The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, it's Day #43 of my “adventure.” What happened to days 38, 39, 40, 41 and 42? Gone! They are gone in a flash, or so it would seem. So, before I run out of steam today. I'm going to attempt to bring you up to speed. I indicated at the beginning of this series of articles that I would try to write every day. Unfortunately, I hit a bump in the road. So, take a deep breath because time is going to fly in this post covering six days.
Day #38 (Tuesday)
It started like most of my days since this adventure began. I was at my friend Judy's house, I went for my 10:15 radiation treatment and was out by 10:30. After that, I went across the lobby of the Cancer Center to have my weekly laboratory blood drawn and I was done for the day.
My good friend and Air Force buddy, Dave aka Mickey Bo, who I wrote about before on Day #18 and left this link to his Internet Rock & Roll show, MickeyBo's Rock 'n' Roll Revue, drove up for another visit. We chatted for a while with my friend Judy (who Dave also knows) and then decided to patronize a very nice Thai restaurant that is well established in Winchester. We had a pleasant lunch, enjoyed the food, the service and more chat time.
We promised Judy we'd bring her back some dessert – so we stopped and found something decadent for her and then returned to her home. We enjoyed an afternoon sitting outdoors chatting until it became chilly. Then moved indoors and enjoyed more conversation. About 5:30 PM or so I felt the fatigue washing over me – and should have excused myself, but I was enjoying the company and conversation too much. So, I was quite exhausted by the time Dave left and headed back to Falls Church, Virginia at about 8:30.
Then my son called from Los Angeles and we had (as we always do) an extended conversation that lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. Needless to say, it was an exhilarating conversation and we talked about me, him, a trip to New Zealand and other things. It was about 11 PM when we hung up. I gave Carolyn a call to check in with her. It was a short ten-minute call. By then I realized I had completely overdone it. I was experiencing pain and aching in my shoulders, my upper back and my chest. I needed rest.
I could not find any way to get comfortable to sleep. So, that night has been one of the few nights I did not sleep well. It also triggered a new “Fireball” on Wednesday.
Day # 39 (Wednesday)
I had called Carolyn and told her I didn't believe I could drive the 15 minutes to the hospital. Since she was planning to come from West Virginia to sit through my chemo session later that morning, I asked if she could arrive early enough to pick me up for the radiation session. Judy didn't have her car available to run me over because it had been towed to her mechanic with a brake problem on Tuesday about the time Dave had arrived.
I was still aching and in some pain discomfort when I arrived at the Cancer Center for my radiation treatment. I managed to handle the radiation okay. But, I had called in and told the triage nurse in the chemo group about my issues. She told me to tell my nurse about it as soon as I arrived. I did – and that triggered what became another “fireball.” Thankfully, the results of this fireball turned out to be a false positive.
Everything stopped for me in the chemo treatment room at that point. My nurse got the information to my doctor who ordered me to the Diagnostic Center in the connected building for an EKG. The EKG indicated that I was having a heart attack. That information went immediately back to my doctor who ordered me to – you probably guessed it – the ER. The ER immediately did another EKG that also indicated that I was having some kind of heart event.
So, suddenly, my dear sweet friend, Sylvia, the PA who was there when I arrived at the ER on August 21st, appeared. With her wonderful smile, laugh and bedside manner, She informed me my “suite” in the ER Observation area awaited my arrival and she took me up there.
It was a different room this time, but the nurse said I was a VIP and got the last room available with a private bathroom. Now, honestly, these folks in this hospital have not been terrific, they've been outstanding. They got me wired up on the monitors, took care of my immediate needs and had me ready to go for a series of tests that included another EKG and a CT Scan of my heart and lungs on Wednesday. I had a very restful evening on Wednesday and even went to sleep at about 9 PM.
Day #40 (Thursday)
On Thursday, bright and early, as they promised, I was sent for an Echocardiogram, followed by before photos of my heart, then a nuclear stress test and an hour later, the after photos of my heart. Then back up to my room. I was taken care of by a new technician who came on duty along with my duty nurse of that day, provided with lunch and sat and waited.
Finally, Sylvia, the PA with the laughing eyes and infectious laughter, stood at the foot of my bed patted my socked feet and said - “There is nothing wrong with your heart, Ed.” She said it and my kidneys and lungs were strong, with no blood clots. Nothing. It was just the machines were picking up some anomalies, but other than my cancer, I'm healthy as a prize racehorse.
So, they released me about 1:30 PM and assisted getting me back to the Cancer Center. I had missed some appointments on Wednesday, but fortunately, everyone received my messages about where I was.
I had missed my Thursday 10:15 AM radiation treatment and my 10:30 AM appointment with my radiation doctor. But, as soon as Karen, one of the two ladies at the radiation front desk saw me coming, she had a big smile for me. I asked if I could still get in to get my daily radiation treatment. She called back to the technicians then turned to me and said, they await you. They were glad to see me. The radiation doctor accommodated me for our missed appointment earlier.
I then went across the lobby to the front desk for the chemotherapy and saw the ladies there. They called back and said to see Staci inside and she'll take care of rescheduling the weekly chemo session I had missed when it was abruptly interrupted on Wednesday. Staci called the doc and they said I could take it on Friday – and my next (last) two sessions would also be moved to Fridays instead of Wednesdays. Or, I could miss this week's session and just come next Wednesday.
Well, by taking it on Friday, it would eliminate Carolyn having to make an extra trip to Winchester from West Virginia for the next two weeks. That would relieve her of some stress. And, if I took it on Friday, I would still complete both the radiation and chemo protocols on October 25th, thus keeping me on schedule. I gave Staci the thumbs up for Friday and thanked her for her continued great attitude and helpfulness.
