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This Is This and That Is That


Thread's subject heading is an all time favorite movie line from the film The Deer Hunter. "This is this and that is that." Our hero is back, on leave maybe, from Nam where he was captured, tortured by the NVA, forced to play Russian roulette with other American prisoners. Out hunting with friends he returns to their cabin somewhere in the PA mts to find one civi friend wanting to play Russian roulette with a revolver. Going a little berserk, he asks in a thick northeast accent, "whataya doin?' He picks up the gun, points it at his friend, pulls the trigger. Maybe he points it at another friend and pulls the trigger. Then he points it at his own head and once again pulls the trigger. Civi friends are horrified and speechless. Our hero says something like, 'This is this and that is that, okay?'

A friend of the board has suggested I have a story worth telling. I've shared with her some of the story's particulars. At least twice I got her to laugh. She thinks it's a real field note and worth telling in real time, maybe the way I went after my Waffle House thread, while the story is a progressing thing. Some members of the board may have noticed my relative quiesence for the last 2 months or so. I've checked in frequently, daily when possible, but I have contributed little, participated less. Three members of the board know why. Kat and Chris had to be told, since, I've had to burden them with paying extra attention to what goes down here. But I've not wanted to burden all of the board with something as stupid and uncomfortable for many as cancer. I've been persuaded that the story telling value, and on many points, makes the field note worth the record.

One note please. I am a poet first, a story teller second, a worker paying his way on an hourly wage third. Cancer does not define me. So let me tell a story in the way I know best, in the capacity of a detached observer addicted to the short hairs of experience. In this Caravaggio is my guiding saint. He whose holy women and sainted men, in real life, were whores, pick pockets, thieves, and throw in a murderer or two.

The story proper starts the second week of December, last year. But first the back story.

I knew something was up with this old body 3, maybe 4 years ago. Sharp pains could accompany passing water, water mixed in with blood. The bouts were intermittent. I could go a couple of weeks between such moments. Good thing I work mostly in bee yards and can almost always find a tree when the need to pee became frequent. I don't expect anyone to understand this. I hate doctors, a position I've since come to reconsider. And stepping into a doctor's office or medical clinic has always pushed up my blood pressure. One sweet young thing, a kind of nurse I've become much familiar with lately, laughed and said: Oh, you suffer from the white coat syndrome. True enough. Something else I don't expect anyone to understand. After a while I formed a game out of the painful bouts. The idea of which I might consider selling to reality television or to a day time game show. Game was simple. It came down to a matter of curiousity about my pain threshold. Not that I recommend the game. Funny stuff men are made of in a stupid ass way. Always looking to prove something, if only to themselves. Fact is had I responded to the signs earlier tumor sucked out of my bladder might have been the size of a walnut and not that of a grapefruit.

Now to the story proper. I think it started in the second week of December. I remember it was a Monday morning. Route taken was circuitous. I got in my car that morning to go to work. Looking to my right I had double vision. If I closed one eye, vision righted itself. That seemed odd. I hadn't slept well the night before, Sundays being a change over time for someone who is, by nature, a night owl. Figured I was tired. Next day, Tuesday, and still seeing double to my right. An appointment then made with an eye doctor. I knew anyway I have needed prescription glasses for, well again, for a long time. Bless her heart, the doctor. She was baffled by the double vision thing. At one point she says, this is not making sense. Then reassuring me she didn't think I was lying, which I figured meant she did. Two visits with her and she made a phone call to an eye doctor who specializes in eye disease. She then pulls me into an examining room. She says she has made an appointment for me with the specialist for the same day and speaks a phrase, a diagnosis, I suspect is almost as new to her as it was to me. Sixth Nerve Palsy was the suspected condition. Seems I had had a small stroke involving a vein keeping a nerve refreshed, nerve that directs muscles in the right eye that make it possible to focus to the right.

An hour later I am in the specialist's office. Dr. B. What a kind young man. A kind young man. I did not feel he was between places or patients. My sense was that I had his whole attention. So he runs his tests. Satisfies himself he is likely right in his initial, telephone carried diagnosis. Sixth Nerve Palsy. Tells me that in all likelihood the condition is temporary. On the point he gets to be right again. Double vision to my right long since gone. But here is where the tale takes a decided turn.

Dr. B starts asking questions. He's clearly not satisfied with only knowing about the body part he knows most about. How did he put it? Something like, do you have any other pains? By the second week of this last December the pain in my groin area was become constant. Well, still not a general pain yet. More a discomfort. So I figure since I am in a doctor's office might as well speak up. Nonchalantly, he asks if I have a GP. I say no, while thinking I've not had one since a child. He asks if he can recommend one. I say sure. He then asks if he can make an appointment for me. Again I say okay. So he puts me in touch with his GP. Lousy bedside manner but thorough and competent, Dr. B says of him. Later, same day, I'm in the GP's office getting a physical and getting asked questions. With every new doctor I'm getting my blood pressure checked by yet another sweet looking nurse in scrubs. And every fricking time blood pressure is high enough to raise eyebrows.

(A footnote on the Sixth Nerve Palsy thing. Insurance, so far, refuses to cover the diagnosis. It not being age appropriate they say. I would have to be between the age of one day and 18 years for them to cover it. Case pending. I am left wondering how many one day old people have a small stroke.)

Dr. B was right. GP, another Dr. B., pretty dead pan, strictly clinical. But thorough and good on the follow up. First thought is that I have a bladder infection. An antibiotic prescribed. To my surprise I get a phone call the next day. GP asks a question, decides initial diagnosis wrong. Sends me up the line to a specialist, a urologist. Dr. Z., an old world doctor from Russia.

