Update 10: Speedbumps

Hi everyone – hope you have all had a wonderful summer. I’ve been having a great one myself.

I wanted to give you quick update with some news about my treatment and how things have been going over the past few months.

In a word, I’d say things are going “Okay”.

I don’t want to scare anybody – I’m still in remission and cancer-free which is objective number one – but I’ve had a bit of an unpleasant reaction to one of the steroids I’ve been taking as part of my treatment.

Avascular Necrosis (Osteonecrosis)

In July I noticed that out of nowhere, my left hip was starting to develop a really sharp pain. I had never had any hip trouble before and couldn’t think of anything I had done specifically to injure it, so after about a month of trying to stretch it out and rehab it on my own, I brought it up to my doctors at SCCA. We decided to do an MRI to check it out.

The MRI revealed that I had developed a thing called Avascular Necrosis (Osteonecrosis) effecting the tops of the femur bones of both of my legs where they join to the hip socket. What’s happened is the steroids has sludged up the blood flow in the femoral heads of my legs, and without proper circulation, that part of the bone starts to die, leading to arthritis and ultimately destruction of the hip joint.

Treatment

From what I understand, this is a well-known side effect of Dexamethasone (the steroid I was on) and I’ve since stopped taking it to prevent any further damage. What’s frustrating is that from a damage standpoint – what’s been done is done. There really isn’t anything I can do on my own to make it heal (meaning I won’t be able to “physical therapy” my way out of this one).

With that said, I have a couple options for treatment. In severe cases, the remedy for something like this is a total hip replacement. Though I’m not quite in this range yet, it’s definitely something that could still be on the table for me in the near future. Kind of weird being 27 and facing a double hip replacement right?

My other option (and the one I’ll be going with on both legs) is a surgery called a Core Decompression, where they will drill some very small holes into the pocket of bone that has died in order to relieve some of the pressure and try to stimulate blood flow to that area and hopefully, bone regeneration.

The surgeon said that this type of procedure is “idiots work” so hopefully meaning it’s fairly simple to do (though I think I’ll stick with having him do it instead of the village idiot). I’ll be getting surgery in the second week of October and should be down for 1-2 weeks and then on crutches for a while after that. 

I’m pretty optimistic about this surgery. If anything, it should help with some of the pain which will be a relief. And though this may put a damper on my dreams of becoming a competitive speed-walker in the 2020 olympics, this is just another speed bump in the road back to health 🙂

Thanks again for all the love and support,

Brock

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Update 9: Year One Complete

Today is July 7th and that means that this day marks one full year since I got the call from the doctor that I was diagnosed with Leukemia.

Though it’s pretty unlucky to get cancer in the first place, I consider myself EXTREMELY lucky to be able to be spending this day cancer free.

It’s been an incredible journey and I wouldn’t have been able to make it without the unbelievable support of my family, friends, doctors, nurses, dog, and of course my girlfriend Larissa 🙂

Looking back it’s weird realizing that so much has happened in the last 365 days contrasted to the many times when it felt like nothing was happening and time couldn’t move any slower.

The Latest Update

As far as my treatment is concerned, things are still on the right track – I’m still in remission and Leukemia-free.

So far I’m just over 3 months into the 2.5 year long “Maintenance Phase” of my treatment where I just get chemo once at the beginning of the month and take a bunch of pills every day. It sounds like a bummer to have to keep getting chemo for the next two years but compared to the stuff I was getting in the thick of my treatment – this is really doable.

So, after reaching the ultimate low point at the end of March – things have really had no where to go but up!

What I’ve Been Up To

You can imagine how excited I was get back normality once early April rolled around. I couldn’t really physically run yet, so I speed-walked myself as fast as I could to the closest physical therapy facility to start the process of getting some strength back. The first day in, I was incredibly inflexible, my balance was way out of whack, and I think I could do about six body weight lunges before having to tap out.

But I’ve been making progress. By mid-May I was able to run my first mile in a year (though it took me nearly 15 minutes) and with the help of my buddy Conor McNeill – a trainer in Kirkland and fellow Lute – I’m feeling just about as good as I think I could at this point.

Since I wasn’t quite physically ready to go back to work yet in May and June, I was really fortunate to be able to use those months to make up for some lost time by doing some fun things (and eating foods I wasn’t allowed to eat, like fried eggs and sushi).

I got to visit San Fransisco for the first time with Larissa.

I went to see a Red Sox game in Fenway Stadium in Boston (a huge bucket list check off for my dad and I).

