Friday, July 29, 2011

Chemo is Working

Since my last posting, I have had 3 more chemo treatments with the 5th one on Wed July 27.  Only had one bad day during the month on July 19th when I had to get an IV of fluids while at the clinic for a scheduled appointment.  Seems like I got dehydrated from the previous days of high temps and humidity.  We had water in our basement from about 8" of rain during the previous weekend and were setting up the garage for a sale.  I must have overdone it and was really weak and tired by the Tuesday appointment.

Anyway, on Tuesday this week, July 26, I had a PET-CT scan before my BMT clinic checkup for my chemo session scheduled on Wednesday.  While at my chemo treatment, my BMT Dr stopped by and confirmed that the PET Scan showed no evidence of active cancer cells where the original biopsies indicated or elsewhere from my "eyes to thighs".  He said that almost all patients who have this good of a PET scan after only 2 cycles of chemo (4 treatments) fully recover from Hodgkins.  My sister went through this same process and experience with her Hodgkins and is cancer free today.  I still need to go through 4 more cycles of chemo to make sure the stuff is killed for good.  Thankfully, my reaction to the chemo and followup drugs has been good.  I am essentially feeling as well as I have in the past 4 years since my BMT.

Praise the Lord.  He must have more for me to do here on earth.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Afib, Colitis & dehydration

I was scheduled for a clinic appt on June 14th, but had to go to the ER at 5am.  I woke up with more atrial fibrillation but by the time I made it to the ER, it had disappeared.  I was also having loose stools so they gave me fluids.  My clinic appt was postponed until the next day when the Dr said that that I had chemo induced colitis.  My white cell count was also low so I got shots of Neupogen.  I had a hard time sleeping since the Neupogen stimulates cell growth and pain in the bones.  I was into the clinic again on Thurs and Fri to get fluids and more Neupogen.  My white cell count recovered and on Monday when I went in again, I felt a lot better.

All this time they are using my new dual Power-port to take blood and give fluids.  On Monday, since I was in and out with just a blood test and no fluids, we forgot that I still had the IV lumen connected to the port.  It wasn't until about 3:30pm when I realized this tube hanging under my shirt.  Luckily, I was able to get back to the clinic before it closed to have the lumen removed so they could also flush the port with heparin.

This week, I have been feeling pretty good since my next chemo was delayed until Wed, June 29.  I see the Dr on Tues to check blood counts again and confirm the chemo appt. We will see what the next week brings.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hair & Mouth

Well, the chemo is finally taking it toll on my hair.  Every time I brush more comes out.  Four years ago only the dark hairs fell out and I was left with wispy grey hairs, but I never lost it all or shaved it off.  Just waiting to see how it looks.

My other complication is mouth sores primarily on my tongue and front lip.  My sister recommended a combination of 1 Tbsp molasses and 1/2 an orange.  I tried that last night but didn't taste too good and not sure how to take it.  Today, my neighbor mentioned Tea Tree Oil which seems to be an Australian cure for everything.  This afternoon I tried a mouthwash of the stuff and will see if it helps tonight.

Otherwise, I seem to be doing fine.  I will back to the clinic on Tues to check how my blood counts are holding up.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Chemo #2

I had my second round of chemo this morning and am feeling fine.  Only slept 4 hours last night and needed a nap this afternoon.  The last of the superglue came off my incision with a little encouragement last night.  I was there at 8:30 am and started with premeds, Benedryl and Tylenol and vital signs.  They used the new ports for which I was glad are dual ported.  The first try could flush but not withdraw blood so they put heparin in and used the second port which worked well.  They later were able to clear the first port later.  The infusion of the four drugs, ABVD, took about 2 hours.  We stayed a little while to see if I would have any reaction like the first time, but lucked out and we were back home by 4:30 pm.  It was good to have my wife along for support, but I should be able to drive myself next time.

