I lived in the Portland, Oregon area for thirty-six years. But when I left in 2013 I was still tattoo-less. How can that be? Portland is one of the national epicenters for tattoos. Fear not, this void will be corrected on Tuesday. But not just in any ordinary tattoo parlor. My first tattoo will be applied at Arizona Oncology in the radiology department. Pretty cool, huh? Tattoos are part of the mapping process so the technician knows where to aim the radiation gun during zapping sessions.
For the past couple of weeks I have developed a dry cough which has gotten progressively worse over time. My recent CT scan showed that the lung tumor near my air way has grown nearly 30% in the past month. This tumor is most likely the culprit causing the cough and, if left unattended, would most likely end up blocking the airway, resulting in a collapsed lung which could be followed with pneumonia. None of these adventures holds any appeal whatsoever to me. So Friday Lee and I had a consultation with Dr. Frye, a radiation oncologist. Isn’t that a great name for someone who’s job is to zap tumors? Dr. Frye’s recommendation, to my delight, is to fry the sucker! Because of the precarious location of the offending tumor, Dr. Frye will use external low dose radiation with Monday thru Friday sessions for three consecutive weeks. He is 85% confident that this will dramatically shrink the tumor with minimal risk or side effects and can be repeated in the future if necessary. This is a palliative treatment of current symptoms and to prevent medical complications from the tumor growth. I currently have ten named tumors in my lungs, with who knows how many other microscopic cancer cells that are busy forming tumors. This treatment is not a cure, but it will help me fulfill my goal of living well. Speaking of named tumors, the names given are rather mundane. The names are tumor 1, tumor 2, etc. I think they should name them like we do storms: tumor Rachel, tumor George….
One side effect of my upcoming treatment is the cancellation of our planned trip to Maui the first week of December. Of course we “chucked it in the fuck it bucket” and moved on as we sipped champagne with lunch at the restaurant Feast.
Below are a couple of my recent creations for your perusal.
Whew, what a week. Last Tuesday I had an atomic bomb placed in my liver. Other than a little fatigue, I felt pretty darn good. Wednesday I had an appointment with Dr. P which included a physical that found him pressing on my newly nuked liver. No problem, felt fine, no pain and good to go. Dr. Z had prescribed a few oxycodone to get me thru the initial few days, but I hadn’t needed much. I hate to take narcotics. Fortunately I have a high pain tolerance.
Thursday was a whole different day. I woke up in intense pain. I needed my little pills. I was concerned as I looked at the calender of my planned activities: displaying my wares at the art fair on Saturday and Sunday, followed by a book presentation on Monday. Hard to sell art (even my brilliant renderings) or do public speaking when you’re grimacing in pain. Heck, there was no way I could make it through the weekend without some more narcs. Unfortunately Dr. Z is an hour drive away and you can’t fax or phone narcotic orders to the pharmacy so little Lee was gonna have to drive an hour north to get my drugs. This is rather unusual here in southern Arizona as you usually drive south get drugs. In any case I called Dr. Z, got ahold of her Physicians Assistant and pleaded for DRUGS!!!! The PA was taken aback. It was highly unusual for the level of pain to increase, let alone increase dramatically. She inquired if I had taken my Medrol, a steroid that reduces inflammation. I confirmed that I had taken them as prescribed, one 4mg pill Wednesday and one 4mg pill Thursday morning. There was a long pause on her end of the line. The prescription was for a Medrol Dosepak, which has the user take 21 tablets, taking several pills per day over a six day period, with six pills on the first day gradually reducing to one on the sixth day. The prescription I received was for 21 tablets with directions to take one pill per day for 21 days. By the time I spoke to the PA I should have already taken 9 pills instead of just the 2. As a result my liver was inflamed and elbowing my other organs causing severe pain. The PA immediately gave me new instructions for the remaining 19 pills and I felt much better by Friday morning. There was a fumble between the hospital nurse assigned to me who called in the prescription and the pharmacy, I don’t know who screwed up. But all is well now.
Friday through Monday morning I had the normal side effects of a Y-90 procedure: body ache, low grade fever, fatigue and heart burn……NO pain. Lee and I had a good art sale. We each sold several paintings and garnered some new commissions. Per Lee’s suggestion, I also took some of my books to the sale. This gave me the opportunity to not only sell a few books, but also talk to people about dealing with crappy diseases.
Sunday morning my column appeared in the Green Valley News, with a feature box highlighting my book presentation on Monday afternoon. Fortunately by Monday afternoon the body ache and fever disappeared and I was my normal goofy self for my “standing room only”presentation (one person had to stand).
Today is Election Day, hopefully you all voted. As I’m sure most of you do, I hate all the advertising and bumper stickers during these times. But yesterday I spotted this bumper sticker to which I heart fully and with no restraint agree: