More Good News

Today was chemo session 7.  I’m on the backside of the initial 12 chemo session regimen, hooray!  After we are done with session 12, we evaluate progress and revise the next treatment regimen according to the success or lack thereof of the current treatment.  So far, so good. In my pre-chemo meetings we review the latest blood work numbers. Key items considered are are kidney function, immune system function, liver function and the CEA marker.  Well my immune system, kidney and liver function are all still well within normal range!!  That means Jimmy can continue with his moderate red wine imbibement. That calls for a toast!ūüć∑ The CEA number, which is a marker indicating tumor activity, dropped 30% down from 6.8 to 4.9.  A normal range number is under 3.4, unless you’re a smoker.  If you’re a smoker the normal number is 4.3.  According to Lee I’m a “smoker” as in “I’m “smokin hot” and therefore my Jimmy logic interprets my CEA number is almost in the normal range…even if I’m a bit abnormal.ūüėÜ   

my physician’s assistant, Mary Beth, hands me the report. Smiles all around!

 I’ve truly been blessed during my chemo experience. Not only has there been positive response against the tumors, there have been minimal side effects..truly a double dip!  Before I started chemo, Dr. P listed about 20 common side effects in my treatment regimen. My side effects have been pretty much just some fatigue and intermittent voice fluctuations. However the past couple of treatments have also resulted in hiccup attacks on the day following my chemo session.  The hiccups were so acute after chemo session 6 that I could not sleep one night.  This is a rather odd side effect, but that is consistent with my otherwise odd behavior. For this session they have cut the steroid pre-meds in half. Steroid is used to counter possible nausea and allergic reaction to the chemo drugs. Since I have had NO nausea or allergic reaction, they felt that reducing the steroid pre-meds might resolve the problem.The only bad news of the day was that my two favorite recliners (the ones with the views of the Santa Rita mountains) were already occupied.  Poo!  But I just settled in another recliner, adjusted the pillows, plugged in my ear buds, plugged the IV into my port and envisioned my tumors melting away with each drop of Avastin while enjoying the tunes of McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. 

Life is good. Live life to its fullest!

Attitude!

I’ve had many comments over the last four months on my courage and positive attitude in battling my disease, my dance with death. I sincerely appreciate all of those remarks, as they do encourage me,¬†and provide mental fuel for my battle. Still, I feel a bit guilty of accepting these accolades. I do not feel particularly courageous or brave.¬†My¬†outlook is simply one of practicality and logic.

Lee is constantly telling me I’m incorrigible, but I think she really means encourageable. Of course neither of these has anything to do with courage, but by introducing this nonsense it is an effective tactic to confuse and get people off the subject.¬†This sort of puffery is¬†a skill I learned in college debating which became very beneficial in my life long career in sales and is also currently on exhibit in the load of dung that is the 2016 Presidential campaign.

But I digress.

I do not feel courageous in my fight with cancer. To me, courage involves choice. I did not chose to fight cancer, it picked the fight. If I want to live, I must do battle. It’s not a choice, it’s simply what must be done and¬†the only practical and logical response to a deadly threat.

Attitude! Well I certainly do have an attitude. My attitude got me fired in 1982. My offending attitude was an honest evaluation of the situation. The economic¬†environment ¬†was not rosy for the business I was in at that time. An effective strategy needs to be based on facts, not on dreams. I made the mistake of pointing out the flaws in my boss’s strategy assumptions in front of my peers at a sales meeting. Oops! I did this with good intentions, all honesty and a whole lot of naivety. I never repeated that mistake (never embarrass your boss) and ended up with a much better job a few days after I was canned.

My attitude is still the same as it was in 1982: Be Real. My attitude is essentially a strategy based on facts to best obtain my goals. My goal upon retirement was to enjoy myself as long as I can. A worthy goal, indeed! Other than financial planning, there was no real focus. There was lots of time, no need to rush, there’s always tomorrow. In March the facts and assumptions changed. Instead of 20 to 30 years to enjoy retirement, I probably have 2 to 5 years. It could be more or it could be less. But the goal is the same. Enjoy my retirement for as long as I can. Now that my life will be shorter, I need to focus and make a plan of action to maximize my ROI (that is MBA speak for return on investment).