The new meds are affecting my sleep, averaging about 4 hrs at night with a one hr nap during the day.  I am up before my wife and working around the house.  I pretty much have the routine of testing my blood, counting carbs and giving my insulin and Lovenox injections.  Have to take a couple of extra drugs at home over the next three days.

Keep looking up!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Blood counts back up

I have had 2 clinic appointments this week and can report that I am feeling much better.  I was dragging on Tuesday morning but perked up after my appt.  My white cell and platelet counts were down so I had another appt on Thursday where both were going back up.  Did not need a platelet transfusion as I had feared.

I still have a lot of bruising from all the needle pricks at the hospital and subsequent injections that I give myself.  I check my blood glucose 4 times a day and give myself an insulin shot at least 4 times.  I also need a daily injection of Lovenox to thin my blood following the Atrial Fibrillation last month. Hopefully, I can get back on Coumadin soon.

The incision from my dual port is healing well, but the superglue still hinders its use. Hopefully, the glue will continue to come off so that the ports can be used for my second round of chemo on Monday.

In the meantime, I am gaining strength.  I have worked in the yard and garage, shopped for groceries, recycled fluorescent light bulbs, fixing stuff around the house and generally doing everything I could a couple of months ago.  My son has been great in getting the lawn mowed and helping with any heavy lifting.

Your prayers are valued as I have the next round of chemo.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

PowerPort Implanted

I was in for out-patient surgery today and had a Bard PowerPort implanted in my right chest.  As I mentioned in previous post, the PICC line I had was too much trouble to maintain for the 6 months that I will need chemo.  My wife drove me to the hospital where they started about 8 AM in an outpatient room with all the vital tests to prove I could continue.  At 9 AM, they moved me into an operating room where they prepared me for the surgery.  Interestingly, they transferred me from the gurney to the operating table using a hover pad, an air mattress with many holes in the bottom.  They inflated it with air and just floated me from one to the other.

The procedure went well though I don't remember much since I was sedated.  I now have an incision about 2 inches where they placed the port with catheter under the skin and a little incision about 4 inches higher where they inserted the catheter into my right jugular vein,  No stitches - all held together with superglue.  The catheter continues over to my left where it ends in my superior vena cava, just like the PICC line did. The port is a duo version so that it can support two needles at once and will be used for all future blood draws or any infusions included the chemotherapy.  My first use will be blood tests again on May 31 with chemo planned for June 3.  There is nothing that I need to do at home to maintain it.

I was back to my out-patient room by 11 AM, had some lunch and my son picked me up at 12:30 PM.  Home now and feeling good.  Just bothered a bit by dry eyes, a little blurry vision and my first eye floater in about a year.  Hope that clears up.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hodgkin's Lymphoma

A lot has happened in the last 5 months and I am going to try and catch up. Key development was a diagosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma on May 19th.

I was hospitalized for 9 days starting Feb 8 due to a bad bout of diarrhea.  After about 12 hours and about as many trips to the bathroom, I was so dehydrated that I could hardly stand.  My wife called 911 and I was taken to the emergency room and then checked into the hospital.  Turned out it was some bug that cleaned out my whole GI tract.  I was on liquid only diet for days to allow healing and the a BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast.  I was never so glad to get out of the hospital and stopped on the way home for a Big Mac.

Again on March 15, I had a night of diarrhea again though not as bad as the previous time.  I was able to walk and my wife was going to drive, but then called 911 again for an ambulance to the emergency room.  Thankfully, after some fluids for my dehydration, I did not have to stay at the hospital.  Unfortunately, I got stuck with the ambulance bill which I am still disputing.

Then on April 20, I woke up with weird, rapid heartbeats.  I have had short episodes in the past that would come and go, but only observed once when I was in the emergency room for something else.  This time it didn't stop and after an hour I had my wife call the doctor.  I had enough strength to walk so she drove me to the emergency room where they diagnosed it as Atrial Fibrillation.  I was checked into the hospital and monitored by EKG and had an echocardiogram. The next day I had a TEE (Transesophageal Echocardiogram) to check for any blood clots in my atrium.  Since no clots, I had a Cardioversion, a procedure that shocked my heart into normal rhythm.  I walked out of the hospital feeling normal in a couple of hours.  The next day, I noticed the outline of the shock pad on my chest.        Only ongoing treatment so far was that I went back on Coumadin blood thinner to avoid possible clots.

