Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Cancer’ Category


Happy New Year 2016!

December 31, 2015

IIt will be over soon, 2015 that is.  I could not believe it that another year is about to close and a new just beginning.  I have been totally blessed in 2015.  Two memorable moments that stood out: The March trip to Jerusalem, where I ran a half-marathon),  and then to Rome where I saw the Pope.  Also there was the Alaska cruise last September which I totally enjoyed.  I go back.

The other half are those moments you wish to forget.  Life will not be complete without the other half.  It allows you to savor life and count your blessing.  November brought news that cancer had invaded my bones cause me grief and pain.  I have not been writing lately because I had to undergo radiation treatment for my left hip and cyberknife (it is not a dish or about cyber hacks) robotic surgery for my ribs and spine.  That’s done, so now I have to go back to chemo to welcome 2016.  Never ends.

All these moments are part of me.  There are times when I am in pain it can be a real character builder and then I see my wife, who diligently takes care of me, also friends and family praying for me which gives me confidence to continue.

Where I am not is hard and yet with all the hardships and pain I look at the good side of my predicament.

2016 is here with new opportunities to give thanks.  I had a good birthday and Christmas.  Our tree is still up devoid of presents but the memories linger.  My wife wants to take down the tree but it something I would like to savor for a little while longer.  The next chance is 350+ days away.  Gulp!

I am currently medicated for my rib pain.  No going out except for trips to doctor.  Enjoy time with family and Ethan.

Enjoy 2016.  Take care.

Cheers.

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


Happy Thanksgiving: 2015
November 25, 2015

HHappy Thanksgiving, everybody.  It is an American tradition but giving thanks is universal and is as basic as breathing.  One way or another we give thanks or acknowledge our blessing.

“Salamat sa Diyos” (Thank, God).

There is always something to be thankful for—always. Like:

  • smell of fresh baked cookies filling up the house
  • turkey roasting in the oven for Thanksgiving dinner
  • snore of your wife/husband/love one beside you
  • warm feel of the sun in your face and skin.

Simple. it tells you life goes on because you can feel, taste, and touch. And if you really look hard, you will see how beautiful life is.

Last year, I spent Thanksgiving in the Philippines, on business. It was wonderful because I got to surprise my mother and spent some time with family there. Although, I was far away from my family here in the US, I was happy to see they were together for our traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I am big on tradition. It establishes continuity and it is something you look forward to.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for many things. Far too long to enumerate here. More importantly, I am still here celebrating it with my family, and with you. I sometimes reflect on the past but I do not dwell on it too long. I sometimes remember the races that I have run or the many place I have visited around the world, but what I reflect most are the memories it gave me. It is all about the feeling and completeness it gave me. It is also about the people I have met and shared the experience with.

I have stopped reflecting on the things I use to be able to do, life running or traveling, instead I just savor the moment on the things I am able to do or experience. Like the sweet taste of chocolate chip cookies in my mouth. Yum.

What I do reflect on are the blessings I have received, and they are many. As you know with certainty the limits of your life, the more blessings you see come pouring through. This Thanksgiving I am overwhelmed. I see it all with clarity and intensity. Perhaps it is because I am in constant pain that I am sensitized to any relief, sweetness, gestures, greetings, attention, or happiness I experience.

For this Thanksgiving make it special. If not a tradition in wherever you are, make your day special anyway.

Thanksgiving-Funny-Pictures-4

Cheers.

P.S. 30 days to Christmas.

Read Full Post »


Tattooed.
November 9, 2015

Ipopped the question to my kids.

“Guess what? I got a tattoo! I got ink, dude.”

“No way. Really? Show us…show us.” They all replied with excitement. They could not believe I would dare and get one, but I got one: Five in fact. There see it.

Tattoo

Tattoo marks more on other side

It will look more like a mole when marks rub off. I got it when I was marked or prepped for radiation treatment.

