Update 4: Results From Phase 1 of Treatment

After 28 days of phase one of my cancer treatment, I was finally able to get my first official update on how things have been going.

To gauge the effectiveness of my treatment, they do a biopsy to get a count of the content of cancerous cells in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is what makes blood and is where my cancerous white blood cells are being produced, so they stick a needle down inside your hip, suck out some of the good stuff and send it off to the lab for testing.

Well, the news from the test result was good 🙂

There were no detectable leukemic cells present in the sample.  

What that means is that based on SCCA’s technological ability to detect Leukemia (up to the .001%), they weren’t able to find any of the bad stuff in my bone marrow – which is pretty awesome considering I was full of it at the time of my diagnosis over a month ago.

At this stage of treatment, this is the news you hope for. It means that the chemo is working exactly the way it should in my body – no funny business or complications or weird circumstances.

What Now?

Despite the great news and progress, I’m not totally out of the woods quite yet.

Now that the cancer is technically in “remission” at the moment, the mission now is to make sure it doesn’t come back aka “cured.” Starting on Tuesday, I’ll enter into the next phase of treatment, which will be about a two month period of a more intense chemotherapy regimen. I’ll be in-and-out of the doctors office four days a week, checking progress again at the end and adjusting treatment from there.

Admittedly I’m a little nervous/anxious to see how the new drugs effect me, but I will say that despite any puffy cheeks, fatigue, headaches, nausea or whatever uncomfortable side effects come my way – just knowing that things are currently on the right track makes it easier to take on.

The goal now is to stay healthy (meaning don’t get sick or something) and to stay on schedule with treatment and in the end – beat this shit.

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Got myself a Lute Football Rainbow sign! After signing a ton of these, now I know what it’s like to be on the recieving end of one – Thanks guys 🙂

Again, thank you deeply for the love and support you’ve all given me. I can’t even begin to explain how lucky I am to have so many people helping me along through this journey.

Brock

Update 3: Out of This World Support

I don’t have any big updates on treatment this week – 3 rounds of chemo in and so far so good. But I want to take a second to talk about something else really quickly so hang in there – it all comes full circle 🙂

I’ve had the chance to do quite a bit of reading these first few weeks of settling into my treatment, waiting around for appointments, sitting through blood transfusions, or just nights when sleep is hard to come by.

One of the books I’ve read and really enjoyed is The Martian, a realistic fictional thriller about an astronaut that that get’s stranded on the surface of Mars after a dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet. With limited equipment and no communication with earth, the astronaut has to rely on his own ingenuity and cleverness to survive – for years potentially – until a rescue mission from earth could arrive.

So why am I going on about books, Mars, and space travel?

There is a quote on the very last page of the book that stuck with me (especially now) that I really wanted to share (don’t worry, no spoilers here):

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”

Truthfully, with this diagnosis there have been times when I’ve felt really alone. It’s a strange thought realizing that there is a life-threatening illness inside you and despite the circumstances – you alone are the one that will physically face the outcome in the end no matter what happens.

But despite those fleeting and occasional feelings, it has been blatantly clear to me through the love, kindness, and pure unfiltered acts of generosity from so many people, that I am everything but alone when it comes to this journey.

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Just this week, a few of my team members at Porch (special thanks to Jess, Lauren, and Craig) decided to set up a Go-Fund-Me campaign out of the blue. I was blown away by even the gesture and eagerness to help. In just a few short days, I’ve watched as friends, loved ones, and even complete strangers have selflessly donated their hard earned money and give encouragement.

I’ve watched people sharing the campaign on Facebook and Twitter to their friends, asking others to support me, a perfect stranger.

On top of all this, I’m continually sent messages on daily basis from people everywhere who want to help and offer encouragement in some shape or form. I have people asking how they can get their hands on a “Battling With Brock” bracelet to rock on their wrist (more info to come on these, we ran out!).

Words cannot even begin to describe how loved and supported I’m feeling right now.

Throughout this whole thing, just learning about the amount of sheer resources that it takes to manage a major disease like this has been eye opening. Countless units of donated blood, time and space in hospitals with specially trained doctors and nurses, expensive chemicals and medications, not to mention the life adjustments that friends, spouses and family members have to make just to make ends meet.

Thankfully, his whole crazy situation isn’t some major natural disaster effecting thousands and I’m far from being stranded and struggling to survive on a dusty red planet.

But all the same, I am so massively outnumbered by people that love me and care about me – that want to see me through this safely – and are willing to go out of their way and make sacrifices to come on this journey with me.

Thank you all from the very bottom of my heart, your support means everything to me.

