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Two Cops

          It's now Wednesday, 1-30-02, and yesterday I got my second chemo treatment which, as you may recall, is composed of:
                          C
yclophosphamide (Cytoxan), Oncovin and Prednisone.

          This morning, I woke up about 7:45am and the first thing I did was get sick.  Paulette (my step-mom) had put a bucket for me to use near the bed just in case, so there was no mess to clean up.  All in all, it wasn't really all that bad.  I mean, I thought it was going to be like this: sweating-all-over, green-face,  reach-down-into-your-toes, spew-it-all-out, and don't stop till the rest of Earth has at least TRIED to pass through the digestive tract backwards!!!  Sort of like after drinking 20 too many tequilas the night before, then trying to get up for work the next morning.  (one of the main reasons I don't drink anymore...)

          It wasn't like that at all.  Instead, it was more like, "Oops... I think that soda was bad.  Yuck!  Can I have another?"  Then I ate a bagel with raisins and cinnamon in it and washed it down with coffee, like usual.

          Now, I'm new at this, so I don't know what's next.  I could be using the first description by the end of the day, first thing tomorrow or by the end of the week.  But so far, this is easily manageable.  Of course, even using the second description, if I do it all day or after every time I take a bite, it's gonna be pretty inconvenient, to say the least.

          LOL!  Bet you didn't think I'd be describing my vomit to you, eh?    Ha!  Get used to it!  On THIS cancer journal site, we're gonna explore the beast from this patient's perspective in detail.  Everyone always wants to know what it's like, especially those that are newly diagnosed and care-givers, and I can't think of any reason it should be a secret.

          A little after 9:AM, I started to feel a little nauseated again, so I finally opened up the bottle of Torecan for the first time and took one.  10 minutes later, I had the hiccups for the first time in years.  They only lasted about 10 or 15 minutes though.  Two hours went by though, and the bagel's still down and I feel ok.

          Ok, back to yesterday.  With my leg in so much pain from the Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clot), this was the first time I couldn't even hobble or limp down the steps and out to the car, let alone just plain walk.  Instead, I took a somewhat more circuitous route.  

          After talking to Candy about it, I'd decided to go out the back door because the house is on a property that's just slightly more elevated in the back than in the front (or the house is tilted - one of the two....).  Because of that, there are a couple less steps to go down that way.  I wheeled my chair to the kitchen steps that lead to the basement and the back door, and set the brakes to keep from having an Evil Knieval stunt.  Next, I used my good leg to step out of the chair, crouched and somewhat ungracefully let my posterior plop to the floor.  Then I scooted down the stairs on my rump, one stair at a time. (I learned how to do that when I was about 2, I think... and it's just like riding a bike - you never forget!  ).  

          When I got to the bottom landing, I made the turn and headed down a couple more steps toward the basement to open  up a clear path from kitchen to back door and finally stopped.  I called out behind me, "OK, you can get the chair down now."  No answer.  "Hello?"  Still no answer.  Hmmm... She must have decided to go out the front door with it instead and come around.  Hmmm...  It sure is taking a long time...  I hope everything's ok...  About the time I'm envisioning my mom tangled up in the wheelchair on the sidewalk at the bottom of the front porch steps after a terrifying fall straight out of a Hitchcock movie, I hear her wheeling it up the driveway.

          I set the brakes and instruct her to hold down the back of the chair while I crawl/clamber/climb my way up into it, and it all works out pretty good.  The whole thing sure would have been a good one to submit to America's Funniest Home Cancer Videos though!  Ahhh... there's never a camcorder around when you need it! 

          While I wheeled around to the front of the house and the car, she locked up the house.  While she's locking up the house, I get stuck in the lawn.  Sheesh... this thing needs wider tires, like the ones in my souped up wheelchair pics!  LOL!!  Oh yeah!  We're off to a good start!  Mom helps me get unstuck and to the car, and I hop my heiny over from the chair to the front seat, buckle up and settle back for a much needed rest.  Since there're plenty of wheelchairs at the Cancer Care Center, mom wheels my chair to the back yard to store it for when we get back, and we're off to Ann Arbor.  We pull up at McAuley and the lady that works the front desk pulls a chair right up to my door, I transfer into it via my one good leg and wheel on in while mom parks the car.  I gotta tell ya... Valet service is GREAT!

          Just like always, the medical visit to the McAuley Cancer Care Center started off with a blood draw, which is no big deal at all anymore, and it went great.  

          I presented my red and orange cards to the cheerful, smiling young lady working the blood draw desk, and we had a nice chat about the weather.  She said she hoped it would snow so she could go skiing with her boyfriend.  All of a sudden she looked very uncomfortable.  Then it hit me: I'm in a wheelchair and she'd embarrassed herself.  I got her out of it as fast as I could, telling her I'd been water skiing plenty of times, but hadn't tried snow skiing yet.  Maybe when the blood clot in this leg clears up... yak, yak, yak...  By the time she'd finished with my paperwork she was smiling again, ready for the next patient.

