Colon Cancer Sucks Ass

Monday, November 28, 2005

I Am Not an Early Riser

I had the last of my screening tests for the clinical trial done this morning. I should find out in a couple of days if I qualify. They’re pretty sure that I will barring any unforeseen results from the blood tests. I will also find out if I’m going to receive the experimental drug. Fortunately, this is not a blind study. Whether I am chosen to receive it or not and whether I qualify for the study or not, I will be starting chemo in a week. I have to report to the oncology clinic at 7:30am on Monday. You know, it’s frustrating enough that I have to have chemo treatments, but to have to get up early for them. That’s just ridiculous!!!

Everything Is Rent

When I’m really looking forward to something… a movie, for example… I think I lower my expectations to prevent disappointment. I’m willing to overlook a lot of flaws because I’m so excited to experience the final product. Due to my own stubbornness, I will enthusiastically embrace a mediocre movie solely because I want to like it.

Last night I saw the movie Rent. Being a huge fan of the musical, I have seen it three times. I have the cast recording memorized from beginning to end. For years I have anticipated the big screen version with a great deal of trepidation. How could they translate the story from stage to film? I walked out of the theater feeling ill. It was one of the worst screen adaptations of a musical that I have ever seen – even worse than A Chorus Line which was completely appalling. I don’t blame the actors. They were all too old to be reprising their roles, but I think they did the best they could under the completely misguided direction of Chris Columbus. It was just awkward.

Despite my disapproval for the movie, it did rekindle the love I have for the musical. It has been a long time since I listened to the songs. Many of them have a much stronger meaning to me because of my current situation. I was moved to tears several times by the power of the lyrics. The original cast recording is definitely going back into my regular CD rotation.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

My Barium Sulfate Tastes Like Apples

I’ve had CT scans (aka CAT scans) in the ER twice since the beginning of August. Both times I was given the contrast mixed with Crystal Light – once with strawberry kiwi, once with cherry. It wasn’t too bad with the strawberry kiwi, but I thought it was awful with the cherry… that is until I experienced the Barium Sulfate Apple Smoothie today.

Upon checking in at the front desk, I was given two bottles of this concoction with the instructions to drink one paper cup of this mixture every 15 minutes. I sat down in the lobby and opened the first bottle. The contents were thick and white – it reminded me of a medicine like Imodium. I poured a cupful (the first of five), took a deep breath and a big gulp. Initially it was completely flavorless, but the consistency was appalling. Then, as I swallowed, there was this burst of flavor that I can only assume was meant to be apple. Over 30 minutes later on my third serving, I truly thought that it was all going to come back up. I actually started to gag on it. Somehow I forced it down.

As I was finishing the last delicious mouthfuls, I was called back into the radiology center. They sent me into a barely curtained dressing room to change into a hospital gown. *Note to self – no black socks and dress shoes for future visits; the hospital gown is bad enough, I don’t need to be the dork in the white gown with black socks and heels* They brought me to the scan room and immediately asked if I had a good vein. I said no, but I have a port… can’t you use that? Apparently not. So the surgery I went through last week is NOT going to eliminate all IVs. Lucky for them, they got the IV in on the first try.

For those of you unfamiliar with a CT scan, the patient lies with their arms extended over their head on a table which moves in and out of the scanner. The scanner is a giant square machine with a round hole. The patient doesn’t get enclosed in a claustrophobic tube – that is used for the MRI scans. The technician performing the scan repeatedly comes over the loud speaker telling the patient to take a deep breath and hold it, then release. Eventually the technician will announce the contrast injection that is administered through the IV. Then the last few scans are done.

When the contrast was injected, I immediately smelled and tasted ammonia and within a couple of seconds felt flushed. This has happened every time and I have been surprised every time. Maybe after writing about it, I might remember it the next time.

They finished up and sent me off to get changed and head home. I was relieved and happy that it was done. Then the realization hit me – I have to have regular CT scans (every 6 weeks or 3 months) for at least 2 years.

Mmm, I can’t wait to knock back more of that delectable apple smoothie.

Monday, November 21, 2005

My Supportive Environment

“Christine. I think I hear Subway calling your name.”

“No, I think you are mistaken.”

“Get me a 12-in tuna. ’Christine… come to me… why do you hate me?’”

Sigh. “I have to go to the grocery store.”

“Oh, good. I’ll give you a list.”

“I’m not getting your groceries. Besides, weren’t you going to go yesterday? You were supposed to get eggs – so I don’t know why you were giving me crap this morning about not smelling breakfast cooking. You didn’t buy eggs, so there was nothing to cook.”

“As a woman, it is your job to figure out what to cook for your man… or in your case, your men.”

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"It Hurts When I Do This." "Well, Don't Do It Then!"

