Saturday, May 30, 2009

Round 3 Complete--Yoga in Georgetown

We're at sort of a halfway point in my treatment--I finished the third of six planned rounds of chemotherapy today, and what a beautiful day it is.

I arrived at 9:20 for an 11:00 appointment, hoping I could sneak in early. My hopes were realized--when I reached the fifth floor infusion area (the seventh floor Trials area where I normally infuse is closed on Saturday), I was practically the only patient there. I did see a lot of familiar faces from the Trials area though. Jameela was there, as was Mercedes, Rasheeda, and Sophia. It was old home week. The fifth floor area is much more open and public than the trials area. I was in an open bay with five chairs, all of which filled up while I was there.

Once it became apparent that I would finish earlier than planned, I pulled out my fabulous new cell phone and got busy looking for a yoga class. My phone has a combo GPS/Yellow Pages, allowing me to ask the question "which yoga studio is closest to my current position?". As luck/kismet would have it, there is a studio about 10 minutes walking distance from the hospital--Spiral Flight Yoga. I called the studio, only to get an answering machine, which told me that the best way to reach them was via email, giving the email address. I used Magic Phone to email the studio, and got a return message that they had a class starting at 11:15. My chemo would be finished by 10:30, so I was glad that Liz talked me into bringing my mat and other gear with me. As soon as I was unhooked and unplugged, I beelined it down to the parking garage, grabbed my gym bag and mat from the Mini, and hoofed it to Wisconsin street.

After a beautiful 10-minute walk and a little searching, I found the studio and signed in for the class. There were about nine other students. Our instructor, Naomi, turned out to be one of the best instuctors I've yet had, and definitely the funniest and most entertaining. Without going into too much yoga-ese, she led a great, fun, and informative class. I got more insight and personal instruction from Naomi in a one-hour class than I had in the last three months from my Pax River instructor.

The high point of the class for me was being "volunteered" by Naomi to demonstrate a half-handstand--basically a handstand with the feet supported against a wall. Let the record show that I'd never done a half-handstand before. When done properly, the body forms an inverted "L". As done by me, it looked like a slightly crooked, lopsided "L". Naomi talked me through the demo, and the class was kind enough to give me a round of applause afterward. Then we all did half handstands. I will definitely find occasion to make this class again.

After class, I took a very roundabout walk back to the car, meandering through Georgetown, around to and up the 'Exorcist Steps', and then to the car. Probably about three to four miles altogether. You can't complain when immediately after chemotherapy you can do an hour yoga class and a three mile walk.

I'm now in Annapolis, waiting for Liz and Robbie to join me. Liz is running a half-marathon tomorrow morning. They are currently at home, where the two of them got to watch a large black snake eat a nest full of Titmouse (that's a bird) babies while the mommy Titmouse flew around screaming. Robbie was a little upset, but also somewhat fascinated. Looking at the picture to the right, and knowing the height of that tree, I'm guessing that's a seven- to eight-foot black snake; not the biggest we've had, but still impressive.

I'm at the Borders Bookstore, catching up on the blog and on a little work. Hope you all have as good a weekend as I'm having.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Left the computer @ work yesterday, so I'm switching to "Tweet" blogging using my new cell phone with qwerty keyboard.

This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Round Three, Day Three

Well, here I am, back in one of the three chairs in Room 11, the Oncological Trials "transients" room on the seventh floor of Georgetown Hospital, waiting to get my third dose of Fludarabine this week. It's 8:05 a.m., and as this place doesn't officially open for another twenty-five minutes, I thought I would catch up on the blog a little.

I'm here early today, a victim of the Washington D.C. time-space-traffic singularity/paradox, which can be summarized thusly: Somewhere in DC traffic, appearing every morning around 6:30 a.m. and every evening around 4:15 p.m., there is a quantum black hole that eats time. My evidence? If I leave the house at 5:30 a.m. (as I did this morning), I get to Georgetown in an hour and forty-five minutes. If I leave just 30 minutes later at 6:00 a.m. (as I did yesterday), it takes two hours and twenty minutes. Somewhere along the line, the black hole ate thirty-five minutes.

This leads to the DC/Beltway paradox that states that when traveling the Beltway around rush hour, you can never reach anywhere on time. You either have to plan on being forty-five minutes early or a half hour late.

Also, high tech sonic sensors embedded in the road sense how close your bladder is to max capacity. Anytime the bladder readings show 95% full or higher, traffic signals are manipulated to bring all traffic to a stand still. The savvy traveler stops at a convenience story to "unload" before entering the Beltway, whether the need is there or not. Sometimes a half-ounce of extra capacity is the difference between discomfort and a disaster that only a pair of Depends can avert.

