The Last Shot

Hormone Therapy Vacation Prostate Cancer PSA Lurpon
In retrospect trying to get the nurse holding the horse syringe to laugh moments before she sticks it into your butt is probably not the best idea.

“There’s a very high probability that your cancer will return.”  

My 3-month checkup with my oncologist, Dr. Stewart had just ended. Jodie and I were waiting for what hopefully would be my last shot of Lupron before going on a hormone therapy “vacation” and I couldn’t get Dr. Stewart’s voice out of my head. 

“What are the odds of …(pause)… you know what? Never mind. I don’t think I want to know.”, I responded.

And I really don’t.  If someone told you that it would be nearly impossible to succeed at something, how hard would you try? I need hope and it’s friend, optimism on my side – even if it’s unfounded in reality. 

To quote Jim Carrey’s character, Lloyd, in the movie, Dumb and Dumber: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

But Dr. Stewart is right. Statistics don’t lie. So,  for the rest of the appointment I refocused on what treatments I could expect if I were to relapse after being taken off of hormone therapy. Unsurprisingly, I would be put back on hormone therapy immediately. If my PSA level, a blood marker used to detect prostate cancer, were to exceed .5 ng/mL, a PSMA Scan would be performed on me. If the acronym PSMA sounds familiar it’s because Dr. Stewart wanted me to undergo one two years ago at UCLA when I was newly diagnosed. At the time the scan was going through FDA approval. Recently approved, UCSD had one installed just days before my appointment. The upsides of FDA approval are that insurance would probably cover it ( it was $3000 out-of-pocket two years ago ). The downsides are that I might not want to see what the scan has to show me. It’s incredibly precise and has the potential to pick up metastasis missed in my prior CT and MRI scans. Ignorance is bliss, right?

“And if my PSA were to rise and the PSMA scan were to pick up something? Then what?”, I asked Dr. Stewart.

“If there’s not too many spots we’d radiate them.”

“…and if it’s in a place that has already been radiated?”, I pushed.

“Then we’d have a longer conversation with your radiation oncologist. Dr. Rose.”, he replied.

“It’s like ‘whack-a-mole’.”, he continued, using an analogy.

“And we’d just keep hitting the new spots over and over?”, I asked.

“Yes, as long as the cancer responds.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Then we look at other therapies.”, he replied.

Dr. Stewart also told me that I had the option of staying on hormone therapy. I quickly dismissed the idea. 

First off, my body needs a break. In my last post I wrote about how hormone therapy can cause bone loss. Well it can also cause muscle loss, fatigue, and liver problems. In addition to 3-month Lupron shots I’m also on Zytiga, another pill-based form of hormone therapy used for advanced prostate cancer, and a steroid, Prednisone – both of which require monthly blood panels. A month hasn’t gone by where I haven’t seen an abnormal reading. 

Second, by staying on hormone therapy I’d never know if I was really in remission, or if the hormone therapy was just suppressing the cancer. No, it was time to pull the blocks and take the prostatectomy-ied, radiated, and “hormone-therapy-ed” “car” out for a drive and see what happens.

Third, hormone therapy becomes less effective over time. Hormone therapy works by stopping your body from producing testosterone. Initially, prostate cancer requires testosterone to thrive, but eventually the cancer adapts and starts producing it on its own. The clinical term for this is “Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer”, or CRPCa. CRPCa is much more difficult to treat and the longer I’m on hormone therapy, the greater the chance my cancer will become resistant to hormone therapy. 

( Knock! Knock! )

“Ready for your shot?”, my nurse asked from behind the exam room door.

“Yup! Come’on in!”, I replied, grimacing.

While my nurse donned her protective gear and prepared the shot I fumbled with the exam table’s foot pedal to raise it up to white-knuckled-grabbing-position. 

“This is my last shot!”, I said, and then stumbled a little, “…. hopefully…”

“I hope so, too.”, she replied, smiling.

It was my seventh time getting stabbed in the ass with a horse needle full of Lupron. My first injection, a different but similar medication called Degarelix, was administered to both sides of my belly almost two years ago. This time I barely felt it at all. 

The Lupron will remain in my system for three months. In December, for the first time in two years, I won’t receive a follow-up shot. I will stop taking Zytiga, too. A week or two later I will go off of the steroid, Prednisone, and then my hormone therapy “vacation” will begin. I am looking forward to the vacation, but I’m more than a little scared. too. Currently my PSA is .01 ng/mL, or undetectable. If my PSA were to increase it would indicate a recurrence; that somewhere inside of me the cancer is still alive and growing. It would also imply that, until there’s a cure, I’ll likely be fighting it for the rest of my life. 

