Archive for August 2014

I’ve Decided To Eat Like an Ape

When I learned I had lymphoma one of the first things I did was try to figure out what to eat in order to help fight it.

apeseatI spent some time as a vegetarian back in my college days. And while I eventually abandoned that diet regime for something more “meat ‘n’ taters”, the experience left me with an innate sense of the important part that food plays in our health.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think I needed to drop a few pounds so over the years I’ve spent plenty of time looking for an answer to the question, “What should I eat?”

The answer I’ve come up with after seemingly endless hours of research? “I don’t know.”

As far as I can tell, neither does anyone else. Show me a purported expert and I’ll show you a diet guru who asserts just the opposite. For example:

  • The still-popular Atkins diet promotes low carbohydrate consumption and LOTS of protein (read: red meat, cheese, eggs). The USDA “Food Pyramid” recommends LOTS of carbs (whole grains, fruits, veggies) with protein being almost an afterthought.

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“Complete Remission”; Here’s What That Means

cantsleepMy eyes slammed open around the same time as local radio personalities Bob and Tom. They went live on the radio at 6 AM; I, on the other hand, had nothing to do for hours. Despite it being un-customarily early, I knew there would be no returning to dreamland for me today.

I was nervous, full of apprehension and maybe even a little scared. I had a 10:30 rendezvous with Dr. R and his nurse Jennifer where I would learn the results of 4 months of expensive, inconvenient and annoying chemotherapy.

Jennifer had left a phone message the day before which partially allayed my concerns:

“Mr. Grinkmeyer, your CAT scans look absolutely wonderful; they showed no enlarged lymph nodes whatsoever.”

shirtpocketWhile that sounded like excellent news, I had jumped the gun on partial information before, assuming all was well when there was actually an “oh-by-the-way” tucked away in someone’s shirt pocket. I would not rest easily until I heard the magic words from Dr. Robertson himself.

They entered the room together, both smiling, which made Joan and I smile, too. Dr. Robertson sat across from me, grabbed my wrists (he always does that when he wants to drive home a point), leaned forward and delivered the verdict.

“Mr. Grinkmeyer, the CT scan shows no sign of cancer; it is in Complete Remission!”

Period. End of story. No “oh-by-the-way”s. Then he proceeded with his explanation of just what that term means and the caveats that accompany that very good news.

“Complete Remission means that a CT scan shows no evidence of the disease,” he said. “But as we’ve discussed before, there is no way to eradicate this type of cancer as of yet.”

Complete Remission does not preclude the possibility that there are cancer cells hold up in the caves, beaten, battered and bruised, licking there wounds and waiting to unleash an army of invaders at some later date.

How long will my remission last? Nobody knows; maybe a couple of months; could be a couple of years; with some luck, a couple of decades.

How will I know if/when the cancer has mobilized its forces and launched another attack on me? 

mantle cell lymphomaSymptoms will appear, symptoms that for the most part I was fortunate enough not to have experienced prior to my chemotherapy. Typically though, if the cancer does return from a state of suspended animation it will do so with a dogged determination that it did not possess during its first attack-I intend to not let that happen.

Modern medicine has done its job, at least for now. Chemotherapy beat into submission the Lucifer-like cancer cells that threatened the well-being of my healthy cells. Now the fight-the one for my life-is on, and this time I’m the one in charge of the outcome.

Next: How I plan to defeat cancer and live a long, happy and productive life.

“Today I’m feeling fine/tired/ like sh*t.”

Them: “So how you feeling?”
Me: “Today I’m feeling fine/tired/ like shit.” With chemotherapy, it’s a day-to-day thing.

I’m never sure how I feel until I return from my AM walk with the dog.

dog-walkingThat stroll provides me with the barometer I need in order to evaluate my physical state for the day, or at least for the next few hours.

Peyton and I set out to circumnavigate a 2-mile course around our picturesque neighborhood. If I’m able to complete the loop relatively easily, I know that my strength will accompany and support me throughout the day-feelin’ fine!

But some days I have to take a right on Washington Boulevard rather than following the river up to 70th St. before climbing “the widow-maker” and heading home. That’s what happened this morning.

 

“Slow down,” I reminded myself. “Stay on level pavement, stay off the hills.”

Of course the manly thing would be to push through the fatigue, maybe even break into a jog for a bit, but my doctor told me to “take it easy.” I have permission from a guy with a PhD to sluff off.

By the time Peyton and I rounded the final corner and began trudging the final 100 yards to our home, my legs were as weak as circus lemonade and I was breathing like a big bad wolf trying to blow a little pig’s house down. To make things worse, we’d only walked about a mile.

I now knew that today’s physical state would be dictated to a large extent by the unsavory effects of chemotherapy. I knew I would feel like shit.

cancer journalI fixed a breakfast of scrambled egg with Mexi-spiced beef brisket and organic sauerkraut from Trader Joe’s. I’m a stickler for a clean kitchen but when I went to find a towel for cleaning up after myself the cupboard was bare. So I headed downstairs to find some kitchen towels I suspected were in the dryer-and indeed they were.

But now I faced a dilemma; how can I get the towels, and myself, up those tortuous 14 steps without climbing the stairs? It was as if I’d slithered through an undersized cave entrance to rescue my missing cat and now found the adit too small to let us pass back through.

king-kong2Exiting the cave would involve some pain and discomfort but I’d recover; same deal with the stairs. So up I went, dish towels in hand. By the tenth step my legs were getting rubbery, my heart rate was climbing like Kong ascending the Empire State building and my head was woozy. But I continued my trek, one step at a time; “…eleven, twelve, thirteen fourteen.” I made it.

“It’s a day-to-day thing.”

Some days are better than others but they’re all good, considering my situation. When I feel physically bad I remind myself of my blessings; family, friends, good times past and future, and all the fine dogs I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a couch with. And I take naps, of course. Naps make everything better.

COMING SOON:

On the morning of Tuesday, August 5, I will motor on down to the Simon Cancer Center for a PET scan. A pretty girl will inject me with a radioactive substance to help my doctor determine whether or not the poisons I’ve been receiving every 28 days have been accomplishing their mission.

Then, two days later, Dr. R will share his findings with me and advise as to our strategy moving forward; did we beat the Satan-like cancer cells and cast them into the bottomless pit of “Remission?” Or are there still some left that need a good ass kicking via more chemotherapy. I’m wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that option #1 prevails.