I woke up wondering what the groundhog of my soul would reveal: Early spring or a long, dreary and fearsome winter.
Either way, it had not been a good night. The sore throat that began yesterday had sharpened its blades. Not even mother's little helper, Xanax, provided more than a few hours of needed sleep.
I managed a breakfast of coffee and yogurt and hauled myself to the bathroom to shower and shave. I trimmed my goatee, knowing its shelf life was limited. Last night, I tugged at my chin and pulled out an impressive amount of hair. Hamlet came to mind:
Am I a coward? Who calls me villain?
Breaks my pate across? Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? Gives me the lie i' th' throat
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
That one works on a bunch of levels.
I arrived a few minutes early for my 8:20 radiation appointment. For the second day in a row, a woman sat and waited for her husband to emerge from treatment. We said hello to each other and, without much urging, her story tumbled out.
Didi's husband, Lawrence, is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Her father-in-law is dying of pancreatic cancer, a sister has breast cancer and she and her family have been living in a hotel for weeks because their house was badly damaged in a flood. My throat no longer hurt very much.
When Lynn showed up with her camera equipment, Didi was impressed.
“You a celebrity?” she asked.
I chuckled. “No. Just a reporter.” I replied and explained what we were making a documentary.
Didi and I connected. We talked about God and prayer, something I find myself doing often these days. I'm scheduled for 8:20 tomorrow and four days next week, so I'm assuming we will talk some more.
I met with Jeannie the nurse after treatment. I weighed in at 222, about where I was when I started. This would be my first chance to interrogate Dr. Greskovich about the change in radiation plan from three weeks to eight weeks.
He really didn't have much of an explanation beyond wanting to make sure he wiped out all the stubborn non-small tumor cells, which don't necessarily respond to radiation the same way small cells do. Fine. If it's eight weeks he wants, it's eight weeks he gets.
Greskovich pulled up a series of complicated-looking images on the computer with spline lines of various colors that showed how the moon beams were applied. I nodded my head stupidly, pretending that I understood.
One set of images, however, connected. He showed me the tumor from a scan taken yesterday and compared it with one taken before treatment began. The tumor is shrinking.
Neither Dr. Greskovich nor Dr. Hearn could do anything about my sore throat, however. Medical science has its limitations. Try gargling with salt water, they suggested. One step ahead of them, I had already made an appointment for this afternoon to see someone at Kaiser about my throat.
After the Clinic, I spent a little time at the PD taking care of business and hooked up with Mike McIntyre for our Thursday bowl of steaming pho. I told him about my meeting with Father S. and how the faithful Jesuit had already pointed me toward service. He wants me to help kids at the church's school to write.
That will have to wait. Kids are too germy for someone with a badly compromised immune system. Chemotherapy knocks both white and red blood cell levels down to worrisome levels.
At the Kaiser clinic, a very nice physician's assistant ordered a throat culture and told me I likely had been exposed to one of the numerous viruses attacking folks this winter.
“Try gargling with salt water,” he said. Once again, modern medical science fails to deliver..
The visit did allow me to take care of important business – obtaining a new prescription for nicotine patches. I had been cutting them in half to stretch out my supply. It's been 10 days since my last cigarette and the urge to smoke has not subsided.
My nicotine addiction remains powerful, the “triggers” too numerous. I'm not sure how much the patches help, but I'm taking no chances. Hard to keep them lit, though.
I kept my dinner “date” with my longtime golf partner and good friend, Ron, at his country club. Ron received one of my first calls after my diagnosis, but we had not yet met face-to-face.
We refer to ourselves as “the brothers from different mothers.” We act like brothers. We argue over anything and everything and amuse ourselves with our collective stupidity and inside jokes.
Dinner was great. We sat and drank and ate for nearly three hours, the conversation twisting and turning in surprising directions. It proved a terrific ending to what I feared might be a perfectly awful day.
The groundhog within me senses that a warm, happy spring will be arriving sooner than later. I'm ready to wade through all off the crap in the hope of fulfilling that promise.
Thanks, groundhog. I needed that.