Tuesday, October 30, 2007

i received the latest bill from the University Medical Center.

The total bill for chemotherapy is $30,182.89. My share came out to $80.

The bill includes a line charge for every day I was at the clinic.

the daily cost ranges from $75 (appointment with my oncologist) to $4,036 (CT Scan). Charges for the actual administration of the chemicals seem to range from $488.78 (as far as I can tell, that's for the bleo. injections) to $1,773.70.

Again, health care is expensive. I can't imagine what I'd do without it and I can't imagine what others do without it.

peach fuzz

Monday, October 29, 2007

On Sunday, after mass, Julie (who was in town for the weekend) and I went over to the old pueblo artisans square to listen to Francisco play his arpa. In between songs, he sat down with us. While we were talking he leaned in close to me, squinted his eyes a bit and ran his right hand just over my head. he smiled at the touch of the short, sharp bristles protruding from my baldness. he said he was glad to know my hair was coming back.

this morning I was surprised to notice the same. my facial hair is slowly coming in. above my lip, on my chin and around my cheeks. I noticed it after showering. I had to squint in the mirror. slight, light slivers of blackness. it's thin and a bit patchy, but it's there.

reminds me of being twelve or thirteen, when my moustache first came in. or the slight facial hair grandmas have. sorry, but it's an apt comparison.


I put on deodorant today (why this is important)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

So I still smell a little bit like chemo. -- I'm not sure how to explain it yet, and of course, like this entire experience, it could all be in my head, but usually in the afternoon, I can catch the slight wiff of chemicals and saline on my body. i don't know why, so I won't try to explain, but I can still smell it.
anyway, I decided maybe it's just normal perspiration. so I will conduct an experiment today and wear deodorant.
this is significant because I haven't worn deodorant in about two months.
During chemo., there were two ways that I realized i was losing my hair. The first was all the hair in the bathtub after I'd shower. The other was one morning when I went to put on deodorant and a bunch of hair came back with the sure bar. i thought this was a fluke the first time. but it happened for the next couple days. the sight of all that hair on the bar bothered me. so I stopped using deodorant. Damn the smell, but the sight of losing all that hair at once bothered me.
back to my experiment -- I swiped my underarm with the bar a few moments ago. no hair came back with it. cool.

Forty Going on Sixty-three

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Background: When I started to work with my therapist, I think it was in 1997, I was fifty-two years old. However, I kept feeling that I had all the time in the world because I was only forty. This age discrepancy was never discussed because I thought that I WAS FORTY OR AT LEAST I FELT LIKE I WAS. So if I believed and knew I was forty, so did my therapist. I saw my therapist as being about twenty years older than I was. The belief that time was an endless commodity kept me locked in this time warp until...

The years have past, but I stood still.
I thought my therapist was over the hill.
She taught me things that parents do
She challenged my beliefs and my emotional chaos.

I felt so great being twenty years younger than she
I knew that I had so much to do and she was wiser, older than me.
To be at peace at forty years old - so that I could mature
And be wise and peaceful at her older age.

The miracle of age and youth are easy to find and confuse
It's time in the present, time left behind, there is no time to lose.
A combination of memories now and then
Have made into me who I am right now

I have been with her for over eleven years
We have shared laughter and lots of tears
She has shared my pain and helped me to move on
I know myself better and can now trust my emotions.

Then one day it happened to me - unplanned and unprepared.
I walk into her office and this time I felt scared
I sat in a chair and looked at her deeply
She looked at me and waited for me to speak.

I had discovered a fact that would surprise her and me
I was not forty years old but rather sixty-three
How did this happen I do not know- where did all those years go?
But somewhere in therapy, I had matured and grown .

With her love and guidance and supporting ways
My endless nights had turned into days
I let go of my childhood traumas
And evolved into a mature woman with a better emotional self.

I spent those years thinking I was younger
Because my life had been filled with life's thunder
But now I feel safe to be my age.
And look who is my companion - but this mature sage!

Thank you, dear therapist and life coach of mine
The time we work together has been challenging and sublime
My time-line is adjusted and I am moving on
And I am blessed with you at my side. God Bless you! AMF

the Spots II

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

And the answer is: The Sex Pistols on Tour Secretly.
In August of 1977, the pistols went under the pseudonym the SPOTS for a secret tour of the UK because their fans, shows and reputation lead to repeated cancellation of tour dates.
but the doc gets good marks for his attempt with the Ink Spots.

the Spots

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I noticed the other day my knuckles looked different. it took me a minute to realize that the spots that had formed over each joint, I presume because of lowered blood platelets, had disappeared. As have some of the bruises on the inside of my wrist and the dark spots that used to cover my elbows.
like I said, a little better everyday.
and for tonight's trivia, in rock n' roll lore, who were the Spots? (answer to follow at some point).

one day at a time

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I've been invited to a wedding reception with a free, full-bar that's only five minutes, by bike, from my apartment. Instead, at just a few minutes past 9 p.m. on Saturday night, I'm fresh out of the shower, exhausted and waiting for the kettle to whistle and tell me it's time for my herbal tea.

how's that for a change of pace from the pre-cancer jorge.

