Month in Review – October 2014

Way better than last month. Not great, barely into the “good” range, but still way better.

My numbers are still low – except my weight – but I’m looking to start ramping up in November. And, of course, a race report.

The aforementioned RnR was my only race this month, and I was pacing, not racing, but I have the Moustache Miler on the 22nd so that should be all kinds of fun. And, at 5k, a few kinds of pain too.

The numbers:

Distance: 226k
Time: 21 hours
Calories: 14k
Climbing: 1800m
Weight: 191.4 (UGH!!)

New Feature: My October heatmap!

Race Report – Rock’n’Roll Vancouver Half Marathon

When I heard that the Rock’n’Roll half was having pace bunnies, and that the bunnies were sponsoured by the Running Room, I knew I had to get me a piece of that action. I contacted the volunteer coordinator about 6 weeks before the race and that was it, I was in as the 2:00 pacer.

I’d previously donned the pink ears about a year ago for the now-defunct Surrey International Music Marathon and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to a fun time with, hopefully, a bigger crowd.

It poured rain all day Saturday and well into the evening, but Sunday dawned bright and clear. Ideal racing weather. I ran down to the start-line, drawing a few double-takes as I passed through down town. “I’m working on my Playboy Playmate costume for Hallowe’en” I told one bemused onlooker.

The start-line was abuzz with excitement – and thanks to the totally awesome Lilian, I had access to the Brooks Running VIP washrooms (“Potty Like A Rock Star“) which were way deluxe. Waiting around to start, there were lots of people who were happy to see that there were pacers, and fortunately there was two of us doing 2:00, and the other pacer, Trevor, was going to run straight through, while I was doing 10-and-1s, so runners had a lot of options.

Then they sang the anthem and we started shuffling forward as corrals were starting at about 1 minute intervals. As we’re waiting at the start-line, one woman commented on the unfortunate music choice – something by Justin Bieber. Not really the Rock’n’Roll atmosphere she was expecting, I guess.

Thanks to Jan Heuninck for the great photo!

Thanks to Jan Heuninck for the great photo!

And we were off! The first few kilometres are through Gastown and the Downtown Eastside, before crossing the Dunsmuir viaduct, skirting Yaletown and heading out to Stanley Park. Then along the north side of Lost Lagoon, before ducking through the underpass and heading up Pipeline Road. Then it was back onto Stanley Park Drive, past Lumberman’s Arch and Prospect Point, past the Rowing Club and around the final bend to Devonian Park. I crossed the finish line at 1:59:14, right where I wanted to be and, funnily enough, my slowest half marathon ever.

Official Results:  1:59:14 – Overall 2013 out of 6349; 1121st male out of 2266; 159 out of 309 in my AG

The Cancer Chronicles: Week 7

The whole cancer story.

IT STARTS

All the waiting was leading up to Monday. Siobhan’s Mom arrived on Sunday and, anticipating a big day, we all retired early.

We arrived at the Cancer Centre around 8;30 Monday morning, went up to the 5th floor and checked in to the little hospital ward. Then it was back down to the lab on 3 so she could have her blood drawn.

Shortly after we got back up to her room her nurse, Phillip, showed up and took her vitals and, eventually, got an IV line into her. Then Dr Cooper (not at all like Coop from Nurse Jackie) stopped by and laid out the day’s game plan. Once her blood work came back, and assuming all was good with it, they’d start pumping fluids into her via the IV and once that was done they’d hook up the chemo bag. After it was all in her, it was back to the plain fluids. Oh yeah, and the time there would be peeing. Lots and lots of peeing. And during all this she would go down for her first radiation treatment too.

FLUIDS

The blood work was good so they hung a 1 litre bag of fluids and we all sat around watching it drain. And drain. And drain. Then it was time for radiation so the IV was unhooked and the porter brought her down in a wheel chair. First to the mould room so they could do a couple of last minute adjustments to her mask, then downstairs to the radiation therapy rooms where she got her fist dose. Back up to her room and the IV was hooked up again.

