Thursday, November 13, 2008

Coming to the end of Set 2

We were back at Sloan-Kettering for IV treatment and to see Dr. O'Reilly on Tuesday. Being that it was Veteran's Day and 20,000 vets were scheduled to march in a parade on the East Side, I counseled Mom and Dad to take mass transit into the city. Dad, who would drive to the moon if somebody would just build the damned road for him, declined. After some extended debate, which took place over the course of three or four separate telephone conversations (once Dad's course is set, he changes direction with the agility and grace of a cargo ship), Dad saw the merit of my arguments and we agreed on a compromise. He drove to the Port Authority (thereby remaining the master of his travel destiny and satisfying his yen for zoom-zoom), then ditched the car for the subway. He and Mom got a glimpse of my version of Manhattan; they got from 34th and 9th to 53rd and 3rd during a midtown parade in 27 minutes and they never set foot above ground. I was so proud of them and more than a little bit smug about the success of my plan. Then, of course, Dad's treatment ran almost 2 hours beyond when we expected it to end, so he and Mom got crushed by commuters when they were making their way back to the Port Authority. He will probably never agree to take the subway route again, but I am proud of him - of both of them - for giving it a whirl.

Our visit with Dr. O'Reilly went quite well. Dad announced his much shortened list of symptoms and declared, with the pride of Sherlock Holmes solving a case, that he thinks he feels better because the chemo is working. Dr. O'Reilly paused but a moment before saying, "Well, yes - that was the plan from the outset, wasn't it."

I didn't laugh, but it took a lot of effort to keep a straight face.

Of course, with the symptoms abating, Dad wants to move at the end of December from the aggressive treatment phase of the chemo to the maintenance phase. Dr. O'Reilly gently encouraged him to be a bit more patient and to give the treatment phase some additional time. Patience, as I mentioned at the start of this journey, is not one of Dad's greatest virtues. There are those (Dan) who would say that this apple does not fall far from that particular tree, an allegation I could take plentiful time to rebut, but we're talking about Dad here, so I shall stay on point and deal with my husband off line. The encouraging fact is that Dad feels well enough to want to migrate down his dosage and, although it will take a bit longer than he would like, we are all confident that he will get to the maintenance level soon.

Patience issues aside, Dad is doing great. He looks really good, especially compared to how he looked a few weeks ago (no offense, Dad, but you were starting to look a little rough there for a bit). He's not the chubby teddy bear we all remember, but he still looks good. His ability to eat is showing considerable improvement, not just week over week, but even day over day. His tolerance of the chemo is remarkable. His side effects appear manageable; if they aren't, he's just not letting on about them (which I realize is not out of the question with him). Tomorrow we finish Set 2 and then he's off for a week. Even though his last "off" week was quite challenging, we are looking forward to this one because we hope he'll have an easier go of it this time and we all enjoy the times when he doesn't have to take the chemo meds.

I want to take a moment to thank all the people who are cheering us on. To those of you who post comments here, please know that Dad enjoys reading them. To all the people who have sent e-mails to me directly, please know that I do pass your words of encouragement on to Dad and he draws strength from your support. And to the people who have sent cards, books, encouraging articles, messages, notes, teas, foods, suggestions and kind words directly to my parents, we simply cannot thank you enough. If we judge a man's richness not in dollars but in the warmth with which he is regarded, Dad is the emotional equivalent of Warren Buffet. Thank you all for making sure we know how much you care!



Sunday, November 9, 2008

Let's Step Outside...

Dad has rolled up his sleeves and taken this fight out of the ring and into the streets. The venue suits him, since he's quite a bit scrappier than he appears at first blush. Hitting cancer with chemo alone is all well and good for a certain group of patients; it's just that Dad isn't in that group. So he's hitting it from all sides. He backs up chemo with diet and follows prayer with targeted determination. He makes me think of Indiana Jones - he's a little gray and ragged around the edges and has a trickle of blood at the corner of his lip, but he's smarter than the bad guy and still has that glint in his eye that says, "I'm not finished yet."