In the past I’ve referred to the whole cancer journey as a trip down a dark tunnel. It’s scary. It’s dark. And it seems to go on forever. As with any tunnel there is light at the end. Those are your family, your friends, and your supporters waving flashlights and urging you forward. The thing is there’s light in the tunnel, too. You just need to look harder for it. This light is from cancer survivors who continue to fight. Although they haven’t made it out yet themselves, they, too, urge you forward. They’ve been down the same path. The path forward is possible. It’s been done. You just need to follow the light to find your way. 

So wave those flashlights, people – and tell you what, I’ll wave mine, too.

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.

-Scott

Previous: Walk the Walk

My PSA ( ng/mL ) as of 10/11/2021
Prostate Cancer PSA

#prostatecancer #cancer #prostatitis #psa #prostate #urology #oncology #radiationtherapy #radiation #ebrt #proton #radicalprostatectomy #chemotherapy #hormonetherapy #surgery #lupron #leuprolide #radiationtherapy #radiation #ebrt #photon #hormonetherapyvacation #psma # #drawnandcoded #iwillbeatthis

Osteoporosis

oncology hormonetherapy lupron leuprolide drawnandcoded prednisone bonedensityscan

A few months ago my oncologist, Dr. Stewart, scheduled me for a bone density scan to check me for osteoporosis, a potential side effect of hormone therapy. The procedure was non-invasive, painless, and produced so little radiation that the technicians administering the scan were able to sit in the same room with me. It was a novelty for me given the precautions taken for CT and MRI scans and radiation therapy. It took about ten minutes to scan my hips, upper legs, and lower back…

“Can I talk?”, I asked the technician seated across from me.

“Sure, just don’t move too much.”, the technician replied.

“Okay. Sure.”

“Hey … so you’re not just scanning my butt to fax to your co-workers, are you?…”

“…because this thing you have me laying on really doesn’t look much different than a larger version of the copy machine at my office.”, I joked.

“No ( laugh ), of course not!”, the tech replied.

“I’m not sure I believe you…..”, I laughed, trying not to move.

A few days later I got the initial report : I had mild osteoporosis. The results warranted a visit with Dr. Hofflich, an orthopedic doctor, to go over the results in more detail and discuss potential treatments. It was a very educational meeting.

Hormone therapy weakens bones

Leuprolide ( or, “Lupron” ) and other types of hormone therapy can weaken bones over time. In addition some steroids can also weaken bones, particularly Prednisone, a steroid which is prescribed along with Abiraterone Acetate ( also known by the brand name “Zytiga” ). Dr. Hofflich told me that given my test results she would have, in retrospect, started me on a medication to strengthen my bones at the outset of my hormone therapy. However, as my therapy would be paused ( hopefully indefinitely) towards the end of the year, it wouldn’t make sense to do so so late in the game. I got the impression that, for older patients, a preliminary bone density scan would have been standard procedure prior to starting treatment for cancer. However, for a 43 year old in otherwise good shape I don’t think it ever crossed anyone’s minds – including mine.

The good news is that bones can recover

It’s a slow process that can take years, but bones can recover on their own. Dr. Hofflich emphasized doing “impact” exercises. These are exercises that stress the bones and force them to become tougher and stronger. Running, jogging, hiking … even walking helps. Weight training, too.  In general alI exercise is good, however I was a little surprised to hear that Dr. Hofflich wasn’t a big fan of bicycling or swimming…

“Swimming and bicycling are great for building muscle and losing weight, but not so much for building bone.”, she told me. “These exercises don’t stress the bones enough.”

I mentioned to her that I was on a Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) Diet and she wasn’t perturbed. She told me that as long as I take calcium and magnesium supplements along with my normal diet, I would be getting more than enough calcium. She did, however, emphasize that I shouldn’t take all of the supplements at the same time and that, instead, I should stagger the dosage throughout the day to improve absorption. 

As part of my monthly blood panel, Dr. Hofflich ran some additional tests to see if there are any other explanations for my osteoporosis. The tests all came back negative. In a year she plans on running another bone density scan to reevaluate my bone density. In the meantime it’s more walking, more impact, and …  bubble wrap.

