AWK! AWK! Hallelujah!

So I just returned from a trip to Stop & Shop and discovered that Father Time drives a Benzo. In the S&S parking lot, I followed a silver CL500 with the license plate “Time” driving substantially under 5 mph. After wondering if Jerome was driving it with the big mirror in the passenger seat (come on people, stay with me here) and if Morris Day was in a Beamer behind me somewhere, I got a gander at the driver. Well, not the driver so much as a little bit of his gray hair, since naturally, that’s all I could see over his steering wheel. Who new eternal beings went for German luxury?

In cancer news, I saw SuperCoop today and everything looks okay. I’m going to be getting a PET scan in November sometime and it occurs to me as I type this that I have no scheduled appointment either for the scan or a followup appointment with SuperCoop. Oh well, I guess someone will call me eventually. I also set up an appointment to see a headshrinker (the licensed kind, not the aboriginal kind) and will perhaps discuss my Father Time sighting with her on Monday.

Oh, also as I was driving to the Stop & Shop (current craving: OreIda crispers. current need: bigger freezer) and I get to the end of my block, a lady is driving towards me and preparing to turn to her right as I turn to mine. As she turns and I see the side of her car, I think to myself, “What a nice lady, showing her support for someone in her life that has cancer.”

I tootle on down the street a ways and pull up behind a car at a stop sign and think, “Here’s someone else giving us… ‘Support Our Troops’? Ohhhhh yeaaaaahhhh… the yellow ribbons aren’t for us. Crap.”

I’m not sure if this means that cancer is still very much on my mind or if I’m just really, really self-centered.

The oven might be preheated now, so I’ll leave you with those nuggets. I have more to write on what I’ve learned (eventually) and I’m also going to be getting around to answering all of your emails really soon, so don’t despair!

It’s All Over But the Shouting

So today was The End – my last radiation treatment. Tomorrow morning I will wake up whenever my eyes happen to open and have absolutely nothing on my plate. Sure there are a few chores to be done, some honeydos to cross off the list and some TV to watch, but there’s not a one of those that has anything to do with cancer. I’m sitting here at the computer right at this moment, and all is right with the world. No aches, no pains, no itches, no coughs, no labored breathing. For this moment in time, I get to feel like a completely normal human being. It’s easy to forget that feeling after a few years.

As I sit here, scratching my shoulder since I was dumb enough to mention not itching, I realize it may be time to start looking back. Time for a cancer retrospective. Wait – no. That brings to mind ends of careers and TV shows. Less a retrospective and more an answer to a question. It’s a question I often find myself asking at the end of just about anything major I do (or stop doing) : What did I learn from all of this?

After all, I had cancer fer chrissakes. If you can’t learn a thing or two from this sort of experience, then you really need to look into your study habits. So I’ve been thinking about this whole thing over the past couple of days, running words and ideas through my head, hoping to run across something Poignant and Touching that would Stay With All of Us Forever and Ever. After a bit of that kind of thinking, I finally got over myself and just started thinking about the real answer to the question, audience be dam… err.. forgotten. For the moment. Yeah.

As I ran through different ideas and concepts and, well, things, I realized that I have a few different things I can take away from this whole experience.

