No Spring Chicken #31

I just looked up Oddfellows and was surprised that my picture wasn't found next to the entry. In case you are wondering, here is a link to the wikipedia entry:

Now, the reason I felt I should be in there is that you won't find many more odd than I. For instance, I have a short leg. My right leg is 1/4" shorter than my left. But my left foot is 1 1/2 shoe size smaller than my right. But if you measure along the bottom of my feet, they are exactly the same length, but the left foot has a much higher arch, thus making it shorter. My left arch is high enough that I can stand on that foot alone, on cement, and put my entire forefinger under the arch from the outside in. Yeah, it isn't easy to balance and do that, but it can be done. The right arch is very high, too, but not as high as the left. In fact, if I walk with wet feet on a cement floor there is more distance between the two tracks left by each foot than there is foot-print on either end of that gap. Since I didn't know about the short leg until I was an adult, my back has a double "S" curve where it has made up for the difference in leg length. I am flexible to the point that I can still flat-hand the floor in my 60's, and if we are doing "touch your toes" on the risers I touch the next riser step down. This led to lots of "problems" when I was younger. Some school bully would pull my arm up behind my back and tell me to give him my lunch money and I'd move it up further and tell him it was more comfortable there. In those days I could grab either ear with either hand reaching up like that. These days I'm not quite so flexible. Bullies soon tire of that sort of game. In my later years, the problems this leads to are more along the lines of improper support for joints, so I need PT regularly. Oh, and I can hold one eye still and move the other in circles. That would drive teachers crazy when they were lecturing back in my school days. All in all, I'm a pretty odd fellow.

But what got me on this subject was my toenails. I got them from my mother, who had the screwiest toenails I've ever even heard of. Since she liked foot-rubs, we all got familiar with her toenails. The nails on her little toes were just a tangled nubbin, no real nail shape to them. Mine are not quite that bad, but the nails on my two smallest toes on each foot are strangely made. Therein lies the tail, or nail, as the case may be. After trimming, my toenails grow out strangely on the two smallest toes. Since the little toes tend to tuck under (just another odd feature), this isn't a problem with them. But the "ring-toe" (the little piggy who had none, if you need to translate that to something more familiar) on each foot grows out faster on the outsides, so that a sharp corner sticks out and gets caught on things. Wearing socks this isn't a problem, but wearing slippers it is. They tend to catch, split and break. Then if I'm not careful I get an ingrown toenail or an infection. Since I've been sick (chemo and cold), I've been wearing slippers without socks a lot, so I've just finished breaking off the second (right) ring-toe's nail edge. After three days it is finally feeling like it will be OK again, without any problems. But it is tender for a while.

My last missive seemed a bit dark to me after the fact. It didn't sound like I had much fun through the Christmas season, and that isn't true. My energy was way down, but I still had some fun. Besides, how can it be a bad season when you have: cranberry-cornbread, walnut bread, walnut sweet-roll bread, fruitcake cookies, cranberry cookies, oatmeal-raisin cookies, chocolate crinkle cookies and one of the most scrumptious apple pies ever to eat before they go bad? There are still some of the cookies left, but they've had raisin cookies added to them now, too. Oh, I lead a hard life. Or is that a lard life?

I'm planning on visiting Jeff on his birthday, but don't want to drive, since Janet is staying home and it will only be a week after my last chemo session. So I'll be taking my first ever train ride. Oddly, the train ride from Seattle to Portland is just about the same time as the drive. Hmm. I'll take a good book instead of a good book on CD (as I would if driving). Now, if this just works without missing a Seahawks playoff game... As a believer and user of mass transit, I've ridden busses all over. But never taken a train. So I'm looking forward to it.

