Staying Put

Well, Dr. Martin just came in to speak with us.  He had a lengthy conversation with us yesterday also.  What amazed me, though, was when he came back up about 45 minutes later right before his first surgery.  He said he felt that I had not been able to ask him everything I had wanted to.  So, he stayed up here for another 15 minutes with me making sure I had all my questions answered and letting me know that he will come up often if that’s what is needed to make sure I am comfortable with everything involving Stefan’s care.  In this age of constant rushing, it still amazes me that there is a doctor out there who so genuinely shows us care and concern.

Now, for today’s update.  Stef will not be going home for quite awhile.  The earliest would be late this week or weekend if that.  Dr. Martin wants to make sure, as I do, that we don’t go home just to return a couple days later.  So, while it is getting tiring being here, I know that that is the best thing.  Dr. Martin wants his pain under control and also wants to make sure that we have everything taken care of regarding his G-tube and fistula.  He said this morning that the care will be a lot at home, so he wants to know that I am comfortable with everything.

We did not get the CT done last night that we were supposed to because all of Stef’s pre-meds and contrast leaked out around his G-tube.  Hopefully, we will get that later today.  We’re interested, as is Dr. Martin, in knowing what is causing so much of his pain.

I guess I would ask that you continue to pray for healing.  Also, pray that his pain would decrease so he can be more comfortable.  Thanks so much.


Just hangin’ at The James…

Well, still just hanging here at The James.  Literally, just hanging around.  I am just killing time until my next procedure which is at 7am Monday.  To that end, my last meal was lunch on Wednesday.  I emptied that out of my body on Wednesday night.  I HOPE to be on a liquid diet as soon as possible on Monday night and on solid food again by Wednesday.  So to say that I am starving right now, is an understatement.

The procedure that I will undergo on Monday morning is having a PEG tube inserted into my stomach.  A good explanation of a PEG tube is here on Wikipedia.  However, I will not be using this tube for feedings.  I will be using it as a “venting” tube.  Wikipedia states, “A gastrostomy may also be placed to decompress the stomach contents in a patient with a malignant bowel obstruction. This is referred to as a “venting PEG” and is placed to prevent and manage nausea and vomiting.”  I do not have a malignant bowel obstruction, but there is an issue with my stomach and GI system where I need to have the stomach vented from time to time to relieve pressure that has been building up and causing pain.  When pressure builds up, I will be able to uncap this tube and relieve the pressure in my stomach.  Pain will be decrease and hopefully these stupid hiccups will go away as well!!

I will probably be at The James until Wednesday at the earliest.  Maybe until Thursday or Friday.  They want to see me eating and tolerating food well and also to make sure I understand how to use and care for this PEG tube.

So, that is it for now.  Sandi or I will update you on Monday afternoon sometime as to how the procedure went.

Also, as events have dictated, my series on the Family is going to be postponed for a few more days, but I promise you, it is coming.


Another Journey Update…

Sorry I have not posted in a while, but I have been trying to figure out how to word things.  Then I thought, that’s stupid, why don’t I do what I always do, just say it like it is.

Well, Sandi and I spent the day together on Tuesday.  It was nice spending time with her, but it was at doctor appointments.  Spending any time with Sandi is great, even if it is at doctor appointments.

The day started with my radiation therapy.  She came back to the room and saw the exam being performed.  Radiation therapy is going well.  I have three more sessions (I will be done next Wednesday).  The pain from the mass is getting better, but not sure if it due to the doctors increasing my pain meds or if the radiation therapy is doing its job.  I have not felt any decrease in the size of the mass, but that may not happen until after therapy is done. 

We then went to see my oncologist.  He was very happy with my weight gain.  Up to 177 pounds now.  I have gained 45 pounds since the beginning of August.  We discussed starting me on a new drug (think Huey Lewis, “I Want a New Drug”).  The drug is Vectibix and we will see what it can do for me.  I will be on it for about two months and then we will do a CT scan to see if this new drug has made any difference.

The it was off to lunch.  We met up with our niece, Kristen, for lunch at Bravo.  We had a nice lunch and visit with Kristen. 

Next stop, the surgeon.  I really like my surgeon, but he can be very direct.  I like people that are direct, you know where you stand with them, but it can be painful sometimes.  He told us that he would do more harm than good if he performed surgery right now.  We did look at my latest CT scan and it looked pretty ugly.  My entire abdomen is just full of cancer.  He pointed out some of the tumors as well.  He seemed a little puzzled about next steps and noted that he is not giving up on me yet.  Yes, very comforting words.  One good thing is that he is also happy with my weight gain and so we are going to get me off of the TPN treatments.  Sunday night will be my last treatment.  We will then see if I can self-sustain my own weight.  It is also nice to get off TPN as Sandi and I would like to take a trip for our anniversary and we were not going to be able to do that if I was still getting TPN treatments.

Anyway, the nutshell is that radiation therapy is going well and will be ending soon.  Getting off TPN.  Chemo will be starting in about a week and a half.  That’s the update.  Thanks for reading!!

New Game Plan…

I have had many discussions with my oncologist over the last week or so.  I have challenged him to be more aggressive with my treatment and he has responded.  One item that he keeps coming back to is my pain.  He is on a mission to rid me of pain and I appreciate that!

