Saturday, May 30, 2009

This is why I relay ...

Today I am participating in the Relay For Life® sponsored by The American Cancer Society. It is a life-changing event that brings together more than 3.5 million people across the country each year to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against a disease that takes too much.

I relay because I want to spend time with family and friends and raise awareness of malignant melanoma, a very deadly type of skin cancer. Melanoma is quickly becoming a leading type of cancer of people from all ages and is on an increase over the past decade.

I write this blog about melanoma because early detection is key. I can't tell you that I didn't know about skin cancer. I will tell you that if I had known someone close to me diagnosed with skin cancer, I would have gone directly to the doctor's office and had an exam.

My mole had only been showing signs for about three months. It was on the left side of my neck and went from normal healthy mole to big, dark and bloody very quickly. By time I had it removed, it was already stage III. This tells us that we have to act swiftly as melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms for cancer.

Though not all melanomas are the same, here are some key things to look out for.

A: Asymmetry. Is the mole evenly shaped. Most normal moles are.
B: Border. Does your mole have irregular borders or is jagged?
C: Color. Are there multiple colors on your mole? Is it very very dark?
D: Diameter. What size it is? Has it recently changed in size?

One key thing to note is that melanoma can be very tricky and have all or even none of these attributes. Bottom line, if you have any moles that have had any recent changes, please have it checked.

If you are reading this blog, please go for an exam. Even a dermotologist can't tell just by looking at a mole if it is melanoma. If you know someone that has put off an appointment for far too long, make the call for them.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

And another on the way ...

Oh by the way, since you've been reading my blog. I thought that I would also share with you that Amy is pregnant! She is about 8 weeks pregnant, and yes we are quite the pair both sitting at home with nausea. Please don't tell anyone. ;-) We're trying to keep it quiet.

This just goes to show that I have one more reason that I must stay alive. I plan to see my little Brockey empire grow up and into their own families.

Mike and Amy

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Have you ever been hit by a bus?

I think that I finally know what that feels like! I got my walking papers from Johns Hopkins yesterday at about 4 PM and have been laying in bed with the "flu" ever since.

My body itches. My face is peeling. I have to pee. My head hurts. My knees are week. I can't really eat. But you know what? I just had 13 doses of IL-2! I'm gonna live and be a stronger person becuase of it! So, I'll just blow off that silly flu stuff and push on. We've got stuff to do!

When we first learned about my getting cancer in December 2008, the doctors made it seem like it was no big deal. They see it all the time. This was just in a tiny little mole. You'll be fine. So I did what many people do, I listened. I listened to hear what the doctors wanted to do next. I thought I was being smart about it, I called them every day and they returned my phone calls but Melanoma is on the the tricky kinds of cancer that could simple disappear one day without any clues. (or so I've been told)

Amy wanted to raise awareness. Help the next family from having to go through this. I called my brothers, my friends and neighbors and asked them to get any suspicious moles checked out. To my knowledge nobody else has had one appear. Amy signed us up for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature activity. It offers everyone in a community an opportunity to participate in the fight against cancer. Teams of people camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Relays are an overnight event, up to 24 hours in length.

Relay For Life is a life-changing event that brings together more than 3.5 million people to:

* Celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer. The strength of survivors inspires others to continue to fight.

* Remember loved ones lost to the disease. At Relay, people who have walked alongside people battling cancer can grieve and find healing.

* Fight Back. We Relay because we have been touched by cancer and desperately want to put an end to the disease.


Add best of all, it supports and funds local families that are in need and cannot support their family due to the growing medical costs on their heroic battles.

Since joining the race with a rather snazzy team name of "sMelanoma, Cancer Stinks!" We've done our part and have raise a good deal of money. But just like I am fighting this cancer thing, I am also a very competitive person and my team is not quite at the top. :)

If you have already donated money, THANK YOU VERY VERY MUCH. If you have not or if you didn't even know that we were doing this, please visit my team page and donate, today!

Donote here:

Donate for Mike Brockey and sMelanaoma, Cancer Stinks!

Other Related Links:

Mike Brockey's Relay for Life Page

sMelanaoma, Cancer Stinks! Relay for Life Team Page

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Awaiting discharge orders ...

