Good news on cancer and eyes

I have failed miserably at keeping ‘the cancer blog’ updated – and that’s a good thing, I suppose. I have now been “clean” since my April autologous stem cell transplant.

I had a PET scan in June and a CT scan this week (Sept. 11) and both showed negative results. My oncologist was very pleased then advises I should have a PSA test. Oh fun, but it’s just a blood test to check the prostate. Other cancers have been known to develop post lymphoma and transplant process. But I am pretty used to being tested. I’m still on three antibiotics. One of them impacts my energy some – but I was on then off of it at midsummer and now on it again. It doesn’t seem to be bothering me as much.

HH pic Sept.17

Bad idea:  5:30 a.m. selfie

My energy is pretty good – certainly much improved from early summer. So as transition, cancer is in check and hair is growing back. I spend most of my time indoors seeing double until I get new glasses.

I’ve been off work since late August to have cataract surgery on both eyes. The final result will be known next week when I get my new prescription lenses but so far, from what I can tell and see, the operation was a tremendous success.

Covering one eye at a time, I can see 80-90 percent better out of each eye than prior to the surgery. It’s a simple surgery that has no knives, no bandages, no pain, and just a micro laser incision. In the eye care clinic, both eyes tested at 20-20! Amazing!

sutton

Sutton

But I have a focal point issue – I see double without glasses – and I have astigmatism. So I’m struggling seeing much of anything for now. I have to sing the praises of the IU School of Optometry, and Dr. Brad Sutton, who spearheaded the diagnosis. Sutton, head of the school, was called in on my first visit and he identified what he called an unusual set of cataracts that most optometrists miss. The IU school runs a public clinic on MLK Drive in downtown Indy and one in Bloomington.  An optometry intern performs the vision testing then a resident normally reviews the tests and makes recommendations or writes a prescription. I had visited two different optometrists over the past three years with no success correcting my vision.

 

Dr_Michael_Orr

Orr

Dr. Michael Orr performed the surgery at Eye Surgeons of Indiana at Community North Hospital just off I-69 in Indy. He’s a real pro with great bedside manner, patience for dumb patient questions (me), and performs this miracle of corrected eye sight in about six minutes to remove the natural lense in your eye and insert a man-made one.

 

My boss asked this week if sitting around so much was boring and it is. But I walk almost every day for exercise and have been doing some much-needed decluttering around the house. Using reading glasses, I can see good enough to drive but not at night.

These two big health events have me evaluating a lot of things about my future with all this extra time. More to come on that soon.

Thank those of you who have read these rambling posts and your thoughts and prayers.

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Decisions, Decisions – Job & Health issues

 

HH

Like a molting cat, the fuzz and stray hair begins to return.

It’s been two weeks since my last update, one week-plus since I dropped one of my three antibiotics, and 97 days since my stem cell transplant for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

 

So there are a few things to update and a few thoughts to share. Let’s start with the cancer. My team of oncologists at Franciscan’s Saint Francis Hospital on Indy’s southside gave me permission about a week and a half ago to drop one of the antibiotics I was taking that causes additional fatigue.

I have certainly noticed a difference. For the most part, I’m not having the nightly energy crash and burn naps that were ongoing since my treatment. That’s the biggest and most-welcome news since treatment ended.

I’ll see my oncology team in Indy monthly for awhile since we dropped one of three antibiotics. I’ll take that trade off.

My vision issue remains. I can’t see a surgeon until Aug. 9 which is frustrating but apparently eye surgeon is a busy medical field. My optometrist, who heads the residency program at the IU School of Optometry, believes removal could solve my sharpness issue. But like any good doctor he noted it might not.

I can see fine to go about daily life though things aren’t sharp. I really struggle being in front of a computer all day. I actually had two pretty decent days this week. But most afternoons its a difficult struggle.

So over the next few weeks I have a lot of decisions to make. Many of those decisions revolve around Aug. 9 and a discussion about those funky cataracts. There are way too many moving parts to my life right now but I’m trying to stay on top of things. I have moments but no reason to be negative.

Regardless of what I decide about my eyes and my work, I want to get my vision corrected. And the fact I have pre-mature cataracts also means they’re probably going to have to come out later any way.

