They give me lots of CT scans, but I noticed that they're stingy with the PETs.
So I asked the pretty girl who grabbed my hand and pulled me up off the scanner bed today, "Does a PET scan cost more than a CT scan?"
She said, "CT scans only cost about $400, but PET scans cost like $1,600."
"Four times as much?"
She also said that most machines are either CT or PET, but that the one I was on was a 'hybrid,' with capabilities for both.
"The front part is the CT and the back part is the PET, which was added on."
I also asked her if she found working with cancer patients to be depressing.
She said » "Sometimes. Sometimes we see a patient for a while and then they just stop coming. That can be sad."
» Lying Very Still Inside the Scanner Tunnel with the Radioactive Sugar Looking to Feed Cancer
You think about a lot of crazy shit during the 20 minutes that you are lying on the scanner bed in "the tunnel" .. in the tube .. with the donut whirling around you at fantastic speeds. And while you need to remain absolutely still.
I thought about what me Radiation doctor had said »
"Dont freak out if they find something on the PET scan .. because these PET doctors are reluctant to sign off on a scan if it has even the slightest thing wrong. And they arent the ones who have to deal with their own results. Many times we have gone in afterwards with surgery and found nothing."
I was actually a little disoriented .. because I had fallen asleep in the chair .. with the heating pad and the massaging vibrator for your lower back.
I was tired. Because I havent slept well the last few nights .. with the implications of the test upon me .. trying to fuck with my head. You know. I mean, it feels like everything .. all my treatment .. comes down to this one day. To this one meeting. Because, in a way » it does. I hope I will be able to get to sleep the night before the big meeting.
[ To give you an idea of my fatigue .. I woke in the morning and went out to the kitchen to turn on the electric teapot to heat the water for coffee. Since I was still tired, I laid back down for a few minutes while the water was heating .. and fell back asleep. For a few hours. ]
So when they opened the door to the private waiting room (for radioactive people) to come get me 45 minutes later .. after they had shot me with the radioactive sugar .. I was half asleep. More than half, actually.
They *do* use an I-V for the PET scan, but the I-V is only in your arm for a few minutes. They also prick your finger to check your blood for sugar. But I hardly felt that.
The heater in the recliner was nice, because they keep these medical places cold as a meat locker. (They brought me a warm blankie, too.)
As the PET scanner whirled around me, I mostly tried to see if I could feel any cancer in my body. I mean you have twenty minutes to kill, so to speak.
And they want you fasted for the test. They want any cancer cells in your body to be craving sugar. Cancer loves sugar.
So I hadnt ate for 9 hours .. and was feeling light-headed. Spacy.
I mean, you go there every day for a few months. So you get used to being there.
The Man with Burkitts & the Oxygen Bottle
Speaking of going there every day .. I rode home today with another Moores patient. He has Burkitt's lymphoma. You've never heard of it .. because it is so rare.
This guy was 52 .. a grandpa. Twenty-five years ago, he had Hodgkin's lymphoma, and the doctors told him another form of lymphoma would return later in life. (They said definitely it would.)
Next week they are gonna cut out a part of one of his lungs and he is happy about that.
He died 6 times .. in one day. They used the electric paddles to bring him back (6 times). "Clear!"
I said, "Dude, I've never met anyone who died before. Did you see the white light at the end of the tunnel? Did a guy in a glowing white robe walk up to you?"
The driver (Danny) asked, "Did you float up to the ceiling and see yourself lying on the table below?"
He described the experience, but I did not really understand what he was trying to say. But no, he didnt see the white light at the end of the tunnel.
He goes to Moores everyday .. even on weekends and holidays. (He'll be there tomorrow, Saturday.)
He does not get radiation (.. like I did). He is not even getting chemo. Rather he said that a fungus is growing in his lungs, and that he gets this medicine daily that keeps the fungus from growing and spreading.
He said that BOTH his parents died of cancer, along with ALL FOUR of his grandparents.
He had a small, green bottle of oxygen with him and wore a white mask over his mouth and nose. He sat in the backseat of the van we were riding in.
He takes morphine for pain, but said that the I-V morphine works great, but that anything taken orally takes 3 to 4 hours to work because his body is in such a compromised condition.
I mean, this guy is basically a walking death sentence and he seems so cool about it .. so seemingly at ease.
As they drove away after dropping me off at the ranch .. a voicein my head seemed to say » "Shit could worse, dude .. shit could be a lot worse."
We even had to wait to pick this guy up, because he wasnt ready to go when we got there (.. at Moores, the driver picked me up at Thornton, right around the corner).
Anyway, he didnt know how long it would be, so the driver asked me how I felt about waiting .. and I was totally cool with it. Like a part of me wanted to talk to him. Like the universe was leading me in that direction.
