Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Off to the (other) races

My VERY non-Lance comeback to competitive cycling has begun (again...).

Started my treatment for the Hairy Cell Leukemia that had been slowly slowing me down till I was riding like a 2 year old on a strider.  Hairy Cell is a chronic cancer,  meaning that the treatment does not cure or kill it,  but only puts it in remission,  bringing the number of diseased cells down to a low enough level to prevent any symptoms.  Sad part is,  they then build up again,  quite slowly in the case of HCL,  but eventually you come out of remission and need treatment again.  In my case,  it looks to be 4-5 years of remission.  This is not NEARLY as long of a remission as I would care for.  A bit on the short side of median overall HCL remission times.  With only about 500 cases of HCL diagnosed a year in the US,  statistics are not good for my disease,   either treatment or duration wise.  This can make dealing with this "interesting" compared to the more common cancers at times.

So,  how does one put the fuzzy little bastards away for whatever time you can?   Treatment is VERY mild and tolerable by any normal cancer treatment standard.  The normal treatment is a single round,  5-7 days of a single Chemotherapy drug.  (Many chemo regimens now days use "cocktails" of multiple chemo drugs...).  Couple of weeks of feeling poorly,  reduced blood counts and you pretty quickly recover back to normal.  There is a newer treatment available now,  adding a "Monoclonal Antibody" 4 weeks after the Chemotherapy drug.  The intent is to eliminate MORE of the "residual disease",  killing more of the cancerous blood cells,  with the thought that this can lead to longer remissions by taking longer to "grow back".  Again,  the rarity of my disease rears it's ugly head in that there is only one small clinical trial of this drug combination with results so far.  At least that one small study seemed to show longer remissions.  With minimal side effects of the antibody drugs,  I opted to give it a shot,  again in the hope of getting more than the 4 years of remission before getting "slowed down" again.  Let's do this while I am "young" was my line.  Funny,  huh?

On Monday,  January 14,  I started my treatment.  A quick visit to the "Vascular Access Team" at Longmont United Hospital was first.  This was for the "PICC Line".  A "Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter" is a fancy IV,  one that you can go home with,  and allows multiple weeks of IV access.  This is a LOT less invasive that a "Port",  the other type of long-term IV access many chemo patients "get" to have.

Now,  mind you,  having someone snake a 45cm long tube into your "Superior Vena Cava" by way of your bicep is a pretty creepy "procedure".   Putting a "catheter" in your "Superior Vena Cava" via a "peripheral" is really just medical talk for cramming a tube in your arm and snaking it into your HEART.  What is weird about THAT?

Here is the nice nurse lady holding up a demo PICC line.  Yep.  in the arm,  over to the heart.  Sure.

This is my second PICC line now,  and in spite of the creepy-ness,  they are no more uncomfortable than getting a normal IV.  So in less than an hour,  you get a cool set of tubes hanging out of your arm.  And  you quickly forget that little purple tube goes into your chest. (sort of...)

Proper Access established,  run over to the GREAT folks at Rocky Mountain Cancer Center to get my dose of Cyto-Toxins going.  The standard HCL Chemo drug is "Cladribine"  .    I get about 50 mL or so (Not very much..) over a 7 day infusion.  Rather than the typical chemo experience of getting to go in to the "Treatment Room",  and getting endless IVs on some repeating schedule,  I can get my dose from an Ambulatory Infusion Pump,  a small pump I can carry around for that week.   This stuff is the other reason I can't get a regular IV.  It is SO nasty,  it can ONLY go in the high-volume veins near the heart,  a regular vein in the arm would get "cooked" from this stuff.  Neat,  huh?

All said & done,  I then get to tote this cute little setup around for the week.  I throw it in a fanny pack,  just for that '70s kinda fun vibe.

The pump pushes out 0.1mL of goop every three minutes,  with a nice little "Click-Whirr-Click" noise. Always reminding you it's going in.  Gives you the chance to remember what is going on and say things like "Die,  you fuzzy little bastards,  DIE!" to your own blood marrow.  Well,  at least **I** do things like that.  Maybe not all cancer patinets do.

Three days in as I write this,  and as in my last treatment,  I feel nothing yet.  Takes two or so weeks for THAT truck to run me over.   Always nice to know you are going to get hit.  Still feel good enough to go for a ride today,  even.  Just tuck your little friend in the jersey pocket,  let the IV tube dangle like a IPOD cord and go do it.  (Yes,  my chemo nurses did not think that was a good idea....  but then again they had no REAL reason NOT to.....)

Will finish up the week of hot pump action,  blood draws every 3 days, etc.  Then I will get ready for the crash.  Can't wait for that.  I'll keep the full blow-by blow updates coming as the fun unfolds.

Just as a side note,  I would like to personally thank Lance Armstrong for making the entire sport of competitive cycling look like a soap opera/freak show/TMZ episode.  ( I am SURE he reads my blog regularly...)
Oprah?  Really?  OPRAH is where you choose to come "clean"?

Good God.  Stinks like a herd of "crisis managers" and spin doctors to me.  Hmmm.  MAYBE Lance hired a herd of those kind of folks to polish the turd his "image" has become?  Nah.    At least it provides endless internet fodder and drinking games.  We'll be playing BingoSTRONG while watching that nonsense tomorrow night.  Should look just like this....

No matter what,  Thanks,  Lance.  You've done a GREAT job helping the sport you say you "love".  I really appreciate it.   Dick.


  1. Thanks for keeping us update, and good to see you today.

  2. Thanks for the update. I hope the rough part passes quickly for you.
    I wish Lance was over, he is for me.