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    soccerfreaks shared an experience

    Celebration (cancer-free): OncoMan advised me that I am not just cancer-free but 'cured', something I never thought I would hear.

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    soccerfreaks shared an experience

    Side Effects (Low platelet counts (thrombocytopenia)): From blog:

    >>>>I've been kicked out of better joints than this!

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      So I took the neupogen shot yesterday, the 12th day of May, 2008 (and learned how to spell neupogen, too!).

      The nurse gave me a nice cartoon band aid, probably indicative of my immature emotional state at the time. It made me feel better. I waited around for a minute, but when I realized a lollipop wasn't also coming, I eventually slinked out and headed for home.

      So that my white blood cells could build up aritificially, so that I could - woohoo! - get some chemo today. Mmm, boy! Talk about a glutton for punishment.

      Today I show up at OncoMan's Chemo Palace, not realizing that Friday the 13th was happening on a Tuesday this month, and they take three vials of blood, as they do every time I go there, it seems, and then the Physician's Assistant meets with me, and she says, it's cool, you want to see OncoMan or just go ahead?, and I say, I don't need to see him unless he needs to see me, and she says follow me, and I'm thinking, I've been doing that for nearly three years now off and on, more off than on, I'll admit, and it always leads to the same place when I do, and not the one I have in mind, but I do anyway, and I do this time too, and so it is off to ChemoRoom itself, and she tells me to have a seat.

      I do. Next to a lovely black lady who is wearing a wig well. This story would have a pretty happy ending, because I HAD to sit next to her, because the place was so busy (this cancer fad is taking a hold, folks, on the country, so consider yourself a trendsetter!) I couldn't take my usual isolated seat in a cave somewhere.

      And it should have had a pretty good ending because she and I began to talk, and we talked of hope (and humor, of course, when I got to talk) and she said I spoke quite well for someone who had had half of their tongue replaced (I show everyone my scars, thinking the chicks will dig it, at least until I go bald), and I said, well, you speak pretty well for someone wearing a wig (I DID NOT!!!!), and I said thank you, and we really did have a nice, short conversation about hope and positive thinking (despite what the studies are telling us now...and more on that in a minute or two).

      I'm thinking, okay, maybe I won't have to sit here getting pumped full of poisons while reading and sleeping! Maybe I can sit here getting pumped full of poisons while talking to an intelligent, pretty, and positive human being wearing a wig. Maybe she can even tell me where to go for a wig :).

      If I haven't suggested so before, I can be impatient, especially when it comes to getting hooked up for chemo. The reason for this, really, is that I know that all the time while I am not hooked up is time that I could be hooked up, and we could be moving on WITH NO ADDITIONAL HELP if they would only hook me up. It is not like we are in an ER and triage applies. I am UP ladies and gentlemen, let's get to me, let's get moving, so I can get to moving out of here! The sooner the better and all of that.

      This one elderly nurse is kind enough to stand up behind the counter that protects THEM from US in the event we turn into zombies from the poison drugs, and acknowledges me each time I raise my arms to show that I am not yet getting my fix, not yet getting my jones on, and she smiles and even waves, and I have odd thoughts about her ability to drive herself home or even give a taxi driver the correct address, and I'm hoping she is not the one doing me today, not that I have anything against dementia. Not me.

      Heck, I'm the poster child for dementia, probably. But I don't want someone that smiles and waves at me from behind the zombie barrier every time I raise my arms in surrender to be the one to stick me, to say nothing of administering exotic and poisonous drugs.

      Then she comes from behind the barrier and comes directly to me and asks if I am soccerfreaks (:)) and I say, yes, that's me, and I admit, I have already forgotten the dementia thing and the weird smiles and hand waves because now I am being waited on, if you will, and all is good: "Yes, I'll have the Carboplatin, medium rare, with the Taxol. Um, give me the decadron, of course, some saline solution for the palate, and this would not be a complete meal without the benedryl. Is there anything I've forgotten? Oh, yes. Can I have rolls with that?"

      She sits beside me. (Trouble. Alert! Alert! Alert! They DO NOT sit next to you!!! Is she going to wave as if from far away? Is it, irony of ironies, that SHE suspects ME of dementia or some other crowd-disturbing personality issue because I kept raising my arms as if I were a hostage or a game show contestant?)

      She sits next to me and looks at my papers, my passport to Chemo Palace. It is NOT a forgery! Soccerfreaks, she says, your platelets are low.

      Platelets, I exclaim, softly, because some of the other zombies are sleeping. Platelets? I just got a shot yesterday and even know how to spell it now...n-e-u-p-o-g-e-n! What's this about platelets?

      Oh, yes, your white blood cell count is nice and high. The neupogen worked, that is for sure! But your platelets are a bit low. Nothing to be concerned about, just a bit below our minimum limit.

      Nothing to be concerned about? You CAN'T give me chemo, you CAN'T try to poison me because I'm TOO SICK too be POISONED?

      The pretty black lady had been talking about platelets when we were conversing prior. She usually goes to the Red Cross just for some sort of platelet booster, she said, but was in the Chemo Palace for some additional stuff, some sort of chemo. The irony!

      I am BELOW the limit? When have I heard THAT before? Um, never. I'm BELOW the limit. Holy cow. There's a first.

      I've been kicked out of a bar or two over the years, notably in my youth. Even a bowling alley once, which still brings a smile to my face (I am famous in family drunken foolishness lore, and there is lots of it, to be sure, to this day for exclaiming as I was leaving, standing in front of the biggest guy in the entire bowling alley, "You LOOK like a wall."... to this day I have no idea what I meant, but it lives on in infamy :) And would not have been funny or memorable if I too had been a big guy.) That and the fact that I lived. They make it funny, I think. Otherwise, it is not so profound as it is famous (or not so famous, as the case may be) last words, is it?

      This is the first time I've been kicked out of a Chemo Palace.

      To be honest, as I stepped up to the zombie barrier to get appointments for next week, one part of me felt like a kid with a license to skip school. No chemo! Woohoo!

      The other part, which will prove to be the responsible adult in me some day, was thinking, geez, platelets low, what is going on, and how is this affecting my chemotherapy picture?


      almost 9 years ago
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    soccerfreaks shared an experience

    Side Effects (Hair loss (alopecia)): From my blog:

    >>>>'Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair...'

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    soccerfreaks shared an experience

    Drug or Chemo Therapy (Chemotherapy): I started chemotherapy again today. Last time was back in late 2005. Seems like almost immediately after the surgery that time. Battered and bruised physically and mentally, I headed straight into chemo and radiation. You know how I felt about the radiation.

    Truth is, for whatever reason, that entire first trip through Cancerland was not a time for questioning for me, for whatever reason, and I can think of several (reasons, I mean, not questions). I think the most prominent is that they were going to have to do whatever it was they did, and I could ask all of the questions I wanted to ask, but it wouldn't change the answers or the end results.

    So I didn't bother.

    What mattered was living, or dying without pain. In between, it mattered, for sure, that I trusted my doctors from start to end and trusted the woman who selected them for me.