CHEMO

She was well hydrated. It was around 5:30 when the chemo bag was hung, and it would take about 2 hours to drain. By now she’d been given a handful of anti-nausea drugs which were definitely having an effect.

MORE FLUIDS

When the chemo was done it was time for more fluids. Another litre bag was hung and it slowly made its way into her system. The day was wearing on us all, and we were all getting pretty tired. Her Mom, Josie, said she was staying overnight there so I went home and got a few hours sleep before getting back before 6AM (when Josie’s parking pass would expire).

WAITING FOR RADIATION

The Tuesday radiation appointment wasn’t until 2:30. This meant sitting around in the hospital ward until then. We tried to get it moved to the morning, but apparently it was pretty busy down there so no dice. We had one final visit with Dr Cooper and he explained the 7 (!) prescriptions we had to get filled and more warnings about upcoming side-effects. So many side-effects.

DISCHARGE

Finally got discharged and had the radiation treatment and went home. The cats were, of course, indifferent – almost like they didn’t realize she’d been gone for 30 hours – to her arrival.

BECOMING ROUTINE

The radiation treatments on Wednesday and Thursday both went off without a hitch. The treatments themselves are less than 10 minutes and it looks like if we show up early, she gets in early.

 AND SO ON

And that’s pretty much what’s going to be happening for the next few weeks. Daily radiation from Monday – Friday wit the occasional, intrusive, chemo session. But we’ve already seen a dramatic change.

AMAZING CREW

I can’t say enough about the various nurses and doctors and other staff we’ve dealt with at the Cancer Centre. Every single person has been kind, helpful and generous. They have made this a far more bearable process.

The Cancer Chronicles: Week 5

THANKS FOR WHAT

On Sunday we had a full-on Thanks-christ-giving-mas dinner. Roast turkey, stuffing & dressing, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and gravy. With pumpkin pie and mincemeat tarts for dessert. Nothing but lethargy and a big stack of leftovers afterwards.

YET ANOTHER SCAN

Tuesday was the CT scan. This involved her wearing the mask they’d moulded last week as they took a bunch of pictures – slices – of her neck region. Dr Wu will then use these to plot exactly where to target the radiation.

START DATE

And the very next day they called with the start date for treatment! On October 27th she’ll check in and it will all start. This means we’re looking at an end date of Monday, the 15th of December. So she’ll be done just in time for Christmas.

Counting down the days…

EMPTY CALENDAR

And now there’s nothing else on the calendar until the treatment starts, which means next week’s Chronicles could be very brief.

 

The Cancer Chronicles: Week 4 (and a bit)

APPOINTMENTS, APPOINTMENTS, APPOINTMENTS!

Friday morning the appointment schedules came flooding in – finally! Radiation planning, face mask, and CT scan. Suddenly there were THINGS HAPPENING.

PET SCAN

But before all that, the PET Scan. After fasting for most of the day (well, she was fasting) we were back at the cancer centre Tuesday afternoon. Another form to fill out, then a short wait and they took her in to prep for the scan. In a little while I got a text from her saying it would be over an hour so I left and wandered around. She was all done in about 90 minutes and then we went home to, you know, wait.

MISTAKEN PHONE CALL

Friday afternoon we had back-to-back appointments scheduled. First would be with Dr Wu for radiation planning and then to the Mould Room to have her face mask crafted.

This isn't hers, but it's the same thing

This isn’t hers, but it’s the same thing

At 8:30 that morning I her her phone ring, and judging by the sound of her voice, I could tell it was both important and good news. Turn out Dr Wu didn’t see that we were coming in that afternoon and didn’t want her to have to wait all weekend to her the results of the PET scan. And it is the very best prognosis we could have hoped for! The cancer is both small  (3 cm) and localized (that is, it’s only in one area.) Needless to say we were elated.