  1. I’m much stronger than I once imagined. Not to brag or anything, but before this, I had always suspected that I had something like strength inside me. Something that set me just a little bit apart from a lot of the people around me. Whether it was getting back on the motorcycle after a big wreck, getting back on my skates after stopping a puck with my head, or just not whining about my latest cold, I had picked up over the years that my brain and my body handled things differently than other people. Cancer has just cemented those feelings in my mind and brought out my inner badass. I’m constantly running into people who are amazed at the way I’ve held up through all of these trials. The way I show up to my appointments with a smile and shrug off the pain, exhaustion and general misery that comes with this whole cancer thing. Do you want to know my secret? All you need is the strength to pick your times of strength. Am I strong 24/7? Hell no. Am I strong every second I’m in public? Every chance I get. Everyone expects you to be weak. To be tired. To be defeated. Why should you do what other people expect?
  2. Breaks that are repaired make those spots stronger. I know what that means in my head, though it doesn’t make a lot of sense when I type it. Here’s what I’m saying: If you take a stick, break it, then glue it back together, that spot becomes one of the strongest in the length of the stick. Assuming you’ve done the repair correctly, of course. What do sticks have to do with all of this? That stick is my spirit. I wasn’t strong 24/7 – not even close. I had a couple of major breakdowns in the course of all this, along with several smaller ones. But each time I was broken, I made the repairs and now I’m stronger for having broken. You can show your strong side to the world, but know that at some point, you’re probably going to break. When you do, you just need to glue yourself back together and you’ll be stronger for it.
  3. The world is full of amazing people. This is something you just can’t learn until you have some Major Life Changing Event. I’m often one of the first people to go around hating humanity in general, typically when I’ve been driving for a little while. This whole experience has reminded me of just how amazing people can really be when they’re needed. All of my family and friends have been exceptional, from the closest of the close to those we only see once a year or less. Everyone has been absolutely incredible. The doctors and nurses and affiliated medical workers have been amazing. Sure, it’s their job to take care of me, but I didn’t run into a single one who had been hardened by the whole Cancer Experience. The vets were just as loving, caring and optomistic as the rookies. The folks I’ve met over on the Hodgkin’s Forum have been spectacular and an amazing source of support for both Barb and I. They’ve managed to get us over some big bumps in all of this and hopefully we’re doing the same for them. Last but not least is you – the reader of this blog. Assuming you’re not already in one of the previously mentioned groups, you’re probably one of the folks who stumbled into me from a link somewhere or a mention from a friend. I’ve received a lot of emails from you folks and they’ve all touched my heart in one way or another. I also promise that one of these days I’m going to get around to responding to them all 🙂 I got a little behind with the hospital stays and all.
  4. Rest is very important.While I have learned a few more things, this is one of the more important ones. And having learned this one, I’m going to go to bed and continue this tomorrow.

I’m NOT Getting a Yellow Jersey

First, the cancer update. I saw the retina folks yesterday and, after a 53 minute wait, found that my eyes are still doing slightly better. Two hours of sitting and a fifteen minute exam to find this out. I have an appointment in three months to do the same thing.

I also saw the dietician for the radiation therapy folks to discuss the types of stuff I should be eating right now, since my esophagus is acting a little wonky. Basically it boils down to avoiding spices, citruses, acidics and sharps. So no Thai, no oranges, no tomato sauce and no chips. She also was trying to paint a semi-bleak feature for me, mentioning that the esophageal effects could linger for a couple of weeks after treatment. Then she got around to asking where I was, treatment-wise. After hearing I only had three treatments left (two as of today), she changed her tune. Naturally, she didn’t realize she was dealing with a badass.

I’ve recently gotten it in my head that it’s time to start riding a bicycle. I’m thinking about getting a single speed mountain bike, ’cause I’ve never really been enamoured of the whole bicycle-shifting thing. A single speed bike is supposed to be a tougher workout that requires less concentration, which is right up my alley right now. The only problem I have (aside from finding a place that sells the one I want) is the image thing. The cancer survivor is taking up bicycle riding. You know what that means – Lance Frickin’ Armstrong. Thanks for spoiling it for the rest of us, Lance. Now everyone thinks we’re you or trying to be you. Maybe I’ll wait until my hair grows out some more, tell the shop owner I’m recovering from a shark attack.

Okay, Call Off the Dogs

Wow, a month can go by pretty quickly when you’re not paying attention. Let’s see how quickly I can get you folks caught up.

In my last post, I thought I’d be admitted to the hospital later that day. I was right. After a nuclear medicine study of my lungs and an echocardiogram, I was eventually admitted to the hospital. The primary reason for the admission was because SuperCoop wanted to have a CT of my chest done with contrast (aka x-ray dye). This stuff is iodine based and rough on the kidneys, which isn’t good when you’ve recently had renal failure. Thus, he wanted me in the hospital so they could overhydrate me and give me a drug called mucomyst, which helps protect the kidneys.

Long story short, I was in the hospital for six days and all they could come up with was a little pneumonia. In addition to the echo, nuc med and CT studies, I also had an MRI of my C-Spine and T-Spine (neck and upper back). Turns out I have a slipped disk around T-5 T-6 or T-6 T-7. Maybe it was T-7 T-8. Anyways, it was apparently an old injury but interesting to learn. Not quite worth the fifty minutes straight in the MRI tube, however.

Oh, and I got to meet with the radiation therapy folks who did my simulation on Friday (a CT exam that lets them figure out where they’re going to aim the radiation). I then receive three tiny tattoos in the form of black dots.

