Swallowing a Live Frog

It is claimed that Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.

Actually, the statement evolved from a quotation written by a  French writer named Nicolas Chamfort who said:

“M. de Lassay, a very indulgent man, but with a great knowledge of society, said that we should swallow a toad every morning, in order to fortify ourselves against the disgust of the rest of the day, when we have to spend it in society.”

My “live frog” from Monday to Friday at 8 AM is my time in the “tanning bed” over at Riverside Radiation. It only lasts about 15 minutes, but it is still an unpleasant start to the day. The good news is that on most days it is the most unpleasant thing I will have to do. Plus, there is the satisfaction of knowing that the little green laser-looking light is killing the beast one cell at a time.

The machine rotates around the table, hitting the tumor from 9 different angles. When it is straight in front of my face I can see a distorted image of the mask over my face in the reflection of the glass surface of the machine. It looks like something out of a cheap science fiction movie. The machine begins to buzz, and these little green lights hit my throat making a pattern that is hitting specific spots on the tumor. I like to watch, knowing that the beast is slowly being tortured to death. The radiation renders each cell unable to reproduce itself. Eventually, the whole thing will be sterile. The old cells will die out and none will replace them. That’s the idea anyway. I sure hope it works!

The uncomfortable part is the mask that squeezes my head down to the table making it impossible to move – or to scratch my nose. Why is it that whenever you make it impossible to scratch a part of your body, it automatically begins to itch? I really don’t feel anything from the treatment other than slightly warmer skin on my neck. Over the weeks this will probably become red and sensitive. And, they say I will end up with a sunburn in my throat. So this unique tanning bed tans from the inside out!

The swallow-a-live-frog quote has been used as a motivational tool encouraging people to get their most unpleasant task out of the way first, and the rest of the day will go smoothly. Apparently, Brian Tracy has written a whole book based on this idea. I didn’t get to choose my frog, but I am sure glad I get it over with first thing in the morning. So, what’s you “frog”? What do you need to accomplish first thing tomorrow morning in order to make the rest of the day go well? Is it devotional time? Exercise? An unpleasant conversation? As hard as it is, getting it over first is the best strategy.









So I had my first round of the two chemo meds Wednesday and Thursday. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first one didn’t seem to have a lot of side effects (of course, they also gave me stuff to counteract side effects). The second one was a bit different. The first day was O.K., I even piddled around in the garden for a while. It was probably the steroids. About mid-day Friday I started feeling nausea so I took the nausea medicine they gave me. It seemed to work, but it gave me a headache. The rest of the day I just felt like I had “medicine head”. I could definitely feel the drugs in my system. I just kept telling myself that the drugs were affecting the Beast (tumor) much worse than they were affecting me. Die Beast!

Saturday was pretty much the same. I must have taken 6 naps on Friday and Saturday – which meant I tossed and turned all night. By late afternoon I was going stir-crazy so I suggested we go walk around a store. We did, and I felt wiped out

Sunday was much better. I had my appetite and some energy back. We went to church. We have such a great church family who love and care about us. I am so not used to receiving ministry at church. I’m used to being on the other end of that action. We went on a ride down the Colonial Parkway and walked around Williamsburg with beautiful weather. I enjoyed every minute of it. We came home and I made Thai Curry for dinner. It was yummy.

The only reason I’m documenting a lot of boring details is in the odd chance that someone else facing this will know what to expect through the process. I fully anticipate things getting much worse before they get better. I know it is cliché, but I am appreciating little stuff a lot more than usual.

Charles Cheek, who is navigating me through this process, keeps advising, “Keep moving!” That’s what I plan to do. Today is Labor Day. We are heading to a family gathering in a little while.



So, I began chemo (poisoning) yesterday, and radiation (burning) today. I have been anticipating this for a month. I am happy to finally start killing this little beast in my neck. The first day of chemo involved saline, steroids, Benadryl, zantax, an anti-nausea medicine, and the first of the two chemo meds. Today, lots of fluids, saline, more steroids, and the other chemo med. This lasts about 3 hours in a comfortable lazy boy type chair. I can work, eat, etc. Chemo is Wednesday and Thursday.

Traci and Olivia, the nurses who help with this are hilarious! Everybody at Virginia Oncology Associates are awesome.

The radiation only takes about 20 minutes. I go to Riverside for this since the Sentara radiation people don’t take my insurance. The only bad things about radiation is the mask. The mask is a plastic mesh that starts like a soft cloth that they mash down on your face. It hardens in that shape. They then clamp it down to the table. It is very tight. You can’t move. It keeps you in the same place for every treatment. They have music on during the procedure, nice touch! Although it was kind of ironic this morning that David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” came on the radio right after they clamped me to the table.

They make marks on the mask to aim the radiation. The treatment comes from a machine that can rotate around the table. You don’t feel anything. It’s like getting an x-ray. It will be a daily routine Monday thru Friday. Fortunately, I go in at 8 AM, so on the days I don’t have chemo, I’ve got the rest of the day free. As they shot the rays into my neck I kept saying to myself “Die beast die!” (“The beast” is my pet name for the tumor in my neck. This week it starts to die a slow death.)

This will be my routine for the next 7 weeks. I feel great now. Did I mention the steroids! Unfortunately, they only give them on the first couple of days. I know I will begin feeling progressively worse as the effects of both treatments begin to take effect. But, so good so far.