Wednesday, April 30, 2008

1st Day of Chemo - April 29

I woke at the usual 7:00 am today, which is routine for me at the Larock house as I begin to prepare for another day of work.

However, today I wasn't going to work. Instead it was my first day of Chemotherapy at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.

Our son Trent had asked the day before if he could join his mother and I on the adventure to Toronto. I, as well as his mother, thought it would be a good experience for the 11 year-old to witness in person that his father was not going to be hurt in anyway today but rather that the medicine he would receive will be given to help slow down the cancerous disease.

The day started out as usual with me anxious to get on the road while Trent and Jennifer took their sweet time. The trip was the usual 1.5 hours in length with, of course, two pee breaks in between. Once for Mom and the second for Dad.

When we arrived at PMH, I knew exactly where we were going. It's a place that I have been many times before and if you've never been there, I hope you never have to go. Don't get me wrong the Hospital is a wonderful place but from the first time I stepped through the door I've been amazed at the fact that this Hospital services ONLY patients with cancer. And there isn't just a few people in the lobby. There must be thousands in and out the door everyday. Not to mention the number of patients in the rooms upstairs. It certainly is an eye opening experience to say the least. And a very sad one as well.

Off topic - One day I read the many different types of cancers followed at the PMH. I was amazed at everything from lung, kidney, breast (which are the obvious) but then there is throat, testicle and eye cancer. Can you imagine having eye cancer? That would be horrible. But as I found out later when talking with my doctor, eye cancer is perhaps one of the lucky forms of cancer to have because you see with eye cancer, once you remove the eye... the cancer is... gone. You can always live and even drive with one eye.

Back to chemo day 1... After you arrive at the Daycare Chemo Clinic there tends to be a lot of what 'normal' people would call waiting. For us 'not normal' people this is called hospital patience. The problem is that there are so many people with cancer and more than 100 different types of chemotherapy drugs that you simply have to wait your turn. We waited approximately an hour to see the nurse who would administer my drugs. He was a nice fellow, Mike, who looked a little like Eddie Murphy, so Trent said. Jennifer and Trent watched and listened, as Mike, read through the many side effects that can take effect following Chemo. I knew the list because I've done a little research. I'm usually good with side effects which should help in my treatments. I didn't have many with radiation and I am hoping the same with Chemo. I was a tad mesmorized by the amount of times Mike mentioned nausea and vomitting because quite honestly I really hate doing it.

Then came time for Mike to adminster by injection I.V. the drug Prochlorperazine (pro-klor-pare-a-zeen) to help eleviate nausea or vomitting which is a main side effect of chemo. I was thankful to start with that one.

That process took approximately 15 minutes and then came time for the actual chemo drug entitled Gemcitabine (Jem-Site-a-been) which was again injected through an I.V. (as seen in the photo). This process took approximately 30 minutes. During this period we took photos with my cell phone camera of the event and Trent and I had a free juice and cookie supplied by one of the many tremendous volunteers at the PMH. A third and final solution was administered following the Gemcitabine to flush the system and prepare me to go home for the day. I think Trent was as drained as I was by this time and so we were both happy to leave the hospital hand in hand.

The whole procedure from arrival to out the parking lot was 2 hours. In total we left at 9:30 am and arrived home at 4:35 pm. I slept in the car on the road home because during the ride I suddenly felt like someone had hit me in the head with a hammer and I fell asleep rather quickly. I awoke just in time to turn into the laneway.

I truly think the day was important for Trent. It demonstrated to him two very important things. First, I was not harmed in any way during the procedure which might have been a concern for him going in. Secondly, it showed Trent that I am truly sick with something and that I do need some sort of medication. You see to him, I'm normal. Up until Monday I was working and coaching lacrosse. I had just gotten home from our last NLL games on the weekend in Minnesota and Chicago and I'm not surprise my boy was wondering "how come my Dad has become so sick so fast". He now knows it's not like that. The medicine I am receiving is going to help.

You see I had a revelation on the weekend while I was asleep in Minnesota.

Suddenly in the night I woke up and I said to myself, self... maybe, just maybe this chemo treatment will work. If I believe in it and give it a chance then perhaps it will stop, control and maybe even destroy the cancer cells that are currently growing in my lungs. And that would definitely extend my life.

Before that revelation I was too focused on dying rather than focused on living. All the news I have been given over the past two years has been negative. Oh... you have might cancer but its a slime chance.. but it was. Oh.. you have cancer but we'll get the rest with radiation... but they didn't and finally... Oh.. it's back and it's not curable.... well you know what? Maybe it is... I'm going to take the positive side of the road and focusing on it is from now on and so here's to hoping and praying that this funny 11-letter word Gemcitabine (Jem-Site-a-been) is going to work. Will you hope and pray with me?

Thanks for reading and sharing...

Next Blog - Chemo treatment #2 .... May 6, 2008

History - Barry's cancer history

My name is Barry Larock. I'm 43 years old and live in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

I have a very lenghtly medical history. I was born a blue-baby with a heart defect specifically known as tetraology of fallot. I have survived five open heart surgeries since birth, twice at age 2, one at age 9, another at 14, and finally a valve replacement at age 35. I've also been through many catherizations, blood tests, hospital visits and through it all have a deep, deep respect for the medical profession in Ontario. I am obviously very thankful for living in this country.

