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17 November 2011 / stageivhope

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.

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9 Comments

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  1. Ayrel / Nov 18 2011 12:21 AM

    It is probably good that they changed your chemo drugs, otherwise you’d be frostbitten for your entire Thanksgiving vacation. I suspect T-Day will also provide a nice opportunity to put on a few pounds. This double-digit nonsense is unacceptable, punk. Have Heather inject your stomach with some new fat cells. She’s been reading all those nursing books, so she can probably handle that, right?

    Can’t wait to see you two when we return and looking forward to some Skyping in the near-future.

    ~Ayrel

  2. Dabido87 / Nov 18 2011 6:41 AM

    Hard J,

    Thanks for the update. Even though I know nothing about cancer drugs, reading about your new chemo regimen is reassuring. I second Ayrel that losing the sensitivity to cold is good for someone headed to Ohio in late November. 😉 I also have to say I continued to be floored by your toughness. F Chuck Norris, I think you are the toughest guy out there!

    Watch out if Heather does want to inject you with something, though. She’s a little feisty, and I’m not sure she wouldn’t find it “funny” to inject you with cat fat or something just to see if you’d grow fur…

    -D

  3. Katelyn / Nov 18 2011 6:55 AM

    Love you both.

  4. Mullins / Nov 18 2011 9:15 AM

    This is unfortunate: I know everyone’s been amped for the ‘awareness’ head shaving and ‘solidarity’ mouth wounding, whereas the ‘resilient hope’ constant nausea campaign hasn’t gotten near the level of interest. Much love.

  5. Oliver / Nov 18 2011 1:35 PM

    Ari, thanks for the update. You are one tough muthaf*cka. My thoughts and good vibes are with you always, my sweet-and-salty chocolatey brown friend. Give unironic high-fives to Ehlersveg and Pancakes for me.

    -Oliver

  6. Holli Porter / Nov 18 2011 3:36 PM

    Thanks for the update. We’ve been waiting to hear, hoping you were managing, and are amazed and happy to hear that you are so positive. Lots of love-Holli

  7. dale jamieson / Nov 19 2011 3:10 PM

    you know you are in the hearts and minds of everyone who EVER had anything to do with carleton, even though they can be a quiet bunch. hang in there, stay in touch, and try to get that weigh to above average and make the minnesotans proud. dale

  8. gnickers / Nov 19 2011 3:49 PM

    Dear Ari,
    I’m so inspired by your optimism and thankfulness in spite everything that you’re going through. It’s not surprising in the least to see your best side shining through in all this. I can see your attitude will carry you through and help you make the best of each day.

    Wishing you lots of strength from your Love House roomie,
    Greg

    P.S.: Hugs to you and Heather and the kitties.

  9. Megan / Feb 17 2012 5:59 PM

    Thanks for sharing your story. You’re in my heart.

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