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CANCER: An Uncensored Journey

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SharynS
Post Posted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 4:47 am

Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 3626
Location: the 'puter
All sounds too fun WJ. Interesting - a long time ago, chemo treatments (and radiation) were commonly given post-surgery. I think the reasoning was to kill any getaway cells as the result of a surgery. That's cool.

I'm happy to say I graduated from a pre-surgery chemo study for breast cancer near 20 years ago. I've never been able to find the results of the study but basically one group had chemo treatments prior to their surgery and another group recieved theirs post-surgery. I was in the pre-group - what can I say, mine worked.

I'm wondering whether pre-surgery chemo treatments are more a standard fare these days or just to certain types and stages of cancer. Do you know, can you ask?

Since cancer cells do migrate and since surgery is so disruptive, pre-surgery treatments as well as post makes way more sense. Pass me a glass of red!

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MichaelTroyMoore
Post Posted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 6:20 am

Joined: 12 Nov 2008
Posts: 277
Location: Behind the Lines in "Loveall Land"
use the spice "Tumeric"

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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:39 pm

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
Thanks, Michael...that's good advice and I do use alot of tumeric (have for years) especially when I make my "poor-man's risotto". Gives the rice a beautiful color and is alot less expensive than saffron. Shitake mushrooms also boost the immune system, as do the ganoderma mushrooms my "mother hens" have been providing me in quantity along with the ginseng.

Sharyn, my understanding is that current practice is to give radiation and/or chemo prior to surgery when possible. This eliminates the nasty Twisted Evil cells than may have migrated to other areas/organs. Depending on the severity of the lesion and its location this may not always be possible, e.g. if there is significant blockage of the colon by an advanced tumor.
In my own case, the radiation is intended to shrink the tumor to the greatest degree possible to make the surgery less invasive; the chemo is to accomplish the afore-mentioned, just as they give you an antibiotic IV before going in to surgery. Sounds reasonable to me.

I've got to recommend a really terrific book that a nurse friend of my sister's (thanks, Olga!!) got ahold of for me. It is titled "Living with Colon Cancer: beating the Odds" by Eliza Wood Livingston, CNM, PMHNP.
Ms. Livingston is a nurse who acquired a significant colon cancer herself. The book is an open, honest first-hand account of her journey through the disease, the treatment (including a colostomy) and the medical system. It can be fearful reading at times, joyful reading at times, and gives some straight-up, brass-knuckles advice on dealing with things.
You may appreciate, Sharyn, that she and her her husband (while originally from Santa Cruz) are the owners of the Villa Marco Polo, a bed-and-breakfast in Victoria, BC. Neighbors, eh!!

A big glass of vin rouge...doctor's orders Exclamation Exclamation
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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 3:05 am

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
First and foremost, thanks and thanks again to all of you who have called and sent cards...Grazie, Ross, specialemente!!] The support from you all makes one hell of a difference, believe me. I also received yesterday cards from organizations I have worked with in the past few years, the Chinese Progressive Association and Young Workers United. My thanks to Shaw San and Rael for those, too.

Now, down to brass tacks. I've got to inquire as to how chemo-therapy actually works. Had the second go-round last week and the effects were somewhat more noticeable than the first week. [Let me mention that the radiation continues weekly, five days per week, while the chemo is on an intermittant schedule, four days on those weeks.]
My question is: whether the dosage of 5FU is increased in strength each week consecutively or whether the dosage remains constant each week and the effects are cumulative.
After last week's chemo I noticed a slight feeling of the promised nausea - nothing major, just noticeable -for a couple of days plus a rather "active" weekend in which the flora and fauna of the intestinal system were angry, disturbed and took to the streets. Lost a couple of pounds at my Monday weigh-in, attributable to these effects. Not to worry: still ten pounds over my fighting weight. I also remembered the tactic used by my Breton friend, Jos, to bulk up before his solo rowing crossing of the Atlantic, Boston-to-Brest: the ingestation of mass quanities of Brie and Camembert upon fresh or toasted baguettes. Worked for him, may work for me Exclamation Any other suggestions are, naturally, quite welcome. Exclamation Exclamation

Should you refrain from my admonition to "Get the 'scope" and unfortunately (and unwisely) get into the same situation that I am in, let me provide a checklist of things you will need to cope:

> water and other means of constant hydration along with a comprehensive list (as I mentioned above) of the restrooms readily availible along your routes.
I will also mention that working night crew has the advantage of immediate access to the store restrooms which someone working a checkstand might not have. This can be really important, as the past weekend demonstrated. Vividly and repeatedly.