    So I was provided Cisplatin my first time through chemotherapy. Along with decadron, a steroid I did not get from Barry Bonds or his handlers (or from Roger Clemens or his trainers for that matter). I do not know why I was given decadron. I only know that I was given decadron along with the other goodies in my plastic baggies hanging above me like I was some MASH unit victim, and I know that the decadron is chief suspect in my ability on the day after chemotherapy to clean an entire house and ask what was next on the plate (I didn't clean an entire house, I just had the ability to :)).

    By day two following the chemicals, I was in a dark bedroom, windows shrouded, in a fetal position sucking my thumb and crying for my mommy. This lasted for about two days. No. It lasted for EXACTLY two days.

    And it happened through the holidays. I had my surgery in October, and went through radiation and chemotherapy beginning in November and wending its way past New Year's. It seemed that every time we had a major holiday (and there are at least three of them during that period) I was ill. In addition, they were eating, and my melon-sized head wasn't up for that. So I had sufficient reasons to feel sorry for myself and took them.

    But you must cut me at least a bit of slack here: imagine liking to eat (as I do and did) and imagine having all of your family together in the dining room, the clinking of silverware and glasses and pots and pans, the aromas wafting through the air, the snippets of conversation heard, the laughter and even the silence...while you are huddled up inside of blankets and quilts in a dark bedroom, trying to hold down what is virtually nothing in your stomach but compazine or fenergin and some water and/or sports drink ("You need the potassium!"). That can get rough, unless you don't like your people.

    I love mine.

    I found out all of this was because I was taking cistplatin. So I have been told in recent times, as I finally begin to ask questions. What happens is that my medical professionals, my doctors and my nurses and my chemo adminstrators tell me that cistplatin is one helluva tough chemical. Carboplatin and taxol, the ones I will get now, in April of 2008, for precautionary purposes, I emphasize, are a piece of cake by comparison. On the other hand, some of my friends in Cancerland, who have been there and done that, are telling me that this combination is excruciatingly painful.

    What to do? My choice is to ignore them all and see what happens.

    It is good, it is great, to get information from other people, my friends, but their experiences will not be yours. The guy who stuck me twice today (I think he was nervous...I think he liked me :)), advised me that cisplatin was a XXX but that even that one has been ameliorated by some new additives to the cocktail. He also advised that carbo and taxol are relatively easy unless you have a reaction to alcohol (taxol)...he said taxol isn't readily soluble with water, so they include alcohol, and sometimes people have terrible reactions to it.

    Alcohol? Allergy? I figured I was in GREAT shape!

    He also told me, because I asked this time, that my cocktail this time would include not just carboplastin and taxol, but benedryl, zentac, and um, one that I forgot but which was really important...hmmm... It will come to me. It wasn't beer...no pot in Virginia...saline solution? Maybe. If I think of something else I'll let you know. Oh, of course...DECADRON!!! How could I forget my old friend!

    What this means, of course, is that I've already survived the toughest of the typical chemicals, and that carbo and taxol will be nothing by comparison.

    And you know what really bothered me? The danged injections. Yes, I had to give blood on the way in...and they can have it. But the stick! I am still regressing to my month in the hospital in February, and the stick sucks!

    To top that off, the guy giving me my chemo, first thing he says is that if I am missing Nellie (who the XXX is Nellie?) it's because she is taking the week off for her birthday (I hear job interviews in there somewhere!) and suddenly Nellie is of much greater interest to me. Particularly when he jabs me twice in one nice vein and then wiggles it around so much over a five minute period that even my wife...a nurse and a protector of the neighborhood if you know what I mean and I think you do...is rolling her eyes and actually asking if I AM ALRIGHT!!!

    Keep in mind that the only thing that bothers me are the sticks. I tell you, they stuck me so often during my stay in the hospital that my lower right arm developed the texture of cardboard and they finally went to a picc line (more on that later). And all of my fingers (except for my thumbs for some reason, probably related to Guantanamo Bay) were stuck multiple times each, sometimes twice in one day.

    Finally I gave up my left arm/hand to him, where he had originally seen a large vein poking out and really seemed to have a thing for it. I'm just saying: saliva was dripping from his lip the first time he saw that baby blue fellow, trust me.

    When he could not get the one in the right hand to work, I offered the left one, with the plump vein, and he was actually creepy in his acceptance: 'Well, if you don't mind?'

    Just stick it dude!

    Pardon me, the moment haunts me still.

    He stuck it alright. Seven hours later my wife says it is a 'blown vein'. There is a very obvious hole mark in a vein that is three times larger than it was when I woke up this morning. I'm not complaining. I'm just pointing out the facts, ma'am. I was glad that we were able to get things going to tell you the truth. As I mentioned to my wife when he left: 'The sooner we get rolling, the sooner we are done."

    I tend to watch clocks and bag levels and things like that. Call me obsessive/compulsive and I wouldn't care if I were not also passive/aggressive. So just call me someone who wants to get the job done and get on with life. If you don't mind.

    The chemo session went like chemo sessions do. People who have been there for awhile normally look like they have been there for awhile. This means they look like they already died and the staff is trying to revive them.

    Okay, it's not that bad. Only some people look like that.

    The main thing is that new people like me (all of my nurses are long gone, obviously having taken their own 'birthday weeks' when they got the chance) are pretty much alone, with the possible exception of exceptional loved ones.

    The old timers can be actually boisterous. Tuna sandwiches and chips make the rounds, people ask about children, there is laughter and nurses who haven't figured out the white pants issue and so still wear them and seem provocative to me when they bend over to give someone some help, I don't care how old they are, which probably indicates how old I am, or how perverted...your call.

    Seriously...white pants and dark undies. I rest my case.

    I'm not saying the place is a party, but we all have comfortable recliners, so we can sleep or listen to music or do crossword puzzles or read books or even study people. It's not a party. But it isn't XXX either.

    Back to the original subject, it should be noted that my chemo nurse came by early on, since I was a rookie in his eyes, and asked how I was doing. It may have had to do with the way my legs and feet were moving like crazy. I couldn't keep them in one place, and I suspected it was the decadron, but he advised, 'Oh, benadryl will do that to some people, you're fine."

    I wasn't fine, in a detailed sort of way, but, yes, he was correct, in a general way. I wasn't dying. I was only annoyed with my feet and my legs. And frankly, they were annoyed with me. A small walk to the bathroom helped, and eventually, sitting in the recliner (it wouldn't recline, too close to the wall behind it), I nodded off. Every time I did, nurse guy would come by to ask if I was okay.

    He didn't come by IMMEDIATELY when one bag ran out and another needed to be hooked up, as I wanted him to, oh, no. But every time I started to reach sleep, stage I, he would come by and ask me if I was doing okay.

    I understand. I was a rookie with this mix. But geez, I WANTED to sleep through this crap!

    Arriving at my home, I was tired and wobbly. That may have been to get out of afternoon chores, I'm still not sure on that issue even many hours later. Was I faking? Don't ask me.

    It worked.

    Let me just tell you that, folks. It works. If you need to take a break, and if you have just had chemotherapy, I don't care if you feel great, I'm telling you, put a little wobble in your walk, think of something sad, walk with a bit of that hip-pain sort of gait, and say you just want to rest for awhile and then hope your significant other (the boss) has to go get you prescriptions or something.

    Am I giving away to much?

    Seriously. That never happens.

