May 17, 2015 (Sun) – What Router to Buy? A Cancer Blog?

Commute-mudIf you think a hard drive is a tough commute or Adobe Acrobat is a gymnast rolling in the mud, you may not get this one.

Yesterday I spent the better (or worse, depending on your point of view) part of 3 hours routerresearching and then traipsing all over town to replace my aging wireless router. For you nerds out there, I had an old “G” Linksys that would not keep our dueling iPads connected to the internet all the way across the house. Ended up buying a higher-powered “N” version that seems to have done the trick.

But, as before, this is not a blog about getting your tech on. In a roundabout way, however, it will touch on connectivity. More on that later.

Business as usualNo, I’m talking about business as usual to the nth degree. So would I be shopping for a router before cancer? Of course. Would I be spending all day at the office working on our non-profit budget on a Sunday (today) before cancer? You betcha. At dinner with friends, would I be powering down a couple glasses of sangria (spiked with tequila) followed by a Rombauer chaser, before cancer?  Absolutely. Would I typically be getting only 6 1/2 hours of sleep before cancer? Unfortunately yes. Should I still be doing all of these things at that level with cancer? Uh, no.

My wifey would categorically agree with the statement that I am pushing myself too far with this business as usual stuff. And I would be hard pressed to disagree. And disagreeing with your wife, in any situation, is not a recommended course of action. However, figuring out how to dial back my daily activities to a lower level than BC is easier said than done. Gotta have a router. Gotta balance that budget. Gotta have my Rombauer. The sleep thing? That I could work on. Maybe it would take some really bad news to press me into (in)action. Let’s not test that theory though, shall we?

ConnectivityOn the connectivity front, last you heard from me I was on my way upstairs to connect with a bunch of lung cancer peeps at the Lungevity Hope Summit in DC. Having only met 2 or 3 other lung cancers survivors in person, it was a Group photo Hope Summittotal trip to be in a roomfull (150) of them comparing notes, sharing stories and treatments and just reinforcing the fact that we are not alone. Lots of survivors there, many of them stage IV unfortunately, but the longevity ranged from the newbies (6 months since diagnosis) to 25+ years. Gives you lots of hope, which amazingly was the title of the conference. Duh.

In addition to the camaraderie, which was awesome by the way, we were also treated to several sessions put on by docs talking about the latest and greatest treatments and options on the horizon. Just keep pushin’ it out. That’s the plan.Survivor pic

BloggersOne of the more fun things was to finally meet (in person) some of my fellow lung cancer bloggers who, with the exception of Dann, I have only met on-line. Here is a picture of a bunch of us. And can you tell we were having fun? And the dinner that Saturday was to die for. Oops, poor choice of words. 🙂 Hey, dark humor has helped keep me going these 2+ years. (Photos courtesy of Randy Elles Photography LUNGevity Foundation).

Since my flight was covered by a grant from Lungevity (thank you very much), I stayed on in DC for a couple extra daACys to visit a few Closetmuseums. Visited the Spy Museum, the Newseum, and the Museum of American History. But since I am the one in charge of our budget at work, I could not justify staying at the Marriott still. Instead I found a 101 year old hotel just a few blocks from the White House. Very interesting accommodations. Although I needed neither a closet nor the A/C for the one night I was there, it was enlightening to see how they managed those features in such “classic” accommodations. The pictures speak a thousand words.

June 2015 calendarBack in the home country of San Diego, it truly is business as usual. Nothing new on the scan front until Friday the 12th when I get my next double dose. Scanxiety should kick in about the 9th or 10th. Keep those positive vibes coming so I can surf ahead of that wave and take advantage of some new options down the road.

Business as usual. Day at a time.

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May 1, 2015 (Fri) – Life is a Box of Chocolates…

OK, say it with me now: and you never know what you’re gonna get. That’s kinda the way it works in the lung cancer world – you look right ForrestGump_Chocolatesand get smacked on the left. Or you look straight ahead and get rear-ended. This particular time, while expecting, but hoping against, a particular result, I actually was not surprised. I got that chocolate nougat I thought I was picking out. Not a particularly tasty morsel but not a surprise either.

These past two weeks have been incredibly packed with stuff. From the Breath of Hope Walk two weeks ago, to a Rotary volunteer gig at the Humane Society last Saturday, to the Moores Cancer Center fund raising gala later that same night, finding time to update my blog has been a challenge. Right now I am 37,000 feet in the air, probably somewhere over Missouri, en route to the the Lungevity Hope Summit in DC. I figured this would be the only chance I have in the next couple of days to update everyone on my latest scans. But, as before, don’t expect a lot of cutesy graphics as I am writing this on my iPad and I was not about to spring for $19.95 for airplane wifi access. This will have to wait until I check into my hotel and I can can tweak and upload it.

