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 Amazon.com 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!


A Different Type Of August

For many of us in the South, August is a frustrating month.  College football is but a month away and seemingly all talk converges on whether or not our team has a chance to make a run at a title in the Fall.  I am one of those people who spends most of August anxiously awaiting September and that first game between the hedges in Athens.  This August is different though, as it was earlier this month that I was diagnosed with cancer.  It turns out I have a very rare soft-tissue sarcoma; one that has no correlation to lifestyle or any genetic markers.  Basically I won a really bad lottery, awesome. 

Tommy Jensen gave me the idea to start a blog as to inform friends and family of my status.  Since my diagnosis I have received incredible support from some great people, so I want to make sure that they are all up to date on my progress if/when I can't speak to everyone individually.  I am also trying to find the humor in all of this, because if there is one thing I've learned after talking to some survivors (no, I have not talked to Elizabeth Hasselbeck) is that the attitude you bring to fighting cancer is an important ingredient in the recipe that leads to a clean bill of health.  I hope you find this blog informative, inspirational, and funny (if all goes well).

Thank you for your support!