Life under construction…

I am sorry if my absence from writing has you worried.  I am doing just fine. 

The last few months have been tough here at Save My Ass Inc.    When you are CEO of your own company, at times you have to put in a lot of over-time, some blood, sweat and tears. 

Chemotherapy had hit me hard.  I spent every other week in bed.  The side effects have been awful.  I am told that since my liver is not the capacity that it was pre-surgery that it just couldn’t handle the toxicity of the chemo drugs and other drugs as well.  Boy did it talk to me.  I have thrown up in so many places, like my driveway, Rick’s vehicle, the emergency department, the cancer clinic, the doctor’s office, my bed, the couch, the list goes on and who knows how many pairs of undies went directly into the garbage pail outside.  Yuck.  I wouldn’t wish the experience on any one.  

I wasn’t the only one putting in some over-time.  I am so grateful to every one that worked along side me.  My Mom scheduled many days off work to take me to treatments, a few friends took me to treatments so I could give Mom a break, and of course, Rick.  Numerous times he would empty and clean my puke bucket, bring me cold cloths for my head, he would be woken up in the middle of the night to the awful sound of me getting sick and he would ask if I was okay.  Every morning on chemo days, before he left for work he would feel my forehead for fever and he would also check for my pulse.  I assume that he would be hoping to feel a pulse but then on some days I think it would save him a whole lot of work to not feel it if you know what I mean.  Yes, despite all this hardship that we have each endured, I still find humour in some things.  I told him that I am not going anywhere until I officially drive him crazy! 

Thankfully the chemo treatments have stopped for now.  I have been chemo-free for one month now and I am feeling more like my old self as each day passes.  Now I just deal with aches and pains and a lot of fatigue, which is easy to handle in comparison to the other nasty stuff.

My last chemo treatment landed me in the hospital for a night due to extreme dehyrdration.  I was supposed to have two more rounds after that but I had a discussion with my oncologist and she agreed with me that my body has had enough and she would figure out the next game plan.  She tells me that I am the most challenging case that she has encountered, frankly because I am not supposed to be here, my prognosis was very poor and here I am presenting with a smile and bright positive outlook every time I visit her office.  She took my case to the tumour board that meets monthly to discuss weirdos like me or should I say big question marks like me.  This tumour board consists of several oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, etc and they collectively brainstorm to offer next plan of attack against cancer.

I do have some good news to report.  Of the two tumours, one is “imperceptable” on the MRI scans and the other has shrunk considerably.  The one that is still there is the one that is complicated.  My liver surgeon was in attendance.  He said due to the location of this tumour it is too risky to operate because it very close to the main highway of vessels that support the liver.  However, it has shrunk enough that I was referred to meet with a radiation oncologist to discuss radiation treatment.  I told my regular oncologist that I am prepared to do whatever necessary to continue treatment.

So, just last week I met with a radiology oncologist to discuss starting radiation therapy.  I hit the jackpot I think.  This doctor happens to be the head of the radiation department of the clinic that I go to and he is also a professor at one of the local universities.  He is a young man and is totally up to date on cutting edge new treatments.  He discussed a new treatment with me and I decided right then and there to go ahead with it.  I also agreed to be a part of a trial study to further advance this therapy that I will be getting.  I will be within a group of 14 other patients.  Here is where the jackpot happens.  Just three years ago when I was first diagnosed, patients with liver cancer or colorectal cancer with metastasis to the liver like me, weren’t even offered any type of radiation due to the sensivity to the organ, and here I am preparing to start this type of therapy! 

Thanks to a doctor in Michigan by the name of Dr. Laura Dawson, she helped develop this new treatment.  It’s not the “standard care” given to patients.  The best I can explain it is that it’s standard care/plus+ … kind of like super-sizing.  From what I understand, the standard care radiation is beamed in one direction at a general region surrounding the tumour or tumours. Standard care treatments generally require patients to get radiation 5 days a week for a few weeks and each session only last a few minutes.  With each breath the patient takes, of course the tumour moves and radiation only hits the tumour every other breath which means healthy tissue is getting zapped also.  This new system will have me connected to a real time CT scanner at the same time which will track each breath I take during treatment.  I will be going every other day for 2 weeks and each session will be approx. 30 to 45 minutes in length.  So in other words, the radiation will fry the actual tumour when it is in it’s mapped out location (ie: tattoo marking on my tummy) which should save my main vessels from damage and toxicity.  That is the plan anyway.  Also, I forget what unit of measurement that the doctor told me they use, but instead of the radiation being at the regular level of 30, it will be raised to a level of 1000 plus with the toxicity being no greater than the regular level, now that’s what we call advancement!  He did warn me that there will be side effects whenever the abdominal area gets radiation.  He mentioned nausea, belly pain, liver pain, digestive issues, the runs, extreme fatigue, etc….. nothing I haven’t experienced already, so I can handle it.  The tumour and the surrounding little tiny vessels that feed the tumour will be burned out or as I prefer to say… will die!!!  I am very hopeful and so is my doctor that this will certainly buy me some more time.  Also because I agreed to be part of a trial study that is in addition to the radiation treatment I will undergo a few other procedures/tests/scans to track the progress or no-progress of the treatment while it is happening.  It also means that there will be more specialists looking at my liver which may pick up other lesions that MRI’s are not registering and we can zap them at the same time.  How could I say no?  Not only do I benefit but others will benefit in the future.  I am happy to be a part of research and development.  Did I mention that I also hit the jackpot because I live in Ontario and only 5 cancer treatment centres in all of Canada offer this new type of treatment?  My clinic just happens to be one of them!!!  Our government healthcare system provides me with absolutely free treatment.  If I lived just an hour away in Michigan, I wouldn’t be getting treated.  Most insurance companies don’t cover the cost and only the super wealthy get it as each session costs a whopping two hundred thousand dollars! 

I realize you have been wondering what is going on and to the best of my ability of explaining all the big doctor’s words, this is what I am able to share as my translation.  I am sorry if I worried you, I just want you to know that I am okay, I am geared up, rested and of course….FOCUSED!!!!

Christmas came early for me this year.  What a gift to be told that there is still hope and still options available for treatment.  No gift wrapping required and it’s a gift that keeps on giving, I will certainly make the best of it… this gift of time!!

Stay tuned for the next chapter of Life Under Construction… I’ve got some work to do.