“Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height…” Ah, the lyrics to one of my favorite tunes from the production of “Mary Poppins”. My wife and I went to see this classic and fun Broadway-style musical at the Arizona Broadway Theatre (ABT) last night in Peoria, AZ.
Now, this particular theatre is a dinner theatre. The night begins with a dinner that is, of course, included with the ticket price. The meal choices are outstanding. They have several choices that are included or you can pay a little extra for upgraded meals or dessert during intermission. I chose the chicken tikka masala dish and my wife upgraded to the lamb chops. The menu had a British food theme including traditional dishes like shepherd’s pie and sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
Now the best part of our night was the fact that our tickets were free, compliments of the H.O.P.E. team at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). This team puts together all kinds of outings and events for cancer patients treating at CTCA. We have been to sporting events, plays, and day outings in scenic Arizona. This group raises funds throughout the year to make these events possible. It gives patients a chance to meet other patients and share their cancer journey and to get out of the hospital and have some fun.
As for the production itself, the sets were very creative using multiple set pieces that moved seamlessly in transition. The cast put on a great show with not only the songs but also with the choreography. We have been to several shows now at this theatre and have not been disappointed with the food or the performances. Now, a couple of years ago, I would have told my wife that I don’t like musical theatre. But, in fact, she convinced me to attend the performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” at ABT and I have been hooked ever since. I have added some level of “culture” to my personality.
Thank you so much to the H.O.P.E. team for putting this all together and giving us a wonderful night out.
You’re in bed sleeping peacefully when all of a sudden the alarm startles you from your slumber. You begin to rise up and plant your feet on the floor when you feel a sharp pain. Have you ever woke up with pain and stiffness in your neck? I know I have. As a matter of fact, it was about three weeks ago that I woke up that way. I could barely turn my head around without severe pain. I thought I must have just slept in a funny position. But the pain and discomfort was only the beginning.
I began to notice that my left shoulder, triceps area, and elbow were in pain as well. It felt like a painful buzzing up and down my left arm. I then suspected after a few days of this that I could keep my head and neck in a normal posture. I was leaning my head to the right just to find a neutral position to minimize the pain. It has really interfered with my daily activities. What was I to do?
My first thought was to see the chiropractor. I didn’t experience much relief from that. Next, I was given some muscle relaxing and pain medication. It helped me to sleep through the night. Finally, I had an MRI done on the neck that showed a couple of herniated discs, and the C4-C5 was really herniated. This has been the source of my pain. The description I was given of a herniated disk is that it is like a jelly donut that has been squeezed upon and is oozing out of the donut. In this case, the gel in between the disc is pushing outward and pressing on the C5 nerve.
Now, I am going to have an epidural steroid injection that is supposed to help reduce the inflammation and get the pressure off of the C5 nerve. My chiropractor has told me that this should help with the pain and the healing process. I am glad I will be fully knocked out for this procedure. All I know is that neck pain really is a pain in the neck.
There’s a new kidney cancer-fighting cocktail out there and I am about to try it out. No, you can’t buy it at your local supermarket or health food store. This one is only available from a licensed oncologist.
As a current cancer patient, I am about to embark on my sixth type of treatment in four years to battle stage 4 kidney cancer. What a statement! Four years of receiving five previous types of treatment and by the grace of the Lord, I am still alive and kicking. Now I am getting ready for treatment #6.
This new cancer-fighting cocktail I am going to receive is a combination of two immunotherapy drugs. The first drug I have previously been treated with and is called, OPDIVO. Perhaps you have seen the commercial on television with the tagline, “A chance to live longer.” The second drug is called, YERVOY. What a name, Yervoy. It sounds like something you could pick up at Russian deli.
This combination has been shown to be very effective in treating metastatic kidney cancer in clinical trials. The FDA has put this treatment in the fast lane for approval for general use for kidney cancer. That is great news for kidney cancer patients like myself, especially now during kidney cancer awareness month.
Immunotherapy drugs are designed to boost a person’s own immune system to fight cancer cells with the body. These drugs have less toxic side effects than traditional chemotherapy drugs for fighting cancer. I am very optimistic that this will treatment will be effective in beating the cancer cells into submission for myself and other patients.
Well a few days ago I had my first PET scan. No, it wasn’t done to determine whether I should get a cat or a dog as a pet. This is a scan to help my oncology team to determine the status of the current cancer treatment I am on. I usually only get a CT scan. However, I am not able to do a CT scan with contrast dye. I only have one kidney left, my left one, and my GFR is too low. So, this scan will allow my oncologist to get a better view of what is going on.
