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Posts Tagged ‘chemo maintenance’


18 miles…done.

August 28, 2011

y wife and I did our 18 mile run yesterday. The marathon program called for 12 miles, as a recovery week, because the previous weekend (August 20) we did 16 miles. But I told her instead of cutting back our miles we decided to go 18 miles and recover this coming week. That was painful. You see I have chemo this coming week. If I have to run 18 miles after doing chemo, I would crawl all way to complete it.

Yes, it is that time again: Tuesday, August 30. It will be the last one prior to the October marathon. The plan was stop my monthly treatment and to observe the six nodules in my lung.

I feel like a science experiment. Hmm….

Will the nodules multiply or increase in size once my monthly treatment is stopped? I can almost imagine the nodules talking among themselves.

 “Hey look. The chemo guards left.” Said one nodule to the other. “Quick, wake up the others.”

“Why? Maybe it is a trap.” Replied the to other. “Why hurry when we are being fed for free here? Besides, you are forgetting the antioxidant snipers.”

Whatever. I will let them talk among themselves. I can’t worry about what my nodules are going to do. It is what it is. I have been often asked if it is wise to stop my chemo maintenance. I think the underlying question there is if I am scared of my cancer and its deadly potential.

The short-answer is: yes.

I have seen the end stage of cancer and perhaps some of you have. I wish it was different but the important thing is not to stop living or appreciating what life has to offer. It is about relationships with friends and family. They are the ones that keep me going. I intend to keep going and ‘run’ my way to remission.  It is just taking time but I will get there.  I know I will.

I told my wife this mileage building exercise is not about preparing for the marathon.  I know I will finish the marathon.  This is about the bigger challenge of finishing six-months of chemo therapy if my nodules multiplied or grew.  So, what else is there to do?  Why worry about something I cannot control.  Everything will be fine, right?

Cheers.

P.S.: Do you know Al Roker, the NBC weatherman? He ran the Chicago Rock n Roll half marathon last August 14. My wife and I beat him by about 20 minutes (2:43 vs 3:03). Ha! He brightens my day each time I see him in TV.

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About my chemo maintenance

January 9, 2011

ave you decided?” My friend and yoga buddy, Lisa, asked as we were packing our mats. She was referring to stopping my chemo maintenance as suggested by my oncologist, Dr. M.

 

She was not the only one who had asked me during the week. Friends, family, and colleagues have asked about it. The true answer is: I don’t know. The one-year anniversary of my monthly chemo is in August 2011 and from there I will have to make a decision. I pray that I will have to courage to choose between: to stop and have a full life or continue my maintenance and be tethered.

I will let you know when the time comes, Lisa.”

For now, I try not to think about it. There are miles to be run, races to finish, and many more sun salutations to do.  I remember writing before: that for every mile I run is a victory for life.  That I intend to do.

I have started training this week but my miles are low. I came across this article from Runner’s World magazine, ‘Way of the Renegade‘, which preaches low miles but more speedwork and strength training. The less is more training program is espoused by two brothers Keith and Kevin Hanson. I am intrigue by it and will try to include it in my training plan. During the week I started doing speedwork (run fast for a minute, then recover for two minutes) and strength work (run on an incline multiple times and recover). Then today, I did 4.5 miles are marathon pace (12 min/mile).

It is still too early to tell if it will work. The wife has been busy with work lately that she is unable to run. But we managed to put one in one afternoon. It was a cold afternoon when we set out to our usual running trail, and it was just a wonderful care-free run. Like always we talked and it our way to free our minds from our busy lives. We avoided the topic of my chemo maintainance but I am sure it was weighing in her mind.

Tomorrow, I leave for Vermont for business and at the same time see a good friend who is diagnosed with liver cancer.  I hope she is doing well.  Got to send her “Whole Lotta Love”….hit it!

Cheers.

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Happy New Year – 2011

January 3, 2011

s the year, 2010, started to close I decided to see my oncologist, Dr. M,  just for a quick checkup and discuss plans for 2011.

So how are you feeling, Bo?” Dr. M greeted me with his usual warmness.

I was just thinking the same the thing before he walked in.  2010 was a challenging year for me. Our journey started in January with six cycles of chemo treatments, a pause for a liver resection in April, then six more cycles of chemo.  There after, two months of hard training to run the Chicago Marathon in October and a final half-marathon on Thanksgiving weekend in November as a finishing kick. Whew!

I am feeling fine. A bit nauseated since I just had my chemo maintenance a couple of days ago.” I replied.

Concerned, he explained that my monthly chemo maintenance should not give me discomfort or inhibit me from doing my daily routine. I have completed all my treatments and suffered enough during that time and this maintenance was not intended to give me further sufferings.  It is a precaution for the recurrence of my cancer, yes, but, it should not inconvenience me or give me further discomfort like nausea and constipation. He is going to reduce the dosage and see how it works out for me.

One of the reason I wanted to see him was to find out plans for 2011: chemo maintenance schedule, PET scans, colonoscopy, etc. I have marathons and races lined up, vacations, training schedules, and work that I need to fit in. Sometimes I resent being tethered to my monthly chemo maintenance. I have this three -week high on life and then a one-week crash.  It is my version of PMS period. (See ladies, I can identify with you…hehe).