Since I was old enough to remember I always feared dying from sudden heart failure. When I awoke in each morning I always listened for my heart to beat. I opened my eyes slowly and then smiled. Why... because I had made it to another day. I have enjoyed a pretty good healthy life in general. I played sports as a child, started working at age 16 part-time, attending two community colleges and started to work full-time at age 26. I have been a volunteer for sport teams, assisted with provincial sport organizations at the Canada Games and captured two Canadian Lacrosse Championships with the Peterborough Lakers as the Video Coach and Assistant General Manager in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

My two greatest accomplishments are the day I was married to Jennifer Craw on November 16, 1991 and the birth of my son Trent on September 30, 1996. I've certainly accomplished a lot for a guy with a hole-in-his heart but I don't want to bore you right now with all the details.

After my last heart surgery in 2000, I thought life was going good. I no longer listened as carefully to the beat of my heart each morning. I enjoyed coaching my son's lacrosse teams and I enjoyed my time with adult lacrosse both amateur work with the Lakers and professional work with the Colorado Mammoth, Edmonton Rush and Chicago Shamrox in the National Lacrosse League.

But it was early June 2006 when all that changed.

A small lump on my neck emerged and my family physician, Dr. Ahee, referred me to a local ear, nose and throat specialist here in Peterborough, Dr. Fuco who sent me for an MRI and then met with me in his office. He told me that there was a mass of something in my neck. He first warned me that the mass could be removed because it is some sort of tumour most likely beign but possibiliy cancerous. Of course the first thought in anyones mind is... 'What did he just say?'. When you first hear those word, immediately thoughts of death enters your mind, but then he added, "Again that is a slight 10% chance, so not to worry".

On June 21, 2006 I had surgery to remove the tumour from my partiod gland and seven days later in his office, I was officially told the news. Adeniod Cystistic Carcenoma was the term he used but that obviously went stay over my head and into a terrified space. The only word I heard through the entire visit was Cancer.

Acting rather calm about the diagnoses, I noticed my spouse's (Jennifer) eyes were beginning to swell and her emotions quickly getting the best of her so I remained as calm as I could, and had experience doing so, so I started to ask questions pertaining to next steps, chances of getting it all and what is the overall pronogisis.

The next step was a referral to a doctor teacher friend of Dr. Fuco from Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Dr. Irish, a leader in this field, was very throughtful and extremely helpful during our visit in July of 2006. He then in turn referred to me Dr. O'Sullivan, a radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret who arranged for raditation treatments as quick as possible in August, September and October to hopefully finally get rid of any reminents of the disease.

After completing the radition in October, I returned to PMH every three months for follow-up with Dr. O'Sullivan either seeing him in his clinic or in his office. Each time it was a quick look over and examine in the parodid area as well as inside of the mouth and concluding with some general questions pertaining to pain and areas of concerns. And then like that it was see you next time and I was off for another three months. On two occassions during these visits I had X-rays completed with the first one showing no signs of further disease.

However, in January of 2008, I received a telephone call from my congential heart doctor who had seen something on the X-Ray taken December 19, 2007. She had received the X-Ray because the paperwork for the X-Ray had been requested by her for an appointment I had in October on the heart side of my history and so since her name was on the paperwork, the results came back to her. She then notified both I and Dr. O'Sullivan who requested that I have a Cat Scan immediately of which was done in early February and confirmed that there were a number of very small cancer cells growing on both of my lungs.

After meeting with Dr. O'Sullivan to discuss potential options for treatment I have now been referred to Dr. Sui, another specialist in Adeniod Cystistic Carcemona which commonly mastisties to the lungs. Dr. Sui is a young asian doctor who tells it like it is. She is incredible to talk too and definetely knows her stuff. I have met with twice to date and have learned an incredible amount about this disease and the work she is doing. I desperately hope that through her knowledge she can extend my life.

You notice I said extend. One of the first things Dr. Sui told me was that there is no cure at this time for this type of cancer. They have ways to slow or stop the progress of the disease but they have not found a cure. This is very hard for me to accept. And for anyone who reads this blog I would suspect. However, there is good in this diagnosis.

Remember at the very beginning of this blog I explained that I used to wake up and listen for the beat of my heart. I no longer do that. I have learned in the past two years that life is what it delivers. I have been very, very, very, lucky to live 43 years. A lot of people, expecially people born in the 1960s with congential heart disease never got that chance, and another lot of people throw their chance at life away by sucide, drugs and other stupid stunts. And more that there are a lot of people have suffered far more than I have or ever will.

Sure, I can die tomorrow from sudden cardiac arrest and quite frankly that would suck.

If I were to then I would never get the chance I have now to prepare for death. To help plan with my wife and son for life after me. Right now my heart is good. My heart is healthy so I guess the plan for me is to go in another way. But I must be thankful for the way choosen and that is to prepare for my death.

From now on, I'm not going to be afraid of death but rather embrace life and put all good thoughts and plans into ensuring Jennifer and Trent can enjoy the very best of life after I am gone.

And so that's why I am writing this blog and hoping that many people read it. For people to understand that message. I am here to share my stories of fighting cancer and trying to extend my life. I am also writing it for people to understand that cancer is something that must be shared, put on display for people to get angry and do what they can because we must destory this disease once and for all. It is killing too many people. To many mothers, fathers, relatives and friends. We must find a way to control it, get rid of it and extend our lives. Because it's not really fair... that only the good die young.

Thanks for reading and sharing...

Next Blog... My first visit for Chemo... April 29, 2008