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.
-Scott

Previous : A Bake Sale

Next : Walk the Walk

My PSA ( ng/mL ) as of 09/10/2021
Prostate Cancer PSA

#osteoporosis #bonedensityscan #prednisone #prostatecancer #cancer #prostatitis #psa #prostate #urology #oncology #radiationtherapy #radiation #ebrt #proton #radicalprostatectomy #chemotherapy #hormonetherapy #surgery #lupron #leuprolide #drawnandcoded #iwillbeatthis

Character Sketches

Here are some character sketches for the book that my friend, Kevin, and I have been working on. Some characters turned out to be very different than Kevin had initially written in his earlier drafts. Tholoman, for example, was supposed to be a grizzled old human male. Now he’s a “young” elf. We thought by making him younger we could have fun with the chemistry between him and the young girl protagonists. 

We’ve also been involving our daughters’, too. Kevin runs all his revisions by his daughter, Clara. As for me, when I was sketching the Bokziks, a group of sometimes-half-animal antagonists, I didn’t realize my oldest daughter, Ashley, was peering over my shoulder.

“Dad, you should make her a half-squirrel.”, she said matter-of-factly. “It’d be cool.”

“Yeah?”, I looked up, startled.

So, I erased the crude “were-dog” that I had been working on and in its its place quickly scribbled out a bushy tail, squat hips, and tiny legs and feet.

“Like that?”, I asked, unsure.

“Yeah!”, she smiled back.

So, yeah, collaboration is fun. Sometimes it might even take you somewhere you never expected to be.

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.

-Scott

Previous : A Map


#Maps #MapLover #Atlas #DadsWritingBooks #DadsBookClub #BeCreative #Illustration #KidsBooks #KidsFantasyBooks #MythicalCreatures #BookLover #ILoveBooks #DrawnAndCoded

Meet the Parents

Meet The Parents First Date New Years Relationships Love Life Before Marriage In-Laws My Father-In-Law
Meet The Parents First Date New Years Relationships Love Life Before Marriage In-Laws My Father-In-Law
Meet The Parents First Date New Years Relationships Love Life Before Marriage In-Laws My Father-In-Law
Meet The Parents First Date New Years Relationships Love Life Before Marriage In-Laws My Father-In-Law

My father-in-law, Bert, passed away last month. When my wife, Jodie, posted a eulogy on Facebook she referred to her dad as “a character”. Her assessment of him was quickly confirmed in a flurry of responses, thumbs up, and heart emojis, making it, in the day and age of social media, absolutely correct. Bert was a character and the truth is, as much of a pain-in-the-ass he was, I miss him. He drove me nuts but made me smile, too.

Being such a character I always felt Bert was ripe for inclusion in one of my comic strips, however I was always hesitant to draw him ( strip him? ) lest I offend him. When I did, I was always very careful and made sure my drawings pass the appropriate “censors”, mainly my wife and sister-in-law, Jayme.

I’d like to dedicate this series of strips to my father-in-law, Bert. They take place a long time ago in a memory not so far from my heart – about a month after I met a beautiful young college student named Jodie Fagan.

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life …

-Scott


#MeetTheParents #DrawnAndCoded #FirstDate #NewYears #Relationships #Love #LifeBeforeMarriage #InLaws #MyFatherInLaw

The Snail

Parenting Fail Snail Watching
My daughter, Kaylee, and I spent well over five minutes watching the “snail” through the kitchen window. As of today it still hasn’t moved…

#ParentingFail #RaisingKids #DaddyDaughterTimeWasters #KidsAreFunny #ParentingHumor #Parenting #FamilyHumor #Comic #DrawnAndCoded

A Map

Map Atlas Jalapena Book DadsWriting CreativeDads
I’ve always liked maps. They tell you where you’ve been – or better yet, where you might go. Here’s a map for a book that my friend Kevin and I are working on.

I’ve always liked maps. They tell you where you’ve been – or better yet, where you might go.

Before there was MapQuest or Google Maps there was the Thomas Guide, a hefty, seemingly indecipherable, yet indispensable tome of colorful road maps. Mine was gifted to me by my parents on my 16th birthday along with my first car, a 1972 Volkswagen Bug. Weighing in at three pounds and measuring over an inch thick mine only covered San Diego County, but in an era before cell phones it saved my rear more times than I like to admit. My Thomas Guide rode under the driver’s seat of that Bug and several others before it met its ultimate demise. I kept it far longer than it was useful. MapQuest’s printable turn-by-turn instructions knocked the books’ usefulness to its knees, Google Maps and the Apple iPhone severed its head altogether.

Although the Thomas Guide was practical I always preferred those with, well, a little more imagination. As a kid that meant the park maps handed out at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, or Wild Rivers. I enjoyed plotting my adventures along the colorful pathways and trying to figure out what attractions changed since my last “adventure”.

