(11) A Star Is Born!

Poster BoyI had the second round of chemo today.  It started at 10:30 and ended at 2:30.  Prior to beginning, Eileen and I visited with Dr. Shipp to talk about the results of yesterday’s blood test, and discuss how I am doing.  Dr. Shipp said, “You are the poster boy for handling Dense Dose M-Vac Chemotherapy.”

That is amazing!  Mostly because Dr. Shipp is younger than me and she called me a boy! (It’s also good news that I am handling it all so well.)

Of course I am fully aware that chemo can change at any moment and a week from today I might be the poster boy for bald men projectile vomiting.  If that should happen, I will embrace the experience and we will take another photo.  But I don’t think Eileen will be standing in front of me.

(12) July Highlights

IMG_0916 0201Thank you all for your unending positive thoughts and prayers.  A few weeks ago, my cousins took part in a Relay for Life.  They made luminaries with my photo (of the superman kind) and set them up along a 5K walk at night. Thank you Larry, Lynn, Cheryl, Craig, Christine and Rosemary. Earlier in July, Eileen’s sisters Kathy, Pat and Ann, our brothers-in-law Tony, Albert, Neil, and Tim, plus our nieces Lauren and Heather with Simone, and our nephew Rusty with Ana, Eileen and Aidan, all came out to our place to create a “no stress” party.  They brought everything… we only needed to bring the nice weather.  Thank you.

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(13) No longer the Poster Boy

Poster ChildOn Tuesday the 11th I had a blood sample taken. Yesterday (Wed.), prior to chemo #3, I answered all of Dr. Shipp’s questions before she reviewed my blood results with me.  She said, “You’re STILL the poster child of dose dense M-VAC chemo.” WooHoo! It was a subtle change, but I noticed it: she promoted me from Poster Boy to Poster Child!

All of my important numbers are where they need to be. Dr. Shipp explained that if they were not, they would have to supplement with blood transfusions.   I’m on track for the 4th and final dose on the 26th.

I still have about 50% of my hair – enough so that I look my age. Based on what happened last time, I should lose a bunch more this coming week. Eileen and I are taking weekly photos of the “stages” to share once the process is complete.

Photo: If Dr. Shipp is serious, I thought I’d find a good childhood photo of me so that she can get busy on that poster. I always felt bad having training wheels, but seeing the photo, the bike looks way too big for me.

(14) Did it!

FullSizeRenderAll my blood work checked out OK so I was able to take the fourth (and final) round of the dd-MVAC yesterday (08/26).  Phew!  I would have hated to have it postponed.  Now I will have a routine blood test in three weeks, a consultation and CT Scan in Iowa City in four weeks, and Bladder removal October 1st.

The staff at the Oncology lab had an impromptu celebration for me as I finished my fourth cycle.They played music, gave me hugs,a certificate, and bottle of bubbly.  Thank you Krista, Cindy, Val, Cheryl, and Brittany.  I left feeling always welcome there, always comforted by you, and that you always cared about me.  Thank you. (We are wearing the buttons that you gave to us – they started several conversations when we went shopping afterwards… so what did you two just do?)

I have to admit I am not  a “complete” Superman.  All last week, my nausea had been dramatically flaring up whenever I thought of going back for the fourth round.  Aware guy that I am, I knew it was all psychological, yet no amount of spiritual, cosmic, musical, universal, or wood chopping thoughts could snap me out of it. I told Dr. Shipp, and low and behold, there’s a drug for that.  And within two hours my stomach calmed, my mind became mental mush, and I’ll have to ask Eileen to write down all of the things we (I) agreed to do.

(15) Good to go!

imgresEileen and I spent yesterday in Iowa City talking with the team that will perform and oversee my bladder removal surgery next Thursday. It was a non-stop stream of people, including the surgeon, his assistant, his nurse, the dietitian, a frailty assessor (I’m not), and even a research scientist…  Yes, I am donating my bladder and other assorted removed body parts to science.  They will be frozen for future generations of scientists to study.  As part of the agreement, I will also give them a couple vials of blood every time I go to Iowa for a follow up, and fill out a questionnaire,  for the rest of my life.

On October 1, I’ll check into surgery at 7:30 am, and they’re thinking I’ll be out at soon as 3 pm or as late as 6 pm. This is for the ileal conduit (the tapper). I decided against the neo bladder after a long discussion with my surgeon. Not only would the neo surgery be several hours longer, but I had to assess my desire/willingness to deal with a year or two of training, along with the almost certainty of complications and emergency room visits. I chose the tried and true.  Eileen and I then met with the “stoma” nurse.  I now have a purple bulls-eye on my stomach.

