Back to Chemo
Greetings, friends. It’s been quite some time since I’ve checked in and given an update. And since I’ve been ignoring far too many phone calls, emails, and text messages checking in on me, it’s probably about time to let everyone know just how I’m holding up.
Now more than two months removed from surgery, I’m back on chemo. I initially received a two-week reprieve; when we went down to Tucson seven weeks removed from surgery expecting to get started up on my new chemo treatment, my oncologist decided to give me a couple more weeks to recover and gain my strength. I was clutching onto a vomit bucket at the time, so I certainly didn’t complain that I was getting a few more weeks to feel better. And then following a few more weeks of recovery — and the hope that I’d be able to regain a few more pounds after having lost some 20% of my body weight following surgery — it was back to chemo.
This time, I’m on a different chemotherapy regimen than I was on during the spring and summer. Back then, I was on a treatment called XELOX, which is essentially the oral near-equivalent of FOLFOX, the most common treatment for advanced metastatic colon cancer. We’d travel down to Tucson every three weeks and I’d get an IV infusion for a few hours, then we’d return to Phoenix where I’d take five pills a day for the next two weeks. This time around, my oncologist wanted to try a different treatment (a pretty common strategy when it comes to battling a feisty opponent like colon cancer), so I’m now on something called FOLFIRI. It shares some of the drugs in common with my previous treatment, but also has some different ones. This, of course, means that the side effects are a whole different beast, as well. With FOLFIRI, I receive treatment every two weeks and there’s no oral element. Instead, I have an afternoon-long infusion and then get sent home with an electronic chemo pump that delivers the remaining chemo drugs to me over a 46-hour period.
I’ve now been through two rounds of treatment and I’m doing my best to hang in there. It can definitely be tough at times. The first two days, when I have the pump attached to me, are pretty much non-stop nausea with an unpleasant amount of dry-heaving, despite the five different anti-nausea drugs I’m now on. At least I was able to eat some food during the second round, something I essentially was unable to do the first time. Still, I end up being pretty sapped of energy and much will to do anything for about five days, while some of the side effects linger on for a bit longer. I’ve been struggling to put on any weight since surgery and the nausea, vomiting, weakness, etc. really don’t help with that; instead, I’m frighteningly close to barely weighing triple-digits. Obviously, it can definitely be frustrating. Going through this every two weeks for the next six months doesn’t excite me very much, to say the least, but I’m more than willing to put myself through all this in the hopes that things will eventually get better.
All that said, I don’t want to give the impression that things are too bad. After all, I’m still getting by. Between my first two treatments, I felt well enough to travel and we saw our wonderful families and dear friends, attended a lovely wedding (congrats, Rob and Megan!), and enjoyed autumn. Moreover, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid some of the unpleasant side effects of treatment such as hair loss, mouth sores, and the like. And I’m certainly quite happy to not be dealing with the side effects that the XELOX treatment had, such as extreme sensitivity to cold and nearly-debilitating hand and foot pain. There are ups-and-downs with any treatment and for whatever crap I’ve had to deal with, there’s plenty more that I’ve been lucky to avoid.
So, all told, as dispiriting as things can be at time, my spirits are still high. Heather takes amazing care of me and is by my side during the worst times, and the support of all of you from afar helps get me through, too. And during the best of times, life is still able to continue at something vaguely approaching normal. Now that a week has passed since my latest chemo round, I’m feeling much better and we’re both quite excited to head to Columbus next week to spend time with my family for Thanksgiving. Great people, great food, and still so much to be thankful for.