I'm a little concerned about my attitude. When my dad first got cancer he was pointed to a book entitled "Love, Miracles and Medicine". It was about how your attitude could affect your healing. We all read it and I've suggested it to everyone I know who ever had a cancer diagnosis. But this time through my attitude isn't as good as it was the first time and I hope that isn't interfering with the healing process. I'm pretty sure it isn't, but some odd things (remember who we are talking about) have come up. For instance, after the first pass of fighting the lymphoma my sleep apnea went away and I haven't needed the C-Pap machine. But just last week Janet told me she heard me doing it again - the apnea thing. My original thought was that shrinking all those swollen nodes had made it better on my neck/throat and the airways were open again. Now, five treatments in, it seems backwards for the apnea to come back. Part of the problem is the three week schedule. Last time it was one treatment each four weeks. That gave me plenty of recovery time between treatments. This time it is every three weeks and there is virtually no down time, or up time, as it were. I don't quite get well from the last treatment before the next one comes along. Another problem could be the lack of singing. I have always sung, if only for my own fun and enjoyment. Between the cough and the worn-down physical condition I don't sing hardly any these days. Even the quartet is taking a break, but I wouldn't feel like singing if we weren't. I need to get back to it, though, because we've got gigs in February (7th and 12th as well as singing valentines).

Another strange thing about me is the minority group to which I belong. Now, it isn't as small as Sammy Davis Jr.'s minority group, but it is pretty small. I'm a left handed, blue eyed, male Indian (as in Native American). Find another one of those before you tell me how large this group is.

I'm sitting here drinking a Tequila Sunrise, and anticipating tomorrow's chemo treatment. This will be the last one of this round, so I'm glad it is finally here. But I'm not eager for it. But the TS isn't tasting as good as I remember. Part of that is the taste problems with chemo killing rapid growth cells (of which the tongue is the fastest growing organ), and part of it is where we first had Tequila Sunrises. When we first got our boat we sailed it over to Kirkland's public docks to load stuff aboard and move aboard. We were going to move to Lake Union a day or two later. There was a three knot breeze as we sailed there, the sky was blue and the weather was unseasonably warm for November, and I actually sailed into the slip where we docked for the time. We later moved closer to the main dock ramp for loading stuff. We moved a bunch of stuff aboard that afternoon, and ourselves as well. We were exhausted and went to bed early. Somewhere around 10pm we were both awakened by a thump. We found the boat rocking madly and heard more thumps on a regular basis. We rushed up on deck and found that the waves were large enough they were regularly raising the 2 1/2' fenders above and dipping them below the dock as the boat rocked. The wind had picked up to major storm levels, and coming from the SW, as is usual with our winds, it was traveling the length of Lake Washington and building up large waves. The spot we had moved to was broadside to the waves and on the windward side of the dock. So we started engine and moved to the lee side of the dock. This only served to put the top of the lifeline stanchions under the dock as the boat rocked, and we were having troubles controlling the boat. But we could see people out all over the dock having similar troubles. Someone came along and offered to help us move into a slip facing into the wind, and so he and I took the boat while Janet ran to the slip we were headed for. Now, Janet describes this as "My husband, my home and all my possessions headed off into the dark in a storm!" So you can see that she was being so much more emotional about this than I was. Anyway, we motored over to an extra large slip and lassoed the pilings on the off-dock side and then threw the dock-lines to Janet on the dock side and tied the boat off so it was held away from the dock by about 2' and from the pilings about 4', and pointed into the wind and waves. Having safely saved our boat and home, we spent the next hours helping other boat owners save their boats from the storm. We even loaned a couple of fenders to a fellow named Dell Mason to protect his houseboat from the dock as the waves were bigger than his fenders could handle. Around 5:15am we finished helping everyone who needed it and Dell invited us over for an adult beverage. We accepted, and he introduced us to Tequila Sunrises. Well, as you can imagine, after 7+ hours of working to save our home and belongings, and helping others to save their's, as well, we were ready for this experience. I've never tasted a drink that tasted better than those tequila sunrises as the sun rose. So I'm spoiled for TSs, and probably always will be. Oh, and living aboard our sailboat for 6+ years is another area where I (and Janet) am (are) a wee bit different from the "norm".

