Archive for September, 2007

cycling and things you might put in your butt

Spent the weekend in Haverhill, which, of course, means I got to do a lot of bike riding. I don’t know how I’m going to handle it when it gets all cold and New England-y on me, I think I may need to get some better layering active-wear.

Saturday Todd did a ton of work around the house and was too tired to join me on a ride. He’s been riding on the weekdays and found a new 16 mile route. I mapped that out and added a few extra bits. When I got home from the ride I gmap-pedometered the ride and found I’d done 26 miles. This explained my fatigue, for sure. It was a beautiful route, down 110 into Merrimack and then returning mostly via the road along the river, which changes names about 4 times along the way. After riding by the water I moved back inland and passed a corn maze (ha ha, corn maize?) which I must try, a few farms and the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen. At one end of it is a renovated barn and there’s a round gazebo shaped room at the other end. In the middle is this tower of windows and most of it is painted this insanely gorgeous red. It’s on the market and I was guessing it would go for over a million bucks. Damn.

Sunday I did a slightly different and shorter (15 miles) route, but took many of the same roads. I stopped in front of the beautiful house and picked up a one-sheet description. I was right about the price: $1,150,000. What I didn’t realize, and couldn’t see from the street, was that it’s set on 4 acres, has its own marina big enough to accommodate a 60 foot yacht, an open floor plan, a whirlpool in one of the three bathrooms, a huge deck, 2 fireplaces and a built in bar, TV and sound system in the “great room.” Holy hell, can I pick ‘em or what? my new house

Monday was prep day for Tuesday’s colonoscopy. I had been on a “low residue” diet for a few days, which mostly means refined grains, refined sugars, no nuts or whole grains, etc,… essentially the opposite of what I usually eat. Of course, I supplemented this with an entire bag of Brach’s candy corn - my god, that stuff is effing addictive.

So anyway, on Monday I had to do a liquid diet. I was only allowed water, Gatorade, Sprite and Jell-O, but no red, pink or purple. So I made myself some orange because I’m not partial to lemon and I loathe lime. Whenever I buy gummy bears I go through and throw out all the lime ones before I dig in so there’s no way I can accidentally eat one, like at the movies in the dark.

Liquid diet sounds ok, right? I was hungry and tired, but otherwise fine. At 7PM I had to drink 1.5 bottles of this magnesium citrate, which is a liquid laxative. I was only allowed to get lemon-lime flavor. It was awful. It has some effervescence to it so it tasted like diet 7UP had gone to the dark side and had a sour and pinchy aftertaste that squeezed itself into the area between my cheek and my jaw. shudder….

But I must say, it wasn’t so bad. The laxative kicked in around 11PM and I hung out in the bathroom for a while, something that has become par for the course for me. And considering everything else I’ve been through, it just wasn’t a big deal. Friends had told me horror stories about their colonoscopy experiences, prep-wise, so I was prepared for the worst.

At 3AM or so I drank the other 1.5 bottles, sat in the bathroom a bit more, slept some, got up again, slept some, and got up at 7. My colonoscopy was at 9:30AM, so we left at 8:45 and made it on time. Only waited a few minutes when they called me back and I changed into the usual hospital gear: enormous pants w/string tie, jonny and robe. They took my vitals and asked me the battery of questions I’ve grown used to. The nurse gave me an IV in my hand, let me stop in the bathroom one more time, and had me lie down on the bed in a room.

Another nurse came in and chatted with me about the procedure and told me they’d have a camera at the end of the scope. I could watch the monitor they had in the corner and see the inside of my colon along with the doctor. She reminded me that they don’t put me completely under - what they do is called”waking anesthesia,” meaning it doesn’t completely knock you out. My one friend who had an ok experience with this procedure told me he’s pretty sure he was chatting with the doctor the whole time, but doesn’t remember it.

She had me lay on my side so they’d have easy access - uh, yeah - and then gave me two shots in my IV, a pain reliever and the anesthesia. It worked fast, too. I was already sleepy (no coffee and up all night) so I think I just went out. I don’t have any recollection of anything going up my butt, but I do remember seeing a little on the monitor and the doctor saying “Here’s where they sewed up your sigmoid colon” and me saying, “Oh, neat.” But that’s it. The next thing I was aware of was being wheeled into a recovery room where yet another nurse told me I had 30 more minutes and I could nap a bit if I liked. Yes, I liked.

Twenty minutes later or so I was awake and up and putting my clothes back on. Yes, I was a tad wobbly at this point, but I was fine. Todd and I went directly to Sound Bites so I could eat a nice big breakfast of pancakes, sausage and eggs and drink mucho coffee. All in all, not a terrible experience and if you know you need to get one done, I merely recommend you get a Monday appointment so you only have to miss one day of work. Otherwise, piece of cake.

sing, sing a song

To begin with a little health news, I had another PET Scan on Tuesday. On Friday I met with Dr. Jain to go over the results the news is good. They didn’t see anything suspicious in the scan. It doesn’t mean I’m entirely out of the woods, but it is very encouraging.

