If you are reading this for the first time and want to hear the whole story, look under "BLOG ARCHIVE" on the right. Read the oldest blog first, starting with "The Diagnosis" in January 2009 (click on it) and continuing down. The blog you see below is the most recent and you want to read it last.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Last week I received a letter from Kris who is Terry’s cousin’s wife. This is a lady whom I’ve only known for about the past 10 years and only see occasionally. In fact she and her husband moved to Arizona about three years ago and we’ve only seen her twice since then. Kris told me that she has been following my blog and that it inspired her to reconnect with her faith. She said that she started praying for Terry and I, putting us at the top of her list. But she did not feel like she was doing enough. One day she was cleaning out a night stand drawer a found an old pair of Rosary beads. She decided that she was going to say the Rosary every day for us. But then she realized that she had forgotten how to say the Rosary, which beads were Hail Maries, which were Our Fathers, and what was said for the middle bead and Crucifix section. She was ashamed. The next day Kris went to the store and when she stepped out of her car she noticed a blue piece of paper leaning against the curb. It was in pristine condition, not rained on, nor wrinkled nor dirty. She said it was as if it had been placed there. She picked it up, looked at it, and started to cry. It was a pamphlet entitled “How to Say the Rosary”. Kris said the Rosary now feels like an old friend and she’s been saying it for us ever since. Kris’s letter really moved me. To know that someone is praying so hard for us is truly a blessing. And Kris is praying for Terry as well as me. That’s a beautiful thing. But then add the fact the a little miracle helped her to do that is amazing. It’s as if God was saying “keep those prayers coming”. That has to mean that the prayers are doing some good. When I read Kris’s letter it brought tears to my eyes and to Terry’s. Kris pointed out that little miracles lead to bigger miracles and she said to “Keep the faith”. She has bolstered mine. Wow, thank you Kris. Today, before treatment, I had breakfast with Denis, my friend from Georgia who was in the area to visit his parents. When Terry and I visited Denis and his family in April they hosted a barbeque. One of the guests was their friend Jim. Jim and I were talking and he indicated that he was due for a colonoscopy. I gave him my lecture about having an endoscopy done at the same time and urged him to do so. Today Denis told me that Jim did have the endoscopy as a result of our conversation. They discovered he had Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition that often leads to esophageal cancer. He will now be monitored so that if it does they will catch it early. There are also treatments and diet changes he can make that may help. Wow! It is very satisfying to know that I made a difference. Last week my daughter Heather spent her vacation time volunteering as a counselor at a camp for children with cancer. As I mentioned in a previous post she does not do these things because of me. She was doing them long before I was diagnosed. There are many good people in the world and Heather is one of them. I’m a proud father. Last week, my third week without chemo, I felt good and regained some energy. Nothing great; in fact it was the way I used to feel with only one week off. That’s the cumulative nature of the toxins. But it was nice. The taste buds didn’t come back until very late that week and then only slightly so McDonalds didn’t get the windfall sales they might have. My apologies to anyone who bought the stock. Dr. George put me back on a three week cycle so this time I’ll only have two chemo free weeks. The Chemo Kaiser has stuck again. Carry on. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I just read about a man who was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer in September ‘08, the same as me. He began chemo in October ‘08, the same as me. He was just told that his cancer has spread, the tumors have doubled in size, and there is nothing else that can be done for him; not the same as me. You see, I am one of the lucky ones. Sure, mine will probably come back with a vengeance sooner or later but I have been blessed so far. Blessed with a body that has responded well to the treatments. Blessed with more time than a lot of people in my situation get. Blessed with a support network that makes that time worth living and fighting for. Last week, following my little depression, my daughter Heather and her boyfriend and my son AJ and his girlfriend all came for dinner. We hung around the pool until it got dark and then made a fire and hung around some more. I was able to talk Terry into just letting us order take out so she was able to spend more time relaxing and chatting rather than playing hostess. It was definitely quality time. The next day Terry and I joined our friends Linda, Phil and Taryn for a brief excursion to the Delaware water gap. Today we went to my mother’s and spent a lovely day with her and her companion and my sister and her husband. So you see, just when I was feeling down my support team jumped in and pulled me out of it. Yesterday Terry and I were hanging by the pool and I couldn’t help feeling a tremendous sense of gratitude that I am still here to enjoy it. I really didn’t think I would be when this all started. Thank you to everyone in my support network, family, friends, strangers who take the time to email me or post a comment on my blog and strangers who write about their own personal battles which helps me with mine. You all have done more than you can know to help me through this. Thank you for all the prayers. They’re working. Next week will be my third consecutive chemo free week, more than I have ever had since beginning treatments. I’m curious to see if I get any taste buds back. If I do I’ll be spending the week at McDonalds. I know it’s junk food but I’ve been eating way too healthy lately. It’s not good for me. If the buds reappear McDonalds stock is sure to go up. Carry on. -----------------------------------------------------------------
