that you can't fight anymore, but merely try to enjoy your remaining days.  The key point there is they were actually fighting from the get go; this lady has given up before she even started to fight, which I find incomprehensible.   Again, I hope this show will turn and she will find some fight, but in its current state, it isn't something that will make you run through walls out of inspiration or anything.  Check it out, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the show.

I will close this evening with a follow-up to an early post regarding the potential for me to lose my fertility due to my treatment.  Well, I followed through this afternoon and made my first trip to the fertility clinic to ensure that the Oyler name will survive Max and I.  I will spare you all the details, though I will say that they give out some pretty creative key chains when you leave.  I will let your imaginations run wild in trying to figure out what they look like, but needless to say I am now taking orders from some coworkers in advance of my next appointment.

I promise the next post will be much more fun.  The last time I was under anesthesia things got real weird, so hopefully I have some good stories after tomorrow's surgery.

Thank you all for the support!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Check Yo Self... No Really, Actually Check

I hope everybody had a great weekend!  Did anybody else just I love "Nanny McPhee Returns"?  Obviously I'm kidding, but I did get a chance to see The Yacht Rock Revue play Michael Jackson's "Thriller" from cover to cover.  So with that in mind, what is your favorite Michael Jackson song?  Mine without a doubt is "Wanna Be Starting Something". 

Big week coming up, but I will go into details more as each appointment draws near.  Tomorrow morning I am scheduled to have a heart echo.  This is in order to give the chemo team a good baseline understanding into how healthy my heart is so they know exactly what dose of one of the chemo drugs I should receive.  Apparently one of the drugs that is used in such cases can put a bit of strain on the heart, so they need to know what they are dealing with before they concoct my recipe.  I am also having a quick surgical procedure on Wednesday which I will discuss in more detail later this week, sorry to leave you all hanging, I know you can't take the suspense ;).

What I'd like to focus on this evening is detection.  I was reading my sarcoma handbook (a real page turner), and it talked about how it is difficult to detect sarcomas early, because they lack symptoms and people are often prone to ignoring lumps.  With that being said, here is how detection transpired in my case:

I went to Nashville for a visit Friday July 9th.  I showered Sunday morning in Nashville and had no signs of anything on my body.  When I got home that evening, about 5 hours later, I was changing clothes, and I immediately noticed a fist sized lump on my upper right thigh, just below the groin.  No pain or discomfort accompanied this lump, but I knew it wasn't normal.  Honestly, I thought (after an extensive WebMD search) it was a hernia, as I had one on my right side when I was a young child.  Either way, I knew something was up(definitely wasn't thinking cancer), so I went to the local "Doc in a box" that evening.  And this started the chain of events that lead up to my official diagnosis on Tuesday August 9th.

On the other hand you have Lance Armstrong, who was in complete denial and didn't go in to get diagnosed until he was extremely sick and the disease had spread.  Compared to him I was much more proactive, so hopefully that will make a difference in my treatment and recovery chances (had I waited a month, what would the CT have looked like?).

So what I am getting at, is you need to know your body, and if something doesn't look right, even if it doesn't hurt, there is no shame in getting it checked out.  Nobody is going to think you are a hypochondriac if you are unsure about something and want an expert opinion.  This isn't meant to scare anybody, but I think as young healthy people we really don't like going to the doctor, paying the deductible, and getting "redundant" testing, but you just never know when you could be saving your own life by being cautious.  One of the most humbling aspects of this situation is you realize that you aren't "invincible".  Now I am not saying that I(we) go around treating our bodies like Steve-O from "Jackass", but we definitely take our good health and youth for granted.  So in the future, no in the present, please do something to get to know your body just a little bit better, and don't be afraid to go to a doctor, and when you are there, don't be afraid to ask questions.  Remember that GPs are a jack of all trades, master of none, so their word isn't and shouldn't be the end all be all.  This is not meant to be a slander towards GPs, it is just the reality of the situation; they can't know everything so don't expect them to.

Thank you everyone for the tremendous support!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Well That Is An Interesting Side Effect

Before I get started, I just want everyone to be aware that Brett Favre has decided to play one more year in Minnesota.  Prince must be super excited.

