What a Wonderful Christmas!

Today was a beautiful day, one filled with family and fun. I’m sure I have a different outlook on the holidays, due to my cancer and the possibility that I may or may not have too many more chances at Christmas, but it truly was a beautiful day.

To start the day off, I picked Tina up from work and came home and then I wrapped some more presents while she got some sleep. After a brief nap, I got started on making a turkey dinner, with homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. While preparing the food, Mark and Michelle came over and were kind enough to help me prepare the food.

At 1:00 pm I ran over and picked up my granddaughter Shayla (David’s daughter) from her mom’s so that she could come over and open her presents from Santa and her dad. While Shayla was opening presents I woke Tina up and she came down in time to see Shayla open presents and then Susan and Zach brought my other granddaughter Ava over so that she could open her presents from all of us. The girls had a blast and it was so much fun watching them open their presents with all of their excitement and happiness.

About 3:00 pm my mom and dad came over to join the festivities. It was such a treat because my mom hasn’t been over for any of the holidays for the past several years, mostly because she has health issues of her own, and also because she and Tina had a number of small disagreements over the years. When I called my mom on Christmas eve day and asked her to come over, like I do every year, I explained that with both her and my health issues, it would be a good year to start anew. Fortunately, she agreed and joined us for a great day at the Carlson household.

By about 5:30 pm, most of our guests had left and cleanup began. The food had to be put away, the dishes cleaned up and all the discarded wrapping paper picked up. Once finished, Tina and I went upstairs and retired to our room to watch a movie and relax.

Again, what a wonderful Christmas!

A Great Day to be Alive

I woke up this morning exhausted and ready to go back to sleep. But instead I pushed through it and got ready and headed to work. On the way I stopped at the bank and the store and picked up something for the gift exchange at work, which I am sure will be a hit.

Not more than a few minutes into my office and I got a knock on my door and it was a request to help clean off some pictures and videos off a new driver’s phone, because he had so many he couldn’t install a couple of apps that we require them to have. I went out to meet the new driver and he is a man of faith, who has dozens of videos of testimonies from people he has helped over the past few years. He showed me a few and it was very inspirational. Within an hour I had moved his videos to his SD card and he had plenty of room for the apps and more videos.

Then, after a couple hours of work, the owner had lunch brought in and it was Barry Bagels. Man, do I love Barry Bagels! I had a great turkey, roast beef and swiss cheese sandwich with some potato salad and chips. Oh, and some very good homemade cookies that someone was nice enough to bring in. All in all it was a great lunch and I am thankful for it.

In a few minutes I am heading over to get the chemo pump removed. I hate having to tote it around and love the freedom I get when it comes off. The side effects haven’t been nearly as bad this round, and I am very grateful that is the case. God has certainly heard the prayers of my many friends and family, and myself, and has given me a reprieve from the side effects this time around.

Our God is an awesome God!

Round Three Under Way

Round three of the chemo started today. I was at the infusion center for almost five hours and slept more than half of the time, which is a new thing for me, as I have never slept there before. I’m not sure why I am so tired today; maybe it’s as simple as me not getting enough sleep lately. Thursday I go to get the pump removed and round three will be in the bag.

My ears are feeling much better than they did last week and the new antibiotic is definitely doing the trick. Each ear aches a little here and there but certainly nothing like before, and no more pain in my jaw, so I am hopeful that we have a winner. I am on day 6 of 10 for the medication so we’ll see in a few days.

I am back at work now, for a couple of hours, and then I am heading home. As it stands right now, I am planning to eat dinner and go to bed early, like 7:30 or 8:00. I am exhausted and am having a hard time even concentrating on stuff at work, so I think the best thing is to get home and get as much rest as possible.

Still Sick but Some Good News

I saw my doctor (PCP) on Tuesday and he started me on a new medication for my ears. Yesterday I felt a little better, but the pain came back last night and was also in my right ear, more than it had been so far. This is day two of the new medication so hopefully it will take effect today or tomorrow, so that I can get some relief. Because of the ear pain, and my cute granddaughter Ava staying the night and sleeping in our bed with us, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.

I also saw my oncologist on Tuesday and discussed the side effects that I am dealing with from the chemo. He initially talked about reducing or cutting out the Oxaliplatin, which is one of the two chemo drugs in FOLFOX, but I quickly suggested that we try it for at least one more treatment. I can certainly deal with the neuropathy that it causes if it will help kick this cancer’s butt!

