Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The End of the Season

Since my last blog, Dan has had 2 Chemo appointments and 3 Cross Country Meets…I guess it’s time I got everyone caught up!  On October 13th, his monthly Chemo appointment included the works:  IV chemo, a lumbar puncture and a bone marrow biopsy!  That means getting up early, traveling the 100 miles to the Cancer Center and per our previous experiences, a very long day!  We had to be there at 8:00 am for labs with the LP and BMB scheduled at 9:00.  Usually, this meant we would be upstairs in the procedures area by 8:30 and have to wait for the Doctor until close to Noon to do the procedures!  The labs have to be gone over carefully by the Research Coordinator and then the Doctor…if his ANC (neutrophil count or immunity) is too low, sometimes, depending on the grading system, his daily oral chemo (Mercaptopurine or 6MP) and weekly Methotrexate (MTX) can be reduced or even suspended – we look forward to that!  If it is too high, it can be increased…which is not a prospect we look forward to.  Also, if his hemoglobin or platelets are too low (haven’t been in a long while, thankfully), they may have to postpone or cancel procedures due to the risk of bleeding or hematomas, etc.  His monthly IV chemo, Vincristine almost never gets cancelled…it doesn’t really work against the ANC and other levels!  He could basically be unconscious (God forbid) and still receive the Vincristine!
Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls, SD
  So this time, we arrived a little late…just a tad after 8:00 and found a line in the lab…at 8:00…seriously???  We made it upstairs to the Infusion Center and went immediately into the procedure room.  Usually, when he has an LP, he goes into a room that is similar to a hospital room (only smaller) with a hospital bed and TV and that is where the office visit and LP is done.  If he was having an LP and BMB eventually he would be brought to the procedure room – so this was a first for us!  The down side…there is no TV in the procedure room so not much to do while we wait for the labs.  We didn’t really have a long wait…after we found out his labs, they started prepping him!  We were informed our new Doctor, Kelly runs a very tight ship and should be there shortly to start the procedures!  So I was kicked out to sit in the waiting area…trust me, I don’t care to watch the needles (deathly afraid of them) and I know of 2 people (medical residents) who have passed out or went down while watching one of Dan’s BMB’s, so I am happy to miss out on that!  I have full trust in the Doctors as they do this several times a week!  Our nurse, Nancy came to tell me that everything went fine and that he was sleeping – he is not completely out during the procedures but he is given Versed – which means he has little or no memory of the pain.  He usually sleeps for about an hour afterward – plus he needs to lie flat for about an hour after the LP to keep away those nasty LP headaches!  They usually give him the Vincristine chemo while he is sleeping – it only takes about 10 minutes anyway!  
This is one of the Infusion Bays where we go for chemo only.
 After reviewing his labs, Dan’s ANC was .35 (normal is 1.8-7.7) which was very low. The Clinical Study he is on  ECOG C10403  requires that the daily dose of 6MP & weekly dose of MTX be suspended until the ANC rises.  We were so sad about that…not!  This would bode well for his upcoming cross country meets!  He would need to get labs in Storm Lake every week to check and see whether his counts were responding to the suspension of his medicine.  (One week later they were back to the appropriate ranges and the 6MP and MTX were back to the regular doses).  We were actually out of the Cancer Institute Building by Noon – a first for us on a procedure day – and had plenty of time for a sit-down lunch with my daughter, Alicia before we headed home.  You are actually not supposed to drive for 8 hours after going under but we waited awhile after we got home and made sure he was fully awake and then Dan drove back to college (75 miles) – he had no issues, thank goodness!
Dan running at the Jim Drews/Tori Neuhbauer Invite
 That following Saturday, Dan ran at the Jim Drews/Tori Neuhbauer Invite in West Salem, WI.  I wasn’t sure he would even be able to run being he had an LP and BMB just 2 days prior!  Most people are so stiff and sore after, they have a hard time walking, not to mention running an 8K!  But you have to know my Dan…he doesn’t think anything of it – doesn’t see what the big deal is that he is able to do this – it is just what he does!  He ended up running 30:36 – 20 seconds faster than the last meet and a minute faster than he ran at the same meet a year ago!  I was not able to go to the meet since it was so far away but was so surprised to see his time for the race!  I never imagined that he could do so well after what his body went thru just 2 days prior!  He continues to amaze me!
