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Archive for January, 2010

This is hard


This is hard.

January 29, 2010

I think I have underestimated the burden it is putting on me this time around.  I am no longer hooked up to chemo and I feel really lousy.  I am loosing hair and I maybe losing weight too but I am not losing hope.  This is just hard.  Don’t have much energy but tomorrow is a new day.

My Messiah CD is playing the background and it helps me forget my nausea.  My meds are helping but there are other things to managed.

Mom called to checkup on me but I can’t talk too much.  It is always good to hear her voice.  She worries too much.  I am ok, Mom.  Love you.

Cheers.

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I’m not going…

January 24, 2010

I love this scene from the helicopter attack of the Apocalypse Now (1979) movie.  With Wagner music playing loud, the helicopters of Col. Kilgore come in for the kill.  There was total chaos, bullets flying, bombs exploding, people running and more chaos.  Then, as each helicopter lands it unloads all the soldiers, except for this one soldiers who hangs on and shouts his lungs off…

“I’m not going…I’m not going…I’m not going!” (See this scene at the 8:42 minute mark for the video below).  He gets pulled by his sergeant and runs.

That is how I feel each time chemo day would come.  I would kick and scream inside me saying “I’m not going!” but I know come this Tuesday (January 26), I would be sitting in my chemo chair getting my treatment.

Some would say this is that ‘I would rather have a root canal’ feeling.  It defies logic when you do something that you really do not want to do and it is suppose to make you feel better or do you good.  If it is suppose to make me feel good, how come I am not looking forward to it.  It is not like I am going to Disney World.  But I know Tuesday is going to come and like in the helicopter scene when it lands, I need to go.  Oh, man!

This past week I have been trying to psyche myself for the coming week and that scene from Apocalypse Now just keeps on popping back.  My stomach is still bothering me every night, and the only way I get through the pain at night is to take Tramadol, a narcotic pain reliever.  During the day, I am fine as long as I take my other stomach pills then when night time comes I needed pain meds to get me through.  Nightly stomach pains with chills, nausea, and diarrhea from chemo is not exactly something I am looking forward to.  My doctors think I should be able to handle it.  Thanks, but I am the one facing all these demons.

“I’m not going…I’m not going…I’m not going!”

So tomorrow, January 25, I am having a CT scan of my abdomen and pelvis as ordered by my primary physician, Dr. O.  Then I am scheduled to see a gastro-intestinal specialist the following week.  This stomach pain has been bothering for the past two weeks and I need to resolve this.  I don’t think they will allow me to postpone or delay my treatment.  It’s complicated.

“I’m not going…I’m not going…I’m not going!”

In preparation, I tried going to my yoga class as much as I can.  Omm….  Listen to my Handel’s Messiah CD to find peace of mind.  And at church, I prayed for strength and acceptance.   Thy will be done.

“I’m not going…I’m not going…I’m not going!” We are going, my friend.  We got to. People expect us to.  Skye is waiting for us.   On Tuesday, I will introduce to you my girlfriend, Irene.

Cheers.

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Sick people

January 19, 2010

“So many sick people.” A lady beside me commented while seated in the waiting room of Dr. M’s medical office.  I agree.  It was 11:00 am Monday, January 18, and all the seats were taken in the waiting room.  My son, Louie, gave up his seat for an elderly.  The receptionist had to bring out more chairs to accommodate the rest.

I was there to consult with Dr. M, my oncologist, of the constant stomach pain I was having over the weekend.  I was unable to sleep or eat, and was always on narcotic pain medication, Tramadol.  My wife was already worried about my intake of pain meds but it was the only I can get through the night.  What worried me more was my lost of weight, not much (3 lbs) but I cannot go on like this for the next chemo cycle next week.

“Hi, Bo.  We are running late but the doctor will see you.  You okay, sweatie?” Nurse Edith said to me in the waiting room.

“No.” I said.  I was also in their office a week ago Monday complaining of the same stomach pain prior to the start of my first chemo cycle.  I was seen right away since not much people then, but on that day it was different.

I saw a parade of cancer patients coming in, sitting in their infusion chairs, getting infused, then picked up or going home.  A mid-sixty Asian cancer patient staggers to the waiting room after getting infused.  He was frail looking, pale, and thin.  Dr. M helps him take a seat while waiting for his daughter to pick him up.  He asked if he was eating but could only murmur yes.  Dr. M told him to take Ensure if he could not eat.  (Ensure is a life saver!).

“Oh hello.  It is good to see you again.  Happy New Year!” The conversation started at the other end of the room by a 50ish old man who had just entered with his lunch.  He greeted an elder lady accompanied by his son.

“How is your husband?  I sat beside him once during our chemo session.  Wonderful guy.  You in for treatment?” He added.  I remember instances like this at the hospital during my chemo sessions.  I remember meeting this wonderful lady who had more sessions than I did.  She was in high spirit even though her hemoglobin count was low.  This is how we make our bonds.

