15th August 2017

So cycle 2 begins by checking into Vincent Pallotti hospital in Pinelands. My team has recommended that we get a port inserted to facilitate my fairly lengthy treatment program.

Summarised as follows: A port consists of a reservoir compartment (the portal) that has a silicone bubble for needle insertion (the septum), with an attached plastic tube (the catheter). The device is surgically inserted under the skin in the upper chest or in the arm and appears as a bump under the skin.

PORT

It is an alternative to an intravenous catheter (or IV for short), a device placed “peripherally” into an arm or hand.  In comparing a port to an IV, there are advantages, disadvantages and risks to both.

Advantages of a port:

  • Access to a port is into the port mechanism; not directly into the vein. This avoids puncture wounds and damage directly to the vein.
  • The port is generally very visible and easily felt, resulting in safer, more efficient access than an IV site. A safe, suitable IV access site can be difficult to locate for some patients.
  • Some medications, can cause serious, sometimes permanent, tissue damage if they come in contact with the skin.  This can occur more easily with an IV access, but would be very rare with a port.
  • The port access site is prepared with a sterile technique; IV access is a clean technique.
  • The port can be used for delivering fluids, medications and transfusions; for drawing labs; and for PET/CT dye injections for scans (power ports).  IV access with treatment generally requires two venipunctures; one for lab draws and then the IV access for treatment.
  • The port can remain accessed with a needle up to seven days if no complications arise; an IV is generally limited to four days.
  • The port can be permanent and used as long as it is needed; IV access is always temporary.  Ports can be removed if no longer needed.

All went well and the procedure was completed in < 30 mins and I was now the owner of a shiny new port and a pair of forceps that had been left inside my chest cavity ….. by special request just to mess with airport security scanners.

IMG_4592

OK for those that are still warming to my dark sarcastic streak …. the forceps were not left inside…. in the pic above they are merely holding the port catheter in place during the x-ray.

 

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08th August 2017

Everybody will be faced with grief at some stage in their life – that is a FACT that cannot be denied. To this effect, I recently came across a book that was easy to read and placed a lot of perspective on some of the questions that surrounds the loss of a loved one / partner or close friend.

Instead of being yet another book written by a prominent academic / recognized doyen of authority on the subject – it is in this instance written by a grieving widow – who is indeed a successful business woman firmly entrenched in the corporate world.

She presents in layman terms, the fundamental issues that one is immediately faced with and also the long term questions / challenges posed, in what can only be described as a “minefield of obstacles” that a grieving family is faced with ……

Quote: “If you don’t recover – then your kids cannot recover”

Highly recommended and well worth the read.

option b

option b 1

21st June 2017

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), if someone remains in complete remission—meaning all signs and symptoms of cancer are gone—for five or more years, some doctors may say a person has been “cured.” Still, cancer cells could remain in the body for many years after treatment

Remission means that the signs and symptoms of your cancer are reduced. Remission can be partial or complete. In a complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. If you remain in complete remission for 5 years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured.

 

Update 21st June 2017

I am currently being monitored by one of the leading Oncologists in Cape Town Dr Jacqueline Hall – who just happens to be the wife of the leading chest surgeon Professor Mark De Groot who had performed my esophogectomy in 2015.

Had a scheduled annual PET scan yesterday in the “special purple room”……….which is about as inviting as a morgue >>> but good place to catch up on some zzzz >>>>  at Panorama PET CT in Platekloof Cape Town

room

scheduled appointment with the Oncologist was set for Friday 23rd …… however as it would turn out the Oncologists office called and asked whether I could amend the appointment to the Wednesday 21st June……. they had asked for a rush to be put on the results.

No worries – 21st June was indeed my 15th Wedding anniversary and the wife [Linda] and myself were heading out to dinner so sliding by the Oncologists office was a mere formality….. I would of course be dragging the lovey Linda with too the consultation.

Arrived on schedule and lo and behold – Professor De Groot pops his head round the corner and ……. with a frown on his dial – mentions that he has elected to consult with me instead of his wife…… and will see me as soon as he has dispatched his current patient.

