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For first time readers...my journey begins here: THE VERY FIRST BLOG POST (CC1)

Meaning of life

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." ~ Pablo Picasso

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Book 3

BE A PARROT NOT A PUPIL

College was proving to be harder than expected. All of my basic classes seemed difficult. I had graduated from High School with a 3.5 GPA. I was on the Honor Roll. I thought this would be easier. I was amazed attendance wasn’t taken. The Professors didn’t care if you showed up or not. It was your money you were wasting (or your parents.) And if received poor grades, it was your future you were wasting, a mind jolting awakening. Yes, it’s time to grow up!

I had an English Professor that gave me a “C” on my first essay and I was devastated. English was my number one subject in High School, nothing less than an “A-“ ever! I asked her why such a low grade and she laid it all out. “Frankly,” she said, “I don’t like your style, I didn’t like the story, and you didn’t follow directions.” Damn! How about a little criticism with that smack! Welcome to college.

Sociology proved to be a struggle as well. This should have been a simple class. My Professor explained the theory of social classes. She explained, once you are born into a social class you could never move into a higher class. If you were born middle class, you will always be middle class. You might move to upper middle, but you would never elevate to upper class unless you married into it. You are born into your class. I thoroughly disagree! My father did it! It can be done! He was poor, as poor can be, and I think he pulled himself up from lower to middle class! I’m beginning to think there’s too much class in this world!

Well, arguing what’s printed in text material is futile, it doesn’t get you anywhere. What’s in print is gospel according to the Professors. Grades suffered as I hated the ideals strewn at me. I thought the Professor might even be a bit prejudice. One lesson was the perception of a certain automobile “Blacks refer to a Buick 225 as a Deuce and a Quarter, while Whites refer to the same car as a Buick Electra” Explaining the social differences between Whites and Blacks. I just didn’t agree with all I was hearing. Frankly, what does how you label a car have to do with race?

When my father saw my grades he asked, “What happened?” I explained my frustration with my Professors and that I wanted to change my classes. Then he gave me one of the best lessons of my life. “Give them what they want.” You don’t have to agree with them, you just have to repeat it back to them showing them you’ve listened. Ah...be a parrot not a pupil. And all this time I thought I was there to learn something. My grades improved slightly, but it was a struggle to keep my mouth shut! Not all of my classes were a struggle however. I will say, I thoroughly enjoyed my Marketing and Economics classes.

I had a hard time with Accounting. I had to take my first term over. I just didn’t get it. It wasn’t as simple as budgeting and balancing a checkbook. I got lost when we started learning about depreciation, amortization, and stock options. I had to learn this. It’s the foundation of any business! I knew this was important to my future. Taking the class over wasn’t easy, but I was determined to pass. I had to, it was a requirement and I had to take Accounting II next semester! It wouldn’t be until I started up my first corporation that all the pieces would fall together and make sense. Well...with the aid of a team of accountants filling in the blanks for me!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Push-Me Pull-You


I loved the movie Doctor Dolittle (1967), starring Rex Harrison, when I was a child. It was nominated for 9 awards and won 2 Oscars. One for the best song, "Talk To The Animals." I still remember that theme song! It was a good, clean, fun movie. It's now available on DVD and would be great for family movie night!

Do you remember the pushmi-pullyu? Pronounced "push-me-pull-you," a two headed llama. I thought it was pretty cool and a bit disturbing. Who would ever think something like that could really exist?

Well...here is a real rare Push-Me Pull-You turtle! I'd like to know...who does the eating and who does the other???

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

I wonder if there is a Giant Pink Sea Snail out there!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Book 2

THE COLLEGE YEARS

Having grown up in the Burbs of Detroit, I started at the University of Michigan pursuing a degree in Business Administration. I wanted to go to work to earn my own money, against my father’s wishes. He preferred I dedicate myself to my studies. He all but begged me not to work. But I had to know I could make it on my own. I knew he wouldn’t be there someday and I needed that security. Besides, I grew bored too easily and I had to keep moving. I just couldn’t sit still. Like the wind, always restless and on the move looking for the next destination. A new experience, a new place to explore. I don’t think Dad ever understood that. His generation was different.

He had a horrible life as a child and like most parents he wanted to make sure mine was better. But like most children, that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more out of life. That sounds so shallow to me now. He was so generous and loving, but kept himself from the world. A very private person, he never trusted people. I never understood that until much later in life. Dad’s childhood story is sad, but I find many parts of his life fascinating. He experienced a very special time in human history.

ARE YOU BEING SERVED?

