Posts Tagged ‘FOLFIRI’

The bald truth

The bald truth

November 19, 2012

have never shaved my head in my life, much less contemplated on it. Well, I did it over the weekend. Hello, Michael Jordan, Yul Brynner, Samuel L. Jackson, and now me.

My hair lost has gotten so bad that I shed more than my beagle Maggie, so I took it off. Besides, there was no hiding the balding spots. It is not a big deal, like you said, it will grow back again unlike others that I know…parum pum. Ha! This cancer is taking me places I have never been. I try not to dwell on it too much; otherwise, we will have a full blown pity party. No…no, we don’t want that.

I do have a question to my fellow baldies: How do you maintain a healthy shine? I look at my head it looks dry and feels dry, not red-carpet ready. Don’t tell me to change change shampoo and conditioner, bad joke. Anyway, for the most part I wear a beanie or a cap at home just for comfort. And when I go out in the cold I wear thicker hat to protect my bald head.

Lost of hair (alopecia) was not one of the identified side-effect of Zaltrap, but it does not matter. I have taken on all sorts of challenges in getting rid of my cancer and this is just a minor thing.  Beside there is no vanity loss if you are in the league as MJ, Yul, or Sam.

Let me tell you about my wife. She is insisting on shaving her hair too for me. (Chorus: Awwww……).  This is huge. I know about ladies and their hair.  You don’t mess with them. There is a billion dollar industry out there on products and services just to maintain ladies hair. My heart tugged when she said this. As a prelude she cut her hair so short while waiting for her turban to arrive. I love her….and that’s the bald truth!

Baldy Bo and Irish


P.S. It is Thanksgiving week in North America.  My favorite day when I am surrounded by my family and we give thanks to all our blessing.  I have many things to be grateful for, as I have said before, but on Thanksgiving day itself I picture all of you giving thanks to all your blessings as well.  Don’t lose that feeling.

P.S to P.S. Tomorrow, I start my third chemo treatment with Zaltrap with FOLFIRI which will last just before Thanksgiving dinner. It would still be a good day.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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A Glimpse of the future.

August 25, 2010

caught a glimpse of the future yesterday.

Yesterday, was my first chemo maintenance treatment. It was no different from all the other chemo treatments that I have had since 2008, but somehow I expected this to be a different experience.   Why is that?

One distinct difference is that I did not come home with a portable pump attached to my my hip. My family calls it my personal “iPod.”  Before I was attached to my “iPod” for two-days.  You could imagine how difficult for me to sleep with it and go to the bathroom.

Another difference is the maintenance doze is suppose to be milder according to my oncologist, lower toxicity, but it will still be the same regiment of FOLFIRI plus Avastin. I don’t know about that. Perhaps, I have a different definition of what is mild.  I would rather not do this again.

But there I was bright and early at the hospital.

“Are we ready, Bo?” Nurse Edith greeted me.

“Uh..huh.” I replied enthusiastically.  (Maybe I would rather have a root canal).

I was alone this time around when normally my mom (in Canada) and wife (still at work) would accompany me.  I brought my laptop and plan to do some work or see if I can do some work, since the hospital has wireless.

Drip…drip…drip.  It started and I was out again.  Those darn happy cocktails always do the trick.  I started waking up three hours into the infusion with still two bags more to go.  My wife is beside me now sleeping occupying more than half of the bed. Poor girl, must be another busy night at the ER.  I did managed to get some work done while waiting for the rest of the treatment to complete.

Later at home, I experienced the side-effects.  First the runny nose, then the hiccups, and a queasy stomach bordering on nausea.  I tried working through it but later in the day I was wasted.

I even had a scheduled a conference call and the people on the call did not realize I was all buzzed up with chemo juice.  Chemo on the rocks, baby, shaken not stirred.

“Uh, huh. Sounds good to me. Ok.” I would hear myself say, but I did managed to say it intelligently and not barf on the phone. No sobriety test for me.

So this is how it is going to be from now on. Once a month, I am reminded of reality. Just when I am slowly building my confidence I have this once a month reality check.  I imagine myself living normal a cancer-free life, then the ‘pause’ button is hit.  This pause is long enough to shake my confidence.  Can I do this for the rest of my life?  How am I going to finish the marathon or much less complete the 18 mile training this weekend?

At the same time, it gives me periodic renewal of how I look at life.  It is precious.  Sometimes we get blinded by the success we have in life forgetting it is just borrowed time.  Then it happens, somebody hits the ‘pause’ button.  Why?  Because shit happens.

The future also tells me that I may need to lower my expectation of running future marathons. Marathon training is grueling as you get to double-digit mileage.  Now, I am entering a different phase wherein I have to manage the high mileage and chemo.  That darn ‘pause’ button.

Nonetheless, life is good.  I am still here given the chance to run and do my best.


First chemo maintenance. Working at hospital while nurse Edith infuses me.

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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.


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.


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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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!


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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