If you haven’t heard of this story, please see the attached link. This is all about keeping life and death issues in balance, it is a feel good story. Live Life to it’s Fullest!!
Today was my 22nd Chemo session. This has become part of my new normal. No aniexty, no worries as I know only too well what to expect. First I pee in a cup to make sure I’m OK for my portion of chemo poison today. Then I pick out my lounging chair, fluff up and position my pillow. Select my music for the three hour session, today it was Kenny Barron. AZ Oncology has a very nice staff, cheerful, suportive and caring…who could ask for more. A nurse rolls over her little cart, I unbutton my shirt to provide access to the titanium port inbetted under my skin that allows the chemo drugs to surge directly into my artery (thus saving the veins in my hands and arms irreparable damage). The nurse tells me to inhale as she plunges the needle into my port. That’s my only discomfort, and it ain’t much. After steroids and Benadryl (to combat side effects) the 5-FUc and then Avastan are added. However I’m out like a light in about 10 minutes. You may want to try “mainling” Benadryl sometime, it’s a GREAT sleep aide! Of course they periodically wake me up so I can verify when they change and add a new drug/poison to my IV. The wrong poison and it could be no more Jimmy! All my lab numbers are good, my body is taking the chemo poison in stride. Life goes on, a good thing.
But in the colon cancer world, it’s not always “Life goes on”. I read a couple of other colon cancer patient blogs and this morning I read of a young woman, only 29, whose life just ended. She was 26 years old and 17 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. I can only image the terror she felt as she endured surgery and chemo during her pregnancy . Fortunately her baby is healthy, but now without a mother . When colon cancer attacks young people it is a very aggressive cancer. Current conventional cancer treatment did not slow down the cancer for this young woman. Her “Hail Mary” attempt for life was to be involved in a trial using immunotherapy . Instead of using poison, immunotherapy uses altered T cells to trick your body’s immune system to attack and destroy the cancer cells. No side effects and quick cure…if it works. There has been some limited success with immuthrophy primarily with lung cancer, luekemia, prostrate cancer and melanoma. No success with colon cancer…yet. Jimmy’s cancer strategy is to hang around long enough for a perfected immunotherapy for colon cancer. I know it will come.
In the meantime, how about a vacation? Next week Lee and I are heading for Kino Bay. Kino Bay is a sleepy little town sitting on the eastern coast of the Sea of Cortez, about a 5 hour drive from our home in southern Arizona. Our friends, Patti and Moe, rented a beach house right on the bay and have invited us to join them. The sound of the ocean, fresh seafood plucked from the bay and good friends make for a much needed and anticipated recharge.
Of course no posting would be complete without examples of my artistic endeavors. Below are two gorgeou fluff ball kitties, Abby and Gracie. They live with their human in Colorado Springs. You can see from Gracie’s expression she just got caught violating a house rule. Thoughts of kitty prison, limited pets and treat reduction are all over her face. However Abby is stoic, she knows that if the human punishes them, the human will immediately feel guilty and lavish extra pets and treats to make amends! Poor human, she doesn’t stand a chance!
On my last post I noted several of the side effects of 5-FUc. One of the most bothersome for me is foot and hand syndrome or, for those in med school, palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia. It results in soreness, pain, split skin..fun stuff. This can be counteracted with topical creams. However the friction between my crutch handles and my sore hands significantly amps up the effect for moi. The solution is to wear gloves when using my crutches for extended jaunts. So what kind of gloves should Jimmy procure, one may ask. Of course DUCK gloves is the answer!
This week has been a little rough. On Sunday evening, while enjoying the Super Bowl, I began having chills, headache and nasal congestion. Uh oh. Monday it was much worse, Tuesday a little better and got better throughout the day. Today I felt almost normal. It it wasn’t for the fatigue due to my lack of sleep over this period, I probably would have felt nearly fine today. I’m looking forward to a good nights sleep tonight.
I was scheduled for chemo today and was anticipating that it might be cancelled because of my flu bout after my meeting with Dr. P. Well surprise for me, my beat up old body is like the old Timex watch ads, “takes a licking, but keeps on ticking”. In looking at my blood work report, I discovered my white blood count doubled as my body marshaled its forces to attack the intruding infection. A big danger for cancer patients is that the chemo distresses the immune system diminishing its ability to fight off infections. Mine seems to be working fine, along with my kidneys and tumor infused liver. I continue to feel blessed in this fight. Dr. P proclaimed me good to go and off to the chemo suite I went. Another bit of good news is that my CEA dropped a touch down to 3.4, basically within the normal range. The past 6 weeks have been around this number indicating that there probably is not much tumor activity.
One day cancer treatment will be able to unleash our immune system to attack cancer, just as it did my flu infection. Right now, since cancer is an internal mutation and not an external infection, our immune system ignores cancer cells. Immunotherapy is the future, it will be nice when I can instruct Jimmy’s white blood cell army to carpet bomb the mutant cancer cells, the jihadists within my body. I just need a little more time and the cure will be here, I can see the goal line.
Speaking of CEA numbers, this morning I read an interesting blog about “the number”. The blog, Adventures In Living Terminally Optomistic, is penned by an oncology research scientist who also happens to be a Stage IV colon cancer patient. The subject of today’s blog was the CEA number. The power and fear this number has over patients. Even though he knows very well all the limitations and margin of error of this report, he still finds himself putting too much focus on “the number”. Fear is a very powerful emotion. Stage IV patients know that the course of the disease can quickly turn, success is all too often temporary as the cancer mutates to counter treatment. The CEA number is far from definitive, only one indicator, only part of the equation. But it is The Number.
And now for something completely different. Please meet Jack. Jack is a legal scholar living in Chicago. For several years he had been mentoring his human as she works on obtaining her legal degree. Of course by mentoring, he is referring to sitting on case studies as she tries to read them and walking on the key board as she types. Thus teaching his human patience and prioritizing….always pet the cat! Important skills for all lawyers.