About T_Wags

Strong, determined, and united by a common cause, we are Team Tyler!

I’m done!

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After 32 months of in patient and out patient treatment, and all of the ups and downs along the way, 32 months later and here we are…all finished with maintenance chemo. God-willing I’ll never have to go back for more. It’s a strange, surreal kind of feeling. I’m not sure it’s really sunk in yet…and who knows what the future holds. But I think it’s important to celebrate the small victories along the way, and this is definitely one of those milestones. Thanks to all of you, my family, friends, and supporters for being there with me every step of the way. Life is crazy.

Love you all!
–T

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“Courage Through Cancer”

NATASHA_&_TYLER_WEDDINGWe agreed a long time ago that no news is good news, so I know you’ll forgive me for waiting almost a year to write an update.

All is well – Natasha and I got married in October and we moved into a new home in November; I’m working at an amazing creative agency (Parallax Branding + Interactive) with a bunch of amazing people; and, 26 months after being told those three little words (“you have cancer”), I’m happy to report that I’m 100% cancer-free.

Maintenance therapy continues. I’m still on the same combination of oral and infused chemotherapy (POMP), which means I only have to be in the infusion center once every 28 days. The monthly infusions leave me feeling less than stellar for a few days each month, but thanks to regular neupogen injections I have a semi-functioning immune system and have been fortunate to avoid further complications or infections. Knock on wood…

We were  humbled recently to have the opportunity to share our story in the UT San Diego, as part of a series called Courage Through Cancer.

Check out the article here: Courage through cancer: Infections add to cyclist’s tough battle

Special thank you to Doug Williams and to Clay Treska for giving us the chance to talk about our experience.

Until next time…

Lots of love!
–T

Stop the Presses: No Surgery!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this journey, it’s to expect the unexpected.  But I definitely did not expect the news we got this afternoon: Surgery has been cancelled (!!!).

Eleventh Hour

Saved at the 11th hour

I have to say, when my phone rang this afternoon, and I recognized the number as the pulmonologist, a lot of scenarios were racing through my head – but “surgery has been cancelled” was not one of them.

After reviewing my CT scan from this morning, my doctors (and there are quite a few of them at this point) were shocked by the dramatic improvement they are seeing. So much so, that the surgeon no longer feels that the procedure is necessary at this point.

For the time being, the medication and my immune system seem to have the infection under control.  I have an appointment scheduled with my primary oncologist on Thursday to discuss re-starting chemo. The saga continues…I am in shock.This whole time our mantra has been “keep going”, but a more fitting theme might be “what next?”.   I joked with my mom this afternoon that you can put “what next?” on my tombstone – just not anytime soon.  Life: What a roller coaster ride.

Will plan to keep everyone updated as next steps become clear.  Until then, THANK YOU for the emails, texts, cards, prayers, positive vibes, and whatever else might have been coming my way.

Lots of love,
–T

Spring Update II

I’ve been dragging my feet on this update because I don’t like being the bearer of bad news.  Usually when we hit a rough patch I leave the updates to Natasha (or Leigh), but this time I’ll do the dirty work myself.

Brick Wall

Here we go again

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, let me just say: I’m still cancer free.  And, thank God for that!

However, my chemo is on hold for the time being, as some complications have surfaced that must be addressed.  You may (or may not) remember the pneumonia I battled last year left a small cyst in the right upper lobe of my lung.  After various examinations, a CT scan, and a brochoscopy, we have learned that the cyst has become infected.  At this point, the doctors believe the best course of action is to have it surgically removed.

Natasha and I met with the surgeon last week, who told me “you look better than your chart,” and assured us that he felt confident the procedure would be a success.  Surgery is scheduled for May 8th, with anywhere from 4-6 days in the hospital to recover.