There is one certainty in all of this uncertainty, I can’t go on spending 8 hours in front of a computer much longer without a fix.

I am within striking distance of the timeframe when I’ve always thought I’d retire to part-time wine sales or writing or even substitute teaching. I’ve prepared for it.

I just haven’t been prepared to have health issues make the final determination.

 

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Unrelated condition could force change

As a hardheaded and independent type, I don’t like outside forces making decisions for me. But that’s a situation I face over the next couple of weeks.

This blog has been all about my cancer treatment. And, that continues to evolve in a positive direction. I will see my lead oncologist this week for the first time since late May so checking in will be a good thing. Plus, as I have written here before, I have one antibiotic that I think is really effecting my energy level in a negative way. I plan to have a conversation about that as well.

I always thought the cancer or cancer treatment could impact my decision on when to retire. That could still happen, I suppose, but another culprit seems to have moved to the front of the line. I have struggled with sharp vision for 3-4 years. It’s a long story. The shortened version is I’ve had two local optometrists make five sets of lenses over the past three years and none give me sharp vision. They would zero in on the correction in the office, get it just right, then they make the lenses and I can’t clearly see.

can-glasses-correct-visionSo I visited the IU School of Optometry in indy a couple of weeks ago and the head of the residency program detected an unusual cataract that can cause this condition. I’m doing a follow up with him this week.

The problem is my close vision – sitting in front of a computer screen all day – is terrible and uncomfortable. It is not a new problem but has worsened over the past six months to year. I got a pair of ‘reading glasses’ last week made after my IU visit and they’re no better – if not worse – than my local optometrist prescribed.

I’ve been back to work for two weeks and struggled – it’s not sustainable. I really had not planned on retiring until sometime in 2018 or maybe even mid 2019. But the vision problem has to be resolved.

I’m going to learn this week about the removal of a premature cataract. I don’t know the issues with that yet. And, the doctor said the condition could be causing my problem but he didn’t think the cataract was big enough to cause the problem to the extent I describe. So even if the cataract can be removed, there is no guarantee it solves the problem.

Now the few folks I’ve tried to explain this condition to immediately ask if my cancer treatment has had an impact. Strong chemo can blur your vision and that happened with me in 2015 and again this year. But that didn’t last very long either time. I had this condition before I was first diagnosed with cancer in April 2015.

I can use my laptop for short periods of time as I am in writing this blog post. But as a writer most of my day at Purdue is spent in front of a large computer screen. I have blown up the browser size so the type is really big but it’s still not sharp. At work, I can really only see the screen by taking my glasses off and moving in way too close. Not only is that uncomfortable but it tires me – when I’m already fighting fatigue from the stem cell transplant process

I not happy with the thought that a health issue – my vision – would force me into early retirement. There are things I can do if I want to continue to work but not the things I’ve done all my career.

So this blog has been mostly upbeat because of the continued success of my autologous stem cell transplant. This post is a bit of a downer. I can’t say I’m down or depressed at this turn of events but I am angry an outside factor may force my hand instead of making the decision on my timetable. I can retire if necessary and go sell wine in a retail setting – or about any job that doesn’t require all day in front of a computer. I have planned for retirement; I can do this if necessary. I would still like to work, doing something even part time, a few more years.

I’m anxious to learn this week if I have some options in correcting my vision and making the retirement decision when I feel the time is right. Whether I continue my work at the PU News Service or go sell wine, I’m also anxious to see if my oncologist can help me with an energy boost.

Quite a week ahead.

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Hoping to return to normal routine

 

relay pic_edited

PU co-workers thought of me at Relay for Life

 

Three months have passed since I last worked. The last three weeks my recovery has continued but remains something of a roller coaster.

Regardless of the ups and downs, for now at least, I’m returning to work Monday, June 26. This was the plan since I took off at the start of April. I miss the routine and I’m tired of being tired.

So an update: I really upped my activity by getting out and about over the past week. I made a trip to Cincinnati and back Wednesday. I was out all but one day over the past week. I still have a real crash of energy every few days.

Additionally, my eyesight remains an issue. I’ve struggled for 4-5 years while the problem worsens. I’ve been through two optometrists and about 5 sets of lenses. I’m going to see how I do with a day in front of a computer and then try the IU School of Optometry next.

