Category Archives: cancer

“We got them on the run now, boys”

Had a bit of a hectic night last night, was in bed by 10 but my oncologist woke us at midnight and recommended I get to the emergency room to get evaluated for 2 blood clots found in my lungs. Because of the cancer it’s likely I’ll be forming clots from now on. Luckily the clots are not life-threatening and since I didn’t present any symptoms (of course) all I got for my troubles is a new prescription of blood thinners for the next 6 months and an attempt to cauterize blood vessels ruptured in both nostrils. I’ve learned that getting swabbed with silver nitrate in both nostrils at 1 am is not my idea of a good time these days. Maybe 25 years ago it might have been different…

Imagine taking a ghost pepper… Then lighting it on fire… Then jamming that flaming hot pepper in each nostril while being mostly asleep  and you get close to my experience this morning. I do not recommend it.

Let’s get right to it. CT scan results as transcribed by my lovely wife Christine:

tumors“Abdomen and pelvis: there is decreased size and increased calcification within multiple hepatic metastases. A dominant left sided lesion measures approximately 5.9 x 2.8 cm, previously 9 x 6 cm. A second lesion in the medial left hepatic lobe adjacent to some capsular retraction measures approximately 3.2 x 3.6 cm, previously 4.6 x 4.4 cm. Additionally lesions also show decreased size, without new lesions identified. Patent portal veins. No biliary ductal dilatation. The gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, adrenal glands and kidneys are normal in appearance.

The distal esophagus, stomach and duodenum are normal in appearance. The remaining small bowel is decompressed. There is decreased wall thickening and irregularity within the sigmoid. Remainder of the colon is normal in appearance. Normal appendix. Urinary bladder is normal in appearance. Unremarkable prostate.

The abdominal aorta is normal in caliber with patent major branch vessels. no aggressive appearing osseous lesions. no pelvic lymphadenopathy.

Impression:
1. Interval decrease in sigmoid wall thickening, suggesting treatment response

2. Decreased size of multiple mucinous hepatic metastases, compatible with treatment response. No new hepatic lesions identified

3. Nonocclusive pulmonary embolus in two right basilar segmental branches.

The patient was seen in the emergency department at 1 AM on 12-9-15 due to the incidental finding of pulmonary embolism. Treated with blood thinners and released.”

So evidently I need to stay off of ladders for the foreseeable future…

This improvement is to your credit. We’ve seen the high tide already and it’s continually receding now, because of the love sent my way, because of your energy and prayers. I am moved to tears when I re-read these scan results, remembering the blessings of many souls giving their unyielding support is why I’m surviving this.

And there’s plenty cancer left to kill – I continue to focus on its demise while graciously accepting the love and healing energy all of you give without hesitation.

thank you for being with me while I clean this stuff up.

Gratitude

I had the opportunity to talk about what i’m thankful for this Thanksgiving during dinner with my in-laws, but declined to speak my mind. I wanted to wait till now as I’m in an isolated area, a safe distance from others, so there’s no exposure to hazardous fluids from the chemo drugs via my tears and overall blubbering (i have to flush twice for a few days after infusion when using the restroom, and i’ll kill the grass if i pee in the yard. good thing I’m housebroken).

Right now, after 4 chemo sessions, I still feel quite normal and that’s not an achievement for me… I truly believe this is an effect of the massive amount of positive energy, well wishes, thoughts, and prayers from all of you who have heard of my illness and have responded directly to me. To have your support at the most difficult part of my life is something that is blessed upon someone, it’s not anything i can say i’ve cultivated or worked towards. I am thankful for my health because of you. To each one of you, I mean it: Thank you for this.

I happen to have an incredibly strong and loving wife who has a solid foundation of support from friends and family that helps me because it helps her. Because of the support given to her, she can support me as I need it, and I can’t comprehend what my predicament would be without her constant love. To Chad and Cassie, to Chana, Cheryl, Kevin, Matt, Brad, and Angie: thank you for your love and support of my wife and myself.

Without my own family – my mother, my father, my step-mother, my aunts and my siblings and cousins – to have that core of strength, to know where you come from and where my own convictions and fierce fighting spirit originates, this makes me proud to be a Schuttler, and a Benson, a Tucker, a Harris, and a Walker. I am from all of these clans and proud to be born of these people. Say what you want, Midwesterners are tough to beat.

I love you and am thankful you are here with me. We’re beating this crap, have no doubt in your mind about it.

Chemo and food

chad-n-meSecond round done. Had my father-in-law over to keep me company, thanks Chad!

