Sunday, September 13, 2009

September update!

It's been a long while since I've done an update. Ya know how it is...things get busy, especially in the summer.

I also wanted to wait for an appropriate time. I didn't quite know when that appropriate time was. First I thought it might be after the fourth cycle of chemo...then it was after the last PET/CT scan. Then it was after the sixth cycle of chemo. Now it's the start of radiation therapy. It's been busy.

Most/some of you are aware that my cancer is technically in remission. Dr. Al-Katib is comfortable calling the ball. The last PET/CT in July confirmed that there was little to no uptake of the radioactive sugar water anywhere in my body and especially in the tumor. That's usually the tell-tale sign that the cancer cells are dead. That was after the fourth cycle of chemo.

At that point I did the preliminary stuff for radiation therapy. CT's, molds and tatooing. Dr. Aref (the radiation oncologist) did his 3D modeling and decided that he couldn't safely do his thing (radiating the tumor) without significantly damaging my lung. The lung was almost encircling the tumor (I'd say close to 60% or so), which made it difficult to radiate the tumor without collateral damage. So it was decided to do two more cycles (two treatments per cycle) of chemo to try to shrink the tumor some more. Then Dr. Aref can use a smaller/tighter and less-concentrated beam of energy to get the job done without the collateral damage.

During this time, I also had an appointment with my pulmonologist to see what the condition of my lung was. Happy to report that my lung reinflated to full use (he said 98% which is damn close). I didn't really notice any significant difference but that was probably due to the chemo treatments. Both Al-Katib and my pulmonologist figured that was probably the case. Those chemo drugs take quite a bit out of ya.

Someone asked me what it feels like. It's hard to describe, but the best description I could give them was that it felt like someone or something was squeezing every single cell/tissue/organ in my body at the same time. Add the bone pain from the Neupogen shots and it really wasn't a pretty picture. It hurt alot! Some days I had to use a cane to get around, some days I was fine.

One of those things I never figured out (and the doc's really didn't have an answer for either) was why my hips kept on trying to pop out of their sockets if I moved too quickly or the wrong way. All I know is that it hurts like eternal damnation. Hasn't happened since chemo and the Neupogen shots were finished. Knock on wood!

Through it all, I tried to do as much as possible. Bowling on Thursdays was (and still is) alot of fun. It was a little tough to do occasionally. We gradually got me down to two Neupogen shots after chemo, which was a great thing since it meant two less days of agony during that two week time. Hung out with friends and family as much as possible. Even had a family reunion that turned out quite well considering how much we didn't plan it (like we usually do).

My last chemo treatment was August 25th. Since then, I've gone in for additional CT's and radiation mapping. I had a dry run on Friday to make sure everything is in place and running smoothly for Monday.

I officially have to be out of my house by September 28th. Some times I felt/wished that I could stay in it but without a steady just isn't possible. I'm better off starting over. Moving date is this weekend coming up. Everything will go into storage until I can get back to work full-time. Then I can get an apartment or something and get my life back to normal. I'm also probably going to take that opportunity to move a bit further north maybe up to Algonac area. It'll be a bit closer to work and, as much as I love the city, I think I was born to be a country boy. Gimme a nice country house with a wrap-around porch and a white picket fence and I'll be a happy camper. Oh...and since I'm dreaming...a lake I can go fishing any time I want. With a gin and tonic!

Believe it or not, this past Thursday (September 10th) was my six-month anniversary since all of this happened. Well, at least since I went into the hospital at Regional. Hard to believe. March 10 will always be hardwired into my brain from here on out. Expect a party around that anniversary date. Don't know what I'll be planning yet...but I'm planning something. Or I could use September 10th...dunno yet. March isn't really conducive to parties and barbecues...still a bit snowy and cold. I'll have to give it some thought.

A couple of things on the horizon. Moving day, of course. Also, since it is six months since all of this started, I also have to face realization that short-term disability payments are at an end and I also have to expect my insurance to revert to COBRA. I do have to express my undying gratitude to my employers, Trish and Ken over at Tri-Hospital EMS for their supreme generosity. Sure, the insurance and short-term disability may be somewhat dictated by policy and the law, but they made it very easy for me to rest easy and concentrate on getting better. I was, after all, only employed there for only a month-and-a-half when the crap hit the fan.

I actually had hoped to have gone back to work a while ago. I actually started thinking about it in June. Sure, it would have only been part-time or contingent status. I also couldn't go back to working the road because I couldn't lift anything with my left arm because that's where the med port is. I can drive a desk or teach is pretty much it...maybe dispatch or something like that. The problem was the chronic fatigue and everything else that goes with cancer and it's treatments.

Now, I have a bit more freedom and ability to do so (go back to work). I'll still be fatigued quite a bit...fatigue appears to be the number one side effect of radiation therapy...but I'd love to do something, especially if I can keep the insurance going without switching over to COBRA. Hopefully part-time. That's something we'll have to sit down and discuss.

Since I've been talking about generosity, I also wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone again for everything. Generosity, prayers, thoughts, deeds, kind words, love, friendship. There was/is absolutely no way I would have been able to do this without the support of all of you. I am, and always be, eternally grateful for everything you have provided me in these past six months.

I promise I won't wait so long until the next update!

God bless!

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