    But I did develop cramps right away. True. I decided to drink a beer to see if it would relieve those cramps, some distorted notion of drinking ginger ale as a kid when I was sick (and the chemo room ladies who offered the tuna and ham and chips also offering ginger ale, to be honest, and to blame someone other than myself, particularly elderly ladies trying to do good deeds with no reward beyond personal satisfaction and no way to sue me) and it did! It relieved the cramps.

    Unfortunately, I later discovered blood in my stool. And I don't mean the one I was sitting on. So that one is a wash :)

    This is my story about chemotherapy. For now. Mixtures of boredom and interesting facts and unnecessary wounds and beer and blood.

    Piece of cake. It is after 4AM now. I think it is the decadron. I really do :)

    April 21 - Chemo

    One week since chemo and I go in tomorrow for round two. I don't want to sound cavalier, especially since I went to Virginia Tech (inside joke) but it wasn't so bad. It was annoying.

    It was not devastating, it was not debilitating, it was not horrible, it was just annoying.

    There was some cramping, there was some bone aching, there was some headache, there was some nausea, there was some fatigue, but never all at the same time, and so it was tough to figure out whether any of these things had anything to do with chemotherapy.

    In the old days (:)), I got SICK, and I knew why. And it lasted for a couple of days. And I knew why. This time, none of that. Just the annoyance of not knowing if chemo had anything to do with it.

    I can live with that. I can smile with that. I can be happy with that. A minor annoyance and one I can live with.

    I guess we will see down the road, starting with tomorrow, if this stuff is going to accumulate and become the big bad wolf that others have warned about. I don't think so. I think they continue to find ways to make all of this easier to take, and I am now a happy recipient of their efforts.

    In the meantime, I wonder if I even need this stuff. Even my onco seemed ambivalent about it, and, actually, if I were an onco, I'd be ambivalent about everything, I guess.
    The thing is, he advised to start now or not start. That clearly meant that it would do no good if I didn't get rolling, and I am all about getting rolling, but I'm not sure if he meant that he wasn't sure it would do any good, or if he meant it wasn't coming back but we needed to cover all bases.

    I like to think the latter, of course, and he doesn't strike me as the type that understands nuance. I am starting, in fact, to wonder about his judgment. In the meantime, I said yes, of course, and I am going to take the poison.

    I've taken the poison. I'll take it again in the morning.

    It IS poison, of course. It is not a heat-seeking missile. It does not strike a target and kill only the target. There is collateral damage. In fact, your entire body is a victim.
    Frankly, I believe chemotherapy is the least persuasive of the treatments against cancer. I know that they are making it better, I know that they are making it easier to handle, and I know, clearly, that it has proven to be a successful treatment against cancer. But I believe it is a loser in the long run. As the horse bettors might say, it has no legs.

    April 22 - Son of Chemo (A Sequel)

    They take three vials of blood every week prior to giving chemo. I am not sure it is a fair exchange :). In any event, I know that one reason they do so is to monitor my red blood cells and my white blood cells. In particular, because of the recent staph infection, OncoMan is concerned about the white blood cells.

    He is not alone. Pretty much all of my other doctors figured that by keeping me on antibiotics for another month they would be forestalling his efforts to provide chemotherapy at this time. They were wrong. I wonder if they are playing a tug of war, sometimes, with me as the rope.

    Anyway, when I went in today, OncoMan was concerned almost exclusively with one potential effect of last week's treatment: fatigue. It didn't take long to figure out why - my white blood cell count is down. He said "It's not dangerous", which to me is a bit like stating the obvious - you don't need to do it unless it ain't so obvious after all.

    I did go ahead with the chemo today, but next week, I will get a little booster shot of some kind on Monday (a 24 pick-me-upper called nuprogen or some such) and if that works, I will continue with my chemo on Tuesday and THEN take something called neulasta on Wednesday that is supposed to last for two weeks: just in time for my next chemo session.

    The man is an organizational genius.

    I should note that my nurse/chemo person was like day to last week's night. For one thing, she was a woman. For another, she took immaculate care in ministering to me. To get my veins good and risen, for example, she put my arm under a heating pad for several minutes. A first for me. And it worked. She did a number of small things like this that made me think she really cared about my well-being and my allergy to pain:). Still, every time someone puts on a rubber glove and makes that snapping noise with it, I tighten up in the strangest places and today was no exception.

    Today I also talked to my fellow survivors a bit, albeit upon leaving the joint. My natural shyness, I guess, is being overcome. I'm not saying I am looking forward to the next session, but I have discovered that several of my compadres in chemo are intelligent, inquisitive, well-read, and interesting. Hopefully those attributes will not keep them from talking to me from time to time.

    It IS better to have that thing going on, you know? I could sit there and read and listen to music, as I am wont to do, but it is so much more pleasurable interacting with others. Leaving today I felt much more positive about things, just from having shared a few minutes with these folks. Actually, saying "Take care" to them as a group made me feel like part of something bigger than myself, part of a mission, if you will, a mission to survive perhaps.

    Belonging is cool. Maybe next week I'll be comfortable enough with them to chemo in the nude :). We'll see.

    Grandson of Chemo (a sequel to the sequel)

    I have been reading about neulasta. I have been reading testimonials from those who have suffered its wonderful effects :). It does not appear to be a pretty thing. It appears, in fact, as though OncoMan decided that if the chemotherapy wasn't going to make me sick as a dog, then he'd find something else that would do the trick.

    Taking this drug is not on my top 10 list of things to do before I die. In fact, it is not even in the top 1000. Jumping up and down the street naked on a pogo stick with a peacock feather in a strategically located place, well, that's up there, but I'm not likely to get it done because my neighbors are a bit on the conservative side when it comes to things like that, even calling the police to have ducks arrested.

    True. We have, among the other, prettier brands, some muscovy ducks in the hood. They look like your normal mallard ducks AFTER an overdose of radiation and chemotherapy. They like to sit on cars and fertilize the paint jobs, which upsets some of the folks on the street (including yours truly) so when the lady came by with a petition asking that the city not feed these ducks, I signed gladly, although I am not sure the ducks would be able to read the petition when it came to that, or even be of a disposition to obey its dictates if they did. Besides, I signed the petition with the guilty knowledge that someone else in my househould who shall remain nameless actually feeds these self-same ducks herself, on the condition that the ducks get to the stale bread before the dogs do.

    In fact, I was suspicious that maybe the neighbor brought the petition ONLY to our house, with otherwise fake signatures, in order to teach us the rules in a polite way before bringing out the goons.

    (Incidentally, my automobile has not grown any larger, but I do always have the fastest growing grass in the neighborhood which is a source of some contentment to everyone in the house but the guy with the lawn mower duties.)

    And speaking of the dogs, since the police refuse to shoot the ducks or arrest them (these particular police MIGHT arrest them, for trespass and defecation of private property, if the handcuffs wouldn't keep sliding off their webbed feet) you might argue that I could simply send the dogs out to chase them off, but the younger one would probably strike up an intimate conversation with one of them, as he is prone to do with any object, animate or inanimate that he doesn't instead choose to eat, and the older one, the smarter one, would probably step outside, say "Bark, bark, now can I go back in? My shows are on," and turn around and let himself back in the house.

