Friday, September 9, 2011

September 9: Sometimes This Seems Like a Game

It was funny lining up this morning behind two other bald guys. There were no men with hair in the waiting room this morning.

It must be harder to go through that as a lady. I saw a bald lady come in yesterday.

Don and I (I'm on the left): "The Toxic Twins."
Today's my last dose of "consolidation" chemo, the second round.

It's weird because I feel healthy. My red blood cell counts haven't dropped the last couple days, and I'm just over 80% of what would be normal to me. By now, that's a pretty good blood count, so I feel normal, like nothing's wrong.

And on the surface, nothing is wrong. Except for the fact that I'm receiving my fourth large dose of poison today, I am healthy.

Of course, it's extremely likely that there's a ticking bomb hiding out somewhere in my bone marrow or blood, so the poison's necessary.

Nonetheless, this all feels like a game. I come in, give them blood, fill out the questionnaire on how I'm feeling (great except for nausea that is controlled very well by medication they prescribed), and then I sit around and type on the computer for a few hours while they poison me--and hopefully kill any leftover leukemic cells by doing so.

Even more like a game is all the stuff I do at home. Since the chemo attacks all quickly reproducing cells, it stops saliva and mucous as well as destroying blood cells. So I rinse my mouth regularly with a salt and baking soda solution, and I take some extra careful measures to prevent hemorrhoids. (There I go having to talk about that again!).

Also, the Ara-C that I'm getting this time makes for very dry eyes, so four times a day I put drops in my eyes.

There's a lot of people who live like that. They take meds every morning, every night, and maybe at every meal. Insulin shots, checking their own blood ... all sorts of stuff. I think it's a lot of people who do that because the hospital is always surprised when I tell them that I don't take any meds on a regular basis.

So, a lot of people go through that, but not me. It would be different if I felt sick or weak. I don't, so it feels like I'm playing a game or acting.

It feels something like this. "Yes, yes, I'm very sick. I could die in less than a year. In fact, if we were leaning on odds, I have about a 60% chance of being buried within 2 years. Also, I'm in the middle of chemo, with all its side effects ... So, do you want to go to the gym? A good workout followed by a couple-mile run would be fun!"

It just doesn't seem very real.

For the record, though, my white blood cell counts dropped significantly today, including my neutrophils (the anti-bacterial ones). Tomorrow they're going to give a shot related to neupogen, called Neulasta, which will help raise my neutrophil levels. Apparently, they're going to try to prevent me from ever going neutropenic (under 500 on the Absolute Neutrophil Count) this time, which is part of what makes chemotherapy so dangerous.

The Ability to Heal Is Awesome

That will be really nice. What made the last chemo unpleasant was that for a week or so, every irritation was compounded. No matter if we treated a problem and stopped it from getting worse, it couldn't get better until my white blood cell counts came up. Even cuts wouldn't heal. They'd stop bleeding, but they'd just stay there. Athlete's foot, hemorrhoids, mouth sores ... they can be slowed or stopped, and maybe their symptoms improved with pain medication, but not healed.

Let me tell you, there is a huge difference between slowly accumulating injuries and irritations that don't go away and the ability to heal.

Healing is an awesome thing.

Another Brian Regan Excursus

That reminds me of the most recent Brian Regan audio I heard. It's not available on Amazon, but we downloaded it from iTunes. I don't remember how much it cost.

On it he talks about getting older and how things don't heal. He gets up one morning, feels some pain and says, "My hip hurts ... I guess forever."

I can't find that tape on YouTube, but ... Brian Regan has lots of funny stuff I love, so I'm going to give you a video of one anyway.

Have any of you noticed that it's right about 37 or 38 years old when the healing process slows down ... dramatically? A good bruise or very sore muscles from a sports event takes a month rather than 3 days to get better. A pulled muscle can hurt for 4 or 5 months rather than healing up in a week.

If you haven't, then when you do ... don't worry. It's normal.

Back to the Hip Pain Thing

I've got to get a good web page up some time on the massage therapy I use that helps with that. I've passed it on to a lot of people, and it's effective. It takes a tennis ball, although there's an over-priced tool called a "Backknobber" that helps, too.

For me, I mostly use it on my upper back (both the Backknobber and the tennis ball) and my hips (tennis ball only).

I'll make it a priority to get a page up on it soon, and I'll link it from here.

I have ongoing hip pain, but I almost never have to deal with it because I know how to keep it under control. What's neat is that the result has been that my occasional lower back problems have virtually gone away. I can't remember the last time I've struggled with lower back pain.

Same with the neck and upper back pain. There has been a lot of times that I'll find someone who can't even turn their head or can't pick anything up on one side because of upper back pain. I'll tell them they don't need to put up with that, find the spot on their back that's hurting, put pressure on it for a couple minutes, then watch their amazement at the relief. Then I hand them a tennis ball and tell them to lay on it as they need to.

They all describe it as miraculous.

There's a couple safety bits of advice that go with what I just described, but basically it's safe, and you could probably figure it out on your own.

If you want a real thorough explanation of how that works, or how it's used to treat other muscle pain, then you can get Julie Donnely's Pain-Free Living. (You have to scroll down to get to just the books.)

I emphasized the word muscles there because so much joint pain, and especially back pain and sciatica, is actually caused by tight muscles or muscles with spasms in them. Also, muscles are safe to treat with massage. It's not like a chiropractor popping joints. Do that wrong, and you can cause real problems. Sit or lay on a tennis ball in a controlled manner, though, and the worst you're going to do is make your muscle a little sore.

Again, I'll get a page up soon, but you can skip that with Julie Donnely's book. By the way, Pain-Free Living is more comprehensive, but her The Pain-Free Runner or Pain-Free Triathlete would probably give you enough information, too. They're a lot cheaper. Oh, and her Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is just $10, too, and if you've got the symptoms of CTS, you really need to read her book and possible avoid unnecessary and somewhat dangerous surgery. The treatment she suggests is free, often effective, and safe. You'll know in days whether it's going to work, so there's no reason not to try it.

My wife had the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for a while. We cured them with shoulder massage. No kidding. Many people, however, have to do more long-term massage of the forearms. It's not far out or anything. In a hospital setting, a physical therapist will often treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with massage, exercises, ice, and special gloves in order to prevent the need for surgery. The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome book is just far cheaper, somewhat easier and, in my opinion, more effective because you're not overdoing it.

Once again, I'm supposed to tell you that if you use my links to go to Julie Donnely's page, I'll get a commission. Same with the Amazon link above to the Backnobber. I make about $100 per year of such commissions, which isn't much. I didn't make those links to sell you something. Everything I wrote here is simply true and written to prevent pain for the many of us my age who have it.

Something Interesting?

It seems like I had more important—or maybe interesting—to talk about today, but I can't remember what those were. So, here's a video recommended by a friend and my wife that you may find funny. Personally, I think it's just good advice.

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