My very first real job was in retail, part time at J.L. Hudson’s Department Store, during the Christmas season. The plan was to work there for the employee discount and to obtain some much needed job experience. Men’s Furnishings, behind the cologne counter, was my assigned position. Think, Are You Being Served? The BBC comedy. I was the top salesman in my department. I heard whispers, “How does the rookie do it?”

It was simple really. I came in early, applied the most expensive fragrance and wore the scent all day. As women approached the counter, lost in the mass of scents, looking for that special gift, I pulled my signature scent off the shelf. “Santos de Cartier is all I wear,” I proclaimed. It was the most expensive fragrance we sold helping to make my sales totals some of the highest in the department. Women never cared about the price, as they have been well trained to pay astronomical prices for their own products. The register would sing. I would later find out that the full time counter people worked on commission. They each were in charge of their own line of fragrances and by selling only one, I was disrupting the delicate balance of things.

Management would soon beckon, questioning how I amassed more in employee discounts than wages earned. Living at home made that easy. Added to that, my father gave me money to buy Christmas gifts. I sure took advantage of that discount. Employees were even allowed to use our discount on top of sales prices. Christmas was over the top that year. As the holiday season came to an end, so did my first job experience.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Cancer Chronicles 17

Love Thy Neighbor!

One more day…just one more day. I’ve been away from home over four months being treated for my cancer in Houston and nothing much has gone wrong at home other than a few false security alarms. Today, one day before I'm to arrive home, I get a phone call from my cousin and she tells me somebody has drained my pool!!! They left the backwash valve open and let the water out!!!

I have a pool man who does a pretty fare job. My cousin helps watch the house and stays over sometimes when nobody is home. She blamed the pool man. The pool man thought she did it. Stress was in the air. It seems the two of them had some serious words about the issue.

When I talked to her on the phone she was on edge. All I wanted to know is if there was anything broken or missing. If not, just fix the problem. Simply fill the pool and get it running again. But the fact that somebody was looking to point a finger at someone irresponsible seemed to be more of a priority between the two of them.

I emailed my next door neighbor to see if I could get someone to go over and assess the situation. My neighbors have been great through all this. One neighbor painted my mail box and pulled all my weeds and even trimmed my bushes! I never asked, she just did it out of love. I did ask however, how long I needed to be gone before she'd paint the entire house. She informed me, "I don't do houses."

My next door neighbor, as you might remember, planted my trees in the back and took me to the airport. I have my cousin tending to my indoor plants and watching the house, along with a pool man, a landscaper, a company that fertilizes, and a pest control company. All things I haven’t been able to do on my own for a very long time. What’s the phrase…”It takes a village?” The village has many volunteers. I need to find someone to pay the bills!

I received an email back from my next door neighbor with an apology. He was the mastermind behind the missing pool water mystery. He noticed the pool was too full and was concerned that if it rained one more day it would overflow. What he didn’t know is that the pool has a self leveling valve that lets the water out slowly, so that it doesn’t over flow.

Well, he thought it best to backwash the pool (letting water out while cleaning the filter.) The water that was released comes out of a hose much like a fire hose and that rate of speed. After he was done he turned off the filter at the timer and gently rolled up the hose.

The next morning the valve was still set to backwash, when the timer turned the filter pump on. He forgot to move the valve back to “filter.” So, half the water drained out of the pool. At least the grass received a good watering…all 8,000 gallons of it! Fortunately, the pool man arrived about ½ hour after the pump started and he stopped the rest of the water from draining out. Then the pointing match began between my cousin and the pool man. I thought maybe some kids in the neighborhood had messed with it. But no, a neighbor’s good deed went south. Welcome Home!

Oh and Hank, if you read this…don’t be surprised if you wake up one morning and ½ the water from your pool is missing. Sometime during the night I backwashed your pool and diverted the water into mine to make up my loss. Thank you for your love!

Peace B

NEXT BLOG ENTRY (CC18)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Cancer Chronicles 16

On The Seventh Week He...
GOT THE HELL OUT OF DODGE!

WEEK SEVEN:

I've noticed my hair is thinning and I have a bald spot across the back of my neck. Most of my hair is still hangin in there! I'm starting to get a rash on my right arm, the good one, and some on my thighs. I itch all over. I have several doctors appointments before I can go home.

Dr. Edward Kim wants me to fit in one last dose of chemo before I go home. I thought I was done dammit! Since I should have had 6 treatments and I only received 3, he wants me to get one more in. I show him the rash and he doesn't seem to think much of it. I like Dr. Kim. He's very personable, but too busy to allow you to see what he's best at...showing a genuine interest.