We are told that they are on the the way. Amy and I are already packed up and I cannot wait to get home to see my kids! I'll tell you guys more later. Sorry, this one is from the phone.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I've completed the 14 dose regimin!



Well I only had thirteen of those but everyone here is still very exited about my treatment. Since being hooked up to the heart monitor on Day 4 they were pumping me full of other drugs to regulate by blood pressure and heart rate. The last one was at 6 AM this morning and I still feel like crap They have just about leveled out my blood medicine and should be out tomorrow morning.

Overall I feel great! I can no longer feel my tumors. This could certainly be due to the 25 pounds of extra water I am carrying about. It certainly isn't from overeateing, Ive not been able to hold much of that down.

My nurse Jennica today was very nice. I asked her if she actually started to be in the oncology field. To me it seams like a job that would seldom provide any good nights rest based on the national averages. She assured me that over the past 10 years that have been significant progress especially with solid tumor cases like melanoma.

My plan is to go home tomorrow and rest for a few days. Take about 2 weeks off and visit with my Shifu at Body Balance and take some time to meditation his land. I see some acupuncture in my future as well. It is known to help remove toxin and stress from the body. Of course I'll do the best I can to get some billable work done for my company, I'm sure my partners would appreciate that!!

I really appreciated hearing Kevin Dale the other day on the phone. While my wife and joni (Ella's GaGa) were sitting with me, we had a surprise visit from Mr Bob Flanders from work.Bob is always one to bring humor into the room and is always welcome to hang out with me . As the evening moved on my wife and Steven Buxton had arrived. Steven's plan was to hang out all night and help me out. Thank god he was here, I think I was a whiny bitch that night. :) Alex Drugov shows up in rare form and help out quite a bit as well. I feel good to know they you have so many friends are willing to spend some time and lend a hand.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Day 5: I am now hooked up to my good friend the heart monitor.

The only surprise on the doctors end was how long it took until I was placed on the monitor. Last night when my nurse came in to check my vitals she noticed that my heart rate was at 123 which alarmed her and based on the her protocol meant that she had a few things she must do. First of all she checked it twice with the machine and once manually. That confirmed to her that we need to move on to the next step which be give me some drug to help lower the heart rate.

The lovely drug had another side effect, it also drops by blood pressure. So they hooked me up to the monitor. At one point the nurse mention I was sitting at about 64/55. Now I am tethered to my bed. This one can't be unplugged or alarms go off. I did get her to take it off for a few minutes earlier so that I could use the bathroom like a human.

I am now 20 pounds heavier than when I checked in and I decided to loose the beard.That dame thing was hurting me with all this swelling in my face. The docs say that I will get rid of all this water weight in about 2 days after treatment.



Sorry that I don't look more happy ... I'm not.

This stuff is really putting the hurt on me. I've got no energy. No strength. No appetite. Quite frankly I talked my nurse into letting me go home last night. It wasn't until I realized how selfish it was that I decided to stay. They had also decided to take me off the blood pressure and heart rate medicine. They feel like I've stabilized quite well. It makes sense, but its a shame that my monitor will likely stay on for the remainder of treatment.

Thank you all for you emails, comments, phone calls and visits. It really does help me out!!

Mike

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Friday and Saturday Round up

Wow ... This stuff is putting a hurting on me. I just now received dose 9. We have figured out that by placing warm blankets at just about 2 hours after the IL-2 dose we have been able to eliminate the Rigors.

I've continued to have great blood levels on things white blood and red blood cell counts. Also indications for kidney levels and liver functions are still holding at good levels. I did just find out that my phosphorus levels have been slowly diminishing. No worries, there is always another drug they can give me to counter act the symptoms. They just took more blood work to get a better idea of which options we should take.

All the doctors and nurses here are excited that I've made it this far. Many times people get this far have usually skipped one or two doses along the way. No me, I'm a fighter.

I also wanted to share my prayer bear with everyone. My nan gave this to me to keep in my room.



He is my little buddy!

