Seven Weeks Minus Three

Tomorrow I will be three weeks into seven weeks of daily treatments.  That’s three weeks minus one day because they called one morning and said, “Don’t come in – the machine is broken.”  I imagined the unfortunate patient laying on that slab when it broke down, and then I wondered who would be the first brave Guinea pig to take it for a test run after it’s been “fixed?”

from Isabella

The mug shot we see daily when I verify my name and birth-date before each treatment

I printed the picture you see below (posted here on April 7th) and pinned it to the bulletin board in the radiation patient waiting lounge.  When the assistant who came to fetch me saw it, she said, “Oh, she’ll enjoy seeing that.”  “She’s here?” I asked.  Yes, right over there she pointed as we walked to the treatment rooms lobby.  My escort announced that I had just posted a picture of us two.  The radiologist looked at me as if to say, “and who are you?”  We went back to see the picture.  In it, I weigh 30 pounds less, have no beard and almost no hair.  She now has short hair and was wearing a technician’s gown.  She quickly inspected the photo and concluded she hasn’t changed all that much.  I agreed, “Neither have I.”

Each Monday after treatment, I consult with the doctor.  He always asks if I’m experiencing any side effects.  Last week, I answered no, and resisted suggesting he make sure the technicians have removed the lens cap (even though I’m sure he’s never heard that one).  Yesterday I answered yes, my legs feel very tired and weak, especially my upper thighs.  He said, “That’s not a side effect of radiation.”  We agreed it’s probably due to the parking structure stairs I’ve been working-out on daily.

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Time In A Gigabytle

I loved that song Jim Croce sang in 1972 about saving time in a bottle.  I’m saving time in a virtual Gigabytle.  I finally finished shooting – copying – digitizing and archiving about 30 years of large, desk pad calendars.  I first mentioned the project here.  They were referred to as desk pads, but mine was always on my home-office wall.

Some of them flashed the month and year in LARGE FONT, like breaking news headlines, while a couple series appear to have had little interest in going public with the current month or year.  My personal, historical notations are the most significant inscriptions, but an extra treat was finding several ticket stubs.  They were tickets to events, now they’re tickets to the past.  They are, along with name tags, sticky notes, and other souvenirs, fastened to appropriate days or nearby margins.

When I put all the months in order, I found that some were missing.  January 1990 is missing, as is August 1995.  The entire years of 1998 and 1999 are missing.  Maybe we tried an alternative calendar then, but two random, single months?  My perfect alibi is shot.  Maybe in those missing months, I urgently needed some crushed paper packing materials, or something to quickly protect the floor under the cat-food dish.  I’m solid from September 1976 through 2007, except for those missing pages – those missing memories.  It’s not that they aren’t filed away in the database of my mind, it’s that the physical calendar pages turned out to be the “product code” that unlocks them.

CalComp

If anyone has been waiting for the opportunity to rewrite a little history, I’m accepting bids on a full set of like new, never marked, but naturally aged 1980 (20″ X 25″) calendar pages.

Seven Weeks

My Urologist and my Radiation Oncologist agree the prostate cancer has returned.  My options appear to be:

  1. Do nothing – and probably enjoy 10 years before quality of life issues become apparent.
  2. Wait, watch, and maybe do something later. PSA will sometimes increase and hover around 0.2 for a long time with no real problems.
  3. I can have targeted radiation treatments now.

Improving my likelihood of long-term survival, and the fact that I am currently employed and have fairly good insurance are good reasons to act now (although the Multiple Myeloma – or the unexpected – could change my circumstances at any time).  The only negative my Radiation Oncologist listed (other than the ever-lurking unexpected or unlikely) is before the treatments are finished, I should expect to experience some inconvenient bathroom related issues.  These symptoms usually subside after the treatments have ended.

The Radiation Oncologist explained that when prostate cancer returns, it’s usually found in one of three places: the old prostate neighborhood, the lymph nodes, or the bones.  Since they know historically it’s in the prostate area 75% of the time, that is where I will receive daily radiation treatments for seven weeks.  I returned to the Cancer Center in Beaverton where seven years ago, I had 24 daily treatments not realizing it was a rehearsal.  I was mapped, scanned, and tattooed (again).  The treatments and commuting will begin on April 18th.

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This was seven years ago, the last day of my 24 treatments.  I wonder how much radiation exposure my technician has accumulated.

On the positive side – I signed up a couple weeks ago for the second annual Chubby Bunny Challenge, a weight loss competition at work.  I joined it to be involved and supportive, and for the $20 sign-up fee, you get a nice T-shirt and Pizza.  Last year I actually lost six pounds.  With my previous radiation treatments, I lost 30 pounds.  This year I may have a pretty good chance of winning first prize!

St Patrick’s Day

I’ve been working on a theory about time; specifically, the passing of time and the perceived passing of time.  I know I have the same number of hours in a day as everyone else, and the same number of hours in a day as when I was younger.  I think the hours were somehow fatter when I was younger.  I could accomplish a lot more in those fat hours.  My hours seem much thinner these days.  They stack tighter and can be passed quicker.  It’s hard to get things done in a thin hour.

Everyone is busy.  We all have things to do on weekends, and things we’ll try to get done after work.  There are things that need to be done before you go, and things to finish before they arrive.  I have indoor projects best suited for dark, rainy winter days, and projects postponed until the longer, warmer summer days are here.  Lately I find myself considering a vast, new scheduling option: “soon after retiring.”  It appears to be wide open.

