» 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 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 Cancer Clock » Strikes Twelve Midnight?
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.
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 have spent plenty of time there at 195.
"Yum, gunpowder soup. 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 dak. 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, 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 here .. 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 'tutleneck' gauze. Dude, she did not look good. No. She did not look like a happy camper.
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.
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.
» Greetings from a Beautiful Autumn Day in Cape Town
One of the best parts of having a web site like this one is the notes you receive from cool people all over the world. Today, for example, I received one from Cape Town, South Africa .. from Steve.
"Just read your latest. Thinking of you and saying hi from a beautifully autumnal Cape Town."
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.
Unscientic 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.
I wonder what it feels like to be on the cusp of history. Do you feel like you are caught up in it? Or like you are steering the ship of destiny.
Something in me craves a twenty-first century president, operating in a twenty-first century political environment. In other words » effective.
But Hillary is so twentieth century, no?
Tho any time spent in management will teach you that it is often the players behind the figurehead that matter. So the ability to recruit and select key (qualified) talent .. that's where you get your mojo.
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.
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?"
I do like Elizabeth Warren, yes. I cannot hide it.
I would like to see what Hillary is like when she is able to relax a little, and just be herself. (Or maybe not?)
And then over there on the Republican side (crowd boos loudly) we have another Bush. Sweet Jesus. Maybe his intention is to redeem the family sins of his brother. Let's hope.
Speaking of Republican candidates and those who are announcing their candidacy .. does not Rand Paul sound level-headed and sane for a politician? With a command of the gist of the issues.
It's like the fuck-ups of twentieth century is following us into the twenty-first.
I mean, this alone does not necessarily infer that either one would be a sucky president. But by 2016, you'd think that we would have something more .. something more 'contemporary' to choose from.
Hillary would be old. Maybe the oldest ever.
Age brings experience. Too much of it brings the onset of mental and physical fatigue more quickly.
But really, no matter who gets elected .. they will be elected into the same (dysfunctional) system .. which is designed to favor the rick at the expense of the poor.
Is it not?
Her most impressive credential, I am sure you would agree, is her time at State. It is hard to compete with the global, international hand-shake club of behind-the-scenes negotiating.
But that goes a long way toward being a world leader. You need to log some miles. And hand out some secret e-mail addresses.
I've probably written enough on this topic for now.
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.
I remember reading the prospectus for the clinical trial, where it said at the very top .. 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, it can spread to other places, as well. 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. My ENT surgeon also said » the bones.
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) »
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.
Comparing himself with his great rival Tolstoy, as he did frequently in later life, Dostoevsky characterized the latter's work as that of a 'historian,' not a novelist.
For, in his view, Tolstoy depicted the life "which existed in the tranquil and stable, long-established Moscow landowners' family of middle to upper stratum."
Such a life, with its settled traditions of culture and fixed moral-social norms, had become in the nineteenth century that of only a small 'minority' of Russians; it was 'the life of the exceptions.'
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. ]
I see this [ seasoning your prose with references to verses of scripture ] as weaving eternal golden threads thru your writing (.. which, perhaps, can help it endure the ravages of the passage of time).
People often have pre-conceived notions of scripture (.. and all things related to religion). So care must be exercised. Or the reader will be put off. Offended.
But a well-selected, thought-provoking use of scripture .. can add a bit of gravity to a piece. (It can add many other things, too.)
I found many things there that the nuns never told me about. And I didnt find some of the things that they said were in there. (Sush as purgatory, where I was planning to spend much time in spiritual rehab.)
Because .. if the writer is going to season his writing with verses of scripture .. if he is going to weave eternal golden threads thru his stories .. he will (first) have to learn what scripture actually says.
Anyway, my point is » his ability to use scripture and biblical stories impressed me. It also made me feel like all those years in Catholic Sunday school after church .. were a waste. I mean he was vastly beyond me.
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 adopting (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. I feel as tho I am somehow being transported back thru the decades and centuries .. and across continents .. to another land in another time.
With different cultures and different traditions and different moral and social norms. Very interesting. This is all the stuff I like .. cuz it takes you there so completely.
Notice how Joseph Frank seems to suggest at this time travel in the byline subtitle » A Writer in His Time.
And there is also the sense that it was » the time (nineteenth century) .. that made him who he was. The time & the place. But really, who does this not apply to? We are all products of our environments and of our century.
[ You and I are lead-off hitters for the Third Millenium. (So try not to fuck it up.) ]
I can feel myself reacting to the new information .. processing it, absorbing it, assimilating it. Taking me longer than I'd anticipated .. to establish my nineteenth century bearings. But the trip thus far has been very enriching .. more so than I had expected.
At first there were the Russians; then there were all the others. But for a long time there were the Russians.
Which was a lot. Rarely are such high expectations exceeded. It would be like if a new Bourne movie came out with Matt Damon .. the expectations would be so high.
It can be difficult to live up to such lofty expectations. Not to mention dealing with the pressure caused by such impossible expectations.
Anyway, when I saw this photos here .. the one of the Austrian village at dusk .. that I use as a representative graphic for Hemingway's passage .. where he describes what the Russian novels meant to him ..
.. makes me think of the time I spent skiing at Grande Targhee (in Wyoming) .. with all those people. All those cool, fun people. Where it snowed every night. Such good memories. The mountains in winter. The icy mountain air, where you can see your breath. At an altitude where two beers put you on your ass.
I only spent 3 or 4 days there. Hemingway spent the whole freaking winter. I spent a week at Aspen with bro, and a week at Telluride with the Jersey girl and with pops and his new wife.
I feel that it was Hemingway's time skiing in the mountains of Austria .. that helped give him what he needed .. to become the writing stud that he is. That he became.
I am talking about before they had ski-lifts .. where you had to climb your ass up to the top .. in order to ski down. That will get your fat ass in shape in a hurry, dawg.
Being physically and getting plenty of oxygen to your brain .. these are important things for the writer. You need stamina.
I dont think that Hemingway would have been the stud he is without the time he spent in the mountains .. the physically vigorous time.
I am so getting off on a tangent here.
Professor Nietzsche Quits His Day-Job to » Hike the Swiss Alps Every Summer
But Nietzsche summered in the mountains .. the mountains of Sila 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 Sila 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?
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. ]