It looks like treatment will start sometime between the 20th and 27th of October. Which means it will be over by mid-December. We’ve read that the couple of weeks following treatment are some of the worse, so … Merry Christmas!

UP NEXT

The CT scan is scheduled for Tuesday and that will give Dr Wu the information he needs to plot how the radiation treatment will be applied.

The Cancer Chronicles: Week 3

Previously.

CHEMOTHERAPY

We met with the chemo doctor on Friday. Dr Maggie Knowling all but oozes warmth and comfort and immediately put us both at ease.  She talked about the role that chemo would play in the treatment, that it was there to assist the radiation and make it more effective, but that it was not the treatment itself. She told us that there would be three sessions, one right at the start, another midway and the final one would be in the last week. And that these would be in-patient procedures, to better monitor fluid levels and for easy administration of lots and lots of anti-nausea medication.

EATING RIGHT

Monday we met with the nutritionist at Inspire Health. Again he dreaded feeding tube was discussed and what we could do to avoid it. Lots of good fats and protein. Shakes and smoothies. Soups, stews and other liquid meals. This is going to be quite the culinary adventure.

THE SCHEDULE THAT WASN’T

When we met with Dr Wu, he said that within two weeks all the testing would be done and we would be well on our way to having a treatment schedule and plan set up. But that certainly didn’t happen. It turns out that one of the PET scanners broke down and there was a backlog of patients (not that they bothered to tell us that!) But this was finally resolved when they phoned on Wednesday and set up a scan appointment for the following Tuesday.

STILL MORE DENTAL

This week also included two more dental appointments, with a third on Monday morning, to get all that work done before she gets a tray impression done on Monday. This tray will be used for frequent floride treatments after the radiation is all done.

MILES TO GO

Three weeks since the initial diagnosis and we have precious little more in the way of facts. Hopeful that next weeks PET scan will fill in a lot of very frustrating blanks.

Month In Review – September 2014

Unequivocally, Worst.Month.Ever.

Well, not so much ever, but so far as the ones ahead will be their own types of grueling. Between the not-bad-but-not-good news from my cardiologist, Siobhan’s devastating news and a knee injury this month has been a non-stop suckfest. The only bright-side is that I mostly enjoyed myself at the Coho Run. Hopefully I’ve turned the corner in my knee rehab and I can start piling on the distance again.

So, the horrible numbers:

Distance: 99k
Time: 8 hours
Calories: 5.7k
Climbing: 765m
Weight: Haven’t weighed in in weeks, certain I’m north of 185 though

The Cancer Chronicles: Week 2

Previous on The Cancer Chronicles – Week 1.

DENTAL, NOT MENTAL

One of the things that Dr. Wu talked about last week was dental work. He said that Siobhan would have to go see their oncology dentist and if any teeth were bad enough, they would have to be pulled. Although after looking in her mouth, he said her teeth looked great and they would be fine. Of course, all Siobhan heard of this was We’re going to have to pull all your teeth and leave you as a toothless hag!

On Monday we went back to the Cancer Clinic to see their dentist. As I had expected, the checkup went very well and they won’t have to pull any teeth. She still has a little work that needs to be done with her regular dentist before treatment starts, but overall excellent oral health.

While she was seeing the dentist, Caroline – a nurse practitioner – who would be our Quarterback (Dr. Wu’s term) for the duration of the treatments. Siobhan quickly rebranded her the Project Manager. She arranged to meet with us on Friday, when we would be coming in to see Dr. Knowlings, the Chemotherapy Oncologist.

CURRENT MISSION: EAT ALL THE THINGS

One of the long-term side effects of the treatment will be a loss of Siobhan’s ability to taste, and this could last anywhere from 6 months to a year. Because of this, she’s on a mission to eat all the wonderful things and taste all the wonderful tastes. A benefit of this purge, is for her to put on weight. It’s common during treatment like she’ll be receiving to shed pounds. Typical weight loss is 5-10%, but if it creeps up to 15% then they have to put in a feeding tube and pump stuff directly into her stomach. Um … no thank you please. So the goal from now until the treatment is done is calories. Butter sauces, gravies, avocado on everything.

