Tag Archives: chemotherapy

More Hair at The Turning Point

Where are we?  That’s a damn good question; and, I say “we” because this has been a team effort.  I’m not really taking care of Doug, not his nurse.  I’m more of a coach in a way, trying to look at this spiritually just because I believe it’s important.  Keeping Doug, as best I can, focusing on the outcome and not the process. The number one reason I write this blog is that I know how many people love him and support him with their thoughts, prayers, good wishes, whatever you want to call them; and I KNOW the energy contained in those thoughts is real and works to heal.

He is halfway through cancer treatment with another round of chemotherapy to come on the 11th, 12 more radiation treatments, 11 pipers piping, 6 geese a laying.  Oh my, this process is something unlike anything else either of us has experienced.  When you start getting old, the time passes faster but not when you are dealing with cancer treatment.  It slows down, way down—so that a minute in the middle of the night seems like ALL night when waiting for a phone call for a minute seems like ALL day.  

His hair is thinning still, find it all in the bathroom every day: that’s why God blessed us with poor vision as we grow older, neither of us sees the hair until we put our glasses on and focus for a second.  He still has a lot of it on his head.  I don’t know what it is about this hair.  He’s supposed to lose it but it’s something neither one of us seems to want to see.

He does have pain and discomfort from the radiation but this dude is one tough cookie: a snickerdoodle if we had the choice. 

We are ready for things to get back to normal!  Doug is ready to go back to work.  Work sucks until you don’t have it.

Again, thanks to all who have kept Doug in their thoughts, people from far away and long ago, kinda like Star Wars, as well as those close to home who we need more than they may realize.  

Status Update.

Doug continues to surprise me with his strength and ability to maintain a sense of well-being.  In stark contrast, I had a really bad twelve-hour bout with viral gastroenteritis or food poisoning while, on the same day, Doug ate a record amount of food.  While his doctors have suggested he maintain a low-residue diet (things like bananas, rice, applesauce) he continues to ingest a fairly good amount of high fiber things like nuts, fresh fruit, salads etc. which have always been a part of his diet; but, he has also eaten weiners and sauerkraut!  While some might argue he stay away from such gastro-atrocities, his doctor has told him he can eat anything he wants as long as it is in moderation.  

He is experiencing some pain, which I’m sure he downplays, and for which he would ever take medication; but, he’s not walking around crying but he sometimes walks in a rather funny manner and we joke that he is just a member of the “Ministry of Silly Walks”.

The sores in his mouth are gone which were a symptom of the chemotherapy; he fended those of with simple salt water rinse.  He’s had some slight digestive issues but nothing a single capsule of Immodium hasn’t handled.  He’s staying active, really just all around amazing considering his diagnosis.  

I remind him (and myself) to live fearlessly and to take deep breaths.  He forges ahead, looking only as far out as a day.  

A special thank you for an uplifting call from our very old friend who lives in France…you know who you are…she is like family to us and always gives the beautiful gift of laughter, the eternal mechanism of healing, faith, and love whenever we meet. 

Goodbye Chemo Pump

Doug is nearly finished with his first round of chemotherapy; miraculously, he hasn’t even had any mild side-effects except for yesterday he did mention he had a “funny” taste in his mouth.  Before all this started, I was fairly confident he would fare better than most when it came to dealing with the draconian methods of modern cancer treatment.  He has been injected with majorly toxic drugs for which he brought home a hazardous waste bag in case there was a spill!  The chemo pump comes off today, however, and puts us one step closer to normalcy (whatever that its?)!

The first day, Thursday December 14th, he was injected with a toxic blast of Mytomycin which has the following possible side-effects:

  • Mouth sores
  • Poor appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting, usually mild
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Bladder inflammation (urinary frequency, burning, cramping, pain) – seen with intravesical (into the bladder) therapy.

Now I suppose these could come on later but we are now at the beginning of day 5 and despite my horrible, repetitive asking, “How do you feel?”, none of the above have occurred, at least in any major way.  I can’t help be on constant alert for something to go wrong and, not being the patient myself, find this position quite troubling, worrisome and just downright terrifying.

He has also been wearing a pump which has been giving him intermittent doses of a scary sounding chemical called Floxuridine  which comes with its own set of possible problems.

  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea (may be severe)
  • Poor appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Elevated liver enzymes (temporary increase in alkaline phosphatase, lactate dehydrogenase, transaminase, and bilirubin). (see liver problems) This is seen more with the intra-arterial infusion directly into the liver.
  • Hand -foot syndrome (Palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia or PPE) -skin rash, swelling, redness, pain and/or peeling of the skin on the palms of hands and soles of feet. 
  • Stomach ulcers (This is seen more with the intra-arterial infusion).

Now it is still early, and one of the major effects of both of these drugs, and as I understand with most chemo drugs, is the lowering of white blood cell counts which opens a person up to the wonderful world of life-threatening infections.  These are the abstract concepts which cause me to awaken in the middle of the night in a sweating, cold panic.  Doug, however, has slept like a baby through the whole process of cancer treatment, so far.  Perhaps he has the fatigue setting in but I’ll just assume some of the fear of anticipation associated with undergoing all this chemical chaos has worn off a bit, allowing him to be more relaxed.