    In fact, we had the older one shaved, ostensibly for the summer, but really to prove that he wasn't as obese as his fur made him look, and, well, it turns out he HAS been eating the other dog's food, and apparently at an alarming rate. We now wish he had his curly golden locks back in place so that he would at least not look like a keg of beer with legs and a tail when he walks.

    For some reason, the fact he is a golden retriever makes this doubly embarrassing. You hardly ever see fat golden retrievers. They are supposed to run around and retrieve things, after all. Dusty has gotten to the point where, when I throw one of his toys, he pretty much asks the younger one, Cody, to go get it for him. Geez.

    So we are stuck with the ducks (and the geese) and with the dogs, and I am stuck with neulasta. If you wondered how I would bring it back around to chemotherapy, you were not alone :).

    I missed the neuprogen shot today, I confess. That is, I didn't pine for it, I simply did not go to the OncoMan's digs and get the shot. I only have one excuse, and it takes me back to decadron. The thing is, after the Tuesday chemo session, I become a rather driven individual. My wife can wake up on Wednesday morning with a completely rearranged home around her and more clean towels than she has room to store. (You see, there is a purpose for everything, and the purpose for dirty linens is that there is not room for all of the linens in the linen closet. It has taken me all of these years to discover this particular sort of yin/yang principle of laundry.)

    I get into a warped time cycle as a result. The Vampire Cleaning Guy. My neighbors are starting to wonder exactly what it is I'm doing out in the flower beds in the dark at two in the morning. I SHOULD be stealing their flowers and shrubs to cut my overhead, but I'm not quiet enough for that and they are, after all, likely to recognize them, even in the new environment.

    In this cycle, I am apt to roam the halls at night, throwing unsuspecting dish cloths into the washer, cleaning one of my son's shirts for the eighth time this week even if he hasn't worn it yet but simply thrown it around because that's what he does with clothes, moving photographs from one room to another for no particular reason and, especially, rearranging furniture, especially the stuff that my plants sit on. I stay away from mirrors :).

    It's not a great cycle to be in. You catch the dawn but miss the day. The telephone, during the day, becomes an evil monster as loud as a neutron bomb and everyone on the other end is evil personified including your relatives but particularly those people calling to sell you something who don't even know how to pronounce your name and, frankly, things can get ugly :).

    I will make the chemo session in the AM. I will make the neulasta session the next day, even though I wish it didn't sound like a new brand of chewing gum. And we will move on from there. If I get sick, as the scholars claim (:)) then at least my sleep cycle will return to: sleep all day AND sleep all night.

    There is a silver lining everywhere, if we will only look :).

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    soccerfreaks shared an experience

    Procedure or Surgery (Lobectomy): So. Here I am, your modern day Rip Van Winkle. Instead of 20 years, it was 26 days. Instead of comfortable mountainside, I slept in a hospital bed that moved on its own on a frequent basis until I coaxed my wife, the nurse who selected those beds for that hospital for that very reason, to shut off that 'feature' so that I could sleep once in awhile: "I'll risk the bed sores!" I moaned.). I did not hear the rumble of bowling pins, but the robotic announcement of Codes throughout the hospital from time to time(my wife explaining: "That one means someone is dying in the lobby"; "That one means someone is getting violent"; "That code means the trauma team needs to get ready, stat, because they have a serious one coming in with multiple patients."), and the somehow frightening whirr of the helicopter rotors as the angels of mercy, the hope flights, came hovering over and in on a less frequent basis, bringing to the hospital the near-dead and those otherwise in need of the services of this hospital, and, strange as it is, I knew, rationally, that every time I heard the blades, every time I recognized that a bird was coming in it meant the chance that life would be saved, yet I still came to think of the helicopters as Dragonflies of Death, came to wince and despair when I heard them coming, even hated to be awakened by their warming up in the dark morning, the two AM morning otherwise filled only with bips and beeps and quiet feet, hushed voices in the halls.

    Institutional psychosis perhaps.

    I was not merely counting the tiles in the ceiling but trying to develop formulae for how many would be required, width and depth, to be able to completely and distinctively draw each letter of the alphabet. If it doesn't make sense to you, trust me, it made perfect sense to me, and I spent much time in this endeavor.

    And it all began with a ride in the wife's Volkswagen bug from home to the hospital on January 31, so very long ago, it seems now.

    She chattered the entire way. That is the perfect word, chattered. It is not as if her words, her sentences, had no meaning, but this is what she does to handle stress, at least it is one of the things she does: she chatters. I do not mean this unkindly. It is likely that part of the reason she does this is to keep me occupied, after all, rather than preoccupied. She chattered, and I learned more about my family, her family, our friends, her friends, her job, than I was likely to want to know. But it was all good, because I was preoccupied, with what I cannot remember. She asked, I know, and I answered "Nothing", which I am prone to do, like any teenager worth his or her salt.
    "Nothing." Perhaps that was true. Perhaps my mind was just a sea of nothingness, or, more likely, a river of everything: so many thoughts cascading through my mind without resolution.

    I do not remember. I recall billboards and buildings. I remember admiring a vehicle now and then, examining drivers and wondering where they were headed or what they were like. But I do not really remember what was on my mind. I was not obsessing about the surgery, I do not believe, although I did ask my wife a few technical things about the operation itself, so I was probably focused on that most of all, all the while knowing I would be sleeping through most of it. I tend to be concerned about pain more than about life or death. As far as I know, life is attended by the occasional pain, and it is a goal of mine to live for as long as I comfortably can with the least amount of pain, while death means the end of pain, albeit with some other attributes that tend to make it a lot less desirable than life. As I tell my doctors and nurses every chance I get: I am allergic to pain. This usually draws a small laugh and perhaps a lot more tender care -- it is worth a shot at any rate.

    It was both a very long drive and one of the shortest rides I have ever taken.

    Before going on I will tell you that none of this next commentary is in chronological order, necessarily. I lost track of time inside (as I now refer affectionately to the hospital, my personal prison for nearly 30 days :)) for one thing, and there is the truth that much of what came while inside lends itself in my mind to chunks of subject matter rather than time-related events.

    More importantly, I advise you that while inside, especially at the nadir of my time, I came to scorn, albeit ever so briefly, the idea of "hope and humor". As I whispered to my wife on one particularly dark night, "I am a fraud. I go on that chat site and preach, really, about having hope and humor, and it is only because I had forgotten what it is like to go through surgery and all of this. To XXX with hope and humor! "

    I had thoughts like that, dear reader, on more than one occasion, trust me. There IS some truth to it, too, but I am here to tell you today that while I may have sold the idea short, I practiced it nonetheless from beginning to end, and I ended up humbled and astonished by some of the kind words spoken to my wife about me and even directly to me, especially concerning my attitude, while I was inside. It DOES pay to carry that smile, after all, to make them laugh whenever you can. It DOES make you feel better, and it DOES make them treat you better, I am convinced. More on that later.

    30 Days in the Hole

    (The above is the name of a song by a 60s rock band called Humble Pie. I was singing the words to this song while being tended to by doctors and nurses and respiratory staff and whomever else had a claim on my body while inside by the 20th day of captivity.)

