Sunday, January 17, 2010

Update on John (good news!) Oh! and a plug for Vodka Mom

It's been a while since I did an update on John and how he's feeling.  It's been a while because he's feeling so good, there's not much to tell!  

I'm pretty sure I did a post about his last PET scan and how it came back NEGATIVE!  This was the first time in 2 years he had a follow-up and there was no cancer present .  

Here's a quick(ish) background for those of you who are newer to my blog and may not know of John's battle with cancer.  Please bear with me, seasoned readers!  I'll keep it as brief as possible!  :)  I'm posting a few pictures as well... at diagnosis, during chemo and after.

This was taken right after John was diagnosed.  
I can tell now that he doesn't look well.  
At the time I thought he looked pretty good.

In June 2007, John (my significant other)  was diagnosed with Large Diffuse B-Cell Lymphoma (the non-Hodgins variety).  The lymphoma was all on his left side... neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis, as well as a growth on his spine and his liver.  (the 2 growths were GONE after 2 treatments!)  We didn't know until after his chemo was over that he was in Stage 4 cancer.  Not so many years ago, that would have been a death sentence.  Now, with all the wonderful  advances they are making , this is not necessarily so.  It took several months to get all the testing and fun with insurance company out of the way so he could begin treatment.

John had 6 months of chemo treatment, 3 weeks apart, from October 2007 to February 2008.  He handled the chemo really well.  This is one tough old bird!!  In March, a CT scan showed he was in remission! His oncologist (a wonderful man!!!) said to come back in 6 months for CT scan and PET scan.

November 2008, John had his scans and it showed cancer present in his spleen  (it was in his abdomen, near his spleen before).  So in January 2009, they removed his spleen.  No chemo or radiation was needed.  A new scan showed him in remission for the second time.  His oncologist wanted to see him in 3 months, just in case.

April 2009, he gets scans and again, cancer is back!  This time in his groin (it was in his pelvis before... seems to jump).  His oncologist wanted him to see a specialist who deals with only Lymphoma.  He wanted to send him to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia but his insurance said, "Oh no!  You can't go there! It's not part of our network" (I hate insurance companies)  So they send him to the The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania ( aka Penn).  He sees the specialist and this woman is a genius!!!

She tells him that this kind of cancer likes to keep coming back and it's time to kill it once and for all.  She recommends a possibly dangerous treatment, that if it doesn't kill him, will surely kill the cancer. Three rounds of really high dose chemo and then a stem cell transplant.  The chemo will destroy his immune system and the stem cell transplant will build a brand new immune system.  She also tells him that if it kills the Lymphoma, in 10 to 20 years down the road, he could develop another kind of cancer from this treatment.  John says, "Let's do it."

More testing, this time to make sure his heart can handle the chemo and other tests and by June he's ready to go.    First round is in June 2009, 3 days of chemo, round the clock.  John handles it like it's nothing.  Amazing!

This is  John, after transplant, recovering at my house. 
Hard to believe he just had intense chemo and transplant a few weeks before!

Round 2 is in July 2009, 4 days of round the clock chemo.  Again, he's fine.  The end of July, John harvests his own stem cells (his bone marrow was still good, so he didn't need a donor... this is really good because no chance of rejection)  They told him he'd need to come in every morning for 3 or 4 days to harvest enough stem cells.  They needed 4 million cells.  Day one, John gave them 18 million cells!  Is this man great or what!!!

Mid-August, John goes in for his last round of chemo and the transplant.  He should be in for a month or more, depending on how his immune system rebuilds.  Again, he handles the chemo well.  He did toss his cookies one time, but it wasn't bad.  

On August 28, John received his transplant.  It was a BIG DEAL, yet it only took 5 minutes and was very anti-climatic.  This is his new birthday!  So now he has 2 birthdays, October 23 and August 28!  John had his transplant on Day 8 of his hospital stay (this is considered Day 0).  His blood count numbers are 0. He is in isolation now, but it's not as restrictive as the folks who need donor transplants.  Day 9 after transplant, his ANC number was 5.  Day 10 it was 50.  Day 11, it was 3050!!!  YOWZA!!!   John was released on Day 12 of his transplant, a mere 19 days after he was admitted.  He should have been in there for at least 2 more weeks!  John was released to go back to work on Sept 21 (my birthday).  It was 1 month to the day he entered the hospital for his transplant.

