|No Spring Chicken #4|
Pop was my idol growing up. He was pretty calm about everything. When
he was really, really mad he'd say, "Gosh all fishhooks!" and he'd say it
so you'd want to go wash out your ears 'cause it sounded so dirty. I
watched him spend most of a day designing and building a tool to reach
under the house and pull something out instead of crawling 8' under to
get it. Of course, he was 80+ at the time, and it was in an area known
for rattlesnakes, and the temps were in the 100s, so that may just have
been the smart way to do it. But I'd never seen anyone work so hard at
not working##. I took a lesson from him and began making all my code
more elegant. You see, if you make your code so the customer can modify
some of the information you don't have to change the code as much when
they change their minds -- less work. Pop was what we called my grandfather
on my mother's side. That is what he told dad to call him when he married
mom, and that is what he told all of us to call him. He was a man who
could carry on an intelligent conversation on any subject you wished to
discuss even into his 90s, despite no formal education past high school.
He paid attention to what was going on in the world and read up on things.
Future shock was not a problem he had. He had more common sense than
anyone else I've ever met. I've still got the bearskin coat he wore while
plowing the fields in winter. He was tall enough it took two bears to
make it. Washington black bears don't really get all that big. He was
a farmer, a mechanic, a school bus driver, worked at the Hanford nuclear
plant in the 40s, and turned his hand to just about anything he needed to
do to make a living. If you visit the Hanford reservation you can still
see his apricot trees. The government too the land from him in 1941 (they
paid less than he got for the apricot corp that year), but he was never
bitter about it. That's another lesson I need to learn from him, too.
Let it go and don't stay bitter. Not about my health, I'm not bitter
about that, but about a couple of other things in my life. I miss
conversing with Pop.
Speaking of health, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that my follicular lymphoma is grade 3a. That is pretty aggressive. The good news is that it is curable - the non-aggressive grade 1 is not curable. It seems they have two measures of non-Hodgkins Lymphomas. There is Grade (how aggressive it is) and Stage (how advanced it is). Grade 1 is pretty low on the aggression scale, and since it isn't producing any symptoms and is not treatable, they don't do anything but watch it. Grade two is kinda in-between. Grade 3 is as aggressive as they get, but they break it into two sub-categories. 3a is when no symptoms show. 3b is when symptoms show. I'm not seeing any of the usual symptoms, so I'm 3a. As far as I know you don't see any symptoms with grades 1 & 2. Stages range from 1-4. Stage 1 is a single lymph node affected. Stage 2 is more than one, but all in one area. Stage 3 is two or more areas, but all on one side of the diaphragm muscle. Stage 4 is when it has spread to both sides of the diaphragm - essentially everywhere, it seems. I know mine is at least Stage 2, since the cat scan of my neck revealed several swollen nodes. But they have not yet done a PET Scan of me to see where else they may be. That will happen next Monday. So if I've got a glow about me while the quartet is performing Monday night it is just the radiation in the die. After the PET Scan, if they don't find it in stage 4 already they intend to do a bone marrow sample to see if it has spread there. If it is stage 4 they don't need to do the bone marrow sample - it is there. Once both of those are done they will determine what the treatment plan will be, but it will basically be ~6 courses of chemotherapy (where each course is a given number of doses). All of that stuff has to be done in Seattle, so we've bought a car pass for the ferry and will probably buy a passenger pass, too. There may be other good news, too. It seems that some patients with this problem experience systemic itching. Hmm. Maybe that is where my systemic itching is coming from and once we cure it I can drop those two allergy medicines. That would be good.
I think the oncologist was waiting for me to react to the news. I was pretty blase about it, again. Dr. Malpas is probably a very nice guy. But he doesn't look very happy. That is probably because he has to tell people they have cancer and the odds are not very good *all the time*. Man, that job would suck. This is another optimist/pessimist area. The pessimist says, "Look at all the patients I loose." The optimist says, "Look at all the patients I save." I suspect Malpas is a pessimist. But even an optimist wouldn't be very happy to tell someone they have cancer, so maybe that is why he looked so sad. Like the engineer who says the glass is twice as big as it ought to be (not half full or half empty), I think he should think about all the people he gets to help, even in a losing battle. Of course, if he'd come in with a big grin as he told me all this I'd probably be writing about the ghoul I met today. But maybe this would be more funny that way. Or, it could be that I was spoiled by the urologist I went to last month who loved his work and was always smiling.
So, in a family with a history of cancer it is interesting to see how others react. When I sent out the last letter one brother and my sister both called immediately to see how I was doing and commiserate. The other brother didn't call. No email. Nothing. Hmm. Doesn't he care? Well, to be honest, I wasn't expecting any calls. I thought I laid it out pretty clearly in the letter and spelled out my attitude, and that I was in very good spirits, etc. So I was surprised at both of the calls, and perhaps a bit uncomfortable with them, too. I don't think it is a big thing that needs to be made a lot of. I could be wrong about that, but I don't think the planet would stop spinning or the economy turn around or the human race finally find peace if I die. So it isn't really a big deal. What the heck, we all die anyway. I've lived a lot longer than many. I'm already 33% longer lived than the average US life span in 1900, the century I was born into. Heck, I don't think anyone outside of Janet will miss me as much as Pop was missed when he passed on. Then, at Thanksgiving gathering, both of my inlaws talked about it, but none of my siblings did. Tish expressed a lot of love and made sure I would take good care of myself. Perhaps in listening to my conversations with Ken (Tish's husband) & Olga (Jeff's wife) Tish & Jeff found out all they wanted to know. Perhaps they already knew more than I did and didn't want to hear any more. Perhaps they didn't want to know at all. I've got to admit when dad had cancer I wasn't all that interested in hearing the details. Maybe it is a defense mechanism or a coping mechanism. OR, maybe we have some ostrich in the family gene pool. I always knew it needed some more chlorine.
After four quartet performances yesterday, and the trip to town today, and doing a laundry and folding it and putting it away tonight (so I wouldn't have to go "commando" tomorrow), I'm a bit tired, so I think I'll call it a night. What? How did it get to be 1:22 am?!? Guess I ruminated over this a bit too long.
## This is not quite true. When we had to clean up the room as kids Jeff would sort the books on his bookshelf while I cleaned the room. You don't believe me? Ask Tish or Pat. He was famous for it. Jeff worked pretty hard at not working, too. I guess he learned from Pop long before I did.