My factoring sense of time here is kind of scrambled. How I got from the second week of December to the fourth week is unclear. There were tests run. That I remember. Ultrasound test to make sure the stroke thing didn't reach down through arteries to my heart. Blood tests. X Ray. IVP. When not meeting a doctor or lab appointment I am sure I went to work, but cannot say exactly. I know I went to work. Going to work is what Americans do without thinking, in spite of the bad press we get. And there was something else, something that, at first, made for a quiet, slight moment. An email message, maybe two messages that came through before it registered that the sender was a woman I had loved injudiciously thirty years ago exactly and had not spoken to since. By injudicious I mean we had loved each other entirely too much, setting off a ripple effect. SG. Fourth week of December I remember. New Year's Eve weekend I remember. First week of January I remember.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Feb/20/2012, 11:13 am
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Before returning to the narrative I should like to point something out. First dealing with Sixth Nerve Palsy, then suddenly dealing with cancer in my bladder. Purely coincidental. Or maybe the function of one doctor leading to another, then another, then another. But it does occur to me the coincidence rather points to something women have always suspected about men. That there is a direct connection between our brains and our groins.

There were two more tests to run. Somewhat arbitrarily I'll say they were run in the fourth, last week, in December. First test was painful, raised me off the table. A cystoscopy. But the scope did its job and sighted the tumor. Dr. Z was not yet overly alarmed. Then the last test, which was a CT Scan of the urinary tract, and which located the tumor with image-definition. "This is very serious," Dr. Z said in his thick Russian accent. I figured he was right because, by then, I had reached that long wondered about pain threshold. By Thursday I was scheduled for operation to remove the tumor. It would occur on the following Tuesday, the second of January. Before it could happen there was business to see to. Supervisor at work needed to be informed, some few friends, and, worst of all, family.

I can think of little as, what?, as decidedly unfun as having to let it be known you might be in trouble. With respect to family, especially, habit has always been to wait until the crisis is resolved before making a report. The rule has proved useful, since, my immediate family is down to 3 siblings, all older, often a little excitable, still operating in that way older siblings can towards a younger brother. This time, however, I had to break my rule. Initial family phone calls were several and long. They continue regularly but, fortunately, I think I have got them through their panic. Oldest brother, age 75, still the patriarch, and, an intellectual, processing information in the way intellectuals do. Oldest sister, always leading with her heart first, the most reactionary. At age 73 wanting to drive the 400 miles to take care of the same brother she took care of when we were all younger. Other sister, age 68, who finally gets mad at me, at my response to the diagnosis and to what lies ahead, accusatorily saying during one phone call: "How can you be so matter of fact about all of this?" By now my sweet siblings are calmer, maybe accepting of the routine involved in chemo-treatment and the follow up surgery yet to be scheduled. But for awhile it took great effort to get them all to resume normal breathing patterns. There was one person that fourth week of December I intentionally did not tell, inspite of the constant flow of email echanges. SG. Motive simple. Never let on a weakness. Something else. I discovered that week what a real mensch my supervisor is. I also discovered something I've never been accustomed to. Friends.

New Year's Eve weekend '11. Not one I will forget. Pain excrutiating. Unable to sleep for more than two straight hours. Because of the tumor caused blockage, unable to pass water. Further details not forthcoming. One thing I was glad of, which is that I live alone and was able to retreat as far back into the den of my apartment as possible.

Feb/20/2012, 12:49 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Tuesday, Jan 2, O dark A.M. Operation scheduled for 8:45. A close friend gets me to the hospital called Our Lady of the Lake. First the admissions people, then the prep nurse. Prep nurse is from Texas, possibly new to her duties. Once she complained she wished she had help preparing and processing me. Valuables taken away for safe keeping. More forms filled out. Change made into a gown the mechanics of which thwart my efforts to keep half-way decent. Dr. Z makes a brief appearance. In his way brusquely, and the young nurse is put off by his lack of manners. Seems he fails to introduce himself to her or something. I ask if the bed on which I am sitting will serve as my winged chariot to the operating room. The answer is a dry affirmative. The anesthesiologist stops by. Not sure why. Maybe to sight measure me in order to prepare the gaseous concoction that will put me out. Finally my chariot is in flight.

Operating room and lifted from bed to table. Now here is a moment that, I swear, can only happen to me. On left hand I have 2 tattoes. One is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph. Later known as the eye of Horus. At an earlier time known as the eye of Maat. Mother of all the gods and decider over the soul's passage to the other world. Other tattoe is the sailor's star, star of Venus, worn to keep sailor's safe from storm. I have maybe 2, maybe 3 minutes before the mask of forgetfulness will descend. Two sweet young things standing at my feet. Maybe one is shy or cannot speak good English. So the other nurse says, "She wants to know what your tattoes mean." Got to be quick. I say: "Eye of Maat, truth. Star of Venus, beauty. Truth and Beauty Keats said." information must have seemed important to her. Mask placed over my mouth, told to take a deep breath. Down in the realm of forgetfulness without time to think on it.

They must have some kind of gas to immediately bring one back to the upperworld. Suddenly awake. Hear a man's voice say: "It went well." Lifted from table to guerney. Aware of bag and cathater. The week before there had been some discussion in Dr. Z's office. Nurse says operation would be an out patient procedure. Dr Z says no. Three days recovery. Seems the insurance company signed off on the arrangement, so I guess it was justified. Three days. Two nights and almost three full days. Hospital charge not including surgery or surgeon who was Dr. Z himself: $1,500.

Of the 3 days I reckon I slept the equivalent of 2. I kept the room dark, overly warm for the nurses, door closed. Looking for the fullest retreat possible to the furthest back niche of a cave. No appetite, no taste for solid food, and I could have had anything and everything on the menu. Hospital fare not so bad. Nurses and nurse's aids were constant visitors. My supervisor visited once. Through all of this he took it upon himself to keep my family informed. He served me two purposes: Family informed and kept at bay. Late morning of the third day discharged. Same friend who brought me in retrieved me, got me home.

