No Spring Chicken #6
Make no bones about it, they have improved bone marrow biopsies. And they took them not too far from my tail, which, I guess, means that therein hangs the tale.

As you may remember from the last installment, I went in Monday for myriad treatments (please tell John Foy I used it correctly). One thing I forgot to mention is the strange thing they make you do when you are waiting for the barium sulfate to circulate. They give you two 450 ml flasks (if you can use that term for a plastic bottle) of the stuff, have you drink one and half of the second, then make you wait an hour while it circulates. Then you drink the other half, use the restroom (they want you as empty as possible so you can hold still for the scans) and they wheel you in. Oddly, for this you don't have to get our of your clothes, just remove pocket stuff and belts and the like. So I didn't have to wear the hospital gowns that come down to where a mini-skirt would have. I should mention that the Barium Sulfate was about the consistency of a soft milkshake (you could drink it easily, but it didn't flow fast enough you could spill it or get it on your upper lip), and had a very nice orange-vanilla flavor that was reminiscent of an Orange Julius, but milder. Medical advances, indeed. I'm pretty sure that stuff tasted horrible up to ten years ago. But after drinking the first dose of the BS (hmm, makes a body think...), you have to rest for an hour. No problem, says I, I'll just read this book I brought. No you won't says the tech doing this procedure. We need you to hold still so no reading or anything else. So there I sit in a room with the lights turned down low and too wired to sleep with nothing to do but think. I laid out most of the last email mentally then and there, even though I forgot some of it when I was writing the email 14 hours later in the middle of the night. But that hour of holding still was followed by holding still for 25 minutes while they ran the scans on my body and head, then spinning around and holding still for 18 minutes while they ran the scans on my legs. I don't have any idea why they couldn't just run the bed (or, more accurately, body tray) on further into the machine to get it all in one pass, but it may be that it is only designed for running 6' and I'm taller than that. So the 43 minutes of holding still I mentioned was actually broken up into two sessions of 25 & 18 minutes, respectively.

An odd thing about the scanner room is that the ceiling has a false panel that has holes cut into it to resemble some of the stars in our night sky. Not all of them, by a long shot. And those constellations they had were neither totally accurate, nor in the correct places relative to each other. For instance, Orion was there, but while his belt was obvious, his sword scabbard was not, nor were all of the other features correct. And the entire Orion constellation was right next to the big dipper (the little dipper is actually closer to Orion, but it has less stars than the one they showed, so I could tell they displayed the big dipper). They did have some form of light source inside the false ceiling that caused the "stars" to change their look - they got brighter and dimmer, but didn't sparkle. All in all, a bit of a distraction, and if I didn't know the night sky so well I would have found it pleasant. As it was I wondered a lot of the time just why they couldn't have been accurate if they went to that much trouble. I have some friends (Gary & Tricia) who had the night sky as it appeared on their wedding night imprinted on their bedroom ceiling in florescent paint that in normal light looked like the rest of the ceiling, but in the dark glowed like the stars as seen that day. It didn't cost that much, and would probably have been cheaper than the false ceiling the hospital put in. Too bad we keep re-inventing the wheel. We'd make so much progress if we'd accept the wheel as it and move on to the next invention.

