Friday, May 30, 2008

5 hours

That's how long Mike's chemo treatment will take Tuesday. We got a tour of the room and it doesn't look like a fun place. It's cramped, crowded and cold. There are about 15 recliners in a U-shape, and on the day we were there they were filled with old people. Old sick people. It was heartbreaking, and it didn't seem like Mike would fit in there...

So we're trying to figure out some things that will make the place more bearable and help the time fly by. We've got some books and magazines packed and we're allowed to take snacks.
But I've been thinking about downloading some cancer-kicking music on my iPhone. Something really aggressive and angry. So far we've got Machine Head by Bush, Kashmir by Led Zeppelin, Remedy by Black Crowes and Keep Yourself Alive by Queen.
I'm taking suggestions.

We'll probably take the portable DVD player so we can watch a movie. Hey, we never get to do that anymore now that we have a little one in the house.

We're looking forward to our weekend -- it's Mike's birthday. He's 52 (but don't tell anyone). We've got a shuttle launch, Marina is coming in and we're going to get to see Lisa and Madison for a bit on Sunday.
So everyone have a good couple of days and I'll write on Tuesday to let you know how things went.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A date with chemo

June 3
9 a.m.
MIMA Cancer Center
That's when it starts.

For 5 hours next Tuesday, Mike will have a steady stream of two cancer-killing drugs running through his system while I sit next to him and visually picture the tumor melting away. That's what the doctor said could happen -- the ideal result -- is for the tumor in his neck to melt away. If this cancer could be cured by sheer will and determination, it would be gone by the end of the month...

We met with Mike's oncologist here in Melbourne today -- Dr. Jim Neel. He pretty much concurred with the opinion from the Moffitt Cancer Center but he'll be adding a third chemo drug to Round 2.
He told us that while most people with this cancer don't survive a year, Mike has a lot of things going in his favor and believes he could respond well to the chemo. We learned this is a Stage IV cancer, but that's pretty much the norm for carcinoma of unknown primary.

We are eager to get started on chemo but nervous about its side effects and effectiveness.
Dr. Neel told us there are miracles all the time in his clinic and we should start thinking positive thoughts.

So that's what we're doing and we hope you'll keep sending your positive thoughts our way too.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Summer's here

Actually, it's here all the time in Florida. But this weekend, we got the pool ready, bought a new patio umbrella, went to the beach and had a barbecue outside. So now it feels official.

Check out our bathing beauty at Cocoa Beach on Monday. Julia had so much fun. It was the first time we've really gone to the beach since she started walking. And she went everywhere. She splashed in the surf, walked with mama and dada along the beach, played in the sand and screamed bloody murder when it was time to leave. Oh my goodness. You should have seen us trying to get that girl to the car -- wailing and flailing all over the place. And getting the sand off -- now that was a good time. But so worth these cute pictures.

Oh, and auntie Marina, we bought some cool looking appletini mix for your visit next weekend, but it was so tempting that Mike and I thought we would test it out, and well, we'll have to go buy some more. So cheers, Marina. See you soon.

Up next for us, is an appointment tomorrow with Mike's oncologist here in Melbourne. He should have the report from the doctors in Tampa. So I guess we'll see what he has to say and go from there.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Some hope and a big if

We're back from Tampa where we met with a specialist who reviewed Mike's case and made some recommendations. On the drive over, Mike and I said we just hoped to hear something positive, just one thing. Our biggest fear was that they would tell us there was nothing that could be done and we should just go home and get our affairs in order.
But they didn't...

They told us that Mike stands a better chance than most at fighting this stupid disease. It's not curable, the doctor said, but he has had patients who have lived many years with this kind of cancer. He said the fact that Mike is healthy, young and isn't having symptoms all play in his favor. We celebrated our small victory with some wings and a beer at Hooter's. That's right, Hooter's.

But there's a big if hanging out there...
They want to run another test to see if they can pinpoint the origin. This test -- which just involves dye on a slide from a tissue sample that's already been retrieved from Mike's neck -- will look for melanoma. Apparently, sometimes this is the source for carcinoma of unknown primary. Mike doesn't really have a suspcious mole or anything but he has had plenty of bad sunburns and spent lots of time outside as a kid. And the doctors at Moffitt made it very clear to us that we DO NOT want it to be a melanoma. It will be a couple of weeks before we get the results.

So it's a weird mix of feelings. So much relief about Mike's chance and extreme fear that it could be something even worse.

In the meantime, the doctor recommended a course of chemo to fight what's in his neck and chest. The Moffitt people will coordinate with his Melbourne doctors and he could start in a few weeks. He would have two three-week cycles -- chemo on day 1 and then not for 20 days, then chemo again and not for 20 days. After that more scans to see how the tumors reacted. If they're getting smaller, they'll keep up with that chemo. If not, they'll reevaluate the drugs they're using. We're told the first week of the three-week cycle, the week the chemo is given, can be rough. But the other two weeks are ok. The doctor told Mike he should be fine working through all this.

So that's where we are.
We're looking forward to the weekend. We're thinking about taking Julia to the beach. I promise some pictures....
We love hearing from you all. Call or e-mail us anytime.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Keeping you posted

As most of you have heard by now, there's been some bad news in our family. Mike has been diagnosed with cancer.... which explains why there hasn't been a blog entry in a while. We've been busy with doctor's appointments, CT scans, blood work, biopsies, X-rays and even a four-night stay in the hospital for surgery.

That's the bad news. The good news is that we're all doing OK. Mike is feeling well, and upbeat and ready to kick this cancer to the curb. He's still working full steam ahead and even convinced a nurse that he be given the go-ahead to drive, despite orders not to after surgery...
It's hard for us being so far away from our family and friends. I hope to use this site to keep everyone posted about the latest news.

But first, a little of the background info:
Mike had a lump in his neck when we were on our trip to West Virginia a couple months ago. He went to have it checked out, and at first, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The doctor told him he would probably have to have chemo but could be in remission by year's end.
It wasn't great news, but we were coping.

Then the results of the surgical biopsy came back, and on April 29, we first heard the phrase carcinoma of unknown primary. What does that even mean? It's pretty rare and it's a cancer where doctors can't find where it started, just where it has spread. In Mike's case, it has spread to the lymph nodes in his neck and as we found out from a surgery this weekend, a few spots in his chest/lung.

The overall prognosis for this type of cancer isn't great -- but what Mike has going for him is that it is confined to his neck/chest area, that he doesn't have any symptoms and that it's not in his liver or pancreas. The treatment plan will be chemo, we think. We are going to the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa tomorrow to meet with a specialist for a second opinion/consult.

We're nervous but hopeful. Mike is ready to get started with treatment so he can get back to the good stuff, like pillow fights with Julia and cannonballs into the pool.
So, for now, keep us in your prayers. And I will keep you posted.