Nothing so overt as » "Dude, you are soo fucked. I would *not* want to be you. Not for all the money in the world. Your ass is in for an ordeal. So you might wanna look up what that word means. Here, let me spell it for you .. o-r-d-e-a-l."
But that is the general flavor of these hints that I was receiving .. such as the change in voice-tone of the Filipino lady who set me with an I-V once. She shared that she herself was a cancer survivor, and that I was at the best place if I wanted to be one, too.
And somebody walked into the room and she stopped talking .. as if she werent supposed to be telling me these trade secrets .. that were sure to scare the shit out of any patient.
And she began to allude to the treatment in store for me, and would look up at me over her glasses .. and convey the gravity of the thing before me with a knowing and telling glance that says »
» "I probably shouldnt even be telling you this shit. If my boss ever found out, I would be in deep shit. But you look like a tough guy who can handle it. Tho you probably wont be able to sleep tonight after I tell you what lovely 'things' are in-store for your carcinoma-producing ass. No, wait. Forget I ever said anything, okay? Cuz I dont want to lose my job. For letting you know how difficult your treatment will be. But you should probably just shoot yourself now and get it over with. Tho you didnt hear that from me."
I exaggerate for effect, sure. But I am talking about maybe a half-dozen such encounters, including the one at my dentist's office a month before treatment began .. where he recommended that I get all my teeth pulled .. before treatment began.
"Say what? Come again? Pull what out?"
"Not Something We Ordinarily Recommend" » Pre-Yanking Out All Your Teeth
My radiation doctor told me that there was one person who actually did have all his teeth yanked before treatment. He told me that this person was in my very same clinical trial, and that he was only 23 years old.
After treatment, the kid wanted my radiation oncologist to finger the dentist who recommended the radical step .. but the doc said » "I have no idea what kind of shape his teeth were in, so I couldnt say."
He would only say » "It's not something we ordinarily recommend."
My teeth are sometimes sensitive to cold, but none have fallen out or become loose. The back-bottom teeth give me the most trouble. The rest of them feel solid.
I use a Waterpik daily with warm salt water and baking soda, with a flouride toothpaste and Periogarde (prescription) mouthwash, which promotes gum health.
How the (Unpleasant) Experience of Treatment Takes You From Not Knowing to » Knowing
I am talking about the days before treatment actually begins. When you have no reliable idea of what is involved nor how you will feel as a result.
I feel like that now .. with being a cancer veteran. A seasoned, experienced veteran of cancer. It will take a while for me to feel comfortable in my new skin.
[ speaking of living in a 'new skin' .. remind me to tell you about the dream i had .. the one with a purple reptillian thumb. (purple with beautiful flashes of bright green underneath.) a dream that i had after being injected with 17 cc's of a genetically engineered small pox virus that came in a big white strofoam container labeled 'bio-hazard'. small pox is a disease that goes back thousands of years to at least the time of the pharoahs. ]
But the sense of being a veteran there reminded me of feeling like a » SNOB .. stationed aboard an operating nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine. Regular Navy folk might call such a person » an old salt.
» Last Full Day of Winter (March 19) of the Winter of Cancer Treatment (2014-2015)
My treatment lasted from the month of December, except for the first week .. until the month of January, except for the last week. In other words » most of Dec/Jan. Right thru the holiday weeks, yeah.
"Remember that swollen lymph node that I showed you at the library," I said, "that I thought was a tooth problem? That turned out to be cancer. I was in treatment this winter. Radiation & chemo for 7 weeks."
He said that Angelina is getting so big that I wont even recognize her. His daughter's daughter. She has two girls. So its an estrogen-overloaded home. Gramps has the patience of a saint. He's now in his 80's, but chugging along nicely. He attributes it to his hearty Sicilian genes. (But not the clean living.)
Along the lines of paying proper respects before moving on .. I should say that I went to the Moores Cancer center yesterday, there in La Jolla. To see my chemo doctor. (Who has something special about her. That makes you like her. That makes it enjoyable to be with her.)
I leave the house 90 mins early on days when I need to give blood. That is how long it takes for them to analyze blood. "Sixty to ninety minutes."
Tho this guy rides a bike, because I'm sure that route gets long at the end of some days, at the end of some rough weeks.
