A Day in the Life of Thymoma

This was Owen 2 years ago. This was when he first starting having symptoms of Cancer but we didn't know it then. This was Owen 2 years ago. This was when he first starting having symptoms of Cancer but we didn’t know it then.

A lot of people have been asking me lately how Owen has been doing and how we’ve been holding up. After sharing how things go on a typical cycle of chemotherapy for us, I thought I’d share with the rest of our friends and family who have wondered.

We have just started cycle 4 of the recommended 6 for Owen’s stage 3 thymoma. We recently learned that he has B2 Thymoma out of all the different classes and so we plan to do more research on what that means and what the prognosis is for that. Our doctors don’t seem to know much more than just overall statistics for thymoma in general without the varying differences between the subtypes, which I have learned on my research does make a difference. At the same time, we don’t want to make too much plans based on the research because we know that God is sovereign and he can make anything happen.

Regardless, we start today the 9 day trek what we have appropriately named Chemo
Week. And that means Owen sat today for about 4 hours in the infusion center down in Encinitas on a recliner, getting work done while the nurses there pumped him through his port, which has been surgically planted into his chest, with the following: one bag of saline, then one bag of Zofran to help him with the nausea that would develop from chemo, followed by one bag of cisplatin (basically a form of platinum and one of the strongest chemicals in the chemotherapy family), and then one bag of another chemo called Adriamycin. The Cisplatin is so strong in fact that they have him take Tuesday off just to give his body a break before he comes in on Wednesday for the next round of chemotherapy involving. This session is just two hours long. He gets one bag of  Cytoxin, and another bag of saline. Thursday he gets one bag of steroids called Vincristine and another bag of saline. And Friday he comes in for his shot of Nuelasta, which stimulates his bones to produce white blood cells and in effect makes his bones hurt so bad he feels like he got hit by a truck. The first day is typically okay. He gets a little weak by the end of the day.

This is Owen about 4 or 5 months before his diagnosis. He was losing weight, eating right. We had no idea what was happening inside.

https://owenandtheresa.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/owen_4_months_before_diagnosis.png”> This is Owen about 4 or 5 months before his diagnosis. He was losing weight, eating right. We had no idea what was happening inside.[/caption

On days 3-9 Owen  feels nauseous, tired, and weak. He takes this week off of work and basically when not at the clinic, catches up on all of his binge watching of his favorite shows, eats when his nausea medication is working (typically small portions of carb based foods, the only thing he really craves during this time). The first 2 cycles worked out great because I was home so he didn’t have to do anything other than that. Those are the cycles that took his hair on his head and his beard.

On cycle 3 I was back to work but Kanan, our oldest was out of the country that week, so Owen only had to take the babies to day care in the morning. But this week will be a challenge as he will have to take the babies and Kanan to their schools in the morning and help with pickup because they all have after school events– Kanan has soccer and karate. James has soccer and swim. And Benny has swim. Each day is a different schedule and I can only be in one place at one time. We shall see how it goes this week. I picked up Kanan today and took him to soccer while Owen picked up the babies and let them play at the house while he rested. Tomorrow he will need to pick up Kanan and I will pick up the babies. Thankfully by Wednesday when he really starts feeling sick, I’ll be able to pick up the kids the rest of the week so he will just have to muster the strength in the morning.

Because Owen is so tired and weak these 9 days, he is unable to help much more than that. And what I explained is A LOT for him. So I do my best to keep up the house and the child-rearing in when I’m home from work and on the weekend. It is tough, no doubt. The kids certainly act out when dad is asleep a lot. Sometimes someone will come by with a meal and that is such a gift! Just relieving me from the duty of making a meal that week is so helpful. It gives me that time to take care of Owen, be better at watching the kids and helping them, and just recuperating from the stress of the week. Days 7-9 are when Owen’s white blood cell count is the lowest, so the doctor’s recommend that he doesn’t be around a lot of people or kiss on the kids because of his propensity to get really sick if he does.

owenandtheresa.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/owen_after_3_rounds_of_chemotherapy_august_2015.png”> This is Owen in August 2015 after his 3rd round of chemotherapy. Cancer took 30+ pounds from him and chemo has taken his hair. But he is so strong and inspiring. I’ve never met anyone as inspiring as my own husband. I love this man and think he is still so gorgeous.[/caption]

Days 10-14 chemo is a limbo week. He is not energetic enough to do his Youtube courses yet, but he is able to get some work done–ads, some videos, goal-setting, etc. If he is feeling up to it or getting cabin fever and not feeling too sick, we might head out for a walk somewhere or a short errand. Nothing too much, but just enough to keep up Owen’s spirits.