I sat there and took in those words – and merely observed how a surge of adrenaline and endorphins swamped my body ……………. literally the flight / fight syndrome had released itself in full force > not such a welcome scenario to somebody who’s vagus nerve had been disconnected during the esophogectomy ……..

As someone who has a very pragmatic outlook on life – I knew that I would hear those words ….. somewhere / sometime / somehow …… but right now today > on my wedding anniversary in front of my wife ……. I wasn’t ready !!!

Anyhow I managed to wean the pulse rate down from 150 bpm …….. Just prior to us being ushered into the Profs office……

Professor Mark De Groot is an esteemed individual and is highly regarded in his field of expertise – Thoracic and Esophageal Surgeon …… but what I like about this learned professional is his ability to cut to the chase + his ability to drop a couple of F – Bombs as and when the need arises…… my kind of guy >>> as I have always struggled to trust someone who cannot curse.

But I digress ….. the results Stuart ….. the results>>>

Scan revealed a mass approx the size of a grape – positioned right In the middle of my chest …… in typical Stuart fashion …. situated in one of the most anatomically least accessible places towards my spine lo and behold it’s pressing onto my windpipe – causing me that irritation and resultant nasty cough that I have been plagued with for the last 2 weeks

Due to locality ….. very isolated area > surgery not an option in this instance.

Radiation is also out the window as mentioned prior mass is located in prior radiation treated zone – therefore maxed out and cannot receive any further radiation – as will do more damage than good….. in layman terms tantamount to burning a hole in my chest.

So that leaves chemotherapy – starting IV cocktail 🍹 Monday ….. for the months I am away will take oral – and when home will be doing cocktails 🍹 intravenous.

We are looking at 4 cycles thereof …. and that there is the prognosis for the immediate future  😎

 

07th August 2017

Nothing like having to arrange your own in field Radiation sessions …… when on site / remote location …..

As you can see my sense of humor is still “Over the Top” > for some [you poor bastards]

Ops normal for now…. heading home in 4 sleeps!

IMG_4379

06th August 2017

Finished my 1st Cycle of chemo Monday 24th  – so been “hangover” symptom free for a almost 2 week now – which is refreshing to say the least.

Anyhoo ………… will be checking into Vincent Pallotti on Monday 14th – start of cycle 02 – as they going to insert a port / central line in my chest ….. so that they can simply hook me up for the rest of my cycles …….. seeing that I am on a long term program they don’t want this shite to burn / destroy my peripheral veins

The port is completely internal and once the sutures are removed – one can’t even determine its there – so carry on paddling / surfing …… playing the fool as per normal

 

10th July 2017

As it transpired – I walked out of hospital after surgery on the 08th July 2015 …. An auspicious occasion as was indeed my 47th birthday

2 days after celebrating my 49th Birthday I find myself starting round 2 and back to the chemotherapy we go…….

 

However 1st things first ……. and its off for ULTRASOUND – as the E – epirubicin [aka red dragon] has a side effect …. and that it has been known to damage the actual heart muscle. So as a precaution one has an ultrasound to determine current state of cardiac muscle and then will be used as a benchmark moving forward as the test is conducted at determined intervals thereafter.

 

In my instance we are good to go …….. yes folks the note says “structurally + functionally sound heart” …… NOT Brain!!

Echocardiogram

 

 

IMG_3787

Although the combination this time is a different cocktail and is known as the EOX combo

E – epirubicin [aka red dragon]

O – oxaliplatin

X – capecitabine [XELODA is the brand name and is taken in the form of oral tabs]

IMG_3788

 

E – epirubicin [aka red dragon]……. is aptly given the name red dragon its like freakin Jaegermeister coursing through your veins.

Two years back the cocktail i was on – didn’t have the signs + symptoms that this creature gives.

