Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hey Everybody! Remember Me?

I love to walk.  And I'll say more about that after my abject apology served with a little whine.

First let me assure you that everything is humming along smoothly.

My apologies to my dedicated followers for not being a more dedicated blogger.  No good excuse, so I'll use a bad one instead.  The chemo I'm getting--the Ofatumamab and the Bendamustine--is a bit more of an ass kicker than the stuff I got first time around.  Combine that with the growth factor shot and by the time the weekend rolls around I have energy for about one task a day.  Liz has worked hard to keep her travel in check, but it's just happened that the last three times I was coming out of treatment, she had to go to Seattle. She had to leave on the Wednesday afternoon I was finishing infusion and before my two-hour Thursday drive to get my growth factor shot.  By the time I got Robbie from school, got him to swim practice, got him fed, got him bathed and got him to bed, I didn't have the poop to write anything.  By Thursday night, the chemo really kicks in and I'm fairly in a fog for the next four of five days (lot of f's back there).  That's was usually when I would blog.  Now that sounds like a great excuse, but my energy level is back up after a week or so, so why didn't I blog then?  Lazy.  Out of the habit.  Out of guilt for having not blogged.  It's a bad cycle.

I have a pattern that repeats anytime I fall behind in communication with a friend:  I feel guilty about it, which somehow makes it even harder to go back, which adds more time, which adds more guilt, etc. etc.  I finally got enough gentle anonymous pokes (Eggy-Pay and Im-Kay) and reminders from other friends that this isn't just my blog.  So I'm getting off my ass and writing again.

And I'm finding, as I usually do when I get back to the blog after being away, that the hardest part is starting.  After that it kinda flows.  And isn't that the true of so many good things?

Anyway, today was the second day of Round 5 of my chemo.  One more round to go.  As I said earlier, there are differences from the first round of chemo.  I feel more tired for the week or so afterward.  This stuff is also harder on my veins.  In five sessions, I've burnt out two veins, one of which kind of blew out when the nurse was injecting an anti-coagulant after my previous Tuesday session.  When she pushed in the plunger a little too vigorously, it felt as if someone had put out cigarette on my arm at the point where the line entered the vein.  (OK, that's a little hyperbole, but it did hurt enough to make me jump.)  The next day I had a bruise around the site.  Yesterday and today, at my urging, she was much more gentle, and it appears we saved the vein. 

I posted two pictures earlier today.  My Facebook friends may have understood the one with the barriers and chains. 

Georgetown Moron Trap.  Red paint, barrier, and second chain recently added.

Yep, that lower yellow chain (which was the only thing in that gap two months ago) was the one I tripped over two months ago and absolutely busted my butt.  More to the point, I took all the skin off the outer three knuckles on my right hand (while saving the iPad held in said hand) and sprained my left wrist slapping out the fall.  The wrist still hurts.  I like to think the new barrier system is there in my honor.  And no, I didn't think about suing the hospital.  One, I don't sue people for my own inattention and stupidity, and Two, I kinda want them to continue to treat my CLL.  Seems counterproductive to piss them off in court.

But back to my opening sentance:  I love to walk.  Even back in my early Navy days in Pensacola, just after the invention of manned flight, I loved to go for long walks on the base.   I later lived for ten years in and around Haddonfield, New Jersey, a town that easily could  have been Norman Rockwell's inspiration.  Until recently Haddonfield was at the top of my "Favorite Places to Walk" list.  Now Georgetown has taken that crown.

One of the true pleasures I've discovered as part of this adventure is how beautiful Georgetown can be.  As you know, I stay Tuesday nights with my friends Jim and Elena.  Jim leaves at 5:45 for work and I generally leave with him.  It's either that or wait until 10:30 for Elena to wake up (love you, Elena).  Anyway, at that time of day, it takes me all of 20 minutes to get to Georgetown.  I'm usually in the parking garage by 6:15.  The Trials area on the 7th floor doesn't open until 8:00, so this gives me almost two hours to indulge my wanderlust.

