Mike's Lung Cancer Chronicle

Archive for treatment

Good CT-scan

On Wednesday, April 17, I  had my first CT-scan since completing my cancer treatment in December. I am happy to report that the scan was good and shows no evidence of disease. This is great news and I am one happy camper. (A certain Nurse Susan is quite happy as well!) I will be getting regular CT-scans every 6 months for 2 years then once every year for the rest of my life.


Good News And Bad News

I had follow-up appointments this week with my surgeon and oncologist. The doctors tell me they see no evidence of cancer (GOOD!). I responded extremely well to the triple whammy: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery (REALLY GOOD!). The post-surgery pathology report showed that the tumor had shrunk significantly and 90% of the cancer cells in the tumor and the 3 cancerous lymph nodes were dead (ALL GOOD!).

However, both doctors suggest I have 2 more rounds of chemotherapy just to be sure that any microscopic cancer cells that may be lurking in my body are destroyed. They pointed out that no data is available showing more chemotherapy would result in a better longevity outcome, plus I am considered “cancer free,” so an argument can be  made for not having any more chemo. On the other hand, since I “tolerate chemotherapy so well,” I should consider it. I guess then that the good news is I tolerate chemo well, and the bad news is that I tolerate chemo well. Hahahahaha!

So…on Monday, November 5 I will start the first of two chemo cycles. I will have infusions for 3 consecutive  days ( 4 hours each day), followed by 25 “non” infusion days. Then, I do the same cycle again.  Then, stick a fork in me – I’m really done!  Yay!!!

Okay, Williams, we’ll vote . . . how many here say the heart has four chambers?

Emerging From The Fog

I completed chemo and radiation therapy on Tuesday and I am finally (Sunday) emerging from the fog created by dexamethasone, a steroid often used with chemo to combat cancer cells and to control nausea.  There’s a flip side to this “wonder” drug — it has a list of side-effects as long as your arm, not the least of which is depression.  Just what I need, right?  Cut me some slack, Jack!!!  On my last day of chemo I got the “Dex” along with Zoloft, an anti-depressant (that should be a clue).  For the last 4-5 days, I felt like a nut. Whew! I sure am glad that’s behind me.

Now, we move on to Phase 2 — surgery.  On September 25 the upper left lobe of my left lung will be removed.  Before then, Nurse Susan and I will enjoy a long weekend at Lake Tahoe with the family.  The week before my surgery, the two of us will sneak off to the Ventana Inn at Big Sur for a couple of days. We are holding off on Hawaii until my recovery is well underway.

Many of you have requested a “nose hair” update.  Sadly I must report that those pesky nose hairs continue to occupy my daily hygiene.  That is becoming less of an issue with my head hair, however.  A member of my cancer support group said she knew it was time to shave her head when her hair “looked like a foreclosure lawn.”  I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly until recently. Now I know so next week I will have my barber, Carl, give me the “buzz” cut.

Have a fun week everybody and thanks for your thoughts and support.






Brain Work

Last Monday morning, prior to starting chemo cycle 2, I had to have an MRI of my brain.  Whoa!  Are you kidding me?  Not kidding. Apparently, in some cases, lung cancer will metastasize to the brain.  After spending 2 days on pins and needles, I am happy to report there is no lung cancer in my gray matter. Whew! What a bummer that would be!

Nurse Susan attended a women’s health conference on Saturday and brought back a timely joke. It seems after having an MRI, a guy learned he needed to have a brain transplant.  The doctor told the poor guy he just happened to have 2 brains available. One was from a man and it would cost $100,000 for the brain and the surgical procedure. The other brain was from a woman and the cost would only be $10,000 for everything. Of course the guy was puzzled by the huge difference in cost.  “Why does the woman’s brain cost so much less than the man’s?”  he asked.  His doctor replied, “Oh, it’s because the woman’s brain is used.”

Tomorrow, Monday August 20,  is my last day of  chemo.  Tuesday is my last day of radiation treatment. It can’t end soon enough!

Have a great week everybody and thanks again for your support.

Still Cruzin’ & Cancer Is Loozin’

My nurse Susan says I am a project so here’s my status for the week. 

  • I am at the half-way point on my radiation therapy — 13 treatments down and only 12 to go.
  • Attended a cancer treatment nutrition class where we discovered I was pretty much eating right. Thanks to my nurse, Susan.
  • Received an Emergency Clown Nose from a friend. Thanks Liz!  If ya can’t get rid of those pesky noses hairs just cover’em up. My brother’s suggestion of a booger bucket notwithstanding, of course.  Thanks Tim!

Clowning Around

  • Went to  a cancer support group meeting. What the heck. I thought I would give it a whirl!
  • Read a really funny (sometimes serious) book by Robert Schimmel: Cancer On $5 A Day – Chemo Not Included 
  • Gained back 3 pounds, after a loss of about 8.
  • Finally got the CatScan I was looking for. Thanks Fred and Marion!


