Friday, August 7, 2015

Life is Beautiful

Beauty.....
Regina came up with the name for this post, she does a pretty great job of helping me keep things in perspective and looking to the positive.
It may seem a stretch for a guy in the prime of his life to to faced with my current situtation to call it beautiful, here is why life is beautiful:
1.  I have a steadfast bride who loves me with everything she has, she is my rock.
2.  3 Beautiful daughters who are the light of my life.
3.  47 years of ass kicking and life living.
4.  An inner circle that is fiercely protective and supportive of myself and my family.
5.  A broad network of friends offering support, resources, kindness, and prayer.
6.  An employer who is backing me 100%.
7. Co-workers who are constantly looking out for my best interest.
8.  A medical team that is dedicated to my healing that is comprised of both Western and Eastern      techniques to heal my body.
Since my diagnosis I have been surrounded by love and support that leaves me speechless.
                                                      This is why life is beautiful.
Gus Bayle showing me the love


The No Bullshit Zone
This week was my first benchmark for my progress in treatment.
I have had 2 rounds of chemotherapy. Over the past 6 weeks there has been significant decrease in my symptoms including breathing, coughing, heart palpitations, near fainting.
The study to track the progress is a CT Scan with contrast of my neck/chest/abdomen/pelvis.
Here are the main points:
1.  Overall 33% reduction in tumor size, this might just be miraculous.
2.  Confirmation that the cancer had metastasized to my bones. 
This is the shit sandwich part of this report.  Based on June's CT scan we had thought that the bone wasn't involved. The new report shows that the treatment is healing bone and that the bone density is increasing.  It has probably been in the bones the whole time just not detectable on CT until the healing had begun (this is called sclerotic activity); basically the body creates dense bone around the area impacted by cancer. Just one more little complication, the silver lining here is that I don't have any pain from the bone impingement.

3. Newly diagnosed Pulmonary Embolism (blood clot in my lung).  The thought process is that the clot was caused by vascular impingement by the same tumor that was partially blocking the bronchus that caused my breathing problems. When the tumor shrank, the clot was released.  These can be life threatening, but mine seems like it is pretty stable, I will be giving myself injections twice a day for the next 30 days to thin out my blood and break the clot up.
4.  Blood work shows that the Chemo has caused me to be anemic.  My red blood cell count is 29%, normally when healthy I run 44-46%. (enter the EPO jokes) This low number inhibits my bloods ability to transport oxygen to my body, and causes fatigue.  Makes exercising a little challenging.

In the end my oncologist called it a "Beautiful" scan, there's that word again......

My brother Andy flew in from Boston for my Scan and Chemo this week
My Head Space:
In the interest of transparency I am gonna tell you this is HARD.
I am spending a lot of time and energy keeping my chin up and protecting the ones close to me.
My girls need to think that I am a superhero, and I need to help them to believe it.
Additionally I know this is sooo hard on Regina and I find myself not sharing all of the things that creep into my mind.  When faced with your mortality, the darkness finds a way into your thoughts on occasion, it's learning how to deal with those thoughts that becomes key.
Recently I have been finding myself boiling over with emotion, and I have finally employed a therapist to help my sort through the emotions and deal with them.
I am not lying when I say that I am gonna beat this and that I am full throttle, but I am being honest in telling you that doubt and darkness try to take a shot at me on occasion.
Grit and Grind Crew
Grit and Grind:
My friend Jeremy Powers put together a fundraising ride last Sunday out in Elma.
The ride was supported by my friends at Motofish and Rapha.
135 riders signed up to grind out 20 miles of gravel and 2500ft of elevation gain on mostly cyclocross bikes. Despite only being back on the bike a handful of days I felt obligated to toe the line and do the ride. 
I had a crew backing me and supporting me the whole way, it was so hard, and many times I had to stop or walk, every time I did my crew of
domestiques stopped, walked, or did whatever I needed.  In many cases as I faltered on the climbs they rode up behind me and pushed me.
It was so hard but they got me through it, returning to the parking lot was quite emotional.

After finding out I had a blood clot in my lung and and a hematocrit of 29, the difficulty of the task made more sense.

video 
Grit and Grind Roll Out
New Inspiration:
Recently, through my friends at Rapha,  I met a cancer survivor named Justin McLean.
Justin is a Stage 4 Colo/Rectal cancer survivor and his words and philosophy have inspired me.
Here is his website: Survivor to Thrivor
If you are short on time watch his letter to cancer: Letter to Cancer
If you have some discretionary time watch this: From Cancer to Corsica-No Plan B
Thank you Justin...... 

That's all I got for now.
I am going to keep kicking ass and taking names.
Hold Fast:
Jim