Immediately upon leaving the hospital that Saturday, Barb took me home so I could shower the hospital off me. Then we went to Moe’s Grill for a burrito and stopped by the movie theater to see Little Miss Sunshine. Great afternoon and the way everyone should get to leave the hospital.

The next week or two I was pretty depressed. Not sad depressed so much, but a combination of blah depressed and “don’t feel like doing anything” depressed. Unfortunately for you folks, that means no web updating.

Two Thursdays ago (9/7), I started developing a pain in my left shoulder. Initially it just felt like I slept on it wrong, but by Sunday it had progressed to an unrelenting stabbing pain down through the top of my shoulder. Put your hand on your shoulder. Not there – more between your shoulder and your neck. You know how you can sort of feel the gap in the bones there? That’s where the pain was.

Last Monday the radiation folks look me over and say it’s not ’cause of them, since this is out of the radiation field. Unfortunately, they don’t have the power to order random x-rays and such over at the hospital, so they recommend I go through the ER. Incidentally, everyone at Yale calls it the “ED,” which I know stands for “Emergency Department” (after having the first person who used this acronym repeat it three or four times), but it’s still wrong. An ER is an ER, not an ED. If anything is an ED, I would say a school is. Especially if it’s special.

Anyway, I go over to the ER and they zip me right in again (let’s hear it for cancer!). They take a chest x-ray and think they see some pneumonia. Guess who’s going back in the hospital. This time I’m in there for four days. This time was quite exciting because the floor just got brand new beds.

It really sucks that I know this.

After I had been there for a couple of hours, SuperCoop comes in the room, eyes all agoggle. “What are you doing here?”

I figure he’s joking and start gushing at length about the cool new bed (it was quite impressive after the clunkers they used to have, believe me) (still depressing). He stops me as I’m showing him how the head of the bed goes up and down silently to say, “No seriously – what are you doing here?”

Turns out the ER folks had been talking to SuperCoop’s fellows, who had neglected to relay to him that his star patient was causing trouble again. He was on the floor making his rounds and just happened to notice that my name was on one of the doors. Comforting.

So after four days and a few more random tests, I leave the hospital minus the shoulder pain and any knowledge as to why it might have occurred. It just stopped around the third day (same day I had a shoulder MRI), so they figured they couldn’t hold me there any longer. Damn straight.

So now I’ve decided that if anything hurts or feels weird I’m not telling anybody. Every time I do, I wind up in the hospital for a week. I’ve also decided that I looooooove dilaudid (aka hydromorphone). Up until this point, I’ve had a lot of different pain meds and I’ve remained puzzled that people get addicted to them. I’ve had morphine, percocet, darvocet and a lot of other pills you hear about suburban wives getting hooked on. As soon as I stopped hurting, I stopped the pills, no problem. No desire whatsoever to continue. After this stuff though, I understand. Aside from twisting my reality a quarter turn and knocking me on my ass, it left a definite impression in my brain that I liked what just transpired and would be quite happy to have it transpire again. Scary stuff.

Skip forward to today. I have four more radiation treatments (out of an original 20) as of today’s treatment – Monday will be my last one. I have a little bit of a sunburn on my chest and back where the radiation shoots through, but my skin’s been holding up pretty well thanks to early glooping of Aquaphor on the affected areas. Internally, I’ve been having some esophagus troubles. Originally, this consisted of a burning feeling right around the esophagus/stomach juncture. Now it’s turned into more of an indigestion feeling which sometimes morphs into… Have you ever swallowed wrong and it feels like your esophagus either gets a knot or swallows backwards? That’s kind of what it feels like. Often. But not enough to really bother me – just annoy me.

I think that does it. Today’s been a better day than usual – I replaced one of the headlights on my truck and got a spare key made for the house after locking myself out this morning. Idiot. That’s been safely hidden (no one looks under mats, right?) and my squirrels have been fed. You think I haven’t written here in a long time – it’s been even longer since I’ve fed my poor little furry buddies. They were going apeshit today over the piles of peanuts that suddenly appeared all over the deck. Eventually I’ll get around to taking some photos.

So, that brings you all up to date. Aside from locking my keys in the house, this has felt like a pretty good day, so hopefully that bodes well for keeping the blog up to date. Hopefully.