Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yes, I'm alive

The hair on my butt is growing back but the hair on my head isn't. Such is the life of me. Sorry to not have written but I was in dispose, as in curled up in a ball wishing that bad nausea demons would run away. Today they did but they'll probably be back. 

I've started my proton radiation treatment. I talk about Star Trek and how the other guy would always die and never Spock, McCoy or Kirk and why would a recon party be sending a doctor and only two or three other people? Why would they need a doctor on a planet when you could just beam the person up if they got ill. Plus, he's carrying a laser gun and according to the Geneva Convention, medical personnel shouldn't be carrying firearms.  The radiation people just look at me funny. 

I lay on a bed for an hour. Enclosed is a picture of the monstrosity. I have to be still for the whole hour. And ladies, I'm shirtless too. It doesn't hurt much. I get a headache but that could be because they play all oldies music. Best of oldies too. So far, I've been able to enjoy the musical libraries of Poison, REO Speedwagon, Van Morrison and Gordon Lightfoot. Nothing quite like the weirdness of hearing Gordon Lightfoot while getting millions of molecules of radiation beamed into you. And although it is incredibly tempting, you can't start that toe a tappin when you hear, "Sun down, you better take care..."  

It should only take about fifteen minutes but they're shooting four different areas. I keep hearing, "Wow, you're a pretty extreme case...but I've seen worse." The last part is supposed to make me feel better and I applaud the effort but it doesn't. I feel like I got an F on a paper and the prof is basically saying that I'm not the dumbest person he's ever met. 

I sort of got the breakdown of what proton radiation is and it basically kills the stuff you want to kill and doesn't kill as much of the stuff you don't want to kill. Like lungs and hearts. Being in advertising, I've long lost my heart. And if you've seen my ruthlessness on display while playing the game Sorry, you would certainly agree. Many have sobbed uncontrollably while I send them back to home base yet again.

The Rotary House hasn't changed. I don't think it ever does. My wife was exactly correct in describing it as a retirement community. Tonight they had Wii games and Bingo. I really wanted to trash talk my way through a mean Wii bowling game but had to pass as it was the same time I got zapped. 

I'll be doing this until August 20th. When you "graduate", you get a certificate and get to bang this big gong. The last time I got a certificate I was finishing up the first round of chemo way back when they said I wouldn't have cancer again, a year ago. I puked on it. 

The late end date means I'll probably miss the birth of my daughter. So far, only one of you fellas has volunteered to sit in. A bunch of you gals have which makes me wonder about your preferences, but hey, eventually we'll be more excepting of your kind and let you people get married legally. So basically, we'll be birthing old school with the woman in the birthing room and the dad somewhere off at a bar or something. In this case, the Rotary House lobby.  

Now that I'm feeling better, I'll try to update happenings more often. Thanks to everyone for wondering if I was okay. The answer is no, I wasn't okay but now I'm better. Some of you have wondered more passionately than others. Sara Leopold took the opportunity to make fun of me which isn't very nice. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My tests are in.

I'm feeling very tired and sick tonight. My white blood cell counts were again hovering around the Barely There mark. And I just finished receiving a drug that keeps me from getting pnemonia sick but gets me pukey sick. So I'll keep this short.

At 12:30 pm and after a two-hour wait, I finally saw my stem cell doctor. He's going to Spain for two plus weeks. Oh and he said that I no longer have any cancer in me. My body did a Last Call and they had to leave. That Closing Time song played on the juke box, too. 

If I had received the typical chemo treatment there would be an 80% chance they'd show their malignant heads sometime down the line in a couple of months or so. But now there's less than half a chance. The best odds in Vegas is playing the Don't Pass line. I think it's 45% so I have better odds than any pit boss would allow. 

My odds get slightly better because for the next month I'll be here getting Proton Radiation treatment. I start that next week. Right now I just need to sleep and puke. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why I'm a pig.

I read somewhere that pigs actually make better lab rats than lab rats. I guess it's because a pig's DNA is strikingly close to a human's. So when some scientists need to try out something new aimed for humans, they go to the pig. In this sense I've been doing pig's work for the last month and I just found out today that I will be spending another month pigging it up. By the way, pigging must be a real word because it cruised by spell check. 

First I'd like to thank the many people who expressed concern over my absence. I'd also like to thank my two guest bloggers, McKenna and Sherri. One of them was a little feisty but that's why I love her. 

Well, well, well, I've had quite a summer so far. They admitted me into the hospital sometime in June. The first two days they gave me a shot that limits mouth sores. A side effect of it was a full body rash that itched like a dog with a bevy of fleas. To help alleviate that, they'd give me other medicine with side effects. In fact, I'm just about side effected out. I think there should be a special area of medicine called "Side effectus" or something with better Latin. 

