Where did the week go…

No words can describe the level of tiredness I felt this past week due to chemo.  It really did a number on me to the point that I had no desire for anything.  Friends provided me some advice and I wanted to google it and figure some things out, did I have the energy? Nope.  Imagine that, the energy of typing key words in google and hit enter and read.  I had zero energy for that.  Zero. Ziltch. Nada.  All rounds expended on gun number 1.

From my last post to this now, I relied on family to feed me and take me to my doctors appointments.  While in the car, I was resting, closing my eyes.  At the clinics, I was resting, closing my eyes.  When I was home, I was resting.  And even when I tried to rest it was difficult.  My body kept waking up every two hours!  Why me!?  But it was to clear the mucus around my trach so I understood.  But it is not fun getting short clips of rest to say the least.

So today I am feeling a bit better, not as tired, with a bit more energy.  Two more chemo treatments to go, I know I got this.

So what is up with radiation treatment?  Well, for having throat cancer, I have had 6 radiation treatments, with 7 being later today.  My throat feels rough.  Thats the best way I can describe it.  My tongue is on fire.  I have zero taste buds and food taste like grey.  I do have cravings, like say celery or carrots and peanut butter.  Today, I would like some fried fish.  Not a sandwich, just a simple fish fillet.  But it is weird.  My appetite at times is gone and then at times its like I can eat whats on the menu.  All things in proportion.

All jokes aside, every doctor on my team always says for me to keep on swallowing because the fear is that I will stop.  People who have undergone this treatment, lost their ability to swallow because they stopped.  The radiation is that bad that it hurts to swallow.  So I continue to hydrate, drink about 3 liters of water, and continue to eat when I can.

Thank you all for your support, prayers, kind thoughts, positive karma and well wishes.

Chemo…bad…good?

So I had my first chemo/radiation treatment this past Thursday and let me tell you something about Chemo, it is bad!  For those that train, play sports, workout, or go for a run, imagine going all out for like 3 hours while dehydrated!  This is how bad it is.  You just don’t recover nicely at all.  It’s not like you are knocked down and then you get back up.  It is repeated over and over and over and over and over again.

So what does chemo do?  Cancel cells require a protein block in order to reproduce.  Chemo comes in a blocks this protein block from reproducing.  Unfortunately, your body’s cells require the same function and Chemo doesn’t know who’s who in the zoo.  So every cell gets stopped from reproducing.

So when do you get the effect of Chemo?  Mine took about two and a half days.  Thursday I  was fine, as well as on Friday.  Saturday afternoon, not so much.  By Sunday I was a zombie just sitting in my chair eating what I can over the course of the day.  Now let me explain something here real quick.  You know how when you are trying to go to sleep and you rest your body and then you have that small sense of no more feeling in your legs or arms?  I had that experience this past Sunday but it was much more worse.  I felt like my whole body was losing mass, as if millions of cells had just died off in my legs and arms.  It was quite dreadful to tell you the truth.

What about throwing up?  So far so good I haven’t.  They provided me some steroid pills which is suppose to counter that effect and it worked.  It came with a bad side effect though, hiccups.  And I don’t mean your normal hiccups, I am talking about anywhere between 5 to 10 hiccups back to back to back within split seconds of each other.  Best relief for me is to try and relax and breathe.  I found out that slow breathing techniques like holding every 4 seconds helps out a lot to control it.  I still get hiccups but at least I know what to do.

If you know anyone going thru Chemo, give them a hug, send positive thoughts their way, spread good karma, say a prayer for them and mostly, just love them.  They need all the emotional support now.  1 down, 2 to go.

My Sunday Faith Message

I don’t want to come across as ungrateful, because I know a lot of people mean well when they wish you the best.  For that I am really grateful.  I know a lot of my friends and family are Christian too, and I love to read any of their shared spiritual message.  However, one particular verse just doesn’t sit well with me.  And I don’t think it is because it is out of context in my favor, but I think it is just not understood in it’s full context.  The verse I am talking about is found in Isaiah, chapter 53, verse 5 and only quoting the end of the verse, “by his stripes we are healed.”