Dan running at the IIAC Conference meet in Decorah, IA
Every year, the BVU cross country team’s main focus is on the Conference Meet – that is where they try to peak and run their best times of the year.  Dan was especially focused on this meet and now had the added incentive of running after a week free of oral chemo!  The meet was in Decorah, IA and I had pondered attending but with a 4+ hour drive each direction and the car issues I had driving to the Waverly meet, I reluctantly decided to sit this one out.  I now really regret that decision but that is hindsight – nothing I can do about it now!  I kept watch on the conference website for the posting of the results and the text from Dan!  When it came in, I was shocked…he ran a 28:54…a minute and 40 seconds faster than previous his best time of the year…and almost 3 minutes faster than his best time last year!  I ran into another BVU parent last week, who told him how good Dan looked at the Conference Meet.  He actually had something left at the end of the race and finished with his (former) signature kick!  Dan was so excited about how he did!  He had gotten a glimpse of what it will (hopefully) be like his senior year…running track with no chemo in his body – (he finishes chemo on January 19, 2013)!  I think we are all looking forward to what he will be able to accomplish then but still appreciate what he is able to do now!
Sunrise on the way to Regional meet - somewhere South of Milford, IA
 This past Saturday, Dan ran at the Regional Meet back in Waverly again. We were in Sioux Falls the Thursday before for his IV chemo appointment so we weren’t sure how he would be able to run just 2 days after chemo.  Of course, typical me…I had to stop twice on way to take a couple of sunrise photos!   I met his girlfriend, Bre outside of Storm Lake and rode with her to the meet…along with her new (and by extension Dan’s) puppy, a golden lab named Mazy! 
Dan, Bre and Mazy...aren't they cute?
 She is just 2 months old and is adorable!  She is also, we found out at the meet…a chick magnet…also, a guy magnet, a couple magnet, etc.  We had so many people coming up to us…asking to pet the puppy!  It was so funny! We also got to spend time with Bre’s sister, Caitlyn and her new baby, Brock!  He is absolutely adorable and it was fun getting to meet him for the first time!  The Regional Meet is a little different from a regular meet – in a regular meet, all members of the team are able to run – some have 40+ team members but only the top 5 figure in to the team totals.  At the Regional Meet, only 10 team members are allowed to compete so there are less competitors!  Most of the rest of the team members come to cheer on their teammates – many dressing up (2 girls were Tele Tubbies), painting school colors on their bodies, carrying huge team flags, etc.  My favorite was the Luther College group – they are the Norsemen.  There was one guy in a typical Viking hat with horns, another guy with a huge axe, a huge flag and after the men’s start, they ran together in a line, screaming with the flag flying!  It was like a scene from the movie, “Braveheart”.  It was really quite a sight!   
Dan running at Regionals in Waverly, IA
 Dan ran the 8k in a 30:19 – about a minute and 20 seconds slower than at the conference meet but still over a minute faster than his best time last year!  He said he knew after the first 400 meters that it was not going to be a good race for him…his breathing was not good, probably due to his declining hemoglobin from restoring the chemo.  It comes with the territory – you never know what is going to happen from one race to another.  That goes for any athlete but for Dan it is especially so…there are so many variables that can influence his performance! 

I am so very proud of what Dan has accomplished this year in Cross Country!  He has worked really hard and it shows!  He now gets a couple of weeks off and then will start training for the Indoor/Outdoor Track Season.  He will start working (as will the whole team) with the new Strength & Conditioning Coach – hopefully he can help him get back his quad muscle mass that he lost during the first, intense stages of chemo.  He gained back the muscle, but it is now much leaner…we will see what he can do!  He is also anxious to see what his track times will be since his cross country times came down so much - what will his 800 and 1500 meter times be???  Only time will tell!

P.S.  For those of you in Iowa, please tune in on Saturday afternoon to watch the Spirit Lake Indians in the 2A Championship game - first time ever trip to State for the Indians!  Best of luck to them!  Gooooooo Indians!!!