Three month check in at MD Anderson Banner Health NCMC and I am happy to report that I have a clean bill of health! My check up went extremely smooth and the results came back from my blood draw very positive. Either normal or 'better' than expected.
Still CANCER FREE.
Through this time, I told myself that I would accept any result - good or bad - as long as I lived by a few things:
My final chemo treatment! I've worked hard to get to this stage - 12 of 12! It has been a crazy 6-months, but I'm proud of how I've handled the roller coaster and the ups and downs of having cancer. I can finally say that I'm on the downward spiral of ending this god-awful disease in my body. As I sat in the final sitting, I wasn't sure what to think. Will it come back? Will I have any of the symptoms that I had prior? Will I be cured and never have to endure this again? So many questions, but no answers now. I will have to wait for 30-days for my final PET scan for a diagnosis.
As I sat there experiencing my final treatment, I had a HUGE surprise waiting for me outside after treatment in the garden atrium. Friends and family gathered outside to cheer on my final treatment. A Greeley Tribune reporter interviewed me and to my surprise, a cheering section of NCMC - MD Anderson staff, nurses, and doctors cheered me on as well. I'm not one for the spotlight, but it did make me feel extremely special.
COVID-19 has hit and I knew at some point I would be taking my chemo treatments solo. With an outbreak of over 2,000 cases in Weld County and 5 deaths, I knew that the hospital would only allow patients to enter the hospital facilities. They took my temperature at the front entrance and I had to wear a protective mask at all times for all of my procedures. Most of the time I would chat with the nurses or watch movie after movie on my iPad. Treatments took almost 4-5 hours at a time and dragged on and on. Worth it for sure... but LONG.
Welp. Sayonara eyebrows and underarm hair. It was nice knowing you.
Inbetween bags of chemo, they always shoot in a batch of saline that flushes out the line/port that totally gives me the heebie geebies. Yes, I dry heave and totally get the chills. It is the absolute worse taste and I can never get it out of my mouth. Even thinking of it now gives me the shakes.
Think of your worst college drinking episode TIMES 2 or 3. That is how I feel about saline flushes. 🤮🤮🤮
A quarter of the way done with chemo treatments, so this means a PET scan to see how things are looking. Cori and I were pleasantly surprised by the results especially after pressing REFRESH, REFRESH on the online results page. We cheered as we read bullet by bullet.
- There has been a significant interval decrease in size and resolution of uptake associated with right internal mammary, mediastinal, peridiaphragmatic, and bilateral hilar lymph nodes.
- Liver, pancreas, adrenal glands, and kidneys are stable in their non-contrast appearance, without suspicious FDG uptake.
- A decrease in size and resolution of abnormal uptake in the spleen.
- No new FDG-avid process.
In Layman's terms - We are rockin’ it and things are looking GREAT at the halfway mileage check-in. I feel so much better with no out of the blue vomiting/chill episodes and I feel well enough to exercise and start being myself again. Plus, no further spreading of cancer cells.
It is always strange going into our master bathroom now with a HUGE wired basket of medication, creams, dental rinse, and everything else that should solve any small stipulation I might endure. I have pills prior to getting nauseous and post-nauseous. Special dental toothpaste and rinse to help keep my teeth sustainable during treatment. Creams for my port to use to help prior to chemo treatments. Also just about any med under the moon for heart-burn and sleep medication. For someone that didn't take any type of medication prior, it is sad to think that my body will be consuming quite a bit moving forward. *sigh*
It was the night before Christmas and all through the house....
We celebrated with family at our new house and unfortunately I had to stay in the bedroom for most of the evening due to feeling sick and out of it. Low energy has been hitting me lately and I seem to sleep for hours on end. Extremely sad to miss today, but I have to rest up for Christmas Day! I hope I'm able to experience my favorite holiday without an episode.
And so it begins. I wasn’t sure what to expect on my 1st chemo treatment. Walking in I felt anxiousness, anxiety and some fear. How would my body react? I was introduced to a few of the nurses on staff that I will be visiting often in the next 6-months. All were very helpful and gave me a visual of what to expect and walked me through the steps of treatment. I found out that I will have a ton of pills to take at home to prevent nauseousness, constipation, vomiting and just about everything under the moon for preventing sickness. I almost felt like I had to accept defeat at home with sickness.
Looking around the small-cramped room I noticed an ex-military patient; a rough, thin man and a few elders receiving chemotherapy. Again, I question why do I belong here and what did I do to deserve this?