During our last meeting, Kevin, the author I have been collaborating with, and I decided that our book needed a map. After sketching out a ( very ) rough draft with him I returned home and pondered what such a map should look like. I decided it needed to be practical, like a Thomas Brother’s Guide, but also fun like the park maps handed to me at amusement parks. This is what I came up with. If it makes you smile, I succeeded. If not, well, at least I tried!

Oh! Any my daughter, Ashley, helped me with the design and color for this one. I’ll make an artist out of her yet!

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life …

-Scott

Previous : Spiders!

Next : Character Sketches


#Maps #MapLover #Atlas #DadsWritingBooks #DadsBookClub #BeCreative #Illustration #KidsBooks #KidsFantasyBooks #MythicalCreatures #BookLover #ILoveBooks #DrawnAndCoded

The Feeding Trough

Dinnertime Foodie Feeding Trough KidsEating Meals DrawnAndCoded
At dinnertime I’ve learned to watch where I put fingers and not expect more than a grunt or burp as far as conversation.

#EatingLikeAPig #DinnerTime #DinnerTimeWithKids #ParentingFail #FeedingTrough #EatingWIthKids #Foodie #FoodLover #DrawnAndCoded #Comic

Spiders!

My second illustration for a project that my friend Kevin and I are working on. This scene is called “Spiders!”.

I am in awe by how much work goes into the writing of a book. There’s the book itself – and then there’s all of the world building that takes place behind the scenes. World building is the history, characters backstories, creatures, cities – basically everything that goes into creating a believable world, or “atmosphere” in which the story takes place. It’s “frustratingly fun” to conjure up – frustrating in that much of the generated content may be omitted entirely in the actual book, but incredibly fun to dream up. My friend, Kevin, the author, and I are having a great time.

Here’s an excerpt from the book for which the above illustration was created. I hope you like it.


There was a loud crack of thunder and lightning beamed down from the sky brightening everything in the trees around them. Jalapeña and Raven looked at one another with wide eyes, realizing for the first time that they weren’t alone.

“Are those spiders,” asked Jalapeña?

“ Um yeah, Uh I think so? What should we do?”

“Just keep walking and hope we can see better when the lighting strikes again.” Jalapeña couldn’t believe what she had seen and Raven didn’t seem too sure about the spiders either. The sky suddenly lit up brightly and thunder shook through the treetops. They could both see clearly now, hundreds of bright red eyes glowed in the light. The spiders were getting closer and it was clear they were as big as the two girls, maybe bigger.

Jalapeña screamed, first a loud screech and the “RUUUUUNNNN!” Raven was already running ahead of her. Jalapeña started to run but was quickly pulled upward by something and swung forward through the trees.

At the next crack of lightning, she could see that she was swinging above where Raven was running and she continued moving forward as if on a pendulum. “Raven!” she screamed. She didn’t think Raven had heard her, the rain was now coming even harder and in large drops, the size of golf balls, splashing off of everything and causing small rivers and waterfalls to form all around them. The next lightning bolt Jalapeña saw Raven continuing to run along the muddy trail, not too far below her. What she saw ahead of her was even more terrifying than the spiders; a giant wall of water was rushing down the trail, pushing trees down ahead of it. It was headed right for Raven but there was nothing Jalapeña could do but yell futilely as the noise was now far too loud to hear or be heard…

( To be continued )


Take care. Stay healthy. Live life …

-Scott

Previous : Jalapeña

Next : A Map


#DadsWritingBooks #DadsBookClub #BeCreative #Illustration #KidsBooks #KidsFantasyBooks #MythicalCreatures #BookLover #ILoveBooks #DrawnAndCoded

Walk with me

Prostate Cancer ZERO Run/Walk Team Vandervort

“What should I call my team?”, I asked without looking up from my laptop, “‘Team Vandervort’?”

“I don’t want to sound conceited, but I really don’t know what else to name it.”, I continued.

“’Team Vandervort’ is good”, Jodie replied. She was scrubbing a cake pan in the kitchen sink. It was one of many left over from my oldest daughters’ latest baking frenzy.

I looked up from my laptop and over to her.

“I’m thinking about a slogan, too….”, I ventured.

“Oh?” ( scrub, scrub, scrub )

“How about ‘Help me nip cancer in the groin’?”, I asked with a hint of a smirk.

The scrubbing stopped.

I consciously refocused my eyes on my laptop and the registration form displayed on its screen, but I could feel her “are you ^#$@%# nuts” glare burning into my temple.

