The statue of Vulcan in Birmingham is well-known in Alabama. In ancient Roman theology, the god Vulcan was worshiped to avert the destructive powers of his fire. This power was however also considered useful if directed against enemies. I’d call cancer an enemy, so I’m glad to be under his symbolic watch.
The transfer from Chicago to Birmingham is complete. I’m officially participating in the ICT-107 clinical trial at the Kirklin Center at UAB as of January 23, 2012. This visit concludes Cycle 2 of the Extended Maintenance Phase. I had an MRI. The images showed no tumor growth. Things look pretty good. I will continue with chemo. My weight is down to 160 pounds. Dosage for Cycle 3 is 400mg of Temodar.
In the past I hardly knew anyone affected by cancer.
Now everyone I know is.
I feel very good. I wasn’t surprised by the MRI results, mainly because I intuitively “feel” like it hasn’t come back. I am relieved of course. I feel like I can start doing things now, like planning a get-away for Tina and I; planning visits with friends en route to Birmingham.
Between Atlanta and Birmingham is Gadsden, where I spent my youth. Tina and I stopped there to visit briefly with family and to have some of my sisters famous huevos rancheros (which were fantastic). My sister sent me this email the next day:
Knowing how excited fresh eggs would make you and Tina, I asked my friend to ask her neighbor for three eggs. I know they own chickens and occasionally share when they are well stocked. The neighbor informed my friend that the hen is molting and hasn’t laid any eggs since November. Molting uses protein to produce new feathers which slows or stops egg production. The next day, the neighbor called my friend, shocked that he found three eggs the next morning. He claimed he hadn’t seen that before so he gave them to our family because he felt it was meant to be. I’d never met those people before. Very kind act!
I have several friends in Alabama from back in the day.
Can someone really be called a friend if you haven’t had any contact with them in 20+ years?
I found the answer to be a resounding Yes. The bond you make with someone from kindergarten to twelfth grade can be pretty dang strong.
Quite conveniently, old school days friend, intimidating center forward, amateur herpetologist and dexterous speed skater, Matthew White*, lives right next to UAB and he was willing to put up with Tina and I for the night. Thanks, Matt, for the generosity. It was great catching up. I’m going to push your hospitality to it’s limits over the next year.
* Those are descriptors for the Matt I knew when we were kids.
In fact, there’s so many people I want to catch up with, we might just have to throw a party so I get to see everyone.
I have a new group of friends too. Things we have in common include:
- Frankenstein head scars and titanium implants
- wacky hairdos
- taking dangerous drugs
- and a strong desire to beat the 14 month death statistic
Those friends whose struggles are more difficult than mine inspire me to treasure and appreciate the good things I have going for me. They also keep me motivated to not slack off because of some good MRI results.
I hope I can serve as inspiration to them to not give up hope. Find joy however you can. Revisit positivity between bouts of anger, depression and frustration.
Thank you to everyone who is sending out positive, healing energy on my behalf. That energy comes in many forms: prayers, tonglen, beer-drinking and Hell-raising, Facebook posts, blog comments, silent thoughts and inappropriate jokes. I appreciate them all!
I have completed this months five day stint of taking 400mg of chemo (Temodar). I tolerated it well, as expected, but the last two days taking the drugs left me drained of energy. Two days afterwards, I’m still not operating at full capacity.
Based on more reading Tina and I have done, I intend on increasing my dietary vigilance. More juicing. More uncooked vegetables. Get serious about supplements, specifically vitamin C, astragalus and turmeric.
Up to this point, I’ve been a preacher of positivity. Having “suffered” a couple days of lethargy, I think about the people I’ve met who have been affected much more drastically than I. How does one remain positive when they have memory loss? Mobility loss? Speech impediments? Thought impairments? And even worse conditions?
Clearly I have little to complain about. In fact I often think that my quality of life has improved. I remain positive. I am motivated to keep healthy.
On a lighter note, I got a hair cut. I decided to shave hair from all affected areas and then do the same to the other side of my head so it is symmetric. That left me with about a third of a wide mohawk.
I just popped 400mg of Temodar. That’s up from 300mg last month. I’ll do this for the next five days and hopefully not have any bad effects from the dosage increase.
I had an experience today that I want to write about. It’s probably better suited for a personal diary but I don’t keep one. Probably not even worth writing down, but whatever.
I was riding my bicycle home from an appointment with my oncologist. It was sunny but in the mid 30’s. The appointment went well. I was feeling good — enjoying the day. I was coasting downhill, getting ready to turn left onto an uphill side street. To take advantage of momentum, I made a wide sweeping turn which put me a smidge into the oncoming lane of the side street.
I’ve been riding a motorcycle daily in Atlanta for ten years. This means that I have a lot of experience with the dangers of traffic. Being safe and looking everywhere is second nature for me.
I saw the car approaching on the side street and knew that I had plenty of time and room to make this turn.
But the driver still had to make “get out of my lane you stupid idiot” hand gestures at me.
Now, I’ve recently adopted a new outlook — a new way of thinking. I’m positive and upbeat. I try to be understanding and patient. I think good thoughts and put out good vibes.
But at that moment, I just about lost it. I felt the red heat of rage warm my body. I skidded to a stop, turned to face the guy and gave him my best “what’s your problem?” arm gesture. He saw that in his side view mirror and we had a short stare-down, just waiting for each other to make a move. I hoped he would stick his head out of the window and get into it with me. But, he finally pulled away and I continued home.
As I rode, I thought how I hate people in the city. There’s so many mean people. In fact, everyone that I don’t know, I dislike. I daydreamed about the argument we could have had. I relished the guilt he would have felt when he heard my overly dramatized story of being a terminal cancer patient riding a bike in freezing weather because I’m not allowed to drive myself to the doctor and that I needed that momentum to help me make it up the hill. Alternatively I envisioned punching him in the face for being a jerk.
Then I realized that all that negative thinking was ridiculous… and harmful. This is the kind of thing where you just let it go. I don’t hate strangers. I like living in the city. All those emotions I went through are counter to what I have spent months learning through meditation. So why did I care what that guy thought? Why did I get so mad about it? Maybe that’s human nature. Or maybe I need to keep working at how to focus on the important stuff. Maybe lots of us do.
As I crested the hill I began to ponder his side of the story. What could possibly have made him get upset. I was nowhere near causing a collision. Yes, technically I was in his lane for a second but he couldn’t be so obsessed about the Rules of the Road to get that worked up. Maybe it’s some deep-seated problem the poor guy has. Maybe his wife left him for a biker. Maybe he never learned to ride a bike as a kid. Who knows? The point is that he must have had some reason and I’ll never know. Could be he was just having a bad day. Who cares? Let it go.
It made me realize that we can’t all know everyone’s point of view all the time. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Actually, don’t spend any time worrying. Just focus on the things that will make me feel good. So I went back to enjoying the moment at hand, noticing the bright afternoon sun beams dancing with the chilly breeze on my cheeks.