My eye surgery, with Dr. Stella Kim, is scheduled for November. Dr. Morrison and Dr. Clayman have released me until November. I have to see dental one last time. I really hate that department. They are ALWAYS screwed up!

I wait as usual to see Dr. Chambers, the dentist. When he finally arrives, he tells me that there should be some dental trays waiting for me. I'm to use them to administer nightly fluoride treatments, a process I must continue throughout the rest of my life. In their usual organized manner, they are unable to find the trays. Big Surprise! Once again I'm told to wait in the lobby for the trays to be fabricated. I leave for home sweet home in a few days so they need to be made today.

Two hours have now passed and I want to know how much longer. As I step up to the receptionist I pose my question. I get the canned answer, "Let me check." When she returns, she looks at two small tubs that have been sitting on her desk. I noticed them earlier when I sat back down in the lobby. It's MY TRAYS and the other tub appears to contain my dental impressions! THEY HAVE BEEN THERE THE WHOLE TIME! This office is so screwed up!

Before she hands me the tubs she says, "Hang on a minute. I have to check and see how much they are." HUH??? You don't bill this to insurance? I'm confused. When she comes back she says, "That will be $300." WHAT??? CASH??? NOW??? $300??? WTF???

Throughout this whole ordeal I have never paid for anything up front. I don't have my check book with me. In fact, I don't even have a credit card with me. I have NEVER paid for anything upfront the whole 4 months I've been here! Then, in a snide way, another girl behind the counter says. "It's not covered by your insurance."

I snap, "So you make this $300 set of trays not telling me before the fact that I have to pay for them when I receive them because they are not covered by insurance?"
Then the snide receptionist says, "They are a required part of your treatment."

First off: If they are a required part of treatment, why does insurance not pay a portion? They managed to pay $9,600 to have two teeth extracted! - Yes the bills are starting to come in and that little trip to the brain ward cost that much. That's not what was billed, that's what the insurance paid! FOR TWO TEETH! Now, if they managed to pony up for an extraction, (which I think was bullshit to begin with) why is this a problem?

Secondly: I don't have $300 with me. Does everybody who picks up their dental trays bring $300 with them without knowing the cost before hand? If this was common practice, why didn't the receptionist know the cost in the first place. Maybe they charge by the tooth, or perhaps the size of the mouth! This is BULLSHIT!

I'm instructed to see the business office. I leave without the trays and immediately dial Ashante, my patient advocate, on the cell. I leave a voice mail. The poor girl is now on speed dial. This issue becomes a bigger problem in the near future! (What did you expect? Did you think it would be easy?)

On Saturday I'm scheduled for my final (I've heard this before!) chemo treatment. I've been up most of the night itching. My rash has gotten worse, it's spread all over my body. The worst of it on my right arm, the arm they administer the chemo in. When I arrive I give my blood, the usual routine, then wait for the results. I'm ushered into a cozy room with a bed, same, same, same.

When the nurse comes in, she notices the rash and tells me it appears to be a delayed chemical reaction, most likely from the chemo. It's so bad that she contacts Dr. Kim to suggest forgoing the chemo treatment today. Instead she wants to give me a heavy IV dose of Benadryl to help stop the reaction.

The IV team arrives, inputs the needle and drip, drip, drip. No iceberg this time. The itching subsides dramatically and the redness dissipates. I'm so glad she made that call! After a few hours of dripping, I'm told to go home and rest. Now that's the best advice yet! Only a few more days and I can go home!

NEXT BLOG ENTRY (CC17)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Cancer Chronicles 15

Breakin It Down...

Five days a week, for the next six weeks, I assume the position:



WEEK ONE:

No problems. Nothing to talk about. I use my oral rinses and do my stretching, but at this point I can't understand what good they do.

WEEK TWO:

Still no real problem, just a little redness abound the neck. My saliva is a bit thicker. Keeping up the rinses and stretching. I'm more tired than usual.

WEEK THREE:

OK, small problem..I'm very tired, I just can't stay awake. A few more pounds lighter, the redness is more pronounced. My throat is a bit sore and slight difficulty in swallowing. My saliva is getting thicker, very gross thick yellow in color. I've been given a suction machine to help suck out the thick grossness. How fun is that?

I meet with Dr. Clayman. I've decided not to bring up the chemo at all, but he asks how radiation and chemo are going? I tell him I haven't started chemo yet. He calls Dr. Kim and asks,"Why?"

