Archive for May, 2009

Preparedness

Today, I was asked if I felt “prepared” in reference to my first week of chemo beginning this Thursday. I said yes, but that answer remains contingent upon the accuracy of my oncologist.  My fear of needles has diminished a bit as no one has stabbed me in two days.  Now I’m fixated on fatigue, wondering how much will it change my routine.  My oncologist claims that I will want to go to bed earlier, around 8 PM, instead of my usual 10-11 PM.  Aside from that, I will have less desire to exercise, but should be able to keep up with an 8-5 work day.  There are no doctor-ordered restrictions on physical activity, just to use common-sense. That sounds perfectly fine to me.

My concern about fatigue lingers because I’ve read a lot of patient stories online about overwhelming fatigue- sleeping for days on end after chemo treatment.  That doesn’t sit well with me.  When I took a week off from work for the surgery, I realized that my personality requires a routine (with physical activity) to keep from getting depressed.

Genetic risk factors discovered

Today, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine announced a correlation between (2) genes and an increased patient risk for testicular cancer.  When I was diagnosed roughly 1 month ago, the source of testicular cancer was generally accepted as “unknown, possibly hereditary“.  Because no other males have testicular cancer in my family, hereditary falls flat for me. If we now know what genes cause testicular cancer, perhaps a pre-screen test could be developed to catch it in young boys prior to symptoms.

Link to article

What a long day

I took the train in to Boston for my appointments today, not out of necessity, but to figure how this is going to work when I’m either high on chemo drugs and/or exhausted from it. The train will work out fine, albeit a long ride.

My first appointment was interesting to say the least. Because I want to make you feel awkward too, the picture on the left is the inside of the sperm donor room at Brigham’s. Nice artwork of someone’s ass on the wall, eh? As a guy, you’d think this process would be no sweat, but it was pretty uncomfortable being in a room where you can hear the conversations in the waiting area- and all of those folks know exactly what you’re doing in there. Add to that, you have to hand-deliver the container (no pun intended) to the semi-attractive female receptionist in the waiting area upon completion. To top off the visit, I had to give a blood sample.

I’ll find out on Monday whether or not I need to come back for a repeat visit. Let’s hope not. I was informed (but need to confirm with my oncologist), that even if I remain fertile after chemo, I may be at a high-risk of causing birth defects should Jess and I conceive kids naturally.
My second appointment was a CT scan. I’m absolutely annoyed with myself for being such a wimp when it comes to needles. I almost got emotional about it, but I know that it is completely psychological. I asked them to give me Novocaine first (before the IV), but they wouldn’t do it. I better figure out how to handle needles better because I’ll be pretty much living with an IV as of June 4th. Prior to the scan, I was also given the dye to drink orally. It tasted like liquid Tums, which wasn’t difficult to drink. They put the dye chemicals (it looked like powder) into two 20oz crystal light iced tea bottles. I was expecting it to be far worse.
My last appointment of the day was a PFT test. I sat in an enclosed phone booth-sized box with a snorkel breathing tube. It turns out that my lung capacity is well over 8-liters, which as the technician informed me, is equivalent to a 6’9″ athlete. He suggested that I take up running. In the short term, it enables the Bleomycin chemo (the B part of my BEP chemo) to have more of a runway to avoid causing lung damage. I will be taking PFT tests on a regular basis during my chemo treatment to monitor the risk.

Let the awkward appointments begin

Tomorrow, I start my day with a trip to the local sperm bank, however it’s called an “endocrine lab” at Brigham & Women’s. I’m pretty sure they use this name to keep people from laughing at what is actually going on in there. I’ve got to freeze my “goods” because chemo treatment could potentially make me infertile.

On a ridiculously stupid note, my HMO (Blue Cross) covers almost all of my cancer-related treatment which is great, but according to their existing policy, I can only freeze sperm if “currently undergoing a treatment that causes infertility”.

In a nut shell, I have to start the chemo first, then freeze my sperm to qualify. I beg to differ… the moment my right testicle was removed was the start of treatment that could cause infertility. Of course my oncologist agrees, informing me that the moment I start chemo- I could become permanently infertile. Thus, I’m going to the sperm bank without Blue Cross agreeing to pay for it, which would be a $1,100 bill, plus $400 annually for the freezer space. To Blue Cross’ credit, my situation is now under review with their grievance department, and I’m hoping for a positive outcome. I think common sense is on my side, as I’m sure a story about an HMO refusing to help a young man who wants to have children won’t help their PR efforts.

After the sperm clinic, I’m headed over to Dana-Farber for my 2nd CT scan of the month. I get to try the drinkable dye this time, which I’m ecstatic about. My first CT scan involved an IV injected dye, which burned like hell, and I’m a big wimp when it comes to needles. If I could drink Milwaukee’s Best in college, I sure as hell can drink some chalk-tasting liquid tomorrow.

I’ll follow that up with a PFT (pulmonary function test). I opted for BEP chemo treatment, which poses some sort of risk of lung damage. This test is supposed to determine the current health of my lungs. I’ve heard that this involves breathing into a tube, but it doesn’t hurt.

Welcome to my blog

You are reading my first blog post, so I should probably say “thanks” for your interest! A coworker of mine suggested that I document my cancer experience via a blog. It seemed a little foolish at first to discuss such a personal subject online, however, it will be an easy way for me to keep all of my family and friends up-to-date on my treatment. Please keep in mind that all of the topics that I discuss will be specific to my experience as a testicular cancer patient alone. I am NOT a doctor, therefore none of my thoughts, opinions or snide remarks should be misconstrued as legitimate medical advice.