Sunday, November 29, 2009

Take my breath away...

Actually, I'd prefer to have my breath given back. So tomorrow, I'm having a catheter implanted in my lung cavity. In the past two weeks, I had my lung drained twice (once for 1/2 a liter and again for over a full liter). I could continue going to the hospital for this, but for a couple of reasons it is better to get my on drain hooked up and do it myself.

One of the reasons is that I can do it often and be able to control my breathing better. The other reason is because when I go for a drain here and there, the doc is guessing at the route that the needle has to take from my skin, through my back, past my ribs and into the cavity. The last time when I had a liter drained, 1.5 liters remained because he hit the cavity too high to drain it completely.

This procedure will get the tube right at the bottom of my lung. They say in 60-70% of the patients, the catheter actually helps dry up the fluid and it can be removed in a few months.

It's an out-patient procedure, so I'll be home tomorrow night (and also awake for the tube being inserted in my chest. As the Beach Boys sing, "and we'll have fun, fun, fun 'til the doctor takes the catheter away." (Okay, it wasn't exactly those lyrics!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ice, Ice, Baby...

"Oh, we need a little xmas...right this very minute..."

I meant to post this before now, but the last week has been a mess for me. Anyhoo...Last Monday, the 16th, I attended an event in DC for cancer. It was at the Verizon Center and featured ice-skating stars and recording artists. Included were: Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, and Olivia Newton John (All three are cancer survivors.) Also there were Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, Viktor Petrenko, a few 2010 Olympic hopefuls and a couple of American Idols.

The show will be airing Thanksgiving (short notice) on Fox at 4pm or 5pm (after the football game).

Because I'm part of a colon cancer group, we got discounted seats. Instead of the normal $40-$100, I paid $2 each! Yep, $2. And...I was four rows from the ice. I guess cancer has it's perks. (Keep the discount...take the cancer from me.)

The show was SO good. At age 51, Scott Hamilton was still doing back flips. Olivia Newton John sounds exactly the same. If you get a chance, check it out tomorrow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hospital trip...

He had half his liver removed. Now he's had a tube inserted into his lung cavity (while awake) to drain the fluid. He lives vicariously through himself. He is the most interesting man in the world. I never drink alcohol, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.

Well, last weekend I was feeling a little rundown, not much of an appetite, and a headache. I made the trip to Pittsburgh to see the Panthers beat Notre Dame, but I couldn't finish my Primanti Brothers' sandwich, so the victory was missing something! I had to take a narcotic for my head after the game. The next day, I figured out that the headache was due to dehydration. I drank a few bottles of water and was okay.

Monday came and I had a fever, so I stayed home from work. It broke later in the day and I went to a cancer event that night involving skating (stay tuned for post about that night). The event was great, but on my way home, I started feeling beyond sick. I felt awful in so many ways I didn't know what was ailing. I took some narcs and went to sleep. Tuesday was more of the fever, but not as bad as Monday night, so I thought I might be recovering. Tuesday night, it started to hurt with each breath. Not good. If I wasn't better on Wednesday, I was going to the ER.

ER Time... In the ER, there weren't many people in the waiting room, but the back rooms were full. I waited 3.5 hours in the waiting room. I entered at 100.2 degrees and 3 hours later was 101.8. They got me back to a bed fairly quick after that.

Saline was pumped into me to get me hydrated and they took a chest x-ray. It showed I could have pneumonia. There was fluid in my lungs, but people with cancer in their lungs can get fluid there, too. I did a CT scan to see if I had a blood clot, too. Here is the best news of the blood clot! Okay, now back to crap...

I was admitted to the hospital and pumped with saline and antibiotics (even though we didn't know if I had pneumonia). Thursday night, doctors decided to take the fluid from my lung and then test the fluid to see what it was. I asked if my visitor could stay. No, they needed it sterile. So, we began... I sat on the side of the bed and leaned over a pillow on a table in front of me. My arm was stretched over my head. At this point, the tech enters my room to get my vital signs. "Can't you do this later?" "No, I have to do it now." (What? Was she an ant? If she leaves her line, can she not find her way back? I'm having a needle jammed into my upper back. Do you think you're going to get an accurate pulse reading with a sharp instrument in me?)