Update: It's 8:30 and Mary Ellen already has my Fludarabine hooked up an pumping--she is not messing around today. I should be on the road by 9:15 and should be able to make a meeting at Pax River that I called for 11:30. Sweet.

Mary E. asked about the blog, and I commented that I feel a little guilty that it's been so boring lately. Now that Chemo has morphed into a routine, now that it appears that I'm responding favorably to the treatment, my level of angst has dropped dramatically. Look--I still have cancer. I will still have cancer when this treatment series is done, albeit it will be in remission. But I understand more and more that this is something that I can and will live with. I am incredibly optimistic about the future. I didn't have that back in February.

And don't get me wrong: I am so looking forward to the blog post when I get to type the words "medically undetectable". Champagne will be drunk that night. But I understand that--cancer or no cancer--how I live my life is up to me. I understand a little better how precious every day is. I like to think as a patient I've learned patience.

Two more days and round 3 will be done.

Welcome aboard to my old (so very old) buddy, Gary, and to Elisha, who I believe is a young woman I met on Tuesday who works with an Arts group here at Georgetown that helps patients express their feelings through writing and through art.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Latest Visit with Dr. Cheson (Updated!)

I saw Dr. Cheson on Wednesday and we're good to go for next week's session. I'll be starting on Tuesday, as Georgetown is closed for the holiday on Monday.

Medically, the appointment fell into the "Why did I bother?" category. The good doctor was running very late--I went to examination room M315 at 12:10 p.m. for a 10:30 a.m. appointment. I never saw Katherine (normally the highlight of the visit), didn't meet Jenny C. (the new Damiet), and to top it all off Dr. Cheson was unable to access the notes from my previous visits due to a screwed-up computer in the exam room. I pretty much expressed all the medical opinions offered up that Wednesday morning.

In any case, Dr. C. was happy with my progress and OK'ed me for this week's chemo.

What made the appointment at all worthwhile was the people watching and conversations in the waiting room. I saw several men who talked through holes in their throats. I saw a beautiful girl in her 20's being wheeled around in a wheelchair, carrying a black and white Coco Chanel handbag and wearing a North Face windbreaker.

Most memorable was a discussion with Debbie, a very nice lady about my age who is battling Multiple Myeloma (MM). Cancer can be cruel--Debbie recently lost her husband to aggressive bladder cancer, and now she has MM. Well, it turns out that MM is treated with Lenalidomide, the thalidamide relative that is at the heart of the clinical trial in which I am participating. Remember, I'll be getting the Lenalidomide for free as part of the trial.

Turns out that Debbie recently campained to have her dosage reduced. It seems that a one-month supply at her previous dosage (if you are not sitting, this would be a good time) costs $7000. Seven Thousand Dollars. That would be $232 per day. Which I'm getting for free.

I started this entry on Friday, the 22nd and am finishing it on Tuesday, the 26th. I'm here at Georgetown starting chemo round #3. Anyway, here I sit at Georgetown Hospital with Rituxin running into me through an IV inserted in my my right forearm. They've given me intravenous Benadryl, which is making me feel about 4 Crown-and-Cokes drunk, and is further limiting my already limited powers of expression.

Next appointment with Dr. Cheson is June 16th at 9:30. Hopefully it will be more productive than the last.

I'm going to nap now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Party for Pit Girl

With Liz on her way to New Jersey for a memorial service for her mother, Robbie and I went this evening to a "Happy College Graduation" surprise party for my dear friend Peggy (who will be furious with me for calling her out here.)

College is hard enough under "normal" conditions. You finish high school. You get into college. Between your parents, your loans, your scholarships (should you be so lucky), and various jobs, you get your degree four years after your high school matriculation. During those four years, you have to absorb and reguritate huge amounts of information. You have to juggle course loads and unsympathetic professors. But for most of us, college was a full time job. It's not until you pick up your diploma that you have to face LIFE.

Finishing college is orders of magnitude harder if you jump into the LIFE part first. In addition to being a great friend and a fan of the Chicken Nuggets song (don't ask and don't Google), Peggy is the mother of a wonderful almost-18-year-old daughter and is also an Information Technology professional working for the government (a job for which she worked long and hard to qualify). She started many years ago working in a doctor's office. But Peggy wanted more--for herself and for the sake of her daughter. Fueled by that resolve, Peggy overcame challenges that greatly eclipse the colligiate travails most of us faced.

While Peg is quick to downplay her accomplishment, I sit in awe. To have the strength of character and singleness of purpose to pursue that dream for so many years--how can you not find that inspiring?

OBTW, she's starting her Masters program next fall.