In my last post (see Happy Halloween) post I mentioned about my rib pain, which was bothering me. Aside from this, I also have this shooting pain in my left hip when I walk (I told you these things never ends). I am a mess. I had a CT scan of my chest and a x-ray of my left hip done to check.  For my rib pain, the scan result showed that the tumors in my left lung were invading (or pushing) into my ribs. But more seriously, the x-ray result of my hip showed that there is a presumable metastatic tumor in my left hip bone. Ugh.

So far this cancer, which started in my colon more than seven years ago, is in my lungs, liver, and now in my bones. Somehow when my doctor called me about the bone metastasis I did not even react. I felt nothing. No freight training hitting me. No anger, sadness, or numbness of feeling.  Nothing. It was like ordinary news. When you get this far you really have to take each day one day at a time and focus on the good things.

Lately, a good day is when I can walk a for a few minutes before resting my tired hips.  A good night is when I can get a few hours of sleep before taking pain meds again for my aching ribs.  A very good day is when I can get to the gym not to do walking, cycling, or yoga but swim or soak in the hot tub.

So, what’s next?

Bone scan tomorrow, Tuesday, to see the extent of metastasis and if there are other areas affected.  On Wednesday, radiation treatment of my left hip and lung for the next two weeks at least. Hold off on chemo.  Watch the new Bond movie, finish the awesome book I am reading, and feed the fish. Oops, I digress.

The immediate concern is the pain in my left rib.  The plan is to shrinking the tumor in my left lung so it does not push against my ribs and relieve the pain. The pain my in left hip does not bother me too much, only when I walk, but the pain in my rib is just constant and elevating. I am fully medicated day and night. I try to avoid narcotic drugs if I can, but would make an exception to medicinal marijuana. Yeah, mon.  Moreover, Illinois just approved the sale of medicinal marijuana for qualified users.  Hey, I am qualified I can show them my tattoo.

Life is still good and tomorrow is a new day.

Cheers.

Read Full Post »


 

 

Third time a charm: A new clinical trial

June 14, 2015

TTomorrow I start my new clinical trial, my third.  Like before I have guarded optimism when starting new treatments.  I would like them to work on me but…  I think that is the point of a trial: to find out.  But each disappointment takes a lot of energy out of me.

I wish they would give out medals each time I finish a trial like in marathons, at least I have something to show for it.  What I have are images, CT and PET scan images, of my completion and…defeat.  (Sorry, maybe next time!)  But as the cliche goes, it is not about winning but how you finish.  That is how my wife would say it: I am still here and standing up.

If it was about winning nobody would even try to run marathons or pursue any challenge.  It is about the struggle, as in “the struggle is real.” – meme.  Cancer is real.  It is a representation of life: the other half of life.  I have learned to see and live my life in constant struggle between life and cancer.  

Today, we went to Holy Hill, WI to pray, give thanks, and hope.  It is the last item in my preparation checklist.  Since my last treatment (May 13) I have been busy taking advantage of the mandatory four-week washout period between clinical trials.  During the break I was able to:

  • Run the Soldier Field 10 mile race on May 23.
  • Visit colleagues in New York for a week.
  • Meet with Cyberknife specialists who gave me hope that they can  address the large tumors in my lungs should my next clinical trial does not work.  It is not a cure but a containment strategy.
  • Pass my pre-clinical trial checkup with my platelets holding now at 256 (100 is the qualifying count) but don’t ask about my CEA level or tumor count.
  • Order anti-nausea pills since this is the expected side-effect of the new drug.
  • Significantly up my total miles for this last week to 30, as if I was in full training.  

I have done what I can in preparation for tomorrow.  The only thing left is to do my pre-chemo ritual: an early morning workout at the gym before going to the hospital.  This new trial will be in pill form instead of infusion.  I have to take the pills everyday for two-weeks, except on weekend, then I rest for two-weeks.  This is my second time to take chemo pills, the prior one was to “bridge” between treatments while on business travel and running Berlin September 2012. The plan for this clinical trial is to do two cycles or two months treatment at least, then scan.

