Archive for September, 2008

I Don’t Like Mondays

Posted in cancer, Cancer Life, testicular cancer with tags , , on September 29, 2008 by lawler

Tell me why? (okay, that was a lame 80’s reference)

At the moment, I have the mental energy to tell you this: the good news is that none of the tests found anything new. That is, there is still just one tumor (about 3.6 x 2.5 cm in size) in my abdomen. My oncologist, Dr. Arbaje is recommending that I have surgery, and I will be meeting with a surgeon sometime this week to discuss it.

Dr. Arbaje will also be meeting with “the tumor board” on Wednesday — this is a meeting of the minds in oncology, where many oncologists, radioligists, and surgeons come together to discuss their cases and come to a consensus on treatment — where he will discuss my case. He is going to give me a call later that day and let me know if new information comes out that meeting.

Depending on the types of cancer cells found in the tumor once it is removed, there is a chance that I will have to undergo chemotherapy again. At this point, surgery seems to be the next step.

That’s the new news in a nutshell. I will write more when I’m up to it. Certainly the day was more interesting than I’ve let on.

Thanks again for all your love, support, prayers, vibes, and general goodwill. It means the world.

Test

Posted in cancer, Cancer Life, testicular cancer with tags , , on September 25, 2008 by lawler

Today was a reminder of what once was, and what is to come. “I can’t believe this is happening again,” I said to Dawn this evening as I lie down to take a nap after enduring two tests and another CD full of confusing, alarming images of my insides. She can’t believe it either.

Yesterday I was not supposed to eat any carbohydrates at all, so I had bacon (bacon? bacon?) and eggs for breakfast, snacked on cheese and salmon, and cooked up organinc, grass-fed sirloin steak for dinner (steak? steak?). But that’s not all. My PET scan was the cause of this diet, and as it was scheduled for noon today, I was to fast beginning six hours prior. So, I got up at 5:00 am and cooked myself yet another round of bacon and eggs before going back to bed.

The PET scan, for those of you who do not recall, or have never known, entails an IV injection of radioactive glucose called Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), an hour of sitting as still as possible so that the glucose is not disturbed by muscle use as it travels through the body and snuggles up with the cancer cells (which unlike other cells in the body, do not release it — hence the effectiveness of the test), followed by about 20 or 30 minutes of lying perfectly still on the scanner, with your arms raised over your head.

Aside from the faint feeling I had when stuck with the IV (hey, listen, I hadn’t eaten anything for six + hours, and there was precious little glucose in my body!), the worst part is always the hands over the head, slowly falling asleep, wanting desperately to move them but knowing if you do you will probably ruin the accuracy of this very expensive test.

Later in the afternoon I drove across town to have an ultrasound on my remaining testicle. A painless, albeit always slightly humiliating exam. I can’t help but think how the tech examining my testicle has spent her day looking at little babies as they grow — “there’s the heart, and, oh, do you want to know what sex it is?” — and then I walk in.

One of my mistakes today was inserting the CD of my PET scan images into my laptop. I’d always wanted a copy of these kind of images — the scan takes a 360 degree look at my body from head to toe — and yet have only a rudimentary idea of what the scan shows. It looked bad to me, confirming the location of the tumor I know I have, and also showing new affected areas, also in my abdomen. I shouldn’t have looked. It’s a like a train wreck though, only inside my own body. I couldn’t look away.

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In the middle of this day, we had a visit from a couple of guys who have offered their services to finish our bathroom, since my physical ability to do so may become compromised in the near future — especially if I have to undergo surgery. They are friends of people that Dawn used to work with at the Preschool of the Arts — in fact, one of them, Terry, is the husband of one of Dawn’s favorite co-workers at PSA, Joyce. They have offered to do the work at no charge, which makes me wonder at the sheer kindness that some people are able to muster in time of need, but we have insisted to pay them at least something. If they are not willing to take what we offer, perhaps we will donate the money in their names to the ACS.

You see, cancer really is like Christmas.

Why Voting Matters

Posted in cancer, Cancer Life with tags , , , , , , , on September 23, 2008 by lawler

I’ve been mildly political on this blog before — mostly when I was having troubles with my insurance provider, Assurant Health (sucks). And that’s the reason I’m bringing up politics again. No politician is perfect — in fact I accept that most are deeply flawed — but if the Bush years have taught us anything, it is that the difference between Democrats and Republicans, while seemingly slight at times, is certainly significant in many ways. One of those areas is health care. We all need it, and John McCain and his advisors believe that the way to achieve it is to abandon employer provided care, and thrust everyone out into the open market — the so-called free market. A place that we’ve seen become very scary in the last couple of years. In fact one of McCain’s key advisers on health care reform flatly stated that Emergency Rooms guarantee “universal health care” — so, what’s the big deal?

