Post-Chemo Weekend

It’s Sunday evening around 5:00 PM as I begin to regain my bearings. It’s another post-chemo weekend.

Everyone is different. For some people chemo is associated with nausea and more. Not me. This is 100% fatigue. It’s weakness beyond anything I’ve felt before.

Nearly all yesterday was spent sleeping. It’s difficult to get an exact number, but I can’t remember being awake more than an hour at a time. Even when I was awake my steps were short, my brain a little fuzzy.

None of this is permanent. As the drugs get absorbed by my system I’m popping back, but its frustrating to feel you’re really not in control.

Just three more of these chemo treatments and I’m done.

I Had No Idea What Cancer Really Meant Until I Got It

Chemo is targeted, but this is not precision bombing. Chemotherapy takes out good cells with the bad. It’s poison with a therapeutic purpose. After chemo my blood sugar is up, my white and red counts and blood platelets are down.

Having cancer teaches you about cancer. You have no choice.

When I began, I had no idea what ‘cancer’ actually meant. Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.

I like that explanation. Cancer isn’t a disease as much as different diseases that share a single deadly trait. When healthy cells split, if they reach another cell, they stop. Not so with cancer. Cancer cells keep dividing, taking space normally reserved for vital bodily organs and functions.

That’s why every cancer needs a different cure and why different cancers act differently.

Some cancers are more easily detected through tests or exams. Some like my pancreatic cancer are seldom found until it’s too late.

Lots of cancers are treated with chemotherapy. Usually, not always, that’s a liquid dripped directly into the bloodstream. I’ve taken chemo pills too.

From the National Cancer Institute:

Chemotherapy: Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.

Different cancers need different chemo drugs. The goal, stop the cancerous cells from spreading. Sounds easy enough. Turns out it’s really hard.

Chemo is targeted, but this is not precision bombing. Chemotherapy takes out good cells with the bad. It’s poison with a therapeutic purpose.

After chemo my blood sugar is up, my white and red counts and blood platelets are down. Because I’m prone to infection I take another drug, Neulasta, after chemo.

There are steroids in my body tonight. As they wear off I’ll wear out and spend a good part of the weekend sleeping while my body feverishly works at replacing the good cells that got zapped. This is a priority set by my body. I have no say in it.

The aftermath of chemo sucks, but it’s not so bad I can’t deal with it. Nothing I’ve been through has been more than I can take. Not even close. And I’m not special in the ‘suck it up’ department. Anyone can do this if you have the right attitude.

Look at cancer treatment in the aggregate and it looks horrible. But you don’t live it that way. You live it in real time and that’s much easier. Think bite size chunks.

Pancreatic cancer will soon be cured. Lots of other cancers too. It will be amazing. It will be expensive.

How much is living worth? To me it’s priceless.

In The Home Stretch

I saw my oncologist’s physician’s assistant, Nicole, today. It’s a regularly scheduled appointment, part of the regimented protocol my treatment follows. This is also the first appointment since my last blood tests.

It’s good news all around. Though there’s no specific test for pancreatic cancer there are a few blood markers which can be helpful.

The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test measures the amount of this protein that may appear in the blood of some people who have certain kinds of cancers, especially cancer of the large intestine (colon and rectal cancer). It may also be present in people with cancer of the pancreas, breast, ovary, or lung.

Negative.

Cancer antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9) is used to help differentiate between cancer of the pancreas and other conditions, as well as to monitor treatment response and recurrence.

Negative again.

A physician looking at my blood numbers and not knowing my details would see I’m anemic. We’re on that. Chemo brings those numbers down and Neulasta helps bring them back up (a little). So anemic, but under control.

I am five weeks away from the end of my treatment. Four more chemo sessions to take. No one looks forward to chemo. Certainly not me.

Cancer has shown me I’m strong… or maybe it’s made me strong. Chemo sucks, but I can do five more weeks.

Sometimes You’ve Just Got To Cut – Update

I do a little gardening. Not much. My room for growing is small. Of course this being SoCal most plants don’t quite understand the limited space concept.

That’s what happened to a few bushes planted when we got here. Over time as they flourished their top shaded their bottom. Low growth stopped. The bushes became leggy. It’s not a good look.

Cutting back is a great leap of faith, because you’re left with what’s in this picture from three weeks ago. Seriously sad.

