July 27, 2015 (Mon) – A Triple Decker of Tasty and Not-So-Tasty Morsels

Triple Decker SandwichMy wife knows I love club sandwiches. She will invariably guess correctly when we go out to eat at a casual restaurant if a club sandwich is on the menu. What can I say? I like predictability and knowledge that I will enjoy all ingredients included in said sandwich. Call it comfort food. Or call it a boring husband.

Yet, my journey to date has been anything but predicable. Hopeful yes. Predictable? Not usually.

Thus begins my quickie (don’t go there) summary of my most recent triple decker sandwich, aka my set of 3 scans last Friday. Unfortunately not all ingredients were mouth watering. Smacking my lips and gagging at the same time – now that’s a lunch entree that would result in a nasty Yelp review.

BaconLet’s start with the bacon: My brain MRI came back, once you got through all of the medical gobbledygook, as “No significant change right cerebellar metastatic focus when compared with most recent exam...” Obviously not written with proper grammar in mind but I will forgive the transgression this time. Bottom line: upstairs fuzzy is hibernating, hopefully like Rip Van Winkle. Yea!

Triple mixtureNow mix some castor oil with pureed Brussels sprouts. I had no idea there was an “s” on the end of Brussel, did you? Squirrel!  In any case, make a nice paste with those two ingredients, perhaps add some Vegemite for texture and spread on your sandwich. That would be my kitty-cat (CT) scan of everything else. Again, skipping over the impossible-to-decipher technical jargon, here is what you get: “Progressive malignancy in the lungs and mediastinum. Suspect enlarging renal metastasis.” That’s where the gagging kicked in. But I was mentally prepared based on recent history and had my virtual barf bag handy. So no cookies were actually lost in the process. Bottom line: same ‘ol, same ‘ol story when compared to the scan results for the last 3-4 scans. Continued growth in the fuzzy boys below my noggin.

Triple mixture 2Finally, layer some Limburger cheese with anchovies and sprinkle some ground up ghost peppers (those that know, know) for good measure and you have completed my meal. Some of you might actually like this. Yeech. This last set of ingredients comprised my third scan – my shoulder MRI which, when chewed up and digested down to words I could understand, came out like this: “Magnetic resonance imaging of right shoulder demonstrates features (‘features?’ Really?) of an active inflammatory phase of adhesive capsulitis. Nonspecific focus of signal hyperintensity and replacement of fatty marrow within the coracoid process Frozen Shoulderpossibly reflecting a metastatic focus given the patient’s history of lung cancer. This focus may be mildly sclerotic on CT. Stress remodeling of the coracoid process is thought to be less likely.” Bottom line: Looks like I have a case of “frozen shoulder” which will probably be treated by an ultrasound guided injection of steroids directly into the achy area. Then most likely continued home PT rehab. Problem being that this may not be allowed under my current AZD9291 (A-team) trial. We shall see.
Ashes

And if you nuke this sandwich to just charred remains, as I would suggest you do in any case, you may get what is alluded to in the last paragraph as “reflecting a metastatic focus…” So there is a possibility that not only do I have a frozen shoulder, but a fuzzy with a parka is hanging out in the tundra. The plan is to keep an eye on it and perhaps do another MRI on my shoulder after having received the steroid stab. Maybe it’s just an empty igloo. Stay tuned.

Had my regular lung-onc visit today but was seen by a sub since my regular onc was out of town. So, although he was not in a position to prescribe any specific course of action, he was pretty certain that we will be staying on the same route for at least another 6 weeks. He was especially happy that all of the parts he checked out seemed to be in fine operating condition. Obviously he did not check out all of my parts…

Business as usual. Day at a time.

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July 18, 2015 (Sat) – Why Me? If Only. And Other Time Wasters

why-meEarly in a cancer patient’s diagnosis, the “why me” pops its ugly head. I say ugly because no good comes from asking that question. Some of us quickly get past that futile endeavor while others have a tough time shaking it off. Certainly lung cancer can have some obvious direct causation connections: smoking, long term asbestos exposure, even living in an area with high levels of naturally occurring radon gas. Yet many of us without any obvious causes have to accept the fact that life can be random. Roll of the dice. Luck of the draw. Turn of the wheel. Mutant gene. Who knows? And more importantly, should I care? No. It is what it is and stressing over what might have caused it just takes energy you need to weather the storm.

if-onlyIf only is not any better.

If only I had built a better wall with my cereal boxes when I was a kid sitting at the breakfast table with my smoking parents. I would surround my bowl and duck Cerealsmy head into the enclosure with boxes of Sugar Pops, Sugar Frosted Flakes and Sugar Jets forming a barrier. Now that I think about it, it’s more surprising that I don’t have diabetes with that diet. Yes, those were the actual names of the cereals back then when they weren’t so PC health conscious. I can almost guarantee they have just as much sugar these days but that is a bad word now. But perhaps second-hand smoke from 50 years ago was the culprit.

