Saturday, February 14, 2015

Free at last!

Last chemo is done! I'm free at last! Well, it will take time to recover, but already today I'm starting to feel a bit better, even though I just had the gemcitabine. The previous eight days I was not a happy camper at all, although still functional and in fact getting a surprising amount of math done (the night after the cisplatin I was lying awake at 3am, as has been happening a lot lately, and solved a problem that had been puzzling a Ph.D student and me for two weeks).

By the way my frequent jokin' about croakin'  is just my way of staying on an even keel. Don't take it seriously. In fact as far as my low neutrophil count, which is now even lower at 1.3, I suspected that Susan was overdoing it and after talking to Dana (who was my infusion nurse yesterday) I'm sure of it.  Dana worked for eight years in the leukemia ward, where they often had patients with a neutrophil count of ZERO for months at a time, and when they got back to .5 it was cause for celebration and considered out of the danger zone. If you're curious about the unit of measurement used, it's in thousands of cells per microliter (a millionth of a liter). So in every liter of my blood there are about 1.3 billion, so a million here, a million there, you don't even miss them. I'm already going out into the world again and plan to hook up with the Brown family as soon as possible! (Well, assuming they're not actually visibly sick. But I'm not going to hang back just because they might be.)

It's amazing how much Dana and I have in common. First the taste in movies, then again on my recommendation she and her husband went to the current Cirque du Soleil production, which she found as amazing as I did. I asked what they were going to do without me as entertainment advisor. Then the hiking, tennis, racquetball, and then this: It turns out her son is a top-notch rockclimber, at this moment in Joshua Tree. We looked him up on a climbing website, where he says he leads trad up to 12a and sport up to 13b. If none of that makes sense to you,  I'll just say that even 12a is really, really hard. At my best I barely got as far as leading a couple of short 11's. I once walked up to the base of a 12a pitch and took a look, said to myself  "you cannot be serious" and walked away. The 13 and 14 range is not for actual humans. (The British, always adept at inventing bizarre systems of measurement, don't disappoint when it comes to climbing. They have, or at least had for many decades, a system in which climbs were rated "Very difficult", "Severe", "Hard very severe" and other random permutations of such adjectives. If that system was extended into the brave new world of contemporary climbing, I would say 12a should be RFD (ridiculously freaking difficult), 13 should be DOM (doable only by mutants) and 14 DOMS (doable only by mutants on steroids). Anyway, I was quite impressed.

The next step will be another CT scan and then consultation with the oncologist. Next week, I think, although that is so far in the future and so irrelevant for today that I don't even think about it.
One day at a time, and there is so much to appreciate each moment. The latest being that the long-awaited volume "Selected Poems of Dorothy Mitchell" has finally arrived! It's an actual book that some friends helped her put together, and I can't wait to read it!

Well, it's an incredibly beautiful, ridiculously warm February day and I actually got hot sitting out on the deck for a while. And of course it is Valentine's Day, for which my lovely wife and I have a romantic evening planned: falling asleep on the couch maybe, or even watching a movie.

I'll sign off with my parting words to the (wonderful) infusion ward crew: "It's been a little slice of heaven, but I fervently hope never to see you again!"

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