Thursday, May 28, 2009

Welcome to Day -15

This morning at 10:15, I got a call from Fonzi, the stem cell co-ordinator. He looks nothing like The Fonz. In fact, he's black so he would be the first and only black Fonz if that's what he wants to be. But he doesn't seem to. He's obviously missing an opportunity here. 

I will be admitted into the hospital to start high dose chemo on June 8th. And it couldn't come sooner. My neck is constantly a bother. It doesn't hurt so much as remind me every waking second that I have cancer. I also know the rest of me is on borrowed time. Even though I am in partial to near complete remission, it's just a break in the action. The cancer will come back. And next time, it'll be pissed off. 

I look forward to sleep now because that's the time when I don't have cancer. You can probably understand it like this. When you're away from home and you dream about home there's a startling few seconds when you wake up. You have to make adjustments and get your bearings. I do that every morning. Only instead of dreaming about being home, I dream that I don't have cancer. When I wake up, I'll get that pain in my neck and a sharp jolt from the chest and within seconds I realize I'm back again, stuck with the Monster. Mornings are tough.

The call from Fonzi does mean that we start the countdown. With every stem cell transplant there is a "countdown" and then a "count up". I think they do that for some medical reason or to help patients. For your understanding, I'll try to relate what I know what will happen with my own days. Since I've never been through this before, I'm not entirely sure. But I believe it goes something like this:

Day -15: Get a call form the black Fonz, even though he doesn't want to be called the black Fonz. Afterwards, go into procedure room to replace the line that goes from the right side of my chest and into a vein above my heart with a smaller line that goes in the same place. 

Day -14: Get root canal. Piece of cake. No, really. After nearly twenty doses of chemo, two bone marrow aspirations, countless procedures to put lines in and out of my body and the pain of trying to make small talk with Texans in elevators, this is nothing. 

Day -13 to Day -8: Fly home to see the kids once more. During this time, pick the last remaining hairs out of my head. The last two times I lost my hair because of chemo, I never admitted to myself that it mattered. I look like crap with or without hair. And besides, the ladies never really care about looks anyway. But I've realized that it does affect me. When clumps of hair fall out it's disconcerting. It reminds me that something else on my body isn't working any more. It reminds me of the pickle I'm in.  

Day -7: Come back to Houston for "pre-tests". 

Day -5: Begin high dose chemo. I'll be hooked up to an IV drip. They'll start the anti-nausea drugs first and then the steroids. A couple of hours later, the toxins begin. My brain will become numb around the steroid stage. I will feel nauseous before even starting. 

Day -4: Puke. 

Day -3: Begin fighting off the inevitable, which is the slow death of my body. The biggest change will be the loss of a digestive tract. My mouth will have sores all over. Then the rest of the digestive tract will have sores. At some point, it will be too painful to even eat a crumb. Then I'll have to go on an IV.  Morphine will probably start. I won't be able to poop normally. Breathing will become difficult as the lungs are affected by the chemo, too. I'll have to watch my kidney. It will be hard to walk around, anywhere, as fatigue becomes a big issue. Even though I'll be tired, I won't sleep without the aid of some good drugs.

Day -2: Puke. Ask for more morphine.

Day -1: The chemo drip ends.

Day 0: Get my stem cells. You know that harvest I talked about in the last blog? The lame Keanu Reeves reference? Well, those stem cells are frozen and here's where I get them back. This is a big day. To many patients, it signifies a new life. People even give themselves a new birthday. 

Day 5-7: The chemo only now starts to "settle". If I hadn't already come down with all those side effects listed earlier, I'll get them around this day. If I already have them, they'll get worse. 

Day 14+: Get busy living. 

Once again, I could have this wrong but that's what I know so far. I'll be trying to figure this out in the coming week. 


  1. T-minus 10 days and counting. Fitting that your countdown takes place in Houston, home of the Johnson Space Center Mission Control that issued those similar words many times. I look forward to June 8th when Mr. Cancer calls in pleading "Houston, we have a problem." Tell The Fonz to kick ass. As Bear from Armageddon would say "It's time to dance".

    Michael, we all sincerely appreciate you bringing us along during your journey. You're a good man, Charlie Brown. At the risk of sounding like Dick Jaron, you've battled and battled and now it's going to pay off. Rumor has it that John Shoop is running the offense for Cancer's team, so you know they're screwed.

    If at some point during your Day-15/+15 stage you may be too tired to post. That's OK; we'll all be thinking and praying so know that we'll be with you in spirit. It will be sort of like the black out period in Apollo 13 when the astronauts lose communication with their returning patriots for a long four minutes during their re-entry process. So if we lose you for a while during your re-entry, know that we'll all be waiting when your chute opens up and you join us all once again.

    Looking forward to that day. I know Todd has staked a claim on giving you that first beer so I have dibbs on the 2nd one.

    Enjoy the fun in the sun in Houston until June 8th. Be good and thanks for bringing us along. Oh - side note: Terrell Owens in Buffalo? Scratch one team off the list of competing AFC East teams. Jay Cutler in Chicago? We're both going to have to bone up on our fantasy magazines for this years draft. Speaking of bone up, I wonder if Jessica Simpson is still seeing Tony Romo?

  2. Hey Michael,

    I don't know if this will make you laugh or just gross you out:

    Yesterday, I forgot I had my iPhone in my back pocket when I had to pee after way too much iced tea. Pulled down my pants to pee. Didn't notice my iPhone dropped in the toilet. Proceeded to pee on my iPhone. (and it was a G3!).


  3. No references to bad Keanu Reeves movies, yea. Several weeks of holy hell in store, boo. Coming home to see the kids, yea. Coming home to see the kids if it were my kids, boo. Having a black dude as a doctor who goes by the name Fonz, yea. Having to continue reading my idiotic post, boo.