Feynman's 1979 Lectures on QED » A Strange Theory of Light & Matter
One of the main ways in which I resonate with Feynman .. is that I also have a knack for breaking down complex concepts into something people can easily grasp. And I appreciate the opportunities for growth that come with difficult problems.
[ Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) .. from his Pensées, which are a collection of fragments from an unfinished work (his life's work) and published in 1670 after his death. They are roughly 350 years old. The free Kindle version comes with an intro by TS Eliot. (Holy macaroni.) ]
» The clinical trials girl called yesterday .. to see how I was doing and to give me some important dates .. for both a PET scan and also for a CT scan. She said » "This is the time when we see if the treatment worked."
Cancer is No Friend
"If the treatment worked?" I said. "I thought it *did* work the way we expected?"
» Reflections on Agreeing to Participate in the Clinical Trial (as #23)
Back when they presented me with the option of participating in the clinical trial (.. "We wont think any less of you if you decline, but we encourage all patients to participate in any trials that they might qualify for.").
I qualified for this trial because they said my cancer was deemed » advanced. (An advanced stage of cancer is not a good thing.)
I remember thinking two things.
1. That I would like to do my part, if I am able, to help forward the medicine, the science, the technology, the biological response.
2. I aslo remember thinking that I didnt want to come to the end-of-my-treatment and discover that I was not cured .. and that I didnt do everything possible .. to kill that fucker. The mass of living-dead zombie cells, starting their own colony, their own community in your body. "More sugar! More blood."
Sorta like the point I am looking at here in just a few weeks. Which is why I have been thinking about this stuff. This existential stuff. Not a place frequented by very many.
The second-guessing mind would wreck havoc on your decision-making apparatus. I knew that I didnt want even the possibility of that. So I agreed to the trial .. right there on the spot. "Where do I sign?"
She says » "Feel free to take it home with you and look it over. You can call me if you have any questions. We still have time before treatment begins."
"Let's do this thing, momma .. this genetically-engineered thing. Bring it. Bring your bio-hazard."
Even if it meant I would experience a few hours worth of "very uncomfortable, very unpleasant flu-like symtoms, and feeling tired the rest of the day."
Actually, I found the 'discomfort' to be significantly worse than the flu. But it lasts only a hour or two (or three). Then you go home and sleep for 18 hours straight. Getting up only to change your soaking-wet t-shirt.
After a few days, you are pretty much back to normal, and actually feeling rested .. from all the hard, comatose, deep-dream sleep.
She said, after this 4-month scan, they schedule recovering patients for a PET/CT scan "every 6 months."
Nothing [ you can do ] beyond eating as much as you can. And rest. And not worry or stress about shit. Which is easier said than done, sometimes.
Because my mouth is kinda dry .. I have to drink plenty of water (or orther liquids) with meals, which tends to dilute the digestive acids in your (chemo'ed) stomach.
I dont know if this is the reason why .. but I cannot eat like I did before. I get full much more quickly and almost never feel hungry. So I have to MAKE myself eat .. even when I'd rather not. Or when my stomach would rather not.
I know when I need to eat because I start getting spacy, lightheaded, sometimes even dizzy. After bending over to pick up something off the floor, I sometimes get the swirlies. Where I look for something sturdy to grab hold of until it passes.
Sorta like the feeling you might get on a roller coaster. Then I eat and soon after I am feeling less ditzy. More normal.
Now physical activity does indeed stimulate a degree of hunger, but anything more than a 10 or 15 minute walks wipes me out for a day or two (or three, sometimes).
So I try to thread the needle and exert physical energy, but not so much as to wipe me out .. at least not for more than a day. (One day is okay.)
And what if they find something on the PET scan? The clinical trials girl said » "Then we would have to come up with NEW PLAN."
It has my head spinning nicely. Thought-provoking ideas. Deep.
I cant read very much of it because it is so rich .. so much to think about, so thought-provoking. Sometimes one or two paragraphs keep me preoccupied from moving on ..
.. like I feel like I am just not grasping what is being said. Conceptually.
But this stuff is too personal for me to discuss, because it feels intimate. Not for public consumption.
But the thought comes that the cancer was good .. because it caused you to seek out things that you normally wouldnt have.
And that is where I got the title for today's entry .. when a voice in my head said » Cancer is no friend.
Your priorities also change. Rather dramtically. Things that used to be important are now » eh, not so much.
I mean from the very instant that you receive 'the call'. Truly a remarkable thing .. that you simply are in no position to appreciate at the time.
And I have been thinking about my life .. and where I have been .. and what I have done .. what I have accomplished.
Because of this 'advanced' perspective of where I am now, I can look back and see the things, the points, the events that proved consequential. Things which, at the time, did not seem very much out of the ordinary.
And I could easily identify one of these times. One of therse points. One of these events. To which I have assigned the code-name (and my provisional title, which always changes) » The Secret Lighthouse at Thousand Steps Beach in South Laguna.