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Got some sunshine with my mom in Hawaii for a couple days. My skin didn’t know what to think.

Went on my first ever hunting trip (for Turkey) with my dad and godfather Tim.

What’s Next?

As of posting this, I am currently three days in to being back to work at Porch.com (where I was working before I got sick). Though I have a completely new job, the transition couldn’t have been easier. It’s been really awesome to see everyone again and be welcomed back so warmly – these guys have really taken care of me.

I imagine my future updates will be fewer and far between (which is a good thing right?) but I wanted to sincerely thank everyone again for following along, reaching out with kind words and encouragement, and for all the big and little things you’ve done to get me through this last year. I never once felt alone in this and it’s because of all of you.

Though the cancer is gone for now, part of me is still pretty scared and unsure about the future, but I don’t think that will ever completely go away. But if I’ve learned anything from this process it’s that it’s useless trying to predict the future and it’s not worth it to try and control every little aspect of life. So for now, I’m just going to do my best to be grateful for every day, and take things one step at a time 🙂

Love you all,

Brockton

 

Update 8: The Rough Ending to Phase 4

The past month – specifically the last two weeks – have been the most physically and psychologically difficult days of my cancer treatment to date – maybe even in my entire life.

It started near the beginning of February when I began gearing up mentally for what I knew was going to hopefully be the very last stretch of the “hard part” of my chemo treatment.

After four-and-a-half phases of treatment spanning about 10 months back to last July when I was diagnosed, I knew I had around four weeks of difficult chemo before heading into my 5th and final phase. I knew ahead of time that this particular little stretch would be hard – the treatment was designed that way (it’s called “Delayed Intensification” after all).

To be honest, I was looking forward to it.

“Bring that shit on!” was the attitude I had because I knew that getting this stretch over meant moving one step closer to getting back to normal.

However, because my blood counts where slow to recover from the first half of Phase 4 treatment, that last bit of treatment was delayed almost a full month, pushing my start date into the beginning of March. The doctor said my bone marrow is getting tired.

I was finally able to start and by Monday, March 7th (my 27th birthday), I had just a little over two weeks left to go and was actually feeling pretty OK at the time. But as that Friday rolled around, my blood counts decided to take a nose dive. My Platelet count (which helps you to clot your blood, briefly explained in this post) reached a personal all-time record low of 2… that’s right, 2.  This is insane to me knowing that normal people walk around with counts in the 150-400’s.

Next thing I know, it’s Sunday night and I check my temperature to find out that I have a fever, which for me means I have to go straight to the emergency room.

 

My first drink after 9 days of no oral food/water... that was some damn good apple juice concentrate.
My first drink after 9 days of no oral food/water… that was some damn good apple juice concentrate.

There’s No-Such-Thing as an “Easy Day” in the Hospital

*I want to say as a forward to this little section that I deeply appreciate hospitals and the AMAZING doctors and nurses that work in them. I truly owe them my life in so many ways and in no way want to ever disrespect or downplay the work that they do and the purpose they serve. But I have to say in my personal experience that they are probably my least favorite place to be, ever.

This is where the real fun begins, or “ends” if we’re being realistic.

I was admitted into the UW Medical Center that night for what was the beginning of a 12 day stay, the longest stretch I’ve had in a hospital to date.

Upon heading into the emergency room, I was still feeling pretty good, despite a slight pain I had noticed in my upper right abdomen (right about where your liver is). That night I was put through a few tests and scans (one of which I was injected with something before a scan that I was told would make me feel like I was peeing my pants for about 45 seconds, very strange) and was sent up to my room where I would stay until I got better.

The next morning I met with my team of doctors to discuss what might be going on. Based on my tests and symptoms, they determined that I might have developed a case of Colitis as a result of being neutropenic from chemotherapy. From my limited understanding, it’s basically a digestive disease that results in inflammation in the colon.

From there I was put on the “No food, No liquids” diet. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink and was instead hooked up to a bag of nutrients that would support me for what would be the next 9 days.

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As bad as it sounds, not being able to eat or drink for 9 days really was the least of my worries (though at one point I would have stabbed someone for a Sprite and some popcorn).

Because I wasn’t taking in my own food and liquids, I was given multiple IV bags of the stuff daily. The result – I began swelling up like Violet Beauregaurde after eating Wonka’s “most amazing, fabulous, sensational gum in the whole-wide-world.”

