Hair Today…

Day 28/44.

New Development…..

Hair today

 

As my good friend TLL stated, “It looks like the guys from the movie ‘Jackass” got a hold of you.”

I believe this is more from radiation than chemo.

Week Four Wrap-Up

It’s Friday of my fourth week.  Day 26 of 44.  After today, I will have two more full weeks of treatment plus the 1st Mon and Tue of April.  Last day of treatment is scheduled for April 2nd.  Overall, it has been a good week.  I had a visitor (Thanks KDW) and the missus came down for some much needed familial support.  (Basically I think she came down to verify that I was repeating what the doctors were saying.  She swears no but …..:-)

So when we last spoke….(like you really had a choice to tune me out) I was getting my butt chewed for not taking my pain medication and for losing too much weight.  That was all last Friday and this past Monday.  Since then, I spoke again with the Nutritionist and she repeated the same mantra…EAT EAT EAT….and put chocolate on it!  Well for the last few nights I have taken her advice and for dinner…..I have had…(you might not want to read this part)…two Ensure Plus drink/meals.  Each one of them has 350 calories and 13 g of protein.  So add two of those….with two BIG OLE heapin’ scoops of Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream, ALONG WITH, two big ole tablespoons of peanut butter all whipped together.  (I think I just made a Reese Peanut Butter Cup milkshake?).  Anyway, in case you are wondering…they are goooooood .  With my next weigh-in on Thursday, I had those Tue and Wed night for dinner and at official weigh in time??   (Drum roll please……..)   I not only stemmed the weight loss but have gained….yes GAINED two pounds!  That may not seem like much but the Radiation Dr’.s were very pleased and they took the feeding tube threat off the table.  (By the way…can people with feeding tubes use them to inject alcohol?  I mean can a guy talk, while chugging a beer in his feeding tube like a ventriloquist?  Just wondering.)

Yippee.  So that’s one butt chewing I turned around.  Now for the pain medication.

On most days, I can get through breakfast (oatmeal.toast) and lunch (two Ensures) without my throat hurting but by mid-afternoon, it does start to ache a little so “following doctors orders” I’ve been taking one Methadone pill in the afternoon.  (Along with all the other anti-nausea stuff but this is for pain.)  After that, drinking milkshakes have been no problem.  There is still something there about biting, chewing and swallowing food.  I don’t know if its because 75% of my taste buds are gone…or if the food itself is aggravating my throat and suppressing my appetite..just not sure…but milkshakes for dinner are fine.

So usually chemo Dr appt is Fri but this week it was Thur so I pop in…feeling pretty smug….got my beautiful wife by my side….Radiation Dr’s are happy with me….I’ve actually gained weight….life is good.  He asked me and I told him what I’ve been taking and I got the immediate dismissal.  One Methadone a day doesn’t really do anything.  Methadone is a very slow acting narcotic that in this case, is to be used as a base coating, if you will, for other pain meds to springboard off of.  It’s your primer if you will.  It’s not going to make your walls look good but it will “enhance” the paint.  (Sssssss……thats the sound of my smugness balloon releasing a little bit of air).  I found out….ONCE AGAIN….that I am not taking enough to fight this fight.  I should be taking two Methadone pills a day for the “base coating” and when I have pain in my throat…take an oxycondone.  My argument was….but on the 1-10 pain scale, my throat is “only” a 3 or 4. Of course, that didn’t matter….because….he reminded me….every day into this my throat will get worse so I better listen to him now or I will be hurting.  So not exactly “bad” news…..I just need to do better

So if in the next blog I sound more like Timothy Leary or Jerry Garcia than myself….you will know why.

So its the end of my fourth week and so far….I’m doing OK.

ODDS AND ENDS

A quick follow up on a previous story and quick hit observations on other events.

GEORGE….I’ve been asked a lot about George. George is the one that is 86 that fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam and doesn’t look a day over 70.  I’ve had many other conversations with him and he is just a great guy.  A couple of things I’ve learned since I posted about him…….He as born in Chilie and moved to the US when he was 8.  He speaks 6 different languages.  And oh yeah…he trained the Bolivian Commandos that went into the hills to take out Che Guevera.  When I asked George if he was actually there when it happened….he smiled and said, “no comment.”

FRANK

This is from another resident here and I thought this was a cool story.  Frank is 76 and was telling how his parents met.  Frank’s father,  Frank SR, sailed to the US when he was 14 years of age and lived in New York with friends of family.  Mario and Hilda.  Now Mario was from Italy..Hilda from Germany.  I’m not sure how they met but they were married and lived together and took in a young Frank as a boarder.  Mario spoke Italian so he could converse with Frank but Hilda did not.  Hilda spoke German, but Mario did not.  Their common language was English.  So after rooming with them for over a year, Hilda, through Mario, asks why Frank hasn’t met any girls yet. (Think she is ready for Frank to move on).  Frank responds, thru Mario, that he doesnt know the language…doesn’t know anyone…etc.  After Mario interprets in English…she responds that WWI is about to be over and that she just happens to know of some nice German girls who would love to come to the US and a plan was hatched.  After Hilda selected the right girl for Frank, this is how the courtship began.

Frank would tell Mario what he wanted to say in the letter (to someone who he has never met or spoken to) in Italian.  Mario would then translate Frank’s Italian words into English so his wife, Hilda could understand them.  Hilda would then re-re-interpret them and write the letter in German.  THEY DID THIS FOR A YEAR AND A HALF.

It must have worked because after WWI is over, the new bride to be sails into Ellis Island, Frank is there with his new suit, his flowers and his gift, Mario and Hilda are there to interpret…and they after 18 months of correspondence, they finally meet.  Frank presents her with the flowers and the gift.  The gift is one that he has been saving up for for quite some time and very rare….a pair of silk stockings.  The new bride to be looks at the gift and is momentarily offended because, as she explained to Hilda….IT IS UNDERWEAR.  After realizing they were getting married in three days, they quickly got over it and seven kids and 25 grandkids later……..

I just thought that was a cool story.

MUSIC

I’ve got to off of on a small rant here…..I’ve mentioned before how when I receive radiation treatment, it lasts for about 20 minutes.  There is a CD player in there and they have about 20-30 various CD’s to listen to but you don’t want to take a lot of time trying to pick one out because there is a schedule and they try to keep you on it.  So after the first day asking for Classic Rock and getting “Journey”, I’ve gotten a little better.  They have a Sinatra CD and one for Bobby Darin, and so on.  I bought and donated a Best of Billy Joel because they didn’t have anything by him.  They have a Buffett.  I’m not sure what CD it is but if you fast forward a couple of tracks….you get the snooze-a-rama part.  ”Coast of Marseilles” “Island”….zzzzzzzz.

So the other day, I glanced over there and saw….”The Best of R & B”.  Can’t go wrong with that, right?  And its a factory CD, not some homemade one.  So we put that on, got as comfortable as I could and they started the machine and the music began. First song?  ”Soul Man” by Sam and Dave.  Perfect.  Great way to start.  Second song?  ”Rainy Night in Georgia” by Brook Benton (I had to look it up).  1970.  Technically, it is listed as R&B so I guess I can’t complain but it brought the mood down…a lot.  I would put a whole lot of songs before that one on a “Best of…” soundtrack but ok…whatever.  Third song?  Remember….”Best of…..R (rhythm) and B (blues)……ready for this?  PATCHES by Clarence Carter (had to look that up as well.)  You know that song….Patches…I’m depending on ya son……GOOD GRIEF!  How could ANYONE someone even think to put that song on a R & B GREATEST HITS?

Sheesh.

SPAM

If anyone out there is interested in creating and writing a blog, I encourage them.  It’s actually quite therapeutic and has helped me tremendously.  Having said that, in the creation of your blog, one thing you MUST do is have the ability to censor comments.  When I was offered that option, my thoughts were that some of my “less than civilized, going for the joke, Type-A” friends’ brand of humor may not go over too well with some family and friends so I selected that option. I must say, although I have opened myself up to many, many comments, they have all acted great and I appreciate that.  It’s the other stuff that is killing me.  I probably should have realized it but I would say on average I get at least 10 comments a day from spammers.  The comment starts off nice of how they like my site, blah blah blah but then they want to link and this and that….so my apologies to my friends and family for not posting how you can get the cheapest Christian Loubatain shoes or NFL throwback jerseys.

 

UNRELATED STORY

Back in BK…..before kids….Kathy and I were living in a nice apartment in the Dallas area. I was on the SWAT team and she was a nurse and amazingly we found that we both had not only Christmas Eve of together but Christmas Day as well.   I had been warned that during Christmas, a lot of people get depressed and want to commit suicide and that we (SWAT) would probably be busy, but you never think about possibilities.  We actually had the day off.  This was great….no kids….just a nice time to be together.  So we (meaning she) planned to have a honest to goodness sit-down, 5 course Christmas Eve dinner with candlelight’s (again..BK) and we were going to get out of sweats and actually wear nice clothes and be civilized for a change.  So everything is going great until….my pager goes off.   Now in SWAT, you can have the day off but if you pager goes off, you have to go.  We were disappointed but the evening was still young and sometimes they disregard us before we even get there so changing out of slacks and blazer and into battle dress utilities and with a kiss on the check, tell her I will be back as soon as possible.  Enroute to the scene, you don’t get a whole lot of information over the radio and this was before cell phone days so pretty much armed with just the address, I head that way.  It is in West Dallas and it is where a lot of the low income housing is.  The Projects.  I pull up and start gearing up and trying to find out what is going on and get the story.  It seems that there is a 67 year old woman, living by herself in the projects, who is  deaf mute, and the power company has turned off her power for failing to pay her bills….on Christmas Eve.  Now if that won’t send you over the edge, I’m not sure what will.  So the situation was, she was sitting in a chair in a hallway (very confined space) with a knife in her hand with no way to communicate with her.  We had made it in her apartment so we were in her kitchen….and the knife wasn’t “that” big…but a knife is a knife and she could do some damage to us or to herself.  So I’m one of the young un’s in SWAT so not involved in the planning phase at this time, just thinking about wrapping this up and going home to enjoy this Christmas Eve dinner that Kathy has been working on all day.  At this point, I remember a guy I used to work with in Patrol that knew sign language.  He didn’t know it enough to get paid extra for it, so he wasn’t official, but he did know it.  I told the Sgt, they made the call and he happened to be working that night and “Doug” showed up to help.  So imagine, you get a call out of the blue that SWAT needs your help and you show up, there is a 67 year old lady sitting in a chair with a knife in her hand and oh by the way, we need you to talk her into giving up.  Disregard the fact that you have no negotiating experience whatsoever.  But Doug, given him credit, plunged in and began “conversing” with her.  He had a little problem with the sign language since he had sprained his finger earlier and it caused him to stutter.