Time needs to be more effectively managed in order to achieve my goal. To me this means there is no time to worry, no time for “what if’s”, and no time for “why me” complaining. Worrying and complaining not only reduce the days of enjoyment, those negative thoughts also impede healing. My strategy is simple:
1. Put in place a medical plan to curtail the cancer and extend my longevity. Adjust the plan as necessary.
2. Live in the moment. Don’t worry about tomorrow, don’t regret the past. Easy to say, sometimes hard to do. But ya got ta work the plan!

I was a big Star Trek fan and my favorite character was¬†Mr. Spock. I think the dispassionate¬†Spock would approve of my plan. He would say something like¬†“Very logical, Jim.¬† Well done”.

So, thank you one and all for your ongoing support. But I gotta go now. There is a party down the street with the neighbors. Wine and appetizers. Two of my favorite things. As my friend and fellow colon cancer survivor John McGean would say, it is another day being vertical and this is a very good thing.

Live long and prosper.

Session Six is in the books

Yesterday I completed my sixth chemo session.  Well it’s not actually complete until tomorrow when they unplug me from my portable infusion pump.  This marks the half way point in the initial chemo regimen.  The regimen is 12 treatments total, one every other week.  Blood tests for CEA (a measure of cancer activity) and CT scans that provide denifintive imaging of the tumors are done one periodic basis. 

At the end of this initial 24 weeks of treatment we will decide the next course of action. If the final CT scan shows that the tumors are sufficiently diminished, I can do just Avastin (what I call “chemo light”) which would be a one hour infusion every other week instead of three days every other week.  Or I could forgo treatment and just watch via CEA tests and CT scans for any renewed activity.  If lung tumors are small I can “fry” them high intensity radio frequency …burn baby burn!  If my liver tumors are small enough they can selectively radiate the little bastards to smithereens.  If, after this initial 12 treatments, the tumors don’t respond to the current program there are other chemo cocktails they can try.  My initial four sessions have been very successful with significant tumor shrinkage and the CEA test revealed a 40% drop in tumor activity.  While we are quite pleased, we are also very aware that cancer is devious bastard of a disease and the cancer can and most likely will mutate and defuse the effectiveness of the chemo drug.  Lots of uncertainty and decisions to be made in the future.

Someone asked me how this last treatment went and unfortunately I had only the foggiest recollection of the 2 1/2 hour session.  No doubt inspired by the Mary Poppins technique of “a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down,” my chemo nurse provides me with a “healthy dollop of Benadryl to make the Avastin go down.” Benadryl alleviates some potential allergic reactions to Avastin.  So the net result is after I am all settled in my comfy recliner with just the right amount of pillows, a stiff dose of Benadryl combined with some mellow jazz streaming from my iPhone, I be dozing in no time.  The nurse occasionally wakes me up to show me the next poison she will inject into my artery to make certain that it is indeed my name that’s on the package.  This is muy importante , if they mix up the medicine with another patient it could be curtains. Did you know that they actually make chemo patients sign an acknowledgement that chemo treatment may kill you?  Fun stuff!

Enough of this medical mumble jumble! Now for something completely different!!  Actual paintings by Jimmy Asbell that were not cats. Unbelievable!!!  As most of you know I have embarked on a new career as an artist of cats for the past year.  My most prized model and feline assistant, Lord Cotswold the Handsome (aka, Cotty) suggested I expand my repertoire and paint prey (bugs, moths, birdies).  I settled on birds, although the roadrunners I selected may consider Cotty the prey. Who knows what I’ll paint next, but I know they will be colorful, fun and hopefully a little goofy.

   
Lee and I also had an adventure this week.  We had dinner with a rock star!! A first for us.  Jake is the son of a dear friend, his band was playing in Tucson, and he invited us to dinner and the show.  We had a great time, and that what’s it is all about…..live life to its fullest!