The next week was then spent getting a chemo a day and all dripped from an IV. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, they'd start it all out at about 3:30 am. That's an MDA thing. They say that people have more of a tendency to sleep through most of it at that time and that's a better thing. The chemo settles better, people don't freak as much, etc. After the first night or so, they're actually right. Still, I wouldn't want to have been a pig in that study. 

Once all the chemo was in me, I got my stem cells. There was no birthday party. No cake. No hats. What tradition started the wearing of coned hats on birthdays anyways? Who was the person who thought that was a good idea? Anywho, I digress.

After that the fun started. The chemo "settled in". Now, luckily, because I was a lab pig on a clinical trial, I was given chemo that didn't make me puke. So even though I've been nauseous almost every day, I have yet to see my lunch a second time. 

I don't know exactly when it happened but within days, I was pretty pathetic. I could barely get out of bed. I stopped eating anything. My body felt like it was dead inside. Try this as an experiment. Close your eyes. You still see images among the darkness. Those images are moving. When I was at my worst, I hated to close my eyes because those images never moved. They embodied the term deadly still. A small thing, for sure. But I've realized that there's movement in my body that helps me feel alive. For a few days, I didn't feel any of that. Very creepy and depressing.

Others, however, got me moving. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 pm was exercise class. Picture a senior living home's aerobics and you got the idea. I was one of the seniors, only without the embarrassing leotard. Lift your leg two, three. Down two, three. It was grueling. I once ran two marathons in one summer and here I was barely able to lift my leg two, three. 

Every day you're supposed to walk the halls, which aren't very big. Not everyone does it. If you do, you get this circle of paper they call an M & M. Walk the halls 15 times and you earn a bandana. I got two, one for each of my beautiful and patient children. Madison is going to have to get her own.

After a three weeks of being in quarantine, I was able to leave. I was free. Being in my Rotary House hotel room makes life a little easier. But I still don't feel a ton better. Somewhere along the line my tastebuds went for a powder. I can't taste a thing. I smell stuff and boy does it smell good. But when it goes in my mouth,  it tastes like paper, water or chemo medicine. Mostly chemo medicine. They say this will last for weeks and say it like it's no big deal. But they don't understand.

Eating is one of the great joys in life. So is sex and kids and exercise and TV. I got none of that right now. I got Houston and the Rotary House. Today was a magic show in the lobby.  Until the Elvis Impersonator comes, that's as good as it gets. Forget about the pain of chemo. Just consider going without these other joys in life and you will realize just how barbaric and difficult chemo is.

My chest pains are back. Now, this could just be because so much carnage happened inside that it just plain hurts. We'll see next week. That's when my tests will come in. That day will be, quite frankly, the most important day of my life because it will determine what I do for the rest of my life with regards to this monster. But that's next week.

Today I learned that I will continue to go the experimental route. The folks in radiation want to blast this pig with Proton Radiation Therapy instead of traditional radiation. This is only done in four places in the US. The big benefit is that it is more targeted and limits the area of damage that happens with radiation. Because the area that needs to be zapped is all around my heart and lungs, they thought I might be a good candidate. I'll be taking tests for that next week. 

You're probably sick of me right now so I'll go away. I can't promise when I'll write again. The only reason I'm up to it now is because I got a shot of a medicine that accelerates white blood cell generation. I've been low lately. Maybe I can borrow some from a pig. 

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly--The General's Version

Yes, I know that Michael has used that title before and it may seem that I am not being very creative which I've warned you all is not my forte; but mine refers to the caregiver role and all that goes with it. Well not quite. 

All the literature that they give you at MD Anderson says that the cancer patient should chose a caregiver that they can get along with and easily resolve conflicts but they do not tell the caregiver how to deal with family. I have established myself as somewhat opinionated, protective, strong willed and perhaps somewhat stubborn when it comes to my family--that being Michael and my children. I totally relate to that mafia mom on the "Real Housewives of New Jersey", she's just taking care of her family. As any parent knows there isn't anything you wouldn't do for your child regardless of how old they are. I know that if any one of our children were going through anything remotely as horrific as Michael has, we wouldn't leave their side--ever--regardless of a meeting or work issues. Because, lord forbid something ever happen to them, are you going to look back and think, "I wish I would've worked more?" I don't understand that at all and yet I get that a lot from Michael's mom. 