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Taken recently on the way to visit my brother, Mark, in Salem

Today is St Patrick’s Day.  On St Patrick’s Day 2011, I had prostate surgery.  I’ve never been zealous about the holiday, but the night before, I asked my wife to find a green ribbon I could tie in a bow attached to myself where my surgeon would lift the blanket and be surprised to see I was celebrating St Patrick’s Day.  That might have been fun, but I had just recently met my surgeon, and that could have made me appear to be irresponsible, or a weird-O.  So I didn’t.  Looking back over our seven year relationship, the doctor and I have shared a few laughs, and I’ll bet the green St Patrick’s Day ribbon likely would have made a unique and memorable surgery.

I do Love Spreadsheets

My prostate surgery was almost seven years ago.  We’ve continued regular PSA testing since then and the results have always been, “undetectable.”  In reality, undetectable is actually detectable, but if the number is less than 0.1 ng/ml, it is considered undetectable. The voicemail with my December test results relayed a 0.15 score and a, “please call to make an appointment.”

I made the appointment and saw my Urologist.  He seemed quite concerned and commented a couple times that this never happens this far out from the surgery (almost 7 years).  He’d reviewed my file and seemed pleased that I already had a radiologist, because if today’s blood test verifies the last one, radiation may be prescribed.  Where to radiate would be the question (since there is no cancerous prostate).  He told me about a new technique that has just arrived in Portland, and is promising for that very issue.

 

a-boxing-ring-001

I asked him; wouldn’t it be funny if the prostate cancer was positioning to play a big joke on the Multiple Myeloma cancer?  I wondered if they would ever fight it out to claim my demise.

 

IN THIS CORNER: Prostate cancer – off to a good start, but seemingly eradicated with surgery.  AND IN THE OTHER CORNER: THE INCURABLE Multiple Myeloma cancer – starting out determined, but then punched repeatedly with radiation, chemo, a stem cell transplant, and more chemo – it’s on the ropes, but still breathing.  Prostate cancer crawls by the fingernails, back to the center of the ring with just a spark of life and says to Myeloma, “Incurable?  I’ll show you incurable!”

A young lady who’s had two babies since she started taking my blood, took it once again.  It was tested and the results relayed by voicemail: 0.15 confirmed, please call and make an appointment for two months from now.

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A Beautiful Sunrise tempting me to be late for work recently

I can’t remember when I started daily, sometimes it seems constantly – clearing my throat.  It has to be a year, maybe two or three, but it is everyday.  I thought an allergist might identify the cause, so I made an appointment.  His assistant took a felt marker and produced a spreadsheet on both of my forearms, complete with columns and headers.  With a tray of pokers, she poked my skin in each cell with the corresponding poker and said she’d be back in 30 minutes.  I sat in that quiet place, with a pillow in my lap and my arms steady on the pillow, it was a perfect time to catch up on prayers.

The spreadsheet reported zero allergies, next stop – another blood test.

I really felt fortunate to catch this action shot – my immediate supervisor at work – going off the rock pile jump on his bicycle, sailing over the mote and fence (in his Grinch pajamas).  It’s a Public Works thing.

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TRADITION!

The Grudge Race

I took my Radio Controlled car, a Losi Short Course Buggy, when I visited my brother at the coast.  He has a Traxxas four wheel drive R/C gas truck.  I love the big fat tires on it.  At the beach, I was quickly putting parking lot dirt and debris in the air with the wheels of my little car while my brother was working at getting his gas motor started.  When he got it running, we had a lot of fun speeding and skidding out on the sand.  I challenged him to a straight line race from way over here to way over there.  It was a clean start, neck and neck as I slowly began pulling ahead, but by the ¾ mark, he caught and passed me.  I could feel it in my battery, I should have recharged between the parking lot and the beach.

I suggested a rematch, but he would savor his win for a year.  When I got home, I ordered another battery, one with extra punch.  Next year I would be ready…..   And there would be no burning up half the pack before the race!

With my next annual visit, the grudge race was on.  I had a C100 fully charged, and I resisted (most of) the temptation to speed up and down the sand until after my impending victory.  My brother had his truck making smoke in his garage before we headed out, and shortly it was running again at the beach.  Soon we were back on our imaginary starting line and he yelled Go!  With the kindness and humility of a loving big-brother, I won’t go on about how badly I beat him.  We’ll just say that it was my turn to savor the win.

RC Cars on the Beach

The race was over and I still had a couple battery packs to burn up, and that wide open sand was enticing.  We were Cat & Mouse chasing, drifting, fishtailing, and purely enjoying radio controlled fun.

Before long, I packed some sand against a baseball bat sized piece of driftwood for a jump.  My brother had to restart his truck several times, and ended up replacing three glow plugs that day.  Finally, it would not start, so I invited him to drive my SCB while I took pictures of it flying off the jump.  He liked it enough to consider going electric.  I can’t wait for the race next year!

 

This month I had my follow up appointment with my heart doctor’s associate.  Going in, my question and reason for seeing the doctor was, “Why do I get so easily out of breath?”  Does it have to do with the cancers, the treatments, or am I just getting old and out of shape?  The diagnosis and official answer: My stress test showed the possibility of a minor abnormality, but before further investigation, they suggest I lose weight, exercise more (get into better shape), and come back in three months for more tests.

I also had my three month appointment with my oncologist.  She used my favorite medical term (concerning the protein they test for because it’s a real good indicator of what the cancer is doing), “undetectable.”  I can live with that.