Friday, July 22, 2011

22nd - An "A+ Scan"

Quick update...I received great news on Wednesday morning regarding my first quarterly CT scan.  Dr. Frenette said everything looked great and called it "an A+".  As a constant competitor, that was music to my ears.

For the first time since early-April, I am back at full-speed at work and at home and feel positive mentally.  More to come soon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

13th - My First Time

Thank you to Sonja and Matt Wagle for sending us the delicious cupcakes from New Jersey.  Thank you, as always, to Bridget Ruller for watching Cooper this morning while Stuart and I went to see Dr. Frenette.

Despite all my positive posts in the past, today was the first time I really felt free of cancer.  As you know, I had my "end of treatment" PET/CT Scan on Monday morning.  Dr. Frenette shared the good news with Stuart and I this morning that the scan was "clean" (no evidence of disease).

So what is the plan from here?  From a medical standpoint, I will have my port-catheter removed shortly, then have nothing to do until July.  At that point and on a quarterly basis for the next few years, I will have follow-up CT Scans.  That is noteworthy, as it marks the end of my affair with nuclear medicine.  On the personal front, I will be focused on becoming Stuart's husband again, rather than one of her children.  I mean that in all sincerity, as the cancer journey is hard on both the patient and the spouse.  Finally, I returned to work last week and I really do not feel like a missed a beat.  I have a great team and work for a great company, both of which have welcomed me back with open arms.

I will leave you with one funny story.  As I started to contemplate returning to work, I realized that I had lost so much weight that none of my clothes fit.  Sadly, the picture of me standing in my closet in my big boy suit and tie did not turn out well.  Instead, I will paint the picture using this shot of Tom Hanks' character, Josh Baskin, from the 1988 hit movie "Big".  The premise of the movie is that Josh, a 12-year old boy, wishes he was "Big" and wakes up one morning in the body of a 30-year old man.  At the end of the film, as an adult Josh starts to walk away from his tearful girlfriend (who is releasing him back to childhood) he begins to shrink and ends up looking like this...

Fret not Josh, if you are willing to spend $400 at your corner alterations store, you can have all your clothes cut down to size and you will look sharp...until you get big again!

Friday, March 18, 2011

18th - Treatment #12 of 12 Done

Pending a clean/negative PET&CT scan on April 11th, my treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma is 100% complete.

My sincere thanks to all of you for your support throughout my treatment.  I would not have gotten through it in such a positive way without you.  Thank you also to Ray Tavares and Moe Cieri for taking me to lunch this past week.  Being with friends is always helpful and appreciated.

Before I sign off, a few statistics from the last couple of weeks:

7 lbs 9 ounces -
My younger brother, Doug, and his wife Samantha welcomed their second child into the world on March 11th.  Beau Dillon Deets was born at ~7:45 AM at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, NC.  One of the big questions with Deets Children is whether or not they will win the recessive gene lottery and have shocking red hair or not.  So far, it looks like Beau may take after his mother and have brown hair.

1 in 20 -
The number of Americans that is a cancer survivor.  This number has thankfully been rising over the past decade, due to improved early detection, better treatment protocols and I believe the shrinking stigma associated with having cancer.

1 in 1,000,000 -
The odds of my Virginia Tech Hokies ever making the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament.  Sadly, the Hokies were left out of the field for the 4th year in a row, despite having a pretty good resume.  Good luck to the team in the NIT (a.k.a. Not Invited (to the NCAA) Tournament).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2nd - Bald Heads and Cleavage

Stuart and I got to see Dr. Frenette today and talk a bit about what to expect from the coming weeks as I complete my treatment.  I will share some detail with you on that topic, but first I want to say thank you to a few people and share a few of my more notable recent experiences.

Thank you to the Freemans for bringing us a wonderful Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce.  For those of you who know the Freemans, this is their signature dish and it did not disappoint.  Thank you to Bridget Ruller, for watching Cooper this afternoon.  You should all know Bridget by now, as I thank her just about every time I write, which might explain the toy she sent home with Cooper today.   Picture our four year-old sitting in the kitchen playing the loudest portable Spiderman pinball machine you can imagine.  Bridget, it is coming back soon!  Lastly, thank you to the Clarkes and to my parents for visiting and helping around the house, it helps more than you know.

Since I have last written, one of my favorite pasttimes has been watching college basketball.  My alma mater, Virginia Tech, has a slightly above-average basketball program.  Watching them is great fun, although it is an emotional roller-coaster.  As a case-in-point, these underdog Hokies beat the #1 team in America (Duke) on Saturday night and then quickly followed it up by being soundly whipped by Boston College last night.  I do love them anyway and will watch anxiously as they play in the annual season ending tournaments.

Watching those college athletes has kept me motivated to continue my endless walking loops around the neighborhood trying to stay in shape and keep my heart beating.  Going for speed is really no longer an option, so I tend to breath in fresh air and appreciate my surroundings more than anything else.  This past weekend was particularly nice, and I found myself appreciating the landscape and thinking of the coming Spring.  There is a certain parallel between the arrival of Spring and my completion of treatment that lifts my spirits.  As I was walking, I saw quite a few planes overhead, which made me think of traveling and returning to work.  I have missed my extended family at Bank of America quite a bit while I have been "grounded," and I am certainly looking forward to reconnecting with everyone very soon.

