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Keane's Chemo Adventures, Update #5 - July 6, 2009

This is spinal tap, or how PiC opens her mouth and becomes a pain in my back...

My oncologist was going to be on vacation during my 6th and *LAST* (now major) chemo treatment, so my doc appointment was moved to June 26th, with my chemo treatment remaining on July 1st. He's going to Florida, but not the Orlando area...

PiC (or Partner in Crime, for those who've seen me use the term, but never knew what it meant) is along, since we're going to take a trip out to a warehouse club (I'm the one with the membership, but she's the one who needs a lot of stuff) and lunch after the appointment. She drives. Even better.

I check in, and the Vampire of the Cancer Center takes a couple of tubes of blood. I'm not doing chemo today, so they don't have to stick my hand. The Doc's personal nurse is on vacation this week, so her very pregnant (but I didn't ask) replacement shows us to the exam room, and of course, the Doc is late. (Has there ever been a time when the Doctor wasn't late?)

The Doc finally arrives, but we're still waiting for the blood test results, so he could have been another 10 minutes late without really being late...

But during the appointment, PiC opens that mouth of hers, and starts asking questions. Like about the bone marrow biopsy. My oncologist looks concerned, and looks up the reports on the computer. (I may have to detail some the freaking amazing technologies and tools the hospital/cancer center uses. But I digress...) Let's make a longer story short, I'm due for four more chemo sessions.

Ain't that just dandy.

And they're not just any chemo stick-it-in-a-vein treatment, they're spinal taps. 3cc's fluid get sucked out to get tested, 3cc's of some toxin injected in. Says he would have started them after my 6 main chemo sessions, but we could do one today if you have the time. 10 minute procedure, and an hour on my back.

And ain't that just dandier. Just how I wanted to spend my Friday Morning.

PiC gets the evil eye. If looks could kill, I'd be bribing the jury pool right now. Probably better to start today, then to wait 3 weeks when I next see the doc. She asks me later "It wasn't that bad, was it?"

"Nah, he only stuck a needle through my back and into my spinal column, took out a few cc's of fluid, and put a few cc's of a toxin back in." I fear I have a very sarcastic voice at times... :-)

Still, I was able to eat lunch and do a tour of the warehouse club without getting too winded. So I suppose I'm getting better, but I'm nowhere close to my normal self. But better is better, and normal is pretty subjective these days.

I was also given another Berry Barium and Iodine set for a CT scan, and have that and a PET scan appointment in two weeks. When those tests come back clean, I'm still considering the major portion of this adventure *over*...

Chemo #6
Fast forward five days, and I've got an 8:00am appointment for some drugs. Amazing how early you can start if you don't have to see a doctor first. In order to eat breakfast, PiC comes by pretty early. I'm in Mickey shorts, a t-shirt and my zippered Coronado Springs sweatshirt. PiC points out it's 60 degrees. I don't care. It's July. I'm not going to let something like the cold spoil my summer.

I used to have 24 hour food joints all over the place, but they're all pretty much gone. Owners retired and the places close, lack of business during late hours made many places change to a semi-normal hourly restaurant, closing during the middle of the night. They mostly open at 7am, but it's before 7am...

We sadly end up at an IHOP. Ten times better than the Hospital Cafeteria or the Commissary, but still pretty darn terrible. I guess that's why I don't go to IHOPs. I remarked on my Oct 2007 trip that if I'm going to a seafood restaurant, I should have the seafood. If I'm going to a steakhouse, I'm not going to order the chicken. But most of the early morning breakfast places, especially in smaller towns, is a pancake house. But what if you don't like pancakes? And I'm digressing again. (And I will also point out that a real pancake house is 10 times better than an IHOP...)

I don't have to see the phlebotomist, since I was phlebotomized when I saw the doc last Friday. One less hole poked in me the better. I get a room right away, and I even get a choice between a chair (which reclines) and a bed. I'll take the bed. Better to nap in.

The nurse looks over my veins de jour, and decides she can't find a good one and gets another nurse. New nurse finds one on the side of my wrist and get's it done the first time, something for which you're always grateful. :-) I can even type, and post something to prove it. Too bad it was after the benadryl and the steroid. But I was serious about getting a Mickey step counter in my box of Frosted Flakes...

PiC needs the laptop to do some work, for work. I mean, it's not like she doesn't have her own laptop, but I swear she uses mine more than hers. (Now how sick can I be if I'm complaining about crap like that? :-))

And I brought a camera. First and only and last time, for documentation purposes only. (You'll have to hit the "Back" button after looking at a picture...)

