35 ROCKS

One of the ways I marked progress in my cancer treatments involved 35 rocks. At the beginning, the rocks wereimg_20161030_102447284 in a Mason jar. Each day I had a treatment, I moved one of the rocks to a small sweetgrass basket. You may notice how colorful these rocks are. They are mostly quartz, minerals, and semi-precious gem stones from the Bon Ami mines in North Carolina. Those mines were originally used to collect feldspar, the main ingredient in Bon Ami cleaning products. Other rocks and gems were dumped aside as by-product. Now, you can go to the “Emerald Mines” there and buy buckets of dirt mixed with the stones, and mine your own stone and gems.

I’m sure there is a great insight in the Bon Ami story. Feldspar was previously considered worthless. In fact, originally cleaning companies mines the quartz as an abrasive, having to separate it from the worthless feldspar. When Bon Ami discovered that feldspar worked as an abrasive that wouldn’t scratch surfaces, suddenly the worthless byproduct became the target of the mining process. They tossed aside rubies, garnets, and emeralds to collect the dust that would make their company famous. Peggy and I love this place, and have come home with lots of beautiful gems.

I decided to use the stones to count my treatments.  Each day I would pick a stone based on size and smoothness to represent that day’s treatment. It was a great moment when I put the last rock in the basket! But, there is something a bit misleading about using this as a method of marking the progress in my treatments. It has now been over a week since my last treatment, but the side effects seem as strong as ever. I was warned that I wouldn’t begin to feel any better for at least two weeks, and even then it would be a slow process of weeks.

Of course, like most people I figured I would be the exception and would start feeling better right away. Now, I don’t have any way of counting progress. I even thought of putting the rocks back in the jar one at a time until the basket is empty – in hopes I will have recovered by then.

This is a good example of the Stockdale Paradox I mentioned in a previous post. I’ve got to embrace the brutal reality that my body went through seven weeks of brutal assault, and it isn’t going to heal overnight. This means forcing myself to take it easy and not over-exert myself. That is really hard for me to do!


 

BANG A GONG!

OK, it wasn’t a gong – that would have been cool. It is a small bell with the inscription:

       Ring the bell three times well, its toll to clearly say,

      My treatment’s done, this course is run, and I am on my way!

 

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They let you ring the bell after your final radiation treatment. The staff who have walked with me through 35 treatments gathered around and cheered me on. It was s special moment for Peggy and me. We took pictures and videos and exchanged hugs with these special people.

Physically, I haven’t felt any different today. After all, to my body it is just another day of being attacked by the death ray. And by those standards this has been a very hard day. But, in a couple of days, my body will realize that things are different. The attack has ended.

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Here is the radiation machine, that’s me on the left.

 

Psychologically, it is a very different day.  I can shift from dealing with side effects to healing up. I look forward to the terrible sore throat going away. I look forward to the end of weeks of nausea. I can look forward to eating actual food as I begin to regain my ability to taste. I look forward to all of this helping me regain my strength and stamina. I look forward to public speaking in front of people again. I look forward to working in the yard. And, of course, I look forward to getting out in my boat and fishing again.

What about the long run? Well, this is the hard part. They won’t do a PET scan until some of this healing has taken place. They can’t get an accurate reading if there is still inflammation and healing going on. So it will be somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks before that happens. Only then will they have an idea if the tumor is gone. Even then, I will keep going back for scans for a few years before they will talk about being “cancer free”.

But for now, I can look forward to sleeping in late tomorrow morning. No appointments, no procedures, no poking, no prodding, no infusing, no radiating. I feel good about that!


 

 

SLEEPY TIME

Here’s a quick update on where I am with my treatments. Last week I began having a lot of nausea. The doctor changed me to a different nausea medicine. This one works a lot better. The problem is – it makes me sleepy. I don’t mean a tiny bit drowsy. I mean I can wake up in the morning after being in bed for nine hours, walk downstairs, sit down, and fall right back to sleep for a couple of hours. I’ll take a nap after lunch time, get up for a few minutes, then go take another nap. The next thing I know, it is dinner time.

So I guess I can say, I’m at least well rested! Instead of trying to fight it, I have just been giving in to it. I only have two more days of treatments. Hopefully, the nausea will slowly start to go away after that. They tell me to expect the side effects to linger for a while. But it is nice to know that the worst will be over on Thursday.

I have been able to squeeze in a little work here and there. We are preparing for our annual gathering of the PBA on Monday and Tuesday of next week. I have mostly been busy with things related to the meeting. Since my voice is still very iffy, I recorded a message to be shown on Tuesday night of the meeting. It isn’t the same as speaking in person, but it will have to do for now.

Oh well, almost time for my next nap.