And that would involve the Film school girl. So I may have to discuss her. I feel that we have safely passed the statute of emotional limitations. But she would not be the main focus of that piece .. like I have done with others.
An unexpected fork in the road. (You know how life will do ya, sometimes.)
Forks with turns so severe that you find yourself wondering » "How the fuck did I get here?"
It will definitely challenge me. And dropping little breadcrumbs like this is how I trick myself into doing it. Otherwise I will just do something easier.
But before I describe that .. I first want to mention a couple of things .. quickly, which we can return to later, because my exploration of key point #1 will no doubt take some time. Because I have been thinking about it, lately.
How and Why Dostoevsky » Sees So Clearly Across Class/Social Lines
But I can see now where Dostoevsky got his knack, his flair for seeing acutely into social differences ..
.. and the relationships that these differences ('inequalities'?) produce.
Because his dad (Dr. D. the physician) was originally not a part of new nobility that was instituted under Peter the Great (1672-1725) for exceptional civil service.
But then he does become nobility (for exceptional civil service as a doctor), which comes with the right to own land.
But you have to buy it. It isnt just given to you. (Like I thought.) But a few generations back, the family (on dad's side) WAS nobility .. in Lithuania. But along the way, one of the ancestors fell on hard times and lost everything.
And then, three years after becoming a nobleman, dad buys a small estate and (a year later) a whole freaking 'hamlet' .. which comes with serfs.
So the family (history) IS a member of the land-owning gentry, and then they're not. And then they are again, but not really, cuz, altho they are officially part of 'nobility' in early nineteenth century Russia, they are poor as shit and deeply in debt .. from purchasing the hamlet.
Doctors in nineteenth century Russia didnt get paid very much. More prestige than money.
So Dostoevsky, as a boy, is going to be exposed to this family history of criss-crossing back-n-forth across social class lines .. and also interacting with serfs, which are sorta like slaves. Plus, in prison and at the camp, he lived with peasants.
So I can see how all these foundational factors are going to influence him and train his eye to see the nuances of class differences.
He was sorta living in both worlds, yet neither one fully.
Anyway I am finding many more similarities between my life/family and his. I am starting to see why I am drawn to him. Why I understand him. Why we resonate.
I have finished the first chapter on family which finishes by getting rather deep into his love-hate relationship with his father.
Reading that part actually fucked me up .. fucked up my head .. had me feeling very agitated (.. even more agitated than dealing with cancer).
The way the father is described reminds me of my own father. I will get some quotes for you later.
But the essence of it .. is that the dad may be fucked up, but he really tried and he did a lot of good stuff, too. So you cant just be mad at him .. because there's a lot about him that you DO like (love).
But this doesnt mean that the fucked up parts of him didnt fuck you up .. but causing you to warp your own personality in order to adapt to your parent's (rather severe) dysfunction(s). And even their neuroses.
And the book captures this so well .. that it took me away .. to distant emotional plces that I didnt even know were there.
Like I said .. I was feeling very agitated.
In some ways Dostevsky's father was worse, and in others my father was worse.
There were parts where I found myself wishing that own dad were more like Dostoevsky's dad. And there were other parts where I thought that I simply couldnt handle some of the shit that his dad put him through.
Upsetting to even think about.
His mom died before his dad died .. which is the same thing that happened to me. Lots of little parallels like that.
Such as he also had a great mom. Makes it easy for me to relate. But especially his complex feelings toward his dad. At least, for right now.
This is not the passage that I was referring to earlier, but rather a telling excerpt that shines a light on where his talents and strengths lie and maybe even why. See here »
Hallmark of His Genius » Exploring Psychological Paradoxes
The ambivalence of Dostoevsky's emotions about his father was also, unquestionably, of the greatest significance for his future. No doubt it was the fluctuations of his own psyche between resentment and filial piety that he first glimpsed the psychological paradoxes ..
.. whose exploration became the » hallmark of his genius.
And anyone can locate the emotive roots of his Christian ideal in the evident desire of the young Dostoevsky to resolve this ambivalence by an act of self-transcendence, a sacrifice of the ego through identifiction with the other (in this case, his father).
I actually get that. Perhaps a little too clearly.
"Are you getting a slice of pineapple pizza?" I asked. Cuz that is what she usually ordered. That, or the lasagna. (Everything at Al's is super yummy.) But her favorite was always Al's garlic bread.
It's just a little hole-in-the-wall with great Italian food. Always busy. And crazy-busy around the meal-times. Kinda cramped inside, but this part of its allure. Because the kids loved it. Dozens of times.
And they always had to get some Skittles from the 25-cent dispenser. They would gladly ditch the pizza for the Skittles .. if you let 'em.
