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

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What a week...


Last Monday evening (5/16), I paid a long visit to the emergency room due to gastrointestinal distress (painful gas and diarrhea) that had us and my oncological team worried about bacterial infections and suppressed immune systems. After several hours, it turned out to be just that - GI distress and gas. But we were quite concerned about the possibilities related to my scheduled surgery, and were happy to be overly cautious. I was (and am) quite focused on getting to next Tuesday (5/31) for my appointment with a surgical team and their scalpels. It was also good to find out that I did not have "Clostridium difficile", also known as "CDF/cdf", or "C. diff", which is a species of Gram-positive bacteria of the genus Clostridium that causes severe diarrhea and other intestinal disease when competing bacteria in the gut flora are wiped out by antibiotics. This would have caused me to be prescribed a very strong antibiotic, and may have sidetracked surgery.

So, fast forward to Friday, when I am meeting with a podiatrist to help me understand the painful toenails (large toe on both feet, and second toe on my left foot) that had been going on for several weeks. I thought them to be a side effect of the Erbitux/cetuximab treatment that was also causing my acniform rash and extra-dry skin and had been applying antibiotic ointment to them, but it turns out that I had developed ingrown toenails on all three toes simultaneously (and that the triple antibiotic ointment was making things worse)! So, said podiatrist quickly numbs those sorry toes with lidocaine, and then takes out giant toe scissors and chops out 1/8-inch sections of each toe - all the way down to the base of the nails. Bleeding ensues... as well as the application of a dollop of bacitracin under a large band-aid for each toe. "You should be able to walk around now, just keep a dry band-aid on them until they stop bleeding. The pain will now be noticeably reduced." Sure enough. But seriously, three ingrown toenails at once?!?

Then, this morning (Sunday, 5/22), as I am finishing a brief shopping trip, I quickly develop a pain in my right middle back that is incapacitating. It went from what felt like a muscle twinge to agony in about five minutes, and I was barely able to negotiate the short drive home. I was soon writhing in pain (on the couch, the floor, everywhere) trying to find relief. My wife was a saint, arranging for our daughter and getting ready to call 911 when I told her it would be faster just to head straight to the ER (again). After a speedy check-in, I was hooked up to some IV meds (toradal, dialadid, and benadryl are my new best friends) and the pain eased. Turns out I was passing my first kidney stone - first both in time (never did THAT before) and in number (apparently the CT scan showed that there are three other stones in my right kidney). Gee - that is such nice news. But at least I now know what it is and that the pain does pass even if it is hardly tolerable. AND I now have on-hand pain drugs that are to be administered at the first sign of a repeat performance. Not looking forward to that so much.

But the most amazing thing is that none of those events seem to be getting in the way of next week's surgical intervention related to my liver mets. Unbelievable. And as a bonus from today's visit to the ER, I now know that the liver tumors are reduced even further (to a little over 2 and 3cm in length, down from original sizings in the 6+cm range). Some sunshine in an otherwise gloomy week. :)



Kathleen said...

Wow indeed, Ed! Kidney stones? In-grown toenails? I'm not sure what I admire more--your ability to deal with pain (expected and unexpected), or the humorous and entertaining way you write about it.

We will be thinking small, small thoughts about the tumors on the 31st.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed--you sound good, despite all this drama (and pain). I haven't personally experienced kidney stones, but I have a friend or two who have. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

I have had C. diff., and was hospitalized for it in an isolation room. Not to mention that the diarrhea alone could have killed me. So glad you did not have this one.

Where did I catch it? Possibly at the hospital or cancer center. Just a reminder that these germs are rampant in medical settings and the staff's hand-washing is pretty disgraceful--doctors are sometimes worse than other staff when it comes to precautions.

Hang in there for the 31st. I will be sending good energy your way.


Signor Family said...

Keep that attitude Ed! Anyone who can tolerate in-grown toenails and kidney stones in one week should get a medal! Kidney stones are really nasty but I'm glad they will not alter your surgery plan.

We are sending good Karma your way.

Mikey said...

Small is better, way to go Ed!

Dorothy Skinner said...

What a saga, Ed! You describe it with such clinical precision and eloquence that there must be hundreds of your blog readers across the USA writhing in pain with you. I know I was. But I know you'll be fine. Anyone who could rise from his bed of pain and eat Thai food two hours later will not be daunted. You're remarkable.

Pam said...

Can't seem to catch a break, dear, Ed. If it wasn't so pathetic, it would be laughable. I think about you daily, and I send you my very best, strong positive thoughts. I love you.

Anonymous said...

Man oh man. Really? It seems overly mean-spirited to me that you should be the victim of the god's dark humor. I am shaking my fist toward the heavens yet again!

But, repeatedly, you've refused to be their fall guy, Ed. No dark tricks for you. You are made of goodness and light and you will prevail! I can't wait for the joke you tell when this is all over. Those nasty gods will learn a thing or two then. :-)


CalamityJayne said...

Holy cow, Ed! What a week! I am a bit behind and we're only a day or so away from Tuesday. Hope you've stayed healthy enough for your date with the scalpels.

PN said...

Hello Ed, Hope your doing better this week. Wishing you the best! PN