April 30, 2013 (Tues) – “They had a hard time finding it.”

OK, this title could be referring to the search and discovery of the Titanic. Or an honest attorney. (Sorry legal buds, that was a joke, but I couldn’t resist). Or this line could describe a testosterone infused bodybuilder who was looking for his.., er, never mind.

No, this phrase was uttered by my radiologist today when describing the technicians who were looking for my brain tumor in the MRI scan. Yes indeed, certain jungle tribes, or testosterone for that matter, are not the only ones good at shrinking things. Nope, either the Tarceva or the radiation, or possibly both, did a number on upstairs Fuzzy. Originally discovered when the tumor was 6-7mm in size, it had grown to 12-13mm by the time radiation had started. Today, the official report has this puppy Fuzzy now down to 3mm. And even that could be scar tissue for all we know. Not sure I can handle all this good news. 🙂 Another scan won’t be scheduled for 3 months.

So, needless to day, our family is on a pretty big high right now. Of course we know that this could be temporary. But we hope that temporary lasts a loooong time. It is hard realizing that, despite feeling virtually normal, that I will never be normal again. At least not in the way I considered normal 6 months ago. But I will take today’s news, add it to Friday’s, and celebrate accordingly under the new definition. In fact, I am back on duty at Rady Children’s Hospital tomorrow night doing my volunteer stint. Feels good. And hooking up with two of my bros and their wives for a weekend golf getaway in Palm Desert in a few weeks. For those of you on last year’s Camp Enterprise team, this is the resort you treated me to. I’m finally using my gift card. Thanks! Can’t wait.

I knew all of the positive vibes, thoughts and prayers would work. Thank you everyone!

Business as usual. Day at a time.

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April 29, 2013 (Mon) – And the MRI results are…

…not in.

So this post will be a short one. Ahhh. Guess it takes a bit longer for the radio-types to write up a detailed report on MRI’s. We did meet with our onc – that’s an “in-the-know” term for an oncologist, otherwise referred by me as a guy who studies uncles. Anyway, he pulled up the x-ray taken last week of my lung and it was amazing to see the difference from only 6 weeks ago. Clear. Fuzzy-less.

We also had a whole bunch of questions answered, especially the one about resuming business as usual. And I mean business as usual. Thus I no longer can pull the “C” card to get out of hubby-duties. Dang. 🙂 No longer do I get an extra half a dozen strokes when playing golf. But it does mean I can resume my volunteering gigs at Rady Children’s and perhaps even at one of the summer camps I’m involved with. Just gotta be sure to wear sunscreen with a 1,000 SPF.

We agreed to also stop the antibiotics to see how my zits and ant-head reacts. Stand ready with that can of Raid. But the fewer chemicals I can put in my body, the better, as far as I am concerned. My onc also said he was going to confer with the specialist at UCSD to see if adding Avastin to my regimen might prove beneficial. She has been running clinical trials with that combo and my doc wants to check on the results so far.

I also asked him about a substitute for Advil since that is not good to take with Tarceva. And telling a 60-year-old weekend warrior, such as myself, to not use ibuprofen is like telling Kohl’s they can’t have a sale. Takes me 3 days to recover from a 1 1/2 hour softball game nowadays. And doing that w/o Advil is asking a lot. He prescribed something else that I will avoid taking unless really hurting, or if I play a double header. And speaking of softball, I had another something-for-4-day yesterday in our playoff game. Unfortunately that something was a 1 this week. And we got toasted. Oh well, summer season is just around the corner and I get to play with my son who has played on our team for the past 5 years or so. Very cool!

I also asked my doc to review the results of the blood workup that I donated for the cause to last Friday. He pulled that up on the screen and only had one word: “beautiful.” Not “looks pretty good” or “within nominal range” but “beautiful.” That’s not doctor-speak but it sure worked for me.

Came home this afternoon to a package my sister and her husband sent me. I opened it up and saw that it was a dozen Titleist golf balls. I thought, that’s cool, after the way I’ve been playing, I could use some more. However, upon reading the card and inspecting the balls further, I made the following discovery:

Fuzzy Golfball

Look close. What a great idea! However, these would only last about 2 rounds the way I typically play. I will have to reserve them for holes with no OB or water hazards. Maybe Boomers?