    The briefest synopsis of my recent trip to the hospital goes something like this: They took a bug, they left a bug, they took awhile to take the bug they left.

    Not so briefly, I went inside on January 31 for the wedge biopsy. It amazes me, but the operation was the easiest, the absolute easiest, part of my stay.

    My troubles always begin with the gown and the argument over underwear allowance. I still have not really figured out why underwear are not allowed beneath the gown. If they need to cut them off, then they are free, of course to do so (somewhat carefully, I admit), but, in the meantime, and on the offhand chance that they will not need to do so, may I retain this last tiny morsel of dignity? Of course not. They, the nurses and the doctors, are slaves to hospital fashion when it comes to me, and so I must wear the ubiquitous butt-crack special, pardon my courseness. I WILL be seen, like it or not, in ways I normally reserve for my wife and closest friends and strangers of my OWN choosing:).

    In the gown and on the gurney I am rumbled down the way to the Operating Room, where I face troubles two and three, insertion of an epidural ("Just like pregnant women!" they remind me over and over again, obviously to keep me from crying about it before, during, and after), and insertion of a tube in my trachea.

    Although the epidural goes into my back, apparently into the meat between the vertebrae in my spine, its bark is worse than its bite surprisingly. Whatever do those pregnant women complain about? It turns out that mine must be inserted higher on the back than is the case for pregnant women. I am told that there is less to work with as they go higher up the back. I assume they mean there is less meat between discs or some such, which offers them an ideal excuse for requiring three or four attempts to get a good stick, all of which they use. The pain is rather minor, in any event, and as events would come to pass, I became very grateful for its existence. Both times :).

    The trachea tube was a different matter altogether. I have a feeling that it is at least a minor issue for everybody that gets one, but in my case, with tissue swollen from
    previous radiation (see references to head and neck cancer above), and with some deviation there due to the reconstructive surgery (perhaps ... they feared it, anyway), this became perhaps the second most painful experience I endured while inside. Both times :).

    As I recall, the tube was about 12 inches long (it looked that long to me, I swear!) with a bend in it, so that it resembled a plumbing pipe in your home, and it was made of a really hard, diamond hard, plastic. I asked when they were going to invent a rubber version, but they had excuses for why that would never come to pass. The bottom line, though, is that I would not be getting the operation I was so looking forward to unless they managed to cram that tube down my throat. Fortunately (the first time) my anesthesiologist was another gentle soul with a degree of compassion. He was patient, for sure, and that helped as much as anything.

    He used an anesthetic I am familiar with, from my trips to the ENT doctor for checkups, that they claim tastes like apple cider. He used it a lot and used it often. He didn't, in other words, simply spray half a gallon of the junk down my throat and assume it would work. He was patient. He tried a little bit, tried inserting the tube; tried some more, tried the tube; and so on, until it went down. I was in tears, to be honest with you, before we were done. Gifted with a very fine gagging complex anyway, this was the kind of endeavor I was born to enjoy, let's face it. The tears were, of course, a reflexive mechanism associated with gagging (sure, sure). I did stay with it, encouraged them to keep trying, and tried to say funny things between attempts. I am pretty sure I got funnier and funnier as I got number and number, until they could not understand me at all, after which point I was probably a veritable riot.

    This anesthesiologist told my wife afterward that he had never before worked with a patient with a better attitude. Maybe he says that to all the girls, but I like to think he meant it. I can tell you that he dropped by my room just to chat for a short while, something those folks never do: once you are under, you are not apt to ever see your anesthesiologist again, are you? He also volunteered to handle my case the second time I needed to go under, but that, regrettably, did not happen.

    Not bragging; just pointing out that once again humor, along with determination, made a positive impact.

    He did eventually get it in, and we moved on.

    You should know that throughout this process, a couple of nurses were holding my hands, as much to keep me from hitting somebody as to calm me, I imagine :). Later, I would be walking the halls and one of them would say hello, and I would say to my wife, "They expect me to know them, but they were all wearing masks at the time." MUCH later, when I went into the OR for the second round and one of the nurses advised me she had been there the first time, I would reply, "I know, I remember your eyes." Hey! You never know! :)

    As far as I know, the operation went off with only a small hitch. When I was once again conscious, I was told that the biopsy had been successfully performed and that the small bit in my lung had proven to be malignant after all. No surprise there, really, although one can hope. It was of sufficient size that they were able to determine that it was squamous small cell cancer. This happens to be the same type of cancer that invaded my head and neck area a few years ago, meaning the cancer in my lung was metastisis from the earlier cancer (bummer). But not so fast! This same cancer happens to be one that finds its way into the lungs all by itself, as some of you know. It happened that the area surrounding the nodule was clear and lymph nodes were clean. So..a primary? (Hip! Hip! Hooray! And, again, amazing what we wish for when it comes to cancer, but I digress.)

    They could not be sure, but they were obviously really leaning toward a primary, because they proceeded to remove the lowest lobe in my right lung, where the cancer had lived its gnarly little life. This was, of course, with my prior permission.

    When they told me this, they advised, as they had before the operation as well, that I would not be able to run any marathons but that I would otherwise never notice the lobe missing. This is fine with me, since I have no ambition to run to or from anything, and certainly do not want to run for the fun of it.

    The surgery was a success, I was happy, my wife was happy, my family was happy, my friends were happy, the medical staff was happy, and it was just a matter of waiting a few days before heading home. I even cut short my stay in the ICU from two days to one. Things were looking good. Things were looking great, and I was feeling great, a bit impatient to hit the road, but feeling great.

    (I said 'briefly', didn't I?)

    Okay. So the night before they are going to take out the second of the two chest tubes (these consist of about a foot of hard plastic, with half of that foot inside of you, combined with a lengthy bit of rubber tube that ends in a box on the ground, used to collect fluid from your pleural area), the immediate precursor to going home, I start having the most unimaginable, indescribable pain, seemingly throughout my body. I am doubled over, in the bed, moaning and groaning and thrashing about (the latter which is hard to do while doubled over, but doable, eminently doable, as I proved). The nurses fear a pulmonary embolism and act accordingly. You willl need to talk to them or other experts regarding exactly what they did. All I know is that they turned the suction for my chest tube back on and then re-situated me on the bed so that I was - incredibly - more comfortable. It was as if they were mixing modern technology with ancient Oriental body placement art of some kind to make me right. That is my story and I am sticking to it. That is what it seemed like.

    By the following morning, anything connected to my body had been removed with the exception of the chest tube. Subsequent lab work would confirm the existence of MSSA, a grand staff cocci infection and a very close cousin to the dreaded MRSA. At first, I was put on vancomicin, known for its effect on MRSA but also for its negative effects on the body. Later, this was changed to Cipro and nafercillin, when MSSA was confirmed. I was hurtin' for certain, and it would be another 20 days before I escaped my confines. Bummer. But better than at least one of the alternatives.

    On Valentine's Day, I advised my wife that I had brought her to the most expensive hotel we'd ever stayed in (our room went for $2,600 per night, it turned out). The next day I was back in the OR, where they wanted to remove pockets of infection, if you will, from my lung via suction and what I refer to as spooning. My doctor estimated there were between 194 and 205 such pockets in there (why 194, I don't know, unless he actually counted them, which would not surprise me, um, efficient chap that he is, and you did not hear anal OR obsessive/compulsive from me, okay?) and he wanted all of them. And so, using the same openings he created in round one, and adding at least one, we repeated round one, at least from my perspective.