Boogying at my niece's wedding in October.  
John and my daughter, Gina doing The Twist!

Needless to say, John was the star patient on that Cancer Floor!  The record for going home after a stem cell transplant is 11 days.  John did it in 12.

In December 2009, John had a PET scan and, for the first time in 2 years, his scan showed up clear!  No sign of cancer present!  He goes back in March for his next PET scan.  We have our fingers crossed.

This was taken at Thanksgiving, 3 months after his transplant.  
He has even more hair now, but look how terrific he looks!!!

So, to present day, John is feeling well.  His hair has grown back, with a vengeance!  He's one of those hairy hairy Italian men with hair everywhere (except the crown of his head)!   A lot of people think that's gross... I like it!  I am never cold in the winter when I sleep!  :)  And every now and then, 30 year old John shows up! (more often all the time!)  hehehe!!

So keep your fingers crossed that John continues to have good scans and remains cancer free.  I kind of like having him around.  Besides, he's promised to someday, take me to Alaska and I'm holding him to it!

Something to add here.  Before we knew what to expect with John's cancer treatment, and not knowing how he'd respond to it, we both had that fear that John would die.  Once treatment started, we did our best to keep a positive attitude all the time.  It wasn't long before we thought not IF John beats cancer but WHEN John beats cancer.  Even when it came back twice, the thinking was "OK, let's get rid of it again and get on with our lives."   When John started the last round of chemo and transplant, even though the doctor said it was dangerous and it could kill him, I never once thought John would die as a result of the treatment.  I admit I was scared because we didn't know what to expect, but once it started and he had so few side effects, I KNEW he was going to be OK.  I'm telling you this right now, John Russo ain't gonna let a little thing like cancer beat him!  He's a lot tougher than that!  And he knows he has a whole lot of good to live for!

psst!  I have a friend who blogs here... her name is Vodka mom. It's also the name of her blog.  Her blog is one of the funniest I've ever read! Anyway, she was nominated for the Top 50 Mommy Bloggers.  It would be really cool if you could check her out, read some of her stuff and go over to Babble and vote for her!  Last time I checked she was ranked #35!  Simply click here to go to the site.  Check out her blog!  You won't be sorry!!


Boozy Tooth said...

You've definitely been through a lot, but it is no coincidence that all your positive thinking and embracing of life is keeping that bastard cancer away. Keep it up Joanie girl and John. It looks like you have beaten cancer's ass once and for all!

Joanie said...

From your mouth to God's ear, Alix.

Funny, I knew you would be the first to comment today. Not sure how I knew that. :)

Mike said...

Whew, I saw health update on the side bar and was worried! I am so glad that this is a positive post! I am so happy that he kicked the crap out of that awful disease! It is a good day in blog land!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Like Otin, I saw the photo in my blogroll and held my breath until I saw your GREAT NEWS!!!! You two are WARRIORS and I'm thrilled John is doing well and feeling good.

I'm a VodkaMom fan and already voted!


Ann Imig said...


What WONDERFUL news. Thank you for the recap of the journey, too.

Often fear outweighs my propensity for positivity--this post was a great tribute to positive thinking.

Thank you for your dear delurking comment. It really made my night.


Unknown said...

What a great story (true story of course!) It is so wonder that John has had such an amazing outcome. Lots of love and positive attitude!

Anonymous said...

This is so wonderful!!!! You are so blessed and positive...I ask the Universe for only marvelous graces for you and that amazing guy.

Y'all. Rock.

Heather said...

That is one heck of a man you got htere and for him to have you as his cheerleader, you two are surely blessed!

bernthis said...

I am so happy for you both! There is so much to be said for keeping a positive attitude. Remind of that would you? next time I start to complain which will likely happen in 10, 9, 8...

Anonymous said...

Absolutely fabulous news. You are both looking radiant.

The Retired One said...

You two have been through so much!
I am so happy he is clear and you can go on with life...happy and sassy!
Love to you both.

Daria said...

Great news!