Sunday, April 27, 2008

My wonderful friends and family

If nothing else, Frank's "arrival" has reminded me that I have a wonderful family and a wonderful bunch of friends. Everybody has been very supportive and I've had lots of offers to help (which I'm sure I will eventually take you all up on). However, two of my friends deserve special recognition today: John and Elinor.

John is one of my circus friends and I've know him almost nineteen years. Even though John is ten years younger than me, he has gone through two bouts of testicular cancer. John has given me a lot of good information (e.g., "when I got diagnosed and started getting scanned, they found a variety of stuff with me that didn't turn out to be anything") and a lot of good suggestions (e.g., make a list of things that you want to do upon completion of the whole ordeal). Knowing that John has been down the same road that I'm traveling on is a huge comfort.

I've known Elinor a bit longer than I've known John - thirty years. (Although I recently found out her first name is "Lisa" - so I guess you never really know somebody.) She and I went to high school together and we've somehow managed to keep up with each other all this time. When Elinor read about my mother-in-law's gift for Kyle, she emailed me and said she had thought of a way to help too. Last Thursday, 24 April 2008, a big box of precooked frozen dinners arrived on our doorstep for those "times when the last thing you guys want to think of is cooking." The food looks delicious and the seafood jambalaya is mine, all mine I tell you! Back off! Grrrrrr! But I digress... Even under low-dose chemo, I already can see that there are going to be days when doing more than reheating something in the microwave will be too much work.

So thank-you all for your kind words and offers to help, but especially thank-you to John and Elinor.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A bit of good news (Revised)

A few weeks ago I got the results of my PET scan. I was told the cancer was limited to the "pelvic region".

Well, not exactly...

It seems there was a little spot in my liver that was "suspicious". So, last week on Tuesday, 15 April 2008, I had an MRI to check-out my liver a bit more thoroughly. And the official results are...

I still have a "suspicious" spot in my liver. Specifically, I have a one centimeter spot in the upper dome of my liver. My oncologist, Dr. G, explained that there is a lot of weird stuff (my term, not his) going on in the liver and that it could be nothing. Or it could be cancer.

So here's the plan. Once I have finished my radiation and chemo treatment, I will have yet another MRI. If the spot is bigger or the same size, it's probably not cancer. On the other hand, if it has shrunk (presumably due to the chemo), it's likely a friend of Frank's.

Either way, I'm probably gonna lose a bit of my liver when Dr. M evicts Frank. If the biopsy comes back as cancerous, then I will get "more aggressive" chemo after surgery (oh joy!). If the biopsy comes back as "weird liver spot", then I will just get "aggressive" chemo. Either way I have lots of chemotherapy to look forward to. Fun, fun, fun! (Not)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Letter to Kyle: Month One

Note: Once a month, my favorite blogger, Heather Armstrong (aka dooce), writes a newsletter to her four-year-old daughter. So, stealing a page from her book, I've decided to write my five-year-old son, Kyle, a letter each month.

Dear Kyle:

It's been a month since we found out about "Frank the bump" (as you call him), and you and Mommy (and everybody else) have been very supportive about it. You've been good about letting me get more sleep, you've been pretty easy-going when I'm feeling grumpy, and you've been fantastic about getting out of the house early every morning for my radiation treatments. In addition to all of that, you had a big day last Friday (18 April 2008).

Black Racer watching with Mommy

Normally, you don't like it when you're awake and I'm asleep (apparently it offends your wa). However, this last month you've let me take long naps on Saturday and Sunday mornings and you've even let me take naps after work. Mommy deserves some of the credit; after all, she's the one who plays cool video games or makes water balloons with you while I'm asleep. Still I really appreciate you letting me sleep. Although Frank isn't hurting me, he is keeping me from getting a lot of sleep, so any extra sleep really helps.