Today my bushes are on the comeback trail and their leaves are a whole lot closer to the ground. Because the original roots weren’t cut back they’re growing like crazy.

It always hurts to cut, but it’s never failed me. Every plant I’ve ever cut has come back stronger.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Roger Ailes And What He Brought

Ailes brought personalities to Fox. It was much less expensive to have screaming hosts than reporters and bureaus. And it worked better! It was under Ailes that Fox News became the first modern network with a political attitude.

Blogger’s note: The first paragraph refers to the sexual harassment charges and settlements paid on Ailes’ behalf by Fox News. I should have made that more clear from the get-go. Sorry for any confusion.

You shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but Roger Ailes was a vile man. We’ll get that out of-the-way first. NewsCorp/21st Century Fox should be forever ashamed for what they allowed to transpire.

Ailes was incredibly impactful as a broadcaster. Fox News Channel changed the face of cable news.

Before FNC, CNN was ‘just a news channel.’ It was straight news delivered by straight news anchors. Sometimes they lightened it up a little (I always enjoyed Beverly Williams and Patrick Emery, the “Moonlighting” of TV news), but mostly it was news of-the-day from around-the-world.

Ailes brought personalities to Fox. It was much less expensive to have screaming hosts than reporters and bureaus. And it worked better!

It was under Ailes that Fox News became the first modern network with a political attitude. Saying “Fair and Balanced” couldn’t hide its right-of-center slant. I don’t think they really wanted to hide it anyway.

And it worked.

Fox News Channel was/is fabulously profitable. The dollars involved are mind boggling. This is a few years old, but you’ll get the idea.

Fox led in revenue in 2015; the network was projected to increase by 14% to $2.3 billion. CNN was projected to grow by 6% to $1.2 billion, while MSNBC was projected to grow by 3% to $518 million.

In a half-decade that saw moderate decline in the number of foreign bureaus, CNN continued to lead in the number of domestic and international bureaus. – Mediatite

Fox’s secret was to make its audience part of a cause and then keep them angry. I’m not saying others don’t do this now, just Fox was first and had a huge head start.

Here’s where it all goes off the rails. When there is no reason for its audience to be up-in-arms, Fox will find and promote a story to rebuild the anger.

They did it with the “War on Christmas” and recently with an awful story about the shooting of a DNC employee. Fox connected the murdered man to Wikileaks, as it turns out falsely.

Partisan news outlets aren’t new. The last fifty years are the exception. Newspapers which dominated journalism until the sixties was heavily political. I remember when the New York Post was the liberal voice of labor — really.

Through Roger Ailes, FNC and the other outlets have traded news for adrenaline. This is his legacy. No one should consider it a gift.

A Different Level Of Care

It was extremely uncomfortable. There was no position I could find which would allow my bones to calm down. Until things subsided there would be no sleep. None for my partner in-bed either! She is a sainted woman.

I’ve written about this before. Once you enter the ‘life or death’ portion of the program EVERYTHING changes. Medicine becomes much more proactive and caring, even (especially) outside normal appointments.

This morning was a good example. I left a voicemail message for Nicole, my oncologist’s physician’s assistant.

If you’re sick you want Nicole on your team. I’ve told her as much more than once. I told her again today.

It started after 4:00 AM when my body woke me from a sound sleep. It was as if my bones had grown too large to fit.

It wasn’t painful. I didn’t start screaming. It was extremely uncomfortable. There was no position I could find which would allow my bones to calm down. Until things subsided there would be no sleep.

None for my partner in-bed either! She is a sainted woman.

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning with my cardiologist (all good, even cutting back on my statin), so as Helaine drove I called Nicole to see if she had any insight.

My suspicion was this was Neulasta related. It is known for its bone affecting side effects, but usually on Day +2, not Day +4.

Nicole’s return call came while my cardiologists was examining me. Their offices are on the same floor. I stopped by on my way out.

“Nasty stuff” is my takeaway from our conversation. My post-chemo Neulasta shot is nasty.

Having a moment to see Nicole and discuss this speed bump made all the difference in-the-world. So often in cancer treatment you’re in unexplored territory. Who knows why you feel a certain way at any given moment?

I’m not TV-boy here in SoCal. This is not special treatment for a celeb. It’s just the way it is.

Thank God. If you’re ever in this position you’ll see how valuable this level of medical care truly is.