Apparently there is a mix-up and Dr. Kim thought I was going to be treated at another hospital, so he did not order chemo. By the end of the week I find myself hooked up to an IV pole dripping the life saving poison into my veins. Every Friday, for 3 weeks, I will give a blood specimen before my chemo. After, I will be administered a mix of drugs, staring with Benadryl, Magnesium, then Cetuximab (Erbitux). I'm given a comfortable, private room with a bed, while the dripping continues for 3 hours. For some reason the drugs make me cold, ice cold! The Benadryl puts me to sleep, so the hours pass quickly. I fall asleep adrift on a frozen iceberg.

I had planned on shaving my head to preempt my hair falling out from the chemo, but the doctor told me not to since not everyone has hair loss.

WEEK FOUR:

Patsy has arrived just in time, in the middle of week 4. I'm not as bad as I thought I would be at this point. I'm so grateful for her support. Her company lifts my spirits as we talk about the old days with Caesars and the fact that we both struggle to play caregiver to a parent with failing health. She helps me to all my appointments and assists with the laundry and shopping. I grow even more tired. My neck continues to redden. My saliva grows thicker. I didn't think that was possible! My throat feels like someone has slashed it with a razor blade. I'm a few more pounds lighter. I've lost all taste. I had very little to begin with, but now there is NOTHING!

WEEK FIVE:

Patsy must leave mid week and I so much appreciate her support. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse. I'M EXHAUSTED! I sleep every moment I can and I'm now the proud parent of kidney stones! Ain't that a pisser... bad choice of words there! I seriously want to know what I have done so wrong in my lifetime to deserve all this! Because of the rolling stones, I can't get enough formula to sustain my weight. I'm now at 120 pounds.

WEEK SIX: Holy Crap!

It's almost over and I keep my head held high and keep smiling just knowing the end grows near! My neck is now a deep dark burgundy red. It weeps a bit. There isn't much pain in the neck area. This is primarily due to the fact that the nerves were severed during the neck dissection removing the lymph nodes. My mouth is on fire and I feel blisters within. The stones have left the building. The concert is over! AMEN! My skin is scarred. It feels tight all over my lower face, jaw, and throat. I continue my stretching and use the Aquaphor as instructed. I just want to get this over with.

I have met with my new eye doctor. She is a small woman and looks to be about 12, a female Doogie Houser! I'm so worried she's going to tell me my cancer has spread to my eyes. She delivers good news...it's not cancer! I'm the proud owner of a Cataract. Being a car guy I'd rather have a Rinkin, but no it's a Cataract! So, now what? MORE SURGERY! Oh hell, why not? What else could go wrong!!!???

On my last day I have an early blood draw. Then my last dose of chemo is administered and my last dance with the penguins. After my last radiation treatment they hand me my mask. I ask, "What am I suppose to do with this?" I'm told some like to run it over with a car, some burn it, others hang it on the wall as a victory mask. I tell them, "Just throw it away. I never want to see it again!"
As I walk out that door one last time, I'm asked if I want to ring the bell. It seems it's kind of a tradition to ring this big bell when you have completed your treatments. I could only reply, "I don't want to ring the bell...I want to run like hell! C-Ya!" I bolt from the building!

VICTORY!!!

I have one more week of follow-up visits and I can go home!

NEXT BLOG ENTRY (CC16)

Monday, September 10, 2007

FREE FOOD!

Chick-fil-A has a new promotion. Get a Free Chicken Sandwich and a Medium Coke!

Register Now:
http://freechickenandcoke.com/

I can't eat, but you can. Have one for me!

This is a limited offer. ENJOY!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Cancer Chronicles 14

And So It Begins!

Now that my schedule is cleared up, I have some time to rest before I begin the real radiation treatments. My first day is a bit unnerving not knowing what to expect. My techs are kind, understanding, and a bit young looking to be doing the job they are doing. When did I get so old???

My new best friend for 6 weeks

MD Anderson has over 20 of these IMRT (Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy) machines at over 2 million bucks each! They push through over 500 patients per day. I find them to be very organized and the waits in the lobby are usually short. Every Wednesday morning, for the entire 6 weeks, I'm to see Dr. Morrison to review what is going on with my body. I have another dietitian, my third. The first few weeks are suppose to be a breeze. I'm told the last 3 will cause me some major difficulty.

During our meetings we review my weight, how I'm feeling, and if there is pain. Before my radiation starts, the nurse I had when my tonsils were removed, Lydia, called and asked if I needed anything. She took me shopping, showing me everything I would need to make my trip down Radiation Road easier. We also stopped at a GNC store and picked up some Tahitian Noni Juice and some Aloe Vera Juice. Who knows if the stuff actually works, but it can't hurt. The plan is to take the Noni before radiation and the Aloe Vera after. She was a BIG help. Lydia had actually taught the radiation class I attended, in the past. I could not be in better hands!