Wait for it…..

BA DUM DUM

(sorry…couldn’t resist)

So this goes on for awhile…she is despondent….(duh)..she just wants to die….going to stab herself and whoever tries to stop her….Doug is helping the best he knows how but its not working so the Sgt comes up with…..”The Plan”.

The plan is to shock her with tear gas and go in and tackle her.  ”J” will be the first guy in followed by Finley.  (I’m sorry, what?)

Lets talk about tear gas for a moment.  I won’t bore you with technical details but there are different types and they affect you in different manners.  Pepper Spray is a form of tear gas.  It is in a liquid form and it reacts immediately.  It aggravates the heck out of your lachrymal or tear ducts, causing your eyes to shut down, excess tears, and burns like the dickens.  Then there are burning tear gases. It is in a solid state.  Almost like a bar of soap.  Used for outside.  If you ever see a riot on TV, that is what they are using. Allows you to get a lot of tear gas out in a rapid manner, but it is a pyrotechnic and you have to be careful not to burn anything down.  This tear gas still affects the tear ducts but it also squeezes the chest making it difficult to breath.  The next option is good ole powder.   Effects are the same….just takes longer.  Now imagine taking a whole container of baby powder.  Grind it up some more.  That is what a powder tear gas looks like.  It is slow acting but as we used to say…”It is the gift that keeps on giving” because once it gets in carpets or houses, in that amount, it is almost impossible to get rid of.

Now you have the quick education on tear gas….so I will pose this question to this august panel of experts….if you decided to use tear gas in this situation would you use A) the liquid that is fast acting, blinding or B) the solid that could burn a house down or C) the Powder that is slow acting……And the answer is……..OF course it is A…and of course….we went with C.

However….remember I am pretty much a rookie at this point….have been exposed to tear gas in training but couldn’t tell you anything about it….so you go to the expert.   In our squad at the time, our tear gas ‘expert” was “H” and I’d be surprised to know if he knew what end to shoot it out of so he suggested to the Sgt that we use this munition called “Muzzle Blast”.  The Muzzle Blast munition is a 6′ tube full of powder.  I mean full. Take the baby powder analogy and grind it up more.  Each particle of powder has tear gas in it.  This powder sits in a tube held in by a piece of cardboard that is glued on the side.  No joke.  It is fired out of a 37mm launcher that has a smooth bore and when it comes out, it comes out in a cone shape pattern and spreads wide….very quickly.  And oh by the way…it is very thick.

37mm launcher

 

The trigger is pulled ,the hammer falls on a very small firing cartridge and it basically explodes this powder out of the end of this launcher.

So the plan is…..”J” (who is considerably bigger than I) and I will be hands free (No weapons in our hands) wearing gas masks and “H” will fire this (slow acting …heavy fog…) tear gas at our suspect….and we will rush in….while she has a knife in her hand…and we will subdue her and everyone will be happy.  That’s the plan.

H fires the muzzle blast, I take one step and I can’t see J who is less than 2 feet in front of me.  I take a 2nd step when I do see the knife flying toward me.  I grab the arm with the knife and down we all go in a heap.  Turns out…of course our suspect was not affected by the tear gas at all.  J, had grabbed one arm (the one without the knife) and was in the process of spinning her to the floor when I caused a disruption in the momentum by grabbing her knife hand.  But as they say, any plan you walk away from is a good plan.

Now I’m fairly new to SWAT but I know that I am covered in tear gas.  And the tear gas is in powder form….and it is on me and my clothes……so I’m not going to start taking stuff off at the scene…there is all kinds of those powder particles floating around…heck no….I’m smarter than your average bear….so I go to my car, open my trunk and start carefully peeling all my stuff…vest…holster…I take off my shirt, even though its like 28 degrees outside (tshirt under) and finally…the last thing was my gas mask.

gas mask

 

Now have you ever moved anything covered in powder?  Sure you have…lots of people are dealing with pollen right now.  Well when you take something off that is covered with powder it goes up…and then it comes right back down.  So I’m feeling all cocky and then WHAM…..eyes begin burning…face feels like its on fire…..snot pouring out of my nose….oh yeah….full tear gas immersion.  Not fun at all but Hey..we are done for the night…I’m thinking a quick shower….still time to have that nice romantic candlelit dinner….so the whole way home…my head is hanging out the window….its 28 degrees out….I’m trying to use the wind to keep my eyes open so I can see to drive….I’ve got a continuous stream of snot going from my nose to my rear bumper….but….I’m headed home.

Just to make sure everyone is with me on the date…..I’ve left clues…..before kids….so at least 19 years ago…..”got a pager call”…..so basically…..this was pre-cell phone era by a long shot.  For you young’uns out there….there actually existed  a time when we didn’t have cell phones.  So there is no way I can tell Kathy what time I’m getting home…what has happened…the best I can hope for is that I get the front door open….tell her to stay away and to clear a path to the shower…….yeah…it WAS a good plan.

Like the excited young wife waiting for her big strong SWAT man to come home….she tore open the door, still all dressed up…and began to give me one huge hug when…WHAM….the tear gas hits her too.  She reels back….I’m trying to help her but I’m covered in it…I start yelling out instructions to get her away from me and to get her immediate help….first thing was taking her contacts out….yeah that might help…..I finally get her situated enough to deal with myself…so into the shower….put the dirty clothes in a sealed bag….and you get in the shower with a bottle of shampoo and stay in there for 3o minutes.  Because every time water hits your head, it washes the tear gas from your hair down the rest of your body.  And you can’t open your eyes….at all. So you keep washing and washing..and washing…..

Finally…after 30-40 minutes….you feel that you got most of it….so downstairs I come…..Kathy’s nice dress now has to go to the cleaners…..candles are burnt to stubs….have to re-heat all the food….but it was still a very nice Christmas Eve dinner….although above I said you get “most of the gas”…..a speck or two would find its way to my eyes the remainder of the night.

Small postscript…..one of the first things they teach you in SWAT is to clean your equipment as soon as possible because you never know when you might need it again….and I told you I was off on Christmas day?  Well we get another call-out on Christmas day and I get to the scene and open my trunk.  You’ve heard that term, “Nature abhors a vacuum?”  Tear Gas loves a vacuum.  The vacuum caused by opening my trunk took all those particles on my gear and shoved them right back in my face.  Truly….. ”The Gift that Keeps on Giving.”

Butt Chewing

Howdy friends and neighbors…Greetings from Gainesville.

First….my apologies for the lateness of this blog and the “so-so” unrelated story at the end.  I started writing and I’m not happy with the results but my editor is on my case to publish so here you go.  I guess my muse wasn’t hitting me this week or whatever.  In the meantime, “both” of my fans have asked where and when the next blog will be posted so here you go…….

PHYSICAL UPDATE

Day 23 of 44.  Just over the halfway point.   I’d love to tell you everything was perfect and on schedule but that’s just not the way it works sometimes.  The biggest issue going on right now is my loss of weight.  In the three weeks of treatment, I have lost 20 lbs, down to 169, and they are not happy with me.  I’ll come back to that one.

Butt chewing.  We’ve all had them.  They are given by someone in authority for something you’ve done (or haven’t done).  I couldn’t tell you how many I’ve had in my life but the number is significant.  Sometimes they weren’t even deserved but I got them anyway.  (Probably most of the time they were deserved.)  Sometimes you do things knowing that you will get a butt chewing but its worth it.  Those are the ones that bring a smile to your face.  Sometimes you get them even though you are trying…..these two recent ones are cases in point……My first butt chewing was during my visit to the Chemo Dr. this past Friday.   I see him every Friday and its usually just a 10 minute visit to check in to see how things are going.   The first two weeks, no issues were expected so the visits were short.  Dr. “R” is a pretty matter-of-fact, straight to the point kind of guy.  Probably a little smart ass….I’m not really sure why we have hit it off.  Could that be it?   Naaaa….surely not.

He began asking me about the pain in my throat that makes it hurt to swallow, which, of course, leads to not wanting to eat or drink.   He has prescribed oxycodone for the pain.  To take anywhere from 2-4 a day as needed for pain.   Nowwwwww….I’m not a big pain medication kind of person.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe its from hearing the story from my Dad playing high school football and getting speared in the kidney and having one removed and getting hooked on morphine while in the hospital and missing a year of school.  Maybe its from seeing all those meth heads in Dallas all strung out.  Maybe I’m concerned that I have an addictive personality (chewing tobacco for 30+ years?) and that I’m going to get hooked.  Maybe its from me thinking that mere mortals may need pain medication but not someone like me???  For whatever reason, I admitted to the Dr that I had indeed NOT been taking the pain medication as prescribed for my throat and have been trying to tough it out.  And that’s when I got……The Look.  We’ve all received “The Look”.  The first time was probably from our parents.  Some have gotten it from their bosses…but most of us have gotten it from our spouses.  Its a powerful look.  It conveys a whole gamut of words, emotions,intent, anger, resentment, incredulousness (?) …basically…..it says…..”YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS?!”  As a matter of fact…those might have been his exact words.  I explained that I had taken one oxycodone about once every two days and I was “managing”.  This is when I got another “look” and the butt chewing.  I was reminded that he had a diploma that I could go down the hall to see if I doubted him….he reminded me that he had been doing this for many years where I was  a newbie at this…..that he wasn’t going to let me get “hooked”…He reminded me that I had cancer and that was the #1 priority and any addiction pales in comparison…..etc etc etc.    You know how these butt chewings go when you have no ground to stand on, nothing to counter his arguments with……?  That was me.  Just sitting there squirming.  I was also trying not to laugh because his arguments were so smart-ass they were funny and they were ones I would have made if I had been in his shoes.  So the outcome is that since I was hesitant to take 2-4 oxycodones a day, I now have a prescription for Methadone.  Yes…Methadone.  The same thing they give heroin addicts.  (You can look it up…they actually DO give it to cancer patients as well.)  It’s slower acting than oxy and should be better for me.

