Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Arrives!

Spring arrived today. You can tell by looking out our kitchen window and noting that there is only about a foot and a half of snow on our back deck.

I have to apologize for not updating the blog sooner, but it is the fault of my brother and his family. Well - anyway - that is my excuse and I am sticking to it. They came up for a visit for a few days last week and I was enjoying their visit so much that I could not tear myself away from their company long enough to work on the blog. So, it wasn't my fault.

Of course, they left five days ago, but I was tired from their visit and the radiation treatment. Anyway, I am working on it now - better late than never.

My radiation therapy finished up last Friday. That was 10 workdays in a row of Barbara driving me to Concord (1 hr each way) for about 10 seconds of radiation each trip. For the most part the radiation itself was quite painless, but I  got very tired after some of the treatments - and not at all after others. I have no idea why. The say the tiredness continues for two to six weeks after the end of the treatment. I was very tired yesterday, but OK today.

The other side effect was a sore esophagus. Really. The radiation apparently causes something like a sunburn there, so swallowing has been a bit of an issue. I have had to take really small bites totally chewed and eaten very slowly. Hot or cold was also a problem. One morning it took me a full half hour to eat a bowl of cereal. This seems to be pretty much over with now, but for a few days, I would also hiccup after each swallow. It really wasn't that bad in the grand scheme of things.  Try to think of it as a comedy skit where the guy does a hiccup after each bite.

They did not do the khphoplasty as planned during the radiation cycle. (The procedure where the inject cement into my back.)  During the radiation, I got a very bad cold along with some small infections on my hand, so they decided to delay the kyphoplasty. There is some chance that the radiation will help enough that the kyphoplasty will not be needed - at least not soon - and there does not seem to be any hurry on this.

Which brings us to the status of my chemotherapy. You may recall that the first regime that they tried on me last fall did not bring the cancer into remission, so they are trying an alternate approach. After the first cycle on the alternate approach one of the key indicators was way down indicating that the new approach was working very well. This was great and very welcome news. I then completed another cycle and then took a short break for the radiation therapy. After this second cycle (last Monday), the key indicator (Igg) was up slightly - while they were hoping that it would go down more. This is not good. However, the lead oncologist is still hopeful that the current regime will work if given a few more cycles. He noted that all my other numbers are still very good and that they had reduced some of the dosages during the second cycle due to my white blood cell count. Going forward, they will use a different technique to manage white blood cell levels. So we will keep our fingers crossed that the current regime will work if given a chance.

Barbara continues to be my "Rock of Gibraltar" through all this - insisting on going with me to all treatments and doctor visits and generally helping me with all the things that I have trouble doing since the onset of my disease. It used to be that I was the one to lift anything heavy and now that I am not allowed to do so, I have to ask her to lift anything over about 20 pounds. It is very easy in all this to forget that the disease victim is not the only one who suffers from the disease; it totally changes the life of the spouse as well.

Meanwhile - on the non-Cancer front, we spent the last few days in Westwood (at "Foxdown Abbey"). We are far from moved in there, since we have very little in the way of actual furniture. On Wednesday, we met with to a designer. We are still trying to learn our way around, but so far, we really like it there. Everyone is really nice and the food is good - which is important to me - even if it did make me hiccup.

And here in New Hampshire, my friend Jerry helped me tap some maple trees on my land last week and my brother and his family helped me tap some more when they were here. We now have about 15 gallons of sap which I am hoping to start boiling down tomorrow, I have invented a special maple sap evaporator system which I need to finish building. I have not tested it, but I am certain that it will all work flawlessly the first time I try it. I will tell you more about this in a later posting if it does not burn down my workshop.   

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Very Busy Weekend

Things have been VERY busy this weekend - starting with last Thursday. I will try to give you a quick update.

Last Thursday we went had two doctor's appointments. The first was the normal (twice a week) chemo visit to the oncologist in Hookset. After that, we met with another doctor at the hospital in Manchester. This second doctor does something called  Kyphoplasty. I have three vertebrae that are badly collapsed - and possibly collapsing more. In this procedure, they drill little holes into the vertebrae and insert tiny balloons in there which they somehow inflate to expand the bone back to something closer to its original shape. They then inject some sort of quick hardening cement to make the repair permanent. I know it sounds kind of gross, but apparently, they do this all the time and it is low risk and highly effective. Anyway, that was our first consulting visit with this doctor. He recommends going ahead with the procedure this Friday.

From there, we drove to Boston and stayed over Thursday night with friends. On Friday, we arrived at our new pied a terre at Fox Hill Village in Westwood. What a hectic day - but everything came together beautifully.

First of all, we have zero furniture for the apartment. However, we had ordered a very nice sleeper sofa from Bloomingdales and miracle of miracles they had delivered it that morning just before we arrived. Fox Hill also has a sort of furniture exchange area and we found a chair and love seat there which we purchased for small money on the spot. The Fox Hill guys delivered that to the apartment within a few minutes of the purchase. So we now have some actual furniture.

We also managed to get checked out and get keys to use the Fitness Center and the Wood Shop and get keys to our mailbox. All of that took an hour or so, but it is good to have all that stuff out of the way.

Barbara and I then hauled our truck full of items to the unit - which took us about an hour. This was things like towels and sheets and suitcases with a few basics.

The next most vital thing of course is internet access. I had purchased a cable modem as well as a router and Comcast had sent a "self install kit" for the TV part of our service. With some considerable effort - including a support call, I managed to get the cable modem going. After that, electricians came and ran a wire to the place where I wanted our router. It now all works great. We needed to be able to watch Netflix.

So, we have now been here for three days and will be leaving tomorrow. The sleeper sofa is very comfortable. We have met a number of very nice people and it seems like we will like it here a great deal. So far, all indications are positive.

Now on to the latest medical news. Well - actually - the news we have has to do with treatment plans rather than with any particular results. I will be very busy over the next two weeks. Actually, Monday (today) was supposed to be the first day of my "rest week" from my chemo. Instead, I will be getting two weeks of "rest" during which time I will get radiation therapy. According to the schedule, chemo will start up again on March 17.

So, later this morning, we will drive from Westwood up to Concord for the first of what will be 10 weekdays of radiation therapy on my spine. We are told that each treatment will take just a few minutes - but unfortunately, this needs to be done in Concord, so it will be 2 - 3 hours per day. As far as side effects go, they should not be too bad. Mostly, I might feel very tired. It won't even make me glow in the dark.

Then on Friday, after my radiation therapy in Concord, we will drive to Manchester where I will get my Kyphoplasty procedure. This will be done under general anesthesia. They expect to send me home at the end of the day.

Actually, I am thinking that since this Kyphoplasty procedure involves injecting some sort of quick hardening cement into the spine, perhaps I should call the guys at Laconia Sand and Gravel to see if they can do it. They would probably charge less and it would save us a drive to Manchester.