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Way too early is NOW

We are getting ready for the drive to Danville, for Sarah’s 6am check-in. Whee.

Each step is forward

It’s over two weeks since I’ve poisoned or irradiated myself, and I feel as good as I’ve felt in 2014. It took a week and a half for the tiredness and digestive issues from the radiation to mostly fade, and as I understand it that’s pretty fast. My brain is even starting to work properly again. (Whew!)

I still haven’t much stamina, and my yoga practice reminds me daily that 28 doses of pelvic radiation does nothing good for your flexibility or muscle tone, even if you did yoga the whole time. My fingers and toes are still numb: they improved noticeably the first few days off of the Xeloda, but the rate of improvement trailed off over time. It’s still getting better, but frustratingly slowly. I wanted to do some longer walks and some jogging during my “free time,” but numb feet make that uncomfortable and even unsafe. (I’m still walking the boxer a mile or two a day, much to his delight.)

The medical appointment rounds started up again on Wednesday, with a very wet drive to Danville to meet with my colon surgeon. It was three and a half hours of driving (oh hi unexpected torrential downpour), and nearly an hour waiting around, for a fifteen-minute meeting in which I didn’t learn anything much.

The plans for my autumn are solidifying, though. My likely surgery date is September 23, much later than I’d hoped due to the insurance company screwing around, and late enough to jeopardize my World Fantasy attendance. Before then I have a follow-up with my medical oncologist, a follow-up with my radiation oncologist, an MRI, a CT scan, and the third colonoscopy of 2014 (there oughtta be a law!), plus a pre-surgery physical.

The only worrisome thing out of all that is the CT scan: if there are bad changes (tumor growth, or reappearance of the little lung spots that disappeared after chemo), I may get sent back to do more chemo before surgery, or even be declared a poor surgical candidate. So: scanxiety.

On the really good side, though, I had a CEA test this week, the first one since before the radiation.

10. That’s 1 0 – ten. TEN.

There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world for that number. Yes, the normal level is less than 3.5, but at diagnosis mine was 2200, and it spiked to nearly 4000 when I started chemo. It was 42 when I finished infusion chemo, so it’s less than 25% of my previous test. The science, it is working.

So I will continue forward under the assumption that I will have surgery, and it will remove the large tumors, and then I will probably have more chemo to mop up any lingering evil, and then I will be cancer-free and do ALL THE THINGS.


Quilla was located yesterday, up a very tall tree, but is now back where she belongs, much to everyone’s relief.

Thanks to everyone who shared the lost cat information.


Lost cat: Park Forest area, State College

Spreading the word for my friend Tamie Veith:

Lost: female cat, Quilla
1 yr old, spayed, short-haired, tabby
distinct grey stripes with crisp white paws and belly.
all shots current. not a wimp! but very friendly usually.

got out Monday Aug 11 into the Haugh Preserve Woods, near Valley Vista Rd and Carnegie.
probably either got chased by something and then confused about how to get home OR got stuck somewhere that blew shut during the storms OR someone took her in for safe keeping.

her brother is beside himself with worry.

Quilla cat

Quilla cat

Quilla cat

I forgot to mention

I meant to include this in my first post.

This morning when I showed up at 7:45 and the techs didn’t know about the change in treatment plan and the new plan wasn’t ready yet anyway?

Not only were they very apologetic, and smooshed me into the schedule very promptly once the plan was ready, they gave me $20 in Sheetz gift cards (convenience store/gas station with a small and surprisingly good cafe).

I’ve mentioned here before how pleased I’ve been with the medical care I’m getting. That’s true of the folks at the hospital cancer center, as well as all the Geisinger people. The gift cards were a nice gesture of apology for their communications screw-up.

Also, the waiting room has cookies.


I just got off the phone with the person at the local hospital who’s dealing with BCBS for me, and with BCBS themselves.

BCBS has no explanation for all the delays, and also doesn’t feel any compulsion to answer their online messages in a timely fashion. I messaged them Monday, and nobody had even looked at the message until the woman I spoke to pulled it up while I was on the phone with her.

However, they’ve “made my case a high priority” and have turned it over to a peer-to-peer discussion panel, which apparently includes my own radonc as well as their doctor. This can take up to three business days, and they didn’t start the process until yesterday (??!!), but because “my case is a high priority” it’s possible they will finish the appeal and discussion process by close of business today.

So it’s possible that I’ll be back to IMRT tomorrow morning, but I’m not holding my breath.


I start chemo-radiation tomorrow. The cancer center at the local hospital uses IMRT (intensity-modulated radiation therapy). Bzzt zap zoom die die die!

First dose of Xeloda tomorrow morning, first dose of radiation in the afternoon. I’m equipped with Zofran, Imodium, and heavy-duty hand cream.

My first tattoo

Neither artistic nor expressive, unless perhaps expressing “fuck cancer.”


I have three, one high on each thigh, and one center front of my pelvis. They’re all just dots: the hint of an X is the shadow of the Sharpie lines that positioned them. The tattoos will help get the radiation beam lined up, and if I ever need radiation again will permanently mark the location where I’ve already received it.

I went in this week for a quick CT scan and the tattoos. The information obtained goes to the physicists, who will calculate the best angle for the radiation, to target the tumor but miss as much healthy tissue as possible. I also now have a custom-fitted lower body form to keep me in the right position and as still as possible. Precision is hard to obtain when working with human bodies, but they come as close as possible.

They’ll start zapping me sometime next week: x-rays and a linear accelerator. This is some serious science. Every weekday, probably for 28 treatments. It only takes about fifteen minutes, I’m told. Likely side effects include diarrhea, skin burns, and fatigue. The first two should be manageable with medication, and the third by the frequent application of nap-inducing felines.

The radiation will be accompanied by oral chemotherapy, 7 days a week. Xeloda metabolizes into 5-FU in the body, and increases the effectiveness of the radiation. Chemoradiation shrinks the tumor before surgery, but more importantly reduces the likelihood of recurrence at the primary tumor site. I’m all for both of those.

The Xeloda is normally given five days a week along with the radiation, but my oncologist said, “Oh, you’re young and healthy, you can take it on weekends too.” Ugh. Though I do appreciate his aggressiveness. The most likely side effect is a lovely thing called “hand and food syndrome,” not to be confused with foot and mouth, thank you very much. The skin on your hands and feet peels off, painfully. This can be reduced somewhat with B vitamins, lots of moisturizer, and avoiding heat. That’s right, I have a medical mandate to not wash dishes because of the hot water.

So that’s next week’s fun, and more weeks thereafter. To wind up last week’s fun, my gyn-onc says that sometimes a polyp is just a polyp. Okay, she didn’t phrase it that way, but that’s the upshot. No uterine cancer, and unlikely to have Lynch Syndrome rather than plain old garden variety colorectal cancer.

Because this is radiation set-up week, I didn’t have chemo. This is the longest I’ve gone without poisoning since February third. I’m starting to feel pretty good: today I did yoga, worked all day, took the boxer on a two-mile walk, spent 20 minutes mowing the lawn, then cooked dinner and cleaned the kitchen. I’m tired now, but not unduly, and this was very much like a normal day, except that I drove to work instead of walking.

I’m very glad to get a few more days like this before I’m on to the next thing.

Pin loom

Ah. This fiber arts post showed up on the wrong blog (string goes here) because the WordPress app changed the way it organizes things. Sorry about that!

I’d like to show you the weaving I’ve spent the afternoon messing with but I can’t. Sorry.


Please ignore

Testing the twitter feed settings.