Cycle 1 Day 3: I wish the stock markets would perform like this

This one is for you Shaun

Not an April fools Day joke!

Since putting on a little weight over the Christmas holidays and with the upcoming outdoor cycling season approaching I thought it would be a good idea to drop a little weight. Way better to do that than becoming a “cycling weight weenie” who spends big bucks to have a bicycle that weighs a few ounces less. To that end I have been exercising fairly consistently on the indoor trainer, lifting some weights, and sort of watching what I eat. I’d been making good progress towards a tentative target of between 200-210 lbs, In fact March 30, 2020 was 210.8. And then the unexpected happened!

This morning, right out of bed like all other weigh ins, I hop on the scale and it proclaims 226 lbs!!! Hey, that can’t be right but, after 6 repeats with the exact same number it seems to be true. I’m up 16 lbs in 2 days! I’m not eating that much and last nights dinner was a very restrained bowl of Shirley’s delicious home made chicken soup and a cheese biscuit, plus water to drink.

So, I share this with Shirley who immediately breaks out in uncontrolled hilarious laughter and then informs me “Now you know how women feel.” This laughter carries on for quite some time. Then we’re in the kitchen and she is looking at me from behind and says “Maybe you shouldn’t wear plaid for now”. More uncontrolled hilarious laughter. I respond with “Do my plaid pyjama pants make my a** look fat?”. More laughter. Oh well, laughter does good like a medicine.

On a more serious note I did check in with the oncologist and the response was “Yeah, the drugs and increased fluid intake can do that”. So, no worries.

Cycle One – Day 2: On Steroids now, bike buddies watch out!

Geese on the Rivwe

Post Day One Recap: No side effects and feeling good all round. Ate a wonder full dinner, thanks to my supper cook Shirley ❤️. Slept well and woke up around 6am feeling quite peaceful and my body was totally at rest.

Starting the day off with a few drugs at home and now I’m at St.B back in the chair. They wanted to put me in a bed, but I declined, that’s for sick people. By 9:15 I’m well on my way to the main chemo drug event with the pre-requisites, Tylenol, Dexamethasone (the killer steroid!), some flush something or other, then Benadryl (aka DIPHENHYDRANINE, simple name right?)

The Chair

Starting the day off with a few drugs at home and now I’m at St.B back in the chair. They wanted to put me in a bed, but I declined, that’s for sick people. By 9:15 I’m well on my way to the main chemo drug event with the pre-requisites, Tylenol, Dexamethasone (the killer steroid!), some flush something or other, then Benadryl (aka DIPHENHYDRANINE, simple name right?)

9:45 and the main event is underway with the Rituximab. I’m starting to feel a little sleepy, an effect from the Benadryl.

Thanks to my muffin person ❤️

10:30 and things are progressing normally. Enjoying my coffee break muffins.

The rest of the day is pretty uneventful for which I’m thankful. I did experience one of the drug side effects, mild hiccups. I think I can handle that, no problem.

At around 12:30 I enjoy another gourmet lunch thanks to Shirley and a few more hours later I’m home by 3:00pm and Cycle One, Day 2 is a wrap. Probably no more posts until April 6 which is when we will learn more about the bone marrow transplant and have Day 8 chemo.

Shirley and I would like to thank all of you who phoned, texted, emailed, and FaceTimed us over the last two days for your support, encouragement and especially your prayers, they were all deeply appreciated.

Cycle 1 Day 1: The New Deal

Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, things change.

I thought I’d be spending the day in a reclining chair in an area with five other stations, I’m placed in my own private room complete with TV

Deluxe accomodations

The next surprise is the schedule going forward. It’s changed from one treatment every 21 days to treatments on Day 1 and 8 of the 21 day cycle. As previously mentioned, for this first cycle Day 1 is split up over two days. Going forward Day 1 of the Cycle is just one day. Clear, right?