The doctor also said that he only wants to do two more chemo treatments before sending me for a new PET scan. That is awesome because he originally wanted to do at least six treatments, and has reduced it to just four, before the new scan! I am waiting for scheduling to call me with the date, which should be in or around the second week in January.

While there, we also moved my chemo days from Monday to Tuesday, so that Tina doesn’t have to keep switching her Sundays at work to join me at chemo. Having her there with me helps me tremendously and makes it a lot easier for me to bear; I think I would be really bummed out if I had to go alone! Tina has been my rock through all of this and I am blessed to have such a loving, caring, and devoted wife!

Lastly, we scheduled my next appointment with Dr. Phinney at the Toledo Clinic Cancer Centers for January 20th. I am both excited and worried about this, for obvious reasons, and one other reason. Obviously I don’t want to hear that the cancer isn’t reacting to the chemo, or is spreading/growing. Also, January 20th is my beautiful bride’s birthday and I don’t want any potential bad news to wreck the day that is supposed to be all about her.

But I promised her and myself that I wouldn’t let myself get too ahead in the game, and try not to worry about what may or may not happen at that appointment. I am trying really hard to remain focused and keep my head in the fight. I am so grateful that I have the relationship with God that I do, so that I can turn this kind of stuff over to Him and His will! I may have to turn it over to Him multiple times a day sometimes, but I still can and will continue to do just that.

Second Round of Chemo In the Bag

So now that my second round of chemo is done, I have to say that the side effects have been exponentially worse than the first round. I am really trying to remain positive and keep my nose to the grind, but to be honest, so far this week has been a lot harder to do that.

The nausea has been worse, though I have been able to control it with the medication. The neuropathy has been way worse, including severity of the burning/tingling and the spreading of it. Last round I had it a little in my fingers and toes but this week it has been from about mid-palm down on both hands, pretty steadily.

Then there’s the cold sensitivity, which has been quite a bit worse. I found out that, even with socks on, my feet get cold on the bare floors in our house. Touching simple things like an interior door knob can set it off. And don’t even get me started about the cold weather and the wind right now, because it makes going outside a huge ordeal.

And, after all that, I can’t forget the fatigue. I have been feeling so tired and drained that I am fighting to make it through a full day of work without a nap. Today I worked for four hours and then came home and slept for three hours, and already I am ready to go to bed. I don’t really ache and my body doesn’t hurt, I am just so tired that I can’t stand it. The nausea also makes this worse because the medication that they gave me also makes me very tired.

I am going to keep pushing forward and I keep asking God to help me with all of this, but I have to be honest and admit that I am worried about what the next round will bring. If these side effects keep getting progressively worse each time, I am not sure how I am going to be able to work and live life.

Great Clips is Just Great!

So I have been seeing some minor hair loss the past few days, mostly just when I dry my hair in the morning. I use a white towel and my short dark hair has been steadily becoming more prevalent on the towel. To me, it’s the least important of the side effects, because I have kept my hair very short for close to the past couple of decades. At one point I even shaved my own head with a razor weekly, for over a year. When I go to Great Clips every other week to get my hair cut, they know to use the clippers with a 1 1/2 on the top and no guard on the sides, with a high fade.

When I went to get my hair cut this time, I happened to have my chemo pump attached, and I was immediately told by my stylist that she would pray for me. How cool is that?! Then, while she is cutting my hair, she informs me that Great Clips gives free haircuts to cancer patients in treatment! I was completely blown away. Such a simple little thing, but it meant so much to know that someone in upper management at Great Clips cares enough about cancer patients to roll this out company wide.

The name of the charity is Clips of Kindness and, after her own battle with cancer, Rhoda Olsen (CEO) started the charity in 2011. Because of this charity, all of the Great Clips locations around the world offer free haircuts to any cancer patient who is undergoing treatment. With everything going on in the world today it is so nice to see that, even during a difficult time in life like battling cancer, there are people out there who care enough to help others, even if they don’t personally know them.

Ironically I was so stunned by the situation that I left Great Clips and totally forgot to tip my stylist. However I ran over there today and dropped off her tip and apologized. At first she wouldn’t take it, and said that my haircut was free. But I insisted and told her that while I appreciated that, she still did a great job (as always) and deserved a tip.

