Scratching the Itch

Long Chicken

You know you want me.

Just a quick update for everyone:

It’s been a good week.  Since my release from the hospital on Friday, I’ve felt progressively stronger each day.  My latest labs (drawn this morning) are looking good, as I’m within the normal range on the majority of key categories in my blood panel–red and white cell count, platelets, absolute neutrophils, etc.  My liver enzymes are elevated (likely as a result of the most recent round of treatment) but have been steadily trending downward.  I’m confident we’ll be back to normal by my next scheduled blood-draw on Monday. If that is indeed the case, and all of my other numbers continue to look good, I believe that we’ll get rolling on round 2A sometime in the middle of next week.

In the mean time, I’m enjoying some days of feeling good, eating well, and spending time with family.  My parents traded places this week, Mom headed back to Nebraska and Dad here to San Diego.  Murt gets a temporary break from my sass and sarcasm and Daddy Wags steps into the heat of the anti-cancer kitchen.  Leigh spent the week with me last week during the toughest stretch we’ve hit on this journey thus far.  It’s truly a full-time job cooking and caring for me, especially during my rough patches.  I couldn’t do it without my family, who I love beyond words, and to whom I can’t adequately express my gratitude.

One more quick thing that I just have to get off my chest. I mentioned in a recent post that I have been craving some junk food…true confessions time, and I know Leigh is gonna read this, so I’m just busted.  I snuck out on Sunday for an original chicken sandwich from Burger King!  When I was about ten years old (Leigh would’ve been eight) we used to make my Dad drive us through Burger King (or Amigos) after piano lessons.  I’d order a “long chicken sandwich” or chicken soft tacos every time.  For those wondering it was just as good as I remember.  No regrets!

Final note on the nutrition side.  It’s normal to lose weight during chemotherapy.  Treatment speeds up metabolism, which in my case is already pretty high to begin with.  During times when food tastes good, like this week, I’ve been working hard to take in a lot of healthy (minus my BK breakdown!) high quality calories.  I’m happy to share that I gained five pounds between Monday to today!  I’m working towards a goal of gaining at least five more pounds before my next weigh-in on Monday.  Gain ten pounds this week.  How’s that for a new year’s resolution?  Anyone working to move their weight in the opposite direction can feel free to live vicariously through me.

And, fair warning, I still haven’t satisfied my California Burrito craving, so if it comes down to Sunday night and I’m still short a few calories, it’s going down!


On The Upswing

Bald Tyler

Freshly showered and shaved

It’s been a long week.  Actually, It’s been a long couple weeks to say the least, but the last few days have been particularly difficult ones.  In the interest of getting everyone up to speed, here’s a quick update on the last two weeks or so:

  • Saturday, January 7th: Discharged from hospital following 7-day stay for administration of “1-B” treatment
  • January 8th-9th: Cell counts begin to fall (as expected) following chemotherapy. Extreme loss of energy and appetite.  Eating is an exercise, and my body refuses to let me keep anything inside.  Hydration is a constant battle.  Sleeping is pretty much all I can do.
  • January 10th: Check into the ER after taking an at-home temperature of 102 degrees; Admitted to hospital, and immediately begin broad-spectrum anti-biotics, blood work, and a variety of cultures seeking to identify source/cause of potential infection.
  • January 10th-14th: Persistent high fevers (102-103) and diarrhea continue; no success in keeping food or liquids in my body long enough to be absorbed.  I’m on IV, so hydration and electrolyte replacement is ongoing.  Blood and stool cultures continue to come back negative for any specific bacterial infection.  CT scan ordered for chest (checking for potential infections like pneumonia); abdomen (checking stomach, organs, intestines, etc.); and pelvic region (colon);
  • January 15th: Results of CT scan reveal “Neutropenic Colitis”; severe inflammation in intestinal walls as a result of chemotherapy, and worsened by the lack of any immune response to help fight off the inflammation.  At my lowest point (known as “nader”) my white cells were basically undetectable in my blood. This was the case for about 4 days.  Over the course of those 4-5 days, I received several transfusions of platelets (short-lived red cells) which were struggling to survive my high fevers, along with one transfusion of blood to address low levels of hemoglobin.
  • January 15th-17th: In an effort to rest and heal my gastro-intestinal tract, they decide to start feeding me via IV and order me on ice-chips only.  Fortunately, as all of my cultures had continued to come back negative for infections, they allow me the luxury of immodium, which provides significant relief.  Broad spectrum anti-biotics continue, along with various anti-viral and anti-fungal medications to address potential underlying infection, and ward off possible outside infection.

I’m happy to share today that things are turning for the better!

