The First Oncology Appointment

Hello beloved family and friends,

I know many of you have been waiting on an update on Chris this week. Thanks so much for your mails and texts and outpouring of love and support. This week feels like a year has passed, it’s just so much at once, but your kindness and positive words have kept our spirits up.

So first, Chris is recovering well from surgery. It’s taking longer than we thought (so much of the paperwork was like “You might want to take the day off from work.” No shit? How about the rest of the week!), and he is still in a fair amount of pain; but that has mainly to do with the fact that the muscles where the incision was made are so integral to every kind of movement, and it is a 4″+ incision. So whether he is sitting, laying, or walking, it is easily strained…even laughing hurts. So he moves very slowly and nurses the pain with percocet and ice.
Honestly, today is the best day yet–he got better sleep last night than the rest of the week and I think that went a long way to bringing his energy level up. His appetite is good, and we have had some visitors come and bring some good energy into our home (and delicious food, and even wine for yours truly. SCORE!) Right now he is slowly pacing the deck and talking on the phone–a very familiar sight, as Chris is always on some conference call or chatting up friends–so that is much better than the past few days for sure. That’s all the news about surgery recovery for now–he has a follow up with the surgeon on Tuesday to let us know if all is going as expected on that front.

This morning we went in for Chris’ first oncology appointment, and we have been eager to have a better idea of the extent of the cancer and the treatment plan. He is currently with the PolyClinic, and we suspect we will stick with them–just a little more research and then we will settle for sure. Dr. David White is his oncologist and was a very sweet and personable man–a little hard to understand (maybe a hearing impediment which creates a speech impediment?), but he’s got excellent bedside manner and was very detailed in explaining why cancer happens, what testicular cancer is and how it spreads, and all the modes of treatment available to us in modern medicine. After the big picture explanations, we got down to the whats and whys of Chris’ treatment.

The biopsy results were completed in time for our appointment, and confirm that the cancer Chris has is seminoma, with the tumors ranging from very small to up to 5cm, scattered throughout his abdomen. To put it very lightly, if there was any cancer in the world you had to choose from, seminoma is the one you want. Look it up on wikipedia, and it says pretty much exactly what our doctors and medical-field friends have said to us many times over: “It is one of the most treatable and curable cancers, with survival >;95% in the early stages.” This is excellent news.

The treatment plan will be spread basically over the next three months, and will be entirely chemotherapy–not gonna be fun, but it’ll get the job done. While this type of cancer does respond well to radiation, radiation has its own complications which are undesirable, and Dr. White says chemo is the way to go with radiation as a back up if various chemo treatments don’t do the trick. But he fully expects the chemo to work, so it likely will not come to that in any case. Chris’ treatment will be a combination of three drugs, which I will list at the end of this mail for any of our medical-field friends, or for those just curious about those details. Essentially he will have one drug he will take once a week every week for the length of his treatment, while the other two drugs will be administered daily (Monday-Friday) for one week out of three. So he will have one week of daily treatments, then two weeks of just once-a-week treatments. This will cycle ideally ONLY three times if his scans come up clear at that time.

If his veins cooperate, they may not even need to put in a port, which I think Chris would prefer to avoid. Though if he gets sick of being stuck every day for a week every three weeks, he may change his mind. We’ll see about that. There are several anti-nausea medications he will have access to, but the good doctor also is a proponent of making medical marijuana accessible for his chemo patients (“Every transfusion lab smells like marijuana for a reason,” he said laughing) and we walked away with a prescription to get a card. Basically, every patient responds so differently to chemo, we won’t know how sick or tired he may or may not be, how much hair loss he will endure (very little or “here’s my chance to shave my head once in my life”), how long it will take for his energy levels to come back up, or how long after the cessation of treatment before he feels “normal” again (could be a couple months, could be the rest of the year). There’s no way to know until he begins. And right now, it looks like his first week-long treatment will most likely begin April 9th. The timing of it allows him to be in an off week for my brother’s wedding down in CA, which we’re very happy about. We’re also happy that they will allow me to sit with him and keep him company during his visits, which will likely be two hours in length. Chris’ health insurance is robust, his company is super-supportive, we have a roof over our head, good food for our bellies, warm puppies for our laps…all things considered, life is good.

Our mantra is REMISSION REMISSION REMISSION.

So that’s the latest news we have. We are encouraged by the prognosis, if not still a bit in shock about it all, a bit scared of the Big Ugly Chemo Thing, and determined to kick cancer’s fat ass. You know how fast life feels like it changes when you receive news like this, and we’re adjusting well I think. We are grateful for each other as a loving team to fight this battle together, and for the blessings of family and friends like you to hold us up as we do. Thank You.

If you have any questions, do feel free to get in touch anytime. We will do our best to answer when we can. Many have asked if they can come visit, and as the activities director of the S.S. Moore right now, let me know and we can schedule an audience with Mr. Chris. 😉 I kid, I kid! Honestly, while his energy level dictates shortish visits, we are both enjoying the company right now (and the delicious foodses and drinkses!) We’re mainly watching movies and talking about how stupid cancer is. You know, the usual.

Much love,
Shay n’ Chris

CHEMO MEDS CHRIS WILL BE ON:

BLEOMYCIN (weekly)
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/druginfo/bleomycin

CISPLATIN (1/3 weeks for 5 days straight)
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/druginfo/cisplatin

VP-16 (ETOPOSIDE) (1/3 weeks for 5 days straight)
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/druginfo/etoposide