Zach Heath’s Colon Cancer Journey: Chemo Round 3 (21)

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Boom! I’m just running through these treatments like a hot knife through butttttta. At 2:30 today, when I get my pump unhooked, I will officially be 25 percent of the way done. I think it’s important to have small victories and celebrate goals along your journey! So, I’m going to celebrate…by continuing to eat very healthy, get adequate sleep, get plenty of light exercise (which pretty much means just walking these days for me), and hang out with as many of you lovely folks as possible. I have had extremely high energy levels since I started eating very strictly. Turns out, I like energy! I officially recommend low-carb to anyone and everyone. My brain feels like it’s in overdrive…and chemo hasn’t slowed me down one bit! I don’t plan on letting it start either! I’m pretty fired up this morning, I would apologize for all of the exclamation points, but I don’t want to!

I had a fantastic weekend, so I’m going to tell you a little bit about that first before diving into chemo week. Friday I went over to a buddy’s house and refereed a drinking game. Yes, you read that correctly. Let’s just say, I’m glad I wasn’t a participant. It was a lot of fun getting out and seeing a lot of the MBA guys though. After that, we just hung out and then I dropped a few of them off at the bar and headed home.

Saturday, I had some fantastic company for the day, and we went down to the Missouri River and walked around the Katy Trail (got to get my steps in!) and then we went and had sushi for lunch, which is always delicious. Then, we went to Paint the Town and showed off our painting skills for a few hours, during their open paint session. My former boss, who is one heck of a guy, and an even better painter, runs the place. I highly recommend going there. Art therapy is a real thing! More importantly, it just so happens that painting is a lot of fun. Plus, my painting turned out pretty well, so I was happy with myself. Oh, and they have booze, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I had lunch with Dr. Hunter and Emily on Sunday for H.B.G., and got even more good news. That’ll have to wait for a separate post though! Can’t give away all the goodies at once. The rest of the day was spent at my parents watching football and playing Settlers of Catan. Sundays are family days for us, and we all go out to my parents and have dinner, call my brother in California, and play games. Don’t worry, I won every game, just like every Sunday. Sorry Erin, maybe someday, but, I doubt it.

Anyway, this week is round three of chemo week. If you’ve been following along in the blog, then you know that it started off on Monday with labs and a visit to good ole Dr. Kingsley (my oncologist). Labs were at 9, doc was at 10. The waiting room for the lab draw was packed full of frantic people worried about getting their labs drawn in time to get to their doctors appointment this time. There wasn’t anywhere to sit, so I just stood there for about twenty minutes. At least they had one of those overwhelmingly entertaining daytime Judge Judy type shows on. Some creepy guy was threatening his ex-girlfriend over something stupid and the judge just kept making fun of him. COOL. Hopefully, I never have to watch such quality television again. I ended up getting called back to have my labs drawn just as an old man, that seemed about halfway with it, started blaming the hospital for bogus charges and “ruining his credit.” I’m not taking sides, I’m just glad I got out of there. Saved by the Phlebotomist! A little poke in the arm, three little vials of blood, and a sweet piece of plain white tape to keep the gauze on, and I was out of there.

I decided to squeeze in an appointment with the financial services lady that has been helping me with my Medicaid application at 9:15. Due to the obscene amount of people waiting on labs, I was a few minutes late. Whoops, sorry Stacey. Well, turns out I finally got everything situated enough to submit my application for Medicaid. Based on my diagnosis, I should qualify automatically. However, you never know what can happen with such things. Also, it takes like four or five weeks to process, which is annoying. But, at least they will backdate the effective date to January 1, which is HUGE! So, fingers crossed on the Medicaid front.

After meeting with her, my mom talked me into going downstairs to the restaurant area at the front of the hospital, because I was hungry. Moms, always trying to make you eat when you’re hungry! I got three hardboiled eggs and a chef salad. I eat salads all the time now it feels like, not even complaining. Not exactly your typical breakfast though. By the time I was done, it was right at 10:00.

I went back upstairs to wait for them to come and get me to see the doc. My sister, Erin, wanted to come with me because she had lots of questions about the chemo and what was going to happen throughout the rest of the treatments. As a nurse in the P.I.C.U., she deals with a lot of pediatric oncology stuff and wanted to know how similar or different my treatments would be. So, naturally, she had lots of questions, but mostly I think she just wanted to meet the doctor. She’s protective like that. Or whatever you want to call it.

After waiting a solid thirty minutes and frantically worrying about the fact that I was going to be late to my 11:00 class, the doc came in. Apparently his Fellow had gotten stuck in the big snowstorm up in the Northeast so things were moving a little slower than normal. A snowstorm in Boston made me late to class? Can’t say I’ve used that one before. Well, the first thing I asked the doc was how the labs looked. He gave me kind of a puzzled, quizzical look, and said that they looked great and my numbers were going up???

