Monday, July 28, 2008

The Results Are In...

Since it has been a couple of weeks since my last posting I will just review the major events of that time. I did much better the last round of chemotherapy. I did not experience that much nausea or loss of appetite. Two days after I was unhooked from all of my chemotherapy medicines I had a follow up appointment with Dr. Lalani, the pain management doctor. After I told him that I am no longer in any pain we decided I no longer need to be taking Oxycontin for pain. He was quite pleased that I was pain free and told me if he had to give credit where credit was due then he said it was from the chemotherapy working, not the pain block. Marissa and I of course gave credit to God. We were thrilled, as this was now the second hint we had been given that the chemotherapy was probably working. As far as the Oxycontin went I was told to wean myself off of it by substituting a shorter acting pain medicine, Dilaudid, over the next nine days. Immediately after doing this the next few days were horrible. I could not eat, I was nauseous and vomiting, and I had a headache that I could not shake. These symptoms ran from one day to the next and did not let up. Marissa and I attributed these symptoms to be withdrawal symptoms from the Oxycontin. We googled Oxycontin withdrawal symptoms and these matched what I was experiencing. We also learned that withdrawal symptoms from Oxycontin are worse than that of Heroin. Thankfully, by day 4 of these symptoms I was feeling much better and my headache was finally gone. After that I felt better each day and slowly began rebuilding my strength, as I was more fatigued than I had previously been with round 1 of the chemotherapy.

Marissa's mom came on Sunday, July 20, and I was feeling good enough to get out and go places with her and Marissa. On Monday, July 21, we received a call that our name was taken from the free apartment list and that a free apartment was available for us to move into. Fortunately Marissa's mom was here to help Marissa pack, load and unload the car. We moved into our new, "free" apartment on Tuesday July, 22. It is nice and new but very small, much like an oversized hospital room with the same tile flooring. But, we were just happy to be there and save some money on rent. We are still enjoying everyone's cards but we ask that they are no longer sent to our old address on Brompton Rd. as we will no longer receive them.

My parents came on Tuesday, July 22 to be here for my testing and results. They were able to stay at our old apartment as the rent was paid up until Monday, July 28. Wednesday, July 23 began my 10 hour day of testing. It started with blood work, then I had a chest x-ray, and lastly I had a cat scan of the abdomen and pelvis, which involved a 4 hour wait.

Thursday, July 24 I had an appointment with my oncologist, Dr. Trent. He was to discuss my test results with me. My appointment was scheduled for 4 pm. Dr. Trent was running 2 hours behind which of course meant more waiting. We had high hopes that the chemotherapy is working and two doctors hinted that they thought that it was, however we were still a little anxious as we had no concrete results. When we finally met with Dr. Trent we were told the wonderful news that the chemotherapy has shrunk my tumors significantly. I asked Dr. Trent if they were smaller even than he would have thought and he said that yes, it was shrinking the tumors more than he expected. We could not be happier or feel more blessed by this news. We decided to start Round 3 of chemotherapy in Houston since we are already here, but we are planning on returning home for my next round of chemotherapy. We hope to leave for Georgia around August 8 as long as my white blood cell counts are normal. Then I would start chemotherapy there around the 14 of August, and then we would return to Houston the first week of September for another round of testing including a cat scan and then meet with the doctor for those results.

Well, that about sums up the last couple of weeks. We are delighted by my fantastic news, and I could not have asked for a better birthday present. I am on my third day of my third round of chemotherapy. I am feeling pretty good, just very tired. We are looking forward to returning home and seeing our home makeover, getting our dogs back, and of course seeing family and friends. Thank you so much for all of the prayers which we continue to ask for.

At the rate at which I make posts, hopefully next time I write I will be writing from home in Georgia.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Round Two, Well Under Way

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I will continue to try to do better because I know this post is two weeks overdue. On Friday June 27, I had my last visit with the nurse practitioner for my follow up for neutropenic pathway. The doctors told me that my blood cell counts had rebounded incredibly quickly, and they asked me if my bones hurt. I contribute this blessing in part to my age but mostly to everyone’s prayers.

On Saturday June 28, I was feeling so much better that we decided to venture out. After looking up “101 Things to Do in Houston” which included on their list a tour of MD Anderson Hospital and scouring the hospital waiting rooms for celebrities, we knew we had to look outside of Houston for our entertainment. The one item on the list that actually caught our eye was a visit to Old Town Spring, a small town outside of Houston with “over 150 eclectic shops.” We had a good time and true to its description Spring had tons of little boutiques in old houses and cottages. We had bar-b-que on an old caboose, and we enjoyed being tourists for the day.

