Sunday, 26 May 2013

Update May 26 - prep for Push for Your Tush

Hey, we are the top team for the Burlington Push for Your Tush, Thanks again for all your help!!!
Just like fighting cancer, no one does this on their own.
My Update
This event is a bit of a celebration. Two years ago I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. At the time I was told the average survival was two year. We are at that point and to modify Mr. Twain “the statistical projections of my death have been greatly exaggerated! ”

Overall my health is fine but still have some secondary cancer growths to be addressed. They are all about 1cm or less. On bi-weekly chemo until we can determine what they are and what to do about them. Getting world class treatment from the team at Mt Sinai, they are focused on beating Colorectal Cancer, the second biggest cancer killer in Canada.

Run Update    
Matt will be running in Vancouver with his daughter and new born son. Colleen and Maggie will be doing the 5K with Cameron, Gavin and myself in Burlington. Owen will be running the 10K. Expect he will finish before we are at the half way mark, something about Owen being tall, thin and a teenager. Plus he still has all his hair … some things might change over time?

Karen, Sandra and Jacquelyn will also be joining us in Burlington. We just need to get Gerard out for the 5K walk and that will be all my brothers and sisters. Feel free to encourage Gerard if you can.

In Toronto Mark Nagy will be running with his son Sebastian. Susan and Megan Roche will be joining in the run as well. From St Marguerite-D’Youville, the kids school. Several of the staff have generously donated and Gavin’s teacher M. O'Shaughnessy might be running at well. She is trying to encourage other teachers to participate. So far only the staff has stepped up. Not trying to start a competition between the school staff and the teachers but just saying …..

About Colon Cancer Canada
The last time I did a fundraising event like this was over 20 years ago. The internet was something called a fax machine. BTW – faxes are still used by most doctors … nothing like spending a billion plus on e-Heath (sigh…stopping before I start ranting) . The funds raised by Colon Cancer Canada will be put to good use. Overhead is very small and funds are used mainly for direct patient support, investment in Canadian research with groups that we are close to or pushing awareness for early screening.

Still looking for support for our team; would really appreciate if you could sponsor or join at Push for Your Tush
Any support for this or the  Anne Murray Charity Golf Classic Anne Murray Charity Golf Classic is very appreciated.

Sorry for the long note. For those who have followed my blog I have a tendency to for longer updates.

TX – Stephen

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Update March 9

Not sure how to start I’ll just do a core dump of the past 8 weeks:
1.       Recovery from January operation went well
2.       CT results caused a lot of anxiety, summary of comments from the same scans
a.       Radiologist: Iliac lymph nodes are growing and assumed to be cancer from the primary plus many small dark spots in lungs but not sure if this is left over from Lung surgery
b.      Oncologist: cancer is aggressively growing in lungs plus growth in lymph nodes
c.       Lung Surgeon: spots in lungs are small clots and staples left over from surgery, no evidence of cancer in lungs
d.      Others – almost everyone else said listen to the Lung Surgeon
e.      Next CT scan in 12 weeks, will know more then
3.       Restarted chemo to address growing Iliac lymph nodes
a.       Staying on first line treatment, Folfiri and Avastin, had good results last time
b.      Started on Feb 12th, going ever two weeks
c.       Will have third treatment on March 12th 
d.      Have standard side effects but overall tolerating this better than average
e.      Next steps depend on response to chemo
4.       Developed a hernia on my right chest, just below rib cage
a.       Surgeon at Shouldice, said to just lose weight and exercise, surgery too risky
b.      Connective tissue pulled away, not uncommon after surgery, chemo and exercise
5.       Meet with Dietitian at Mt Sinai, great session, working on digestion and gas issues
6.       Looking at getting a pool installed this summer, whole family is looking forward to this
7.       Looking to return to work
a.       Paper work is in progress, moving slowly through the system
b.      Will be starting slow and working around chemo treatments
c.       Expect many things have changed at BlackBerry since June 2011

So that catches us up with the facts. The major stress has been the alternative ways of interpreting my last CT scan. We had known about the potential for Iliac lymph nodes for some time. The good news is they are close to where the primary was and it has taken them a long time to grow. The bad news is this might indicate cancer growth somewhere else, no evidence of that yet.

On Feb 5th at 10 am met with my Oncologist. He was reading the spots of an aggressive growth across both lungs. A few LONG hrs later I meet with my Lung Surgeon; he looked at the same scans and reports and said it was “A-typical” of the results of recent surgery. The spots were small blood clots, staple marks and similar. He said my lungs were fine and to not worry about it.
On one hand I trust my Oncologist; he is normally on the very cautious side, grounded in science and has many years of experience. However my cancer has never grown like this. It has always been slower growth and tends to grow in clumps not like sown seeds. Supporting this Lung Surgeon had just been working on my lungs and he knows what to expect a week after lung surgery.

So, this is where I’m glad that I’ve built an extensive network of health professionals. To be honest I was in a bit of a daze for the next few days and can’t remember the details of conversation. The main message I got was to proceed with treatment but also a strong trend to agree with the lung surgeon. In either case the treatment is the same.

On Feb  11th, meet with a surgeon at the Shouldice Hospital, they specialize in just hernia treatment. Can’t say enough good things about them. Based on doing some research, they are one of the top clinics for hernias in the world. Sort of clinic you expect to see in the USA.  My hernia is large but at only a 2% risk of needing surgery. Just need to avoid getting hit in the stomach. So much for Taekwondo, won’t be getting past my yellow belt for now.