Amy was here with me on Friday as well as my parents and Kaige. I was less than entertaining for you guys, sorry. I spent a great deal of the time sleeping. I think Kaige was fine, he watched a movie and played a few video games to pass the time.

Sorry for the two day round up, I've been spending a lot of time sleeping and just not feeling like doing much. The doctor told me to today that based on the amount of medicine I am on, I could get out as early as Monday afternoon or Tuesday. I'm ready to go home.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thursday, Day 2: 5 doses down and still going ...

A common side effect of the IL-2 treatment is Rigors. I've now experienced it on my last three doses. Uncontrollable shaking, jaw jittering and over all cold feeling is quickly treated with a small dose of morphine. So far this is by far my worse side effect, one that I can deal with.

Phil called me yesterday. My cousin Roach made the trip from Cumberland, MD and stayed with me all day. My parents and even Buxton stopped by and stayed with me for my nightly dose. It was certainly nice to talk to and see everyone. Thanks guys.

I met with all the doctors this morning, they are all very pleased with how I am doing. My blood pressure is holding steady at about 105/68 or so and there is no indication that I'll need to be hooked up to a heart monitor yet. The doctors seem to think that by this point, I should be able to make it to the full dose count of 14.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The morning after and my MRI results.

Everything is good so far. I had a bit of nausea when I got up this morning at about 5:30 to use the bathroom. On my walk back to my bed I did get a little light headed. Otherwise, I feel great!

My 6 AM (second) dose this morning was a bit of a fiasco. The pump started beeping and was apparently not working. I called in the nurse who tried a few things and seemed to get it all setup to start over. It kept beeping. There were nurses in and out of my room for about an hour trying to get this thing to work. They ended up replacing the pump, filters and even the IL-2 bag to no avail. I think it ended up being a connection on one of the filters.

After all of that, I now have two doses of the good stuff floating around my body. The next thing on my schedule? Apparently the entire medical staff will be visiting this morning, to ask me some questions. Should be fun. :)

I forgot to mention last night that my MRI results did come back clear. No sign of any metastasis to the brain. Whew! Finally some good news!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day One: Catheter set and I'm ready to go

I am scheduled for up to 14 doses of Interleukin-2 over the next 5 days. Three times per day starting at 6AM, 2PM and 10PM. Mine will begin tonight at 10. It takes about 15 minutes for it to enter my body.

They expect my blood pressure to drop pretty quickly. This is one of the leading causes that some cannot complete the full 14 dose cycle. My nurse tells me that most people don't get more than 9. Apparently it will start messing with my head as well and some claim to hallucinate. I get tested each day by the nurse. A series of questions such as, "What is the day of the week?", "What is the name of the president?", and then asked to "Spell the word 'world' backwards." Very confusing stuff when asked quickly. After failing a few too many questions, they will send you home.

Amy was with me today. She waited while I had the catheter installed. The procedure was fairly quick and I was awake during the whole thing. They had me under what they call twilight sedation. I knew what they were doing, I just didn't care. Pretty cool stuff! They obviously used some sort of local as well as the pain set in a little while later. Just a little discomfort. The strangest part is that I can feel the tube as it is sitting close to my neck area as I swallow. That is quite painful.

The catheter ended up be much smaller than I had originally thought. Here is a picture. Sorry, I tried to keep it G-rated.



And no I will not shave. That's my rally beard for good luck! Or my attempt at one. ;-)

My mom and dad stopped by this evening. Upon my request they brought in a juicer so that I might try to continue the Gerson regimen during my stay. What a mess that turned out to be. Let me just say, the standard hospital rooms are not setup for the Gerson therapy. At least the food prep part. :)

The room is nice, I am all alone in here and I have my own bathroom. I've got a great view of downtown Baltimore. I don't have a view of the stadium, but I do have a good glimpse of the world's famous Popeye's restaurant. Man, I'm in need of some red beans and rice!

For those who are gonna press their luck and travel to the city to see me. I'm in The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. I'm in the Weinberg Building Room 5D-07. I'd suggest parking at the Orleans street parking garage. If you are driving east on Orleans street as you arrive near the campus you'll pass under a pedestrian bridge with Johns Hopkins Medical Campus posted on the side. The garage entrance is just after the bridge on the right side of the road. You can then walk across the bridge and head west towards Popeyes. Turn right on to North Broadway and then right on to Jefferson street. That should take you to the main entrance. Ask the security guard to show to the elevators.