Sunday June 29, we enjoyed a day of rest while we waited for my brother Frankie and his wife Doris to arrive from West Tennessee. Frankie and Doris arrived around 10 pm. As excited as we were for their arrival we had only a brief visit and we quickly retired.

Late Monday morning, June 30, after catching up on rest and missing breakfast, Frankie and Doris picked us up and we went to lunch at a local bar-b-que restaurant. Although I was feeling better with each passing day my poor appetite was the one thing that really lingered. Lunch was fantastic, but I ended up taking most of it home with me. Despite the fact that we all slept in, we decided that an afternoon nap was just what we needed. Frankie and Doris came back over around 6 pm, and we opted for another Astros game. We did learn something from our previous Astros experience that it is okay to buy tickets at the gate. Houston Astros’ games never sell out, unlike the Atlanta Braves.

Tuesday July 1, Frankie and Doris were planning to leave around 9 am, and my parents decided to leave and ride back with them to give us a little space and take care of things at home. They told me they would come back at the drop of a hat if I needed them to.

So now Marissa and I are on our own with all of our families on standby. Wednesday July 2, we had an appointment with an occupational therapist to go over my wheel chair assessment, that we had requested a month before when my pain was at its worst. MD Anderson actually measured me to fit me for a new wheel chair that is rented on a month to month basis. It can be kept as long or as little as I want, and it can also be picked up and returned even if I go back home to Atlanta for treatment. Wednesday was also a day of errands as I was scheduled to start chemotherapy again on Thursday. This way we would have anything and everything I could possibly need so Marissa would not have to leave me alone during my treatment. We saved the best errand for last, to go to the Social Security Administration Office and enroll for Social Security Disability. While we thought this would be a nightmarish task, it actually turned out to not be so bad. A couple of nice gentlemen helped us, and we were out of there in about two hours.

Thursday July 3, I had routine blood work in the morning as well as a chest x-ray. I had an afternoon appointment with Dr. Trent just for a check-up and question/ answer session before I began my second round of chemotherapy. He said that my blood work came back normal and that my chest x-ray was clear. This in itself was great news because had these tests not come back normal I would not have been able to start my second round of chemotherapy. Dr. Trent was interested in how I tolerated round one of chemotherapy. Since my nausea began on day 3 last time and lasted until after it was over, he added a long lasting nausea medicine to my daily chemo regimen. He also prescribed Diflucan, an anti-fungal medicine, to prevent me from getting thrush again this round. I was also prescribed Levoquin, an antibiotic that will prevent infections. This will hopefully prevent me from ending up in the Emergency Center with another fever. He followed up with a physical exam. After feeling the mass in my abdomen he said that it appeared to be softening. He commented, “That’s encouraging,” which we hope we did not take out of context because most doctors, and especially Dr. Trent, are not into making comments for the sake of encouragement. Overall we were thrilled with the news, and we proceeded to check in for chemotherapy after 5 pm.

Friday the 4th of July we reported to the Cancer Center for day two of chemotherapy. During the chemo treatment all I could think about was being in the Cancer Center on the 4th of July. I had to see some fireworks to liven my spirits. I asked the nurse where we could catch the best show of fireworks and she said without a doubt, Clear Lake City. Clear Lake City turned out to be about a thirty minute drive, and my IV drip was scheduled to end at 7:50 pm. We knew the schedule was tight as we rushed out of the Cancer Center. The fireworks were scheduled to begin at 9:30 pm, and I couldn’t miss the show. We drove into Clear Lake City around 9:15 pm, just in time to sit in a traffic jam on the bay bridge. As it turned out that traffic jam ended up not moving for the entire duration of the fireworks, giving us a perfect view of the show over the water.

Saturday and Sunday, July 5 and 6, were both uneventful days. Life as a cancer patient on chemotherapy becomes a cycle of 21 days, with day 1 being the first day of chemotherapy. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (days 3, 4, and 5) I felt much better than I did on days 3, 4, and 5 of the first cycle. I did not experience the nausea as I did previously, but on days 6, and 7 (Tuesday and Wednesday) I felt worse than last time.

Today, Wednesday July 9, I am still feeling incredibly fatigued, but fortunately that is really my only complaint. As the chemo works its magic it takes some “good” cells with the “bad” ones. They warned me about “chemo brain,” the effect the chemotherapy would have on my mental capacity. I have noticed that my thoughts are not as clear, and that my attention is not as devoted. This has shown an effect on my blog posts. The solution may be to blog more often so that I do not have to remember as much, we’ll see how that goes over. Special thank you to Marissa for helping me remember past days and typing my posts as I lay here and dictate.

A Few More Pictures

Frankie and Me at the Astros Game - July 30, 2008
(First picture of me without hair)

"The Card Wall" in our Houston Apartment (which has now turned he corner)

The best picture we took of Old Town Spring - June 28, 2008