OK, time to wrap up. Perhaps tomorrow will bring good news on the MRI front.

Business as definitely usual. Day at a time, although I’m almost ready to change to “month at a time.”

April 26, 2013 (Fri) – Got Fuzzy!

OK, which of you jumped the gun and started thinking positive thoughts before Monday? You’re forgiven. Actually I did the same thing and opted to go in today for my x-ray and blood test so that I wouldn’t have to deal with everything on Monday. Also, that way the test results would be ready long before our meeting with the Uncle specialist (you have to have read prior blogs to get that one) Monday afternoon. So I was home not 45 minutes after the test when my cell phone rang. Had to shove my heart back into place as it got lodged in my throat. Those of you that have read this blog from the beginning know exactly who was calling, don’t you? Yup, my pulmonary specialist. I knew it had to be her because she gets notified immediately as soon as any of the tests she ordered are complete.

I was SOO tempted to ignore the call because, with one exception, she has always delivered bad news. Plus the fact that I have been feeling a little tightness return to my chest recently, I was less than my optimistic self. And I didn’t want to ruin the weekend. So when she announced, with obvious excitement in her voice, that my x-ray came back with no visual evidence of any tumor in my lung, I was floored. Her batting average has improved immensely in my eyes. Technically the radiologist report said something about the mass having been “significantly reduced” but my pulmonary doc said she wasn’t sure what the radiologist was looking at because she couldn’t see anything. No mass, no lung collapse, no Fuzzy. Here we are celebrating with a beer 45 seconds later. More like 30 seconds.

Toast

We actually tried opening a mini bottle of champagne Kim found in the fridge, but it had gone bad. OK, that was nary a blip and nothing was going to get in the way of our celebration.

Now, I realize that there is no “cure” for what I have, and there are still 3 other areas on my person we need to check out, but you know what? I’ll take it. And run. We’ve got “Lung Fuzzy” on the mat with my foot on its throat and I don’t plan on letting up. Or, if you are as old as dirt and were into wrestling back in the 50’s-60’s like my older brothers, Lung Fuzzy is in a figure-4 leg-lock held in check by The Destroyer. I like that image. 🙂

Hopefully you still have some positive thoughts left as I have my brain MRI on Monday morning and will be discussing the results with my doc in the afternoon. But the positive news I received today gives me a lot more confidence. Damn, that $200 Tarceva pill is worth every cent, eh?

I guess that tightness in my chest must be indigestion or acid reflux or some other malady. Certainly can’t be from any stress in my life. More likely it’s from swinging the bat in baseball. Going 4 for 4 could do that. Sorry, had to sneak that in. We’ll see how I do on Sunday. Forget about the golf story though, will you?

Now that Fuzzy is on the run, I plan on chasing it further with a slight improvement in my diet. Kim will be picking up a juicer and I will be adding some veggie cocktails to my daily regimen. As one of my contacts who is 6+ years out with stage 4 says, just think about it like drinking your medicine. Kim swears she can doctor it up to make it at least be drinkable. Figure I may as well add to the chemical ammunition that my doctor is prescribing.

Celebrated with a previously scheduled dinner tonight with my boss and his wife. Timing is everything, eh? And tomorrow morning I’m off to participate in Rotarians at Work Day helping clean and organize the USO office down at the airport. And if my doc gives me a green light, I hope to be back volunteering at Rady Children’s in a couple weeks. Damn it feels good to be doing regular things.

Keep them vibes coming!

Business as usual. Day at a time.

April 21, 2013 (Sun) – Going Naked

As per usual, with a title like this, I am going to keep you dangling. Oops, excuse the totally unintentional x-rated pun…

Yesterday was an awesome day. I met up with a bunch of high school buds up in Mission Viejo for pizza and beer, affectionately known as a P&B get-together. And no, we did not have segregated high school facilities back in ’74. But I don’t have a group photo yet; plus it was hard to get everyone in one shot:

Group

It was great to see everyone again. Most of them I had not seen since our 40th reunion, if then. Someone brought white support wrist bands in support of my journey that everyone wore. How cool was that? What it says is so true! I have an amazing support group.

