Saturday, October 07, 2006

10.07.06 To Do List

OK, this will be quick because I've been having a lot of grief with my internet connection lately and we're off to go "camping," K and I. However, it is car camping I'll admit. We're headed down to the Olympic Peninsula to sleep kind of "on the beach" before the colder fall weather sets in. So that's that part.

Otherwise and also, it's going to be a big month with visits galore once the move is done — and in the process of moving too. Fingers crossed. Many guest blogs, it means. Next week the plan is for my mom and Spacely to come; then DZD the week after; and I think we might have Mr. Sam out too later in the month. What hosting in store!

Since my procedure I'm having a tough time determining whether it's really worked or not. How to decrease the pain meds without being suckered into missing the required dose? It's tricky and I'm still working on that. Yesterday was very up and down for that reason, maybe a 7 on the Franky Scale down to a 5 at one point, till the meds kicked in again. Today's Scale is a 6 let's say but we're hoping for a rise and we get closer to the coast and out in the fresh air.

For now, everyone be well and I'll give a report on things once the weekend's over.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

10.05.06, Fear of the Dark, Career Choices

“A written sign is proffered in the absence of the addressee. How is this to be qualified?” — Derrida (Margins of Philosophy 315)

And, then too, how is it be qualified, the proffering of a written sign in the absence of the addressor? This is our task now. (Elsewhere in the Margins)

[Fear of the Dark]
Walk in the dark, I’d said. True. Still true. Think of the David Byrne song by that title, think of anything else you know that plays with the metaphor. You walk where you can’t see your steps clearly so you’re forced to just take them if you want to move forward. You stumble, necessarily, you give way now and then, you get swatted by unseen branches at face level. Holes, rocks. Small puddles, silent streams. It’s where some of us are, in a dark space where we know the movement is necessary and the movement is somehow good. Fear is just what it is, mental, avoidable or dealable somehow. It is what it is. And it is more pronounced in the dark.

[Career, Would-Be]
There was a career, something I had worked for, for years and I’d gone through, not all, but still a great deal of the blood, sweat, and tears have been spilt for it. Ups, downs, benders and straights, late-night bridges, the anterooms of retired but venerated shrinks — all this had something to do with my career preparation. Then years of translating, learning to do it better, finding those writings I can feel and connect with, meeting them, planning out their English language futures with them over drinks and drinking promises . . . There was also this sexy world of Continental Philosophy and high theory that called to me when I was a pup, college fourth year, after three years of good old-school training in New Criticism, a door opened into something loosely and irresponsibly called — and we too will call it — the postmodern. There was Marxism, an anti-methodology and a political critique that filled in and jived with all my life experience (yes, Communism, card-carrying membership still holds). Is that a terrorist group? . . . As if I had arrived. After all.

There was and is not a job at Duke University job and this is what it means to me. Let’s be bold and say this was my dream job, almost. One of three potential positions that would allow me to turn my job into what I want it to be — something that has been impossible here at UW. (You see the job once offered to me is now on the market for real, with tenure, with what I’d wanted, freedom to think and write!) C’est la vie. But that is precisely the problem. La vie turning into no more career and into c’est la morte. Not the petit one, but the big one, capital M. The one you don’t return from. When I came to UW I had a job offer from Duke also, but they were not yet prepared to offer it tenure-track. So with an eye toward a bird in the hand I chose to be here. The sacrifice was intellectual freedom, time for free and unrestricted work, and a strong intellectual community of peers. Now that door is opening again and I dare say I’m confident enough I’d get the offer once again, a prospect I spoke to the then-hiring committee about with some promise. But now. But now? How does it make me feel to simply ignore a Big Career move because I’m stepping out of my career? You might guess, it’s stifling, a bit stunning, and extremely thought provoking. I fear, though, there is nothing to do but accept this with some degree of dignity. A sad style of dignity.

Serious cause for pause, thought, reconsideration, reevaluation of this disease and what it means to me.

[New Numbers and Cancer Status]
There were number a week ago that I forgot to pass on, more cancer marker CA19-9 numbers. They have gone up, that direction we don’t like them to go, to about 8500. Just about 2000 points higher than it was at the last check. This was to be expected and the restaging next week will give me more accurate information, with the ocular proof, so we shall “see” more then. And I will still pursue the glyconutrients once I can escape some schmuck in Utah who calls and leaves messages telling me how “You need to start taking this right away, you must start today, it will save your life.” Oh, will it? Thank you for your genuine concern . . . and what did you say your commission was, again? Or did we skip over that? To try in spite of such life forms.

