Two Steps Forward and One Back

Two Steps Forward

On Tuesday, April 6th 2021, I re-started chemotherapy with the drug Capecitabine. It is four pills in the morning and four later in the day. This drug is not as aggressive as the Oxaliplatin I was on. However, it will not destroy my blood marrow. Like everything else with cancer treatment, each new event is an adventure and what is around the corner is unknown.

Since I take Capecitabine orally, I don’t need the port-a-cath to hook me up to an infusion pump anymore. My Oncologist wishes to keep it in for a while just in case it is needed; it is a whole lot easier and less invasive to hook up an intravenous line to the port-a-cath than poking around for a vein in my arm.

The side-effects from Capecitabine are pretty much the same as with Oxaliplatin: numbness in my hands and feet, extreme sensitivity to cold, some indigestion, and acute diarrhea. We just have to wait and see how I react. I must mention here that having the chemo holiday since February 23rd allowed me to eat ice cream. I polished off three tubs in the last week.

In spite of the bone marrow problem with Oxaliplatin, it was successful in the sense that my cancer is no worse or is it no better. Overall that is good news.

  • The cancer spots in my liver are the same. Some are bigger and some are smaller
  • There are no new locations inside my liver.
  • It has not spread from my liver and a handful of lymph nodes to any other organs or tissues throughout my body.

Capecitabine is not as potent a drug but my Oncologist is confident it is a good maintenance chemo for my cancer. At our last face-to-face appointment, he mentioned how my good health, cancer aside, and fitness for a young man has a lot to do with how well I am tolerating treatment. I chuckled when he called me a young man at age 67 but I guess many of his patients are in the seniors cohort.

So I view all this as two steps forward.


One Back

Yesterday, I had blood work at 7:10 am and when I got home from the collection, I decided to move my new motorcycle. It was in a position where it interfered with getting our car in and out of our parking spot. Even with my weight and muscle loss, moving the bike around manually is no big deal. However, while making the move I didn’t notice I had knocked the kick stand up. Thinking it was down, I only discovered too late to avert a fall and down I went. This is called “dropping” the bike. There is a standing joke that goes along the lines of, “there are two kinds motorcycle riders, those who have dropped their bikes and those who lie about it.”

The bike going down was no big deal as I was able to jump clear. But now I have my brand-new bike lying on its side in the garage and the security system has all the lights flashing, To get a bike back up, there is a technique where you tuck the handle bars hard left and as you do so you get a mechanical advantage. Almost anyone can get a bike up using this method. In hindsight I don’t know what I was thinking but I just grabbed the seat back and handle bars and started to muscle it back into position. When about halfway up I heard and felt my a pop in my lower back, instant pain, and had to put the bike back down immediately. I was clearly injured and had no idea how badly.

I called my son Chris who lives pretty close and said “I need help” and gave him a brief description. He said he’d be there in ten minutes and I learned later he though I meant I was under the bike.

Chris got the bike up and drove Janet and me to Emergency at the Infirmary on Robbie Street. We got there about 8:30 am. On the drive down I took my first dose of chemo pills. Although patients are allowed to have one guest on the floors, no guests are permitted in Emergency so Janet had to head home.

I was seen by a Doc at 9:30 and had an x-ray at 9:30. My attempt to lift the motorcycle resulted in a compression fracture of my L1 vertebrae. Other than pain management, there is no treatment. Compression fractures of vertebrae are common as people my age. I’ll be a little shorter for the rest of my life.

My son Drew came and got me and I was home by about 10:00. Kudos to the care givers at Emergency. I though that was pretty quick turnaround.

To my surprise, the Doc noticed that I have an old compression fracture of the T10 vertebrae. I have no idea when that happened but I had a bicycle accident about three years ago where I flipped over the bars and landed on my back. That is the only major trauma I can think of and in that event, I went to Emergency because my shoulder was bothering me. I had a sore back but that came as no surprise.

In the image to the right you can see the vertebrae are divided into thoracic and lumbar regions. The thoracic attach to the ribs; the lumbar do not. The damaged L1 is the first one and as I write a day later, it is not bothering me although the muscles around my hips are quite sore. I’m not sure of the connection but I spent most of yesterday in bed. It could be muscle ache from that.

I am wearing and abdominal binder. It wraps around my abdomen and uses a Velcro fastener to stay tight. It holds my incision hernia inside. It is quite wide so it provides some support for my hips which takes the edge off. Plus, other than cancer related drugs, I don’t do much else. The Tylenol 3 are making a difference with pain management.

I’ll be slowed down for a few days but this is not a catastrophe, just one step back.