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Bummer alert! Don’t read any further if you don’t feel like reading some negativity. Sometimes I’m reluctant to post anything that sounds too negative. But my intent when I started this blog was to let people know, especially people who may be facing a similar battle, what it’s like. There is certainly a negative aspect to it so I have to share some of that sometimes. Recently I received an email from Peggy, a friend I met through my children’s grammar school. Actually that’s one of the bright sides of my situation. I get to hear from a lot of friends I haven’t heard from in a long time. Don’t anyone judge these people for not getting in touch until a time like this. I’m just as guilty for not staying in touch over the years. And if you think it’s wrong, reach out and touch one of your old friends before you or they get sick. And besides, it’s great to hear from these people regardless of the circumstances. Peggy made a comment about how well I was handling things. Well I don’t know about that. Let me give you some examples of how poorly I handle things at times. Thursday I was staining a couple of wooden steps on the patio. Shortly into the project I kicked over the can of stain. I did a good job, making sure I kicked it off the drop cloth I had underneath it. It spilled onto the patio. I didn’t jump up and quickly start to clean it up which would be the normal reaction. Instead, I sat there and cried. I cried because it seems I can’t do anything right anymore. I make a lot of mistakes, both physical and mental. Most of the physical mistakes involve my hands which are losing dexterity from the neuropathy. The mental ones are probably because of chemo brain. But it doesn’t matter what the cause is. I feel like an old man and it gets frustrating. It caught up to me Thursday. I often think about my own death. I’m not presumptuous enough to think anyone will miss me. But I’ll miss them. And I know my dog will miss me. And he won’t understand. He’ll think I abandoned him and that makes me sad. I worry about my wife. I don’t think she’ll be able to take care of everything around the house and yard. I worry about whether or not she’ll have enough money. I worry about my children. When I got married and bought a house I got a lot of help from my father, my stepfather, and my father in law. I want to be there to help my children and I don’t think I will be. I worry about my mother. I saw my grandfather bury my father. A parent should not have to bury a child. I read a lot about other people who have esophageal cancer. There’s a lot of suffering and a lot of death. Many patients achieve a state of remission only to be knocked down again by a recurrence. That’s why it’s hard for me to get too optimistic about apparent progress. I don’t expect it to last. Often there are contributions from someone who has lost a loved one to the disease. They describe the final days or the death. I picture myself there. I often think about my life achievements. It’s a very short thought process. It bothers me that I haven’t accomplished much. I’m scared. I’m more afraid of dying than I am of death. Very early in my illness I received a gift from Terry, another friend I met through my children’s grammar school. Terry sent me holy water, blessed with a relic of St. Albert of Sicily. Use of the holy water is believed to have healing qualities. I’m not sure if Terry knew it or not but my real name is Albert. Jerry comes from my middle name, Jerome. I have been using the holy water and I have read about the life of St. Albert. One of the things that Albert taught about death was that sooner or later we must give back to God all of the blessings that He has given us. We can give them back to God while we are living, by passing them on to others. But when we die all that are left go back to Him. I have many to give back. I’m going to try to give them back before I die. My faith makes it easier to accept death. But my faith is not perfect. I don’t want to die.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Yesterday I completed my 17th round of chemo. The last cycle was a three week cycle, a week longer than the previous routine. That gave me two weeks free after the treatment week. I must say I enjoyed the extra week. I had more energy and utilized it well. It was the most productive week I’ve had in a long time although I still function like an old man. But that’s not a complaint. I’ll be happy to get older. Unfortunately my neuropathy has been getting worse. When I bend my neck forward I can feel a jolt in my toes. I know it’s weird but the chemo screws around with the nervous system. When I described this to Dr. George she was concerned. She said the toxins were building up in my system. She immediately said to go four weeks with this next cycle. Although I look forward to the time off I’m concerned that the extra time will allow the cancer to thrive more. I’m also concerned about the neuropathy. I guess it’s all part of the balancing act. It’s all part of the cruise. Dr. George informed me that I tested positive for the HER2 gene. Actually I think my tumors tested positive. Way to go tumors! This means that if at some point in the future we need another weapon we may get results from Herceptin, a drug that has been somewhat successful for breast cancer and shows some positive signs for fighting gastric cancers. Each time I have a chemo treatment they do a blood test that monitors, among other things, liver function. I’m happy to report that my liver is hanging in there after being seriously compromised before treatments began. I love my liver. I had a brief scare. After working in the yard during my extra week off I thought I had picked up a deer tick on my arm. I’m no expert but to me it looked like the textbook example of a deer tick. You can see a picture of it on my arm by clicking below. Click here to see the deer tick on my arm Dr. George confirmed that it was in fact a deer tick. Thankfully it was easily removed. Carry on. -------------------------------------------------------------------