Physically, I feel strong.  I rode my bike this morning and have been able to get back into a regular routine at the gym.  Emotionally, I’m discouraged but not distraught.  There are a lot of reasons to feel good about this.  I am physically strong, I have a functioning immune system, and removing the cyst eliminates a potential source of future complications.  There are a lot of reasons to be thankful.

All that said, this still sucks.

I’m not going to say this is just another bump in the road, or hurdle to clear, because I’m tired of those analogies. This feels like another brick wall to run through. But we’ll do it.  What choice do we have?

I’m always finding inspiration in unexpected places, and earlier this week I was inspired by the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and the story of one author’s journey to follow the race from the air.  It’s a long read (with some beautiful photos) but highly recommended if you can find the time.  Here’s the link to the full story: Out in the Great Alone

One of my favorite passages comes all the way at the end, when the author comes to a certain realization about the whole race, and why people (and dogs) subject themselves to such extremes:

Who knew what would ever be there tomorrow? And it hit me that that was exactly the point of the Iditarod, why it was so important to Alaska. When everything can vanish, you make a sport out of not vanishing. You submit yourself to the forces that could erase you from the earth, and then you turn up at the end, not erased.

I guess, in a way, we’re all racing our own personal Iditarod, making a sport out of not vanishing.  I like that idea.

Will plan to keep everyone posted as surgery approaches!

Lots of love,
–T

Spring Update

Jack Wagner

Double Trouble (circa 2000)

We’ve been holding on to the premise that no news is good news, so with that in mind, it’s a good thing that this is my first entry of 2013.

Right to it then:

  • Still Cancer Free: I had a Pet Scan last week, and it came back 100% clean and clear. My previous scan (from December) showed some activity at the periphery of the mediastinum (around the edge of my chest), which the radiologist had attributed to the residual effects of radiation.  This activity no longer shows up on the scan, which is Great news.
  • Dose Adjustments: Maintenance chemotherapy hasn’t been without its challenges.  We’ve had to make several adjustments to decrease the dosage of my oral medications (methotrexate and mercaptopurine), and have had to take a week off here and there to give my body a chance to recover.  By nature, chemotherapy is immunosupressive, but it’s a fine line between acceptably decreased cell counts and the dangers of neutropenia.  Thank God (and science) for neupogen, and for antibacterial hand sanitizer (I don’t leave home without it).
  • Lhermitte’s Sign: Just when you think you’ve experienced every strange side-effect under the sun, along comes Lhermitte’s Sign.  Back in/around December, I started noticing strange nerve pain and electrical sensations when I looked down (chin to chest). Initially I ignored it, hoping it would go away, but when it got worse I began doing some research and decided to mention it to my doctor.  He confirmed our suspicions, that this was likely a residual effect of high dose chemo/radiation therapy.  Fortunately, in my case the condition is “self-limited”, meaning that it should resolve itself over time and without treatment.  It’s painful and unpleasant, and exercise makes it worse, which has added some additional excitement to my cycling and running.  I have a new found empathy for people fighting multiple-sclerosis – what a terrible disease.
  • RIP Jack Wagner: When I was 17 years old, I made good on a threat to bring home a dog.  He was wild and energetic.  He was funny.  He was smart.  He was loyal.  He was a biter!  And, for 13 1/2 years, Jack was a member of the family.  A few months ago, he was diagnosed with (believe it or not) lymphoma, and last week we had to say goodbye.  Natasha believes that Jack was sent here to take away my lymphoma.  What a beautiful, romantic, bitter-sweet idea that is.  I hope it’s true.

Battling cancer has made me hyper-aware of just how many people in my life (friends and family) are touched by this disease.  Today my thoughts are with those people in my life (and there really are too many) who have been recently diagnosed; who are in the middle of the fight; who deal with constant tests, scans and fears of recurrence; and to those, like Jack who’s battle is over, and who are in a better place – chasing squirrels in heaven 🙂

–T

Christmas come early: I’m Cancer Free.

