Thursday, May 29, 2008

4th Day of Chemo - May 27, 2008

This has been a hard week for me because the Chemo, believe or not, is beginning to take its toll.

I am weaker physically, my focus and concentration is a bit off and I've been terribly edgy. I must admit though that I have been extremely lucky, of course, not to feel nauseated nor have I vomited but there are other things that are beginning to creep into my being that I'm not comfortable with.

First, I was agitated Monday, the day before treatment this week because I had planned for a relatively quite day of rest and movies when both the telephone and door bell wouldn't stop ringing. Friends and family members, who are all generally concerned with my health, called or simply dropped by to say hello and then naturally ask that question I'm beginning to detest... "soooo... how are you feeling today?"

Who in there right mind would say... "terrible, I'm weak, my head is aching and I'm generally in a bitchy mood, but thanks for asking".

No, instead, with a smile on my face and sense of 'I can do this' I lead with a quick "not bad" followed by a "I'm a little weak but I'll get by." The problem with being under the weather is that nobody wants to be under the weather. We all want the normal routine to continue. We all want for our lives to go on. When we are sick for just a few days, say with the flu, we simply grin and bear it and we all know that the flu will eventually go away.

But when you get into a situation like the one I am currently in you're not sure, or pretty not so sure, that it is going to go away. I've finally realized that I'm going to be sick with this Chemo feeling for another number of weeks. And of course all this starts to play on your mind.

As for the friends and family, I'm not saying to stay away or stop calling at all, but instead thank you for thinking and caring about me. As I stated I don't like the way my mind is playing games on my general being. This is not about you. It's about me. I love visitors. I hate having cancer.

I'm also not comfortable with not being there for Trent. I had to miss being on the bench for his first box lacrosse game of the year in Clarington Tuesday. I was simply too tired after my treatment earlier that day to contribute as the teams trainer so I told Trent before the game that I wouldn't be on the bench. He looked at me with his beautiful blue eyes and said "it's OK Dad" but still he seemed a little disappointed. It's that feeling which hurts more than the six I.V. needle attempts in the arm I had early in treatments. It's that feeling that makes me detest the cancer even more.

And finally, I not comfortable with being unmotivated. We have a treadmill in the basement. I should be on it every second day getting some exercise to strengthen my immune system and stay in shape. But I'm not. I have a bicycle in the garage. I haven't rode it once in three weeks. Lance Armstrong rode his bike everyday when he had cancer and went through chemo. I read his book. What the hell is wrong with me? Get motivated. I don't know what it is but the chemo is fogging my mind a bit when it comes to what can I do. There is so much to do around the house. I want to get the pool open for the season. There is laundry, dishes, re-coating the lane way, but I simply don't have the energy. This whole thing sucks.

I've been off work for five weeks now and you know what? I miss it. Believe it or not but I miss my fellow employees, my sport contacts and my routine. I went into work yesterday to say hi to those in the office. It was a short visit but it was a tough visit just the same. All of these 'can't dos' start to build up and it's tough on the mind. I suppose it's just another battle that has to be won in the fight against cancer for all of us with the disease.


Tuesday, my friend Bill Duff took me to Toronto for my 4th day of treatment. Bill is a fantastic guy who would do anything for me if I asked. In fact, he's much like all my friends. It's great to have friends like Bill who offer to drive you to Chemo. It's certainly not a fun day for anyone, especially the driver, who has to come in a watch the faces of those sick at Princess Margaret.

The day went smooth with only two people to wait for in front of me to give blood. We then had a light snack before heading up to wait for approximately an hour before I was called in to unit 4 for treatment. My nurse was Anda, from Romania, was the same person who finally hit the mark after six I.V. attempts during my second chemo treatment. She said she didn't remember that day but I certainly did. I knew Anda would hit the mark first try and she did.

After the regular hour of treatment was over Bill and I were on our way home again. Another day of worry, fear and a constant reminder of my brutal disease was over. All I had to look forward too was the yucky feeling of being sleepy, agitated and grumpy for the next two weeks. All of which will subside before my next treatment on June 10. I'm officially done my second cycle and so I don't have to return to PMH until June 10 so my body can re-cooperate reproducing good cells destroyed by the chemo and getting rid of the bad cancer cells though human waste.

I know... I might have crossed the line with that one but with every poop I have to believe the cancer is getting exactly what it deserves. A flush right down the toilet.

Thanks for reading and sharing...

Next Blog - A New Cycle... June 10, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

3rd Day of Chemo - May 20, 2008

This is my first blog following my week off from Chemo. Welcome back.. and yes, I'm still here.

You see my treatment is set in cycles whereas as I go one Tuesday, then the next and then I am off for a week to allow the body to recover from all the chemo that's left in my body. What I mean by recover is that the chemo destroys both bad cells (cancer) and good cells (white and red blood cells) so your body must have time to recoup those good cells (raise the white and red blood cells) before the next cycle of treatments.