Huh? What’s that Dr. M?

Maybe we should consider stopping your maintenance all together. The original plan was to do it for two years, make the assessment, but I think we should consider it for 2011.” He commented.

Stop.  Set me free?  Oh shit.

The prospect of stopping that soon did not occur to me and it jolted me to my senses. I remember the times when my wife would appease me as I get irritated and short-tempered on the eve of my monthly chemo.  It is when my childish senses gets the better of me throwing tantrums and finding it unfair that I cannot play with other normal kids.  Wah…wah…cry…cry…tears…tears

What do I do now after we stop it? I wait for the cancer to come back…again. The last time we stopped (after completing 12 treatments in October 2008) I complete changed my lifestyle, dropping coffee, red meat, and started running. Then it still came back (November 2009). Do I take that risk and enjoy life fully or stay with the maintenance?  Gulp….

Life is good.  Life is also complicated.

Cheers.

PS: I would like a shoutout to my runner-friend and realbuzz.com blogger Michael aka MTS who sent me 2011 calendar of historic landmarks from north east England. Thanks, Michael, I love it and will use it.

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Guess where I am?

September 28, 2010

ell, I am having my second chemo maintenance treatment now. Can you hear it?

Drip…drip…drip. The constant drip is regulated by the infusion pump and it would just beep noisily once a bag of chemo drug is finished. So far so good. Over the weekend, I had asked my oncologist, Dr. M, to taper a bit the toxicity of my chemo maintenance. With the marathon coming in two weeks, I wanted to have a faster recovery. Besides, I notice a significant weakening of my leg muscles when I am on treatment.

“Just tell them to lower it by 15%” he said to me.

“Thanks, doc.”

The deal was just for this month’s treatment, but for next month it will be back up again. Oh well. I’ll take it.

Since the 20 miler last September 19, my miles are slowly going down as part of the tapering for the marathon. I ran the 20 miler with my wife. She surprised me that she completed the 20 miler too. Both of us had sore knees but we did it.

My chemo is almost done. One more bag and I am done. Will write again.

“Wake up, Abby (my daughter)”.

You can’t find good caregivers now a days.  They sleep more than their patient and they crowd you in your bed.  What’s up with that!  😮

With this chemo drug in my system, I am certain to fail the drug test should I win the marathon.  Rejoice, Kenyans.

Cheers.

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Putting in the miles.

August 7, 2010

t is time to build my miles towards the marathon in October. It will be a short training period for me, two months. But I got to try. I have been running again; six miles last Wednesday at an average pace of 12:14 mins. per mile, then five miles Thursday at 12:17, and today 13 miles at 12:34.

Each time I run I visualize I am putting distance between me and my cancer. I wish I can out run this disease this time around. We will see. I try not to think about it but I know it is there, just asleep…zzz…zzz…zzz. I wish it was killed by all the chemo treatments I got but as my doctor said; there is no cure for cancer…yet.

So sleep or snore cancer cells, as you get lulled to the sound of my shuffling feet.  Shuffle…shuffle…shuffle.

I have often wondered what triggers this mutant cell to become cancerous. Genetics, food, environment; take your pick. It is devious disease.  Just sleep, ok?

Zzz.zzz…zzz

My first chemo maintenance is scheduled on August 26. I get zapped again with chemo drugs. These are sleeping pills to my cancer cells. If the plan works, it will keep my cancer at bay for the next two years. After which, perhaps I get weaned out of it.

It will be interesting to see how I react to it while I am in training. It will be a lower doze so I expect to have no or minimal side-effects. I suppose I will bear the pain no matter what.  The pain is no different from the pain I feel, when I run, from my left iliotibial band (ITB) problem.  (This is common among runners as they  in runners as their mileage).  I will get to the finish line.  I am thankful for what is given.  It is about what you have.

Man, I love life. I love my wife. I love my family. I love you.

Cheers.

PS:  I would like to thank LindsayF for dedicating her first half-marathon to me and her nana, Marge.  Hang in there, Marge.  Go ACS!

My wife, Irish, me, and Lindsay.

To support me in my running for ACS, please follow the link below;

http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/DetermiNation/DNFY10Illinois?px=10708728&pg=personal&fr_id=27163

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The epilogue.

August 2, 2010

just finished a kidnap-mystery book by Harlan Coben, titled “No second chance.” The epilogue told me what happened in the end when the main character got her daughter back. It reminded me of my own epilogue to my cancer story. For me it was a mixed ending; my regular chemo treatment has ended and now I begin the chemo maintenance phase.

Congratulations on finishing your treatment” Dr. M, my oncologist greeted me during our consult.

He tried to lift my spirits up because the last time I finished my treatment I was in a graduation toga. Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad I have completed my treatment with very side-effects and no hiccups along the way, but it is not the same.  Anyway, Dr. M explained to me the pros and cons of undergoing chemo maintenance. He concedes that there is no study to support chemo maintenance prevents recurrence of cancer. However, considering my case and the type of cancer that I have, he recommends it for me.

How did you handle your chemo treatments? Did you have many side-effects?” He asks.