So with my tail tucked firmly between my legs, and methadone in my pocket, I went home for the weekend and had a nice relaxing time.  Now my weekends are spent in the loving embrace of my family….doing pretty much nothing…..as Crash Davis tells Annie in “Bull Durham”….”I just want to be.”.  And that is pretty much how I spend my weekends.  The missus always wants to cook up something that I want….which is problematic because my “smell buds” work fine but my taste buds are crap.  So for Saturday night….roast cooked in the crock pot for hours….mashed potatoes….mac and cheese….good soft food and that smelled sooooooo good and I had about five bites.   Because you see friends and neighbors…..pain medication….particular oxycodone and methadone both have a common side effect……appetite suppression.   You don’t know what aggravation is until you smell roast beast in the house all day long…..and when it is time to eat….you don’t feel like eating.  Which….of course….leads me to Butt Chewing #2.

I show up bright and early Monday morning…feeling ok….or as well as I think that I should be feeling…..and after radiation treatement I go see the Radiation Dr on Mon and Thur and the first thing they do is weigh you.  And after three weeks I have lost exactly 20 lbs.  I got the “uh-oh” from the RN who is putting it on my chart.  They then get vitals and it seems my blood pressure is something like 92/62. Thats low.  She asks me to stand up with the BP collar still on my arm and it drops even further.  I find out its a simple trick to see if you are dehydrated which apparently I am….a lot.  Before they whisk me upstairs for IV’s…one of my Radiation Dr’s comes in and gives me the butt chewing about losing weight.  A 10 lb loss would be “acceptable” but not 20, especially with three weeks to go.  I’ve basically got the rest of this week to stem the weight loss or they are going to order me a feeding tube. In case you don’t know what that entails….they insert (surgery) this tube in your stomach and it sticks out a couple of inches….and there are three tubes coming out of it.  One is for cleaning..one..I have no idea…but the main one is to inject liquid into so you can eat.  That is how you eat….by injecting liquid into a dang tube sticking out of your stomach.  Now the people that have problems eating love this thing.  They can get nourishment, they feel better…..but I’m sorry…I have enough alien crap sticking in my body with a pacemaker and a port and I don’t need yet another aperture.  BUT…..if I don’t start eating, then that’s what they are going to do.

So how do you take pain medication to ease the pain in your throat so you can swallow…….knowing that it will suppress your appetite….and yet gorge yourself as much as you can?  Well by medication of course.  They have a prescription for everything.

Appetite enhancer

This is Megestrol….an appetite enhancer.  If you look closely, you can see my index finger in the picture.  I did that to give some perspective of how BIG THE DAMN SYRINGE IS.  So every morning, I am to fill up this syringe and squirt it down my throat so that I can hopefully have an appetite and can eat something in order not to lose weight and possibly get a feeding tube and in the meantime, I’m all hopped up on oxy and methadone so it won’t hurt to swallow.    Oh and also take the four different types of anti-nausea pills so the chemo won’t affect that either.   I think that pretty much sums it up.

I need a pep squad that Kyobiashi uses when he eats all those dang hot dogs or whatever with a marching band and a parade.  A trainer to get me prepared to eat a meal…with the Food Coach psyching me up……

I know…I know….it can always be worse and for a lot of people it is.  Seriously though….food is my hangup now?

QUICK UPDATE…..Went down for dinner and even though some group was providing dinner, nothing sounded great so…..on the advice of my Nutritionist……..fixed a milkshake of Ensure Dark Chocolate…..a big ole heapin scoop of Haagen Dazs Chocolate ice cream and a big scoop of peanut butter and blended it up.  And it tasted so good, I had a 2nd one.

 

Ok…..enough seriousness…..This blog’s tone is probably not what you wanted or intended so I’ll try and lighten it up…….When I started sharing some of my stories, I received a call from a few buddies of mine that were fraught with terror that I would tell “that story” or “that other story”.  Relax.  Any story I’ve told, I’ve made sure the people involved were ok with the telling.  However, trying to keep it PG-13 has been …..”trying” ….at times.  But….those stories are for around the campfire.  Here is a (relatively) quick one that still makes me laugh….

 

UNRELATED STORY

When one graduates from the Dallas Police Academy, they are assigned to one of six (at that time) “sub-stations”.  If you were a good student…..(of course I was….;-) then you can “request” to go to a certain one.  Most rookies don’t care where they go, but they do care to not go to one of the least desirable stations.  So upon graduation, I was assigned to the Northwest Sub Station.  It had a good reputation, it ranged the gamut from projects to Ross Perot’s house.  Lots of activity and some good people that worked there.  So I was happy I got to go there.  The next phase of concern is who your trainers or Field Training Officer (FTO) were going to be.  Each rookie is assigned three FTO’s for four phases.  The first three phases last 6 weeks and the fourth phase is only for three weeks, you go back to your first trainer.  All three phases are on a different shift so you can see the different peculiarities between the 8am-4pm shift (days)….and the 4pm-12M shift (evenings) and the 12M to 8am shift (deep nights).   The concept is….during your 1st phase, you start off doing 10% of the work and by the end of the 1st phase…you do say mabye 30% …then end of 2nd phase….doing about 50%…..end of 3rd phase…about 75% and during 4th phase, you do everything.  The FTO’s are (hopefully) experienced officers that will guide and mold you into becoming one of Dallas’ finest.  Needless to say, good FTO’s are a godsend.  There are some great ones out there….there are some that are ok…there are some that “think” they are great….there are some without a clue.  If you get stuck with a bad one…there really isn’t a whole hell of a lot you can do…just do your 6 weeks with them and move on.  A great FTO makes those 6 weeks fly by.

So about a week before you graduate from the Dallas Police Academy, you get your station assignment and you get your FTO assignment.  Now in every academy class, there is always someone with an uncle or brother that has the “skinny” on everyone else and you try to get as much intelligence as you possibly can on who your FTO’s will be.  So my first one was Eddie.  Great guy.  Great reputation.  Gonna be busy and will have fun.  Great.  My 3rd one?  Only has 3 years experience.  (no coment)

The 2nd one?  Oh the 2nd one….someone that to this day when I think back…I just have to laugh and shake my head.  This story is about “Dirty Joe McCrary”.

“Why the name Dirty Joe?”  ”You don’t want to know.”….or “no one knows….”

So first phase comes and Eddie is a great guy and we are busy every night…great trainer….gets me in all kinds of stuff….car chases…foot chases… drug busts….total immersion in the “fun” stuff a police officer can do.  We were working the evening shift when a lot of things happened and it was a blast.  Working around a lot of good people who are still very good friends to this day (Hey Tom!).  Just had one heck of a time and I was eating it up with a shovel.  At the end of each shift, the FTO has to fill out a “Daily Observation Report” or “DOR” which has about 20-30 categories that you rank the rookie on.  Some you just fill in a number and there is a place to write some if a rookie does something good (doubtful) or bad (probable).  When the FTO has completed it, they hand it to the rookie and if discuss any issues and the rookie signs and it goes into the permanent file.

So First Phase is coming to a close….I’ve got all of six weeks on the department….and now I have to go to “Days” with “Dirty Joe” on Second Phase.  Now normally, the day shift or “Days” is the slower shift.  Hardly any drunks out…..dope heads are home sleeping…and its where the older officers work….they actually take coffee breaks…..(no time on Evenings)…and its just a slower pace.  On top of that, my FTO has one of the biggest reputations not only at NW but in the entire city.  At this time, Joe had about 17 years on the department but he looked like he had been there for 30.  He was about 6’4″, 280….big ole mustache….big ole beer gut…and one ugly cuss.  If you’ve ever seen the movie “Big Jake” with John Wayne, the main bad guy in there is Richard Boone.  He also acted in the TV Western, “Have Gun Will Travel”.

Richard Boone

Not the prettiest guy in the world.  Joe had a very gravel-like voice and spoke in his own patter that you had to interpret along the way.  And oh….by the way….he LOVED to torment rookies.  One way to do this was to “make them wear their lid”.  (Your “lid” is your police hat….like this one….

Police hat

Now the only time a DPD officer “had” to wear one was for special occasions like funerals…dignitary visits…etc.  As I quoted these rules to Joe when he told me I had to wear my lid….he said….”Them ain’t Joe’s rules.”  So for six weeks, I had…..to wear my lid…much to the delight of my academy classmates where we would run into each other at the jail.  Fun fun.

(Alright….paid meds must be kicking in because my editor is telling me that I’m rambling and that the “quick” story is long passed and I need to wrap this up…..)

So one day, we get an alarm call.  During the Day shift…98% of them are false ….1% are from bored housewifes..and 1% something actually happened.  So we get there, Joe stays in the front and I go check around the back.  Sure enough, the back door has been almost broken down, stuff all over the place…and no one around.  Now remember, I have all of six weeks of experience and my first inclination is, we need to see if someone is still in there.  So I go in…search the place….they are long gone…and come back out, go back to the front, and tell Joe they are long gone.  Joe gives me that look like…..”How do you know that.”  And I say…probably smugly….”Because I’ve already checked.”  Now for those that are not police officers…even you probably know..that I violated about 10 of the top 15 rules of police work by going to check on this by myself.  At the time, I saw the problem and fixed it…but there are SOOOOO many things I did not do correctly.  And it was slowly dawning on me…and those months of police academy study and hours of looking at proper procedures…..and years of watching Adam-12….were slowly starting to form in my previously disengaged brain and I realized….that I have really, really messed up.  Thankfully, the bad guys were all gone so it wasn’t compounded…but I have messed up big time.