Have a fun week everybody and thanks so much for your prayers and support.

Still Doing Well

I am in day 13 of my treatment and lucky for me I have experienced very few side-effects. I have ALL my hair (head-wise, nose-wise, ear-wise, and other-wise). The oncology nurse assures me that it often doesn’t fall out until 15 days after chemo starts. So, Tuesday is the target hair day; I’ll keep you (and my barber, Carl, posted).  I walk at least 2 miles every day, and I still take out the garbage (a sign I read that you are a survivor).  I have wacky taste buds, some reduced appetite and tiredness toward the end of the day.  Some foods that I previously liked now have either no taste or a funny taste. Salsa smells kind of bad and I can barely taste it. I blame the cilantro. But a BLT?  Bring it on!  They taste great!  Smells can get to me too. I walked by a CVS pharmacy and gagged when I caught a whiff of perfume. Now I understand why the Kaiser oncology department has signs posted telling people not not wear any fragrances in the chemo infusion area.  For the next two weeks it is radiation only, eating right, getting rest, continuing to exercise, and working at rebuilding my cells.  All in all, things are pretty good.

Have a great week everybody and thank you all for your prayers, cards, jokes, and support!


Chemo Is Going Well

I finished 5 days of chemo on Friday, July 20. Chemo-week started off with a  long 6 hour day and my first infusion of Cisplatin. Thanks to the wonders of medicine, I also received an infusion of Emend; a drug that does a great job of preventing nausea and vomiting: I haven’t experienced any at all since starting chemo and I am one happy camper about that. The other 4 days were short 2-hour sessions to receive an infusion of Etoposide.  Radiation started this week as well, on Wednesday.  This seems like a piece of cake compared to chemo, but the radiation bombardment continues for 5 weeks. Tomorrow, July 23, I finish up Cycle 1 of Chemo with another 6 hour day of Cisplatin, then I am “off” to “percolate” for about 3 weeks while these toxic chemicals work their magic. So far, I am feeling OK. My appetite is good and I am walking 2 miles or more everyday.  I feel a bit more tired toward the end of the day, but overall, pretty good. The medical team claims that side effects are cumulative so they may kick in over the next week or two. But, hey, in the mean time — so far, so good.

P.S.  I still have ALL of my hair, including those pesky ones.  Donna, one of my chemo nurses, has advised me of a basic principle of chemotherapy, that is: you only lose the hair you want to keep.  I think the nose hairs are here to stay.

Will I say good-bye to those pesky nose hairs?

I start chemotherapy tomorrow. I will begin a  regimen of being infused with two over-the-top nasty drugs: cisplatin and etoposide. Cisplatin was first described by an Italian chemist Michelle Peyrone in 1845. Then  known as Peyrone’s salt, today it is sometimes referred to as the “penicillin of cancer.”  Wow! Who knew? I thought I would be given some leading edge chemical just discovered in the past 10-15 years!  The more mundane drug, Etoposide is derived from a toxin found in the American Mayapple.  Both drugs will be attacking fast growing cells like, er… cancer cells.  Unfortunately these drugs aren’t smart enough to know the difference between the bad guys and the good guys. So, unless I am very lucky, they are very likely going to kill my fast growing hair follicles, as well. So I am going to maintain a positive attitude and hope that only cancer cells  and those pesky little nose hairs will be destroyed.

Advanced case of fuzzy nose syndrome.

How Do You Like My Tattoo?

Today I had CT Scan mapping in order to get me all set-up to be bombarded by radiation. In order to limit the deaths of surrounding civilians, and ensure the bombing focuses primarily on the bad guys, tattoos are used to help ensure the radiation hits the same spots every time.  “Wow!”  I thought. “This is cool! A tattoo!”  So, I asked the technician if she could do this one for me:

Hey Sailor, gonna be in port long?

She said, “I really don’t think that would be appropriate.  All we need are some tiny blue dots.”  So I said, “But can’t you  just aim for her navel? Or maybe the star on her left…lung?” “Sorry sailor,” she said, “three wee blue dots only. Doktor’s orders!”

Bombing commences on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 at 1400 hours.

The “Young and Healthy” Plan (ha, ha)

It turns out that the lymph nodes in and/or around my left lung are positive for cancer.  Not so great.  But, my doctors (aka a growing medical team) label me “young and in good health.”  Therefore, I am a candidate for the whole kit and kaboodle: chemo, radiation, and surgery.  As surgery can zap your strength and immune system, the approach in this case will be to first hit the cancer with a 1-2 punch of concurrent chemo and radiation treatment (6 weeks), followed up 4 to 6 weeks later with surgery to remove a lobe in my left lung.  I am told that because I am “young and healthy” I can expect to recover well from the surgery.

Up Next: A visit with the Radiation Oncologist.