Congratulations, Miss Peg. You've earned it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thanks, Mindy

I want to publicly thank my friend Mindy J. for an act of selflessness and thoughtfulness on Tuesday of this week. Mindy is very aware of my situation and is one of my primary folks to pick up Robbie from school, should it ever be necessary.

I was on tap to pick Robbie on Tuesday. Normally, as long as I leave my office by 4:45, I can make it to his school by 4:55. On Tuesday, I let myself get hung up at the office, pressed my luck, and end up leaving closer to 4:50.

I roared over to the school, getting there right at 5:00 p.m., keeping my "never late" record intact. There standing by the play yard was Mindy, talking to the lady who watches the kids. They were both concerned that I hadn't shown up, thinking I might be at the hospital. They had tried to reach me by cell phone, and when that didn't work, Mindy was strongly considering taking Robbie with her.

It was an act that on reflection really touched me. So thank you, Mindy. Thank you for caring about me and about Robbie. I hope someday (but not for the same reasons) to repay that kindness. For now, I at least want to acknowlege it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Happy Ocho de Mayo!

Greetings all. Busy week so late post. (Hence stacatto rhythm of current post (note: wouldn't "rhythm" be a great word to use when playing "Hangman"?)).

Finishing out the story of this weekend. I took Robbie to Haddonfield Saturday morning, which is a little town in New Jersey just across the river from Philly. I lived in and around Haddonfield for ten years and still love it. I took the boy to the "Happy Hippo", a wonderful small toy store that's been a Haddonfield fixture for at least 22 years of which I'm aware. He loved it. That afternoon, we successfully retrieved Liz from the Philly airport. Leaving the two of them to get reacquainted at the hotel, I walked about ten blocks to Mike's Steaks on South Street to get cheesesteaks. Not the best cheesesteak in Philly, but probably the most purchased.

Sunday, Liz went on her 10-mile run and Robbie and I toured the battleship New Jersey. It is moored as a floating museum across the river from Penn's Landing; Robbie had been admiring it all weekend long. So after walking to breakfast at a diner on South Street, he and I rode the ferry across the river and walked the half-mile or so to the ship. It was impressive and slightly depressing. Depressing, because back in 1985, I flew over the then-operational New Jersey as she steamed off the California coast. Now she's a museum. Sigh. Anyway, we went up in the gun turrets and through the Admiral's mess. It was great.

Afterwards, we met up with Liz back at the hotel, then went to Fairmont Park in Philly, where we had an all-too-brief reunion with my friend Louise, in town for her daughter's rowing races. Pinky promises to not wait another nine years to get together. Long drive back to Leonardtown with Liz sleeping as much as Robbie would let her, and me trying to stay awake behind the wheel.

On Monday, blood work, which came back all good. Had the nice, competent phlebotomist. Damiet Smit has left the Clinical Trials programs for new challenges. My computer is back on line. All in all, things are OK.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Done with Cycle Two

Never--I mean NEVER--ask me to plan your travel, at least based on yesterday.

Good news is that I'm done with my second week of Chemo and still feel fine. The other good news is that Robbie is one hell of a traveler, which was lucky as it turns out.

Robbie and Sunshine came with me yesterday, Sunshine to the kennel and Robbie to Aunt Elena's. Robbie and I are meeting Liz in Philadelphia, where she is running in the Broad Street 10-miler tomorrow.

We left around 9:15 yesterday morning, and it was immediately obvious that we should have left at 8:00. I called Georgetown to let them know I was going to be late, dropped Sunshine at the kennel (I had forgotten her favorite toy) and got to Elena's when I should have gotten to the hospital.

I decided to see if the nav system in the van would use the same route to the hospital as the nav system in the Mini. It didn't. Apparently, I bypassed "Quickest" and "Shortest", and instead selected "Most Convoluted and Congested". It was foreshadowing the day.

Got back to Elena's around 2:30 and was on the road by 3:00, with a planned stop at the College Park REI (an outdoors store) to pick up rain coats for Robbie and myself.

Long story short, we were in stop and go traffic from 3:00 until 6:45, catching rush hour not only in D.C., but also in Baltimore. Robbie was a dream the whole way.

We did get some payback, in our 19th floor room at the Penn's Landing Hyatt, with a room that looks out over the Delaware river. Last night was "Fireworks" night at the ballpark immediately across the river, and I believe it was Robbie's first "real" fireworks display. Made better by the fact we were pretty much eye to eye with the explosions, and had a thick window to muffle the too-loud explosions (Robbie doesn't like loud noises).

It's a little after 1:00 p.m. just now and the Washington Capitals/Pittsburgh Penguins game is on the flat screen. There's two-thirds of a six pack of Yuengling Lager in the mini-fridge (I'll leave you to speculate about the fate of the other third). Liz gets in around 4:30 p.m. I'm going to go watch some hockey.