Not only that but to try and keep your chin up, to borrow a phrase, maintain a wry smile or shit-eating grin in the face of it all. Perhaps so long as the smile is there, the wasting away will simply waste away.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

10.04.06 A Little Walk in the Dark

[Two Days Ago]

Bogged down fatigued but now different from the sudden bouts of chemo-induced fatigue, show stopping not so much as rather a slow incremental and accretive phenomenon — I feel like I’m being drained out and it takes a bit longer to recuperate each time. So, this morning it was tough, tough to get up, a little extra sleep for me please, then up to take care of some life business, those tasks most of you take for granted and never think twice about like returning a DVD or grabbing cat litter at the store dropping off a rent check or following up on a new lease and rental or picking up a reserved book haircut new prescriptions cooking cutting up the food sticking it in your unwelcoming mouth (. . . I even dreamed about making marinara last night but couldn’t get the color right, too orange, not unlike a fra diavalo (oh god, think of Giacamo’s in Boston’s North End, ohhh) but it wasn’t that, it was just straight red sauce but I was lacking the right ingredients, you have to cook for yourself, for guests, there are expectations, but you’re short on ingredients, what do you need . . .), all those little tasks —

[Today's Update]

Where is it all going? Is it the next phase. To the next phase where I move on and explore non-living for a while. A euphemism that came up in a recent conversation with a friend, identities left unrevealed to protect those responsible. For irony, however, what a line. To capture the cheesy new-age perspective of always moving on, always learning, experiencing, flowing, being, receiving, and taking in. To open one’s spirit to the greater spirit of the universe. All peace, no fear. Hm. The new age angle combined with that use of euphemism that attempts to push the real out to the periphery of meaning, to keep us from knowing exactly what is happening or what will happen. The latter being absolutely essential. You could be fully paralyzed from the waist down, no, rather, There is a low likelihood you could experience some partial neurasthesia . . . that’s the kind of line we like given to us. What exactly is a “low” “likelihood”? So is that it, my teleology of exploring the non-life experience? Dark enough. Dark enough?

There is a question that hangs in my mind. Have I been tired out for several days in a row because of a few consecutive strenuous days last week? Does carry some other ominous meaning? Where am I now? Do I make too much of this? Do I censor all this to make it more palatable? Keep people entertained with the little ups and downs that make this a romantic narrative, in the technical sense, a hero quest — me versus the beast, my trusty sword, a bog or swamp or dark forest, and superhuman strength against an inhuman but anthropomorphized creature that eats me alive. Romantic tales end well, we want this to end well, we want to avoid tragedy regardless of how badly we come to need catharsis. No matter how badly some of us need catharsis.

In about two weeks I go in and get restaged once again, the disease gets restaged, and I just lie there, waiting. A few days for the doctor to review the material, look through the pictures, and draw conclusions. Progressive, stable, regressive. Either way it will be news. There will be something new to report. Food for the masses. Food for thought.

Tomorrow is chemo, again. On October 12 I do my next set of CT scans, the restaging, I meet with Dr. Whiting on the 16th and we discuss, in a very philosophical tone, what is to be done. Still haven’t moved yet, perhaps on the 13th. Locals prepare. My life’s worth of moving karma come back to me now. Bring me the good, the strong, the sweaty.

What do you tell your friends, your loved ones? Those closest to you? What do you tell your mother? There are days when you can still smile over the phone, then the odd time or two when the record skips, the lump in your throat, the torrent held there just behind the eyes that must wait, just long enough, just long enough to finish this conversation. Bring me the good and the strong.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

10.03.06, Into October and the Terminal Window

OK, today is the fourth day since my celiac process block, which is technically one day before the official "day of noticing anything." I notice things with my body all the time, as a result I think I might be oversensitive to changes and am going to withhold my thoughts on it for another day or two. In terms of side-effects or complications, I think I did experience some low blood pressure, some light headedness when getting up, etc.; and in the department of possibly diarrhea I was simply not worried. That kind of thing is usually my last concern, given that my near constant companion is constipation. Our theory, or hoped-for result, is this: the NCPB procedure is successful to some degree, that allows me to decrease how much pain medication I take, the decreased pain medication will allow my GI functions to function nicely and stop giving me such a hard time.

Today's Franky Scale, hm, to say 7 seems high, but I do feel better than yesterday or the day before, which were some kind of 6's. I'm taking life a little easier today; yesterday was one of those "let's got to campus and pretend that I still have a job and I still work on a regular basis and that I'm still productive..." — one of those kind of days. Funny thing is, I think several of us have days like that even without terminal illness! Ha. What a funny lot, humans.

