Monday, August 31, 2009

Making Peace With The Bandage

There's a bandage over the spot where they removed the port on Thursday. I have to keep an eye on it for any bleeding and stuff. It's really not something I enjoy doing, but so far, so good. Due to the tenderness of the area, I had to sleep on my back the first couple of nights. Those of you who have had serious wounds, surgery, etc. are saying, "Cry me a river!" I normally sleep (and sleep well) on my right side. Combining the sleep position with weaning myself off of the sleeping pills, made for some interesting sleep. Then Saturday night.....I was able to lean onto my right side and sleep well until.....Sunday AM I was awakened by the sound of silence at 6:50AM. I normally run a ceiling fan and a window AC unit on hotter evenings and neither of them were functioning when I woke up due to a local power outage.

It was already an exciting morning as it was the first time since mid July that I was permitted to leave the house and go get a Sunday paper on my own. Which I did. My liberation and freedom is coming in small doses for now, but I'll take it. I brought the paper home and in the midst of reading it, the power came back on.

All is well. Clinic visit tomorrow and hopefully some good news to come from that.

"When Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
When Irish hearts are happy,
All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, they steal your heart away."

Lyrics - Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr. Music - Enerst Ball.

Friday, August 28, 2009

At Least It Was Memorable

Got the PICC-Quinton port removed yesterday. The procedure SHOULD have taken about 5-15 minutes, but I guess my body decided against it. The line itself was implanted pretty deep and also there was scar tissue that required a little extra work in the removal. I took the formation of the scar tissue as a sign that my body was healthy and did a good job of repairing itself after the port was inserted back in early July. The procedure took about 45 minutes and required the assistance of a second person to remove it. I came out of it without a port that I don't have to look at anymore and that I don't have to flush every night. I'm greatful for that.

From my clinic appointment, the nurse practitioner told me I was coming along well. After yesterday, I am down to two medications (one that I take daily and one that I take on Mondays and Tuesdays only). My next appointment is on Tuesday and I will be allowed to drive myself to that appointment. In addition, pending insurance company approval, I may be released back to my regular oncologist who I will look forward to seeing as well as the rest of the gang that works with her. I'm not so sure they will be looking forward to it, but they are good actors and will make me feel welcome to be back with them.

I'm still on "house arrest" but I know that if I remain on good behavior a little while longer, payoff day will come soon. I do have questions about re-immunizations and the threat of the H1N1 thing and will get those answers from my regular oncologist. When I know those answers, I will fill you in.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

On Tap For Today

Some blood work and the removal of one of the port lines (i.e. the one with the two lines sticking out of the upper right chest area). Say goodbye and good riddance to them. I never really made peace with them, but did learn to tolerate them. They have only been in since early July. The reason I did learn to tolerate them is that they prevented me from having to get an IV for every chemo, blood, or platelet infusion I required and also they avoided me having to be stuck in a vein for blood work.

All that will be left is my power port and the time frame for it's removal will be a discussion with my regular oncologist at some point in the next several weeks. There will most likely be some scans to determine if the alien still exists or has gone into hiding. The scan results will determine the schedule for the removal of the power port.

On having a good attitude.....I have been credited for having a positive outlook through all of this and was giving it a bit of thought last night. All of the professionals I have encountered have said that having a good attitude through this is essential to recovery. I thought about the folks that have fought their own aliens and might not have had the outcome for which they hoped. In my mind, they didn't lose. As long as they LIVED every day, they won. Maybe, instead of using, "And in his dying days," one could use, "And in his final LIVING days."

I'm just sayin.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Getting There

Still feeling good 3 weeks after I was released from the hospital. Playing by the rules to keep myself from getting any infections, etc.

Let me tell you, the next time you even think about saying, "I wouldn't mind having some time off from work to just sit around, watch TV and movies all day," you should stop yourself before you finish the thought. Even though I am able to do some work, the days get pretty long.

