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So long, Alex King

September 28, 2015 | Cancer, Life

Alex King in New York

We lost a good one yesterday. My friend Alex King passed away after a long fight against cancer.

My life is better off today for having joined Alex at Crowd Favorite back in 2008. He was always the perfectionist, sometimes slave driver. He demanded a level of quality that only doing things the right way could accomplish. But it was nice to know that when the job had his seal of approval that it was good.

On top of that he was a nice guy. He’s the kind of guy that you measure yourself against, hoping that you find some way in which you favorably compare. Not to bring him down, but rather in an attempt to elevate yourself.

We shared interest in a lot of things. Among them were photography and general nerdery. But we also shared one unfortunate thing in common. Cancer. His was much worse than mine and he fought hard. And again I had a positive example set by Alex.

My life is better in so many ways for having known him. I’m very grateful for it.

Our hearts go out to Heather and Caitlin as they deal with his departure.

Thanks, Alex.

The best day of my life this year!

August 28, 2015 | Cancer

So, today is a good day. Earlier today I had a PET scan to evaluate the status of my tumors. And the news came back positive. The release of stress that came with this news is unbelievable.

Overall there’s no real activity within the tumors. They look dead. There’s one small spot on one of them that appears active, but its so far below the levels of being concerned about that my oncologist, and the doctors that he consulted with, are comfortable in calling my chemo a success.

We’ll obviously be keeping an eye on it. My next scan is in 5 weeks. But all in all I hope to no be lying when I say that I’M DONE WITH THIS SHIT.

Unfortunately I’m still on antibiotics for a c-diff infection (an ordeal that I was so broken down about that I didn’t write anything here on it) so my urge to break out the whiskey bottle will have to wait.

For now, though, I’m just happy that life can now begin to get back to normal. The wife and I can start looking forward not at more treatment, but at me getting stronger and back to my old self. I’ve spent too much of the last few months either asleep or just trying to get through the day. I wasn’t able to get out and be a part of anything during my chemo. It is still day to day as I get my strength back and I reintegrate back in to work but I’m looking forward to it and to getting back in to the world.

Most of all, though, I’m looking forward to planning some quality time with the wife. We both need it. While we’ve spent so much time together lately we really haven’t been together in any real sense. I’ve just been absent. I’m glad to be putting this behind me.

Progress scans are inconclusive

August 15, 2015 | Cancer

It has been 4 weeks since my last chemo treatment and so it was time for a CT scan to look at my progress. I had the scan last Thursday (Aug. 13) and got the results yesterday.

My tumors haven’t shrunk. In fact, they appear larger in some ways, though its hard to tell as we were comparing an MRI to a CT scan.

Needless to say I was, and still am, simply dumbstruck.

The Oncologist said that while this isn’t abnormal, it is rare. That it could be the tumor is actually dead and will shrink slowly. As we can’t glean any more information from the CT scan we’ll be doing a PET scan in a few weeks. PET scans use a radioactive marker to measure activity at the cellular level so we should be able to see wether the tumors are active or not. Maybe they are teratomas?

Why a few weeks and not right away? I’m not sure. Why not try to biopsy? I don’t know. I left the doctor’s office in a bit of a funk. My wife couldn’t accompany me so I didn’t have her level head there to ask more poignant questions before I stumbled out.

So, What’s Next?

Now we wait for the PET scan results. This isn’t the end of the line. There are 2nd line chemo treatments and possibly surgery available if the tumors are still active. If they’re not active I’m not sure what we do. We wait and monitor? I forgot to ask that question.

The thought of more chemo is horrifying at this point. Granted, I don’t know what the schedule for the 2nd line treatment would be, but I just can’t fathom more going through chemo as my only experience has been with a heavy treatment regimen. The thought of surgery isn’t that much better as the location of the large tumors is riddled with major nerve centers and arteries. Screw ups could have monumental effects.

Should the PET scan come back with active tumors we’ll be seeking a 2nd opinion from a more prestigious cancer center. It won’t be cheap but it’ll help with piece of mind. Should the solution come up as surgery we’ll be pushing hard for Kaiser to send us out of network to one of these specialized centers.