As part of my mellow plan for today I have some more packing and cleaning up to do. The move to a new apartment has yet to take place — so no, friends, none of you local people I want to rope into this are off the hook, not by a long shot! — there are some strange issues of slowness the apt. manager needs to work out before we can do anything. (He has some efficiency deficiencies, & moving into an apartment two weeks later than scheduled is the price to pay.)

There are stories piling up, ALREADY, that have to do with the ridiculous and insensitive types who people the Multi-Level Marketing world. God damn, there is a real nut job who has been calling me and trying to impress me with how hard he's going to work at showing me "this is not about making a sale, man." And yes, he added the "man" on the end of that.

Ah. I almost forgot the title. The "Terminal Window" refers to the fact that now I'm at the six-month mark since my diagnosis not just of having pancreatic cancer but of its metastasizing and starting to eat the rest of my body. That was when I was told "On average, most patients with this die in 6 to 8 months." So here I am, standing on the 6-month precipice. Watching, waiting. Thinking some existentially centered blogs might be in the works somewhere in my brain.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

10.01.06, More on Glyconutrients and Alternative Treatments

Sunday here on the ranch. As far as updates from the NCPB procedure I’m not sure there’s a lot to report, since it was so minor I think there’s little to keep track of, except for possible complications. None of those, it seems. Whether it was successful is also hard to say at this point since Dr. Saunders says it usually takes at least 5 days to “kick in.” The deadening of nerves to kick in is an odd turn of phrase. But I wait for the kicking in of nothingness, no more pain feelings fingers crossed I hope. We shall see.

Today’s post is mostly boring and treatment related, details for the info junkies or the concerned. Not much psychological investigation, nothing very profound, although a choice described about one new treatment option that might “give hope” to some (there’s a little cheese for you ☺).

Glyconutrients & the Great Open Mind.
I wanted to also give an update about continuing treatment/s and what I’m doing about the cancer. Right now, I’m in the second round of my second type of chemo treatments, the TGX as opposed to GTX approach. This, too, is too early to report on, though I will have my restaging on around the 17th of this month and new CT scans will tell how the various tumors are doing. Poorly we hope.

Also, I’ve been doing more checking and soliciting of what I think are qualified opinions and I think I’m going to try out this glyconutrient “treatment.” It’s something to run by Dr. Whiting, but I since there aren’t known drawbacks it should be a viable option. The fact that it’s distributed through an MLM, as I noted before, is less than ideal, but on the open-mind front I wanted to reassure the doubters that I don’t conflate the distributor and the product, so no worry there. The long and short of it is that their glyconutrient product, I believe sold through the company MannaTech or Manna Tech (sp?), is an extracted form of a carbohydrate called mannose, and some others added to it, from aloe vera. The claim is that our bodies don’t get enough of this anymore and by supplementing it our bodies are able to function at peak performance, fight disease more efficiently, and thus allow for other, actual drug treatments (since this one’s not a drug) to work better too. The company’s claims for success are, as you’d expect, as high as the sky.

Out of all the alternative approaches suggested to me this one stands alone, so far, in having some actual science behind it. No way to guarantee success with it, of course, but at least there are numerous studies saying that the science of it works, that in theory it might be a help. So it’s a nothing to lose — except some money — and possibly a lot to gain. I want to be cautious on the hopeful gains, for obvious reasons.

I realized today, too, as I was loading up my weekly pill box with the various drugs and supplements I’m taking, with Ms. K there watching the process, that I should clarify what kinds of things I’m taking. I do take lots of pills, but I think I might have given the impression that they are all actual drugs, mainstream pharmaceuticals, all prescription, anti-cancer, etc. Not so. K was even surprised a bit at the number of supplements involved. So that might be news to some of you. I only take a limited number of anti-cancer (chemo) drugs and the majority of the pills are supplements of various types (from fish oil, green tea extract, standard vitamins and minerals, etc.). I do try to keep my skepticism level high regarding all the suggestions I’m given, and I’m grateful for them to all who send them my way, it’s just that they all need to be researched, evaluated, and decided upon. In the end, I’m taking a fair amount of the non-prescribed, non-standard stuff — again the low risk and some potential return theory — and I hope this is comforting to some of you who have suggested alternatives I may not be following. The mind is more open than some may have suspected, is what I hope this indicates.

And a Franky Scale about 6 plus.