Day 79 – Saturday (11/10/18)

 

Next blog update will be posted by Saturday, November 17th, at midnight.

 

Hello again everyone.  Another week is in the books.  5 down, 13 to go.

Compared to last week, I had a very mild week.  As best I can remember, nothing eventful happened this week (but I have slept since then).  My son is doing well with his broken foot.  He is able to walk around and do everything he would normally do, so long as he keeps the boot on.  He has a follow up appointment on 11/19.  One of his friends told him about a product called “Even Up”, which straps onto the bottom of the shoe on his good foot, to even it up with the height of the boot.  I ordered him one, and it should be here Monday (maybe Tuesday because of Veteran’s day.  Does UPS run on Veteran’s day?).  They say it helps get rid of the “limp” walk that people wearing boots seem to have.  I found out that my neighbor broke her foot also, but she is having a difficult time getting it to heal properly.  Please be in prayer for her that things would get back on the right track.

My wife and daughter finished their meds for strep.  They seem to have made a full recovery and my son and I still never got it.  This was a huge blessing.  My blood work this week showed my numbers all rebounded back to the normal range (after being out on the low side last week).  This seems like it will be the normal cycle to drop the week after chemo, and then rebound the second week.  From an important date standpoint, I have a PET scan tomorrow (11/11) to see what progress we are making.  However, I doubt I will know the results until Thursday (11/15) when I meet with my doctor again.  Immediately after that meeting I will receive my 3rd cycle of chemo.  Then the roller coaster starts again!

Finally, please also be in prayer for my cousin in Kansas.  He has had a chronic illness for many years that was controlled by medicine.  However, lately the medicine isn’t working, nor is the alternative medicines.  The doctors are doing some tests this week to make sure they haven’t missed anything in the diagnosis.  He is only a year older than me (I think… maybe 2 years), and is married with 3 young children.  I know this is a difficult time for them.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for helping me have a relatively quiet week this week.  I felt better than I have in a while, and was even able to start exercising some.  I know that on Thursday I have another dose of chemo and the roller coaster starts again, but I know You will be there with me.  I pray for the PET scan tomorrow, that the results will show excellent progress toward becoming cancer free.  I pray for both my son and my neighbors feet, that You would help heal them.  I pray for my cousin, that You would give the doctors wisdom in figuring out what the next steps are for him.  I pray for our Church, as there are several missions/outreach projects happening.  It is my desire that through the projects, through the people helping, that You may be glorified and others will experience Your love, and come to know You as their personal Savior.  I pray for our Veteran’s Lord, and their families.  I can’t fathom what all they have gone through to allow our nation to continue in the freedom we currently enjoy.  Finally, I pray for anyone else that is going through a trial right now, whether it be health, financial, work, etc.  Help them to seek comfort in You, knowing that You see the end from the beginning, and already have everything worked out.  I love You Lord, and I thank You for Your continued blessings.  Amen.

Day 72 – Saturday (11/03/18)

 

Next blog update will be posted by Saturday, November 10th, at midnight.

 

Hello again everyone.  Another week is in the books.  4 down, 14 to go.  Important service bulletin: My hair is trying to grow back!  However, I have decided to just keep it shaved until this whole process is over.  There is no need for it to start growing back, then fall back out… etc.

This week has been a crazy week.  I got off the prednisone for cycle 2 on Monday.  I experienced the same fluid retention and weight gain as cycle 1.  I also had the same experience that by Tuesday night, my body released the fluid and I lost all the weight I had gained.  The good news is, aside from the cyclical fluid issue, my weight is maintaining very well.  Wednesday was Halloween, and unfortunately was my worst day.  I had severe stomach problems that day, but luckily by Thursday things had calmed down again, at least for me.  Not so much for my wife and daughter.  They went to urgent care on Thursday night and both had strep throat.  I called my doctor to see if they wanted to proactively treat me, and they said no.  However, I needed to watch my temperature, and if I started a fever, or got a sore throat, I was to start my antibiotics immediately.  Luckily, I never developed any symptoms, and neither did my son.  We lysol’d the whole house, and it seems we dodged a bullet.  I’ll go ahead and mention this even though it happened in “the future” (since I’m late writing this for Saturday).  On Sunday (11/4), my son stepped on a soccer ball wrong, fell, and broke two metatarsals in his left foot (the ones attached to the little piggy that had no roast beef, and the one that went wee wee wee all the way home).  Luckily, they broke in a good spot that did not affect his growth plates, and also were lined up enough to not need surgery.  He just has to where a boot for 4-6 weeks.

