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. :)