During my first weekly meeting, I ask Dr. Morrison when my chemo will begin. His response is typical of my experience here. "You're having Chemo? I wouldn't do that if I were you." he says. "Are you sure? I was told that was part of my program. I'll talk to Dr. Clayman about it. I have a appointment with him in two weeks," I respond. I don't think any of these doctors actually read patient files!

I mention an odd problem to Dr. Morrison. I had a hair in my mouth. I had a hard time getting hold of it, but when I did it wouldn't let go! I mean it was attached to something! I had to take a good look in the mirror. I was unable to bring myself to actually inspect my new tongue until that point. I was flabbergasted when I saw that this stray hair was actually attached to my tongue! In fact there were a few dozen of them in there! HOLY SHIT! Am I gonna have to shave my tongue for the rest of my life? I proceed to pluck everyone of those suckers! No hairy tongue for this boy!!! NO SIR! Dr. Morrison assured me all the hair will be gone after radiation.

It only makes sense. I never actually thought about it before. They used my forearm to make the tongue flap. I've got hair on my arms. You'd think they'd at least do electrolysis on it before they put it in!

Another problem I have noticed since all this began in April is my right eye. I can't see very well with it. It's kinda blurry, like Vaseline has been smeared over it. My left eye is clear, without problem. Is it possible my cancer has spread to my eyes??? Dr. Morrison sets up an appointment with the Ophthalmology Department.

Because my last few weeks could be difficult, a very dear friend, Patsy has volunteered to fly in and help me for a week. I've known Patsy for years. She was a franchisee with Little Caesars also, on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii. I haven't seen her in years, though we talk on the phone often. It will be great to have her here to help.

The next 6 weeks will be very hard it seems. I'm really not looking forward to them!

CANCER SUCKS!

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Cancer Chronicles 13

And now back to our regularly scheduled Cancer program!


A New Day Is Dawning!

After I arrived back at the apartment, still steaming about what had just transpired, I called my Patient Advocate, Ashante. I explain all the mess and that I was going home. I will find doctors that have their shit together! I'm tired of waiting. I'm tried of things not working and breaking. I'm tired of not healing fast enough. I'm tired of having my stomach churning and every time I go to have it looked at something else stops that from happening. I'm tired of nothing getting done....I'm tired dammit!

I'm trying not to be the "pain in the ass" patient. I don't want to sound like a whiner or complainer, but I don't understand why this is so difficult. Ashante is kind and understanding. She doesn't want to see me leave but understands my concerns. "I don't think you're being unreasonable. You have every right to be angry. But you still need your feeding tube checked and you might want to reconsider leaving until that has been addressed," she politely suggests.

She was right. My stomach has been such a mess, which adds to my misery. I already have an appointment set up for tomorrow to have the tube checked. Just one more day and maybe my stomach problem will be relieved and I can stop taking my HINDU RELIEF and stop sleeping with my toilet!!

Ashante asks to make a few phone calls and then will call me back. When she calls back she has verified my G-Tube appointment in the morning and sets up another simulation appointment tomorrow afternoon. She agrees to meet me after my G-Tube check in the morning and will personally bring my stent from dental with her. At this point, reluctantly, I agree to continue with my treatment. But take note, I'm a man on the edge!

Tuesday morning is a new day and I'm trying to face it with a positive attitude. I arrive to my G-tube appointment. I'm escorted to a changing area, given a gown, and told to get on the gurney. I'm wheeled into a familiar room. A room like the one my feeding tube was originally placed. A kind doctor and her nurse prepare me and make me comfortable. I'm fully awake for this procedure. A drape is placed between my face and belly, so I cannot see what the doctor is doing. What I can see are three flat screen monitors that show my innards! I see my stomach and the tube. I can make out many of my body parts. Man was that weird to see.

Then the doctor pulls on my tube extracting a full 5 inches! It tickled a bit as she pulled. I can see on the monitor that my Dietitian, Denise was right. The tube had actually migrated into my small intestine and was dumping my formula directly into it, bypassing my stomach. I watched the monitor as the tube popped out of my intestine and flipped back into my stomach. Damn, technology is amazing!

That was it? I waited a month, with my stomach bumping and grinding, only to have someone pull the tube out 5 inches to resolve the problem! I could have done that myself! That's what was causing my stomach to be a mess all this time? I asked when the stomach problems would be resolved and the doctor explained, "Within 24 hours." And when can I eat? "Immediately."

I waited a month, missed 3 prior appointments due to other complications, and in less than 10 minutes my problem was resolved! OK, maybe today will be a turning point and the rest of my stay here won't be as chaotic.

