» » Saw my original Ears-Nose-Throat surgeon today (San Diego). He was the one who did the very first biopsy (on Sept 30). And he agrees with the diagnosis of my oncologists that I am indeed cancer-free.
Closing the Cancer Circle
He cautioned, however » "You can go out and buy a bottle of champagne now, but we dont pop the cork for two years."
Most telling, he said about the results of my most recent blood-work » "I get concerned when hemoglobin drops below 11, and yours was down there for a while."
My hemoglobin is exactly at 11 .. or, at least it was a few weeks ago (May 27) .. having climbed from 10.5 the previous month (April 22).
On March 4, for example, which is six weeks out of treatment, it was 8.7 .. and it was even lower before that.
The normal band listed for hemoglobin is » 13.7 - 17.5. So I am still a good ways from even the bottom of the normal range.
And yes, I do feel anemic, which is a nice way of saying that my butt is still dragging after treatment and that I fatigue quickly. Frustratingly quickly. My stamina sucks. I can tell you that I am using all the hemoglobin I have right now.
» A Frustratingly Slow Recovery from Radiation & Chemo Treatment
My neighbor's wife had breast cancer a few years back. As we met recently at the spot where we all take our garbage cans, her husband told me » "It took her another good six months before she felt back to normal .. and she didnt even have chemo. She just had radiation."
That made me feel a little more normal, but you just so badly want to be done with the whole cancer thing and feel normal again. I feel normal .. until I try to do something .. especially something that involves sustained physical activity.
Our neighbors here are the nicest people. I said to him (as he used his four-wheeler to take my garbage cans down) » "You and Ralph are really nice people. You're not just faking it." [ He laughed out loud and was clearly tickled. ]
These two guys worked together as firemen their whole lives and then retired and bought lots next to each other where they built beautiful homes beside each other. I told the Dog about them and how nice it would be if he and I could someday live next to each other like they do.
Radiation Scarring of the Larynx » Sounding Like Patton
Right before my ENT surgeon grabbed my tongue with a piece of gauze and stuck a mirror down my throat, I said » "They say I have radiation scarring of my voice box."
"It's actually right here," he said, and he named the exact thing that was scarred.
I did not ask any more questions about radiation scarring because I figure » radiation scarring is better than the alternative. Much better. (That's what I always say.)
» The Strange Throaty Quality of Dostoevsky's Voice Post-Illness
I must say, I found it curious when I read in my convalescing chair earlier, the following passage from chapter 4 in my bio on Dostoevsky. The 15 year old boy is getting ready to move in 1837 from Moscow to St Petersburg where he is going to begin school at the Academy of Military Engineers. [ which he later drops out of after his father is murdered by serfs who crush his balls in their angry bare hands before pouring vodka down his throat .. in order to write full time. ]
Check this out and see if you find it strangely timely [ his mother had died of tuberculosis the year before and his father is a surgeon ] »
Without any apparent cause, he lost his voice and seemed to have contracted some throat or chest ailment whose diagnosis was uncertain. The impending trip to St. Petersburg had to be postponed until finally Dr. Dostoevsky was advised to begin the journey and trust to the vivifying effects of travel. Andrey remarks that his brother's voice, after that time, always retained a curious throaty quality that never appeared quite normal.
After I read that, my eyebrow popped up and I said » "Really? A strange throaty quality that never went away? That's interesting. Cuz I can certainly relate. In yet another thing."
I have found that I dont talk as much now. It is harder to talk. And my voice fatigues more quickly. Because I have to use more energy to get the words to come out. It feels as tho I am 'throwing' them out.
So I have become more judicious with the words I speak. (As we should be.)
» Weight Stuck at 145
My weight seems to be stuck at 144-145. I eat because I think I should .. but rarely because I ever actually feel hungry. Supposedly, there are things in your stomach that tell your brain when you are hungry, but mine arent working yet.
I started treatment at 180. I fell to 140 during treatment (frighteningly fast), and have since fought my way back to 145 .. but I have been stuck here for weeks. And I'm trying to eat as much as I can.