To my knowledge, the counts were supposed to be going down. Rules don’t apply to Gladiators! Kidding. Kind of. But, my numbers did come back looking very good. I was still anemic, but becoming less so. Everything else was great! My kidney function had returned to normal, white count was good, platelets were good, and my hemoglobin and hematocrit looked good as well. The doc might as well have been speaking Japanese to me in the room. I got the “numbers look good” part, and that’s about it. I totally had my sister repeat all of this to me in writing so I could put it in here and sound informed by the way. I still probably messed it up somewhere. Per usual, she gets the credit. Giving her credit for everything is far more exhausting than chemo.

Moving on, chemo was on Tuesday. I showed up at 12:30 again. It was like a ghost town this time around. That was exciting to me, because, oddly enough, I think less sick people is a good thing. However, this meant less people to talk to. But, I got my own room and a bed this time, instead of the recliner. I don’t really have a preference, actually. Being out in the open is kind of more fun. More people-watching to do and such…

My nurse was great this time, as they have been every time. She even goes to the Crossfit gym that I went to (Crossfit Ironwolf. They’re putting on a fun little partner workout on Friday, February 12th to help raise money for me! Those guys, and gals, are fantastic. You guys should find a partner and go! I’ll be there to cheer and “coach.”) Some of the nurses I have had for previous treatments were walking by, so I hollered at them a few times and forced them to come entertain me against their will, which was nice.

Anyway, to get started, it is the same routine each time. The nurse cleaned the skin around the port and shoved the needle in again. Then she gave me an IV, the three little alien-blood colored steroid pills, and both of the anti-nausea medicines. This wonderful little pre-medicine regimen takes about two hours. I swear I feel more side effects from the anti-nausea stuff than I do from the chemo itself. It makes my head feel…tight. Oh well.

During this time, however, a man walked into where I was getting chemo. It looked like he was being shown to my room, which was confusing to me. After a second or two, he walked in and shook my hand and introduced himself. He proceeded to tell me that he had been in the exact same place as me three years ago. And, that, at the time, all he wanted was someone to talk to who had gone through the process, and wasn’t fifty plus years old. He offered to be that guy for me, which was about the coolest damn thing ever. Here I was thinking I was twenty-five years younger than anyone that had ever had this crap. I’m so impressed by the good in people lately. I promptly invited him to lunch on Saturday and look forward to getting to know him better, meeting his wife, and asking all sorts of ridiculous questions.

By the way, he’s three years removed from his diagnosis and has his second kid on the way. Talk about giving me something positive to look forward to! The man is one hell of a Gladiator. This must be some positivity Karma! Or just a coincidence, whatever you fancy.

Back to the meds! The first two chemotherapies usually start about 2:30 and takes a little under two hours to make my body a complete walking biohazard. Once those are done, they get the pump ready to go and hook it up. I strongly dislike positively disapprove of the pump (see, positivity! ha). I have it for 46 long hours. It goes with me everywhere. They give me a shoulder strap type thing that I’m supposed to carry it in, but that’s obnoxious. I tie it around my waist, which transforms it into a totally rad hip pack! Still, it’s not ideal, but it’s out of the way and acceptable. However, it makes this unbelievably insufferable noise every minute. Okay, so it’s a small gear grinding noise that isn’t really that loud. But, it is loud enough, and it really is every minute. Every. Damn. Minute. It gets old real fast, especially when you’re laying down at night trying to sleep.

So, everything went pretty smoothly. No issues with the chemo. After I got out of the Ambulatory Infusion Unit (where I get the chemo), I had a meeting with a law student that runs a pretty cool investment blog (If you like investing, check it out). He helped me figure out some things for my website in terms of Search Engine Optimization. Luckily, it was a little warmer than two weeks ago and I was ready for it, which  means I kept my hands warm enough to avoid the neuropathy for the time being.

After that, I went to my parents and cooked dinner for my momma! She deserves it. I think chemo actually makes me hungrier, which, again, isn’t supposed to happen. I finally made it home around 8:30. At this point, I was pretty beat. Usually, on the nights I get chemo, I get a little worn out. I’ll take a little bit tired over nausea any day. Even though, I’m pretty convinced I’ve never been nauseous in my life. Selective memory, perhaps. I’m sure chemo will put that to the test here in the coming weeks.

That pretty much covers it. I’ll update you guys more on how I’m feeling once Friday gets here. The third day after you get chemo is supposed to be the worst, from what I hear. If I make it through that, then it’s smooth sailing until the next treatment!



P.S. I’ve mentioned this to some, but I’ve adopted the networking strategy of “never eat alone.” All thanks to our new MBA Director, who mentioned it last week in seminar. I freaking love it! I had so many meals with people this week. I’m a pretty social guy and missed out on that aspect the last couple months. This allows me to build relationships with those I know well, and those that I don’t know well. It’s mentally stimulating too. People are interesting! That being said, if anyone has any interest in accompanying me to lunch, dinner, or even breakfast, I would be more than happy to make those arrangements!

One thought on “Zach Heath’s Colon Cancer Journey: Chemo Round 3 (21)

  1. Dude we are with you every step of the way. You are one brave and strong young man. You said there is good all around us. And you are right. You just have too look for it. Good luck to ya!

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