So, in the end, the week was full of fun, excitement, and adventure… just the wrong kind.  But, God is good, and each situation could have been much worse, but it wasn’t.

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for helping my family through another week.  There were a few challenges during the week, but You helped us through them.  You helped my stomach finally calm down, You protected me from getting strep, and You helped my son break his foot in the best way possible.  There is always a silver lining in every “bad” thing that happens.  I pray for the election this coming week Lord.  I pray that people would get out and vote, and that You would place the people in positions of authority/leadership that You see fit.  I pray that You would be with our current and newly elected leaders, and that You would help our country turn back to You.  Thank You for all that You do for us, amen.

Day 65 – Saturday (10/27/18)

 

Next blog update will be posted by Saturday, November 3rd, at midnight.

 

Hello again everyone.  Another week is in the books.  3 down, 15 to go.  Important service bulletin: I no longer have my hair.  My beard and the hair on the top of my head was falling out enough that I just went ahead and shaved it.  At this point I still have my eyebrows and hear on my arms and such.  I’m not 100% sure if that will fall out or not.

I received chemo treatment cycle 2 of 6 this week.  This time I still got the 8 bags of goodies, but it took about 7 hours instead of 8.  The “R” in the RCHOP regiment (Rituximab) is the chemo that can cause issues.  They administer it very slowly at first, then ramp up the speed if things are going good.  During the first cycle that one bag alone took 4 hours.  This time it was 3 hours.  The nurse said she was going to ask the doctor if next time we could do a “rapid” infusion, since I have had no issues, which would drop that bag down to 1.5 hours.  When I met with the doctor before the infusions, I asked him about my theory I presented to you all last week.  You know… the optimistic possibility that I could get away with fewer than 6 cycles.  Unfortunately, that was a very quick “uhh… no… good try though”.  Then he explained why, and it made sense.  With my type of lymphoma, they estimate that each cycle removes 85% of the cancerous cells.  Meaning… Cycle 1 kills 85% of what you start with (hence the reason you feel/see so many positive effects after just 1 cycle), then cycle 2 kills 85% of what is left, cycle 3 kills 85% of what is left… etc.  By the end of your last cycle, you are killing “microscopic” cancer cells that don’t show up on any scan.  It’s really a “just to be safe” measure.  I’ll be honest, I’m in it this far, I’ll take the full 6 cycles just to be safe any day, if it means I don’t have to do this again in a few years.  Now, it should be noted that not all lymphoma patients are slated for 6 cycles.  The number of cycles each patient needs is based on the overall mass size and stage that the cancer is in BEFORE you start the first treatment.  That data is what dictates how many times you have to do the 85% rule.  This was really all quite interesting to me how modern medicine has this down to an exact science.  I also found out that the lady who does my blood work had Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and she has been cancer free for 12 years now.  That was very encouraging to hear.

The PET scan to check and make sure everything is clearing up as expected is on November 11th.  I don’t fully remember how long it took to get those results.  (I guess I could go back through the blog and find out).  I’m hoping they will have them by the time I meet with my doctor again, which is on 11/15.  From all the blood work they have been doing, the only issue they see so far is my potassium levels.  They have put me on a potassium supplement pill to try to correct this, and I started this medicine on Thursday this week.  They told me I could stop taking the medicine for controlling uric acid, because my numbers show I don’t need it.  They will continue to monitor it though.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for helping me through another week and another chemo treatment.  I suspect the coming week will be rough based on the first cycle.  I know You will be there to help me through it.  I continue to be amazed and thankful at how You have helped me so much through this process so far, and I have faith that You will continue to help.  I thank You again for everyone you have put in my life to help support me.  My colleagues and boss are covering for me at work, my church family is praying and helping with meals, and my direct family is helping with meals, yard work, anything I need.  It is only through You that I could be in such an awesome position with such awesome friends and family to help get me through this trial in my life.  I know that there are a lot of other people that are having health and other issues that come through our prayer chain.  I continue to pray for them Lord, and ask that You would help them in their situations.  I thank You for all that You do, Amen.