If you listen to the hospital, there’s not a lot of control with what you feel you can do to alter your treatments – they give you chemo, you try to eat what you can and that’s it. But I’ve seen some articles (thanks Dave) that address the other logical half of this treatment: nutrition. And that’s a significant part that is definitely under our control and is not really addressed when I go in to get the medicine part of this treatment.

I mean, look at what they gave me: a puny sandwich, no lettuce or tomatoes, a bag of chips and any soft drink i wanted (Chad brought in the pickle spear, the only vegetable seen in the place). Where’s the whole fruits or vegetables? I feel like they’re sending the wrong message to patients when they say they just want you to eat what you like in the name of sufficient nourishment. Perhaps they have to because they haven’t done enough studies, or they don’t want to recommend a diet that would be incompatible with more sensitive patients (e.g., lactose-intolerant, gluten-free, etc) in the fear that they’ll get slapped with lawsuits. It’s just a shame more attention isn’t paid to this half of the treatment equation.

I read an article about how denying nourishment worked on reducing cancer in mice, so I did the same — I fasted for about 34 hours before I had breakfast this morning. I had a dull headache all day yesterday and generally felt crappy, as you do when you don’t eat for a day and a half. I fasted partly because that article makes sense to me, but also because it gives me some sort of perceived control over the cancer. And that gives me the most strength of anything, to feel like I can participate in actively determining how my body will react to treatment. Whether it will make a difference remains to be seen. I will say that my CBC / CMP numbers are holding steady (with the exception of my white blood cell count which is expected), and my CEA is on a downward trend.

While I didn’t see any cookies out, this article also gave me pause, as I like a bit of coffee with my sugar. Maybe this is only about breast cancer specifically, but it seems like I should definitely consider cutting sugar out of my diet for now. Another self-imposed restriction is cutting back on drinking homebrew to maybe 3-4 pints a week, and I’ve dropped 10 lbs in the last 2 weeks. So there’s a silver lining in all of this, where I can work on keeping some of these habits when I’m done with surgery and chemo, which should be somewhere in February. Thanks, all of you, for your sustained thoughts, prayers and energy.

Happy Friday

Tweaked the way my posts show up now so that the most recent is on the front page. I figure most everyone who’s gonna visit has already done so, so this is to make it easier to catch up (thanks Cathy for the suggestion).

Today I got my homework chemo pump taken off so I’m unhooked for the next 12 days, yay! Exactly 2 minutes later I was in the shower for the first time in 3 and a half days, a new personal record for me.

The nurses have been warning me that I should start to feel crappy about 2 days after the main chemo session, but I haven’t had many issues yet, other than an increased sensitivity to cold, which happened almost immediately after coming home on Wednesday. Being in good health going into this treatment is going to make the difference I think, and I plan on dodging the other nasty side effects by keeping my strength up, both physically and spiritually. So far it’s working, people!

First session of chemo complete… sorta

chemo-tower

Had my first round of chemo this morning, took 6 hrs from check-in to check-out. Lots of info flying around and machines beeping. The nurse hit me up with a half-dose of Benadryl to start things off which made me pleasantly fuzzy-headed but nowhere near the tripped-out state I was yesterday when they put the chemo port in my chest (that was fun…. didn’t feel a thing).

Anyhow, they’ve sent me home with homework in the form of a small pressure pump filled with another chemo cocktail that is supposed to stay hooked up to my port until about noon Friday, when a nurse will come out and end the final part of this first salvo. Sleeping oughta be fun tonight!

After we received the reality of my situation, Christine would often ask how I felt and I would have to remind her that I was still the same doofus as before we got the bad news. Not the case now: I’m changing because of the chemo’s effects and it’s one that i’m owning. I may not have caused this cancer, but I’m sure going to end it…. with your help, of course. I’m on the warpath and am flying to each cancerous cell on the wings of your support and prayer. Together we’ll end this and it started today.

First week of chemo

Here’s the schedule for this week:

Monday AM – I go in for an MRI, the last scan scheduled – at the last minute by my oncologist. I don’t have claustrophobia so I think I’ll do okay, it’s the super-early start time (6:30AM) I disagree with, as some of you are aware I’m not a morning person.

Tuesday AM – I’m back at the Duke University Hospital to receive my port implant – again with the early start time (8:30). I’ll be sedated for this one so no eating or drinking anything beforehand. Bleah.

Wednesday AM – back early (8:00) for my first round of chemotherapy. Finally we get the show on the road and the physical destruction (and subsequent healing) can begin. This will take several hours, every 2 weeks, for about 12 sessions.  For those of you following along at home, I’ll be taking a combination of Folfox and Avastin, along with Fluorouracil 5-FU , Leucovorin, Oxaliplatin, and Bevacizumab. With a water chaser, hopefully.