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Within a couple days I had gained 30 lbs of water weight – mostly in my abdomen and legs/feet (you can see how my feet blew up in the photo at the top of the page) – which was extremely uncomfortable and painful. All jokes aside, I actually ended up being sent to the hospital equivalent of Wonka’s “Juicing Room” where they inserted a needle into my belly to drain the excess fluid. They ended up draining 4.1 Liters (over a gallon) of tummy juice from my abdomen! If that were soda, that’s like two of those big two-liter jugs you see at kid’s pizza parties – crazy.

I’m not going to go into detail about the rest of time at the hospital, but know that it wasn’t all that great of an experience. What I was really thankful for however, was the fact that my mom stuck with me the whole twelve days I was there, sleeping on the couch at the hospital every night. I can’t explain how nice it is just having someone to talk to and be there when things get tough – thanks mom.

You can kind of get a feel for how big my abdomen swelled up in this picture... it almost looks like I have a pillow hiding under my shirt.
You can kind of get a feel for how big my abdomen swelled up in this picture… it almost looks like I have a pillow hiding under my shirt.

I’m writing this post a couple days of being home from the hospital. Right now, I’m still about 10 lbs heavier than I’ve normally been, my abdomen is still largely distended, and I have a weird rash that’s covering about 50% of my body. I’m not feeling great, but definitely feeling better.

In hindsight I’ve realized that despite all the physical discomfort, what really gets to me are all the setbacks and unwanted surprises that come along the way. Psychologically, it’s a very strange thing to get admitted to a hospital and feel like you are progressively getting worse and not really understand why because at the end of the day, sometimes even the best doctors and nurses don’t have all the answers.

The good news – I am now moving on to my final phase of treatment! With 4 phases out of the way, I’ll now be moving on to the fifth and final “maintenance phase” where I can begin to start getting back to a somewhat normal life over the next three years. I’ll still be getting chemo and steroids every month, but to a much lesser scale than what I’ve been going through before.

Thanks again for everyone that has continued to support me throughout this whole thing, I really appreciate all the thoughts, prayers, texts, and messages with all the positivity and hope – it really means a lot.

Brock

Thanks to this crew for taking the fight to Leukemia by doing The Big Climb - you guys rock.
Special thanks to this crew for taking the fight to Leukemia by doing The Big Climb – you guys rock.

 

Update 7: Wedding Season’s Greetings

It’s safe to say 2015 was by far the craziest year of my life.

It was a rollercoaster of bad news, pain, and discomfort that was repeatedly countered with overwhelming swells of love and support from friends and family.

NYE Wedding

The finally of my 2015 all came to a crescendo with my sister getting hitched on New Years Eve. It was quite the night to remember – my sister looked absolutely stunning as she walked down the isle to trade the Gates name for Galbraith, there were over 200+ friends and family from all over in attendance, and I had the honor of officiating the actual wedding ceremony (which was pretty nerve wracking for me).

Admittedly, I was a bit worried – I hadn’t been feeling all too well in the days leading up to the ceremony and was terrified of passing out behind the alter mid-vows or something, totally ruining everything.

Luckily, it all went according to plan and I was even able to somewhat keep up with everyone despite the fact that for the past five months I’ve been spending main exercise has been comprised of of a few sets of moving from the bed to couch and back (unfortunately, my dance floor stamina just isn’t what it used to be).

Health Update

It’s been a while since my last health update because frankly, there really hasn’t been much news lately (which is kind of a good thing).

For my treatment protocol I basically go through five phases of chemotherapy. Just before the wedding I wrapped up phase 3, ending with another bone marrow biopsy which thankfully is still clear of any detectable Leukemia!

Based on my treatment plan, that means I have two phases left. Phase 4 is supposed to last about two months and from what I can tell, is probably going to suck comparatively to my other phases. Unfortunately, I’ve developed a little cough/cold (I’m assuming it’s from the wedding) so I’m having to delay starting until that goes away, but hopefully I’ll get started soon so I can get this over with.

The 5th and final phase actually lasts three years and is primarily for maintenance purposes. After being diagnosed just a few months after my 26th birthday, it’s kind of crazy to think that I’ll be every bit of thirty-years-old by the time this is all said and done (if everything goes to plan).

I find myself daydreaming pretty frequently about what I want to do when this is all over and I have to stop myself. Though I think it’s good to have goals and things to look forward to, 2015 has taught me that life sometimes has other ideas for you and your plans and that’s ok. I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones – to get diagnosed a serious health condition and to have things going well and in the right direction – but deep down part of me is still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

All in all, I have the best team of doctors and nurses, friends and family I could ever ask for and I’m going to keep moving forward full steam ahead.