They have a good caferteria at the hospital, which is the biggest reason I go there. I also go there for CT scans.
And my trip there defintely contained a celebratory mood. Because I am now a veteran of the Moores Cancer center. I have completed treatment nearly two months ago, and I am even wrapping up the post-treatment phase .. before we go into long-term watch-n-see.
And all my doctors are very pleased with my 'response' to treatment. "Complete resolution," were the exact words of my original ENT surgeon. Sweet-sounding words.
And everybody knows me there. The guy behind the computer monitor at the lab where you give blood. I know all the people who pull blood in the lab. Because I have been coming there regularly for months now.
I know my way around. I've been spending a good chunk of my life down there in La Jolla.
My weight was 152 yesterday. So it stopped dropping some two weeks ago, but has yet to start climbing.
The big story from my blood test yesterday is that my neutrophils were up to 1600 (from 700 only two weeks ago).
Nevertheless, my general white blood cell count is still low at 2.7 (where 4.0 to 10.0 represent the 'normal' band).
Right now she seems most disappointed by my anemic red blood cell count of 2.73 (where 4.60 to 6.10 represent the normal band).
And especially by my hemoglobin reading of 9.1 (where the norml band is 13.7 to 17.5).
These numbers, as you can see, are not even close to the low end of the normal band.
But there in nothing you can do about this, she says. You just have to bide your time and wait it out. It will come back.
My sodium is still low at 134 (136-145). But came way up from 130 two weeks ago.
I asked my chemo doctor 4 weeks ago when she expected my blood counts to return to normal and she said » "in 30 days from now."
So I am not there yet. "Everybody is different," she said.
My platelets are still barely normal (at 155 where 140-370 are norm), but they did not rise any since two weeks ago.
My point is that .. it's difficult to move on from treatment when your blood counts are still abnormally low due to the chemo.
My next appointment with her isnt for a month. Five full weeks. Wow. That is a long time. Her nurse told me that she ordered a super-duper set of blood work up for that check-up exam in April. So I will have to wait until next month before I can get confirmation that my blood counts are all within their 'normal' bands .. or at least on the boundary.
But these are not even close. As might be reflecting the way that I still feel.
Next week I see the Radiation doctor to review the results of Monday's CT scan, but the chemo doctor already told me that it looked great.
» Eating a Grilled Rib-Eye Steak at Seven Weeks Post-Treatment
As I mentioned, I also had a CT scan on Monday, which showed "no evidence of cancer". To celebrate finishing that CT scan, on the way home, my driver stopped at the grocery store, where I bought a rib-eye steak.
I wasnt sure if I would be able to eat it or not .. because my eyes have often been too big for what my throat and my stomach can handle.
The voice in my head said » "Dude, you are going to end up wasting a beautiful steak .. just like so much other food you have wasted these last few months." It's like my head wants the food, or likes the idea of it .. but my throat and my stomach are just not into it.
After a few bites, they are like » "Forget that. If you wanna eat shit like that, you shoulda got the feeding tube."
But yesterday, I fired up the bar-b-q with charcoal and grilled that puppy. I ate about half. Maybe a little less. But I was proud of myself.
Nobody can really appreciate what it means to someone who has been treated for throat cancer to eat a steak. So I called the clinical trials girl. Most people would be like » "What's so big about eating half a steak?"
But the clinical trials girl could appreciate it. While I actually had a bite of steak IN MY MOUTH. I was so excited. So proud of myself.
I just left her a message at her desk phone, and didnt bother calling her cell. It wasnt that important. More fun than important.
But she called back later and was definitely able to appreciate the significance of the moment. I mean, for several weeks, you are limited to Ensure, and even that takes 45 minutes to drink a small can.
Because, if you put too much in your stomach at once .. it is coming back up. And in a hurry.
Unfortunately, my enjoyment of eating the steak was not what I had hoped it would be .. because I still cannot taste shit. But it was actually better than I had expected .. because my throat is slowly improving.
But the best part came 2 or 3 hours later .. when I could FEEL in my body .. the reserves of strength that come from the iron and the protein that your body gets from a steak.
