Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Honey I Shrunk The Tumor

I noticed I was more active with keeping my blog updated in December, January, and February when this was all so new to me, but then nothing in March, so I figured I better fill you all in. I just recently completed my 5th round of chemo (5 of 12 so .4167% done) and as expected it becomes worse and worse. It has been pretty consistent though - super nauseous and completely drained of energy the first week, then the nauseau goes away the second week but the lack of energy remains. However I do have more energy the second week compared to the first - just any activity requires a nap, I'm not complaining though. It has only been 5 days since treatment and the nauseau is much more intense this time - I have heard time and time again though that it gets worse each round as your body continually is worn down from all the poison going into your body. Not to worry though, soon I will be through all of this and back to being me - almost half way done! Now for the good news...before treatment number 4 (Friday March 04, 2011) my oncologist ordered a chest x-ray to see how much, if any, the tumor has shrunk. Though an x-ray is not as clear and precise as the PET Scan which really showed the extent of the tumor, we were able to see that the tumor has shrunk about an inch all around! That is exactly what we and the oncologist had hoped for, especially considering the tumor originally spanned from my breast bone to my spine. It's still errie to know that there is something that big inside of me - must be what it was like when Kathryn was pregnant with Kendall and Karson - WEIRD! The blessings continue to come in, thank you everyone for all your continued prayers, thoughts, dinners, generous gifts, phone calls, and friendship. It has been such a help to have dinners on chemo day and weekend - that one less thing Kathryn has to worry about makes the weekend that much more easy to tolerate, afterall, a happy wife is a happy life right : ) I did have another unique experience which kind of opened my eyes, or rather just made me more appreciative. A business colleague took me out for a cup of coffee to share with me some information regarding cancer, health, etc. and to pray for me. I of course was accepting of any prayers I can get, I did however think he meant when he went home that night he would pray for me in the comfort of his own home - NOPE, wrong again lol, he meant right there right now in the coffee shop. The best part of it was there was a pastor from a local church having coffee there with another sheep of the flock unbenounced to us. My colleague introduced me to the pastor and his friend and shared with him my trial. Then right there in the coffee shop the 3 men layed their hands upon me and offered a prayer. At first take I was so embarassed as we were in a public place but I thought to myself, these are good christian men who believe in God and the power of prayer and faith just as much as I do, and what humility and compassion they hold that they are willing to pray for a man they do not know in the middle of a bunch of random people. It was such a cool experience, I will never forget those men, and learned to be appreciative of whatever it is people are willing to do for me. Well it is late now, I am exhausted, and ready for bed. I hope you all share the joy I do knowing that therapy is working. Thank you all once again for all you do.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Humble Yourselves Even To The Dust

I want to start by saying thank you to all of you who have given such kind remarks and thoughts, and thank you each and every one of you just for being a friend - friends and family make this battle that much easier to endure. I have received so many, well in reference to the five love languages book Kathryn always reminds me of, positive words of affirmation. It brings me great joy to know that I have inspired others even in the slightest way with my positive thinking and strong will to surive. I am glad I have been viewed this way and not that of a negative person or one to just throw in the towel for I am not a quiter, I stand by my ring on my right hand which reads Endure Til The End. However, I want those who have suffered more than me and have even lost their battle with cancer to know that I do not think less of them or that they didn't fight hard enough - but rather my sincere thoughts are with them and I am so sorry that they had to endure such agony and am sorry for the pain and sorrow of their loved ones - this is not an easy battle for anyone. I feel very fortunate and sometimes guilty for the type of cancer I have, to know it is a treatable cancer while others have much worse forms that take their life no matter the treatment and positive thinking they have. I hope this all makes sense, I know I can ramble on sometimes - I feel horrible for those who have it worse than me yet have such great respect and empathy for them.