Done and Done! Again. Last time it was 2 years 5 months between my last chemo treatment and the next diagnosis of the return of the lymphoma. I'm hoping for better this time. Why? Well, last time we treated with the same chemicals, but did one treatment every 4 weeks, and did 5 treatments. This time we did one treatment every 3 weeks and 6 treatments. More, faster. We'll see if that equals better. But at least I'm done for a while. I had Stephen (pronounced like "Steven") for one of my nurses this time. He had troubles getting the IV in correctly, but he isn't the first to have that problem. When he did get it in it wouldn't draw blood (they had to do a blood draw), but it would work for the infusion, so he left it in and the phlebotomist came and took blood from my other elbow (same arm he "missed" on his first try). But she was so good and fast that it was over before I knew it. Today, day two treatment of one quick bag, I had minor pain from the IV the entire time, but no little blown up swellings like it was missing the vein. Probably because they didn't give me the ibuprophin they usually do. Hmm. But, I'm free of all this for a while. So I'll just sit back and enjoy the results.

With that done I can finally get back to normal things. I'll probably begin singing in the chorus again on February 4th, but I will still be in the worn-out stage at that point, so I will mostly watch. After all, that will only be two weeks after my last chemo treatment. I found out with Agate Passage (quartet) practice on Monday this week that three weeks after treatment I could do about 1:45 minutes of singing before exhaustion set in. Mind you, we sang the last three songs sitting down where the chorus would be standing, but we spend more time singing than the chorus does in a given time frame. As a side note on the singing, I don't remember if I mentioned the quaver in my voice I've developed. The thought occurred to me that it could be simply age combined with lack of proper warm up. You see, for some reason I am able to learn the music quicker these days, so I haven't spent as much time singing in the car (along with training tapes) or practicing at home. So perhaps I'm just not getting my voice tuned up enough. I combined that with processing more air for Monday's rehearsal and saw a much better ability to hold tone constant. Then, on Tuesday, right out of the blue I held a good solid tone. So, I'm going to sing more. Back to what I've done all my life, combine that with processing more air when I sing and see if it gets my voice back to what I call normal. There is hope.

I can also get back to flying RC airplanes on calm days, and sailing RC and full sized sailboats on windy days. Oh, boy. In March or so I'll be ready to start rowing the single again. I should only miss two more weekends of coaching the crew team on Saturdays, and will definitely be ready for weeknights on the water when they start again in late March. Of course, this means that I should be getting ready by fixing a few busted planes and finishing an RC sailboat and doing some work on my full sized sailboat, too. Sigh. Well, at least I'll soon be well enough to do the big things. I've got no excuse for not doing the little things. But I sure have been reading a lot of books!

Speaking of reading books, I just finished one that was 1001 pages! Hardback, the dang thing could be used to raise one end of the bed by 5", or prop up a table that had one leg broken off, or balance a 20 lb bag of flour, or lots of other stuff needing something big and heavy and sturdy. I was telling someone that it was the first time I'd had to renew a library checkout in a long time and she said a book that size ought to come with an automatic renewal! All of this author's books seem to be large, though this is the largest I've found. He seems to like long tales, but he does write interesting stuff. Brandon Sanderson, if you are interested. Fantasy and Urban Fantasy is what he writes. Each series (he has several) has a different magic structure to it, and they are pretty well thought out.

I've got a friend, Greg, who is a very nice guy, and I've known him for 45 years or so. He is a starving artist. He does very good work, but it is not original art work in the standard sense. He paints pictures of military figures, and he paints troops for people who game and don't have the time or inclination to paint their own. Greg has never made a lot of money, and mostly worked in bookstores or some such job to make ends meet. But he has a very rare form of cancer that has been considered untreatable. He got into a program to test some new treatments, and it has helped. But he basically can't work while this is going on. So Greg is painting an army of Brits for me (ancient Britons who would have fought the Romans). This way he has some income and it comes in spread out over time so he doesn't have so much income he won't qualify for the state-funded testing. If he wasn't on the sponsored testing he couldn't afford the treatments. Heck, even with the simple treatments I'm getting the cost of one series (500mg Rituxan, 2 x 200mg Bendamustine, a Nulaska shot) the cost is over $85,000.00. Wow! I think his must be well into the six figures range. Someone is making out like gangbusters on this stuff. Anyway, the doctors tell Greg he is doing remarkably well for someone with his form of cancer. In fact, they told him that only he and the mice responded positively to the new drug. Sorry about the other test subjects, but I'm glad about Greg. Just another reason to be thankful that mine is so mild.