Thursday, November 25, 2010

25th - Treatment Went Almost Flawlessly

Just  a quick update on yesterday's visit to Dr. Frenette's office...

Stuart and I saw Dr. Frenette for about 15 minutes for an exam.  The only issue he responded to was the numbness / tingling in my feet.  He said it was a side-effect of the Vinblastine and that he wanted to keep going for one more treatment and then assess whether my dosage needed to be reduced.  Other than that, he was ok with the other issues I reported.  We scheduled the interim PET scan for Monday December 6th at CMC Main hospital...big day for me.

Treatment today went almost flawlessly.  In the midst of the treatment, the nurse came over to break the bad news that there is a nationwide shortage of Adriamycin (the red stuff).  The doctor recommended a substitute drug in the same "family" called Epirubicin.  I signed the waiver and moved on.

I am feeling ok today and will try my best to pound down some Turkey and fixings...I will be saying a big thank you to each of you during my pre-meal blessing.

4 down...8 to go...

Monday, November 22, 2010

22nd - John Larroquette...From a Distance

Thank you to the Kerrins' for bringing us an absolutely delicious pot roast over the weekend.  I will be enjoying the left-overs for days.  Thank you to Stuart's parents, Bill and Cathy, for coming down to keep us company and help out around the house.  Thank you to Shelley Typrin for the good-luck amber necklace.

Time has flown by over the last couple of weeks.  It is hard to believe that I am headed to see Dr. Frenette on Wednesday for my fourth treatment, which is the end of my second "cycle".  This one carries some additional significance, as it is protocol to follow the second cycle with a PET scan to check treatment progress.  The scan is not scheduled yet, but I suspect it will be next week at the hospital.  I am optimistic about it, but I would be lying if I did not admit to being nervous as hell.

As I mentioned in my last (very short) post, my third treatment went "fine".  I have come to expect a new experience (or more) each time I visit Dr. Frenette's office and this trip did not disappoint.  As I was sitting in the treatment chair waiting for my blood tests to come back, I found myself getting nauseous over just being there.  Apparently it is a pretty common phenomenon called "anticipatory nausea", which is when you get sick over the thought of something that has not even happened to you yet.  Next time, I will be taking the anti-nausea medication before I go into the office.  That said, the "hangover" from treatment was a little longer this time and I ranked the days following it as:

Friday: 5
Saturday: 3
Sunday: 4
Monday: 5
Tuesday: 6
Wednesday: 8 (fyi, I consider 8 "back to normal")

Since then, I have been feeling much better and my activity level has been pretty good.  I have done some work off and on from the house and have been walking regularly.  The walking is getting a little slower though, as I have developed tingling in both my feet.  Apparently, this "neuropathy" is a common side-effect of the Vinblastine (the "V", in ABVD), and there is not much you can do about it, other than stop that part of the treatment if it gets to be too much to handle.  I will certainly mention this to Dr. Frenette on Wednesday, but if history is any indication, he will not be impressed. 

During my last visit to Dr. Frenette, I complained of continuous pain in my groin, which I was afraid was lymph nodes acting up.  Rather than examining my groin, he carefully studied my neck...from his chair which was four feet away...and said I was fine.  Works for me.  Stuart has told me multiple times that Dr. Frenette reminds her of John Larroquette, of Night Court fame.  I can see it, from a distance, and his good sense of humor probably adds to the comparison.


Can you see the likeness?

Talk to you soon and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10th - Magic Mouthwash

Happy Birthday to my favorite girl under 12 years old, my daughter Peyton, who turns 6 years old today!

Thanks to Joelle & Ken Cohn for the copy of The Junction Boys, which tells the story of a great Bear Bryant coached college football team at Texas A&M.  I am the kind of guy who will pick the movie over the book in most circumstances, but I do like reading more if it is a true story like this one.  Thanks to Paige Phillips for bringing dinner and Tracy Kerrins for still more baked goods.

The last week has flown by and has been mostly uneventful (read Dan is spending a lot of time with the iPad).  My biggest challenge has been keeping my white blood cell count up.  It has continued to be low on its own, so Dr. Frenette has continued to give me "booster shots" of Neupogen to keep me healthy enough for treatment.  You may remember that my low Absolute Neutrophil  Count (ANC) of 400 cells/microliter delayed my second treatment by a day.  The question of "how low can you go" was answered last Wednesday when I literally had zero.  To put that in perspective, my body could not fight the trauma sustained when I flossed my teeth.  My entire mouth became inflammed to the point where the nurse prescribed a numbing "Magic Mouthwash".

I am keeping my weight up and walking around the neighborhood every couple days in an attempt to stay active.  I can now walk my neighborhood's three-mile loop in under 50:00 minutes.  We can call it my personal Tour de Ballantyne until someone joins me.

My hair is thinning, but very much still around.  On a positive note, not having to shave my face every day is fantastic.  Here is a recent picture.


Cooper (3), Dan, Peyton (6) on Halloween afternoon.




















So, many blood draws and booster shots later, I am ready for treatment tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2nd - Need a Pick-me-up?

Thank you to Cheryl Johnson for being my underground supplier of People magazine and to Bill & Cathy Clarke for the "Team Deets" hats.  A special thank you to my brother Doug for keeping me company during my treatment on Friday.

If you are thinking "I thought he was supposed to get treatment on Thursday?" you are in good company.  The visit to Dr. Frenette's started just fine (weight, pulse, blood pressure, etc.), but came to a complete stop when the results of my bloodwork came back.  I felt great, looked average as normal, but apparently the previous treatment had wreaked havoc on my immune system.  My white blood cell count was insanely low, as was my Absolute Neutrophil Count (ANC).  These cells are particularly important in fighting off infection and are the first responders to the traumas your body might experience, so you do not want to go without.

Fortunately for me, modern medicine saved the day again.  Dr. Frenette ordered up a shot of Neupogen and sent me home to wait for 24 hours.  Neupogen is aptly named, since it is designed to quickly increase your Neutrophil count, through stimulation of your bone marrow.  It is strong stuff and made my bones ache like I got hit repeatedly with a baseball bat.

I was naturally pessimistic upon arrival to Dr. Frenette's on Friday, thinking that there was no chance of receiving treatment and that my prognosis was tanking.  Jennifer, my oncology nurse for the day, was more optimistic however.  As she told Stuart and me, "I would bet the farm he is getting chemo today".  Why did she think this?  Neupogen works great in young, "otherwise healthy" people.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard that description of myself, I would be a young, rich, "otherwise healthy" person.  She turned out to be right though.

This treatment was a little quicker than the last, maybe 3 1/2 hours all told.  The side effects were similar...fatigue, nausea and that crazy pain in my mouth.  I graded the days as:

Friday: 7
Saturday: 5
Sunday: 4 (I did manage to force myself out to trick-or-treat with the kids for a few minutes)
Monday: 6
Tuesday: 8

Keep your good thoughts and prayers coming.  1 cycle down, 5 to go.