Some of you are up to date with how I am doing with all my treatments, but for those of you who are not - here is the latest. I recently had my third round (3 of 12 - so 25% done) of treatment this past Friday 02/18/2011. The day started the same as the past two treatments - chemo from 10-2 with me doing relatively well during treatment, only starting to turn white and become fatigued near the end of the treatment. As the night went on it became very exhausting - more so than both previous rounds. Yes I took the walk of shame and shed a couple, JUST A COUPLE : ), tears from the pain. Each round has gotten a little harder to endure as is expected - this time with pain throughout my body, muscle and bones, nausea, fatigue, exhaustion, and the like. Earlier in the week my hair began to thin out, not coming out in chunks but rather thinning out every time I showered and when I woke up in the moring more and more hair strands were on my pillow. Because of this I decided it was time to shave my head, I MISS MY HAIR - I want the fauxhawk back, and so does Kathryn lol. The reason I bring this up is because every time I rub my head or turn my head over on my pillow my scalp feels like somebody is stabbing me with 1,000 needles, such a weird side effect. One of the more annoying side effects though has been the constant taste of 'metal nausea' as I have come to describe it in my mouth which then makes me nauseous, thus a never ending cycle. Even with all the horrible side effects I find the strength to endure with the help of my faith, my relationship with Christ, and again the best friends and family I could ask for. Six months is but a grain of sand in the grand scheme of things - I do not look forward to the remaining treatments but I remind myself to keep the end goal in sight - beating this thing and living life!

With any trial in life comes hardship, as my family and I are currently experiencing, yet we remain greatful for the many blessings we have been given. Kathryn and I were seeking some counsel in regards to this and we turned to our Bishop. I hope I don't offend any of you with the following segment on faith, but know my faith runs deep and is something I rely on so I feel it just to share with you, and know that I respect all of your faiths and even no faith if that is your belief. Our Bishop shared a scripture with us that hit home and was exactly what I needed to hear. From Alma 34; 37-38 we read:

'And now, my beloved brethren, I desire that ye should remember these things, and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God, and that ye should no more deny the coming of Christ;
That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; THAT YE HUMBLE YOURSELVES EVEN TO THE DUST, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; AND THAT YE LIVE IN THANKSGIVING DAILY, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.'

When I heard these things I thought to myself, you can literally lose everything - be it your house, your car, your job, your hair lol, and be thrown what can seem like unbearable trials (like cancer lol), yet when we are down to even dust we must not turn our back on the Lord but rather turn to him in humility and know that as we are faithful we can overcome all things, and even when it seems like we have lost everthing, we are still rich with many blessings. The Lord can give us a taste of what we are entitled to, and how we react during those times, whether we lose our faith our grow stronger in our faith, will determine the blessings which we will receive.

I am greatful for all my blessings and pray that others will recognize the blessings with which they have been given. Thank you everyone for helping me carry on the fight!

P.S. - below is my mohawk after shaving my head, don't worry - Kathryn didn't let me keep it : )

Saturday, February 05, 2011

We're Only As Strong As Our Toughest Challenge

Round two of my 'ABVD' (as a reminder I get the same four drugs every two weeks for 6 months) chemo treatment began Friday 02/04/2011. Some patients and survivors told me they were extremely nervous before each round of treatment simply because they knew how sick they would be for the next few days or weeks. Surprisingly I was not at all nervous, rather, I just thought going into it, 'Well, this is what's going to make be better.' I am sure as I endure more treatments I might become nervous and maybe not even want to go through with it, but I know to remember it's only going to get worse before it gets better.

This round of treatment took a much bigger toll on me than the first, which is to be expected. I started becoming a bit lethargic during the chemo this time and by the time I got home I felt horrible and hungover as my head was spinning, nauseated like never before, and so exhausted I could barely manage to keep my eyes open on the drive home. My family tells me my skin tone altered between a pale white like casper the ghost and sickly yellow like that of jaundice. However, I woke up today (Saturday 02/05/2011) feeling a bit better. Still pretty naucious and worn out but I did manage to go see some special people in my life and drop off some of the cancer shirts I had made. Also made it out to Billygans for dinner for a very good friends birthday party - all be it after I napped all day : ) Oh and on a side note both times I've had chemo now I have developed non-stop hickups. Last time it lasted for a week, I was told today though I can get a PrX which will stop them immediately - I will be calling that in on Monday!

