Monthly Archives: February 2017

Optimism and Gratitude

When first diagnosed with cancer I made sure to stay in touch with our GAVIA community.  Although I am a relatively private person I believe that I have an obligation to communicate anything that might affect members of our community in a positive or negative way or for something that might cause some disruption in their lives.  I didn’t realize until this past week that I had neglected to inform our facebook cycling community about my current journey and for that I apologize  Still, word travels and I have received so many kind thoughts, words, prayers and good wishes from so many people I thought I ought to give everyone an update so that people don’t worry needlessly.

I am OK, please don’t worry, this is the story.

I had some discomfort in my right testicle and then began to feel a little discomfort in my right kidney.  My friend and fellow cyclist Doctor David (to whom I owe a debt I can never repay) referred me to a urologist on Wednesday January 11th; whom I saw 2 PM.  He examined me and immediately sent me for a series of CT scans, called me at 8 AM the next day and let me know that i had all the signs of testicular cancer along with a very large tumor that needed to be removed.  In anticipation of me saying “yes” to his recommendation that I have surgery immediately he scheduled me for noon on Friday the 13th (the irony was not lost on me).  The doctor and medical team performed the surgery , removing my right testicle and the tumor and by 4PM that day Melanie was driving me home  (not knowing how to do things half-way, the tumor weighed in at approximately 560 grams – one and a quarter pounds for those not yet on the metric system).

Consider how lucky I am to have had a friend who referred me to a really wonderful doctor who took the initiative to send me for CT scans immediately – he called himself and asked the for a phone call immediately following the scans rather than wait for them to be developed.  Imagine how much trauma my friends and family avoided by having something like this be done within 48 hours.  It was a very fortunate blessing.  The process has been similar throughout.

The doctor called me Saturday morning to let me know that he considered the surgery a success and we scheduled a followup appointment for the following Thursday during which he let me know that the pathology indicated some spreading of the cancer into my lower abdomen; my surgeon recommended me to an oncologist who worked with Hackensack Hospital and we made an appointment to see the oncologist on February 7th (my youngest brother’s birthday).

(In the meantime my GAVIA teammates were making t-shirts and riding their bikes with all discipline going out the window!)

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We met with the oncologist on February 7th and after having reviewed all the data he prescribed a 10 week chemo protocol whereby I would received chemotherapy 5 days per week, 7 hours per day during weeks 1, 4 7 and 10 with the first round beginning on Monday, February 20th (what would have been my mother’s birthday had she still been alive (not being as fortunate as me my mother died of liver cancer at age 60).  The daily dose takes as long as it does due to the amount of hydration required during the chemo.  There was some concern regarding the amount of spreading of the lymph in my abdomen – it seems that it was constricting the drain the runs from the kidney to the bladder, so I had to have a surgical procedure to install a stent into the tube in order to make sure that my right kidney was able to function properly during the chemo treatment.  The doctor was pretty certain the the procedure would be successful; had it not been they would have had to pierce my kidney from the small of my back and install a drain and bag.  My good fortune, along with the expertise of the medical team that has been treating me, won out   and the procedure was successful.

I began my chemo this past Monday, February 20th.  My oncologist decided, after some additional research and having recently attended a seminar with someone he referred to as the Godfather of testicular cancer, to add a third drug to my treatment schedule; that protocol for this drug is once a week for 12 weeks, but only takes about an hour.

THE PROGNOSIS IS FOR A FULL RECOVERY WITH NO ANTICIPATED COMPLICATIONS OR RESTRICTIONS!

Both doctors have cleared me for full activity and I have been able to begin riding my bike indoors again.  There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that the good health I enjoy due to our cycling lifestyle is one of the most significant contributing factors in that prognosis.  The others, just as significant, are my wife’s devotion and love for me, and the unconditional support I receive from my family, friends, GFNY and GAVIA communities.

The truth is that I am doing really well, my health is good (the nurses almost cheered at my EKG during the pre-op clearance), my prognosis is good and I am expecting a full recovery.  Actually, having that tumor removed is going to help a lot; I can’t imagine how much life-blood it was sucking out of me and losing the weight of the tumor alone ought to allow me to climb better!

I have completed my first round of week-long chemo and feel pretty good.  The doctors explained it to me this way: you are in a 12 round fight, the effect is cumulative, at the end of the 12 rounds you will definitely feel like you have been through something but you won’t be knocked out and you won’t be dead!  Perhaps at the end of the 12 weeks I will share my story in the hopes that it will help someone else who is perhaps going through a challenge of their own.  Truthfully, there are so many things that could be much worse; I really feel very lucky.  In fact, the doctor let me know that if I had to willingly choose a cancer this is the one to choose and of the two types available I chose the least aggressive (more proof to my theory that it is better to be lucky instead of smart, rich and good looking!)

I continue to believe that I have had a really easy life and that at least 50% of the people that live in today’s world would likely trade their best day for my worst.  Perhaps having this cancer will help me be a better human being going forward, so how can I not be grateful for the diagnosis as well as the opportunity to live a better, more meaningful life?

Thank you all who have expressed your kindness and good wishes, through words, actions or spirit; I feel your strength and it inspires me to do all I can to help myself get better.

Vito

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