Posts Tagged ‘pain’

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 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.


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Games of Tumors
June 28, 2014.

II still hurt from the spleenic embolization I had last Thursday, June 19.  Spleenic embolization is a non-invasive procedure that is used to disable part of the spleen, where blood platelets are stored.  Think of the spleen as the gas tank for platelets, only mine has grown slightly in size due to long periods of chemo.

To objective is to resize my spleen to make it store less platelet and boost the count.  Humans can exist without spleen you just have to watch your diet.  The conventional approach is open you up for surgery or use embolization technique.  The is latter is non-invasive–and better–because the procedure calls for inserting a catheter in an artery in your groin.  From there, using a dye to map your arteries they navigate the catheter until they reach the spleen.  (Note: This is my second embolization, the first was in 2009 when my cancer mets to my liver.  See post, At the starting line with Dr. B, December 22,2009).

Upon reaching the spleen, certain arteries that deliver blood to the spleen are blocked thereby effectively disabling that area.  The result is a reduction in the effectivity of the spleen to store platelets.  Since mine was already enlarged 60%-70% of my spleen capacity was reduced.

Being non-invasive does not mean it is not painful afterwards.  During the procedure they are awake because they need you to move to certain position to put the catheter in the right place.  Don’t worry it is just a blur.

The after care is the challenging part.  It is deciding how much “care” and recovery you need.  The doctors have warned me about pain from the spleen and a referred pain to the left back shoulder for the next two to three weeks.

While at the hospital, you are practically drugged to your senses.  I was given my favorite “toy” again, a contraption that continuously deliver morphine and as bonus after a prescribed time, you press this red button and more morphine comes out.  Whoosh.  Watch out morphine rush.  Then to help you sleep more drugs and narcotics.  The danger is you become lethargic and constipated.  Reality.

Reality is also traveling back to Chicago from Houston drugged out and in pain.  I have flown many many miles for business and in certain conditions, but none has prepared me for the travel back home.  I was in distressed.  The high narcotic dose makes me vomit and nauseous.  Like many travel nowadays in the US, it is full and delayed.  It was not our  lucky travel day, our flight was delayed then we were put on a late flight in a different airport (HOU airport to IAH airport, which is 35 miles north).  My wife took all the burden of travel since I could not even lift anything.  I love her.

Back at home and after a week, I am slowly recovering.  I still take narcotic pain meds like candies but I found the balance of when to take it and not be constipated.  Next step is a blood test if my platelet count responded.

The never ending bloody saga “Games of Tumor!” continues.  For this battle, Lord Spleen gave the ultimate sacrifice for our kingdom but he is still with us.  FREEDOM! (ala Mel Gibson in Braveheart)


P.S Doctor’s checkup this week for platelets.  Many  thanks my friend Ria for letting us use their house while she and her family were on vacation. Go USA in the World Cup

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Nobody likes pain

May 23, 2010

“re you ready, Bo?” Edith, my oncology nurse, asked me when I saw her the morning of the start of my second course of chemo.

“Ah…” My answer betrayed me.

Ok, I am there at 7:00 am for the start of my chemo but if I had a choice, I would rather be somewhere else. Who wants to have more pain when I have been living with it for more than six-months. I tell myself I need to embrace the pain but sometimes, I too get tired. Nobody likes pain.

Elite runners train to accept pain, want it, and use it to defeat their competitors. Training for pain is totally different from an unwelcomed pain from surgery or chemo. Lately, I have been feeling every little one of them, including a necessary blood draw or an injection to increase my immunity. I have been short-tempered and irritated, even to those I love. I am tired of the nausea, the chills, the sweats, the injections, the pills, the constipation, and the pain of it all.  Make it stop, please!

However, I should be grateful now that my first cycle is done, and recovery week is coming up. I use to look forward to recovery week because I can eat but the energy escapes me now. It did not help that when I weigh myself and saw I lost another 3 pounds. A hard fact staring at me. That is not due to the liver I lost. I casually, mentioned this to the wife, and it opened up a breakfast “conversation”.