Day 58 – Saturday (10/20/18)

 

Next blog update will be posted by Saturday, October 27th, at midnight.

 

Hello again everyone.  Another week is in the books.  2 down, 16 to go.  Important service bulletin:  I still have my hair!  (Correction: I woke up this morning (Sunday, 10/21) and I was scratching my beard and pieces started falling off.  Beard still intact at the moment… but it appears this may be the beginning of the end for my hair.  Update next week!)  This week was a much better week than last week.  I feel like my overall health is already improving from just this first cycle.  My resting heart rate, according to my fitbit, has gone from a high of 92 (before the first chemo), to 70 today.  At night, it is running about 60, which is where it was prior to this whole ordeal starting.  I hesitate to mention this next item, but I will.  I have this gut feeling that my body is responding to the chemo quicker than “the standard”.  We are supposed to do another PET scan at the end of the second cycle, which should put it somewhere around the week before Thanksgiving.  I have this hunch that the PET scan is going to show that blobby is already dead.  If so, maybe I only need… say 4 cycles (12 weeks)… instead of the full 18.  I don’t know why I have such a strong feeling about this.  Maybe it is just optimism… maybe it is God giving me some insight.  The reason I hesitate to mention this is that I don’t want fellow blog readers to think that if my hunch turns out to be wrong that God has let me down.  HE HAS NOT!  Not at all!  God has been working mightily in my situation, and I could not ask for any better results from just the first chemo cycle.  If I still have to go the full 6 cycles, that is okay, because I know that God will continue to be with me.  My next 8 hour chemo session is this coming Thursday, Oct. 25th.

Dear heavenly Father, I again praise You for how You help all of us in times of need.  You never put a burden on us that is too much for us to bear.  You are always willing to walk beside us through our storms if we let You.  I have felt Your presence with me all week (and since the start of this), and it has been very comforting.  There have been many prayer requests that have come through our prayer chain lately of people dealing with health issues.  At the risk of forgetting a name as I write this blog, I simply pray for all of them.  You know who they are and what they need.  Please provide them the same comfort and optimism that You have given me.  I continue to pray for the lost, Lord.  I know it is Your desire that all will come to repentance.  If there is anyone that I can reach (for You) with my testimony, please put them in my path.  You have given me this testimony for a purpose.  Thank You Lord for all that You do, amen.

Day 52 – Sunday (10/14/18)

 

Next blog update will be posted by Saturday, October 20th, at midnight.

 

Hello everyone.  It has been quite a week.  Let’s start with a health update.  After having chemo in my body for 8 or so days now, I’m already seeing some positive effects.  First, my heart rate has come back down to normal.  Prior to my diagnosis, my resting heart rate was always between 65 and 75.  With Blobby, I was running 100-120.  My heart rate this week has returned to my normal levels.  Next, the cough that I had has gone away.  Also, I am no longer having night sweats.  It truly is amazing how fast the chemo seems to be working, from a symptom point of view.  Finally, I was going to mention that my “nerve/bone” pain had gone away, however this statement may be premature.  I thought everything was looking good on that front until this morning about 4:00am.  I started having the nerve pain again, this time it started in my lower back, and was shooting down both of my legs.  Advil and Tylenol got it under control, but time will tell if this will continue to be an issue.  The doctor thinks it is related to the cancer, and he originally told me it may be the 2nd or 3rd cycle before this symptom went away.  I guess I was hopeful with all the other positive changes, that this one would be gone now too.   Again, time will tell.