There followed a week of convalescence with cathater and a bag strapped to my left leg. An uneventful week almost. Two events of note. By email I finally fessed up to SG. At least, I think it was then. Might have been right before going into the hospital, knowing I would have been unavailable for a while.

Second event more complicated and a story in its own right.

My apartment building is separated from the one across from me by a walking alley. Immediately across from my door lives an artist who somehow manages to support herself on her painting. Maybe she is an interior decorator too. We are good, apartment friends. She was in a bad way that week and has been for awhile. She was drinking, starting in the morning, well into the late night, playing heart break kind of music loudly. Her friends were helping her, keeping with her, and drinking too. One of her friends would decide I was the cat's meow. A younger woman who seemed to like I am a poet and work in entomology. Funny creatures women can be. How they can find a fellow suddenly desirable when he is down, weak and convalescing. I don't know. Maybe he seems vulnerable and that, I guess, can be a sexy thing. Can't know. Do know certain men equally as hard to figure out. Always so damn complicated. Like some half tamed cats I've known. Young woman would appear a couple more times. But quickly getting the message of non-attention.

Friends fed me that week. Mostly my circuit was between desk, bed, and bathroom. One afternoon I go to the refrigerator for a drink of ginger ale. Of a sudden hands shaking so violently I can't hold the bottle. Then the body shaking violently. I turn on the heat, get out another blanket, get into bed. Seems I blacked out. Seems my sugar level was mighty low. When I come to I am sitting at my desk. Painter neighbor is in the doorway, bending towards me, asking if I am okay. I say no. She pulls me up, coaxes me to her apartment, which made for a strenuous walk, gives me a glass of orange juice to drink. And I can't stop drinking. Then she says she had looked up, seen me, decided something was wrong, and seen two people standing in my doorway, I guess while I was sitting in the desk chair not three feet from the door. I decide I need to get back to my apartment. Somehow the door is locked. Somehow there are several neighbors crowding around. Sitting on the steps I say I have a key tucked beneath the stairwell. It is getting dark. It's become a keystone cops scene. And I am so out of it I can barely speak. Neighbors all excited because I must have been robbed. Painter jumping up and down for the same reason. Everyone indignant. Cops are called. Finally the key is found.

Back inside I try to inventory valuables. Checkbook with CCs there. Wallet not found. Can't find cell phone. I agree I must have been robbed. And the painter is absolutely convinced she saw two people in the doorway before she came up. Bank is called to report and cancel missing debit card. Painter asks if I want anything. I ask for the rest of the orange juice bottle.

Finally the assembled leave. Soon after a police officer appears to take the report, which I give. I emphasize I saw no intruder, explain to him my condition. But the whole scenario is bugging me. Scene is not dovetailing as I slowly get back my wits. Sometime that night I wake up, come into the living room, find missing items. Funny huh? Painter friend, a sweet woman with a big heart, comes to my rescue while experiencing a hallucination. I'll learn later she has an irrrational fear of being raped by black men. I know already she once worked as a pole dancer.

Soon after, no more than a few days, I am good to go. Pain is long since gone, except maybe for the cathater caused discomfort. That was a pretty funny moment too, but too personal to detail. Dr. Z has a mullato nurse who has the sweetest smile and kindest eyes. She said the cathater yank wouldn't hurt. It did. She was crushed. And I teased her for lying, which I shouldn't have done

The same week I returned to work. Also the same week Dr. Z turns me over to an oncologist. First appointment on a Friday. Pathology report following the surgery had beeen bad. Cancer invading cell walls. To Dr Z I say. So the plan is that I go to the oncologist, chemo time ensues, then back to you. He says: you got the picture.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Feb/21/2012, 1:59 pm
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Re: This Is This and That Is That


This is good. Thank you.
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Thank you for posting all this, Tere. I was aware of the basic facts but feel relieved, somehow, that you've chosen to put it on the board. Among all the things that it is-- a well told story.

I'm sorry I didn't respond as soon as it went up, it was unexpected, and I just got round to reading this.

I don't know if you'll continue to post here on the progress of your tx. and other aspects of the experience. I hope so but will understand if not. What a thing to absorb, I still haven't,

Chris
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Quality writing, as usual.
   
I had glanced at this thread before but had to find time for it.

I'm always impressed and amazed at your ability to carry a narrative.

Finally, I want to say that aside from this being very well-written, superb, it was again genuine, truthful and direct. All fine qualities. There was even humor and a bit of self-deprecation.

I trust that you will heal successfully. I have a relative who recently got an Agent Orange classification by the Veteran's Admin to a similar illness. So it is hitting very close to home. Very close. Zak

Last edited by Zakzzz5, Feb/24/2012, 1:24 pm
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Thank you all for reading and commenting. As of now I am in week five of scheduled chemo treatment, with drug drips and weeks off for good behavior. This week there were two such drops. Tonight, Friday, I am moving kind of slow. Doc says I am responding better than most people respond to the assault on the body from the drugs. I'll take her word for it. A week ago she asked if I am still going to work. I said: oh yeah. She mimicked me and said: oh yeah. But I don't mind saying the drugs hurt.

I got a story to tell. One I hope is interesting and carries with it a measure of entertainment value. And I got my usual bent for opinionating. And I got a sweet cast of people on which to draw. Tomorrow is Saturday. I'll start back in with meeting my oncologist. Dr. A.

Tere
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Thanks for sharing these field notes in relative real time with us, Tere. The entries are very compelling. By turns funny, sad, frightening. Honest, human and humane.
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Back to the story. An excellent night's sleep last night. Woke up several times, twice to take the anti-nausea medication. Less for a sensation of stomach unease than for what feels like heart burn or a burning in my throat. Everybody responds with different side affects, Dr. A said. This seems to be true.