          Mom and I had to wait a few minutes for my turn, as several other people were there ahead of us.  They were very somber looking, sitting there quietly waiting their turns and staring at their shoes or some water color painting on the opposite wall, while the nurses went about their business of sticking in needles and sucking out blood.  Mom and I  passed the time chatting and yukking it up a little.  I'm not quiet, and we're both a bit deaf.  She commented on my beard, saying I should have had Candy trim it while she was down this past weekend, but I told her I'm on a roll now so I'm just gonna keep letting it grow wild for as long as I can to see what it looks like.  "Besides", I joked, "the chemo will probably take it out soon anyway!"

          I explained that my beard is so scraggly looking I'd never feel comfortable doing this while I was working, attending business meetings and dealing with customers and clients and such.  I joked with her that I'm going for that "Uni-Bomber" look (inspired by one of my forum pals that saw the pic Casey took of me - mom said that's a terrible pic of me - LOL!!).  I just have to laugh at the very thought of it!  It always cheers me up.  She thought that the term "Uni-Bomber" was too scary, so we settled for calling it the "Hermit" look.  Hehehe... I was delighted to hear a few concealed snickers from the other patients and nurses.

          After one older lady finished up her blood draw, she headed toward the door, but stopped near me and said, "You don't look like the Uni-Bomber!"  She was smiling and it always makes me feel good to make the other people at McAuley smile.  The others in the room openly chuckled at the dialogue and now they were all smiling.  Great!  Yep, it's true what they say.  Smiles are infectious and they're good for all of us.  What can I say?  I'm an instigator, and proud of it!

Here...  Have one... They're free!  

          Next stop was my Oncologist's office for the exam.  I rolled on in and up to the admissions counter, peered over it from my sitting position, and she looked up and said, "Hello, Mr. Cash!"  I couldn't resist: "Wow!  Cool!  Recognition!  I feel like a big shot now!" and we all had another laugh.  You'd never know my leg hurt like hell the whole time.  And I've noticed that whenever I'm laughing, I tend to momentarily forget it myself.  It's good medicine.

          A couple minutes later I was escorted into the exam area, where I got weighed (lost 1 pound since last visit), temperature from my ear (normal) then on to the exam room itself.  I re-arranged the furniture in it a little to accommodate the wheelchair, and a minute or two later the doc came in.

          First order of business: The Clot and The PAIN!  

          He examined my leg, asked lots of questions about it all, I volunteered even more, and he said he was a little worried about it.  By now, the clot should have begun to dissolve, allowing some blood flow, and I should have no pain left.  Since that's not the case, it's time to find out why.  First plan to do that: He scheduled me for a CAT Scan on Friday, 2-8-02 of my abdomen down to my upper leg to see if there's something else in there blocking the blood flow from getting to the clot to dissolve it.  I'm sure he'll also be looking at any lymph nodes or other abnormalities in the region while he has the chance.

          Meanwhile, to control the pain, we went up to the next level of pain relief in his arsenal: Morphine.  The only time I've had morphine to date was in the Knoxville hospital when they thought I was having a heart attack.  They shot it in through my IV and it hit me like a ton of sponge bricks.  It was scary to me because it happened so fast - like, instantly.  This time, it's a pill called, "Morphine Sulfate ER" and they're 30mgs each.  I have to take them every 12 hours like clockwork and the doc said they won't actually show any effect for about 18 hours, so it won't be a big slam the way the shot was.  That's good!

          Next was the regular Lymphoma exam.  First, he felt for the nodes under my jaw back near my ears, then under my arm pits, just like he always does.  Each time, so far, they had felt reduced in size.  This time, he announced that he didn't feel any.  I lit up at the news!  Great!  He said he thought we should continue the chemo treatments anyway, and I agreed.  He wrote up the special orders for it, as well as the 'script for the Morphine, and I was on my way.

          At the chemo treatment area admissions window, I gave the lady my orders and she smiled and welcomed me and started to say, "Have a seat."  But the "seat" part dropped off along with her smile as she noticed I was in a wheelchair.  I laughed and said, "Thanks!  I'm already having one!"  LOL!  Those poor ladies... They must get some really touchy people.

          I wheeled around the waiting area, greeting somber faces with a smile and a hearty, "Hello!" while I went from table to table looking for something interesting to read.  (Yes Candy, I meant to take the Social Security paperwork with me to familiarize myself with it, but I just, plain, doggone forgot it on the dining room table.  Oops... Bad me!  Mom re-scheduled the phone interview to 2-25-02 though, so I've still got time).  I finally settled on a Reader's Digest, parked near a wall to get out of the way and flipped through it, looking for good jokes.

          Two cannibals are eating a clown.  One turns to the other and says, "Does this taste funny to you?" 

          There was quite a crowd there yesterday; More than I'd seen there at one time before.  Still, I didn't have to wait very long before a nurse came by to say she was ready for me.  She said they'd run out of easy chairs in the lounge and even beds, but since I was in the chair, and if I didn't mind, she could set me up in the conference room.  "My own private room?!  Absolutely!  Lead the way!  I feel like a big shot now!"  Hehehe...

