Busting Loose from Treatment - February 20, 2015

Friends and Family,

I’m so excited about this I can hardly contain myself. After approximately 1,347 trips to San Diego since September, Things aren’t going to be the same. My ratio of TPW’s is dropping dramatically. But before I tell you about my TPW ratio, I think some explanation is needed.

I was very proud when my mother, at the age of about 40, decided to go back to school. She entered a program at Marylhurst College (now Marylhurst University) that gave her credit for life experience. She had to challenge each course and prove that she knew the material through life experience. After six months of challenges, she was halfway through her junior year. She completed her degree by attending regular classes, and then went on to get a Master’s degree to boot.

I think I should follow in my mother’s footsteps and go back to Marylhurst. At least, I should do this if Marylhurst has degrees in fields related to medicine. After 35 or 40 CT scans, a handful (or two) of MRI’s, and a course of radiation treatment, I probably have enough experience to qualify as a tech. I’m also one of the few people you will meet who has seen his own skeleton, after having a full-body bone scan done a couple of years ago. Kinda freaky, that one. I wish I would have asked for a print of that scan, so I could have blown it up to poster-size and hung it up at Halloween.

I should also be able to qualify as a phlebotomist.

I know, the name is similar, but it has nothing to do with lobotomy. You may assume that I have had one of those if you have spent a lot of time talking with me, but I haven’t. You can tell because my sprch habent bin affectected.

Phlebotomists are the people that draw your blood. I have had blood draws between one and 514 times per month. A couple of times in a row the same phlebotomist hit a nerve. I jerked so hard that she jumped back, pulling out the needle and leaving my blood spurting. While it was colorful, only Genevieve could have appreciated all that red. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and my arm still hurts. Twice was enough. Having learned from when I had a “port” in my chest for chemo, I knew there was an easy way around this. When I had a port, my doc prescribed “port cream” (lidocaine) to numb me at the injection site.

I don’t know why doctors think the needle should hurt in your chest, but not in your arm. Especially after repetitive repetition, over and over again. I was having none of it. Being naturally pain avoidant (AKA a wimp), I asked my doctor to continue prescribing the port cream for me. Now, an hour before I get poked, I apply the cream. Problem solved. I don’t even feel the needle going in. Phlebotomist qualifications? Check.

Of course, I haven’t mentioned the doctor appointments. Which (witch?) doctor, you may ask? There are plenty to choose from. I have my San Diego oncologist for the clinical trial, my OHSU oncologist that I see before I get my monthly bone strengthening (Xgeva) injections, my psychiatrist (what, you thought I was this Specimen

of Psychological Stability all on my own?), my physical therapist, and my back pain management doc. That’s not counting routine appointments to other docs for ingrown toenails, diabetes, and occasional skin weirdness.

I have spent more time in doctor’s offices than I have in Starbucks. I should at least be qualified as a Barista of Medicine (BM). I know you haven’t heard of a BM before, but that’s only because you haven’t spent as much time in doctor’s offices as I have. I know a lot about BM’s.

Back to how my ratio of TPW’s is dropping. That’s the number of Treatments per Week. Now that the cortisone injection in my back has fully kicked in, I don’t have to see the pain management doc again, and my physical therapy appointments have dropped to once every other week. All the other body parts are working right now (watch it), so there are no other extra appointments. The only remaining appointments are with oncologists. THAT is where the joy is really kicking in!

We just got back from San Diego Tuesday night. The news was – again! – excellent! My CT scan showed no growth! I was ruminating a little before this trip since the last scan showed a little growth in one spot, but there was no growth this time. Everything is stable! Not only that, but I have progressed to a new milestone in the study. From now on, the trips to San Diego are once every six weeks instead of three.

Freedom!  Half as many trips to San Diego, half as many trips to my physical therapist, and no trips to the pain management specialist! I love my new TPW ratio!

Now that I have a little of my time back, let’s meet up for coffee. How about Starbucks?