Unless, it was like yesterday. What started as a day that the only thing scheduled was a friend coming over in the evening to do some cleaning (and of course a very fun visit), turned into a day of fun visits by several people. Typically, I regard Tuesday as a useless day in the week. Monday starts the week. Wednesday is "hump day." Thursday is the day before Friday and Friday. Who doesn't like Friday? But yesterday was a great day because of all the visits and thanks to all who came by. Again, the visits are as good as some of the medicines I've been taking. The reason they are good is that when you are released from the hospital, as the information sheets from the hospital state, you feel a little vulnerable. Especially the first couple of days after you no longer have caregivers around for 24 hours a day. Even though you look forward to getting your independence back and work towards being able to do all the things you were able to do in the past, there is still the anxiety of being unattended. I think a lot of that has to do with the axiom of "It takes 30 days to change a habit." Prior to last week, I had spent more than 30 days being attended to and when that dynamic changed, it required a new set of habits. Good news: Getting there and am getting annoyed that there still are some things I can't do even though I feel like I can.

This too, shall pass. I am closer to the end of all this than I am the beginning. First and goal!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stepping Up

Blood work numbers continue to climb. All of them. No discussion yet about time frames for getting back to some of the "normal" activities, but every day is one day closer.

Some great stuff from yesterday: One of the people that had stem cells collected at the same time I did was in the clinic yesterday. It was the first time I had seen him since we had our stem cells collected. He looked great! On top of his fight, he told me that while he was in the hospital, his 9 year old son had a brain aneurysm and was also admitted to MCV a day after he had been admitted for his stem cell treatment. His son was transferred to a hospital in Charlottesville, VA for rehab and is due to be released in a day or so. Yesterday was the most upbeat I had seen the father since I met him almost 2 months ago. Good stuff!

I am scheduled to go back to clinic on Thursday and as a part of that visit, I will have my access port that MCV used removed! It might be a little uncomfortable for a day or two, but it beats having them tubes hanging out of me. Can't wait!

Monday, August 24, 2009

True Story

The final Sunday that I was in the hospital, two friends of mine from Apex NC came to visit me. On their way home, near Petersburg VA, they were passing a car towing a trailer full of furniture. As they approached the car, a couch sitting on the trailer came off the trailer and "skated" across their lane in front of their car. My friend said she lightly tapped on the brakes and let the couch pass in front of them and come to a stop in the lane to the right of them. My friend said she stayed pretty calm about it during and afterwards. She credits the fact that she is a breast cancer survivor and things like that don't get to her as much anymore. She said the real shame was that it was a really nice couch.

I gotta say that I can understand my friend's outlook on things. I told someone the other week that chemo also removed my stress cells and I really don't have time for stress anymore in my life. Someone else asked me about how I hope to maintain what they perceived as a different attitude in me. I told them that I would be under a 5 year attitude adjustment plan as I would be monitored for the next 5 years for recurrence of cancer. I believe having an attitude of not giving it permission to come back will be a big factor.

Today at 1PM I have another clinic appointment. Here's to hoping that I will be given permission to start driving again and that I will be able to drive myself to clinic appointments. Other than that, there aren't a whole lot of other places I'll be allowed to go by myself. Also, I should hear something this week about the time frame for the removal of the port that the folks at MCV access (known as a Quinton Port). The time frame for the removal of the Power Port (the port that was used for all of the previous chemo treatments) will be established by my regular oncologist.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Challenging The Bunny

My blood work may not be the equivalent of the Energizer Bunny's strength, but they continue to climb. Platelets are reaching the point where I would be permitted to drive locally. Next week, they will start scheduling me for clinic twice weekly (i.e. if all things continue to improve). I may go sit in the car this weekend and start it up, just for old times sake.

Today, Mr. Bo Baker got his last scheduled chemo treatment and then headed for the beach with his parents. Lucky dog. Jay, who I've worked with in community theatre here in Richmond, needs to be kept in your thoughts and prayers as he is having some complications. A client of mine in DC told me the other day about a friend of his who was recently diagnosed with a form of lymphoma. They are waiting for tests and results to come back to determine how to move forward.

Skippy news: As part of his job, he is now in Baghdad for the next year. He will get to come home every few months, but will be away from his family and friends for that length of time. He'll appreciate any good thoughts you will send his way. I wasn't able to toast his departure, but I look forward to toasting his return.