We're in the middle of Chemo Set Two. Tuesday was another IV day, which meant that Thursday night / Friday morning through Saturday night should have been the "chemo crash" days. During Set One (which started four weeks ago - is it possible that it's only been four weeks? It's taken forever and gone in a flash, all at the same time.), those were the days when the chemo really hit Dad's system. He was tired and felt a bit on the crappy side. So we all viewed this week with a bit of trepidation, anticipating when he was going to crash.

He took the IV like a champ on Tuesday, but we've already come to assume that will be the case. Probably not a fair assumption to make, but we make it nevertheless. I have to admit that I wasn't paying too much attention to the election returns because I was thinking about Dad, and in retrospect, I don't think of Tuesday as the day the country elected it's first African American President. It's just another IV Chemo day. Bizarre.

Anyway, come Friday morning, I called the house to ask Mom how Dad was feeling.

"I have no clue," she said, her voice a mix of excitement and exasperation, like a mother whose teenage son is late coming home from his first school dance ("good for him that he's having fun, but when I get my hand's on him....") "He went to the aeroclub last night and didn't get home until after ten. Then he got up early this morning, went to the gym to meet his trainer and I haven't seen him since."

I almost dropped the phone. He's at the gym??? On a crash day???

He's looking to stay strong, and that means doing controlled exercise. It's ironic that he's trying to bulk up now, after all these years of mom trying to slim him down, but that's just life, I suppose. The day after you get used to things being one way, they switch around on you.

He apparently ran himself pretty hard on Friday and hit a bit of a wall on Friday night after dinner, but we still celebrated Mom's birthday on Saturday night (Happy Birthday, Mom!). The evening ran late and it was ten o'clock before I got Anna Lee into bed. I figured Dad would be tucked away in his bed by the time I actually kissed her good-night and came back downstairs, so imagine my shock when I walked into the kitchen and found him standing at the sink, up to his elbows in dirty dishes.

Poor guy. If cancer can't get him out of dish duty, nothing will. Which seems a little bit rough, in my humble opinion.

So I asked how it was that he was upright at ten-thirty at night on a Saturday during a chemo week. And was told that overall, Dad has been feeling much better this week. He's not taking much of the pain medicine the doctor gave him (he actually took none for almost a whole week), so I guess I won't have to fund his stay at Promises Malibu when this cancer adventure is done. Even more exciting than not having to put him through a six-figure stint in rehab (could you picture Dad hanging out with OxyContin-addled celebrities, drinking wheat-grass juice and doing yoga to find his inner zen?) is the idea that his symptoms are lessening because the chemo is working. He's still thin enough to challenge Kelly Ripa for Waif-of-the-Year, but he's not getting sick when he eats. That's huge. HUGE.

In addition to pumping himself up Schwarzenegger-style, he's loaded his diet with as many cancer fighting foods as he can stomach. He's been drinking a special juice called MonaVie, which my friend Christine turned me on to and I passed on to Dad.

It's a blend of berries and berry juices, based on the acai berry which is a cancer-fighting "super-food". It's supposed to help cleanse the body and push back the cancer. It's rough on his system if he drinks it straight, so he mixes it with grape juice. Of course, Dad has always preached the evils of grape juice and what it does to tooth enamel, so he sips his grapejuice infused cocktail from a straw. No matter what happens, he will *not* compromise his choppers.

He's also taking his tea green these days. Last night, as we were all having birthday cake and coffee, Dad was sipping from a mug of green tea.

"Is it good?" I asked the man who I always remember as a die-hard coffee lover. A few friends of mine have been touting the benefits of green tea to me and swearing that it tastes great. I haven't been able to bring myself to try it, but I was giving the idea some serious thought.

Dad paused to weigh his answer before he spoke.

"You get used to it," he finally said with uncharacteristic delicacy of phrase.

I decided to take another cup of decaf coffee and leave the green tea for another day.

So we're heading into Week 2 of Set 2. Keep your good thoughts coming - they're helping immensely. I'm looking forward to making another great report nest week!