My apologies for taking space in this blog for a non-photo but personal matter.  But rumors are swirling around that I’m back in the hospital, that the cancer has returned, that I’ve got only a few hours to live until a ghastly demise as the devil comes forth to claim his own… stuff like that.  So please indulge me for what will hopefully be the last time – at least for a while – I have to talk here about my own physical/medical condition.  Spoiler alert: rumor of my imminent demise are thankfully exaggerated… But there was a moment or two… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

As most of you now know, I went in for what turned out to be surgery for colon cancer. That happened over my birthday in early February.  Then when recovered from that I started chemo treatments to make sure any residual cancer cells  from the Stage III cancer, were killed once and for all.  But as many of you know all too well, chemo treatments for cancer are often worse than the cure.  They all are poisons and toxins introduced into the body that will damage and kill ALL cells.  The plan is that they will kill the bad cells off before they have also killed enough good ones to cause permanent damage all the way up to dead.  There is no dancing around it… it is a grim and illogical, often irrational situation.

Alternatives from suggesting “Happy Thoughts” (ala Peter Pan?) to their own potions and elixirs for which they happily charge a “nominal fee” or offer free if you will subscribe to their sites or newsletter.  The web has re-invigorated the time-honored role of “Snake Oil Salesman” offering cures sold under the most scandalous pandering to a desperate person’s fears. (I hope there is a special place in Hell for those people!) For others the right chant, drum beat, powdered roots or fungi or berries or laying on of hands are subtly implied to, as they have done for “countless other sufferers” gone on to “Astonish the medical community” with cures.

Maybe.  But there is never any real, verifiable, statistical data offered or and peer reviewed articles.  I’ve even seen lists of “major medical institutions who have allegedly studied (the recommended treatment)” but upon research those institutions have no such public reports online.  More snake oil.  It was (and now is again) a crap shoot.

I had opted for “oral” chemo with the drug Xeloda, which seemed, statistically, to have far less long lasting debilitating side effects than the standard intravenous infusion approach, plus some nutritional changes.  But there were still risks.  The problem with cancer is, the problem is not just the cancer.  And in my case, something quite rare happened fairly quickly (by about 6 days into the treatment) for which there really is no good predictive model.  I rapidly developed “Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a ghastly and often deadly situation where your body reacts to the chemo by basically chemically burning your soft tissue, skin, and mucous membranes both inside and out.  If you do a web search on the syndrome you can read about it and see pictures of severe cases that are not for the faint of heart.  It is frequently fatal after destroying, by chemical burning, important organs and base functions.  It shows how powerfully your own body can turn on itself.

Soooo – it was back to the hospital where they rehydrated me via IV and helped to manage the pain which at times was, shall we say politely, significant.  With the open blisters and sores in my mouth I was on a liquid then soft diet.  That was difficult for a lifetime consummate carnivore… but not as difficult as trying to chew and swallow chunks of “real” food.

After tolerating a soft breakfast and lunch I was told by the “house doctor” that other than for this issue, my tests all showed me to be far healthier than most males of my age or even near my age and thereupon discharged with a sack filled with meds for continuing treatment of the remaining blisters and pain.  So I’m writing this from home and by the start of next week I should be back in action if not fully recovered (estimate of full recovery time from SJS (for survivors) is 6 weeks).

The elephant in the room is what now is to be done vis-à-vis any continuing chemo treatments.  It is clear that I cannot ever injest that chemical into my body again.  OK, but then what?  I’ve no interest in undergoing the IV infusion versions and all of the debilitation that almost always incurs serious debilitation that no one I’ve talked to that has undergone this has ever – EVER — fully recovered from.  So, once again, I do not know what I will do until I hear more data.  So in that sense, I’m back to where I was right after the surgery but with one of my options clearly eliminated the hard way…

I want to thank all of my friends and students who expressed concern over this.  I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated that concern.  And now,  it is my sincere hope that these issues are over and we can get back to the fun stuff – photography and related things.





About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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  1. Jeffrey Forrest says:

    Thanks for the update there, you ‘ol sidewinder! Looking forward to hearing you at 100% soon. Focus on meditation and deep breathing. I swear, I’ve heard/ read more about breathing and meditating on focused energy to what ills one as very effective.

    By chance do you own a Nook account for books?

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  2. sdtj says:

    Sorry to hear about the complication with the oral path. After talking with you, it seemed like a good path when you made that decision. Do they have no way to test for SJS, seems like a pretty lethal side effect to not test prior or make a bigger deal of.

    I hope for a fast recovery so we can see more adventures in the RoadTrek

    • ndking says:

      Thanks for the nice thoughts. Alas, no there is no way to test for or predict SJS. It has been shown to have been caused by everything from something as benign as aspirin to cough syrup to, as now, toxic chemotherapy and yet is relatively rare so there is no statistics showing that certain chemicals are more prone to causing it than others. It has even appeared in patients where they cannot discern WHAT caused it — maybe something in food injested??? Consequently there is no treatment for it either beyond stopping the infusion of whatever is causing it then doing standard things to rehydrate the body and deal with pain management and whatever topical treatment can be done to the burn/rash/blisters wherever they can be reached… if at all. What I CAN say, and be absolutely certain of myself in doing so, is I do not EVER want to experience it again.

      • Jeff Yarbrough says:

        My wife’s friend got it from the antibiotics and he is now legally blind.

      • ndking says:

        It really is a terrible thing. My eyes were so filled with some form of discharge that when it would dry it would “glue” my eyelids shut and I’d have to use my fingers to pry them open. I was incredibly lucky my friend, a former nurse who was the only one to properly diagnose this at first, hammered on my to go into the hospital and I ended up catching it before it really spread and did permanent damage.

  3. Ed Henderson says:

    Good luck in your recovery, David! I hope everything goes well! BTW, I had chemo for prostate cancer and it was not that bad, much better than I had anticipated.

  4. ndking says:

    P.S. Turns out the problem was solved for me. THe chemical that my body reacted to is in ALL of the treatments for colon cancer so I cannot do any of them. To be honest I’m relieved from having to make that decision.

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