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Scans and Fractures


Scans and Fractures
October 20, 2014

LLife is always two-sided.  Yin and yan.  Good news and bad news.  Scans and fractures.

I recently had my CT scan (October 15) to see how my nodules are responding to the trial drugs.  This was pre-scheduled as part of the clinical trial.  Previous to this , my last scan was September 3, so after a month of treatment the comparative result was good: Stable impression.  Whew.  LindaJ, the nurse specialist, called right away to give me the results.  “Stable”, she said.  I was trying to fish for more details but there was none.  Then I saw the full report, it was all stable, stable, stable.

I was so happy.  Woohoo.  Another milestone pass.

Now for the “other” news.  I fractured my foot.  This happened two weeks ago Sunday, October 5, during a 10-mile tapering run along the lakefront.  At mile 7, I stepped on an uneven pavement and rolled my right foot.  Next thing I know I was on the ground.  My wife was not around since I ran ahead.  I had that sinking feeling of stupidity as I felt some swelling in my ankle.  My wife caught up with me and we walked back to the car.  I limped and prayed that my foot was ok because NYC marathon was waiting for us this November 2.  I trained hard the whole summer and I was almost there.

After some icing and rehab sessions with Noreen and Jamie of Novacare, and a consultation with Dr. Reilly of the Running Institute, this “Humpty Dumpty” could not be put back together in time to race NYC.  Sucks.  Arghhh….  Gone.  Just like that.

There is an official name for my stupidity: Jones Fracture.  It is similar to the recent injury of Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunders but in my case I do not need surgery (Thank, God.  My clinical trial doctors would have flipped).  What I need is 6 to 8 weeks of foot immobility, then rehab.  I try not to look back and play the “what if” game because I can be hard on myself.  Cancer and running taught me just to take what is given.  It is time to move on.  Chalk this up as another colorful adventure I look back to.

All is not lost.  My scans are good and there is always next year to look forward too.  Rejoice Kenyans.

Cheers.
Jones Fracture

 

P.S.  Next treatment is this Wednesday, October 22.  Never stops.

Round 8: Speedy Goes to Chemo.


Round 8: Speedy Goes to Chemo.
Yesterday: October 8, 2014

R

“Road trip! Woohoo. We are going to UofC to see my “fefol” (other guinea pigs) and get treatment. Number 5 is in the house, fefol. “

It is the first time for Speedy to be taken out since arriving in his new home.  He was thankful to be rescued and join the other toys like Moo, the cow (more on Moo in coming post).  Speedy arrives at the hospital and takes a peek from the backpack and surveys the waiting room area.

“Psst….hey lady. What’s up with the crochet? Who is it for?”
“Hey, mister. Do I need a mask too?  That is a cool chair with electric wheel?”  It is totally new environment for Speedy and just takes it all in.

It is early and the waiting room is slowly filling up again with patients coming for their treatment. Just another normal day for us cancer patients.  I brought along my new toy, Speedy courtesy of Mary Ann, for some selfies.

I like an early start because I get to finish early too, hopefully.  I was called already for my vital sign, they have accessed my port, and I gave them a urine sample (don’t ask why this is included..).  I need to be screened to check if I am healthy for another round of chemo.  They are normally concern about my platelet count which was a problem before.

This my world once a week: The world of clinical trials.  The world of cancer.  The rest of the week is spent coping and making the most of what life has to offer.

While my blood was being drawn, I overheard a patient next to me saying that her anniversary date is coming up this October. 15 years, she says. Wow. I am on my 6th year fighting cancer and she has more than double the years of my diagnosis.  She wears a hat to hide her balding head but is so cheery in greeting all the nurses  who has been taking care of her.  She knows all of them.  She has an admiring personality and perspective all brought or enhanced by cancer.

This is one thing I noticed in others as well as myself.  Cancer transforms you.  How deep is the transformation would depend how cancer is accepted.

“In the meantime, inside the infusion room Speedy notices many things.

Hmmm…. fefol here are treated better.  They give you reclining chairs or bed in isolated rooms while us guinea pigs are kept in cages, carpeted by a bed of wood shaving to pee and take a crap, or sometimes croak on.  They even have individual TVs.  If lucky, we have spinning wheels to entertain us.  What’s up with that!  Talk about the have’s and the have-not’s.

Hello!  Class warfare.  Where is Reverend Al Sharpton?  I say we do a march for the oppressed guinea pigs.  Occupy UofC: We kick the ass of the human class!”

I bring out Speedy for a selfie and talk to him.  Listen Speedy: I am here receiving this trial drug because of your sacrifice.  You proved that this drug is safe enough to be tested on me, Number 5.  You have done your job and I will take it from here.  Thank you.

Speedy melts.  “Reverend who?”

Hello, fefol!  Speedy in the house.

Hello, fefol! Speedy in the house.

Cheers.