By my reckoning, again, I am five weeks into chemo treatment following surgery removing the tumor. Stupid writer me, when told it was the size of a grapefruit I was offended by the cliche. I thought: Why can't it be the size of a ponderosa lemon; or maybe the size of a walnut seeing its reflection in a mirror and wishing it was the size of a grapefruit? Anyway, I think five weeks is right, but I might have missed a week. Before starting back in the narrative proper there is something to dispense with.

Some few friends and family have been a little irked with me for my response to this whole mess. 'So matter of fact', as a sister put it. And I confess to having found more than a little humor at the condolences and well wishes received. Other sister can say the darndest things, always with good intentions. 'I know you must be in great pain and I would be too.' Or 'I know you must be scared and I would be too.' Or my favorite 'When you wake up in the wee hours you must feel frightened and feeling alone.' Some few friends have only been a little less circumspect. Not that I blame my sister. At 73 she has already lost 2 other younger brothers, brothers she has loved and, when younger, took care of the way a mother does. Still, her expressions of love give me a chuckle. Why, may speak to my own perversity.

To be clear, to date I've experienced 3 less than self-possessed moments. The first moment came when Dr. Z located the tumor last week in December. I came home, poured myself a pretty stiff drink, sat at my desk. I felt a tear welling up behind my right eye. Quckly the thought: What the f**k are you wanting to cry for, man? Nobody is dead, no woman has betrayed you again, your daughter is safe. Just a cancer tumor in your bladder. Nothing to cry over. Second moment came some weeks later on the Friday when I met my oncologist, Dr. A. She met with me for at least an hour and a half. A thorough doctor, she walked me through the chemo schedule, a schedule extending over 11 weeks. We talked about everything. We talked about the two drugs to be administered. For the record there is a name for this particular treatment. It is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy. The two drugs being used are called gemsar (gemzar?) and cisplatin. The second drug lethal enough so that it takes particular exception to the kidneys. Doesn't much care for kidneys. We talked about that also and how the first dose would be given in a hospital and require 20 hours of a constant drip involving anti-nausea drip, a buffering of saline solutions, and the cisplatin itself. So we talked about everything except for the unforeseen. It was around 6 in the evening when I finally walked out of the clinic, stepped into the parking lot for my car. I know I've felt larger moments of overwhelm. One lasted for 2 years and required daily self-medication in the form of whiskey. But this overwhelming sense was large enough. A drape, a cloak, a cowl, something hung over all of the surrounding environment. No horizons in sight. But it wasn't so bad. A stop at the post office, then the grocery store, and by the time I stepped inside my apartment the overwhelm was gone. I was good to go. Ready too. I figure I got 2 sets of pac man, or are they pac woman sets, in my body. Cancer pac man gobbling down on living tissue. Chemo pac mans gobbling down on every fast moving cell in my body, cancerous or not. Third weak moment even more transitory. Going in for my third week of IV drips, blood test said I wasn't good to go. Said my blood platelets were dangerously low. Sent home I was told to stay away from sharp objects. I went to work, went on line, understood there was no greater danger than being unable to clot if cut and so the moment passed.

Those are my 3 weak moments so far. After chemo I got a huge decision to make, a decision the doctors have already made, failing to ask me for my take. SOP says bladder's got to go. I rather object to the notion of being laid on some Aztec's altar and having an organ cut out. Internal jury still out.

What is my point? When loved ones get irked with my response to the cancer I want to ask, what would you have me do? Roll over and die? Sulk? Feel sorry for myself? Get mad at the world, whine, get resentful at the sight of love and beauty and laughter? Somebody said I should be struck by a sense of unfairness for having been picked out of the crowd. This last might be the stupidest reaction of all. I don't know. Don't know what to make of it all. My ego is healthy enough, healthy enough to have lived 60 years so far pretty darn selfishly, in the end always insisting on what I want and what I think is the right way for me to proceed. I don't know. Nietzsche said that resentment is the biggest killer of a human personality. I might have to disagree now. Self-pity might be a greater killer.
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If my reckoning is right treatment began on the 24th of January. But it might have been a week earlier. After surgery there was the period of convalescence already covered. There was an initial scheduling problem at the oncology clinic. I got lost to the front desk. But Dr. A soon proved her intolerance to such problems and I have been seen to well ever since. There is a lounge for chemo drip patients. Semi-circular in shape radiating out from the nurses station. Lazy Boy type semi-reclining chairs for all, next to which is the stand from which hang bags of chemo drugs, anti-nausea drugs, and saline solutions. Little machines are also attached to measure when a bag is empty and give the buzz alert. I call the lounge Madam X's opium den. But it kind of reminds me of those hidden away rooms and half rooms in which we used to smoke weed in head shops. Some patients have "ports" in their upper chests. As best as I can tell the ports are permament. They are used by people in treatment for a very long time. "Like forever" one such person told me. I'm on the IV drip, needle stuck in one vein or another. Between the IV drips and the constant blood drawing I've been poked so many times I've long since been recycling, revisiting veins. I think the nurses love to see me coming with my prominent veins. Most of the nurses are excellent at what they do. One nurse always says a prayer before sticking me. At first I thought she must be praying for me. Then I realized she was asking the Lord to guide her fingers in place. (whatever works, baby girl.)