And now I am going to tell everyone that I meet in the cancer sector, whether they be patients, doctors, nurses or anyone else, just how great Great Clips is and to take advantage of their generosity!

Round Two is Tomorrow

Tomorrow I go in for round two of my chemo and this time they’re adding Avastin to the mix. While this is not my first time for the chemo, it is for Avastin, and I am more than a little worried about what wonderful side effects that the Avastin will bring. Well, that and the fact that first time they do the Avastin, it takes an additional 90 minutes on top of the 3+ hours that I already have to be there for chemo.

I am also a little worried because a few people that I know who have gone through chemo have told me that the nausea and other side effects from chemo get worse as the treatments continue. There were a few days the week of my first treatment that I couldn’t get through any meals without taking my anti-nausea medicine, so the idea of it getting worse is not getting me all psyched up for my treatment tomorrow.

So far I have been getting off pretty lightly, I think, considering what I have heard from other people. But if it gradually gets worse as you go, that is going to suck big time. I know I don’t really have another choice, but it is making it harder to remain positive about the whole process.

Genetic Counseling and a Movie

This morning before I went to work I had an appointment at Flower Hospital for genetic counseling. When I got there I didn’t have a clue what that term meant, but I was quickly taught all about it. Genetic counseling is a family history with relation to cancer, and chemical/laboratory testing of both blood and saliva. The goal is to find specific markers in my DNA that may show a higher than normal likelihood that I may develop other types of cancer. They can even determine the type of cancer that I have a higher chance of getting. It can also help my children to know what they need to look for with their own health as they get older.

Instead of having Flower Hospital do it, I opted to go with a study being done through the Ohio State University, called the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative. I did this partially because it doesn’t run through my insurance, and is free of charge. I also did it because, as a cancer patient, I want to help all of the organizations that I can to help other people get a jump on cancer. Lastly, I did it because if they find the DNA markers in my genes, which is known as Lynch Syndrome, the study will also perform the same tests on my biological children for free.

Then I went to work and got quite a bit accomplished, even with a short day. Now I am getting ready to head home to pick Tina up and we are going to meet Mark and Michelle at the Franklin Park Mall to watch Dr. Strange. I can already smell the popcorn 🙂

… and many more…

I woke up this morning and immediately thought, “hey, it’s your birthday!” Then I instantly thought, “what if this is your last one?” What a grim way to start a day, especially one that is supposed to be filled with happiness and celebration.

Then this afternoon I went and renewed my driver license, and the thought “I wonder if I’ll make it another four years to do this again” popped in my head. Yeah, the negative thoughts were still there, and apparently not ready to leave yet.

After work, all my kids and grandchildren came over to have cake and ice cream and celebrate my birthday. Again, those bad thoughts popped up when I thought to myself, “I wonder if I’ll be here to do this again next year.” I really can’t say where these thoughts were coming from, but they were getting old.

I’m sure my age had a little something to do with all of these crazy and depressing thoughts. But I think the biggest reason is of the cancer diagnosis. I am trying to remain positive and keep my head in the right place, but the fact that I am doing chemo is a not so friendly reminder of what I am really facing: my own mortality. And I have to admit that it scares me at times, some more so than others.

Today Was a Good Day

Today was a much better day. Of course my best laid plans to get a good night sleep failed, but that is my own fault for turning on the UFC Fight Night at midnight that I had recorded earlier in the evening. But even with about five and a half hours of sleep, I seemed to have a little more pep in my step when I woke up. Being almost a week out from starting chemo, and a few weeks out from my last surgery, I think my body is just feeling more healthy.

After picking Tina up from work I came home and watched a little TV, and then went to church, and heard a great message. After that I went to work for a quick minor emergency (DNS was failing on the LAN) and then ran to the store for some groceries. When I got back home I made myself a nice lunch of burritos and homemade queso dip, did some dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, and watched a movie with David (my youngest son).

Before long it was time to take Tina to work and then I came home and finished up the dishes and then went outside for almost an hour and got half of the back yard cleaned up with the leaf blower. After a quick shower I am getting ready to watch tonight’s The Walking Dead and try to get some sleep. So yeah, feeling better helped me to be more productive today, and it made me feel more like my old self.