One infusion down and a week of chemo floating around in my system. It had me down for a few days, worse than what I thought it was going to be, but I’m out of the funk now and feeling a better. Two weeks till we do it all over again. Thanks to a few of you that got to me with some food and pampering etc. So grateful for all of you. To those that may have called/emailed/texted this week, please know that I’m having a tough time getting back to everyone. It’s not personal! Just back logged. That’s all.
One thing that I can guarantee in 2015. There is going to be a fiesta at the end of all this. A friggin big, fun, thumpin, rockin, grande fiesta. With friends. And family. And food. And drinks. And music. And dancing…play the attached video and you will get a very good idea of the feeling I’m going to have once this chemo bit is over with.
In the spirit of Throw Back Thursday, a year ago today it snowed on WB. A rare sight. Had a good time playing for a bit with some friends. Had a few cocktails. Watched folks push their kids, and dogs, on sleds down the beach. There were a few guys surfing at Oceanic. I remember thinking “those dudes are nuts”. Too cold. A classic and memorable scene.
Fast forward a year and the weather is chilly again, but the scene has changed a bit (for me at least…some of you may be frolicking on the beach today, who knows. Still too cold). Yesterday I was randomly picked in the clintrial to start with chemo, so here we go. I have a chair at 2:30pm today. Dad and JoAnn will be with me on this first round and I’m ready to get the show started. If the chemo doesn’t work well over a matter of a few months, or gets me gnarly sick at some point, they will likely convert me over to the immunotherapy. That is an option we will have. Me thinks that won’t be the case and it’s going to work well, but only time will tell.
Last night I whipped up a few different drafts to post today. One had a bit of a hippie-ish mood to it. “This is gonna be a long, strange trip” kinda thing featuring the MW Bus that Josh drew. All aboard. The other was channeling Rick Flair, GAME ON, Rocky Balboa …Eye of the Tiger type mood. Really wasn’t feeling either one, I think because it was late and I was tired. I’ve been in the hospital 3 times this week, and have had two friends pass from cancer just in the last few days. Grrrrr. Will talk some about them down the road.
I checked FB for a message before hitting the sack and saw something that changed my attitude about today…
As Frank Sulloway told me a few weeks ago, nothing really ever goes exactly as planned at these appointments:
Spent some time at the hospital today. About 7+ hours. We didn’t start treatment today, which was the plan, but, we did get some great news. I am a match for the immunotherapy PD1 drug. Boom! The mojo is workin’, people. Now we are waiting to see if I start with it, or with chemo, and have a few fertility things to handle. The PD1 drug treatment is a randomized deal with the clintrial. I’ll know this weekend what I start with. We are crossing fingers for the trial. But if it is indeed chemo, and it doesn’t work well, we can convert over to the immunotherapy. A bit wacky I know. But this is how it works.
For some reason the first thing this statement made me think of was the barber shop. Eastgate Barber Shop over off Franklin St.
Spent some time there back in the day. Hop in the chair, let the ol’ Wayne hack away for a bit while you tell him about your girlfriend, UNC sports, fishing, maybe your soccer game. Sit in fear as he shaved your neck with that super sharp, grande razor. Then about 20 minutes later he swings you around 180 degrees to look in the mirror…and boom. Bowl cut. Too short. Parted way too much. Nerdy looking. Something was never right. I remember walking out and rubbing my hands all through it, messing it up. Would always feel better after that. Enjoyed chatting with the barbers and listening to other guys in there yucking it up made you feel like you were older than you really were. It was cool.
Believe it or not, I don’t spend much time in those chairs any more. My DNA has evolved me into a barber myself, buzzing, cutting, clipping and shaving my own hair. Cheaper. Less surprises. But not the same experience. And now I’m going to be in a new chair due to my DNA (and just some shit luck). Certainly will be a new, and not so cool, experience.
It looks like I will be starting chemo late next week, or POSSIBLY the PD1 drug. Few more days of waiting on those biopsy results. There is a chair with my name on it reserved for Friday morning. So wheels are in motion. This cancer is in for a mean cut.
Lots of folks asking about my PDL1 biopsy results. Do not have those back yet and pressing on UNC to see what’s up. Will have them posted as soon as we know. Anxious for a treatment schedule.
Instead, here is some news that may make you feel better today.