Week one, day one (Tuesday) a cake walk. After the initial scheduling problem, I was in and out of the den in an hour. Week one, day two (Wednesday), a bit more complicated. At the hospital by 9 A.M., not IV connected until after noon due to lack of bed availability. Discharged the following morning at around 8:30. About 20 hours connected. No sleep. The delay worked in my favor. I had left my cell phone at home that morning. Was expecting a phone call from a woman with whom I hadn't talked in 30 years. SG. When I asked the admissions nurse if I could leave for a couple of hours to get the phone, she said: you are not made at me are you? I said, darlin, I ain't mad at nobody. Back at the hospital and ready by noon. I had a couple of fun conversations that night, mostly with nurses telling me about their lives. Garnering information always only takes one right leading question. And, of course, a phone conversation changing perspective.

Chemo side affects. Mostly boring information. I guess it makes sense the body will have a couple of days before reacting to the blanket bombing brought about by the drugs attacking cells, fast moving cells especially. By Saturday I kind of felt like what the earth must feel when opposing armies must be bombarding each other on or around the trenches. Voice all but gone for awhile, speaking in a whisper. Heart burn, muscle ache. Back at work, bloody tired by 4 in the afternoon. Some ever so slight nausea. One reaction was to one of the anti-nausea medicines, what caused a trembling in my right side. Funny thing about drugs. The illegal variety taken 30 years ago and more somehow seemed honorable to me. Especially the kind that forced on me a different way of slanting perceptions. But this legal stuff doesn't seem so honorable. Seems almost indecent.

A passing note on drug costs. I recently learned that insurance does not entirely cover all the drugs I am taking. One of the chemo drugs, the genmsar, insurance pays up to 70% until I reach $5,000 worth. Until then I am responsible for 30% cost for each little bag. All in all there will be 9 such little bags at $600 per bag. My responsibility: $200 for each drip. So far I have no complaint with my insurance company. So far. And as soon as I tell another caregiver the name of the company I get passed through to the front of the line. But what about the obvious? People without insurance. And what about the even more obvious? A drug company's profit margin.

Cisplatin only administered once every 3 weeks. Gemsar every week for 3, followed by a drug free week. Week 2. One IV drip, the gemsar, another piece of cake. Side affects now anticipated and so worked into a normal routine. Week 3 and there are problems.

Before each drip blood gets tested. Turn around time for the results all of 20 minutes. Nurse checks the report, says she needs to talk to Dr. A. She comes back and says the session is cancelled for the week. As mentioned above platelets compromised, count is down. In itself no big deal I figure. So I go to work. I have a bunch of accrued hours for sick and annual leave, but I mean to husband them carefully. Then the unexpected.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Feb/25/2012, 4:39 pm
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Towards the end of week 3 I think. At work I notice right foot swollen. Then the ankle. Then calve and almost reaching to my knee. Skin stretched pretty tight and painful to the touch. Leg at least twice the size as my left leg. It is a Thursday. Not inclined to go to the ER over the weekend because of costs and uncertainty about coverage. Call put in to Dr.'s office first thing Monday morning. In the morning swelling is down. But right shoe damn hard to slip on. Scheduled for a blood test the next morning, Tuesday. Dr.'s office calls back that morning, asks I come in around 3 in the afternoon. Dr. A says to her nurse: I need to see him. Examination leads to an ultra sound scan of the leg. In the popliteal vein behind knee cap a blood clot is sound-sighted. Condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Hell breaks a little loose in Dr. A.'s office. It is late in the afternoon by then.

Dr. A ready to put me into the hospital. I ask if I have alternatives. She says there is home care. I say I can go with that. So the arrangements are made. Downstairs pharmacy stays open late in order to get me the two blood thinning drugs I'll need to take home. One is orally administered. The other I'll have to shoot up with a needle in my belly for 7 days, twice a day, every 12 hours. Here again my insurance comes through. Co-pay for the drugs $10. Nurse incredulous, says most people can't afford the lovenox, the syringe stuff, and end up in a hospital instead. Think on that one. Hospital more cost effective than a drug for people without insurance or without good insurance. Oral drug is called cumiden (msp?).

I show my excellent nurse who has taken complete charge of me I can inject the lovenox. She is pleased. I overheard her bragging about me. I'm thinking what a cheat I am. A honey bee sting in my belly can, has more than once, bend me in two. Syringe needle nothing in comparison. Nurse wheels me to my car. Soon I am home. In route I call my supervisor at work, figuring he needs to know not to expect me in for the rest of the week. I am not allowed to move about for 3 days, leg kept elevated. Dryly he says: there always seems to be something.
Three days of being inactive. That is my notion of hell. Sweet friends come in on the assist. They run a couple of errands that can't wait and they grocery shop for me.

From Tuesday of that week until Tuesday of this week I'm off work but not off my feet. By Friday I had had enough. In the mean while home care nurses are visiting to check vitals and to measure the leg. Swelling goes down considerably, almost immediately. Four different nurses visit. One a Katrina refugee. Another a one time hospital nurse, a sort of refugee. A third a mother of a 10 year old accepting that the Lord will not let her have a second child. A fourth nurse who when she discovers I am back at work says: fiddle sticks because it means I am no longer a patient. One funny story. One nurse while listening to my chest and lungs through her stethescope, looks up and says: you have so many books. I allow as how I am a writer. She wants to know if I am published. I say no best sellers yet. She says: the great writers usually have to die first. Realizing what she has said she panics and says: not that you are going to die anytime soon.

My story is now current, this being my fifth week of chemo treatments. 6 more to go and then a decision. Now I get to go back through notes to pull up reflections and incidentals. Always the glorious detail in every story.