During these months my Alkaline Phosphatase was increasing, indicating something was changing with my liver.  Doctors increased my Prednisone from 20mg every other day until I was back up to 40mg every day.  An MRI of my abdomen was scheduled for May 3 to check out the cause.

I had been suffering from a sinus infection for 4 weeks when I was put on a 10 day dose of Augmentin on April 28.  By May 7, I was feeling well enough to attend an all day tech conference, Mother's Day and especially on May 9, my 63rd birthday lunch with my sisters and cousin.  It was 4 years ago that I had my BMT on my birthday.

While I had some temperature fluctuations with the sinus infection, on Wednesday, May 11, I started having shivers and sweats at night.  On Thursday, I was very tired and on Friday morning decided I had to get into the doctor.  In the meantime, the results of the MRI had indicated some suspicious lymph nodes near my liver.  After initial checkup at the BMT Clinic, they checked me into the nearby hospital.  Because I had been on Coumadin, they could not take a biopsy of my liver and lymph nodes until my INR clotting rating dropped to at least 1.5.  They did all kinds of other tests - blood, urine, stool, Xrays, CT scans while monitoring my condition.  I continued with the temperature fluctuations from below normal to as high as 103.2.  Tylenol was effective and I learned to anticipate it coming on to address before it got that high again.

So on Thursday, May 19th, my INR was low enough to do the biopsies of both my liver and the lymph node.  They did this with the use of a CT scanner, using a live CT images to guide the needles to their target.  I had to lay on my stomach for two hours while worked through my back.  They would alternate between getting a CT image of where the needle was and pushing it in a little further.  Took many iterations in and out.  I was sedated, but saw some of the procedure on the monitor.  The result was that the lymph node showed I have Hodgkin's Lymphoma which just happens to have temperature fluctuations as a symptom.

Before treatment, I had to have more tests to set a baseline and prove that I was healthy enough to proceed.  On Friday, I had two bone marrow biopsies, one on each side.  They were checking to see how my BMT was holding up and whether there was any trace of Hodgkin's in my marrow. I also had a Pulmonary Function Test and a full torso CT scan that showed a few more enlarged lymph nodes.

On Saturday, I had a PICC line inserted in my left upper arm.  The PICC line goes into my arm, up over my shoulder and ends in the superior vena cava entrance to my heart.  This line was required since smaller peripheral veins cannot handle the chemotherapy which was started at 7pm.  The regimen used was ABVD, commonly used for Hodgkin's treatment.  My main reaction to the chemo was severe chills afterward, to the point that my teeth were chattering.  A dose of Demerol took care of the chills, but left me with the sweats.  I slept well then and had a good Sunday.

On Monday, I had training for flushing the PICC line plus advanced diabetes management.  Before all of this, I would check my glucose level before breakfast and take an injection of Lantus.  While in the hospital, they checked before every meal and give insulin based on glucose level plus what carbs I had just eaten.  I now have to do both at home as well.  After my final training, they discharged me with a stop at the pharmacy to get a whole lot of additional medications to take at home.

On Tuesday,  I had a followup appt with the BMT Clinic to get an injection of Neupogen which should stimulate blood cell production to counteract the chemo effects.  While there, I complained about the PICC line extensions added so that I could reach and flush them out. I had these lines hanging down to my wrist and had to keep them netted up on my arm.  Doctor decided that I should have a portacath installed.  That will happen on Thursday, May 26, but they removed the PICC line immediately.

All in all, I am back home, sleeping in my own bed, typing this on my Mac computer and not feeling to much worse for the wear.  I walked through the valley of the shadow of death with the BMT and have had four good years.  While I have a few more complications now, life is good.  Thank you, God!