One of my homies is getting a colon resection for cancer, just like I did nearly a year ago. I thought I'd offer some insight and advice.
1. Use humor. Google some good ass jokes and try to make the nurses blush and doctors laugh. Humor really helped me through the whole deal. There's no shortage of material with a$$ cancer, and the medical professionals have seen enough of it not to feel weird about it. (thanks to my Dad for this one).
2. Take some entertainment that doesn't require deep thought. Books are nice, but I was too tired or drugged up to concentrate on reading. An MP3 player loaded up with music, and some full-ear headphones (to block out the noise if you are in a shared room) is nice. A portable DVD viewer is also a good idea.
3. As soon as they'll let you, get up and move. Evev just a trip to the head to wash your own face will do you well, and then do some laps around the surgery ward. Might suck and be painful but if the doc says it's okay - do it. You will heal faster and feel better.
4. Get everything you can to be comfortable. Another benefit of daily walks - get them to change your linens whilst out and about. Get new pillowcases when you sweat all over yours. Get a private room, or at least try. If you can't sleep well, see if they can get you something to help.
5. Put up a sign on the door, something like this:
Well, maybe not exactly the same, but you get the idea. People coming in and breaking down crying didn't help me (only had a few, most everyone was happy to see me). I totally agree with the "I will push through the last 20% through sheer mental tenacity". Granted we're not wounded SEALs, but the sentiment works.
6. When you get home, set an exercise schedule for walks around the house, then neighborhood. I scheduled out 4 months, to where I was back to a regular work out routine, and it pretty much worked (as much as chemo allows you to be regular). Visualize recovery and it will happen.
There are many negative aspects to our condition - don't waste energy on them. Work on the things you can control, do the things that will benefit you and keep you sane. You'll get through this, and in a year you'll be telling someone about how YOU did it.
Good luck bro, we're all pulling for you. -Rotorhead
Last Friday I had my pre-check for my 'scope, which is upcoming mid-February. I got my gallon jug filled with ColonBlow. Can't wait for that, should be an adventure with the bag. Anyway it will be good to hit the one-year anniversary of my surgery. Doc G was in fine form and all is well at Tripler. We were talking about how my pre-cancer physical condition was really helpful in his making a really good stoma, which I've had zero complications with. His exact turn-of-phrase was "it was like an artist working with fine marble". Chiseled...
I'm going to steal an idea from blogging friend Michelle who in turn stole it from...Oprah? Her list is "things I think are snazzy" and includes such items as scented bath soaps and Dove chocolates. Michelle, I'm not making fun of you here - I just felt like I couldn't relate to any of your list items, so I decided to do my own. I call it the "Stuff your Man-Purse" list. The idea is simple: what are the manly essentials according to the be-all/end-all man authority (me)? This came to me while watching a manly show ("Man vs. Wild" on Discovery) in my man-space after taking the girls to the beach (being a righteous dad is manly). So go Stuff your Man-Purse with these items: 1. Brunton lensatic compass. This is the military version, Mk-1 Mod 0 compass, 1 each. You can shoot a bearing with great accuracy with this little $18 deal, and if you have basic orienteering/navigating skills you can go anywhere. No batteries. No software upgrades. Some guys are just too dim to grasp its use, which means you are more manly by just owning one. 2. Leatherman multi-tool. This (along with other high-quality muti tools such as the Gerber) has gotten me out of a lot of jams. I've fixed my sailing outrigger afloat, made tinder for starting a fire, performed numerous repairs to my old VW on the road...I could go on and on. I have several and keep them in the cars as well as in my beach bag, sailing bag, etc. Also useful when you need to silently dispach of enemy sentries and you don't have your Gerber MkII with you. 3. Magnesium fire starter. There are improved versions of this one, but I have not tried them (haven't been camping since pre-cancer). Part of the manliness is the difficulty of getting it to work, but it will work once you get the technique. Man make fire, good. 4. Compact binoculars like these $75 Nikons. Yes, the full-sized marine binocs with the stabilized compass are nice...but bulky and expensive. These are perfect for checking those outer reefs at sunrise. 5. Your basic signal mirror. Straight out of the SV-2 survival vest; works in even partial sunlight and can be seen for miles by an aircraft. If you find yourself on a mountainside with a beartrap on your leg, this baby could be your best friend.