As much as I hoped to go to the reception, I just don't have the energy. Such is post-chemo. recovery. A couple nights this week I've come home dead exhausted, able to do little more than heat up the batch of black bean soup i cooked last weekend (precisely for this purpose), plop down on the couch, flip the channels and crawl into bed within an hour.

I've been absent from this blog pretty much for this reason. And don't confuse my absence for a lack of activity. This week was a long one: I spoke to a masters level education class about the relationship between educators and the press, attended a meeting on the latest company changes to my health care (left my head spinning), filed two and a half-stories, had my first acupuncture session and today I attended a catholic wedding that mixed Mexican and Yaqui tradition.

I practice jarana when I've the energy, but that doesn't amount to more than a few times this week. but I'm getting there.

everyday it's a little better, a little less tired, but damn if, nonetheless, I'm still exhausted.

On Friday, my friend Will Seberger called me. He asked me to put the word out about a collection of blankets and warm clothes for the Tucson homeless. He also asked about how I was doing and reminded me, based on his mother's experience with cancer, that everyday is a little easier and one day you wake up and you don't even realize but you're able to do the things you used to.

one day at a time, as the old saying goes.

My folks

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My Mom and Dad left Tucson this morning.
they left at 4 a.m. -- typical Sanchez style -- to beat the heat and traffic...it was bittersweet though. their departure really marked the end of chemotherapy. They've been in Tucson for the past six weeks, staying at a friends place, and tending to my every need. they cooked, cleaned, stayed up all night with me that first weekend when my body had a bad reaction to the drugs, and laughed with/at me.
As strange as this may sound, my cancer gave me time with my parents that I otherwise wouldn't have had. i left home after high school for college in San Francisco; eight hours and a few hundred miles away. This was the longest single stretch of time we were able to spend together since I was 18 years old. and until I return to LA, we won't have time like that again.
Along with laying around doing nothing, watching "Anchor Man" and getting mad at the talking heads on the cable news circuit, there was also alot of time for walks and questions about our extended family, collective history and my parents' relationship over the years.
it was good for all three of us, I think.
My parents are tough. And watching me go through chemo. wasn't easy for them. I remember how hard it was for my dad to sit with me those first couple days and look at his glassy eyed son connected to the IVs and constantly beeping machines. My mom, like any mom, said she'd trade places and be in my chemo. recliner if she could.
I think in some ways it was harder on them, and the other members of my family, because they felt helpless as witnesses to something no one ever wants to observe.
but they dealt well with the situation. of course my mom made friends with all the nurses and other patients. and my dad goofed around, flirting with the staff and generally taking advantage of all the free chocolate the clinic had to offer.
if anyone wants to know how I came out of chemo. the way I did, it was because of them. their love, laughter and support did more for my spirit and strength than anything else. I can't even imagine what it would've been like to walk into the clinic everyday without them by my side.
simple enough.

i played my new jarana today for the first time in probably two months. i am rusty, my fingers and wrist sore, but it felt great! Thanks Francisco!

Post-chemo. meeting

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I met with Dr. Ahmann this afternoon. It was a typical post-chemo. course meeting, though this was our last meeting until my next blood test and follow up in December.

the chemotherapy yielded positive results very rapidly, he told me.

as I've written before, all the cancer signs are down (tumor markers in my blood) and last week's CT scan came back with nothing to worry about. He was pleased with my ability to get through chemo. as well as I did (without completely losing my appetite or getting any sicker).

Now that chemotherapy is over and things look good (it's an 85 to 95 percent probability my cancer has been cured), we're looking to the next two years of monitoring with no reocurrences to be able to say we really beat this thing.

After that, there's a one in twenty chance it'll come back. meanwhile, i'll continue getting blood tests and CT scans, though on a less frequent basis.

i asked him about depression, a subject Adrian and I spoke about at length the other night, and he said that is normal and reminded me I just went through a life-changing event. sadness and anger are to be expected, he said, just as if I'd lost a parent or child. I shudder to think...

and I asked when my hair was going to come back. within a few months I'll have enough hair to sport a crew cut (Clarissa had once suggested this) and by four months it should be back to what it used to be. he warned me (echoing words from Adrian and Luis) that he has seen patients with straight hair that went through chemo and ended up with curly hair afterwards, vice versa, and he's also seen people's hair change color after chemo.

imagine me a blonde...

anyway, things are good.

my folks and I are having dinner to celebrate tonight. I plan on going back to work Thursday.