HPV-16 » Sexual Partners & Statistical Odds of a Positive Cancer Diagnosis
They say that testing positive for HPV-16 is actually a good thing .. because these types of cancer "respond better" to radiation/chemo treatment (than non-HPV tumors).
But I still have the virus. It never goes away. (They tell me.)
And what about sex? My chemo doctor keeps reassuring me that it is no problem. But how can that be? .. medically speaking. I dont really understand it very well. (And I probably should.)
Tho I read in almost the very last sentence here » "Partners of patients with HPV positive oropharyngeal cancer do not seem to have elevated oral HPV infection compared with the general population."
They are not talking about a cancer diagnosis there. No, sir. Rather they are talking about infecting your partner with the virus .. which nobody would ever want to do to someone they love.
That is what my chemo doctor kept saying » Studies show no increased risk to your partner.
I asked her about it three different times. On three different occasions. "Can you tell me again what it means that my tumor tested positive for the HPV-16 virus .. regarding my future sexual partners."
» Lauren's New Stilettos
She gets flirty herself at the end of this video. She indeed made me want to reach out.
My ego is convinced that she is secretly flirting with me. While the voice in my head says » "Dude, that's what crazy people think."
And I am now cautious with pretty girls. If you reach out and touch them, you might spend years (or even decades) getting fucked in the courts .. experience has shown me. Call it classical conditioning.
She does seem easy to trust, tho. No? (Hey, I have been wrong before. Let me tell you.)
The first day of summer is nigh upon us and Lauren is back at Yahoo Finance. The birds are chirping and I am celebrating survivorship. Could life possibly be any better?
I did feel abandoned, tho, when she left. Yes. It felt like a long, cold winter .. while she was away.
(Which made me think of my brother, when I left for the Navy. He was still young. He was not happy about that. Which could be an interesting avenue to explore .. some other time.)
While she was away I tried to find her a few times with the google .. but all I found was this youtube clip where everybody is bellyacheing in the comments that she has sold out and gone corporate.
I mean, they cover the spectrum from merely riled up to downright disgusted.
One guy even wrote » "She looks as though under some kind of mind control. Not the same Lauren for sure."
That cracked me up. But she does seem to have too much of that sassy renegade spirit to play the corporate part.
Speaking of YF, where is Aaron? Hopefully he has just been on vacation. But YF without Aaron the Taskmaster .. that would seem weird. I have never known a YF without him. It would definitely be a loss. A sizable loss.
Oh, I see he's baaaack. The taskmaster returneth. Great. Aaron *is* Yahoo Finance. Whew, I was almost starting to get worried there for a minute.
When I first looked at that Wikipedia page on HPV+ OPC cancer last year, it only had one or two short paragraphs. Now there is lots of good information.
Speaking of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales should receive an honorary Nobel prize, if you ask me. (Along with Edward Snowden, who should get a real one.) Jimmy represents one of the pillars of the twenty-first century's information age. Wikipedia's benefit to inform society should not be underestimated.
And that is what we are trying to do here .. we are trying to build the pillars of post-modern sensibility that we find here in the digital information age. And we are trying to build them sturdy enough to take us into the third millenium. Well into it. Rock-n-roll, baby.
Are you not surprised that Wikipedia is still ad-free? How uncommon .. in our society where money seems to be the most important thing. And where looking good is often held in higher esteem than being good.
Much higher. And too often. Much too often. I'm sad to say.
Who today could imagine maintaining an informed intellectual life without Wikipedia? What a resource.
July » First Month Post-Treatment With No Scheduled Doctor's Appointment (Woohoo!)
My ENT surgeon wants to see me again in two months. I also have continuing appointments scheduled with both my chemo (August) and radiation (September) oncologists.
[ The radiation oncologist, he especially gives you a very thorough exam. You feel well-probed when he gets done with you. Let me tell you. ]
So July will be the first month where I dont see a doctor for the entire month. (Woo-hoo!)