I have a medical alert card that I am supposed to keep with me. It contains all of the information about my new portocatheter. It’s not the kind of thing I ever thought I’d have at this point in my life.

The catheter was implanted on Tuesday. It was a very simple surgical procedure. I was nervous, but kept reminding myself that I was practically sawed in half three months ago – this would be nothing. They didn’t use general anesthesia, it was something lighter. I was concerned that I would be too aware of what was going on. I had spoken to another cancer patient earlier who was awake when she had hers done. I didn’t need to be worried though – I was out. The last thing I remember was them giving me oxygen. When I woke up, it was all done!

I have been really sore the last couple of days. They have me taking Vicodin for the pain which I wish I didn’t have to do. It makes me so tired and I walk around in a total fog. My poor roommates have to deal with how moody it makes me and I’m even more stir crazy than usual because I can’t drive. I’m really hoping that I will only have to take it a couple more days.

Tomorrow I can remove the dressing so I’ll get to see the port. I’ll also get to see how big the incision is. I’m very curious since this scar is more visible than the huge scar down the middle of my stomach. Hmmm… a few months ago I was basically scar-free!!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Let the Countdown Begin!

I finally have a start date for my chemotherapy. I will begin treatments on Monday, December 5th. When I initially found out that I wouldn’t be able to start until then, I was not happy – at the time, it was almost four weeks away. I still wish that I could get started sooner, but in a lot of ways waiting until December works out best. The reason for the delay is that the first available appointment for my CT scans is not until November 23rd. Starting the following Monday was an option, but it would put my third treatment in the week between Christmas and New Years. The clinic is only open two days that week and I was hoping to go home for the holidays.

Now I have a lot of fun stuff scheduled for the next couple of weeks. On Tuesday afternoon (11/15) I am having surgery to get the porto-catheter implanted. Friday (11/18), I have another follow-up appointment with my surgeon to take a look at the still-not-completely-healed incision from my surgery in August. Wednesday (11/23), I have the aforementioned CT scans – I can’t wait to drink that yummy yummy contrast again!! Monday (11/28), I have the final screening for the clinical trial which includes more blood tests and an EKG. Then the following Monday I will start chemo.

In between all of these appointments, I am going to try to squeeze in some fun. I need to take advantage of feeling normal before the chemo fatigue starts. I’m going to make a list tomorrow of everything that I want to do before I start treatments. That will give me three weeks to accomplish it all.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Blood, Catheters and CT Scans

I finally saw my oncologist yesterday. It was another long appointment which really surprised me. I thought that I would be in and out since we had already gone over my treatment options the last time. The oncology office was really busy. My appointment was at 2pm, but I didn’t actually see the doctor until after 3pm. I knew when I made the appointment that they were just fitting me in – there was no appointment available today, but I had already been waiting so long to get started.

The doctor briefly reviewed my diagnosis and the treatment option I had chosen. We also talked more about the clinical trial and he paged the study coordinator. I signed the paperwork so I could start screening to see if I qualify. Unfortunately, all my scans are now too old so I will have to have them all redone. It’s not a huge deal though. I needed a CT scan for my lungs anyway so they’ll just add on the abdomen and pelvis. I also have to have new blood-work done. It has been almost two months since anyone tried to take some of my blood. I was beginning to get used to not looking like a heroin addict. Speaking of needles, they will also be putting in my port-catheter sometime in the next week or so. This will be used for all of my treatments and all future blood samples will be drawn from there. There will be no digging for veins in order to get IVs hooked up!!!

The study coordinator nurse is setting up all of these tests. She is going to call me once they are scheduled. I am hoping to hear from her tomorrow – actually I was hoping to hear from her today. I will be starting chemo as soon as I get through all these tests and procedures. My doctor is hoping for some time next week.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

All Systems a Go

After almost 3 months of waiting, I am finally going to be moving forward with treatment. I will be going back in to see my oncologist on Monday afternoon. I’ll have to have some tests run to see if I qualify for the clinical trial. I also have to have the port implanted and then I should be starting chemotherapy. I’m assuming that it will be in the next couple of weeks. I’m not looking forward to this at all, but in some ways it is a relief to have the waiting over. On the other hand, it has been really easy to pretend that I’m fine. It’s going to be a lot harder now.

I went to the Wellness Community (TWC) in West Los Angeles on Tuesday night for a newcomer’s meeting. My roommate Jim was nice enough to go with me. Now that chemotherapy is so close to becoming my reality, I decided that I need to see what kind of support is available. I was really impressed with TWC. They have a really nice space and offer a lot of activities including Tai Chi and yoga. All of their services are free of charge. There is a group for young adults with cancer that I would like to attend.