> baby wipes, preferably with aloe. Trust me without any further explanation.

> Preparation H or its equivalent. For something that apparently began life as some sort of solvent for flying machines, the stuff works. Again, the details are unnecessary - trust me, avoid the 'scope and you will be encountering this material.

> Immodium AD or the generic equivalent: absolutely vital in coping with the anarchist flora/fauna of the digestive system.

> Gas X: to preclude the shattered windows and battered doors typically produced by the march of said enraged and embattled anarchist critters.

Given all of these items, you may be likely to work (and sleep) in uninterrupted fashion with some degree of comfort and certainty.

Frankly, in my humbled opinion, getting the 'scope is easier.
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SharynS
Post Posted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 3:38 am

Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 3626
Location: the 'puter
Quote:
whether the dosage of 5FU is increased in strength each week consecutively or whether the dosage remains constant each week and the effects are cumulative.
Increase or no increase the "cumulative" is a for sure. Some of it can apparently remain in the body for eons afterwards. But I seem to recall that everyone gets their own special potion mixed just right and that's it for the duration of treatments. Any change in dosages would have to be planned in advance of the start of treatment. They should have your road map somewhere in their pile, ask for copy.

Way glad to hear you're hanging in hanging on WJ.

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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:35 am

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
One more week to go...at least in this part of the battle. Four days of both radiation and chemo, then several weeks of pre-surgery recovery/healing/loafing.

Before I continue, I have to commend the radiation therapists up at CPMC - specifically, Andrea and Jose. They are both professionals and, equally, truly good with the people that come in for the treatment they provide. Nice folks, really nice. The only thing I will miss about radiation (apart from a 10-minute nap) is them and the others on staff of the radiation oncology unit. Can't say enough about them and their operation.

I have been lucky so far. Radiation has had the desired effect of shrinking the tumor. It has happened without any major side effects; the worst has been akin to the feeling that I ate a Habenero pepper a few hours previously - one surrounded by prunes. You get the idea. Rolling Eyes

I have been really lucky so far. I've had the effective support, moral and material, of my family and friends, my crew, and all of you folks, most of whom I have not yet had the pleasure of actually meeting. It means alot, trust me, and it helps alot.

I was thinking the other night (at work) that this situation reduces things, yourself, to an elemental stage. You worry about basic things: staying warm, eating enough, getting enough sleep and rest, help from friends, that sort of thing. All the other bull-puckey that normally would provoke an indignant response seem rather less significant.

As always, my thanks to you all. Exclamation
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SharynS
Post Posted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 4:14 am

Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 3626
Location: the 'puter
Awesome on the shrinkage WJ, we knew you could do it. You got pictures?

The people who work in these places are exceptional and thank heavens for them all. It's easy to come away from the entire experience with a whole new and better balanced perspective. What's important and what isn't so much just kind of jumps right out at you eh.

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Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself. - Salman Rushdie
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atuuschaaw
Post Posted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 12:07 pm

Joined: 29 Jan 2006
Posts: 781
Location: an ahwangan
Bill Sable wrote:
It has happened without any major side effects; the worst has been akin to the feeling that I ate a Habenero pepper a few hours previously - one surrounded by prunes. You get the idea. Rolling Eyes

...I was thinking the other night (at work) that this situation reduces things, yourself, to an elemental stage. You worry about basic things: staying warm, eating enough, getting enough sleep and rest, help from friends, that sort of thing. All the other bull-puckey that normally would provoke an indignant response seem rather less significant.