We waited for the owner of the house to return….Joe didn’t say anything to me….we rode to the station….probably an hour earlier than usual before getting off….and he started writing his Daily Observation Report (DOR).  Now I know its going to be bad…..like get put on double secret probation kind of bad…..whatever reputation I had going in and built up with Eddie was now shot…..I’m dreading this DOR in all kinds of ways.

So Joe finally finishes and hands it to me.  Instead of the typical “Officer McCrary observed Police Rookie Finley ….blah blah blah……it said something like this…..

“Dear Mr and Mrs Finley.  I regret to inform you of the stupidity of your son.  I’m sure you raised him well and thought that he was somewhat educated and frankly, my first impression was he was a smart boy. But as we know, looks can be deceiving.  I regret to inform you that he can’t see very well because his head is so far up his rear that it makes it impossible.  He can’t hear very well because his ears are full of cow manure.  It’s obvious that he can’t think very well because only an idiot would GO INTO A BURGLARIZED HOUSE BY HIMSELF WITHOUT TELLING HIS FTO……and on and on it went.  For about four pages.  He apologized for failing them…he apologized on behalf of the department….he blamed the “new math’ they must be teaching…. it was an incredible work of art and if it wasn’t such a serious issue…I would have laughed out loud it was so stinking funny.

Thankfully, for my permanent record, he had also written a professional “official” one.  To this day I wished I had kept that.

 

Depression

First….an ADMIN note…..For those that have asked, my TechGuyNick has set up where you can “subscribe” to this blog and get an email notification whenever I post a new one.  Just scroll down on the right hand side and push the “subscribe” button and enter  your information.  My appreciation to TechGuyNick for his help in setting this blog up.  Take a bow TechGuyNick.  Yeeaahhhhhhhhhhh!    (Nick, those are the cheers from the multitude of readers that I hear in my head every night.  Enjoy them.)

Update:  Day 18/44.  Have lost a total of 13 lbs.  Fever gone.  Nausea under control.  Sore throat giving me problems.  Good spirits.

I believe Mr. sore throat is here to stay.  Doesn’t really hurt to talk, just to swallow.  After the fever went away, I figured it was time to get back on a regular eating/drinking routine.  They want me drinking 100 oz of liquid a day, at least half of that being water.  So on Wednesday, Mr. Tough Guy that I am, decided I don’t need no stinkin’ medicine to swallow and had half  a bowl of cereal in the morning, half a 6″ subway for lunch and about three bites of something for dinner.  So much for toughing it out.

Today (Thursday) I decided to see if those Dr’s really know what they are talking about and tried the medicine route.  First up, the “Magic Mouthwash”.  If you read earlier, its basically lydocaine you swirl in your mouth and swallow and it numbs everything in you mouth….lips…tongue….throat….but I was able to eat a couple of eggs and a piece of toast so I’ve got that going for me…which is nice.

Now here is where the depression kicks in…..

I believe it is safe to say that for at LEAST 45 of my 50 years….that there has been one constant in my life….(other than family, blah blah, blah ) and that is….Coca Cola.  I am one of the biggest Coca Cola fans out there.  Or as we say in the south…Coke.  Everything in the South is a Coke.  ”what kind of Coke do you want?  A Sprite or a Dr. Pepper?”  There is “real Coke…(leaded)….Diet Coke..(yuck) …Coke Zero (ok)…but Coke is king.  In college, I was probably up to drinking 10-12 A DAY.  I’m sure in the halls of the Coca Cola museum in Atlanta, my name is portrayed prominently.  Now I don’t drink quite that many now…maybe 3 a day….but it is where I get my caffeine.  I hate coffee.  Coke is the king.

So with the fever the last couple of days an dealing through the sore throat, I realized I had not had a Coke in two days.  I don’t think I have ever gone two days in my entire life without a coke.  So at lunch today..grabbed a Coke….heard the all too familiar sound of the pop top….brought it to my lips…..and took a big ole drink….and almost spit it out it hurt so much.  It burned the whole way down my throat.  Ok….maybe that was just the first swallow in a while and my throat needs to get used to it….but oh no….it burned just the same with the 2nd and 3rd swallow. Woe is me.  This is truly depressing.  One of the few constants in my life has forsaken me.  Nooooooooooo.

 

UNRELATED STORY TIME……or…..YOU HAVE TO BE SMARTER THAN THE AVERAGE BEAR

In my early days with the Dallas Police Department,  I was working Patrol with my partner, Scott.  It was a nice, summer evening, and we were driving through a neighborhood that had seen better days.  As we were slowly driving, up ahead, walking in the middle of the road, were four black teenagers, coming toward us.  As we were about 50 yards away, one of them dramatically reached into his pocket, picked something out, and threw it in the adjacent yard.  Scott and I looked at each other and smiled and pulled up to a stop in the middle of the street, got out, and told  all of them to place their hands on the hood of our car.  We patted all four down for weapons (there were none) and as Scott began looking in the area of the yard where the guy threw something, I decided to utilize my vast police experience (of one and half years) and impart some knowledge on these juvenile delinquents.

“You know….(i began) I’ve seen some really stupid people in my life.  I mean, I’ve seen some people that didn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.  I’ve met people that didn’t know their name, where they were from, where they were going…but out of all these stupid people I met, I don’t think I have EVER met anyone as stupid as you.  Did you not think we could see you throw something down?  We were looking right at you.  You made it SO obvious.  Did you think we were blind?”

Now the teenager in question decided that he wasn’t going to say anything, nor were his friends.  They just remained still with their hands on the hood of our car.   I glanced over at my partner, waiting for the AHA moment where he found whatever this guy threw down but Scott is now down on a knee looking through the freshly cut grass.  Jeez, even my partner is blind.  So with nothing else better to do, I decided to continue my skillful berating of Mr. Juvenile.

‘I mean really……how blind do you think we are?  Did you practice that maneuver over and over and think you have it down so well that it would work and two experienced police officers wouldn’t notice?  Jeez I’ve seen some rookie moves but that was over the top bad.  You couldn’t have been more obvious.  A moron wouldn’t have missed that move.  How stupid did you think we are and now that we have you here, how stupid do you feel?”

Smiling smugly, I looked over and my partner Scott is separating the blades of grass by hand, still hasn’t found anything.  He looks at me, shrugs, and stands up.  My partner really is blind so I decide to take a look.  As I’m looking, I hear Scott…..

“As my partner said, you guys take the cake.  That was one of the most stupid moves I have ever seen.  Most guys try to be subtle.  Do you even know what that means?  That means do it where no one can see it.  Go look it up because you don’t know the meaning.  That was over the top.  That was the opposite of subtle.  That was just plain stupid.”

Scott looks at me…and I can’t find anything.  We confer for a moment and we decide to save as much face as we can when Scott addresses the guy that threw something and said….

“Alright..we have decided to cut you guys a break.  Here is the deal.  What was it you threw down?”  The juvenile tells us it was a joint of marijuana.  ”Ok…here is the deal….if WE find it…you are going to jail.”  (We haven’t found it yet but its all about the bluff.)  If YOU find it and destroy it….We will let you go.”

Mr Juvenile said….”Let me get this straight….if YOU find it…we are going to jail but if WE find it and destroy it…you will let us go?”

“That is correct”

“No Bullshit?”

“No Bullshit.”

Mr Juvenile said….”Ok then…but I need to take my hands off the hood of your car.”   We nodded.  He then took his hands off the hood of our car, reached in our open driver side door, popped the hood of OUR car…..reached in, grabbed the marijuana joint from inside the hood of OUR car….crumbled it up…started laughing his ass off and walked away.

When this kid saw us, he ACTED like he threw something but when we put their hands on our hood, he slipped it down the crack of our own car hood.

Scott and I just looked at each other and laughed.  Some days  you have to be smarter than the average bear.

Side Effects

Hello again everyone.  Welcome back to the wonderful world of cancer treatment and the untold scores of fun and exciting things that await.

First..an update.

It is day 16 of 44.  Started week 3 of 6.   Nausea seems to be under control.  However, that sore throat that everyone has been telling me about?????  Well guess who decided to drop by and play?  Yippeee.  So much for gaining weight. I’ve lost 12 pounds.

The weekend started off better.  Saw my Chemo Dr on Friday and we had a good talk.  He asked me about any issues and I told him really the only thing was not sleeping.  He told me it was due to anxiety.  Seriously Doc?  I think I’ve been in some anxious moments before where most people would cringe but I had a grin on my face.  However, I’ve learned you can’t really argue with the Dr that has your health in your hands so he prescribed Xanax.  Oh boy…another prescription.  He said it was like a glass of wine before bed.  I muttered something about why not drink the wine and he said..”Oh…you can drink all the wine you want to.”  (REALLY?)  ”But you aren’t going to want to.”  Heh heh heh. ..We’ll see about that Doc.  I’m not sure you realize who you are talking with.  In some circles, I’m considered a professional.  I survived a week long  training trip to Belgium, the beer capitol of the world, with six guys from the Irish National Police.  BTW, in Belgium, bars close when people go home.  If they don’t go home they just sweep around you.

So make it home Friday.  A good friend whom I haven’t seen in awhile comes by Saturday night with his wife and they bring two bottles of wine and I think I’ll just show ole doubting doctor right here and now who is the master of their own domain.  Ahhh…it smells good.  (taste buds are waning but smell is not)  Tastes like a good wine….maybe a little bland (taste buds, not the wine)…..maybe once I swallow it…..HOLY $#!*?<$#@! that burns!  Well now this really sucks.

Woke up Sunday with a sore throat.  I may have talked a little too much Sat night.  (seriously….I know most of you will find that hard to believe).  I kept quiet most of the day but the sore throat didn’t go away.  That evening, I started getting cold.  Now living in North Florida, cold is a relative term.  We see ski parkas when it drops down in the 60′s.  However, its in the high 40′s outside, our heat is on, and I’m still freezing my rear end off.  The former nurse Missus decides to take my temperature and what da ya know..I have a fever of 101.  That’s not good. In all our meetings with the chemo Dr’s, they said to call them if my fever ever got over 100.4.  My Dr even gave me his cell phone to call.  They are that serious about it.  A fever is a warning sign of……NEW WORD HERE…….Neutropenia.  Tell us Don Pardo…..what is Neutropenia?

