Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hitting the wall

posted by Mary Lello, Wednesday, April 8, 2009, 4:35 PM

This is a phrase that is used a lot for people running marathons, how you "hit the wall" at mile 20 or whatever. Well, I'm not sure what mile Jim and I are at right now but we've been at this for 3-4 months and yesterday I hit the wall. Just cranky and tired, don't really want to talk or tell folks one more time how Jim is really doing. I guess I was low on patience too as I want to see BIG improvements. I want my man to crack jokes again and to listen to the news and then go into a long, intelligent discussion as to what is going on in the world, how he feels Obama is doing and to talk about Opening Day in Fenway.

Jim finished his 'maintenance chemo' on Monday. He did 5 days of chemo with a hit of 400 mgs/day. During radiation he was taking 100mgs/day, thus you get a better idea of just how big a hit the chemo is on this monthly basis. It kicked his ass pretty hard. No nausea but he did lose that great appetite he normally has and had a deep fatigue - needing to nap far more often. When he is fatigued he loses control of his right hand and foot so we saw a lot more of that paralysis happening as well as a lack of mental clarity.

As long as the chemo is doing it's job and knocking that tumor out of the park then we can handle this! I just get a bit freaked out since I still don't know what is on the other side of all this. Do I get Jim back? Will his sense of humor and his quick wit come back? Will his balance and wonderful coordination come back? It is such a huge unknown right now and so hard to accept where we're at sometimes. Most of the time I just keep plugging but when I hit the wall, when I feel that the finish line is just too far away and I won't be able to make it, then I tend to fall apart a wee bit.

But the most amazing thing happened, today I woke feeling hopeful. I went for an early morning run and I felt so much better for having done that. When I got back Jim was a bit brighter eyed and bushy tailed this morning after just one night of no chemo. and he had gotten back on his wind trainer while I was out running. It's the little things that set my spirit soaring again.

We went and saw Belanger last week - driving down in that nasty weather! Most of the blood work that he had ordered was back and so he had a lot to report to us as well as another car load of supplements for Jim to counter act or enhance all that he found with the lab reports. Fascinating stuff really. For instance, cancer cells will use our defense or immune system to it's advantage. Natural Killer (NK) cells that normally are activated to go to a sight of a lesion and to seek out and destroy any invading cells, like a bacteria can become deactivated by cancer cells making the NK cell obsolete - or a NON Killer cell (my term) - but still keep it programmed to call in for more recruits thus calling on the inflammation or healing process our body needs to heal wounds. When this healing inflammatory process is working then new blood vessels will form to help cells repair tissue damage. But the cancer cell uses this entire system to fuel it's own growth by deactivating the NK cells, so the cancer isn't attacked, and using the blood vessel supply in order to keep growing and feeding the tumor.

This is a horribly simplified version of it all but I didn't want to bore you too much. SO, Belanger is able to look at some of the lab work and tell us that JIm's NK cell count is down a bit but those that ARE there are ACTIVE ... this is a good thing! But Belanger wants to raise that NK cell count, or call in lots of recruits, and also make sure they stay active so that they are capable of destroying cancer/tumor cells .... and the crowds go wild!!!

This was just ONE small aspect of all the blood work he had done and we got 3 different supplements to help perform this ONE function in Jim. It's a big one though - but there's other supplements to do other things he discussed with us as well. Another example, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) is produced by platelets. VEGF is what helps form the blood vessels needed for tissue repair or tumor growth. The miracle drug we've all heard so much about, Avastin, blocks VEGF in the body thus cutting off, literally, the blood supply to the tumor. But there are other factors that help make blood vessels besides just this VEGF and Avastin doesn't affect these factors so we use 3 additional supplements (green tea, curcumin and pomegranate) to inhibit these other growth factors .... and the crowd gives a standing "O"!!

The belief our naturopath has - and I will include my own beliefs in this too - is that our immune system IS capable of fighting this thing. We just have to monitor it and get it back on track because for some reason Jim's system stopped working which allowed the cancer to become the control center.

So, we are doing all we can to fight this thing. We are coming at it from all kinds of different angles and trying to out smart it. Today I'm hopeful. Today I believe we will win this. Today I expect to see Jim moving better and talking better in the future. Today I don't care so much where the finish line is providing I can cross it with Jim.

Loving you all back,


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