Cycle 3 – Day 16: Tough Ride

I was out on the bike today riding with my usual Wednesday group but things didn’t go as expected.

I use my cycling experiences as a way of gauging how I’m doing physically. With the heart rate monitor, power metre and just how I’m handling the pace with my fellow riders I can judge pretty accurately if things are getting better or worse.

A few weeks ago I had a great ride on the same route. Lots of energy and able to ride up the hills with the group no problem. This week, not so much. It was a real struggle on the last 30km just to keep going and get back home. I found this to be quite discouraging.

Now there were some mitigating factors that probably played into my struggles. Just before leaving home I was checking over the bike because on the last ride the front derailleur was not shifting up into the big ring. As I investigated, the cable snapped! This would be a simple repair, but not in the next 10 minutes. I needed to leave shortly to meet the group at 10am.

Decision time, skip the ride or take another bike. I really wanted to ride so the next best bike for the group ride is Jake the Snake, my cyclocross bike. This is a great bike but significantly different from the Kuota Kharma carbon road bike. Jake is heavier, tires are 40mm vs. 23mm etc. but I thought I could overcome these differences with a little extra effort and be able to keep up with the group.

Jake is not as bad as this but at times it felt like it. ­čśÇ

We joke all the time about how flat our rides are here in Manitoba and often say the lack of climbing is compensated by the Prarie wind. Well, today there was a fairly strong wind from the south, so the first half of the ride would be straight into it.

I don’t like to blame my equipment or the weather for a bad ride, but I think they both played into my difficulties.

A short distance into the ride I knew that there was going to be a problem. I limited my time on the front and tried to stay in the draft as much as possible. Around the half way mark I couldn’t maintain the 30-32km/hr pace and was dropping off the back. The group is really great and they know my situation and inspite of me telling them to go on without me they slowed the page to a more manageable 28-30km/hr and stuck with me to the end of the ride.

So in the end I’m left wonder was it the bike, the wind, me or all three? I’ll discount the wind a there is almost always some of that to contend with. The bike for sure would make some difference but I wouldn’t have thought it would have accounted for my extreme fatigue and the struggle to complete the ride. That leaves “me” as the most likely factor. I don’t like to think that the chemo is making me weaker and having this kind of effect on my endurance. On the last 2 group rides I’ve been “that slow guy” that is holding everyone else back. I got to admit I don’t like that feeling but I guess that’s just the way it is right now. Also, it makes me a little worried about the impact of the next 3 cycles (9 weeks). Will I get even weaker or was this just a blip? I guess time will tell.

Cycle 3 – Day 1: Always something new

Today I’m back at St. Boniface Hospital for the start of Cycle 3 and the now familiar pills, injections and IV drugs which are having great effect on reducing the cancer symptoms.

However, just when you think you know what to expect, something new happens. Shortly after the┬áRituximab injection I started to have a little tickle in my throat and was coughing a bit. The nurse noticed this right away and started asking questions about it and took my vital signs (all good) and looked at the injection site for any redness etc. (none found). She then called the oncologist and they decided to classify this as a “reaction” to the drug. As a result I was give more Benadryl via IV and about an additional 30 minutes of monitoring before resuming the other chemotherapy drugs. The coughing was quite minor and stopped in about 10 minute so I didn’t think much of it but they took it quite seriously. The net result was that the session was a fair bit longer that the last time due to delay in getting started plus this mid-treatment time-out as well as a very lazy afternoon as the Benadryl seemed to make me quite tires/sleepy.

Cycle 2 – Day 21

Blood testing and Doctor visit today in preparation for the start of Cycle 3 tomorrow.

For some strange reason I’m a little apprehensive about tomorrow’s chemo. Perhaps it’s that the mystery is gone after having treatments at both HSC and St. Boniface and from here on in it should be about the same. Perhaps it’s the realization about how long this will be and how much is still ahead. Perhaps it’s the way cancer, the drugs, the injections, the schedule and symptoms are always in the back of my mind if not in the forefront. I’m trying not to let this occupy all of my life but it feels like so much is on hold until this is dealt with.

I’m finding it difficult with all that’s happened so far in 2018 as well as making the adjustment into retirement to find my purpose and establish the flow and rhythm of my life that makes sense for me.

Cycle 2 – Day 14: All Good

I haven’t posted for a while and I’m feeling like I should add to the blog but in reality not too much is happening, which is a good thing.

My symptoms continue to be less and less and by that I mean I’m feeling pretty normal. Chemo side effects are minimal so it seems like future Cycles are likely to be like 1 &2, also a good thing.

I’m spending quite a bit of time at the lake both with just Shirley and I as well as lots of weekends with family and friends, more goodness.

Cycle 2 – Day 2: Sleepless in Seattle

Well, actually Sleepless in Winnipeg. I’m awake at 2am and it seems like going back to sleep is not an option and I get up at 2:45. Other than this I’m feeling fine, perhaps a very slight headache.

A good time to catch up on the Tour de France and watch Stage 4. Will Peter Segan take the win?

The peloton cruising along at 51 km/h

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 ┬áBIG 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 ­čśä. 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┬áand 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