Well, it is a big deal. A very big deal. It’s a much bigger deal than many of the issues people use to determine their vote — it’s a social issue with broad and deep consequences for all Americans.

Barack Obama’s policy plans are not perfect, nor is he. But they’re a damn sight better than what the Republican candidate is offering up. And there are many issues like that — but for now, I’m sticking to this one because I’m sitting at this desk knowing I still have cancer, and knowing how much it has cost us. Should it be free? Maybe not. But my neighbors and their children should ALL have health care, regardless of income or the state of their health.

Many people think the government shouldn’t get involved in health care. To them, I say look to models across the globe. You think America can’t manage health care? To you I say take a look at Medicare. None of the models (including Medicare) are perfect either — but there are things more important than perfection and agreement on every detail. Like access — that’s important — and Obama’s plan is all about improving access (aside from the ER).

So, I’m voting for Barack Obama in November, and I encourage you to do the same. If you don’t think you will, or are not sure, give me a call or write me an email — let’s talk. In the meantime, check out the video I’ve posted to get a better idea of what Obama’s health care ideas are all about.

[insert header here]

Posted in cancer, Cancer Life, testicular cancer with tags , , , , , , on September 22, 2008 by lawler

I just couldn’t muster a clever (or not-so-clever) header for this post — unless you consider the header I came up with clever. Frankly, it’s difficult to admit that I’m back here writing again on a semi-regular basis. But I am, and here’s why:

Dr. Arbaje called me today hours before I was to show up for an appointment with him to tell me that there is in fact a tumor in my abdomen about 3 centimeters wide. He cannot tell if it is associated with one of my lymph nodes or not at this point.

The next step is what my doc calls “restaging.” In other words he needs to deduce what stage my cancer is now in — this means tests. I am currently awaiting a call from his nurse (my nurse) Kim to let me know when she has arranged appointments for an Ultrasound on my remaining testicle, a PET scan, and an MRI. These tests are being done to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the tumor that has been found already in my abdomen, and will dictate the course of treatment.

If no other signs of cancer are found in my body, Dr. Arbaje has told me that I will need to at least have surgery on the tumor in my abdomen to remove it.

That’s what I know, and I suppose that’s all I have to say for now.

Thank you all for your love, support, prayers, thoughts, positive energies and vibes.

On the Inside

Posted in cancer, Cancer Life, testicular cancer with tags , , , , , on September 19, 2008 by lawler
Mike's insides from today's CT scan

An image of Mike's insides from today's CT scan

This might be odd for some, but here I am. I went today for my fifth or sixth (who’s counting anymore?) CT scan this morning — and, since I am seeing my oncologist on Monday to discuss the results, they sent me home with the images, which happened to be on a cd. I thought I’d pop it in my computer to see if I could see them, and I could. I haven’t looked very close at them, because I’m not a doctor, and I’m not sure what’s supposed to be there, and what isn’t. So, I’ll leave the speculating to the professionals.

No matter what my doc sees in these images, I’ll probably be heading for a PET scan sometime next week.

Thank you all for your kind thoughts and words (and prayers).

The Big Let Down

Posted in cancer, Cancer Life, testicular cancer with tags , on September 18, 2008 by lawler

Today, as we walked out of the Thompson Plumb building on John Q. Hammons Drive after a disappointing meeting with my Oncologist, Dr. Arbaje, Dawn said, “I don’t know why I always come here thinking everything is fine.” She said this because we received what might be the worst news we’ve received in several months about my ongoing — yep, back to that word — battle with this pesky thing we call cancer.

To be brief, my Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) tumor marker has spiked significantly, going from about ten (10) to 357. You may recall (though you probably don’t, in which case click on the link above for an explanation) what tumor marker’s are, and the HCG marker was previously the least of our worries when considering my cancer. But now it’s become a concern.

I have a CT scan scheduled for tomorrow (Friday, September 19), and will receive the results from Dr. Arbaje on Monday. If the scan shows nothing (as it did two months ago), he said he will order a PET scan to get a closer look.

I will keep you posted.