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Archive for November, 2011

Normal.


Bo and I met a few years back at a marathon training site. He expressed concerns with his knee pain and I recommended that he see Jamie at NovaCare. Little did I know, Bo and I would be fighting cancer at the same time. Bo is a dear friend to me. In fact, whenever I see him I am smiling or crying…but good tears. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma this past May. I just turned 31. Great birthday gift, right?! I began this 6 month affair with Chemo in June. Bo gave me some pointers, some hugs, some words of encouragement. He gave me hope. He is an inspiration. He ran a 10 miler race 4 days after chemo! Who does that? Bo does and did! And with such an appreciation for life. I have always read his blog and I chose to blog as well. (http://nononator-takingdownhodgkins.blogspot.com) It gave me a voice. A way to express everything that I was feeling. Bo, I grant you your wish and will write for you…

Normal.

I dance. A lot. I listen to music. A lot. I chose to dance at chemo. To help me get through this nightmare of Chemotherapy. I always feel my best going into Chemo. And the hours go by fast when I listen to music and dance in my hospital room. I’ve made videos and shared them with the world. I showed people that I am normal. That I am ok. My final dance video was to Florence and The Machine’s “Dog Days are Over”. I let out a big shout of happiness when I heard the final beeps of my chemo drug. I walked out of the infusion center into the lobby and I had so much excitement built up in my spirit. But when I went into the lobby, and saw everyone, I felt like I was seeing people with a different set of eyes. I saw all these “sick” people. They seemed to look “sicker” than before. Was it because I have walked out with my blinders on all the time and was just going through the routine? All I know is that I felt sad. I felt upset to see so many people in the waiting room, waiting for results, infusion, fluids, etc. I was reminded how much I hate cancer and what it does to people and their families. I felt it was unfair to celebrate. My voice and spirit were silent.

As the days passed and Thanksgiving approached my side effects kicked in. I was lucky enough to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving has a whole new meaning to it. You have no clue!

Today, I am one week out since my last round. In one week I would be going into chemo because that’s all I have known the past six months. Chemo and I, every other week. But in one week, everything goes back to normal. Just. Like. That. Not exactly. I just got through a marathon of chemo but I am really doing an ultra marathon. There are so many more milestones ahead of me. So many tiny victories. So many days of frustrations and fears. And more now than ever I feel I need my support system. I’m looking forward to the new hair growth, the revival of my taste buds, a normal bowel movement, eating tuna tartar and sushi, drinking wine and beer, pedicures, manicures, and so much more. I feel everyone expects everything to be normal just like that. I have CT scans, blood tests, MD appointments for the next 2 years. I have anxiety, fear, and frustrations ahead of me. Happiness, victories, love, and excitement. Every emotion you can think of, I have it ahead of me. I will survive. I did survive. And I will survive survivorship. Bo, are you ready to finish your ultra marathon? Because I can’t wait to have you cross the finish line and dance with me!

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Happy Thanksgiving (Round 2)

November 21, 2011

Happy thanksgiving everybody. Although an American tradition, I am sure thanksgiving is celebrated in other cultures one way or another. Being thankful is always a good virtue.

This year I will be celebrating it differently. It is chemo week for me so my family will have to bear with my nausea at the dinner table, Thursday being the last day of my 3-day chemo cycle. I wish it was different but I hope my sickness does not suck up the life out of our dinner table. Nonetheless, I am still thankful. I will be sitting at the dinner table surrounded by love ones and my little one, Ethan (my grandson).  It will be Ethan’s first thanksgiving so my circle is complete.

I have nothing much to write about. My recovery week was full of ups and downs. I have an incessant cough that I was prescribed cough syrup with codeine to help me sleep.  I may have lost a few pounds due to diarrhea but I still have my hair…hehe.

That first round was definitely not like the other first rounds I have had before.  My nurse told me she would add more saline to the mix next time.  It was toxic.  Either my oncologist hates my cancer as much as I do or he has faith that my body can take it. I normally can still run on the weekend but this time around I cannot even do yoga. I am fine.

Tomorrow, is round 2. I have asked my friend, Noreen, to write for me once in a while so don’t be surprise. Today she completes the last of her six months chemo treatment and is looking forward to full survivorship.  I am sure she will do well.  Thanks, Noreen.

Cheers.

 

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Welcome to my world…again. (Round 1)

November 14, 2011

did not even feel the first drop of chemo toxins in my blood. The edge was taken off by the ‘happy cocktail’ that my nurse Edith—of three-years–always prepares for me. It is a combination of Zantac, to calm my stomach and avoid any sudden onset of vomits, and Benedryl to help me sleep.

