Monthly Archives: August 2008

Where Did August Go?

I’m sure I am not the only one thinking that right now.  I love the Fall so I am not feeling too bad it is over.  Hopefully the rest of you actually got outside and enjoyed the last month of Summer.

I’m one month and a day post surgery.  I’d like to say everything is fine, but I still have my challenges.  I have made it to work the past 4 days, working 8 hours yesterday and 9 hours today.  Work is a nice distraction and I actually feel productive.   Today my staff almost kicked me out the door and I am glad they did.  I continue to have cramping in my colon so I decided to spend the last half of the afternoon on the phone with my team of nurses and doctors.  Long story short, they agreed with me that things aren’t quite where they should be and scheduled me for a CT Scan.  I believe that most of Dr. Belzer’s patients by this point are on a regular diet and are not taking Vicodin to deal with their pain.  I’m thankful for my surgeon, Dr. Belzer.  He was nice enough (bold enough) to sign off on the scan.  I am guessing CT’s are expensive so I had to ask my Oncologist and Surgeon to consult on this one.  I guess if they both agreed then either the Insurance companies or their Superiors would agree that the procedure was necessary and they wouldn’t get in trouble.  I think that they really want to help their patients but are bound by certain constraints.

My CT scan is next Tuesday morning.  They will be looking for a blockage of somewhere in the colon.  If the blockage is bad enough, then I am admitted and they do another surgery to cut out the blockage.  The blockage could be scar tissue, food or just the way it healed.  My guess is that my colon is similar to a garden hose that is pinched off in a couple places.  Any food I eat gets stuck in one of the pinched off areas.  That causes the colon behind the pinched off area to expand and swell, that’s when I feel the pain.  The pain goes away as the food or gas slowly gets through that pinched off area and then moves to the next section.   The more food I eat or the bigger the meal, the more pain then I get to feel (hey what a great rhyme!)  so I am staying with a low residue/liquid diet.  If I can get away with fruit/veggie/protein shakes for the better part of the weekend, I will probably feel better.

Overall I still feel pretty good.  I still walk about 3 miles per day (it just takes me a good hour of resting before and a good hour afterwards to recover).  The Chemo. effects have all worn off and I feel pretty good (other than that little colon pain problem).  The kids are doing great.  Karen had the day off and took them to the beach twice!   Poor Brenden’s world is going to come crashing down, as he starts Kindergarten in less than a week.  We have been mentally preparing him for it for 6 months and he has visited with his teacher twice, so it won’t be too bad.   Lucky for Karen and I we have other mental things to focus on so sending our first kid off to school won’t be as traumatic as I worried it was going to be-it’s all about perspective.

Off to take another Vicodin-sweet dreams everyone,

Chris

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Chemo Set 1, done.

Sorry I haven’t posted for a couple days.  I have been dealing with a few new/old issues, more on that later.

I’m glad to have the first set of chemo. behind me.  I learned a lot about what each one will be like so I will better know what I can and can’t do during the treatment.  As Karen posted a couple days ago, it was a rollercoaster.  The day of my initial injection, I felt pretty good.  Day 2 I felt fatigued and started to lose my appetite.  Day 3 I was more fatigued, got a fever and had to force myself to find something to eat.  I thought I would start to pull out of it on the night of Day 3 as they detached my chemo. bottle that day, but that night was my worst night of sleep.  That night was a weird one and a tough one.  I went to sleep early but found myself with a high fever, a little sick to my stomach and uncomfortable all night.  I slept for only a couple hours.  I actually had visions during the night of first a lady standing in my room coaching me on what I could do to alleviate my pain and fever.  Next my brother was in my room doing the same thing.  The whole experience was unsettling.  Day 4 things started to get a little better, although I was still fatigued (napping in the morning and afternoon) and had no appetite.  Day 5(Sunday) I finally started to come around.  I got up walked 3 miles and then went to church.  At noon Karen went out and got me an Arby’s Roast Beef and Curly Fries as my appetite was back!  The problem was my Colon started to wake up from the Chemo. haze it was in and began to rebel.  I met with my Colon Dr. 10 days ago and he said I could start transitioning back to a regular diet.  Let me tell you those Curly Fries shouldn’t be on anyone’s “regular diet”.  At 3 p.m. on Sunday my roller coaster ride decided to go into a full speed downward spiral.  Karen had left with the boys to give me a chance to nap.  When she got back she found me laid out with a fever of 100 and Colon Cramps that were hitting the pain scale at “8”.  My stomach was so weak I didn’t want to take anything for the pain as I guessed it would come back up.  As I write this right now,  I still have cramps but nothing compared to what they were that night.  Needless to say I didn’t go to work on Monday, but rather laid around and rested.  I managed to keep Cheerios that day down so that is what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Since I kept that down I treated myself to 1/2 a vicodin.  The vicodin knocked out a lot of the pain.  I had an appointment with the Colorectal Surgeon( Dr. Belzer) today.  Dr. Belzer thinks that I have a lot of extra scar tissue built up due to all the extra surgery, stitching and my distended bowel.  All that scar tissue has added up to a very small circumference inside my colon.  What that means is all the food going through is going to give me some problems for the time being.  He switched me back to a low residue diet (jello, cottage cheese, apple sauce, etc…).  He feels over time that my colon will slowly get back to normal and that the scar tissue will go down.  In the mean time it is a bland diet and vicodin to help me get through this latest challenge.  If I continue to have problems he will get me in for a CT scan in a couple weeks.  As he said it is tough right now to make accurate judgments on what is happening inside my body now that I am on a chemo. regiment too.  I am now down to 162 lbs.  This cancer diet really works!   After all that my Dr. cleared me to work and I did manage to get in almost 5 hours of work today.  It wiped me out.  Seriously I am ready to get off this roller coaster ride right now and find the cheese curds.

