Saturday, July 18, 2009

Saturday, July 18th: D-Day cometh - calling all Teams

As I give you this update from sunny, cool Denver on a Saturday morning we're in the process of preparing for a fairly significant milestone in my treatment process, PET scan #2. Here's the wiki article about what exactly this test is: I'll confess, I really didn't know what the heck I was doing sliding in and out of this big ring thing last time - the article is pretty informative, for a wikipedia article.

In the flurry of tests that occurred when I got back to Denver from Boston, they performed one of these to determine exactly where the cancer activity was in my body and to help confirm the B-cell non-hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis. The picture was pretty cool, a full size body view that resembled a fuzzy X-ray. But the moment I saw the image was a bit scary when Dr. Hinshaw said "anything that shows up as a black spot indicates cancer activity". I looked at the picture and there was a dark spot on my right hip (expected), some little spots in my chest and abdomen (lymph nodes - expected based on Mass General testing), but there was a massive spot in my head, two in my abdomen, and a big one right where my private parts are. I was in the process of feeling woozy (passing out, just like Vail) and pointing towards the big black brain spot when Dr. H said 'oh, don't worry, your brain, kidneys, and bladder show up as black regardless.' Whew - would have been nice to say that BEFORE the scan image was put in front of me, wouldn't you agree?

So Monday afternoon I go in for scan #2 - a huge milestone in my treatment to see how well the chemo is working. If last Tuesday's bone doctor appointment is any indicator I'm hoping the news is positive, but who knows - cancer is a strange disease that affects each person differently. After this scan I'll know more if my chemo treatments stay at 6 or increase to 8. From what I understand, this is the point where the radiation oncologist -the man/woman who will, frankly, nuke the living sh*t out of my pelvis & the tumor - will start to get involved and begin to develop the treatment plan. So, you can see it is a pivotal point in the treatment process.

I'm designating Monday as my own personal "D-Day" in my process, where we begin to know the plan for Team Baker's assault on the beaches of cancer. Like Ike & Churchill assessing Hitler's defense of the French Coast, we'll be looking at the defenses of this pansy *ss purple monster and planning the attack.
Thanks again to the many of you who continue to send me messages, cards, the "pink republican" hat (thanks Rick Tripp), Facebook notes, etc. Almost all of you continue to ask "what can we do to help?". So to answer this question, I'm calling all of my "teams" out to help this weekend. You saw my post a few weeks back about the various religious (and non) groups who were in my corner, and hopefully saw me add the Society of Friends and Wesleyans a week or so (thanks Jill Grubb and Dave Dewitt for getting your teams on the roster). I'm asking all of you to get to your clubhouse this weekend and send a message to the Big Guy on my behalf. Even if you're a 'part time' player and attend on Christmas/Easter/High Holy days I'm asking you for a special favor to attend for this weekend to help me (and Amanda) out. I've been a pretty lucky man, and frankly without some seemly random circumstances and intervention from the Big Guy, I might be blogging about a much worse situation. So, here's my politically insensitive instructions for the teams who are on my roster for Sunday:
  • Oh yeah, for my Jewish friends and extended family on the ORIGINAL original team, sorry I didn't post in time for Shabbat eve or morning service. Send up some messages on my behalf over the weekend.
Anyways, here's my request of my roster of teams:
  • For my team (Methodist), I'll see you there, sing a hymn on my behalf.
  • For my in-laws team (Presbyterian), let him know I'm predestined to beat this.
  • For the Catholic team, light a candle for me.
  • For the Northern (or Southern) Baptists, hit the altar call and send up the request, but don't tell the Southerners that the Northerners are up there too.
  • For Team Lutheran, send your message in German (or Swedish, or Danish) while you're having some wine.
  • If you're on the Evangelical team, raise your hands when you send the message.
  • For the Atheists, think of me and turn on some classical music.
  • For the Agnostic Team, look at something cool in nature and send up a message to the Universe.
  • For the Mormons...heck, I don't know what you guys do in the clubhouse. - do whatever.
  • For the Episcopalians...sing a good hymn, and give a polite nod to someone on my behalf.
  • For the Disciples of Christ Team, like the Mormons, I don't know what you guys do, but in the words of Nike..."just do it".
  • For team Quaker, send him some good vibes in a non-violent way.
  • For the Wesleyans, give him a direct message Rev. Dewitt.

For those of you who are currently 'free agents' - take some time on Sunday to stop into a new clubhouse, if only just for this week - it would mean a lot to us out here a mile high.
Carpe diem.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday, July 14th: Post #11 - Shrinkage

shrink·age (shrĭng'kĭj) n.
The process of shrinking.
The amount or proportion by which something shrinks.
A reduction in value; depreciation.

When you hear the word "shrinkage" what comes to mind? For me and many of my fellow GenXers, one particular scene from Seinfeld popped in the mind: "I was in the pool! I was in the pool!"

Don't worry, I'm not going to inform any of you of the impact of chemotherapy & treatments on my unmentionables, and to be honest there hasn't been much to report. If there was, it would make this blog more inappropriate than it already is. ANYWAYS, after this morning the word shrinkage has new meaning to me.

Today I had an appointment with my Orthopedic Oncologist in Denver, Dr. Ross Wilkins. For those who don't know - he's the 'carpenter' who is there to keep my pelvis intact. He wanted to check on the status of my "honeycombed hip" (yeah yeah yeah) after the first two chemo treatments. For those who don't know, the tumor had burrowed into my right pelvis around the point of the 'socket' part of the hip, resulting in a 3" square (roughly) area of my pelvis that was 1/2 bone, 1/2 tumor. Fortunately, the tumor hadn't yet grown into the 'load bearing' area above the hip joint, so I had still been able to walk without shattering my pelvis, which was in hindsight a significant danger that could have made my situation even more dangerous than it is (was).

This 'honeycomb' action was the source of most of my pain since last summer. Those of you who are here in Denver know that I was dealing with debilitating hip pain to the point where I couldn't ski last season, which we thought was caused by my mountain bike injury. However, 99% of it was from the tumor burrowing into the pelvis bone. Two days after my first chemo treatment, most of this pain was gone - indicating that the drugs were attacking the fast-growing tumor cells.

My early June X-rays showed large areas of hollowed out (dark gray) bone where this tumor had honeycombed. The X-rays from this morning showed clear evidence of splotches of white throughout the area that previously was mostly dark gray. In the words of Dr. Wilkins "It's not getting bigger,and it looks like it's shrinking". We then spent 15 minutes going over the X-ray where he showed me the various areas of calcium deposits on the film.

What does this mean you ask? While I won't know more conclusive evidence until next Monday's PETscan (I'll explain later in the week), but all signs indicate I've probably got shrinkage of the cancer.

This man will take as much shrinkage as he can get, and I haven't even been in a pool!

Carpe diem.