Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Happy Things In Life

After this past week's "Debbie Downer" post I felt like it was a good time to reflect on some of the great things that I have in my life. I feel like the last blog post was sad and that my life isn't always great which isn't necessarily true. I don't if I have been able to thank all of the people that have been so wonderful in Jenny and I's life. This disease hasn't been the worst thing to happen to me it has been the best and it is all to the people I wanted to thank below.

It first starts the girl that I married last April 10. I couldn't have picked a better thing to do with my life, and a better person to enjoy the rest of my life with. Jenny has been my rock throughout this process. She has had her bad days but that is expected for a person in her shoes. She has to sit and watch some crazy things that happen or have happened to her husband. And to find out this news about her fiance as we are 3 months before out wedding had to completely shock her and have her ask "Why Me?" but she never did and hasn't to this day. She has been tough and told me things that I don't want to hear and don't always agree with, but she has been by my side the whole time. I am truly blessed that she choose to put up with my stubborn self for the rest of her life and that she really did take the "in sickness" part of our vows so seriously. She keeps her smile on her face and I love her more and more everyday.

I feel that I have the best parents on this planet. They have been there for most of the good and bad times since last Feb. It is a hard thing to see your parents cry over something that is happening to you. I hear all the time that they wish they could do more. But little do they know they have don't everything they possibly can and to that I am thankful and couldn't love them more. They have been so caring and helpful to Jenny and I, and I don't know how I will ever repay them. I love you both very much.

Last May my brother and his wife Haley brought a beautiful young girl into this world. She immediately took away the attention from everything going on with me and put it on her. This has made the past year so much easier for me. And I don't blame anyone, she is much cutier than I could ever be. To have a brother like I do doesn't happen very often. He doesn't like to talk directly with me about what goes on but is in constant contact with Jenny and my parents. We have been best friends since he was born in 1984. He knows me inside and out and how to keep my mind of what is going on and does a good job of it. And to Haley I am so happy to have you be one of my sisters and I am amazed you are able to put up with Steven. Kudos to you.

The "Clanton Clan". I can remember the Friday at the hospital when we found out it was Stage III and the next day the Clantons came right up to the hospital to be with Jenny even though she kept saying she didn't need anything. They have such great family morals and I am very blessed to be apart of the "Clan". There have been times that have been pretty rough on Jenny and I and they are always right there when we need them. My brother and sister-in-law, even though they live in Columbia, constantly show their compassion and support for Jenny and I. I guess that I am saying how lucky I am to have married in to such a loving, close-nit, and compassionate family. I love the whole "Clan" dearly.

I also want to thank the rest of our families. They might not be able to to make it to every event or know absolutely everything that goes on but they try their best and have been extemely supportive to Jenny and I. They all keep in constant contact with us and have all offered to step in whenever we may need them. That includes our little pup Maddy who is always willing to distract me from whats going on in my life by just being so cute.

The Brightlife crew. When I first heard the idea I was skeptical that the idea would take off in any way or fashion, not that I thought they couldn't do it, I just didn't think there would be the interest. What this group of people has been able to do in a 5 month period is breath-taking. The help and time that these people have put into 3 different and amazing events is simply humbiling. Originally I was not really close with some of the people that are associated with this group but they treated me as a best friend and couldn't be happier to help Jenny and myself, and that can't show more of what type of people you all are. All of these people are so incredibly selfless and I couldn't be more appreciative. So thank you thank you thank you for everything that y'all have done.

Bent.....I mean Lee and Associates. The group of people that I get the chance to go to work with every day is the best group I could ask for. Even though there are a few Tigers and a Bulldog in the group they are great people. For them to understand my situation and work their schedules around mine has been such a blessing and shows the type of loyalty we have within our company. And to single 2 people out is not fair but it's my blog and I will do what I please. First to Richard: the advice and the encouragement I recieve everyday from my "office mate" and "life coach" has been a blessing to me. He has been around the block and has tons of knowledge not only about work but about life situations has helped me immensley. So Thank You. Second but not last is to Randall. I can remember walking into his room after my first Colonoscopy back in Jan. 2010 and breaking down telling him the news. He has become a great friend and mentor to me for the past few years and the look in his eyes that day made me feel like a second son to him and that has gone a long way for the respect that I have for him. They could have let me go for knowing what the road ahead of my entails but they didn't and has stuck by me throughout the process. They have all gone above and beyond and this just shows why we have such a close group and Lee. I love everyone there and I am very lucky to be able to work with y'all each day.

Jenny's company EP has done some amazing things for not only Jenny and I but for Brightlife as well. They have taken the whole Brightlife idea and just ran with it. They have put together 2 great fundraisers and I couldn't thank them more for that. They have been extremely generous to let Jenny stay at home to work with me during my 3 days of treatment. It has made the whole chemo process so much easier on both of us. Jenny's team is always willing to step in whenever she has to be away for stuff with me, even when its been a last minute thing. The HR & IT departments have made the whole process so much easier by helping her to get set up to work from home and the Senior Management team has gone above and beyond with their support and concern.