Thursday night my band played our first club gig in, I think, 10 months or so, at Bill’s Bar on Lansdowne Street. For this show we hired Matt Tahaney to play bass and Phil Aiken to play keys. I have to tell you, these guys are awesome. They both play with Bill Janovitz in Crown Victoria as well as many other bands and I was psyched they wanted to play with us.

Matt’s played with us live before and engineered the drums for the recording we’ve been working on, but this was our first outing with Phil. In rehearsal I got super excited because he was adding some major atmosphere to the music.

The show itself was fun as hell even though the set felt tremendously short, especially considering how long the other bands continued to play. I use an in-ear wireless monitor, but I couldn’t hear anything in my headphones during the entire set. I realized afterwards that after soundcheck it got unplugged and I never plugged it back in again. Dur, can you tell it’s been awhile? I guess I didn’t hit too many bad notes because the audience was receptive and enthusiastic in their applause. It felt fantastic to be on stage again with Matt (Russell) and Todd and the new energy from Matt (Tahaney) and Phil was just what we needed.

It being a school night and us not going on till 10 I understand why the crowd was pretty thin, but I can’t pretend not to be a little disappointed.

Like I said, this was our first show in almost a year and considering everything I’ve gone through I figured more people would come out and show their support. But I want to thank everyone who did come: Mike and Murph and Chris and Kris and Terri and Leslie and all of Todd’s pals (and mine) from Avid, and Will and Kat and Joe and John… and I apologize if I left anyone out.

Tahaney, Todd and I stayed till almost the bitter and and it was great getting to hang out for so long w/Tahaney. He’s a funny and easygoing fella and one hell of a good bassist. We talked a little about ideas for the next live show and I’m looking forward to it, whenever it is. :)

acadia weekend

Drove up to Maine on Friday morning to hike in Acadia National Park. I’d never been so I researched lodgings online and picked what I thought looked like a sweet little cabin set-up. Amazing how things can be so misrepresented in pictures.

We drove over the bridge to Mount Desert Island and found the cottages I’d already paid half upfront for. They still looked cute from the outside, but we got inside to find it cramped as you can imagine. Yes, there was a fireplace, but there was no real way to enjoy it as there was only a small two-seater couch and an uncomfortably springy bed. They booked us in a cottage that had an entire extra room, but they locked it up so we couldn’t use it. Meanies! And we got one with a kitchen believing we’d cook meals but over a long weekend? WHY on earth I thought we’d be spending our time cooking, I’ve no idea. I thought I knew myself better than that.

Lodging complaints aside we dropped off our luggage and drove down to Bar Harbor to have supper. Ate a delicious meal at a place called Havana and met Bruce and Jocelyn, a super nice couple from outside Philadelphia. It was the last night of their 8 day/night stay camping up the street and hiking hiking hiking. We got some good recommendations and great conversation and were sad to know we wouldn’t have another chance to hang out.

Saturday we’d planned to get an early jump on the trails, but we had two things working against us. One, we stayed up late feeding our addiction to the Sopranos; and two, Todd didn’t have hiking shoes. Since I was interested in attempting the more difficult hikes, this simply wouldn’t do. Off to Bar Harbor to visit their many outdoor life clothing stores.

Got Todd a great pair of shoes, ate a nice breakfast in town and headed for Acadia. We started at the Welcome Center to purchase a parking pass and get more maps of the trails. I get lost as a matter of course, but I love maps. Evidently I’m just not very good at reading them.

We knew we wanted to start with the trail many consider the most difficult in Acadia, so we made our way to the parking area for the Precipice. Yes, I know, why do I always do that? I figured we’d get the most exhausting hike out of the way first. Plus, I’m coming to grips with how competitive I am, even with myself.

The friendly people at the Welcome Center let us know that we’d be better off going up the Precipice and down another trail. It only took about 10 minutes of “hiking” for us to agree vehemently.

The Precipice Trail is more of a climb than a hike. It is essentially rocky terrain in the woods at first and then it’s all a matter of climbing up the rocks that jut out of Mount Champlain. There are tons of iron rungs and “ladders” built into the rocks as well as a number of pretty frightening and seemingly perilous ledges. I’m not afraid of heights, but it turns out that Todd is. He did an amazing job and took photos with his iPhone as we climbed - as soon as I pulled out my camera I realized it wasn’t charged. Figured.