Okay so today was an interesting day, as I had my consult with the medical oncologist.  The medical oncologist is the doctor that oversees and mixes the drugs to be used in chemotherapy.  She is young and very smart, so I feel as if I am in good hands with Dr. Movva.  As mentioned earlier, chemo is such an unknown to me, so I have always been a little anxious to find out the details of the treatment.  She started the appointment off by talking a little about why chemo is necessary for my cancer.  Basically my class of sarcoma is quite aggressive, in that it grows fast, and larger tumors are more likely to spread cancer cells throughout the body.  Although my CT was clean, that doesn't mean that there aren't little microscopic radicals floating around.  The chemo has the job of basically nuking all these free radicals as well as to begin the process of shrinking the tumor to make the final surgery less invasive when it is finally conducted.

There are a few tests and other things I have to go through first, but it sounded like we are going to start the treatment sometime around 9/1.  The way it works is this:

1.  I will be admitted to the hospital and given treatment for about 3-4 straight days
2.  Once I'm discharged I will be sick for about 6- 10 days with symptoms very similar to a very bad case of the flu(or worse)
3.  My body will then begin to recover from the poison, I mean treatment, and I will feel very close to normal for about a week.  The process will then start over again.

I will do this same routine 6 times, so over an 18 week period I will receive 6 treatments and have an MRI taken after the 2nd, 4th, and 6th treatments.  Hopefully this will show that the tumor has shrunk in my thigh, which also will mean that the any free radicals were also nuked.  Despite getting hit with the realities of my tumor, I came away as positive as ever, because my doctor seemed adamant that her goal was to kill this disease, which is something I can get behind her on.

Sorry tonight's post was very technical and absent of my contrived humor.  I will end it with one funny exchange during the appointment.  So while she is talking about side affects such as possible heart issues and immuno deficiencies, she starts to lead into another dramatic side affect.  At this point I am like what the heck else can be worse than that?  Then she says there is a threat that I could become sterile due to the chemo.  I have to laugh at this point, because the last thing on my mind right now is making babies.  Regardless, we began to discuss the possibility of using a sperm bank to preserve the Oyler "legacy"(bad putting, good facial hair).  Of course all I can think about is Road Trip when that nerdy kid can't donate sperm for money because he had sex within the last 24 hrs (with a girl! if you remember).  So I have to make a phone call to check into the monthly rate at the local fertility clinic tomorrow, and of course plan my donation so that I haven't been with a large black woman, or smoked marijuana within 48 hours prior to donating.*

Thank you all for your support!

*Mom, I don't do either of these, please watch Road Trip again for clarity

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mr. Clean I Am Not

Back in June (which seems ages ago) I got pretty caught up in the USA's World Cup pursuit. I bit the bullet and purchased an American flag bandanna on for $1.50 to show my support and also to look like a redneck at the lake for July 4th(I succeeded at both).  At the time I never would have thought that I would be in a position where I would need a bandanna out of necessity to cover up my oddly shaped bald head.

I bring this up because I have a consult with my medical oncologist (that would now be the 3rd oncologist to join my team of doctors, but who is counting) tomorrow afternoon to discuss the treatment plan and schedule for chemotherapy.  Honestly, when I received my initial diagnosis it was the thought of chemo that scared me more than the threat of not surviving this battle.  You hear such horror stories about people that have had such terrible side effects from their chemo treatment.  Especially sitting here feeling 100% healthy, it is hard to fathom that I will have to potentially feel very sick for >6 months in order to hopefully feel the exact same way I do now.

I realize now that while yes there is a distinct possibility that I could be facing some severe side affects, it is by no means a foregone conclusion.  I have talked to a number of friends who have told me about people they know that have had very minimal side affects and have felt totally healthy throughout the treatment.  There are a lot of factors that will play a role in this (recipe, pathology, health, age, etc) so until proven otherwise I am taking the mindset that I will have some bad days, but there will also be a lot of good days that will allow me to go about some sort of normal schedule.  As I posted earlier, a positive mental attitude is so important when facing challenges such as these.  I know it sounds hokey for me to continue talking about the power of the mental state, but I've talked to a few cancer survivors who initially were very down after their diagnosis, and it wasn't much later on when they finally committed to positivity that their recovery really started to improve.  Try and apply that to any obstacles you have faced with both a positive and a negative state of mind:  Which were more successful? Which were less of a struggle?

Of course one side affect I will not be able to avoid is the hair loss.  For those of you that know me, you are familiar with the fact that I wear visors instead of hats, but those probably aren't in the cards for the next few months, so I am open to any type of head wear suggestions.  My dad is convinced that one of those hats with the fake ponytail hanging out the back is the one for me, but I'm more of a rat tail guy, so I don't think that will work.  Either way, I will wear any hat at least once, so break out the big guns everybody.

Thank you for your support!