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!

Background

BACKGROUND

Just a little background to catch everyone up….

I first went to the Dr in September 2012 with a nasty cough that I did not want turning into bronchitis. While there, the Dr noticed an “enlarged lymph node” but due to my nasty cold, it was not uncommon. Three weeks later, the cough is long gone but the swollen lymph node is still there. So I called and asked them what they wanted me to do and was set up with an ultrasound test. Those results came back inconclusive so next was a CT scan and that came back with “a mass” and was referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor. The timeframe is now late Nov. During his exam, he stuck a tube up my nose and down my throat. THAT was a lot of fun. After the exam, he said he could rule out Hodgkins Disease and lymphoma. Ok…great….wait…what???
The next step was a biopsy. This was done from the exterior and the procedure just happened to fall ON MY 50th BIRTHDAY! “So what did you get for your birthday?” Me: “STABBED IN THE DAMN NECK!”
I digress…..
The results came back on 12/28 and it showed a malignant form of cancer but they weren’t quite sure what kind. The ENT Dr. recommended Shand’s Hospital in Gainesville. It is about 80 minutes from my house
Mid-Jan, we went down there and another round with the ENT, another tube stuck up my nose and down my throat, and during the exam, this ENT discovered that my right tonsil was what was cancerous.
Wheels suddenly were set in motion and within two days I had blood work done, another CT scan, a meeting with the radiology Dr, and another biopsy, this time from inside my throat. (not fun, FYI)The Radiation Dr is Dr Mendenhall. That just happens to be the name of the small town in MS where I grew up. His assistant? Dr McGee. The town of Magee was Mendenhall’s arch rivals in football and was only 10 miles apart. I thought this was hilarious.
The good Dr Mendenhall informed me that while this particular type of cancer was 85-95% curable, the treatment is a bitch. I needed to receive radiation twice a day, five days a week, for six weeks with a dose of chemo thrown in once a week. Oh joy.

So armed with that knowledge, I girded my loins and cinched up my jockstrap and buckled my helmet (get the picture? Are you sure? Enough? Ok.) and resigned myself to getting started. But oh…wait….there is more.
(If I could play the Darth Vader/ Empire music right here for your audio pleasure, I would.)
“Mr Finley? You need to see the dentist.”
Ok…no problem. My teeth aren’t the greatest in the world from chewing tobacco for (mumble mumble mumble) years but I had been going to my dentist for once a month for the past three months and had been correcting some issues.
Soooo…..went down to Shand’s Dental office. One word about Shand’s in Gainesville. It is THE hospital for the University of Florida. Home of Steve Spurrier and Tim Tebow and Emmit Smith. Because it is the UF hospital, what do you think they have? YOU…in the back row? YES…..Students! So the UF dentist asked if it was ok if some students joined her and me, being the all around good guy that I am said sure…no problem. She brought in FIVE students! So when this dentist looked down in my mouth an poked my gums with sharp instruments? They ALL had to.
After the exam, she explained that I had three teeth that MAY need extraction in the next five years. (FIVE…5…V,,,,4+) OK. No problem. Oh but wait..yes there is. Here is a fun fact you can use to share…..because the radiation kills the bad cells, it also kills the good cells…like the red blood cells…like the ones that produce oxygen. So if one of these teeth on the bottom jaw needed extraction after radiation, then the lack of oxygen could be enough to begin necrosis (rotting) in the jaw bone.
So I had two options….one, leave the teeth in there and hope they don’t need extraction in the next five years. BUT IF THEY DO…..then I have to get into a hyperbaric chamber pumping out 120% oxygen for 90 minutes a day, for 20 straight days, then get the tooth pulled, then do it again for 10 more days. It is called “a dive”, based on what deep sea divers have to go through if they stay down too long. It was developed by a dentist in Miami area and has seen great results.
Anyway, those were my choices. So the next day, I had my two back lower molars pulled on both sides of mouth.
Oh…and after all this is over I “get’ to wear fluoride trays (mouth guards full of fluoride) for five minutes a day for the rest of my life AND I get to go visit my dentist FOUR times a year. Yippee!

so…two weeks after that oral surgery, I finally started radiation.

Long story…thanks for bearing with me. I promise the other stories won’t be so long. Well…probably not….pretty sure anyway….