And lastly to all of our friends which we consider family. The outpouring of support has been the most humbling thing of my life. I never knew how much people cared for Jenny and I. I would love to single people out but I wouldn't want anyone's feeling hurt. Thank you so much for everything that you have done for us. We love you all so much.


A Day In The Life

So now that I am 3 days away from getting a little break in my treatments, I figured I would change things up a little and go in-depth about what it is like while going through a treatment. I hope this gives people a little bit better understanding of what happens for 3 days every other week.

On Wednesday I wake up at 8:00 and get into the shower knowing that this will be my last shower until Friday mid-morning. I don't shower only because it is way too much of a hassle to try and get a shower with a 2 foot IV chord and chemo pump hanging over the top of the shower. Jenny and I then get into the car at 8:30 (hopefully to be on time) to get to the Cancer Center by 9:00 for a treatment. Jenny 9 times out of 10 will drive because there is no way that I can drive with all of the drugs that I am on by the time we leave. We arrive and I get into my chair and set up my laptop, drink, candy, and pills that I take while there. I start with 2 different IV bags of pre-treatment drugs. These are to help with delayed nausea. These usually take around 3o minutes a piece to go through. I then will take a Claritin to help prevent an allergic reaction to the Erbitux. This is next and takes around 1 hour to go through. Then I get a drug pushed through very slowly through my IV line that will help my stomach not get upset from the actual Chemo drugs which is called Atropine which feel like someone is beating my chest with a hammer over and over again. I then will get the actual Chemo called FOLFIRI. This takes an hour and a half to go through. Once that is over I wait for the nurse from Intramed to bring my pump, get me hooked up to my portable pump and its back to the house.

While getting all of these drugs I am trying my best to keep up with work or finishing up with anything that is left over from the day before. I mentioned earlier that I keep candy next to me while I am there and that is to help with the awful taste that I get in the back of my throat. (I am gagging right now just thinking about it) I usually get a special treat of the most amazing donuts each week from the Lewis' and a couple of people that read this have gotten to have one of these amazing donuts. I try to each as much as I can from the time that I wake up to the time that I get back to my house after the treatment, because once I get home I can not eat until I get unhooked on Friday. And to clarify it is not because I am not hungry, it's because I cannot force anything down without feeling like it is going to come right back up. (This goes back to why I have candy with me at all times)

Now that I have gotten back to my house I am usually extremely sleepy from the Ativan that I took at the Cancer Center. I will take about a 2 hour nap once I get home. I keep my phone next to me just in case work calls and most of the time I can wake up to answer it. I'll wake up and try to see what phone calls that I have missed while I was knocked out cold and usually will take another Ativan because it will be way past my 4 hour interval. I try to stay on the Ativan all the way up to Friday morning and I will take one when I wake up and then try to get through the rest of the day without one. After checking the phone and my email I will usually go out into the living room and sit with Jenny for about 30 minutes (usually to watch Modern Family) before I am back in the bed laying down because I start to not feel too good. At around 7:00 she will make me a smoothie (which is the only thing I can stomach) and I will have that and lay in bed for the rest of the night.

When Thursday rolls around I will usually wake up at around 9:30 after tossing and turning all night because the 2ft IV chord I told you about earlier gets wrapped around me from turing all night long. For some reason that is one of the things that makes me gag even several days after I am finished with my treatment. Once I wake up I will check my work email and check in with work to see what I can help out with that day. Jenny will make me my 2nd smoothie of the round about an hour after I get up. Of the 3 days that I am on treatment this is the hardest. I think that it is because it is the longest day that I have to be hooked up. Once I have been up for about 2 hours or so my Atiavan usually kicks in and I start to get sleepy again, and will take about a 2 hour nap. I usually dose off about twice on Thursday from the Atiavan. I dont know if it really works that good for nausea or it just knocks me out so I dont think about it. Once again on this day I have no desire to eat anything and will feel the nausea effects even more. I have not thrown up since the first round this time but that doesn't mean that I don't gag at least 10 times during each treatment. I try to brush my tongue to get the nasty taste out of my mouth as many times as possible but the gagging keeps me from doing it too much. By the end of Thursday I can't wait for Friday morning to come fast enough, to finally have the round come to an end.

Friday is the best day every other week for me. I will wake up and take an Atiavan first thing in the morning and try to not take another one for the rest of the day. I will feel the nausea a bit but I am so excited to finally get unhooked that it doesn't faze me to much. The taste is still in my mouth and will be until mid to late afternoon on Saturday. I just try to eat foods with a lot of flavor and drink either Mnt. Dew or Dr. Pepper. These seem to help only because of how sweet they are and because they are so sweet I'll only drink them while I'm on tratment. By Saturday I have most of my strength back and on Sunday I am pretty much back to normal.

