Cycle 2 Day 1: Back in the chair

Here is where I’ll be spending the morning at St Boniface hospital getting my cycle 2 chemo treatment. Thanks to Mandy for the ride in. It was nice to see the grandkids who were banished to the 3rd row seating because they might have been exposed to something from some other kids. Apparently, I’m supposed to be careful about things like this as getting an infection would be a  BIG deal. Better safe that sorry in this case.

Just when you think your getting the hang of the routine there is something new. The “R” drug that was a 3 hour slow IV process is now a 5 minute injection since there was no problem with reactions to the 1st round. The nurse and I chat as she squeezes in the drug subcutaneously into my stomach area. Again, no adverse reaction, so all is good.

9:40 am and the “R” (rituximab) is done. Starting to feel a little sleepy from the benadryl and it’s on with the other drugs in the CHOP-R protocol.

The rest of the procedure is as expected, and the time seems to fly by. We’re done by 11:45 and Mandy picked us up for the ride home. Cycle 4 is scheduled for July 31, 2018.

While I don’t have a lot of experience with the group interactions in the chemo therapy room, today is proving quite interesting. One of the ladies across form me is quite talkative with all the nurses and with the lady in the chair next to her. They are both in their 40s and are sharing their beast cancer experience. The most hilarious discussion so far was that she went to high school with the surgeon that did her lumpectomy. Upon meeting her surgeon pre-op she told him that when in high school he likely wanted to see her breasts and that he now has “full access” to them 😄. I think the stories will continue all morning long.

Cycle 1 – Day 20: Pre-Cycle 2 Meeting

Today is getting some blood work done to make sure I’m good to go for tomorrow’s chemo session and meet with my oncologist.

The blood work results won’t be available today and I’ll get a phone call if there are issues. However, it should be good as last Wednesday’s results for the port insertion were good and today’s results should only be better.

Drawing the blood for the testing was the 1st use of the port and everthing went well. One of the benefits of the port is that blood is taken by the Cancer Care group and you skip the normal lab lineup.

When I meet with the Dr. we discuss my status, how I’m feeling and my symptoms, which are all improving, some more that others and I’m having minimal side effects from the chemo, which is great.

In addition to my symptoms decreasing my LDH (lactate dehydrogenase) which was 549 before the first chemo treatment is now 268, which is another positive sign that the tumor is decreasing and the cancer is leaving my body. Normal range in an adult is 100-199, so a little way to go here.

Cycle 1 – Day 17: Port Insertion

Carol J. picks us up at 6:30am and we’re off to HSC for the procedure. After admitting it’s up to the 7th floor where they don’t start until 7:30, so it’s the waiting room for a while until they come and get us.

Feels like a bit of a factory as 3 of us are called in to Bed 1,2 &3 and the wonderful hospital gowns are doned. This is the staging and recovery area. Meds and an IV are given along with a verbal history. The nurse and the Dr. explain the procedure and the port device in great detail and answer any questions.

After about a 40 minute wait, it’s my turn. They wheel you to the OR and I hop up on the table. Now the serious meds are given, they shave and drap the area and the Dr is ready to go. This is the last I remember until I’m back in the recovery area. 15-20 minutes here and we’re on our way. I hit the Starbucks for a coffee and sous vide eggs as we wait for Carol J. and our ride home.

I’m feeling good, just a little achey in the right shoulder area. This should be the last non-routine adventure.

Kicking back after the insertion.

Cycle 2 starts on July 10th.

Cycle 1 – Day 15: Hair Part 2

Thanks to Des who made the hair cut an enjoyable and fun event. You are so compassionate, caring, encouraging, loving and kind and made what might have been a bit of a traumatic event into a fun family time, thanks!. And here are the photos!

The barber at work
The close-up


Cycle 1 Day 15 – Hair

Well today is the day where my hair and I have decided to part company. Actually, I didn’t agree to that but it just decided to do it all by itself. The Kojack cut is imminent. Not sure if there will be pictures right away. Perhaps after I get used to it and it’s a bit tanned.

I can’t help but noticing bald guys right now. In fact while sitting around waiting for some blood work this morning I saw a guy with a shaved head and a tan and it looked good. Hope I look that good too!

Cycle 1 Day 13 – Symptoms

The chemo is having a positive effect on the various symptoms I’ve experienced due to the tumor. The 1st thing I noticed is the shoulder pain at night when first going to sleep that has been going on since February. This was first in the left shoulder, then the right, and then across the upper back. This has now been gone for over a week.

The next one is a little weird. When swallowing my morning medications and vitamins I’d normally just down them all in one go. However, for quite some time the swallow was fine but it felt like the pills were struggling to go all the way down and it was a little uncomfortable. I’m chalking this one up to some sort of compression obstruction. For a while I was swallowing the big ones one at a time now it’s back to all at once, no problem.