I was surprised to see how much my original ENT surgeon talked to my radiation oncologist during treatment. He had copies, for example, of all my CT and PET scans on file, which had been sent to him. This meeting-of-the-minds (most impressive minds, on your behalf) is a very cool thing.
You definitely feel as tho you are in qualified hands with these guys. They exude competence. Medical competence.
» The Cancer Circle Closes After Seeing Original ENT Surgeon
Anyway, today feels like the » closing of the circle. Even tho previous diagnoses had provided reasons for celebration .. it was today's meeting where I actually felt the circle close. The cancer circle. (Not everybody makes it all the way around. Many get a one-way trip. Too many.)
Quite dramatically I am feeling this sense of completion. Surprisingly, even. I mean, yesterday I was also diagnosed as cancer-free, but I did not have today's sense of completion from finally closing the circle. Resolution, baby.
Which puzzles me to a degree. Why do I feel this sense of completion so much more strongly today than before. (But there you have it. I can still enjoy it even if I dont fully comprehend it.)
Perhaps this feeling of completion is timely because it was right at this time last year (early June) when my lymph node first swelled up. I didnt say anything to anybody for a month .. hoping it would just go away. As I shaved over a big lump in my neck every other day.
As my ENT surgeon is feeling my neck, he says » "Some people just breeze right thru the treatment. Your neck looks great. Very supple."
So he seemed to imply that I came thru treatment with flying colors. Dude, I would not want to see people who came thru badly. I cannot imagine what that must feel like, because my own treatment felt so brutal.
I mean, yes, I am thru it now and we can finally relax a little .. from that toothy existential threat that was diligently gnawing on my ass. But there is a part of me looking back over my shoulder saying » "Dude, please dont do that again."
I recall my chemo doctor saying » "For having JUST finished treatment, you look fantastic."
Another time, after examining me, she added » "You actually look better than fantastic."
The joker in me wanted to say » "I bet you say that to all the boys." But I behaved myself. Momma woulda been proud.
But these gracious words are especially nice to hear when you are feeling like hammered dog shit.
My chemo doctor .. there is something about her. And I am not the only one who has noticed.
But you feel better the second she steps into the room. No shit.
And when she puts her hands, her fingers, on your neck .. it is like a moment or two of pure heaven. (Like a massage times 10.)
Which, of course, is why I always look forward to seeing her. I cant say that I know anyone else who is like her. I totally trust her.
And she has a great male nurse. They make a good team.
And after treatment is done and they all pronounce and declare you cancer-free .. the question comes » how do you thank someone for saving your life? (literally).
Because it all seems so inadequate.
But the idea of injecting a bag full of chemicals directly into your veins .. a poison in many senses .. this is not an easy thing to come to terms with. Even before you get to the effects it will have on your body.
It feels like there is something that I am trying to say that is eluding me for some reason. (I'd rather speak TO the thing than ABOUT a thing. Soo .. I need to know » what is the thing?)
Regarding the low blood counts, my chemo doctor said the last time I saw her »
"These are all things that the chemo affects. It just takes time for them to recover and everybody is different. I think you were more sensitive to the chemo and to the trial vaccine than most patients, which is why is it taking your blood counts longer to recover."
I have always been sensitive to drugs. My mom was, too.
Listed on my print-out sheet are 8 things that are highlighted and marked as being out of the normal band. (Out of spec.)
Besides the hemoglobin, there are also low readings listed for things like red blood cell count (RBC) and white blood cell count (WBC), MCV, MCH, MCHC, RDW, HGT and platelets.
Tho my ENT surgeon said today that platelets above 100 are okay, and dont need to be at 140, like the sheet said [ 140 - 370 ]. Mine are 127.
That actually made me feel good when he said that .. which is why I remember.
My platelets got down to 22 (K). My chemo doctor said » "If they get down to 10, I'm gonna give you blood."
Most of these blood items listed here I dont even know what they are .. and probably dont wanna know.
I think these low readings persisting more than four months after treatment ended are due, at least partly, to my age. Of all the other patients that I heard about during treatment » no one was older. I was the oldest.