Francis Scott Key Bridge (I didn't take this)
This morning was absolutely perfect for walking.  A front had moved through during the night, leaving the morning cool, breezy, and refreshingly lacking in humidity.  My usual drive crosses the Francis Scott Key bridge (see above) between Rosslyn, Virginia and Washington, D.C.   In good weather, the pedestrial lanes flanking the traffic lanes are always full of runners, bikers, and walkers.  On a whim, I decided to join them today.  So across the campus, down the Exorcist steps (see one of my early entries) and across the bridge.  It was as great as I had hoped it would be.  Looking out over the Anacostia river I could see several boats from the nearby boathouses conducting early morning workouts.  Everything from single-person sculls to two-person to four-person and on up to eight-person boats.  It was around 7:00 when I made the return leg, by which time the runners started coming across. 

The other picture is from the path cart along the canal that parallels the river.

Georgetown Canal Path (I did take this)

People shop on the main drag of Georgetown just one block away and never know this path and canal exist.  It was incredible.  I walked for just about two hours.

No matter where my peregrinations might take me on a given Wednesday morning, I invariably end up at Saxby's Coffee at 3500 O Street, about three blocks from campus.  I always have a muffin and a large coffee, and sit by the large bay window to soak in the scene outside.

It has such a quaint and "been there forever" feel, I was really suprised to find out that Saxby's is part of a nationwide chain.  I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area.

You may have noted that with the exception of a paragraph or two up front, I haven't spent much time talking about the CLL and the treatment.  I guess it's part of the whole "living with cancer" thing.  Before I was diagnosed, that phrase always conjured up an image of a person locked in a cage with a beast, learning to live despite their companion.  But that's not it--that would be "living despite cancer".  Living with cancer--particularly when you are 'blessed' to have one of the milder variants like I have--means it's just one more thing in your life.  When I first started this blog, it was the big scary Gorilla in the Room.  I didn't know what to expect and I was quite frankly terrified.  Now it's the devil I know.  Maybe it's perspective.  Maybe it's desensitation.  In any case, I fret more about the time the treatments take than I do the condition they are treating.  I recognize that makes me lucky.

Met a great guy named Paul in the the common treatment room today.  He has a variant of adnoid cancer (adnoid cancer?  sounds kind of boutique to me)  that manifested itself in his left lung seven years ago.  That was when they removed his lung.  When they start removing lungs, now you've got some day-to-day impact.  He said he's had to slow down.  He can't run or ski anymore.  But he's still here.  He has a couple of flare up spots they are treating in his trial, and he gets to wear a 'chemo fanny pack' for two days to get his infusion.  Last time his hair fell out.  As I've said, everytime I go to the 7th floor, I find out how lucky I've been.

Two last things, one happy one sad:  my buddy Brad's wife Patrice has come through treatments that boggle the mind over the last several months, and now the doctors are cautiously optimistic that they've gotten all the cancer out of her mouth and throat.  On the sad side, as I was finishing my treatment today on the 7th floor of the Main Building, a co-worker's family was making one of  life's hardest decisions nearby.  On the 4th floor of the Intensive Care building (where I spent time two years ago), they gave the order to cease the heroic measures keeping her father-in-law alive.  At least I was able to show them where they could get a decent meal near the hospital.   My prayers are with my friend, her husband, and their family.  [note:  as I was finishing this entry, I learned in a text that my friend's father-in-law passed away this evening.  May he be at peace.]

I will try and get back to the same posting rate I did before.  I'm also resolving to get back on my yoga mat, which has gathered quite a bit of dust since I sprained my wrist (and got strep throat, but I've already exceeded my whining limit).  So, to the good friends who lovingly prodded me to get back to the keyboard, thank you and please keep prodding.

As this post was somewhat dark, next time I'll start with the joke about Ole and Sven at the beach.