Tere
Feb/25/2012, 4:13 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: This Is This and That Is That


So Tere, where's that kitty who took over your place a while ago? I'm so into this story, I need to place her in it or know why not,

Chris
Feb/25/2012, 5:22 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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A question to make me smile, Chris. Cat is around as always. He slept in last night, which he does most nights. Especially when it is cold. I let him out first thing this morning, then back for a snack, and out again. He has changed our sleeping arrangements. He has taken to an easy chair, eschewing the bed. Sometimes in the middle of the night I'll wake up to find him on the floor in the hall communicating with the bathroom. Next door neighbor has taken responsibility for him, expecting, I think, reciprocity. But the gray cat keeps here instead. Cat and I get into a battle of wills sometimes, in particularly when it warms up. He'll want out. I'll let him out. Soon he'll want back in for a snack. I open the door. Then it is in and out for maybe four more rounds. One last time and I tell him it is for good, he is out for the day or night. If I let him back in he seems to get my annoyance, curls up on the chair, falls asleep, relaxes. He's also taken to greeting me at my car in the parking lot when I come home from work. Once or twice he has climbed up into the interior. I don't know. Maybe one of us is the other's familiar or something.

Tere
Feb/25/2012, 5:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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When we were first married our neighbor found a kitten up in her tree. We took the kitten and named her Cucui(for bogeyman). She was a gray, faintly striped cat. A medium long-hair. She was an adept huntress, bringing us mice and garden snakes, placing them on our step. She learned to anticipate my Volkswagon bug when I slowed to turn into the driveway. She would jump on the hood as I turned in and would ride the rest of the way to the back. She got to where she jumped on earlier and earlier, losing her fear completely. Once, two teenagers were driving by and saw our intrepid female cat in action and just about each had a cow!

Cats are wonderful companions. I know you've got good company. Zak
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Good story, Zak. And a great name.

Tere
Feb/25/2012, 7:48 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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So I am taking notes, not wanting to forget the little things. Here is a not so little thing.

The cancer, tumor operation, subsequent chemo treatment has forced on me a reckoning that has brought about a serious, essential reevaluation of sorts. To wit, that I don't need anybody for anything. Position firmly and, by now, comfortably occupied since the age of 3, or 57 years ago. No lover, no friend, no family, no community. It isn't that I am a loner, can be socially engaging, even contributive. Rather, that in the end it is best to rely on one's resources only, never bring to the table an expectation of any sort. Stance has served me well. Once or twice having reached out for help, been disappointed or scoffed at, has only demonstrated to my satisfaction the superiority of my philosophy. The self-regulating involved has especially benefited me when it has come to lovers and friends. Thinking on it now, it occurs to me that maybe my position has caused older siblings a measure of sorrow. But survival tricks have a capacity for keeping one safe. Detached, inviolate, and, admittedly, free.

I don't know. Maybe cancer is a serious thing. Serious enough so that some times people don't listen to you when you say, otherwise indicate, you are okay, good to go, coping, taking events in stride, keep determined to do, just do and for its own sake, in spite of a prognosis, discomfort, and the sometime pain. It isn't that I've radically changed my philosophy. But I confess I have not refused the many offers of help from family, friends, relations, even the medical community in charge of my case. Instinct has kept the same, but I've learned to allow the help. The help has come in the forms of emotional support, material support, logistical support.

Friends who have run errands for me following both the surgery and the blood clot that kept me immobile. Friends who have driven me places, dropped me off and picked me up at the hospital, and with a degree of insistence. Family who has insisted on forcing material assistance on me. One friend who took it upon himself to serve as a conduit of information regarding my situation and who organized the kind of help I might need. The several women friends, and three guys, who, in effect, have set another plate at their dinner table, bringing me mighty tasty meals, mostly southern cooking, which, in my mind, amounts to comfort food. A boss who has been down right patristic, forcing on me light duty in spite of my efforts to push the body.

Then there has been the medical community. The care givers clearly devoted to their profession. There was the first doctor, the eye doctor, who sensed something was wrong back in December, sent me on to his personal GP the same day. The GP himself also reacting instinctively. The Russian urologist insisting on making me understand the seriousness of the situation and who himself performed the operation removing the tumor. And the oncologist who has been like a rat terrier sinking her teeth into me and not letting go until satisfied. One night she visited me in the hospital after 10 PM. The several technicians with their machines have been thorough. And the many nurses, most of them young, who for the space of a bedside, office, or home visit have had eyes only for me. They have occupied my space, their patient's space, completely.

It all amounts to a new trick for an old dog. If pushed on the subject I'll maintain that I need no one. It still keeps as the best way to go. But I confess that this time around a 57 year old resolve has something of the fictitious about it.

This week was not an entirely complication free week. It seems that a recent IV drip placed in my left forearm did not go well. Chemo drip did not keep in the vein pathway as it should have, spilled out into muscle tissue. Forearm swollen, red, somewhere between tender and painful. Then, last Tuesday, veins in right forearm, wrist, and hand protested. Vein walls weakened from both the drips and from the frequently repeated drawing of blood. Vein walls collapsing when poked. It took 3 nurses four stabs in order to find a still working vein. I feel like my body is working against time. There are 5 more scheduled drips and who knows how many more times blood will get drawn. This coming Tuesday another treatment, then 2 weeks off. But I met a man in the chemo lounge (Madam X's opium den) who allowed as how he has been under treatment since 1991. There is perspective for you.

A funny story to tell. At least it is funny to me in a grumpy sort of way. One day in the lounge there is a sudden commotion by the door leading to the hall. I look up and there are these middle class women stepping in with their groomed and freshly bathed dogs, a couple of which were clearly show dogs. One dog was a Bearnese mountain dog. I turn to my neighbor in his lazy boy semi-recliner and say: I take it these are the feel good dogs? He says, with an atitude matching my own, you just paraphrased what I am thinking. Then one by one the women visit each IV connected patient. They clearly have a script. Each one says: Would you like to pet my dog? Old roue that I am I so wanted to run with that particular invitation. But I was nice. Later I thought, how sad. What a pathetic way to try to infuse meaning in your life. But then the middle class has always been pathetic when it comes to meaning.