Spent the day in the hospital this past Monday. Here’s what went down:
Had that chest tube taken out, have had it in since Dec. 8. Glad to be done with it. YouTube was taking on a new meaning.
Had a successful biopsy done on my lymph nodes in my chest, and they took some more lung tissue as well. This was sent to a lab at UNC to see if my tissue jives with the new PDL1 immunotherapy drugs I mentioned a few days ago. It is a once every 3 week treatment, via infusion, and it puts your immune system into hyper-drive, fighting off the bad cells. Should know by next Monday (at the latest) if I am a match. Hoping this is what we start with, as I’ve had many oncologists tell me they are seeing good success with this new trial. That’s where we stand. Hope to be back there next week finalizing a treatment plan. *GP, big thanks for the surprise visit at the hospital, and the tasty juicer treats.*
Until this month, I had never stayed a night in the hospital. Never accepted a stitch. Never even had any kind of outpatient anything. So spending a few nights at New Hanover and now 3 different days in the UNC Cancer Center is obviously not something I’m accustomed to. As friendly as these places have been, and with my Pop and JoAnn there with me, I have still felt a bit anxious and uncomfortable.
So walking into the 2nd floor of Lineberger today and seeing my longtime, beautiful and big hearted friend Wendy Lucas Riggsbee was comforting to say the least. She knows the situation and actually wrote a few days ago, and I know where she works, but it just didn’t even dawn on me that I would see her there today. Too much going on in my head. She greeted us with hugs, smiles, humor, mojo and some Ritz and Graham crackers. The 2nd floor could step up their snack game a bit, no doubt. Wendy agreed. Thank you Wendy for making today much more bearable. Mucho happy to know an old-schooler from Chapel Hill has my back there.
Here’s the latest on my treatment: Didn’t get the chest tube out. Didn’t do the new biopsy today. They simply were not ready to do all this today…I did do an x-ray, which showed very little fluid left in my chest, good news. Next week the surgeon is going to do a Bronchoscopy, to check for lesions in my chest, and then also go in through a small incision the front of my neck, then go down to where my lymph nodes are (to the left of my sternum), get some of that tissue, as well as some from my lung. It’s called a Mediastinoscopy. This will then go to a lab at UNC, where they will see if I am a match for the immunotherapy. Should take a week at the most. Also learned I was wrong about the PD1 treatment. Not a pill. It’s an infusion, like chemo. Once every 3 weeks, with a list of possible side affects 2 pages long. Sounded like the back end of a pharma TV ad where they list off about 27 things in 7 seconds. Joint pain, bloody nose, numbing in feet, bad taste in mouth…the list is funny to read.
Headed back over to UNC for a 1:40pm procedure to get all this done on Monday. 6pm or so before I’m out of there.
Here I am telling Wendy how much I want this tube out of my chest…and how hungry I am…
So in a nutshell, here is what is going on:
On December 1st, my buddy Christian Lloyd, a pulmonary specialist in Wilmington, went Gap Band style and dropped a bomb on me. I have Stage 4, non-small cell adenocarcinoma. Lung Cancer. The most common type. My first word was “Fuck.” Most likely a similar reaction you may have had when hearing that you, or someone in your world, had a serious diagnosis. After some scans, it was determined it was secluded to my left lung only. All considering, this was good news.
On December 8th, I underwent a biopsy at New Hanover Regional, so they could send my tissue off for some testing, and a procedure called a Pluerodisis. Basically glued up the area where all this fluid was building outside my lung wall, with a form of talc powder. This fluid is what tipped me off that something was wrong. Was coughing and not feeling well for months. They took two liters of fluid out of me prior to this surgery. Still not sure how my skinny frame had that much floating around in my chest. Wild. Got my first experience of staying in a hospital. Order the salmon and broccoli if there! The folks at NHRMC took good care of me. Many thanks to Dr. Cortina and the team of nurses that cared for me.
Fast forward – after getting some test results back, which determine what kind of treatment you can receive, and a few meetings at UNC and Duke, and I’ve decided to get treatment at UNC. Many reasons for this. To name a few…I really like the doctor there – here’s a video of Dr. Stinchcombe. It’s also in the center of my support universe. Dad and JoAnn live in Chapel Hill, I have family in ATL, Pinehurst, DC, and a large percentage of my MOJO WARRIORS (will explain this big picture concept in a separate post) are in NC. I’ve talked to many folks battling cancer, all have said that being near your support is very important.