There is a lady at clinic who was getting stem cells collected the same time I had mine collected. The second day of collection, she said to me, "So, you are a Non-Hodgkins victim also." I told her I wasn't a victim of anything. One of my life creeds is, "I don't pick fights, but you shouldn't pick one with me." My clinic friend has had a tougher fight with Non-Hodgkins then myself as she was diagnosed in December 2007 and had a recurrence. As a person being treated for a similar cancer, when you hear that kind of information, you get a little nervous about the future. However, every day you wake up is another day of life.

I don't know what's ahead physically tomorrow, the day after, next week, next month, etc. I know what's ahead mentally. Trust me, I will out drum the battery operated rabbit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Today's Stuff

Just got home from clinic. Good news today. Met with one of the fellows and a doctor and they went over my blood work history (including today's blood work). They said I am progressing nicely and they are pleased. I had a concern about my white counts dipping while other counts were going to where they needed to be. They said that the white counts are stabilizing and that it is a result of my body taking over the manufacturing of white counts (they were being stimulated with chemistry while I was in the hospital) and also the other counts are being produced by my own body. They took me off the anti-fungal medication (which is great, because it is really bitter if it lingers on the taste buds)and I am only on a couple of medications right now.

I am allowed to be "Home Alone" without the need for a 24 hour caregiver, but will call the clinic immediately if something feels wrong. I'm still not allowed to do the laundry, vacuuming and dusting thing. I'm sending out an e-mail today to folks who have mentioned they would be willing to assist with that. If you don't get an e-mail from me, shoot me one back and I'll add you to the list.

I'm still a couple weeks away from being able to drive. That is strictly based on platelet counts, but I'm getting there.

Even better, the port that is in me that has the tubes sticking out of me will likely be removed by next week at the latest. That will only leave the "power port" in me (the one that is entirely under my skin) and that removal date will be set by my regular oncologist.

It's amazing what a good clinic visit can do for the mind.

Monday, August 17, 2009

In This Case... news is good news. Not much going on blood work wise. Went in to clinic yesterday (Sunday) and counts are holding or improving. No where near where they ultimately need to be but the comment from the nurse was, "Your labs look good, so you are out of here and we don't need to see you until Wednesday." Yet another two day suspension from clinic school. Right now, the whole purpose of going into clinic is to monitor blood counts. I haven't needed any supplemental stuff while I am there. It's kind of odd to feel as good as I feel and know that I am susceptible to any and all infections. That's why I'm playing by the rules.

I'm eating well and have had no yak-attacks since last Wednesday since the physician's assistant told me to eat smaller portions spaced throughout the day, rather than three larger meals. It pains me to not be able to peel my own bananas or kiwi fruits. I have to have them peeled for me. I do like tropical fruit. I think tropical fruit is God's apology for broccoli.

Still not allowed to drive, do my own laundry (although I can pull it out of the dryer and put it away),wash dirty dishes (although I can empty the dishwasher and put things away), do dusting or vacuuming, etc. It won't be long now, but for now, I will play by the rules.

Friday is Bo's last chemo and he and his family is looking forward to that milestone. Hunter had his chemo port removed last week. That means all of his scans came back cancer free.

Good stuff all around.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Got Expelled

Went to clinic today. Numbers are still heading up. White counts aren't far from the minimum normal level. Should be there by next week. Platelets are over a third of the way to the minimum normal level. Things are trending well. The reason I was "expelled" was that I get the next TWO days off and the next appt. isn't until Sunday. After that, they will schedule successive appts. They even cut my infusion of magnesium off today as they were getting a little backed up and they said I didn't need the complete supplement anyway. Have a great day and see you later!

Also found out today that the lines they put in me at MCV for IV/Chemo/Stem Cell infusion/etc. will be removed sooner than later. They could be out by the end of the month. I was surprised. I thought it would be sometime in September. That's good news to me!

When I was released, I asked the doctor for any parting words of wisdom. He said "Keep your head in the game and drink plenty of fluids. It will go a long way towards your success." I think that's a life lesson.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Won't Be Attending Any Smorgasboards Anytime Soon

You'd think that after yesterday's report that the white counts are bumping back up on their own and the platelets are moving up nicely, one should be able to treat themselves to a double banana smoothie. After all, there is potassium in bananas and that was something that was showing lower levels in yesterday's blood work.

Well....when the body speaks, one must listen. It says it wants a banana smoothie, but it doesn't specify the volume. It was pretty good going down, but I should have only had a half a banana smoothie. I may start subscribing to the "small meals, 5-6 times a day" thing. The stomach appreciates it and so does the rest of me.