Even with as bad as chemo has treated me thus far overall I had what I consider a very special week, the Lord continues to bless me and my family in many ways. First off, my father was able to come home from the hospital after being admitted for staff infection which led to having to have his knee replaced again. He's even walking around on his own now with only the aid of a walking cane. At one point we both had a PICC - ironic like father like son - I have pictures below. On a second note, I am continually amazed by how supportive my employer COUNTRY Financial has been through this entire ordeal. On Wednesday I went in to the office to tend to a few things and was pleasingly surprised by a very warm gift. Our district in WA had a recent awards banquet and kickoff for our yearly American Cancer Society Relay For Life activities. My agency manager, Kris Greene, was a guest speaker and had our family photos up on the big screen and relayed our situation - what an honor. In addition, they held a fundraiser for donation to the Relay for Life and with such kindness decided to donate half of the donations to my family - what a wonderful unexpected surprise that we will continue to be greatful for. Then on top of that I got my PICC line out on Friday after my chemo since I opted to have a port put in this coming Monday 02/07/2011 - what a relief not to have to wrap my arm when I shower now and just have my arm back to normal! And to top things all off our very near and dear friends brought us dinner Friday night after chemo, and let me tell ya - my wife was looking at me like I was eating for the first time after being released from prison : ) Rotissiere chicken, steemed carrots and corn, amazing mashed potatoes and scrumpcious rolls. Oh my god I was in heaven. Literally the best chicken I have ever had - THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN!

There is more I would like to share but I'm sorry friends, I am beat and need to rest - more to come, STAY POSITIVE! : )

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Let The Nuclear Koolaid Begin

So things have changed just a bit. As some of you know my chemo was supposed to start this past Monday 01/17/2011 but the pharmacy was having trouble finding one of the drugs for the Stanford V regiment they were going to be administering to me. Turns out the drug is no longer manufactured and was one of the first drugs to ever be used for chemotherapy. I did start chemo yesterday though (Friday 01/21/2011) which I was very happy to finally start - kinda weird that I am voluntarily poisening myself though 'eh? The old Stanfird V regiment was going to be weekly for 3 months, but now the ABVD regiment which they have me on is every other week for 6 months. That kinda broke my heart when I heard I had to do chemo for twice as long as I was once told, even more so that I have to have this stinkin PICC line in for that much longer. But it is what it is, just gotta role with the punches. I do not blame the doctors at all and in fact they are still doing a great job - making sure they are doing what is best for me. I was a little irritated when my chemo didn't start when first planned only because this tumor inside me wasn't gettin any smaller. But all is on track again.

As far as how the first round of chemo went - one moment I was like, 'this is a walk in the park,' and the next I was like, 'you mean it's gonna get worse?!' Lol. I was at NWCS from 10:00am - 2:00pm yesterday where they first gave me a dose of anti-nausea meds and a steroid meant to 'pick me up not buff me up' as my Nurse Sharon put it. She said the steroid should make me good through Sunday then it will wear off and I might feel like I got hit by a bus - can't wait for Monday morning to come around : ). They then gave me the four chemo drugs ABVD (Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, Decarbazine) and by the time I got home I felt horribe. I was wrapped up in a white blanket and Kathryn and my mom-in-law Terry told me I was more pale then the blanket. On top of that my eyes were so dark and heavy and I had that constant urge to yark but it just wouldn't happen - which I am glad it didn't. Last night I took Tylenol PM and Lorazepam which is an anti-nausea prescription they gave me and I slept like a baby - except for the 12:30am night sweat which once again left me and the bed soaked.
Now I'm sure you're all dieing (hmm, maybe bad choice of words there, no pun intended) to know about all the side effects. So here we go...
* Adriamycin can cause extensive tissue damage and blistering if it escapes from the vein, nausea, vomitting, low blood counts leading to an increased risk for infection, anemia and/or bleeding, mouth sores, hair loss, watery eyes, discolored urine, darkening of the nail beds, infertility, and very rarely but possibly interference with the pumping action of the heart.
* Bleomycin can cause fever, chills, skin irritation, hair loss, nausea, vomitting, poor appetite, weight loss, mouth sores, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and very rarely lung problems such as pneumonitis and pulmonary fibrosis, oh yeah, and very rarely heart attack and stroke - like I said very rarely : )

* Vinblastine can cause low blood counts, skin irritation, fatigue, nausea and vomitting, peripheal neuropathy in the fingers and toes, constipation, diarrhear (well which one is it people lol), hair loss, bruising, dizziness, mouth sores, change in taste buds, headache, depression, jaw pain, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and muscle and joint pain.

