Sunday, February 27, 2011

Support for a Shipmate

By MCSN Jared M. King

USS Enterprise Public Affairs

Enterprise Sailors stand together against cancer

USS ENTERPRISE, At sea – While life carries on throughout deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), 25 Sailors from Combat Systems Department shaved their heads Feb. 22 in a show of support for their shipmate who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Electronics Technician 3rd Class Brian J. Dougan never had the opportunity to join his shipmates on Big E’s 21st deployment due to the diagnosis of Stage III C testicular cancer.While being diagnosed with cancer would be an emotional experience for anyone, Dougan said part of the reason the news was so bad was because he knew he would no longer be able to join his fellow Sailors on the ship’s deployment. Not only did the cancer affect his health, it also affected his chance to see the world, make rank, and get dual warfare qualified –all of which were Dougan’s deployment goals. “I always tell him that he needs to focus on his current mission,” said Electronics Technician 1st Class (SW/AW) Michael J. Stanislow, Dougan’s leading petty officer. “Once he gets healthy he can worry about doing his job.” Dougan will be submitting a limited duty medical board report recommending that he be transferred to a shore command for chemotherapy treatment. He is seeking care at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va., where highly trained doctors and medical staffcontinuously monitor his status through blood work and ultrasounds. Since a side effect of chemotherapy is temporary hair loss, Sailors in Dougan’s department decided that shaving their heads symbolized that they were there for him during one of his most difficult moments. “I thought it was a great idea and fully supported the decision to shave our heads to show support for our shipmate,” said Master Chief Fire Controlman (SW) John M. Mann, leading chief petty officer for Combat Systems Department’s administrative division. “I feel bad that it happens to anyone, but it hits a lot closer to home when it happens to an EnterpriseSailor.” Dougan said that once he is fit for full duty, he would love to be able to come back to Enterprise and reunite with the friends he made after spending time aboard the ship. “Thank you for your thoughts and prayers,” said Dougan. “I will beat this and I will return to the fleet. It means a great deal knowing people are willing to reach out on my behalf.” “The Sailors thatshaved their heads to show support are the kind of shipmates I’m proud to serve with,” said Stanislow. “Dougan is a great guy and I can’t wait to see him when we get back from deployment.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

24 Hours

I have a blank space where my mind should be.
24 hours. 1,440 minutes. 86, 400 seconds. One day.
I have spent the better part of today trying to convince myself that is all that has elapsed since this time yesterday. But it feels longer...much longer, closer to 3-4 days minimum. Yet I know what I am telling myself is true, I have checked receipts, e-mails, phone messages, my calendar (nearly hourly most of the day). Yesterday happened just yesterday. One day ago. 86,400 seconds ago. 1,440 minutes ago. 24 hours ago...yesterday didn't happen 3-4 days ago.
Let's see how quickly tomorrow comes.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chemotherapy: Cycle One

I apologize for the delay in getting this latest post done, it has been a challenge to find the words and the energy to try and properly sum up what I am experiencing.
I am exhausted yet I have trouble resting, it is a mean double edged sword. My body wants to sleep, to push this all out of myself and wake up refreshed yet I lay there, unable to fall asleep, instead blankly staring at whatever surface is in my field of vision.
It has been a few days since cycle one, week one has completed, I received my fifth dose late Friday night/early Saturday morning. The job of the body is to now flush out all the nastiness, bring the blood levels back up and prepare for cycle two to have its turn.
There are definitely days when it is hard to feel strong and stay strong, I was aware this was going to be a fight, but it is going to be a tougher one that I originally anticipated.

And then I got a good piece of advice this week and I wanted to include it here;

"I think the hardest thing people who have a strong work ethic have to do is to allow themselves to rest. We push ourselves over and through our illnesses to keep doing doing doing and to be productive that we do ourselves a disservice. Even in our play and recreation we go for it and push hard. I have to remind myself that it is OK to occasionally sit on my deck with a book, or to sit and stare at trees with a cat asleep on my lap. As I get older it is easier and easier to do this without feeling guilt, like there is "something I SHOULD be doing", like it is not acceptable to just sit. Brian, you are going to feel like crap. Just allow yourself to feel like crap and know that you are going to get through it. Sit, breathe and find your center and remember it is OK to sit. Your body is doing enough. Take the time to really listen to the lyrics of your favorite songs. In the spring listen to the birds. Listen to the drip of water as the snow melts. Hear spring. Sometimes life is so noisy we miss these things..."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Countdown to Chemo Day 1

