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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where we get energy...

So, the blogger feels like he has once again let himself down on his commitment to post more frequently (and seems to have adopted an annoying habit - referring to his very own self in the third person). As I am sure I have said before, the idea of thinking and writing about my cancer journey has become less appealing as time marches on. Unfortunately, that leaves my loyal readers and supporters in the proverbial dark. And there have certainly been some dark days this year!

Right now, I am in Boise (pronounced "boy-see"), enjoying the marvelous early fall weather and the amazing energy of the National States Geographic Information Council - NSGIC (pronounced "niz-jick"). This is truly one of the most satisfying professional engagements that I have ever had, and this group has had big impacts on the way that geospatial data are created and used all across the nation. Most if not all of the background imagery that we see on GoogleMaps, Bing, Yahoo, etc. is provided by federal/state/local government collaborations, and NSGIC has led that effort for many years. And that is only one small example of the work that NSGIC does year-round. I get a lot of energy from the excellent NSGICers that work diligently year after year to promote the efficient and effective use of geospatial technologies in government, and consider many of these people among my close friends.

It was also wonderful to have a chance to ride 20+ miles with several NSGICers on Sunday morning. Riding along the Boise River in the sunshine was a great reminder of what my near-future will look like. Over the past few years, my return to regular cycling has energized my life and has created a means to re-engage my self in mindful (and healthy) exercise. Planning and accomplishing long rides are a healthy distraction from the difficult reality of next Monday - my final treatment of 2011. So expect to hear about long-ride options that I am considering in future posts!


Monday, September 19, 2011

New old news

So, here I sit again, staring out the window into grey cloudy skies that predict an early fall, attempting to drown out the whirrs, clicks, and alarms of the chemo infusion clinic with a healthy dose of Enya. My bloodwork was encouraging this morning, with my neutrophils 'recovered' to a nearly-normal 3000 per milliliter. The bone pain in my left femur was a predicted (and predictable) side effect of the Neulasta shot that I received two weeks ago, and I anticipate another one of those beastly injections on Wednesday to be sure we can finish Chemopalooza 2011 on time. All evidence points to finishing the fifth treatment this week, and then a final transfusion has been scheduled for October 3rd. Woo-hoo.

Karen and I went to the coast this last weekend with three other couples - dear friends that form a wonderful little book club / drinking association. I have been virtually a teetotaler for the past eight months, but let myself get a little wild by having a couple Bud Lite Limes. Lest anyone miss the irony of that, I have long been a fan of handcrafted and small lot beer batches. Local favorites include the Deschutes Obsidian Stout, the Ninkasi Tricerahops, and just about any Oregon-produced India Pale Ale. Drinking Bud Lime is like drinking a weak shandy. But I digress. We had a fun time laughing and playing games together, canoeing in the Siletz Bay, and traipsing around Robert's Book Shop in Lincoln City. It was a perfect relaxative prior to today, and we even got to watch the Packers win.


Friday, September 9, 2011

That giant sucking sound... not jobs flooding into Mexico after NAFTA, despite Ross Perot's fiery speech. It is the sound of exasperation and fatigue from this particular cancer-boy. I am just past my 10th of twelve treatments (six before surgery, and six after), and it is not getting any easier. Between the chemo and the side-effect management drugs, I have been mostly horizontal for the past 72 hours. I am achy, sleepy, and generally tired. Last night, I was reminded of how I am not all that good with stuff beyond my control - which leads to me trying to control 'something' - and that is also a hard place for me to be. So both physically and mentally, I am not feeling good. Cancer still sucks.

So, only two more treatments! Suck it up. Easier to say than to do. I lament my inability to sleep, that I am cold during the hottest days of the year in Oregon, and that I am too weak to be of much use at home or at work. Two more of these weeks, and we will be on the upswing again. I sure hope so.

I am grateful for all the support I receive daily. My family and I are luckier than many. But today I am tired of feeling lousy, and that is that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Somehow we managed to pile nearly 1500 neutrophils into a milliliter of my blood this morning, so I passed into the biochemical soup phase of existence again. Can I repeat for the record that my name is Ed Arabas, my birthdate is "mm/dd/yyyy" (I am hiding this in case there are hacker/lurker-types that skim blogs for important identifying details - most of you know my birthday anyways!), and I am supposed to get FOLFIRI plus aprepitent today?

Very tired and gut-achy, but glad to have number four almost under my belt.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Good times, bad times...

...I know I've had my share...

Those words are the beginning of the chorus lyrics for a Led Zeppelin song that came out in 1969. The song continues as a lamentation about the promises and disappointments of young love in a time that has been characterized as the free-love era. It is a song that has rattled around my brain for the past forty years or so. But it is easy to take just the beginning lines of the chorus and apply them more broadly - wouldn't you say?

Last week a dear friend from work announced that she had been diagnosed with "advanced ovarian cancer" (but without enough detail for me to deduce much of anything about her prognosis). But just her announcement is a crushing blow, as I feel like I know what is about to happen to her and in her world. She has been a pillar of support for me, and probably didn't even know it. Now the shoe is on the other foot, proverbially, and I am committed to support her however I can. Major surgery occurs this week, and I will be sending positive energy toward Portland on Thursday morning.

Many folks know that I was unable to be treated earlier this week due to my neutrophil level. Neutrophils are a key component of our white cell immunological defenses, and when they get too low (in the case of chemotherapy, below 1000 cells per milliliter) we are more susceptible to the casual illnesses (colds, infections, etc.) that we normally handle without noticing. So I have had an extra week of recovery and feeling good, and can say without hesitation that I prefer feeling good over chemotherapy. Like that is some kind of big news or something. Whatever. On Tuesday we will try a slightly different mixture of side-effect-countering drugs to see if we can improve the post-chemo treatment days a little. And I am moving up from neupogen/filgrastim (five daily shots to encourage white cell growth right after chemo) to neulasta/pegfilgrastim (a single more powerful shot given once the day after chemo). We shall see.

A dear, longtime friend of ours is visiting this weekend so that she and my wife can run a half-marathon together tomorrow. It is nice to hear their laughter together - about running, raising girls, long-ago escapades - and I am happy that I get to share some of their good times. That is really the key - to focus consciously on the good times, and to let the bad times go.