Good night and God bless,

Chris

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A rollercoaster weekend

Hello to all!  Karen writing tonight as Chris has had a rough afternoon.  He’s running a fever and having some stomach cramping right now.  The boys came back from grandpa and grandma’s house today.  The noise level went up so I took them to a beach for a while so Chris could sleep.  When I got home, he had a fever of 100 and pain at an 8 on the scale.  So I bribed my kids with a toy (bad mommy!) and took them to work with me.  I told them if they could be quiet for 30 minutes we would go to Target and get a toy.  Hence the reason that R2D2 and a jaguar are now living at my house.  And yes I know, many of you have volunteered to watch the boys and I would have taken someone up on it, but Chris had been feeling better earlier today so I thought he was going to do it.  When I got home I preety mich had to leave right away and I knew it was going to be a short meeting.  The boys were good and we were gone long enough for Chris to get some more rest.  Chris has seemed to feel much better in the mornings.  He walked 3 miles this morning and felt pretty good until about 4:00 this afternoon.  He also had a bad night on Friday night when he was cramped up and running a fever. He was up most of the night.  So he’s been up and down, it can change so fast.  He may go to work for half a day tomorrow depending on how he’s feeling.  That’s all I have time for tonight.  Have a great week and I try to keep you up to date if there’s time.

Karen

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A Day with the Baty Boys

Batter up!

Batter up!

Good evening to all!  Karen doing the post tonight as Chris is feeling some what wiped-out.  We were all home today as I had the day off and the boys were home with me.  Chris held his place on the couch.  We  started our morning with a recap of the new “daddy rules”(i.e. do not pull the cords out of dad’s chest, do not grab dad’s”water bottle”)  I call it a water bottle, well, because it looks like a water bottle to the kids.  The boys did well with the recap and we did not have any disconnection issues.  Chris got up and felt o.k. so he decided to take a two mile walk before it got to hot and humid.  He did just fine with it.  The boys in the meantime took in a Ben 10 episode and had their morning juice.  Chris rested then while the boys and I went outside to play for the morning.  Chris actually had 2 slices of pizza for lunch and a 6 inch Subway for dinner.  After lunch we all had naptime.  My parents came later that afternoon and entertained Chris.  The boys spent some time outside with Grandma having a water fight.  I walked outside and Grandma had the hose and was spraying them down.  Now, why didn’t I think of that?  After dinner Brenden had his last bug chasing playdate, I mean T-ball game.  Brenden and his buddy Andrew caught a moth and a grasshopper during warm-ups.  They were very excited about that.  Grandpa Stratton coached first base.  Brenden then received his new gold medal.  Then the boys were wisked away for the weekend by grandpa and grandma.  Yee-ha!   So the rest of the evening our house will be quiet and peaceful for Chris to do some sleeping.  That’s about all for now.  Karen-over and out.

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Soccer, Abdominal Cramps and Chemo.

First from the soccer world….

The Speech

My “Win one for the Gipper” speech didn’t work out last night. The kids tried hard and no one built a sand castle, but we still lost 4-0. We have a 4 year old girl who loves to play goalie. We let her play goalie first last night, but that wasn’t enough for her. Throughout the game she would go back and try to talk our current goalie into switching places with her. During three of these “discussions” the other team took advantage and scored putting us behind 3-0. Her Mom (who used to be one of my employees in my Proex days) yelled at me to tell her to get out of the goal. I then quickly reminded her that her daughter took after her and that she never listened to me either-her husband got a kick out of that!

