Trying to be Like Ryan Gosling

[ This entry originated » here. It's a long story. ]

» Owie when Swallowing a Twizzler

Two weeks ago I was eating a piece of red Twizzlers twists (.. because I was trying to be like Ryan Gosling. I mean, what guy isnt? But there are some people that you simply cannot hang with) ..

.. when I swallowed and felt something in my throat hurt pretty badly. Like something jabbed me in my throat .. from the inside.


I'm not sure if a piece of Twizzler got caught in there when I swallowed, but my throat was definitely hurting.

Perhaps I turned my head when I swallowed. I have some radiation scarring in there, so anything to do with my throat, such as talking and swallowing, is not as simple as it is for most people.

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••• today's entry continues here below •••

During treatment, swallowing demands your full and undivided attention. In fact, most patients get feeding tubes installed during treatment.

"You're one of the few who hasnt," the clinical trials girl told me. Then again, I lost 40 pounds during treatment.

The owie bothered me quite a bit those first few days, but even now I can still feel it and something isnt right when I swallow.

I have not eaten any more Twizzlers since that episode. I am over trying to be like Ryan Gosling.

My driver today said, "Those are the worst things for you." .. when I told him what had happened.

After cancer, shit like this fucks with your head .. talking to you .. telling you things that you dont want to hear.

» Sweating at Night Again

Plus, I have been sweating at night the past week. The last time I was sweating at night was when I had cancer.

On two of the nights, the sweating was so bad that I got up and changed my tee shirt. On the other nights, the sweating wasnt that bad.

Back before treatment, I would sweat at the area around my collar bone. But recently I have been sweating from my belly button up. So it's not the same kind of sweating.

Last month, I came down with that nasty crud that had been going around. (Everybody in the house had it.) I was feeling very crappy for two days, and it took a week for my lungs and sinuses to clear up.

So maybe the sweating is a residual effect from that crud .. since things seem to move more slowly now. But I was not sweating during the crud, or even during the period immediately afterward.

Anyway, the sense of anxiety was enough that I stopped drinking coffee the last few days .. whch I havent done for a long time. (I didnt even want coffee.)

I am feeling very lightheaded today. I am hoping this is merely a result of no coffee for two days.

» In Good Hands

My oncologist was so cool. He and his student-helper ran the scope down my left sinus (.. after they spray a bunch of cocaine up there to numb you) .. and looked all around down there in my throat.

They saw something there (asymmetric), but nothing that would indicate cancer. He said that the chances of a recurrence of the particular type of cancer that I was diagnosed with would be rare.

Nevertheless he sent me the lab for some blood-work and put in an order for a CT scan of my neck and chest.

This is why I love this fucking guy. (Just one of the reasons. He has a couple of boys about your daughter's age.)

His student-helper (obviously also very smart and motivated) was working the scope, and they were looking at the screen and talking to each other in a language that I could barely understand. But it was indeed a very cool thing to behold .. from a skill-set point-of-view.

When the student pulled the scope out of my sinus, my doctor turned to me and said, "Well, I dont see anything that would indicate cancer..." ..

.. I dont think I actually said, "I love you Dr. So-n-so," .. but I could have.

Because now, when my mind tries to start playing tricks on me .. I will think, "Well, Dr. So-n-so said thus-n-such .. and he is literally an expert in such things."

It is difficult for the cancer survivor to over-estimate the peace-of-mind that comes from such statements.

At the beginning of the exam, he was standing behind me, to my left, and his fingers were feeling around on my throat.

You can feel the practiced skill in his fingertips. You can tell that he knows what he's doing, and it brings a sense of comfort to know that you are literally in good hands.

He is something of an expert in HPV. His student-helper told me that something like 70% of the population has the virus. But they dont know why the virus is causing so many cancer cases now.

His student-helper told me that, just-today, my radiation oncologist published a paper on that clinical trial that I was involved in.

Tho this trial was not about HPV .. but rather about a genetically engineered smallpox virus. Immunotherapy is the future of oncology.

When Colleen came and got me, she took me into this little private room that I had never been to before. It had a number-code lock on it.

She did not come right out and say, "I am the only one who has a key to this room," but my ego felt confident that this was the case.

This closed-door privacy allowed us to talk more freely. I always enjoy private one-on-one conversations better.

I felt sad when she told me that she would be moving back to Chicago .. because I like her.

< the following is a section of writing from Feb 24 .. about a month ago >

Feb 24, 2017 » Back when I was first diagnosed, about 2½ years ago, I noticed this skin-thing that appeared on my upper chest, near my collar bone .. about the size of the fingernail on your pinky.

» More Cancer

I showed it to all my doctors. They all dismissed it. None of them seemed even a little excited.

That skin-thing went away during treatment. It cleared up completely. It was gone-girl gone.

But then it came back .. a few months after treatment. I showed it to all my doctors again. They all dismissed it.

My chemo doctor said, "I gave you lots of powerful steroids during treatment. They will clear up anything."

So, basically .. I have had this little skin-thing for nearly 2 years now .. if you begin counting from when it came back.

It's not like it really bothers me .. except that it never goes away. Sometimes after a hot shower, it will feel a little itchy and weep slightly.

They gave me some super-duper steroid cream, and that helped. But it never completely went away.

Anyway, my doctor decided to biopsy that thing a week ago (.. because it never went away). But I was not very concerned, because none of my doctors were concerned.