I did not have diarrhea from Irinotecan (one of the chemo drugs). I had constant nausea and limited vomitting.” I replied

Based on this feedback, he created a plan for my chemo maintenance. The plan was to have chemo once a month with the same regiment FOLFIRI plus Avastin, but lower toxicity.  He said, the maintenance should not interfere with my lifestyle or work. If I have severe reactions to the lowered regiment, he will adjust it.

We do the chemo maintenance for the next two years and from there assess your progress, and perhaps stop it for good. Is this ok with you?”

What can I say? I thought we had a good plan and willing to try it. He has been very good to me and I trust him fully. He told me to coordinate with Edith, my nurse as to the schedule of my first chemo maintenance.

You know with this treatment plan, I will surely fail the drug test when I win the Chicago marathon this October.” I joked. Oh, well.

Cheers.

PS:  Over the weekend, my wife completed her first half-marathon she dedicated for me.  I am proud of you, babes.

She finished!

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The verdict and consequence

May 16, 2010

ell, the verdict is in. I start chemo again this Tuesday, May 18, or 28-days after my liver surgery. I had a feeling that this was coming when I saw my oncologist (Dr. M) last Monday, May 10 for a checkup.  Dr. M is a good guy and really wants me to beat this cancer. During my visit, he checked my incision wound, which was healing well, except in two places where I am still ‘leaking’.

We need to complete your chemo treatment. You need to do six more cycles of chemotherapy.  Let’s start it next week, May 18, which is almost a month after your surgery. We will go with the same regiment of FOLFIRI (a combination of three chemo drug), but we will leave out your fourth drug, Avastin, for next week.” He suggested.

(Note: Avastin prevents blood vessels, which supplies cancer cells, from forming which my harm the growth of my liver or cause a rupture. Nice!)

Ok” I replied.

After the six-cycles, I want to put you on chemo maintenance.”

He let it hang for a moment, as if looking for my reaction, then added.

There are two schools of thought regarding chemo maintenance. Those who believe chemo maintenance is a way to keep the cancer cells from activating again and those who believe against the practice. There are no current studies to backup either protocol but there are leading scholars in oncology arguing for both. In the end, it will be between you and I, and what is best for you.” He counseled.

Ok. Let me get this right in my mind. Either I wait for my cancer to metastisize again to another organ like my lungs, and maybe give up another lobe, or I have chemo maintenance every two weeks for the rest of my life. Hmm….

I am sure there a people out there who would argue about this. In my professional life, I have been trained to look at business risks, and give my opinion and assessment. I am sensitive to probabilities, impact, and likelihood but this one is over the top. How can I be objective in assessing my own life? Do I risk not celebrating another birthday or see my kids grow? Do I miss out being a grandfather?

Oh, Antonio (Shakespheare’s Merchant of Venice), what have we gotten ourselves into? Shylock (my cancer cells), may ask for more than a pound of my liver. Ha! What sayst thou?

No more! I shall drink the cup of chemo maintenance and thy will be done!

Chemo maintenance is not too bad.  We have other patients who comes in for their chemo maintenance.  The important thing is it should not interfere with your quality of life. Instead of receiving three or four chemo drugs, like you current regiment, this time we limit it to two. You do not carry a pump home and this can be done around your work schedule. We can even arrange for a chemo holiday if you go vacation.” Dr. M assures me.

The consequence.

I will cross that bridge when I get there. Right now, my mind is on Tuesday, May 18. I got to make sure I have enough nausea pills, stool softners, ice chips, pain meds, and a clean vomit bucket.  Who knows which chemo demon will come and visit me this time.

However, I could not help think of the other consequence of chemo maintenance. Specifically, I signed up to run the 2010 Chicago Marathon for the American Cancer Society (ACS). I signed up not knowing if I will be able to train for it after six-cycles of chemo and now with chemo maintenance thrown in to make my life exciting. Oh, you lucky Kenyans! It is useless for me to win the marathon because my blood will be so tainted I would be disqualified when I win it. It is not if I win it, but when I win that race. Ha! Darn, it means winning Boston or NYC is out of the equation as well.

I just read the blog of my friend VickiM (aka Skye_Trekker) from UK. Due to scheduling problems, Vicki was not able to start the Etape Caledonia bike race, an 81-mile bike race in Victoria Park, Aberfeldy, Scotland. Now, she has a DNS (did not start) attached to her resume. Don’t fret, Vicki, who knows I may get a DNS for the Chicago marathon also. I would not mind getting a DNS or a DNF (did not finish) attached to my name but not a DNT (did not try). I refuse that one.

This I will commit. I will be at the starting line of the Chicago Marathon with my brother, Raul, on October 10, 2010 and pray I will finish.  It will be a battle between me and the marathon sweepers (race officials telling runners they will not make it and the course will be closing soon).  And, I will raise money for ACS because they are there for me and for all the other cancer patients.  To us, it is all about the birthdays or other milestones.  Happy birthday! May we all have many more to come.

Cheers.

PS:  If you wish to support me as ACS Charity Runner, please follow either link below.  Thank you for your generosity

My personal page.

Team D’Waddlers’ page.

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