Nov 23

Thanksgiving 2001

The week between my second Rituxan treatment on Friday, 11-16-01, and Thanksgiving Day on the 22nd found me getting stronger by the day.

On Saturday, 11-17-01, a Physical Therapist came by the house to see how I’m doing with the wheelchair and walker, dealing with bathroom needs and generally assessing the house and what I might need to navigate it better. I think I surprised her with the fact that I’m walking instead of bed and wheelchair-ridden.

It’s still difficult getting to a standing position and I don’t move very fast after I do, but I’m getting better at it with every passing day. My legs, ankles and feet are still pretty swollen, but not as much as last week. I can finally sleep on my side again – something I’ve missed since I bloated up over a month ago. It feels good, but I have to be careful not to rest one foot on the other or on my ankle, or it leaves a big dent and is sore for hours. I learned that one the hard way. OUCH!!

Anyway, the therapist showed me some exercises to do with my legs and ankles to strengthen them. Most were pretty easy, like making little circles and stuff. Basically, what anyone else might call “limbering up” type exercises. The leg lifts are something that I can feel every time I do them though. I sit in a chair and extend my lower leg straight out in front of me 15 times, then do the same with the other leg. Oh yeah!! I can feel that!!

She said I’m doing really well, and she expects to visit me twice more. She checked my balance before she left by having me stand up, hold her hands to keep steady and then stand on one foot. I thought it was going well until she let go of my hands. I have no balance! What a shock! I’d have fallen right over if I hadn’t put my other foot down AND caught her hands again. Gonna have to work on that.

After the therapist left, Casey, mom and I went to the theater to see the movie, Monsters, Inc. And I walked. I wasn’t sure how well that was going to go, but I had to give it a try. The theater was really close to the lobby though and I made it to my seat and then had an hour and a half to rest before having to walk back out to the car, so it worked out fine. It’s good to have that little bit of independence. We all had a great time and thought it was a really good, fun movie. If you know me, you know I love cartoons. Afterwards, mom bought us all dinner at Ryan’s.

While watching the movie, I had a thought come at me from nowhere that the big blue monster was just doing his job: Monster. Later, at dinner, I saw the people working in the restaurant and thought about how they’re just doing their jobs; waitress, carver, busboy, cashier. Then I started thinking about how people see themselves and how I’ve seen myself over the years.

Way back in 1976 I was a sailor. Then I was a machinist. Then I was a warehouseman, then a grunt, then a lineman, a top hook, a splicer, a tech, a Q.C., a supervisor, a project manager. That’s how I’ve identified myself over the years. I’ve always been my job title. To quote a famous actor: “I yam what I yam!” ~ Popeye

Then I tried to identify myself again. Suddenly, sitting there, I saw myself as I’ve never seen myself before. I am a cancer patient. It’s my new job, my position in life at this moment; it’s what I do. That was a sobering thought.

My new job is Cancer Patient. As such, I exercise my legs like the physical therapist taught me, take my medication, pay attention to little things I might be feeling so I can report them to the doctor, plan my next trip to the Cancer Treatment Center, update my new cancer web pages, research my cancer and surrounding info and stuff like that.

I think part of what led up to it is all the paperwork that has to be filled out for all this medical and insurance stuff. It’s a little generic, after all. It makes some assumptions. It has places for you to fill in the blanks about your occupation, company you work for, work phone number, and the like. I have to pause every time I get to them. I don’t go to work anymore. I mean, not at a regular job like I have for the last 25 years. I don’t have a “work phone number” anymore. You can’t reach me on my cell phone because I don’t have one.

It suddenly dawned on me that I’ve lost that part of myself. It’s gone. At least for now. I wonder if I’ll get that part of me back or not. No one can tell me for sure. I mean, sure, we all say it’s going to happen. We all say I’ll get better and stronger until I can return to work, but nobody really knows if that’s true or not. We have to wait and see what happens. There’s no way to predict it yet. We just don’t say that. We stay positive. But it crosses my mind from time to time. It’s part of being a cancer patient. That’s my new job.

Cancer Patient. Hmmm… I make cancer cells and work on ways to limit their production… I guess that would make me a… Carcinogenic Engineer…? Now, THERE‘s something for the ol’ resume, eh? Hmmm…

The nurse that gave me the 2nd Rituxan treatment said my heart beats faster than normal. About 100 per minute. She asked if that’s normal for me. I didn’t know. Now I’m acutely aware of my heartbeat. It seems fast. Too fast? Dangerously fast? How would I know? That’s my new job as a cancer patient; To think about stuff like that.

I’m getting lots of email from people I’ve known or worked with over the years that just heard I have cancer. The news is spreading all over the country like, well, like a cancer! They’re sorry to hear it, wish me well, tell me they’re glad to see I’m staying upbeat and positive about dealing with it. I just think it’s good to hear from them. It’s been like a reunion of old, familiar faces and names. If you haven’t written yet, I’d like to hear from you too!

The rest of the week went well. I continue with my exercises, feel stronger every day and do lots of research to get to know my cancer on a personal level so I can kick it’s ass when it least expects it! (I’m not above fighting dirty!!)

For Thanksgiving I went to my niece Star’s house. She had all the traditional foods and there was lots of family there that I haven’t seen in a long time. It was really great. I can’t remember the last time I had Thanksgiving dinner with family. I’ve been on the road for over 20 years building cable systems, so I usually just end up at a nearby truck stop or restaurant for my yearly turkey special and a phone call to the family to tell them I love them and miss them.

I gave thanks this year that I’m with my family, that I’m alive and feeling much better, that my wheelchair is still parked and that cancer treatments have come a long way in my lifetime. So join with me as I raise my glass of Sprite in a toast to science and medicine! (…gulp… burp… ahhhhh…)  😉