Friday, August 29, 2008

Back from NY


Boy I feel unmotivated. If you took the normal unmotivated feeling you sometimes get while working on a PhD, factor in the "I just got back from vacation" multiplier, and quadruple that, you might get to about how unmotivated I feel. Well, okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration (triple?), but it does get to be a real drag to keep starting and stopping on things. Progress on the PhD has been really slow going. I'm trying to edit my third publication so I can submit it to a journal. Once that's done, I think I'll be in good shape to defend my thesis. Actually, I really could do that in opposite order. In our department you really don't need to have anything written to defend your thesis. Strange I know, but as a result it's sort of difficult to know when you're ready to defend. All my various advisors seem to be in support of me defending and I was going to do it last year around this time, so . . . there's really nothing stopping me, but now I feel a little gun shy. As my friend JP rightly pointed out, I just need to stop being a wuss about it and get it done.

Still, it's a little daunting. Life is a constant disruption these days. This one (going to NY) was a really good disruption, but having a constant start and stop does make it tough to get into a rhythm. Maybe I should try a bit harder to at least do a little bit of work each day. If you have some velocity, no matter how small, you'll eventually get there. If you have zero velocity, there's no way you'll ever get anywhere.

The week in NY was super fun, but kind of exhausting - saw a bunch of friends from high school and beyond, and I basically spent the week running around the city with various combinations of people. This was all great, and I managed to survive, but I think I'm paying for it a bit now. It was the same when I came back from Hawaii - I just feel pretty exhausted and tired. I'll probably try and sleep a lot this weekend, so I can rest up for treatment next week (appointment on Wed, treatment on Fri).

I'll post some NY pics soon, but for now, have a great Labor Day weekend! (Oh, and happy Judgment Day - actually the 11 year anniversary of what should have been Judgment Day. Good thing they melted Arnold in that vat of molten metal! But oh, wait, according to the third movie, all that just postponed judgement day. . . Oh, so confusing. . . ). Oh yeah, and Happy Birthday Dave!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cystoscopy, schmistoscopy

Update, Schmupdate

Well, there's never a smooth ride in this business I guess. Things were slightly bumpy this week, although the issue seems to be resolved. I had a couple of isolated incidents of passing blood clots in my urine in the past couple of weeks. It was weird - it happened on separate days, once about two weeks ago, once last week, and once early this week. But since the symptoms seemed similar to what happened when all of this started, I sounded a bit of an alarm with my doctor, and in true fashion she was right on top of things. She scheduled me for an appointment on Monday, I had an MRI on Tuesday, another appointment on Wednesday (this one was already scheduled as a regular check-in before chemo), and a cystoscopy yesterday.

So, you might be wondering what a cystoscopy is. Well, it's a fun little procedure where they take a cystoscope (basically a long tube with a camera at the end), push it up the urethra, and look inside the bladder. Luckily they squirt in some lidocaine gel first to numb things up a bit, so it didn't hurt too much. I was pretty apprehensive going in, partly because I was worried about what they would find, but also because it's been so long since I've had to be poked and prodded that I guess the prospect was a little daunting. The procedure itself was actually pretty quick and only took a few minutes. The only painful parts were the shot of antibiotics I got at the beginning (to prevent infection) and the couple of minutes that the scope was actually in my bladder. The medically-inclined engineer in me was pretty fascinated at being able to see my own bladder on the TV screen. Luckily everything was pretty clear - there was a small calcification that my urologic oncologist (the same doc who did my prostate surgery) said was probably the cause of the bleeding but was nothing to worry about. In fact he knocked it off with the scope by accident and it immediately came out in my urine afterwards. Apparently cells in the bladder can get irritated by chemo/radiation, and when they die off they act as a sort of seed around which calcifications can form.

Anyhow, so that's a load off. My oncologist wanted to make sure the cystoscopy was clear before I went in for chemo, and so here I am, back in the ITA. I'm getting VC (vincristine, cyclophosphamide) this time around, and it's my first time without adriamycin/doxorubicin. Luckily that means I only need to be here for one day, but it still will be the whole day, since I need to get mesna (bladder protectant) at 4 hours and 8 hours after the cyclophosphamide. Ah well, it should be no problem compared to 4 days, and I'm hoping the side effects will be minimal compared to the other chemo drugs. I was watching the olympics for a little bit, but then Martha Stewart came on and I promptly changed the channel.

Well that's it for now. Hope you're all doing well out there and making the most of the waning summer months!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Feelin' Fine


Just three days til the craziness that is going to be the Olympics. Man, I hope China doesn't implode. I'm not really in support of protesting/boycotting the Olympics, but I kinda hope that China will take something positive away from all the criticism it's been getting and is likely to get during the events. Anyhow...

The last round finished up without too much fanfare - I definitely handled it better after that first day, but four days in the hospital is draining, even with going home at night. I'm getting a pretty good read on my own body's reaction to the chemo drugs though. The cycle is pretty consistent - after the chemo is done, I get about two days of minor nausea and just uncomfortableness. After that my skin gets kind of achy and sensitive all over for a couple days, and my tongue and mouth get minor sores (my tongue gets white and splotchy - it looks worse than it feels though). Then after about five days those things go away and I'm back to feeling relatively normal. Not too bad in the grand scheme I guess. After reading Lance Armstrong's book, I was expecting to be doubled over in the fetal position puking my guts out most of the time during treatment. I thought I would lose tons of weight and just feel super weak. Luckily none of that has really happened. Some days I even forget that anything is wrong. Not for the whole day, mind you, but I get these brief moments of time when my mind is occupied with something and I'm not constantly thinking about all this crappiness (heh, is that how you spell crappiness? happy -> crappy, so happiness -> crappiness?).

In any case, I've been feeling pretty good for the past week or so, both physically and mentally. My climbing has been going in this sawtooth pattern where it gets better and better then takes a dive after a cycle of chemo. Still, I've been able to go more frequently and climb for longer than when I first started during treatment, so I guess that's a good sign. Somehow, I've also been in a consistently good mood for the past week or so. Pre-last cycle I was in a consistently bad mood - maybe it was due to all the delays. I know what people say about a positive attitude, but sometimes you just can't help feeling crappy. I guess you just have to let yourself feel what you're going to feel and try to come out of it after a time. It certainly helps you appreciate the days when you feel good.

Still have seven more cycles to go. . . At this rate it'll take me through December - given that there will probably be more delays, I guess I'll likely turn 30 (on the 24th) before this is all over. Even so, I like to think that the chemo and radiation have already done their job in mopping up all the cancer cells, and any further treatment is just gravy. So pour some more gravy on me!