That’s their plan.  My plan is to keep running, avoid fatty foods, up my fiber intake i.e. hemp protein, edemame, kale or fruit smoothie, etc., rest as needed, and fully hydrate.  Stay the course and finish standing up.  I know there will challenging sleepless nights when chills and other side-effects happen but you are there.  

Cheers.

Read Full Post »


The elephant in the room.

May 17, 2015

Let me just address the elephant in the room.  The result of my scan was not good.  My current clinical trial, from the looks of it, is not working according to my doctor.  He called as we were on our way home from the hospital.  The results came fast since I was the first patient scheduled for CT scan that Friday morning, so the radiologist got to it right away.

“Hi,Mr. Alvarez, Dr. S. here” said the familiar voice.  Dr. S and I are getting to know each other well.  He normally talks fast and is always smiling, but inspite of the friendly greeting his tone this time betrays him.

I stopped the car, parked, and put my cellphone on speaker so my wife could hear.

“The scan results showed some growth in your lung nodules…”  I stopped listening and just looked ahead.  It was not the news I wanted to hear.  Another bad news given.  I thought I was ready for this but no matter how many times  I get them, it still gets to me: Shock and disappointment.

My thoughts came back because there will be changes again, that is if I want to.  It always boils down to what I want.  The funny thing is you think you are in control but in reality you are not.  I want no more chemo but I still have to go for treatment (only if I want to).  Duh?

Dr. S gave me more details and told me about my options.  Options? What options?  It is more like pre-destined—and forced—options because they were not what I want.  Do they have something more pleasing like a Chinese buffet menu?  I digress, but today’s menu is:

  • stay on for more treatment with the current clinical trial to see if I respond or
  • move to another clinical trial.

You like, no like?  (In Chinese tone).

But this is serious real-life (and death) decision.  This is not even worthy of a FB post needing like/unlike response because there is nothing to like in the choices in front of me.  This is serious sh*t.

So now I am back to square one again.  Stay on and hope I respond, or move on and hope the next one works.  Two options both based on hope which, of late, is a very precious commodity.  Hope is the one element that has been fueling me all these years and lately I am running on fumes.  It is a wish, a thought, or a plead for something better.  Is that too much to ask?

Perhaps I should just ask for something simpler or maybe not ask at all.  Just do the gerbil run-to-no-where and enjoy the ride.

Cheers.

P.S.  On Wednesday I meet with my doctor to discuss other clinical trials and decide.

Read Full Post »

Ready and waiting


Ready and waiting.

March 30,2015

II am sitting in the waiting room at the new building waiting to be called.  I have cleared all my test, given a briefing by the research nurse, and my port is accessed.  Today is my first day to received a new clinical trial drug; an immuno-therapy treatment.

Needless to say I am anxious since this is new.  The nurse order anti-nausea drugs and skin rash drugs.  I was told to expect some skin problems like acne (OMG, acne at my age.  Oh well…).  Bring it on.  Today is the chemo drug, tomorrow is the immune boosting drug.

I am already thankful I got this far and entered into this new cutting edge trial.  I try not to put too much expectation on this, after all this is a clinical trial.  We will not know unless we try.  Such is the life of a gerbil on wheels.

Cheers.

Read Full Post »


In God’s Land: Jerusalem

March 17, 2015

GGod is everywhere.  That is what I remember what my grade school religion teacher told me.  God is here. God helped me cross the finish line during the Jerusalem half-marathon.  He was also watching if I cheated during the race …hehe.

During the race there were lots of opportunities to cheat, cut corners, or plain just give up. There were stretches along the course where you can just make a quick turn and nobody would know. I know I will not win it anyway so why bother. Beside I have I every bit of good reason not to be at the starting line: I have metastatic cancer in my lungs.  But I was not going to be robbed of this opportunity.  I am hoping in between the pain of running the hilly terrain of Jerusalem and the solitude it brings, I find peace.