Here’s some shots Todd took:

A few at breakfast:

coffee laugh coffee drink 2 coffee drink

Ah, the calm before seeing what we were up against, which is this mountain climb.
mountain view

climbin’ iron rungs

on the ledge

Todd at the top 2

roo from the top

It took us just about an hour to climb up to the top. From there we took Bear Brook Trail (which is now being renamed the North Trail) back down. It was a nice, open rocky hike. I saw only a few people climbing down the Precipice and I do not recommend it. We then walked a mile down the Loop Road back to our car. There were four people hanging out congratulating people as they finished this climb and watching some climbers you could see on the rock face up above.

sign

We stayed chatting and watching for a bit before driving back to our cottage to shower. I’ve not felt so dirty and ready for a shower in a long time. The forecast I checked from Boston said 70s all weekend, but as we found out later the temperature reached 90. No wonder I was literally dripping sweat as we climbed. I thought something might be wrong with me, so I was glad to find a reason for it.

Had a great supper in Bar Harbor that night and again watched many Sopranos episodes before going to bed. But Todd’s back was bothering him and he had a tough time sleeping on that bed. The next morning I was so sore from our climb, it was unbelievable. My original idea was to eat a little breakfast, hike up another trail and hope to get back in time to see maybe half the Patriots game. My legs had other plans. I realized that if the idea of parking and having to walk 3 blocks to get breakfast was a hurdle a hike up a mountain was off the menu. We ate breakfast, did a bunch of window shopping and then parked ourselves at a bar to watch the game.

And what a game!!! I was all upset about being so sore and walking like I had something lodged up my bum until that exciting game. Our bartender, Cole, was a chatty and friendly guy and coupled with all those amazing plays (including that 108 yard record-breaking return) we had a great time. When the rain started coming down hard outside it only sealed our belief that we did the right thing.

The rain continued through Monday morning nixing our plans to try for a morning hike before driving back to Boston. I refused to let this get me down by focusing on how much fun the hikes we did do were. Acadia was bigger than I’d anticipated and I fully intend to go back and spend a week there. I want to rent a bike and ride the carriage trails and hike many more trails. Oh, my my my, so much to do…

end-o-chemo

A number of people have asked me if I’ll be celebrating the end of my treatments and if so, how? I joked with a few friends saying I’d commemorate the event with a new tattoo. I will be doing that soon and I’ve even (finally) decided where to put it. Now I merely need to hone the design. To really celebrate, though, requires travel. There’s something about going somewhere entirely new that marks an event, you know?

Somewhere new. I’ve never been to Montreal. Never been to Quebec, either and both were recommended. I’ve always wanted to visit Chicago as an adult… Thing is I only have 3-4 days to go anywhere and it’d be nice to have more time to explore a new city. We’d make the most of it and have a great time, sure, but I’d like to do something that focuses on my health.

Since we had so much fun Big Sur, CA, hiking sounded great and seemed to fit the bill. I did a bunch of research and got some advice and chose Acadia National Park in Maine. Acadia

Todd and I are driving up on Friday and I can’t wait. It sounds like Acadia has it all: lush, verdant trails on which to hike, ocean views, some rocky climbs and ample biking roads. Win win win. I found a cabin with a fireplace, a full kitchen and outside grill. It’s just up the street from Bar Harbor, so I can get in a little mercantile therapy if necessary. My birth mother, Debbie, suggested a great place for blueberry pancakes, so that’s definitely on the agenda.

Right now I can’t believe it’s over. The chemotherapy and cancer, that is. I can’t get my head around it. I feel like I still have to go back to the hospital on Monday and I don’t. That part is done. There is always more, though.

This month I have a PET Scan and colonoscopy and in November I have another mammogram. I will be meeting with Dr. Jain every three months and possibly undergoing a CT Scan with the same frequency. I’m not having the portocath removed until possibly January or February, so a nurse from Apria will need to come out and flush it monthly. Wonderful.

Cancer is something that can return, we’ve seen it time and time again. I will have to be vigilant and stay on top of my health. People ask me if this has changed my outlook on life, my attitude towards things in general and I’m really not sure. I don’t feel like I’ve changed much, at least not behavior-wise. I eat less meat and more fish (lately all I want is fish, all the time, except breakfast), but that’s it.

Perspective-wise I’m highly attuned to the word cancer in general. I notice every reference to it around me; in the papers, online, and in overheard conversations. I’m in the cancer club forever.

I guess I am more active now than ever and I feel an imperative to keep moving all the time. This is not some analogy for cancer chasing me and needing to keep ahead of it, I swear. I’ve always been a victim of inertia. Simply put, a body at rest stays at rest unless acted upon my outside forces. And a body in motion stays in motion. I feel better when I’m moving, so I have to keep it up, maintain momentum.

This is the only body I’ll get and I’d better take care of it. And appreciate it, even if sometimes in the mirror I do not like it at all. None of us are getting any younger, but if I can help slow time’s effect, I’ll do what I can. And I’ll have as much fun as possible with the effort.