Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sleep, interrupted

Been continuing to sleep like crap, and finally got a hold of my sleep doc.  Here's the deal.  He said my sleep test went great and I slept for 6 1/2 hours (amazing - I thought it was one of the worst nights of sleep in my life).  He said that although I was asleep, I was never getting any deep sleep because my brain is waking up 26 times an hour to deal reduced oxygen flow due to snoring and apnea.  Yes, 26 times an hour.  That certainly sounded a bit alarming, but he said that half of the "wakes" are due to apnea, which, at 13x an hour qualifies as only "mild" apnea.  He said he wasn't too concerned about that, but was concerned about the apnea combined with the snoring waking me up as often as it did.  So, the punch line is that he recommends some kind of hardware to treat this - either a dental appliance or CPAP.  I'm to the point now where I don't care.  I'm not getting sleep and it's effecting my day to day life.  I simply want a good night's sleep, which isn't asking for much.  So, dental appliance it is.

OK, so this really isn't a cancer-related post, but it's a non-cancer diagnosis for something that I thought *might* be cancer-related, so it kinda counts.  So I wear something at night.  I think I can deal with it.  Small taters compared to what I've been through with cancer.

Oh, and I root caused the source of my stupid skin reactions I get when a blood draw.  It's the isopropyl alcohol wipes.  Tried two of 'em on my legs, and they both broke out.  So there you go.  Again, not cancer-related, but kinda sorta related because I get so many blood draws for cancer tests.  So there.

---


Alright.  Time for the firm holiday party.  As far as I know, I'm not allergic to cocktails, but just to be sure, I'll make sure I drink enough tonight to rule out the possibility the I've developed alcohol allergies since this weekend.


Cheers, all!


Doug

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And, an anniversary

Today marks one year since finishing up treatment!  Another cause for celebration.  I'll be helping myself to an extra cocktail (or two) at the firm's Christmas party, holiday party end-of-year-acknowledgment gathering tomorrow.

Big smiles folks, big smiles!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

HA!

In a flurry of medical activity today, I unexpectedly wound up having my Year Two Scan and I'm clean!  No evidence of disease!  No cancer!

Here's what happened.  Woke up with that pesky damn chest ache/pain feeling worse than it has since it started.  And, as you know, this has been weighing on me.  Cancer gives you a healthy paranoia about your health.  Not necessarily hypochondria mind you, just healthy paranoia.

So, I called my chemo onc to move the scan up to as soon as they could schedule it.  Then, I called my primary care doc to complain about the chest pain and they scheduled me to come in and see the doc that afternoon.  He wanted me to head over to radiology right away for a CT scan to check for a PE (pulmonary embolism (blood clot), which, apparently, is not an infrequent occurrence for people have been through chemo).  I then get both docs to work together to see if we can't do both scans at once, and, amazingly, they work it all out with insurance in short order. 

I walk over to Legacy Good Sam from my office downtown (with all sorts of wonderful "what-if" scenarios going through my head) get the scans, walk over to my primary doc and we go over the results (yes, they turned the scans that quick).  No PE. No signs of cancer.  Huge relief.  The doc even showed me the images, which were pretty cool.  Boy, they rrrreeeaaaally took out a lot of my large intestine.  I mean, wow.  Not an insignificant amount.  I'll try and get a copy of that image to post here.

As far as the chest pain - we still dunno.  Sill unsolved.  We're gonna see if it goes away on its own.  At least it's not anything that involves getting biopsies, radiation or chemo. 

But man, getting the scan done and analyzed, and getting the results to me that quick.  I was pretty impressed.  The whole thing lasted less than 75 minutes.  Hats off to Legacy Good Sam.

So, I got two Christmas gifts today - my scanxiety taken over for the holidays, and another clean bill of health.

A little celebration is in order.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Motivated

A good friend of mine shared a web site reporting studies that linked sleep apnea with all types of bad stuff, including increased cancer risks.  A little bit more motivated to call up my sleep doc tomorrow and make an appointment.  I guess the sleep doc is going to be officially added to my medical posse.

Here's my sleep test self-portrait:

More thoughts, doctor check-ups

So, I pretty much beat irrigation to death in my last two posts and now I want to move on to a few other topics.

In the past month, I learned of a few rectal cancer recurrences in people I know from Poop Group and from the online cancer community.  In one case, the cancer come back in the form of lung mets after 3+ years, and in another, it came back in the bone (quite rare) pretty quickly.  In both cases, it was upsetting news and made my think more about my own monitoring coming up.  I had my blood draw recently and my Year Two scan is in January.