The third week–days 14-20, we call Power Week. This is the week Owen feels the closest to normal as he can. He helps with the kids. He gets work done. Sees clients. Runs his courses. We do family stuff together this week. It is joyous! It is the good week of the month and we cherish it! This last weekend we got to enjoy the jacuzzi that my Aunt and Uncle recently bought for us, we went on a date, went to church, and we went to Legoland with the kids. It’s our only and last hurrah before Chemo week begins again as we are on 21 day cycles. This last cycle took Owen’s eye lashes. So we imagine this new cycle we have begun this week will take his eye brows. He does his best to cover up his bald head with a hat and puts on sun glasses or regular glasses to hide the dark circles under his eyes. He has gained about 5 pounds since his diagnosis so we are happy about that. Cancer took 30 pounds from him! It’s a slow climb back up.

Given that surgery removed most of Owen’s cancer except for a small quarter size amount, most of Owen’s feelings of sickness are direct effects of the chemotherapy, not the Cancer. I couldn’t imagine if they chose to give him chemo before a surgery. Having to deal with the effects of both sounds just terrible.

Owen doesn't let chemo take his mojo. :)

heresa.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/owen_cools_it_up_during_power_week-_.png”> Owen doesn’t let chemo take his mojo. 🙂

But next week

[/caption]But next week Owen gets another scan to see if the chemotherapy has worked. If it has, he will do one or two more cycles of chemotherapy for good measure and then a month of radiation to kill any cancer at just the cellular level that the scan wouldn’t pick up. If the news shows that the cancer didn’t go away or has grown, they will probably add another 4-6 cycles to this treatment plan. We definitely don’ t want that. We are willing to do it, but we don’t want it. And we have decided that after that, if it still hasn’t gone away, we will dismiss chemo all together and try completely alternative treatments.

So needless to say, we are praying that God just shrinks and destroys the tumor and doesn’t let i grow. He has done so much to bless us through our friends and family and through Owen’s business through this whole trial. We feel very strongly he has shown us that this trial is for our own sanctification and not a punishment. He loves us and is merely refining us into better people because of it. Owen has certainly developed more compassion through this trial and our own marriage has grown closer overall. When it is all said and done, I think we will appreciate the healthy life a bit more than we ever had. Praying that by Christmas we do. And we have decided that when this is all said and done, we want to do two things. First, throw a party for all of our friends and family who have supported us through everything with their donations, prayers, emails, texts, calls, gifts, meals, and acts of service. Then we want to go on a much-needed vacation.

Beginnings

Beginnings (1)Sitting in a Writing Workshop at Cal State San Marcos, my teacher gives us a word of the day to write on for 6 minutes. We wait eagerly with pens in hands.

“Beginnings,” she says.

Normally I like beginnings–it reminds me fresh starts–clean sheets, swept floors, fresh air, new home, new babies with little pink noses and corn kernel toes, 1st day of school, excitement and goals, new year’s resolutions. They remind me of fresh green plants. Cool blue water.

But not today.

Today the first thing I think of is that this week my husband begins chemotherapy. This beginning is one I’d rather fast-forward to the end.

This is not clean or blue or fresh. This beginning is vile.

It will fill my husband’s throat with bile and stain our bed sheets with sweat that smells like poison so strong,

I will throw them out when we are done in 5 months.

This marks the beginning of foggy thinking

and of needles in the arm that are inserted by cold, rubbery gloved hands

meant to protect the nurses from the toxic liquid

they will drip into my husband’s veins for one hour, two hours, four hours, eight.

This is the beginning of a summer with neither beaches or swim parties, nor hikes in the hills on sunny days

…can’t have his skin burn.

This is the beginning of hair loss, and no sex for 24-48 hours after chemo

because the chemicals will leach out of everything

as it, “kills everything, everything” his oncologist repeated in his office last week, hands waving through the air to emphasize his point.

Everything except Owen. My love, Owen.

Who wants that?

I hate this post.

I don’t want to publish this post.

I’m supposed to be optimistic: a positive role model. A vision of courage. A cheerleader. I’m supposed to inspire people with my faith, and avoid awkward moments where my audience doesn’t know what to say so they respond with canned comments that only make me want to scream like–“It’s all for the best” or “Just think about the good this will do in the end, right?”

And they are right. But it doesn’t make it easy. And I do have faith. I am a cheerleader. I am courageous.

I am.

Just not today.

Can I get one day? Just one day to be depressed and voice it on a public page and share with everyone that I’m NOT looking forward to this beginning?

Vacation (1)The only thing I look forward to is the end.

That bright, clean, blue end where we can plan our new years resolutions for 2016.
Where we can throw away the prescriptions and the Peptobismol and the SPF 100.

Where we can go on vigorous hikes on hot days, finding rest in the shade to sip the cool water in our canteens and talk nothing more about the pain or the nausea or fatigue, but instead about that sunny summer cruise along the Pacific ocean beaches we just took. 

Where we can move from sickness and on to health in our marriage.

Where we can submerge ourselves in its new waters and wash this year all away and reemerge revived and reborn.

Where we can both grow our hair out long and wild…and stay up until late together eating pizza and laughing about nothing…and make love anytime we want on clean smelling sheets.

I want to skip this beginning and get to the end. The end of cancer and the beginning of our resurected life where nothing more will be taken for granted.