Saturday, October 8, 2016

Revenge of the neutrophils

The rash finally went away, my neutrophils have bounced back big time (told you so!) and today's infusion went ahead as planned. 

My nurse this time was Molly, who I think I've seen before although she didn't seem to recognize me. As they always do, she emphasized that ``it's important to drink'', then felt compelled to clarify that she didn't mean alchohol. What?! You mean all this time I've been misinformed? Every infusion weekend I've been dutifully knocking off three cases of beer, five with cisplatin.

Molly is very nice, but when her shift ended at 4:30 I was happy that Dana took over. She's the one with the quirky sense of humor; we exchange movie reviews too. I recommended ``The man who knew infinity'', about self-taught Indian mathematical genius
Ramanujan and his ``discovery'' by Cambridge mathematician G.H. Hardy.  The book is fascinating, and hard to capture in a movie. But they did a pretty good job I think. Jeremy Irons is well-cast as Hardy (``I love him!'' says Dana), and Dev Patel as Ramanujan. ``Dev Patel,'' Dana sighs, ``he's so cute!'' and pretends to run off to get the movie right away. She's a nut.
She recommended ``Genius'', the movie about Thomas Wolfe (author of ``Look homeward, angel'', not to be confused with the later Tom Wolfe, author of ``Bonfire of the vanities'') and his editor Maxwell Perkins. The cast is certainly great, including Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Laura Linney. So far we've loved the movies Dana recommends, so we'll be sure to try it. 

A random oddity: While waiting a few minutes outside the infusion ward, I was surprised to find on their magazine rack a 1991 volume entitled ``What every first-grader needs to know''. Odd choice for a chemo ward, but clearly something I needed to read up on, as next Thursday I'm visiting Kaia's class during math period (don't tell my chemo team; they would be horrified). I was able to do all the math problems in the book, but was taken aback by the paragraph on the Aztecs that mentioned human sacrifice. For first-graders?

One good thing about last week's infusion postponement is that next weekend is now an off week. This means we can go to the opera: Hansel and Gretel, by Engelbert Humperdinck. Anyone of my generation tends to associate that name with the British pop singer, but that was just a stage name stolen from the real Humperdinck (1854-1921). Initially Humperdinck just wrote a few songs to be performed in a puppet show by his nieces, eventually expanding it to a full opera, with libretto written by his sister. The opening performance was conducted by Richard Strauss, who considered it a masterpiece. Wendy and I have just listened to a recording of it, and the music is indeed beautiful, with much elaborate orchestration a la Strauss. Seattle Opera is staging it in a modern setting, a practice I generally dislike, but still it should be fun.

Usually Wendy drives me to the infusions, a practice we'll probably continue for the cisplatin weekends. But it really isn't necessary on the single-dose weekends, and it requires two trips for Wendy, so yesterday I drove myself. I can't say that I felt at the top of my game on the drive home, but it isn't bad. Besides, I now have Anna Karenina to keep me company for my next 39 hours of driving.

Quarter is still off to a good start. I got the Turkish exchange student into my class, as well as a university employee who's been wanting to take topology for years. But the powers that be wouldn't budge on that sophomore Haim Grebnev. ``If we let in a student who doesn't have the prerequisites, other students will be clamoring to do the same thing''. So? The whole point is that
it should be at the discretion of the instructor. If other students come a-clamorin', I would just say great, show me that you're at Grebnev's level and I'll let you in. This guy not only was asking on day 2 ``How many distinct topologies are there on a finite set with n elements?''; when I came in yesterday he had written on the board what he claimed was a recursion formula for the number in question. A recursion formula is something weaker than an actual formula, and his formula looked too good to be true to me, but who knows? I've asked him to write up a proof, which I will then ruthlessly critique to see if it's right. It doesn't matter though if it turns out to be wrong; the point is that only a tiny handful of students would even think of the question, let  alone try to solve it. I checked around and I was right about what I said earlier: at the moment, no one knows the answer to the question.

Did a nice walk this morning (it's the day after chemo) and felt remarkably good!

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