(An aside.  Blood draws, immunizations ... basically anything that involves putting a needle into my body now causes a pretty bad reaction.  I get localized hives that take about a week to go away, and by day 3, it's pretty bad.  Like bad hives.  Left arm, right arm, back of the shoulder.  Doesn't matter.  Huge reaction.  Happened again this blood draw.   My allergist has no idea what it is.   (Double aside.  I get shots 2x/week from my allergist and I have no problems there.  So how is a shot from my allergist not like a blood draw from the hospital??  I don't know.  We've tried to figure this out, but can't.)  Never had this before cancer, but it's something I have now.  This is just one a few minor changes that have occurred to me after having gone through this, in addition to the big one.  Chemo, radiation and major surgery wreak major havoc on your body and I guess secondary effects like this are bound to occur.  You just adjust, learn to live with them and move on.  Another change is that I have a notably lower physical exertion ceiling.  When I'm at the gym and I push things beyond a certain point, the body just says, "no, we're not going there."    I think I've made some improvement in this department over the past year, but progress has been kind of slow.   I just get this very clear feedback from my body that I'm in the red zone.)

Hearing this news just makes me more determined to make sure I do the things that I want to do with my life in the next few years.  I'm big into work-life balance, and being an attorney, that's a difficult thing to have.  I'm fortunate enough to work at a law firm where the people are truly nice people, and they set the dreaded "billable hour" bar a little lower than is typical in the industry, which allows them to lay claim to being a "lifestyle" law firm.  Well, that's all fine and dandy, but it's a relative.  A "lifestyle" law firm is life a dull pain or a dry heat.  It's still pain, it's still hot, it's still a law firm.

I asked if I could go part time, and they said yes, that option is available, but they'd like to have me stay full time, because they have high hopes for me.  That was awfully nice to hear, and I hope I can deliver, but if I can't, it's nice to know that I can scale things back.  So, game plan is to focus, see if I can pull of full time for a few months while keeping good life balance, and go from there.

---

So, anyways ... had my 3 month visit with my chemo onc, and my 6 month visit with my surgeon to go over my CEA results.  They're fine!  CEA levels are 0.9 (anything less than 3.0 is "normal").  So, there's at least no tumors in me that are causing elevated CEA levels. 

I spoke with each of my docs about my lung/chest aches, and although there was some concern at me reporting this (lung and liver are where rectal CA likes to spread to), they listened to my lungs and didn't hear anything out of ordinary.  I told my chemo onc that it felt like that odd pain I had during chemo that we never could figure out what it was, and he said even though we never figured out what that was, we know it wasn't cancer, so if its the same thing, we're OK (at least from a cancer standpoint). 

But, he sensed I was still a bit apprehensive about it, and that we could schedule my year two CT scan sooner rather than later to ease my mind.  So, I have it scheduled for the 1st week in January.  Looking forward to having that scan done.

--

So, feeling pretty content with my low CEA levels, I stop my surgeon's assistant's desk to schedule my next appoint in June, and she gives me an appointment reminder  I look at it, note it has a nice little summary of my health, at the bottom of which it says "cancer, rectal," "pleurisy" (the diagnosis they gave me for my lung pain/ache during chemo), and then ... "sleep apnea."

Wait a minute?  What?  Sleep apnea? 

(Let me backtrack a bit.  I mentioned here a while back that I had some serious bouts of fatigue over the summer.  Just these spells that would totally wipe me out for days.  My general physician referred my to a sleep disorder doc since I snore.  (I've been known to clear rooms.)  The sleep doc ordered a sleep study during which they hooked up all sorts of electrodes to you (I have a great picture of it -I'll post it), which make it difficult to sleep, and then ask you to sleep.  It was one of the worst nights I sleep I'd gotten in my life (after the "test," I went home and slept for another five hours).  I left there thinking I wouldn't be surprised if they diagnosed me with all sorts of stuff - lupus, typhoid ... )

So, sleep apnea?  I had the test at the end of OCTOBER ferchrissakes, and here it is DECEMBER and I haven't heard ONE WORD from my sleep doc, and now I'm seeing "sleep apnea" on my health summary?

I asked the assistant if this was just a *possible* diagnosis, and she said nope, those were actual diagnoses.  Great.  Wonderful.  I was a bit pissed because, one,  I hadn't heard ANYTHING from my sleep doc, not even a follow-up to make an appointment, and two, I apparently have sleep apnea.  I don't know much about it other than to allow you to get a good night's sleep, you have to wear some cumbersome mask, which, if that's what they're recommending, I'll do, because I want a good night's sleep again.

And you know, it's not just not hearing back from the sleep doc, or the actual diagnosis, it's just that this is ANOTHER health thing that's cropped up recently.   Can't help but feel that all the health stuff this year (old allergies getting worst, new ones cropping up, my body giving out when I strenuously exert myself, and now, sleep disorders) are all collateral damage from my battle with cancer, and that my body will never be what it used to be.  I wanted to come out of this mentally and physically stronger than before, but hell, I'm still trying to make it back to where I was before things want south.

Well, all I can do, really, is to call the sleep doc, see what the apnea diagnosis is all about, and do what I need to do to take care of this.  As long as stuff keeps popping up, I'll do what I can to address and move on from there.  That's all I can do.  Be my own advocate, look out for myself, and take care of my self.

--

My one month end-of-treatment anniversary is December 7th!!!