No Spring Chicken #17

Done and done! Yes, folks, I'm done with chemo. For probably 10-15 years. Now, the doc has mentioned preventative treatment at yearly intervals of one dose each week for a month. But I'm probably going to veto that. It doesn't lead to higher survivability, but it may lead to longer before return. On the other hand, if it would normally be 10 years before it came back, and this would make it 15, then I'd buy those extra 5 years by going in for 20 treatments. Which is more than the 5 x 2 = 10 total treatments this time. I'd rather do the 10 every 10 years than the 60 (preventative) + 10 (Curative) for 15 years. I'm really that sick of the treatments.

As I mentioned a couple of times now the mind is a strange thing. None stranger than mine, too. Someday when you want to be disgusted and amazed all at once I'll tell you about a typical pun-connection-thought and a typical problem solving thought as they occur inside my brain. However, the subject just now is mental association. For instance, just thinking about getting chemo treatments gets my stomach queazy and my mouth starts filling with saliva (of the kind you get with stomach bile, not the kind you get with good food in front of you). This is a patterned response to the thought of the chemo. Saturday morning as I was going into Seattle on the ferry, on my way to my last treatment (for a good long while), some woman came by wearing a perfume that triggered that same response. I don't know if was reminiscent of the "room odors" in the "infusion" rooms, or if it was reminding me of what one of the nurses usually wore, but all of a sudden I was getting that same feeling. I'm getting it so strong just now that I've had to stop three times and think about something else just by this point in this paragraph. Now four. Fortunately, I've got quartet next, and that will take my mind of this, and since I still need to clean dog piles off the driveway and play with a dog before they get here, I won't be typing that much longer without a good long break. Anyway, I've been disgusted by hospital odors before, but never made sick by them. So that is one mental tie I'm hoping 10-15 years without any more treatments will take care of. Just proof reading this paragraph I've shuddered from the thought of another treatment. I'm in a bad way. If you want to get even with me for anything evil I've ever done to you just mention a chemo infusion around me. If I've never done you any dirt, though, please don't.

Homicide is when you kill a member of homo sapiens. Poopaside is something else. I'm guilty of it, though. I have a beautiful dog, a 80+ pound chocolate lab named Chocolaty Clair. When I am playing with Clair she does her business in the bushes when she gets the blue toy (I throw it into the underbrush and when she has found it and picked it up she makes sure I know she has it, then goes off somewhere nearby to do her thing). Or, if that fails to draw it all out of her she eliminates anything remaining either on our walk to the mailbox or the creek. In neither case does she do anything on the driveway. But when Janet takes her out she tends to leave piles on the driveway. Which I then have to get rid of. So every now and then (especially on Tuesdays just before quartet rehearsals) I have to get rid of them. So I toss the poop aside into the bushes. Why is this necessary? Because of my baritone. You know we have lots of baritone jokes in barbershop. But this isn't a joke at all. If there is a dog pile on our driveway when Ric comes over he manages to find it with his shoe. Every time. Never fails. I think he even found both piles one time when there were two or them. Since his wife, Donna, is really adamant about not wanting dogsh (as opposed to horsh or bullsh) tracked into her house, this leaves him in trouble when he gets home. It is also why we leave shoes outside at their house. But I've never seen anyone with his unerring ability to find the pile. So I've got to clean them up both Tuesdays before quartet rehearsal and Wednesdays before he comes over and we share a ride to chorus. Since it rains a lot around here I tend to clean them up as soon as I find them before they partially melt and become impossible to remove.

We are actually having a trio rehearsal today. Al & Linda are down in California. But Miles, Ric & I will be getting together to work on some of our new music. We are picking up some wonderful numbers that the chorus used to sing (5-10 years ago), but has dropped. Love Letters Straight From Your Heart is one, I Ain't Got Nobody is another. We are also picking up a few that the chorus doesn't do - like Bye, Bye Blues. I sang that one in my second quartet, Olympic Blend, many years ago (28). It isn't coming back as fast as I thought it would. We also have a couple of gospel numbers we had almost learned before Al left that we'd like to use when we do out next gig in July (just before Harmony College Northwest). So, we've got lots to work on. I'd better get to those dog piles. If there is just one in the driveway Ric always manages to find it with a shoe. Clair is only moderately good about missing the driveway, so I need to go police things before they come, and exercise her well, to, so she'll relax when they are here. More later.

Much later, like two days.