Monday February 14, 2011. For most it will be celebrated as Valentine's Day, for me it will be Cycle 1, Day 1. The past few days have been spent taking care of final tests, scans and procedures to prepare me to start chemotherapy. It has been an interesting and exhausting week.
One of the issues I have been dealing with is a progressively worsening back ache because of a tumor mass that presses against my spine. By Wednesday it had morphed itself into a pain something akin to a hot knife being twisted into the base of my back, which in turn sends waves of pain shooting down through my right leg. It would be nice if the pain came and went but at this point it is present close to 24 hours a day.
Wednesday was also the day of "the phone call". The results of my pulmonary function test had come back and the lung tumors were causing some airway obstruction which means I will need a different regimen of chemotherapy drugs so as to not do further lung damage (thankfully, post treatment with a good workout schedule, lung function can be regained). I will no longer be receiving BEP (Bleomycin-Etoposide-Cisplatin), instead I will be receiving VIP (Vinblastine-Ifosfamide-Cisplatin). Along with the drug change I will also now be receiving my regimen as an inpatient instead of outpatient so I will be spending the week in the hospital vs. coming home every afternoon.
Thursday was a day of procedures, a biopsy of my liver and the insertion of one of the most important pieces for my chemotherapy, my Xcela Power Injectable Port (mediport). The mediport is for patient therapies requiring repeated access to the vascular system which will prevent, as a friend put it so well, "shaky Irene" attempting to start an IV on me every day. While the procedures were fairly straight forward they do leave you with the feeling of being punched repeatedly in the side.
Friday was bone scan day, a head to toe imaging of my skeletal system to check for any metastases. The scan itself was very relaxing, I nodded off on the table while they took their images. However, I think the combination of the previous days procedures, sedatives, medicines and the dyes injected for the bone scan were a little more than my body wanted to deal with. Friday turned out to be a pretty rough day with nausea, headache, body aches and a low grade fever, possibly a preview of things to come this next week. It made for a pretty sleepless night.
But I made it through the night and I am bouncing back decently today. I'm not feeling 100%, but I definitely feel better than yesterday. And that is an important lesson for me to keep in the back of my mind. I may feel beaten at times while receiving my chemotherapy, but I am good at bouncing back.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Will Ride Again

The century ride.
100 miles, the marathon of bicycling.
In the past I have trained for and ridden the Philadelphia LiveStrong Challenge because I wanted to push myself, I wanted to see what I was capable of and I wanted to support a worthwhile charity while doing so. I never saw cancer in my future and a piece of me always hoped that my participation in this event could make sure that one day no one saw cancer in their future.
On December 28, 2010 it wasn't about the future anymore, cancer became my present, but I will fight this and I will win. While doing so I will also condition and ready myself to cover 100 miles on my bicycle at the 2011 Philadelphia LiveStrong Challenge, August 20-21, 2011 with a smile on my face, I'm too stubborn not to.
Cancer is my present, but maybe it is also my gift. This is my time to dig deeper, push harder and give more. This is my chance to give back to an organization that is giving so much to me and this is my opportunity to inspire to a level I never dared dream of. I will ride again and it will be for all of you.
Please consider supporting me or joining and/or supporting Team Dougan for the 2011 Philadelphia LiveStrong Challenge.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Clear Head

I was told I need be sure to embrace and celebrate every milestone and that first milestone came yesterday, via a clean MRI of my brain. The cancer has traveled many places in me, but thankfully the brain is not one of them.
Next stop, chemotherapy (with a few small steps on the way). I am currently scheduled for four cycles of BEP (Bleomycin-Etoposide-Cisplatin). Before I can start there are just a handful of tasks to take care of first, they include;
  • Hearing test
  • Pulmonary function test
  • Bone scan
  • Pre-surgical consult
  • Mediport insertion
  • Chemotherapy school (a one on one walk through the treatment rooms and procedures to prepare me for cycle one)
Thankfully, I have a really great Oncology Nurse Case Manager that put together a very detailed to do list for me that listed the contact number for every department I needed to visit to schedule these as well as a date that everything needed to be completed by. In addition to all the great support from family and friends a really good medical team is making this process so much smoother and less stressful.