* Dacarbazine can cause low blood counts, nausea and vomitting, poor appetite, elevation of blood liver enzymes, chills, fever, aches, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, sensitivity to the sun - dang, guess GTL is out the window haha!

Sooooo pretty much I'm in for quite the joy ride the next 6 months. HAPPY CAMPING! : ) Oh yeah, as always, below are some pix from the first chemo trip, I was in good company....

Monday, January 17, 2011

A PICC Will Do The Trick

I apologize for not updating this earlier, my how I lose track of time and what day of the week it is anymore lol. Last Thursday, 01/13/2011, we met with Dr. Brouns at NWCS for our final consult before treatment begins and remarkably all looks good. Last week they did an ECHO on my heart (ultrasound) and a PFT (lug tests) and those came back completely normal. Which is shocking because three weeks ago I could barely breath, my resting pulse was 120bpm, and my blood pressure was like 170/90. Now I am not having any trouble breathing, my pulse is down to 85bpm, and blood pressure has dropped to 140/70 - still high but much better than it was (normally my heart beat and blood pressure are completely normal). So thank you for all your thoughts and prayers - obviously they are working.

The only bad news he gave us is that the tumor is bigger than we thought. The first CAT Scan done on Christmas day showed that the tumor was about the size of a softball but the results from the PET Scan show that it is ginormous - it goes from my breast bone clear back to my spine and has spread to a lymphnode in my neck on the right side of my throat and another lymphode on the left side of my chest. Think about how big and thick I am and not put that into contrast - yikes! The doctor is still confident that the chemo and combined radition will rid me of the tumor. I have 3 months (down from 4) of chemo where I will go in once-twice a week followed by a month of radiation - not sure if that will be weekly or multiple times a week. I will let you know as I learn more. And for all you cancer savvy people the chemo treatment they are giving me is a regime called Stanford V - whatever that is.

Today, Monday 01/17/2011, I had my PICC Line put in. For those of you not familiar with a PICC Line, it is a cathedore inserted in my left bicep in a vein which has a 60cm long IV that stretches to my chest. The reason for this is for the chemo. Rather than them sticking my veins each week with poison they and I opted for a PICC line which they can just hook up to each time to draw blood and push in the chemo - it has a small port which always sticks out of my arm but is taped down to eliminate as much restriction as possible. Every time I hear the word surgery, operation, or needle, being the guy that I am I get anxious and worrysome. Last night we were talking about it and Kendall says, 'Daddy, let me tell you something. You will be scared and you will cry but it will not hurt, I promise. You will be okay daddy, ok daddy." She made my night and she was pretty much right. I was scared, I did not cry though, and it did not hurt, and I am okay lol. The nurse putting the PICC in was Stephanie from SW WA Med Ctr and she was great. There was no pain, even when they gave me the numbing medicine and put the 4" long needle in my vein. It is a little irritating now though, itches and pulls every now and then. I have pictures below.
I was supposed to start chemo today at 1:00pm (each session should be 3-4 hours) but NWCS called me this past Friday and notified me my drugs were not in it. They will be calling me anytime to let me know when I begin - we are hoping tomorrow Tuesday 01/18/2011.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


As I've gone through this experience, though it be just a few short weeks so far, I have developed a great appreciation for many things - it probably sounds cliche but I really have - be it friends, family, faith, etc. Though I thank everyone for everything they've done for us so far, I feel they don't know how much it really means to me and my family. Every friend, each family member, all the medical staff, they've all helped somehow be it large or small, but I can't thank them enough - I want to hug the whole world and let them know how greatful we are. So this is me trying to get it all out, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Thank you for the all meals, the emails, the messages, the phone calls, the hugs, the prayers, the warm wishes, the truely caring, the honest sincerity in your hearts, the friendship, the love, the laughs, the praise, the everything. Is it bad to say keep sending it? ; )

