The Bright Side of Life

“I suppose it’s like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

“If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing.

And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…”
Monty Python

As most of you may know by now, my latest trip to Philly did not turn out as I had hoped it would. It did start out well though.

My wife and I arrived a day early so that we could do some sight seeing. This was the first real chance we had of getting to see Philadelphia since we began coming here for treatments. This was also the best I’ve felt since I began coming here. We spent all day walking and checking out some of the historic sights of Philly. The first couple of days we were able to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Christ Church (where we sat in the same pews that once were occupied by George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Betsy Ross) and took a horse drawn carriage tour of Philly. We also ate at The City Tavern where Benjamin Franklin loved to eat. Very good food! We saw several different monuments as well as the famous “Rocky Balboa” statue. There is also a building that looks a lot like the building in the “Ghostbusters” movie. Every time I saw it I began humming music from the movie.

But alas, I eventually had to do what I came to Philly for. I went to the Center and had a PET scan done. We met with my oncologist to discuss the test. Some of my numbers were ok, but most were not. In my doctors words, “what we are doing is not working.” He decided to take me off the Avastin part of my chemo but continue the rest. He set me up to have an MRI and to meet with another doctor to discuss a possible third line of chemo type of treatment that involved radioactive beads injected directly into my liver. The doctor could only give me about a 50% chance of effectiveness. The side effects and the things that could possibly go wrong were not appealing at all. It was at this point that I decided that I would not have this new procedure nor would I continue to receive the chemo treatments I had been getting. Why continue something that isn’t working. That essentially ended any hope of curing this cancer with today’s modern medicine. We will continue to come to Philly once a month for blood work and to check on the progress of the disease.

I still hold out hope that my God will completely heal me and show the world that miracles still exist. In the meantime, Brenda and I have decided to do some things that we have always wanted to do. First stop is New York where we are visiting our surrogate daughter for a couple of days. After that I’ll have a meet up with some old high school friends before heading to Savannah to see our son and soon to be daughter in law. We may then head to Disney for a couple of days, just the two of us. I refuse to let this stop me from enjoying life and enjoying it with the people I love. I will laugh, I will love, and I will praise my God every day that I am alive, be it 5 days or 50 years. I hope you will do the same.
As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”

Last Week, This Week, And The Week Ahead

Even if the doctor does not give you a year, even if he hesitates about a month, make one brave push and see what can be accomplished in a week.
Robert Louis Stevenson

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
Henry A. Kissinger

Just a quick update on my last trip to Philly. My numbers were all back up but my doc decided to continue the chemo. I actually had my best week yet while on chemo. Only got mildly nauseous two days but was still able to eat and drink fluids. A pretty uneventful trip. That’s a good thing. My incision has finally begun to heal. I no longer feel any pain there.

My week after the chemo has been extremely good. There have been none of the usual side effects and I have been eating like a horse. If I keep this up I may have to start eating those “Lean Cuisine” meals. I have gained about ten pounds in the last month.

My next visit to Philly, I will have a PET scan done. This will show if the cancer looks any better or worse. After that the doctor will determine whether or not I continue my chemo treatments. I believe I will. I’m feeling better than I have since this whole thing began in October. I’m thanking God every day for the life and time He has given me.

Like I said, this is just a little update to let everyone know how I’m doing. I will have a new blog up soon. Until then, peace out my homies.

Back to Philly

“Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better”. –Walt Disney

“A day may come when the courage of men fails…..but it is not this day!”
Aragorn

“Like Sands through an hourglass, these are the days of our lives.”

My second trip to Philly did not go as well as I had hoped. On my first day of my 2nd chemo treatment in Philly, I was told by my oncologist that the blood work that the center had done on me prior to my seeing him, showed that all of my levels for my liver had gotten worse. In other words, the cancer in my liver was worse than it was on my last visit. Not a good sign. He also said that I was 0.4 away from having Jaundice. His exact quote after that was “I’m going to give you chemo anyway”. Now there is two things about these statements. One is that once you are considered jaundiced they will stop the chemo and no one else will treat me because it would be unethical due to the fact that the chemo didn’t work and there is nothing else anyone can do for me. Two is that the quote I attributed to him tells me he considered not giving me treatment number two. I am dangerously close to the point of no return.

Other than that the week went pretty much as expected (chemo, lack of appetite) until Thursday. Now surprisingly my anxiety level has ramped up since my diagnosis. Go figure, right? I take a drug called Ativan to help ease my anxiety. That particular morning I wasn’t feeling well. Probably partly because I was a little stressed because the previous evening I saw some blood in my colostomy bag (yeah, I’ve got one of those too. Cancer is so much fun). Even though everything was fine the next two times I checked, the damage was already done to my fragile psyche. So that morning I barely ate, hardly drank anything, and decided to take an Ativan before leaving for one last visit to the cancer center for the week. I wasn’t feeling well on the bus ride and just as we approached the entrance to the center I informed my wife that I felt as if I was either going to vomit or pass out. Guess which one I chose? That’s right kiddies, I chose the latter and was out before Brenda could answer me.