So, now that I'm all well (see above), I'm back to rowing. Yesterday (Thursday, 14/April/11) we had two fours out - the race four, who have been working together 4 days a week for a couple of months now, and another four of guys who have wanted to get out but haven't really had enough people come consistently to get out very often at all. So we did a lot of drills, then lined up for a ~1000 meter run. They gave the non-race 4 a lead of ~6 lengths and sent us off (yeah, I'm in that one) at a supposed pace of 26 strokes per minute. That isn't too fast, just under one every 2 seconds. The race four had a plan of a racing start, followed by a high 20 (strokes) at 38 (strokes per minutes), then settle in at 32 SPM for the rest of the run. They almost didn't catch us, but we caught a crab with about ten strokes to go and they went by. I died. I'm sure of it. I could hardly keep moving through all that, let alone pull my weight in the boat. Whoa! This poisoning stuff is really hard on your endurance. That and not really exercising since September, and finishing chemotherapy last Satruday. I'm pretty certain that I'm still dead today and the pain I feel is typical purgatory punishment. But it is time to get moving and take Janet out to breakfast. Some duties don't stop just because you die.

I thought it might be interesting to make a list of the "side effects" of my chemotherapy. Mind you, I got to use one of the new drugs, Rituxan and Bendamustine. Most lymphoma suffers have had Bendamustine and R-Chop, which is the combo that makes you lose your hair. I didn't lose any hair. But my face has continued to peel since the second treatment, and my hair has straightened. I used to have curly hair and wore my mustache in a handlebar and my hair in mixed-up curls (kind of a white man's 'fro). But my hair is now straighter and doesn't even wave well anymore, and my mustache just won't curl right. I've had that handlebar for almost 30 years and I can't get it to curl right anymore. Argh! I've also been very tired so I haven't exercised much at all. OK, the stinking cold, wet, continuous winter we have had for the last 7 months has added tremendously to the "don't exercise, it's cold out there" attitude, too. Perhaps because of the lack of exercise my back has bothered me less, so I've soaked in my hot-tub less than usual, too. Or maybe I'm just too tired to get out and do that. One other serious change due to the chemo (or, more accurately, the diagnosis) is that my attitude about a lot of things has changed. Nothing (except Janet - wife - & Clair - puppydog) is anywhere near as important as it used to be. Deadlines? What are they? So I've played a lot more and while I've turned out three of my four major website pieces this spring and the fourth is coming along nicely, I don't take the "I've got to finish it tonight" attitude any more. Commitments to be some place or do something are not as strong as they once were. More of a focus on me, I guess you could say, and less on others. So this has been a life changing experience, as you can well imagine. On top of all that is the change in mental image of hospitals - I can't think of them without getting nauseous. I even had to stop Janet in the middle of telling me about someone else's hospital experience on Friday since it was making me nauseous. I had to turn my ears off while in the coffee shop after rowing this morning and one of the guys began talking about some treatment. I've got to find a way to break that mental link or I'll be sick a lot, as often as hospitals come up at my age. I've also got more of a desire to keep in touch with my old friends and relatives.

Later again (Saturday)

Speaking of relatives, in two weeks we are going to a family gathering for my mother's brother's family. Uncle Johnny is one of those we lost to cancer. One of the cousins is shipping out to Iraq and we are holding a farewell celebration first. It will be good to talk to and see a bunch of them I've lost touch with. I will get contact information on all of them so I can keep in touch from now on. I've been relying on Brenda & Mike to pass the news on to the rest of that side of the family, and I don't know if they have, so some of these folks may not even know what my winter has been like. Oh, well, I don't know what their winter has been like, either.

I went out rowing again today. The coach, Tristan, had five of us, so he took a four out with the extra guy in the launch and swapped him in for me part way through. I like to think that he saw I had gotten the concept of the drills (he did say that) we were doing and didn't need more work, but the fact is he saw how tired I was getting last week when I rowed and on Thursday this week on the long run, so he planned on taking me out for Mike all along. At least no one gets left on the beach this way. We had a good drill session with a lot of work on the catch and doing it with hands and legs, as opposed to shoulders and backs, as well as some other drills. Almost all on the square (no feathering the oar). You really need to balance the boat when you row on the square, because the oar will catch on the water if you touch at all on the recovery, and you'll touch if the boat rocks at all. I've considered it corporeal punishment for some time, but it does teach better boat set, if the hard way. As usual after a Saturday row we wound up at the Blackbird Bakery for tea/coffee and pastry. John's wife Paula joined us this morning.

So here is the deal. This is the last of my medical report updates and I'm not going to be sending them regularly any more. I have been asked, however, to continue the "No Spring Chicken" letters for their entertainment value and to keep up to date on what is happening with my life. So, if you want to receive more of the NSC letters you need to drop me an email telling me so and I'll put you on the new list. If you don't want any more you don't have to do anything, because I'm going to rebuild the list from scratch and no one (that means you) will be carried over automatically. I'll still post the NSC letters on my website, so you can check there ( ) to see if I've written anything new if you want the news but not the email.

Tom the Once Again Healthy