First order of business is to get the IV going. This will be the 1st use of the port and it takes a little pursuing but my nurse is unperturbed and after a bit of messing around things are flowing fine. Step 1 is 2 hours of saline to get me good and hydrated.

Plugged in

At about 10:30 I get what I’ll call the “terror talk”. The nurses explain the chemo drugs I’ll be getting today and all the possible side effects and what to do about said side effects. There are quite a few options, none of them too appealing. For both of today’s drugs, nausea and vomiting are at the top of the list. That explains why 4 of the 5 prescriptions I’ve been given are about nausea control.

Well the last time the possible side effect list was pretty similar. I didn’t have any of the bad ones then and I’m believing that I won’t have them now either.

I’ve also been given a rundown on my at home meds and it’s a good thing! This one on these days, that one on other days, some in the morning, some in the evening, some be sure to have with food, some it doesn’t matter. I have a chart now 😊

Well, it’s noon and the main event is about to get underway with Gemcitabine, 2,318mg over the next 1/2hr.

Not exactly suffering here. Shirley sent a wonderful care package of food and beverages. I came supplied with water, coffee, muffins (thanks Elaine), a ham mixture on a fancy cheese bun, fruit and GF cheese scones. I’m having a hard time eating it all but giving it a good go.

At 12:45pm they started cisPlatin, 173mg over 1 hour, then it was back to the saline hydration solution for 2 hours. ETE (Estimated Time of Escape) is 4pm.

That’s probably all for today. I’m feeling good and I think a quiet evening ahead is in order.

The Day Before

Winter Sunrise at the Lake

So today is the day before the new round of chemotherapy starts. Seems a bit hard to believe I’m here again. And as one might expect, it’s been occupying my thoughts a fair bit . Generally, I think I’m doing pretty well except for a few days where it all seems a bit overwhelming and impossible to ignore. Those days when there is a meeting with the oncologist, a test or a procedure, all seem to make it just a bit more real, a bit more imminent .

White Pine

Physically I’m feeling pretty fine. Well, not totally fine otherwise I would not have gone to get checked out. There is no pain generally. Some days there are moderate twinges in the chest from time to time that make me aware that something is going on. Other days seem totally normal and I wonder if perhaps nothing is going on. My gauge through this is how well I feel on the bike, especially when I’m on the trainer indoors and doing a workout that drives some serious effort. Again, some days it feels pretty normal and other days I wonder “Are you breathing harder that usual?”, “Is that heart rate higher than is typical” or “Seems like that last interval was harder that it should have been”. I’m glad I’m still on the bike, able to ride hard, and keeping a routine. Certainly good for my fitness, weight and it keeps my mind off other things.

“Snow Waves” on the Lake

Mentally, it’s been an interesting time. Certainly cancer is serious stuff and nothing to be made light of, but the first time round everything was new, exciting, terrifying and totally unknown. In a way it was like an adventure. Certainly an adventure nobody wants to go on, but in a weird way it made it a bit more tolerable. That newness and adventure certainly wore off as the six cycles of 21 days each seemed to be an eternity towards the end.

This time is different. Many things will be the same but with a different twist. The process is familiar, but the drugs are different. And then there is the looming bone marrow transplant a total unknown and I’m glad to keep it that way for a little longer. There is anxiety about the unknown and I certainly feel it. How will I react to the new chemotherapy regime? I’m believing for the same or better than the last time where I almost felt guilty that I felt pretty OK through the whole process and somehow got off easy. Very thankful for that! Many have to endure far more that I did.

Frosty

Spiritually I’m in a good place. Perhaps the best I’ve been in my life so far. Since retirement in 2017, the health challenges for Shirley and I in 2018, and on into the present I’ve managed to establish some good habits for me. Habits of regularly reading God’s Word, meditation, and journaling. These three things are what I now think of as the trifecta of well being or flourishing. Thankfully, retirement has afforded me the time to develop these habits, and circumstances have drilled some of them home. Reflecting now, after seeing and experiencing the benefits, I’m wistful that I didn’t carve out the time for them earlier in my life.