I mean, this was a fatty dude. Lots of calories. And rich calories are what I need right now .. in order to help replace those 30 pounds I lost.
When you are losing weight so fast .. your body is under severe stress. No doubt about it. So it is time to start putting the pounds back on. I am working on it, but as yet, not making any progress.
Speaking of food .. one of the things I have craved most of all during the entire time that I could not eat .. was a big, fat, slightly-burnt, greasy hot dog. With mustard, relish & sauerkraut. (Claussen-in-a-jar, of course.)
And Monday I stopped on my way home from Moores and picked up a pack of angus Ball Park franks, which plump nicely if you cook them long enough.
And I bought some sauerkraut and fresh buns and any day now .. it is going to be hot dog day here. All day long. From sun up 'til sundown and long into the night.
The Source of the Cancer » the Primary Tumor (Undefined, Unknown)
One interesting factoid that I learned during the course of my treatment .. is that doctors do not find the source of the primary tumor (.. such as they were unable to do with me) in one third of the cases. That seems like a lot. One third is not very far from half.
People have died of this type of cancer without ever finding the primary source.
Regarding his inability to find/locate a primary tumor .. my Radiation doctor (oncologist) said (something like) » "There are two possibilities. Maybe the cancer is growing at such a low level that we just cant see it [yet]. Or maybe the tumor showed up, dumped cancer into your lymph node [where it is growing now] and then went away."
I remember reading the prospectus for the clinical trial, where it said at the very top of the first page .. that it was a trial designed for people with » advanced head-n-neck cancers.
So I called the clinical trials girl and said » "You cant even FIND my primary tumor. How can I possibly be considered 'advanced'?"
She said » "Your cancer has spread. It has spread to your lymph gland. If it can spread to your lymph gland, then it can spread to other places, as well [such as to the lungs or liver]. We know it didnt come FROM your lymph gland, because this type of cancer does not originte in the lymph system. Rather it gets carried there."
If this particular cancer does spread, two of the most popular places are to » the lungs and the liver .. according to the clinical trials girl. [ Mom died of lung cancer at age 47, which had spread to her brain. ] Tho my ENT surgeon also said » the bones. [ Gramps died of bone cancer at age 61. ]
After that phone call, I started considering my questions more carefully.
I know that, when you see your family members die from the disease (.. after first wasting away to nothing) .. up close and personal .. uh, that tends to bring the threat of the disease (read » death) home for you.
The 3 pillars of oncology are »
(Tho not necessarily in that order.) Angelina is getting all slash, no poison, no burn. Me » just the opposite. All poison & burn. Chemo x3 and radiation x33. Nice ratio of numbers .. you gotta give 'em that. "But sheath that scalpel, sir."
Tho all thru my treatment I remembered how my radiation doctor embraced the slash option at the very beginning. That option appeared too risky to other doctors, but I still felt grateful that he considered it. Hard to describe, but I found myself thinking about it from time to time (to time).
When I first thought that I would be (like Angelina) getting 'nothing-but-knife' .. I was pretty stoked about that. I was very stoked. Sure, the knife sux. But not compared to poison and burn.
One of the things that I thought about .. was how that scripture came to mind as I walked out of my doctor's office following that first visit » "I will cause him to feast his eyes on my salvation."
And how, at the time, I thought that meant » no poison or burn. I was so excited that I started calling people like crazy.
And there was an urgency to these calls .. just in case this was just a dream and I was to wake to a world not so pretty .. then I would at least enjoy telling these friends in my dream.
I was very much appreciating the idea of being done with this cancer thing .. without having to endure the dreaded treatment. Until he said that, I didnt even know that such an option was available.
More than most folks, I would guess, I have always appreciated the value of a good option. Or a number of them.
Sometimes our options are between » good and better. I like these kinds of choices. But sometimes we must choose between » bad and worse. Not such nice choices here. Myself I recently came thru such a seemingly forsaken place.
But later .. as I was thinking what actually would constitute 'salvation' in my particular situation .. I came to see that the thing you (the cancer patient) really wants is to be » CANCER-FREE. And how you happen to get there is a matter of lesser importance. (Seems obvious now, but not so then.)
"Complete resolution," are the words you want to hear .. regarding any previous malignant growths, no? "None detectable .. employing the very finest in twenty-first century bio-imaging technology. Have a nice day."