That's one helluva description! Habenero pepper surrounded by prunes! Mr. Green

I know exactly what you mean about getting back to the basics. The beautiful, yet simply overlooked pieces of our lives seem to rise to the top during these times. The rushing noise seems to quiet enough for us to hear the real music of life. Keep smiling Bro! Wink

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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Sun Apr 12, 2009 3:31 am

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
Glad you appreciated the imagery, Brother Atuuschaw...if you every had the dubious pleasure of ingesting a Habenero, you know exactly of which I spoke.
We actually had a "Habenero Club" at the store a few years back - kind of a crazed-night-crew kind of situation. One signed on by eating a Habenero. Only one person puked, one stood in the dairy box with a container of frozen OJ on his mouth, one Canadian guy (a tourist/customer) actually ate three of the damn things, one after another (tough people, these Canadians, eh..!!), another customer actually turned red from his ankles to his scalp while his girlfriend laughed at him). That sort of thing. Fun.

One more addition to the Radiation/Chemo Hall of Fame: zippers and whoever invented them.
A vast improvement over buttons (i.e. on Levis) when you simply, positively, no question, got to hurry.

Hall of Infamy: those alleged water-saving, low-flow flush toilets (excepting those turbo-charged ones found in hospital, store restrooms and other fine institutions).

Four days to go...in both senses of the word. Laughing
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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 3:42 pm

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
Well, my friends, the first stage of what is likely to be a long journey is complete.

The prescribed radiation and chemo therapies are done, complete, thirty, pau, fine. Albeit: the chemo chemicals (5FU) stay in the system for 4 to 5 days so it isn't completely over but nothing else will be going in.

So it is a good day. Cool

A couple of other Top Ten items for what one hopes will most decidedly not be your future reference (if you get the 'scope):

(1) Udder Balm (aka Bag Balm) which is a cream/salve developed for and presumably used on cows. Very beneficial for the dry skin the therapies cause and equally soothing to the irritated, shall we say, nether regions involved in my particular case.

(2) disposable latex gloves...for the application of above. Just trust me on this one.

Just one more thing: there is one person to whom I have not offered my thanks in this whole process - my Dad. The last four years he was alive (and he passed away at age 98.8 about 3 years ago) I had the honor of taking care of him. What that involved, I think, gave me alot of the knowledge and internal strength to deal with my own situation, as did the good humor (mostly) and grace (mostly) with which he dealt with his own age and infirmity.

Thanks, Pops Exclamation
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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 9:55 pm

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
As I mentioned in the last post, radiation and chemo therapies are complete and I am in an interim of recovery and healing from the inevitable damage done by these therapies. So far so good. Smile

Last Thursday I met with the surgeon who will be performing the next stage - well, surgery. What was billed originally as a "discussion" session became another round in the "Another Day, Another Finger" World Tour. (at this juncture, allow me to repeat my perior advice: find a doc with really small hands. Rolling Eyes )

The good news is that the tumor/lesion has reduced considerably in size and is "mobile" (I suppose as opposed to a stationary, immobile blockage). The proposed CAT-scan will not have to occur. The doc explained that he can tell more via his finger than such a scan would reveal. Hurrah for "low-tech".!! Nothing better than the digital age, I think.

Further, the date for the surgery has been set for 17 June. The schedule has been altered somewhat: the intitial surgery-reversal surgery-possible chemo is now surgery-chemo-reversal surgery. I will obtain further details at another "discussion" this week.
The doc also mentioned that the procedure will be done robotically, which is rather interesting. I had an initial vision of Arnold Schwarzenegger/Terminator ascending into the affected area, armed to the teeth but I suspect (and most certainly hope!!) that the robot will be just a little smaller in dimension. Actually, much smaller.
Perhaps I should release the video of the operation as "T-4: The End".
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atuuschaaw
Post Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 10:56 am

Joined: 29 Jan 2006
Posts: 781
Location: an ahwangan
Bill Sable wrote:
"Another Day, Another Finger" World Tour. (at this juncture, allow me to repeat my perior advice: find a doc with really small hands. Rolling Eyes )