Neutropenia is where your white blood cells are NOT fighting off infection, and basically fighting and destroying each other.  This is really really bad for cancer patients because you are more susceptible for ANY kind of infection.  And if your white blood cells don’t fight that infection, a minor infection could become major one in a big hurry.  Apparently, about half of leukemia patients suffer from this.

So the on-call Dr said that since I was coming down there tomorrow, just get blood work done tomorrow.  So I’m sure all of you have tried to sleep with a fever.  You are either too hot or too cold and feel like crap and are uncomfortable and basically want your Mommy to bring you a comic book.

Had to get up at O’dark thirty to drive to Gainesville in time for my radiation treatment and at this point, I have a fever of 102.1.  I can do this.  I am superman.  I am Captain America….I am ….feeling like crap.  Kathy will have none of that so 19 yr old daughter gets awakened and drafted to drive me.  Make it down safely, get the radiation treatment, get more blood work and basically, I’m NOT neutropenic, I am suffering from a sinus infection.  still sucks but it could have been worse.  They load me up with antiobiotics, I go back to the lodge and take one of the best three hour naps I have ever had in my life, and feel much better.  Kathy comes and gets Taylor and now back settled.   EXCEPT…..Mr sore throat is still around and apparently, he will be here for the duration.  The radiation that I’m being bombarded with swells up the throat, making it difficult to swallow.  When I chew on something and just about have it ready to swallow….I feel like Will Ferrell in the movie “Elf” where he is testing the Jack-in-the-boxes. He hates them, you can tell, but he is doing his job and as he winds the crank, he is cringing at Jack popping out.  Well for me and eating, that is what I’m feeling.  I know its coming, I’m cringing at the thought, but I have to do it.

The other alternative is through medicine.  First off they have this stuff called “Magic Mouthwash”.  It’s pink and the consistency of Pepto-Bismol and tastes like crap.  It’s active ingredient is lydocaine.  You swish it around your mouth and swallow before eating.  It deadens your mouth…throat..lips…tongue….for about 5-10 minutes.  Can’t taste a dang thing.   And also the Doctors keep asking me why I’m not taking what they prescribed for pain?  So for the sore throat, I have morphine and oxycodone.  Maybe if you take that you just don’t care if it hurts to swallow.

So on one hand, I can eat and swallow with pain, but can actually taste what I’m eating.  On the other hand, I can numb the crap out of everything and eat in a morphine hazed state.

I know I have to eat so I’ve got to figure out a happy medium.

PICTURES!  Yeah….shut up Finley…we want to see PICTURES!

Here are my medications…..

Meds

Here are some pictures of what it looks like to receive the radiation treatment.  I’ve shown the mask in an earlier post.  This is one with me wearing it….or it wearing me.

Rad with mask

 

radiation treatment

 

For any of my LE buddies out there…yes, those are 5.11 pants.   I told a 5.11 VP friend of mine that if he needed a sales guy to go after the cancer patient demographic, I’m the guy.

 

SIDE EFFECTS

So over 1,000 words in this blog and I’m just now getting around to talking about what I intended.

My first visit down here at Shand’s, we met all the Doctors and the loaded us with will all kinds of information.  Part of this information was a thick folder full of “Side Effects of Radiation”.  In this packet, they give you the overview, how radiation kills tumor cells by destroying their DNA, when the DNA is damaged beyond repair, the cell stops dividing and dies and how it can also damage normal cells and THAT is what causes the side effects.   They then go and mention that they are listing ALL potential side effects for ALL types of cancer and that at least some cancer patients have had, but doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get it…blah blah blah…..

So lets go down the list:

-Anxiety – Well this is pretty natural.  I would guess any visit to the doctor will cause this especially cancer.

-Depression – Again, I can understand this, especially if the particular type of cancer you have is very serious.

Fatigue – Yep.  Got it.  I don’t have “riding-in-the-scooter-at-the-grocery-store-kind-of-fatigue” but I can definitely tell my energy is waning.  I went to the gym last week and boy was THAT depressing.

Hair Loss. – As much as I would like to blame my thinning hair on chemo, my Chemo Dr assures me getting it once a week will not cause me to lose my hair.  However, the next time you see me and my hair is thin…just assume the Dr was wrong.

Loss of Appetite – Check

Dry Mouth – Check

Skin Changes – I keep getting asked if my skin has changed.  Apparently, where you get radiation, you get radiation burns on your skin.  I swear the first person that calls me a “redneck”……..

Constipation and Diarrhea – I’ll spare you the details.

Taste Changes – Check

Sleep Changes – check

Now this one….when I read it, I had to re-read it.  I’m going to quote…..

Cognitive Changes – Short term memory loss, being easily distracted and having trouble concentrating, difficulty multitasking, difficulty understanding new things and difficulty with math and/or language skills are some of the impairments cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy may experience.

“MOST PEOPLE RETURN TO “NORMAL” BY 1-2 YEARS AFTER TREATMENT FINISHES.”

Are you kidding me?????  I’m sure (at least I’m hoping), that its for brain cancer but still….

If you have followed this blog from the beginning and are starting to notice a trend of my lack of using polysyllbi…….pollly…….pollysulabic……….BIG WORDS……, then let me know.  You might need to use small words and/or pictures.

I’ve left out a lot of others but you get the point.  And remember, these are the side effects from just the radiation.  I have side effects from the chemo and every single one of those medicines that was in that picture also has side effects.

 

Story time?  This has turned into a long enough blog.  But the multitude (2) of fans (acquaintances) keep asking (mentioning) it so….here goes an absolutely unrelated story…..

THE NIGHT I ALMOST DIED IN JORDAN BUT ENDED UP LAUGHING MY ASS OFF

I’ve been to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan twice.  This was from my first trip.   Probably around 2007?  I’m working for a company that makes police and military goods.  In this particular instance, the police in Jordan have purchased a large amount of tear gas, rubber pellets and pepper spray from our company and now they need training.  They received training on other correctional tactics from another company, they just need training on these items now.  So I grabbed one of our instructors “Mike” and off to Jordan we go.  Before I leave, I call one of our international sales guys “Ray” who’s territory at the time was the middle East.  At that time he was in Dubai and I mentioned that I was going to Jordan and he said he would come by.  Great.  Good trip.

Now Ray is a former police officer from OH and he is the kind of person that I have never heard anyone say anything negative about.  He has never met a stranger, would give you the shirt off his back or go buy you a new one.  Just an all around great guy and funny as all get out.  When Ray left a few days later, the Chef, the Head Waiter and the Desk Manager all stopped what they were doing to come out and hug Ray goodbye.  That’s the kind of guy that Ray is.

So Mike and I arrive in Jordan and Ray meets us at the hotel and the next day we begin training and things are going well.  We are actually working as a sub-contractor to a training group that has the training contract but they are ok and their point of contact with us, “Jim” is a nice guy and the four of us made a good team.  Get up in the morning, get driven to the police academy, train these guys (around calls to prayer) and then back to the hotel by 4:30.  Shower.  Hit the hotel bar.  Go out to eat.  Back to the  hotel bar, and do it all over again.

Now bars in Jordan, as you can imagine, are a little different.  They still serve all the requisite spirits but there is one small difference….there are no women in ANY bar.  Not that my group cared about that..but it got to be a running joke.  We didn’t want to talk to them or anything else…we just wanted to see if they actually went to one.  We would see a woman enter the hotel lobby….think maybe this is the one..and then she would veer off.  I’m not sure where women in Jordan drink but its not in public bars.

On the 3rd or 4th night, we were hitting it pretty well when someone came up with the idea to see if other hotel bars were the same.  One was in walking distance, we went there and sure enough, no women.  AS we are walking back to our hotel, Ray is behind us and I hear him say “Finley!  Come on!”

Now think back on the adventures you have had.  Did they start off with someone asking “Where are we going?”  ”What are we going to do”  No, of course not.  They start off by someone doing something.  It kills me when I go back to TX to the state SWAT Association conference and there are these younger guys hanging around us.  When I ask them what they are doing, they reply “We are waiting for the fun to start.”  Sheesh.

So when Ray said, “lets go” I didn’t ask where or why, I just jumped in a cab with him.  It seems that Ray had been talking to a cab driver on the corner and lamented the fact that there were no women in the bars and the cab driver promised to show him where the women hung out.  So we pull up to this skanky looking building with these two HUGE guys hanging around out front.  The alarm bells in my head are not sounding like they should, probably due to the amount of alcohol in my system.  The cab driver assures us that it is his “cousins” bar and everything is A-OK.  (he actually said that.) So Ray and myself, with the bravery of alcohol propelling us forward, walk past the two goons and into what I have to describe as the smallest elevator I have ever been in.  Ray and I have to turn sideways so we can both fit.  One of the goons says “5″ so we push the 5th floor button and away we go.  When we reach the 5th floor and the elevator doors open, we are immediately assaulted by bright lights and very, very loud music.  A guy greets us at the door like we are visiting royalty and immediately takes us into the main room and puts us at this big table right in front of the stage.  Takes our drink order and is off.

I’m going to try and do my best to paint this picture…so bear with me……

On the stage…….is a ten piece live band playing arabic music as loud as they can.

In front of them, are about 10-15 “girls” in various shorts, halter tops, with what I would have to imagine, makeup applied by the gallon with a paint roller and none of these girls knew anything about nutrition.  And they are all dancing to the music.

BOOM…here come our drinks and they are very strong and very big.  BOOM…here comes  all this food…I’m talking plates and plates of food….that we didn’t order…coming to our table.  The alcoholic haze is starting to lift a little and I say (scream) RAY……something about this is wrong.  We didn’t order food.  Go see what you can find out.  cause if anyone can talk with anyone, its Ray.  Everyone loves Ray.

