Friday, September 17, 2010

New Pain and Brain Drain... Accepting My Limitations

Since my last blog entry I have started to experience some fairly intense pain in my neck and shoulders.   Vicodin helped, but I started to have some itching episodes and had to switch to a combination of tramadol for pain management and cyclobenzaprine for muscle spasms.   They are helping with the pain, but .  unfortunately they cloud my cognitive functions and make any slightly complex decision making a monumental task.   I was already dealing with the "chemo brain" effects (short term memory lapses and unstable emotions), so this new complication and remedy have made it necessary to accept these new limitations and ask to be relieved from a new project at North Coast.

There was a very good article recently in the newspaper titled "Life after Cancer" that hit  home with me.  Here is some of what it said about two common long term side effects of chemo and radiation therapy:

On Fatigue -  Many people know that chemotherapy treatments can cause profound tiredness, but they may not realize that fatigue can persist in some survivors for years.   "We're not entirely sure, but it may be due to unchecked inflammation in the body," says Dr. Patricia Ganz, a professor at UCLA School of Medicine.  Treatment could possibly push the immune system into overdrive, and in certain patients, the resulting inflammation could increase fatigue "as if the body were fighting off a bad flu," Dr. Alfano adds.

On Pain - Radiation and surgery may also leave a patient with scar tissue, leading to tightening of the skin's surface or internal adhesions. "Many cancer survivors need pain control," Dr. Ganz says.  "They need palliative care like you get at the end of life.  Only here, they're not dying and suffering - they're living and suffering."

I'm hopeful that the fatigue and pain will subside in the not to distant future, but I'm also trying to keep an attitude of acceptance that this may continue on for some time and that I need to take it easier than my nature wants to.

Onward and forward in God's Light, One Day At A Time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

CT clear again

I had two doctors' visits yesterday, one to go over my most recent CT scan, and the other for a simple exam and discussion about any side effects I have been experiencing.  Both doctors were very encouraged by my "progress" and expressed that I was doing great at this point (6 months since my last treatments) of my recovery.

I weighed in at 147 lbs and my "vital signs" were all good.  They both expect that my dry mouth will improve with more time and my sense of taste will continue to get closer to normal again...with time.  The neck and back pain did not seem to be of particular concern for them.  "Continue with Tylenol and, when needed,  vicodin at night with a side of benedryl  for the itching reaction to the vicodin."  Fatigue is to be expected and within normal expectations for now.

Though encouraged by the MDs very positive remarks, I have to wonder what "not good" must be like for those who have gone through this treatment regimen.  But then as I think about the folks that shared the waiting room with me, I get a bit of perspective into what these doctors see every day and how the "not so good" patients look.  The physical, emotional, and spiritual distress that they are experiencing.  Honestly makes me a bit guilty for thinking that my progress isn't where I wish it could be.  There really are some very sick, very weak, and very depressed people hearing devastatingly bad news about their CTs and being told that their prognosis isn't good.

I am so thankful for my family and friends who have been wonderfully encouraging and incredibly  tolerant of my sometimes childish impatience with my "slowly improving" recovery.

Perspective is a humbling teacher.

Onward and forward, one day at a time.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2 steps back...

The thing about recovery is that it isn't linear or always predictable, especially after getting infused and radiated with stuff they used at Hiroshima.   Interestingly enough, when Deanna sat in with one of the radiation therapists (behind the lead reinforced wall)  one morning during a treatment session, he noted to her that much of what is known and used by today's oncologists regarding dosage etc. was learned by studying survivors of Hiroshima a Nagasaki!  Thought provoking to say the least.

It's been 5 weeks since my last post and my current physical status has changed somewhat...not all to the good.  My energy continues to ebb and flow, mostly better in the early morning and then tanking close to lunch time.  After a nap I'm better for a couple hours and then I'm pretty much done for the day and have to just rest.  I've been experiencing some real weird, and pretty gnarly, back and neck pain that intensifies as the day progresses.  I've been back to Vicodin again some nights at bed time to be able to sleep.  Thank God for Deanna who always offers a back/neck massage nightly.  My incredible kids got me a massage chair for Father's Day!

Saturday's present the biggest challenge because I lead worship and need to be the "guy folks look to" for encouragement and, at times, spiritual comfort.  I'm so thankful that my voice is back(well mostly) and I get to sing songs to our Creator and for our congregation of worshipping folks.  It is almost overwhelming at times to be able to use that gift for His purposes.  God's spirit soars in us when voices sing in perfect three part harmony.  Here's a thought for my unbelieving friends - outside of pure spiritual value can music exist for?   I'm sad for those who just don't get this.