JointIf only I hadn’t partaken in college. Could that have caused the bad boy fuzzy that sat around for 40+ years and just now decided to rear its ugly head? Would have enjoyed eating the brownie version more anyway.

popcorn scraping 2If only I hadn’t scraped the asbestos-laden popcorn off all of our ceilings in our house. Although I wore a good respirator, maybe something slipped past. Could one of those minuscule fibers that I possibly inhaled been the snowball that got the avalanche started many years later?

But once again, do any of these “if only’s” have any proactive benefit in the healing process? Of course not. So why waste what valuable time I have in doing something so detrimental? Not gonna.

What ifNow “what if,” “if only’s” cousin, can play both sides of the fence. If used looking backwards, it takes the same shape as “if only” since wondering what might have been is wasted breath. And trust me, wasting breath is the last thing you want to do as a lung cancer survivor. But if you use “what if” looking forward, it can have a positive benefit, as long as what follows that phrase are actual steps taken. What if I am able to get into that clinical trial? What if I spend more time Googling new treatment options and bring them to my oncologist? What if I connect with other NSCLC survivors to compare notes and exchange info? What if I win the lottery? OK, maybe that last one is a bit out of my control but hey, hope is a good thing too. And I have to pay for our bathroom remodel somehow.

Bathroom2How’s that for a segue? Yes, we are biting the bullet once again and are currently remodeling our master bathroom. Only a Bathroom1couple months after redoing our guest bath. And only two years after our total kitchen transformation. I figure if I let my wife keep changing things in the house, she might lay off changing her husband. Or changing him out. So far so good. We were what-iffing whether we should do this remodel, just as we asked that same question two years ago before doing the kitchen. But now, like then, we are looking toward the future and I plan on getting many years of magazine reading time on the new throne. OK, these days it would be iPad reading time, but I think you get the picture, even though you may not want to.


rotary_logoI’m going to cheat and use a “what if” in the past. What if I hadn’t joined Rotary almost 10 years ago? That is not something I want to think about as it was one of the more important, and rewarding, decisions in my life.

Recently I was asked by our incoming Rotary President (Peter) to provide the beginning-of-the-meeting 2-minute inspirational message. It was truly an honor to be asked, especially for Peter’s inaugural meeting. Our club always has the Mayor of San Diego do the swearing-in ceremony so I was sitting next to him at the front table. So how about the Chargers, Mr. Mayor? Nah, we only chit chatted about Rotary Spiel July 2015nothing in particular. But as for my message, the last time I gave one at this club was just after being diagnosed a little over two years ago. It was my coming-out party, so to speak, although I had already started up my blog.

So this time around it was a similar message. If interested in reading the text, you can click on the graphic.

But the major surprise at Rotary was something I never saw coming. My wife had told me she wanted to come to the luncheon and I had assumed it was to hear me give the inspirational message. Yeah, right. Little did I know the true reason.

Here’s the background: many of you know that I have volunteered as a Rotarian “reader” to one of our elementary schools we have partnered with. However, instead of reading, I found I was much better able to keep the 1st grader’s attention by doing simple science experiments. If the students were any older the science would have gotten over my head. There is another Rotarian, Doug, that has been teaching science as a volunteer for many years at another school. So, that sets the stage. Speaking of stage, Doug was sitting next to me at the head table but he did not have a clue as to why. They just asked him to.

The incoming President always has their own agenda for the year and typically has one or two new programs they are introducing. So as Peter was introducing his plan, he mentioned a new science scholarship that they were creating and began discussing what it would be named and in whose honor. So I thought thought “Cool, that’s why Doug is up here. They are going to honor him by naming the scholarship after him. Awesome.” Yet when I turned to see the PowerPoint slide behind me, I saw both my picture and Doug’s. Turned out the scholarship was in honor of both of us, and in a nod to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure movie, it was named “Craig and Doug’s Excellent Science (CADES) Scholarship.” It was jump started by a very generous $30K donation by another Rotarian and is intended to be perpetual. I was absolutely humbled and I must say, wiped a drought-breaking drop or two off my face. Very cool. The scholarship(s) will be given to students that are entering the science field in college.


3-ferOn the medical front, next Friday I will be enjoying a 3-way. OK, get your minds out of the gutter. I’m talking scans here. Of course there will be the usual CT scan of my chest area and the MRI of my brain to check on fuzzies in those locales. But since I have had an ongoing shoulder issue that has prevented me from playing softball, I asked if they could “throJuly scan calendarw in” a third MRI of my shoulder to at least determine what is going on there. I have done PT, and then I’ve rested it for months, to no avail. So we shall see what my options are. I may have the results of the scans by the end of the day on Friday. Stay tuned. And yesterday was my one-year anniversary from entering the A-Team (AZD9291) clinical trial. Yes, I’ve been popping that magic pill for 12 months and I will continue to see how long I can milk this puppy. Although I cannot imagine anyone wanting to milk a puppy…

Business as usual. Day at a time.