Sure, there may have been older patients with an advanced case of squamous cell carcinoma head-n-neck cancer .. but none that I ever heard about.
I did see one other guy who looked near my age. And he talked raspy like me, too. He actually talked more raspy than me.
I remember seeing some patients who were ahead of me in treatment .. who wore the white gauze turtlenecks from radiation burns to their necks. That scared me. Because these patients looked bad. Very bad. But I never had that problem. Tho I did have a jar of silvadene burn cream handy just in case.
[ Remind me to give you this great immunotherapy article I found. Where they first extract your own white blood cells and use them in the vaccine. Immunotherapy represents the FUTURE of cancer treatment.
Update, I looked and cant find it. Should have bookmarked it. It basically said that they first remove some of your white blood cells and use them to create a custom chemo-like vaccine for you .. to treat prostrate cancer. That sounded very cool to me. Better targeting. ]
» The Finest in Remarkably Positive Emotional Support Thru the Darkest of Days of Treatment
I would like to think that the universe would have provided a back-up had cousin not been there .. but I have looked and cannot see where that emotional support might have come from.
So it is difficult for me to see a satisfactory path thru cancer treatment without her. She talked me off the ledge .. more times than I care to recall. I am so very proud of her.
I know it is cliché to say she goes thru the treatment WITH YOU .. but that is the way it feels. I have called her at 1 AM .. never a problem for her to talk. An hour would go by in a flash.
Her care packages were works of art. And not just one of two boxes would show up at house .. but three. Stuffed with all kinds of cool therapeutic stuff. Easy to see the love that went into it. And that love comes thru. In a tangible way. I must have received 10 or 15 shipments.
The generous soul who takes pleasure in cultivating others. Even those who are in serious distress.
And we have gotten to be much closer .. beyond just the cancer-related stuff. We have been talking about old family stories (the grudge keepers) and the cool stuff she is into right now.
There was a lot going on in the years before I came along that I didnt know about. She is older than me. Her mom was the oldest of 6 (you know how Catholics are) and my dad the youngest, the baby.
» The Challenge of Capturing & Converting Artistic Inspiration
You never want to be the child of the baby of a big family with 3 older sisters.
I am fairly confident that my statement will hold water should push come to shove. Tho this is a topic for another day.
But I can feel the subject slipperiness that comes when there arises deep-seated things. Things that go waay back.
This slipperiness is what makes writing so easy. It seems to just pour out. Greased lightning.
Seemingly on its own. As if you are having trouble (physically & mentally) keeping up with and capturing the entire flow.
Intuitively I feel that this is what makes an artist great .. to have refined your craft and your technique so magnificently ..
.. that when royal-divine inspiration strikes, which often seems to come at the most inopportune time possible (when you are tired or busy or preoccupied or otherwise burdened with other things), they are able to capture it, despite the obstacles.
This is different from the planned, orderly sequential project that art can certainly be.
I am talking more about converting your intangible inspiration into a tangible medium of communication, of intellectual and emotional conveyance.
Whatever medium that might represent.
The reason that anybody can do this is because » the plant runs itself. You just sit there for six hours each shift and watch the gages that never move. At all.
But it is when the shit hits the nuclear fan that you really see what a person is made of .. no?
Patty always seems to have two things in her hands at all times. "I am making some chicken soup right now [ 10 PM ] but I can talk. I just finished painting the back porch an interesting shade of mint green. I'll send you a picture. Tomorrow we go to the salt mine spa and listen to the Tibetan bowl musicians. I will send you some good vibes."
» Disability Cash Coming in a Few Days
Also, earlier today, on the ride down to San Diego .. I received a call from a lady at the local Social Security office located in nearby Oceanside .. who approved me to receive disability benefits.
Friends had suggested I apply. At first the social security people sent me a nasigram that said (in no uncertain terms) that I didnt qualify for jack shit, but it seems that they have more than one program.
It is not any great amount of money, but she said, "The funds should be deposited in your account within a few days."
