Sunday, March 30, 2008

Its 4AM... Do You Know Where Your Brain Cells Are?

I know where mine are -- And its not in bed. I've been sleeping like crazy, but then I have insomnia at night. Its freaky, but oh well.

Feeling better, but still sleeping like crazy as mentioned above. Short term memory is shot to hell. As much as I love driving, Suzanne is pretty much doing it now, as I'm becoming very forgetful of simple things (like when we went to Wawa for something, and I got out of the car, then went to lock the car... Only to realize I'd left the keys in the ignition). Its simple little things like that, and the inability to really focus. Sounds dumb and not that big a deal, but when you start to have stuff like this you start to question your control over things. Not good for a Type A personality like myself.

The good news is my oncologist thinks this will come back quickly once I'm off the chemo drugs for a few weeks (which will also help speed up my return to work).

Oh well, off to see if I can get some sleep.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Just Checking In

So far, disability hasn't been the vacation its cracked up to be. Still feeling cruddy, and Suzanne still expects me to do stuff... So much for the Life o' the Lazy. Doing OK overall, memory is really crappy at this point. Symptoms other than that have subsided (which of course adds fuel to my phobia fire that I'm now immune to the chemo - time for an Ativan).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Treatment #11 (Cycle 6A) - And Then There Was One...

One more to go party people, one more to go. Yesterday went without any major issues. I didn't have a whole lot of questions: They knew I was going out on disability, so the tiredness, weakness, and memory issues going over into the second week was a known. I brought up the mouth sores I've had (a new one, yay for me), and we got a standard treatment and a very unstandard (but awesome one) from Dr. Dabrow (Dr. Szarka was on vacation): I have a script for "magic mouthwash" (its an oral lidocaine solution or something that will numb the mouth before I eat). The unstandard treatment is to get a football mouthpiece so the teeth don't grind on the sores - Making for little pain and quicker healing. Needless to say, we'll be trying both.

Sue and I talked, and we're going to go to HUP for radiation. While my new radiation oncologist may be Doogie Howser, MD, all reports coming in say he's a serious brain trust, and trained until Yoda (if you don't know who I'm referring to as Yoda, read my earlier post on the Rad Onc visit). He wants to see me pretty much as soon as my latest PET and CT are complete in about four weeks, so we can finalize the gameplan.

So for now, we sit and relax - Tired, weak, and ready to put this C thing waaaay behind me.

One more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And That's That - Disability

Well, I'm now officially off the "Commuting to Philadelphia" list for the time being. I was able to handle my turnover stuff early, so since I have no specific need to be in town (and I'm feeling like crap), we're out. I'm expecting to be out for the next 4-6 weeks, but its really up to my doctor now - If anything, she'll keep me out longer.

I'll probably end up posting more here, since I'm going to have loads of free time. On the downside, I officially left "Good week, bad week" behind, I'm sore from walking 5 blocks, the memory is shot, and I have mouth sores that just made my favorite meal (beef stew) excruciating to eat.

Two more people, two more and that's it...

P.S. On the plus side, ALL of my hair is growing back - My father is now back to being the sole baldie in the family. Except... I like the bald w/ a goatee look. I think I may keep it through the summer in fact.

P.P.S. I love you people - Friends, family, new Hodge Homies... You really get an appreciation for the people you know.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Disability... Almost Made It

Well, its Tuesday, and I'm home again. So, having talked it through with Suzanne, I think I'm going to have to take disability time with only two treatments to go.
Tiredness, weakness... I was working through those. However, I think I now have "chemo brain". I thought chemo brain would be forgetfulness, etc. What I didn't expect was to feel like I'm in a fog 24/7. I can't concentrate. I can't think. Therefore, I can't get my work done.

I'm frustrated more than I've been thoughout this thing. I've managed to make it though while only requiring two weeks of FMLA time. Maybe its for the best to rest up the last four weeks, and get ready for radiation.I'm still pissed though (and not in the fun British way).

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Treatment #10 (Cycle 5B) - Easy Like Sunday Mornin...

"He's not human. He's like a piece of iron."
Ivan Drago, "Rocky IV"

Hey, you lurkers! Just because I'm squeaky clean of cancer, having fun and no major issues (outside the weakness and tiredness), y'all mind LEAVING some messages? It gets lonely being the only one writing to this blog.

So, here we are in the 4th quarter of my football game against Hodgkin's. Still doing treatments, yada yada, and hoping Hodge never wants a rematch after I kick its rear. My hair is growing back in everywhere (finally), and my symptoms seem a bit easier to manage. My hair apparently is normal and can happen. The symptoms are more likely attitude more than a lessening (hey, three docs say I'm clean, I'm near the end of chemo.... Yeah, I'm gonna be happy).

This weekend will suck, as I'll be tired and weak. I'm staying home Monday too for that exact reason. However, the other effects that go into the week really haven't been so bad. I have my appointment with the youngster radiation oncologist tomorrow (she's good, I just call her that because she's only a few years older than me), but she's more of the 2nd opinion, as for practical reasons I need to be treated downtown (so I can work).