I am often told that Michael was his mother's favorite. I find that very hard to believe. She is currently not speaking to Michael or me but then again, she never really wanted to talk to him when she would call the house to get updates last year. I found that very odd but then I thought maybe she is just uncomfortable with the situation and doesn't want to deal with it. Now I know she just really cares about herself. Every conversation, every situation switches to her. You know when you are in the delivery room and your child first cries and you hold them, you think there is nothing you could love more in your entire life--I don't think his mom had that feeling because it is one that never goes away and how could any mother not help their son when he asks for it. It is appalling behavior and completely unforgivable in my book! To me, she is the ugliest person in the world. The fact that she has never once actually called him but instead relies on emails like she does for work speaks volumes. I feel like Clint Eastwood right now--bring it on sister--"Make my day!"

Now I do have to say that Michael's dad is trying and I give him props for that but it took more than it should have to get him to realize the severity of the situation. And Michael is such a sweet, forgiving, laid back and nice person that he can let that go but the general will never forget this one. I am usually one to just let things go but I have been typecast as the "Bitch" to his family for at least the last 10 years and I am so appalled by the behavior at times that this will be etched in my memory for years to come. Unless I really do get that brain cancer that I have told Michael I have for the last 19 years--which I can't really say anymore since he actually got cancer! I know that sounds really morbid but Michael gets it (the joke, I mean).

Perhaps I should have prefaced this whole rant by explaining that I think you should be able to say anything to your family. If you can't say it to them, who are you going to say it to? (either you complain to your friends or your therapist). Communication is key and I have learned long ago that both sides of the Herlehy clan prefer passive-aggressive behavior as opposed to honest communication which I believe is why I come off as the bitch to them...things come out of my mouth that surprise them but are expected at the Penegor house (that being my last name). It is very exhausting to figure out what they really mean--why can't y'all just say it--I have enough on my plate I have no more energy for the games!

I have known Michael for 22 years and I knew after a week that I would be with him for the rest of my life. I was very smitten with him--he was so charasmatic, funny and worldly to me--I was from Wisconsin, he was from Chicago; enough said. I told all my girlfriends and one of them even tried to hit on him after that--yes, I did forgive her, I knew she didn't have a chance! After a month, Michael was going to dump me (shocking right?) but then divine intervention stepped in. On the day he was going to do it, he had a little accident--paralyzed for a bit and ended up with a bruised spinal cord and in the hospital for a week--he never got the chance. He is the most caring, giving person I know and the best father any kid could ask for and I don't know anyone who doesn't love him--except for my brother Rob, but he is a drunk! I often think there was a mix up at the hospital because he is very different than his family. Like that Sesame Street game "Which of these things is not like the other". Michael's the "thing".

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Daddy if ur reading this then PLZ COME HOME! U r doing great at Texas. Me, Sammy, and Carena need to show u and every1 else our "Closer" dance. We r going to have an after party and every1 who surported u will come to the "After Party!!" u'll be a : ) person after the cancer. At the after party we will make ur favorite foods: Muffins, (made by McKenna) Brownies, (made by McKenna) Cookies, (ecsepcaly chocolate chip cookies) and many more!

We would also like gift bags with Chicgo stuff in it

Friday, July 3, 2009

Guest Blogger--The General

I know for all of you following this blog, you knew this was coming. Everyone had been warned that there would be a time when I would fill in for Michael when he wasn't feeling up to it and that time has come. I have been receiving phone calls since its been awhile since his last posting so this will help update everyone. The warning is that I am nowhere near the writer that Michael is and let's face it, he is funnier than I am (honey, you have that in writing!)

Quick update is that Michael finally got to leave the hospital on Tuesday and is now resting comfortably at the lovely Rotary House. While it is nice to be so close to the hospital, the Rotary House is senior living at its best with the absolute worst cable in the world. The road to his recovery is filled with peaks and valleys--everyone at MD Anderson seems to like that phrase; although, I think I used it first. There are good days and bad days--just like this entire speed bump in our lives. Yesterday was a good day and we actually went on a "date"-- lunch and a movie. Unfortunately for Michael, he doesn't have any taste buds right now and swallowing is still an issue but he can taste ice cream sandwiches and who wouldn't love to eat those all day long! While I think a comedy would've been a good choice for the movie, we decided to see "The Stoning of Sonoyara M". We thought being in Texas, we would be the only ones in the movie theater but there were probably 10 other patrons opting to see a movie about Iran with subtitles no less. Now during the most emotional and dramatic scene in the movie there happened to be a woman sitting directly behind us who was sobbing for 10 minutes and when she started moaning, Michael couldn't hold back the laughter. Inappropriate as it seemed, how could you not laugh! Plus, it made the date all that more memorable; although every date with Michael is memorable (even after being with him for 22 years!)