» Life-Saving Skill Sets & the Sense of Meaning They Confer
I wonder sometimes .. what that must be like .. to possess that particular skill set .. which doesnt come cheap .. no matter how you happen to evaluate the cost required to acquire it.
Think about it .. people walk up to them with a (previous) diagnosis of cancer. And if these patients happened to be scared, or freaked out with anxiety .. that is telling them that they will probably be dead in a matter of months .. but only after dying a horrible death .. then that would certainly be understandable, no?
I mean, you are not going to be referred to the Moores Cancer center if you dont have cancer.
And some time later, months maybe (shorter the better, if you ask me) these very same people (patients) walk away cancer-free.
That must be a very cool skill set to wield. Because it wasnt that long ago .. a few decades, maybe .. when that patient would probably not have received the same prognosis. Because the science and the medicine and the technology was not there yet.
Such a skill set must confer upon the life of the possessor .. a wonderful sense of meaning.
I have been reading up on the Existentialists .. and they are very much into » meaning (of life). So maybe this is why I am applying these thoughts to my doctors.
I will not deny that you could identify numerous things that seem absurd in such an arrangement .. whereby people you have never met before .. pump chemicals straight into your veins and burn your flesh with massive doses of a high-energy light (radiation) that you cannot see ..
.. in order to save your life from a colony (or colonies) of rouge cells growing in the lymph node in your neck .. and other places that they are not able to determine.
But the absense-of-absurity is not the goal, here. The issue at hand is the desired » absense of indication of cancer cells growing in your body. No?
If these doctors can eliminate the cancer cells growing in my body, I can tolerate a LOT of absurity.
But when I do mention this thing .. it is going to involved something I read that made me think .. because Joseph Frank goes straight to the heart of the matter ..
.. see here (taken from the very first paragraph of Frank's 5-page preface to the new condensed edition of 2009) »
A Range of Social & Cultural Experiences » Like No Other
No other Russian writer of his stature could equal his range of familiarity of both the depths and the heights of Russian society. This is a fact of great importance, which influenced the view he took of his own position as a writer.
The life of the majority, on the other hand, was one of confusion and moral chaos. Dostoevsky felt that his own work was an attempt to grapple with the chaos of the present, while Tolstoy's works were pious efforts to enshrine for posterity the beauty of a gentry life already vanishing and doomed to extinction.
Notice in particular the word » range [ depths ; heights ]. Joseph Frank then gives examples of why he feels this way. Compelling examples. Very compelling.
The Thing that Makes Dostoevsky Dostoevsky » According to Joseph Frank
I am still only familiarizing myself with this book .. and while Joseph Frank has not yet come right out and declared » "the thing that makes Dostoevsky Dostoevsky is ..." (which a-part-of-me has been on-the-lookout for, i must admit.) The juicy-juice. Sweetest of the nectars.
But Joseph Frank does indeed write words that could be thus construed. I will share that passage with you .. because it is so cool.
But I first want to warn you .. that there are other passages, also, that sound a lot like » the thing that makes Dostoevsky Dostoevsky.
But I feel that this passage that I share is the BEST such passage. And later I will tell you why I feel that way.
But I need to be ready for that .. when I share his 'special stamp' quote. And now is not the time.
But Joseph Frank touches on a number of insightful points .. quite masterfully, I might add ..
.. that highlight and define the areas where Dostoevsky shines the brightest.
I just cant get over how easy, how effortless, Joseph Frank makes this look.
The writer in me was saying » "Dude, Joseph Frank OWNS Dostoevsky. He breaks down the dark, legendary Russian into bite-sized pieces. He is not even breaking a sweat. Joseph Frank is a bad dude."
As you might imagine, there are a number of quoted words of praise for this book on the back cover. The smallest of these snippets says this » "It is a great work, both of scholarship and of art." - AS Byatt, Sunday Times [ London ]
And that is precisely it .. it's like Joseph Frank himself is something of an artist. You kinda expect him to be a scholar, sure, being professor at both Princeton & Stanford .. but you dont expect the artist part. At least, I didnt.