I'm wheeled back to a recovery area and given some formula. I'm still apprehensive about feeding myself even though I know my tube issue is resolved. As I feed, Ashante arrives with my stent and gives me my simulation time. She's very kind and very helpful. I know it's her job to resolve problems like mine, but I'm very grateful. I guess once you call in the cavalry everybody is on pins and needles trying to avoid any further confrontation.

After having...well lunch, I guess I should call it, I make my way down to radiology with a "Don't Fuck With Me" attitude. I'm still a man on the edge! I wait to be called. Odd I wasn't in my seat 10 minutes and my name is called. Humm...a new day is dawning!

Back onto the black wooden surface they call a bed. I'm told to place my stent into my mouth and strap myself in. The doctor begins to mark my face and body, then cuts out a thick clear rubber material placing it upon my neck with tape. I think they called that a bolus? The mesh mask is lowered onto my face and I'm soon in suspended animation, motionless. I'm surrounded by a half dozen people all scurrying around me like busy little bees. Calculating, discussing angles, taking pictures and directing lasers. This is more like a mock up, a drill preparing for the day the real radiation therapy begins.

I'm extremely nervous. I can't move, can't speak, and I'm starting to understand how a person in a coma might feel. They say when you're nervous you should think of people in their underwear. Well that never worked for me, but I thought I'd try given the circumstances. I begin to uncontrollably laugh even though I'm restrained. I vision everybody in black leather underwear. After all this is the dungeon. OK, this isn't working. I feel like I've just been abducted by aliens and I'm being poked and prodded for my DNA. This is taking forever, but there is a team of physicists that must have all the calculations correct or they could damage areas of me that weren't intended to be radiated.

This seems to take about a half hour and then I'm finally released from my prison. The relief is written all over my face I'm sure. My mouth is stiff when the stent is removed. I'm promised the time I will be strapped down for radiation will be more like 10 minutes, when we begin the actual treatment.

I'm told to take the wax stent back up to dental and they will fabricate the real one that will be used in treatment out of a clear plastic. Gee, what a great idea. Something harder than wax so it doesn't break in half again! I can't understand why that wasn't done in the first place.

After my visit to dental (not my favorite place by now) I head back for the bus. I'm scheduled for a radiation orientation on Friday and then I will receive my schedule for treatment. All I know at this point is I will be receiving 2 gray (Gy) of radiation per day, a total of 60 gray, over a 6 week period. (gray, or Gy (physics) -- Encyclopaedia Britannica) I will have 5 treatments per week, one per day, weekends off.

Friday arrives and I've had a few days of much needed rest. I think I slept straight through! In my class are four other people, all being treated for some type of head or neck cancer. I'm the youngest of the group and appear to be in the best shape. I figured if this were a contest I'd win hands down!

The nurse tells us what to expect. It's not pleasant. The skin will redden, become raw and sore to the touch. It might break down and weep. A moisturiser, Aquaphor, much like Vaseline is recommended. Daily exercising and stretching of the mouth, jaw, and neck is a must. The mouth will become inflamed and pain medicine will be needed. (My favorite part...WEEEEEE!) A feeding tube is recommended. The throat will become raw and sore. Most people wont get enough nutrition and lose too much weight during the process. For once I'm ahead of the game. I'm the only one with a tube placed in the class. The saliva will become thick, a milky yellow, and difficult to swallow. The salivary glands might slow secretion and cause the mouth to become dry. This could be a danger to your teeth. A mouth moisturiser is recommended, along with oral rinses, as the mouth will also become acidic. All sense of taste could be lost. Again I'm ahead of the game. I've already lost 1/2 my taste when I lost 1/2 my tongue! Any hair in the radiation field might fall out and perhaps not regenerate. And most important drink liquids, even if it's just a few sips! You must keep the throat muscles active or there is a chance the throat could atrophy. Boy this sure ain't Disney!

The reality of the severity of this is starting to set in. This is some serious shit! After orientation I meet with Dr. Morrison for specifics about my treatment. A nurse asks what time would work best for my treatment everyday. I figured anytime after 11 AM would work. A short time later and the nurse comes in with my schedule. He hands it to me and I read my treatment time. It's 8 AM! There's NO WAY! I'd have to get up at 4:30 AM every morning to make that time! I'm not doing it! I have to shower, which takes a long time because of all of my wounds. Then the wounds (arm, leg, feeding tube area, and butt) all need to be treated and dressed. After that, an hour for feeding. Then there's the wait for the bus and the ride to the hospital! NO WAY!