While Ray is gone, a couple of the girls come and sit at the table and ask me where I’m from and they say they are from the Czech Republic.  Ray comes back and shrugs his shoulders and about this time….BOOM…the head guy comes out and starts throwing purple money around and that was the final alarm bell.

In Dallas, there were a few bars that were on the very low end of strip clubs. What they would do is when a guy came in, the dancer would ask him to buy her a glass of “champale”.  And of course hand over his credit card.  When the bill came, it was $300.  Invariably, sometimes the police would be called but basically, there wasn’t a dang thing we could do.

This was one of those places.  In this case, the purple money was “house money” worthless but with it and the food….you see where it is going.

I told Ray, who has already downed his drink, that we need to leave like right now and he said he was on it.  Less than a minute later, he came back to me and said I needed to come with him.  NOW!

Facing us were five people.  The Manager who until recently was our newest, bestest friend, and four of the largest goons  I have ever seen.  They had no necks.  Their jackets are stretched across their torsos so you can see the outline of their concealed handguns. And they are all from Russia.   Not good.  But if anyone can schmooze these Russian goons, Ray can, right?

So I turned to Ray and said, “Whats the deal?”

It turns out that they want to charge us $400 for our less than 10 minute stay.  Now I know how this ends.  They probably have the law on their side and I KNOW they have the intimidation on their side.  My brain is trying to figure out all the options when Ray says….

“Here is whats going to happen.  I’m going to pay you $20 for the drinks, because they were good.  But I am not paying one dime for any of this other mickey mouse bullshit you are trying to pull on us.  So here is the $20 and if you don’t like that, you can stick it up your ass!

(Ummm..what happened to schmoozing Ray?  The one everyone likes?  The one that is NOT going to get us killed?)

We slowly back our way into the elevator, keeping our eyes on them, squeeze our way inside, push the ground floor button and watch the bemused looks on their faces as the doors close.

Ray immediately lets out a big sigh and starts talking a mile a minute…..”Man Fin!  Did you see those guys?  Wow…I thought we were going to get our asses kicked….wow they were big….I wasn’t going to pay $400 or even $100….man they were big…..Uh Fin?  How come we aren’t moving?”

Sure enough, the elevator has not gone anywhere.

I push Level 2

Ray starts up again…”Man o man.  That was close….did you see the look on that ones guys face when I told him were were only going to pay $20?  And then when I flipped him the $30?  Wow…..uh Fin?  We still arent moving.”

Indeed we are not.  I start pushing other buttons.

“Fin….get us out of here.  Work your magic.  I got us out of the bar…you get us out of the building…..come on Fin!  Keep pushing buttons. Get us out of here!

I’m pushing alternate buttons.  I’m pushing them with my left hand and then my right.  I’m holding down one while I push others.  We are not moving.

“COME ON FIN!  Get us going….quit pushing buttons…get us out of here now….cmon Fin….

“I DON’T WANT TO LOSE A KIDNEY TONIGHT!”

Now I am sure you have all heard the urban legend about the guy that gets with a girl and sleeps over and wakes up in a bathtub full of ice with a note telling him to call his doctor because one of his kidneys has been harvested?  Apparently, Ray had too.

Of all the things that could have happened….beat up…taking all of our money, maybe a broken bone….for whatever reason, first and foremost in Ray’s mind was losing a kidney…..and given the timing, and the context, and the situation…..that had to be the funniest thing I had ever heard.

“Uh Ray….what?”

“Come on Fin…I don’t want to lose a kidney tonight!”

I start laughing…couldn’t help myself…..Ray starts laughing….here we are cramped in this tiny elevator, with possible mayhem on the other side of the door, and we are laughing our asses off.  Not just a snicker ..no…..a full roar…tears coming out of your eyes….gasping for breath…laughing.

So we finally gathered ourselves…..and realized that there was only one thing left to do and that is open the door on our current floor.  So like Butch and Sundance, we put our fists up….pushed “5″, the doors came open…and no one was there.

I’m not sure if they got bored from waiting or heard the wild ravings of some lunatics and left but  didn’t really care why they left, as long as they weren’t there.  We stepped out of the elevator, thankfully found some stairs….went down them as fast as we could…sprinted past the two goons outside, as we were still laughing….caught a cab and made it back to our nice, quite hotel bar.

The next night we were having dinner with a Jordanian police major and we told him about this place and he said it was one of the places run by the Russian Mafia.  Nice.

He recommended we not go back.

Gotcha.

George

First off, I want to thank everyone for the kind words regarding this blog.  I’m doing it mostly to keep from going insane (insane-ier?) while cooped up here, partly to keep family and friends informed of whats going on, partly to scratch the itch of needing to tell stories, and also partly in figuring out a way to deal with whats going on.

The feedback has been great but I’m starting to feel the pressure to keep making it “funny”.  I’ve had a multitude of people beg me to include stories from my past that I may have told once or twice.

(Editors note…..multitude = two people.  Beg= ask)

SHUT UP Mr. Editor!  (Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!)

So in changing the format a little, I’ll start each blog with a quick update on my current status, followed by a story on something that is currently happening with my treatment.  Lastly, I will add a story that has absolutely nothing to do with my treatment, so you can skip that part if you want.  These stories will be humorous in nature.  Now obviously, some of you have heard these stories and there are some that I will not be posting.  I will make these as PG-13 as possible but warning, there might be a swear word in there.

First……current update…..

I am in day 11 of 44.  (36 treatment days, 44 actual days).  The anti-nausea meds seem to have worked.  Still feels like I have heartburn but its manageable.  Gastro issues are no longer a problem…(whew).  No difficulty swallowing or eating but I’ve lost a total of 7 lbs when I am supposed to be gaining.  The biggest issue is not sleeping.  The anti-nausea drugs are mostly to blame, along with the anxiety and different environment.  I really can’t complain too much, but I know that this is an “easy” week with the worst to come.  I think the next blog will be about the wonderful world of side effects.  Fun fun fun.

Now..on to my story….

GEORGE

Here at the Hope Lodge, different groups come in 1-3 times a week and cook dinner for everyone.  There are 48 rooms here and I believe they are all taken and you figure 90% have a caregiver with them so that’s dinner for 90-100 people. Very nice of them to do that.

Well last week, my first week, they are serving dinner and since I am pretty much the youngest person here, I was waiting for everyone else to be served when an older man came up to me and asked if he could sit with me.  We started talking.  One advantage about talking to someone here is you have an instant connection….”What are you in for?” He introduced himself as “George” and looked about 70 yrs old.  George and I compared our cancer issues and where we lived and so forth when I asked him if he was still working.  He said he was a retired Industrial Engineer but before that, he retired from the military.  I thanked him for his service and asked him what branch?  Army.  Oh?  What was your MOS?  (In Army talk…MOS stands for “Military Occupational Specialty”.  Infantry or Artillery, etc.)  George cocked his eyebrow up and smiled a little and said….”SF”.

SF stands for “Special Forces”.  As in Green Berets.  (In the Special Operations world, SF pretty much means the Green Berets.  Delta Team will never admit they are in Delta so they say DOD (Dept of Defense) or SpecOps.  Navy SEALs are “The Teams.  All under the SpecOps family.)

He confirmed, shyly, that he was indeed a member of the Green Berets.  I asked him further about his story and he gave it….and WHAT a story!

He enlisted in 1944. (Wait…what?)  Said he was 17 living in Brooklyn and dating a 16 yr old girl.  Dad found out and called police.  George was sent before the judge and the judge told him he had three choices….1) He ould go to prison for statutory rape.  2) he could be released and in that case, the Dad would surely kill him.  3) the Judge could pull some strings and he could enlist, today, in the Army even though he was 17.  George said he didn’t have to think too long and chose door #3.  As Boot Camp was winding down, a guy came along offering more money for anyone that joined the paratroopers and George decided that sounded good and joined them.  But he didn’t join just any paratroop outfit, he joined the 101st Airborne Division and was assigned to the 506th Regiment.  That just happens to be the Regiment honored by the book and HBO mini-series, “The Band of Brothers”.  Wow!  Now George downplayed it and said he didn’t do all the things that those guys did because he got in so late in WWII but still.

If that wasn’t enough, he stayed in and they disbanded the 101st and he joined the 11th Airborne Division in Japan, came back as a training officer to re-form the 101st for Korea, served in Korea, joined the Green Berets in 1962, served in Laos (um….George..I don’t think we were supposed to be in Laos?) worked with the CIA on the “Phoenix Program” (mission was to torture and assassinate Viet Cong leadership.)  According to George, “I didn’t get into the sniping and torture.  My specialty was demo (demolition) so I just blew them up.”

He finally retired in 1969 at the rank of Command Sergeant Major,  (That’s an HMFIC) after some injuries and used the GI Bill to get his Industrial Engineering degree and spent 25 years working in that and just retired about 10 years ago.

Now he told this story in less time it takes you to read it and I’m trying to process all of this and somehow figure how how old he really is but my brain is in overload so I just ask him.  He is 86.

I was telling this story to a buddy of mine today and my buddy said, “great hyphen”.  I asked what he meant and he said on our tombstone, you have your birth date and your day of your death and in between is a hyphen.  Indeed….a great hyphen.

Like Red said in “Shawshank Redemption”….”you either need to get busy living or get busy dying.”

 

UNRELATED STORY

Again, probably PG-13 and it has nothing to do with my treatment.  Just me, wanting to tell a funny story.  (Yeah, like I’ve never done that before!)

A quick funny story before the Main Funny Story….In Dallas SWAT, the negotiators are actual SWAT Guys.  A position came open and they were talking about who could fill it and apparently my name came up but was quickly taken off the list.  The reason?  They said the suspect would say he was giving up and I would say, “Hang on, let me tell you another story.”  Hardee Har Har

 

Speaking of Special Operations Forces, while with Dallas, we had the opportunity to train with two elite groups….Delta and Navy Seals.  These groups visit cities and use their buildings and terrain to get a different look and of course invite the locals to join them.

Delta was all set to come to Dallas and of course we were all excited to join them when our city leaders decided to order us NOT to train with them.  They thought Delta would teach us “bad habits”.  You have GOT to be kidding me.  You trust us to protect the city but you don’t trust us to distinguish military tactics vs police tactics>?????  sheesh.