Dostoevsky, on the other hand, begins The Brother Karamazov (a novel acclaimed the world over as one of the supreme achievements in literature) with a verse from John's gospel » Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
[ I am talking about Writing here. Writing and writers. ]
You might expect with Joseph Frank, after having spent so much time reading after Dostoevsky, that HIS OWN writing might take on the characteristics of Dostoevsky, no?
I mean, how could he not? [ not be influenced ]
I know with myself, how I catch myself adapting (subconsciously) my style to that of the author/writer who I am currently reading. So I cant imagine Joseph Frank, or anyone else, for that matter .. being any different.
And right off the bat, I noticed how Joseph Frank's writing reminds me of Dostoevsky's .. in that both men » take you quickly into the story, deeply.
Hemingway starts you off in the middle of the action, so to speak ..
.. but that does not necessarily mean that he takes you deep right away.
Joseph Frank takes you right into the meat of Dostoevsky's world.
But Nietzsche summered in the mountains .. the mountains of Sils Maria in Switzerland. Not far from the border with Italy. Which is where he headed for the winters. Down to warmer climates like Turin & Genoa.
Ten years later, at age 34 (1879) he said » "Fuck it. I'm outta here. This shit is driving me crazy. Send my monthly pension checks to my new address at Sils Maria. I am now going to apply my considerable powers of intellect toward philosophy. Heck, I might even write a book or two while I'm there."
When he is done, Mr. Brickman goes on vacation .. I'm not sure where he goes, but I wouldnt be surprised if it were to Aruba. Cuz that's the kind of guy he is.
But my point is that » Mr. Brickman makes you suffer with the weight of all those bricks on your ass .. for a few weeks.
Then Mr. Brickman returns .. looking all tan-n-shit .. and he begins to remove the bricks .. at the same rate he placed them there » one per day.
And when he first starts at it, he seems to be going awfully slowly. "Are you sure that you're actually removing bricks, dude?" I call out from under the pile.
Now .. you get to a point where .. you still feel like krap .. from having your ass ground into the pavement by carrying all those bricks for so long. But .. it sure does feel nice .. to finally have most of that weight off your ass .. here at day #40. Feel me?
I did not feel this way at day #23, no. But even day #23 was significantly better than day #14. Which is about as bad as it gets. This entry was the last one that I posted while actually in treatment .. getting punched in the mouth every day. Kicked in the teeth. January 15th was week #5. Then I posted nothing until 2 weeks after treatment was done.
Regarding recovery from the treatment .. my radiation doctor said » "It starts out slow in the beginning, but once it gets going, it ramps up nicely."[ "it" = how well you feel and when you can actually expect to start feeling somewhat normal again. ]
If you extrapolate my Brickman analogy .. you remove the final brick at the end of week #10 (3 week vacation delay plus 7 weeks of treatment to undo).
That would be 30 days from today. I am curious as to how I will feel then. Pretty light and airy, I would imagine. Unburdened, even.
My doctors say that it takes about 4 months before you feel decent again, and that it can take a full year before you really feel like your old self again. A year. That's too long for me.
Even 4 months .. that would be the end of spring. All this started during the end of last spring (early June) when my lymph node suddenly puffed out. So I have been dealing with this cancer stuff for a while now.
I feel that it is the brush with the existential elements of life, and the soul-challenging aspects of the physical challenges (treatment) .. which CHANGES the cancer patient. Which transforms him. That which metamorphosizes his caterpillar ass.
(Challenging here means » very difficult. Challenging as in » testing. Maybe even » refining.)
And you must admit that I am in a position here to comment, no? A good position .. from which I have perspective. A fine perspective.
My view therefore, while it may be different, it cannot be wrong.
It was during this most recent weblog phase that my entries have grown in both size and complexity. Quite organically, I might add. Which is to be expected, I would imagine. So less equals more.
Having them separated out like that .. allows me to go back and review how my writing has developed over the years. How my topics of discussion have morphed over time. The major different phases and themes, such as the dad theme and being a parent.
Most users would naturally migrate an older weblog (and all of its entries) into the newer one. But I did not do that. Rather, when it was time to move on the next whole number, I simply abandoned the old installation and moved on with the new.
