Friday, July 22, 2022

The Big Hammer


My journey through Chemotherapy is over.  There were two phases to my treatment, the first of which is documented here.  The second phase is what my doctor termed "The Big Hammer".  It is basically a new immune system.  So that ANY trace of the lymphoma is gone from my system.  I basically have the immune system of a 6 month old, which means I can catch anything. 

How do you get a brand new immune system?  The answer is stem cells.  They are harvested from your body before they can transform into all the good stuff like platelets, white blood cells, red blood cells, etc.  Then they are frozen while my old immune system is killed off with chemicals for three days.  Then comes "infusion" day, when I get my stem cells back.  Then you sit for three weeks in the same sterile room while the stem cell turn into the better cells which provide immunity.

There is a major feeling of tiredness and lethargy that will last for at least a month.  Your body only works and regenerates so fast,  Which means a lot of naps and a lot of binge watching television.  Needless to say that my bucket list has gotten a lot shorter and any plans for 2022 have been put on hold till 2023.  Is 10 months of treatment worth another 10 productive years?  Time will tell, it all depends on your overall health and attitude.  This treatment is not for everyone.  There has not been a lot of pain and discomfort for me, but the loss of time has been difficult.  The world moves on and does not wait for you.  

So the doctor states that I now have only a 10% chance of recurrence of the cancer.  I also have no hair, but it will grow back (having shaved my head before, this is no big deal).  What is more of a big deal is having to get ALL my immunity shots, from polio, to flu, to measles, to Covid, etc. all over again, since I have immunity to none of these illnesses. That will start next year.  Hopefully by then the 10% loss of control on my right side will return as well my hair.  

I took this journey to see if it was as bad as I had heard and because I have a few more things I still want to accomplish.  Would I do it all over again?  Hard to say, quality of life comes into play.  Suffice to say 2023 looks rather busy.  The end catches up with us all eventually and I just got an extension.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Long Illness - Part 4

We have come to the fourth and final phase of my chemotherapy treatment for my brain tumor. I am currently in a two-day inpatient IV situation where I am taking the last of my chemotherapy drugs (Cytarabine) before being released.  This has been a long and interesting journey. Mind you, it's not over, because I have to come back for stem cell replacement therapy in another month or so. Thankfully I get a 30-day break from my ongoing in-patient IV treatment before the stem cell replacement therapy starts. Once the stem cells therapy starts it will be another 30 days of lock-down and no context with anybody since I really won't have an immune system.

I'm happy to report that I'm doing well. My brain tumor is pretty much gone and my brain stem is slowly repairing itself and I'm getting back most of the use of the right side of my body. That said here are a few pointers with regard to the treatment that I have been undergoing here at the Mayo Clinic.

As a refresher, my tumor was not operable and therefore was treated with chemotherapy drugs. I managed to avoid having any radiation therapy. However, the chemotherapy drugs that I have been taking have to be filtered through your body, primarily through your kidneys and your liver. These organs only work so fast and slow down the more that you run through them. Therefore the major headache with regard to this form of chemotherapy that I have been undergoing is time. It has been approximately 5 months of in and out patient therapy to get all of the blood pumped up to do its best of drugs and to be filtered out through my organs. Being stuck in a hospital room attached to an IV pole for over 8 days at stretch is not fun at all.

I am currently at approximately 2/3 of the way through my treatment for this illness. The simple truth is that you never really recover from this kind of cancer. I will be returning to the clinic or various hospitals for the next two or three years to monitor that nothing has recurred and everything is still working and progressing properly. Gone are my younger days when you would go to the hospital get a pill or a treatment and be right as rain within one month.

The other awful truth of going through this kind of therapy is that time stands still outside the hospital window. So when you are released, you have to catch up on a lot of things or let a lot of things go because you don't have time or energy to catch up on them. The project list grows very short and the bucket list grows a quite longer. Time management for the rest of my days is going to be the key. 

I'll let everybody know how it goes after the stem replacement therapy is completed which will probably be sometime near the end of July. Then it will be a lot of maintenance work and blood draws to monitor my body functions for the next year or so to make sure that everything remains OK.