Ya Termine

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I finished chemotherapy this morning. received my last dosage of bleomycin about one hour ago. afterwards a half dozen of the nurses that walked with me through chemo. showered me with bubbles. nice.

Summer of Cancer

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A car alarm in the parking lot behind my apartment building (a tenement, as fatty called it) went off this morning around 2 a.m.. Sometime around 2:15 a.m. I went back there to see if it was my parents van, which was parked back there. it wasn't and somebody eventually shut the alarm off around 3 a.m..
as I trod back to my apartment, I noticed it was cold. about twelve hours earlier, when I was out for my daily walk around the neighborhood (the closest thing I've got to exercise right now), I made the same observation.
the summer of '07 for the sonoran desert has turned to fall.
my summer was consumed by my cancer: surgery, observation and eventually chemotherapy. whatever plans I made or hoped for the summer vanished into weekly visits to the blood lab, monthly visits with dr. ahmann and eventually daily trips to the clinic.
summer is over. and soon, so will be chemotherapy.
this tuesday, God willing, is my last injection. bleomycin. in all honesty, I'll probably be too foggy to remember much because I'll be high on benadryl.
though I've been counting the days left, I've kept up the emotional and psychological defense that i erected when chemo. began.
there are certain thoughts and emotions I never allowed myself during this time. this also helped me deal with the physical pain of the treatment as well.
but I think that defense is coming down, slowly, whether or not I like it, because my days in chemo. are coming to an end.
I've noticed it has become harder to take the needle pricks of an IV and blood draw. there was no novelty to my barium sulfate shake the second time around. it was just something to get through.
and now I'm almost through.

About 5 years ago this month...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I had my surgery. its sort of bittersweet. for the past 5 years, i keep getting reminded of that that fact. And, not because i have a rad scar down my chest, but, because the Angles have been in the playoffs 4 of the past 5 years.

After my surgery, i laid in my rack and watched the Angles in the World Series. I watched all 6 games, and at times, barely able to move. So this year, since Noter Damn has failed me again, i'll be at game 3 (maybe game 4 too) of the American League Division Series.

Its...well if you think about it, its a way my cancer story continues...

Traffic School

had my moment in court.

the judge gave me the option of paying the $167 fine, traffic school or going forward with a hearing. but had I been found guilty in the hearing, traffic school was out of the question and the "offense" would be on my record.

I took traffic school, which is what I was hoping for anyway.

funny though -- i was some what excited about the hearing.

i used to cover juvenile and criminal court (and the occasional civil suit) in monterey county, so I've spent a lot of time sitting around court rooms, waiting, watching and making a list of questions to ask after each hearing. some of that came back during the short time i spent in court this afternoon.

after watching the two cases ahead of me, in which automobile drivers were also cited for not stopping at a stop sign, it was pretty clear the judge wasn't going to side with me. ignorance doesn't make for much of a defense.

but I had pieced together a list of questions to ask Officer Dietsch, the motorcycle officer who pulled cited me.
and questioning a police officer before a judge, as is my right, was an exciting prospect.

on a small scrap of paper (real professional, huh!), I scrawled a few questions about the evening's traffic conditions (light traffic), whether or not there were pedestrians in the road (nope) and the safety options i exercise as a bike rider (lights, helmet, bright yellow riding jacket).

here was my kicker: do you remember what you said to me after pulling me over, I planned to ask. I wanted to remind him, in front of a judge, that he called me a "disgrace to law abiding bicyclists in tucson," including himself.

that was inappropriate.

the officer actually showed up for court, but since I opted for traffic school, the judge dismissed him.

now I've got until Dec. 7 to go to traffic school.

meanwhile, chemo. went well today. the nurses and I were laughing about my upcoming court appearance.

one of my nurses gave me two little bottles of bubbles because she was afraid she was going to miss my going away party. hopefully that won't be the case. susan's been really great.
Aunt pookie took off this afternoon as did uncle johnny. and tina drove back to LA this morning.
i've got a CT Scan scheduled for tomorrow morning, which means I'll get a second dose of that chalky "berry smoothie" also known as barium sulfate (see post from July). can't wait.

the trial of the century

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tuesday is the second to last day of chemotherapy. I've got a quick appointment (likely to last less than two hours) scheduled for 9 a.m.. the early appointment will give me enough time to nap afterwards because I've got a date with the state of Arizona around 3:30 p.m.

On July 3rd, I was cited for not stopping at a stop sign on my bike. on my bike. it's $167 fine.

so bald head, slacks and a tie, I'll make my case before a pima county traffic commissioner tomorrow afternoon. lets see if justice prevails...