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.

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7 thoughts on “Side Effects

  1. Dang Finley, you need to write a book. An article, blog, or other just won’t do. That’s a funny story. Hope you are feeling better soon.

  2. I’ve heard thsi story several times, but its better here than I have ever heard it. I’m crying! I have to get Brad on this site.

  3. This had me in tears.
    Having the distinct pleasure of knowing you both, It was far too easy for me to imagine the whole thing playing out, real time. As “Buck ” pointed out above, I think you’ve found your true calling as a gifted writer. As soon as you stop screwing around and get this whole cancer thing behind you, I think we should all take a collection and send you around the globe to document and provide the color commentation of the “life, the Ray-Ray way”
    I will kick in the WWRRD? Bracelets to get the ball rolling :)

  4. Funny story. How is it that I’ve not heard that one before? It’s a good thing your wife is a nurse Captain America! Sorry you had a rough week. Keep the stories coming….no pressure.

  5. One of my very favorite stories. And I can hear Ray Ray crying “I don’t want to lose a kidney”!!! Mike H is right, you need to get that book started. And Mike, I’ll take one of those bracelets…..

  6. Dear Ex Occifer Finley,
    I laugh my ass off at your posts then I say a prayer for your successful treatment and swift recovery.
    Keep it up oh Mesh Mask Brother.

  7. I have got to stop reading these posts at work. The raucous laughter in the “dumb-waiter” sized elevator had me laughing so hard, I had to get up and close the door so I would disturb my colleagues!

    Your courage and spirit are inspirational, my brother-from-another-mother! “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

    BTW, Im saving my fork, too, because I’m confident the best is yet to come. I love you, Michael!

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