So, I'm happy since I'm clean. No way in hell was I letting my cousin come out the winner in this race, haha - We'll tie and both be cured.

And that's alright with me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Preparing for the Future

Well, tomorrow takes us into the home stretch, the 4th quarter of my treatments. I feel GOOD. I don't know if that means the treatments aren't bothering me as much, if I see light at the end of the tunnel, or what. I know I'll be tired again tomorrow, and for the next 4-5 days, but no biggie.

So, as most of you know I've worked throughout treatment (minus some days here and there as needed). Honestly, a lot of that had to do with my new role at work. I was named Solutions Architect for our division a whopping ONE DAY before I was diagnosed and this nightmare began. I stepped out of my supervisor / management role, and went into a entirely new role within the company - I didn't want to screw it up.

Well, while it leaves me wanting to get a refund on my MBA, I've had more fun in the role than I've had in years. I'm back doing some coding, while having a leadership role and say in the strategic design of our systems. As the role gets more exposure and work (as it has), I'll probably get some staff to assist me (there just wasn't headcount for this year). The fun is what's kept me trying (and its nice to hear your manager say your work effort is "Herculean"). I'm learning very current technologies, Microsoft's toolset: .NET, Reporting Services, Analysis Services, C#, SharePoint, PerformancePoint. This is good stuff - Its awesome putting together my company's next-generation portal, and it doesn't hurt the resume (not that I plan on going anywhere).

Its odd, but after my manager made me feel... Secure... With my job, I have some serious loyalty towards my company. Will I be a technical manager at 35 as was my personal goal (which is hard in my stodgy company)? Possibly, but probably not in my new role. Am I happy? Hell yeah. I can take my experience as a Solutions Architect and apply it in plenty of places; I just happen to love my company as well.

OK, enough gushing over my work. However, I'm starting to finally have thoughts of a future beyond cancer. As curable as Hodgkin's is, as great as the treatments are at nixing this stuff, its still CANCER. Your mortality definitely comes into focus, and stays there.

Now? I'm thinking of other long-term, strategic tasks I want my role / group to take on, tools I need to learn, a camping trip this summer to plan for, and a "Couch Potato to 5k" running plan to enact. I've applied to join a board committee for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as well as offerred to speak publically on its behalf. I'm also trying to start a "Light the Night" Corporate Team.

Beyond that though, I'm really making sure I make more time for the kids and Suzanne. While I think I'm cured and my doctors feel the same... You never know when you might take a medical test and hear something you don't want to hear. That's the biggest lesson I'm taking out of this.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Well, I got to see Dr. Glatstein today down at HUP. Amazing doctor, he reminds me of the old Norman Rockwell style docs. He's also on Philadelphia Magazine's top docs list as well as the national Top Doctors in Cancer list.

And he's going on sabbatical about a week before I'd start radiation.

He's going to Oxford for six months. SON OF A B**TCH!!! Don't get me wrong, the doctor I'll see in his place is good (Dr. John Plastaras), but I was going to see THE MAN. The guy was involved in research on Hodgkins way back in the 70s for crissakes.

The good news out of today:
  1. He's the third doctor to confirm I'm PET negative and in remission (yay!)
  2. Based on what he's seeing, he thinks shielding my heart and lungs will not be difficult - The mass shrunk in the right places.
  3. Paralysis is highly unlikely (1 in 10,000 chance).

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Reports of my Demise May be Greatly Exaggerated...

"We came, we saw....we kicked its ass!"
- Dr. Peter Venkman, "Ghostbusters"

So, do I have some goodies for you all today! As I have my appointment with our Radiation Oncologist on Monday, I received copies of all my chart reports, surgery info, and SCANS! Naturally, I took a look and made a copy. So here goes the slide show:

Here is a picture of a comparison of my October scan (when I first found out) to my February scan. In a PET scan, I get injected with radioactive sugar. Cancer cells tend to eat this sugar a LOT faster than other cells, so after some time they appear on the scan. Some other cells also chew this stuff up: The very dark, large black spots on my head and in my groin are normal things - my brain and my bladder. The heart, liver, and kidneys can also show some uptake safely. What's not normal is that nice big set of black in the middle of my chest on the left, as well as up in my neck. That's called Hodgkin's lymphoma, friends. The right hand scan looks much nicer, don't you think? It all cleared up! Oh, and don't worry about my bones showing in the newer scan - That's from the growth factor (Neulasta) they give me so my bones produce more blood cells (to keep up my immune system). All in all, can't be too upset with that.

Here are some more detailed scans, that combine PET and CT imaging. I think its pretty neat stuff, but really shows how incredible these technologies are. The images are both showing me from the back, on my right side (first being from October, second from February). The images in the upper left and right, and the lower left are CT images showing "slices" of my body. Check out the glow in the upper left frame on my October picture -- That stuff's dead, woohoo! Oh, and one edit -- I accidentally circled part of my heart in the October frame (the lowest circle) - That's safe stuff, and not bad.
October, 2007:
February, 2008: