Posted tagged ‘cancer’

The Cancer Bus

July 8, 2018

This past Friday I finished my last radiation treatment at Kaiser in Hollywood. I know that most people relate Hollywood to the movie and TV industry, but there is a lot more to the city than that.

So for the past seven weeks or so, I rode the Kaiser bus every day from Harbor City (south of LA) up to the Kaiser Radiation Oncology facility in Hollywood. Bus leaves at about 11 AM and arrives in Hollywood at about Noon. Everyone piles out of the bus checks in and head down in the basement where all of the X-Ray machines are located.

When the last patient boards the bus at about 1 PM, we head back south to Harbor City. Nobody gets left behind. The driver has a count of the people on board. Sometimes patients are delayed by doctor visits or additional X-rays that are required.

For example, today I had to see the doctor and I was delayed. I finally board the bus at about 1:30 PM. No one complains. They have all been in that situation at some time or other.

So over my seven weeks I got to meet many people all of who are suffering from cancer of some sort or another. Some will survive and some will not. One lady told me that she was taking the bus a few years ago and the bus was much fuller than. Less people on the bus means people are surviving longer. A good sign.

A lot of people wear hats. Once Desmond took his hat off to show a nasty carcinoma on the top of his head. He finished his treatments a couple of weeks ago. Hope he does well.

2018-07-03 10.52.00So the group tends to be an unofficial support group. We tended to chat on the benches by the bus stop. It is good to get it out. It’s a bit tough to talk on the bus due to road noise.

I listened to the biography of Ulysses S Grant by Ron Chernow. I still  have a few hours to go. In seven weeks, I have learned more about the Civil War and Reconstruction than I ever knew.

2018-07-03 20.43.48Also, it seems that the length of treatment varies for each person. Some folks are up for only 5 treatments. Some like me are in for the long hall at 30.

So for now, I am done.  I have a follow-up scheduled for the end of August. For now, I am waiting for my wounds on my neck to heal and get my sense of taste back.

I hope to never have to ride the Cancer Bus ever again.

TTFN

Joe

2 More Weeks

June 23, 2018

2018-06-22 12.21.46Two more weeks to go. Nine treatments. I get the 4th of July off for good behavior. We’ll probably go to lodge for a cook out and watch the fireworks over LA Harbor.

So this post is going to be a little bit about Mary. She continues her long descent into the abyss. She remembers nothing. I told Paula that I wish that Mary could at least once say to me, “How did your radiation treatments go today?. But she can’t, sigh.

On Friday, she asked Paula, “How did your day go?”. You see, Paula spent most of the day with Mary to take her for her hair appointment at the beauty shop and the ice cream place to get her a chocolate shake. (Frappe for you guys in Mass.)

Last week Thursday was cancelled due to all of the machines being down. So they added one additional day to my schedule. I’ve noticed some hair loss around my left cheek and under my left ear. I was just standing under my hot shower the other morning when I noticed that there wasn’t the usual morning stubble on my left cheek.

Doctor gave me a Rx for some sulfa cream for the infection under my left ear. Seems to be improving.

So today is date day. We went to the grocery store for shopping. Got my usual Starbuck’s iced coffee with a chocolate croissant. Very tasty. As I’ve said before, chocolate is one of the few things that still taste good.

We’re going out to the movies tonight to see “Solo”. Then tomorrow church, diner, crossword puzzles, etc. Then on Monday, back on the merry-go-round.

TTFN,

Joe

20 Down, 10 More To Go

June 19, 2018

Okay, I’ve reached another plateau. I’ve finished 20 radiation treatments and I have 10 more to go. My sense of taste as left the building. Most everything is bland and tasteless with one exception. Chocolate! Specifically, chocolate ice cream. I particularly enjoy Ben & Jerry’s “Chocolate Fudge Brownie“. I’ve lost about 12 lbs since I started the treatments.

CFB_1_Desktop

2018-06-18 12.32.12I took a picture of our bus driver on Monday. She is so sweet and encouraging. Her name is Thelma. She greets everyone with a beautiful smile.

Right now we have about a dozen people riding the cancer bus. About 2/3 of the riders are women, mostly being treated for breast cancer.

I was talking with one lady who told me that she had been on the bus about 8 years ago when the ridership was at about 20 people. Ridership count is an interesting metric of cancer treatment success.

So on my ride up to Hollywood and back I have been listening to “Ulysses S Grant” by Ron Chernow on the Audible app on my phone. I am at chapter 24 out of 45 chapters. It’s a very interesting book.

Oh, and a couple more thing that still tastes good. Martinis and wine.

I’ll sure be glad when this is all done.

