My doctor is the Mike Martz of cancer medicine. He even slightly resembles him with a quirky demeanor and slightly hefty girth. They both have a mad scientist quality to them. And while the cautious ones call them foolish, others call them bold. Maybe they're a little bit of both. I've always admired bold even when it's stupid. I have a bold wife. So maybe I'm in love with bold. Dr. O'Connor told me a few times that when it's time, he has a few tricks up his sleeve that will pull me out of it. This was one of them.
I was originally scheduled for two days of chemo each lasting one hour. But the tumors in my lungs had other ideas. Tumors had been quietly residing in my lungs for a little while but since they didn't make too much trouble, were generally seen as okay. But the night after getting the first of two days of chemo, they reacted negatively. My whole body was shaking with strange chills. Outside of my body was freezing but the inside was burning up. I had really bad motha of God pains in my arms and legs. Sharp, random and merciless ones. Most importantly, I couldn't breathe. It wasn't like I was wheezing. My lungs just could open up enough to give me any air. I was more sort of suffocating. And who-boy, what a wonderful feeling that is. The next day, I saw Dr. O'Connor and without even examining me, he called an ambulance.
Tests showed that I barely had any blood pressure. I thought you died from high blood pressure but I was actually dying from low blood pressure. My other counts were fucked up. My kidney, my beloved one kidney who I had gotten through many a pick-up football game without even a scratch, was the next to go. I guess I was really cooked. But Dr. O'Connor's onc team was given instructions on how to proceed through the weekend saving the kidney first and then getting the blood pressure back. By Tuesday I was okay but still had two huge rocks in my lungs. And I really, genuinely wondered how the hell was I going to get rid of these tumors.
I was sort of in a Catch-22 situation. My body was clearly breaking down from taking so many treatments. More people die from getting treated for lymphoma than from the actual cancer. On the other hand I needed the treatments to stay alive. Making matters worse was the fact that with every treatment, the tumors themselves grew harder. The pulmonologist who scoped the inside of my lung told me that the tumors were like cement and was worried (okay, he said "concerned" but that's medical speak for worried).
So I was facing the dawn of Wednesday morning (That sounds so poetic. But it's not. This time of year, dawn is 7:30 in new york. It smells from all the garbarge that hasn't been picked up and cabbies are yelling at each other. Instead of this, Dawn sounds much better.) So yes, it's dawn in New York and I'm in a bad place. In steps Mike Martz.
For those of you who don't know, Mike Martz is the offensive coordinator of Da Bears. Around the NFL, Martz has the rep of being a genius but risky, quirky, funny looking, a little detached from the day to day things and pretty cocky. In the last couple of years, he's had trouble finding work because he was just a little too bold and brash. His quarterbacks always got injured. But his offenses have always worked. He's won one Super Bowl running his system with the right people.
I actually wasn't much of a believer in him until the Cowboys game. Jay Cutler was getting beaten up and down the field. The Bears offensive line had been physically torn to shreds and ridiculed. I think dem Cowpokes set a team record for sacks in a half. Their players were getting to our quaterback before our boy could even turn around. Past Bears coaches would see this and think, "We're beaten. So let's throw really short passes and do lots of runs. That way we'll slow them up, save our QB and maybe we'll get lucky." But Martz did the opposite. Come time for the second half he threw even more. He threw more than that, he threw a ton. Alas could we even say he threw a plethora of passes, a myriad of tosses? Yes. We can. And he did it with style. Instead of sending out two receivers and leaving the rest to block, Martz sends out five. The Cowboys were stunned. They probbably thought it was madness. They were completely taken off guard and the Bears won easily. How bout dem Cowboys?
So back to Bob's sports analogy, my doc is the Mike Martz of the cancer. And with me, instead of runing the ball, he threw it all over the field.
I was sick but I came back. By Wednesday, I was ready for some chemo. Treatment protocol says that I should get one hour of chemo on days one and two. I had already gotten my first day of chemo and that didn't go so well. Still, I needed another day/hour. Almost any doctor that I know of, would have stopped the treatment right away. Give me a break for a week and see what'ss out there. They would have run the ball like all the Bears coaches in the past.
Coach Martz, though, said fuck it and gave me two hours worth of chemo instead of one, set the drip to a higher speed so I'm getting it dripped into me twice as fast and oh yeah, he gave me even more chemo. He wanted to shake things up a bit. Run some Shock and Awe in Mike's body (that's one for my God-fearing Republican brethren). Or you could say that he did a little Shake and Bake (that's for my Will Ferrel fan/brethren).
It worked. Today, while I have some major annoyances, I feel and look human. Some of the tumors have shrunk after only one night and you almost never see that. The pains in my feet and arms are better. My breathing is still very bad but my head is in a better place and I'd prefer to wait a few days to let the chemo do its stuff before worrying about my lungs yet.
I still stand by what I wrote the other night on this blog even though I had to take it down. My body was in a really bad place. My mind followed to the bad place. In the previous days, I cornered as many medical people as I could and asked them how close was I to well, you know and every single person said I was as close as I could get without seeing a tunnel. That night, I wrote it all down because I needed my own catharsis. It was true but the problem was, the truth was constantly changing at that point. I didn't yet get to see Martz yet.
The next morning, I had to take all the blogs down for my wife's sake. Cancer, for the first time ever, broke her down. I guess a lot of you folks read this and were concerned and she wondered if she should come to New York. Some of those calls were from family members that have yet to help at all and should be embarassed at that but that's your demon, your own cancer. But mostly good people called and mobilized. I told everyone I was dying on a blog. Everyone came to help. The thing is, Sherri was very scared and confused with all of this.
Sherri and I have some very strict agreements regarding my care. The first and biggest is that she can never, ever lie to me. If look like shit, she tells me I look dog's ass. This comes from the really strange phenomenon that the patient is always the last to know anything about his or herself. Everyone lies to the patient or in the very least candy-coats the news. Many people think they see their lives flash before them right before they die. I'll bet a good many of them instead are saying, "Damn. Why didn't anyone tell me I was this bad?" There was a study done just recently asking doctors only one question: When a patient is going to die, do you tell them? Only half the doctors answered yes. The rest lie. Sorta downer there. Half the doctors you have will lie to you about your own life and you'll never know.
Not realizing this, however, I originally planned it this way: Until the time comes, Sherri stays with the kids. Until the last minute, she stays. She's better off keeping life normal here and I could rally and come back to health. While we have great friends and neighbors, we couldn't expect them to keep watching our youngins' every time I'm in the hospital. I just don't think that would be fair to all of you, to keep burdening you.
But I was wrong. I never accounted for the fact that so many people cared. Do you realized that I'm not a very nice person? Plus, I'm really stupid. While I thought I would know how bad I was going to get, I really didn't. And of course, nobody was telling me. Dr. O'Connor didn't get the chance to tell me. So Sherri should have been with me. She really wanted to. But she was just following my wishes. And last night, I came home to a woman who had really been through the shit for a couple of days. My own Mike Martz had been blitzed and I was running the wrong play for her.
Thanks everyone for helping. I'm a lot slower today and will be for a while. But I'm still here. When I saw Doctor O'Connor the last day, I told him thanks for keeping me alive for a couple weeks. He looked at me as if to say, "Huh? You ain't seen shit yet, sonny boy." But I think he held back and instead he replied, "Keep you alive? Michael, I'm going to cure you. You just don't know it yet."