What troubles me is that no one reads the beginning of the verse!  For it clearly states this:  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Our transgressions, our sins, is what keeps us away from a loving relationship with God.  I am not saying that God is going to punish you for your sins, we do that to ourselves.  But the Bible says in Romans Chapter 3 verse 23 “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”.  But that is to say that we can’t, because in Romans Chapter 2 verse 8 “for by grace are you saved thru faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift from God”.   And it was God’s grace that enables us to have a relationship with Him because in John Chapter 3 verse 16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  THIS IS THE GIFT FROM GOD TO US!!!

And when you tie John 3:16 back to Isaiah 53:5, you see that the two are interlock and by his stripes we are more than just “healed”, we are saved by grace in order to have a better relationship with our Lord and God.

But do we stop there?  I pray not, and instead we move forward to how David prayed when he was caught in a sin and the verse is found in Psalm Chapter 51 verse 10, “create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me”.

Even in all the miracles that you see Jesus perform, and I can be wrong, but I am sure that Jesus always said, “Your faith has made you well” and “Go and sin no more”.   So it is our faith in Jesus, and God’s grace, that we are able to have a beautiful relationship with our Lord and God.  And when we move towards God with Jesus, then we are healed mentally, spiritually and physically,  We become as God intended us to be.

End of Week 1

It is the end of week 1 for me on my treatment with Cancer.  It started on Thursday with my first radiation treatment followed by a long 6 hour chemo treatment.  Today, it was just radiation.

I often wonder about those individuals who are unable to express themselves how they coped.  I am grateful that I am able to write my experiences and I hope it will bring some light.  I know that some of the upcoming subjects are not pleasant so I will try and be frank and honest about it.

For example, right now I am a bit constipated and it is frustrating!  Yes, I took some miralax and then I read on the bottle that it will take 1 to 3 days.  1 to 3 days!!! I feel like I can go now but nope, I don’t have any jumpers in the door.  I was told this may happen.  I should have taken the miralax sooner.  Lesson learned.

And now my throat is burning.  I was told that by my radiologist.  It feels like heartburn and maybe it is.  So today for second breakfast, my mother-in-law fried up two tortillas, melted cheese on one of them, added some salsa, a fried egg, and then placed the other fried tortilla on top of it all.  It was good!!! Then I remembered, no eating tomatoes or any other acidic food.  It’s going to be a long 6 months living with a bunch of people who love the Mexican cuisine.

Apparently, chemo does something to your blood sugars, like spikes them up bad.  So I am watching my carb intake as well.  My blood sugar reading in the morning before breakfast was around 115.  Day After Chemo, 155, and two hours of eating second breakfast, 288!!!  Holy moly!!!  So off I went to go for a walk in the neighborhood.  Now, I have always enjoyed walking around the neighborhood, and I figured I can at least walk a mile, maybe a bit more.  It’s been a long time since I exercised.  Somehow, around the 3/4 mile mark, I began to get hic-ups, my legs were ok, but I was getting tired.   So I walked back home and just felt fatigued.  So I layed down for a nap.

About those hic-ups, I still have them.  Going on strong since 2pm!  Although I stopped when I was taking a nap, but as soon as I got up, they were like, “hey about time now let’s get to hic-uping!”  So much to learn about this change of lifestyle.  My throat still hurts, no jumpers in the door, and I can only hold my breathe for so long.  My grandfather, Papa Nene, would always tell me to place a table spoon of sugar in my right hand and a glass of water in my left hand.  With the right hand, place the sugar in your mouth and quickly drink it down with the water in the left hand.  In the back of my mind I am thinking, “oh dang you diabetes”!