Recommendation was to lose weight and exercise. I am 5lb from my final goal and trying to do exercises daily at home. Started wearing a support as well but as I lose weight and strengthen the muscles any pain is going to be manageable. Need to avoid any large meals in one sitting as well. Oh well, not like I have never had a large meal in the past. Overall probably a good practice to get into.

In terms of tolerating chemo, so far so good. My last cycle I had 19 treatments. At the start I was fine, almost no side effects at all. By the end I was ready to stop, was just staying sick and not recovering between treatments. Now I am feeling the side effects of chemo but they are mostly gone in 3 or 4 days. After my last session on a Tuesday I was out for a burger and beer with friends on Thursday, it took me a bit to eat the whole thing but I was talking a lot as well.

As for digestion, I do not recommend gong on chemo after having 1/3 of your large intestine and 3 feet of your small intestine removed. My system is more sensitive now and going on chemo just …. Saying it is thrown off balance does not do it justice. More like chemo takes my digestive system down a back alley, roughs it up a bit, throws it to the ground then gives it a few kicks with steel toed boots. Or, that is what it feels like for the first few days.

Starting to volunteer at the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada (CCAC). Starting slow but looking to talk as a patient advocate down the road.  Also working with some colon cancer awareness groups and had a video of an interview and will be talking at an internal product launch for a pharmacy company later in March. My goal is to help promote awareness of symptoms and treatment. With early detection people have a high potential for a cure, the challenge is getting people in for early detection.

Returning to work is a huge goal. Both mentally and physically it will be good to have a normal routine and something else to work on. The approval process has been slow but I can honestly say that everyone that I’ve talked to at BlackBerry and SunLife has had my best interest in mind. It is hard to feel like a number when people start telling you about their personal experiences with loved ones and cancer.

OK that is my short update for now. Please do stay in touch. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Jan 11 - Update

As part of the expected clean-up after my major surgery in April. On Friday Jan 11 I went in to have some growths removed from the surface of my right lung. Using the weeding a garden analogy this was expected, just not so soon.  

Every doctor said they expect this is just part of the colon cancer spread, this is a good thing. Just need some clean up from the primary now that it is gone. Very small risk of this being a new type of cancer, a very small but a real risk all the same. Better to be sure then assume. The biopsy results will be ready in a few weeks.

Sorry for not communicating this ahead of time. At first the news did put me in a bit of a funk since it scuttled my return to work plans. Also I was just getting my head around the fact that I was better … not sure I want to relive that. In some ways harder than dealing with being terminal.

The delay with return to work hit me hard as well. It was my talisman for getting better. Also for someone who makes his living planning complex launches, it was hard to deal with this setback on the day I was looking for final approval from a number of doctors. Sort of like being left at the altar.

On an odd but good note. My case is still outside the normal parameters. Several of the Fellows told me they stayed up late to go over ALL of my past CT Scans to look for any other issues. Most CT files have about 100 images. My impression is they want to find something so they can be a Star Fellow for a day. One of them went over the process of flipping between slides to see what changed. Not something that I would want to do for more than 5 min. Glad that at least two talented people have done this and found nothing new.

Below are some updates sent by Tanya before the surgery and one from me today.

Hope everyone is having a great new year!

From: Stephen Dunn
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2013 4:45 PM

Update from Stephen,
Correction: I was in TG for less than 35 hrs not 60, I blame the drugs for my poor math

On Saturday Sunday at 7pm I was released from Toronto General (TG). Not that I was shooting for a record but it was under 35 60 hrs from first cut to discharge. Overall the experience at TG was great. The medical team was world class and the nurses were great.

The only thing I miss from Buffalo was the daily foot massages “to ensure blood flow”. I guess this is a perk in the world’s most expensive medical system. I asked the nurses at TG but they wouldn’t go for it.

After surgery patience go first to Critical Care for a few hrs, they have with massive support. Then off to a Step Down Unit with four patience in a room along with two nurses, normally for a day or less. Finally to a standard room.  I spent almost all my recovery time in a Step Down unit. This was great. Got personal care and meet some great families.

Asked the surgeon’s Fellow if I should be worried about 2 vs. 3 tumors. He said no, they were all on the CT scan. It was just that no one knew what they were until they went in. The growths were small and in one location. This is good; they only had to remove a small patch of lung close to the surface. He said it will all come down to the pathology. My next visit is on Feb 5th. Will know more then. My focus this week is on recovery.

TX - Stephen

From: Tanya Dunn
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2013 11:36 AM
Subject: Re: Update on Stephen's surgery today....

Good news! I just met with the surgeon, and the surgery went well and Stephen is now in the recovery room. Unfortunately, they found a third tumour in his right lung, but they were all removed, and he ended up with only 3 incisions, 2 covered with Steri-strips and the other one with only 2 stitches, not a big scar like last time. The 3 tumours are being sent to pathology and we should have the results in 3 weeks as to whether this is lung cancer or still spread from the original colon cancer. He had no major complications and lost only 10 ccs of blood. The surgeon said that he will spend the night in MICU and could be released as soon as Sunday if the chest tube is able to come out by then.

Thanks again to everyone for their kind thoughts and wishes. It is greatly appreciated.


From: Tanya Dunn
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2013 11:13 AM
Subject: Re: Update on Stephen's surgery today....

Hello everyone,
Stephen went into surgery right on schedule at 9 am this morning, in good spirits.
No news as of yet, but not expecting any update until at least 11 am. We were told that he will spend tonight in the MICU (a less intense Intensive Care) and should be moved into a room on the 10th floor for tomorrow. I was told I will be able to see him briefly once he is out of recovery.
That's all I have to update as of now.