Abdominal cramps…

Yesterday I also went to work. I worked almost 8 hours but was dragging when I left the building. I then went home, rested and then willed myself to soccer as it was the last night. The problem is I started having abdominal cramps about 3 in the afternoon. These cramps would come on about every 20 minutes at first and then last for about 30 seconds. By 9 p.m. these cramps would happen about every 5 minutes and peak on the pain scale around “7”, with 10 being the worst pain in the world. I could sense them coming on, they would peak and then subside. At 9 p.m. I also had a fever so I called my Dr. I told him my guess is that I was having a bad side effect to the Metronidazole (the drug Dr. Belzer prescribed to get rid of potential bad bacteria in my colon). He agreed that I was probably right. He said to quit taking it, take some Ibuprofen or Vicodin for the pain and follow-up with them in the morning . Believe it or not, after taking 2 Ibuprofen and doing my best to pray, meditate and relax I was able to sleep from 10 p.m. till 4 in the morning. I still have the cramps now but they are only once every 2 hours and hit only a “4” on the pain scale.

Chemo…

My first treatment was today from 2-5:30 p.m. It is 6:30 p.m. as I write this, so far so good. The cycle I am on is every 14 days I will go in, get blood drawn, review side effects with a doctor, have 3 hours of treatment and then go home with my mini-pack for 46 hours more of treatment at home. The drugs that I am on are: Leucovorin, Oxaliplatin, Fluorouracil (also called FU5). When they start my treatment they access my port. That means they stick a needle into my port and hook up IV tubes and bags of the drugs. The first drugs they put into me are a steroid (don’t remember the name) and some anti-nausea medication (Zophran-I believe). After about 30 minutes of that they then switch to the Leucovorin/Oxaliplatin mix. Leucovorin actually helps prevent some of the side effects of cancer. Leucovorin is a vitamin that is similar to folic acid. Oxaliplatin is the main drug. It is the most powerful and side effects can be felt from it within hours. Oxaliplatin is a relatively newer drug and is so strong that they limit the amount of times you can be on it. After two and half hours of those two drugs they send me home with a water bottle of FU5. FU5 or Fluorouracil has been around for 50+ years. The water bottle( or minipack as I previously called it) is something newer also. The needle and IV tubing stays attached to my body. They then attach the other end of the tubing to this water bottle that slowly pulls the Chemo from the bottle and into my body through the port. Right now I have that bottle in the pocket of my cargo shorts. This is a step up from the pump they were going to attach as the pump is noisy and this you don’t even here. I am no physics major so I won’t easily explain how it works. Inside the bottle is a small bag similar to a playtex baby bottles that have bags within them. As the chemo runs out of the bag it shrinks until it is gone. I keep this bottle attached to my body at all times until I see the doctor again in 46 hours. Sleeping will be a little bit of a challenge. At that next appointment they detach the bottle and tubing and inject me with something to sterilize the lines within my body so it is ready for the next round.

The side effects and possible dangers from all of these are pretty extensive. If anything happens to the bottle or tubing I have to clean up the chemo, sterilize my own lines, clip off the line and then head to the emergency room. Chemo is pretty nasty stuff. If you spill it on yourself you will burn your skin. To clean it up you need to be wearing gloves, mask and gown. The side effect I felt almost right away was the sensitivity to cold. When Karen and I were leaving my appointment I felt pretty good, just thirsty. She gave me a bottle of water that had been out of the fridge for almost 5 hours. I drank some of it and it hurt my throat a little bit as it felt too cold. That is one of the maid side effects of Oxaliplatin. From now on I have to eat and drink everything at neutral temperatures-no ice cream for me. If I have to take anything out of the freezer I have to wear gloves. Other side effects from all of them: numbness in fingers and toes, a feeling of your throat closing, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (been there, done that), mouth sores, decreased white blood cells(so I will pretty much catch every virus), hives, itchiness, rash, loss of appetite and hair loss. For the record, My Oncologist doesn’t think I will lose my hair, get nauseated or lose weight. I don’t believe him on the nausea so to stave off those feelings I am now taking yet another drug called Prochlorperazine. For those of you keeping track at home-that is 6 new drugs in my body today alone.

I or Karen will keep you posted on how I do through this first set. Chemo has a cumulative effect. Basically the drugs burn both good and bad cells out of your system. On about day 7 of my 14 day cycle the good cells start to come back and my body ramps itself up for the next treatment. The problem is that your body can never get back to its original level before your next treatment, so as the treatments wear on your body wears out. Thank goodness football season is almost upon us! I will enjoy this wearing out period from the comfort of my couch staring at game after game. Hey the rest of you football fans might want to get in on this action!