Apparently before the scan I was injected with a radioactive sugar solution. I had to wait in a special room with a very thick door and scary radioactive sticker on the door.
After a short while, I was brought into the room for the scan. It was a larger looking CT machine. I am very familiar with CT scans on this cancer journey. It usually takes 5 minutes and I’m done. This PET scan however was slightly different. It began with a short CT scan. Then the machine moved me all the way through the scanner. It would begin a series of scans from my head to the bottom of my abdomen region. Each set took about 3-5 minutes. The only problem I had was that my left shoulder began to ache from holding a “Superman” flying position with my arms during the scan. Finally, when I thought I could stand it no longer, the test came to a conclusion.
My wife and I met with my oncologist a couple of hours later. One of the aspects of being treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA)that I love is getting lab and scan results quickly is. We got good news, the tumors in my lungs, liver, and lymph nodes seem to be stable with no new growth. So, the plan is to continue using Cabometyx
(aka Caboazantinib) for treatment and we will scan again in 3 months. He also reminded me that he has several other treatment options if Cabometyx ceases to be effective. So far I have been on this drug for one year and it is still providing me progression free survival. Thank you Lord Jesus!
As some of you may or may not be aware, I have been battling stage 4 kidney cancer since 2013. Let me rephrase that. My wife Tanisha and I have been battling this cancer since 2013. This cancer has invaded my body, but my wife is battling it just as hard as I am. I couldn’t make it on this journey with Jesus Christ and Tanisha by my side.
Since last December, I have been receiving treatment at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ. I have received excellent care from my oncology team. However, the distance to the clinic has always been a struggle. So, I have had to say “goodbye” to Mayo Clinic and go “home” again.
Where is home you may ask? Well in for my cancer care it’s a place in Goodyear, AZ called Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). Why do I call it “home”? Well, I began my treatment for stage 4 cancer at CTCA in 2014. I spent two and half years surrounded by a staff of stakeholders, clinicians, and doctors that genuinely cared about my treatment and well-being. These wonderful folks have been with my wife and I when the cancer closed in and nearly took my life in the early months of treatment. Then they rejoiced with my wife and I when the tumors began to shrink and some of the severe effects began to loosen their grip. This team of people make a hospital for cancer patients feel more like a home than a hospital. They are like family.
Do you remember the TV series “Cheers”? Each time the character of Norm would walk into the bar, his friends erupted and said, “Norm!”. They knew him and were excited to see him enter this fictional bar. Each time I walk through the sliding doors of CTCA I can hear someone on staff say, “John!”. What a great feeling!
It is for this reason, that I am so glad I have made it back home. I was able to meet with my new oncologist this week. I was very glad to hear the treatment plan he has in mind moving forward in this fight against cancer. Once again, I can walk the main corridor of the center and meet fellow patients as we encourage each other in this journey and fight.
Well it’s been 3 months since my last CT scan at Mayo Clinic. I have been treating at Mayo Clinic Phoenix since December of last year for stage 4 kidney cancer that has spread to both lungs, lymph nodes, and liver.
I spoke with my oncologist today and received some great news. Many of the tumors have shrunk in size and others remain stable. So, the current target therapy drug I’m on, Cabozantinib, is doing its job.
Thank you all for your prayers and support. I know that my Lord Jesus Christ will bring about complete healing of this cancer in His time and in His way.
It is now officially Monsoon season here in Arizona. This is the time of year here in the desert that the temperature routinely is in the triple digits. This time of year can be incredibly beautiful in spite of the heat outside. It is also the time of year that the state get the majority of its rainfall.
There are dust storms that can pop up quickly. While these dust storms can be dangerous they are fascinating to watch roll in like a wave and disappear as quickly as it arrives. These storms can be seen coming in the distance. They appear like a wall of brownish tan fog.
Then there are the powerful micro bursts that bring a lot of rain very quickly and end just as quickly. The picture below is an example of a micro burst of rain that covers a both large and small areas. The one way I describe seeing or being in such a burst of rain is like a taking a shower provided by mother nature. Well, sometimes it’s a 30 minute shower. When the rain hits, those triple digit temperatures quickly come down and bring some cooling relief from the desert heat.
