Chemo Me More, I'm Loving it!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I've now had four of my eight scheduled chemo infusions. The following information is primarily for you all trying to anticipate what your own pending chemo will be like.

1. Hair Loss? Yes. Eighty percent fell out three days after my second infusion. Three days later I cut the rest off.

2. Nausea, vomiting, heartburn, dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation or weigh loss? Yes, no, yes, yes, I wish, YES and just starting. After two months and four infusions my gut is suddenly very concerned about what I eat. If I think it will make my poop hard I will not eat it. Why? Click here. I gained five pounds over the first two months of chemo. I think I'll now give that back and then some over the next two months.

3. Slow healing nicks, cuts & viruses? That's a big yes. The problem is except for feeling "different" all the time during chemo - you can't really specifically tell that your white blood count has dropped to almost non-existent and is just barely recovering before the next infusion 14 days later. Every little cut takes four times the normal time to heal. Hang nail? I got band aids for that. This? Ongoing ouchy! Prevention, prevention, prevention. Does your kid have a snuffly nose & a low grade temperature from some unknown "kid virus". If you get it it'll last a week or more where your kid might shake it in a a couple days. I've gone to wearing those lovely blue paper face masks whenever I go into a crowd.

4. Ability to tolerate chemo regimen without interruption? Almost. Before my chemo started my oncologist said it was VERY important to stay with the full treatment without interruption from the side effects. I assured the doctor that would not be a problem. I figure that at 6'2" and 215 pounds I'm a pretty macho dude (at least that's what Nancy assures me of). Ten days after my very first infusion though the hospital lab calls me to tell me my blood count has not recovered enough to have my second scheduled infusion 4 days later. My doctor advised that I needed a shot of Neupogen the next day to raise my white blood count and even hope to have the scheduled infusion three or four days late. Neupogen shots cost $75 each but only if I give the shot to myself and then only if my insurance carrier's selected online pharmacy sends them to me overnight. I've had to give myself a shot after my first & third infusion. In addition to low blood counts, after my first infusion I told my doctor that I didn't poop or even fart for about 10 days. That caused him to be very concerned about paralytic ileus, a possible side effect from the Vinblastine - the "V" in ABVD. He took me off Vinblastine for the second infusion and then ramped it back up. I protested but he assured me that ileus was not to be trifled with and I needed to do whatever it took to become "Mr. Soft Poop".

5. Fatigue and chemo brain? Yes. After the first couple infusions I'd sleep about 24 hours straight on the third & fourth day after the infusion and then need an afternoon nap every other day. I still need naps everyday and the 24 hour nap need can fall on any of the 14 days. My ability to concentrate on something lasts about 15 minutes. Reading the paper? I need a nap afterwards.

6. Bottom line? Chemo sucks!

Bald is Beautiful

When I asked my oncologist about the recommended ABVD chemo treatment he assured me that it was one of the gentler chemo regimens. I asked him, "Will I would go bald?". He said "no".

I should have asked him, "Will eighty percent of my hair fall out and make me look like some kind of pathetic cancer freak seeking sympathy from all who cast their eyes in my general direction?"

To make a long story short, about two days after my second infusion my hair started falling out in big clumps in the shower, all over my bed pillow and pretty much every where else in the house that I touched my hair. Slicking my hair back with gel only made me look like an 80 year old still trying to get away with a "comb over".

After three extremely depressing days I decided to seize control and the car keys. Sixty minutes later I was beautifully bald thanks to a friendly old fashioned barber shop and a modest investment of $10.75.

Getting bald is easier than staying bald though. After about a week I noticed that about 10% of my hair was still growing. So I decided that I would try to "Nair the hair off" with that creamy stuff that women use on their legs in the shower. (Personal note: Don't put Nair on your scalp when your scalp is sunburned and peeling. Ouch!)

It seems the best way to stay bald is to use a disposable razor with a lubricating strip & hair conditioner. I've also bought an electric razor to see if that might be the best daily way to "stay beautiful".