I continue to take three different antibiotics and that won’t change for awhile. One of the three, causes physical weakness so I have opposing forces making this harder than it could be.

Finally, for this post, I have to offer thanks again. I’ve continued to learn of people thinking of me and praying for my recovery that I know and don’t know. My co-workers at Purdue University sponsored three luminaries (see pic above) during the annual Relay for Life. I was really touched. I didn’t know this until last week because I wasn’t readying work email regularly. I’ve sent a thank you to my co-workers.

I have learned such acts of kindness — known and even unknown – really hit home in a way that’s hard to explain.

So it’s back to work and I’ll update here in a week or two how I’m handling a full day of work.

I did forget one piece of good news since my last update. I had a PET Scan about three weeks ago and learned two weeks ago it was clean – no cancer. Now, 60 days after the transplant it should be clean – fortunately it was.

I’ve been asked when I will know if the transplant worked? Well, the answer seems a bit snarky but when it comes back it comes back. If I live another 15-20 years cancer free, we know it worked.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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No toasts to my recovery for four months

I’m slipping a bit on weekly updates but that should mean the news is good – and for the most part, that would be an accurate assessment.

The past week remained a roller coaster of recovery but with good signs the past few days. I decided to challenge myself over the weekend and made back-to-back trips to Indy on Friday and Saturday. Friday’s trip was a lunch meeting and I handled it well. I traveled back to Indy Saturday to visit the Vintage Indiana Wine Fest, on a much warmer day, and it took something out of me. Sunday, I felt great. Monday, I was totally shut down.

That is good of an illustration as I can offer to explain why I call it a roller coaster. But the summary is I’m making progress. I am scheduled to return to work in less than three weeks – June 26. The conundrum I’m facing is creating all sorts of activity to restore my stamina and energy to return to a job where I sit in front of a computer all day.

 

deano

No booze for four months! Sad news, indeed!!!!!

On other fronts, I have lost 24 pounds through the procedure and would like to lose more with better eating habits and more exercise. The doctor approved. I’m taking three antibiotics that have little to no effect on me but one is centered on my liver. Aaa-oh! That means I can’t resume my wine drinking. A sip here and there is okay but it looks like I’ll be on the wagon through the end of September – at least.

 

For every setback (in my mind) there is a silver lining. Not drinking wine has to help my efforts to lose weight.

I’m waiting for my optometrist to get my new lenses back from lab. That’s another work worry. My vision has been bad for 4-5 years and I’m on my second doctor trying to correct it. Sitting in front of that computer all day is tough – with blurred vision it’s a nightmare. If this doesn’t work – it might be time to seek out a specialist.

The big news of the week is I’m having a PET scan Thursday – which I didn’t know until this morning. I have those done on Indy’s north side. The PET scan should show me absolutely free of cancer – considering they took my white cell count down to 10 during the autologous stem cell transplant procedure. Frankly if a spot shows up, it would be a terrible set back – at least psychologically.

But I have confidence in the team of doctors which took care of me and the procedure I’ve learned so much about.

A few folks have asked about post-treatment. After a transplant doctors would order some sort of maintenance program in year’s past. That often included an immunity drug or a light chemo regimen. The latest research-based approach, according to my lead doctor, is a “wait and watch” process. That means I’ll see my doctors more often and be tested more often. The results of wait and watch are apparently just as effective as subjecting the patient to “preventative treatment.”

By increased monitoring the theory is they find a smaller reoccurrence it can be dealt with in less intrusive fashion. It made sense to me.

 

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Was that a corner I just turned?

Cancer treatment recovery is a tricky and stubborn cuss. There certainly are days I feel much better usually followed by a day or two of ‘will this ever end?’

But since my last update, just over a week ago, I feel like I’ve turned some sort of corner. Some of the toxicity has largely disappeared. I had a couple of ‘crash and burn’ afternoon naps but only a couple in the last eight days.

I was able to walk all but two days last week. Really crappy May weather kept me inside two days which was a setback. But on the other days I walked 2-2.5 miles each morning. I’m about to do that this Memorial Day. Also, today I’m adding an afternoon walk – of a distance to be determined. I hope to make the second walk a daily routine.