Magnificence of this place is striking.  The history and the scenic view the city provided was inspiring. The pavement on the course might have been man-made but this is God’s land, therefore holy. There were olive trees, which made me wonder how old they were? Were they around during the time of Christ? Are there olives in Mt. Olives?  Perhaps there is something in running that enhances your senses to absorb your pain in your body, the loud cheers of the crowd, and appreciate the beauty of Jerusalem. You notice everything and I could not help but appreciate the significance of this place. I am blessed.

Catharsis, a purification or purgation of emotions that brings about spiritual renewal or tension – Merriam/Webster dictionary.  This is my Jerusalem marathon: a cathartic moment.

Shabbat Shalom

After my 13.1 mile cleansing, my wife and I got to see the preparation for Shabbat.  The hostel were we stayed hosted a Shabbat dinner serving a full vegetarian meal (I can live here).  Guest pay for the meal but if you want help out in the kitchen, like cut vegetables, you get a free meal too.

It is not the traditional Shabbat meal prepared at home with fancy silverware and mapah levanah (white table clothes), but the essence of the meal is there.  There is the Shabbat candles, Shabbat challah (whole-wheat bread), wine, prachim (flowers), etc.  I am sure the food taste good too as well as company of fellow travelers in the table.

There is something to be said about food in this place.  It was as if all the fruits, vegetables, and food were touch or made by God himself.  The oranges from Jaffa, even bottled ones, taste sweeter.  The olives were plump and tasty, perhaps picked from hundred year old trees in the surrounding area. I could go on and list all the typical Israeli food that I tasted which was influenced by many cultures when this country was formed. These are the tahina, hummus, falafel, salad, halva, kebab, and many more. I love it.

A trip to the Mahena Yehuda market is an experience that cannot be miss, especially on a Friday.  It is were the locals shop for their daily needs. Going there is an assault to your all senses. Amazing place to explore, taste, and learn. I am definitely not in Chicago.  This early I know I am going to miss this place.

The Old City.

The Old City is about one square mile and it is densely packed with more than 45,000 residents that includes Jews, Muslim, and Christians.  There are churches, museums, schools, apartments, markets, toilets, eateries, etc., and history. The city is divided into four quarters: Armenian, Jews, Arabs, and Christians.

I came to walk the Via Dolorosa and it is more than I bargained for.  The narrow streets were full of merchants selling their wares from fruit juices to pots and pans.  If you can think of anything that you would need on a daily basis it is there.  The air is punctuated with all sorts of perfume, scents, spices, and vendors calling your attention.  It is hard to imagine these are the steps (the Via Dolorosa) that Jesus took on the way to Calgary or Golgotha.

The path of the Via Dolorosa ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the place according to Christians is where Christ was crucified, died,and was buried.

Golgotha

 

There are many artifacts on display in the church but the most electrifying object for me was the stone where it is believe where Jesus laid and cleaned after he was brought done from the cross.  I touched the stone much like all the visitors coming and felt something inside me.  The stone was cold to touch but it pulsated and gave me warmth.  What was it telling me?

 

In Jerusalem I was hoping for answers and peace.  I saw and absorbed all the sights and sound of Jerusalem.  I indulged in the experience.  I prayed to all the Gods (Jewish, Orthodox, Christians, Jesus) and went to all the religious sites, including at the Western Wall.  I contemplated.  I ran its streets.  I swam in the Dead Sea.  Met many travelers who come to this place seeking whatever they seek.  At the end, it is left to me, and those who came here. It is about believing. And in this place it is not hard to believe.

Cheers.

P.S. We are at the airport now on the way to Rome. The next leg of our adventure. Hopefully, I get tickets to see the Pope tomorrow.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: