Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Time to Get Serious"

OK, so first of all let me apologize for not posting for a week and a half.  No excuse, things just got busy and I dropped the ball.  Alright, enough self-flagellation...

Let me catch ya'll up.

On Thursday 10/22 and Friday 10/23 I met with Dr. Million.  Thu. at St. Mark's in SLC and Fri. at Huntsman.  She was very patient, explained everything in detail, walked through the PET scan with us again (in great detail- it was very cool!), and helped us understand the path forward.  Bottom line is that although this is an incurable NHL, studies at Stanford have shown with certain doses of radiation (lower than normal), cure can be achieved.  The cells can be eradicated, and we could be looking at a cure when we go for PET scan again on Jan. 19th.

So, on Friday the 23rd we went to Huntsman and I had my "mold" made.  The idea here is that for each treatment (17 total, more on that in a few), I have to be in the same position each time on the table, so they made a mold of me from my waist down.  Now, since this is a "family oriented" blog, I'll give the quick G rated version of the story, but for those who want the full scoop, take Lisa and I out to Chili's for dinner, and I'll spill my guts (and probably embarrass myself in the process).  Suffice to say it involved me in a hospital gown and nothing else, lying on a CAT scan table.  I laid down on top of a "bean bag" from the waist down, and the bean bag had a vacuum attached to it.  They sucked all the air out of it, and the "beans" fused together and created a mold of my hips, thighs, legs, etc. down to my ankles.  Now each time they'll have that on the table, I'll lie down in it, and be in position for the treatment.  That's the "G rated" version.  The slightly "saltier" version includes details of me ending up with the hospital gown pushed up around my neck and me feeling a breeze everywhere else while lying on the table.   Three female technicians working here and there in the room, and my female Doc. coming in at one point.  Then, the 'piece de resistance'- one technician says "Todd, are you comfortable?" Needless to say that put me over the edge and through quite a bit of laughter, and rather flushed cheeks I said "You didn't really just ask me that did you?"  So, me, the techs and my Doctor, not enough "covering" and some subtle humor, and my own words echoing in my ear (I've told my kids this a thousand times)- "It is what it is."  I told Lisa, and she said something akin to "Don't even go there with me, buddy- ever given birth?"  Touche- I'm done with that.  In fact, I think from here on out I'll embrace this whole thing and forego the gown all together.  How do you think that'll go over?

Alright, so we got the mold made, and that will keep my body in place.  But, the radiation machine needs to be able to treat the same field each time- lymph nodes in my abdomen on the right side and then down in my groin on the left side.  So, for that I "got inked".  Yep, that's right- Handy's now a bad boy just like any Harley ridin' Hell's Angel- I've got tats!  In fact, I not only have one, I have five!  Considered all the usual suspects- dragon, "Mom", a heart, etc., finally went with five black dots the size of a pen mark.  See, the bean bag keeps my body in place, the tats are synched up with lasers that align the radiation "machine" (don't know the medical term, and I keep wanting to say "radiation gun", but that sounds SO Star Trek).

Got my prescription for Zofran, the anti-nausea medicine, got a little counseling from the nurse (something about nausea, diarrhea, lots of lotion for the skin in the radiated areas and fatigue), and we were on our way.

Went to see our good friends Loren and Kelly Roundy at the U Medical Center, where Kelly was one day removed from brain surgery, and had been moved from ICU to a private room.  Didn't expect she'd be awake, much less lucid, but there she was- tough as can be, a little tired (of course), but doing well.  Had a chance to visit with Kelly, Loren and Loren's Mom, and then went on our way.  BIG SHOUT OUT TO KELLY- prayers comin' at you from all the Handys.  Loren and kids, you too!

OK, so now on to yesterday.  I was to have begun treatments yesterday, with the first one being a "simulation" to make sure all was well and the machines were set up as needed.  Then today was to have started the first actual radiation treatment, and then continuing for 16 more sessions, for a total of 17.  That's M-F, no weekend, and skipping Thanksgiving and the day after, with the final treatment on 11/30.  Well, we can blame this whole thing on my good friends Jeff Warren and Larry Peterson who came to visit us Monday evening.  First of all, I love these men like brothers.  Second of all, Jeff is a Stage IV cancer survivor, so he knows what he's talking about ("Been there, done that, had the treatment!").  He goes on to tell me that the doctors really don't like to see any days skipped- the consistency of treatment is key.  BUT, that from time to time one shows up for treatment, only to be told "the machine is down", and the treatment is out the door that day.  There are four machines, true, but they are all full up, so one can't bump someone else, so the treatment gets postponed a day.  THANKS WARREN FOR JINXING ME!  Yep, that's right- I roll in yesterday all good to go, and find out the machine is "down".  Now, truth be told, it ended up being OK because I hadn't taken my Zofran, as I had been told there would be no radiation, but it turns out they had planned to do a sim AND a treatment in the same day, so I would have been pretty miserable and possibly have tossed my cookies.  Communication hadn't flowed down to me properly, so we punted to today, and I go at 4:30 for a sim AND my first treatment.  That said, we've preserved the schedule and I should still end with my final treatment on 11/30, unless Warren and Peterson come to my house again- STAY AWAY BRUTHAS!  :-)

Huge thanks and lots of fist bumps to Jeff and Larry who came bearing ice cream (some kind of a Blizzard or McFlurry or some concoction with lots of goodies in it), and a special spirit of brotherhood.  As I said, I love these guys- thanks dudes!

Finally- in the last month I've felt love and prayers from all sides, and have had blessing poured down on me in abundance.  A week ago we were all downstairs watching TV as a family, and the doorbell rang.  Jennie Graham and her three oldest kids (Morgan, Dillon and Logan) were at the door bearing a gift package.  Matt had stayed home to take care of Camden.  After visiting for a few moments the Grahams went home, and we opened the package.  I won't bore everyone with the contents, suffice to say it was clever and cute, and brought additional tears to my eyes (like that's hard to do!?!).  Included in the package were two hand-made cards from the kids, and so I've posted them here for all to see.  Matt, Jennie, Morgan, Dillon, Logan and Camden- THANKS!  We love you guys, and are so grateful for your love and support.

That's all for now.  May post tonight after my treatment, may post tomorrow.  Not sure I'll post every day after each treatment, as it may be more of the same, or may be a detail of side effects no one wants to know.  Who knows?  Suffice to say I'll keep all up to date, and am grateful for the love and support.

"Peace out"...

The scans didn't quite turn out as I'd have liked them to. 

Card #1 says, "Todd, We are praying for you and we hope you get feeling better.  You rock.  Love, Morgan & Matt & Jennie". 

Card #2 says, "Hope you get well soon" and is from Logan and Dillon.

1 comment:

  1. Wow- if I knew the pictures would be getting some face time on your blog, I would have had them be really creative. :) Just admit- it was the Junior Mints that brought tears to your eyes, huh? :) I hope that everything goes well in your treatments- and that you don't have too many side effects from it. BTW- I would like to hear the other version sometime- because the 'G' one was pretty dang funny. I'm open for Chili's whenever you guys are! Good luck- you're still in our prayers! Jennie