Anyway, you may remember also that we had a quartet gig Monday night that I just barely made it through. Well, Tuesday must have dawned at the usual time, but you couldn't prove it by me. I slept in. I woke about 8 when Janet came in from taking a shower, and talked to her a bit, but dozed off immediately. I slept until about noon, when I got up and had something to eat, played with Clair and got the morning paper, then went back to bed and slept until around 4:30 when Janet got me up to get ready for our Tuesday night performance in Gig Harbor. We were supposed to be at Al's at 5:30, so Ric came by at 5:05, just as I was finishing dinner, so I dashed upstairs and changed into the quartet outfit and dashed back down to leave. I forgot my water bottle, but fortunately I keep a spare in the car so I wasn't too dry through the performance. I drove to Al's (Ric has been driving me all over lately, so I felt it was my turn), and then drove the quartet to Gig Harbor after we had warmed up and run through the songs (Miles usually drives, having a car large enough for the four of us easily, and probably our four spouses, too, but I felt it was my turn here, too). So we went to GH to sing at the Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church. I don't know the exact square footage of that church, but the entire building was bigger than some city blocks I've been on. There were so many rooms and wings and things that they not only have signs all over the place directing you to the different "areas" of the church, but they sent a guide to make sure we didn't get lost. Whew! They apparently have something like 2500-3000 members on the books, so the place gets a lot of usage, and finding a parking place wasn't that easy last night. They apparently had 120 people show up for the dinner we sang at, and the room was live enough that we covered them all without need of amplification. I probably couldn't have sung that loud the previous night, so it is good that was a more intimate setting of a living room with ten people in it. Anyway, we performed well and got a lot of comments to that effect from the people as they were leaving while we were admiring the architecture. I should mention that since Miles is an architect we tend to stop and view the architecture in almost any new place we go to. [By the way, for those who think I just committed a grammatical faux pass by ending that sentence in a preposition, that is not a rule of the English language, nor even American English language - that is an affectation added by New York news paper editors last century. Yes, I split infinitives extensively, but ending a sentence with a preposition is just fine grammatically.] So, as we get back in the car and start home Al asks if we want to stop for something to eat on the way back. We all agreed as how we were easy, and he allowed as how he'd like a stack of onion rings, so we stopped at the Red Robin in Silverdale on our way home. As we walked in I was thinking that we should probably let the quartet pay for this, and as we sat down Ric suggested the same thing. So we decide it was an Agate Passage expense. Al didn't order a stack of Onion Rings, but he had a burger and he and I did split a double sampler of them, then I had clucks and o-rings for my meal. We had a nice meal together, and since the waitress recognized us as barbershoppers (we used to go there for the weekly chorus afterglow, until they started closing at 10, when the chorus just gets out) we had to sing her a song. And while we were waiting for her to come by we sang 3-4 more, quietly so as not to disturb anyone around us. You know how well that works. There was applause after every song and as we were going out the door a little girl had to tell us how much she liked our singing, so we sang her another song. Then we tried a mall-bounce. But it was too cold out to just stand there very long.

A mall bounce is something the chorus developed at our afterglows. The nearest building of the Silverdale Mall is about 150 yards from the Red Robin. If you stand outside of the RR door and face that mall building and sing a loud tag and cut if off quickly you can hear the sound come bouncing back. Really kind of neat. Not as neat as the gingerbread man I'm eating as I write this (thank whatever deity you subscribe to the diet for the scans is over), but pretty neat. That was the last AP performance for the year, and with my medical problems and treatments, and Linda's, too, we decided to call it good for the rest of the year. So we had a nice "farewell" dinner, then went back to Al's and sang "We'll Meet Again" and wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Ric and Al will be singing with the chorus tonight, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't be up to it after todays visit to Virginia Mason, so I didn't plan on going. Ric will see Miles at Annie this weekend, but since Miles doesn't come out and greet the audience afterwards they probably won't talk. But we all might bump into each other again this year. Which leads me to today's fun and games.

Today I had a bone marrow biopsy to determine if the lymphoma had reached the bone marrow (stage 4). To do this they take a sample from each side of the pelvic bone from the back. I don't know when they will have the results, but it won't matter until we get to the point of determining if the treatment has been successful, so it really doesn't matter (unless they have to do it again for some reason). This was my first foray into that little procedure, but I've been told that it was done in-office in the past, with inadequate anesthetic. Now days they give you what they call "conscious sedation". What that means, apparently, is that you will be conscious and able to respond to questions, but that you won't really feel anything and may not remember everything. In my case I have no idea if I responded to anything they did or said. I remember him starting the anesthetic, then I remember them rolling me into the recovery room. That is it. Nothing in between. Since the procedure was to take a sample from each side of my pelvic bone on the back, I was on my stomach the entire time they operated (and when I went to sleep), but was on my back when I woke up. I have no idea how they got three big spots of blood on the front of my hospital gown. They didn't tell me and I didn't ask. No blood on the back, however.