The last notable experience that I have to share came in a normal conversation with a woman.  She could not help herself from taking in the beauty of my now completely bald head.  Her eyes met mine during the conversation, then they went to the head, my eyes, the head again and so on.  It dawned on me (as I ignored whatever it was she was saying) that this is what a woman who shows too much cleavage feels like when talking to some men.

Are bald heads like too much cleavage?

So, on the appointment with Dr. Frenette today.  The biggest question on my mind was what the odds of a recurrence are and what the course of action would be if it happened.  The short answer is that the odds are relatively low, and in that unlikely event, the next step is to have one huge shot of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant.  Dr. Frenette and I both feel very good about my prognosis, so this will be the last you hear me talk about recurrence. 

We also spent some time discussing what the next steps are after my final treatment on March 17th.  There are a few items scheduled to wrap-up the treatment, including a final PET & CT scan on April 11th, an appointment with Dr. Frenette to get the results on April 13th and a small surgery to remove the port-catheter in my chest shortly thereafter.  For those that may be reading this to understand "the Hodgkin's experience", I finally did post a picture of the port-catheter in an old posting (click here).  After my April 13th appointment, I will see Dr. Frenette for a follow-up CT scan every 4 months for the next couple years and then slightly less frequently for another few years.  At that point, the likelihood of recurrence is so small, that you begin to use the word "cure".

Treatment #11 is tomorrow morning, wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

8th - Treatment #9 of 12 Done

9 down, 3 to go.

I actually felt better this time around, likely due to a good mental state.  More soon...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

26th - The Goal Line Is In Sight

A big thank you to Stuart's parents, Bill and Cathy, for spending the past few days with us in Charlotte.  It helps tremendously to have extra hands around when I am not feeling well.  Thank you to Bridget Ruller, as always, for being Cooper's favorite babysitter this morning while Stuart and I went to Dr. Frenette's.

Now, on to the best news I have heard in a long, long time.  The results are in from Monday morning's PET/CT scan and things look very good.  No metabolic activity was identified during the scan (a.k.a. no abnormal cell growth).  It also looks like my lymph nodes are about as small as they are going to get.  Those two facts together have led Dr. Frenette to decide I can stop my treatment after 6 months.  Unless something really odd happens, it looks like my last treatment will be on March 17.  I called my Mom on the way home from the doctor's office and she pointed out the obvious irony of the date...St. Patrick's Day...a day of luck (and faith) for any Irishman.

I am so happy at this point, I do not quite know what to do with myself.  It has been all about the "what-if" over the past few months and now I need to start to focus on finishing treatment and on "survivorship".  This is the phase after you survive cancer when you need to readjust to having other priorities in life.  Lance Armstrong put this really well in his book, when he said:

"How do you slip back into the ordinary world?  That was the problem confronting me after cancer, and the old saying, that you should treat each day as if it might be your last, was no help at all.  The truth is, it's a nice sentiment, but in practice it doesn't work.  If I lived only for the moment, I'd be a very amiable no-account with a perpetual three-day growth on my chin."

Further philosophy can wait for another it is an all-out celebration.  Please celebrate with me, you each deserve it for being such wonderful support partners in this so far.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

23rd - Treatment #8 Done

8 down, 4 to go.  PET / CT scan tomorrow morning at 7:45 AM.  More soon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

11th - Reflections From Halfway

Well folks, I am glad to say that treatment #7 is squarely in the rear-view mirror.  As I have said before, I do believe my treatment will be 6 months long rather than the normal 8 months, but in either case I am somewhere near the halfway point.  The nurses at Dr. Frenette's office have started to ask me how long it has been...which is a sure sign that I have logged some serious hours with them.

As I reflect on what I have learned so far, a few things come readily to mind:
  • I have a wife that loves me unconditionally and has never doubted that I will be cured (even if I have at times)
  • Young children do not get the credit they deserve; they do "understand what is going on" and amplify their love and attention accordingly
  • You are always someone's son or daughter, no matter how old you are
  • If you are extremely lucky, "work" is not just a place you go to earn a paycheck, it becomes an extension of your family
  • When someone asks if they can help you, "yes" is most often the right answer
  • Life is short enough, never treat it like a race

Monday, January 3, 2011

3rd - Happy New Year

Happy New Year Everyone!  I am convinced that 2011 is going to be a phenomenal year.  I look forward to good health, time with family/friends/co-workers and balance across the many facets of life that make it worth living.

Before I get too far into this post, I need to say a special thank you to the Cieris, Kerrins and Nestors for the wonderful food that they have given to us over the past couple of weeks.  Moe, not surprisingly, makes one kick-ass Lasagna.

The hangover from the last treatment was a little longer than those prior, so I expect the cumulative effects of chemo to continue.  Even if it does continue to get worse physically, my mental game is strong and will carry me through.  I have "made the turn" and am now headed for the finish line of a long and successful treatment.

Treatment #7 & 8 are this month, followed by my second PET-CT scan on or around January 31st.

Before I wrap this up, I want to wish my Virginia Tech Hokies well in tonight's Orange Bowl vs. the Stanford Cardinal.  Who do these guys think they are having a singular cardinal as a mascot.  Everyone Hokie fan knows birds are like interceptions...they are better in bunches.  My prediction is (of course) a blow-out for the good-guys...VT 45 Stanford 27.

Oh yes, I almost promise to post a couple more requested hairstyles...
"The Bieber"

"The Trump"