Hello to friends, family, and anyone else who happens to stumble across this collection of words. I've threatened for years to start a blog for the sole purpose of detailing the contents of my fridge on an hour by hour basis. Alas, that blog never came to fruition. I may at times take a long diversion into that subject, but really the intent here is to post updates as I push through chemotherapy.
Background: On May 27, 2010, I learned that I had Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL). To anyone interested in the details, my lymphoma is a follicular type, grade 1/2, stage 3/4. I probably should have started this blog immediately after learning I had cancer and left a record of the frantic days there following. And who knows, I may yet recount some of those days. But the long and the short is that the heads of state conferred and prescribed for me a drug cocktail known far and wide as R-CHOP (five different drugs). NHL is reputed to respond really well to this particular blend of poisons. By "respond well," I mean that everyone expects six rounds of R-CHOP to put my cancer into remission. By "respond well" I do not mean "is cured by." The shitty part of the story is that my style of NHL is incurable. I can reasonably expect that it will pop its head up again sometime in my future. My plan is to make sure that the remission lasts a really, really long time.
Chemotherapy: The logistics of chemo can vary widely depending on the cocktail you are sipping. In my case, I am on three week cycles. On day one, I go to a room stocked with nine leather recliners and sit while a parade of drugs is dripped into my system. On days two through five, I take pretty large doses of another drug by pill at home. Then I have sixteen days to let the drugs do their worst. Then the cycle repeats itself. As noted above, in my case the cycle should repeat itself six times.
July 21, 2010: Cycle one started for me on Wednesday, July 21, 2010. The day before, I popped into the catheter lab at Providence Hospital to have a Medi Port installed. The Port is basically a small titanium cup with a tube running several inches. The whole contraption is placed under my skin, sealed away from the weather, my sweat, and curious passerbys. The tube is merged in with a major vein near my neck using techniques of modern medicine or witchcraft--I'm not sure which. The cup sits on my chest. The intent is to give nurses and others a direct line to apply their poisons. One of the five drugs I take as part of the R-CHOP cocktail is pretty nasty stuff that the powers that be will not apply in a regular arm IV. If the drug were to end up outside a vein, it would reportedly eat away at tissue and muscle. The Port minimizes those risks. While I appreciate the utility of the Port and would just as prefer not have to contend with nurses seeking veins in my arm each time they need to place an IV, I still haven't completely come to terms with the new bulge under my skin. Frankly, it kind of surprises me. It is not the sort of thing that I thought would bother me.
But on with the show. Come Wednesday morning, lovely wife C accompanied me to the chemo room. Below, at home and getting ready for come what may.
The first day of chemo is the longest. One of the drugs, Rituximab, has to be given slowly the first time to gauge for allergic reactions. We got to the doctor's office at 10:00 and didn't leave until 5:30, the bulk of that time spent in a room, in a chair, looking at other cancer patients. I sat next to a man in his fifties or sixties. He used to play drums in a bar band back in the pipeline days. Did that for a number of years, until his cocaine habit landed him in jail. I have no idea the crime committed, but he found Jesus and a wife, and all in all was an entertaining companion. C probably has a clearer memory of his stories, though. Because of the allergy concerns, I was given a hefty dose of Benadryl as a precursor to the Rituximab, and frankly was pretty loopy for a good while. Eventually though, the last drip of drug made its way into my neck vein and I was unhooked and set free.
Days that followed:
Those drugs packed a punch. I was pretty well laid out Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, we walked with some friends a couple of blocks to a local park to let our friends' kids burn off energy. I needed a nap when we got home. The anti-nausea medications worked pretty well for me in this first cycle, but my head was in a fog and I was really tired. I was also quite jittery. My eyes were vibrating, my mouth felt weird, and I didn't do much of anything. C worked tirelessly around the house. While she disagrees with me every time I say it, I'm pretty sure this whole process has been and will be harder on her than me. It would be impossible without her, though.
I went back to work on Monday. It was a day too soon. My mind wasn't working, and lawyering ain't rocket science but it takes some noodling with the head. I was exhausted by noon. My head slowly cleared up as the week went on, but half days were all I could manage until Friday. C and I got out for some walks and some very short runs. Picture post one run below.
I got stronger the following week and started feeling near-normal. C and I got in a four mile run one day and got out on our bikes for the first time since chemo started:
August 7, 2010: That brings us up to date. You may note that the beard is gone in the picture above. That has nothing to do with chemo and everything to do with buying the cheapest beard trimmer that money can buy. Lesson learned, and the mangy results left me no choice but to start over (or not). However, I think the chemo is starting to have an effect on my hair.
If you look closely in the picture above, you can see a pile of loose hair that has accumulated in my puzzle book. Those hairs appeared over the course of just a few minutes, and just doesn't seem normal to me. If you don't want to strain your eyes, I'll provide a detail below.
Yea, that isn't normal. I'm wondering how long the hair will last. I just paid for a haircut a week ago. I wonder if they give chemo-refunds?
Anyway, the next cycle starts in three days. I go next Tuesday for a blood draw. The good doctors have to make sure my white- and red-blood cell counts haven't tanked to a dangerously low level before letting me take the second dose. Then on Wednesday, C and I get another lovely day in the leather chair.
So plenty of babbling for a first blog post. I have no idea how frequently I'll update this. Feel free to leave comments or questions. I'll try to address anything that needs addressing. In the mean time, don't take any wooden nickles.