I’ve had some amazing encounters with God in my devotion and prayer time especially since the diagnosis of the recurrence of the lymphoma. His is my strength and refuge in times of trouble. My confidence is in Him. One of my “go to” bible passages is Psalm 91 especially verse 16 “with long life He will satisfy me”. I’m not satisfied yet so there is a long life ahead for me.

In a nutshell, feeling strong, confident, peaceful, upbeat and optimistic.

A tweak to upcoming events

A goose at St. Vital Park

A fine Friday for a walk in the park while keeping our distance from everyone. It was actually quite busy as one might expect on one of the first warmer “spring” (?) days. Groups of people sitting in lawn chairs at least 10′ apart is an odd sight as we adjust to the current situation. Folks were friendly, but generally switched to the other side of the road when passing.

Anyway, the updates. Shirley contacted the oncology nurse this morning to confirm that she would not be able to be with me for treatments or in person Dr. visits as per a posting on the CancerCare web site. Sure enough, just patients, no visitors or support people.

To protect the safety of patients and staff, CancerCare Manitoba must limit the number of people in the building.

Effective March 25, 2020, we are tightening our risk reduction measures. Support persons/escorts will not be allowed to accompany patients for visits except in exceptional circumstances. Pediatric patients are allowed only one parent/caregiver to be present at the appointment.You can use your personal cell phone to include another person in your appointment.

And while that was happening the nurse informed us that instead of a blood test & Dr. visit on Monday and chemo on Tuesday that it would be chemo on Monday from 8:30am to 4:30pm and again on Tuesday from 8:30am to 3:30pm. So, two long days in the chair hooked to an IV. And, by the way the volunteers who bring you snacks, beverages and soup for lunch won’t be there either. Thanks to my wonderful wife Shirley, I’ll be traveling with a substantial care pack to get me through the day.

Subsequent treatments will be faster but, with this first go around with the new drugs they want to go very slow and monitor for any adverse reactions. Of course I’m believing that this will just be two long boring days with no adverse reactions.

The PET scan and COVID-19

With the hospital complex on lock down things are a little different. While I’ve been to this facility before, only a handful of entrances are open.

I’d been directed to enter at 707 McDermott which is right next to the building that holds the PET scanner. There is a trailer in front of this door but also a large entrance sign with an arrow that seemed to me to indicate you should go around the trailer, which I do. Now I’m in HSC and I’m on my own to navigate through the maze of hallways. I end up over at the CancerCare building and after some phone calls I’ve got a guide assigned and it’s back to the 707 entrance, across a lane to a locked door where I tailgate in as a person is going out.

Now I’m in familiar territory and it’s up the elevator to the 7th floor. Except the elevator is totally locked off. Back in the lobby I meet up with the nurse who escorts me up.

Turns out that bypassing that trailer was my mistake. This is the intake/screening area, which I managed to totally bypass. If I’d gone in there they would have called the PET folks and I would have had a simpler entrance to the facility. Oh well, it was an adventure and a little welcomed extra walking.

After quite a few screening questions, a weigh in, a blood sugar level test and changing into hospital pant I’m placed into a fancy reclining chair and hooked to an IV

Sadly, they won’t use my newly installed port as protocol won’t allow them to be the 1st to test it out. No big deal, just a typical IV in the arm instead.

The hour flies by as the meds circulate through my system and then I’m in the machine. Twenty minutes with my arm over my head. The 1st pass is a CT scan and the longer, slower 2nd pass in the PET scan. Pretty uneventful as you feel nothing. I did get a tickle in my throat and they want you to hold still so there was some pretty serious concentration to suppress that urge. Once I’m set free its back into street clothes and I’m on my way.

Results will be discussed with the doctor on Monday March 30th.