Or you can call me at (410) 502-0345. Don't worry, if I don't feel like talking, I won't pick up.

It's almost 9 PM now. I have some meds coming to prepare me for my first dosage. I have no idea how quick this stuff will work. The nurses all say that I'm pretty much going to feel like crap so I'm taking their word for it. I'll try to keep everyone up to date as this thing progresses.

Wish me luck!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Treatment Schedule

Strangely enough the sounds being emitting from the machine as the giant magnets did their work started sounding a lot like music. While laying for 45 minutes in the MRI machine today, I simply closed my eyes and took a little nap.

I am getting all my tests repeated prior to going in to therapy. Today was the MRI of the brain. I had nothing show up previsouly in the brain, this was just to make sure nothing has crept up in there. I'll have the results in a few days.

On Tuesday, May 18 I'll go in first thing in the morning for a new set of PET and CT Scans. That means I'll be putting down the juice maker the night before in favor of more of that yummy barium crap. That will give us a bench mark to see my progression and reaction with treatment.

I am having my central vein port installed on Wednesday at about noon. Once I get out of recovery I will be admitted to begin treatment. I will be in the hospital for 5 days. Every 8 hours the doctors will administer the IL-2 and send it flooding into my bloodstream. With any luck, my body will accept the IL-2 and it will properly identify the cancerous cells and kill them off once and for all.

During treatment, I am apparently going to be feeling quite ill. Even though IL-2 is an immune system booster and not a poison like chemo. At times, my blood pressure will drop and I might experience some fairly severe flu like symptoms. I think I'm about to find why some say not only did I survive the cancer, but also the treatment. This is not going to be very pretty.

Johns Hopkins Hospital
600 N Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21287
(410) 955-5000

Maps and Directions (hint, hint)

What am I doing in preparation for this? I am healing my body the natural way. As I mentioned before I have already removed animal proteins from my diet and stayed true to that for a few weeks now. I've also began a process that will put a high amount of nutrients into my body and give my immune system a kick start. I am following the alternative cancer treatment knows as the Gerson Therapy.

Every hour I consume 8 ounces of freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juice. For 12 hours of the day, I am filling my body up with juices from about 20 pounds of fruits and veggies. I am currently using a masticating type juicer (on lend thanks to Sarah and Steven) which does a great job breaking out all of those enzymes, minerals and vitamins.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hickman, Leonard and Broviac Central Venous Catheter User Guide


Thank you Sarah for the link to the Hickman, Leonard and Broviac Central Venous Catheter User Guide. This will be the device that will be inserted into my chest while I under go my first round of treatment. Specifically, I beleive mine will be of the Triple Lumen flavor.

This thing actually looks quite complicated to insert. It also comes with an entire page of possible complications. Thank goodness that I have Nurse Sarah to make sure they are doing this thing correctly!

12 Months to live is a good prognosis

I have options. My medical oncologist William Sharfman at Johns Hopkins Medical Center tells me that there are many treatments available today that we should be excited about. Given that I am only 31 and in otherwise great physical health, I am a candidate for an immunotherapy called Interleukin-2 (IL-2).

Unlike chemotherapy, IL-2 works with your body's immune system and allows it to fight off the disease. They have seen 20% success rate with patients receiving some benefit and 6% of their patients go into complete and permanent remission. Results are known fairly quickly. I will first be admitted to the hospital for 5 days where I will receive treatment.

I will have a sort of hep-lock installed into my chest for the entire process that will allow the doctors to pump my body with not only the IL-2 drug, but all the other medicine that will help me fight off symptoms other symptoms. So in this case, one drug will lead to other types of drugs in order to stabilize my blood pressure and and keep me as comfortable as possible.

After the first 5 days, I should recover very quickly. I will then take two weeks give my body time to fight off the cancerous cells and will then return for another 5 day treatment. More of the same. Once the second treatment concludes, I will go back in for scan of the abdomen so that we can see how the melanoma has responded.