Brockton

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Week 1 Update: Home Sweet Home

*As always, thank you so much for the flood of support in comments, voicemails, texts, emails, prayers and everything else. You all are amazing. 

As part of the initial stages of my treatment, I was held up in the UW Medical center near Husky football stadium for the past 5 days and now I’m finally unhooked from my IV’s and back at home in Federal Way where I’ll be living for the duration of this process. That’s right, I’m back living with my ol’ roommates (mom and dad) for the time being!

But all jokes aside, I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Between my mom – who has basically turned this house into the hand sanitizer isle of Costco – my dad – who is cooking me meals and kicking my ass in cribbage – my sister – who is a nurse herself at Seattle Children’s Hospital and speaks technical doc-talk – and my girlfriend Larissa – who is a trooper and will be putting in some serious I-5 miles coming down to see me – I have it really good here.

I also have my dog Bruce living with me full-time for the first time since I got a big-boy job and moved to the city. He’s been glued to my side ever since I got home, it’s really good to have him around. 

A couple quick news bulletins for what’s been happening this past week.

1) Good News: No Leukemia in my spine or brain fluid! 

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I actually don’t know what the consequences would have been if I did, in fact, have Leukemic cells in my spine and brain fluid (I didn’t ask), but this is good news. I’ll still have to get chemo injected into my spine something like 15 times over the course of treatment just as a precaution.

Getting my first lumbar puncture was a bit of a funny story in itself. The hospital I was staying at is also a training hospital, and it just so happened that I was the practice field for the day. To get a lumbar puncture, they make you lay on your side in the fetal position, they numb your back up, and have to get a needle between your vertebra into your spine so they can get some fluid out.

Sounds gross right? Well it sounds worse than it actually is, because it wasn’t all too painful. What was painful, however, was having to listen to the senior doctor coach the 1st year through the procedure.

“Yep, you’re hitting the bone there, you need to readjust your angle…”

I’m pretty bad with needles in the first place, so having to hear the play-by-play was pretty rough. At one point, I had to ask, “Can’t you guys use code words or something?”

In the end everything went smoothly and I’m glad the 1st year doc got a chance to get some practice time in – everyone needs to learn sometime right?

2) Two Rounds of Chemo In

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*My amazing aunt Stephanie made these kick-ass “Battling with Brock” bands for me! Orange is the Leukemia Awareness color – I have a big bag of these if you want one just let me know and I’ll try to find a way to get you one. Credit Craig Cincotta for the sweet wrist modeling 🙂 

Apparently for ALL Leukemia, the first 28 days of treatment are really important and are indicative of which direction the remainder of my treatment will go. For the first month, I get hit with a one-two punch of chemo drugs and steroids to knock out those pesky white blood cells and at the end of the process, we will check my bone marrow to see what’s happening.

For all intensive purposes, my blood counts look good and are on the right path as of day 11 when I’m posting this (yay!), but according to my doc the hard part isn’t actually killing the Leukemia – it’s making sure it never comes back after this whole process is over (which is why treatment for this will last much longer than 28 days, probably closer to 9 months I’m told).

So what does that mean? For the next couple weeks, I’m basically playing it as safe as I can with my health. I have no immune system, so as much as I’d love to be snacking down on peanuts with my buddies in the crowded M’s beer garden, eating conveyor-belt sushi, or just swimming in the lake – I just can’t get sick right now.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get bit more on the wild side after this stage of treatment,  but until then – it looks like I’ll be trading handshakes for fist-bumps 🙂

3) See you later hair

Chemotherapy also kills off rapidly reproducing cells, my white blood cells being some of the fastest in the bunch. Unfortunately, hair cells also tend to reproduce pretty quickly, so those get killed off too and when that happens, eventually your hair falls out.

Lucky for me, Larissa specializes in cutting mens hair (why else do you think my hair looked so great all the time?), so she brought over the sheers to cut off all my head hair on our own terms. We left the eyebrows because it would be a shame if I didn’t actually lose those and cut them off early – don’t want to jump the gun 🙂

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*On a side note, I’ll probably embarrass Larissa by adding this but if you want a sweet skullet like me or just want a great haircut in general, Larissa cuts men’s and women’s hair at Zo Salon in Kirkland – go see her she’s awesome and she is taking clients 🙂  

When this is all over, my hair could actually come back a different color, thicker, or really curly or something. Not sure how it will effect my receding hairline – but we can only hope for the best 🙂

Thanks again for checking in. Overall, I’ve generally been feeling ok and in good spirits this week and your support is a huge part of that.

Until next time,

Brockton

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