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February 17, 2010

Day 1 - Never give up, never surrender


Day 1

I'll be updating as I recall events so these words may change a bit but today was day 1 of chemo and radiation. Chemo takes place at the Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa. The facility is just that. There is nothing warm and fuzzy except the staff who all seem to have pointy tattoos eerily sprouting from under purple garments, or sad hair trying desperately to look happy with unfortunately scented products.

It was uneventful to say the least. Yes it was scary, but this is a battle and it sucks, but I did have Claire and Noah to keep me company for most of it and that was fine as we tried to eat what the hospital had. Next time we'll bring a picnic.

Prior to starting I met a woman, Joyce, in the lobby who was doing day 6 of 12 treatments for breast cancer. Her voice was lovely. She had on a purplish flop hat not really hiding the baldness underneath, and was significantly near-sighted as her eyes shrink to dark beads behind her rimless eyeglasses.

I started 'the interview' which I am prone to do, a bit like my long-lost Father-In-Law Laurence McCarthy who could not go anywhere without striking up a conversation and then reporting back the salient details (such as the time we went golfing in Monte Rio and met a very large African American man and the two of them took to each other like brothers: "He said his name was Patrick, but he likes to be called Bernard. He said he's Irish, black Irish, hee hee hee").

In the interview with Joyce we discovered a glimpse into her life and work in the Peace Corps in Uganda in the 1970s (!) and then Ethiopia prior to the revolution. It made me think that people are so much more than their illness and that telling this story might be important. I'll follow up with her later.

She then spoke about what to expect and when I was called she said, "See you in there." We went in with Infusion nurse Cary who is as sweet as apple pie. She had a creepy tattoo inching from under her uniform and under questioning revealed that "everyone has them here so watch out". Lovely.

She started me on hydration because chemo fucks mightily with your kidneys and after an hour she brought in the Cisplatin (100 mg/m2). I recall Cary and nurse Jason being thrilled about the size of my skin, the meaning of which went over my head a bit. It had to do with the difficulty of dealing with "surplus adipose tissue" which Claire tells me means "you're not fat". Hmmmmm.
Noah, the Dude, had to leave after a bit, but as always his calm presence is a blessing and "I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners."

Toward the end of the Cisplatin bag there were several nurse shifts happening because they didn't want the bag to "suck air" and since it was on a pump, they had to reset it several times. One time a very nice but crusty-looking nurse, Cindy, waddled in to check the machine (that does go "ping", by the way). She was struggling with her girth to fiddle with the thing, but chanced a look over to me and, with an unexpected wink, said, "Chemo virgin, eh?" I took up the challenge. "Yes," I said, "and I'm getting fucked right now." She laughed and I added to the old joke, "And I'm not even getting kissed."

Chemo was then done. It was 2 p.m. I had a few hours before the beginning of radiation and I cannot recall what I did, which Claire is telling me is a side effect of what's happening to me, short-term memory dysfunction. I think we went to Walgreens and I had a conversation with Xander on the mobile phone. He called without leaving a message, so I called him back. I asked what he was up to and he said, "Putting up drywall at the school by myself. What are you up to?" "Oh," I replied, "not much, just got done with chemo." X laughed, "You pussy, get over here and help me!" It was perfect.

I declined and will see him tomorrow night as he'll be my taxi to day 2 of rads.

Radiation is freaky, strange, and just not natural. I have to wear a mask (photo coming) and get strapped down to a table on which an overhanging X-Ray Death Star swivels about my head invisibly zapping all the targeted cells, bad and good, to Kingdom Come. Noah swung by for a bit of dinner and ferried me up for my first treatment.

As these things go, the Rohnert Park Cancer Center has two Death Stars but I guess the Rebel Alliance wiped out one of them because when we got there we found that we were pushed back by an hour because Death Star #1 was out of commission. Where is Chewie when you need him?

Noah and I spent time chatting about the clinic where we both work (well, not me right now), and other opportunities we are exploring, The Big Lebowski, and the occasional acid flashback, when I turned to the other person in the waiting room with us, C.

C was a driver for J who is being treated for brain cancer. I initiated an interview and J's story was so compelling that when she finally came out I wanted to talk with her and gave her my number and offer of support. I could not help myself. She took the card and said she would call.

Soon rad therapist Vanny then collected me and brought me to the room. I had The Band cd Rock of Ages and dropped 2 Ativan so I was ready to be zapped. 20 minutes later we were done and I came home. I felt fine really, but Day 2 offered unexpected surprises and more excitement.

Posted by Michael at February 17, 2010 11:18 AM