          Mom and I went to the conference room with the nurse and settled in while she went to get the IV equipment, drugs, chemicals and associated paraphernalia.  She was back in just a couple of minutes and set me all up.  First she got the IV going with a bag of Sodium (Chloride? - Having trouble recalling right now).  Then I got the little, pentagon-shaped pills that keep the nausea down.  Next, she got the bag of Cytoxan going, and then slowly injected the Oncovin into the port on the IV tube.  I'll take the Prednisone at home for the next 5 days.

          A woman came in wearing a St. Joseph's ID and asked if she could use the copy machine.  I told her it was OK, with me - I'm just a patient.  Mom said, "No, he's not JUST a patient."  (I'm special to mom - hehehe!)  Thinking about my appearance: scraggly beard, t-shirt with a few minor coffee stains, joggers and slippers, I jumped right in and said, "Yeah!  I'm not just a patient.  I'm here in disguise!  I own this place!  Yeah, that's it!  In fact, I own the whole county!  Yeah!  And I'm thinking of buying the next county over!"  More laughter from all as she made her copies.  Hey, I gotta amuse myself somehow, right? 

          Mom thought it would be a good idea to get my schedule into my Palm Pilot then, and that's what I usually do while sitting in treatment after seeing the doctor.  There were a few to enter: Another blood draw on Tuesday, 2-5-02, the CAT Scan on Friday, 2-8-02 and my third chemo appointment on Tuesday, 2-19-02.  I couldn't enter it though because this time my right arm, instead of my left, was strapped down to a board from just below the elbow to almost the ends of my fingers to keep me from moving the area where the IV is doing it's thing.

          So I told mom she might as well start learning how to work a Palm Pilot, and guided her through the basics of turning it on, using the stylus, getting to the main menu and then to the different programs.  I had her open up my date book and showed her how to access the monthly view to choose a particular date and time for new entry.  Then I showed her how to access the virtual keyboard to type in the appointments.  She said it was a lot of fun, and I smiled and told her, "Wait... it gets even better... "

          When she'd finished getting the appointments in, I showed her the Graffiti program that teaches you how to write directly into the Palm and she went though the steps to learn that.  Then I got her going on the fun little game, Giraffe, which is designed to help you improve those writing skills so that you can eventually take notes about as fast in the Palm as you can on paper.  She got a score of 95 on her first try, and I told her that was pretty good for the first time she ever picked one up and played with it.  I told her if she was really good, I'd let her play video poker on it.  LOL!!    We had a lot of fun, and by the time she was done she said she wanted one of her own.

           About an hour after the IV was started, the nurse came in, unplugged me from the finished drip and we gathered up our things for the trip home.  It was turning out to be a pretty good day so far, full of smiles and laughter and good news concerning my lymph nodes, as well as the promise of much needed pain control in my blood clotted leg with the Morphine I was about to start taking.

          As we neared the house, mom stopped off at the local pharmacy to drop off the prescription for the Morphine.  They said they had it in stock and it'd be ready in about a half hour.  We went back to the house and I retraced my roundabout adventure through the back door, steps and kitchen to get in.  We told Paulette all about the day's adventures and mom went back to the pharmacy to get the prescription.

          You didn't REALLY think it was gonna be that easy, did you?  Neither did I.  While she was gone, the drug store called looking for her and said there was a problem.  We told them she should be about there by now, and they said they'd just let her know when she got there.  Hmmm... What THIS time?!  I speculated that the insurance doesn't cover Morphine or I've been cancelled again, and we waited for mom to return to see what was up.

          When she got back she told us that they thought they had it in stock, but it was the wrong flavor.  My doc wants me on a long-lasting Morphine drug that they didn't have.  Oh well, I was glad to be wrong about the insurance thing.  Mom called about 4 other local drug stores to see which one had it, and kept getting the runaround.  They all said they couldn't tell her if they have it in stock unless she shows them the prescription!  We speculated that it's because it's a narcotic and they're afraid confirmation to a stranger on the phone will allow a gun-toting drug addict to know which store to rob.

          We still thought it was stupid,  especially after mom explained the situation each time and still got shot down.  Mom was getting pretty frustrated, and I told her to do what Candy and I do: Ask for a manager and burn his ear a little.  She did exactly that on the next phone call, explaining that, "My son has cancer, he's in a lot of pain, his doctor prescribed this Morphine, I've already made a trip to a drug store that didn't have it, called several drug stores that wouldn't tell me if they have it without seeing the prescription, and I can't drive all over the county from drug store to drug store trying to find this stuff.  I NEED to know if you have it so I can come get it!"

          It sounded like she got her point across and he didn't fight it at all.  He checked, said he had it, she confirmed the address, and was on her way.  She's learning.    Pretty soon she'll be just like me and Candy!

          It's now been 15 hours since I took my first Morphine, and the pain in my leg is nearly gone.  This just keeps gettin' better all the time!

          Next: Meow !
                                                            Buck