I hand him back the schedule with a simple, "No." He asks, "What's wrong." Then hands me back the schedule. I hand it back to him and say, "I'm not coming in at 8 AM." He hands it back and says, "But that's the time you were given" I hand it back to him, "Then why did you ask what time worked best for me in the first place?" He hands it back to me and says that was the only time available. I push it back, "I'M NOT DOING IT FOR 6 WEEKS! NO!" I'm beginning to feel like John McEnroe. This isn't a discussion, it's a tennis match! The poor nurse attempts one last serve. As he begins to hand me back the paper I now feel like Tiger Woods. I ask if he plays golf. He has a puzzled look on his face and says, "No. Why?" Then in anger I say, "If you shove that piece of paper in my face one more time you're gonna know what a hole in one feels like! Get that time changed! NOW!" He scurries out of the room. For now I've won this match!

He soon is back in the room, eyes to the floor, handing me a new schedule. My call time is 4:30 PM. That's doable. I know what some of you are thinking..."He's baaack!" Yes, I think at this point I was starting to feel like my old self. I'm tired of taking all the crap. Time to give some back!

My 6 weeks of treatment begins next week. I'm not sure at this point when I start Chemo. I have the weekend to rest and it should be a pleasant one now that my stomach is tame. I just want to get this all over with, go home, and get back to living again!

Sigh B

NEXT BLOG ENTRY (CC14)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Everything's Coming Up Rosie

Ever since my step-father died 5 years ago, I have been my mother's caregiver. Not an easy job for anyone. When I learned I might have cancer, before my biopsy, I planned my mom's 78th birthday present in December 2006. She's wanted to take a Mediterranean Cruise since forever! Well she has been in very poor health for 15 years, with a list of things wrong that could fill a phone book. Infact Mom had just been released from rehab after a recent illness. The Mediterranean will never happen. I found an opportunity that might work for her, so I planned her big birthday surprise.

Rosie O'Donnell was going to christen a ship, The Norwegian Pearl, in Miami. It would be a one night cruise with a show starring Rosie, free food and alcohol, and gambling. All proceeds were going to charity. Even though this was only one night, it needed to be carefully orchestrated. Mom is on an oxygen generator which makes traveling difficult. She uses it mostly when she sleeps or is having a bad day. I emailed the ships Cruise Director, trying to see how to arrange oxygen aboard ship, but no response even after 3 emails and 2 phone calls.

I had to tell mom the surprise to find out how long she thought she could go without her oxygen. She thought one night would be safe. Talk about a gamble! I made the arrangements: a limo to the airport, direct flight to Ft. Lauderdale, a limo directly to the ship in Miami 2 hours before departure. Then after we board, straight to the room to rest. The return had to be just as quick. All this would take place in less than 36 hours, from start to finish. If anything went wrong, even the slightest delay, we were screwed!

It was flawless! When we arrived I ordered mom a wheel chair and with a porter we embarked upon the newly built ship. We made it to our stateroom without a hitch. The handicap cabins are bigger than most because they need to accommodate a wheel chair. So we did not feel cramped like many cruise ship accommodations. In the cabin were gifts from Rosie on our beds: toys, a hat, a stuffed animal, and a whole lot of little items.

We rested before the festivities. Mom wanted to eat and explore the ship. Food everywhere, booze flowing freely, music pounding poolside, and lots of fun people there to party. Just amazing energy. After filling our bellies and tipping a few cocktails we began to explore. Everything was brand new. This was the Pearl's maiden voyage. The ship even had a bowling alley!

We find ourselves in a hall passing a crowded room full of people and a film crew. It was a private party for a meet and greet with Rosie. I think people donated big money to attend. We continued to walk down the hall when we came upon a bank of elevators and a grand staircase, away from the private event. We were a bit lost trying to get our bearings. I was facing the hall looking back where we had just been, and mom was facing me looking in the opposite direction.

All of the sudden a bull run was upon us. Mom had no clue what was about to happen since she had her back to the entourage of about 30 people. Loud, boisterous, moving quickly with cameras rolling, Rosie was headed towards us leading the pack. Now picture a frail, grey haired, 78 year old woman with a walker, alone in the hall with her son, standing directly in the path of this steamrollering crowd. I thought she was toast!

Then it was like someone hit the pause button. Rosie was standing behind Mom and her group of followers went silent. I'm in front of mom facing Rosie. Calmly I said, "Ma, turn around." Mom looked puzzled as if to say, "Why?"

As she wheeled her walker around, Rosie put out her hand and very calmly, lovingly, with great care, in almost a whisper said, "Hello Mam. What's your name?" Mom was shocked as she shook Rosie's hand. It took her a moment to process it. I just stood and grinned as I watched it all unfold. The entourage was silent. They were half on the staircase and half behind Rosie, cameras rolling, as Mom and Rosie chatted.