» I thought by now (10 weeks out) that eating and putting-the-weight-back-on would be no problem .. that I would be an eating machine. A voracious, unstoppable eating machine with an appetite to match. Obviously I was mistaken.
10 Weeks Out » Weight Recovery More Challenging Than Anticipated
I stepped on the scale today » 141. Whoa. That scared me. Because I have been working at it. Working at eating. Working at putting the weight back on.
I actually picked up the scale off the floor and held it right in front of my face .. to make sure I was really reading the digital numbers correctly.
Then I weighed myself again. And even a third time. And then with a different scale (.. which read even lower).
I called cousin Patty. She is good when I am freaking out. Remarkable, really.
You should see her go to work on your nastiest problems. A thing to behold. She definitely has that compassion / empathy thing figured out.
"Wow, you are really good," I catch myself saying .. the way she reframes something to make it look not so .. not so freaky.
For example (most recently) I said, "But listen to my voice. I still sound like a munchkin."
She said, "Hey, for weeks I couldnt even talk to you cuz you had NO VOICE AT ALL. So this is a big improvement."
I bet my blood pressure is low. My chemo doctor says, "The weight takes the blood pressure with it."
I see her in another two weeks. I need to get those 10 lbs back. Or she will give me shit .. about not eating enough. But it is more challenging than I had anticipated. Much more.
It seems like any little excuse will suffice to keep you from eating. It takes a determined, concerted, diligent effort. Because I am never hungry, and my stomach would rather I not put anything in there (.. thank-you very much).
Some days my tummy definitely feels better than other days .. like the effects of chemo (which attacks everything from the cells in your mouth to those in your anus) are waning, but not completely gone yet.
I've even gone back to drinking Ensure .. a can a day. And let me tell you .. after a month or so of drinking Ensure, and nothing but Ensure .. it tastes terrible.
But I can tell that my body likes it, or something in it. "Ooh, that feels good. I dont feel so crappy any more."
Cousin Patty did a little research and said that she read how the best way to put on the weight is with » beef stew, which I happen to have some experience with.
I dont think I am up to that right now .. fixing a batch of stew. But maybe in another week or two. Maybe I'll even throw in a bone or two.
Dude, I was downright mesmerized, watching it. I mean, a part of me wanted that soo bad. But my stomach and throat would have no part of it. Yet that didnt stop me from watching. Again and again and again. Like a part of me felt I could somehow get a yummy calorie or two if I focused intently enough on the yumminess.
That was when I got the new laptop .. cuz I remember how much better it looked. The old laptop (Celeron) would choke on high-def video. And the Texas Chili video is obviously high quality. Made with love.
In the chemo infusion area at Moores, there are TV's for you to watch whatever you might please. They swing around in front of you. But during the later chemos, when my ass was dragging, the only channels that did it for me were the cooking channels.
But I try to keep the food intake more-or-less continuous. Right now, for example, I am sipping on a smoothie of mango cubes + strawberries + organic blueberries with plain yogurt (no sugar) and powdered protein. Pretty yummy (I'm sure).
Made with apple juice and pina colada juice. (When all else fails, I bust out the Lorna Doones.)
Where to Go When the Clock of Cancer Treatment » Strikes Twelve Midnight?
Writing about him is making me miss him. So let's change the subject.
I have not seen him since the Fourth. I told him » "I'm going to be focusing all my attention and energy on completing this treatment and getting better."
At first, we did not tell him the 'C' word. I just said I had a swollen gland in my neck. Later, after the tumor shrank and all the doctors said, "You responded well to treatment. Looks beautiful. We have complete resolution." .. that's when she told him the 'C' word.
» The Darkest Moments for Dostoevsky's Dad the Doctor
Right after I wrote this about what I did when shit got very bad (.. find whatever escape you are able) I read the following interesting two sentences in the new Dostoevsky bio that I've been reading.
I try to focus on the protein .. because that is the building block to build muscle. I am not certain, but I think it is costly, biologically speaking, to build muscle (.. which invoves protein synthesis).
I mean, like it is for a snake to produce venom. Fatiguing. And here might be a good place to note that my ass has been so fatigued .. maybe a year out I'll be able to return and discuss the fatigue. Physical fatigue.
I mean, the process of losing 40 lbs .. so quickly .. there is a word that my chemo doctor used to describe the effect of what happens to the (your) body when it loses a lot of weight quickly .. but I cant recall the word right now. (Blame it on the chemo.)
I know that it is not a pretty word, tho. "I'll pass on that word. May I have another, please?"
Carbs, on the other hand, give you energy. Which I could use more of.
Because eating has proven problematic .. I have sought to make each bite count, by focusing on 'nutrient-dense' foods.
I have studied the subject of nutrition, somewhat. It was not along ago when I was working out regulaly, and had put on ~20 lbs of muscle. I max'ed out at 205, and was not there long. But at 195, I am invincible. Bulletproof. And I have spent plenty of time there at 195.
