Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Things can always get worse

  Yesterday was a bad day. Not because of cancer but rather with life in general. It started out bad. It never got better.
  We have cats. Actually we have cats and dogs but at one time we had 8 cats and all but 3 were feral. Maybe we have "sucker written on our foreheads but we took in every stray we ran across for a while. As of yesterday morning we are down to 4.
   For the last month we have watched as one of the outdoor cats got thinner and thinner and began losing hair. We gave him worm medication and fed him tuna and salmon but he continued on a downward spiral. For the last week we put him in the bathroom at night with food, water, and a soft blanket and let him out in the morning. We will be needing a new bathroom door. Sunday evening I carried him into the bathroom, set him down, and provided him a bowl of albacore tuna. "The good stuff", not the nasty cheap stuff! When I opened the door yesterday morning it was clear that he had not moved all night. His food and water was untouched. He had to be put down.
   I was late for work yesterday because I had to bury the cat. His name was "Ozzy" He was a big, solid black, "Tom Kitty" and he was a good boy! 
   Yesterday I had band practice and because I was late for work and had to stay late to make up the hours I lost, I was in a hurry to get home. On the way out the door, a co-worker said "Have a good evening" I foolishly replied, " It can't get any worse" WRONG!! It can always get worse! 
  On the way home my old clunker work truck decided to over heat. I let it cool down and for the next 3 miles, I drove it up the hills and then shut off the engine to cool it as I coasted down the other side. I got home but for a while it was questionable if the truck would make it. 
  Practice went great. We played a lot of great music and had a good time doing it. After practice I headed home. The first thing I did was look at the mail for the day. I opened a letter from a company who is in charge of online fishing and hunting license sales in Washington. The letter stated that all of my personal information had been stolen. Yay!!
   After absorbing that blow, I took the camper off of the Dodge so I could drive it to work in the morning. 
  Finally it was bedtime. I showered then brushed and flossed my teeth. While flossing, I popped a crown. $&@?


  Every trial brings with it a gift if we can only distance ourselves from the situation far enough to see it. I did not see any of my gifts until this morning. I wasn't really looking for them. I'm still not but some have become self evident. Sure, my truck needs repair but at least it broke down on my way home and not on my way to work. My personal information was stolen but I have 2 years of free credit and identity theft monitoring. Everything is a matter of perspective.
   Cancer Sucks!! There is no other way to see it but even cancer brings gifts. They are not always self evident. Sometimes we must search for them. Sometimes we must step out of our situation to see the blessings. Is it the chicken or the egg? I had a thought but it died of loneliness. 
   Does cancer cause blessings or is it the blessing. Perspective!
  This morning I had a revelation of truth. It is one of recurrence. I am the happiest I have ever been. I am not proud of parts of my journey but in aggregate they brought me to this place. Embrace the suck! Todd


Friday, September 16, 2016

The caregiver

   Caregiver, Lord, I hate that word. I'm not alone. Statistically, 40% of cancer patients view the term in a negative way or object to it outright. To me, the term caregiver, invokes images of hospice and end-of-life care. Mandy does not fall within those parameters. In our relationship, I be like Rocky Balboa and cancer be Apollo Creed and he be kicking my ass.
 Mandy be like Mickey in my corner. Granted, she is a much better looking, kinder, and feminine version of Mickey, but you get the idea. She is the one pushing me to fight. She is the one who gets me outside and motivates me to live my life in spite of cancer. 
  The problem is not the word caregiver, the problem is my perception of the word. If we did not use the term caregiver then what word would we use. In reality there is really no other word that fits the person or persons in our lives that walk through this journey with us. Amanda is my wife but what about people who are not married. Loved one might work but some caregivers do not fit that catagory either. Another problem is that if we tried to change things up, nobody would know what we were talking about. I guess I will just have to learn to live with the word. I need an attitude adjustment. Oh, by the way, the Seahawks lost to the Rams today so my attitude is in need of much adjustment. Go Hawks!!!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bad Logic

   I use to be immortal. Life insurance was for an older and much wiser genre. I got sick. Now it is too late. They don't sell life insurance to people who need it. I was kind of like this guy.
  Okay so I wasn't the brightest crayon in the box. Few faux-immortals are. It wasn't a problem prior to Diagnosis.
         I kind of felt like this guy.

