Sunday, September 15, 2002

Let's Have A Party: Dave's (Other) Great Adventure in Vietnam.

Dave’s Great Adventure
Chapter 2, Verse 6
September 15, 2002
Let’s Have A Party

Once again I find myself with time to place my index fingers to the keyboard to record my thoughts and our recent activities surrounding my leukemia and its treatment. (I wish I could say I used all my fingers to do this but I’m just not that competent with keyboarding.)

I mentioned in my last letter that I wasn’t rebounding as fast after my last round of chemotherapy but that I was slowly feeling better. Well, I did keep slowly feeling better, but I never have really felt like I’ve gotten back to 100%. After the first cycle I felt close to normal after about 2-3 weeks. Not so this time; after three-plus weeks I’m still feeling tired, though I can get around and do just about everything I need to do. I do breathe pretty heavily just going up a flight of stairs. We went to church last Sunday and, as I did last month, I found myself sweating just with the effort of prolonged standing.

I was able to go back to work for a day last week (on 9/11) and happily was able to see a number of my patients. Debbie, my excellent nurse you’ve heard about, was able to pull folks out of the waiting room to see me, folks who in several cases had been scheduled to see other folks. I really enjoy being able to see some of my long-term patients and gals who are pregnant whom I’ve been caring for. And it’s a lot of fun being around the folks from work for a while, too. We have a lot of fun there. I worked pretty steadily during the morning and then was feeling tired by noon, but I kinda caught a second wind and finished the afternoon with no real problems. Kathy came in to the clinic at noon so I could have lunch there with her and not have to expend the effort going home for lunch as I usually do. Isn’t she great! I’m scheduled to work again next Monday, too, the day before I start round three.

When Kathy came home from lunch at the clinic that day she found the lawn being mowed. But it wasn’t by our neighbor Tom, whom I’ve mentioned. It was by his wife, April! I really feel a bit guilty that I was well enough to go to work yet April came over to mow my lawn!

I’m starting to think that the effects of the chemotherapy, though somewhat predictable, are going to be a bit cumulative, and I may find myself feeling more tired for longer periods with each cycle. I spoke to a colleague last night, whose mother-in-law had Rituxan for a bowel lymphoma (with excellent results) and he said that she got progressively more tired with each cycle. If I follow that pattern, it may be difficult to predict in advance if I’ll be able to work in the clinic after each cycle. I need to be able to give the staff and patients a few weeks lead time to make it worthwhile going in.

Hey, I contributed to the voluntary Moron Tax for the Mathematically Impaired last week and bought a Lotto ticket. Guess what! I won $38! That’s more than I’ve ever gotten before. Now I can move up my retirement date.

Friday night, on Friday the Thirteenth, Kathy and I had our friends from the clinic, the hospital and other social connections, over for the party we mentioned. For a while I wasn’t sure how I’d do with the party. I woke up at about 5:00 AM with a migraine and finally got back to sleep, but when I woke again about nine I didn’t feel well. Besides being very tired, my stomach was unsettled, like migraines, and the meds you take to combat them, can cause. I dragged through the day, trying to rest when I could, between doing the things we needed to do to get ready. Finally I napped for about an hour until five, when I got up to go get several bags of ice. When I got back, we already had a couple of early arrivals, Joan and Sandy, who helped us set up. After finalizing things, I changed clothes for the party and started feeling a lot better, fortunately.

I called the Party “Stayin’ Alive” because of two themes; one, I am fighting the battle, literally, of my life, with my leukemia, plus I wanted to show the story of my Vietnam experience to someone outside the family after all these years, another time when I managed to “stay alive.” To play the part, I wore my combat uniform from Vietnam for the party, the one I last wore as I stepped off the plane from Vietnam in 1971. It still fit (though it was perhaps a bit snug). We also put on this party to try to pay back, in some small way, so many of the folks who have been so wonderful to us during the last several months, bringing us food, driving us around, taking care of me in the clinic and so much more.

We really had a lot of fun. We also had quite a crowd. There was close to a 100% RSVP rate, so we ended up with about 37 guests in the house. We used a lot of different places to seat folks, but it worked well. We had the food catered by my favorite local barbeque place and they provided the meats, cole slaw (“kohlensalat”), potato salad, beans, barbeque sauce, pickles, dessert and more. Quite a spread! And several of our guests brought stuff, too, including wine, some German and Texas beer (Shiner Bock, for you folks down in the Lone Star state), several great desserts and more. Plus, Sheri Patterson, also expert in pirating CDs, downloaded the Saturday Night Fever music from the internet and between dinner and dessert we played the CD, with “Stayin’ Alive” blaring from my ancient Kenwood speakers. A bunch of the gals started dancing to the music in ‘70s disco style. There were no guys, so I joined them. I rapidly exhausted myself and had to retire from the dance fest.

It was during the dinner activities that the folks from the clinic had a surprise birthday party for me, with my favorite pies, pecan and key lime. They knew I would not be around nor be feeling well enough on my birthday (on the 25th) for any kind of celebration (I’ll again be at my nadir time [my “Ralph?”]) so they just moved up the festivities. Great folks, those guys and (mostly) the gals I work with at the clinic!

After the meal we went downstairs where we packed into the family area so I could show my slides of my activities in Vietnam. I called the presentation “Dave’s (Other) Great Adventure.” We got started a little late, and the “show” lasted a little longer than expected, so we didn’t finish until about 10:30 or so, but not too many folks went to sleep or had to leave. I really appreciated having the opportunity to show my slides and tell my story to a non-family audience. I would like to think that most folks found it interesting, and I honestly think most did, but I have to keep in mind that probably some folks didn’t leave just out of courtesy. At any rate, I was grateful to be able to tell folks what it was like in Vietnam, at least for me, though I have to admit that I was pretty tired by the time it was over.

After the party was over, our guests cleaned the place up for us! All the food was put away, the counters cleaned, trash collected, utensils washed and the rental chairs loaded back in the 4-Runner. What great friends we have.

So, on Saturday Kathy and I took our rented chairs back before nine, as we were contracted to do, and then planned to go to a movie. But we fell asleep on the couch. We did nothing at all, all day long. We were just worn out from the preparation and activities surrounding the party. I’m so happy we did it and that it worked out so well.

Today we made it to church and then had leftover barbeque for lunch. I never mind that. Then I did a few chores around the house that needed to be done before I started my next round of chemotherapy. I knew that if I didn’t get the trimming done in the yard today that it wouldn’t get done for weeks.

Then I watched the Broncos football game. Hey, they looked pretty good, beating the San Francisco 49ers (take that, Mike Koetzle!). We went out to eat with friends tonight, in another celebration of birthdays since I won’t feel up to it in a couple of weeks, and Lou’s birthday (Joan’s husband) was a week ago. We celebrated together.

I’ll be working again tomorrow, and then I get ready for round three on Tuesday! This cycle will be different again; so far each round has been somewhat different. The first month I got only the fludarabine and cytoxin. Then, for round two, I got the Rituxan on day one and the others on days two through four. This time, and for the rest of the cycles, I’ll be getting all three drugs on day one and then the other two drugs, the fludarabine and cytoxin, on days two and three. The course of therapy will be only three days, instead of four, like last month, but the first day will really be long. I’ll also be getting another blood count tomorrow to see what my counts are before we start the next cycle. I’m very curious about what they’ll be.

I guess that’s about all that may be of interest from here for this letter. I know from my experience last month that the stuff will make me feel bad soon after it starts on Tuesday but I’ll try to get a letter out next week just to let all my friends and relatives know that I’m still okay.

Until then,