"Gunpowder soup, yum. More nails, please."
I remember after about 9 months, I was looking pretty good, and this girl came up the stairs there at the 24-Hour Fitness in Costa Mesa (where Dennis Rodman and Babalu work out) one Friday eve. And she gave me the look. You know 'the look'.
I dated this muscle chick once. She competed. At tournaments. Pretty much all she did was to talk about and think about and plan for .. eating and working out. It totally consumed her life.
She would explain the strengths and weaknesses of every muscle in her body. And what needed work.
But she resonated at a level that I found interesting, yet it began to get tedious. I mean, she could not relax. Maybe it was her energy level. But she had a drive about her. And sometimes I just want to chill and not be driven .. no matter what cool place she might be trying to take me to.
When she started to cut the carbs, she got a little crazy. A little weird. A little strange. But she could rock a summer dress .. that's for sure. After me, she dated a big black dude .. who she got along great with.
Anyway, I totally feel as tho the reserves of physical strength that came from that intense physical exersion, where I am dead-lifting enough to catch a nice little buzz .. I know that helped me thru this ass-whupping that is cancer-treatment.
I just got another email recently from the sister of clinical trials patient #24 (I was #23, like MIchael Jordon & Miley) checking on me. I told her that I'm sure her brother's years of elite-level training would help him deal with effects of treatment better than those of your average patient.
Speaking of nutrition .. did you know that cooking sauerkraut kills the natural probiotics?
Seeing that chemo wrecks havoc on your stomach (among other things, many other) .. I have been paying extra close attention there to re-establishing some kind of healthy bacterial environment. (with pro-biotics)
So I have some yogurt most every day .. which contains probiotics. And I'm actually snacking (right now) on a small bowl cold Claussen sauerkraut (.. for the probiotics it contains). I like this stuff. But you can only eat so much sauerkraut .. until your face starts contorting.
My Nutritionist (Dietician) said while discussing strategies for me to put the weight back on » "I wont even suggest chocolate. Every patient with your treatment reports problems with chocolate. So we'll skip that."
When the chocolate melts, it coats your dry (radiation) throat .. and is hark to wash away .. unless your have something to warm to drink, like hot chocolate.
It's a rather unpleasant feeling. I was riding home one night during treatment and busted out a Kind Bar, all of which have some chocolate (with nuts).
And I only had a bottle of water with me. [ You take water with you everywhere during treatment. If I forget my water bottle, I have the driver pull over at the first convenience store. ]
But the water is colder than your throat, and does not wash away the chocolate coating your throat.
I was hating life for a good chunk of that ride home. So I know why she said that everybody reports problems with chocolate.
I have noticed that my neck now has a permanent tan .. fairly dark. I mean, I havent been out in the sun very much since autumn. Early on in treatment, I remember my chemo doctor saying » "When you are out in the sun, I want you to keep this covered up." [ meaning the skin of my neck ]
I also remember her saying » "When you go for your radiation shots, I dont want any creams on your neck. I want your neck dry. After the shot (radiation), you can put on a moisturizer."
It is merely cosmetic, so it doesnt bother me. But I wonder if the tan will eventually go away.
I also have not had to shave since treatment began. The combination of the radiation and the chemo stops hair on my face/neck from growing (at all).
Only during this past week has my mustache started growing again .. because they dont shoot that area with as much radiation as they do the neck/throat. This mustache looks kinda stupid .. a fine, dark mustache.
My Ears-Nose-Throat surgeon, after he examined me a few weeks after treatment concluded, said that my throat was in great shape. He said a lot of patients develop a nasty thickening of the throat, from the radiation.
"I know you still feel like shit," he said [ I'm paraphrasing here ] "but this is great. This is as good as it gets." He seemed encouraged, and maybe even enthusiastic, that I had responded so well to treatment, and come thru it in reasonably good shape.
I had seen the way other patients ahead of me in treatment had developed problems with the skin of their neck from radiation (burns) .. so much so that they wore white gauze about their neck with a this coating of Silvadeneburn cream underneath.
The doctors told me that once a skin-sore opens on the neck (from radiation burns), it usually keeps getting worse. But I never did develop any sores on the outside skin of my neck. Tho I had a jar of Silvadene handy .. just in case. I hear this stuff is like magic .. for those whose skin has been burnt.
I think creams tend to act as an intensifying agent for the radiation .. which is why they want your neck dry during the shots (.. which last only 3 mins).
Anyway, I remember it freaking me out .. when I saw this little Asian lady, with the white 'turtleneck' gauze. Dude, she did not look good. No. She did not look like a happy camper.
And you think » "If this is what is in store for me, I am soo fucked."
I called Patty on the way home. Again, she had me feeling good. It took a while, yeah.