Speaking of hospital gowns, I asked if they had a tall size and Nancy (the nurse) said, "No, but I've got a really, really big one for you." I suppose if I was 380 lbs or more I might have filled it out. But it still wasn't long enough. Earlier this year someone sent me a cartoon with the caption "Why I Don't Wear Shorts". I sent it on to Myron with a note that for some reason it reminded me of him. It showed an old guy in mid-thigh length shorts and various anatomical parts hanging out of the legs of the shorts - besides his legs. Now, I don't claim to be overly endowed, although at one point in my life I was so good at estimating 20" that I had one guy convinced that I had built in calibration for that distance (to the point where he made a point of checking when I came out of the shower one time). And I've noticed that some of my medications have even reduced things a bit, but that guy in the cartoon is exactly what I feel like in a hospital gown. Quite literally, I have 15" of thigh hanging out of the bottom of most hospital gowns. So, go and measure from your knee cap, 15" in the upward direction and see where that measurement hits *your* body. Now, put your hemline there and walk around in public some time and see what people say! It is a good thing I'm a closet nudist! Otherwise I'd be embarrassed by going to hospitals! Remember what I said about "any dignity I might have aspired to" in one of the previous emails? Yeah. Well, when I had the gown and bathrobe (a full 1.23" longer than the gown) on the nurse took me over to the bed by the window, where the sun was shining in and had me sit on it. She asked if I wanted the curtains closed, but I allowed as how the sun felt good. She said it had just started in shining and I mentioned that if I'd bent over she'd have seen the moon, too. She looked at me for a minute, then laughed. I guess she finally got it. So then she asked if I had any other questions and I sang her the first verse of an old song,

"Tell me why the stars do shine,

Tell me why the ivy twines,

Tell me why the sky's so blue,

And I will tell you why I love you!"

She said she didn't know the answers to any of those, so I told her the answers were in the second verse. But she said she had to go get Janet and dashed off, after complementing me on my voice. Then she brought Janet back, gave us some information about what would happen next and then asked Janet if she had any questions, but turned to me and said, "No more questions for you, though. I can't answer yours!"

If you don't know, the second verse goes,

"Hydrogen fusion makes the stars to shine,

Heliotropics makes the ivy twine,

Photo diffraction makes the sky so blue,

But damned if I know just why I love you!"

Total time in the hospital today was much less than Monday - less than four hours. But they must have been in a hurry to get rid of me. Partway through this email my upper chest was itching a bit, but when I rubbed it I found a couple of bumps that shouldn't have been there. Nope, not more swollen lymph nodes. These were the heart monitor stickers they stuck on before the operation and apparently forgot to take off. I don't think I'll find any more things they left on outside of the various dressings for spots they've pierced the skin, but I won't know for another day or so because I won't get to take a show for a day or two and no baths for a while (so no hot tub soaks, either. Rats!). Actually, when I got undressed for bed I found another monitor sensor on the back of the left side ribs.

Speaking of piercing the skin, as you may remember from NSC#2 the aliens can take me now, I fear not their probes. Well, I've had a few more probes since then. Mostly through the skin in the form of shots or IV needles, and a rub down by the oncologist (checking for more swollen nodes) that would qualify him for the TSA! Sigh, the fun never stops. Or, as Calvin said to Hobbes one time, "The Days Are Just Full".

Anyway, we made if home from the hospital without incident, except that I fell asleep on the ferry and Janet was so engrossed in her book that she didn't notice we were there until the ferry worker came by and told us we had to get off. It seems they need *everyone* to leave so they can sweep for left packages and bombs before they can begin reloading. What a wonderful world we live in. Wish that rule had been in effect the night they didn't wake me up on the Winslow end and I woke up as the ferry pulled out headed back to Seattle and I had to do the round trip again. Sigh. They are always out of step with me. Or vice versa.

As you should know, I start the chemo on Friday, and that should be about 8 hours in the hospital, and then a shorter 1-2 hour period on Saturday. I'll let you know what the first touch of chemo is like, but I don't know if I'll write it Friday night or sometime later this weekend.

If any of you came in late in this tail and want to catch up on the "No Spring Chicken" emails you missed, let me know. If any of you want to opt out, let me know that, too. My mind is twisted enough that many times what I think of as funny is what others feel is, ooh, mmmh, uh, not fit for public consumption. So I won't feel bad if you want out.

Awaiting the next trial without legal representation,