I almost feel guilty for all the support we have been given, and want to give back somehow. I may soon be a goofy, bald, nauseous, and exhausted chemo patient but I want to give back. I think of the Toby Keith song 'I may not be as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was.' Though as I start treatment I may not even be as good once as I ever was, I want to give 110% of what I can - that probably doesn't make any sense but it does in my head : ) This week as I have my final appointments before I start chemo I plan on asking the medical staff at NW Cancer Specialists if there is anything I can do on a volunteer basis. I am not looking to do a full time gig, afterall I'm on medical leave from work to rest, recuperate (that doesn't look like it's spelled right), and just deal with all this, and a full time deal would not be conducive to my treatment, but if I can find a day where I can give a couple hours I would feel like I have done something worthy of getting all the help that we are receiving. And not to get to all spiritual but the Lord has blessed us in so many ways and as the gospel says when we serve others we are in the service of the Lord. And I'll be honest here, with this whole cancer scare I feel like I need a few extra brownie points with the big guy up stairs lol. If any of you know of any volunteer opportunities I welcome any suggestions, don't hesitate to get a hold of me!

Once again I just want all of you to know how appreciative I am for everything, everyone, every blessing. I still can't express how grateful I am for all the wonderful relationships in my life, a work that has been so supportive, the rocker-recliner and x-box in our master bedroom, bob marley's great music which helps inspire my positive attitude, new clothes and kicks, pop (I mean Kangen water), pizza and football, cookies (don't even talk to me about sugar and cancer), my relationship with Christ, his atonement, his love, his healing, all of his blessings, the Seahawks beating the saints in the first round of the playoffs (BOOM!), my wife who loves me unconditionally, Kendall and Karson who make each day worth fighting for, and life - LIVE IT!

I love you all, I'm out.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

NW Cancer Specialists

I very much believe it's not always what you know but who you know. With that said, a very good friend of mine, Rollin Perrigo, just happens to be the son of Brad Perrigo who is the Executive Director of NW Cancer Specialists. I spoke with Brad and his new patient coordinator, Amy, who took excellent care of us. They had apppointments set up before we even got off the phone with them whereas the VanClinic and SW took days to get anything done, even a return phone call. I met my NWCS Oncologist on Monday 01/03/2011, his name is Dr. Brouns and he too has been absolutely amazing. Doesn't sugar coat anything but let's us know what we are in for without scaring the piss out of since we're already nervous enough.

From the pathology report from the chest biopsy Dr. Brouns confirmed that the cancer is Hodgkin Lymphoma, Stage 2b. In Lamens terms this means I have a bulky tumor in my chest and two other small lymphnode areas effected - one in my neck and one in another area of my chest. I asked him how bad I really have it and he said on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best I am probably a 7 or 8 simply because the odds are in my favor. I am young, and elsewise I am in perfect health - the naturalpath even told me I am the healthiest cancer patient she has ever seen lol. See I knew all those supplments and working out has been doing something good for me : )

Talking it over with Dr. Brouns, if all looks well then I will have 4 months of chemotherapy ahead of me followed by 1 month of radiation then we'll re-evaluate, but that should dissolve the tumor entirely which means no surgery needed. The less knifes the better I say! Side effects though - I will lose my hair and become infertile, that's okay though - I hate condoms anyway : )
Wednesday 01/05/2011 I made a donation of my swimmers to the OHSU fish ladder, or Fertility Clinic as they call it. It was the weirdest thing ever, just cold and obviously not intimate at all. But luckily after only 2 days of abstinence from my wife I gave enough for 1.25 tries of invitro should we decide to have more kids down the road. Wife says I have to go back after 5 days of abstinence to make sure we get at least 2-3 tries, little does she know I am going to be a very horny and grumpy dude for the next 5 days. C'mon I'm 24! : )