Does the installation of weblog #5 mean that now is the time .. to take it to the next level? Time to visit some lunar landscapes? It sure does seem like the stars are aligned that way. And we dont want to disappoint the Cosmos, do we?
What a surprisingly pleasant upgrade this was. Well, technically it wasnt an upgrade. But rather a clean install of a newer version.
My inner geek can be a little anal at times. But unclarity in things technical can be asking for trouble.
Six Apart made great progress on the Text-to-HTML conversion interface.
I spend a decent amount of time in the HTML-side of Movable Type's Text-to-HTML writing / editing interface. So it helps when the outputted HTML mark-up looks pretty and it well organized .. which makes it easy to find your way around.
I wasnt actually planning to install MTOS 5 as my version 5. But I had a problem upgraging my previous copy .. and there you have it.
» "You have cancer. Radiation and chemo coming right up. So stand the fuck by and try to look smart. Because the shit is gonna start coming fast-n-furious here .. starting right now. So buckle up, Berto. I am going to hand you over to Jessica now, and she has a number that you need to call to schedule a PET scan. When you are done with that, we are going to admit your malignant ass to the hospital here and I am going to biopsy various assorted chunks of your flesh from inside your mouth .. your voice box, your esophagus, the base of your tongue, your sinuses .. you get the idea. No, you will not be awake for this. Yes, you will be getting the Michael Jackson drug. Tho we like to call it 'the cocktail'."
He is also the one who referred me to Moores (where I received my radiation & chemo treatments).
Today, after examining me, he said the two words that every cancer patient wants to hear » "Complete resolution." [ Tumor is completely gone. Adios, squamous cell carcinoma. ]
Sweet words, indeed. "Say it again, doc."
The Effectiveness of the Chemo-Radiation » Algorithm
Dude, 'resolve' is what you do to a » problem. (Which is also the #1 attribute that makes a geek a geek.)
These medical folk applied their chemo-radiation algorithm to my diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma and spit out on the exit side of their (precisely-detailed) instruction-set » a diagnosis of 'complete resolution.' [ To cast the experience into a coding / programming light. ]
That is an impressive 'algorithm' .. is it not? From where I am standing (sitting? lying?) it does indeed look impressive.
» Deep Thoughts | Old Thoughts | New Thoughts with New Paradigms
One of the things that I think about most .. when I am not sitting in front of a keyboard writing .. is how the algorithms applied to gramps and to mom » both failed.
Now, of course, that art of writing algorithms that defeat various forms of cancer .. has progressed greatly in the last few decades. (Kudos where kudos are due.)
This is a weighty thing for me. You know how we are all repeatedly exposed to various 'patterns' at impressionable ages. And these patterns seem very real to us.
And it isnt until another algorithm writer comes along and says, "We can do better" .. do you realize that .. previously insurmountable problems are not so insurmountable.
I dont think I am able at the time to adequately convey what it is that I am trying to say. But give me points for trying .. and maybe later I'll return with additional insights to break it down for you in a masterful way.
Or maybe it is too personal and something I shouldnt even document.
Anyway, I have not seen this doctor since my very first week of treatment. So it has been a while. Plus I had to reschedule a few times.
While I was sitting in the waiting room, a lady came out and said to her husband who was seated near me, "He's a good doctor."
He *is* a good doctor.
Most Important (Diagnostic) Test of Your Life » the 4-month PET Scan
He also said that the PET scan that I have coming up at the 4-month point .. will be » "the most important test of your life."
He said that the PET scan was more valuable (in my situation) than the CT scan. Because the CT scan is about "structures" (or the abnormal growth of structures in your neck and lungs ans wherever else) .. whereas as the PET scn was about biological activity (or something along those lines).
Cancer cells have increased biological activity because the are rapidly reproducing. That is what makes them so dangerous. They quickly grow to a point (called a tumor) where they overwhelm the host (.. uh, that would be you, dawg).
I even think that he said the PET scan could see cancer (cancerous behavior of cells) at the microscopic level. I know that he said the word "microscopic".
I know that he said the PET scan was an outstanding (sensitive) tool for detecting cancer.
He said that so good was the PET scan (at detecting the smallest amounts of cancer) .. that there was even afoot a movement in the oncological medical community ..