Thanks and love to all of you – Brock

 

Update 6: Phase II Complete!

If my chemo treatment where a marathon, this would be the point at which the nipples really start to chafe.

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I wrote most of this update from my hospital bed at the UW Medical Center, admittedly not in the best of moods. I was basically stuck there for a week after I had a small fever and was asked to to head to the Emergency Room and the grind was starting to sink in. They are extra cautious with me and fevers because of my really poor immune system right now.

Before I checked out I asked my nurse, “What’s the longest you’ve seen a patient stay up here on this floor?” that being the other Oncology patients.

She said that she’s seen patients go as long as three or four month stints depending on their condition.

With that said, it definitely put some things into perspective for me. Sure, a lot of this situation sucks, but it could be worse.

I had a little mental slip-up into negativity that week and I can say first hand that having a bad attitude really didn’t help me or my family.

I’m thankful to be out, but I’m sure it won’t be my last of this journey.

The good news is that Phase II of my treatment is basically done (yay for progress!) and what a doozie it’s been. In my last post, I mentioned how this phase of treatment was basically two month-long identical regimens placed back-to-back. What’s crazy to me is that I somehow wound up in the hospital at the tail end of both halves.

Blood Counts

As for now, I’m waiting for certain blood counts to recover in my body in order to start my third phase of treatment (I have five phases in total).

I think this stuff is kind of interesting.

Every time I go into the doctors, they draw blood and basically give me a full printout stat sheet of different levels and characteristics of my blood that day.

Blood is made up of all kinds of crazy stuff, so the three stats I pay attention to most are:

Hematocrit (HTC) which is the volume percentage or red blood cells in the blood. Typically, a healthy person will be between 40%-45% on a daily basis. When I do chemo, this count goes way down for me and I have to get a transfusion every time I get below 25% (the lowest I’ve been is 19%) and when it gets low, things just get harder to do.

For instance, walking upstairs to take a shower can feel like an event. When the HTC is low, you have less blood cells carrying oxygen around in your body, so you get fatigued really easily. You also get that woozy feeling of standing up too fast quite often, which is scary if you’re actually in the shower and feel like you’re about to pass out and eat it into the shower door.

Platelets are colorless blood cells that help blood clot. Healthy people walk around with a count of 150-400 thousand. When these get low, you are at big risk for bleeding, meaning if I fall and bonk my head (and it bleeds internally) it could be fatal.

My all time low on record is a 7, which was pretty crazy. I picked a small scab on my back before I went to bed and woke up with a half dollar size blood spot on my shirt (yikes). I have to get platelet transfusions when my levels get down around 10-15 (these transfusions give me hives for some reason – weird).

Neutrophils I believe are a type of white blood cell and are really important for fighting infections. The normal range is between 1.8 – 7.0 thousand, I tend to live on the edge at 0.0 a lot of the time.

When that happens, I’ve become “neutropenic” and at that point, I need to be the bubble boy. I have no immune system at that point, so I’m crazy susceptible to germs and all kinds of other bad things (hence the seriousness around fevers). I have to be careful with handshakes and hugs etc.

“I’m Skinny Legs Brock and I have Cable” 

Referencing the photo I added at the top of this post, I want to leave you guys with a little humor.

With football season in full swing I’ve had some serious time on my hand to contribute to being a good sports fan. It also means I’ve seen every commercial like a million times, but this one really sticks out and makes me laugh every time because I feel his pain!

I hope you enjoy it 🙂

Brock

Update 5: Halfway through Phase II

Well folks, I’m halfway through the second phase of my chemotherapy treatment.

I wish I could say things have been smooth sailing to this point, but these past couple weeks have unfortunately been a very difficult process so far.

With this phase, I’m given the ol’ chemo trifecta made up of IV style chemo, oral chemo pills, and injections in the stomach.

Immediately upon starting this regimen, I got hit with nausea really bad. That means no appetite and lots of car sickness on the way in and out of Seattle for my appointments.

In addition to the nausea, about 2 weeks ago on Labor day weekend I started getting an annoying little headache on Friday night. I didn’t think much of it at the time because I tend to get all kinds of little aches and pains that are hard to attribute and don’t usually last too long.

But this damn little headache ended up lasting all weekend long. What was strange is the only thing that would make it feel better was laying down flat on my back. After calling the doctor, they suggested it was a spinal headache caused by the the lumbar punctures I’ve been getting about once a week. With lumbar punctures, they take a bit of fluid out of your spinal column and that imbalance in fluid can be the cause of painful headaches when upright or exposed to light.