So, I am going to die really young they said. How do I provide for my family? "Simple" said my financial guy. "Go heavily into debt on high dollar minimally depreciating items and take out life insurance on the loans." Wow... Great idea. I die, the loans are paid off and Mandy can sell the Items for profit.
   As mentioned above, I am not the brightest crayon in the box. Further more I am not the sharpest tool in the shed. I am a brick short of a load. My elevator doesn't reach the "Top floor", and if brains were gasoline, I couldn't power a sugar ants motorcycle around the inside of A cheerio! I neglected to factor in one possible scenario. What if I don't die?
   For the last ten+ years I have remained heavily in debt hoping to buck the system. Over the course of ten years, I have managed to piurchase and pay off quality firearms, expensive guitars, a very nice boat and several other toys and vehicles. While in doing so I have managed to fill our toy box, it is clear that 10 years later I would have served my family far better by putting that money into short term bonds and long term investments. I am not complaining. It has been a lot of fun. Mandy will benefit financially and we have all benefitted in the enjoyment of our lifestyle but hindsight is 20/20. 
   My plan would have worked quite well had I followed my original prognosis but I guess life really is a crap shoot. 
In summation: "It is time to go boat shopping!!"


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Adjusting to a new chapter

   Writing has been slow as of late. Perhaps it is on a parallel course with life.
Last year it seemed as though we were running somewhere every evening after work. Our daughter kept us busy. It was her senior year in high school. It seemed as though we were attending a different function every other night just trying to keep up with her. The last few weeks of high school we had multiple activities almost daily. And then it ended!
   Life is still. Michaela began her first job and is starting college in a week. Many evenings it is just Mandy and I at home. It is a quiet time but it has its own special beauty. Michaela is transitioning into adulthood and adjustioning quite well to the new responsibilities. She opened her first checking account and religiously saves for the third of tuition we require her to pay herself. It is not that we cannot afford to pay all her tuition but rather we want her to have a vested interest in her future. We took her to our insurance agent and allowed her to choose her insurance options. I was pleased that after speaking to the agent, she chose wisely. I think we did a good job. We are pleased. As Mandy and I adjust to a semi-empty nest we struggle to fill the empty hours. Thank goodness the walking dead starts in 6 weeks!!!
   Summer is over. We washed the boat and cleaned up the interior and hung all the lifejackets and wetsuits up until next year. 
Last weekend I rolled the snowmobile trailer into the garage and started getting the sleds ready for winter. Hunting season starts in a few weeks. I'm looking forward to my 10 days in the wilderness chasing elk up and down the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. With all of our free time, we have been working on projects around the house that previously we never had time to complete. 
We have decided that we won't be taking any vacations for the next two years. Our home was built in 1979 and although it has had significant upgrades it is beginning to show its age. In the next two years we hope to paint, re-roof, install new carpet and flooring, and finish the landscaping. It will be a huge undertaking. In some ways I feel I don't exercise a lot of common sense. I've always been too stubborn to pay somebody to do something I know I can do myself. If the car breaks down I fix it. I do all of my own home repairs. The list is extensive. I am fairly competent at drywall, electrical, plumbing and general carpentry. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever reach the age where I decide to take the car to oil can Henry's for an oil change instead of getting down on a creeper and doing it myself.
   It is a quiet time. I think I'm going to like this new chapter.
   On the cancer front, nothing has changed. My last PSA came back as undetectable. Life is very good.
  We found the boat we hope to buy in the spring. It will be hard selling our current boat. We have had five years of wonderful memories of fun in the sun. The family however, is getting bigger. I have six granddaughters and another grandchild on the way. Michaela has been dating the same boy for a year and a half now. I think they are starting to get serious. Soon there will be more grandchildren to teach how to water ski. That's all I have for now I will be writing more soon.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Zytiga 3 years and counting.

  I have now been on Zytiga for
3 years. My most recent PSA came back at an undetectable level. It has been at that level for 30 months. It has been a good ride. I began writing this post over a month ago so currently I have been on Zytiga 38 months. I guess the reason it has taken me so long to finish this post is because my emotional state is a little mixed at the moment. Don't get me wrong, I am elated that I have had such an amazing response to my treatment. What concerns me however is the length of time I have been on treatment. Every day it seems there is some ambulance chasing law firm on the television filing a class action lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company because of side effects from long term drug use. 
   Long term Lupron use causes several nasty little side effects. I get to look forward to ostioperosis, increased risk of heart disease, and now it appears I have a 50% higher risk of developing dementia. I am sort of a glass half full kind of guy so on a positive note, I may live long enough to forget I am sick.
   Zytiga is an unknown. In the short term I have noticed very few side effects other than higher blood pressure due to the prednisone and a tendency to bruise easier. Not much is known yet about long term exposure to the drug. I, and a million or so other guys, are essentially Guinea pigs. It is necessary. It is the only way science can advance cancer treatments. If my prognosis was not terminal, it might be unsettling but the truth is, were it not for these new treatments, I would already be in the grave. I suppose that as long as I don't grow a third eye or something equally bizarre, I can handle any side effect that comes down the road. 
   It has been 124 months since my stage IV diagnosis. I feel good most of the time. I seem to need more sleep lately but I am getting older. I think part of that is normal. 
  When first diagnosed, I would ponder all of the things I would miss out on because of cancer. I felt ripped off that I would not celebrate my 50th birthday like all of my friends and family. In 6 weeks I will be 53! All of the things I thought cancer was going to steal away from me continue to happen. I am grateful. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