.. to called you (the patient) "golden" .. if you pass a post treatment PET scan at 4 months and 1 year. 'Golden' means » clean bill of health. So clean that you dont even need any more periodic follow-up testing.
Wow. That is certainly very clean. We're talking » Ivory Snow clean.
Tho he also added that nobody is prepared to go that far just yet. So the testing will continue. So I will start to see him more as I see less and less of the Moores Cancer Center. (You know where that is, right?)
He also brought up again, that my tumor tested positive for HPV-16 .. and how that fact bodes well for my prognosis.
It should not surprise you that doctors very much appreciate it when their prescribed schedule of treatment produces the desired and intended result .. when their patient "responds well." [ to treatment ]
What choice does the patient have? Not much.
I took particular note when he acknowledged that » "It's a tough treatment." Because I am still sensitive to that topic.
During some of the worst post-treatment days, I would wake and the very FIRST thing that would hit me would be » "I have to throw up. Now!"
Dead asleep to scrambling to the bath room.
Now I know that men should be all Invictus-like and never say die .. but this does not stop the thought from coming anyway » "This is kicking my ass. Pretty severely."
Or worse » knowing that a particular food tastes good, and being able to SEE how yummy-good it looks ..
.. and being able to SMELL its yumminess ..
.. but having your tastebuds tell you (in no uncertain terms) that the food you are eating tastes like krap.
I dont think that a person can really understand this strange phenomena without actually experiencing it. You cant even imagine what it is like.
Actually, I should probably differentiate between tasting like krap and merely not tasting good. But this is not one of my favorite topics, so I am not going to spend very much time here.
But it respresents a significant portion of the cancer patient's experience. And one of its more challenging difficulties. So let's move on to something a little more pleasant. Or maybe a LOT more pleasant.
Update 13 March » Today might be first day [ day 46 ] that I started to taste food. Of course, it is entirely possible that I want to taste food so badly .. that I am simply imagining it.
But I really think I detected the nascent beginnings of taste. I scrambled a single light, fluffy egg (for protein, made with plenty of milk added for wetness, moisture & fluffiness) with a single slice of ham (for the sodium), well diced, and a single slice of a previously cooked baked potato (for complex carbs). With an inch or so of Hillshine polish sausage (for greasy calories).
Smell still works fine, so it is weird, indeed, when you can smell the wonderful coffee aroma coming up to your nose in the cup, yet cannot taste the coffee flavor. Kinda frustrating, yes.
With the radiation, they target the bottom third of your tongue (and your throat) .. since that is where most of these types of cancers originate.
You can feel them targeting these areas from early on in treatment. The sides of your tongue in the back feel like somebody rubbed them down with jalapenos. The doctors are able to sculpt the ever-moving radiation beam precisely how they want it.
The technology required for his level of control of the radiation beam became available only within the last decade. Before that they would cook everything in the area equally.
If I could start tasting my food .. that would be very good for my weight. Because, so far, altho I have stopped losing weight (after losing 30 lbs) .. I have not yet started to put it back on.
I am finding it very hard to eat, still. Like it is a chore. A job. Unpleasant work. After the first few bites, my throat and my stomach are done. You have to make yourself eat.
Food was one of the most difficult things to deal with as treatment progressed. Every week there were more things that you could not eat.
I threw out so much food. I dont like to waste, no.
Your available menu kepting shrinking .. making it difficult to adapt to the changes .. until you were down to cans of Ensure .. as your sole menu. Each can took me 45 minutes to drink. A sip here, a sip there. Otherwise it was coming back up.
And I had to chase each sip with a sip of water .. because the ensure burned my throat. Now very bad, no. But enough that you want to chase with water.
Another food trick I am learning now, as my menu begins to grow .. is granola left in a bowl of milk to get soft. Mushy. Sure, it tastes like krap, but I always feel better afterwards.
Frank even learned the Russian language so he could see deeper into Dostoevsky's world and art. (That's dedication.)
Joseph Frank never intended to be Dostoevsky's biographer. No, sir. Rather he was simply (like me) reading a copy of Notes from Underground .. when he noticed something about the novel. About the writing. About its subject.
