The on-going, first-hand tale of a journey through medical oncology... and what happens after.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Yesterday's news

So, with almost unanimous encouragement from the folks on the old "cancer
update" lists, I am setting up a blog. This will be my experimental first post,
and is merely the cut-and-paste version of yesterday's update. For those of you
out there in Internet-land that I have not yet met, and for my fellow travellers
in cancer-world, I am a 45 y.o. white man that was diagnosed with colo-rectal
cancer in March, 2007. Initially thought to be a Stage I/II tumor, the pathology
report confirmed a Stage IIIb tumor with lymph node involvement. Several
anxious weeks later, with many consultations and discussions, we decided to
call it colon cancer (the tumor could not BE more on the boundary between the
various definitions of rectal versus colon). I am participating in a clinical
trial (control arm) and will start the FOLFOX treatment this Wednesday.
Wish me luck and a happy bowel for the next six months. :)

Instant disclaimer for Internet surfers and the like: I sure hope I get
all the details and drug names right, but you should really check with a
doctor rather than trust my memory on such things.

-----Yesterday's original email message follows-----

Here it is, a beautiful day again. The rose garden across the street is in
full bloom, and the fragrance gently wafts onto the porch and into the house.
It's sunny, and we expect to see 80+ degrees again today. I am resting now,
though I plan to get some more drywall-finishing work done in the basement later

Yesterday, I had surgery to implant a PowerPort device just below my right
clavicle. As I may have mentioned before, this device makes it easier to:

(a) withdraw blood for the myriad of tests that are done prior to each
chemotherapy treatment. The doctors will be watching my red blood cell count,
my white blood cell count, and my platelet count in addition to all the
electrolytes and what-not that courses through our bodies each day. They will
be able to tell a lot about my other organ functions (especially my liver) based
on these tests, and will adjust me chemotherapy accordingly.

(b) deliver the chemo-therapies. As you recall there is Oxaliplatin,
Leucovorin, and 5-FU (aka FOLFOX) for the next six months... but in addition I
am participating in an anti-emetic/anti-nausea drug trial, and this also
requires pills and injections. This port will be plenty handy!

(c) deliver the contrast dye for CT scans. I don't know exactly how many of
these will be required during the course of my treatment, but I have already had
five. For those that weren't paying attention (or if I forgot to write about it
in detail - :) ), you have to fast for several hours before the scan, then drink
two quarts of a chalky barium solution over about an hour's time, and then get
an infusion of dye to make your circulatory system "stand-out" for the scanner.
Each dye infusion requires an IV, unless you have a port installed. Let me tell
you, my poor veins are already tired of all the poking.

So, the surgery itself was not memorable (due, in fact, to the Versed and
Fentanyl injection that the anesthesiologist gave me). I arrived at the
outpatient care center promptly at 8am, got "prepped" pretty quickly (this
consists of the mandatory change from normal clothes to a gown that ties in
the back and little else), and then rested in a bed for almost 90 minutes. The
operation was scheduled to begin at 9:10, but was delayed because the
anesthesiologist that was supposed to do my surgery was still engaged with
another operation... They located another Dr., and I was wheeled into the OR
at about 9:45am (I think). They had me help them by getting onto the operating
table, then I was in the recovery room with a lump under my skin on the right
side and some gauze taped over it. The IV site on my left hand swelled up a
little after they took out the needle, but that swelling is completely gone now
and there is no pain in my hand. The port site, though, is a little tender to the

I got home by about noon, and was absolutely parched. I just couldn't seem to
drink enough water, and then I realized that the oxygen feed I'd received during
the surgery must have completely dried out the back of my throat. That
recollection reassured me, as I was afraid that I had somehow contracted a cold on
top of everything.

Next on the agenda is our first trip for chemo on Wednesday. This time through
will involve the whole day, as they want to go slowly the first time.
Subsequent trips are supposed to be less time-consuming, but we'll have to wait
and see. The job situation is good - I started full-time again last Tuesday and
quickly am settling in. It's amazing how tired one can get sitting in a cubicle
for eight hours a day, but I am enjoying the challenge of the work (drafting
administrative rules for enterprise IT software standards, among other things)
and I am working with a group of motivated and interesting people.

That's it for now.


Boo Rayburn said...

Ed - The text is cut off on the right... I'm thinking it could be a formatting issue... :) I don't want to miss a single letter!!! :)

Ed said...

I think the issue is fixed. Please let me know if this is not correct!

Eric said...

I also endorse your blog idea. It is a very good tool for this kind of discussion and sharing. I like that it nurtures a community quality that feels like a circle of supportive friends in a big imaginary room.

If you want pictures on your blog, the free Google software known as Picasa ( is excellent for organizing imagery, resizing and and uploading pictures to the web. It works great with Blogger!

Paul said...

I like the blog, Ed! At this point in time, I just want you to know that we are greatly impressed by your courage, good sense, and feisty inquisitiveness-- qualities that will help you focus on what's most important for you right now.
Good luck Wednesday!

Jack said...

Hi Ed.
I really like the name of your blog. This is actually my first ever blog entry, so in keeping with my voluminous style that I've established at the book club, I'll sign off now and just let you know that I'll be thinking of you on Wednesday. Best wishes. Jack

Willamette Naturalist said...

Thanks for sharing the insider story on your insides, especially the courage, humor, and concern that resides between your ears. Science geek that I am I love the biomedical details without bounds, but your humanity is something that is extremely impressive, albiet a bit beyond my naive understanding. Watching closely and wishing you well.