Once again, thanks for all the support and the visits in the hospital from various people. It's certainly has made me aware of how much support I have and how much people are willing to take a chunk of time out of their day to come and make sure I am doing all right.

See you all again in about 3 months. (at least I hope so)

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Silver Linings - Part 3

Not All Journeys Require Haste: 

While driving my dog to the vet to be euthanized, I drove her around town for a long time.  She loved car rides and went back and forth between poking her head out the window and reaching over to give me doggie kisses as we drove ever so slowly up and down the winding city streets.  As always, she was having the time of her life.  I, on the other hand did not want the journey to end, because I knew it would be the last one.  As I drove slowly through the town, other cars whizzed by me, often honking their horns or flipping me off at my slow pace.  They were stuck in their rush-rush routines and could not stop to think that not all journeys required haste.  Some thought their journeys would last forever, yet they seldom do.  

Breaking The Routines:  

We all get into these routines, it is a part of our lives that we consciously do not see.  Waking up in the morning, drinking coffee, going to work, interacting with our spouse, walking the dog.  The things we do to get through the day that eventually become automatic.  

So what happens when those routines are broken for you?  Like being stuck in a hospital room for five weeks with a future that is uncertain or non-existent?  Well, you start to question those routines and their importance.  You are forced to stop and think about what you do and what you have time to do.  That need for haste and repetition becomes questionable.  Re-evaluation sinks in and you realize that you are trapped in those routines and they are not always beneficial.  That is one of the things that this brain tumor has taught me.  I have to realize that I am not driving the car, I am the dog with my tongue out the window.  This car ride does not last forever.

There are only a few really important things left to do, and I need to get busy. 

Body Awareness: 

One of the things that the Mayo Clinic has is the 'Portal'.  This is an app on your phone (don't go to the hospital without a smartphone) that tells you in real time exactly what the doctors know.  It will show you the results of everything that is measured, imaged or written about you in real time.  There is a lot more going on with you than just your weight.  This is the future of medicine, it is monitored on your wrist, on your phone and in the cloud.  It can tell you all those things that are going wrong long before symptoms ever show up, but you have to learn that they are there.  They are a routine that you have to learn but are usually ignored because other, faster routines take their place.  We teach ourselves through youth that we will live forever.  We don't.   

Lost & Found People / Hypocrisy:  

Probably the most profound event that has arisen out of this whole situation are the number of people that have cared about my well being.  Individuals that I do not even know, to friends that I assumed were long gone and forgotten.  They have made themselves known to me like long forgotten specters from my past, much like the ghosts from Charles Dickens 'A Christmas Carol'.  They remind me not to give up and wish me well.  Individually, their Facebook 'likes' and their well wishes are uplifting and gratifying, yet taken as a collective whole they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are more than just a speck on the face of the earth with no real consequence.  There is a tie that binds some of us that is not visible and seldom realized.  I suppose they call it humanity or empathy.  Regardless, it does exist.  Conversely, it also shows those who are only fair weather friends who are only here for their own benefit at your expense.  These are the folks that never attend funerals, they only send flowers.  

Big Pharma / Little Healthcare:  

This is one of those things that I did not expect to question while I was undergoing treatment.  It is my attitude about socialized medicine.  Every major western government has some form of nationalized healthcare.  If you need to go to the doctor, you just go.  Cost is not a consideration.  I always thought that this should be a norm in this country as well (United States).  After having made it half way through my tumor therapy, I am not so sure.  The awful truth is, rich / powerful people get treated first and are treated better than those that 'expect' to be taken care of by the state. 

No national health care system is going to send a doctor to your door to remind you of how you should live, what you should eat, or test your mental state.  The individual has to be responsible for their own health.  If the individual wants to slowly kill themselves with their lifestyle, that should not be a burden on the system that the rest of us rely on.  The national healthcare system should be focused on the individual's understanding of the consequences of their lifestyle and not the expectation of 'free' healthcare after a lifetime of denial and the false ideal that they will live forever. 

"No One Gets Out Of Here Alive"

This is true, although we seldom give it much credence.  It isn't an open ended journey, there is an end to it.  There is a curse that no one should ever be blessed with, which is the date an hour of their own death.  If we knew this we would be fixated on it.  Whether from a sudden accident or a long term illness.  We live as though this date never exists, yet it is the most important and certain date of our lives.  We all need to focus on that date and what we need to do before it arrives.  All those routines won't kill you, but they will waste your time and shorten your life.   