Snow Job

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Looks like I wasn't the only one at the Star who knew Tony.
Fitz is great.

Tony Snow, R.I.P.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tony Snow, conservative television personality and former White House spokesman, passed away this weekend.
I didn't know until I saw the Sunday edition this morning while I was listening to a phone-in press conference.
here's a link to my past blog on Mr. Snow.

Sunday Cover Story

Monday, July 7, 2008

My final piece for the Arizona Daily Star ran Sunday. It was a first-hand account of my experience with Cancer.
Read it here. Also, you can view a short video of me returning to the clinic.
Side note: Guadalupe does not like the photo of us that ran...

i can has cheezburger?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A few years ago I had a chest x ray done. Standard, since the origin of my cancer came from a tumor in my chest. In that x ray the doctor saw some..thing. So i had another one done. Same thing. So the good doctor freaked me out by telling me that there was a possibility that i might need surgery again to clean up what ever of the Thyroid was left behind (according to the x ray). He sent me to see a surgeon. He then put a scope down my throat and had a peep. He saw nothing but some acid reflux. He recommend that i take Zantac once a day to repair my esophagus. Done.

Flash forward a few years, a new gun ho doctor, and with the new doctor can a battery of tests...i was impressed. I had new chest x ray done...results came back as before. They saw...something. What? They don't know. I have to get another one done tomorrow. In addition to the chest x ray, i had blood work done. To quote the nurse; “ Hi Paul, your test results came back, and your triglycerides are out of doctor Bodwin is going to put you on Lipitor...ok?” “wait...what?” Thats right folks, I just turned 30 and im on Lipitor. Jesus Christ.

I should be more depressed then i am at the moment. But im not. A years ago, around the same time of that chest x ray, also had a blood test done. I was suppose to food for 24 hours, and no liquid a few hours before. But, i was thirsty. I thought to myself, whats a dr pepper going to hurt. Well, that threw my blood sugar all out of whack. They thought i was a Diabetic. Im not. So im taking all this news with a grain of salt. Ive been down this road before. Im not that worried. But...god damnit, if i have to have surgery again or have to go through that no salt diet again...Mother F-er!!!!! I dont know what i'll do.

I dont need this shit, and You know in spite of what George says about me (I dont eat more chili-cheeseburgers than i should), im in relative good health. Though i dont work out like i should (its been a rough few months), i dont gorge, eat small portions, and im trying to cut out process foods. If this isnt enough motivation to get my ass in shape? Then paying 88 dollars for 30 pills will. 88 dollars! Blood money to the pharmaceuticals

what the F?

sssheck it out, a

Coming in the Sunday Star

R.I.P. Alicia

During the course of my chemotherapy, I met a young Latina at the clinic. Her name was Alicia. When we met, she was about 19-years-old and had a handsome three-year-old son.
This morning I found out that she passed away.
She was a leukemia patient. It was clear she was very sick when we met. The veins in her chest were all bright purple from infection. It had been a long time sick her locks of hair hung down from her head. her head was shiny when we met. I can remember the tubes, filled with blood, that hung from the port above her collar bone.
Some mornings she had trouble holding down her food.
Yet she was pretty. Her youth shined through her eyes. She was probably beautiful before cancer brought her to Arizona.
Her presence brought a comfortable life to the clinic that no one else did.
She and her mother spoke Spanish, which I otherwise did not hear much of in the clinic. that always made me smile.
And her son brought that chaotic energy that only children can. Running around the clinic, getting into the juice bin and playing with the few other kids that might be around on any given afternoon, he was a handful, to say the least. I believe the nurses said more, actually.
Alicia and I might have first met on Labor Day weekend. I cannot recall right now.
I honestly feel sick to my stomach knowing she's gone.
After our first meeting, I would always check in on her when she was around.
I remember listening to her story about her son's father. I remember her talking about how they discovered her cancer and how she sought treatment in Texas and Mexico before arriving to the clinic in Tucson.
Alicia came from Las Cruces, New Mexico.
take care kid