Monday, November 15, 2010

In the Chemo Room: I'm back ... !

Yes, I'm back in the Chemo Room, just as my oncologist suspected I would be, and I had hoped I would not.

But the only way to keep cancer from killing you is to keep fighting it.

So I am back in the Chemo Room fighting my cancer with the same two chemicals that got a "profound"  response from my body during my last round of chemo: Erbitux, that expensive cell-starving biologic, and Ironotecan, a cell-killing juice you really don't want to try.

My latest treatment was last week on Thursday, and I spent most of Friday and part of Saturday and Sunday trying to get over the hump of it. Sunday's Broncos' thumping of Kansas City helped.

I feel better now, so I'm back at my computer to tell you again about where I've been in my fight against this disease.

Before the latest treatment, I was telling people I felt I had come back to nearly 100 percent of my work energy before ever being diagnosed. That was the result of a seven-month break from the chemicals: my hair grew back; the neuropathy in my hands, feet and legs continued to dissipate, making me feel like my nerves were growing back; I was writing and posting these blogs (about other subjects) more frequently, writing on about Colorado poetry more often, finishing my book about Denver oil man Timothy Marquez, and even writing about other literary topics on my poetry website,

I also underwent six weeks of radiation therapy trying to kill the one cancer-cell production center -- a lymph gland in my chest -- spotted in the March 17, 2010 pet scan I received following the end of the first Erbitux round of chemo.

The side effects of that treatment were minimal except for the fact that Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield initially denied paying for the treatment and sent me a statement indicating a debt of more than $70,000. I believe that claim is now being worked out. When you don't make much money, you have to treat such claims casually and just seek to have them resolved between your doctors, the hospital and your insurer.

Five-year survival rates for colo-rectal cancer starting with a tumor in the rectum are about 59 percent, according to a 2006 post on

My doctor, Thomas Kenney, believes my cancer had already metastasized to my lung before the September 2007 surgery to remove my tumor, so my odds of living with the disease for five years probably have been considerably lower, but my luck on the Erbitux and Irinotecan gives me a chance to boost my odds of survival even past the five-year mark.

I was taking flax-seed oil during the whole last round, and I believe (with no proof) it might have helped me, too, since long-ago research that was ignored by the medical community claimed flax oil acted as an anti-cancer agent. The latest anti-cancer agent to acquire blooming Internet demand is something called Lypo-Spheric Vicamin C, but you won't find many doctors swearing by it (again no proof).

My docs don't like me taking extra Vitamin C because they claim it interferes with the chemo. Kenney has told me to investigate my own alternative treatments to the cancer, and during the seven months I have been off his chemicals I have found that diet is probably the most logical alternative or supplemental treatment besides flax that I might undetake.

That's a difficult choice. You pretty much have to stop eating red meat, and if you don't eat vegetables raw, you should cook them from a raw state to have the most impact. The idea is the foods naturally boost your immune system, and your immune system is the best cancer-fighting agent there is. Chemo essentially destroys your immune system.

But with a new Whole Foods store and a Vitamin Cottage nearby, I might just give the food route a try. Many of you who know me well, know that I have never lost my appetite during this fight. Not for the fight, nor for a good dinner, cocktail and dessert on most evenings.    

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