Friday, August 26, 2016

Italy or bust

I haven't done so well with posting to the blog, partly due to being busy and partly that it's really just more of the same old stuff,
as far as the chemo goes. But here's a brief synopsis of current issues and problems, followed (by popular demand) by our Italy itinerary!

I regret to report that my grand plans to push my physical activity further during chemo have fallen short of the mark.
The fact is that the cisplatin weekends are, as I said (insert British accent here), not inconsiderably unpleasant. It's about all I can do to drag myself out for a single-hill walk in the park. The second week, gemcitabine only, is definitely better but my thought that I'd get out on a hike was overly optimistic. For one thing, one certainly doesn't feel like doing the drive. The actual hiking wouldn't be much fun either. So I just kept doing my single-hill walks every day in the morning, then a couple of days after the gemcitabine
did a double-hill, then another, and things get better from there as you enter the ``off week''. It takes quite a while to get rid of the gross stomach issues. For instance in normal life I eat a lot of wheat thins, probably too many, whereas during chemo I can't even look at one. Only in the last couple of days have I returned to wheat thin munching. The real indicator of full recovery, though, is when a beer starts to sound appealing again. I'm still not quite there, but I have one Inversion IPA in the frig with my name on it and hope to try it this weekend, maybe even tonight!

Meanwhile I'm a couple of quarts low on hemoglobin, hematocrit, platelets and whatnot.
So I get tired pretty easily. Rode my bike in for Wednesday's blood draw and man, did that take it out of me. But within a week or so the old cells should be coming back.

On Wednesday, the day before we leave, I have a CT-scan in the morning and consult with the NP and the oncologist in the afternoon, so pretty much all day at the Med center (the cafeteria is a nice place to work on math though, so it's not too bad). Susan, the NP, says that they will also ``evaluate me'' for that Porta-Cath idea, the thing that goes in your chest. The main issue, however, is the result of the scan. Re-thinking what I last wrote about this, it's very hard to imagine that the doc is going to tell me not to go to Italy on the day before we fly out. Furthermore the result would have to be really bad for me to go along with such a recommendation. My theory is that if things are so bad that three weeks off of chemo is a risk, then it's going to get me anyway so why not just eat, drink, and be merry, and so much the better in Italy. Or taking the optimist viewpoint, my preferred theory is that the two cycles I've done already will have eliminated the ``ill-defined segment'' in the liver, and I won't even have to continue the chemo when I return. But then why do they want to do a scan before the trip? That's the one impediment to my ``take it one day at a time'' approach, the possibility that I'll have to make a difficult decision literally overnight. Hard not to think about that. Ah well, maybe this whole metastatic cancer thing is just a mirage. I sure don't have any symptoms of it. I'll post to the blog Wednesday eve.

So, onward to Italia! While organizing our trip info, I've been getting more and more excited about this. Here's the plan:

1. We leave at 11am Thursday the 1st. Remarkably, the trip takes only ten minutes, as we (Wendy, Jessie, and I) arrive at Milan's Malpensa airport at 11:10am. Oh wait, that's Friday the 2nd. Darn. There we collect Abby, who will arrive from NYC, get our rental car and off we go.

2. It's only 30 miles or so to our first stop: Stresa, on the Lago Maggiore north of Milan. Lago Maggiore is the westernmost of the three big northern lakes (Como and Garda are the others), and the only one I haven't been too yet. We stay there for 4 nights, in what promises to be a cute little apartment in the hills overlooking the lake. Likely excursions include the Borrommean Islands, with their palaces and gardens dating back to the 1600's, and north along the lakeshore, almost to Switzerland, and a walk upstream along a little river that sounds interesting. And of course, just mingling with the natives in Stresa or enjoying the view from our balcony.

3. On Tuesday the 6th we drive West into Valle d'Aosta, probably Italy's least known province (I've yet to meet an American who's even heard of it). It's in the extreme northwest, bordering the French Alps, or rather the French-Italian alps. Many of the place names are French; in particular the place we're staying for four nights is in Rhemes-St. George (circumflex over that first e). It's not too far from the main city of the region, Aosta, but it's up a beautiful mountain valley. I think our place there doubles a ski chalet in Winter.
Mountains, mountains everywhere; as you can imagine this is not a coincidence, given who planned the itinerary. Back in the day, way back, Aosta was a major Roman outpost and has the usual quota of ruins. A little ways to the east there's a classic medieval castle at Fenis. Then there's a big national park just to the south (mountains, mountains...), Mont Blanc is just to the northwest...

4. Saturday the 10th Jessie and Abby (ahime'...that's Italian for ``alas'') take the train back to Malpensa to return home.
Wendy and I do what will probably be our longest driving day, over into France and through the Alps, re-entering Italy further to the south where we'll stay in the interesting town of Susa (in the province Piemonte, whose main city is Torino) for one night at a hotel. The distance isn't that great (none of the distances are), but it's on winding mountain roads that can be blocked by herds of sheep. Still, I suspect we could easily reach our next destination (item 5) in a day; we just don't want to rush, and there are interesting things to see in Susa and vicinity.

5. Sunday the 11th we have what looks to be an interesting drive to Pinerolo, south of Torino. There we stay 4 nights in the ``romantic cottage'', whose original tenants were goats. This is the place whose owner Barbara I've been corresponding with, so voluminously that I fear we'll have nothing left to talk about. (The latest news is that the two kids, 16 and 19, did very well on their exams. Agnese, the 19-year old, wants to go to university in Torino, but is frustrated that it's very hard in Italy to combine academic and athletic ambitions in college. They don't have the athletic scholarships we have here, and indeed don't even have athletic facilities at many universities. According to Barbara this is why Italy has had such a poor showing in the Olympics in past years, although I pointed out that in Rio, Italy didn't do so badly if you look at the medal counts.)
Anyway Pinerolo is in hilly vinyard country (still more mountains in the background!) and we'll probably spend some of our time just hanging out there, going for walks in the vinyards and using their beautiful pool. But of course we'll also go in to see Torino,
and probably work in a trip to the picturesque town of Alba off to the east.

6. Thursday the 15th we drive back to Malpensa and spend the night in an airport Hotel. Our flight home Friday is at the crack of dawn. Get back to Seattle around noon, Friday the 16th. Just in time for Finley's birthday weekend!

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