Besides, I really didn't feel like writing last week. I took a vacation you might say. I didn't read my book by Eckert Tolle but instead played video games, watched movies and even took up cooking for Trent and Jennifer because I know how rough it is for her coming home from work and preparing supper. From work routine to home routine, we all go through it. But for now, we're in a different situation so I am taking up some of that responsibility (when I'm up for it) and it feels good being able to contribute.

So here we are.. cycle 2 or chemo treatment 3. Yesterday, my brother Blair showed up at 8:30 am for the ride to T.O. and Princess Margaret Hospital. Blair, my second brother and the one closest in age to me by 6 years, is a teacher and lives in Lakefield with his wife Jane and they have two beautiful daughters, Renee and Abby. Abby's going to have a baby soon and so I'll be a great uncle for the third time. But of course, Renee and Abby already know that I am their GREATEST Uncle.

Upon arrival at the PMH, I received my plastic card that read number 66 for blood giving only to look and find they were currently serving number 29 on the large neon sign. "It doesn't take that long to call your number" I said to Blair. But it was long enough for me to start worrying, because my appointment with the doctor (Dr. Sui) was for 11:30 am and still not given blood at 10:55 am. I gave blood around 11:05 am and made it to the appointment office to check in. But, of course, I had to wait until 12:10 pm to actually see the Doctor as the blood count had to get from the lab to my doctor first to ensure the levels were good for today's treatment. A little tip for non-frequent hospital goers... The first thing about hospitals is 'BE PREPARED TO WAIT.' I learned that a long time ago.

While waiting in the doctor's office I sat across from a gentlemen who I did not know. Or did I? He had an obvious scar in the same general location as I do on his neck and near his ear. He was about my age and waiting to see the same doctor. And I noticed his wife, spouse or girlfriend who looked very similar to Jennifer, also in this situation, nervous and in an obvious state of despair.

But it was not until I looked back at the man and deep into his eyes that I realized I was looking at myself. I could sense the nervousness that comes with every appointment. I could see in his eyes that he was sick and tired of this disease. And I could feel from his body image that it was crying out to say help me, help me to get better.

No it was me alright and I wanted to stand up and walk over and say, "I know exactly what you are going through". But I didn't... and why? I don't know. Today, I'm kicking myself in the ass because I didn't have the balls to stand up and say hello. I guess we are all so concerned with our own lives that we forget others who are crying out for help. Take the situation in China or Myanmar for example. Two distinct events with enormous tragic loss of lives in the past two weeks. For me, I feel very sorry for those families who have lost loved one so quickly without a chance to say goodbye. The dead, on the hand, didn't know it was coming and for the most part their lives were taken so quickly. Taken to school one morning and never to be seen again, buried beneath the rubble. In Myanmar, people were whisked away while standing next to a loved one, a body ripped out of the hand of another and taken away. This is incomprehensible to me.

I should have stood up and walked over the man. For we are the lucky ones when you compare to those events. We get to have our family close for now. We get to share in whatever time is left with our familes and friends. Hell, we could even plan to throw a whale of a goodbye party if we wanted too. The point is that you have to be thankful for what you have today not what you want tomorrow.

And furthermore, we certainly should have HOPE because we we are at the best hospital in Ontario and have faith that these doctors know what they are doing and they are going to stop, slow down or control what growing in our bodies. So I should have stood up and walked over the man and said...

"Do you know just how lucky we are?"

Maybe next week I'll take a stroll by the doctors office to see if the same man (or another perhaps) is waiting with the same look in his eyes and give him that message. A message that has long been my philosophy on life.

There is no future for any of us really. We can look at the past but we can't live in the past. And the future is not here yet, not even one-second of the future is here because when it is, it is the present. We have to live in the present and enjoy every moment that we are breathing and our heart is beating. Don't take for granted what you have in your life right now. Because it can be torn away in an instant.

The rest of the day went fairly smoothly. After the doctors office, I had quick X-Ray to see if anything in the form of pneumonia was stirring in the lungs then it was off to get chemo. Don't worry, the doctor called by the time I got home and said there was no pneumonia in the lungs... whew!

Brother Blair came in with me to the chemo room and had his eyes opened, I would have hope. This disease effects alot of people. Did you know there are 37 beds or chairs in the chemo room that is busy seven days a week for at least 8 hours per day giving people chemotheraphy to stop, slow or rid this disease. You do the math people. And it's just not seniors. There are people younger than me, the same age and then there are people in their 60s, 70s and 80s. It can effect anyone at anytime.

First poke and the I.V. was in this time and then after one hour of chemo it was out the door and home. Quicker that my first two appointments. My brother lit up a cigarette on the way to the parking garage and I didn't say anything... again. It's sad but I guess he didn't get the message.

So I'll stand up and say it now... BLAIR, TRY TO STOP SMOKING!

Thanks for reading and sharing...

Next Blog - Chemo Treatment #4 ... May 27, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

2nd Day of Chemo - May 6, 2008

My second date with Chemo started out as the first one did, with great optimism and my outlook focused on taking the IV with great ease.

So as we loaded up the entourage of Pat and Lorraine Larock (my 77-year old parents) and my eldest sister (she hates when we say that) Beth, I was relaxed, confident and pleased that I had survived the first week without any nausea or vomiting.

