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Posts Tagged ‘CT scan’


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.

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Who’s counting?


Who’s counting?

October 8, 2015

We have been through this, right?  Tomorrow will be my sixth CT scan for the year.  Six!  I am a “walking glow in the dark” with so much radiation exposure.  Ha!  You can interpret this in many ways.

Let see:

  1. They could not get it right so they need to do many scans.
  2. They are making money off me and my insurance so they keep on ordering these expensive scan.  Ouch.
  3. They need it to see if I am responding.

All can be correct if you are a cynic.  However, picking number 3 would mean I am not responding to my clinical trial treatments, otherwise they will not keep on checking, right?  Previously, my last scan (5th) was considered good because it says my tumors were stable and I did not get kicked out the trial.

Tomorrow’s scan is another story.  You can’t compare or speculate on the results.  You just hope for the best, then either you jump for joy or sulk and curse, and then move on.  Good scan means I stay on with my current trial; bad means…er, not good.

I wish my cynicism would not take the best of me, but it gets to me sometimes.  It has been a long and continuous journey with no end in sight.  Oh, well.

You better let somebody love you, before it is too late – Desperado, Eagles

 

 

P.S.  This Sunday is the running of the Chicago Marathon.  Good luck, Elizabeth.  You know I will be watching.

 

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Summer fun.


Summer fun.
August 2, 2015

Lately, I have been enjoying my summer hanging out with my wife and Ethan. Instead of my normal summer that is about marathon training, this year it is all about Ethan.

I am not signed up for any fall marathon and I cannot run much now a days, but I still keep active, mostly walking and yoga. I miss running.  My mom had reminded me that I should remain positive. She laments that at her age (83 years old) she no longer go to the mall or crowded places; however, that does not mean she does not go out.  She still regularly plays mahjong with her friends. She says it prevent alzheimer …ha…ha!

She is right about keeping a positive attitude. It is about the things you can do, not about the things you can no longer do. More importantly, I am still here.

So now, my wife and I have our long walks and we go visit water parks with Ethan. That is his favorite activity aside soccer. He loves water parks. Fortunately, we have many water playgrounds and district water parks so we go when we can. He can play until he is wrinkled and blue, while I like to hang around the lazy river.  Fun.

Next week Friday, August 7, is judgment day again. I have my CT scan and we will find out if I am responding to my current clinical trial. I am hoping for the best. Good or bad I will not stop it to have a wonderful summer hanging out with Ethan.

Enjoy your summer.

Cheers.

Summer fun with Ethan

Summer fun with Ethan

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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.

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2015: Resolutions and absolutions.
January 16, 2015
So far 2015 is starting out good.  There is always great expectations for new beginnings.  It normally begins with resolutions and absolutions for me.

For starters, I absolve or renounce the habit of counting how chemo treatments I have received (one to start 2015 last January 7th…sorry!)  I think this is a force of habit from my work.  I deal with data (lots of data), risks, likelihood, and impact.  That decisions should be based on data to minimize bias.  But sometimes you just have to throw away these things because it restricts your ability to…live.

I just had my CT scan today.  I normally get anxious for the results of my scan: good or bad.  There was a time I would hold my breathe when I see the caller id is from the office of my oncologist or radiologist.  Now, I get it by email that reads:
     “Scan looks stable.  One nodule increased and one decreased.  Dr. S said he would keep you on.”
That summarizes my world.  I am like a gerbil running on a wheel going nowhere.  I just keep on running until I am told to get off and move to another wheel (trial).  So why bother counting how many treatments I have received: it does not matter.  What matter is you are running on the wheel.  In fact, I would continue on any wheel they give me: big or small.

My wife notices my frustration of being stuck.
“Your nodules are stable and you are here with us.”  she admonishes.
Yes.  I am surrounded by people who love me.  There should not be any “if’s” and “but’s” about this.  That is why I am running on a wheel-to-nowhere.  Is there anything beyond love?  Thus, for 2015 I resolve to live beyond the numbers that define my cancer.  I resolve to fully embrace my new normal lifestyle and fully enjoy the experience of running round-and-round “the wheel.”I would still continue to keep fit, practice mindfulness, pray, help others, set goals, run, and have fun.  Does it matter how many chemo treatments I have?  Does it matter how many miles I have run?  There will be more treatments as much there are paths to run.  Just go and enjoy.

Cheers.

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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.

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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.

 

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Round 2 and a scan.
August 9, 2014

Round 2:  August 5, Tuesday.
If you have to have a hobby while waiting in hospital waiting rooms, choose knitting.  It seems to be the universal thing people do in the waiting rooms and lobbies of Mayo, MD Anderson, and here at UofC.  I am not into knitting but I appreciate them, sadly there are no apps for that.

Sammy was there again greeting me in my assigned room.

“Hello.  Hello.  How do you feel?” in accented English.  I replied that I was feeling good and joke him that he should be into running because he from West Africa.  He just gave a big laugh.

We started late because the trial drug arrived late at the center.  It just means a longer day for me.  I was among the first to arrive at the center in the morning and with the delayed arrival of the meds I maybe be the last patient.  Oh, well.  This infusion center is really busy.  Patients come in, have their chemo, and go home.

While at the waiting lounge, an elderly black couple took up conversation with the people they were sitting across.

“You must be together for many years now?  We  have been been together for almost 68 years and was engaged for 4 years before that.”  Wow.  The wife was the patient while the husband dutifully attend to her slowly.  You would hate for cancer to interrupt their marriage.