She eventually left and after using ultrasound, the lung docs found a path through my body to insert the tube. They began. It started off like they were trying to pop the most painful pimple ever on my back and they kept going...until they hit rib. I guess the ultrasound lied because they had to start over. This time worked and they sucked the liquid out. 600 ML of if. It was so gross. They said "we are going to get the most out that we can. we we get near the end, the lung will start to expand/contract and you are going to cough. I went from "fine" to coughing in no time. And I couldn't stop. I thought I might cough up that lung.

The results came back from the testing of the gross stuff. It was not from pneumonia. It didn't mean it was from the cancer, but since I have cancer there, it's likely. In fact, I still don't know what it's from because nobody can tell me a definite answer. That is why I left the hospital. I layed there for a day and a half more will no one was doing anything bug giving me an oral antibiotic. I can that at home and not have people waking me ever hour to borrow blood, take my temp, listen to my heart, or reach in and rip out my stomach.

Do I feel I should have left the hospital? No. But I also knew that no one there was going to do anything for me there. There were no tests lined up. I will monitor myself at home and if I need to return to the ER, I will (but at a different hospital.) 90% of what I have seen at Georgetown is a joke. I like my oncologist and my infusion nurses, but the rest of the staffs seem not to care at all. If you have something else on top of cancer, you might as well go to the local theater and see if there is a doctor in the house.

So, my pain was cleared up via the drainage, but that was the only thing the hospital trip did for me. I know have that lovely water-retention again. My body thinks it is dehydrated and is storing water for the winter like a squirrel with nuts. My legs and abs are huge, pudgy and blobby. And maybe because of this inflated torso, I also have shortness of breath. I get winded walking stairs or anything. Then again, the shortness might be from something else, but none of the docs cared to find out.

I'm banking that when the weight drains, I'll be able to breathe. I have to drink plenty for that to happen.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chemo decision...

Sorry to keep you waiting on my choice of chemo drugs, but I've been lazy about blogging lately. I'm on a chemo vacation while I get ready for the next treatment. So, I've been squeezing in all kinds of things. I went to the movies four times in the past week-plus.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for. Drumroll, please. tatatatatatatata... I chose to go with the clinical trial. Here is my thought process: The other choice was a treatment I was on right after my surgeries. That kept the cancer from coming back while I was on it. But I didn't have any signs of cancer then. So, I'm not 100% sure it would shrink the tumors I have now. Also, the clinical trial is said to have a lot less side effects. Why not give myself a chance to see if it works? Because if it does, I could take it for a long time and feel normal. Live normal. Be normal. That's all I really want, anyway, when you come down to it.

What does the clinical trial entail? Well, every week I have to eat all green sprouts and bamboo chips and bathe in algae-filled water. Wait, wait, wait...that's not right. Ugh, I thought I was looking at the paperwork for the study, but it was a pamphlet on how to take care of your pet panda. Where did I pick up that literature? Chemo brain...I don't recall.

Okay, here is the study's paperwork. For one week, I will take two drugs. Then I don't take anything for the next three weeks. One drug is a chemo that is proven on brain cancer and melanoma. The other is the experimental drug. That is called a PARP inhibitor. PARP is the ability for a cell to repair itself when it's damaged at the DNA level. The theory is that the chemo will work better if the cancer cells can't repair themselves. We shall see.

I'm hopeful, worried, anxious, excited. Let's just start already. D-Day is 23 November. Here is the fun part. I have to take the pills twice a day and I can't eat or drink for two hours prior and one hour post. That is six hours a day I cannot eat or drink. For a guy trying not to lose weight every day, that stinks. And Thanksgiving is during my first week of it! I'll have to set my alarm for 1am to wake up and eat turkey and filling (It's called filling in central PA. Basically, it's bread stuffing mixed with smashed potatoes. There. I like to keep my blog educational as well as sexy and scary.)