    A small difference was that the guy doing the epidural got it on the first try. A big difference was that the guy sticking the tube down my throat was a fan of the Marquis de Sade. He went with the 'dose him once and dose him large' method of numbing, which was a fairly poor experience in and of itself, and then tried to shove the tube down my throat. That didn't work, try though he might. Ultimately, I was saved by my cardio doctor, who asked if he could try and then, magically, it seemed, simply touched it forward and it slid into place.

    An even bigger difference was that they decided I needed not two chest tubes but three, so that another hole in my side/back was created, giving me a nice little set of those to go with the big smiley face they created beneath my armpit. Worst case, I figured, I could go into bars topless and tell the ladies I'd been in a fight with a great white shark. "You should see the other guy," I would say, and that part, at least, would be true, hopefully, not about the shark, of course, but about the other 'guy'.

    Early on during the treatment for the infection they gave me insulin. I do not know why. I know that they became obsessed afterward with checking my blood sugar level with that little razor that isn't supposed to hurt like the ones we got in the old days but does if they do it enough times, which they did to me. I ran out of fingers on several occasions, and they would not accept a thumb, so I went back to finger one and repeated the process on each hand. Multiple times. It got so this was the worst part of my day sometimes.

    I received respiratory awareness training every four hours for the duration (that's what I called it, anyway). This consisted of wearing a mask plugged into the wall with a device containing various chemicals designed to crack up all of the garbage inside of my lungs. Most of the time it was the same stuff you get in your prescription inhaler, but on one occasion consisting of three treatments over six hours, which I suspect was an error on someone's part, I was dosed with what smelled and acted like mustard gas. This caused a severe negative reaction in yours truly including the inability to breathe at one point, which, in case you have not experienced it, is scarier than a little old lobectomy. They said I probably had a 'mucous plug' that clogged my trachea. Sure enough, I eventually brought forth a 'plug' that looked like it fell out of a Chinese pork dinner, it was so big (you aren't eating, are you?). Those were the days, my friend.

    The breathless episode happened to occur as I was leaving the facilities, if you know what I mean and I think you do, and so a couple of the nurses who were junior psychologists played with the idea that I had some sort of phobia about bathrooms, and it took a considerable number of minutes to dissuade them from that line of questioning. I should add that one of them payed me back somewhat for my usual sort of humor by commenting, once I was more or less back to normal, "Must have been really straining in there, huh?" If I were not married I might have married her on the spot. A sense of humor is an important thing. She made me laugh right then, when I was in a moment of despair, to be honest, a moment of fear, with no idea why I had lost my breath nor whether it was to be an integral part of my future life. She made me laugh. She gave me a dose of my own medicine and it felt good, made me feel better. And that breathlessness has not been experienced since. It may be a coincidence that the mustard gas was cut off then. It is not a coincidence that we asked the cleaning folks to stop putting the toilet paper in that confounded anti-theft box where I could only get one page per pull. Our theory is that bending over for so long to get those pages adversely impacted my breathing ability. Again, that is my story and I'm sticking to it.

    Ultimately, a nurse practioner associated with my cardio doctor came in and took a look at the box connected to my last chest tube (my doctor played them like they were the pipes of an organ, moving them out slowly, one at a time, and then removing first one, then another, until there was just this last one, and each time he moved them he had to remove sutures and then reapply them to firm things up). I had a strong feeling it was packing day, that she was going to remove the last tube and tell me I would be leaving in the morning. I had a VERY strong feeling, one I did not want denied. And she said, you know, I think this tube should stay in one more day, and you are anemic and would probably crash if we sent you home now, and you really need to get that endoscopy so we can confirm or deny the existence of that tiny leak in your GI tract, but I promise you'll be home by the end of the week. It was Monday.

    She was the needle. I was the balloon. Talk about your deflation! I had been counting ceiling tiles for far too long. I had been dragging boxes and poles around like Igor for far too long. Too many finger pokes, too many blood pressure checks, too many applied masks, too many nurses, too many doctors, too little of home. I had been suffering the slings of outrageous fortune, to borrow from the Bard, for way too long. And my expectations were expanded to the heavens. Only to be popped by this pregnant lady who meant well. Kill! Kill! Kill!!! (If you have not listened to Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant, I recommend it highly. When the song gets to the part where the narrator is saying "Kill! Kill! Kill!", you will get an idea of my mental state at this time.)

    To be perfectly honest, my eyes may have misted up. Such were my hopes. It was not that I could not have lasted another day or another week, even another month, for that matter; rather, it was that I had built up expectations that I would not have to do so. And she had burst them in a matter of minutes, adding only the warden's type of last minute hope for reprieve that the governor might call: "But I am not the doctor and he makes the call."


    As if.

    It proved providential. The doctor came in some 20 minutes later and rebuilt my hopes, albeit they were now constructed of bailing wire and used tape. He took out the tube, agreed that I could do the endoscopy (for a suspected microscopic GI bleed), if needed, on an out-patient basis, and said that if I would agree to a second blood transfusion he would let me go home.

    If I handled the lack of tubes overnight, and if a bedside xray didn't reveal anything untoward, I could leave the next day! And the nurse practioner returned and promised I would be out by 11 AM Tuesday. She was true to her word, as it turned out.

    And so I am here, at home, documenting this brief (????) version of my latest adventures in Cancerland. I have a portable IV, which consists of a small computer and a bag of anitbiotic in a 'man bag' as my wife calls it, which has a line running to the picc line in my right arm, running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the solution changed every two days and a nurse coming in on Mondays to change the picc line dressing and take blood from me. I can carry the man bag over my shoulder. I was concerned that I would trip over the contraption, certainly when I woke in the night, but that has almost not been the case at all (one time, and one time only, I forgot it, because I was absorbed with something I was reading).

    I have a couple of toys to use for breathing exercises and they are small and accessible so that I can use them whenever I get a whim, and I do. I have an inhaler, which is not a problem. All is good. I expect to lose the man bag and the picc line on or before March 30. This will happen if everything goes as planned re the infection. My assumption now is that it is gone and that everything between now and the end of the month is precautionary.

    I DO see OncoMan tomorrow, and he may decide that another precaution is to go on chemotherapy for some period of time. I am almost certain, in fact, that he will make this recommendation. And I see the GI doctors on Thursday. They are to advise re an endoscopy. My current assumption is that this will be a no-go, unless I am interested in the opportunity to get my esophagus dilated. That interests me, of course, so we will see.

    I need to go back to my ENT after the first of the month, so that he can see what damage, if any, they did to my head and neck and esophageal areas, the latter in particular, in my opinion, as related to that second guy attempting to insert his tracheal tube in a rather violent manner (the first guy DID stick the tube into the esophagus by mistake and only by switching to a larger light confirmed this error :)).

    I will see the infectious disease doctor near the end of the month and he more than anyone will decide the fate of the picc line and the IV bag. He is an old, odd fellow, but also a gentle soul and a highly respected doctor in these parts. That is my way of saying that I respect him and fear him at the same time :). Let's hope I get him on a good day :). And let's hope he doesn't read this, more importantly :).

