|No Spring Chicken #5|
Friends & Family,
Today I had a PET Scan. Well, that isn't all I had, and therein lies the tail.
Pets are interesting, both the scans (later) and the animals you own, or who own you. Clair is our third dog, and she has her own distinct personality, distinct from both Jenny, and Sam, who were distinct from each other. Jenny, our first dog, was a retrievaholic. She would retrieve as long as I was throwing, and nothing would dissuade her from it, including getting attacked and bitten by another dog while we were retrieving. She couldn't imagine another dog would be so mean, so she actually got bitten twice while not fighting with them. But if I wanted to go for a walk she was quite happy to do that, too. She loved to explore. Jenny was half golden retriever and half lab. Now Sam was half lab and half german shepherd. He could put on the tough guy look that scarred away a few delivery drivers who wouldn't get out the the car/van/truck. But he was so gentle that three times that I know of he growled at people who reached out to him, but when they kept reaching he put his mouth on their hands but didn't bite. The message was obvious - "I could have bitten those fingers off, so keep them to yourself!" He never hurt them, he didn't even leave a mark. But they all got the message. As to his retrieving, he could take it or leave it. He was good for 2-4 tosses, but then he was done. Clair is pure chocolate lab, and will retrieve as long as I throw, too. But unlike Jenny, she knows her job is retrieving, not walking. She'll go along for a walk, but if I quit moving forward she is headed home to go retrieve. She knows her job and if we don't do enough she gets out of sorts. Now Wesley, our cat, was quite a different individual, too. He was a good cat even before he was dead. Why? Because he came when he was called (by me, anyway), he stood still for having his fur brushed when he came in from outside, and while he thought he owned the place, he didn't try to order me around, just Janet ('cause she let him). Each a different personality, but all of them good. I always comment on how lucky I am with my pets (and my wife). I mentioned the pet part of that to the Vet one day when he was commenting on what good dogs we had and he said that he'd noticed that nice people always had nice animals. Kind of a nice thing to say. I'm not sure how applicable it is in my case, but it probably is right on for Janet.
Speaking of pets, some friends of ours came over on Thursday. No, Mike & Jan are not pets. But they've always had dogs, too. Samoyeds, in fact. They read the last few emails and decided they better come visit before I left this mortal coil behind. Don't worry, I'm not shuffling off any time soon (more on that below). Mike & I met our first year in Bellevue Community College, where we had five courses together that quarter. We were both were somewhat full of ourselves, quite brilliant (and willing to admit it) and a little off beat. We actually brainstormed a plan for portable phone connections for laptop computers back then ('69), but we didn't have the technology background to complete the design. Remember that this was pre-calculator days. Mike used 6-place log tables to do his calculations, while I read a slide rule to 5 places. Now, those of you who remember slide rules will understand that this involved a good deal of interpolation. We drove a number of professors up the wall. They'd ask a mathematical question, and I'd read the answer (to five places) and the prof would just have time to holler, "You can't read a slide rule that accurately!" before Mike chimed in with, "He's right to the sixth place round off." We've been good friends ever since. We drank a lot of beer together, spent a lot of good times together. I rode on the STP (Seattle To Portland bike ride) with Mike & Jan twice. We've met boating on the sound to cruise together, drifted a few rivers in rafts together, gone duck hunting together, spent a lot of time at the old Sounders soccer games together, and spent some really great times together. So it was good to get together and have some fun and just chat for a while.
This weekend was a bit of an episode in the nether regions. You see, the PET Scan today required a diet over the weekend. I could eat protein and vegetables. I couldn't eat fruit, starches, sweets or drink hardly anything that wasn't water, including tea and alcohol. So, this is the weekend Janet made Christmas cookies - three varieties. I also wound up at an event on Sunday where the hostess laid out a spread you wouldn't believe. Of course, I could eat the cheese (not the cheese balls - have you ever tried to clean a cheese and remove all the tiny organs?), the meat and the vegetables. Good thing I love carrots and celery. But I had to pass up on all the gravies, sauces, chips, cookies (5 varieties, including Russian Tea Cakes and Chocolate Crinkles), all of the drinks (I brought my own gallon jug of water), and any dips for the veggies, chips or whatever. Man, what a pain. Then, on Sunday evening I couldn't eat anything after 8, and only water to drink. You might think that my wife would be a bit more understanding, even if the other folks didn't know about the tests and diet.