“He passed” replied the elder lady “I am here for my treatment as well.  I see you are doing well and you even brought your lunch for your chemo session.” The conversation continues but respectful of the life taken by cancer.  Apologies exchanged and jokes were passed.  This how we cope.  All part of the life of a cancer patient.  Shit happens.

Suddenly my stomach pain or worry-stress seems relieved.  As much as I wanted to get well myself, I could not help think of all the pain and little victories of the “sick people” there.  I am among them.  We are in varying stages of our sickness and pain, and each of us has our own way of coping.  Most of the time we are silent and finding the will to survive.

Upon seeing Dr. M., I told him that I saw my primary physician, Dr. O last Friday who prescribed Kapidex but the stomach pain continued at night.  He changed my medication to Carafate and Levsin, and told me to continue to use Tramadol for pain as needed.  I prefer Tramadol because it does not cause constipation but makes you weak.  My body is under a lot of stress with all these chemo drugs and medications.  My room is getting to look like a drug store lined up with different medication bottles but I need to be ready for the next chemo cycle.  This is how we live.

Cheers.

PS: Go ACS – DetermiNation!

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About last night…


About last night…

January 14, 2010

Last night was rough.  Chills and nausea kept me up most of the time but am able to contain my vomits. I got to find the balance with my anti-nausea pills, Zofran and Emend.

I am getting irritated with my portable pump constantly buzzing.  It will over soon.  Omm… Except for bouts of hiccup attack courtesy of The Grinch, I should not complaint.

It is going to be a beautiful day.

Cheers.

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First day at school…chemo school

January 12, 2010

Some people dread the first day of school others look forward to it.  Mine was mixed.  It is not always you get to repeat your chemo regiment.  I thought I graduated ‘Suma cum laude’ last October 2008 but here I am again on the first day of school (see my graduation picture below).

I arrived at the hospital cancer center at about 8:45 am but my day had already started at 5;30 am getting ready for first day of chemo.  However, this is morning was going to be different.  I had a slip from the principal’s office (Dr. M the oncologist) that I need to go to the ultra-sound center first before going to class.  They needed to rule out if my stomach pains was “contagious” (to other students) by performing an ultra-sound to the liver.

So, with my shirt up and on top of the ultra-sound table, Ibbie (from Iraq) dabbed a healthy swab warm gel on my belly.

“You like that, huh?” she said and I said “yes.” Hmm…so this is how it feels like when mothers have ultra-sound scans of their babies.

“I had to get that warmed up gel from the other room because somebody messed with the one I left here last night” she adds.  Later she said, she could not see the lesions in my liver  (maybe is it gone, I thought).  I told her that I have a PET scan on file dated November 10, 2009.

I like Ibbie.  She managed to track the lesions took lots of pictures of my liver and even my gallstones.  My only regret she did not give me a copy of the pictures like expectant mothers of their babies after coming out of their scans.  Oh well.

So off to class I go.  But first got to eat breakfast.  With all this excitement I have not eaten…er actually, I was not allowed eat since the night before in preparation for the liver scan.  I had breakfast with my wife, who just got off her nursing shift, and my daughter, Talia, who drove for me.  You got to eat something for you to vomit something I always say…opps, sorry.

“The place has not changed.”  I thought while walking through the cancer infusion center (classroom).  The people working there are the same but the patients are different.  Most of them in their chairs hooked up to their chemo pumps while their families sit and wait for them.  They have glassy eyes, while some are asleep trying to dream away the time.

There is the rhymic drops of chemo as it hangs beside them, the intermittent beeping of infusion pumps signaling the end of one chemo bag, only to be interrupted by the sounds from the individualized TV in your chair.  And how about that smell.  I don’t think normal people (those without cancer) can smell it.  I call it the smell of chemo, so distinct, toxic, and at times nauseating.  It sticks to my shirt and pillows when I have chills.

My nurse (teacher), Edith sees me and hovers over me.  You see I am the teacher’s pet.

“Your normal chair is occupied but I think I have something better for you sweetie.” See,  what did I tell you!  She sets me up in a room with a bed, TV, and a private bathroom.  Yes!  Maybe the wife and I can have some private time too, you know.

Today’s lesson requires about 6 hours of study time.  I will be taking the FOLFIRI regiment again plus another chemo drug called Avastin.  FOLFIRI is a combination of three chemo drugs Leucovorin, 5-FU, and Irrinotecan.  With Avastin, that make four chemo drugs.

Edith gave me first my happy cocktail of Benedryl to make me sleep and Zantac to calm my stomach.  And we now proceed with my studies.  After one subject down, Irrinotecan, she gave me Avastin, then Leucovorin.  I struggled with this drug and I felt the compounding heaviness of each doze given.  I told her I felt heavy, tired, and starting to feel nauseated.  The infusion was long and I was losing spirit.  I look at the infusion bags and I still have two bags to finish it is like being at mile marker 20.  How can two bags feel like mile marker 20 of a marathon?  But it does give you that feeling of hopelessness.