If the tumors are gone, we go back into observation mode. If they have reduced in size that tells us that my body is using the IL-2 to fight the cancer and I'll go back in for another round of two treatments. If the tumors remain the same size, the doctors will likely consider the treatment to be working and we would do it again.

Pros for IL-2
* This is not chemotherapy
* Will not harm the liver
* Results will be known in a short time frame
* No major long term side effects
* Doesn't prevent me from other therapies.
* It is believed that follow up treatments (if needed) are assisted by the fact that my immune system is in an energized state.

There are a number of new and exciting treatments at both NCI and at Johns Hopkins. These are mainly clinical trials but in fact they have seen pretty good results. Most actually require that IL-2 first be administered so I am opening new options by selecting this treatment plan first.

Recent studies have also shown that chemo drugs are no longer considered any more effective by applying multiple drugs at one time. We are currently talking about a drug called Temadar which comes in a pill and can be taken at home. I've done very little research on this drug so far but the statistics seem to be similar to the IL-2.

There are holistic treatments that I am also considering. My wife spoke with a lady by the name of Wilma who after being told she had only 3 months to live after being diagnosed with Stage IV malignant melanoma decided to try the Gerson Therapy. This amazing alternative option does what the drugs are setting out do but in a natural way. The concept being that by eating only the foods that our bodies were meant to consume and by eliminating those that force your body to work harder at processing, your immune system will be much more capable of fighting off disease. For Wilma, that was 14 years ago! She was given no choice and is a survivor without any chemo.

I am happy with my options and my plan. I have a good amount of time to try a few things. I've already changed my many things in my daily life and among other things I am now eating a mostly raw diet. Eating healthy can only help me as I enter into my treatment plan.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo, at least is not swine flu!

This image is one of many that show the progression of my melanoma. I've labeled the affected organs as I understood them when the doctor pointed. I will not appologize if they are mislabeled.



Legend:

The dark spots on the labeled organs are bad. That is cancer.

The very bright white spot just left of the spleen is the contrast that I beleive the tech was referring to. Guess what? That's my stomach! -- Man that stuff tasted bad.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dude, what's wrong with your mole?

Oh it's nothing. My barber had clipped it a few months back no worries.

Wow, what a mistake that was. Turns out that my mole which was healthy just three months prior had converted to Malignant Melanoma and started bleeding.

It was getting a bit worrisome how it would not heal so I decided to schedule an appointment with a plastic surgeon. I had three moles removed on December 10, 2008. I was feeling good about the process, I have always had a decent number of moles and several on my neck and head. The plan was to over time have them all removed. My follow up appointment was scheduled for December 17, 2008, one week later. This is when I first learned that mole that was located on the left side of my neck had converted into Malignant Melanoma the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Dr Praful Ramineni, the plastic surgeon made a few phone calls and got me in to see Dr Marc Boisvert at the Washington Hospital Center that same day. I walked back to my office where I called my wife Amy and met up with my business partner and best friend Steven Buxton. Steve and I hopped into a cab and started on my first trip of many to this hospital.

At that point, the plan was to excise the area on the left side of my neck where the original mole used to call home. My first surgery was set for January 16, 2009. The wide local excision was combined with a sentinel node procedure to identify the first lymph node that would be the first target reached by metastasizing cancer cells from a tumor.

The pathology report showed that the 2 centimeter margin that had been excised was negative for melanoma. It did, however say that the sentinel lymph node was fractured upon removal. Meaning, that the melanoma had apparently started breaking apart walls of the lymph node and began to escape.

I was then referred to go see Dr Ziad Deeb. The lead Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgeon at Washington Hospital Center. The plan now is to be a bit more aggressive and remove the other lymph nodes in the chain in a procedure called a left neck dissection.

This time the pathology report came back and showed that melanoma had existed in the soft tissue just outside the sentinel node but that there was a margin. Yeah! We also learned that of the other 40 lymph nodes that were removed, zero tested positive for melanoma. This was great news!

Now all I had to do was undergo a little targeted radiation on my neck and go meet with Dr William Sharfman at Johns Hopkins and talk to him about other medical and drug options that had to prevent this thing from coming back.