So while Delta trained, we stood guard protecting them from whatever…and of course would sneak inside and train with them.

But this is not about us, its about Houston.

Delta left us and went to Houston to train.  I have a few friends from Houston SWAT that shared this story.  After the Houston guys got to do all kinds of training with them (Bastards!) the Delta guys invited them to their base at Ft. Bragg.  A month later, four Houston SWAT guys went up there to visit and to train for a couple of days.  As the Delta guys are showing them around the grounds, they pass the Obstacle Course and ask, “I don’t guess you guys feel like doing the O course, do you?”  Now in the Type-A, macho, competitive world of Special Operations/SWAT, this is akin to saying…..”We think you guys are wimps and the only way to prove us wrong is to man up right here and now and you better do it well.”  But you have to play it easy so you say, “Sure…we need a little something to do and besides its been at least 24 hours since we have done one.”

So the Houston guys take off on the O course and when done, are asked “How was it?”  Now inside they are dying cause they just gave it everything they had but of course you don’t say that, you say what they sad….”Not bad.”

They continued to walk around the compound when they came up on a series of holes in the side of a hill.  When the Houston guys asked about it, they were told it was a “Tunnel Challenge”.  Inside were a series of tunnels and a team would go in and, using teamwork, get out on the other side.  Again, the gauntlet was laid down, “You guys want to try?” and the Houston guys jumped in and began crawling.

Now imagine crawling on your hands and knees, in pitch black darkness, sometimes having to go to your belly, and crawling into your head hits a wall.  You feel around for another tunnel and go that route.  If there is no other tunnel, then you back out.  Oh yeah, there are four of you working as a team.  Sometimes they would come to an intersection where there would be 3-4 tunnels and a person would go down each one with all but one being a dead end.  They would have to communicate to each other and maneuver back out and on the right track.

After about an hour, they emerged at the end, tired, and dirty.  The Delta guys slapped them on the back for a job well done and told them about the time the Japanese Special Forces visited Ft. Bragg.

As Delta was showing them around, much like with Houston, they came upon the tunnel system.  As they were explaining it, the Japanese said….”Tunnels??  We invented the tunnel system!  You Americans think you know tunnels?  We’ve been using them for centuries and kicked your ass in WWII with our tunnel knowledge.  If this course is so great, what is the record in getting through it?”  The Delta guys replied that it was 20 minutes and the Japanese, full of boast and confidence said, “Well that record is falling today!”

Now again, you don’t boast and brag around Type-A guys cause they’ll humble you real quick.  ESPECIALLY on the other teams home turf.

But into the tunnels jumped the Japanese and sure enough, they popped out at the end in just under 20 minutes full of confidence.  EXCEPT….the Delta guys moved the table and chairs that were at the entrance hole to the exit hole where it looked identical.   As the Japanese popped out, the Delta guys exclaimed….”Dang guys. Somehow you got turned around and came back out the front.”  So back in the Japanese go and of course,….you got it…they moved the table and chairs again.  According to the Delta guys….”We kept them sonovabitches in there for three hours!”

Port Placement

Before we get into today’s topic, “Port Placement” I have to announce new skills…..I finally figured out how to add a picture.  See, us “seasoned bloggers” (those that have written more than one) know how to do these things.  Impressed?  You should be.  It took a lot of time and effort on my part and at least 5 min watching a YouTube video to do this for you.  My friends run the gamut of people with advanced degrees to knuckle draggers.  One of my knuckle dragging friends asked for pictures.  Now personally, I thought my eloquence wove a tapestry of images but apparently not……

Our first picture is one of the radiation mask that I have to wear, twice a day, five days a week for six weeks.  About two weeks before I started, they put what felt like a wet cloth over my face and stretched it.  The material hardens and the result is this mask.  It is made of some kind of polymer as well as some Kevlar   So if anyone wants to shoot it out while I am getting radiation treatment, my face will be OK, so I’ve got that going for me…which is nice.

The mask:

Radiation Mask

Radiation Mask

Pretty Buck Rogers looking, huh?  The blue edge is what they bolt to the table to make sure your head stays still.

When I have shown this picture to a few people, the first question they ask, is, “Can you keep it?”  It seems there is a very strong, malicious rumor around that when I consume an adult beverage or two, that “headgear” may end up on my head.  There is absolutely no truth to this rumor, even though by the bar at our house is a Batman helmet that I’ve had since I was 7, a WWII pilot helmet, current Navy flight helmet, a WWII German helmet, a mullet wig, a Drum Majors hat, a shemagh (arabic head wrap) a helmet that looks a lot like my SWAT helmet from Dallas but its not because if it was, would mean that I “appropriated” it, and a few other items.

So the answer is, yes, you can take it with you when you are done.  I asked the nurses about that and they said one gentleman, after receiving over 60 treatments asked if he could have it.  They gently gave it to him. He took it placed it on the ground, raised his foot and stomped the hell out of it and walked out.  With 10 treatments down and 50 to g0, I think I can relate.

PORT PLACEMENT

You just learn all kinds of new terms when you go through a process you nor your family has ever gone through.  One of those is a “Port”.

During this six week process, I am going to be jabbed with a needle over 50 times  They draw my blood two or three times a week but the big one is the chemo infusion.  Last week for my first chemo infusion, they stuck me with a needle in a vein in my hand and pumped that crap into me.  The particular chemo that they are using, CISPLATIN, it is a very harsh chemical that is very bad for your veins.  Like, destroys them, kind of harsh.  I have 7 infusions scheduled so they would have to find a different place every time.  A way to get around that is a “port”.

This is what one looks like… (another picture?  Yes…I am spoiling you)

port receptacle

port receptacle

port receptacle with wire

port receptacle with wire

The purple thingy is the receptacle.  It sits under your skin, in your chest, right over your heart.  This is what they stick the needle into.  The wire snakes up through your jugular and back down to your heart.  So any needle stick during my stay here will be through this port, thus saving my veins from ouchy boo boos.

I had surgery this past Friday getting this implanted. There are two holes…one in my chest for the receptacle and one at my jugular to make sure the wire was inserted.

WARNING… GRATUITOUS SKIN ….LADIES..SIMMER DOWN

port scars

 

So today I showed up with my new port, (and learning from last week, my laptop) and going to town.  Us “port-people” look with sympathy to “non-port-people”  Tsk tsk.

I also received some additional anti-nausea meds so hopefully things will be better this week.  Damn I sure hope so.

Next post will be about a gentleman I met named George.

Nutritionist and Throat Coach?

During  your  first week of treatment, it is a whirlwind of activity.  You go from appointment to appointment and in between, someone calls you and tells you to go to a different one.

As soon as I finished my first chemo infusion, I get a call from the Nutritionist asking me to stop by her office.

Now a few (actually…way too many) words about my weight.

I feel these following stories about my weight are germane (or LaToya?) about the nutritionist story.  However, I am sure they will not be as entertaining to you as they are in my own head.  Plus, add the fact that I had surgery yesterday and was in pain earlier today and am currently on morphine, well….this may not be pretty.  If you feel the need to skip down, I certainly don’t blame you.  I’ll let you know when the Nutritionist comes back in.  But for those of you with time on your hands and with nothing else better to do…..

Background…weighed around 6.5 lbs when born.  Pretty much always been skinny.  My Dad was lean, until he met my Mom.  He weighed 155 lbs when he married and four months later, weighed 200 lbs.  Good southern cooking.

In high school in the mid-to-late 70′s, I did what I could to gain weight.  When Rocky came out?  I was on the raw egg milkshake diet for awhile.  However, the best milkshakes were those from The Hamburger Wagon and I drank a ton of them but could never gain weight.

My senior year in high school, I am 16 yrs old (started early) and playing on the high school football team.  I would love to  make up stories about how great I was but I imagine there are a few of my former teammates who may read this and would throw the BS flag so I guess I have to tell the truth.  I weighed a whopping 140 lbs my senior year.  I didn’t start but played on every special team and could run like the wind.

It was regular practice in high school for the coaches to “alter” the players’ weights in the game program so as to fool the visiting team.  If you had a player that weighed 230, you may list him at 200, etc.  Well in my case, the coach added weight.  I think in our senior year program he had me listed at 165, much to the amusement of my teammates.

Senior year….last regular season game.  We are playing our arch rivals, the Magee Trojans.  We had only lost one game that year and I think they had only lost one or two.  BIG GAME.  To underscore how big this game was, Mendenhall had (and I think still has..) a population of around 2,500 and Magee had 3,000 and more than 6,500 were at this game.  HUGE.

Right before halftime, we score and are about to kick off.  Magee had this kick returner that had already returned three or four earlier that year for touchdowns so our plan was to “pooch” kick.  A pooch kick is one that doesn’t go very deep, just over the front line, and most people aren’t aware of this, the ball is actually live.  If the kicking team gets it first, it is theirs. So the pooch kick is called, all of us fast boys were lined up on one side, the ball is kicked and I am running as fast as I possibly can to get this ball.  Here it comes!  Glory!  Girls!  Shaving cream commercials!  (well…) and I see the ball floating down right in front of me and I kick it into a higher gear and about five yards before I get to the ball, the Magee fullback steps up and catches it.  This particular FB weighed 225 lbs.  His thigh is as big as my waist.  For those scoring at home, I weigh all of 140 lbs and am running at top speed.  I remember lowering my head and that is pretty much all I remember the rest of the night.  The following Monday, as we watch the tape, you can see me hit is thigh and spin off like a helicopter in the air.  For those old enough to remember the highlight of Mark Duper from the Miami Dolphins….it looked just like that.  I got credit for the “tackle” but the FB really just fell down.  I also saw on the tape that I jumped off the bench and went running back out on the field for the punt return…came out in the 2nd half…even had a pass thrown to me but don’t remember a thing.

By the time I graduated high school, I had bulked up to a Charles Atlas like 145 lbs.  Everyone was telling me…”just wait…college will put that weight on you.”  So I went through the “freshman fifteen”, the “sophomore sixteen” the “junior….?? and the first and second senior year whatever and finished college at 155 lbs.  Whew…!