As always, thanks for following my story. As a Support Pillar, you motivate me to stay positive and attempt to be the best version of myself. I am blessed to have such loving family and friends in my corner while God continues to hold my hand.

Peace, Love and Laughter
Phil

15 Replies to “Two Steps Forward and One Back”

  1. Hi Phil:
    Just finished reading this post and catching up on a number of others which I apologize for not reading when posted. But it was nice to read them in quick succession and see the various moods, changes, and opportunities that you write about with such interesting detail.

    Good luck with your new treatment plan. Three tubs of ice-cream in a week – as an ice cream fanatic, that sounds like an awesome accomplishment!! 🙂

    My prayers are with you and Janet as you continue your journey. The optimism and activity are certainly serving you well, but I think your walk with God is the most important component of your treatment plan.

    Stay blessed,

    Adrienne

  2. Phil you never cease to amaze me in the way you discuss your happenings. You are most thorough and always upbeat. You are teaching us a very valuable lessons in living life to the fullest. Anita and I send you many hugs my friend. We both received both of our Pfizer shots and soon we will be able to go out and about. Still can’t make it across the border but when we do, we’ll see you asap. Cheers Phil, till the next update.

    1. Here’s hoping the border will open soon. I have a lot of people I’d like to visit. You guys are way up that list.

      Cheers, Phil

  3. Thank you for this update Phil, I’m sorry for the bike accident and hope that you heal nicely from it. Throughout your cancer ordeal, I sensed happy tones in your writings, I’m still feeling them. I pray that God keeps on looking after you, Janet and your family, I’m sure He will.

    Love and Prayers,

    1. Always a joy to hear from you. We are doing well and it is so special that all th children live here now. It was great to have everyone for Easter Dinner on Monday.

  4. Phil, I don’t comment much, but I always read your updates and I love to hear how you are doing. Every day I’m amazed by your positive energy and you inspire me so much! You have such a positive attitude and don’t take anything for granted. You are always in my thoughts and prayers. Take care.

    1. It is so nice to hear from you. During my brief visit at the wedding, it was easy to see why Peter loves your part of the world … the people are wonderful, friendly, and genuine. I look forward to visiting again once the border opens up.

      Cheers, Phil

  5. Hmm.. Phil, this lumbar fracture (hairline I hope?) will be a disadvantage biking, won’t it? Therefore, your next research assignment is understanding the mechanical pressures put on your lumbar in various biking positions and modifying your bike to accomodate. Got that? Think on that while lying in bed with your legs propped up (at least that’s how I’m imagining you from a time when I herniated two lumbar disks; it was the most comfortable position).

    Thinking through actions before the acting on them part is what advantages us older and wiser types. 😉

    All the best, Virtual hugs to you and Janet.

    Laura
    PS. Platelets rising, I see. Blood marrow recovering! Your best recent neutrophil, white blood cells and hemoglobin counts were March 29th. Any special reason you can think of?

    1. Hello My Friend

      First and foremost, when the borders reopen I plan a loop through the US and you will be on my circuit.

      It is a compression fracture so my L1 is pretty much collapsed. It will remain that way for life. I’m now a little shorter but my nerves are unaffected so I’ll recover okay over time. I can expect some lose of flexibility but the impact on cycling should be minimal. You are quite right pointing out we need to “think through” out actions; cancer robs us of options healthy folks take for granted. It is a continuous game of figuring out the adjustments. With that said, I refuse to allow cancer to limit my choices. This is a setback. It is not a show stopper.

      The slide in blood work was the day after a really off day. Janet and I spent a couple of days at a cottage Staycation and I had a bad day on Sunday and didn’t eat well. I think the Monday setback in my bloodwork was a reflection.

      My bone marrow appears on the mend and after a week on Capecitabine, I’m doing okay. Although my hands and feet are numb all the time, my appetite is good and I’m not as sensitive to cold. Eureka … I’m eating a lot of ice cream.

      Cheers, Phil

  6. Hang in there dear friend! You are inspiring taking the steps and staying positive along the bumps in the road.

    Warmest regards,
    Eric

    1. So nice to hear from you. I see you and Carson get to celebrate Birthdays together. I suspect that has been a source of entertainment over the years.

      Phil

  7. Like, Theresa, Phil, I read all of your posts but don’t always comment. But I had to laugh out loud at this one when you were talking about the two types of bikers. That seems true of a lot of things in life.

    And isn’t this a weird time, with the border closed and all? That’s never happened in our lifetimes! Peter and I have now both been vaccinated, and we watch carefully the news of vaccinations in Canada. Hopefully the two countries will soon have an open border between them again, so that we’ll all be free to travel if we can.

    Stay safe, and keep on posting! Your fan base is following — from near and far!

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