Even if I don’t get out of surgery until 6 pm, they say they’ll have me out of bed and walking the same day. If all goes well, I could be in the hospital 4 days. Eileen will be staying in a nearby motel.

I did get a high contrast CT scan yesterday and it showed that there is nothing outside the bladder. This means removing the bladder should remove all the cancer.

The surgeon says I’ll be restricted to lifting no more than 10 pounds for several months, but after that I can slowly increase the amount.  It does appear that my snow shoveling will be off limits this winter, but moving bales of hay and pulling weeds can be part of next summer.

Since they get me out of bed so soon, I’ll use that time to update everyone on how the surgery went and how I feel.  Thank you again for all of your kind thoughts, prayers, and good wishes.

(PS – Tomorrow we’re heading to Minnesota to our favorite bike path near Lanesboro.  We’re meeting 6 of our friend there and we’ll be camping out near the river.  Weather looks like it’ll be great!)

 

(16) Thank you!

IMG_6191We had perfect weather for our bike ride!  We each did 33 miles.  Eileen had it a bit harder than I did because we brought Patti, and Eileen pulled the cart (Patti weighs in at a chunky 16 lbs.)

I appreciate all of the kind and positive thoughts you continue to send my way. They’re coming along with me to Iowa and I will keep them all very close. If I’m not too groggy, I’ll send an update Thursday evening.  Friday morning for sure.

(18) There’s No Place Like Home…

IMG_6275Especially if you have someone like Eileen.  Since arriving home Sunday night, we’ve been taking walks through the pines every morning.  A tad chilly this morning, but the weather has been perfect.

I was told to judge my progress week to week, and not day to day.  Good advice! I haven’t had much pain. And looking back at how I felt last Friday, I’m doing great. Everything is healing, everything works as it should, and I’m certain Eileen will be hanging a framed photo of Dr. Gupta on our front door. Such a nice man. I find it amazing that he could keep interested in my “insides” for 10 hours. It is because he was able to keep me on the “robot” the entire time that the surgery went so well and that I am healing so quickly.

We are going to Iowa City on Wednesday the 14th to remove a few “things” that they needed to leave in for a bit.  More then.

(19) First full day back at work

IMG_6533Eileen and I went to Iowa last Wednesday (14th) for a check up and update.  Doctor said that pathology showed no evidence of disease.  That’s great news!  My next doctor’s visit/CT Scan is scheduled for mid January. I’ll be on an every-three-month check up schedule for at least a year.

Prior to today (21st) I went to work twice to see how I’d feel… I guess I work hard because I only lasted about three hours each time.  (Plus both days I took pain pills which tend to make me sluggish.) Today is minimum pill day and my first full day back.  Eileen drove me, so there’s no leaving early.  Only a couple hours to go.  WooHoo!

(20) An update to begin 2016

IMG_7235Eileen, Josie, and I drove out to Iowa City on Wednesday the 13th for my first post-op CT scan.  If you’re unfamiliar with cancer lingo, doctors don’t say a patient is cancer-free.  They look at all of the available data and if cancer is not present, the official diagnoses is No Evidence of Disease. Based on my scans, I am classified NED. Yes! My next CT scan is scheduled for April 13th.

While in Iowa Dr. Gupta took photos of my stomach to show other patients what they might look like after the surgery.   I’m assuming he only wants to show others the best case scenario. So when it comes to stomach scars, mine are fairly bland, small, and I’m going to say attractive.

My hair has fully returned, though not darker as the unofficial “possible” side effects of chemo listed.  One side effect that did happen is the loss of hair in my inner ear. That hair never grows back, but I only notice the loss in very noisy environments.

Coffee began tasting good again towards the beginning of December.  And by Christmas, my tastes were 100% back to normal (good timing!). For some unknown reason, alcohol tastes better than it did pre-chemo.  Rather than question this, I am accepting it as a sign and drinking more.

So you know, our traveling companion Josie, pictured, is the second puppy that Eileen is training working with Canine Peace of Mind (web site). The first puppy she trained for them, Arthur, is now living in New York City.  Eileen trains the puppy until they are about 9 months old and they are then sold as a ready-to-go-package.   If you watch the video on the web site link, you’ll see that a lot of the footage was shot around our house (some with a drone).

Thank you all for keeping me in your thoughts.