Fun times in cancer learning land. Feeling good today. May even put my stereo system back together today that I took apart so the rug cleaners could move the audio cabinet.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

And On The First Day.....

...of the week, I get another break and don't have to go to clinic tomorrow. Next day at clinic is Tuesday. Excellent! White counts dipped some more, but are still at twice the level they need to be to stay out of the hospital. They dip as a result of the growth stimulant drug being totally out of the system and now it's up to my own body to rebuild those. It will happen. Platelets are scooting up and are 17 points away from a level that allows me to resume some limited physical activities. Today, they didn't need to pump anything in me, so that's two successive clinic days that haven't required any supplements. That's a good trend, also.

For the record, just like the 10th floor staff, the clinic folks are just as fun to be around, so being there and cutting up with them is the best part of clinic days.

I hope your days are as good as a non-clinic day.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I don't need to go to clinic tomorrow and won't go back until Sunday. Good stuff! White counts are still taking their dip due to coming off the growth stimulant. The amount of dip is within the expectations of the doctors, so it's all good. The platelets are continuing to creep up, which is a good sign. Could mean no need for platelet or whole blood infusions down the road, but I'm at peace with whatever has to happen. Didn't require any supplemental stuff today. The time was spent waiting for blood counts to come back. Wasn't too bad.

One of the nurses told me today that I would require all of my "baby vaccinations" when this is all done. That's interesting, but not outside the realm of believability.

Haven't heard anything more about the patient whose son was having a hard time. I plan to get some of that info on Sunday.

See ya!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Non "Science Fiction - Double Feature"

Posting twice today as I wanted to crow a little bit. Went to clinic today and things are holding in there. White counts dipped a little bit (well within a normal level), but the platelets have nudged up a little bit. "You can't always get what you want.... get what you need."-The Rolling Stones (Ain't it amazing the theology one can find in rock and roll?).

The big news is that one of the nurses told me that the amount of time it took from my transplantation to release was a record. Don't know if that's true, but I took it for the mental steroid it was intended to be.

I'm scheduled for clinic on a daily basis for the next week and I'll post after I get home from clinic visits if there is anything to share. If I don't, then there really isn't anything interesting to share...or, I may require an overnight observation at the hospital and won't have internet access until I am released. I'm spoiled with a good internet connection here at home. I am not taking my laptop back down there for the sake of the internet connection, with which my laptop does not care to graft.

Title Quotes: Richard O'Brien

In Spite Of His "Other" Song...

...John Denver had it right about the "Hey, it's good to be back home again" song. Got home yesterday afternoon somewhere before 3PM. Was a little out of sorts because I felt like I had stepped into a house that I didn't recognize because I didn't know that it could be so clean and clean smelling. I thought I did a pretty good job of keeping it tidy, but I was taken to school on what a clean house really should look like. Wow!

There was some anxiety in the evening last night as I had a bit of a yak attack. I think it came from dehydration as I didn't drink a lot of water when I first got home yesterday. Once the attack hit, and the drugs kicked in, and I got re hydrated, it settled down. Had my heart set on eating some real food for dinner last night, but that didn't happen. I did put away an oatmeal raisin cookie before I went to bed without a problem. Looking forward to breakfast this morning. I will tell the clinic folks about it today and we'll deal with it. The doctor did say yesterday that the best thing I could do for myself to continue the recovery is that I make sure to keep the fluids in me (64-80 ounces/day) and that will help fight off any infection. Here's a tip for you....same rule applies to everyone. It's cheap, preventive medicine. There are a lot worse things that you could have to ingest to fight off infections and water doesn't seem like a bad alternative.

See you around..........

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's On!

Important stuff first.....Hunter, down in Manteo NC had scans the other day and the scans showed....NOTHING! He is considered to be cancer free right now. As if there wasn't enough fun to be had in the Outer Banks.... Bo, is coming close to the end of his treatments, but with that comes the "What ifs?" It's the same thing as when I talked the other week about being in the field with blue sky surrounding you and on the horizon... Keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Today, looks like release from the hospital day. The white counts continue to jump up. AS of last night's blood work, the blood work shows that the stem cells have moved back home and are starting to repaint the walls. I'm feeling good and that's what they are looking for. So...tonight, I'd should be sleeping in my own bed. Ahhhh!