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Chemotherapy - It Ain’t What You Think - Part 2

Here we are in the third week of chemotherapy, so I have a better understanding of how they plan on treating my condition.  First of all, there is a disclaimer.  No two cancers are the same.  They have different types, different locations, and different treatments.  I will be discussing the treatment that I am going through and how it is being treated.  This may not apply to other cancers that different people can be aflicted with.  It will give the reader an idea of what I am going through; however, the timeline and results may vary in the future.  Time will tell. Above all, there is no way to rush the results.

I have a lymphoma cancer at the top of my spinal column behind my right eye.  This growth put pressure on my spinal column that affected the nerves on the right side of my body from my eyes and ears down the side of my face and eventually affecting my right arm and leg.  

This type of tumor originates in a body's lymph nodes, of which there are several.  So the first thing that the medical staff had to do was determine if cancer had spread or originated in any other locations in my body.  It had not.  The cancerous cells were found only in my lower brain.  However, it took almost three days of testing to confirm this.  The testing was not pleasent.  Along with the complete cancer screening, they did a biopsy of the tumor itself.  

The biopsy consisted of putting me under in the operating room and drilling into my skull to remove a small piece of the tumor for analysis.  This surgery is required to determine the composition and makeup  of the cancerous tumor so they can find the most appropriate cancer treatment. 

There are only three types of cancer treatment - surgical removal of the tumor (not an option based on the location), radiation therapy (invasive with side effects), and chemical chemotherapy.  My lymphoma is best treated with chemical chemotherapy since the other two are not considered successful options for this type of cancer.

Once a patient has heard all the latin-laced jargon that doctors like to use when referring to cancer treatment, I learned that the treatment plan is to dissolve the tumor with specially formulated pharmaceuticals targeted for it.  Once dissolved, the pulverized elements of the tumor are flushed out of my body in my urine.  Mind you, this takes a long time, both to dissolve it and to be flushed out.  Your kidneys only work so fast. It also means that you urinate a lot.  A lot, as in every 45 minutes for weeks.  Kidney monitoring and PH status are a big part of this treatment, which is why it requires a lot of inpatient hospital stays and urine collection. 

I have watched all 18 seasons of E.R., and while they often mention Lasix for patients, they seldom say that this will make the patient go to the bathroom every 30 minutes.   This fact would not make for riveting television drama. 

The continuing passing of bodily fluids makes for a routine where the patient can get by on 45 minutes of sleep a night while providing urine samples every hour.  The whole process has coined the phrase “bladder alarm clock” because it is so regular, 

This continues for weeks, involving three different kinds of chemotherapy drugs that are on-again, resting, on-again and resting for four 14 day cycles  The whole process lasts about three to six months, at which time they perform another diagnostic test to see if the tumor has shrunk. Depending on the outcome of the second diagnostic MRI scan, they tweak the routine and start again, hopefully doing less and fewer treatments.

There is no set treatment schedule or targeted completion times; every diagnostuc outcome can vary and is adjusted based on measurable progress and numbers.  This why the doctors will not give a definite answer, they simply don't know.  It will be near the end of the year before they know if I have beaten this.  

The good news is that this type of cancer is "usually" curable and I will hopefully be over it and back to my old self sometime near the middle of the year.  So I am in a holding pattern, learning patenence and paying attention to my new alarm clock.

In the next blog, I will cover all the “silver linings” that I have become aware of as a result of all this mayhem, you might be surprised, there are quite a few. 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Are We Not Men?

I have concerns about the system.  The American System.  The system I am speaking of contains the various facets of our psyche that become culture, civilization and bonding which make up a progressive group of individuals.  Here in the United States we have been such a group of individuals in fits and starts for over 200 years.  

In the beginning, there was the thought of finding a 'better way' of governance based on lessons learned from the ancients. It was a good system for its day, with malleability built in to modify its codes and laws as time passed.  Pretty unheard of thinking in the 1700s.  