Over the last several days, my body has once again began to produce white-cells, which will assist in the healing of my intestinal tract along with fighting off any general threats. My white count has been trending upward for several days, and was at 5.6 (within the normal range) this morning.  Other important numbers to watch are my hemoglobin and platelets (which are both trending upward but below normal range); and the big one, absolute neutrophil count, which was 250 this morning and trending upward.

Dumb and Dumber toilet

Kind of like this, but for 8-10 days.

I’ve been fever-free for going on 48 hours, and they’ve given me clearance to drink/eat clear liquids (water, broth, jello, etc.) to see if my body is ready to return to normal food in the next few days.  I haven’t had any internal bleeding, and the immodium has made for fewer trips to the bathroom, which is great because my life was starting to feel like watching the bathroom scene from Dumb and Dumber on repeat.

I’m hoping I tolerate the broth and jello well, and I’m able to transition to whatever comes next.  Shakes and smoothies?  Cheeseburgers?  It’s funny, I’m not as hungry as I thought I would be while being fed though a tube, but I still crave food, and it’s mostly junk I’m craving.  Burgers, burritos, burger king chicken sandwiches, it all sounds good.

Hopefully next time I write will be from the comfort of home once again!

Love you all.

The World’s Strongest Man

Clay and Ty

Team Tyler meets Team Treska

If one is lucky enough to meet Clay Treska, as I was on Tuesday, it won’t take you long to notice his physical strength.  And if you’re lucky enough to spend some time with him, to hear him speak, to share his story, and his outlook on life, one quickly comes to the realization that his strength goes far beyond the physical.  If mental and spiritual muscles could be flexed, his would be bursting at the seams.

A framed picture of Clay hangs in the infusion center at the Moore’s Cancer center, where I go twice a week for blood work and occasional outpatient treatments.  Before I had the opportunity to meet him, I saw this picture, and stopped and stared in amazement.  On the left of the frame is Clay, weakened and bed-ridden.  On the right is a seemingly different person, muscles bulging, competing in the Kona Ironman World Championships.  For those that don’t know, Kona is the big one.

To call his story an inspiration would be perhaps the world’s biggest understatement. His cancer came back. They told him there was nothing they could do. They used words like ‘terminal’. They made hospice arrangements.

With a nothing to lose attitude, and a fighting spirit, he went out on a limb, emailing Lance Armstrong’s oncologist.  To his surprise, he got a response.  There was a new combination stem-cell/chemotherapy treatment in development that just might be worth a shot.  He was admitted to UCSD’s clinical trials program, and began treatment immediately. The rest of the story (and it is still unfolding) is described in detail on Clay’s website, in a variety of media and youtube videos.

If you have a few minutes, I would encourage you to check out his site. This particular clip doesn’t cover the entire story, but I thought it was worth sharing and happens to feature my primary oncologist, Dr. Peter Curtin, who was Clay’s doctor as well:

To Clay: Thanks for being the person you are, and for reminding us all of the opportunity that exists in every challenge.


P.S. I have to thank the love of my life Natasha Moshirian for secretly setting up this visit.  When Clay walked in and introduced himself, I think my jaw hit the floor.  Thanks Tash!

Treatment Update: M-I-Z-Z-O-U Thank You!

Team Tyler Mizzou

Bald head, Mizzou shorts

Belated happy new year to everyone, and greetings from Room 356 West at Thornton Hospital.  I’m back for round 1B of my Hyper CVAD regimen.  If all goes to plan we’ll get started on chemo this afternoon and I’ll be here for a 4-5 day stay-cation.  Here’s hoping all goes to plan.

I have a lot to be thankful for as 2012 begins, and a lot of thank you notes to write as I pass the time here for the next few days.  Your greeting cards, text messages, emails, words of encouragement, and all around kindness and generosity are helping me to stay positive.  For that, I am grateful.

And I’m feeling love and support, not only from my friends and family, but from people who don’t even know me!  Let me elaborate… Continue reading

Treatment Update: Day 18

Greetings to my big Team Tyler Fam!

I hope this message finds you all happy, healthy, and enjoying the final week of 2011.  I had a fantastic Christmas holiday spent with family and loved-ones.  Santa was waaay too good to me this year.  For a brief period of time on Christmas afternoon, I got to experience the sensation of time-travel, as I was transformed into a ten-year old boy while unwrapping a new bike and stationary trainer.  I’ll be able to take both with me to the hospital for future inpatient treatments, which will be great.