Even more important will be once the treatment starts. We’re going to use a calorie-tracker to make sure that she hits daily and weekly goals – and hey, if it means she has to eat a bowl of ice cream every night before bed, so be it.

STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH

Earlier this week she spent a couple of hours on the phone with John, a friend-of-a-friend who twice dealt with this cancer (the first time he had surgery but they didn’t get it all, the second they used radiation and he is now cancer-free.) He gave her some practical advice and outlined what the experience was like for him and what his post-treatment recovery was like. It looks like he’ll be a good resource to drawn on as this process continues.

INSPIRATIONAL

One of Siobhan’s relatives gave her a membership to the Inspire Health Centre. We’ve only just dipped our toe into their amazing depth of information, help, and support, but we can already see that they’ll be a fantastic resource – especially after the treatment is over and we’re done at the Cancer Clinic. Because that’s when the real work of her recovery will begin.

STILL WAITING

We still haven’t heard when Siobhan’s getting fitted for her mask, we still haven’t heard when she’s going in for her P.E.T. and C.T. scans, which means we still don’t know how bad the cancer is and, of course, we still don’t have a treatment plan in place. But as we’ve been told more than once, there is so much of this that is out of our control that we need to accept that these things will all happen and that these people are well versed in what they’re doing.

The Cancer Chronicles: Week 1

BIOPSY RESULTS

Last Thursday, around 9AM, Siobhan’s ENT called and told her that they’d found cancer in the biopsy. He said she should come down and talk to him in person, and arranged for that to happen at 3PM.

It turns out they’d found squamous cell cancer cells, and all indications were that this – the lump in her throat – was a secondary location. Odds are this cancer originated at either the back of her tongue or in her throat, but in rare cases the primary location is never found. Dr. Irvine, the ENT, said the most likely course of action would be a P.E.T. scan. He also said that this type of cancer was very common, very treatable and very survivable. But best-case-scenario is 5 radiation treatments a week for 5 weeks, with maybe some chemotherapy thrown in for good measure.

Next steps were to “go home and wait” for the cancer clinic to call with an appointment to see an oncologist.

That call came early the next week with an appointment with Dr. Jonn Wu, a radiation oncologist at the BC Cancer Agency, for Thursday. He would go over all the test results we had so far and from there a course of action would be drawn up.

INITIAL ONCOLOGY MEETING

The meeting with Dr Wu was very productive, if not more than a little overwhelming.

We met first with his nurse Holly and she interviewed Siobhan and took down a bunch of information, in addition to weighing and measuring her. Then Dr. Wu joined us and asked a bunch more questions. He then did a bit of an examination in Siobhan’s mouth, then they went into another exam room so he could stick a camera up her nose and take a look down her throat (she wouldn’t let me come with her for this part – can you imagine the great selfie I could have taken?)  Once all the examination stuff was done, he talked about what was next – other doctors and staff that there would be consultations, appointments and tests with.

Then he talked about treatment plan. Of course everything is really determined on what the results of the P.E.T. scan will be, but based on what he knows now it’s looking like 7 weeks of radiation treatments (5 times a week) with three chemotherapy session – at the start. middle and end of the radiation.

Next up was side-effects. There are a lot. Most are short-term, some are long-term, but there are a couple that will be permanent.

Finally we stopped by the 3rd floor so she could have an x-ray of her jaw and have some blood drawn for a battery of tests.

There was a LOT of information gathered today – we have a manila envelope stuffed with pamphlets and documents that we have to read and grasp. But THINGS are HAPPENING and for two people who are as control obsessed and impatient as us, this is a good thing.

THE SILK RING

Read this.