So as of right now it is hurry up and wait. Something that I’m not very good at…

Achievement Unlocked: Chemo Complete!

July 17, 2015 | Cancer, Chemo Day

Today marked my last day of chemo treatment for this shitty ol’ cancer.

While I want to celebrate with reckless abandon I’m not over the hump just yet. In 4 weeks I go in for new scans to see if the chemo did its job. If it didn’t there’s surgery in my future. My diagnosis on the type of cancer was pure Seminoma and that is encouraging since the pure Seminioma typically responds well to chemo, so I’m hopeful, but I don’t want to call it a sure thing and get let down.

But, for now, I’m content in knowing that for a while, at least, I can coast and just try to feel better.

I’m now starting to look forward at my return to work. I’m still not sure what return date is appropriate. I have one tentatively set but I’m not sure I’ll be ready by then. That date is about 4 weeks away, but now that I know how I felt after having 3 weeks off (not great) I’m wondering if that’s enough to be fair to me and to work. I’m eager to get back to work but my brain and body are lagging something fierce. My brain has no capacity and my body no energy.

I guess I’ll have to see how long I can fairly string out that decision.

Down with a sickness

July 7, 2015 | Cancer

Warning: incoherent babbling ahead!

So, today should have been my second day of round 4 of chemo, my final round. But that is not to be. I was hospitalized on Sunday night with some kind of infection that was giving me strep-like symptoms: 101º fever, sore throat, sore ear, and the inability to swallow.

After feeling bad for a few days, but not feeling horrible, everything got worse on Saturday night. We went to the ER about 2am after I’d tried, to no avail, to use morphine to ease the pain. I was admitted around 3:30 am and spent the night. Since we were waiting on bacterial cultures to figure out what was going on I stayed Sunday night as well.

I got little rest while there. Despite needing to be at the hospital to get better the amount of traffic in and out of my room to ask questions, administer more drugs, ask me what I want to eat, just check in, etc… it was impossible to rest. Add to that the fact that hospital beds are the least comfortable surface in the world and that the food is impossible to eat I felt like I was doomed to get worse.

It was a relief to be discharged. Though the infection was never positively identified I was sent on my way with massive antibiotic pills (125mg pills – surprisingly they go down rather easy). We dodged the exit crew and I was able to walk out instead of being carted out in a wheel chair. I hope that didn’t get anyone in trouble.

Last night I gained a new found appreciation for sleeping in my own bed. I normally can sleep anywhere and be fine but never before have I been so grateful for my own bed. My own pillow. And nobody checking in on me every 3 hours. That hospital bed made every part of me sore.

Did I mention that the hospital food was terrible? Blech…

Words of Wisdom

If you ever find yourself in the hospital do yourself a favor and ask about every drug they give you and why they’re giving it to you. I was accidentally given a drug that I wasn’t supposed to get. Fortunately for me it was just a blood thinner. I guess there was another patient with the same or possibly a very similar name that the nurse got us confused. She rattled off the drugs she was gonna give me, and I did notice that this was a drug that I’d not had before and asked her what it was for. She told me what it was but it didn’t sound terribly out in left field so I just accepted it and let her carry on. Maybe being half asleep at the time didn’t help.

Lesson learned, though. Ask about each drug and WHY you’re getting it. Shit happens.

Continuing Treatment

What getting this infection has unfortunately done is set by my treatment by a week. Now that puts me squarely in to long term disability. That means more paperwork and more time away from mah peeps. I had been noodling with the idea that I might take a little longer on the recovery side but was stuck on the need to jump through hoops for the long term disability, but now that the long term is a certainty that decision has been made a bit easier. 3 weeks away from my last treatment and I still have mucositis and need a mid-day nap. I’ll be in no condition to return to work once my treatment schedule officially ends.

I feel a bit guilty staying away longer knowing that I’m holding up some organizational changes at work, but at the same time I need to be 100% for those changes. I’m gonna have a hard enough time getting back in to the fold as it is. I shouldn’t try to do it with half a brain.

Postscript

I passed the 4 year mark at Twilio back on June 20. I meant to make more of a hubbub about it but to be honest I let is slip by. I done forgot. But there it is. 4 years.