It also dawned on me last week that I’ve reached the point I need to get out more and do normal stuff. Getting in the car for a half hour or hour drive is more tiring than walking for exercise but much more like life’s normal routine.

I’m scheduled to return to work a month from today. Thinking aggressively, it would be great to go back in three weeks but the whole energy level thing will determine that.

A side effect I know I mentioned in the past has been a real discomfort lately. Before my 2015 diagnosis of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, I was having issues with my vision. My optometrist retired and I stubbornly delayed going to a new one. I tried in late 2014 and in 2015 to get my vision corrected. We just could never get it right. My vision certainly blurred during 2015 chemo – which I knew could happen.

I tried another optometrist last year and the doctor got closer but the same problems. My vision is particularly bad up close which isn’t good for someone who makes his living at a keyboard. We went through two different prescriptions and neither worked.

My vision has been noticeably worse the last few months. I saw the optometrist last week and will get new lenses in a week or so. I can’t say I’m optimistic but I’d love to be pleasantly surprised. I’ve never had this problem in my life until the last few years. The two doctors mentioned get my vision nice and sharp in the office, they make the lenses and they arrive, and I still can’t see clearly.

Just another example of chemo’s evil ways.

So this week it’s more walking, getting out more, and concentrating more on diet.

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Trudging the slow road of recovery

During cancer treatment life is pretty simple – you feel toxic most of the time. But recovery is a sly fox – you feel good a few hours and then crash and burn as a reminder that cancer and cancer treatment isn’t done with you just yet.

I am at Plus-33. That means it’s been 33 days since my stem cells were returned to my body in my autologous stem cell transplant. The transplant was deemed by my doctors to be my best bet for full remission from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma or a longer  period of being cancer free. I was initially diagnosed in 2015 and underwent traditional treatment but the cancer returned about a year later. (There’s the nut graph for you journalism people.)

I returned to my home three weeks ago and now fight for recovery. As I’ve written here before, I don’t feel like I worked hard enough in 2015 and I’m pushing myself more now. That means a daily walk – usually of about two miles. I do get tired but I’m going at a pretty slow pace. Right now at this stage, even a couple hours out doing errands is like exercise – it wears me out.

A good example of this up and down process is yesterday – May 20. I had a pretty crappy day Friday, it rained most of the day, and I stayed inside, slept a lot, and felt the toxicity. Activity defeats the toxicity but not always the fatigue.

So Saturday I felt pretty good and drove to Indy for lunch with a friend. I drove to the southside then out to the east side to the fabulous Caplinger’s Fresh Catch fish market and then returned home. I became tired about two-thirds the way back and by the time I hit the lazyboy chair was exhausted. And all I did was drive down and back, have a sandwich, and return home.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the typical sleep or sleepy zone. I became clear headed about 5:30 and was okay for most of the evening. I went to bed earlier than normal and got close to 8.5 hours of sleep. I was pleased with that – but we’ll see if it has any real positive affect on today.

If these paragraphs made any sense, good. It’s hard to describe this up and down. What I’m pushing toward, with a ways to go, is being able to feel okay for up to 8 hours so I can return to work.

Another frustration and nasty side effect of chemo is it often has an impact on vision. I was having  issues before my 2015 diagnosis and my sight worsened after treatment. Several attempts last year failed in crafting lenses to return my normal vision.

On top of that, the chemo and procedure I just had tends to create a breeding ground for cataracts. So this week I want to get an appointment scheduled, with my oncologist’s approval, to try to restore my clear vision. Even setting and writing this blog post I have to juggle the position of the laptop and struggle to see sharply.

That’s plenty of negativity. The positive is there are 2-3 blocks of 2-3-4 hours a day that I feel pretty good.

Today’s test is a much shorter trip of about 30 minutes each way to visit my elderly mother. Once back home I have a piece of freshly-caught striped sea bass I’m going to fix for dinner.

I’m trying hard to make permanent changes to my diet – less red meat, more fish, more greens, and a sharp reduction in sugar. All of those changes are good for cancer patients – frankly, good for anyone.

I haven’t been on the scales in awhile but I continue to loose a bit of weight. The last time at the doctor’s office I was down 22. Honestly, I’m very happy about that – but it’s not a weight-loss program I’d recommend to any one.

 

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