Taking Down Cancer: Fifth Treatment Cycle in the Bag

It’s finally here. The last chemo cocktail.

It’s been 117 days since I started this shitty journey and you have no idea how excited/anxious I am to put this behind me. I can remember it like yesterday, the first time I walked into the chemo treatment center and sat down in the chair.

December 3rd, 2018.

I had no idea what the journey would be like. While I’d love to have never gone down this road, the road that I’m currently on is being showered by love, friendship, and support. I can’t express how much you all mean to me. Truly, you have made it easier to wake up every day and beat this thing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Up to this point, I’ve had way more positive days than negative. I can count the bad days on two hands…maybe three. By no means has it been easy on me and those closest to me, but I think if we’re putting this experience on a spectrum that goes from “As Good as It Can Be, Considering…” to “Absolutely Awful,” we’re pretty close to the first one.

If I’m being honest, I partly try to stay busy and active because I don’t want you all to worry too much. (And I’m also just an energetic person who has to do things to stay busy.) I know I shouldn’t view myself as a burden, but it does creep into my head. I tell myself that if I can live as normal of a life as I can, it will ease the concerns for you all. I do know you all worry, and I really do appreciate that, but hopefully reading this blog (or seeing me in real life) has slightly changed the stigma around cancer and somewhat decreased how much you all worry.

(I’m also slightly bummed we didn’t go forward with the idea of Austin doing a documentary of this process… could you imagine a doc about a cancer patient and it includes hiking in the Grand Canyon?! Anyways, that’s probably just tooting my own horn a little bit.)

I’ll talk more about the entire journey in a later blog post but overall I’m physically feeling great, the heart rate continues to drop/normalize, which is a very welcome sign.

So, what happened in the last three weeks? Well, it was busy.

Week 1

  • I handled this round as well I could have hoped. I continued to feel worse on Friday vs Thursday but by Saturday I felt pretty good and left the parents nest and returned home.
  • By Sunday, I was feeling VERY, VERY restless so I did a 40-minute bike ride around Tempe Town Lake and then went to the driving range for two hours with my roommates. This was the first time I felt good enough on a Sunday to do something, so progress is definitely being made.
  • It was also the beginning of a hectic week.

Week 2

  • On Wednesday, we celebrated my mom’s birthday with my grandparents and extended family. One year closer to Medicare eligibility…and/or retirement.
  • Thursday, I met my old college roommates at the Wandering Tortoise for drinks and a much-needed catch-up. Anthony is getting married this upcoming weekend so one last night with the bachelor.
  • The craziness of the weekend began on Friday with a two-mile run and then a housewarming party.
  • Saturday was a whirlwind as I went to the ASU/UofA basketball game in Tucson with my buddy Adam. I received free tickets from a former Assistant Director in the Athletics Department who is also a cancer survivor. I’m still floored by the generosity.
  • After the game (we lost…sad day), Adam and I drove up and met both of our parents for the Billy Joel concert. It. Was. AMAZING. Words won’t do it justice. It was also two straight nights of being up past 1 am…I guess this grandpa still has it. Haha
  • The weekend wrapped up with 18 holes at a nearby golf course. This was my first time golfing since last fall and while my score wouldn’t indicate it, I played about as well as I could have hoped. I even ended Par-Par. Could’ve been Birdie-Birdie but I won’t beat myself up too much.
  • I also launched my photography website! If you’re interested in seeing (or maybe buying) my work, visit AlecSillsTrauschPhotography.com.


Week 3

  • We celebrated my dad’s birthday and I’ve continued to work out as much as I can.
  • I used to hike after work twice a week and this week I got back into things by hitting a local mountain on Thursday. I set a personal goal of getting up in 32 minutes. I reached the peak in 32:16 which isn’t too bad considering the last time I did this in January, it took me close to 45 minutes. I then scampered down in just over 20 minutes. I’ll know I’m back to my normal self when I can crush Piestewa Peak in under 27 minutes. Next up is Camelback in April.
  • My good friend, Brandon, his girlfriend, Nikki, and coworker, Connor, flew into town to visit. It was a weekend full of adventure. If you remember, Brandon was part of the crew that visited right before my first chemo so this was a great way to cap it all off.
  • Last Friday we took in a Zac Brown Band concert before heading out to Old Town Scottsdale to show them the sights.
  • On Saturday, we drove up to Sedona and hiked the West Fork Trail, which is really cool. The entire trail is around 3.5 miles out and you basically walk along (and through) the water for the majority of it. We went about one to 1.5 miles into the canyon. While it was snowmelt, I was still able to walk in it.
  • Early Sunday morning we headed up to the Grand Canyon where again I showed the crew the grandest canyon of them all. We ended up hiking 1.5 miles into the canyon, which required navigating a pretty icy trail at the top. After one minor slip, I instantly regretted leaving my microspikes in the car. Thanks to thermodynamics, the trail wasn’t as icy on the way up and we got up in 39 minutes. I was pretty pleased with how I felt going up and felt stronger at the end than the beginning. For some comparison, I was at the GC a year ago May and was able to hike three miles uphill in one hour. I’ve got some progress to make but overall I think I’m doing pretty good all things considered.


Going Forward

My next post will probably be slightly off the consistent three-week posting I’ve been on since this all began. I plan to update/recap once I get results back from the PET Scan. I promise I won’t hide the lede for that one. While I’m relatively optimistic that the PET Scan will give us the news we’ve all been hoping for (remember that after just two treatments, cancer activity was down 67%), these next three to four weeks before I get the results will be somewhat stressful. However, all I can do it stay busy and put my faith in the doctors who have been doing great so far.

I don’t really have any plans set in stone over the next month, but we do have a new moon the first weekend in April and it’s Milk Way season. This means I’ll be heading out to someplace dark and see what shots I get. Other than that, we’ll see what plans develop! See you all on the other side.


Thank you all for the continued prayers, well wishes, support, and love. Regardless if I see you daily, weekly, or if you only follow along with my journey simply by reading these updates, you mean the world to me.