No One Fights Alone

They also were very generous and brought me a bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay. Some of you may remember from an earlier post that this wine is our favorite splurge. This is not a hint or subtle request to “donate to the cause.” This time. 🙂 We are adequately supplied, thank you very much. But we will break it out for a special occasion. I think after my scans come back improved in about a week would be a good time, don’t you?

I also was able to squeeze in 9 holes of golf with my brother, his wife and Kim after the mini-reunion. So much for staying out of the sun, eh? Probably had half a tube of sunblock on though. It was fun to get out again – it’s been a while.

OK, coming up I need everyone to concentrate all of your positive thoughts for next Monday the 29th. That is when I have my first brain and lungs scans since the radiation treatments and the beginning of oral medication.

Positive

OK, I’ve left you hanging long enough. The “going naked” heading is really only referring to the fact that I have quit using the scalp medication a couple days ago. After reading about the potential side effects (of course) since this is a steroid medication, I opted to risk having the ants return in a fury. They have not. Whew. Perhaps it has to do with the oral medication I’m taking for the zits. Or the T-Gel shampoo I’ve been using. This shampoo has as its active ingredient “coal tar.” But it smells like Cal Trans is having a road tar paving party on my head. Heck, it if works, I don’t care if the active ingredients are road apples. Weeel, let me rethink that.

More good news: we won our softball playoff game today and I went 4 for 4. Remember, any time you get on base in our league, it’s a hit. However, 4 may have been a magic number today but it was not so magic yesterday on the fourth hole playing golf. I was lying 4 after two swings of my club, and I was still in the T-box! I know, I know. Stick to softball. BTW, after I got home from softball today I tried to pull the “I already have had my dose of sun today so I really can’t help you in the yard today” excuse with Kim. Nope, not buying it. Off to Home Depot soon for some more potting soil and some cement blocks to raise up some planters to keep them out of the reach of bunnies.

Speaking of Kim, we’ve all been able to stare this challenge in the face and sometimes joke with a macabre sense of humor. So the other day I had to replace the toilet valve because the tank would no longer fill. A half-hour job that took 20 minutes. Never happens. But afterwards Kim said, “See you can’t die. I have too many toilet fixes for you to do.” Some of you may think that a little offbeat. But not in our house. It’s exactly the type of joke that keeps me laughing and shows me that Kim is able to deal with this journey with a sense of humor. I love my wife.

May be a slow week for updated blog posts since nothing is really changing this week in terms of treatment. But you never know.

Business as usual. Day at a time.

April 14, 2013 (Sunday) – Ants, fuzzies on retreat?

craig bald copy

I warned you that I might take drastic action if the ants on my head didn’t return to their anthill. So what do you think?

Don’t tell me you fell for it. I ain’t not gonna (as you know, I love butchering grammar) head down this path until I have to. If ever. This photo is courtesy of my daughter, and Patrick Stewart, whose chrome dome she superimposed on my head with Photoshop. After looking at this photo, which adds about 20 years to me, I am in no hurry to head down this path.

As for the blog title today, it’s almost scary for me to say but other than the facial and scalp side effects of the Tarceva, I haven’t felt this well in months. No cough, no pressure on my chest from Fuzzy, no need for a runner for when I got on base in our softball game today… But I do have some bad news: we got clobbered. However, the new scalp medicine I have has reduced the anthill to a few creepy-crawlies, and no longer a sleep-stopper. Those of you that have read earlier posts know that I can sleep through just about anything including claustrophobic brain radiation treatments so it takes a lot to keep me awake. And since the ants no longer do, I am getting just about as much sleep as I want. And I want. Now I just have the zits to contend with. I know, I know. Just a couple weeks ago I was having you all do a Z-I-T cheer to encourage their sprouting. Be careful what you wish for. You guys must really have done a great job.

So I know this HAD to be a coincidence but you have to wonder if this company has secret access to a cancer database. I have never received a solicitation from them in my life. Timing is everything, eh?:

Cremation offer

I think I’ll toss this one, thank you very much. 🙂

My brother Mike recently pitched a story idea to a local TV station (NBC7) via their website and they bit. Yesterday a reporter came out to our house and interviewed me for a story about my journey and this blog and it aired last night at 11pm. I have to admit the reporter did a good job of editing the footage as I was very concerned about how it would come out. But I think it worked out OK. Other than my putting skills, I mean. What do you think?  Click here.