I then went upstairs to see another Stacy who was at the front desk at the surgical oncologist's office where I had missed an appointment on Wednesday (they also got the messages I sent to them). She, too, was cordial, fun and helpful as she tried to fit me into a slot for a new patient appointment.
About that time, Dr. Wagner, the man she was trying to schedule me in to see walked into the front office and recognized me. He told Stacy he's not a new patient, he's an old patient, we've already started our relationship in the ER in August when I gave him his diagnosis. Fit him in anywhere you have an opening. And, she did.
I texted my friend Judy, who had her car back and who I had already spoken with on the phone on Wednesday. She agreed she would pick me up – and I said, ready whenever it's convenient for her. It was about 20 minutes later and we were back on our way to her house. I was exhausted. We had a bite to eat. She went to watch TV and I went upstairs and collapsed on my bed.
Day #41 (Friday)
I still had some shoulder aches when I got up on Friday morning, but nothing like those that began this week that was. I got my stuff together to go back to West Virginia for the weekend. Judy had an all-day commitment and left about 9 AM for that. Carolyn was going to rush down to take me to the normal 10:15 radiation treatment, but I told her to relax and take her time, I was feeling more than capable of driving that morning. Just arrive at the chemotherapy session whenever you get there.
I arrived about 10 minutes early for my radiation treatment and Michelle and Allison took me right in. Colleen had been off for a couple days. So, I was out of there by 10:20 AM. I went across the lobby to the chemo desk and said I'm here. My newly scheduled appointment was at 10:45AM instead of the 11 AM appointment on Wednesdays. They said to have a seat and I did.
Within minutes I was in the chemo treatment room, at least 15 minutes earlier than my scheduled time. They checked me in, did my vital signs and placed me with Brittany today. But, I went down to the other end of the room to see Suzie my regular nurse. She was very happy to see me but sad that I wasn't assigned to her for this treatment. I agreed but said there were still two more weeks to go. And, quite frankly, I really like Suzie, but all the nurses in the treatment room are terrific.
Brittany got my session started, I struck up some conversations with other patients in my treatment pod and Carolyn arrived. The time flew and we were ready to leave before 1:30 PM. Carolyn followed me over to Judy's where I parked the van, went inside to get the stuff I was bringing back to West Virginia, climbed in her car and off we went.
We arrived back in West Virginia at Carolyn's place by around 3:30 PM, I brought my stuff inside. A little later we had some dinner. I believe we watched Jeopardy and maybe a little TV and that was it. I was exhausted. Off to bed, I went.
Day #42 (Saturday)
A day of relaxation. There was a bunch of mail that had arrived on Friday from my South Dakota home address. I opened virtually all of it but said I'd focus on it on Saturday. I didn't focus on it, yesterday, either. I read, I caught up on a few emails and FB messages and that was about it. I no longer had any aches or pains in my chest, shoulders or back. But, I was extremely fatigued.
Carolyn and I made a trip to Walmart where I had to pick up a new prescription – and got some grapes, apple cider and some high protein smoothie drinks. We made a quick stop at the Dollar Tree store. I waited outside in the warm sunshine. We drove back to Carolyn's place and I came in and was exhausted again and laid down.
A little while later Carolyn called me that she had prepared some dinner (that I said I would make, but she got ahead of me, again, God bless her). And, I believe we may have attempted to watch a little TV, but both decided to crash early again.
Day #43 (Sunday)
Another day of relaxation. I stayed in or on my bed until close to noon reading emails, articles and watching a very moving interview with Alex Trebek, host of the Jeopardy TV game show. Alex has been fighting Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. He's already beaten the initial odds, but the cancer is unrelenting. I was very inspired by his attitude, his strength, his commitment, but also his acceptance that the outcome will be whatever it will be. If you haven't seen this interview, you can view it here – Alex Trebek.
Carolyn went to church. I took a shower. She returned and I had some breakfast while she was enjoying some lunch. I moved the pile of mail and finally went through the envelopes and threw them away. I am doing a couple loads of laundry and well, I'm finally catching up with this long article catching up on six days I've missed writing this week.
Oh, and as I complete this and get it posted. I have to tell you, I'm on my last ounce of energy and stamina. The fatigue settled over me about two hours ago and I'm literally washed out. However, I wanted to get this caught up today.
How am I feeling? Well, after this week that was, I'm feeling great. Once again, no pain or aches. No other serious side effects from both the chemo and radiation other than this fatigue issue, but I'm able to deal with it. I'm getting motivated and productive again.
I'm extremely happy that my oncologist and his team took my reported symptoms seriously and took action for my medical and health safety first and foremost. Yes! It was an inconvenience. Yes! It was a detour and a bump in the road. But, the care, respect and professionalism were outstanding.
And, the great news is that it was a false-positive and I now have a series of tests indicating that my heart, lungs and kidneys all appear to be very strong and healthy. Maybe it was a roundabout way of finding that out. But, in my book, that's a “gimme.”
Tomorrow starts the last two weeks of this protocol of radiation and chemotherapy. I expect the fatigue to take a bit further toll on me. I also don't know what else to expect during these last two weeks. But, whatever it is, I'll take it in stride.
Me and Alex, we're going to hang tough. And, I encourage anyone reading this going through tough times, whatever they may be, or perhaps family members or friends dealing with challenges in their lives. Hang in there. Be tough. Tough people do what it takes. Tough times will change.
Live free and be happy. EH