That little headache ended up getting worse and worse, lasting a full 14 days. I finally got to the point where all I could do was spend all day laying down in a dark room. Getting up to go to the bathroom, take a shower, eat breakfast, it all caused excruciating pain in my head, which then caused more nausea interestingly enough.

After getting some strange temperature swings, they finally called me into the hospital at about 10PM on a Monday evening. After three days at UW Medical Center and a bunch of blood/bags of hydration later, my headache is now gone (thank goodness).

Now it’s time for “Phase II of Phase II” and spoiler alert: it’s pretty much an exact repeat of the regimen I completed in these last four weeks. Right now, I’m waiting for my blood counts to come back up and when they do, I get to start the fun all over again.

All complaining about chemo symptoms aside, I always knew things would get harder before they got easier, and I’m sure the same stands true for the rest of my treatment. The good thing is that I know for the most part, the pain and discomfort is only temporary and for every couple of rough days, there are usually a couple of good days where I’m feeling up.

Thanks again everyone for following along and all your love and support — month two here we come!

Brock

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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The Story of How I Found Out I Had Cancer

I’m sure many of you have questions about all of this, so for the sake of spreading information quickly I decided to just write this out and make it easy (also, I’ll continue to post here throughout my treatment with updates on how things are going).

On Monday, July 6th, I decided to squeeze in a routine, last-minute physical at the doctor. It had probably been since college that I had went in to see a physician for a checkup, and I probably wouldn’t have gone in in the first place if it weren’t for my mom, sister, and girlfriend insisting I go before leaving the country.

In two days, I was set to go on a trip of a lifetime – a three week long trek to the Austrian Alps, Ireland, and Canada to help film a music documentary that I had been working really hard on with a small team. How this came about is a whole other story in itself, but it was a passion project that had been consuming most of my free time and weekends for months.

At this same time, I was halfway through moving everything I owned out of my house in Seattle and into a storage unit. By chance, my landlord was planning to sell the home I was renting and my last day of rent landed on the same day I left for Europe (yay for no rent during my trip!).

My girlfriend Larissa and I spent the rest of that Monday after my doc appointment packing up clothes, kitchen wares, and all the other junk I’ve acquired over the years. We got an early start on Tuesday morning and while packing up the car to make a run to the storage unit, I had a couple missed calls and a voicemail saying that I needed to come in immediately to talk about my blood results.

At this point, I was concerned but not panicked. I was more preoccupied trying to figure out how in the hell I was going to make a trip all the way back to Federal Way from North Seattle to talk with the doctor, get back to Seattle to get everything in my house moved out, and get packed and prepped for my trip in time for my departure the following morning. Larissa wanted to come back with me, but told her it was no big deal and that I would be back in a bit (she had to work anyway) and I left for the doctor.

I’m not going to go into detail about the moments after the doctor told me the results of my blood test. I don’t know if I can remember them accurately anyway. I called my parents, my sister, and Larissa to tell them the news. I started crying when I heard them cry.

What I have is called Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or ALL for short. Essentially (from my understanding), my bone marrow is making too many under developed white blood cells and inhibiting the production of the good white cells,  red cells, and platelets that keep me healthy.

In hindsight, I’ve had symptoms for months but have always just attributed them to some other possible cause. When I got headaches, I would drink coffee. I would get really chills after working out, but figured I was just out of shape. I would get really fatigued, but attributed it to working all day at my job then coming home and working at night on the documentary project. I had a discomfort in my stomach below my lung when I would yawn, but thought it was a result of a strain from a softball swing. I had a cough that lasted a full month, but it came on the heels of two very long bachelor party weekends in a row – knowing my friends, it would be hard not to feel rough after that 🙂

It wasn’t until I started noticing some serious bruising that my mom, sister, and girlfriend suggested I go in to get a check up. The rest is history.

What’s uncommon about my diagnosis is that ALL isn’t really typical in someone my age. It’s more common in young kids where it’s very curable, and then in older adults where it’s not so much. I’m sitting right in the middle, so one challenges has been deciding how to treat it in me – using a pediatric protocol or adult protocol. Kids are tough and can handle more chemo and steroids than most adults. It’s a more intense regimen, but decided to go with the pediatric protocol with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. I’ve got a great doctor and team around me that deal with this disease specifically often, so I’m in good hands.

More importantly, I have one of the best support systems anyone could ask for in my friends, family and loved ones. Thank you all for the amazing calls, texts, FB messages, funny Snapchats, and everything else – it really means a lot.

Thanks for checking in – more news as it comes,

Brockton