During treatment, I was able to watch episodes of, “This Is Us” and get some odd reading done. Cori gave me great support and comfort on the first day of chemo. I remember feeling a bit woozy, but overall, pretty good. It took close to 6-hours on my first treatment since my initial pre-med checks came back late. Bag of drips, after drips, after drips heading into my chest port. In the back of my mind, I have thoughts of, “Is this really helping me?”
I left the hospital feeling “okay”, but that would all change fast once I arrived home. Sick. No energy. I crashed at 7 pm and curled up in the fettle position for long stretches of time. Deep down, I was hoping that I didn’t feel like this for my entire treatment. I didn’t want this to continue - I must bounce back!
When you can't find the sunshine, be the sunshine!
Another surgery today which included getting my chest port placed by my collar bone. I showed up two hours early for the surgery and it seemed like Cori and I waited… and waited… and waited. We had already signed all of the documents, met with the surgeon anesthesiologist team and multiple nurses. While we waited behind closed curtains we overheard MANY conversations that made us chuckle. Behind curtain number 1, an older lady going through a hysterectomy. (remove a woman’s uterus or womb) She was extremely worried that she was going to lose her ability to orgasm or that they were going to do something with her clitoris. The doctor reassured her that she would be fine and not have to worry about this. She continued (extra loud) that she wanted to continue to have pleasure after the procedure. I, unfortunately, had to break out laughing hysterically causing Cori to interrupt with an “shhhhhhhh”. It is always nice to have humor during this time of despair and unknowingness. Cori brings out the best in me, especially with laughter. Curtain #2 wasn’t as laughable as the gentleman was going through an amputation. With the humor, It is also very tough to hear about others’ hard times and what exactly got them to this space next to me.
The surgery only took about 30 minutes and I woke up in an extremely groggy state. Touching around my upper cheek, I felt like a giant rock was stuck in me. I better get used to my new addition that I will be carrying for 6 months under my button-down and tie for work. I felt like a part cyborg ready to take on the world. Only this cyborg had very little energy and needs to get mentally prepared for the poison that would be pushed into my body tomorrow. Yes, chemotherapy starts tomorrow.
I'm not the one to talk personal stuff about myself on social media outlets, but I thought it was time to let friends and family know what I was going through. Strong support and prayers are always key and I know that I have that with family, friends, work and church. When I finally got around to reading the 150+ comments it brought me to tears. It wasn't that I was too busy to read them, I just didn't want sympathy or condolences. I'm a strong man, but after reading them... I needed the comfort knowing I have some pretty awesome people in my life.
I’m generally a pretty “quiet and keep my personal stuff to myself” type of guy. It is extremely hard for me to post depressing news, especially about myself. These past 5-months have been extremely tough. With every smile, I present in public, deep down it has been a struggle. I’ve recently been diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma. Behind closed doors, it has been a whirlwind of reoccurring fevers, vomiting, and a constant nauseous feeling. During this time my body has left me depleted and exhausted. The crazy thing is that between these episodes, I’ve lived a very normal life doing my everyday things. I’ve always been one that has never needed to go to the hospital, except for basic wellness checks. Also, I’m diligent in working out daily, eating somewhat healthy and making sure I take care of myself. This news comes as a complete shock to me, as it probably does you. Me, cancer? I know the upcoming months will be tough with multiple chemo treatments and long hospital visits. My head stays high though and I will continue to live life to its complete fullest (as I did prior). No, I’m not looking for sympathy or condolences - I will continue to be the same happy-go-lucky guy that you’ve grown to love - or hate. I’m blessed to have a pretty awesome support system in my life which includes family, friends, work, and church. Plus… look at it this way - I will save a ton on razors! *nudge nudge* Also, thank you, Cori. She has been my rock that has been by my side through multiple tissue biopsies, a bone marrow biopsy, PET scans, surgery, and multiple ED visits that have lasted into the morning hours. Not to mention, she has kept me settled and calm through this whole process. I’m extremely lucky to have her as my best friend and someone who I can count on always being by my (bed)side. I know this roller coaster called life will be heading back up the track soon and trust me, I’ll be the first one raising my arms up ready for the next twist and turn that it makes! Prayers UP!