Such is life or rather the fragility of it.  It can be interrupted anytime without notice.  But those things are further from everybody’s mind at the waiting room.  Cancer is just…an interruption.  This is our new normal.  The waiting room could have just been another breakfast gathering where people know each other, including the nurses and technicians.  Greetings are warm and pleasant.  Conversations here are open but tempered.  Each is curious as to what type of cancer the other one has.  Each has their own way of coping.  None of us wants to be here but we are here.  We make the most of it.

“Same protocol, Mr. Alvarez.  First the pre-meds then the chemo.” Sammy said.

As the pre-meds take effect, I sink again to la-la-land….zzzzz.  Lab rat number 5 is down again for the count.  I wake up a couple of hours later, groggy, and hungry.  Although the infusion is done, I still have to stay because of all the monitoring and blood test (many blood tests).  My wife and I move back to the waiting lounge and the crowd has thinned.  True enough, I will be among the last patient to close before everybody leaves.  Long day.

The scan: August 8, Friday.
After two rounds of chemo, it is time to see if I am responding to the treatment by doing a PET scan.  These tests are pre-scheduled so all I need to do is show up.  You really feel like an experiment when you have tests lined up for you.  You do not have any control of what happens next during the trial but I also know it is for my benefit…and others.

PET scans as are easy and I have done this many times.  They infuse you with radiated sugar and you just sit motionless or sleep (more zzzzz’s….) for an hour or so.  The idea for the cancer cells to absorb the sugar and scan them for size and activity.  CT scans has more discomfort because they make you drink this prep drink, infuse dye in your blood stream, and then scan you.

Like all tests, it is the results that always drive the anxiety.  In my case I have to wait perhaps until next week for the results.  We are looking for a response to my treatment; a reduction in the size of my lung tumors or their numbers.  Thanks for all the positive thoughts and prayers.

Cheers.

P.S. I had hiccups again after treatment.  Have been recovering good enough to maintain running.  For this weekend, will aim for at least 10 miles again.

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Clinical Trials:  I am in.
July 25, 2014

II am number 5.  That number looks like the number of an elite marathoner, but it is not.  It just means I am the 5th participant to this new anti-cancer drug.  Yes, I am in … for real.  I count myself among the select few to undergo this human trial, and I start Monday, July 28 at the University of Chicago Medicine.

The objective is to determine the safe and effective level for this new Phase 1 anti-cancer drug that address the RNA part of cell molecular structure. Don’t ask me explain, it is complicated.  All know is, it was first tested in mice and monkeys with positive results and now they are trying it on humans.  Guess what: I am the 5th “sucker.”  Ha!  I love it.

This trial is different from the one that was offered to me in April (see A Different World: Part 1 and Part 2), wherein I did not even get to start because of my platelet problems.  However, from what I am told this new trial is a better fit for my profile and that they are getting positive responses from the other trial participants.  That’s good to know.  Frankly, my options are not exactly a lot: either I do trial for a chance of another tomorrow or just give up.  I have tried all the other traditional chemo regiments and I am now immune to them.  I am willing to participate in this trial just to conquer my cancer.

Last Wednesday, I did all the pre-trial test such as: blood test, EKG, PET scan and CT scan.  With my platelet up (thanks to MD Anderson) and other blood work looking good, they allowed me to start Monday.  My start date would have been end of August, but the drug sponsor liked the initial results and decided to accept more participants.  It will also be chemo infusion and would require me to stay long at the hospital.

Well I am ready.  Since coming back from MD Anderson, I have been working out, running, and keeping active.  This cancer has brought me all over and tested me at every turn.  Cancer is my reality; the life I live through everyday is the dream.  I have so many wishes but I temper my expectation to what I can achieve or get.  That’s why it is better to live your life one day at a time.

Monday is marathon day for me.  My bib say number 5.  I know there could be problems ahead, right now all I want is to finish..in one piece.

Start

Cheers.

P.S.  My miles are slowly building up again.  Tomorrow let see if I can do 10 miles.

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The results of my scan
November 10, 2013
Dallas, TX

The results of my CT scan came out Friday, November 8.  It is funny how you receive news now a days.  You can breakup on Facebook or email.  News of my results came by text from my oncologist.  He said:

 

“Ct scan showed stable if anything there is improvement of lung nodules.  Gd news.”

With that I showed it to my wife and mom, and we all hugged.  My mom was more emotional.  I can feel her mother’s love: she has witnessed, from near and far, all my ups and downs over the years.  It is from her I draw strength when I feel weak.  At her age, she does not have to take care of me or witness my struggles, and yet she is there.

My oncologist and I spoke on his next plan for me.  He and I know, he is running out of options.  For almost six years, he has given me all the chemo drugs available for my type of cancer.  Some put me almost to the edge of death, while others gave me allergies and complications.  They have infused me with it and I have taken it in pill form.

He also knows, I would like to seek another opinion at MD Anderson in Houston, TX.  I initially wanted Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC, where they are using IBM’s Watson for cancer research, but they were not responsive.  Initial feedback from MD Anderson was I go on clinical trials because I have practically received all the applicable chemo drugs, and in large quantities. However, they cannot see me until I finish my current treatment and see the results of my scan.  

Weill it is out.  It showed persistent, possibly improving bilateral pulmonary metastatic nodules.  In english: it is still there, did not grow but improved, and still present in both lungs.

It takes a lot of energy for me to earn a day.  I am not like others who’s tomorrow is almost guaranteed.  It is a given for them to finish the race in quality time, while I struggle to run mile after mile.  And when I do reach the finish line, I find out they moved it again.  This time they moved it to Houston.

Cheers.

P.S. October 18, IBM Watson is now in MD Anderson to be used for leukemia studies.  I wish they had started with colon cancer.  Oh well.

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