Pre-PET Scan

Just a photo I took recently that I like. Nothing to do with anything here

Well, tomorrow is the PET scan and I guess I’m a little bored so here’s a trivial update and a little whining.

This testing stuff & COVID-19 is really messing up my workout schedule! I know this is trivial but whatever. Wednesday is normally my outside bike ride with a couple of fellow retirees. One of the guys now has his ride day limited to Tuesdays due to some facility restrictions so we’d planed on shifting our ride to Tuesday. Then the PET scan was scheduled on Tuesday. Then the PET scan was re-scheduled to Wednesday but part of the scan prep is no “strenuous exercise” for the preceding 24 hours. So, no Tuesday or Wednesday riding, and no weight lifting today, so here I am doing this .

Enough of that! On another note the port insertion procedure is healing up well and I’ve added to my scar collection. I’m sure there is a reason why they couldn’t cut on the pre-existing dotted line, just above the current incision bandage. :-). The one up on the neck is net new. Somehow last time then didn’t cut there, but the incision site seems to have been a lot bigger. Too much detail? I guess we all have some extra time on our hands.

Another pre-scan prep item is no sugar and no carbs so today is back on the Keto diet which is all good. Be safe.

Port Insertion

7am at Health Science Center and we get our surprise of the day thanks to Covid-19, no visitors in the hospital.

This means that Shirley is stuck in the lobby and I’m on my own. Not a problem for me but for “older” patients I’d think this would be quite distressing not to have someone with them.

7:15 and I’m in the 7th floor waiting room where nobody can sit next to anybody. I’m well positioned to be first in line when they come and get us at 8:30

From the last time I learned that as you leave the waiting room and enter the prep area you are placed in Bed 1, 2, 3 etc as you enter. Bed 1 gets the surgery 1st and then on down the line. So Bed 1 = less waiting.

I’m feeling good and as I recall the recovery is not too bad. Last time I was sun tanning in the back yard afterwards. I don’t think that will be happening today.

So, I’m put in Bed 2 and at 8:12 they took Bed 1 so I’m thinking I’m up in 30-40 minutes. Dr Harding is my guy for the procedure.

Mystery revealed! With conscious sedation you are fully awake and talking etc. At the end of the procedure they ask you to get off the OR table and back on the ward bed and you do it! They don’t lift you off! Last time I didn’t remember anything and always wondered how I got off the table.

9:25 and I’m back. So far I remember everything! They say that will go. Wheeled in and up on the OR table. The area is shaved. An ultrasound is done to insure things are good. Then prepped with antiseptic. My head is turned to the left so I don’t see what’s happening. I’m placed on oxygen There is an injection for freezing and some “sleepy” drugs are inserted in IV and then he begins. There are a few sharp pokes and pulls, nothing too crazy. A couple of techs are reviewing my last CT scan. A couple of stitches to hold the port from moving. Some clean up work and they are done. He seems to work crazy fast. I guess you get good doing 8 a day.

10:45 we’re back home and it’s time for a coffee. Still feeling good but the OR drugs are still in play.

Dates – Updated 2020/03/23

Winter Sunrise

Well the medical system is kicking into high gear and I’ve got a bunch of dates for upcoming events.

  • March 16: MUGA Scan at St. Boniface
  • March 18: Blood work at St. Boniface
  • March 20: Port Insertion at HSC
  • March 25: PET Scan at HSC
  • March 30 & 31: Chemotherapy starts March 30, 2020
  • April 6: First Meeting with the Bone Marrow Transplant folks at HSC CancerCare


A CT scan after Cycle 2 of chemotherapy which would put this test some time after April 21.

Shortly after this CT scan is done, the bone marrow transplant will take place

Encouragement

Over the last few days I’ve received wonderful support and encouragement via phone calls, emails, texts, and in-person. Also a couple of inspirational videos from some special people, much appreciated. Hope you enjoy them too!