From their I had to head over to the Portland NWCS Center for a PET scan, man was that boring. They pumped me full of radioactive isotopes and let me sit for 45 minutes while they spread throughout my body. After being bored enough from that I had to do 7 cat scan photos which I had to sit still for 4.5 minutes - that's 32 minutes people. Hope that never has to be done again!
Finally the thing I dreaded the most ... bone marrow aspiration, Thursday 01/06/2011. Nurse Tanya, Nurse Angie, and Dr. Brouns were awesome. After they pumped me up with Morphine and Adirol I was flying high, crackin jokes, almost falling out of the chair, and making buddy buddy with everybody. Then they flipped me over on my belly ass exposed and I know they meant business. Doc gave me some numbing medicine but damn, that shit hurts no matter what they give you. He took a faily large needle with a handle (which I have photos of below) and went into my pelvic bone and began drilling to get into the marrow. Good night it hurt, and then when we actually pulled out the marrow it sent a joly of pain through my buttock, hip, and leg like I have never felt before. Pretty sure I was yelling at him lol. Then he did this to me two more times - we're such good friends lol. Pretty sure I was hugging everybody and given them pounds on my way out - I can't wait to see 'em all next week : )

A Recap Of How It Came To Be

Christmas day seems to be like a good place to start, but let's rewind roughly six weeks to where my symptoms began. A solid week of intense night sweats which literally left myself soaked, my clothes soaked, and even the bed sheets soaked. Follow that by fever after chill and fever after chill and so on and so forth. I even got a soar throat and a head cold.

Now, anybody that knows me knows that I have what others call a super-immune system and for me to have this non-stop illness was extremely odd. I finally took my wife's advice and went into see my doctor, Megan Spohr, but she was out of town so I had to meet with what was left, that being Tracy Williams. I met with him the Tuesday before Christmas where he checked all my vitals which were all high and even did a couple blood tests. The tests came back showing negative for mono (duh, I had that 3.5 yrs ago doc) but my white blood cell count was highly elevated meaning I'm fighting some sort of infection. Dr. Williams' hunch was that I had a recurring viral infection and prescribed me some antibiotics. I started taking those Thursday and they were of no use, I only became worse.

Friday, which was Christmas Eve, I began having what felt like a lot of pressure and tightness in my chest, and later some difficulty breathing, especially when I would lay flat on my bed. This led to a hacking cough. I was not about to go to the doctor being it was the holidays, afterall, I had to see what Santa brought the kids in the morning : ) ... Christmas day it only became worse.

Kathryn once again finally persuaded me to go to the urgent care clinic downtown where her mother works. I went in and at first Nurse Michael and Dr. Nichol were laughing and joking with me trying to make the best out of the fact that we all had to be there Christmas day. Dr. Nichol was thorough enough to order a chest x-ray and when he got the results both him and Nurse Michael had a total change in their demeanor, one that was sorrowful. Nichol showed us the results which showed a rather large unidentified mass in my chest. He then transferred me to SW WA Med Ctr for a cat scan to get further details.

Once at SW ER we met with Dr. Reed who also was very afluent and taking every necessary precaution which the Vancouver Clinic had failed to do earlier. After about 3 hours of testing, blood draws, urine samples, and cat scans we finally got the results. I have a tumor in my chest (roughly 12cm x 14cm or the size of a softball) and it is probable lymphoma. I wrote Santa a letter which read I would have been happy with a lump of coal instead! Dr. Reed was very adament that of all the cancers to have, lymphoma is one of the more treatable and even curable forms. He then said I needed to schedule a chest biopsy to confirm the cancer.

From their I went back to SW on Wednesday 12/29 and met with Dr. Kansal who also was amazing. He performed the chest biopsy where he first tried entering through my left peck but that was not working (all that pain for nothing) so he moved directly to the center of my chest and went in through the sternum ... hahaha and I thought the peck hurt, boy was I wrong. At least they gave me some sort of sedative to relax me.

This is how the cancer started, more to come regarding the results and our choice of center for treatment.