Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chemo's Last Laugh

I stink. I don’t mean just because I just walked the dog wearing four layers of clothing on a warm spring morning (I get cold), but there seems to have been a fundamental shift in my body chemistry. I don’t smell like myself anymore.

The chemo had one last laugh sometime between the end of my treatments and the surgery. Nothing serious, but my thumbnails now look like troll claws, I lost the remaining hair under my arms and the chemical stink oozing out of my pores means I’m showering as often as possible and wearing out deodorant sticks at a furious pace. When I came out of surgery I had thought the smell was coming off the hospital issued gowns and slips of paper they call bedsheets, but alas, the first night home in my own bed confirmed that it was in fact, coming from me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cuz Clowns are Scary Too

The circus really begins tomorrow with the arrival of my parents in town, just in time for me to get a last minute transfusion to top up my platelets before the big show. Friday morning I am getting a Transternal Resection, or a Sternotomy … or in laymen’s terms, open heart surgery.

Actually, I’m not sure that is technically the right term for it as I don’t think they will be directly exposing my heart, even with the ribs open the heart is in a big bag called the pericardium sack. Anyway, they aren’t interested in my heart; they are going in after Kuato, the cancer that has been squatting in my chest the past year or so.

We did find out, through a conversation with a very friendly, if gigantic Russian doctor, that the chemo pounded the little fucker down from 13.2cm to 9.1cm. It’s nice to hear that I didn’t go through three months of hell for nothing. Big Russian Doctor btw, is the guy who’ll be giving me my drugs because in Russia, drugs do you. Its cool though, he’s the same guy who hooked me up when they yanked out my gallbladder and I didn’t feel a frackin' thing! The guy actually cutting me open has a wing of the hospital named after his family. I choose to be encouraged by that and not suspect nepotism or a large endowment of any kind.

Can’t say I’m not nervous about this, but I’m a little excited too. If all goes well, it represents the beginning of the end of this, rather unexpected chapter of my life.

Here goes … everything!

For the less squeamish, here is some youtube footage of how they are going in after the little fucker.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Post Chemo Blues

I had my last scheduled chemotherapy last Friday. I’d have posted sooner, but I find that I’m not really in the mood to celebrate, mostly because there was the wave of side effects to get through first.

The chemo did another number on my blood cell counts. Not enough to require another transfusion, but enough to push them to the borderline which meant getting up very early on a Saturday and trudging all the way downtown for a simple follow-up blood test. In more productive testing news, Monday morning I had my post-chemo CAT scan to see if the treatments have had any effect on the size of the tumour (I find out the results next week). They had to put an IV line in to inject some dye, but when the test was over and they removed the line, they didn’t put enough pressure and I didn’t pay enough attention. Thanks to my low platelets, I ended up bleeding all over the floor of the CT room which I though was pretty funny, but that may have been the lack of blood.

Then right on schedule the wave of side-effects hit me yesterday. My brain was filled with chemo-fog and my body felt like it weighed twice what it should. There isn’t much you can do on those days besides nap and feel useless.

Cancer is easy to understand, or at least mine was. There is a tumour so you fry it in chemo then cut it out. It is the side effects of the chemo that scare me. I can’t look down at my swollen, discoloured fingers and wonder what scars the treatments might have permanently left me with. They told me going in that I’ll never scuba dive again or be able to have children. Both took some getting used to, but in the end they seemed a reasonable trade off for saving my life.

What they don’t tell you are the side effects they can’t predict. Everyone gets their own unique set and they can’t tell you how long it will take for them to fade away, or even if they ever will. Will I ever be able to walk barefoot on a hardwood floor without cringing or climb a flight of stairs without wheezing? Swimming through high school and university had left me with a pretty solid set of lungs, but now I get winded after a vigorous shower. If I push it too far, I can feel my body sucking in breaths in ways it never did before and it terrifies me. They are going to be cutting into my chest soon and there are risks associated there as well, so will I ever get back to where I was? Almost forty is a tough time to be starting over.

I’m not really depressed or anything, just venting. On the good days I try to get ahead and plan for the future. On the bad, I do what I can and listen to a lot of Warren Zevon, Today I feel better than yesterday. Tomorrow I’ll take as it comes.