REDCON 1

It is difficult to get some sleep when you have a huge event happening the next day.  I know for the first day of school, I was always nervous.  First day on the job, yup, the nerves caused me not to sleep.  Coming home after a deployment, yup hard to sleep when you are going to see your family the next day.  And going in for my first day for treatment, yup, couldn’t sleep.

Somehow, I managed so sleep, because I remember the alarm waking me up at 5 o’clock in the morning.  We would have to leave in 45 minutes so we won’t get caught up in the morning commute traffic.  My appointment for radiation was set for 6:30 o’clock in the morning.  No time for breakfast, just time to get ready, brush my teeth, shave, get a quick body wash, and get some tea to go.

As I looked at myself in the mirror doing my morning cleaning of the trach, I went over each device.  The trach is working well.  It is difficult to live with that is for sure.  But it’s ready to go in case I ever get into an emergency situation if my airway is ever compromise.  My PORT for my chemo is ready as well.  The wound healed fine.  They used glue to put it together and over time it just peeled of my body.  My feeding peg is ok too.  It’s a little bruised at the entry point, but it too is ready to go in case I need to feed myself thru the tube because it becomes difficult to swallow food.

Yesterday, I did an inventory of my cleaning supplies and had to re-order with two different companies.  The first for the trach which was easy.  The company representative visited me in the hospital, gave me a card, and told me to give him a call when I needed cleaning supplies.  So when I called him yesterday, he was like, “oh yeah, Mr. Garcia, how’s everything?”  I told him it is going well and that I needed to order some cleaning supplies.  His response was perfect, “Ok, I already have you in the system and a month’s worth of cleaning supplies is ready to go.  You should get it by Friday or Saturday at the latest.”  Now that was customer service.

Then, I called the company for my feeding tube.  Somehow, someone, cancelled my order.  I don’t know who but I don’t blame anyone.  You see, my old Army training kicked in and said, “hey you really should check with these people to ensure you get your feeding supplies and cleaning kits.”  Even though it was cancelled, I need to thank my case manager to ensure everything was placed back on track.  Today, I received a 6 day of supply of food and tomorrow a nurse will come by to educate me on how to feed me.

REDCON 1 is a military acronym for READY CONDITION 1, which means all systems are go for a mission, everyone going on the mission have their weapons, their ammo, communications checks are done, vehicles are full of gas, all maintenance checks and systems are complete.  We are now just waiting for now is the time to go.  My time to go was at 5:45 o’clock this morning.

The Joy of Running

Run.  Run so that when your feet hits the ground, it’s the pavement that hurts.  My running mantra; oh how I miss thee.

I begin running a long long time ago growing up in my hometown of McAllen.  I was inspired by a Vietnam Veteran who worked at the post office at the time because after work he could be seen running around town.  My dad, also a Vietnam Veteran, knew him and would honk his horn every time we saw him.  I remember my dad telling me that if he would ever stop, he would die of a heart attack because it was so conditioned on the body being able to run.

So I began my running days around 1980.  We lived a few blocks north of the old high school track.  At night, this place became alive with walkers and runners alike.  It was an old dirt track, so there were no lanes.  You had walkers on the inside, middle, and outside so if you were a runner you had to constantly be swerving on a busy night.

As I grew older, I mapped out my own running course.  I had a 2 mile course and a 3 mile course, just depending on how I felt running that day.  In Junior High, I ran track and cross country, so after physical education, I would remain after school and run my miles that day.  Afterwards, I would walk home, do my homework, eat dinner and probably go for another run at the track as my mom walked her laps.  I was a crazy fool then to be running so many miles.

I would continue my running all the way up to about a year ago.  My hips, lower back, knees are not as young as they used to be.  Running almost became a chore and it was not something I wanted to endure.  So why run?  Simple, the one pure joy of running was having all the elements of my body synchronized and in tune with each other.  My breathing was relaxed.  My stride was perfect.  My heart was beating fine.  It was like my own body was a machine, a car, and I was taking it out on a cruise.  If I needed to give it more gas, I could.  If I needed to let of the gas and cruise, I could.  It was that euphoric runners high that I achieved on an almost daily basis.