Joined the Dallas Police Department, later the SWAT team where we worked out on duty and had peer pressure to spur you on and had a quarterly physical fitness test that you had to pass to stay in so 16 years later, I had made it all the way up to 175.  Would run every day, even on the weekend.

Then I leave Dallas and join the corporate world with travel and expense accounts.  About four years later, I am down to running once or twice a week and had extreme pain in my left knee.  I had already had my right knee scoped earlier but this hurt.  It felt like someone was turning a knife in it.  Went to the Dr., of course he prescribed rest.  That didn’t work so went to rehab.  That didn’t work so had an MRI.  The Dr said he couldn’t see anything but it still hurt to blue blazes so I had that one scoped.  A couple of days after surgery, I visit the Dr and he asks, “Mr. Finley?  Were you in a car wreck?”  Ummmm…no?

“Were you hit by a car?”

ummm…no?

“Do you play extreme sports?”

Ummm..no Doc.  Whats going on?

Well it seems that the MRI didn’t pick up any cartilage tear because I DIDN’T HAVE ANY.  It was gone, vamoose, sayonara.   The Doc said there were a few pieces floating around that he cleaned out but nothing left to trim.

Of course, it probably had nothing to do with the fact that “for fun” we would run from the SWAT station to the Cotton Bowl, (about 1.5 miles) and run up AND DOWN the steps all the way around and then back to the station.  I’m not sure what the foot pounds of that was but it can’t be pretty.

So now I have a bum knee….can’t run anymore, and get all the way up to 195 lbs.  I am a load, or at least I feel like one.

But I finally figure out how to get cardio without running, start watching what I eat and get back down to around 185 lbs.  Not bad but probably about 5-10 lbs more than I should be.

NOW THE NUTRITIONIST STORY …thank you for your patience

Before treatment, I heard from a friend of my sisters that had gone through throat cancer and had lost 30 lbs in two weeks!  Holy crap!  So I figure I need to start fattening up for the week or two before I start, and I do.  My first day of treatment, I weighed 189 lbs.

My second day of treatment, I met with the Nutritionist.  We talked about my weight and what was about to happen and she said something that I would bet that all of us would want our nutritionist to say……

“Mr Finley…you need to gain weight.  I want you to eat whatever you want, whenever you want and however much you want.  I want you to put chocolate syrup on it.  I want you to eat cream on everything.  I don’t want you to worry about cholesterol, calories, or fat.  I want you to gain 10 lbs in the next 10 days.  You will need to eat 5 times a day.  I want you snacking before you go to bed.  i want you snacking between snacks.  Got it?”

Got it?  Well, first let me say..”I love you”… and secondly…absolutely!

Wellll…..It hasn’t quite worked out that way.  Has anyone seen the Twilight Zone where Burgess Meredith (trainer Mickey from Rocky) is a big book lover but can never find the time to read because someone is always bothering him?  In the last scene, he has thousands of books around him, he is the last person on earth and he is delighted that all of his dreams have come true….and breaks his glasses.

So this Nutritionist tells me to eat anything and everything I possibly can on the same day I receive chemo and the accompanying nausea.

End of week one……I’ve lost four pounds.

I’ve got an all-you-can-drink coupon at the bar and I’m ordering water!

 

THROAT COACH

I’ve spent way too much time on the previous stories but I will tell this one quickly.

Due to radiation aimed at the throat, my throat will swell up and it will be painful to swallow.  So in order to prepare you for this and to do some preventative things, you go see a “throat coach” every week.  My first session they gave me a list of four exercises to strengthen the throat and to offset, even if just a little, the effects of radiation.

The exercises are saying…..”eeeeee” in a falsetto voice for five seconds at a time, pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth for five seconds, swallowing hard, and sticking tongue depressors in your mouth and clamping down on them to strengthen your jawbone.  Oh…and doing these 40 times a day.  Nothing embarrassing about those at all.

And every week I meet with them so they can monitor my progress.  Oh joy.

 

Thanks for bearing with me on this morphine addled ride.

Next up….Port Placement….(and not the after dinner drink kind)

 

Fun with Chemo

On my first day, I received a call from the Chemo clinic telling me that my “port insertion” would be that Friday.  (more on that later).  Then later in the afternoon, they called and said that my first chemo treatment had been moved up and it would be the following day.  I asked the Missus (former nurse) if that would be a shot or what?  She said….”Stick”.  I asked, “whats the difference?”  She went into the medical explanation and after listening to her for all of five seconds, I said…”So each has a needle, it just depends on whats on the other side of that needle.  If its a syringe, then its a shot.  If its an IV tube, then its a stick.”  In return, I got the look I’ve been getting for 25+ years of marriage that basically meant….”you are partially right…you have boiled down something quickly to suit your needs and I will say OK just to get you to be quiet.”  (I feel that I have perfected this maneuver over the years saving time and energy and, based on her silence, telling myself that I am correct in all that I think.  Its the little things you cling to.)

So she summed it up by saying…..”Jack Daniels”.

Now for anyone that has been married over time, you know that you can get your point across with small, simple phrases that only you and your spouse know.  In this case, it goes back to a social gathering we had at our house awhile back and the discussion came up over the difference between bourbon and whiskey (and why people drink whiskey and rye singing this will be the day that I die…but that’s another discussion).  Basically, all bourbons are whiskeys but not all whiskeys are bourbons.

So in this case, when you get stuck by a needle…..all shots are “sticks” but not all sticks are shots.

As soon as she made that reference, I got it.

SEE?  Educational and entertaining!

Soooo…after radiation treatment that morning you arrive at the “Infusion Center”.  So I’m all fat, dumb and happy thinking that its a quick shot…stick…and then I’ll be on my way.  But noooooo….

They plant you in a recliner and go over the procedure.  First, you get blood drawn.  Every week.  They run your blood thru all sorts of tests.  I can tell you the levels of my sodium, calcium, glucose, platelet count.  I have no idea what they mean but I can tell you what they are.

Then they “stick” you with a big needle and you get an IV of saline.  It seems chemo dehydrates you so they start of with a bag of saline. For anyone that has had an IV, its not exactly a quick experience.  It takes about an hour to go through one bag.

After that, you get a bag of anti-nausea drugs.  Again, it takes awhile. Then you get the bag of chemo.  It is basically poison that kills everything in your body.  It doesn’t discriminate.  After that, you get another bag of saline.  Now for anyone keeping score, that is four bags….yessir yessir….four bags full.  And the whole time, I’m sitting in a recliner with no TV and only my phone reading emails (30 min), reading twitter (30 min) and texting anyone I can think of so keep from going bonkers.  Also, as you can imagine, with all that fluid going in, its gotta go out,  So you unplug the monitor and you and your IV pole wander down the hallway to the restroom.  I felt like the astronauts in “The Right Stuff”, and I was doing this alot.  I told one guy I felt like I was at a bar….(not that I have ever been to one…I’m just imagining.)

So as you are finishing up, they come in and tell you about ALL the potential side effects…and there are alot of them.  Basically the big one is nausea.  They prescribed me three different anti-nausea medications.  Now remember, I am only getting chemo once a week.  They tell me the following two days, the chemo will still be in my body and they are the worst times for nausea.  And as everyone that knows me can imagine, I immediately think to myself….”well I’m sure they are bad for your wimpy patients but not for me!”  yeah, right.

AFTERMATH….after struggling to go to sleep and finally dropping off around midnight…woke up at 2AM with what felt like the worst case of heartburn I have ever felt.  By 3AM, still awake and still hurting.  Finally conceded my mortal-ness and took a anti-nausea pill.  4AM….I’ll spare everyone the details but the full force of nausea hit.  Not pretty.

Never did get to go back to sleep but in my misery the next day, all I could think about was that I only have to receive this once a week…what about those poor souls that have to get it multiple times?  Sheesh.

I’ll go for now.  They just announced that a free dinner is being served.  Whoo-woo

Next I’ll share stories from the Nutritionist and the throat coach.  (wait, what?)

First Day

The first day was Monday.  Drove down earlier in the day for the 8:45 AM appointment with almost no idea what would happen.

When you get to the cancer clinic, they give you a card to scan in so the nurses know you are there.  They call your name or come get you and you go back to the radiation room.

When I went down earlier, they measured me for the “radiation mask”.  (huh?)

They fit it over your face and strap it to the table so your head and neck won’t move.  Then the radiation machine rotates around your head and whirls and clicks and beams radiation at you.

I swear I was expecting Auric Goldfinger to come out and say, “I expect you to die!”

The process lasts about 20 minutes.  They play music while you are in there.  My first day the nurses asked me what kind of music I liked and I responded with Classic Rock so they put Journey on.  Really?  I found a Jimmy Buffett CD in their stack so we have since settled on that.

After that, K and I went over to check into the “Hope Lodge”.  This is a place for out-of-town cancer patients to stay, for free, during their treatment.  It was originally sponsored by Winn Dixie but I am not sure WHAT happened but when I took the tour, the girl showing me around made it a point to let me know that Winn Dixie DOES NOT SPONSOR THEM ANYMORE.  I sensed some ill will and unresolved issues.

They have 48 rooms that are broken up to a small sitting area and a bedroom with two twin beds.  Most patients have a caregiver with them so they get the extra bed.  There are no TV’s in the room because they want the patients to get out and about.  There is internet but only hardlined to the wall.  They have a huge kitchen area with refrigerators and freezers for people to bring and cook their own stuff. They also have a 9pm curfew.  So as I was talking to the Asst Director and she told us this, I asked if I were at a movie or out to eat, then is after 9pm ok?  She didn’t smile and told me that at 9pm they lock the doors and if I were late, I would have to work it out with the night security and they may or may not let me in.  Oooooooo K.  (I think they are serious about that 9am thing.)

After the tour and check in, on to the grocery store and by then it was time for another treatment.  When the radiation treatments are over, it feels like you have been riding in a back seat for an hour or two.

Next up….Fun with Chemo!