Saturday, January 9, 2016

Chemo Round 3

It's been a whirlwind of a week.  Monday, I had a blood draw for something completely unrelated to cancer, but it still required a quick trip to the hospital.  I did this on my way to work, right after my wife and I had done CrossFit.  We've been playing around with the 7:00 a.m. classes and liking them.  It gives us more time at home with the kids at night, and we don't have to get up all that much earlier.  So, we will see if this becomes a new habit.

But, Monday we did CF early because we had such a busy week. Oh yeah, my workout on Monday went great - best in a while - which is always a sign that I'm recovered from one round of chemo and it must be time for the next.

But, before the chemo, we had to make a trip to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (SK in the future for brevity) for a consult with a surgeon.  We drove to Saratoga on Monday night and stayed with college friends.  They were kind enough to feed us a late dinner and some nice wine despite our late arrival.  It's amazing how many good friends we have.  The help and thoughtfulness through all of this ordeal is something I can't even explain.  Things that might seem trivial in a normal day to day life just become huge gifts at a time when you really need them.

We were up by about 4:00 on Tuesday morning and we arrived at Rensselaer in plenty of time for our train to Manhattan.  We mostly dozed on the way in, although I watched the scenery more as it got light and we approached the city.

A quick cab ride from Penn Station had us to SK earlier than we needed to be there.  But, in NYC, you are never more than a block from a Starbucks, so we enjoyed a leisurely cup of coffee before the appointment.

At SK, things don't always go fast, but they are well organized.  We arrived half an hour early and we were immediately sent to Patient Financial Services.  I filled out a couple forms and they needed our new insurance cards, because the appointment had been made in 2015 with older cards.  But, most of this interaction was transcription - me just answering some questions and a PFS rep typing my answers at lightspeed.

Then it was back upstairs for some more waiting.  First, we met with a nurse.  Then, an oncology fellow, and then finally, the nurse, the fellow and the surgeon. He was very pleased with how chemo is progressing, and offered 3 options post-chemo.  The first was "watch and wait" or what some cancer patients call active surveillance.  You do nothing but monitor, and react when something changes for the worse. The second option was to participate in a drug trial, but it was a drug that would only halt progression of the cancer, at best, and not get rid of any remaining cells. The third option, and the real reason we were there, was to talk about surgery.

Given my age and level of health beyond the cancer, everyone seemed to think that this was the best idea.  We talked about some of the details of the procedure - how long will it last, how much of my colon will I lose, how will the liver resection part work, etc. In the end, I really liked the surgeon.  There were no bombastic promises.  No Rah Rah Go Team! type of stuff.  This is a serious diagnosis and the odds for a cure are slim.  The goal is to get as much out of there as possible and buy me some quality years.  Some more years of fly fishing, skiing, time with my beautiful wife, see my kids graduate from college.  I'll take that right now.

Then, I had to ask a silly question.  We need to wait some time after the 4th round of chemo for my immune function to return.  The question was about the ideal time to do the surgery.  I am done with chemo on 1/31, and figured he would want to do surgery the week of 1/21.  I have tickets to see one of my favorite bands ever, on 2/26 in Boston.  I wondered if we could wait a week so I could see the show.  The surgeon had a conference the next week, so that wouldn't work.  I asked if waiting another week would make any difference.  I told him that the concert was a "want" and the surgery a "need" and doing the surgery the correct way took precedence.  He told me to enjoy my concert and then we got down to details, setting up surgery timing.

I will return to NYC on 3/7, late at night.  SK has arranged a great price for a 3 night hostel stay for us.  On the 8th, I will have another CT scan, an EKG, blood work, and a meeting with the surgeon.  That night, my wife and I may actually be able to go out for a fancy dinner somewhere in Manhattan.  On the 9th, I'll work remotely while doing a bowel prep.  That is needed because they need to resect some of my colon.  Surgery will be on the 10th, and I should be out of the hospital by the 15th or so.

My wife can stay with me in my room at the hospital.

After the appointment, we went to a nice whiskey bar that a friend had recommended for a late lunch.  The bartender was young but knew his whiskey, and the food was solid.  Our train was delayed, but it wasn't a big deal to just switch to another train.  We got home about 11:00, got some sleep, and I headed to the hospital for round 3 of  chemo the next morning.

It's never going to be fun doing this inpatient  chemo thing.  Just being on an oncology wing of a hospital, where death is all around you, can be depressing.  I feel terrible for the families I see here, knowing that they are congregating and suffering as they lose a loved one. I am determined that this is not how I want my end to happen, but also hopeful that I don't have to worry about that for a long time.

Today is discharge day.  The nausea hasn't been too bad.  I have used some medical MJ to combat anxiety and nausea, but it's worked  better for the anxiety than the nausea.  It's nice to have that option for both of those issues.  The doctors think that the anti-nausea lozenges will work better when I'm at home, and no longer getting IV Zofran.

I declared round 1 of chemo a "tie".  My nausea was worse.  I felt sick and not up to walking around.  The second and third rounds, with more of an idea of what to expect, I'm declaring myself the winner.

The surgeon in NYC was amazed I was skiing and doing CF between  chemo rounds.  I asked him if there was anything special I should do after the 4th round and before surgery.  His response was to "get as fit as I can", which I'd planned to do anyway.

So, exciting news with my chemo working and the big surgery date is set.  My company is still in business, although they haven't paid us in a month.  Hopefully, that will change this coming week.  We just keep marching forward, hoping this is all worth the effort.

Time to go do some laps in the hallway.


Harriet said...

Thank you for keeping us informed. Of course, I hope for the best for you.

janinsanfran said...

Pulling for you from the Left Coast!