The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen is history!!   The Dirty Dozen is the name that Lee has given the initial 12 chemo treatments.  I have finished this first 6-month regimen of chemotherapy,  well not quite, since I’m wearing the chemo pump till Friday morning, but close enough. Six months is an important metric, it is the average life span for victims of stage IV colon cancer that has spread to other body organs who choose to forgo treatment.  If not for my friend Tom May and his assurance that my Oregon Ducks would win the national championship on this New Year’s Eve, I may have chosen to forgo treatment. I could very well have been dead as the Ducks chances of a National Championship this year. Tom is like a weatherman who convinces you that a category 5 hurricane is on the way.  You batten the hatches and prepare for the worst  only to see the storm fizzle out. So what if you have a lifetime supply of canned soup and batteries, you’re still alive. Thank you Tom, your inaccuracies extended my life!  

My report card from the blood lab came back marvelously boring. Immune system, blood count, kidney and liver ūüć∑functions are all normal.  Jimmy loves a boring “A” on his report card. However the CEA, the marker of tumor activity, came back higher (not good) 4.3 vs 3.7 last month. But, Dr. P told me the higher CEA number is still within the standard deviation and is no big deal.  He further added that I am doing remarkably well in my treatment.  In about 10 days I will have another CT scan to confirm that the tumors have continued to shrink.  If so, the plan is to continue for another six months with the current regimen.  The side effects will most likely worsen, as they are cumulative,  but they have been very manageable to date.  Although the current regimen is not all that much fun,  it is certainly doable especially when playing the tune”Killing Cancer Softly With My Song.” My actual chemo infusion session was uneventful; I secured a good lounger, adjusted the pillows just so, listened to some Kenny Barron jazz on my iPhone and dozed off.

And now for something completely different and much more fun.  I’ve been a busy little painter.  First I completed a commission of these two puppy dogs for a friend in Salt Lake City. 

Zoey is 14 years young and enjoys going for a swim in Lake Powell. here she is, all wet and happy, with her yellow swimming vest.
  
Beautiful and energetic Lola with her “puppy dog” eyes.
 
And now I’m the middle of preparing for the Fall Festival, a local arts and crafts fair. It’s a big show and Lee and I are sharing a spot in the two-day event November 7 & 8.  I have completed these 3 and a half paintings and hope to finish an additional 4 

  

This baby giraffe is named Arnold, he is the twin brother of Harold. Harold was the subject of an earlier painting
  

Elmer dones his red cap and neck tie in anticpation of the holidays
  
George loves his Christmas sweater so much he pops a wheelie
  
 

Eleven Down, One to GO

Today I had my 11th chemo session.¬† It is a beautiful clear sunny¬†day and for the first time in 6 weeks I was able to snag a lounge recliner with a view of the mountains, no doubt a birthday gift from the chemo gods! A nice view, nice jazz and a nice two-hour snooze after the Benadryl¬†kicks in.¬† For some reason I have been sleeping for¬†the majority of the chemo session for the¬†past several months, but no complaints.¬†¬†For this session¬†they had to increase the dosage of Avastin. ¬†After my weigh-in this morning¬†before the chemo infusion, just like in a prize fight, it was determined that ¬†I had gained 10% of my body weight since chemo started so more Avastin was called for.¬† Its a great thing to have been able to consistently and gradually gain weight while undergoing chemo treatment.¬† I’m doing well, thanks¬†for that extra push from¬†my¬†birthday cake!!¬† Adding more Avastin is a another birthday gift from the chemo gods since it is the drug that is killing my tumors.¬† Happy Birthday Jimmy!

So in two weeks, October 28th, will be the last of my initial 2-1/2 day chemo¬† infusions¬†from¬†my initial treatment regimen.¬† While I’m excited to reach this milestone, it does not in any¬†way indicate my lack of future treatment.¬† I will most likely have some form of treatment until I cry “uncle.”¬† In about¬†ten days after my last session is completed, I will have another CT scan to determine what exactly the bad boys are up to.¬† At that time we will decide the next course of action.¬† If my lung tumors are teeny weenie, they may want to radiate them to finish them off.¬†¬† If my liver tumors are small enough they may want to microwave them to dust.¬† They may want to just be on maintenance chemo with just Avastin, which I call chemo light.¬† Or they may suggest just staying the course for the next six months under the current regimen since it’s been effective with minimal side effects, although those side effect are cumulative. In any case there will be some decisions to make, but the time is then not now.

I continue to do well.¬†¬†On a monthly basis they test for¬†my CEA number which¬†is a marker/indicator of¬†malignant tumor activity.¬†Normal is 3.4 and under, so¬† I’m dang near normal.¬†¬† My current number is 3.7!¬† My immune system, kidney function and my beloved liver function is all well within normal.¬† I must admit I was a bit of a naughty boy imbiber at my birthday party, but what can I do when there are 15 different wines on the counter that require my educated palate.¬† A toast to my liver!!

Last week I was able to complete these three commissioned pet portraits.  Thank you Dana, Janet and Stan for allowing me the honor to render a Jimmized painting of your furry loved ones, it provides me with fun and joy.

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Charlie lives in Denver. For some odd reason she is a Ram fan, go figure!
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Bonnie is a very pretty mule who lives in Michigan. Bonnie loves her mints and is a Detroit Lion fan  which may explain her occasional  frustration and stubbornness, but then again, she is a mule!
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Zena lives in Battle Ground, WA. She just loves Christmas and can’t wait until she gets to wear her holiday necklace!

Celebration of Life 

Since I passed the age of fifty, I kind of lost interest in celebrating my birthday.  To me it seemed more of a reminder of my approaching decrepitness.  “TickTock, you’re getting old, Asbell” I would think to myself.  However recent events have significantly  altered my view. Now, and I think for the rest of my life, each birthday will give me the pleasure of giving the “middle finger” to cancer.  From now on, my birthday is a victory celebration, a true celebration of life…..over death.

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My Birthday cake put things in the proper perspective!

This weekend was my 68th birthday. I’m no longer sensitive about being an “old man,” I’m proud of it! Although Lee often reminds that no matter how old I really am, I have the mentality of a 10-year old boy.  I take that as a compliment. image

We had big plans for this bash.  First was a Duck victory. The Ducks were playing Washinton State, not a good football team. Kickoff was at 3:00 pm, our celebration party was to begin at 5:00 pm.  Surely the score would be something like 30 to 10 in the Ducks favor by halftime, putting me and everyone else in a jolly mood.  But there was much to do to get our home appropriately  “ducked out.”

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Bob, our neighbor and “Duck fellow traveler” attaches the green and yellow streamers. Go Ducs!

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My darling Lee is all Ducked out and holding her bottle of vino.

 

A fabulous Duck flower arrangement suddenly arrived and was was the perfect center piece

Over 50 friends and family descended on our home to celebrate my birthday and a Duck victory. The wonderful fall Sonoran Desert weather invited celebrators onto the patio overlong the desert and Santa Rita mountains.   Alas, the Ducks lost in double overtime. ūüėĖ.  Fortunately there was plenty of tasty tidbits and mountains of wine to soothe the wounds.  Although I must show moderation in imbibing, no such restrictions applied to our guests. 

A selection of wines from the ’80s still strut their stuff!
 
Unusual wines from around the world helped drown our sorrows of the Duck loss.
 
 Despite the Duck disappointment, Lee and I had a fabulous time and thank everyone who were able to join us to celebrate my birthday and my life.  Your love and support breeds strength and I am so grateful  and blessed to have so much support.  Thank you all.
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Lee’s sister Anne and husband Greg persuaded Lee to let me finish off her bottle.

Session Ten – We Need A Win!!

It’s been a very hard time for me the past few days.  I’ve essentially been in mourning since Saturday evening. In case you haven’t heard the news, my Oregon Ducks were destroyed, bashed, plunked, skewered, smashed and utterly humiliated.  It was their worst loss since 1977.  To give you a concrete idea of how long ago that was, below is a photo of moi taken in 1977. 

Other than the mustache, i don’t see much change.
 
This week the Ducks fly over to Colorado for what should be an easy victory.  But there has been a very recent phenomenal event in Boulder that I fear may inspire the Colorado team to a super human performance resulting in another humiliating loss for Oregon.  The event was the birth of Isabella, the first grandchild of our dear friends Patti and Moe. This could very well go down in the annals of University of Colorado football as the year of Isabella!   

Isn’t Isabella a beauty?
 
Fortunately there has been some offsetting good news.  My cancer treatment continues in very positive ways.  Today I had my tenth chemo session, only two more to go in this initial phase of treatment. All of my measures (white bood cells, platelet count, kidney function and liver functionūüć∑) are still in the normal range.  My CEA number, which can indicate tumor activity, has fallen and is down to 4.2.  My CEA number was up to 11.5 in June, a normal number is 3.4 or less.  Lookin’ Good!
After doing four commissioned pet portraits the last few weeks, I just completed these two original  goofy works.  Both were no doubt influenced my love of animals and my love of color…..and my love of life. These paintings are now sold, one as I was writing this post.  I have many more goofy images floating in my cranium, I just love painting critters. I love painting pet portraits.  Life is good, live life to its fullest! 

“Harold” acrylic on canvas 9″x 12″
  
“Pussy Rocks” Acrylic on canvas 11 x 14