Today I had my first treatment. A couple hours after gulping down my first set of chemo pills, Tina took me to Emory for my first radiation treatment. It was both no big deal and horrible at the same time. No big deal because it’s too early for me to feel any ill effects of the chemo and the radiation is also painless and only takes ten minutes. Horrible because in my head I occasionally imagined that I was feeling effects. And the radiation mask had shrunk a bit so it was extra tight. It tightened on my throat so that I could feel my pulse. I couldn’t open my right eye. It was nearly impossible to talk and they kept asking me questions. While I wasn’t really very uncomfortable, I was trapped and it seemed like a metaphor for my whole situation. Frankly, it pissed me off. When the nurse asked if I was ok, I simply harrumphed from under my whole-head muzzle. When it was over and she asked,

That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

I replied, “that depends.” I know she was just trying to be upbeat and sweet. At least I refrained from getting belligerent.

The radiation process was very sci-fi. The table I was laying on (which they inappropriately refer to as a couch) rotated. A big X-ray and a couple lasers whirred and hummed around my head as they moved into position. Green and blue lights flashed across my eyelids. Although I couldn’t feel the lasers it was clear when they were radiating me because of the ominous buzzer that sounded, warning others: DANGER, DANGER!

We finished the treatment with a quick bit of lab work. After yesterday, taking a vial of blood was a cake walk. First day of treatment — done. Only 41 days to go. Everything is running smoothly… so I thought.

What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate1

The Emory oncology nurse called to tell me to stop taking the chemo pills immediately. The lab work revealed that for some reason my blood platelet count had drastically dropped. I explained that it was probably because of the apharesis done the day before at Rush. She said that they were not aware that Rush was going to do this and that the ballgame has just changed. Luckily my cell count is still in the safe range, but if I start to spit up blood or blood starts coming out of nose, eyes, (anywhere) — call them immediately.

Well, what do you know — the Emory doctors are finally ready to talk to the Rush doctors. Hopefully they will see eye-to-eye and begin working together. I titled this post “Regression” because this hiccup is somewhat of a step back, a delay that could have been avoided. We (that is, Tina) really had to fight hard to get me into this clinical trial. We have a good feeling about it. I understand that Emory may not be ecstatic that we are working with Rush. Really, this is a business, with all the characteristics — profit margins, competition, ego, profit margins, prestige, and profit margins. Despite my cynical tone, I really do have faith that all my doctors are excellent professionals and good-hearted people with my health as their top priority. I’m confident they will work it out.

Tomorrow I go back to the space station for radiation, just no chemo.


  1. Quote from Cool Hand Luke, 1967

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3 responses to “Regression”

  1. Ruby Smith says :

    We understand that chemo & radiation treatments are rough so we will have you in our prayers as you have these treatments. My daughter, who is by my 1st husband, has worked at Emory for over 30 yrs. and is in the Radiology Dept. Harold had his open heart surgery at Emory in 2002. Hope that both places, Rush and Emory work together and that the result is to regress your health problem. Ruby

  2. Andrew Clackum says :

    I can’t help but think of “Welcome to the Machine”– Pink Floyd, playing on as you undergo this treatment. Which brings me to the question: does the staff let you listen to your favorite music while going through this?

    • Ken says :

      Welcome to the Machine is fairly accurate. Now I’ll be thinking of that every time. Luckily the process only takes about 6-8 minutes. So not even worth breaking out the music.

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