I'm sure you've already been given this advice, but perhaps others have not heard...Always make certain the Doc does not have both his hands on your shoulders when he is giving the exam! Mr. Green

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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 10:14 pm

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
AMEN, BROTHER.. Exclamation Exclamation
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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Sun May 10, 2009 11:08 pm

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
So, my friends, here's the drill...although perhaps I should rephrase that... Rolling Eyes

The tumor/lesion has shrunk in size and will continue to do so over the next few weeks as the irradiated tissues respond to the treatment. Consequently, surgery is scheduled for 17 June. The robotic system to be utilized in the surgery (an exterior joystick, one hopes) is called a "da Vinci". You can "Google" it to get an idea of what it looks like and how it functions, survival rates for what is a relatively new system, etc.
Interesting but I most certainly do not plan on being awake to delve fully into the experience. Plus I gave up video games after Pong. Fortunately, it appears that my surgeon graduated through Nitendo, Gameboy, X-Box, etc.
Basically the surgery will be to (1) excise the cancerous tissue and lymph nodes, (2) pull the intestine down a few inches to provide the material for a new rectal canal (reminds me of Venice!!), which will be stapled shut, and (3) a temporary iliostomy to serve the purposes of, shall we say, sewage treatment. [Got to check out the results of the last SF elections but I think the renaming of the sewage treatment plant at Ocean Beach to be called the George W. Bush Sewage Treatment Plant might have passed; if not, perhaps I can do George W. the honor myself. Cool ]
I'll be hospitalized between 2 days and a week, more or less, depending, but the doc said that they prefer to cut you loose as quickly as possible due to the costs of a hospital room and the potential acquisition of infections in a hospital. Both of these say something about our imperfect medical system but, franly, all things considered, I'd prefer to return home ASAP.
Some post-op healing time and then about four months of chemo, frequency and intensity undecided at the moment. Then, just in time for Christmas, reversal surgery. Just what I wanted from Santa.
Now the doc says I should be able to return to work at some point in the interim months between the two surgeries. I admit to being a little dubious about this, given the kind of work I do, the iliostomy and the chemo but I am certainly open to the possibility.

As they say in Venice, Que sera, sera.
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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Mon May 11, 2009 9:12 pm

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
So...many people, perhaps even most, perceive night crew folks as a touch deranged, certainly a little "different", even, as the famed British poet of the 19th century said of the Irish, "the last Stone-Age race in Europe".

Nothing could be further from the truth as some of you know and many suspect. The fact is that night crews are among the most serious and seriously creative individuals around.

This is a long-winded introduction to a thought, a thought, a concept inspired by Scott's thread on his injured friend, confrontation with my own mortality and human frailty in general, and the fact that there was a full moon.

What is this inspired thought, you ask? Well, here goes.

A couple or three decades ago I drew up a will which stipulated that in the event of my unfortunate demise a (fairly large) portion of my assets would be spent on a party for family, friends, the crew, etc. My thought this morning was simply that, while this is well and good, it didn't do much for me personally. After all I wasn't going to be there...Got to be a better way to do this.

One thing led to another and the end result was the concept of a "Raving Asshole" Party to be held, prior to my surgery. Why not celebrate one of the things that all human beings have in common? Especially in the Grocery industry!

As the night progressed, the concept became even more grand in scope - not just a party for friends, perhaps the medical folks who have worked on me, but an event, even a fund-raising benefit.

We could also invite Grocery Corporation and various UFCW officers (although, God knows, they party enough together).

A presentation of awards, e.g. an "Andy Stern/Preparation H Partnership-in-Action Award", and "Innovative Orifice of the Year Award".

We can celebrate, people, paying overdue homage to an anatomical region so often ignored and neglected.

I leave the graphic design of said invitations and that of the cake to be consumed to the imaginations and talents of those best-equipped to accomplish such tasks.

By all means, let me know your thoughts. Cool
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