The shortness of breath is also improving. I can walk up from the lake to the driveway without being totally winded and having to stop to recover, over 75 vertical feet. I just did a single flight of stairs without even thinking about it where as previously I’d notice the impact.

The coughing may be a bit better, hard to tell. Taking a really deep breath I still feel that urge to cough and sometimes a little pain. I think it’s better, but not super sure yet. Talking can still trigger coughing and sometimes my voice is still weak.

Overall, things seem to be improving which leads me to belive that the chemo is having the desired effect, a good thing!

Cycle 1 – Day 6: A new life skill

Just another 1st today as I get a lesson on how to give myself an injection.

This little syringe is pre-loaded with a man-made protein called granulocyte colony-stimulating factor or G-CSF for short. I thought the IT industry had the corner on acronyms but the medical field is right up there. The purpose is to help my body generate neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that is important in fighting infection and which the chemo drugs do a number on.  Bonus for us over 65 is that it’s covered by the government as part of the treatment program.

So, after a training session where I learn the Five Rs

  • Right patient
  • Right drug
  • Right location
  • … and a couple more that ‘ve already forgotten.

And the process:

Basically, 2″ away from the belly button and a little below, clean with wipes, jab at a 45 °angle, inject and your done. This happens 5 times on Day 6-10 of every cycle.

I’m a certified drug injector.  🙂 or 🙁 , not sure.

Cycle 1 – Day 3

Well, I guess you can’t put this many crazy drugs in your system without something happening. I wake up at about 1:30 am, not too unusual for a bathroom run and some water, but then I’m wide awake, I listen to my self breath for about an hour before I get up. To bad it’s so early, I feel like I could go out and cut the grass. I’m sure that would impress the neighbours!

I’m feeling OK generally but I’m noticing a bit of a stuffy feeling in my head and sinus area along with a very slight headache feeling. 

I wonder what the rest of the day will bring? Actually I’m wondering what the next 122 days will bring. But, as they say, one day at a time.

Cycle 1 – Day 1

Today’s verse, I’m going to rely on this.

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Today is the 1st day of the treatment part of the journey. Chris Ford drives us to HSC and we get checked in. Before you know it I’m in chair #5, swallowed a truck load of pills and the IV is started.

After some pre-treatment meds in the IV they start the 1st of 4 IV drugs, Rituximab. I they are watching quite closely for a possible reaction and ramping up 50ml/hr every 1/2hr. This will take all morning and into the afternoon. Once this is done it’s cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and vincristine all together for another couple of hours. This along with the Prednisone taken earlier will complete the CHOP-R protocol.

The day seems to fly by and I get lots of support from family and friends. Shirley is with me most of the morning, but it’s pretty boring sitting around looking at me, so Mandy picks her up for lunch and drops her back home. Lots of good text messages with folks keep me busy for part of the time. That along with some podcasts, P&W music, and Pastor Leon messages on healing make the afternoon quite enjoyable. A visit from Pastor Goertzen is a big plus and he shared his cancer experiences and the Word. Bonus is that I’m finishing up and he gives me a ride home so we get a little more hang time, which is excellent.

End of day, I’m feeling good, no reactions to the treatment.

The Biopsy

Yesterday, we met with the thoracic surgeon and his team late in the day. There is a crazy whirl wind of questions, reviewing the CT, forms, phone calls etc. and suddenly I’m being admitted later that night! I can go home, have some dinner, gather my stuff and report back directly to the ward for about 8p.m. and the biopsy is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

This is all happening very quickly which in a way is good but, my mind is racing to catch up on what’s about to take place. When I hear “biopsy” I thing some sort of big needle poke and grab operation to get the sample. But oh no, it’s surgery. A 2″ horizontal incision in my upper left chest, some fishing around between the ribs, head over to the centre of the chest an cut out a sample. For the pros, the procedure is called a left anterior mediastinotomy 

When I checkin to the ward I’m put in a room with 3 other patients across from the nursing station and I can tell its going to be a noisy restless night. I brought the noise cancelling Bose headphones, so I’m sure that will help. Then, the favour of God takes over and out of the blue the charge nurse shows up and says “We have a better room for you.” It’s an isolation room that’s not currently needed and I now have a spacious private room!  Thursday nights sleep is very nice and peaceful.

Lots of waiting on Friday and the time slips to late afternoon. The procedure goes well and I’m back on the ward Friday evening, complete with a chest tube draining some interesting stuff into a bag. Because of the procedure, the pressure of the tumor and the fact that I use a CPAP machine it’s decided I need constant monitoring all night long. This means a person is in the room all night long with me, watching. Very weird. This goes OK, except that in the early a.m. she is texting and have the sound on so there are quite a few “bing”, “bing” bing” sounds punctuating the night.

Saturday noon they remove the chest tube and I’m discharged