» Two Calls, Same Day

Now, I dont get many calls .. because my voice does not last very long. And I only call and talk on the phone when I really need to. (I talked on the phone so much today that I can feel my voice is done.)

So last night I was surprised to find two messages on my cell. One was from my doctor, saying that she had received back the results of the biopsy, and that I should call her tomorrow (.. which is today, Friday).

The other message was from the clinical trials girl, who I had not heard from for 5 months. I thought the timing of those two calls curious.

» This Cant be a Good Sign

The clinical trials girl is one of my favorite people on the planet. When I was in deep, dark places .. she was there, and she knew how to help .. in a way that worked for me.

I actually felt better from just listening to her message .. remarkable as that might sound. But I remember thinking a little later, "That cant be a good sign." .. those two calls coming together, on the same day. (Rocket knows the feeling.)

Baby Groot and atomic bomb

The clinical trials girl was just calling to look into setting up an appointment for my 6-month check-up with my radiation oncologist, which should be sometime next month. She doesnt actually make the appointment herself, but rather coordinates scheduling with oncology.

I wanted to have the results of that biopsy when I called back the clinical trials girl today, but I couldnt get hold of my doctor for the results. Sometimes their phones are all fucked up.

» If the Results are Positive they Usually Want You to Come In

So I just called the clinical trials girl, and told her about my biopsy and how my (local primary care) doctor had called at the close-of-business yesterday and left a message saying only that the results had come back .. but she left no results in her message. She didnt say anything nice like, "Nothing bad."

And the clinical trials girl says, "If the results are positive, then they usually want you to come in."

She called back again later in the evening and we chatted for a while as I sat outside and watched the sun set.

Back when I first started working with her, she told me that there were 30 people who did what she did there at Moores.

Five months ago, she told me that there were 70. Today she said, "We're up over a hundred now."

Back when we were first getting aquainted, she told me, "Immunotherapy is the future of Oncology."

When I was down there with my primary-care doctor, earlier this month, and they were in the process of phoning to get the results of my stomach biopsy .. which took an hour or more for them to get .. I remember that she (my doctor) stuck her head in the room and said, "I'm with another patient right now, but the results of your stomach exam just arrived and your stomach has some problems, but nothing real bad."

Well .. 'nothing real bad' obviously means "no cancer" .. because stomach cancer is real bad.

My point is that she obviously knows how to deliver a calming report when there is one to deliver. But she didnt deliver that with the message that she left last night.

And then I couldnt get ahold of her all day. The phones kept going straight to answering machines. So I found myself looking at another existential no man's land over the weekend.

That is the worst .. not knowing. For a whole freaking weekend? It feels like you are in this no man's land .. from which there is no escape. At least, not until Monday.

» Basal-Cell Carcinoma

Long story short .. that skin biopsy came back positive .. basal-cell carcinoma. Not an aggressive form of cancer. Not life threatening.

But they will need to cut it out. "Excise" is the term that they prefer to use. "I've already put in a referral for you with dermatology," my doctor said.

And I was just bragging about being two years out. This is a totally different type of cancer, tho. The other one was life-threatening.

» The Dog's Handprint on his Belly

Speaking of skin cancer .. my buddy, the Dog .. he has flourescent-white Irish skin .. along the lines of Emma Stone and Courtney Sullivan.

Emma Stone reads her mean tweet on the 2017 Oscars Feb 26 Dolby Theater Hollywood

When we lived in Hawaii (on Ala Wai blvd, downtown Waikiki, right below the two strippers from Vegas) he drank too much one time and fell asleep in the hot, summer Hawaiian sun .. for 4 hours .. after we hadnt seen the sun for months.

The Dog got burnt so badly that, years later, he still had the outline of a handprint burned into his belly. (Nobody has stories like the Dog.)

"Hey, Dog," I would call out to him across the room above the music playing at a party. "Lift your shirt." .. because I happened to be telling that story to a girl. His handprint was almost like a party-favor. (You cant make up shit like this, folks .. so why even try?)

To this day, the Dog goes to get checked for skin cancer every six months. He said that his dermatologist says he's very lucky that he has never had skin cancer. It must be that good, clean living the life of a leprechaun.

» First Uber

I did my first-ever Uber yesterday. I had some trouble with entering the proper 4-digit verification code .. so a friend ordered me an Uber from his phones. (He is an Uber veteran.)

But, for the return trip home, I figured it out. (It takes 5 mins or so for the verification code to arrive via text after you place the order.)

< end section of writing from Feb 24, 2017 >

April 19, 2017 » the girl called today with results of the CT scan that I had a week or two ago. Few things in life are as satistisfying and comforting as a call from the Moores Cancer center, saying that they found no signs of cancer.

The sweating stopped shortly after I saw my oncologist, but he felt I should still go ahead and get the CT scan.

Yesterday I called the clinical trials girl after I had received a call from somebody at Moores, but I could not clearly hear the call-back number on the message that was left.

I mean, they had the results of the CT scan and were obviously looking to talk to me about the results.

The clinical trials girl was at her office phone when I happened to call. At the end of our call, I asked her if she saw the results of the scan.

She said that she is "not allowed to dispense medical advice" .. but "you shouldnt be worried."

Well .. if there were any evidence of cancer .. then that would be a reason to worry, no?

I called the clinical trials girl today and said, "The girl called with the results of the CT scan today. And you were right .. there was no reason for worry."

The end. ■

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on March 21, 2017 3:21 PM.

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