Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Spoke Too Soon

Not 45 seconds after the side effects of radiation started to subside, Mat got a dose of bad news to go with his biweekly round of chemo.

A lump (the technical term for tumor) has been lurking on Mat's first rib for at least several months now. This fact didn't really hit home until a week or so ago, when it started growing at such a rate that we're now busily trying to select a name for it. Three weeks ago it existed only on the pretty picture of Mat's skinny body on Dr. Ryan's computer; today it's the size of a LEMON.

Clearly, the 5-FU (chemo) is getting the stuffing knocked out of it, at least by the bone-related tumors (first the hip and now the rib). We're hoping that it's still holding its own in the soft-tissue tumors (liver, abdomen, lungs, etc.), but can't even really consider the possibility that it's not, so we'll move on from that topic right now.

So it's back to radiation, this time for probably three weeks. The staff at MGH is now constructing a computer model of the upper left section of Mat's body that will ideally help them avoid radiating his lungs while they're treating the tumor. Things like lungs react to radiation like hot dogs in a microwave. In other words, they don't like it.

This next phase of the wonderful adventure that is cancer should start Wednesday or thereabouts. Stay tuned for the next episode.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Positively radiant

After two weeks of daily appointments, Mat is DONE with radiation. He's very happy to be able to resume his usual schedule of waking at the crack of noon (or 2 p.m., or 3 p.m.) and is catching up on his sleep.

The radiation has definitely reduced the pain in Mat's hip -- he's walking much better now than he was a couple of weeks ago. Apparently radiation continues to work for awhile after the treatments stop, so we're optimistic that the pain will be completely gone in a week or so. We're also optimistic that the side effects of radiation (which are ... unpleasant) will also be gone in a week or so. (Mat did go a bit gray at times, although he never looked as bad as our Halloween vampire.)

We received more offers of help for driving Mat to appointments than we could use (we were showered with more blessings than we had room to receive!). All the help made life much simpler for all of us.

In the meantime, we're looking forward to Halloween. Although we have some variety of super hero at our house almost every day, it's still nice to have an official excuse to dress up. And who doesn't need a super hero? (Or a vampire, for that matter?)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What a day dad had

It's 11:34 p.m., so I'll make this short and sweet.

Mat has been having difficulty walking and sitting -- two fairly basic life activities -- for about a month. His hip hurts. He hasn't been out playing basketball, and that roller-blading fiasco happened back in July, so it must be ... cancer.

Mat mentioned it to Dr. Ryan, who saw a spot on the latest CT scan in Mat's right hip that could account for the pain. He sent Mat off for a bone scan on Monday just to be sure the spot he saw wasn't scar tissue from an old injury, and we got the results today.

It is cancer, but it's curable. Well, not the whole thing, just the bits in his hip. Dang.

Apparently cancer cells that have taken up residence in bones respond quite well to radiation, so a few radiation treatments -- Mat's first -- and the pain should go away. Wow. If only all of life were so easy.

We went directly from Dr. Ryan to the basement of MGH to meet a radiation oncologist. Signed a few consent forms, just had time for lunch at Anna's Taqueria, and were back for radiation simulation (they figure out exactly where to aim the radiation) and the first treatment in the afternoon. It made for a long day, but the prospect of putting a spring back in Mat's step helped.

Nine more treatments from now (one every weekday), and Mat's hip should be feeling much, much better. The downside is some fatigue (of course), and the logistical headache of a shlep to MGH every day for the next two weeks. (We're currently recruiting volunteer drivers!)

Oh, and Mat may have some tightness in the hip joint down the road -- five or ten years from now.

I say with all sincerity that I hope Mat's hip hurts like hell five or ten years from now.