Keep those well wishes and prayers coming,

Chris

Verse dedicated to me for today’s procedure: Mark 16:17&18

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Quick Post

Hey all,

I have been doing fine and feeling fine.  I still have some soreness in both my lower abdomen and chest where they put the port in, but I’m only at a “1” on the pain scale.  I have been walking around 5 miles every day as my legs are strong, I just start off and end up walking bent over part of the time.

I actually went back to work today and it felt fine!  I worked from 6:15-3 p.m. and actually accomplished a few things.  I am just so thankful that I made it back in the 2 week time frame vs. the 6 week time frame they said it might take.  Everyone at work is so supportive it is great!   Scott, at work, was so supportive that he thought it would be a good idea for me to wear a cowbell around so no one runs into me.  Aren’t they the greatest?  In all seriousness, the ownership and all the employees have been extremely supportive and I feel truly blessed.

Tomorrow is the last soccer game of the year for my team and it is time to crack the whip on these 4 & 5 year olds.  I am amazed how quickly things have gone south for my team since I have been on the disabled list.  As an example, last week one player had the gall to make yet another sand castle in the front of the goal while the game was going on.  Did I mention that this little guy was turned 180 degrees in the wrong direction as the other team came racing down the field and kicked the ball right past him?  One guess who that player was-if you guessed my youngest Jaxson you were right!  Let’s just say the sheriff is back in town and some players are going to have to earn their gold medals tomorrow night.

Good night and God bless you all, I need to get back to breaking down soccer films.

Chris

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Another hurdle behind me

Today I went back to my 2nd home-Methodist Hospital.  I was definitely dragging my feet on this one.  I have been feeling pretty good, got my appetite back and even walked 11 miles over the past 2 days.  I walk slow and not with great form, but I made it.  I literally feel like a warrior that is in a battle.  The scars are starting to add up-5 total between my waist and neck now.  Today they added 2 more to my chest.  Throw in 2 broken noses that didn’t heal right when I was 17 and a knee surgery when I was 9 and my body would make one great Med School pop quiz.

First I met with my Colorectal surgeon, Dr. Belzer.  He seemed very impressed with my progress and how I looked.  He, however, was not impressed that my bowels had not returned to normal.  Don’t you hate when everything is going well in a Dr. appointment and then you share one small bit of information and you find yourself in trouble?  Dr. Belzer thinks there is a chance that I have some type of bacteria now in my colon.  He prescribed a drug that is supposed to kill the bacteria and set my body right.  The only problem is it also makes everything taste a little metallic and can possibly cause me to lose feeling in my fingers and toes.  Those side effects are very similar to chemo. so he double-checked with the Oncologist to make sure they wouldn’t interfere before prescribing.  All in all I am happy with the surgery but not excited to add a drug to my regiment, after all I just got my appetite back.

After that appointment, Brian and I headed toward the other side of the campus to get to my surgery on time.  Today they installed the port into my chest.  Here are some examples of what they look like:

The tube part goes into the vein in your chest.  The bigger circular area is the part they insert the needle into.  The port is below the skin so you just see a small lump on my chest.  Each time they need to either draw blood or administer chemo., they need to stick a needle into my chest and pierce the middle of the eye of the port.  As horrible as that sounds, I have been told by several other patients that this method is the best vs. your arms always getting so abused.  The Port stays in me until I am finished with chemo.

Todays surgery went smooth and I was pleasantly surprised to be at home around 4 p.m. with little or no side effects.  The Doctor was an hour behind schedule and they screwed up one of my IV’s, but other than that I felt pretty good.  During the procedure you are partially knocked out-similar to a Colonoscopy.  The drug cocktail they gave me was great.  It calmed me down, took away almost all the pain and also settled my stomach.  Tonight I am just worn out and ready to continue my healing.  My chest feels weird and it hurts a little, but very tolerable.  I walk around very slow and move like I have a chest brace on.  All in all I am glad to have one more thing behind me and to be back at home.

One very weird/awkward moment I have to share-hopefully it puts a smile on your faces.  As I was getting ready to leave my nurse was getting ready to release me and was addressing Brian Banick ( my friend and babysitter for the day) on how to best take care of my new wounds.  She said something to the effect of how nice it was for me to have someone like Brian taking care of me at home through all of this.   Apparently she had decided since there was not a girl there waiting by my bedside, that we were gay.  At this point we had to delicately explain to her that my wife would be taking care of me at home, not my “friend”.

Thanks for all the love, prayers and support.  All those prayers helped me have a relatively smooth day.

Chris

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