Apparently I was out for about 5 minutes. I have blacked out before but never for that long a period. Now this posed an interesting problem for the people at the cancer center as well as myself. We were seated about 6 rows back and I was sitting in the window seat. There was no easy way to get me off the bus as I was being uncooperative by being unconscious and not able to remove myself. I came two a couple of times and went back out. Scary moment for me but probably scarier for my wife. I remember opening my eyes at one point and seeing Brenda. She was telling someone that they would have to carry me off. I passed out again. The next time I awoke, I felt someone grabbing me under my arms and jerking me up and then someone else grabbing my legs. They carried me to the back of the bus and put me in a wheelchair and rolled me onto the platform and lowered me down. There must have been about 20 staff members out there. By this time I was pretty much awake but still unable to move or even keep my eyes opened. I heard someone keep telling me to open my eyes. They took me to their ICU and put me on a bed in a huge room. They pulled all of my clothes off (a pretty humiliating thing. I’m sure the 10 or so medical personnel got the worse end of that deal however) and began hooking things up to me and drawing out blood. They wound up doing an EKG, ultrasound, x-rays and I don’t know what else. All of this was done within a couple of hours and they told us the results of the tests within that same time frame. If we were back home in SC we would be in the hallway of the ER still waiting for a room after 8 hours. The tests all came back clear. What they determined was that the chemo had dehydrated me. That plus my high anxiety level and the Ativan I had taken had caused my blood pressure to dramatically drop. By this time I was feeling like my old self again. They loaded me up with fluids and kept me overnight just to be on the safe side.

The next day we were released. As I began walking towards the lobby to wait on our ride to the airport, I began to hurt around my right shoulder and in my stomach around my wound from my surgery. We determined that when I was lifted out, I must have pulled a muscle in those two areas. We made home. The pain in my shoulder eventually went away. I am still having issues with my stomach wound as I have off and on ever since my surgery. They may look a little deeper into that problem my next trip to Philly.

We’ve been home a week now and everything has been pretty good. My appetite is good, I’m drinking plenty of fluids, and I have been able to get out a few times. We will be going back to Philly for my third treatment on Monday. Here’s hoping for better news. It would be nice to hear some once in a while.

The Philadelphia Story

In my last post, I told you how my daughter found out about The Cancer Treatment Centers of America and had set me up for a consultation. We read good things about the place so we decided to give it a try.

They impressed me and Brenda from the start. The Center paid for our airline tickets and picked us up at the airport. They set us up at The Radisson. The following day I began a non-stop array of meetings, tests, x-rays, scans, and consultations. You meet a lot of people and everyone seems to be truly concerned with your condition. They treat the mind, body, and soul. The staff there are the most helpful and caring people I’ve ever seen. I even had a nurse share her faith with me. You won’t find that in most places.

The founder of The Centers had a mother who had cancer. He was not happy with the way she was treated and after she died, he decided to start a place that would treat every patient as if they were their mother. Any patient you talk to sings the praises of the doctors and staff. They have a chapel, a cafeteria, a workout center, and a piano player in the lobby.

By the end of the third day of the evaluation, I was pretty much worn out. My oncologist, Dr. Patel, went over all of the test results from the previous 3 days. Most were pretty good. I did find out that my heart has a defect in it but it was nothing to worry about. No one from Greenville ever mentioned this after doing the same scans. Dr. Patel then began to detail the cancer and where it is. This is where the results took a drastic turn for the worst. The scan showed that the cancer in my liver had considerably increased. It is so bad that even my doctor said that he didn’t see how it had not started affecting me yet. I know why. I serve a Big God who hears prayers and I have a lot of people praying for me. And I thank you all for that. There is no part of my liver that is not touched by the cancer cells. Then he informed me that the cancer apparently has spread to my pelvis. Great. This was a new development. On the bright side (and when I say this I can’t help but think of a Monty Python movie) the cancer appears to no longer be in the colon. I guess they removed it all during the surgery (not that any one in Greenville bothered to say that).

Dr. Patel’s recommendation was that I begin the second line of chemo immediately due to the fact that I have a very small window to work with. I was told that if jaundice sets in, no one will treat me due to it being an ethical situation. Even the Cancer Center will stop treating me. Apparently jaundice means there is no return, end of ball game, sayonara, adios amigos. So we stayed an extra four days and began my new regiment of chemo. It went fairly well so we decided to take a vacation to Walt Disney World. That wound up being a very good thing because as soon as I got there I began to eat. The magic of Disney, eh? We stayed there for 12 days with my daughter and two grandsons. My mom, step-dad, dad, step-mom, 4 sisters, brother, and my niece came down for the weekend. It was a great time and well needed.

Today I am back in Philly for round two. I feel better, not because of the treatment or even the doctors and staff here, but because of the stories some of you, my friends, have told me of how much my ordeal has affected the way you now live your life. If this horrible disease has managed to help any one in any way through me, then I am very humbled and maybe all this is worth it. Maybe wether I live or die is not the issue but rather how I use this time to affect others and possibly give them something to truly live for. Appreciate the life you’re given every day. Give thanks every day. I know I do.

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” Winnie the Pooh

A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Sometimes in life, it’s the only weapon we’ve got. –Roger (Who Framed Roger Rabbit)

You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. –Christopher Robin.