and the beat goes on…

Between rehearsing and handling organizational tasks for the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus (come to our first concert “Songs for a Snowy Evening” on December 1st, 2012!), rehearsing with the church choir for our choral (December 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm) and various other holiday services, struggling with work issues and dealing with DH’s health issues, I’m having just a dandy time here!

DH is scheduled for 6 month of chemotherapy to treat his pancreatic cancer; the chemo process will entail the following steps on a weekly basis for three weeks out of four:

1. DH registers at the chemo clinic.
2. The chemo nurse takes a blood sample and checks DH‘s blood for white cell and hemoglobin count. This takes half an hour for them to run the labs.
3. DH takes his pre-chemo pills, including a steroid, anti-nausea medication and an anti-inflammatory.
4. Should DH‘s blood counts be acceptable, they order the treatment from the pharmacy. This takes an hour to mix the appropriate blend.
5. Start infusion of chemotherapy. This takes half an hour for the infusion through the IV line.
6. Rush home as quickly as possible, so DH can be as comfortable as possible when the medicine hits his system.

So far the only issues he’s had are fatigue and flu-like symptoms (weakness, aches, chills, fever). However there is a cumulative effect, they are still poisoning his body and the surgeon commented that around month two or three is when you really begin to feel “shitty”.

The chemo clinic is in Toronto, one hour away, there is a cancer care center here in Hamilton, however we had appointment there on Monday – the doctor we saw just graduated in June and, needless to say, both DH and I were a wee bit anxious of having a youngun with no experience handling his treatment. While his treating oncologist will still be the doctor in Toronto who works with the transplant clinic…we were unsure.

The decision was pretty much made for us when the doctor arrived 2 and a half hours later than the scheduled appointment date and lamented about how complex DH’s case was. During the oral history and discussion of the case, the doctor visibly rolled his eyes twice at DH’s complaints and also was quite sarcastic at times. They had drawn blood in case of a possible treatment on the next day, however the doctor all but confirmed he would be unable to get permission to release the required medication and that he should continue with his scheduled treatment in Toronto.

BOTH THE DOCTOR AND THE NURSE VERBALLY AGREED TO RELEASE THE BLOOD LAB RESULTS TO THE TORONTO CLINIC SO DH WOULD NOT HAVE TO HAVE BLOOD DRAWN AGAIN.

When DH got to the cancer clinic in Toronto, they did not have the blood lab results and they requested them once again from the Hamilton clinic. Two hours later, they still were not sent. DH called me, frustrated, and asked me to call. I attempted to contact the nurse at the clinic and left several messages imploring them to have the blood tests released. Moral of the story, I convinced DH to let the Toronto clinic draw more blood and he finally got his treatment, getting home after 8pm (this was from a 2pm clinic appointment).

I attempted to contact the Hamilton clinic this morning and they refused to let me leave a message as it wasn’t an emergency. I’d rather leave a message as I do NOT wish to speak to them at the moment as their refusal to release the information caused a needless test to be redone and required further discomfort to DH. Whither “do no harm”?

On the plus side, my niece who is going through piano lessons, passed her first examination with the Royal Conservatory of Music with first class honours and was invited to play at the provincial showcase last Saturday. Yes, as the proud musician uncle, I went to see her and enjoyed seeing her exhibit her talents and the result of a lot of hard work. I’m very proud of her!

I’ve naively agreed to perform carols for the Ottawa Street BIA (right by Cannon Coffee Co and Hat’s Wear It’s At) for their evening street festival this Friday – come to see me if the weather is agreeable!

The Gay Men’s Chorus first concert is this Saturday at the First Unitarian Church here in Hamilton. I’m singing lead solo in “Still Still Still” (a beautiful Christmas Carol), playing guitar for a song I arranged for the chorus (http://www.singmerrychristmas.com/ for the original song and story – the songwriter donated it to us) as well as singing in the chorus proper and assisting the accompanist on various keyboards…we are also doing the World AIDS Day Vigil on December 3 and the St. Catherines LGBTQ Winter Solstice service on the 21st.

Lah dee dah di deeee!

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weekend update

So we’ve had the surgical follow up and visits with the oncologist. News has been…well…interesting to say the least

· DH‘s healing is very well, the surgeon was not concerned about his various aches or pains and will clear him for physiotherapy/rehab in 2 weeks’ time.
· DH now weighs 148lbs (which at 6 feet and change is FUCKING thin), but again, the surgeon wasn’t concerned about this after reading DH‘s food diary. He’s been cleared to eat whatever he feels like/whatever he can as he’s hungry. The surgeon suspects he’s “bottomed out” weight-wise and should slowly rebound – until chemotherapy starts)
· The tumour was 3cm (approximately 1.25 inches) in diameter and completely contained.
· It was diagnosed as being full-blown T1 pancreatic cancer
· Of the 17 lymph nodes removed, 7 of them had cancer or “pre-cancer” cells.
· Full diagnosis is T1 N3 Pancreatic Cancer, localized to the head of the pancreas and bile duct.
· Full confirmation is Stage 1 cancer.

However

· The cancer cells were contained to the pancreas head and bile duct and not found in the margins of the portions of the pancreas, duodenum, bile duct or the stomach that were removed.
· There were also no “pre-cancer” or abnormal cells present in the other tissue samples either
· What this means:
· DH has been brought into our cancer treatment center for treatment of gastrointestinal cancer.
· We have been assigned to a medical oncologist, nurse practitioner and social worker
· Chemotherapy for at least 6 months is a given. This will be in the form of a weekly injection every week for 3 weeks, then a 4th week off.
· They are trying to get him handled at the local cancer center, however due to the nature of the cancer (pancreatic), they wanted to get him treated ASAP so it may have to be in Toronto at the main Canadian cancer center (Princess Margaret – he is officially a patient there now as they are associated with the transplant clinic regardless). The oncologist’s (who is 76 years old) comment was “One does not fuck with pancreatic cancer.”
· Chemotherapy will start next week in Toronto, I’ve arranged transportation with LCA for this week and the Canadian Cancer Society in the weeks to come.

So not good news, but not bad news either. The chance of a cure with surgery alone is 25%, the chance of a cure with surgery and chemo is 75-85%.

The long and winding road continues!