Now for the side-effects.  The above paragraph makes it sound like all is going great, which from my viewpoint it is.  However, there have been many side-effects I have been dealing with this week.  The number 1 issue has been my stomach.  I have had moderate to severe stomach issues all week, from nausea, to not wanting to eat/drink, to… well… probably too much information.  Fatigue has been another obstacle.  I have been sleeping between 12 and 14 hours a day this week.  It has been a chore to get up off the couch and actually do something.  This started getting some better on Friday night.  I think maybe this has been related to the prednisone.  I had to take this (and will have to take it) for the first 5 days of each chemo cycle.  It is a massive dose (doctor’s words).  It seems… maybe… that now that the 5 days are done… and the withdrawal days are done… that I am getting some energy back.  Ironically it seems like I will finally start feeling better just in time for them to hit me again, but that is how chemo goes I guess.  My weight has been a roller coaster also.  I gained 4 pounds on the day of the first chemo cocktail, then gained 1 to 2 pounds each day after… until Wednesday (which was the first day without the prednisone).  On Wednesday and Thursday I lost a lot of fluids (read between the lines), and I also lost 9 pounds and by Saturday I was back to my original weight on the day I started the chemo.  I discussed this with the doctor also, and he said the fluid retention and subsequent loss of fluid is something I need to expect each cycle also.  I guess looking at the end of week 1, I feel like maaaaaybee I am learning a pattern to expect for each cycle?  However, there are still a lot of unknowns (like what tomorrow and the next day will bring).  Side note… I still have my hair (well, as much as I had before the chemo).  Doc says I should lose it by week 3.  Time will tell, haha.

Dear heavenly Father, we now have 1 week in the books… 17 more to go.  My mind had run wild wondering how my body would react to the chemo, and like usual, my mind went to extremes.  Thankfully, the process has not been as bad as I thought, and You have everything under control and are helping me every step of the way.  I knew, through faith, You would take care of me, and You are proving Yourself trustworthy as always.  I pray that You will continue to be with me in the coming weeks, and that You will help me not catch any colds/viruses etc as winter approaches.  I know that my immune system will be weakened, and that complications can arise if I get sick.  I am learning that there are so many things that are not in my control, but I know that You have control, and I can rest in You.  Thank You Lord for continued strength and healing.  Amen.

Day 44 – Saturday (10/06/18)

 

Next blog update will be posted by Sunday, October 14th, at midnight.

 

Hi again everyone.  This has been a very busy week, and a lot has happened.  The week started with a bone marrow biopsy.  This is common practice to check for anyone who has been diagnosed with lymphoma.  If the lymphoma has gone into the bones, it changes the cancer stage from 2 to 4.  The test was somewhat painful at certain points.  The best way I can describe the pain was a root canal for your lower back (it was really the upper part of my hip bone).  I had a root canal some 10 years ago… and this brought back memories.  Fast forward to Friday, and I got fantastic news.  The bone marrow biopsy came back negative.  This means I do not have to have another biopsy, and that I officially only have Stage 2 lymphoma.  This significantly increases the odds that after treatment, I can be deemed cancer free.  The next test I had to do this week was an EKG.  I thought going into the test, it was just your basic “put “stickers” on you, run some kind of electrical test, and you’re done”.  What I didn’t realize is this was actually an ultrasound of the heart.  The test took about 45 minutes, and the technician took about 50 screenshots/videos/readings etc.  The purpose of this test was to establish a baseline of my hearts function prior to receiving chemo treatment.  Blood work was also taken to have a baseline for all of the vital numbers.

The next big hurdle was getting my vital port installed.  I was under a wrong impression of this also.  I figured I would have IV type tubes hanging out somewhere, that the nurses would use to administer treatment.  In actuality, the port is installed completed under your skin (just below my collar bone).  In order to use it to draw blood for labs, or administer chemo, you have to “access” it.  This is a fancy piece that pokes through the skin, into the port, and has all the IV tubes hooked to it.  Then, when finished, the nurse simple pulls the piece back out, the skin heals, and the port remains hidden under the skin.  In order to install the port, it was an outpatient surgery that took about 45 minutes (in the actual operating room).  They used a “lesser” level of anesthesia on this procedure (compared to the surgical biopsy), and I woke up and was able to leave the hospital much quicker.