Silence.

“…. weeeeeeeell, maybe not. Just ‘Team Vandervort’ will work I guess”, I answered quickly.

The scrubbing resumed.

And that’s the problem with Prostate Cancer. While Breast Cancer has captivated the public with humorous yet risque catch phrases like “Save the Boobies”, Prostate Cancer is quick to refrain from such things less people be offended. Admittedly, the prostate just isn’t as much of a crowd pleaser. I totally get it. I wouldn’t want to see one strolling down the street, either.

Regardless, the 2021 Prostate Cancer Walk is important to me. When I was first diagnosed in late 2019 I had missed it by a month. I promised my daughters that we’d walk next year – only to be denied again by COVID restrictions. This year, however, Prostate ZERO has pulled out all of the stops. It’s happening,

Unlike most cancers, Prostate Cancer can be cured if caught early enough. I walk to bring attention to the disease so that other men will be aware of this. So that they will get tested. So that they can “nip cancer in the groin” before it’s too late. I walk to support people afflicted with the disease so that they can afford the treatments and care that will make them better. I walk because I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I have.

Rest assured that I am doing well. 

It’s been well over a year since my prostatectomy, seven months since my last radiation treatment, and my hormone therapy will be winding down later this year. My PSA, an indicator of prostate inflammation – or in my case ( since I am lacking a prostate ) – cancer, has stayed undetectable. I credit my incredible medical team at UCSD Moores Cancer Society, my loving and supportive family and friends, and some pretty extreme lifestyle changes. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of so many people. 


If you’d like to join me and “Team Vandervort” in the 2021 Prostate Cancer ZERO Walk please click here for my team page. On my team page there are two buttons: “Donate to Team Vandervort” and “Join Team Vandervort”. The second button, “Join Team Vandervort”, will register you to participate in the walk and prompt you to select a team. The first button, “Donate to Team Vandervort” will allow you to make a donation but not participate in the walk.

There is a 5k run/walk as well as a 1k walk. My family and I will be participating in the 5k walk.

Time:

Saturday, September 18, 2021 at 8:00 AM

Location:

De Anza Cove Park
3000 N Mission Bay Dr.
San Diego, CA 92109

For more information on the event click here. Please let me know if you have any questions. I hope to see you there!

Take care. Live life. Walk with me.

-Scott

Previous : The Road Ahead

Next : A Bake Sale

My PSA ( ng/mL ) as of 06/10/2021
Prostate Cancer PSA

#prostatecancer #cancer #prostatitis #psa #prostate #urology #oncology #radiationtherapy #radiation #ebrt #proton #radicalprostatectomy #chemotherapy #hormonetherapy #surgery #lupron #leuprolide #drawnandcoded #iwillbeatthis #prostatecancerzero #prostatecancerwalk #prostatecancer #theenedofprostatecancer

Jalapeña

Jalapena Book Dads Writing Books Dads Book Club Be Creative Illustration Kids Books Kids Fantasy Books Mythical Creatures Book Lover I Love Books Drawn And Coded
My first illustration for a project that my friend Kevin and I are working on. This scene is called “Jalapeña and Raven meet the Royals”.

A few months ago my friend, Kevin, asked if I would help him illustrate a book he had been working on. The book is based on a collection of stories he had told to his daughter, Clara, at bedtime and over long plane flights to keep her preoccupied. The stories tell the story of “Jalapeña”, an 8-year-old red-headed troll and her human friend, “Raven”, as they go on a series of adventures. Kevin shared his manuscript with me and, although I really enjoyed the story, I was hesitant to illustrate it. His story was epic. It contained a huge cast of characters and creatures and traversed a wide variety of places over different time periods.

“You know”, I told Kevin, “I’ve never done this before!”

“…I’ve just drawn comics…”, I continued, before he could interrupt. “… and, it’s almost a given that my artwork will improve as the book progresses. The illustrations might be inconsistent!”

“That’s okay!”, he replied, calmly.

In that instant I realized that Kevin and I were in the same boat. He wasn’t a professional writer any more than I was a professional artist. It’d be a learning process for both of us.

And then I smiled.

“Okay then.”, I said.

“Let’s do it.”

The experience so far has been nothing short of awesome…

Take care. Stay healthy. Live life …

-Scott

Next : Spiders!


#JalapenaBook #DadsWritingBooks #DadsBookClub #BeCreative #Illustration #KidsBooks #KidsFantasyBooks #MythicalCreatures #BookLover #ILoveBooks #DrawnAndCoded