Getting more sleep keeps me from being so grumpy. Usually, I get the grumpies around your bath time; you are the master at dragging out the time it takes to get into the bath. It's not like you hate baths, you love 'em. But, you're busy playing with your legos and dinosaurs and you hate having to stop to take a bath. (If we could hose you down while you played with your toys, you'd be all over that.) So, once you have resigned yourself to having a bath, then you have to do all the other things you've been putting off: feed your fish, go to the bathroom, get your clothes off, etc. By this time, you've "wasted" a good ten or fifteen minutes and I'm starting to get grumpy with you. Still, you manage to get in the bath, get clean quickly, and charm my grumpiness away. Best of all, you don't hold my grumpiness against me. Thanks (and I'll try to be less grumpy).

The cool new shirt Grandma Issie made for you

The other thing you've been really good about is getting ready in the morning. Normally, you like to take your time in the morning: wake-up, have some milk, watch the Science Channel, think about breakfast, help make Mommy's coffee, wake Mommy up, eat breakfast, get dressed, and then prepare to get ready to plan to think about leaving the house. But now that I have radiation treatments every morning at 8:10 AM, you've been cramming your normal two-hour morning routine into less than an hour. (Of course, it doesn't hurting that the Cancer Center has free chocolate chip cookies made with M&Ms. That kind of chocolaty goodness would motivate anybody.)

In addition to all of that, you had Kindergarten Orientation last Friday. At first you were a little apprehensive about going, but once we got there, you warmed-up to the whole concept. You walked-up to and introduced yourself to the Principal without any hesitation and you had no problem going to visit your new classroom with your new teacher while Mommy and I stayed in the lunch room and learned about the school. When you got back to the lunch room thirty minutes later, you showed us the necklace you made:

Kyle's necklace

Yes, you even wrote your name. (In mirror-writing too!) I couldn't be more proud of you. I think you are going to have a great time in Kindergarten starting this Fall.

This year is gonna be tough on all of us, but we're off to a good start. Thank-you.


Monday, April 14, 2008


Today I started radiation and chemotherapy. Both were a bit on the anti-climatic side.

The radiation machine (here-after referred to as the "Zap-a-tron 3000") itself is pretty cool looking. It's this massive box about half the size of a walk-in freezer with a big armature sticking out of it. The arm rotates in a circle about a bed/bench that is next to the machine. (See this image.)

The therapist let Marjorie and Kyle come back and take a look before they started zapping Frank. Kyle was very impressed as the therapist put the Zap-a-tron 3000 through its paces.

After the demo, Kyle and Marjorie went to the waiting room and I laid down on bed/bench and got my first of many doses of radiation. The Zap-a-tron 3000 whirled and clicked and buzzed for ten minutes, and then we were done. No glowing green rays, no dancing blue electric pulses, not even a panel with lots of cool lights and switches. Very boring.

Chemotherapy was even less interesting (which is really a good thing). I take four chemo pills twice a day. No needles, no IVs, no ports. Very, very boring.

Still, even though I find it boring, I hope Frank the tumor finds it all very scary and leaves.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My new tattoos

Now he's getting a tattoo.
Yeah he's gettin' ink done.
He asked for a '13',

But they drew a '31'.

"Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)"
The Offspring

Last Thursday, 3 April 2008, I went in for my first radiation planning session. While we were getting ready, the technician asked me to sign a release form that said the Cancer Center wasn't responsible for lost or stolen property, blah, blah, blah, and also to granting them permission to give me tattoos.

I thought, "Tattoos?" Very funny. Everybody in this here is a comedian. Nope, she was serious.

Then I thought, "Tattoos!" Yeah! Maybe a dragon or a busty babe with a sword. Or maybe even a "Mexican cutie". This cancer stuff is way cooler than I thought!

Sadly, the nice technician said, "no." These tattoos are about the size of a freckle and are used to line-up the equipment for the radiation treatments. Very boring.

So today, 10 April 2008, I went in for my second and final planning session and yes, I got tattooed:

Not very exciting, is it?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Life goes on: Young Amphibians in Love

Note: In spite of Frank, life goes on. I'm hoping to write a bunch of these posts as my treatment continues to 1. lighten things up a bit and 2. remind myself that my colon and I are not the center of the universe.