As you know, last Monday morning I had my every-six-weeks double-your-pleasure set of scans: a quiet, hot-flash-accompanied CT scan of my lungs, which only took about 10 minutes, and a clanging brain MRI, that, unfortunately lasted about 30. But the good news is that it only took them two sticks to get an IV in me this time. That’s a 100% improvement over my last four-jab visit.

The next day I e-mailed my onc-doc to get the results. Surprisingly I got an email fairly quickly in reply from his nurse who indicated that he was out of town that day. However, she was very accommodating in faxing me the write-ups from both scans. Felt kinda weird reading my own results without going over them with my doc.

We have good news, and not-so-good news. The MRI on my brain came back with no change. No growth, no shrinkage, still there (whatever it is – more on that later), but not gobbling any further real estate. So no treatment plan at the moment for that puppy, er, fuzzy. I’ll take that.

However, the CT indicated continued slow growth in several fuzzies, in and around my lungs, just as the last test showed. And this time a new area of “suspicion” popped up: a spot on my kidney. OK, that was not the nougat I was expecting. But it is what it is, whatever that is.

Tuesday afternoon I met with my radio-doc to go over the MRI results. Although he likes to give me the news himself, he has finally accepted the fact that I find ways of getting my results before he can inform me. He was a bit bent out of shape because he had ordered a hi-rez version, and my regular onc-doc had ordered a standard one in direct contradiction. Of course, the scan-docs ran the basic one and the image was not as good as they wanted. Advice to other survivors: question everything. This occurred once before and I should have double checked before the scan to be sure they were doing the right kind. You have to stay on top of the details in your treatment. Do not make assumptions (as I did this time) because, well, as you know, ass-u-me.

Bottom line, he agrees that not zapping that bad boy makes sense now since it hasn’t changed. I think he regrets not convincing me to nail it the last time when he was certain it was an active fuzzy that needed blasting. So no need for that second $550 opinion right now. I’ll save that for if/when there is doubt about my treatment.

On Wednesday, I met with my lung-onc specialist at Moores who went over the results of the kitty-scan. Yes, things are still progressing (still hate that word) but at a reasonably slow pace. Slow enough to keep me in the trial for at least the short, perhaps longer, term. The kidney spot was a surprise as she hadn’t picked up on that in the write-up which she only had done a quick scan herself. Apparently that spot has been there, disappeared, and then come back over the last 9 months. But it was never pointed out previously. Although she is not overly concerned about that newbie, since she is not a kidney specialist, she was going to present it to the “tumor board” at Moores that meets weekly to get another opinion.

Bottom line #2: I am staying the course with no change in treatment for another six week increment. Nice to at least not have that hanging over my head for a few weeks despite the obvious concern about the direction things are going.

But as many of you are aware, there are a bunch of new treatment options out there coming to a city near you. Preferably to one near me. I asked my long-onc how long I might be able to continue the treatment plan I’m on before having to switch to something else assuming the same rate of progression. I was expecting maybe July or August. She said January. Really? Now that was very encouraging.

Obviously things can change and that estimate might go up in smoke, but I felt a little better after hearing that. Plus my A-Team drug, AZD9291, very likely will hit the market before the end of the year because it has shown to be so effective and is getting fast tracked. Once that happens, they can take me off the trial and prescribe the drug. That will be handy because they can then add other treatments in combination that they cannot do now because of the strict clinical trial guidelines. And if that kidney spot really is a fuzzy, they can zap it then. Right now that would get me kicked out of the trial.

In a directly conflicting opinion versus my radio-doc, my lung-onc is 95% certain that spot in my head is the result of tissue necrosis. Now that is a word that sounds just like it means – dead tissue. Otherwise it would imagenot have remained stable. Amazing how two different docs can have wildly conflicting opinions. Advice #2: question everything. Oops, that’s the same piece of advice. Just goes to show how important it is. Nobody knows everything and certainly different docs do not always agree. Obviously you have to be be your own advocate.

OK, now the fun stuff. Last Saturday my wife and I were invited as guests to the Moores Cancer Center fundraising gala. They raised imagealmost $2mil in one night! Now I know some of that was prearranged but it was still amazing. Proceeds will be going to additional immunotherapy research, perhaps one of my options in the future. Here is a picture of me and Kim, obviously enjoying ourselves.

Finishing this up from my hotel room in Arlington, getting ready to head up and meet a bunch of other lung cancer peeps. My heart’s a fluttering.

Business as usual. Day at time.