I use to see you recover faster and have more energy before your liver surgery. Now you don’t have it. What’s wrong?. You need to fight it, hon. You are lucky your body is still strong to take all the punishment but you need to get back. We need you. Don’t lose your spirit, babes.” She opened up.

That was a hit on the head. I tell you my wife is small but she packs a punch. I need to pay attention. I have five more cycles of chemo ahead of me and I need to get back. I have been steadily giving ground to this cancer, a pound here, a liver there, what’s next.

But sometimes all it takes is a card from a colleague, NancyP from Canada to give you a helping nudge.

The smallest things can change our lives –

one hand reaching out to another…

one prayer whispered in faith…

one moment that shines with His presence.

Thinking of you,

believing wth you,

praying for you –

and wanting you to know

how much I care.

I need to pay attention.  It is all about the small things and what you have.  I need to get back to be among those who care and love me.  I am still here.


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‘Twas the night before Christmas

December 24, 2009

….when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

It was also seven days after the December 17 ‘massacre’ when lots of cancer cells died from Dr. B’s chemoembolization raid on my liver.  Fellow cancer cells mourn for the loss of their fighting comrades.

“Tsk…tsk.” But there was no bugle tap for the dead cancer cells for they were  not welcomed.  True to their habits, they did not go down without a fight.  They called in their ‘demon’ allies, who stalked me night and day.  I called them my demons, and for Christmas they called their special ally—The Grinch.

The Grinch has been bothering me since the massacre.  First, he induced me to vomit at the hospital.  He almost derailed my homecoming plans with vomit spells but I put a stop to that with Zofran.  Haha…  Then comes the chills, low-grade fever, sleepless nights, and constant stabbing pain in my abdomen.  He even threw in a couple of hiccup spells all intended to lower my résistance and be a pest.

Dr. B’s scientific explanation is that my liver is releasing toxins, therefore all the side-effects of chemo are coming out.  It is a clear indication that the cancer cells are dying.  He adds:

“I gave you a heavy dose of chemo. I knew your body could take it.” I just have this effect on people who express too much love for me 😮

“You will be in pain and feel lousy for a couple of days but we are sending you home with codeine for pain, zofran for nausea, and other medications.  If you have high fever call us or me personally.”

It has been a while since I experienced the nasty side-effects of chemo, and when it came it I was weakened.  I did not deal with abdominal pain before but the chills, vomits, and hiccups brought me back to reality and sleepless nights.  With the incessant pain, I try to strike a balance on when I should take codeine.  Too much of that stuff makes you constipated, so you counter it with stool softner and fiber.

At the hospital, I did not feel the pain because they know how to manage it.  I was even hooked up to my favorite gadget, personal control analgesic (PCA).  I just press a button and it discharges, Delodid (more potent than morphine), a drug addict’s delight.  It resets after a couple of minutes and I can press the button again.  Ah, heaven.  Then, in between I can request for Toradol, another pain killer.  They also gave me Decadrol, steroids to help my immunity.

But at home, I have to find the right balance with codeine, stool softner, ant-nausea pills, and Metamucil.  This puts a dirty smile on the Grinch.

“I wouldn’t smile, Grinch.  Lots of your friends are dead or are dying from the punishment given by Sheriff B.  And soon you will be gone as well.  Pain is temporary.” Besides, Santa is almost here.  The cavalry is arriving led by Rudolph.

It is Christmas eve.  Yes, the house is quite.  The promise of white Christmas is here.  The outside air is even calm.  Maggie, the beagle, is snoring in her bed.  My wife is asleep besides me radiating with all the warmth and care I needed to get me through the night.  Perfect.

Just you and me, Grinch.  You are not going to steal my Christmas.  I am here breathing and in child-like anticipation of receiving the blessings of life.  I am awake not because of you but for the simple pleasure of greeting everybody out there, Merry Christmas.