Just over half way through the treatments and I am tired of feeling tired. I am working extra hours to offset time taken off. But the work is not taxing. Sleeping 10 to 13 hours a night. By mid-afternoon no energy. At home with barely enough energy to write and think. Chemo is not for the faint hearted, that is for sure. But nobody notices and so I am good to go.

Tere
Mar/3/2012, 1:47 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: This Is This and That Is That


Important observations, Tere. Leaning a little on the kindness and competence of others is tough, tougher for some than others.
I'm glad for your ongoing posts,

Chris
Mar/4/2012, 9:57 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Thank you, Chris. Not sure if this field note is worth the electron expenditure.

Today's treatment got cancelled. Blood test that always comes right before entrance into Madam X's opium den said platelet count down again. Not as low as it was a few weeks ago, but low enough when coupled to the blood thinning med I am on to counteract the blood clot problem. A part of me disappointed, wanting the chemo to eat up the pac man cancer cells wanting to eat up my body. Another part okay with the cancellation. If the chemo (Gemzar) is active enough to go after platelets, fast moving cells, then active enough to go after pac man also fast moving cells. Interesting notion to view your body as a video gaming screen.

Tere
Mar/6/2012, 8:35 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Hi Tere,

Thank you for the continued updates. I hope the skipped treatment means your veins get a little break.

Last edited by Katlin, Mar/12/2012, 9:17 am
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Okay. Field Notes is a forum for notes made in the field. Like a biologist does, or a naturalist, or a reporter. I started this thread with that in mind. Last entry dated, 7 March. Since then, frankly, I've had nothing I feel interesting to say about cancer, the ongoing procedures, or about any of the attending circumstances or people. Cancer or chemo, oncologist cannot tell me which, put 8 blood clots in my right leg behind my knee. The IV drips have been problematic with veins collapsing, one by one, due to so many needle punctures. Chemo phase now completed. Follow up CT scan performed. Last week handed back over to the urologist who is bound and determined to rip out bladder and prostate. He is Polish, abrupt and categorical. Like any good son of a formerly Socialist state he is bound by ideology, determined to keep to Standard Operating Procedure. He works in statistical probabilities. My best chance of surviving the cancer is with radical surgery he says will need 6 hours. Radiation is my only alternative, he says. Probable stats there not exactly encouraging. So I got to make a decision. Everybody tells me, everybody, to go for the surgery. I am reluctant to do so. Inclined to take my chances. I don't want to walk around with a piss bag for the rest of my life. I don't want the Aztec priests to rip out my prostate. 6 months ago I might not have minded. Then I went and fell in love with a woman who has been beautiful to me for 30 years.

Energy level is seriously compromised, in retreat, will be in retreat for 6 months to a year. Last week oncologist finally fessed up to the long term side effect of her drugs. I continue to work, putting in almost 40 hours a week. I have to work. For the insurance coverage, for the pay check, and for the bee biology tests we run. By 3 in the afternoon I'm in pain. By Friday I stagger. But I keep to my job. And I will. Something else. I'm growing tired of having to cajole and reassure family and friends. But it is what is expected of me. No. That is not right. First instinct has always beeen to make light of things.

Pain is so !@#$ boring to me. I think I've discovered why. A week ago I had an argument with my girl friend. She is such a good writer, one of the best I've come across in a very long time. Like me, however, she has kept her talent hidden, and mostly, from public view. By now I've read enough of her stories to detect an underlying theme, a preoccupation, a motif running through her stories. I questioned her about it and she got a little defensive. She asked, Are you psychoanalysing me? I demured, lied actually, and said no. Her theme has to do with the state of invisibility, people not seen, or heard, or noted. She starts from there and she gives her characters a face, a voice, a place. That is what she does and she does it effectively. Every time.

But then she turned the question on her examiner. In a voice a little arch she asked, So what is your underlying theme? (Note to self. Examiners are no longer privileged from a woman whose motives are under question.) I had to think. In something like 2 minutes I had to pull up for review all my writing. Desire, I finally said. Desire is what runs through my writing. Either she agreed or she demured too.

I've thought about my quick answer. It is true. Desire is all that matters to me. It is the great thing. The one capacity that makes sense of everything. Of everything people do. Of every need to feel oneself alive and vital. Of every reason invented to both live and die. My god here is Dionysus. There is no desire in cancer. There is no desire in crawling along a hospital floor. There is desire in the moment.

Casanova said it best. True love resides in giving pleasure.

Tere
Apr/28/2012, 3:22 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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There is a second part to yesterday's reflections. Cancer and this dreadful surgery pending puts everything into perspective for me.

If desire is the underlying theme running through my writing, the poetry especially, it is not something come to consciously, deliberately, even constructively. It is the way I was born. It is a matter of nature not nurture. A statement of fact I can stand by, existentially know to be true. In this respect I have been, continue to be, a suprememly selfish man. To my way of thinking nothing is greater, nothing more makes life worth all the exigencies, than to desire. Baudelaire said it best: the supreme thing is to always be drunk. "With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please." How then can I possibly find cancer, or pain, interesting if what I want is to be perpetually drunk on desire? I remember an argument I once had 30 years ago with my second wife. She was a woman for whom, as the old song line says, life just isn't there. It ain't around, no point in wanting it or fighting for it or desiring it. I could not then accept her terms. I finsihed the argument with taking the brandy snifter in my hand, throwing it through a window, and walking off into the night. I walked for hours. Hers were terms I still cannot accept. So how am I to find cancer interesting, worth the report?