Just some weakness throughout and a couple of days in bed and on the couch resting and relaxing. I did entail some slight headaches Wednesday and Thursday but by Friday the tiredness softened and I did make it to watch my favourite lacrosse goalie stop a lot of shots in a cruel 9-4 loss in women's lacrosse at the Kinsmen Civic Centre. The goalie by the way is my gorgeous wife Jennifer who plays much like I did as a young star... with great passion and a love for being part of a team.

Back to HWY 401, things were going great on the 1.5 hour commute into PMH on this sunny Tuesday morning. However, when we arrived at 10:40 am things quickly turned from optimistic to pessimistic when I arrived in line for my weekly blood work. My number in line was 29 while the large neon-lit number sign on the wall said they were currently serving number 86. That meant 43 people had to go in before me and as I looked around, believe me when I say, it looked like a whole lot more.

Slowly and quite efficiently, I might add, the numbers turned on the neon sign and people went through leading up to my call as number 29. When I entered the room my nurse directed me to cubicle 14 where I started to roll up my sleeve for the extraction of blood. The chemotherapy lab requires all patients to give blood before they give your specific chemotherapy to ensure your blood and body is strong enough to take the dosage. Chemo, by the way, is very heavy duty shit. It kills everything (all bad cells and sometimes good cells, white and red blood cells) in its way to the cancer and so giving blood is very important to the chemo process.

Another step in the process is for the nurse to ensure you are the right person who gave her #29. So she asks your a couple of questions like your name, age, and birth date. This particular nurse wasn't smiling and seeing that I was in a proactive mood I decided to try and make her smile. "What is your birth date sir?" she asked. "March 26, 1965, now being fair what's yours?" I replied with a grin. Once a small smile started I knew I had her. She said, "Oh, its in August," When I quickly added, "And that would be in the late 1970's I presume?." Right then I knew my job was done. The smile swept across her face from ear to ear and I honestly believed I made the rest of her day. I know that because she said "Oh, and thank you for the compliment," when I was preparing to leave.

Next on the agenda was, of course, another short break before Chemo at 12:00 noon. We stopped at Druxy's for a drink and then proceeded to wait for the next 1.5 hours in the chemo waiting room. I played PSP while Beth and Mom talked and Pat, while he had his midday siesta, complete with a gentle snore.

After the wait, it was finally time to tackle the Chemo room, an area set up with a few beds and few chairs for people to openly watch you get poked, IV'd and then we all site facing each other to watch as the Chemo enters your body. It's OK though because you know what? We're all in it together. Each one of us in that room faces the same fears, the same challenges and each of us have the same hope. And that is that this public display of nurses poking, I.Vs running and chemo flowing is all a plan to work and each of us are going to get rid of the cancer.

The next part of this blog may seem frightening especially if you don't like needles. But I don't have a choice. I had to endure the pain and frustration of being poked on both arms and in the wrist 7 times before the nurses could find a good I.V line or back-flow as they called it. Seven times is a lot but when you've been through what I have, seven is three less than 10. It's all in the way you think of it.

When it did finally arrive and the back flow was fine, my frustration finally subsided. Don't get me wrong I did give the nurses a small piece of my mind at being poked seven times but I'm not that crazy to know that it is a difficult job when the veins will simply not cooperate. And remember what I said before about Chemo being heavy shit. If it's not in the blood stream and leaking though a vein into the muscle, then there's a whole other ball of wax to contend with.

All in all the day went pretty smoothly. I received my 2nd treatment and the good thing is that I now have until May 20 before I return again for number 3. In the meantime, I have an appointment tomorrow (May 8) back at PMH for an MRI on my face region where I have been having some discomfort and they want to check it out to make sure the cancer has not returned to that original region. Then it's rest and relaxation with my family with hope that I can contend with treatment #2 and be able to watch Trent play lacrosse and try out for AA hockey this weekend.

As for my entourage yesterday, they are very special people to me and I want to thank them for sharing in my adventure.

My Dad, who has always supported me in my life, continues to be the comedian when we are at the hospital. I guess his philosophy has rubbed off on me, like many of his others, and that is too make someone smile who might not be very happy. Without smiles, the world would be a very sad place.

And to my sister, who has always been a second mother to me because she was 12 when I was born and therefore the perfect age for helping with such a sick child. She's always been there and supported me through hospital and life and always with great love. A lot of people know my father, brothers and I throughout the community but it always been my sister and my mother responsible for keeping us all so close as a family.

And finally to my mom, who will celebrate being my lucky mother for the 43rd time this weekend on Mothers Day. And that is certainly something to celebrate. She's been the one who is responsible for me having a level head, good job and great attitude about beating this disease, not to mention my other health problems. She's never told me but I've heard that I wasn't suppose to leave the hospital after birth. But she knew differently. She believed in me. She knew the odds were supposed to be beaten and she kindled the love that made it happen. I have always cherished every moment I am around her.

We should all cherish every moment we have with our families and our friends. Because life is simply way too short to not too.

Thanks for reading and sharing...

Next Blog - Chemo Treatment #3 ... May 20, 2008