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!