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!