Then, I'll be back to solid internet connection. When I am home, feel free to come visit. The rules of "don't apologize if you can't come visit because you aren't feeling well, or think you have been exposed to something" will still apply, but just give me a call if you think you would like to come by and we'll go from there. During the days for awhile, I'll probably be at clinic, but should be around in the evenings. My home phone: 353-4738 and the address is: 10221 Merrigan Road, Richmond VA 23235.

If you are ever in the MCV area, buy a small bag of chocolates (they love York Peppermint Patties), and deliver them the the BMTU unit on the 10th floor of the North Hospital. Tell them "Greg sent me." You'll make friends for life.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Boys Are Back In Town

Last night's blood results showed some pretty upward dramatic movement in the white blood counts and platelets trending up. It's a sign that the stem cells are starting to graft and do their job. I look forward to the day that they get to play as hard as they are working right now. What that means for a release date is that I will wait for doctor's rounds today and to hear "You ready to get out of here in a couple of days?" I'll be patient and will not push to be released before it's the right time. Now that the stem cells are doing their job, must protect the ego.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Would Have Lost That Bet

One of the caregivers and I had a conversation yesterday about where my white counts would be last night. We were way off! I will tell you that they spiked dramatically! However, that doesn't mean I'm out of here. They need to monitor to see if the spike was chemically induced (by possibly withholding the growth factor drug for a day) or if things are starting to percolate in there. I did have to get platelets last night after setting a "personal best" for low platelet counts.

The doctor did start talking a little bit about how many more days it could possibly before release and it's still within the original time frame. When you start feeling well and numbers get bumping up, you get a little hopeful, but patience has to kick in. Otherwise, if I'm released too soon, as the doctor said, "It's a blow to the ego to be released and then have to be readmitted for observation." I'll go with that.

What's up for me after I'm released and how will I have to surrender independence? I will have folks staying with me for awhile to keep their eye on me. How long that will be, I have no idea. Should have a better idea about that somewhere in the second week after I am released. In addition, I will not be allowed to go to the grocery store or anything like that for awhile, so I will probably need people to go shopping for me. Makes me remember early in the year when I got excited about being able to go buy a mop and bucket on my own when I had been restricted from that for awhile.

Speaking of mops and buckets....there was quite the army at my house yesterday cleaning it from top to bottom. To each person I spoke to afterwards,(I'm sure they would have been doing something else yesterday..can't say I blame them), the number one thing they all spoke about was how cool it was to watch them all work together and how proud they were of what they had done.

Write this down...."Greg Frazee is SPEECHLESS with gratitude."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Back From The Dark Side Of The Moon

Whoo-weeh! Internet connection this morning! The internet connection has been pretty spotty and cantankerous down here all week, so I am taking a waking moment to get caught up.

Feeling pretty good! Blood counts are the key indicator for the moving ahead process. They have been watching them on a daily basis. There are numbers that need to be in line for me to be released including, and very importantly, the white blood counts that need to be at a specific level so I can have some resistance to infections, etc. As of last night, they have started to bump back up. Other numbers (hemoglobin, magnesium, calcium, and many other cousins) are holding their own and looking good. I should have an idea sometime Sunday late morning as far as the continued trending of the numbers and the impact on a release date.

All of that said, my energy level is very good and I walked in the hallway more today than I have since being admitted (Thanks to having plenty of Gipsy Kings tunes in my I-Pod). Energy level is a sign they are watching, also. Of course, knowing that time left in here is short, perks one up a bit. I will say it again, there are great people in here and they have done a great job with the care.

One other note, your visits are still welcome and appreciated. Feel free to contact me on my room phone (804-649-5798 )if you think you would like to come visit. If you are coming via any kind of public transportation (planes, trains, busses), they recommend that you hold off visiting until my numbers spike up a little higher. You may not be feeling bad, but you may pick up a bug from someone else that might be lingering around. Most importantly, no need to apologize if you don't come to visit I take it as you are looking out for me for that very reason.

Don't be concerned if there aren't any more posts until I am released and back to a consistent internet connection. It just means I can't get on the internet down here to post.

Then, on to more pearls!