Next, there are the thunderstorms. A free light show in the sky several can occur several times during a week. Often, the lighting is cloud to cloud. However, the best shows to watch for me are the cloud to ground lighting storms followed up with the loud crash of thunder. Being originally from California, I hadn’t experienced many thunderstorms until moving to Arizona. They are powerful, yet so beautiful.
The only issue with the monsoon in Arizona is that you never know where the storms will pop up. One neighborhood of a city can be hit with high winds and rain and just one mile down the road it remains calm. It’s always unpredictable and our local meteorologists are just trying their best guess. Yes, this time of year can be very hot, humid and uncomfortable outside. But, the beauty of the storm clouds, sunsets, and thrilling weather make this area worth living in.
Houston. We have shrinkage.
My wife Tanisha and I received some great news last week concerning my treatment for stage 4 kidney cancer. The tumors are shrinking. I have been on my 5th line of treatment in the past 3 years. I am now on a targeted oral therapy called Cabometyx. I have been on this drug for 3 months now. I started off at a low dose of 40 mg and am now tolerating 60 mg dose. The scans showed that many of the tumors that are spread to my lungs, liver, and lymph nodes have shrunk by almost half of their size from a scan 3 months ago.
They also did some lab work and an echocardiogram. The test showed my heart is still healthy and functioning well. The labs showed my thyroid has a low function. They have put me on a low dose thyroid medicine for now. The next CT scan is scheduled for late June.
We are so thankful for this wonderful, encouraging news. The Lord Jesus has been faithful throughout this journey of battling cancer. I thank Him for sustaining me through all the procedures, treatments, and side effects. Thank you all for your prayers.
What the heck!
So earlier this week I was just getting on the I-10 freeway heading to my cardiology appointment at Mayo Clinic. It was just before sunrise and I noticed as I got on the freeway that traffic was slowing in the lane I was in. I reduced speed and got on the brakes. The next thing I know, “WHAM!”. I was hit from behind by a truck, who was hit from behind by a Dodge Durango.
All three of us pulled off to the side of the freeway. Even as we are off to the side of the road trying to call DPS the cars on the freeway were still moving pretty fast next to the accident scene. I am shocked that this didn’t cause folks to slow down. But everyone seemed to be in a hurry to get to work I suppose. The DPS officer got all of our information and about an hour later we were free to go. I noticed right away that my neck was stiff and lower back was bothering me.
I then returned to the 101 Loop freeway to head to North Phoenix for my appointment. But, I was really freaked out and got off the freeway to drive back home. I wouldn’t have made my appointment anyway due to traffic. I have never been afraid to drive before. But that day I was terrified. Can anyone relate to my fear of this?
Now I have to deal with the stress of insurance claims and medical visits. I have a case of whiplash according to the doctor and chiropractor. I am so glad I have my wife to help me to sort out some of the mess this has created. I am grateful that our Mazda 3 only had some rear bumper damage. The car is still driveable. Now I pray that the LORD will continue to give us favor through this process.
Well it has been too long since my last update. A lot has changed since then so I will bring you up to date. I had been receiving treatment for stage 4 kidney cancer at Cancer Treatments Centers of America in Phoenix (CTCA). As of December of 2016 my wife and I decided to change treatment centers to Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. We had been thinking of changing care facilities for several months prior to making the change.
CTCA was a great place for cancer care for my first two years of treatment. However, this last year we noticed that the changes management was instituting were not positive to my overall care.
My new oncologist is an expert in the area of kindey cancer and runs the clinical trials at Mayo Clinic Phoenix. He ordered a battery of new scans and blood tests to get a baseline to start my treatment. I had never had a CT scan using contrast before. I finally received a CT scan with the contrast and it proved most valuable in determining what was going on in my body. It showed that the cancer was more widespread than previously thought. It has now invaded my lungs, liver, lymph nodes, and left kidney.
I have been given a new targeted therapy drug to attempt to combat the cancer. It is called, Cabometyx. It was approved by the FDA recently and has had good success in clinical trials. This drug is now my 5th line of treatment. My oncologist has told my wife and I that if this doesn’t slow down or shrink the tumors my survival will be spoken of in terms of months. However, we are trusting in Christ our Lord for complete healing of this disease. I thank all of you for your continued prayers and support.
I recently had an MRI on my brain. I had been experiencing headaches and they wanted to make sure the tumors hadn’t spread to the brain. Praise the Lord! There was no evidence of tumors in the brain. The LORD is definitely at work here.