I am kinda in shock .. after the initial knee-jerk denial, this seemed so breezy easy. My finances have suffered since treatment began, as you might imagine.
I felt like saying to this lady » "Who is this, really?"
I was not expecting it to be so easy. I mean, I was riding in a car. I gave her the number of my checking account from memory.
After we hung up, I said to the driver » "I hope I gave her the right account number .. so they dont put my money in somebody else's account. You know how chemo affects memory."
He said » "You should check when you get home."
He also said that they had not seen the guy who lives near me with Burkitts lymphoma since he last rode with me in the van that day. Last I heard he was gonna have a chunk of his lung cut out. "I hope he's okay," I said. "He was such a nice guy. But he wasnt gonna get better. They were just keeping him alive a little longer."
Most of the interview with the social security lady consisted of her asking me questions like » "Do you have this or do you have that?"
She said that I would become ineligible for benefits if I accumulated a balance of $2,000.
I said » "Dont let my balance get to $2,000? .. I dont think that'll be a problem." (The driver smiled.)
Update » Funds Arrive!
Update » The funds did indeed show up in my account .. just like the nice lady said they would. I am officially impressed.
To be honest .. I was hoping to receive enough from disability to allow me to move close to my son. But the amount is not even close.
The Child Support people called today. The must have a deal with the banks to be informed the minute you get a nickel in your account.
They actually called before I even knew myself that there was money in there. So they knew even before I did.
I never answer calls when I dont know the caller, but the message basically said » "We know you got money, bitch. And we better be getting our cut right quick, or your ass is heading back to the slammer. Them doors slam loud, dont they?"
Sure, I exaggerate .. but not as much as you might think. At least a dozen times already, they have completely drained every penny in my account. Your balance is » $0.00.
I usually have less than $50 in my account, but my bank charges me $100.00 every time they receive such a request .. so even the fees get expensive. And there is not much you can do with $0.00 in your account.
I bought my son a gift code for Kerbel Space Program ($40), which made me soo happy. He left me this message while he was downloading the game. You could tell from the excitement in his voic how much he was digging it. And he thanked me with a heartfelt thanks. I was on parenting Cloud #9 all day.
He also wanted a rather nice condenser microphone for his laptop. I mean, he knew the exact model and price. (He has always known exactly what he wanted.)
I said, "What are you going to use the microphone for?" He said, "I'm gonna make YouTube videos."
More than once we had to consult the "walk-thru" video on YouTube for a particular level. More than twice. (Much more.)
Sometimes, after reviewing the walk-thru, we still had trouble. It does not have the instant gratification of games like Zombie Impale, which every kid loves. But we thoroughly enjoyed it.
And rather challenging, I'd say. It forces you search out and find strategies to solve the never-ending series of problems that the game presents you with.
The idea of him making YouTube videos is torquing my head a little. YouTube did not even exist when he was born (in Laguna Beach .. on the stormiest day of the year). He graduates 4th grade this week.
I can say that being away from him during my treatment has given me a sense of compassion for our military people .. who deploy to distant lands and dont see their kids for long periods. Repeatedly.
<end update disability money in account>
Dostoevsky & the Joseph Frank Condensed Bio » Rich Like Pâté on New Years Eve
I have started to really sink my teeth into Dostoevsky. This biography is a single-volume condensing of a 5-volume set (2,500 pgs) and you can feel the weight of the original work. Very rich. Literary pâté.
Before reading this biography, I was most curious about how Dostoevsky became the writer that he became .. how he became » "one of a handful of thinkers to forge the modern sensibility." This was very much a mystery to me.
But now I see. I see so clearly that it now seems as if he had no other option in life. What a difference.
They knew of history primarily in the terms that their German & French tutors taught them. But Dostoevsky was well familiar with Russian history, also.
He also notes how the parents' of most noble children were not very interested in their childrens' education .. except to bring in German & French tutors .. while Dostoevsky's parents were both very much involved in their children's educations.
They read to them every night, especially during the looong Russian winters (of Moscow). And then the children would go to sleep and dream of mystical, enchanted things.