Mom told her it was her 78th birthday. Rosie asked if she was going to the show later that night. Mom said, "Wouldn't miss it. Are you going to be funny?" Rosie grinned and said, "Since it's your birthday, I'll try to be funny just for you!" As they chatted my eyes scanned the crowd. On the staircase was Rosie's wife Kelli. Our eyes met and we both had huge grins on our faces. I think we were both thinking, "What a very precious moment." Then as fast as they arrived, the crowd disappeared up the staircase and we were alone once again in the hall, still not knowing exactly where we were on the ship. I had this very strange feeling like...What just happened?

We went back to the cabin to rest before the show, as the ship began to set sail. We weren't in the room very long when mom said, "Let's go stand in line to get a good seat." We have over 2 hours before the show! We both are in poor health. We can't stand in line for two hours! Then out the door mom went.

That woman, walker and all, made her way to the theater and was 4th in line! There was no way I could stand in line that long, so I waited in the casino for awhile as the line grew longer. I tried to explain to Mom, when I picked up the show tickets, I was told the handicap section was one level above us. Mom didn't want to hear it. She was going in the main entrance and that was that! As she stood in line people were chatting about Rosie and Mom proudly announced, "I've met her and she said she was going to be funny just for me." She was like a child that had just met Santa for the first time.

When the doors opened, I gasped, there were at least 40 stairs cascading to the front of the theater as Mom bolted down to get as close to the stage as she could. It was like watching a senior citizen/NASCAR/roller derby. I swear she had smoke coming from the wheels of her walker as she made her way down those stairs! If anybody tried to pass her, she cut them off. All I kept saying was, "I'm sorry, she's a little excited" to everyone as I cringed out an embarrassing grin. She made it to the second row and sat down. I was only half way there and all I kept thinking was, "How the hell is she going to get back up all those stairs?"

The show was great, Christmas themed with Broadway numbers, Rosie popping out of a giant gift box dressed as Santa to a musical number. Rosie did her comedy...just for Mom if you asked her! Mom was having a grand time. She was energized.

And then it happened. I saw a side of my mother I've never been exposed to. One of the Broadway reviews had young men dancing on stage dressed in skin tight black spandex pants. My mother began to bounce in her seat. She turned to me and announce, "Look at the buns on those boys!" It was like I had taken her to a strip club. I wasn't sure if I should break out some singles for her or rope her to her seat to stop her from rushing the stage with her walker. Normally I wouldn't be worried, but after witnessing her new found roller derby skills, I was a bit concerned or maybe just embarrassed...LOL

At the end of the show there were streamers, confetti, and small stuffed animals shot into the crowd. Mom grabbed onto some streamers. I caught her an animal and the show was over, Mom beaming ear to ear!

Then came the moment of truth, my horror I worried about. How are we getting her out of here? Those 40 steps seemed like a 1000. Mom took hold of that walker and went up those stairs almost as quickly as she went down, without the body checking this time. She made it to the top adorned with red satin streamers she had dressed herself with, clutching her new stuffed animal. All smiles, it was an amazing site. She had more energy that night then I have ever seen her have!

After the show I figured she was going to get something to eat and go to bed. This had been a long day and she was without her oxygen. Mom had other plans...right into the casino. I gave her a few hundred bucks and she hit the slots. A few hours of one arm bandits and she was ready to retire. Her stuffed animal had multiplied. She now had a collection them. A ginger bread man dangled from her walker. Some of the people Mom met gave her their animals after Mom explained she was on the cruise for her birthday.

Mom was too tired to go eat, so I ordered room service. We ate in our cabin and then I tucked her in for the night like a little child surrounded by her new stuffed family. She repeated the entire day's events to me and just before she fell asleep she said, "See if we can book a week long cruise next time, I think I can handle it." The bigger question was...could I!?

Morning arrived, the ship now back to the port of Miami, we began to pack up all the gifts that She had collected and those that Rosie had left in the room. Mom said, "Next time, tell Rosie to leave you something." She had claimed all the gifts for herself. I didn't even get a hat! Oh well.

In less than 36 hours mom had survived, two flights, four limo rides, a Broadway style Christmas show, drinking, gambling, roller derby while climbing every mountain, acting like a teenager at a stip joint,  and meeting Rosie. Now she was tucked in her own bed back on oxygen with all her new found toys and wonderful memories. Happy Birthday Mom!

Words To Live By:

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others." -Mahatma Gandhi