In true manly fashion I will make "stuff-your-man-purse" updates whenever the hell I feel like it.
So there's not much going on with the ol' cancer. I've got my pre-screen for my colonoscopy Friday, hooray hooray. Not sure what they can tell me that I don't already know - starve yourself, drink a gallon of colon-blow, stand by for the festivities, get a few hours of sleep, go in to the hospital, get my drugs and get scoped.
In the meantime I've been plenty busy. The shop is open and the wood shavings are ankle-deep. First up is a voard for Catherine (of course) who liked her sister's board so much, she just had to have one. Here's Angelyne's finished board:
So for her sister, I'm doing a "60-94" model. It's basically a 9'4 longboard, scaled down to 60% (as Catherine is about 60% of adult height). Here it is in the early stages:
For myself I'm doing something really special. Surfing Magazine gives out an annual "Shaper of the Year" honor, and this year they really went out of the box, selecting Tom Wegener of Australia. Tom has been crafting old-style boards. I mean REALLY old style- like the ones the pre-Cook Hawaiians rode. Solid wood. He's made everything from 18 foot olos down to little 2 foot paipo body boards. He got the honor of "Shaper of the Year" for his alaias, which are solid wood boards in the 6 to 10 foot range. A number of well-known and respected surfers have taken to riding them, and after seeing some on video I knew I had to have one. His are tongue-and-groove pauwlonia; I went with mahogany and pine:
I've got a few surprises up my sleeve for both of these boards.
Enjoy your week- I know I will. Here's some Monday Music (Wednesday edition):
I loved "The Blues Brothers" when I was a kid. It was one of the first records I bought (with my own paper route cash) and I wore it out, until I divulged all my vinyl in college. It wasn't untilI was in my late 20s that I realized what an all-star lineup it was behind John and Dan, including one of my all-time favorite guitarists, the late Matt "Guitar" Murphy. And of course Ray Charles and the funky Fender Rhodes sound.
The conditions looked like they were lining up for this morning...swell, wind, tide, and a day off all aligned. I scored big, getting some meaty, powerful stuff out on an outer reef. Unfortunately when I turned on my camera, I inadvertently turned it back off as I locked it into the mount on the board...so I got no video of an all-time epic session. I'll try again tomorrow...
Got a note from a friend today who had questions about my early-on experiences. I just realize that my old web site has been "erased" by my internet provider (they've offered up their pre-formatted web pages-no thanks). My original story from the first week of diagnosis has thus disappeared, so hear it is, for "Evisu1"'s sake and to remind EVERYONE not to ignore even the smallest of symptoms:
OCT 25 2007: Sometime in mid-august 2007, I noticed little red streaks in my poo. About the same time I was feeling constipated although not having any problems making poo. I knew I had my annual physical in September, so I let it go at that. I was not even sure it was blood as it wasn’t “bloody” per se, just streaks of red color. Still disconcerting. I started taking fiber supplements (Benefiber powder, good stuff, mixes with water, no taste or texture at all). In mid-september, I saw my flight doc and told him about the red streaks, which had disappeared and reappeared in about 2-week intervals. He said it was probably just a hemmoroid, and prescribed me some ‘roid cream. Hemmoroids, I thought…how much worse could it get! Just to be sure he decided to give me an “occult fecal” test, which is a fun take-home poo sampler. Good times. The test came back positive indicating that there was blood in the poo, and not from a ‘roid. So, he said I needed to get a colonoscopy. At this point I was just below 180 pounds and in better shape than anytime since OCS.
THE SCOPE EXPERIENCE I had my scope Oct 25. Honestly it wasn’t bad at all; they used a mild sedative so I didn’t feel much, I was awake for part of it and dozed off for part. The IV needle was the most unpleasant as I HATE needles, especially those that stay in you. ANYHOW…as I was recovering from the scope, and still woozy, another doc (not the butt scope doc) came and talked to me. They had found a large mass growing inside my rectum (the cavity at the end of the colon, just prior to the O-ring) and they were unable to move it. They injected saline in it but it appeared well fixed to the wall. They had taken tissue samples of it. They had also removed 4 “regular” polyps (pre-cancerous growth) from my colon during the scope. He was setting me up for a CAT scan. Before I could say “wha?...” I was off to the CAT scan. Literally, like two hours after my scope (and only that long because I had to drink some fluid and let it course through me veins prior to the CAT). Another IV (this time the dude fumbled, jabbed, missed, tried again, pulled it out, picked another vein and JACKPOT) and into the scanner I went. Then they sent me home with a post-procedure appointment for the next day.