It is cardiovascular and respiratory time! Late afternoon procedures to make sure I'm prepped and ready to go for chemo. My heart and lungs both check out and are in top-notch form! As a runner and someone that believes in daily physical fitness, I didn't have any doubt I would be a-okay on this fore-front.
Cori and I stayed for an extended hour to catch a "Cancer 101" class which discussed what to expect during and after treatment. As others entered the room, I was in disbelief. Most were in their early 70's or later. I was surrounded by many that have lived through World War II. This was the first time I felt out of place and thought to myself, “Why me?” We were presented with a powerpoint and question/answer session that discussed everything from chest ports to the side effects of chemotherapy. It was eye-opening and looking around the room it was the first time in which it hit me - I could die from this.
"One day at a time, one step at a time. Do what you can, do your best. Let God handle the rest." ~Michelle Jones
Today I was diagnosed with Stage III Classic Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It might have been one of the toughest phone calls to answer because deep down, I already knew the results. When my cell phone rang, I saw the dedicated hospital phone line from numerous other calls I’ve received. I snuck off to the quietest place at my work - In the mailroom of our administration building. Low and behold, the call was short and sweet from the doctor that performed the surgery. He proceeded to tell me that I do have cancer and reassured me that it is treatable and I will enter into chemotherapy to help kill the disease. Let the journey begin….
Incision time. Yes, 4.25” incision in my groin area to remove a single enflamed Lymph Node. I was knocked out completely this time, but woke up in a groggy state of, “What just happened to me”. I remember a sharp pain in my pelvic area when waking up, but overall the procedure was a success. It would take around 6 weeks to heal and I was limited to only 5 lbs of lifting. Taking the first peek below my waste it almost looked like a scene from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. They used skin glue instead of staples or stitches which frightened me even more.
My Speedo modeling career is officially over before it had even begun.
They chose to take a simple tissue sample of a lymph node in my groin/pelvic area and place a savi scout on it for possible surgery. The needle was close to 5", but for the life of me - I didn't feel a thing. I could have witnessed the whole procedure but chose to look away. Needles and I don't seem to get along, even during the many blood draws I've already endured. The nurse contacted Cori in a rush mentioning that 6 samples came back negative for cancer, but they were waiting for a few others. We were extremely excited about the news and celebrated with joy. The next day, we were brought back down to reality knowing that the final sample showed a trace of lymphoma. Not the news we wanted to hear and it was even harder to hear it from Cori. She was in tears over the phone. They wanted to conduct 3-hour surgery to take out the full lymph node. Leading into Thanksgiving, it was tough to understand and comprehend. Now surgery?
Another visit to the ED due to vomiting, nausea and chills. The swings are in full effect. Blood work completed again and extremely low on white blood cells again. My body is fighting something, but we can't pin point what OR why. Frustrating. Cori was by my side again and kept me company. It is nice to have someone to joke with and poke humor with. We enjoyed a midnight run to Taco Bell right after.
Who would have guessed the doctor and nurse's names would be "Sparkle" and "Comfort". Also, who would have guessed that the doctor's preliminary dignosis from the ED was correct, but not carried out until a month later.
I was told it would be best to have a PET Scan to show if I had any abnormalities in my abdomen. I complained of my sides hurting at times, but nothing excruciating by any means. I had many small fatty pockets that were pointed out to me when I would receive a body massage from therapists. Nothing to be concerned about, but for me to make sure I keep my eyes on them. Wellness checks even came back as simple lipoma or fatty tissue under your skin that were most likely harmless.
Back to the scan. A fraction of fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) was injected via IV into my system which caused my body to go extremely WARM. I had the warm feeling running through my body and it almost felt like I pee'd myself. What a feeling.
The PET scan came back with inlarged or inflamed hypermetabolic nodes in multiple areas of my body. It was crazy to see the scan and all of the different red areas that were traced. It also showed a borderline enlarged spleen. The final report mentioned - query lymphoma. This is the portion that scared me the most pulling up my online portal online.
Happy Birthday to me! I was admitted today to the Emergency Department due to vomitting and low energy. When arriving in the late evening hours, it was a bit scary. I had a very high fever as well, but when you are surrounded by others with major wounds it is hard to justify me being there. It was a tough go with cords coming out of everything possible place on my body. Very low white blood cell count again. I still had a sense of humor, but I knew I would have loved to be elsewhere on my birthday. Blowing out a candle on a cupcake or unwrapping a gift or two. I was discharged, but our kids were left at my mother and father-in-laws until the early hours.