Carpet Bombing

Healing is not linear.

Bombs away
But we're O.K.
Bombs away
In old Bombay
Stewart Copeland

It wasn't really my intent for this to become the Cancer Update Blog. There are other things to write about but this has been so seemingly all-encompassing that I've not spent much time thinking about them enough to put together a coherent thought stream about them, much less a decent blog post. Plus, I know that several of you use this as your only way to keep informed about what's going on with that aspect of my life so I'll gladly oblige.

Since last time, I got the go-ahead to drink clear liquids — a misnomer since it includes all manner of things that aren't clear including coffee, tea, some fruit juices, Jell-o, and soup broth among others. So that was good. I finally got some coffee, which was a wonderfully welcome addition to my otherwise non-existent diet. Add in some water with lime and my beloved Arnold Palmers and it was so nice to be able to taste things, even if only a bit. Then, this past week, the feeding tube was removed completely and the gave me the official okey dokey to eat soft foods. There's no solid definition for what is considered "soft" but so far I've been fine with applesauce, yogurt, soup, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, scrambled eggs, peanut butter, pudding and ice cream.

You learn a lot when going through something like this about the myriad little things that your body just does naturally and that you never think about. One such thing is the way your tongue automatically moves food around in your mouth to get it where it needs to be to chew and swallow. When your tongue doesn't quite move the same way anymore, that can be a small challenge now and then. It's not a show stopper by any means but you're suddenly aware of it and you have to change what has been an unconscious default behavior for 50 years. I'm sure it will become more natural with time but I'm not quite there yet.

The next big announcement is that I'll be undergoing both radiation and chemotherapy pretty soon. Basically, they're going to carpet bomb the area of the cancer in an effort to kill of any possible lingering traces of the stuff. I haven't yet met with the radiation doctor — that happens a couple days from now —so I don't know any details about those treatments yet but chemo is set to start early August. Three rounds spaced three weeks apart. Not gonna lie — this has the potential to really suck. Badly. I know that everyone responds a bit differently but the side effects are pretty well known. Nausea, fatigue, hair loss, weakened immune system. The only variable is the extent that they will set in. It will also most likely make my current hearing loss even worse.

Side note: I got a haircut yesterday and it was kind of strange to not be able to schedule my next one since I don't know if I'll actually have any hair to cut or not.

Since it will be targeted at my mouth, radiation has different effects that aren't as severe in the short term but are permanent and will change my life forever. The big one is that it kills your salivary glands so you end up with dry mouth. But it's not just the dryness that is the problem. Saliva contains all sorts of magical goodness — enzymes and such — that start breaking down food as you eat and dilute the sugars and other stuff that start attacking your teeth the moment they land there. Without that extra protection, it becomes really important that you get those things off of your teeth as quickly as possible after eating. That means that I will be that weird guy who has to brush my teeth in the restaurant bathroom or risk losing them altogether. I've been weird for stranger things in my life so I guess that's not too bad. Just have to build a new habit and be really diligent about it. I also have to give up sugars as much as possible to help that out. Fructose. Dextrose. Sucrose. All of those other –ose's that make life worth living. They will be the enemy. Not that I can't ever have any sweets ever but they will have to be rare and immediately followed by even more diligent brushing.

I'm certainly not looking forward to any of these treatments but I'll put up with them if it means completely eradicating this stuff from my body. I'm returning to work tomorrow — at least for a couple weeks until chemo starts. At that point, the side effects, and even more the weakened immune system, makes being at work and around a lot of people a really bad idea. That's going to mean another two months or so out of the office. Yeesh! I've been going stir crazy as it is and it's only been a month.

More to come as I continue down this path. And hopefully I'll get back to other aspects of life as well. I'm aiming for more reading and less Netflix during my chemo period. I suppose that will partially depend on how I feel at any given moment. We'll see.