Meeting up with a bunch of my old (sorry but we are) high school cronies next Saturday up in OC for an early lunch, and then afterwards for a Bar-B-Q dinner at my brother’s house. Really looking forward to it. Haven’t left town since this whole journey began. But now that I am feeling this well, I have no qualms about heading out.

A board member from work hooked me up with someone she knew who is a 7-year, stage 4 lung cancer survivor. Had a great conversation with him last Friday. He is big into taking initiative towards his own treatment, especially as it relates to diet. Hmm. May have to look more into his recommendations. But very encouraging no matter what. It can be done.

Business as usual. Day at a time.

April 9, 2013 (Tues) – Here comes the sun, and I say…not.

Dracula

OK, the Tarceva already warns about being out in the sunlight with these zits/rashes. Today I received an additional prescription of Doxycycline to combat the rash. Of course, it says to stay out of the sunlight. Of course it does. What else? Was thinking about heading off to the Palm Desert for 2 days of golf later in May. Heck, I’ll have to dress like an Eskimo. Probably won’t affect my game too much however.

Also got a prescription for Fluocinonide. Yes, that’s how you spell it. Say that fast 5 times. Supposed to help with the head rash. Contains 35% ethyl alcohol. Definitely tingles the old follicles. Of course what does the Tarceva label say to avoid? You guessed it. Any skin products that contain alcohol. Oh, and many antibiotic drugs. My body is a walking contradiction. A contradiction with a bunch of zits.  We’ll see if I get a bit more sleep tonight.

Finally got our radon test back. You’ll remember that I did a test in our house because the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers is radon gas. So finally I got an e-mail with the results. Ready? Dum da da dum…:

Radon Test

Right smack in the normal range. I feel a big relief knowing that the rest of my family has not been exposed. Of course, that does not get me any closer to having a clue how I picked this bug up. I guess that is a moot point though, huh?

Someone at work passed along my story to a friend who was running in a marathon in Paris. She was running to honor others who have cancer and added my name to her shirt. How cool was that?

Tara in Paris shirt

OK, off to count sheep. Perhaps I should count budget figures I’m currently working on. They might be much more sleep inducing.

Business as usual. Day at a time.

April 8, 2013 (Mon) – Come on Baby Light My (head on) Fire…

Spray ants

OK, Tarceva side effects in full force. Yeah, I say that now. Who knows in another couple of weeks. Maybe this is just the tip of the anthill. Zit city on my face I can deal with, …sorta. But the red ant attack on my scalp is driving me bonkers. I thought I would try the above, non-published treatment for that issue. If that didn’t work I could put a match in front of the spray. Be faster than waiting for future chemotherapy to turn me bald. Last night I got about 1 hour of sleep.  The only reason I’m still awake right now is that the itching is keeping me awake. Trying a combination of Benedryl, special itch-reducing shampoo and Scalpacin, another anti-itch juice. I know, whine, whine, whine. Speaking of which, I think I need a couple glasses…

Scheduled for a haircut with my sister-in-law on Wednesday. Tempted right now to have her give me a Yul Brynner. Haven’t had one of those since high school football days. At least that way I’ll be able to see the ants.

Fuzzy napkin holder

My wife and a friend of hers were golfing last Friday and they stopped in the bar (of course) after the game. On the bar-top was this very fun napkin holder. Well, they HAD to have it. So Kim’s friend explained the need and the lady willingly donated it to the cause. I’m sure I can come up with something unique to use it for.

Saw my doctor who studies radios today. He scheduled my next MRI brain scan at the end of the month to check on upstairs fuzzy. Between the major 5-day zapping and the Tarceva, this thing should be toast, or at least a crouton. Also have my next lung x-ray about the same time. Based on how I feel, I highly suspect we should see a decent reduction in the major fuzzy in my lung. Otherwise zits and anthills are for naught. As for the other areas, who knows. But they were small before and I should think they would be smaller now. I know, I know, Craig being an optimist? Something about this whole journey that has somehow adjusted my way of thinking. Funny that it took something like this.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep.

Business as usual. Day at a time.