I realized that it is has been two months and six days since I have updated my extended family and friends on my melon. Since I have a few hours to kill on a flight from Tampa/St. Pete to Indianapolis, I thought this would be the perfect time to hammer out an update. And since I have had this blog thing set up for a few months now, I thought this would be the perfect time to make my first entry.
When last I wrote, I had about two weeks of radiation and chemotherapy to go. Everything ended on schedule on September 24 and I rang the bell on my way out of the IU Cancer Pavilion. Lee Ann, Dale and Jace accompanied me to share in the moment. Plus, it gave the lads a chance to see where their Dad had been going every day for the previous six and half weeks.
After making it through the chemotherapy and radiation with relatively few side effects, my luck ran out. The doctors warned me that the side effects could be cumulative, but since I normally possess the strength of 10 men, I thought I might be spared. After all, the cancer gods had already taken some irreplaceable brain tissue and mowed away a swath of my thick, lustrous mane. What more could they want?
Cancer-related fatigue set in shortly after the treatments ended. I was still on a low dose of steroids so I was able to keep going during the day although I tended to run out of gas in the afternoons. Headaches also became a recurring annoyance. A healthy supply of Vicodin and the steroids carried me through SPJ’s convention in early October.
I was finally off the steroids completely by the end of the second week of October, just in time for my planned Kentucky road trip with Dale and Jace. Unfortunately, due to the increased frequency of the headaches, we had to cut our trip short after only a day. We did make it to the Creation Museum which was quite a hoot. As interactive museums go, it is pretty cool. I particularly enjoyed the scaled down model of Noah’s ark that showed a pair of dinosaurs ascending the plank along with the rest of the animals. But I digress…
With a promise to return to thoroughbred and bourbon country again soon, we headed home the next day. A CT scan revealed nothing that would cause any (additional) concern so perhaps I was just being a bit of a weenie. My radiation oncologist offered to put me back on the steroids for a brief period, but I politely declined. Having already packed on 20 extra pounds during the radiation and chemotherapy thanks to steroids, I decided I would rather treat the headaches with Tylenol and – sparingly – Vicodin.
I traveled back to Bethesda, Md. and the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute on October 23 for my first post-radiation MRI and another visit with Dr. Howard Fine, the king of all neuro-oncologists. Not only is this guy a brilliant doctor, he has probably the best bedside manner since my Uncle Mike, who operated on my heel when I was nine. The interesting thing about my uncle is that he was an insurance salesman who just happened to have the surgical equipment and a keen interest in feet. Again, I digress…
Dr. Fine’s interpretation of the MRI was that everything looked good and that I am still on the good end of the curve as far as my long-term prognosis is concerned. So I have that going for me, which is nice. He also told me that the side effects from the radiation could last up to two months following the treatment. Whee!
The following week, on October 30, I met with my neuro-oncologist in Indianapolis to get started on the next phase of treatment: more chemotherapy. I am taking the same drug I was taking during radiation – Temodar – but at a much higher dose. I take the pills for five days in a row and then have 23 days off before the next cycle starts. I completed the first cycle on November 5 and it knocked me completely on my arse. I became progressively more fatigued as the five days ticked by. About two days after finishing the cycle, the pendulum started to swing back the other way and my energy started to return. I have been told that as I get farther removed from the radiation, that the fatigue associated with the chemotherapy should lessen.
So that pretty much brings us to today. I have to visit the phlebotomist this week and next to make sure everything is copasetic with my blood.
Oh, and I got tired of shaving my head every day – twice a day if Lee Ann and I were going out in the evening – so I have opted instead for the jarhead look. My two menacing scars – one from my recent surgery and the other from a poorly executed jump between picnic tables when I was four – lend themselves well to the look. Semper Fi!