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. 


  1. When I was 3 I wrote my first song, called "I Thought I Saw A Piggy..."
    It goes like this,
    "I thought I saw a piggy,
    but I didn't."
    Maybe this will inspire you to hang in there Michael. Or maybe it will make you thank god you're not me, either way.

    XOXO, Megan.

  2. I had breaded pork chops last night that didn't taste quite right. I've never had chemo before but, if I had, I'd say it tasted like something in that chemical genre. Now I can't taste anything either.

    It's all good though. If testing my pork chop piggies will lead to bringing you and other cancer patients home, I'm all for it. Sorry Miss Piggy. Glowing Green Bacon anyone?

  3. Dude, Proton Beam!

    That is Incredible Hulk stuff.

    I can just see you turning green and getting huge everytime you see Pat Sajack or eat Jello pudding pops...

  4. Just so we're clear, I can think of a multitude of other reasons why you are a pig and have been so long before treatment.

  5. wow, I was planning to write EXACTLY what Todd wrote and then saw that Todd wrote it first. Ditto.
    And guess what, I've just been reading a letter that I wrote to Katie (remember Katie?) freshman year before she visited. Both of you are prominantly featured (what on earth did we talk about till 5 am?)and Todd wrote on the envelope "Hi Katie, your best friend is no good, Todd the Slime." Mike, thank you for hanging my poem on your wall.

  6. Bro, would you like for me to make you my famous , "Floating in Bacon Grease" scrambled eggs? They oughtta kick those taste buds back into play! Hope you get home soon and maybe I will make you something better tasting!