Friday, January 28, 2011

Are You Claustrophobic?

"Are you claustrophobic?" It seemed like an innocent enough question as I filled out the paperwork before the MRI of my head (to see if the cancer has spread to the brain as well). Am I claustrophobic? I immediately check "no", I have been under buildings, worked on plumbing in crawl spaces, squeezed through some tight spaces rock climbing, been in caves...the list could go on. No, I am not claustrophobic.
I am also not entirely convinced that is the best word to describe what I was about to experience.
After removing all metal objects and placing them in a locker I am escorted into the room and instructed to lie down on the table as I am handed a pair of earplugs. I am told that I need to place my head in what could be best described as a box and told to slide up until my shoulders were firmly against the braces. After I am situated, chocks are placed around my head to help hold it firmly in place. I am then told that they will be locking on a face shield that helps them with taking the images. The "face shield" was more like a 1970's Doug Favell goalie mask (minus the nice paint job) and it truly did lock into place.
I am then told that I will be spending 25 minutes in the tube, coming out briefly for an injection, then going back in for another 8 minutes. 33 minutes I will be like this, locked to a table by my head and lying motionless. At this point I decide the best course of action is to close my eyes and try to zone out for the duration of the scan.
Of course there are two problems with that line of thinking.
First, the noise. An MRI does not sound that much different than a jack hammer, a very rhythmic pounding that lasted most of the scan. Second, I opened my eyes. There, right in front of my face, about an inch away was my face shield, and about two inches beyond that (I could see through some slits) was the wall of the tube itself. At that moment I thought, "I actually wouldn't mind getting out of here now." Luckily I only had about 31 minutes to go.
I guess "Are you a bit apprehensive about laying on a skinny table, having your head, neck and shoulders braced, a face shield locked onto you and being slid into a tiny tube to listen to construction noise for the next 33 minutes without moving?" was too long of a question for the form.
And I might have checked "yes" for that one.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Mental Side of the Early Days of Cancer

Physical vs. Mental:
It is hard to say during these early days which will be the harder battle, the physical one or the mental one. The outpouring of support since Friday has been truly incredible, I have said it before and I am sure I will say it many more times during this journey, but I feel blessed to have such great support in my corner.
So many of you mentioned how strong I am, yet today I let a 56 hour battle with nausea and headache ground me on the couch when I really wanted to get out for a run. Treatment hasn't even started yet and I am already letting the mental fight take an early lead, I am going to need to address that with myself and correct it. Others of you spoke of me being a kind and decent person, but I know I am guilty of muttering rude things under my breath (as well as shouting them out loud, let's not kid ourselves) and having a temper. These early days of cancer make me question where I could have been better or kinder, or tried harder in life, or reached out to more people.
And then there was hope, so much hope in so much of what you all said. And that is what I need to do, keep the flame of hope burning bright, beat this physically and mentally and get busy getting myself to the point where I talk about being a cancer survivor, not a cancer fighter.
In the mail today I received a catalog from Harley Davidson with the tag line "Kick-Start Your Next Adventure". I am one step ahead of you. They were probably thinking that adventure would be on the back of a brand new motorcycle, not fighting cancer, but maybe my next, next adventure Harley.
I think I have just enough daylight left to get that run in.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stage III C Testicular Cancer

I had my follow up appointment today and the news was not good. I have Stage III C Testicular Cancer meaning the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and one or more distant organs (above the diaphragm), in my case the liver and the lungs. Because of the masses present and the way it has spread I will be having an MRI of my head to see if it has spread to the brain as well. In order to treat this I will need chemotherapy and after the chemotherapy is complete possibly surgery to remove the lymph nodes as well. I have never been hit by a truck before, but I have to imagine this might be what it feels like.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stress and the Pending Test

11:25 am, I received my confirmation call for tomorrow's CT scan. I am REALLY looking forward to the two bottles of contrast I have to drink tomorrow, but it is berry flavored, so maybe it will be all right.
It seems to be an amazing coincidence, but today's LiveStrong support topic is all about stress. This is pretty good timing for this article as I need to remember to relax, get out for a run (and maybe follow it with some yoga) and not drive myself TOO crazy before Friday's appointment to go over the pathology and CT results. My doctor cautioned me last week to not to work myself up too much by reading a lot of articles until we fully know what the plan will be but it is hard to sit back knowing I have cancer, but not knowing the extent and what the treatment plan will be.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

90-95% becomes 100%

1.14.10, my post inguinal orchiectomy follow-up appointment. The day I found out that it was no longer a 90-95% chance that I had cancer but that I do in fact have cancer.
I have cancer.
And this is where it stands, with further tests and appointments scheduled for the coming week.

12.28.10 "...a 90-95% chance..."

"There is a 90-95% chance that you have testicular cancer..."
How does one prepare to hear those words?
How did I come to hear them?
Let me back you up a couple of days.
Ellon and I were making our rounds visiting family during the holidays and on the morning of the 26th, the day we were due to travel home, I woke with pain in my right testicle. I figured I had somehow "slept wrong" and thought the pain would go away as the day progressed. As we made our way back home weather conditions stretched a four hour drive to seven hours, all the while me sitting behind the wheel in a decent amount of discomfort. That evening, as we headed to bed, I convinced myself that the long trip in the car hadn't given me a chance to sit comfortably and after a good nights rest the pain would go away.
Not true, I was still experiencing a good deal of pain when I woke the next morning. Luckily I had a fair amount of shoveling to do and was able to distract myself a bit so I could try to stop thinking about the growing pain in my boxer shorts. That plan didn't work too well, instead, I found I was becoming more conscious of it and brought Ellon up to speed on what was going on.
After a sleepless Monday night Ellon strongly urged me to take myself to the hospital and at that point I really didn't need any convincing as I was now experiencing some of the most intense pain I had ever felt. Thankfully things moved very quickly for me at the ER, they take a complaint of testicular pain quite seriously. My ER doctor told me that their #1 concern was testicular torsion so I was sent for an ultrasound. After the ultrasound was complete I was wheeled back to the ER so my doctor could go over the results with me, I was told there was "good news/bad news". The good news was that I didn't have a testicular torsion, the bad news was that there was a tumor present and that it could be cancer.
It could be cancer, so it could also not be cancer right? That was my thought, 50/50, not terrible odds. I was told that my next stop was going to be the Urology department and that they were waiting for me. Thankfully Ellon had made the drive to the hospital, at my request, and was able to be there with me for this portion of my hospital visit. And that is when I heard those words, there was a 90-95% chance that I have cancer. Not 50/50, not maybe, not possibly, but a 90-95% chance that I have cancer. I was told that I was going to need an inguinal orchiectomy and that is was scheduled for Thursday the 30th of December. In less than four hours I had gone from arriving at the ER with testicular pain to finding out I was less than 48 hours away from having my right testicle removed and that I most likely have cancer.