Patty did not say this, but the thing to remember with cancer .. is » the shit will KILL you. All these other inconveniences, such as » dry mouth, loss-of-taste, sore throat, nausea .. they may suck, but they wont kill you.
So killing the cancer is always your main focus. I know this seems obvious from your perspective, but while you are in treatment, it is easy to lose sight of. Very easy. While that treatment crocodile is gnawing on your ass. Toothy fucker that he is.
Sometimes when I write (what you might call » the c.r.e.a.t.i.v.e p.r.o.c.e.s.s) I think » "I am not exactly sure what is going on here, but it looks like it could be pretty cool .. especially with the addition of some cool graphics."
There is a lot of energy you can feel .. creative energy. Maybe too much.
You kinda get into this trancey rhythm and go with it. Run with it. Try to stay one with it. Ride the dragon. See where it takes you. Explore new lands.
I think that all writers, at one time or another, have had an urge to craft something so remarkably prescient or prophetic .. that scholars will come along in 50 or 100 years and say » "Look how far ahead of his time he was. Look what he was doing way back then."
I am very much excited, you know, about the possibilities that the digital age has opened up to the writer.
But this is not what I am writing about today. Nevertheless, this will allow me to return in the future and lift this part of the entry out and transfer it to its own page, where I can explore the topic at greater length .. should I desire such a thing.
Another monthly archive that is rich with topics to mine is » May, 2014 .. which morphed into June & beyond. That is the entry where I talk about » Flirting .. something with which I happen to have plenty of first-hand experience.
A dream analysist might suggest that a white angel wrestling with a black angel represents life wrestling with death, no?
I once dated this girl who had read some books on dream interpretation. "Tell me your dreams," she would say upon waking.
I actually found her thoughts and insights interesting .. especially when she took a yucky dream and turned it into something good and positive.
"You have powerful dreams," she said.
But my surgeon said » "You've probably been growing that thing for a year .. maybe even 18 months."
It took me so long to get the biopsy that it had grown huge by the time he saw me.
The lymph node swelled early June. But I initially thought it was a tooth-related problem.
The clinical trials girl said everybody says the same thing .. that they thought the problem (in their mouth) was due to something else, maybe something they ate, and that it would eventually go away. Nobody wonders if they might have cancer.
It might be interesting for me to go back and see what I was writing about .. in the months and weeks leading up to the swelling of the lymph node.
It is not very difficult to transfer Dreamweaver-created pages into Moveable Typepages .. but there is some stylistic adaption that goes on .. so it takes focused concentration.
On the positive side, both taste and moisture have started to return to my mouth these last few days.
It's not all the way there, no, but noticeably improved (.. which is a HUGE development). 10 weeks post treatment. My ENT surgeon says » "Three to six months."
Actually, it was the clinical trialsgirl who said » "Saliva affects taste, so one affects the other."
To be honest, it didnt really make much sense to me at the time, but this has indeed been my experience .. that mouth moisture (via your salivary gland, which gets cooked during radiation treatment) tracks with taste. They both seem to have improved, beginning the very same day. Go figure.
Another positive development » my forearms stopped aching. There were maybe 4 or 5 days where my forearms ached .. as if all the places where they had stuck me with an I-V over the past few months ..
.. started hurting. Started calling out to me. That is gone.
I am also pleased to report that I put a Smokehouse almond in my mouth yesterday and could actually taste it! Woohoo!
Not full flavor, yet. But I could tell there was a Smokehouse almond in my mouth. Loss-o-taste for Smokehouse almonds (.. which I love, one of my favorite foods) .. was one of the first things to go.
I almost felt like crying when I first put a Smokehouse almond in my mouth and could not tats it. So when I was able to taste it yesterday, I felt like celebrating. Small victorieson on the road of recovery from a brutal cancel treatment ..
.. where you get punched in the mouth every day for seven weeks. I do not not know what the treatment of radiation & chemo feels like for the cancer cells .. but I know they do not like it. I could almost hear them screaming like a girl.
I already have the date for the post-PET scan review, but not for the scan itself.
I love PET scans (.. uh, compared to CT scans, anyway). With a PET scan, the needle is only in your arm for a few secs, and they only shoot a little. Unlike the 'fire hose' they use with some of the more-comprehensive CT scans, which can hurt your vein.
Me » "Ouch."
Girl in the CT Scan Booth (announcing over the speaker) » "Okay, I've started the contrast."
Me » "No shit."
My ENT surgeon says (of next month's PET scan) » "That will be the most important test of your life."
My Radiation Oncologist says » "Yes, it is a very important test, but I dont want you to freak out if they find something. The doctors who analyze these PET scans are very reluctant to sign off on them .. if they find even the smallest thing. Many times we have gone in with surgery afterwards and found nothing. But we'd rather be safe than sorry."
