Saturday, May 29, 2010

Just a dream?

One short week ago I was given the devastating news, the tumor was cancerous. Is this just a dream? How can I have cancer?

I'm supposed to be healthy, I eat better, I exercise more, dammit, I feel good. Surely there's been some kind of mistake.

The nurse from the doctors office called a few days ago and left a message to call her. Yeah, that's it, they finally discovered the mistake. I went to see her the next day; there was no mistake, just a copy of the surgeons and pathologist reports that confirmed the reality. OK, it's sinking in; I have cancer.

Cancer doesn't play by a set of rules, it finds it's way into many unsuspecting peoples lives. Sure I wonder "why me," but what about the 8 year old boy with leukemia, the young mother that discovers ovarian cancer, the coal miner with lung cancer that just wants to provide for his family? None of them deserved their fate either; I'm sure they all wondered why too.

"Why" is a tough question. Is it science, is it lifestyle, is it genetics or is it just fate?
Maybe it was years of smoking,
Maybe it was the constant handling of lead and chemicals in my early career,
Maybe it is the will of a greater being, striving to make me a stronger person.

Well, regardless, it's not a dream. I'll never really know why, so it's time to focus on the future.

The roller coaster of emotions I've felt the past week has been draining. I'm strong and determined one moment and crying the next. The outpouring of support from friends and family has been tremendous and believe me, I appreciate each and every email, call, or any kind of response. I'm learning to cope and with the help of my wife, I'm going to be fine emotionally. Sue is my rock! I'm also learning again how to pray; yes I've been distant from God in the past, but I look for His support too in my fight.

This week I go see a urological oncologist at KU Med Center for a second opinion. He is a surgeon and a specialist in these type cancers. I just want to be sure that more than one doctor agrees with the course of treatment. I'll update more after that meeting.

Thanks again everybody for all your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The New Journey Begins

Family and Friends

As some of you were already aware, I've been struggling the last few months with some type of bladder and/or prostate issue. After a third round of antibiotics for what continued to disguise itself as a urinary tract infection, and still no relief, I finally had to see a urologist and do further testing. On May 11th, I was scheduled for a cystoscopy, a procedure where they insert a tiny camera into the urethra and explore the inside of the bladder. During this procedure, a tumor was discovered and removed. They also cut away a small section of the prostate which will help allow me to urinate better. I would not be released from the hospital until I could pee again on my own and spent 2 nights there. Today, I'm still recovering; it's been a slow process but I continue to improve each day.

This past Friday, I had my follow up visit with my doctor. This is when I learned the dreaded truth; the pathology report on the tumor came back malignant. The news was quite shocking to me as the doctor had told me after surgery that he did not feel the growth he removed was suspicious. After a day of crying in Sue's arms and the agonizing phone calls to the kids and my parents, I'm ready to fight the next battle in my life. I plan to take the same approach to this battle as I do to running a marathon. There's going to be a lot of hard work involved along the way, but it won't stop me from reaching that final goal.

OK, enough with the doom and gloom. There's good news to talk about too. Bladder cancer is very treatable and has a high rate of success. I've seen numbers that show 75-80% survival rates. When bladder cancer is detected early, the outlook is usually brighter. The doctor feels that, based on how the tumor was attached in the tissue inside the bladder, that we did catch this early on. These are all good signs in my case.

So, this is where we go next. Beginning in mid June, I will begin what is called intravesical BCG therapy. Chemotherapy is also an option but is not as effective in this type cancer. BCG is not chemo, rather it is considered immunotherapy. Look at it this way; BCG is a live tuberculosis bacteria that will be injected into my bladder through a catheter. The presence of this bacteria triggers my own immune system to send in troops to fight the bacteria, while they're fighting, they also kill any cancer cells. The BCG solution will need to stay in the bladder for about 2 hours, then I just pee it out naturally. I will receive 6 treatments, once a week beginning June 16th. After that, they will do another cystoscopy to look in the bladder and determine whether it has been successful. If so, I will then go on a maintenance program with only 5 more injections in the following 2 years.

During this treatment, I should be able to work and function somewhat normally. Of course, in any treatment, there are side effects. In this therapy, difficulty urinating and/or the desire to urinate frequently, blood in the urine and bladder infections are the most commons side effects and occur in about 50% of patients. Heck, those are the same symptoms I've dealt with the last 6 months, I'm used to it, how bad can that be!

Writing you today was not meant to solicit any sympathy, rather I'm writing to help me express out loud to everyone my commitment to beating this thing. It helps to talk about it, so don't be afraid to ask me questions. It's too easy to feel sorry for yourself and that does no good. You've all played an important role in my life and I ask that you help me try to remain positive during this entire ordeal.

I look forward to running my next "Race for the Cure" as a cancer survivor.