This morning I had the PET Scan (Positron Emmision Topography - 3 D mapping by radiation - hold still for 43 minutes sometime), preceded by 900ml of Barium Sulfate and some sort of radium injection (you know it is dangerous when they send the injector - already loaded - in a metal container and do the injection with it still in the container), and followed by the EKG, the blood draw, the meeting with the oncologist, scheduling the bone-marrow-biopsy, scheduling the first chemotherapy session, the movie on Chemotherapy education, followed by the chemo education talk, the test for veins, and followed by picking up a prescription I need to start tonight at the in-hospital pharmacy. We left home at 4:35am and got home at 5:05pm. But the day wasn't over, yet. You see, Agate Passage, my quartet, had a gig tonight. When you add the long delays at the hospital (we expected to be done by 1pm), the barium milkshakes, the lack of food and the previous two days of diet (and starvation - they call it fasting, but the time goes so slow), and I was in serious indigestion when we got home - I'm sure it wasn't anything near as bad a labor pains, but the waves of pain sweeping over my intestines were reminiscent of the tales of labor pains and caused me to double over more than once. As soon as I got home I chugged some pepto, wolfed down some gasx and changed clothes for the singing gig. I really didn't feel like going right then, but it was too late to get a replacement. When Ric picked me up (thank goodness he was driving, because I don't think I could have) I took my pepto and gasx with me, When we got to Al's to rehearse I still wasn't feeling good, although better than I had been. Then as we rehearsed I wound of doing most of it sitting down because I couldn't stand up and sing. The guys wanted to call the gig off because I looked white as a sheet, but I was feeling better than the last few hours so I told them we should go, and sing, and if we needed to cut it short I'd tell them and we wouldn't charge for the performance since it was short. By the time we got there I was feeling much better, and we did the entire gig as planned, did well, too, and I got home about 8:10. A long day, already, but then I decided it was time for the next update, so I'm writing this. I've gotten better since getting home, and I'm pretty certain I will live at this point. But it sure was touch and go for a while. I didn't tell the guys our current sheets are red, not white, which is why the steri-strips they put on my neck incision a while back looked like I was bleeding on them - red flannel fuzz on the sticky spots. Fooled my doctor when I went in to have them taken off, too, and probably a lot of other people at the time. So if you saw them an wondered why I didn't cover up a bleeding wound in public, it wasn't bleeding - just looked like it.
So, I guess you want the news on what went on with the tests. First, the follicular lymphoma is still grade 3a for aggression. The only thing that would change that is if I got symptoms, which would change it to 3b. But now we know it is at least stage 3 (both sides of the diaphragm), but we won't know until the bone marrow biopsy if it is stage 3 (what we know already) or 4 (into the bone marrow, lung or heart). Some of the lymph nodes are rather swollen - there is one in my lower chest that is around 4 cm across - about 1.6 inches if you don't do metric. They are in my neck, chest, lower intestine, one arm pit, and groin. I didn't see any in the legs, and the doc didn't mention any there, except at the very top near the hips and groin. None of this makes much difference. The treatment will be the same either way on 3 vs 4, it is only academic and specifies what all we need to check when looking for "cured". So we've scheduled the beginning treatments for this Friday (17th) and Saturday. The bone marrow biopsy is on Wednesday, the 15th. So, as you can see from the schedule, no rest for the wicked, again. Oh, and another quartet gig tomorrow night, too. But, sooner begun, sooner done. And I'm ready to be done with this before we've even started.
I'm lucky in that I caught it early (my doctor is still amazed that I spotted it and got it diagnosed so early), and that it is treatable with a strong chance of total cure. That doesn't mean it won't come back - the factors that caused it in the first place may still exist. But until recently they didn't use the word "cure" with cancer. They only said "in remission". So I'm lucky that the medical advances have offered opportunities that the rest of my family who have gone this path before didn't have. And lucky to have good friends and family who care. I've heard this week about several prayer chains at churches, and prayers at a Shriner meeting, too. Thanks folks. I'll take all the help I can get. Thanks to all those who have sent well wishes, as well. There have been too many to mention directly, but you all know who you are. I'm also lucky that Janet is bearing up well through all of this.
Speaking of baring up - she should be in bed naked by now - hmm. I think it's time I joined her... you should have heard what the chemo side effects there could be. I'd better make hay while the sun shines...
Hope you all are enjoying these missives. I won't throw you off the list if you haven't called or written, only if you ask. I was just wondering, in a whimsical manner, about the other brother.
Hanging in there,
PS Those of you on the crew team who got this can spread the word to the rest of the team as to where I am and what is happening.