Thanksgiving Weekend Update

To all my friends and family, I hope you had a peaceful and fun-filled Thanksgiving.

I wanted to take a moment, because I am starting to get a lot of questions from people, to explain where I am in my recovery. It is a tricky thing, this recovery period. What I have come to realize is that the chemo drugs did a quite a number on my brain and my cognitive ability. When I am surround by lots of distractions, I get overwhelmed and I am unable to think through what is happening. My brain gets fatigued and I have a difficult time concentrating and communicating.

Most of the time, I am at home, in a controlled environment where I can control the distractions. I have been learning techniques at occupational therapy sessions to pace myself through the day. I can typically handle one-on-one conversations without a problem. When I am in more social situations or in a new place, it is difficult to get through without some hiccups. It is by far the most challenging part of my recovery. My general physical state is good, my energy is up and the other side effects that the drugs inflicted are getting better or are gone. The trouble now is getting my brain to work right. What I have heard from other patients, the nurses, and the oncologists throughout the treatment process is that everyone reacts differently to chemo – obviously for me, the reaction was messed up the brain circuits.  There is no timetable of when this will recover fully.

My last chemo was given on September 27th. We consider the end of treatment to be two weeks later, when I finally did not have to go get chemo and most of the effects of the last chemo were gone. So it has been about 6 weeks since the chemo cycles completed. It seems as though things are going well, with the occasional cognitive frustrations described above. Turkey day was a tough one for me – a house full of people, lots of commotion, things not going right with the turkey fryer (missing parts, not enough oil, and running out of gas). My brain was just overwhelmed past the point where I could handle anything. It was so awful and so very frustrating. Eating Thanksgiving dinner in a dark room was not what I had envisioned. It was a reminder of the fact that I am ONLY 6 weeks post-chemo and that there is still a long way to go. And the fact of the matter is that you’d never know this if you looked at me.

By the way, the turkey turned out pretty well.

Now I would like to take a moment to offer thanks….

– to my family, for your immeasurable and unconditional support and help

– to my doctors, nurses, blood lab techs, cancer support group, acupuncturist, and OT/PT team, thank you for getting me through treatment and recovery

– to my Baltimore friends, for all the dinners, help with Shannon, and love to Michele and me

– to our many friends from Boston and beyond, for the gift cards, housecleaning support, and all the well-wishes

– to all the people who mailed cards or emailed, some of you weekly, for keeping me going

– to PMC Team Forza-G, for raising $289,000 this year for cancer research, and the entire Pan-Mass Challenge family, for raising $35 million in 2011 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

– to Harpoon, for giving me peace of mind as I tackled my treatment and recovery

– to my dear friend Kathy, who has gone through cancer treatment herself this summer, for all her love, support, and understanding

– to our friend Jenn, who sacrificed a week of vacation to help us get through the dog days of summer, for being awesome

– to my daughter, for being the spark in my life

– and finally, to my wife, for always taking care of me, for understanding, for sacrificing, for her boundless energy and enthusiasm, and for being a great mom to our daughter throughout

Again, Happy Thanksgiving.


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