I try not to complain too much while on these drugs and not let anyone know that those 3 days are pretty rough, but the fact is that those days are not fun but it is something that I have to deal with and just move on. Now, comparing what I have to go through to some of the other people that I see on a bi-weekly basis I do have it pretty easy. I think seeing some of the other people struggling during their treatments or seeing one of the younger kids struggling to walk out to the parking lot has to be one of the toughest things about this process. Nothing is fair and nothing is easy for someone going through this. There is a constant fear of what will happen next that is always there. The mind is a very powerful thing so that is why I try to keep a smile on my face and continue to tell myself that "it's not that bad". Now to end this on a positive note since I have been a "Debbie Downer" throughout this whole blog. Learning I have this disease was one of the worst days of my life, and dealing with it everyday is a struggle but I have been so lucky to get this because it has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people. I have 2 amazing nurses at the Cancer Center in Lynn and Stephanie. They make the process every other Wed. much easier to deal with. They have become great friends to Jenny and I. Dr. Edenfield is a wonderful and such a positive person. When we found out things were starting to look a little better you would have thought he just won the lottery. And lastly, some of the other patients that I have been able to meet. I am not going to name names bc of HIPPA rules but we have started a friendship that I would have never been able to have without this disease. I still stay in-contact with some of them via Facebook and emails. I would have never thought that getting this disease would make me the lucky person.

I hope that I didn't scare anyone or provide too many details, but I figured some people might want to hear a little bit about what goes on. I can't thank everyone enough for all of the support and prayers over these past 5 months. Like I said the process is tough but support of friends and family make it all worth it. I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day Weekend.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

1 To Go

I am sorry that I haven't written anything in a while. I figured that people were tired of reading my posts and they could use a little bit of Jenny in their life. I have finished with 11 treatments so far this year for a total of 23 over the past year, and will start my last one a week from Wednesday. I don't want to confuse anyone but this will just be the last treatment for a little while. I am getting a short break from chemo and will start back again hopefully in a couple of months. It will be so nice to have a break from the treatments even if it ends up being only for a couple of weeks.

They didn't give me the Erbitux this past week because the rash on my face was still a little bit too much. The treatment this time wasn't too bad and I was able to catch up on some sleep Wed. - Fri. We didn't do a CEA test this past week so I don't know how that number is doing. I talked with Dr. Edenfield and I think that we will do another CT Scan sometime in either June or July depending on what my CEA number does over the next couple of weeks.

This weekend was actually kind of busy for Jenny and I. On Saturday morning we got up and went and watched Ern's daughter Emma in her dance recital. She did an amazing job and was so cute up there. After is was over Jenny and I went out to eat with Ant before going over to Josh and John's house for John's birthday. After hanging out with them for a little while we came home and I was able to crash after a long Saturday.

Yesterday I got up and I went and played golf with Martin, David, and Drew. We headed up to Willow Creek and got stuck behind a tournament but it was still a lot of fun. It was a good weekend but it was long and tiring.

Today it was back to work and then over to Steven and Haley's for Lillian's 1st birthday party. She has gotten to be so cute and is talking a lot now. We had a great dinner and all enjoyed watching Lillian play with all of her new toys.

I hope that everyone has a great week.


Monday, May 9, 2011

We Are Slackers

We've both been more than a little slack recently. First of all, here is the link (finally) to the pictures from Tee It Up for Tim. Katie Blaker did an amazing job and actually got these to me awhile ago but please see the title of this post for a reference as to what happened with that. We'd love to add in any that you all took so feel free to send those along as well.

Many of you have asked how things are going and you'd actually know if we would've actually updated this thing like we were supposed to. The last treatment went pretty well. Dr. Edenfield gave Tim Erbitux instead of Vectibix this time to see if that would help with the rash. We thought all was good until the end of last week when his rash came raging back. We're still taking it as a good sign of the work that it is doing in Tim's body (helping mark the cancer cells so his immune system can take them out). The rest of the treatment wasn't really terrible. He slept the majority of the time but did end up getting sick enough to run a high-enough fever on Saturday night for us to have to call the cancer center and let them know (which for him is an astounding 100.5). We got lucky in that his fever broke around midnight and he felt well enough to go play golf the next day. I'm sure he would've still been desparately ill had we needed to do some yard work though...

Speaking of yard work...we did end up doing some last week and I ended up contracting poison oak on the back of one of my legs. It looks eeriely similar to Tim's rash so we used it as an opportunity to ask his oncologist if he was really sure that Tim's rash wasn't contagious. Dr. Edenfield's face was priceless as his observed my leg asking if it itched. Unfortunately Tim couldn't hold out the joke long enough to really make it worthwhile but we did get Dr. Edenfield for just a minute.

No CEA tests this week but Tim's was down enough to barely qualify within the "normal" range the last time it was checked. We are so grateful for that but are always just waiting for it to spike again. For now Tim only has 2 more treatments and will then go onto an Erbitux only treatment until his CEA starts to trend back up again. We're really praying that we can extend that for as long as possible in order for his bone marrow (and for us) to get a break from chemo that we really could use right now.

Otherwise that is about it for us, he starts Round 11 on Wed and we're planning on staying in for a low-key weekend. Hope you all are enjoying the warm weather and have a great week.