A couple of nights ago, we here in Central Florida had a fabulously soaking rain storm that lasted all night long. In addition to bringing us the rain we desperately needed, the storm brought us something else - Young Amphibians in Love.

As spring arrives and young amphibians (toads in this case) begin to think about continuing their species, nothing seems to put them in the mood like a good rain storm at night. It's like a Barry White album for frogs and toads. Played over and over and over ...

When the mood hits the toads in our yard, they head for the nearest body of water - the swimming pool. They stay there all night long doing their utmost to ensure that there will be future generations of toads. When the sun comes up, they're still in the pool doing the toad nasty. You gotta admire their dedication (not to mention their stamina). Alas, there is a small problem. They couldn't get out of the pool even if they wanted to. The sides of the pool are too high for them to escape their watery den of iniquity.

So it's up to Marjorie and I to fish the love-struck couples out of the pool with the net and toss them back in the yard. You would think they would be grateful for this act of kindness. Not a chance. They swim to the bottom of the pool, they jump out of the net, they do everything thing they can keep their Cialis-fueled activities going. (Like I said, you gotta admire their stamina.)

On Monday, it was Marjorie's turn to be the Vice squad. She'd rescue two and three couples and then go back inside the house. An hour or so later, she'd glance outside and see more toads making the eight-legged, double-backed, pool monster. By the end of the day, Marjorie foiled the romantic notions of no less than a dozen pairs of toads.

In spite of (or perhaps because of) Marjorie, life is still very sweet for our toads; they were back in the pool again last night. Life goes on.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A bit of good news

I got the results of the PET scan from Doctor D, the radiation oncologist, today: Frank's minions have not set-up shop anywhere else in my body. This means we just need to concentrate of the colon and the treatment plan does not need to be changed.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A gift from down-under

My wife, Marjorie, is Australian. Naturally enough, so is my mother-in-law, Vicki. When Vicki found out about my tumor, she was very supportive, but let's face it, there's not much she can do from the opposite side of the world. Or so I thought.

Today, my five-year-old son, Kyle, received a package from Grandma Vicki in Australia. Inside was every five-year-old boy's dream: a Roboreptile. It's a robot that looks like a dinosaur. It's got a remote control, it makes noise, and it's got attitude. Kyle loves it and has named it "Fido".

Vicki was worried that Kyle might need a special friend while I'm busy getting Frank evicted from my colon. Now he has one.

Thank-you Vicki for all of your help.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The story so far...

On Thursday, 20 March 2008, I went in for a colonoscopy. (I was having a few "issues" and the doc said this was a good way to check-up on that end of my system.) As the anesthesia was wearing off, the good doctor told me he found a "moderately sized mass" near my rectum and that it was "likely malignant". The biopsy results on Monday, 24 March 2008, confirmed it - malignant.

On Thursday, 27 March 2008, I drank 1.35 liters of yummy banana barium smoothie and had a CT scan. (I'll post some of the pictures later.) On Friday, 29 March 2008, my wife an I met with the colon/rectal surgeon, Doctor M. Doc M said the tumor was "big" and that we would need to zap ol' Frank with a bit of radiation before Doc M could evict Frank.

On Monday, 31 March 2008, my wife and I met with Doctor D, a radiation oncologist, and Doctor G, another oncologist. They said that as long as the cancer has not spread to other parts of my body, we would:

1. zap Frank with a bit of radiation and a low dose of chemotherapy for 5 to 8 weeks
2. let me recover for a month or so
3. have Doctor M slice out a section of my colon
4. hit me with a high dose of chemotherapy (to kill off the cancer cells still floating around my body)

The whole process will take about a year. Also, since I'm "so young" (I'm 44), they can be very aggressive in their treatment.

To make sure Frank has not set-up house elsewhere in my body, I had a PET scan today (which strangely did not involve any of our pets). I haven't gotten the results back yet. Hopefully, it will be good news (for a change).

So, here's the Reader's Digest condensed version:

1. I have colon cancer
2. We are going to treat it
3. I am not going to die from this
4. I'm going to live a long and happy life with my wife and son