Professional Help; “Everybody Hurts…Sometimes”; Where The Boys Are

It’s 244 days ATN an 6 days since the completion of chemo-radiation.

That’s right, the 25th and last chemo-radiation session was a week ago!

And yes I haven’t been posting much, but life hasn’t been much fun since the side-effects of radiation started kicking in. Which was about a week and a half into treatment.

Professional Help

I’m one of those people who likes to be independent. I tend to the yard, fix stuff around the house, and clean it myself (well I suppose by a certain definition of clean.) And I was notorious for heading into hardware labs to rework circuit boards. A hardware manager once remarked that they did have professionals to take care of that. But cancer treatment definitely takes a toll on you. And of course life doesn’t pause while you’re wending your way through all the side-effects. I was getting a bit frustrated and arguably a bit prickly on occasion. And despite having a degree in psychology, perhaps some professional help was in order.

So after a two year hiatus I headed to Supercuts. (What were you thinking I was talking about? Psych 101 doesn’t have a subsection on recalcitrant hair.) I did a passable job of cutting my hair for a year and a half during the pandemic. Then chemo changed it from thick and coarse to thick and fine, and suddenly things got more challenging. Recently the coarse hair has started making a comeback so I’ve now got hybrid hair. Cut it too short and its prickly. Too long and those coarse hairs stick up.

Not unsurprisingly the stylists who used to know how to manage my hair (and probably cringed when I walked in – Mr Porcupine with the double cowlick) weren’t around. It has been two years after all. And its just as well since they wouldn’t know what to do with my chemo hair anyway. So I gave my usual response to the uninitiated stylist, “#2 on the side and back, blend in the top, no sideburns” and let her get to work.

She started off confidently shaving and clipping away. Then apparently things weren’t shaping up the way she expected since she did a second pass of shaving and blending. Then a third, fiddling with different attachments. I do have to say that even after the first pass things were a significant improvement over the DIY cut. But I suppose they have standards to maintain. After the fourth attempt she declared victory (or at least a truce).

My hair’s a bit shorter than expected and after washing and drying some decided to stick up at odd angles. But I think the stylist earned the generous tip I left.

“Everybody Hurts…Sometimes”

The radiation techs appear to be fond of music, and not just that elevator or classical music playing in all the other reception areas at PAMF. Often there’s 80s and 90s pop music. They apparently take requests and one of the techs was excited when I mentioned Depeche Mode. Frankly I was surprised he knew who they were since they were already fading when I discovered them in the late 80s (and all these techs seem like they should have been in diapers then – if they were roaming the earth at all). But on my last visit at PAMF Palo Alto the song playing in the treatment room as I lay on the table being zapped was “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.

Now to put this in context pain has been an increasingly present side-effect of the radiation treatment for the past month or so. Specifically hemorrhoids or something along those lines. JT’s brother wrote about this in his blog and I’ll just provide you a link here. In my case it’s also combined with an increased frequency of #2. Let’s just say its a very bad combination.

On the second to last day of treatment I had a check-in with a radiation oncologist. Not my normal one, who apparently was on vacation. We talked at length about the issue and he suggested sitz baths and cremes (I’m now using Preparation H and Aquaphor). He also said that I should expect things to continue to get worse for a couple weeks before they get better. Radiation is the treatment that keeps on giving after you stop. Interestingly he compared radiation treatment to getting a sunburn, exactly what Alex wrote. Hmm. Maybe he was the one holding the magnifying glass…

Let’s just say I’m pretty certain this isn’t what R.E.M. had in mind, and so far this is the worst side-effect I’ve experienced in the journey. I’ve had hemorrhoids before but not for a month. And these are somewhat more painful and have started preventing me from getting a good night’s sleep. Combined with the neuropathy (which isn’t painful but affects your everyday life in very annoying ways), my tolerance for…crap…of any sort…is very thin. At the moment I’m not planning on any social outings for the next few weeks. Both because I want to be close to a restroom and because I probably won’t be great company anyway. Some travel I was thinking of for April is also up in the air.

[All that said, I really enjoyed my time with the radiation techs. They’re quite personable and I usually had the same two, a guy and a girl who work well as a team. The guy does daily walks around Stanford campus so we’d often chat about his latest discovery. Like this new sculpture where there used to be a library when the campus was my stomping grounds. And once the girl learned I was from Hawaii she’d talk about Hawaii food. She likes to make loco moco, though with fake meat (why bother?) so I clued her in to the vegetarian Omni Musubi at Pokeworks (I recommend the real Spam version). She also raved about rock salt plum, something I hadn’t thought of since the li hing craze started and that she hadn’t had in a while (she apparently had a roommate from Hawaii at one time who introduced her to the wonders of crack seed.). I went hunting for it here at the Marukai Market in Sunnyvale. While they fly in a lot of stuff from Hawaii including Portuguese sausage and lau lau, no crack seed. Takahashi Market in San Mateo surprisingly had li hing mango, which for years had been banned due to Califorinia Prop 65 (a prime example of useless legislation – coffee and fries fall under Prop 65, as apparently does every potted plant at Home Depot). Apparently preserved plums of any kind now fall under the proposition and can’t be sold in California…though the owner of Takahashi Market said he might be able to import and have it shipped directly to my house. Sigh. Anyway after mentioning this to my Auntie Gail a large box appeared at my doorstep containing all sorts of crack seed. Needless to say when I brought a sampling of those in to my radiation therapy the tech was thrilled! Thank you Auntie!]

Where The Boys Are

OK I’ll try to end this post with something a little light…if racy. Some of you may remember I commented that the infusion center is exclusively run by women. I’m convinced there are no male infusion nurses.

Well it turns out that the boys are hanging out in radiation oncology. I suppose this makes sense since they’ve got this big complicated machine to play with. (Ok to be fair there seems to be a good balance of boys and girls.)

I have to admit they’re easy on the eyes. And they’re always keen on having me drop my shorts whenever we get together. But that’s as far as things go – this is a professional relationship after all! And I suppose it’s just as well. They’re into brief encounters, often less than fifteen minutes, and want to play with their toy. Which does have dysfunction issues periodically.

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