Monday, January 24, 2011

Halfway Done

Good morning all!  I hope everyone had a great weekend, I know I did.

After this morning's radiation session I am halfway to 25, so only a few more weeks of early morning detours on the way to work.  It was only this weekend that I started to notice some slight side effects from the treatment.  The area that surrounds the tumor has become a little tender and itchy, so I am fighting this with a combination of aloe vera and baby powder.  All in all it is no big deal, but should the irritation get worse than I guess it could really make walking around uncomfortable.

This past weekend I traveled up to Nashville, my home for two years before graduating and moving to Atlanta to work for The Home Depot.  It was my first trip up since the weekend right before my initial diagnosis, so I have been very anxious to get up there and see all of my old friends.  Despite only spending two years there, I developed a lot of lifelong friendships with some great people.  My entire Nashville network has been so amazingly supportive of my battle with Sarcoma, and they rose to the occasion yet again this weekend.  Basically they threw a surprise party for me on Saturday, where everyone was dressed as their favorite Oyler character.  There were people dressed as golfers, UGA football fans, and of course a few attendees donning my famous Christmas onesie.  I was so flattered to see all the time and effort everyone put into the event, and I'd like to thank Paul and Andrew for hosting, and everyone else for being such great friends for coming out and enjoying the evening with me.  When you have such a special group it is hard to be away in another city, that much is certain.

This past Wednesday I had my monthly Sarcoma support group meeting.  I really enjoy going to these meetings because the people are so nice and it is a great way to gain some perspective on other people's battles.  Just like when I spent time with the young patient back during my last round of chemo, often times when I hear other survivor's stories at our meetings I get a sobering dose of reality.  Cancer hits people in so many different ways, and on so many different levels (emotional, mental, physical).  I am the first to admit that compared to the average cancer patient my experience has been much easier, which has a lot to do with how lucky I have been with detection and response to treatment.  Where I think a lot of people struggle on the mental side though is with dwelling on matters beyond their control.  With many cancers, and Sarcoma in particular, you have no control around contracting the illness, so it is futile to spend a lot of time depressed over diagnosis.  From here there are a number of other things beyond your control, such as how responsive you are to treatment, etc.  Of course the main thing you have control over is your attitude and your approach to life in general during and after treatment.  This is also applicable to people without cancer, as we all tend to spend too much time dwelling on things that we have no control over.  This is probably one of the most important lesson I've learned during all of this, and I hope everyone else has taken this lesson to heart as well.

Thank you again to everyone who has read the blog or sent me supportive comments on here.  I appreciate everything and I really enjoy reading the notes.  Everyone have a good week, and I will post again very soon!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Extraction Date Confirmed

For most of you, March 9 is usually spend mourning the death of The Notorious B.I.G., or celebrating Baron Bliss day in Belize.  For me March 9 will take on a new meaning as it has been confirmed as the date my tumor will be removed from my leg.  I had an appointment yesterday with Dr. Monson (my surgeon) and he said everything looked good, so it was time to get the surgery on the books.  At this point my tumor is barely noticeable on my leg; there is no longer much of a difference in size between my left thigh and my right, which means we've come a long way since August when a blind person could have seen the size difference.

As for the radiation, everything is still going well.  I have had 9 of 25 treatments to date and I've yet to experience any side affects.  Dr. Stableford did have me begin to rub aloe vera on my leg to combat any future discomfort, so I have been doing that as instructed twice a day.  Aside from finishing radiation, the only other task I have before surgery is another MRI and the first comprehensive CT scan since the day of my diagnosis.  This will be a CT of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis, which are the areas where Synovial Sarcoma potentially could spread, so these scans will be a part of the monitoring of my condition over the next few years.  I don't expect any surprises from these scans, as the scans were clear in August which was before my successful chemotherapy treatment,  but the downside is before the CT I have to drink 30 oz. of the worst tasting white paste, this stuff is tough to keep down.

All the news I have today, but hopefully shortly I will be posting about a great fundraiser some friends and I are going to put on in an effort to raise awareness and money for Sarcoma.  Stay tuned!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Radioactive Man

Good morning everyone, I hope all are safe after the snowcalypse 2011.  The biggest hazard as I see it are other drivers, especially those going way too slow.  Have some self confidence people!

To date I have had 3 radiation doses, with one pending later today.  So far it is pretty straight forward; I go in at 8:30, they take an x-ray of my tumor, and then they zap it for about 3 minutes.  You can't feel a thing, though it is crucial to stay incredibly still so that the dose hits the mark.  So far I haven't felt any of the side affects, but as it accumulates I'm excited to see the sunburn that results.

It is funny, because of the snow I was the only one to make it in on Monday for treatment, and then the clinic was closed yesterday as well.  I showed up this morning thinking surely they were back on schedule, but I came to find out that they were delayed until noon.  I can't believe nobody else showed up for treatment despite the conditions.  Isn't it worth it to drive very slowly (as the only car on the road mind you) to get to an appointment that will help rid you of cancer?  The answer is clear to me.

So beyond radiation appointments through February 11th, the next big date for me is another follow up with my surgeon on January 18th.  I am hoping since we have all my radiation scheduled that this will be the day that we set the surgery date.  To think that we are already to this stage of the treatment reminds me of how far we've come since the beginning of August 2010.

In the mean time, enjoy the icy roads and root for those Dirty birds Saturday in the playoffs!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A New Year

Happy belated new year everyone.  I hope all had a safe end to their holiday season.  I can only speak for myself, but I was ready to say goodbye to 2010 and start anew in 2011.

I have now officially gotten through the danger zones associated with my last round of chemo.  I still can't believe that I made it through 6 rounds without a single transfusion and only one bout with neturopenic fever.  As I've harped on a few times, I have been very lucky with how I've handled the chemo and its side effects.

I start radiation tomorrow, which means that for the next 25 weekdays I will be getting zapped for about 30 minutes every morning in a continued effort to shrink my tumor before surgery.  Last week I had to do what is called a simulation; basically they put me on the table in the position that they will do the radiation and take a CT of my leg.  They next put a bunch of marks in sharpie on my legs to help the techs line me up the exact same way every time I go in for radiation.  I am under strict orders to not wash the marker off, so I have to be careful not to scrub my legs or dry them aggressively when I shower.

Also now that I have finished chemo I have begun to try and get some strength back, as I am now able to work out with weights.  It was suggested by my doctors that I not use weights during chemo because of my low platelet count, which could lead to internal bleeding, so I took their advice and avoided the dumb bells for over 4 months.  I can tell you it has been a rude awakening this first week in regards to how much strength I've lost, but I am confident in time I will return to my prior form.  In addition to my old workout routine I have added in some lower body exercises to work the areas around my tumor.  My hope is that this work will make recovery much easier after my surgery and help me get back on my feet ASAP.  Since my tumor is on my abductor muscle, I have begun doing some exercises I never thought I'd see myself doing, like this one here:

Needless to say I feel a bit weird being probably one of the only men to ever use this machine at the gym, but I am willing to do whatever it takes to make the surgery easier.

As for new year's resolutions, I have actually really tried to make a concerted effort to make some and live by them this year.  After getting through this first stage and beginning to look beyond treatment to life after cancer I am making a real effort to eat healthier (more veggies/fruits, less red meat) and workout more.  Those are pretty cliched resolutions I know, but seeing as how I am going through a bit of a health scare and have spent my fair share of time in the hospital, trust me, you want to do whatever it takes to not spend days/nights at the hospital.

The next post will be after a few rounds of radiation, so hopefully I won't suffer too much from fatigue, which is rumored to be the main side affect.  In the mean time, I wish everyone luck on living up to their resolutions!