    If I could backtrack for just a moment here and respond to some recent comments, Sara, I wouldn't be worried your husband failing to return with fish, afterall, when a husband goes to the nudey bar, he doesn't come home with a stripper. Not unless he wants to be sitting across the desk from me anyway. Claudine, your post begs the question, did you retrieve the phone? If so, did you immediately have to hold it to your face to take call? If so, then yes, it's gross. If not, I fear that all you have done is aroused those with perverted fetishes.

    I was going to give you a rundown of my next 15 days, but then everyone will know that I have no life. Suffice it to say that they involve chasing around with my son to 13 baseball games and 6 soccer games plus practices. His coaches, of which I am one, must be idiots.

    No good work stories to tell at the moment other than I had a moron divorce client show up in court at 9:00am drunk. While I used to find this somewhat amusing, it's rather annoying when it's your client getting the lecture from the judge. You would think that one could wait until at least 10:00am for that first cocktail.

    I was thinking of making a pilgrimmage to Madison to ask Brother Jed and Sister Pat to pray for you, but considering that they consider you, me and the majority of the male population to be nothing more than "whore-mongers" I've decided it probably would not be of much benefit.

    Enjoy your time at home, time to kick cancer in the ass.

  4. Oh wow- I almost forgot about Brother Jed and Sister Pat (hi Todd)! Mike, I think they'd put in a good word for you. Sara and I were screwed from the beginning with those guys, since we're Jewish.

    So is the black Fonz as cute as the white Fonz? Actually, the white Fonz wasn't my type, but I have a thing for dark-skinned guys.

    Anyway... Mike, I'll continue thinking about you, hoping you enjoy your trip home as much as possible; and hoping you're not too uncomfortable over the next two weeks.

  5. I am also curious about Claudine's phone. On Saturday when my 3 year old daughter called me in to wipe her, she pointed out that she'd dropped a small doll into the toilet. What I mean is, she dropped the doll, went ahead and pooped anyway and then wanted me to retrieve it.
    You are in my prayers Mike, have a good night.

  6. Claudine and Sara = you've opened up the bag of worms; now you've gotta finish the story. Did you retrieve the said items? Explain in detail the events that unfolded so we may all laugh. Thanks - it's a slow weekend already so it will help a bit.

  7. Well there you go, I hope you're happy with yourself Claudine, we have now discovered that Glenno is one of those with the weird fetishes.

    Sue, I just want you to know that I grew up to be a 6 foot 4 African American.

  8. If I subtracted/added correctly then your 'new' birthday will be June 11th.

    I thought you might like to know who you will be sharing your new birthday with...

    # 1956 Joe Montana (football)
    # 1945 Adrienne Barbeau (actress)
    # 1939 Jackie Stewart (auto racer)
    # 1935 Gene Wilder (actor)
    # 1913 Vince Lombardi (football)
    # 1910 Jacques Yves Cousteau (marine explorer)
    # 1864 Richard Strauss (composer)
    # 1572 Ben Johnson (poet and playwright)

    A football stud, a busty actress, a race car driver, a comedian, Vince fricking Lombardi, the man who invented SCUBA, a musician and a poet. It's almost like they new you were coming.

    Get busy living, damn right!

  9. My Mom is well known for dropping cameras in toilets. Every year, despite knowing that she's done it in the past, another camera meets the same wet fate.

    It was comforting to know that my family isn't the only one who takes up the sport of electronic fishing. Putting any fear aside, my Mom would always bravely retrieve the said device. That history being told, I was obviously curious if other fishermen and fisherwomen also retrieved their bait. No fetish (not yet at least until I hear more stories like this) - just much curiousity and desire for a good laugh.

  10. OK- I restrained myself for awhile, but now I feel the need to add to this toilet conversation, even though it doesn't involve dropping an item in the toilet. Have you ever experienced the results of eating large quantities of red beets? As you drive yourself to the ER, wondering why you feel just fine, you remember that delicious lunch you had the day before, consisting of just beets.

    Oh.... and Todd, could you teach Rich how to become African American? He's perfect just the way he is, but I think we'd have fun with the change.

    Mike, I bet you're learning a lot about your friends. =)

  11. Okay, to finish the iPhone toilet story. It gets worse. I was oblivious that it even dropped in (don't ask me how, I was probably distracted by thoughts of the presentation I was preparing for later that day). A coworker tells me in our open-plan, small office space "hey, Claudine, I think your iPhone case is in in the toilet". I look frantically in my purse for my phone, dreading the outcome and thinking there must be some mistake. There's not. I go to the bathroom and look into the bowl. There is my iPhone, floating face down with only its cute white plastic case showing at the surface. Which means, not only did I pee on it, I flushed too. I think for a moment "should I ask the office manager to get it?" Finally, I decide that's a asshole move, and I just quickly put my hand in and retrieve my phone. I then put it in a paper towel and scour my hands in hot water and soap. Mortified, I come out of the loo with my phone in the paper towel. Everyone is looking at me. Someone says, quick, put the phone in rice to get out the water, not thinking about the kind of water it was in. So a very nice coworker runs across the street to get rice from Walgreens for me but only finds oatmeal. Close enough. Before submerging it in oatmeal, I quickly rub hand sanitizer all over it with a tissue. I continue printing my presentation while several coworkers stare at the package of oatmeal containing my bacteria ridden iPhone as if it would magically transform. After my presentation is prepared, and I had a chance to calm down, I realize – ew! do I even want to ever use it again? But, I also think, damn, 300 bucks literally down the toilet. I try to turn it on after several hours in the oatmeal. Luckily, it didn't work.