What I haven't figured out, and coming to the second part of yesterday's reflections, is why my desire for desire itself has turned me to poetry. With the possible exception of giving a woman pleasure, Casanova has always been my guide, poetry gets me drunkest. Poetry. Poetry viewed as a thing in itself. Not expression. Not communication. Not a well turned phrase or a perfect image or a musically cadenced line. But poetry. The lineaments of poetry. The sinew and flesh of poetry. That thing, that child thing, that raises itself above the page and hovers there, maybe like a holograph. It is worth everything that one has to do, sometimes endure, including all experience and all the blues, in order to see that raised body which, to me, is the form of all forms. Perfect. Motile. Its own beginning, middle, and end. Call me a platonist and, if need be, leave me to poetry's perfect form.

Boethius, late Roman philosopher, comes to mind in this context. His great work, called The Consolation of Philosophy, was written in a dungeon. Philosophy came to him, a beautiful woman, and they had a conversation. He had been imprisoned by, I think, a Visigothic king whose name, I think, was Theodoric. Theodoric is remembered only for imprisoning Boethius and, ultimately, executing him. Boethius is remembered for his conversation. But the thing about his beautiful woman is that she did not offer consolation. She offered her perfect form. And she made sense to the man. That is how I view poetry. How she hovers there, just off the page, makes sense to me. Cancer does not. No suffering, no hurt, no loneliness, and no accomodation with some maggot of regret does.

That is really all I know. Getting drunk with desire, getting drunk on poetry. All these months later and I have nothing to say about cancer. Just a pac man, just a product, an industrial disease.

Tere
Apr/29/2012, 2:52 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Tere,

When I was out driving to an appointment this morning and listening to Cohen's Old Ideas, this song came on and I wanted to share it with you:

Come Healing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmObT8HhLS0

Then this song came on and I wanted to share it with you and the woman you fell in love with:

Lullaby:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58UPhCzJfvc&feature=related

Whatever love and healing vibrations I can gather up, I'm sending your way.

Last edited by Katlin, Apr/30/2012, 1:03 pm
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Thank you, Kat. For the well wishes and the songs.

Tere
Apr/30/2012, 12:06 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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hey Tere,

I wouldn't have thought one word could capture
the spirit of your writing...but if one can, it surely is 'desire.'

Thanks for these posts,

Chris
Apr/30/2012, 2:23 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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I actually have a poem devoted to the word. Somewhere around here. Great story too on how the poem came about.

Thank you Chris.

Tere
Apr/30/2012, 3:05 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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so what about the poem? & the story? waiting!
May/14/2012, 6:12 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 
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Here ya go, qf:

"Genesis of a third poem, Savory"

http://bdelectablemnts.runboard.com/t1796

Enjoy. emoticon
May/14/2012, 7:31 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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thanks katlin

for pointing me in the right direction - might have missed it otherwise.

beauty of a poem - timeless..eternal!

fully enjoyed both - what a story!
May/16/2012, 2:25 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 
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Chris asked about the gray cat early on. Maybe others find his story interesting too. As mentioned somewhere he was a Katrina survivor, found floating on a board in Lake Pontchatrain. His then owner moved to my city following the hurricaine, which is how I got to meet him. Then he took possession of me and my space. His second owner never understood him or his spirit. But he and I understood each other, being alike. Always a little wary of people. Always a little amused. Not inclined to full trust. Not inclined to make onself vulnerable by asking for too much.

Two days ago a bad storm came through. Bad enough to want to go tornadic. I drove through it for home and my car was rocked by the wind. By the time I arrived the rain had stopped. I was greeted by my neighbor who "owns" the gray cat. Learned he had been killed about an hour prior. He had taken shelter underneath a parked car. In the middle of the storm the owner got in to leave, pulled out. Don't know if he felt anything like a bump but he saw the gray cat lying on the pavement. Was dead in maybe 2 more minutes. I am terrible with death. To me he is a hateful old man and my inclination is always to give him the middle finger. He is a no good, sorry son of a !@#$ who enjoys what he does. Just like some people I know. It takes me years to mourn the loss of close friends. But maybe I'm getting better. I stood in my apartment and yelled out several times !@#$.

Sometimes in the morning when I leave for work the gray cat would be on my door step wanting in. Naturally I refused him, knowing I would be gone too long. He had stood there that morning. Not so much asking to be let in, as that was not his way. Maybe just wondering or giving me the chance to let him sleep on my bed. Clearly had I broken my rule he would be alive. No blame in that I suppose. But it is true. He would be alive.

For once I have to say the gray cat's timing sucked. Surgery is in 16 days when the Aztec priests rip open my pelvic area. I needed the gray cat to be on my doorstep when I got home. He was buried yesterday. I was asked to join in the ceremony. So many people around here were taken by him. I declined the communion or whatever it gets called. In the afternoon I bought him a potted rose plant. I put it on his grave along with his food bowl filled with this treat he always hungered for. It is enough to tie him over. Almost forgot. I had told his "owner" to include in his wrapping a little babushka doll I have. It is one of those nest dolls, a doll inside a doll inside another. Funny. I only have one left, having placed them all in places sacred to me. I'm so going to miss him. I'm going to miss the way he had for sitting on his haunches and staring at me when the food in his bowl was maybe a day old and hge wanted it refreshed. Going to miss waking up in the middle of the night and having to negotiate around him on the floor. He loved my bed. But not enough to share it with anyone.

In Oct of '09 the gray cat gave me a poem. Rather he gave me the lead and maybe the permission. Can't know if it is a good poem. Do know its says something true, just like he always could in his steps. Here's the link to it. At the time I thought he had to be a she just because of his self-possession, how he carried himself.

http://bdelectablemnts.runboard.com/t517



Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Jun/10/2012, 4:13 pm
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Oh Tere,

What terrible news. I'm so sorry for the loss
of your friend. So sorry,

Chris
Jun/10/2012, 4:11 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 


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