Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time has flown...

Wow, just realized it's been two weeks since I've updated, don't know where the time has gone...

Thanksgiving was nice as always. I was so looking forward to the Lions game and they laid the biggest egg, actually put me to sleep! Woke up and the food was ready to go and my Mom put together another epic meal. She's something else, with all she's dealing with right now with her pending treatment, pretty remarkable... She has her second opinion on Friday and should have enough information to get going with treatment next week. They're concerned with a suspicious spot on her lung along with of course the breast cancer. Prayers and good vibes requested please...

As for me, still rolling along. Finally got my feet taken care of! Come to think of it, I now realize that's probably the reason I haven't updated... After getting back from Florida, I probably did one of the dumbest things I've done in a while, trying to fix my ingrown toenails by performing torture on myself, lol. My toes and feet ended up getting infected and it was one of the more painful things I've had to deal with. My dogs were so sensitive I had a hard time sleeping with my toes touching the covers or dinging them on the mattress. Not to mention, my feet swelling up like balloons and pounding with every heartbeat. I ended up going to the podiatrist and Dr. Grodman yanked out three daggers that were growing into my skin. He had to numb both big toes Novocaine or whatever it is they give you at the dentist. While he was slicing out my toenails, he mentioned that I'd never be able to go as far as he went, way too painful... I couldn't look, I was having flashbacks of trying to do it myself, I'm getting creeped out by even writing about this. Happy to say the worst is over and I'm pain free down there, thank God!

Laying here watching the coverage of the Republican candidates, trying to see what the choice will be like next November. Of the two front runners, neither seems to exhibit a whole lot of principle or character, two of the most important attributes I think a leader should have. This is without mentioning the Cain guy...

Excited to be going to see Chris Cornell from one of my favorite bands of the 90's, Soundgarden, this Sunday at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. It'll be my first time seeing the theater too so should be a fun night.

Really glad we're gonna have hoops this year btw, I like sports but I'm definitely a basketball junkie...

Alright, that's all I've got for now. Sorry if I grossed anyone out by talking about my toenail problem ;) It's one of those things I just had to document, lol. Hoping to settle into this thing with my Mom and looking forward to some sunshine as I prepare to drive my tools down to Florida to start working on the new digs down there.

Life is good!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back in the D

So, I landed yesterday morning uneventfully :) Went straight to Karmanos and was a little dismayed by what my doctor had to say. Yes, Dr. Ramchandran managed to pee in my cornflakes if you will... He had supposedly been holding out having this conversation with me but for whatever reason yesterday Dr. Ram was Debbie Downer and advised me that I might want to check with the Doc's there about looking into an Allogenic Stem Cell transplant. He said he doesn't envision these clinical trials working for me much longer and mentioned I'm on a "hot streak" and isn't overly confident that these trials will keep working for me, mwah mwah mwah.... It was pretty sobering news (as if I don't live with that thought every day) and made me question for a while if I was doing the right thing and maybe I should look into a donor... The funk lasted until I went to bed last night but woke today feeling better. I know that my chance for a cure most likely has passed (at least for what's available in Tx today) and quickly have gone back to survival mode and the mindset of treating this as a chronic disease. It's just that I haven't ever been given a "timetable" and Dr. Ram told me yesterday that he can't see me getting more than a couple years out of the way I'm going. Who wants to be told that?! I think these oncologists get antsy and feel like they need to do something... His rationale is that I'm either in remission or very close and right now may be the best time to try and eradicate the disease for good. It's funny though that when I asked him what he would do if he were me he couldn't answer saying he had kids, etc...

All I know is that while a cure would be great, getting an allo transplant is by no means a sure bet. Cure rates for Hodgkins are less than 20% with an allo and the chance I develop graft versus host disease is around 50%. To me, those numbers just don't add up not to mention the year of hell I'd have to go through after getting blasted again (losing all my hair, fingernails, feeling like crap, etc.).

So, now that I got that off my chest, I'm just going to continue to live in the moment, enjoy my relatively good health (minus the back pain and once I can get a handle on this fatigue and these damn in grown toe nails!). I'm going to ride the RAD001 train as long as it'll take me and hopefully when it stops working, my little genetically modified killer T-cells which are growing down in Houston will be ready to go and I can jump on that with the hope that I can continue to kill cancer cells in a relatively non-toxic kind of way.

I feel pretty strong physically and mentally (minus the hiccup yesterday).

Speaking of hiccups, the path for my Mom's treatment has hit a snag. Due to some incompetence by her team, they failed to state on a PET scan script that she was diagnosed with cancer and Health Alliance Plan (HAP) denied the test. After some prodding by me and some digging by my Mom, she found this out and it's been a scramble ever since to try and get approval for the scan so she can be properly staged and prescribed the right Tx. My aunt Deb who works at St. John health system asked around about her disease though and was told that it is highly curable so that was nice to hear. I just hope she can get started asap (once we gather all the information) because I know from experience the waiting can be the hardest part (Tom Petty says it best!).

As for Rich, it's been decided by his team that they do not need to give chemo and it's watch and wait which is good :)

Anyway, time to get my ducks back in a row here in chilly Michigan and reconnect with the outside world. Watched the news last night and shocking all the major stuff going on right now. I can feel a current events post coming up as it's hard to keep all of my thoughts on whats going on here in the U.S. and around the world inside!

At least if I go there, you know I'm not thinking about cancer which to me is a good thing :)

Taking it day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, breath by breath...


Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanks to Panera Bread...

I can finally update! I've been at my new place in Delray and haven't had internet or cable, totally disconnected except for my phone. It was pretty weird at first but have gotten used to it and hope to get connected the next time I come down.