However, back in the day, not everyone was considered equal.  It was mostly a white guys club.  We never addressed that failing in the human experience and it has festered for the past 200 years.  Like I stated, we move forward in fits and starts, with a few wars thrown in for good measure.  

But we are still here, and we are still kicking.....but e-gad, we don't learn very quickly. 

My concern is that there is a breakdown in the ability of a significant amount of the population to reason through logic, but instead define their concepts of right and wrong based on unfounded beliefs.   They simply believe in what they want to believe.  The concepts of data, history and science are irrelevant.  

There was a 1970s rock band that coined a term for this; "DEVO" (de-evolution).  Great band by the way, they really stand up against the test of time.  

So why are we DEVO?

I have often theorized that if you really wanted to win the 'game' and didn't give a damn about the 'rules' you would find a way to cheat.  You want a conspiracy theory?  Here is one: A subversive state back in the 1950s found a way to put undetectable amounts of chemicals in our water supply that over DECADES make the populace more simplistic and stupid.  In the end (the long game) that would be a pretty easy enemy to knock off.  

This type of behavior spiders out in many forms, regarding education, politics, economics, foreign affairs, medicine.....pretty much your whole life.  If there is no universal truth or law for these forms within a society, there will be decay.  It isn't what a large section of the populace is doing / or not doing.  It is how they are doing it, through denial, anger and spite. 

I have often requested that my acquaintances who have conservative views to explain to me the 'better' plan that their leaders want to implement if given the opportunity to govern.  Without fail, these are the responses that I receive. 


Clearly, I don't see a plan for solving any issues here.  I see an attitude of defiance as though hoards are descending on their homes and they see themselves as John Wayne at the Alamo.  

This attitude / tactic as been seen numerous times throughout history, usually with disastrous results.   So maybe it cyclical, every 200 years we sort of go off our rockers for a generation?  

Maybe it is those chemical trails and cloud seeding?  ............. maybe just the culling of the herd. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Media Review: Wandering the Media Library

Edna Ferber's "Show Boat" [TCM]

Not to be confused with the remake staring Ava Gardner, this is the original based on the book by Edna Ferber.  A simplistic tale of love and redemption set inside a traveling song and dance show on a Mississippi river boat.  What is most striking is the music, more tunes than that remake, and the portrayal of the antebellum south.  By todays standards this is a very racist film and pretty politically incorrect.  The happy negros that toil for the white folks is pretty hard to watch.  The standouts are Paul Robson and Hattie McDaniel.  Paul being the only cast member to reprise his role in the remake. 

"I Walked 
With A Zombie" [TCM]

I wanted to see this film for two reasons.  The film was directed by Jacques Tourneur and the film was produced by Val Lewton.  Mr. Lewton was known for this bizarre and understated thrillers in the 1940s.  Think 'Twilight Zone' before Rod Serling.  Mr. Tourneur was the cinematographer on one of my all time favorites, "Out of the Past'.  So this should have been a good film.  It was really just odd.  Beautifully shot, but with little plot and it seemed to go nowhere.  Worth the watch just to see the creepy scenery and visuals. 

Passage to Marseille [TCM]

This was an eye-opener.  This is a propaganda film shot during WWII.  It is almost a sequel to the film 'Casablanca', with much of the same cast members.  Apparently, the idea in the mid 40s was to show sympathy and empathy for those nations that had been ravaged by the Axis powers.  In this case, as in Casablanca', it is the French and their struggle against the Nazis.   A fun film to watch but overly sappy on the political message. 

Crusades [VHS]

This is a four tape VHS set that I have been making my way through.  At first, it is a bit tongue and cheek showing how the Christians of central Europe really botched the idea of liberating the Holy Land and all the terrible blunders that they made.  However, in the latter part of the series, it shows the dynamics of how the Muslim and Christian world settled on each other and came to respect the status quo.  It is a must watch for anyone that has in interest in Middle East politics and history.  I learned quite a few things about Muslim history and reasons for the schism with the west. 