Last night, we had the most delicious what Doug calls a “Sunday Roast”—a beef roast with carrots and potatoes cooked around it, covered with an au jus.  My God it was delicious and seemed just the kind of hearty thing to eat; the meal was a tradition with his family and it therefore carries the medicinal effect of comfort.

Each day is all we have.  We just keep pretending everything is “normal”,  we don’t openly dwell on the scary concepts associated with the treatment (that is reserved for personal panic attacks on my part) but I do tend to be an annoying watch do ever on the lookout for side-effects.  “How are you feeling?”  Perhaps it’s best to just drop this line; he’ll tell me when and if there is something wrong.

So far, it is nothing short of another “tiny miracle” Doug has done as well as he has with his chemotherapy.  Your continued prayers and positive thoughts have made this all possible.  Thanks to you all on Doug’s and my behalf. 

 

Everything Starts This Week

Before Doug can begin his treatments, he has to meet with a “finance person”; it’s comforting to know that the finest healthcare system in the world has all their priorities in line, i.e. money, as our life expectancy in America continues to drop when compared to countries who offer that horrible, terrible, free, universal healthcare.Breakfast and Shopping City Market

Doug is going to be having at least two rounds of chemotherapy and about a month’s worth of everyday radiation.  He is a tough guy and I fully expect him to handle this better than most.   I don’t know that we have faced a bigger adversity than this situation; there are many lessons learned and yet to be learned.  Faith is picture it done.

Back To Work

Just 72 hours after having his chemo port put in:

  1. Doug got to take his first shower
  2. We changed his bandage for the first time
  3. He’s going back to work

His work involves heavy lifting as he is a receiving manager.  He says he is going to do paperwork.  I have never heard him talk about paperwork before.  He works in retail and it is that awful “Black Friday” thing. He is not supposed to lift any more than 10 lbs.  Fortunately, he will be off of work starting Monday for the next 6 weeks.

The Port Is In!

The port is in.  The nurse told us what seemed like five hundred things.  Doug was on Fentanyl but not unconscious, kind of like Michael Jackson.  He can’t sign any documents or drink any wine, or jump rope for 24 hours.

chemotherapy port
Doug with his brand new chemo port.

It really pisses me off that he keeps talking about going back to work just to do paperwork.  He just had minor surgery to put a tube in a large vein near his heart!  Jeez,  take it easy for a couple of days.  He doesn’t listen…hmmm who used to be stubborn like that….oh yes, his now deceased father Wally.

The nurse just told him to ask questions anytime but he’s so shy and and wants to be so little of a bother for anybody that he usually won’t ask a question or push an issue.  Ugh, so frustrating.  

The Beginning of Treatment – The Port

Cancer is literally a health roller-coaster of procedures, waiting for results hoping for, and being afraid of, results.  Doug and I both know the fight has just begun; but we feel better about going into it with a really good chance of winning.

Kemper Gallery Cafe
Doug at Kemper Gallery, awesome brunch!

As always is the case, the people helping you a check in for your procedures are totally unconcerned with your situation and are there simply to collect information, and money if necessary.  Once in a while, however, you run into an Angel who seems to come out of nowhere to help you.  We wandered into the huge hospital “pavilion” looking around, slightly confused and clueless where to go.  Behind us appeared a smiling, neatly kept, grey-haired lady who kindly asked, “Can I help you find something?”  Not only, did she direct us where to go but also told us where the next stop would be.

Today Doug is having a port put in for his Chemotherapy.  Unlike me, who has had every type of modern day medical torture from being  prepped for surgery and intubated while conscious, breathed on a respirator (hope you never had to do that: when they suction your lungs, which is a replacement for natural coughing, it feels like they are pulling your guts out with with a giant treble hook.). I once was fed from a feeding tube which I pulled out in the middle of the night; the nurse just rammed it back in place like the stick one uses to check the oil on their car. I’ve had a luke warm enema administered by a cute, young 

Doug in full hospital regalia

nurse (nothing is more humbling than having someone administer an enema) with a handy potty chair right next the bed which I had to use several times. “This hurts me more that it hurts you,” she quipped.  I’ll stop here with the short list because this is Doug’s story.  My point being that Doug, before the recent colonoscopy he had experienced little more than, as far as I know, a simple doctor’s visit.  The oncologist seemed shocked when interviewing Doug about his medical history and he said “no” to EVERYTHING.

Doug has witnessed most of the above happening to me so I know he must be at least a little scared to face what is coming.  I’ll be here as much as I can to give him courage.  He also has Xanax, which he hasn’t used so far. Like war, cancer his hell.  I suppose I’ll try to play the role of Patton who fearlessly, and somewhat crazily, led his troops through WWII. 

“Accept the challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.”
—George S. Patton
 
If you haven’t seen the movie “Patton” starring George C. Scott please do.
 
One way chemotherapy is administered is through a port (sometimes called by brand names such as Port-a-cath or Mediport) inserted in your chest during a short outpatient surgery. A port is a small disc made of plastic or metal about the size of a quarter that sits just under the skin. A soft thin tube called a catheter connects the port to a large vein. Your chemotherapy medicines are given through a special needle that fits right into the port. You also can have blood drawn through the port. When all your cycles of chemotherapy are done, the port is removed during another short outpatient procedure.