Friday was the big day where I actually received my first treatment.  I got a total of 8 bags of drugs/chemicals over 8 hours.  Basically, it was a bag of “side effect” deterrence, then the chemo bag.  Then another bag of “side effect” deterrence (for the side effects of the next chemo bag), then the next chemo bag.  The chemo bags were the 4 chemicals RCHOP (as discussed in the previous post).  The P is prednisone, and it is just in pill form that I take, and was not administered through the IV.  One risk that was possible was an allergic reaction to the actual chemicals.  If this were to happen, it happens while they are actually being administered.  I made it through the process with no reactions, so that part worked out good.  After all the bags were administered, they put an “auto-dosing device” on my arm.  This device is to dose one last drug 27 hours after chemo.  My understanding is this… The chemo kills off a lot of my white and some of my red blood cells.  The drug in this “device” sends some kind of signal to your brain to make your bone marrow start reproducing / overproducing white and red blood cells.  If they give this to you right after chemo, the new cells being produced would just be killed as fast as they were made.  By waiting 27 hours, the chemo should be “diluted” in your system enough that your body can start making the cells again.  The side effect of this auto-dosing drug is “bone pain”.  The nurse said that numerous patients reported that taking Claritin (yes the anti-histamine), prevented this side-effect.  Ironically, literally as I’m typing about this… the dosing device started beeping and is now administering the medicine.  They said it takes 45 minutes for it to finish.  At that point it should beep again, and I can peel it off.  It injects the medicine through a needle that felt a lot like pricking your finger to check blood sugar.

I have to give a lot of thanks to God for helping me through all the activities this week.  I was really worried about the bone marrow biopsy, because I had been told they were painful.  While it did hurt, it was not as bad as I thought.  Even more important than God helping me through the procedure, was God allowing the results to come back negative.  This was a huge psychological victory for me.  Next, God helping the surgeon with my port install, and everything going smoothly there was another blessing.  Then, as the first bag of chemo started going in, I was praying that God would help everything go smoothly and that I wouldn’t have any allergic reactions.  Again, God was there, and everything went as well as chemo can go.  Reflecting on everything so far (since they found the mass) it is clear God choose not to simply take away the mass in the form of a miracle.  Some people may ask why not.  The answer is simple.  That was not His will.  He had a purpose for me to go through this process.  That purpose may not be fully known to me at this time, but I know it includes this blog.  It includes giving me a testimony that I can use to share with others what God did for me through this process.  It includes God getting the glory in the end.  What I’m seeing right now, is that while God needs me to go through this whole process, He is also helping me with every step of the process.  There has not been one single complication so far.  All of the tests, surgery’s, chemo administration… everything has gone as good as I could have ever imagined.  I know I’m only on day 2 of treatment with another 18 weeks of chemo and 4-6 weeks of radiation ahead of me, but I have confidence that God has helped me this far, and He will help me the rest of the way.  Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”.  I feel this is what God is doing for me in this process.  He is taking the bulk of the burden for Me, and helping me every step of the way.

Dear heavenly Father, You are an awesome God.  I thank You so very much for helping the bone marrow biopsy results come back negative for cancer.  This removed a huge burden off of me.  Thank You for helping guide the doctor during the port installation.  Thank You for helping me not have any allergic reactions to the administering of the chemo.  While it was not Your will to simply remove this trial from me, You have proven faithful in helping me every step of the way.  I can’t imagine that this process could have gone any better up to this point.  I have complete confidence that as we go through the rest of this process together, on the other side, the cancer will be gone, and I will have an awesome testimony that I can share with others.  I pray that You get all the glory through this, and that You utilize me as needed to share the gospel and a personal testimony of how You helped me throughout this trial.  Again, you are an awesome God, and I thank You for everything.  Amen.