The Boondock Saints [BluRay]

Wow, this was interesting.  I really can't recommend this film from an entertainment standpoint, but as educational offering , it has some merit.  I had heard of this film before and know that it has a slight cult following (as can be attested to by the numerous sequels that have gone straight to video).  A VERY violent film with lots of gunfire.  However, it is beautifully shot, almost as though it was a ballet.  The storyline is interesting, with William DeFoe's gay detective deconstructing crime scenes after the fact and then the actual crime is seen in real time.  It is a fascinating juxta positioning of story line and style.  Interesting to watch, but always ending in a bloodbath.  Interesting premise, but the film falls flat at the end with no real conclusion. 

Viva Zapata! [Laserdisc]

Another interesting find.  The credits for this read like a whos who of Hollywood in the 1960s.  Elia Kazan directs, John Steinbeck writes it, Alex North does the music and Marlan Brando stars.  Unfortunately what you get is something akin to 'On The Waterfront' with sombreros.  Brando as an Hispanic is a stretch and the story is slow to get moving.  The ending, while predictable, draws you in because of the examples of political corruption and how it affects even the most dedicated freedom fighter.  

Monday, April 19, 2021

Meanwhile, In The Media Room...

Media Review: 


The pandemic and the rearranging of my media room has brought forth a large segment of my media out of the dusty shadows and into the viewing room. Here is a summary of my viewing habits (outside of Hulu and Netflix) over the winters pandemic. 


Hell Freezes Over (The Eagle Live) [Laserdisc] This is a great documentary that includes extensive interviews with the band members and many of their well-known songs. Professional musicians and the music is very good. Done before a captive live audience, it was pretty satisfying if this was the soundtrack to your youth in the 1970s.

Richard Thompson (Across a Crowded Room) [Laserdisc] I had never heard of this artist until I popped the Laserdisc in the player. This is one of the Pioneer music discs that were created to promote the format. He is very good. What I came away with was a small live performance that straddles the line between ‘Little Feat’ and ‘Stevie Ray Vaughn’. It was much better than I thought it would be. 

Rickie Lee Jones Live at the Wiltern Theatre [Laserdisc] If you don’t know Ricki, she was popular back in the 70s and 80s. She comes off as more of a younger ingĂ©nue Joni Mitchell. She is cute and talented, with a blues-y type of laid back style that suits the intimate venue in which it was filmed.

Thelma and Louise [Laserdisc] Watched this because Sue and had never seen it. It had been a long time since I last saw it and this viewing was pretty sweet, since the Laserdisc has AC3 surround sound and the music was much better than I recalled. A classic film with a very young Brad Pitt. 


The Crusades [VHS] This is a thrift store find that is a series of four videotapes. A documentary about the Christian Crusades as told by Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame). It is tongue and cheek with interesting special effects and story lines. Overall though, it shows the lunacy of governments and movements that are based on religion. If you use a deity as authority, then you can’t be held accountable for your atrocities. 

Band of Brothers [VHS] I have several copies of this, one on DVD and this one on VHS. If you haven’t seen it before, this is possibly the best dramatic reconstruction of the Great War in Europe ever put on film. There are many fine points that are easily missed during the first viewing, so it is worth a second look, its that good. The series touches on many important life lessons, not just from combat, but also from the interactions of various people with various personalities under stressful situations. 


The Magnificent Ambersons [Turner Classic Movies] If you study film, you understand how important Orson Wells “Citizen Kane’ was to the world of cinema. This is Wells' second film after Citizen Kane which I had never seen it. The film was done with most of the same cast as Citizen Kane.  However, I found the film disappointing. It has the same tone and camera work as Kane, but the story line is muddled and makes little sense. The acting also appears a bit stiff. It has Wells handwriting all over it, but I was more confused at the end than in the beginning. 

Chaplin Serials [VHS] Everything in media sprang from Silent Cinema. You want to see the earliest Tik-Tok? Just watch Charlie Chaplin. This is really dated material, produced by Mack Sennett, with the first appearance of the Keystone Cops. It is simplistic and while supposedly comedies, there are also a lot of social issues thrown in that were prominent at the time. 


Carnival of Souls [Turner Classic Movies] A low budget horror film that is more fun to watch because of the scenery and cinematography. Shot in and around Salt Lake City and the Seattle area, it is filmed in black & white and is haunting because of the odd camera work and the creepy organ music soundtrack.   Low budget film making at its best.