P.S.
This weekend is the Chicago marathon.  I found a bib to enter but had to pass.  Over the weekend I sprained my right ankle.   Depressed.  It would have been my test run for next month’s NYC marathon.  I am sure the Kenyans are rejoicing my absence.


Round 7: A Guinea Pig Called Speedy
October 2, 2014

YYesterday I had chemo after a one week break.  Today I am sluggish, recovering, but still standing.  I thought I pass posting something this week but couldn’t.  Somebody came through for me.

Arriving from the hospital yesterday tired, I was welcomed by a “care package” sent by MaryAnnG, a work colleague of mine.  I just had to smile.  Inside was a Beanie Ballz guinea pig with an inscription of number 5 at the front, like a bib number, and a card.  I have known Mary Ann for several years now and she is the only who can throw an inside joke on me like this on me.  It made me forget the days event at the hospital.

Wait there’s more.  She mentions in the card to read the tag inscription hanging on the guinea pig appropriately named Speedy, it reads:

Speedy:  You’ll only see a blur as I race on by.  No one can catch me, so don’t even try!

The silent metaphor blew me and today I am still smiling.  Thanks, Mary Ann.

Hi, my name is Speedy.  I am a guinea pig and a runner.

Hi, my name is Speedy. I am a guinea pig and a runner.

Cheers.

P.S.  Yesterday, I joke my clinical trial doctor when he check to see me; I said I think I need an Ebola test since I went to Dallas, TX (Note: First US case of Ebola was identified in Dallas over the weekend).  He saw my fit condition and said no with a smile.

Round 6 and the 20-miler


Round 6 and the 20-miler

September 20, 2014

A“A goal is just an awesome way to force growth on yourself.” –Deana Kastor

She is an Olympic bronze medalist (Athens 2004), a 2:19:36 marathoner, and the only American woman to break 2:20.  I paused when I read that quote from her in an article in the October issue of Runner’s World magazine.  She had put it succinctly what my running (and sacrifice) is all about: Growth.

For the past couple of weeks I have logged lots and lots of miles, and being a slow runner that means lots of time to think, contemplate, and breath.   If my Fitbit is correct, that means a weekly average of more than 100,000 steps, 52+ miles run/walk, and almost 20,000 calories burned.  However, what it does not tell you are the other activities I do or my almost daily 5:00 am start at the gym to cross-train, yoga, and stretch.

What gives?

That’s the point.  Why bother.  I know I will not win Chicago or NYC marathons or could even qualify for Boston.  I am a slow runner, who goes weekly to chemo treatment as a past time, a vegetarian by choice, husband, father, grandfather, and breadwinner.  And yet I push myself to get up early morning to hit the gym.

Well, I have grown just like what Deena said.  My training and change of lifestyle forced me to grow.  In return I like myself more.  I am able to fully appreciate life by earning it one mile at a time.  I don’t miss steak or pork or the late morning rise because I am able to see things differently.  Other people have notice the changed too.  It is all good.

Round 6 and the 20-miler

Last Wednesday, September 17, was my sixth round of treatment and tomorrow, Sunday, is our 20 mile run.  I have never done this before–short chemo recovery and 20 miles/32K–so we will see if I will still be standing up.  It is a prelude to the Chicago marathon in three weeks: October 12.  I feel good, anxious, and looking forward to it.  I try not to think of the distance because it can get to you.  All I know is I will be at the start and how I finish is the fun of it.  See you at the finish line.

Cheers.

Scan results: Stable.


Scan results: Stable.
September 9, 2014

TThere was a delay in getting the results because LindaJ, the nurse practitioner who monitors my progress, was on vacation.  I saw the email she sent asking me to call her.  So I was anxious to find out the result.

I also received a notice from the UofC MyChart  web application that the results of my test was just posted.  My eyes went to the summary right away filtering the medical jargon:

“No significant change in multiple pulmonary metastases.  New new lesions identified.”

“Your tumors are stable,” adds Linda.  The rest are normal.

That is all I wish.  We catch up on other things but my mind is already on being grateful for the positive news.  Fighting cancer is a game of inches and centimeters; in my case 3.8 cm. for one of them.  I have been in this situation before and at this point you just take what is given; and in whatever form.  I just have to keep on working at it.

After hanging up with Linda, I went to church to give thanks.  I am sure my mother will be happy when she reads this: me going to church on a Tuesday and the positive news of my scan.

Cheers.

P.S.  Tomorrow back to chemo, Round 5.  Then try to recover fast and build more miles.

Another scan: All seats taken.


Another scan: All seats taken.
September 3, 2014

All the seats were taken, all 18 of them. Some had blank stares in their eyes probably because they are hungry. You are not allowed to eat anything before your test. There we were, me included, waiting for our turn to have a CT or PET scan performed. In the background, the Price is Right show was showing and all were glued to the TV watching to see if the lady is going to win the brand new Porshe 911 Carrera.  The car would surely turn heads and fits into the category of a chick (or guy) magnet car.