Onward and forward in His Time and for His Will


Saturday, June 5, 2010


It is said , "never pray for patience" because God will answer that with plenty of opportunities to practice.  So I am taking that advice and just praying daily that God helps me to not be a jerk with others while this "too slow" recovery process takes it's course.  

While admitting that I would be glad if my energy would come back to something closer to pre-treatment levels, my back and neck would quit barking at me,  and my mouth would produce some saliva again, there are many things to be thankful for.  I try to keep a mental list of those things to remind myself throughout the day that I am truly blessed and that all "suffering" in this life is temporary when viewed with an eternal perspective..

I visited a naturopathic doctor a few weeks ago and was given some gnarly tasting supplements.  Three of them were in liquid form and were to be taken in droplets under my tongue.  Not only were they bitter to taste, they caused the nerves in my teeth to scream "are you crazy!?".   I was advised to discontinue my use of caffeine and to stop drinking Ensure.  After a few of days I decided that I needed the Ensure to keep my weight up and coffee to keep from getting even more lethargic.  So, though I haven't ruled out trying the homeopathic approach again at a later date, I'm going to stick with the MDs course for now.  

Onward and forward...ONE DAY AT A TIME.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

PET Scan clean...No Doctors for 4 months!

Deanna and I met with Dr. Mell today to go over the results of a PET and CT scan I had this past Monday.  He said that it showed that the tumor was gone and that there was no evidence of cancer cells in the reading.  Those are the words we have been waiting to hear after the last 6 months of diagnosis, surgery, chemo and radiation treatments. 

My next scan will be in August and I won't need another doctor's visit until after that scan.

I'm looking forward to gaining strength and energy as the weeks progress.  Physical therapy is helping with my back and neck strength.  I am visiting a Naturopathic doctor Monday to discuss nutritional strategies to enhance my recovery.

I continue to enjoy each opportunity I get to praise God for His grace and mercy.   Worship has a richer meaning these days.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Physical Therapy for lost muscles...owch!

I was referred to physical therapy to help restore muscles (like I had a bunch in the first place) and have been to three sessions.  After the first one I was really, really sore,  but things are looking better after another two.  My neck and back have been weak and sore for several weeks and the stretching three times a day seems to be helping.

Deanna has been so good at offering to massage my back and neck every night and she's learned to find the knots and work them loose.  I have also received a couple of good chair massages from Lynn T. who has been working diligently in classes to earn a massage therapist certification.

My sense of taste is improving slowly as weeks pass.  My mouth and throat are still very dry so I'm taking some medication that might help with that.

I was able to lead (sing) three songs at our Country Gospel  worship service.  It was not easy and after two services I had to go home and "crash."  This was a a huge step for me considering that 4 months ago I didn't know if I would be able to sing again at all.  God is good and I know there have  been hundreds of good folks praying for me.

Next week I receive a PET scan and the results should show weather the cancer is gone...or ???  Keep praying please.

Onward and forward with God's grace and the prayers of many loved ones.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring Fever!

Deanna and I are taking a road trip  to Peoria Arizona today to watch a couple of Padres spring training games.  Spring training is the time of year when the young and still eager to excel rookies mingle with wizened injury healing veterans.  The games are played with a freshness and joy that comes from unbridled abandonment to hope for great things to come in the season just ahead.

My favorite time of year has always been early spring when "all things are made new" and budding life is showing itself in childlike splendor all around us.  Withered dreary browning plant life is decaying into mulch from which the the roots of new seeds and bulbs take nourishment.   I'm hoping that the desert is joyfully blooming after the abundant rainfall we enjoyed the past month.  I'm camera ready for it!

My recovery is progressing gradually and God reminds me constantly that His time, His healing, and His renewal will come as He wills it... not as I wish it.

I am totally off the PEG tube (though the Dr. decided that I should keep it for another month as a precaution for unforeseen complications).  A small concession in the big picture.  My sense of taste is beginning to come back and I've been trying some solid foods.  Last night I had half of a chicken breast with marinara sauce.  Not bad.

I'm  thankful to be progressing in my physical recovery from a the harsh winter of chemo, radiation, and surgery.  Although I won't know for certainty weather the cancer is gone, I am hopeful for it and will continue with each day as a new creation knowing that it is all that the Lord gives us and "tomorrow will take care of itself."

Onward and forward in God's hands, timing, and mercy.