That early morning there were two other patients hooked up to their chemo pumps.  It makes you wonder why people get up early to get their chemo. Their eyes are already glassy and hazy as mine would be soon.

You will be taking four chemo medicines today plus the CADD.” Edith said, as she busied herself.

My "iPod"

I am not really looking forward to this but I am there already so what’s the use. The CADD, or “Dad’s iPod” as my kids would call it, is a portable pump that discharges chemo 24-hours a day. Yes, round the clock of chemo infusion:it never stops. My chemo session starts at the hospital going through four bags of chemo toxin set to higher toxicity, then go home hooked up to my ‘iPod’ for the next three days.

I managed to get through the infusion at the hospital but as soon as I stood up I felt the burden weighing on me. My legs were unsteady, my mind was hazy, and I am sure my eyes were glassy. Most people would describe it as pain because of the unwanted burden that one has to carry. My body was erupting and rebelling from all the toxins circulating in my body. It is a cacophony of indescribable disturbance that manifest itself as chills, sweats, and coughs….and it is just the introduction.

At home, my wife has prepared my side of the bed. Clean sheets and pillow cases, jammies, sweater, anti-nausea meds, blood pressure pills, and the hospital bed pan for my vomits. Reality hits me. I am tethered to my pump, no appetite, nauseated, and it was just the start. I wondered which of the many side-effect would bother me on my first night.

Hiccups was the first. Persistent hiccups. Funny. I have tried everything: water, breathing, bag, more water, whatever. With the hiccups still there comes the cough or both, or a combination of cough and chills.  It is a constant beating on your confidence and there’s more.  I call these side-effects my demons.  They come mostly at night and keeps me company. It became a rough week when my other demons came on full assault alternating with vomits and diarrhea. Times like this you really want to give up.

Hold on babes.  I know it is hard.”  I heard my wife whisper as she clutches her rosary.

The discomfort is totally different from marathon discomfort. There are no endorphin highs.  There are only anti-nausea pills which cause constipation, pain medications, long sleepless nights, bile in your mouth, and stomach cramps.  It brings you to your knees. But I am up again and slowly getting back to normal.  I still get tired easily but I am ok. Now, I have to watch out for infection.  Chemo toxins not only kill cancer cells but good cells too like white blood cells for immunity. I was given an immunity booster shot to help maintain my blood count and fight any infection.  Got to stay healthy, am still here, and preparing for the next round.

Fell asleep with Frank's medal

Cheers.

P.S.  Have started running again.  Also, it is interesting to read my previous post when I restarted my ‘second’ treatment again see post ‘First day at school…chemo school‘.  It consistently rank the most viewed post.

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I am ready.

November 7, 2011

omorrow, November 8th, I will be starting the first of 12 chemotherapy cycles to address the metastatic nodules found in both my lungs. It will be my third time to go through this (colon in 2008 and liver mets in 2010) and it is not something I really wanted to do.  In fact, since finding out that my cancer is back again I have been dreading the day I go back for chemo. My journey has taken me to many twist and turns without knowing if ever I will be free of cancer.  I just go on one-step at a time savoring every opportunity given.

Last week, I was in Atlanta  for work and had the opportunity to bond with colleagues I have not seen for a while. I am glad I went there for it allowed me to renew friendships (Frank, Artie, Jim, and Henrik) and establish new ones (Bill and Anji). It boosted my confidence that after I am done with my treatments, given another opportunity, I may see them again.

Especially, Frank who finished the Frankfurt marathon last October 30 in very good time to qualify for Boston next year. I asked him to bring his medal so I can see, then he surprised me.

“Are you sure?”  I said, while admiring his medal.

“Why don’t you take it and wear it on the day of your chemo? When you want to give up (in your treatment), just look at it.” I was touched by the gesture.

I know runners and their medals. I have mine hanging in my bedroom as a reminder of the hardship and sweetness of finishing a marathon. Runners wear them with pride no matter what time they finish. In Frank’s case, the Frankfurt medal qualified him again to Boston; the most elite event among amateur runners. It is as close as I can get to making it to Boston.

I got to make it. I got to finish these treatments so I can get back out there, perhaps to Berlin and hook up with Frank in 2012. Something to look forward to.

I am ready. Even my cancer cells are ready. They are plump from eating wonderful chocolates by Ghirardelli after the weekend’s Hot Chocolate race. Cancer loves sugar, you know. Now that they are well-fed, it is time to line up against the wall and meet your destiny.  Die, suckers.  Hasta la vista, baby!

Danke. Salamat, Tak. Abhinandana. Thanks.

Me and Frank the Boston Qualifier

Cheers.

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