My friends (and family),
I know that many of you were concerned about my chemotherapy treatment and the CT brain scan results that I received on Tuesday.
So let me share the GREAT news first. The CT brain scan was clear. The lung cancer has not metastasized to my brain. If it had it would have made the diagnosis terminal. Of course as doctors like to do there is a caveat. It may be there and we just can't see it yet. Still I hadn't realized how much it was weighing on me. And in my drug induced fog yesterday the news really didn't sink in. It is only really today that I'm realizing the full extent of it.
I had a good week last week. Minor heart burn was really the only observable side effect. I planted my raised bed garden over the weekend and got setup to tackle the dahlia planting. Sang in choir on Sunday though my shaved head did manage to keep the alto section giggling every time they turned around. A poignant moment as I served what I expect will be my last communion for awhile. I don't think any one noticed the tears but it was truly a great honor to serve. Thank you Dick and Steve for giving me that opportunity.
In regards to the shaved head. I was told that it was easier to deal with than the gobs of hair falling out over the course of a couple of days. While I was trimming my beard I just looked in the mirror, said "Commit" and ran the clipper straight back over the middle. I wish I had a picture of that moment. Now it is the shortest it has ever been. At any rate I've been told that it looks good and frankly if I had known how much is easier it is to look after I probably would have done it sooner. A few people have talked about shaving in support. And that is fine with me. Solidarity gives you a chance to tell my story and maybe share some of the things that I'm learning on this journey.
Knowing that I was potentially getting some bad news I asked Sandra to come along for the days travels on Tuesday. We checked in at 9:00am to begin the chemotherapy. Checked our brain function by doing the lobby crossword together without filling anything in. Flew through till almost the end and then were mercifullly given a reprieve by the nurse calling me in to begin. Same drill as last week with premeds to reduce the risk of allergic reaction and by about 10:00am we were ready for the actual treatment infusion. About 6 minutes in I coughed and felt a hot flush rising through my body. I flagged the nurse who immediately called a "Star 1" code and turned off the drug IV. Seconds later I was feeling squeezing sensation in my lower back which developed into pain. The much vaunted paclitaxel allergic reaction. That was what the code meant.
The allergic reacton resulted in a team of nurses descending into my space, beginning an immediate infusion of Benadryl to reduce the reaction and setting up to monitor vitals. I was able to give them a constant stream of information as to how I was feeling to guide them. A call to the Dr resulted in hydrocortisone being added to the mix which a nurse had all ready to go. I was totally impressed by the team work displayed by the group. Other than an intercom failure which resulted in not everybody notified properly it all went very smoothly. Dr. Johal showed up about 15 minutes into the protocol and he gave me a through checkup and asked if I was comfortable with a slow restart - explaining that usually the additional drugs resulted in no further reaction. So when the drugs were infused and given a few minutes to infuse we restarted the treatment process. Other than a little fluttering from my heart each time they boosted the dosage wondering if it would start all over again we were successful in completing the treatment with no more drama.
And just like last time it was over though instead of being there for three hours it was closer to five. I managed to make it downstairs to the radiation therapy appointment on time - though I did hang on to the stair banister as all the Benadryl had made me woozy.
I then met another doctor Dr. Pelham who will help me with side effect management. He is a family physician who has had some oncology training and is helping relieve some of the pressure on the oncology specialists. He helped me in a very grandfatherly way discussing the symptoms that I was experiencing and what I could expect. As he was pretty young he might be mildly surprised to hear himself described that way but I'm sure he makes a great family doctor to his patients. Some more new prescriptions and then we had a chat about the CT brain scan. He didn't have the results but offered to go and check after warning me that if it was complicated or negative he would have to refer me the specialist. And he came in with a smile announcing "It was clear." and offering high fives all around. In my groggy state I nearly missed his hand.
I grateful to be here and writing this today. I had another reminder of how quickly things go south. More importantly I realized that I have a wonderful God who is caring for me. Clearly he has plans for me and my job is to discover what they are. Pray for me as I seek work this out.