I’m committed to staying as active as possible through this process, but the last few days have been challenging. I’ve been doing my best to listen to my body, and it has been telling me to rest.  I am feeling physically drained.  I got up this afternoon and got my legs moving at the track at UCSD for a bit, and I’m actually feeling pretty good at the moment as I drink a blueberry smoothie packed with proteins, oils, fresh greens, and vitamin-c.  It’s important that I eat as much as possible, as my body is metabolizing calories at a higher rate than normal.  My appetite comes and goes, so the fact that food is tasting good right now is a great sign.

I’m a “Monday-Thursday”, which means tomorrow is my Thursday blood draw.  Twice a week I will be visiting the Moore’s Cancer center for labs and occasional out-patient chemo treatments.  The most important number to watch is my absolute neutrophil count (ANC), which gives us a way to measure the strength of my immune system as it responds to the chemotherapy.  Ideally, after a few days, my count rebounds, and my immune system bounces back to normal–at which time we blast the cancer again with another round of inpatient chemo.

If all goes according to plan, I will be receiving inpatient treatment at Thornton Hospital every 21 days.  And, all is going well so far.  In fact, I just got a voicemail from the hospital confirming my admission on January 2nd for round 1B of my Hyper CVAD regimen.

My hair started falling out in the shower today.  It’s strange.  I knew it was going to happen, but it’s just another one of those “this is real” confirmations.  Tash has been asking to cut my hair for months now, but I never trusted her enough to let her try.  I guess she’s going to have her chance!

Lots of love to you all!

Adding to the Anti-Cancer Arsenal: Thanks Team Tyler!

Greetings and Good Evening Team Tyler,

Today was a good day.  I continue to be humbled and amazed by the outpouring of love and support that I’m feeling from all of you.  I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful, positive, supportive people in my life.  It’s hard to find words to express my gratitude to you all.  THANK YOU.

Our arsenal in this fight is growing by the day.  I wanted to give you all an important update on the tools that we have at our disposal in this long and grueling race: Continue reading

Christmas came early!


My good friend and century training partner Eliot stopped by after work to give me a pep talk and gifted me a sick new pair of livestrong Oakley’s! As you can see from the pic, these babys are HOT!

Obviously I’m not putting them to their ideal use tonite from the couch watching MNF, but at least I look fast doing it; and Eliot assured me they would assist in a speedy recovery. Eliot and I have plans to ride from Vancouver to Whistler, BC (laughing all the way) when this is all behind us. How’s that for motivtion!?

Thanks Eliot, Steph, and Ethan! Love you guys and hope you have a blast in Mammmoth!


Treatment Update: Day 3

Greetings from Room 360 West, Thornton Hospital, UCSD Medical Center, La Jolla, California, USA.  I’m happy to report that, all in all, today has been a good day.


I got a nice visit from my friends Hank and Shay tonight. As my cell count begins to drop in the coming days, it will be increasingly important to minimize contact and exposure to germs--which is really going to be tough! Don't worry though, they washed their hands before they came in, and for now my cell count is normal.

Chemotherapy continues with little in the way of major side-effects, for which I am truly grateful.  It is still very early in the process, and while further adverse effects are to be expected, the only hiccup so far has been just that–a wicked case of hiccups.  Apparently this is a common reaction to Decadron, which is a steroid I’m being given in combination with Cytoxan, which they’re cycling through me via IV every 12 hours.  My next scheduled dosage will start at 10pm Pacific, and typically takes about 3-3.5 hours to complete.  Tomorrow will be my last day of the Cytoxan, and then they will transition me to one day of Doxorubicin and Vincristine along with one more dose of the the hiccup-inducing Decadron.  I’m drinking lots of water, and I’ve got saline and potassium on a constant drip which helps to ensure all these toxins don’t hang around in my body any longer than we need them to.

Smart Port

They implanted this alien-looking device in my chest on Monday.

Monday morning they implanted a device called a Smart Port in my chest.  It’s a little circular metal disk which feeds my medication and fluids directly into my blood stream and removes the need for a pick line or traditional IV.  They just stick the needle through a thin piece of skin, into the port, and start the drip.  When I leave, they’ll just pull the needle, and the port will remain in my chest until I’m ready to come back for my next treatment.  It’s much easier to keep clean and minimize risk of infection. I’m learning so much about hospitals, drugs, oncology, technology…it’s all pretty amazing.

I had a nice visit from my friends Shay Davis and Hank Connell this evening, so that was good for my spirits.  Shay is an amazing artist, and he’s got a lot of great glycee prints ready to ship for the holiday season.  Check them out at  Oh, and Hank’s not a bad guy either!

Well, Nurse Kim is here with more hiccup pills and some Zofran (anti-nausea), so I’ll sign off for now.  Lots of love and gratitude coming from me and my family to all of you.  I can’t tell you how humbling your support and encouragement has been.  One day at a time until I’m healthy!