From what I gather .. if they find anything .. that means surgery instead of more radiation chemo. I do NOT want surgery .. that much I can tell you surely. I am soo done with this cancer stuff.
But if they go in and find something .. they 'remove' it. (Tho they use a much fancier word .. that I'd rather not recall right now.)
Regarding the subject of cancer in general, two links that I want to share are » here (Feb 25) and here (March 27). I may discuss them sometime in the future. It is unrelated, but another cool link » here. (It's probably more related to my College entry.)
» The Drought in California & the Unprecedented Steps Being Taken to Combat
If you do read this article, see if you find this the most eyebrow-lifting sentence » "Mr. Brown and other state leaders [assume] that this marks a permanent change in the climate, rather than a particularly severe cyclical drought."
And dont miss the amazing interactive map. It takes a minute to load all the data.
His brother went to Brown (Rhode Island). So there are numerous things (such as Ivy league brothers) wherein I find myself resonating with him. Easily.
[ When I was small, mom once told me » "Honey, I married your father because he was smart and because he had beautiful teeth." .. which, at the time, seemed like a poor choice of criteria. ]
Few have the time to conduct much of an online relationship over many years .. but a note or photo every month or two (or three) .. can be a nice way to touch base. But (like anything) it's the longevity that makes it special.
His note prompted me to fix a cup of honeybush, a yummy South African tea.
Rad Brickman Predictive Algoritm » Merely Wishful Thinking (Obviously)
I just realized that today is the end of my Brickman analogy of March 7th (.. 3 weeks of 'vacation' plus 7 weeks of treatment = 10 weeks).
I can see now that my Brickman analogy sucks. I cant possibly be over the effects of radiation and chemo .. when I cant even stop dropping weight.
Back to the drawing board.
My Radiation doctor said I should have the lion's share of the recovery by 4 months. (Let's hope.) Tho some things can take 6 months to repair.
Unscientific Brickman Predictive Algorithm » Maybe Not So Shabby
Update 10 April » Ooh, I actually feel halfway decent. Like I have a reserve of energy. Not a large reserve, no. But a reserve nonetheless. Which is nice .. especially when you have had NO energy reserve for months.
So maybe my Brickman prediction algorithm is not as bad as I thought. My weight is still 142 (scary, yes) but I feel pretty decent for somebody who just got his ass kicked and lost 40 lbs pretty freaking fast.
Just the difference between the beginning of week 10 and the end .. made a big difference.
I took a vitamin today for the first time since treatment began. A gummy vitamin .. that cousin Patty had dropped into one of her legendary care packages. But I dont think that a vitamin could make this big of a difference so quickly.
Today is the first day that I have the faintest connection with how I felt before treatment began.
My intuition tells me that my blood is getting back to normal. My chemo doctor said, "Once it starts, it takes right off." [ improving blood counts for white, red blood cells & platelets ]
I see her a week and a half. She has scheduled for me a super-duper blood work up .. her nurse told me. Time to start doing my push-ups.
Yes, I can feel a part of me relating to how I felt pre-treatment. But I can tell you that this treatment .. is an ass kicking.
They do not play with cancer. They bring the big guns. A multi-pronged approach. Unfortunately, it sometimes feels like the guns are pointed at you. Even tho they're not.
So you bite your lip and take your lumps. "Thank-you, sir. May I have another?"
<end april 10 update brickman prediction algorithm not as bad>
The Post Cancer Treatment Road of Physical Recovery Leads to » The Hill x 4
Looking out toward the horizon of physical recovery, I can see that the end of this road of post cancer treatment recovery .. can be found at » the hill.
Before treatment began, I could (walk down) and run up that hill 4 times. I could do it 6 times, but that kicked my ass. But four times I could do without much problem.
As yet, post treatment, I have not even walked down and walked up. I have not even gone down there.
And it's not because I dont want to. But I do not want to do the hill before I am really ready. Which should be soon. Just for a walk, tho.
Walking the Hill Twice During Treatment Left Me » Hurting (Badly)
Several weeks into treatment, I walked the hill twice .. because running it had always made me feel so good. (The head, I mean. It makes your troubles seem further away, somehow. Probably hormonal.)
And that was one of the dumbest mistakes I made during my seven weeks of treatment. It wiped me out so bad that I was hurting for days.
I still havent been back.
The other really stupid thing I did during treatment .. was to start loading up all my food with Tabasco .. cuz my sense of taste was waning.
Single Biggest Fuck-Up During Treatment » Tabasco
After a few days of that, I think I had chemical burns in my mouth .. from the Tabasco, along with the effects of the radiation and also the chemo.
Whatever the case .. I could not sleep for two nights straight. I just laid there .. with my mouth on fire. This was before they had given me the narcotic pain meds. Even the numbing mouthwash they gave me didnt help. (Enough.)
Those two sleepless nights took my energy level down into the basement.