You always think of what are you going to do in the future or when you finished a phase in your life.  For me, it is to go back to running and start entering some races just to enjoy the euphoric runners high that I miss and the ability to do an activity that I really enjoyed.

Life with a Tracheotomy

When I was first diagnosed with cancer in my neck, my ENT doctor was adamant about putting in a tracheotomy as soon as possible.  I, unfortunately, did not enjoy his same enthusiasm.  I had an appointment with the radiologist a few days later and he too was wanting me to go under soon but to put in the port for the chemo as well as a feeding tube.  Again, I did not share his enthusiasm either.  But during this visit, he had to look at my neck again by using a camera that goes down your nose.

Now, if you have a deviated septum in your nose, you are going to have a bad time getting any type of tubes down regardless the size.  Yours truly has a deviated septum.  But he managed to get it thru so he can check on my neck.  He had it hooked up to the TV screen so both me and Maria can take a look at the same time.  It was during this time that I saw that the mass growing in my neck was obstructing everything.  I agreed to going to the hospital the next week to get all the procedures done in time for chemo and radiation treatment.

Now, getting the Trach is not one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever felt.  Because the mass is growing in my neck, it is already blocking my airway.  In order to get the Trach in place they had to put a tube down my neck.  The doctors made me feel comfortable at first because they said, “once the tube is in, we are going to knock you out with general anesthesia.”  So I was like, cool it shouldn’t be an issue.  I was wrong.  When they get me in the operating room and got everything ready, they relaxed me and then placed the tube down my mouth thru my throat.  As soon as it entered my throat area, it seemed as if the mass wrapped itself around the tube thus disabling any means of breathing.

For the first time in my life, I was scared beyond scared.  Here I was helpless, unable to breathe or communicate and the doctors telling me to relax.  My eyes were saying, “please knock me out!”  but I don’t think they received that message.  They were busy getting everything in place and they did quickly.  I remembered that there was nothing much I could do, I was in the best hospital, had a great team of doctors and my life was in their hands.  It was at this realization that I relaxed a bit and then I was knocked out.

Now I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to live with a trach.  This is most bothersome in my neck.  My body knows there is a foreign substance and therefor increases my mucus production to expel it.  So imagine, clearing your throat like every 30 minutes to an hour.  Imagine trying to sleep and coughing up mucus all night long.  What is worse, and trust me there is, I have a few options with my trach.  The first, I can put a red plug in which pretty much locks any airway going in or out.  This enables me to talk with no issue.  The second, I can put in an extension that allows me to put in a purple valve that allows me to talk.  However, with a strong cough, I can displace it and now I am heaving thru this hole in my throat.  This leaves my third option, leaving the tube open.

I only leave the tube open when I sleep.  Because all the air is now going in thru my neck, I don’t snore nor do I need to sleep with my CPAP.  So that is a plus.  However, that mucus build up over the night gets me when I wake up as I am forcing air out of my trach trying to clear my throat.  When that doesn’t work, I get a napkin and cover the trach to block part of the airway and this enables some of the mucus to come out as well.

Finally, there is the cleaning.  I have to clean out my trach at least twice a day.  I have a suction machine in case there is any mucus in the trach tube and if I go too far down I end up gagging myself.  That is no fun either.  I have a gauze bandage around the tube that gets filled up with mucus, don’t ask me how, but I exchange that out when I clean my trach.

But I wouldn’t exchange this for a second.  The other option was to wake up one night unable to breathe and getting rushed to the hospital to get an emergency Trach done.  I would rather live with this device and learn about it now versus later.  I would rather cough up mucus, which is clear by the way and that is a good sign, every 30 minutes that I am awake.  I would rather have this in place now, knowing that when it is all said and done, it is removed from my body when I am cancer free and I never have to use a trach again.