    All is good. At least for today, for tonight

    • cubbygirl's Avatar

      If I read this long enough I'll forget what I have in store in two weeks. This is great . xox and lots of luck going your way....Thank you.

      over 7 years ago
    • cubbygirl's Avatar

      If I read this long enough I'ii forget what I have in store in two weeks. This is great. xox and lots of luck going your way.I'm afraid to read anymore because I don't want you to be dead. bol.cubbygirl.

      over 7 years ago
    • AGH's Avatar

      Wonderfully written. Best wishes to you. Keep the humor going!

      almost 6 years ago
  • soccerfreaks' Avatar

    soccerfreaks shared an experience

    Decision Point: Six days from today, some guy I have never met will tell me whether I am a candidate for surgery to remove a spot from my lung. My first thoughts have to do with how much partying he did in college, but in truth, he is known as the best in this area at what he does.

    And so my bigger fear is that he will tell me that I have failed to measure up. Maybe I didn't breathe well enough during the pulmonary function test, or maybe they found something during the brain MRI that makes them think I'm not worthy. Whatever.

    When you are a survivor, you think about stuff like this, even though it is a waste of time. I listen to survivors all the time worrying about things they have no control over. What can you tell them? Stop worrying? Right.

    We worry. If you have had cancer, it seems that every little nick or pain draws out that fear that cancer is back. Until you hear me say something else (and I will) this is the worst thing about cancer for survivors: that it never really goes away.

    Personally, this whole thing with the lung is a fearful suspicion that the Beast is just chipping away at me. I am not afraid of them taking out part of my lung; I am fearful that it is just the second stage of this thing taking me apart, one piece at a time. That is what bothers me.

    To be honest, I am being a wimp when I say that. I know people with other cancers who have lived with theirs for years and years, and they seem to handle it well, most of the time. Even they, I should say, break down on occasion.

    But I am a wimp by comparison.

    In the meantime, I have my visit next week with a surgeon I have never met, and he will tell me whether he can operate or not, based on the breathing test and the MRI. I can't believe I am hoping that I can have surgery, but I am.

    Cancer has an interesting way of changing what you wish for.

    I hope I like the guy. That would be a good start. I hope he gives me the answers I want. That would be good, too.

    Otherwise, I am doomed, in a sense. If he says they can't operate, then I can only hope that the 'spot' is nothing. I don't like those odds.

    Right now, tension is thick in my household. You could cut it with a knife, but we recognized that we should remove all dangerous objects several weeks ago, so there are no knives in the house, unless my wife is hiding one.

    I wouldn't put it past her :).

    Me? I've been thinking about that movie, The Bucket List, and considering that my original answer, here, some time ago, was the same one I would put on the list today: I want to spend time with my family. Unless they have knives and want to kill me. (I just added that.)

    If you are a caregiver, you know what I'm talking about.

    To heck with exotic travel and jumping out of planes and going on safaris and all of that. I think it is about love. And sex.


    Six days from today, some guy I have never met will tell me whether I am a candidate for surgery to remove a spot from my lung. My first thoughts have to do with how much partying he did in college, but in truth, he is known as the best in this area at what he does.

    And so my bigger fear is that he will tell me that I have failed to measure up. Maybe I didn't breathe well enough during the pulmonary function test, or maybe they found something during the brain MRI that makes them think I'm not worthy. Whatever.

    When you are a survivor, you think about stuff like this, even though it is a waste of time. I listen to survivors all the time worrying about things they have no control over. What can you tell them? Stop worrying? Right.

    We worry. If you have had cancer, it seems that every little nick or pain draws out that fear that cancer is back. Until you hear me say something else (and I will) this is the worst thing about cancer for survivors: that it never really goes away.

    Personally, this whole thing with the lung is a fearful suspicion that the Beast is just chipping away at me. I am not afraid of them taking out part of my lung; I am fearful that it is just the second stage of this thing taking me apart, one piece at a time. That is what bothers me.

    To be honest, I am being a wimp when I say that. I know people with other cancers who have lived with theirs for years and years, and they seem to handle it well, most of the time. Even they, I should say, break down on occasion.

    But I am a wimp by comparison.

    In the meantime, I have my visit next week with a surgeon I have never met, and he will tell me whether he can operate or not, based on the breathing test and the MRI. I can't believe I am hoping that I can have surgery, but I am.

    Cancer has an interesting way of changing what you wish for.

    I hope I like the guy. That would be a good start. I hope he gives me the answers I want. That would be good, too.

    Otherwise, I am doomed, in a sense. If he says they can't operate, then I can only hope that the 'spot' is nothing. I don't like those odds.

    Right now, tension is thick in my household. You could cut it with a knife, but we recognized that we should remove all dangerous objects several weeks ago, so there are no knives in the house, unless my wife is hiding one.

    I wouldn't put it past her :).

    Me? I've been thinking about that movie, The Bucket List, and considering that my original answer, here, some time ago, was the same one I would put on the list today: I want to spend time with my family. Unless they have knives and want to kill me. (I just added that.)

    If you are a caregiver, you know what I'm talking about.

    To heck with exotic travel and jumping out of planes and going on safaris and all of that. I think it is about love. And sex.


    From my blog of early January, 2008:

    The doctor's office called me to confirm my appointment for 1/23. This is with a doctor I have never met, and the young lady asking the questions did not know me.

    After we got past my slur ("I'm not drunk; I had half of my tongue replaced..."Oh, no, you speak fine! You speak better than my teenaged son!"..."Is that a good thing?") she asked approximately 100 questions. Most of them I have seen or heard before on approximately 100 occasions. They are rote to me now. These folks are surprised, it seems, that I remember my medications and my doses and are even more impressed when I add, "Orally, once daily." (I remind myself of James Bond at these times; you know: "Martini, shaken, not stirred".)

    Maybe they are just amazed that I can speak at all, once I tell them what I am taking :). That's a joke: I'm not taking anything that you wouldn't find in most household cleaning products

    It used to be that I could fill out those questionaires by checking off the No box all the way down, and let's please move on, now, if you don't mind. Now I get to the cancer section, and a few other things, and I get hung up, not only on dates, which are always a problem, but on the Yes/No part too. I have to ask my wife, sometimes, "Did I get one of those?" Sometimes even she doesn't know.

    One thing about a big surgery at a good hospital: they are going to cover all of the bases. I remember riding around in a gurney or a wheelchair for an entire week, from test to test, for some reason only one per day, or so it seemed.

    So they called me today and we went through 100 questions together, and once again I was amazed at how complicated the answers are now. My son asked me, in fact, when I hung up the phone, "What was THAT all about?"

    I think he suspected I was on one of those phone sex things, so I set him straight, which bored him.

    In any event, here is where we are: I like to believe that people just don't die from cancer. My mom had breast cancer in 1974 and lived another 20 years, into her 60s. I have many friends on this site who have defied odds, and who are living on and living strong.

    But of course, some of us do. Die, I mean.

    As I learn more about cancer, I become more confident and more skeptical. One article says we are moving forward, we are using DNA to help people, we have vaccines, the world is wonderful.

    Another says that studies show cancer survival rates have not improved in the last 25 years. I am once again wondering how naive I am.

