"Surgery is easy. The rest is hard."

I guess that I’m kinda falling behind on the reporting, here… my brother dropped by after work with a contribution for the ‘fridge (beef stroganoff… I’m looking forward to that!) and mentioned that he’d had a look at the blog. He seems to be in agreement with my assessment about the contribution to fatigue that my lack of exercise may be making. Now that we’re not virtual prisoners because of the extreme cold, I need to start to address that. Hell, we’ve got access to this multi-million dollar gym and pool, I’m paying the monthly fees, and I never go. As we talked, I realized how much I haven’t posted about what we’ve done this week, already, so its time for an update.

On Monday of this week, after the radiation therapy session, we had a review session with Dr. Jha, the radiologist in charge of my therapy, and most of the team. Nice guy, very open, helpful. He had a quick look around in my throat, and seems quite content with the progress. His intern, a lovely young woman named Dr. Putrure (sp?) noted that the forearm flap in the back of my throat is growing a bit of hair. This will go away with as the radiation treatments continue. Dr. Putrure, although quite nice, does need to relax a bit. She seems to be of the ‘don’t-make-friends-with-the-patients’ school.

Dr. Jha has issued the same warning that Dr. Koski did; control the weight loss or expect a radical solution. He was referring to the feeding tube inserted into the abdomin. Oh, yea… what a great idea. Yuck.

Anyway, Dr. Jha has prescribed a skin cream (hydrozone), a custom mixed mouthwash (Akabutu’s Mouthwash, developed by a doctor at the Cross Cancer Institute), and a lidocaine-based solution to numb my throat if things get so bad I can’t swallow (Xylocaine Viscous). When I presented the prescription to the pharmacist, one that I don’t normally deal with at London Drugs in St. Albert, she was visibly startled. Then she admited that it was the colour of the paper that the prescription was written on. Apparently the Cross Cancer Institute is the only local user of yellow for prescriptions. She hates having to deal with them because she understands the implication. Very sensitive for a pharmacist, I thought.

I’ve tried the mouthwash, and its not bad… it has a bit of lidocaine in it, and stuff to soothe the other mouth sores that may arise. It also breaks downs the thick saliva… (NOTE: there is a rough outline of the recipe in more recent posts; keep looking!)

As part of my coping with all of this, after my first radiation treatment, I have not shaved, other than to neaten up my returning beard. The radiation team makes jokes about it, wondering how long it will be before the mask gets too tight. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem… this afternoon as I was rubbing the skin cream into my beard, hairs starting coming away. Damn. It looks like I’m going to loose most of the beard on my cheeks…

Tuesday afternoon we met with Dr. D. Williams, the surgeon who has been shepharding me through the surgical side of this. He was quite happy with the results so far. When we mentioned the hair growth at the back of the throat, he took a quick look (my gag reflex is way too sensitive for anything more than a quick anything in my throat) and remarked that it actually looked like it was braided… this guy is good, and funny. Nice attributes for a surgeon.

We talked through all the bits and pieces of what I’m feeling and going through, and he reminded me that he had said, months ago: “Surgery is easy. The rest is hard.”

He also commented that the feeding tube is not nearly as bad as the alternative. He as much as advised me to start trying to get my head around the concept… or figure out another way to increase my caloric intake, a lot, in spite of the problems I’m having with taste, and the problems I will be having with swallowing. There is a kindness and gentleness in this man that makes you want to listen to him…

Dr. Williams has prepared a letter of extension for my disability to pass onto my employers. I think that there’s a typo in it. He is suggesting that I may need to the end of June for convalescence. I think he meant the end of May, just to give me the six months that I argued with him about the first time he wrote the letter.

When we plot the radiation, ending March 11, 2008, and the chemo (February 20, 2008 plus 21 days to the final treatment which would also be March 11, 2008) and add in recovery time from both, its unlikely that I will be able to spend any quality time at the office before the first of April.

I am now playing telephone tag with our HR department to discuss how we want to play this out…

Physio was on Monday and Wednesday (today). Because next Monday is a holiday here in Alberta, I won’t be doing either radiation or physio… and I canceled the following Wednesday physio because its chemo day. We do remain concerned about the range of motion in my shoulder, and I have resolved to work seriously at it over the next few days. My wrist is in good shape. Small victiories, quick wins. Yay!

By the way, I picked up a new flavour of Ensure: cafe latte. My gawd! Its cloying enough to break through my taste barriers. I hope that it isn’t this bad for real…

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