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

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Hard to believe that another 10,000 minutes have passed by, but that is what happens every week. I am back in the chemo chair at Salem Hospital, dripping my way through another 800 mg of Leucovorin, 800 mg of Fluorouracil, and 360 mg of Irinotecan. Should only be another 100 minutes, according to the pump rate and remaining volume. Then I will have a bonus 2880 minutes of Fluorouracil delivered via portable pump (whirrr-click every 75 seconds... only 2,304 clicks!). You should just see my awesome Poppy-Pocket pump holder - all elasticness, with a couple neat pouches for the pump and tubing. Fits under clothes and everything. Too bad it didn't come with Ginzu knives. :)

But seriously, so far the worst part of my treatment regimen seems to be my flaky/itchy/red face, a cold nose (though, remarkably, it only seems to be cold on the inside and not on the flaky-skinned outside), and the interminable 2,304 clicks from the 5-FU pump. Go figure. I have taken a couple of recliner-induced naps, and feel generally decent right now.

This week, I registered for and began an exercise class that is especially designed for cancer patients and survivors. It is taught/overseen by my friend, Nancy, and I have enjoyed seeing her again (though she said that it would have been OK with her to get together without the cancer recurrence). There are ten exercise stations (so to speak) and we use weights, stepping boxes, resistance bands, and lifting benches to maintain and strengthen major and minor muscle groups. The objective is two-fold: (a) keep as much lean muscle mass as possible during and after chemo, and (b) keep everyone's mind and body engaged in healthy activity that will help with recovery and general strength.

Now, some of you may know that I have returned to a modest level of bicycle fanaticism over the past three years (OK - maybe it is more than modest). So I figured I would probably be in OK shape for these exercises. Well, let's just say that I have needed to be more of a generalist and less of a specialist in the training department, and leave it at that. :) My trainer is totally awesome.

The exercises that are the toughest for me are: (a) side squats down the hallway and back, and (b) simple balancing (where we each stand on one foot and then lift and sweep the other foot in a semicircle from front to back, or lifting one leg, extending it the the side, and then moving it across in from of the other leg). My thighs were burning during and after those two, and they are supposedly my strongest muscles from riding. Sometimes we just kid ourselves about where our strengths lie, yes?

I have also been thinking about mental exercises - you know, the "positive thinking optimistic future" ones. After Chemo, Part II - Round One two weeks ago, I will admit to a small abandonment of my general positivity. But that has turned around. Yesterday I was filled with love and support from professional friends as they met in conference and I was "listening in" on a conference phone. I missed seeing them, but felt like I was there amidst the laughter and serious discussions of the present and future of NSGIC (National States Geographic Information Council).

Exercise is good for your body and for your mind.


kw said...

Hi Ed,

We met at a Livestong event at your house; I'm a colleague of Karen's at WU and a chemo veteran myself (stage 2 bc). I'm a big fan of exercise during treatment I found exercising during chemo to be key in reducing the fatigue that makes this adventure even more fun. And, it helped my head, too. So you go!
Karen Wood

Ed said...

Hi Karen,

I think I remember meeting you... and that is good since I had been trying very hard to put the details of 2007's cancer encounter behind me. I completely agree with your assessment/recollection, and am working now to make it happen during this run of fun. Thank you for sharing and being a part of my blog!

monica said...

I really appreciate reading your blog, Ed. Its a great way for me to keep up on your progress. I'm glad that your outlook has changed-I'm saying prayers for you and the family. Hoping to see you at Kay's this summer.

karabas said...

Good blog honey! You did ok with your momentary loss of positivity. We all will go there once in a while.

Alison's Blogs said...

Exercise is indeed the magic pill. Especially during chemo. And Nancy Baldwin should be patented by the FDA as a chemo drug! She does wonders for body, mind and spirit! When you are getting overwhelmed, keep your eye on the prize, my friend. This too, shall pass. You are amazingly strong, Ed. RAGBRAI!
Love you.

Anonymous said...

And including all of that, exercise will help you live with a pre-teen. Bonus!

- Cesie

Anonymous said...

Ed, don't mean to be naive but have you ever tried "Primal Defense" during any of your chemotherapy? It does wonders for replacing the necessary probiotic creatures in your digestive system essential for proper functioning. Just thinking it might help. I assume the cocktail you are digesting these days plays havoc with those little beasties. (No I don't own any stock in the company ;-) Just works great for me, especially when on extreme regimens of antibiotics. Nothing like what you are undergoing but....may be worth a try.


dave b said...


It was really great to hear you on the conference call at the Midyear Board meeting. We missed your energy and sage advice at the conference and the caucuses (cauci?). A bunch of folks mentioned that they were following your blog (as am I). If best wishes and good will are helpful you can be sure that your NSGIC friends are thinking of you often. We're looking forward to seeing you in Boise.

Dave B.

Anonymous said...

Found another prize to keep your eye on....ever heard of Kettle Valley Railroad in British Columbia? Pretty amazing biking opportunities...

Sue said...

LOVE Nancy. You're right - she's a powerful drug by herself. I got kicked out of RISE because I wasn't in active treatment. Now that I know you took my place, I feel better. Have you been yelled at for side-stepping in front of the support group room door yet? I guess we all have our problems - I wish that someone bobbing up and down outside your door was the greatest of yours. Keep up the good work!