"This Dostoevsky guy .. his writing .. there's something about it .. I cant quite put my finger on it, tho. Maybe I should look a little closer. Oh, lookie there .. aint that some shit. Wow. He's even more interesting than I thought."
That is exactly what happened to me. So, in that sense, I feel a certain kinship with Mr Frank, or at least, with his experience of reading Dostoevsky.
In this sense Joseph Frank reminds me of the guy who wrote my favorite Dylan biography » Daniel Mark Epstein. Because he was a stud, too. A stud, and a poet, and even a poet-warrior. Who has been to exotic places of the mind. Interesting, exotic places.
» Rad vs Hemingway on the Key Factor Behind Dostoevsky's Genius
This however, might be a good place .. to mention where I disagree with Hemingway .. about his appraisal of the thing that "made" Dostoevsky .. the writer that he became. What was it that precipitated his genius?
But I feel .. and I have felt this way ever since I was diagnosed with cancer, which can be viewed as a death sentence of sorts.
I feel that it was really » the mock execution that Dostoevsky experienced ..
.. that did it for him. Because it immediately brought him into the realm of » the existential .. where the question of your very existence is brought into the spotlight of your conscious awareness .. your conscious thoughts .. because it is » threatened by a known killer. A well-known killer.
Since the minute I received the call from my doctor, and especially in the minutes immediately after that moment .. when he told me that I had cancer .. uh, I have been in a very 'existential' state of mind. An existential mood, you might say. But what does that mean?
You cant really help it, you know. You are where you are. You cannot pretend that you are not when you are .. can you?
Both Dostoevsky & Nietzsche, whom I find 'interesting' .. both of them are existentialists. So this might be a good place for me to discuss my thoughts and views and feelings on the subject. And maybe do a little exploring. Turn over stone or two. Detour down some cobblestone back-alleys at midnight.
.. late 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the HUMAN subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the ACTING, FEELING, LIVING human individual.
Many existentialists have also regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies, in both style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience.
Okay, after reading the first paragraph, I am already feeling them .. and how they see things .. how they tend to make sense out of the barrage of information that we humans receive here in the 21st century. [ We're in the third millenium, dawg. The third millenium. ]
At the end of that page, I have included a link to return you back here .. to this exact section.
Michelle's Experiences Growing Up in Altadena & Her » Eyebrow-Raising Confession
For example, most recently I have returned to my 'Exploring' entry [ january 2013, page 2/4 ] .. particularly to the section where I discuss people who would rather have NO children (both men & women) .. <pause for effect> .. than to bring up a child in a home like the one in which they were raised.
Michelle's documentedexperiences of growing up in Altadena illustrate beautifully what I was trying to say, and her article reveals that it is not only men who feel this way. (I knew that women, also, felt that way .. because I heard them tell me so. And yes, I was surprised.)
That is a brave woman. I dont know many people who could do something like that.
Such things are usually whispered among the closest of friends, but rarely documented for public viewing. I mean, I have never seen such a confession documented.
[ It is unrelated, but, like Michelle, here is a place where I did not trust myself, either. ]
Rad note » this section on Michelle's experiences growing up in Altadena seemed to warrant it's own, seprate page .. which lets me reference more easily & directly the provocative concept under discussion here.
Joseph Frank is About the » Socio-Political & Ideological Context of Dostoevsky's Novels
Tho it is somewhat ironic that I am mentioning Dostoevsky's (remarkable) personal history (» political arrest by the czar, his mock execution and years spent in a hellish Siberian concentration camp with common peasant criminals) .. especially now ..
.. because this is precisely the thing that Joseph Frank says that most people make too big of a deal out of .. while ignoring the really important stuff.
He says, if you really wanna understand Dostoevsky and especially his novels, you really need to understand the socio-political and ideological context of the day ..
.. because that is what Dostoevsky's novels were all about. They were often a response to the prevailing ideas of the established Russian intelligensia of his day. ( "Dear Fuck-Heads of the so-called Intelligentsia..." )
Joseph Frank does not say that Dostoevsky's mock execution and his time spent LIVING WITH common peasant criminals in a Siberian prison camp werent influential.
Rather he is saying that his novels are not about that .. so dont focus all your attention there .. even while admitting that Dostoevsky's personal history is indeed fascinating.