Earlier I had already checked in and I am just waiting for them to call my name to have my CT scan done. The scan is one of those test I have to do to see if my tumor shrank again after two rounds of chemo.

“Oh no!” A collective sigh of regret filled the waiting room.  “She should have not taken the $3000 money. Oh my god, she guessed all the numbers and could have won the Porshe!” That is easy for us to say watching in the waiting room.  The car was worth $92K.  Ooopps.

Price is Right is an appropriate TV show for waiting rooms. That and People’s Court or Judge Judy.  It is neutral and entertaining enough to distract you from all your medical problems.  CNN is depressing.  Soap opera: nausea.  Sports: drama

“Alvarez.” The technician calls my name and puts me back to reality.  He hands me a big glass of clear liquid. “Finish the drink in an hour and I will be back so we can do the test.” He goes on and calls other three names and gives them same drink and instructions.

I asked for a straw.  The tech gives me one, then I realize it was a mistake.  The others were all drinking it straight up from the cup, including the lady in the far corner.  Damm people: This is not a beer cup and we are not in a bar.  Whatever.  I might as well drink, er..rather sip, this tasteless concoction with my pinky finger raised.

Raising the cup I start sipping.  The drink is not bad, I have had better prep drinks before.  The best one is from MD Anderson, which comes in different flavors and a choice of sugar-free or not. (I posted a picture of the drink in my previous post in June.  Check that out).  I was the last one to finish which made me think if the straw was a good idea.  It didn’t matter we all waited and try to get distracted.  Gone are the hunger pangs only to be replaced by bloatedness from the drink.  I am hoping for good results like the one last August 8th.  We will see.

CT scan prep drink... burp!

CT scan prep drink… burp!

Ding…ding…ding. Come on down!

Cheers.

P.S.  I drafted the post before being called for the scan.  The scan calls for a dye being infused during the procedure so your organs will light up.  Your body will have this warm and hot feeling when the dye is infused.  Right after the infusion and scan things got dicey: I had an allergic reaction to the dye they gave me.  I was flushed, itchy, palpating, and full of rashes and hives.  I called for my wife and when she saw me she had the look of concern.  A doctor was attending to me and I was red like a lobster.  They gave me benedryl and put me in a room for observation.  I have had these procedures many times but this is the first time I had an allergic reaction.  The medicine took effect and slowly my allergies cleared but it left me groggy and sleepy.  All is fine now.  Am back to normal.  Just another excitement to spice up my life.  Ha!

What happened?  S**t happens.

 


Round 4: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

August 28, 2014

She wrote “I looked south, to where I’d been, to the wild land that had schooled and scorched me, and considered my options.  There was only one, I knew.  There was always one.  To keep walking.”

That was from the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cherly Strayed, who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone to discover herself.  A worthy journey but not for the faint of hearts.

It is a journey of redemption that she undertook on whim after her mother died of cancer.  I am sure some of us have had fleeting urges to undertake a self-induced journey of rediscovery, like retreat, yoga or hiking.  Maybe some don’t know where to begin.  Cheryl’s road to rediscovery started in Mojave, California and ended up at the Bridge of the Gods, east of Portland, Oregon.  It was more than a thousand mile hike alone in the wilderness.

As I read the book I could not help relate to it through my cancer journey.  Much like Cheryl, my cancer journey has shaped me to what I am today.  Whilst her journey has long finished, I am still on the trails of my redemption not knowing if, when, or where it will end.  I too have looked backed; have been schooled, scorched, joyed, and learned many times over.  Then there is the only option in front: to fight and survived.

There is only one difference between me and Cheryl, she chose to the PCT to discover herself while cancer chose me to make me see life, family, and relationships differently.  I have long stopped asking why I was chosen, instead I just accepted my faith willingly.  Thy will be done.

I still marvel at the people I meet along the way.  Yesterday was chemo day, Round 4, and my nurse was Marissa instead of Sammy.  She is from the Philippines and had worked with Edith, my other oncology nurse at Swedish Hospital.  There is LindaJ, the nurse research coordinator, the crochet ladies at the waiting room, other cancer patients, and many many other people who have touched me during this journey.  To write I acknowledgements to all would risk not naming all but I feel grateful and blessed.  Besides, this post would not end.

So, my journey continues and I am glad you are with me.  I am sure some are on a journey too or have had one e.g. divorce, sickness or just a redemption-seeking adventure.  Whatever it is (or was), there comes a point when you stop to rest and think.  You look back and you look ahead.  Whether it is a pain-numbing 26.2 mile race or an unplanned-system-shocking event that paralyze you to stillness, just block it and take the only option: Move.  Don’t give up.  Have faith.  Soon it will be your moment of self-discovery.

Cheers.

Half-Madness 13.1 medals

Half-Madness 13.1 medals

P.S. Over weekend, my wife and I completed a half-marathon in 2:57:23.  Not a PR but it met our target goal considering I had chemo during the week.  Next is to continue to slowly build the miles to 15, 18, 20, and maybe enter Chicago this October while on therapy.

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