Hosp1.jpg Me and the hated machine...
Hosp2.jpg The hated machine...
Hosp3.jpg One of the many things the hated machine pumps into me...
And when I say hated, I mean hated. It's an IV pump. When I was in the hospital for those two weeks, it was a constant noise that drove me close(r) to insanity. Keep in mind you are literally attached to it with plastic tubing. It also runs on an internal battery, so if you have to go to the bathroom, you unplug it and roll it with you. In addition to the *constant* pumping noise, when it has a problem (like running out of a med, or something blocking the tubing,) it beeps. Not to alert you, but the nurse out in the hall, which means it's loud, with a distinctive beep, and it's better than any frigging alarm clock, ever friggin' made, ever in the entire world, and when they're changing bags every couple of hours, you don't get any sleep, and it makes you... ((deep breath))

If I never have to hear another one again, I'll be happy.

According to my parking receipt, I got in at 7:37am and out at 12:50pm, so it's a relatively quick day if you don't have to wait for a doc or blood results. My last major chemo session ends with no fanfare, it's somewhat muted by the fact I have three more spinal taps to look forward to.

But the major problems have been solved, I hope, we'll see what the post-mortems say in a couple of weeks.

As a fitting farewell, I have a little morning sickness that goes away after taking my anti-nausea drugs (which is better than that other morning sickness, which doesn't go away for 18 years), and the prednisone seems to be weirding me out more than usual. I have the attention span (and sleeping patterns) of a cat.

Finally, today was my last day of meds, and I hope I'll be off 'em for good. ('Cept for that 3/week antibiotic...)

And that's a good thing, 'cause chemo got really old, really quickly.

Okay, I've moved all of my non sequitur babbling from above and moved it down here. You've been warned...
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In other news, my cactus flowered. On my 2005 West trip, I bought one of those little doit yerself cactus gardens (well, more like a pot than a garden.) It came with three small cacti, only one of which survives. It killed the other two. Honest. Below is a picture of one of the spines, that still has some of the remains of the last victim. (When I bought the thing, all three cacti fit in the pot, along with the cattle skull and a Carlsbad Caverns sign.) This creature has grown considerably in 4 years, considering it rarely gets sun during the summer, and sometimes gets treated like crap. But hey, it's a cactus. It was designed to get treated like crap, wasn't it?

Cact1.jpg Right before chemo #4, I noticed a tumor on my cactus. Note there's another bud in the foreground, but it got reabsorbed.
Cact2.jpg The remaining tumor was still growing after chemo #5. See that cactus spike impaled in the foreground? That was this creature's last victim. (Like the skull?)
Cact3.jpg About 10 days before chemo #6, it bloomed. I was so impressed that I took it outside, and the cactus enjoyed direct sunlight for the first time in 4 years. Yes, it's sitting on my garbage can.
Cact4.jpg 5 days before chemo #6, the pedals had curled back, and it looked even better.
A couple of days before chemo #6, the flower closed up, and the morning after my last major chemo treatment, I find it had broken off the cactus, impaled on it's own spikes. There's some cosmic significance in that. If someone wants to produce the movie, I'll write the screenplay...

Hair Update:
If we disregard the Gollum thing, there's a fine carpet of hair growing on my head. It's short and very fine hair. I can't even tell if it's black or grey. It probably sprouted around the time my cactus flower closed up to die...

I suspect this is part of that cosmic joke. It's got me encouraged, but they'll probably all fall out. (My greatest hair loss starts about 5 or 6 days after a chemo session, which will be in a day or two...)

Completely unrelated to anything else update:
I think I've finally finished cleaning up my picture database, and have shrunk it down to a size that I can back up the entire thing on a 1TB USB disk.

I'll have you know that was quite an achievement. 886GB took 11 hours and 35 minutes to transfer. Next time I'll free up and back the archive up to a e-sata 1TB disk. E-sata is a tad faster.

Through this, I was able to free up a couple of 1TB disks during my disk reorganization, so I loaded *all* of my 2003 WDW Video project on one. (I used to have to have 4-200GB to 250GB disks online when I first did the project.) Since I hadn't put up any video in a while, I looked at some options, and the edits...sucked. So I'll try to get something out soon. It's on my list. But it's a long list...

And finally, for laughs and yuks, I've saved all the empty vials from my meds, and will take a picture of them all when I done with this. It's quite a collection.

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