Holiday Greetings Everyone,

This update is overdue, but for the most part, it’s safe to assume that no news is good news at this point.  To that point, I’ll get right to it: I’m cancer free.

I had a PET scan last week and, to quote the radiologist’s report, “there was minimal uptake at the periphery of the mediastinum,” but nothing lighting up in a way that would indicate relapse.  Translation: Everything is looking good.  The activity at the periphery of the mediastinum is common in patients that have received radiation therapy (which I have) and is no cause for concern.  I’ll have a full CT Scan in Feb/March, which will mark our next milestone on this journey back to full health.  Until then, I continue on the maintenance chemo regimen–a combination of daily, weekly, and monthly pills along with once-a-month IV infusions.

In November I had my eighth and final (God willing) dose of intrathecal chemotherapy.

In November I had my eighth and final (God willing) dose of intrathecal chemotherapy.

One year ago this week (December 4th, 2011) I was in the ER with back pain and breathing problems.  An X-ray revealed an unidentified mass in my chest, between my heart and lung. Four days later, on December 8th, I was officially diagnosed with stage IV lymphoma/leukemia.  As we approach the one year anniversary of my diagnosis, I’ve been awash in a variety of not-so-pleasant memories.  It’s crazy to think that it was only twelve months ago that this whole chapter of my life began.  Continue reading

Back On The Grind

Infusion Center Shades

Another day at the office

The honeymoon is over.  Back from our California road trip.  Back to reality.

Don’t get me wrong, Tash and I couldn’t be happier, and our trip couldn’t have been better.  I wrote earlier this week in my journal that if our road trip had been the last week of my life, I would’ve died a happy man.

It was as close to absolute perfection as I could imagine.

The sunny beaches and scenic valleys of Santa Barbara; red woods towering above and craggy cliffs plunging below Big Sur; getting lost in the sights and sounds and tastes and smells of The City; the vine covered hills and quiet roads of Sonoma.  I couldn’t have asked for more.  And to be able to do it all with my best friend, and to come home with a fiancee to top it off…icing on the cake. Continue reading

Radiation Day One

Radiation Mask

Torture device for the claustrophobic.

Radiation started at 6:30am. When I arrive the mask is waiting for me. A few weeks ago they created a plastic cast of my head, shoulders, and upper chest. Laying on my back, the hardened mesh is laid in place and fastened to the table, locking me into place. No moving. No talking. I can’t open my mouth.

“Thumbs up if you’re ok.”

Through mesh and barely open eyelids a grid of green lasers appears, aligning equipment to cast to body to tumor. Science fiction meets real life.

I’m alone. The technicians have retreated to the room next door. A few short x-ray sounds, as machinery hovers above and around me. A tech returns, making mechanical adjustments, then disappears. Longer x-ray sounds now, first on my left, above me, on my right. Am I breathing too hard? Is it hitting the right spot?

Continue reading

The Dog Days of Summer

Hi all,

I hope this update finds everyone happy and healthy.  I’m doing well and just barely resisting the urge rip the PICC line out of my arm.  I had a chest X-ray on Monday, and am waiting to hear back from my doctor once she’s had a chance to review the results.  Hopefully it shows continued progress, and that the pneumonia is almost completely resolved.  More on that later, but first, a quick story that I just had to share…

I have been out on my bike for some easy spins in the last week or so, because I’m feeling good, and I’m so stir-crazy I can barely stand it.  Anyway, I’ve been riding Fiesta Island since it’s so flat and there is typically little traffic.  I headed out on Saturday for an easy spin, and completely forgot about Over the Line.  For those unfamiliar with this annual booze/boob fest, but it’s a San Diego tradition.  Check out this Youtube video and you’ll get the picture (it’s mostly safe for work).  Needless to say, it was absolutely packed, with cars parked around the entire circumference of the island.  Knowing it was a bad day to be riding there, I decided to do one lap and head home.

Imagine this coming at you full speed.

Continue reading