Just prior to this meeting I had noticed a new mole appear on the right side of my neck with a very dark center. I was back in Dr Peck's office within a few days where it boggled him.

"It's not melanoma, it looks vascular", he said.

I insisted that we remove it anyway. I remember the phone call. April fools day and I'm sitting at work. My pal Bob Flanders had just pranked me. Dr Meyer was calling to tell me that the path report came back and the sample had test positive for melanoma. The melanoma has reached the end of the sample and they needed to take a deeper sample to determine if this was a new primary tumor or if this was a satellite tumor from a spread.

This time the pathology report came back and showed that no more melanoma was found and it was determined that we should move forward with the thought that this was a new primary tumor. I would move forward with another round of surgery and then follow up with radiation to burn away any remaining cancer cells that may have gotten away but are still hanging out in the vicinity of the left neck. Then it is all about observing my body and reporting any new suspicious spots or recurrence immediately.

Notable: Cramps are a bitch. On Wednesday, April 29, 2009 I had to sit out a my kung fu class due to some cramping that I had been feeling. I joked with Dan, one of my teachers about it just being gas that I would be back in no time.

Notable: That Saturday night, I could not sleep due to extreme pain in my stomach. I didn't visit the hospital. The pain was gone by morning and pre op testing was coming up.

Surgery is set for May 15, 2009. I go in Monday, May 4 for my pre op testing. I had complained about the cramping feeling to the nurse performing my physical. She was very nice and seemed concerned. She wanted me to have an ECG, where everything came back normal.

I called Dr Boisvert again the next day to talk about the pain that I felt had gone unresolved from the day before. Melanie Goodman is the nurse for Dr Boisvert that has been extremely helpful in getting my case expedited through all the different doctors. She and I discussed the possibility of appendicitis. Probably knowing the entire time that this was not appendicitis the doctor decided that we should still run another round of CT Scans of my abdomen to rule it out. -- Great, more contrast!

You know its bad when the tech comes over to you after the scan and says, Mr Brockey can you hang out for a minute? I need to call the doctor.

"Uh... That can't be good", I said.

He relied, "oh no no, it uh appears that the contrast you drank for the study has filled the entire colon so I want to make sure it's a good picture."

Filled my colon? wouldn't I feel that? ;-)

"Oh okay ... maybe I just need to wait another hour and let the contrast work its way through?", I asked.

"Correct.", said the tech.

Riiiight! How about, dude you have cancer on your liver! He comes back a few minutes later and is like, we're finished here. On my drive home I receive a voice mail Melanie.

"Mr Brockey, Dr Boisvert would like to meet with you tomorrow at 2 o'clock. You should bring your wife along, I know how you like to bring her with you."

"Sh!t.", I thought.

I now have Stage IV Malignant Melanoma. The cancer has already formed about 30 tumors on my liver and a few on my spleen and left adrenal gland. This explains the pain.

Melanie and Dr Boisvert setup another appt for me to meet with Dr Sharfman on Monday May 11, 2009 to talk about further treatment.

It will be interesting to speak with Dr Sharfman about treatment. It seems like chemotherapy is the only real treatment for cancer that has metastasized to distant organs as it is designed to leverage the whole body in it mission to search and destroy cancer cell.

I plan to fight this thing. There are other options. I think that I owe western medicine a chance, but alone I don't think it will help. As radical as chemotherapy is on the body with chemicals and drugs, I think you have to be equally as radical in your way of life and nutrition. A new way of life.

Follow me as I blog about my fight with cancer. My goal is to raise awareness and share information that my friends and family and I think will help the next person in search a better answer.

Why sMelanoma?

Cancer stinks and our generation is screwed. Our parents have all been misinformed about just about everything. Drugs are the way to go. It's the easy way out. From drugs during the birthing process to countless hours of mind numbing entertainment in front of the television to microwaves. Though sunscreen has been around for a long time, it wasn't until the mid 1980's researches discovered that radiation from the sun actually causes cancer.

I now have Stage IV Malignant Melanoma. This is my blog to share my story, raise awareness and vent.