As noted in an earlier post, some new masses have been found.  One of the masses is a couple inches below my belly button and is superficial.  I can feel it and it freaks me out.  Anyway, this particular mass is causing the most pain.  We have talked about radiation therapy in the past and it is not really an option for me, as my cancer is not contained in one tumor or one area.  However, since this new tumor is superficial and in an area we can “get to”, we have chosen to do radiation therapy on this single tumor to shrink it and alleviate the pain.  Wikipedia has a good write up on radiation therapy here.

I spent about three hours in a radiology oncologists offices today getting worked up and mapped out for the treatment that I will be receiving.  I start my radiation therapy treatments tomorrow and will have 10 sessions/treatments.  At that time, the tumor should be under control and the pain should also be under control.

While I am undergoing radiation therapy, I cannot get chemo.  So, when we are done with the radiation treatments, I will start chemo again.  I will be getting a new drug, called Vectibix.  It has some nasty side effects, but at this point, we need to be aggressive, so I need to look past the side effects.

That is it for now.  Radiation therapy for the next 10 days and then starting a new chemo drug after that.  Keep praying!!


Journey update…

Well, I find myself in a dark place again.  Had a very rough day, both physically and mentally.

It started off good with breakfast with Sandi and Carley.  We had a nice time.  I cherish these moments, for sure.  Then the day went downhill from there.

I had a bad reaction to one of my chemo drugs during my treatment today.  It was a reaction to Erbitux.  This is a drug I need, but not sure where we stand on using it anymore, due to my reaction today.

Then I got more bad news on the CT scan I had on Friday.  More growth AND new masses are showing up.  I have been in pain for a week now.  I would rate it an 8.5 on a 10 point scale.  Not fun.  The only way the pain will be alleviated or go away is if the chemo works to shrink the cancer.  Chemo has not done its job for me in the past, so we pray it starts working NOW.

I then had a not so positive conversation with my surgeon.  His selection of words and tone of voice lead me to believe that things are not good right now.  I think that the cancer may be a couple steps ahead of me, as there was a tone of concern and worry in my surgeon’s voice.

Anyway, I need prayer and a lot of it.  Pray as follows:

1.  COMPLETE HEALING – I am getting tired of this cancer thing….
2.  That the chemo will actually begin to work and shrink the cancer.
3.  Mental strength.  Very bad mental day today.
4.  Physical strength as they will probably begin to throw the book at me to try and slow this down or beat it.
5.  That I will stop questioning God.  He has a reason for this.
6.  Pray for Sandi.  She and I are not talking about this right now.  We are both, I think, trying to really figure out what this means and where I stand in my journey.
Really trying hard right now to REFUSE TO LOSE!!

Benefit for the Tarapchak Family…

Have you heard the phrase, Life gets in the way of life?  Well it has happened to me and I am very late in getting this post up.

About two weeks ago, my sister hosted a benefit for our family.  It was just fantastic!!  It was held in my hometown of Sharon, PA.  It was so great to see so many friends and family.  Some of whom I have not seen in twenty years!!

The weather was not great that day, it rained horribly, but that did not dampen our spirits at all.  The food was great, the location was great, the company was great!!  They had a Chinese auction and auctioned off over 70 prizes.  Just nuts!!

So, to all who came, I thank you.  I thank you for the support that you have given to me and my family.  We were truely blessed that day, in so many ways. 

And to my sister, Jen, a HUGE THANK YOU for all that you have done for us.  Love you, Jen!!

Perseverance – Part IV

Perseverance and being Positive

So how many people out there think I am a cancer patient?  I see that hand, I see that hand.  OK.  Well, you are wrong.  I am a person just like you.  I just happen to have cancer.  I cannot be a cancer patient.  It has a negative connotation to it.  So, I choose to be a person first, having cancer, second.  See the positive spin on this?

Persevering is a very difficult thing for anyone to do.  If you are not positive, it almost becomes impossible to persevere anything.  From the first day of my diagnosis, we have been positive.  There are no other options.  Success is my only option, failure is not. 

Being positive is not easy.  There are days when I really need to psych myself up to be positive.  It takes energy to be positive all the time.  I must confess, I am not always positive, that is for sure.  On those days, persevering can be harder than usual.  I am human, I get down.  I get frustrated, I get angry.  This does not help me battle my cancer.  Being positive helps me battle my cancer.  Being in that positive state of mind makes me battle this disease harder and longer.

Another twist that I have tried to put on this is calling cancer a gift.  What, you say?  Yep, my cancer is a gift.  I just need to know how to use this gift and make sure my journey is a positive journey for everyone who is affected by it.  It is not fair to my wife or family if I am not positive about this.  If I am not positive about this, life gets hard on my wife and family.  Undo stress is put on them and things get difficult.

I am still trying to understand what to do with this gift of cancer.  Until we know what to do, Sandi and I are just planting and watering seeds.  We hope that these seeds of faith will be sown one day, for God’s glory.  We have been blessed beyond belief because of this and our prayer is that we have blessed others because of our circumstances. 

Am I happy to have cancer?  Not really!!  Not a big fan of cancer at all.  However, being positive about it has made the journey a little easier and more bearable.  Being positive and persevering, again, go hand in hand.  The power of positive thinking makes life just plain old easier.