THE C WORD COMES OUT FRIDAY, 26 Oct, I went in to the surgery clinic to see my new doc (Doctor Gagliano, a colorectal surgical specialist). We reviewed my CAT scan, which thankfully showed no evidence of cancer in any of my other organs. Up to this point the words “cancerous” had been kind of thrown around on the periphery, as in "it could be this, that or the other thing, and there is a chance it could be some kind of cancer". This was the point when I asked strait out, “do I have cancer?” to which he answered “yes”. The CAT scan did not have the fidelity to see if the tumor had grown into the lymph nodes near my poop chute, so he wanted to do an ultrasound. Off I went to the room full of medieval butt spelunking equipment. The ultrasound was very “uncomfortable”. Fortunately it showed no evidence of cancer on the lymph nodes. At this point, after all devices had been extracted from my can, we had the treatment discussion. The surgeon was recommending radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and finally surgery to remove any remaining tissue, followed by more chemo after surgery.
NOV 5 2007: I had my radiation therapy consult today. The doc is recommending pre-operative radiotherapy along with chemo. He believes I will have no side effects from the radiation, maybe some fatigue late in the schedule (5 days/week for 5 weeks, 15 minute sessions will be done along with chemo). I’ve asked to get a second opinion on the treatment from an outside source, and hopefully tricare will accept that (although I don’t think the second opinion will differ, it seems fairly “cut and dried” at this point).
Nov 8 2007: I had my chemo consult today; the chemo oncologist is agreeing with the radiation and surgeon on the course of treatment. I’ll be starting chemo and radiation therapy next week, which will go on for about 5 weeks. It will involve daily visits Monday through Friday for radiation therapy (15 minute session) and chemo (3-4 hrs) along with wearing a chemo pump. The pump stays on 24 hrs a day for the 5 days, then gets unplugged for the weekend. All the chemo will be administered through a port in my chest, which once installed will negate the need for frequent arm IV’s. It will also allow me to swim on the weekends as the actual port is installed surgically under the skin. Kind of creepy but if it makes life easier then I’ve got to do it.
So, there you have it. My blog archives pick up from there.
For everyone else, I'll post some Monday Music here shortly.
Over the last two weeks or so I've been on vacation with my family on the mainland. It was a wonderful time, spent visiting family, talking, remembering times past and telling stories of our youth. The kids got to spend time with their Memere and Pepere as well as Aunts and Uncles. In all that time, I went running exactly 3 times.
Fighting cancer is a lifelong deal. It will never get easier, it will never be something I can be passive about. Sometimes you just have to kick your own @$$ to get motivated.
Sometimes if I'm waiting for the wind to come up, I'll pop in a windsurfing video and get amped up. The same thing with surfing - I'll watch some on video (or on TV, which is most nights here in Hawaii) and set up my gear for the dawn patrol.
Running and hitting the weights is totally different. There is no motivational video. The reward is just the mind-numbing monotony of the run. I've never felt the "runner's high", no matter how long or far I've run. To me it's just boring exercise. That being said, I know that it's good for my heart, muscles, joints and lungs. It makes me surf and sail better. I always feel great afterwards and sleep better. It inevitably leads to healthy weight loss when done properly in conjunction with sensible eating habits. Stregth training has similar benefits. I can increase my flexibility, target specific muscle groups, and it even works as a "force multiplier" when combined with running.
But it is dead boring.
So, I just have to kick my own @$$ and get on with it. I wish I had my brother's stoic constitution towards running; according to Memere he was up at 0500 every morning going for his run. And he's an old dude (and healthy).
Exciting news- I have a colonoscopy in February! Woooohoooo! Pictures to follow (not really). Assuming it will be clear, I expect to have my IV port removed shortly thereafter. It's going to be a good year...