I still have cancer

   I have been on the drug Zytiga for 3 years now. At times I have felt like this disease might never come back. I have even toyed with the word "cured"! A pipe dream perhaps. Isn't that what all cancer patients want? To be cured! I do want to be cured. I want it with all my heart. I want to hold my wife in my arms and feel the rush of passion she so much deserves. I want to believe in a future that is without the asterisk of cancer. I know however that I have been living in denial. 
   Last Monday I went in to have blood drawn for monthly labs. I was not suppose to have a PSA test and they did not draw blood for one but my Doctor must have insisted on having one drawn because the next day I received an email stating that I had new test results. 
   For the last several months, my PSA has come back as less than 0.02. Prior to that it came back at less than 0.05 for almost 2 years. On this last PSA test it came back at less than 0.05. What does that mean? Absolutely nothing. My PSA still falls below the lowest parameter that can be detected by the test that was used. They simply used a different machine this time. I am still undetectable. Yay!!
   When I get these online test results, I have a difficult time reading them. The font is very small on my phone and my eyes are not as good as they once were. At first I did not see the "Less Than" symbol. All I saw was 0.05. For a moment my heart sank. All I could think was "well here we go again" That is when reality set in. I still have stage IV prostate cancer. At this time in history nothing can change that. 
   I am doing well. We are on vacation and I have water skied every day like I am still a punk kid. Life is a wonderful gift and I will do my best to choke the life out of every day. Maybe the cancer will stay in remission forever. Maybe I am not cured but I am the next best thing. My blessings are too many to count. Vacation is not over yet and we have had Todd and Amanda time 4 times this week. No blue pill or injection required. I will write soon. Todd

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Oh What A Difference!

   I met my new doctor yesterday and I couldn't be happier. What a difference.
Here is how I will make a comparison. 
   Last Monday, July 18, I had an appointment with my Oncologist at Kaiser Permanente. It went something like this.
   Hello Mr. Seals, how are you today. Is your PSA ever going to go up? Your lungs sound good. See you in 2 months and I will sign the orders for your prescription. 
   The entire time with my doctor was 5 minutes. There was never any discussion of what is next or the future or anything. 
   On Monday, July 25, Mandy and I drove south to Providence Cancer Center in Portland Oregon, to meet my new Oncologist. 
               Dr. Brendan Curti.

   My new oncologist sees patients one day a week. The balance of the week is spent in the lab. Dr. Curti heads a research team at Providence Cancer Center in the field of immunology. His team developed OX-40, an immunotherapy headed for a Nation Wide Clinical Trial in the coming months.
   To be fair, I cannot complain about the quality of care I have received at Kaiser Permamente. I can however state that they have never once went over and above any normal standard of care and have put my family through hell by forcing me to fight to obtain medication while this disease was progressing.
   The moment Dr. Curti walked into the exam room, we knew we had found our new doctor. His demeanor was both professional and compassionate. We exchanged pleasantries and then discussed why I was there. To my surprize, he listened to me. I explained to him that I have a minimum 30 year plan and when I stated that failure was not an option he didn't smirk. I told him that my current physician never discusses current or future treatment plans. I mentioned that I am not the type to get caught watching the paint dry and that I need to be included in the process. He listened to it all. 
   After our chat he did a thorough exam and then it was his turn to speak. He told me that I must realize there is no need to do anything different at this point. After all, I am in a durable remission. He acknowledged the fact that one day the cancer will return. He told me that if my PSA reaches .5 he will give me a pet scan. He talked about using radiation to kill small cancer clusters. He talked about using chemo and Xtandi and other immunotherapy. He talked about things my former oncologist never brought up.  
   Having a medical team that has your best interests at heart is paramount. I have never had that luxury until now. Amanda and I no longer feel alone in this battle. We can look forward to the future with confidence. Today we feel thankful and grateful!