Now one also has to bear in mind that when one undergoes Chemotherapy – pretty much you will experience side effects – that much is a “GIVEN” – / you will also be briefed by the medical team and receive an abundance of information pertaining to known side effects etc… pretty much like the inserts that are provided with medication – and who reads those inserts …… RIGHT!!

What is not know is the “ACTUAL” side effects that is experienced…… in my instance I was surprised as to the speed that it took for me to start experiencing the red dragon effects.

Literally within < 30 mins I experienced felt an odd sensation around the site of my infusion [left arm / forearm] and as can be expected used my right hand to palpate the site [forearm] …… WOW ….. wasn’t expecting that – what I experienced was tantamount to an electric shock – then came the sweats …… yep my body had certainly acknowledged the arrival the troops.

Further sensations included – hyper sensation to the extremities hands and fingers – akin to somebody who is suffering from frostbite …… ice cold sensation – which if not corrected can result in tissue / capillary damage ….. however when warmed – one receives that bone jarring pain as circulation is improved.

The extremities wasn’t where it ended – as i found out ……. pity I wasn’t paying attention to the debrief ….. Mr Schouw you will probably want to stay away from cold drinks [as in temperature] …… nothing more relieving when you have a thirst and you chug on an ice cold beverage / water – with added ice and lemon wedges ……. however as you swallow the cold liquid the red dragon results in your throat going into a spasm of sorts which complete with stridor [restricted airways] which feels as if you are suffocating ……. so my advice >>>>> READ THE FINE PRINT + LISTEN TO THE MEDICAL TEAM 

Whilst on treatment you will require gloves [an array of them depending on task ] as you cannot have skin contact with metal surfaces – direct skin contact will result in surface burns / electric shock …. Depending on activity I used a variety of cloth and leather gloves.

 

18

UPDATE 19th Jan 2016

Pleased to announce that we are now 6 1/2 months post op and have just undergone a further PET scan of the area from the chin to the groin ……… no significant findings to report > in other words cancer free zone.

Still jamming at the gym under the direction of Biokineticist and strength muscle tone improving. In actual fact we did a muscle fat analysis yesterday using callipers and we are up to 11.32% total body fat …….. clocking in at 82 kgs – with the target set @ 85 kgs

Strange enough – whilst the physical side has made great improvements – From an emotional aspect > I find that I catch myself navigating towards troubled waters every now and it takes a concerted effort to kick myself out of it….. I find focusing on those that have lost so much more > such as eyes hands / limbs serves to do the job.

Every day is a new day which i relish with family + friends
And tomorrow being the 20th Jan marks 1 year since the surgeon sent down the scope and located the tumors …….

And that folks concludes Stuart vs Cancer > Part # 01

 

17

Update 02nd September 2015

So my friends a further update…..

As mentioned prior post op – one has to allow for a period of 6 months to allow some sort of normality to return.
Saying that we are now in week 10 out of the allocated 24 ….. and life she carries on.

One of the most noticeable [weird] physiological changes was at the attachment of the stomach to the back of the throat. Must say initially this felt like i had 2 fingers constantly pressing down at the back of the throat > not a pleasant feeling at all. I actually was of the opinion that this wasn’t going to work. However within the space of about 2 weeks – the brain had rewired this new setup and the amazing thing is whilst the attachment and apparatus [stomach et al] is still in place >>>> i no longer even notice it.

Portions of food are still small …… and there is no getting horizontal until at least 1hr after having eaten …. for no other reason than its just uncomfortable.
My capacity to swallow fluids [non fizzy] is growing by the day ……. also some welcome respite as the constant thirst was driving me nuts

Back at gym with personal trainer – has me going through the full motion / lunges / dips / medicine ball / kettle bells etc …… so now that the chassis has levelled out @ 83kgs she is getting nicely trimmed.

16

Update 29th July 2015

Today was an extraordinary good day……

1stly got to see the surgeon for the obligatory 3 week post operation checkup …..
Verdict – fit to fly > which means can return to work ………..

2ndly got a call from some errant chopper mates > who recommended we sink some of the best the Cape has to offer
Man it was lekker > thanks okes………

errant

 

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