Come on, my demon-friend, let’s go get some Ensure and cookies.  Ho…Ho…Ho!


Woohoo...white christmas!

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At the starting line with Dr. B

December 22, 2009

I did not recognized him when he walked in that Thursday morning, December 17.  Dr. B, my radiologist, was in a surgical outfit.  It was different when I first met him last November 23 in his professional white smock.  (See related post, The long road ahead, November 28)

“Are you ready?” He greeted me.  I was going to be awake through the chemoembolizaiton procedure and I was already all prepped up by his staff, and was cold.  Have you notice how cold these operating facilities are?  They say it is because of the machines they have to keep cool but how about me?

I hear in the background the nurse reading my name, my birthday, telling the doctor why I am in there, and my vital signs.  I look at the clock and it was almost 9:30 am.  My day started at 5:00 am with my normal morning rituals, except for breakfast or any liquids, so I was hungry.

“Yes, I am ready” I replied.  He signals the nurse, who has been steadily infusing me with antibiotics and fluids for an hour now.

“Mr. Alvarez, I am going to give you benedryl to make you feel sleepy and relax.” Said Eunja, one of my nurses.  Whoosh!  I felt a rush go through my head and body.

“Wow.” Eunja heard me and asked “Did you feel that?”

She did not intend to give me give me any discomfort.

“I tried slowing the push but high volume of your IV to your port-a-cath seems to have carried the medicine fast.”

Oh well, I thought.  I could not blame her she means well…all of them.  The port-a-cath I have is inserted into the jugular vein which then goes to the heart, so you feel the medicine surge faster instead of infusions from the arm or peripherals.  The implant device is convenient for cancer patients to avoid being poked regularly during chemo session.  (Note:  Veins deliver the inward flow of blood to the heart versus arteries which deliver outward flow of blood from the heart.)

I felt a pinch in my right groin.  It was the local anesthetic Dr. B administered.  He feels for the femoral artery and marks it.  He makes the incision then slowly threads a wire going to my liver.  No pain there.  He stops and tells me he needs to map his way to the liver.

Map?  Don’t tell me you lost your way?  I should have brought my GPS.

But he has something better.  He puts a catheter over the wire and says:

“I am going to inject a dye contrast to map your artery.  You are going to feel radiating heat.” I felt the warmth radiating in my stomach.  He takes an image and there is our map.  Whew!  Smile liver.

He repeats the process inserting different types of wires, catheters, etc, moving ever so closely to the tumors.  With him in the room was Dr. F, another radiologist, and they discuss the careful approach to my liver.  They need to find the right artery to deliver the chemo then embolize or shutdown the artery to lock the medicine in.  One of the tumor was located at the edge so it took them time to position the wires.  He repeats the procedure until he is close to all three tumors.  Satisfied, he locks in the catherter and ask the pharmacy to mix the special chemo concentrate for me.  Houston, we are locked and loaded.

Dr. B tells me it is this time when his patience is tested because of the wait for the chemo concentrate from the pharmacy.  I guess you got have them fresh, right?  Nothing beats fresh chemo in the morning.  I love the aroma of fresh chemo.

When it arrives, Dr. B and his staff were in a flurry of activity.  He delivers the first chemo concentrate with embolized particles.  Panic breaks out among my cancer cells.  What the f#$%k!  Incoming….. boom!  Another concentrate, another, another, and another. I lost count but Dr. B came out firing on all cylinders.  Die, sucker!  Rat-tat-tat.  Shots fired.  Shotgun, machine gun, AK, cruise missile, kitchen sink… Welcome to Chicago.  Do you feel lucky, punk?  There’s a new sheriff in town.  Get out of town by sundown and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.  Ka-boom!

Cloud settles and I all feel is blouted pain in my abdomen.  As if somebody hit me in the stomach several times.  Raw.  But it is over.  Well done, Dr. B, with your help my journey has begun…again.


My wife, me, and Dr. B "The New Sheriff"

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