When all is said-n-done, I should probably throw together a Rad Guide to Cancer Treatment .. lessons learned (the hard way). For those who come behind me.
Speaking of narcotic pain meds .. I still have most of mine. I did not like the way they made me feel .. particularly toward the latter part of treatment.
It affected my respiration. It slowed down my breathing. At times, it almost made me feel like I was suffocating.
So I said, "Fuck it. I'd rather live with the sore throat."
It felt like I had to consciously breathe .. or I wouldnt. I didnt like that feeling. I had enough shit to worry about .. to add breathing to the list. Feel me?
Pain sucks, but breathing problems can freak you out.
One of the worst points ever .. I was trying to swallow HALF of a NORCO pain med pill. I always broke them in half, cuz half kicked my ass plenty.
But the fucker got caught in my throat .. and I could NOT dislodge it. The radiation trashes your throat and makes the simple act of swallowing that you take for granted without even thinking about .. becomes a small feat.
Plus your throat is dry because the radiation has cooked your salivary gland like a grape in a microwave. So you have no saliva to speak of.
After that experience, I always used a fingernail file .. to file down the rough edges where I broke the pill in half.
My doctor asked me if I wanted some liquid pain meds. I didnt even know that they had such a thing. It was too late when the question of liquid pain meds came to me.
» Exploring Conversations With My Cancer Shrink (Or Not)
My shrink said that she keeps-in-touch with a guy (who is 6 or 7 years younger than me) .. and who went thru the same treatment .. and who said at the 1-YEAR point » "I just now feel like my life is getting back to normal."
At the time I heard her say that, I admit that I was not very encouraged. But now, I can understand how such a thing could be .. because recovery from cancer treatment is » more challenging than you anticipate.
[ Notice how I closed the circle that I opened at the very beginning. No, I didnt plan it that way.
The Dog says that he has talked to people who have gone crazy and returned .. and they all say that going crazy feels like you are passing thru a gelatin barrier .. where the other side represents a peaceful place.
» Capital is an Accounting Construct (Exists Only in Your Mind)
Speaking of the place where sanity meets insanity .. uh, something recently made me think of that quote from Bethany McLean, which caught my attention last year.
Sometimes you have to think about and reflect on things for a while .. before new insights can dawn on you. No? Or before you can see new associations that you didnt see before.
The best part of the party, when everybody has the most fun, is shortly after the host spikes the punch. But when the men-in-black come to take away the punch bowl .. nobody enjoys that part very much.
So .. can Janet pull it off? Will we encounter any unexpected obstacles during our voyage thru uncharted seas? No doubt.
Have you read any of those things that Larry Summers has been writing lately? He is a smart fucker. And he communicates well.
Anyway, that is beyond the scope of today's entry .. but he gets you thinking. And he's got balls.
But you might wanna throw another log on the fire and pull up a blankie and make yourself comfortable .. to see if Janet et al can pull off something that has never been done in the history of the planet.
Something on an unimaginably huge and complex scale .. so huge and complex that we cannot even fathom the size and the complexity of the challenge before them.
No, I would not want that job. Who wants to live with the ignoble reputation as the person who plunged the world's financial systems into an economic ice age .. and the untold misery that such a fuck-up would cause.
I mean, it kinda takes me back to that semester when I had both Economics & Sociology [ and nothing else ] .. about how the two are connected and inseperable .. one from the other. They define each other.
And it seems as tho the EU is trying to pretend that they are not really connected (.. whe they are).
This is all beyond my paygrade, but We the People need to think for ourselves .. or others will do our thinking for us .. and that is why wages have been stagnant now for decades .. while the rich continue to grow richer still.
» Hillary Poised to Announce a Run that Looks Historic
While we are here with Larry and a warm bowl of popcorn .. I should probably mention my thoughts on Hillary's announcement .. that she is going to announce her candidacy for the 2016 run.
Tho sometimes the head honcho makes all the difference, too.
Politics is not my bailiwick. I do not care for the taste it leaves in your mouth. But our nation is so fucked up .. with our government so shamelessly in the pockets of the uber wealthy.
My sense of Hillary .. is that she has been coached and told what to think about so many things for so very long .. that she no longer knows what she really thinks.
During times of stress, as I'm sure you know, people tend to revert back to what they know .. to their comfort zones. And from what I've read, the job of the President is fairly stressful. (Check out Obama's gray hair.)
And the voter finds himself asking » "Is this the real you? Or is this the image that you want to project? What modus operandi do you revert to when the global shit hits the international fan?"
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."
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?
Rad note » today's entry grew long and started to consume much precious bandwidth here on the home page, so I lifted and transferred the contents to a monthly archive .. which I will deal with later.
[ By the term 'deal-with' I mean » transfer sections that fit nicely into individual Moveable Type pages. ]