Half Done

June 13, 2018

2018-06-12 13.33.52Today was 15th radiation treatment. 15 more to go. So far so good. Last treatment is on July 5.

The bus takes us from the Kaiser Harbor City facility up to the Kaiser facility in Hollywood. ( about an hour ride)

Today we didn’t have our regular bus. I guess the regular bus was out of service. In its stead we had one of those 12 passenger vans. What a pain. Just about every seat taken. No extra room to speak of.

Not only am I half done with treatments, I am also about half done with the book that I am listening to on Audible. I am listening to the biography of Ulysses S Grant by Ron Chernow. Very interesting. I have started watching the Ken Burns series on the Civil war. Also, interesting. It’s available on Netflix.

The bus is sort of a rolling support group. Everyone on the bus has some sort of cancer. I have had interesting conversations with many of the folks on the bus.

The treatments have some nasty side effects. My sense of taste is long gone. So is my appetite. I have a low grade sore throat. Though, some folks have it much worse. I can at least eat but I generally don’t want to. I am tired and grumpy. (more so than usual). Water has a metallic taste to it.

So I have lost about 4 pounds over the past three weeks. The doctor today told me “try not to lose too much weight”. What? I don’t think I have ever heard a doctor say those words. Hell of a diet.

Back on the bus tomorrow.

Joe

Radiation – Day 1

May 23, 2018

2018-05-23 09.41.18Today I had my first radiation treatment at Kaiser in Hollywood. It took a solid hour and a half to drive up there. The drive is worse than the treatment. My appointment was at 08:24, so I was driving at prime traffic time.

Starting tomorrow, I get to ride the shuttle from Harbor City. So I can catch up on my reading and podcasts.

The first appointment was different because they had to do some X-rays and fine tuning of the set up.

They have a mask that locks my head into one place while the X-ray machine does its thing.

Kaiser has about 7 machines in the basement of the building on Sunset Blvd. They gave each machine a name to help keep track of which is which. The one that I will be using is called “Megatron”. I am sure Jonathan will be amused.

If one looks carefully at the light above the machine you can see a picture of a leafy tree. I guess it’s to make one forget that you’re getting zapped with mega-watts of radiation to kill the cancer bugs.

They have a control center in another room with a bunch of computers with about 6 screens. They wouldn’t let me take a picture because another patient’s data was on the screen.

So I go back tomorrow and each weekday until the end of June. I get weekends and Memorial Day off for good behavior.

Oncology

April 20, 2018

2018-04-20 08.49.06I had an 8:30 AM appointment with the Radiation Oncology Dept at Kaiser. The appointment was up in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd. For all my friends on the East coast that is a long haul. Paula and I were out the door at 7:15 AM and arrived at 8:45 AM. Brutal Friday traffic. I’m glad I don’t have to do that every day.

So after the usual pleasantries of step on the scale, roll up your sleeve for the BP cuff and what’s your temp., we got to meet with an Oncology resident who talked about the plan. We talked about my history with respect to squamous cell carcinoma.

I am to do six weeks of radiation, five days a week for six weeks. The idea is to knock out any remaining squamous cells before they have a chance to settle in and get all comfy.

So then I told him that we were going to be traveling to Boston in May. Trip paid for and non-negotiable. He agreed to start the treatment on the day after we return on May 22. So far so good.2018-04-20 11.24.16

Here’s a pic of my oncologist. Actually, he is a resident. So even though he looks young, he’s got some supervision.

Two other visits were scheduled. First to see the Kaiser dentist to create some sort of gadget to keep me from moving my teeth during the treatment.

Second was a final get together with the oncologist to review the details.

One bit of good news is that Kaiser has a shuttle from their offices in South Bay and the medical center up in Hollywood. So I won’t have to do the driving myself. I wasn’t looking forward to doing 1 1/2 hour drive each way every day.

Treatment

April 19, 2018

2018-04-18 21.51.29So now that the surgery is behind me, it is time to look at treatment. I will be meeting with the Radiation Oncology Dept (aka the Tumor Board) at Kaiser on Friday. It is becoming a struggle to get Paula free to accompany me. The appointment is at 8:30 AM in downtown LA. So that means that I will probably have to be on the road by 7:00 AM. Ugh.

Well, we managed to get Dawn to watch over Mary tomorrow AM. So Paula will be coming with me. That also means that I can use the diamond lane.

Then next week I have an ultrasound scheduled on my thyroid. Did that last week but this time they need to do a dye. They were supposed to both last Friday, but the department that does the dye is a different group. sigh.

After the surgery, Dr K told me that he thought that he would be recommending just radiation and not chemo. I suppose I will find out on Friday.

I guess the assumption is that there are still some squamous cells on the lose up in my head somewhere. We’ll see.