I think of the all other cancer patient going through this ordeal.  I need not look far since a lot of them are here with me, just outside the door.  Everyday they are here since the time I ‘graduated’ October 2008.  I think I look like them now, glassy-eyed and getting tired.  My walk is slower going to the bathroom.  I refuse to vomit and try to contain it in the next breath to then next until it passes.

With all the infusion bags done, no vomits, and six-hours of infusion completed at the hospital, Edith send me home with a take home exam.  One last doze of 5-FU inside a portable chemo pump that I have to wear until Thursday, a three-day/two-nite infusion.

Bell rings, school is out.  Thank God!

Cheers.

October 2008 Graduation Day!

October 2008 Graduation Day! With my wife, Dr. M, and me

January 2010 First day at chemo school. Go ACS!

At home hooked up to the portable chemo pump

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My guardian angels


My guardian angels

January 10, 2010

My first chemo infusion is on Tuesday, January 12, or at least that is the intention.  Since recovering from chemoembolization, I have trying to gain strength and eat.  My friend ChrisL from Michigan City, IN sent me a ‘care package’ of high-protein drinks called Myoplex from EAS with 42g of protein.  It is Ensure on steroids!  So I have been drinking after going to the gym, thanks, Chris.

I also have to say thanks to Michael a.k.a MTS of Sunderland, UK for the beautiful calendar showing the beautiful sights of north east England.  Amazing.  (NOTE: Picture below is one of the images in the calendar) Been to UK before but never been to the north east.  I am always amazed at the generosity of people and it overwhelms me.

Sometimes it is not gifts received that overwhelm me but simple kindness and attention given by other people.  You know who you are and I am thankful as well.  I tell this to my wife and she says I have many guardian angels who care for me.  It helps knowing that you are out there.  Today, I felt tired.  I have been having difficulty sleeping due to stomach pains from gas and heartburn or maybe something else.  It is not good when you have issues like this and you are about to start chemo.

So I called my nurse Edith on a Sunday and she said she will put me in to see my oncologist, Dr. M tomorrow.  She suggested to take some antacid for the night.  I hate been sick.  I think of the six-months chemo session ahead of me and it scares me.  I know I have done it before but this is not exactly running a marathon.  The discomfort or pain is different and real.  The side-effects are what weakens the body and spirit.   There is no personal record to beat this time, you just want to finish in one piece.  I want to get it done and have a sense of normalcy, like others.  I want to be healthy again.

With your help I will get there, one mile marker at a time or one chemo cycle at a time.  I owe it all to my guardian angels.

Cheers.

Angel of the North - Tyne and Wear, England

Angel of the North - Tyne and Wear, England

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Welcome 2010

January 1, 2010

was just reading my January 1, 2009 post in my old blog.  What struck me was my plan to distance myself from cancer.  I had just completed six-months of chemotherapy in October 2008, and I was so ready to start a new beginning for 2009.  In reverence to the coming new year, I marked that first day of 2009 by going to mass and running 5 laps around the track in cold weather.  That was the offering.

An offering to the idea conceived in September 2007 of finishing my first marathon.  It was not a bucklist (American slang; to list things you want to do before you hit the bucket or die) idea.  The purpose was to contain my blood pressure problems then.  Through a circuitous route that included colon cancer diagnosis followed by treatments in March 2008, I crossed the finish line on October 2009.  Along the way discovered myself again (and more).  I was able to:

  • raise money for American Cancer Society as a Charity Runner
  • gained confidence in my running abilities
  • renewed old friendships, made new ones, and deepened commitments to those I love
  • go home to the Philippines to give thanks to those who prayed for my recovery
  • channel my renewed energy towards a productive work year

I should not complaint inspite of a relapse.  I was given a chance and made the most of  what was given.  ‘Carpe Diem’ (Seize the Day).  Make the most of what is given no matter how small or insignificant because it is a gift of life or opportunity.  I have used this Latin phrase by Horace in all my business closing mails but I personalized with it with an “*” so it reads “Carpe Diem (asterisk)*”.  The asterisk is to remind me that my cancer can come back.  A footnote to myself.   A reminder.  A pause.  An asterisk that I claim.

So my cancer is back and I am at the start of a new year.  A new beginning.  Others may have new year’s resolution, I have new year goals…modest goals; because I know 2010 will be challenging.  They are;

2010 wishlist?  Only one.  Run the NYC Marathon on November 7, 2010.  Ironically, I just received my New York Road Runner membership in the mail.  I signed up to run New York last November 2009 not knowing my cancer is back and it includes the membership.  I will know if I qualify March 2010.  Now, wouldn’t that be interesting if I get in?

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that counts.  It’s the life in your years – Abraham Lincoln.

Happy New Year, everybody!

PS:  My chemo infusion will start soon, in the meantime, I am eating my way to store strength…M&Ms included (Thanks, Stan).

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