    If you are new to this world, these may be things that come to your mind from time to time. Be aware that a great number of cancer survivors simply ignore this stuff.


    I saw the cardiopulmonologist (and he deserves his degree if he can spell that word twice in a row without making a mistake) a few days ago. The cardiopulmonologist is purported to be the best in the land (my land), and he struck me as being a gentle man as well as a thoughtful one. I prefer both of those qualities in people who are going to slice me, extract a small part of my lung, and, then, perhaps, go back for an entire lobe.

    Understandably so, I hope you would agree.

    The alternative is some guy on a street corner demanding my wallet and my watch and he is probably not as dexterous with the knife, nor as conscious of my future well-being. And I haven't begun to mention the nice drugs that the former offers versus the latter, the sanitary conditions, the pints of blood available if required, the clean sheets and the oh, so kind nursing staff, the potential lawsuits for failure, and did I mention the drugs?

    It is a no-brainer, but they are both knife fights that I am going to lose, in a sense, and I, for one, am never going to let anyone convince me differently.

    It's tough stuff. I am still trying to figure out how I got through the last one, back in 2005, without worrying about it. Maybe I have blocked it out; I don't know. But I really don't remember worrying about it. I think, sometimes, that I have learned from that and so I am worried now, but then I am contradicted by new facts.

    Today, my new doc said there was "of course" a 1 in 100 chance that I would not make it through this surgery. I thought really quickly about that, and good at math back in the day, considered that a 1% chance of dying during this surgery was not offering great odds.

    I don't like that 1%. But as I was about to protest this, both my wife and the doc stepped over me, vocally, and my wife said, 'Joe, your chances of surviving that last surgery were not anywhere near this good!'

    Wow! That was my face. Even if it took 15 hours, it was my face and neck. (Okay, a slab of arm, a slice of leg, but still!) This is my lung! Why does that mean so much more to me?

    More importantly, perhaps, why did I not care then, why did I not know then, why did I not want to know then?

    I think I like that. I think I like not knowing. Wheel me in, dope me up, cut me up, sew me up, and wake me up.

    Most importantly, eventually wake me up (when the pain goes away). With all of my most critical parts pretty much intact. Let me rephrase that: they may be small, but they had better be there!

    Next Thursday, right before the Super Bowl, I will be getting into a knife fight where I am unconscious. Figure the odds. I'm not going to win that thing in the short run.

    And those who are pretending that I will be enjoying the Super Bowl on Sunday are probably better suited to the law or politics.

    As I understand it, the doc will be taking out a wedge. The spot is on the fringe, literally...I've seen the pictures...and I would probably use my putter, but he is a professional, so he will reach into the bag and pull out his pitching wedge, if you will, and get it done with one shot.

    He says that while it was a problem for the needle people, he sees no problem for himself. I imagine he will get under it, get a little loft, coax it out with a bit of finesse, and watch it roll into the hole, to extend the analogy.

    Everybody shout with me: "Doctor, you the man!" Thank you.

    They will take the wedge and get it biopsied while I am still in etherland. While I wait, they will try to determine whether the little thing that has been concerning them so darned much is benign or malignant.

    No, it's true, they do not even know that yet.

    They will then try to determine whether it is the squamous small cell cancer familiar to my head and neck, or something new.

    If it is benign, I am a free man, less a small wedge of lung. If it is malignant, I must hope that it is new cancer.

    Again, cancer makes for some interesting choices.

    If it is a new cancer, and they aren't sure they will be able to tell, they will do a lobectomy. There are three lobes in the right lung and only two in the left. I did not know this before now. I am not sure that it matters.

    If the old cancer has become a pioneer and moved into new territory, we are headed back to that June analysis, I think, and maybe using the word 'palliative' again.

    We shall see.


    We are stashing provisions as if a hurricane were coming. Last night, my wife made a turkey.

    A turkey. Like a 28 pound turkey!

    I look into the second refrigerator, and it is filled with new bread and fresh fruit and cold vegetables. We are in for the long haul.

    Last time, people brought food, enough to feed an entire neighborhood. I remember, later, looking at pictures of all of this, and wondering if they had a party to celebrate my cancer. Of course, they did not. They were supporting their friend, my wife, and being there for her, perhaps for me. Still, the pictures annoy me to this day. Why is everybody smiling?

    So we are preparing for a hurricane. That used to mean that I would board up the patio's sliding doors, duct tape the remaining windows in the house, despite my own protestations, and then, when all was but a whimper and a dream, remove the boards, remove the tape, and visualize the devaluation of our home before my very eyes.

    Now, we are preparing for a hurricane of a different kind. An emotional hurricane, I guess.

    As I write this, my wife and my son are cleaning the house as is normally done only for weddings and serious holidays. People will be coming; that is my guess. I will be in the hospital, in another zone, and they will all retreat to the house to enjoy one another's company until it is time to be with me. I understand that. I am glad, truly happy, that my wife will have supportive people around her, that my son will be involved and that his friends will be here for him.

    The hurricane will come.

    My wife will not be wrong this time: the hurricane will come.

    Understand this: it will be my hurricane. I will be the eye of the storm. I will be the reason for everything that is happening now and everything that will happen in the days to come. I will be the calm middle of all of it. Around me, the winds will howl, the days will turn to night, dogs will whimper, cats will yowl, mountains will crumble and islands will rumble and dice will tumble.

    I will sleep, there in the calm, there in the eye, dreaming of Tahitian nectar, nubile dancers, Parisian cafes where we drink strong coffee with a touch of brandy and exult at the art along the long river, rainy walks along the Thames with your dog and mine, as if it were meant to be so, I will be there in the eye, in the calm.


    I am doing this to document the time leading up to surgery. I want to read it when all is said and done, if I get the opportunity to do so. Reading what I wrote yesterday, I am struck by the selfishness of it.

    It is all true enough, but it is really all about me. In reality, I will be in my cocoon of coma for most of what happens, and others, my family, my friends, they will bear the brunt of all of this, and I speak of them as if they have cameo roles.

    Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. I am the bit player, actually. I am reminded of an old movie, The Secaucus Seven, I believe it was, where some aging hippies get together to mourn the loss of one of their group, and that guy, the dead guy, is cut out of the movie altogether. If memory serves, it was supposed to be Kevin Costner's first movie, and they snippied him away to the cutting room floor. I could be mistaken about the particulars and even about the spelling.

    But I remember the movie, and remember that the dead guy, around whose death they are ostensibly gathered, has nothing to do with the film at all.

    It is about the living and breathing and thinking and moving. It is not about the dead guy.

    And so it really is with my predicament. As I get closer, and as I read the literature I should have ignored, I admit that anxiety increases a bit. But I know, or at least remember, that this will not be about me, but about those who rally around me.

    They will suffer emotional pain beyond which any physical pain I experience will pale. They will worry, and they will walk. They will pace and they will ponder. They will do this and still find a way to come together and to make each other stronger. That is what they do. That is what my family does. That is what my friends do. They come together. They make each other stronger.

    I am so very lucky to have them. Not just for me, not just because they worry about me, but because they make it so that I don't have to worry about them. They will take care of each other.

    And, when the time comes, I will sleep.