To summarize my trip, it's been awesome! After the snowstorm in Pennsylvania, it has been truly memorable and sad it's coming to an end.

I had a chance to catch up with friends all the way down the coast who I haven't seen in a while along with everyone down here. The weather has been mostly great and today had a chance to hang out by the pool (after finally getting a key!)

So, without going into too much detail re the trip due to little time here at the restaurant, I'll have one more day tomorrow then it's back to the D early Wednesday morning where I fly up, land and go directly to see Dr. Ramchandran. My headaches have thankfully mostly gone away and now I'm just dealing with massive fatigue which hopefully he can help me with. I've got a weird rash under my eyes and near my mouth too which needs to be addressed as well but it's only cosmetic and sure there's some kind of cream or something I can get for it.

As for my family, Rich found out he won't need chemo or radiation but got some sad news that he's no longer eligible to be on the heart transplant list. I guess the only option is to make sure the remaining functioning part of his current heart gets stronger somehow. They're supposed to attach a new lead to his pacemaker so hopefully that helps. As for my Mom, she is getting a PET scan today after having to wait (stupid insurance company HAP, what are they thinking?!). She goes in tomorrow to consult with an oncologist who has extensive experience in recurrent breast cancer and hope she can give her some good options.

That's really all I have time for now, thanks again for reading and keeping up with me and as always for the prayers and good thoughts.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Great News! (relatively speaking)

Just got a text from my Mom telling me that her pathology report came back negative for Lung Cancer!!!!! It's not all good news though as she still does have cancer as it's a recurrence of her breast cancer from 20 years ago that has metastasized. While the best news would be no cancer, at least the prognosis is much better (according to her thoracic surgeon).

So, while her and Rich are by no means "out of the woods", it looks as though they have a much better chance than we thought :)

Thanks for the good vibes and prayers.

Cautiously optimistic,

Chris :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011, pretty memorable!

Creepy costume shot on my way down to parade NYC 2011

So, I decided to go forward with my planned trip to New York and subsequent drive down the East Coast on my way to Florida. I was a little worried the trip might not have been the best idea in the beginning. I stayed up really late last Friday trying to get everything together so I could leave the next morning and be in New York at a reasonable time to go out with some friends. About halfway into the drive, I had serious doubts if this was going to happen. The mountains in Pennsylvania were really nice then all of the sudden, all hell broke loose. It started snowing a little at first then went into a full blown blizzard, trees were fallen over the highway, trucks and cars were sliding into ditches and then I started to slide around and decided it wasn't worth risking my life to get to New York on Saturday night. I bit the bullet gladly and found a Best Western in the middle of BFE Pennsylvania and have to say it was probably the smartest $100 I've ever spent. My little convertible is obviously not made for snow driving and not even sure if it's ever seen cold weather. So, not only was it sliding but the engine was bogging, couldn't see out of the windshield with no defroster, it was pretty scary...

At first, the snow was nice :)

Never a good thing when you're driving on the highway only to be staring at headlights facing you! I was going pretty slow though hence my chance to take the shot. This accident was my wakeup call to get off the road...

Getting to the hotel and being able to exhale was awesome! I was so exhausted, I think I passed out around 9:30-10 which never happens... It was nice waking up the next morning with the sun out, burning the snow off the road, and being able to drive on dry pavement. The rest of the drive then went pretty smoothly and it was pretty surreal coming out of the mountains of PA and New Jersey, seeing the city skyline and all of the sudden being back in the concrete jungle. I took the Holland Tunnel to New York and was shocked that it was $12 bucks. I think they raised the price because of the condition of the entry of the tunnel. It looks to be falling apart pretty bad, can't imagine how much it's going to cost to ever fix that thing up...

Once in New York, I was able to meet my friends and we went to a sports bar to watch the Lions kick some major ass. Can't remember the last time I was proud to root for the Lions in a different city, pretty cool!

The next day was Halloween and we decided to hit the parade. I actually took the train down to Houston St. and was going to meet my friends for dinner and purposely didn't eat because it was pizza and pasta and you need a lot of room to eat all those carbs. Little did I know that once I got out of the subway and onto the street how many people were going to be out and I almost didn't make it to the restaurant. They had the streets blocked off with barriers and weren't letting anyone cross 6th ave, ugh. So, if you can imagine the mouse in the maze trying to find the cheese, that was me ;) I went up and down side streets only to be turned away everytime trying to cross over. Finally, I looked up the street and noticed hoards of people crossing 6th and I ran as fast as I could to try and get across. I finally ended up in the middle of a mass of people who were watching the parade and realized I had to get into the "crossing fenced lane" and had to run all the way back and re-enter if that makes any sense. I finally did get across and it was such a major relief, I felt like I had won again, one guy against thousands of people in a city I'm not overly familiar with... that pizza tasted great! ;)

Contained craziness in the village

Creepy skeletons at the parade

The next day I went down to my little park and took this shot of the finally finished skyscraper that they were working on everyday last year which is located next door to the Hope Lodge bldg. So much quieter here :)

I wanted to wind this up by mentioning that while all of this is fun, exciting and adventurous, I do it with a heavy heart knowing that my family is going through some hard times right now and a fellow Hodge Warrior Mike Reed is struggling pretty bad in his fight. Please take a minute to check out his Caring Bridge site which you can find a link under my blogs lists and leave an encouraging message if you can. It's been one thing after another for the guy and my heart goes out to him and his family. Also, looking forward to digging into the trenches with my Mom when I get back to confront her beast and give it hell. I've got names of 5 doctors now who have been recommended to me from other doctors so we'll have some good options. Even though I'm out here, my heart is in Michigan with my family and always in my thoughts. Love you guys!