Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Chemotherapy Update

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon or 4:11 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Well, I guess it’s time for an update.

I got a bit of a shock this past week.  Thursday when I went in for what I thought would be a regular doctor’s visit, they were talking about checking me into the hospital for my next round of chemotherapy. Apparently, there was a bit of miscommunication, or lack of communication, when I was checked into the hospital last time, since it was on an emergency basis.  All my chemotherapy is going to be inpatient, not out-patient.  So, in other words, every twenty days, or so, I’ll be checking into the hospital for five days worth of carefully controlled, medically monitored poisoning.  And, I get to do that at least four times, most likely six times, possibly more.
So, Monday, I’ll be visiting my doctor then checking in to the hospital for my next round of chemotherapy.

I have to admit, this whole process has left my head spinning a bit. Just as I was getting used to the idea of being weak and doing out-patient chemotherapy, not to mention the loss of my hair and some of the other minor side-effects, I find out that I’m going to be spending quite a bit of time in the hospital.  And, of course, that means that the chemotherapy they’re going to hit me with is most likely going to be as powerful as the last round.  I can only figure that means every round will be like that.  I’ll be honest here folks, that scares me.  That first round of chemotherapy really took it out of me at the end. Granted, I could’ve stood to lose those ten pounds, but I don’t think I can afford to do that four or six more times!
And, yes, I’m a little afraid of how I’ll be able to take care of myself after each round.  I thought my life would even out a bit and be more, well, “normal”.  At least, as normal as my life ever is.  But, I don’t think that’s going to happen for a couple of months.  Months.  Even thinking in those terms scares me a little bit.  Months of this… Well, so far, you all and God have seen me through, so I have to just trust that it will all work out somehow.  I don’t pretend to know how or what that will look like in the end, but I know that somehow, someway, it just has to all work out okay.  There’s an old Arabic saying that, translated, says something like “Where there is life, there is hope”, so that’s what I try to remind myself when things seem impossible.  As long as I’m still alive, somehow whatever life throws at me can be survived and overcome.  That doesn’t mean I don’t get scared or frustrated or tired, but I know that I just have to keep trying, no matter what.

So thank you for all you’ve done for me so far.  I hope I don’t have to ask much more of you all, but I’m afraid that I will need still more help.  And, as those old Bartyles and James ads used to say, “Thank you for your support”.


Just a little fun

Filed under: Art,Fun,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:46 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Wow, I’m tired this week.

I’ll try to take the time to do more of an update this weekend, but, until then, I didn’t want my faithful readers to think I’d abandoned them.  So, since it is Friday, I have a little bit of a fun link for you: Photos from the PC Design Contest 2007.
Yeah, I know, it’s not much, but it’s all I’ve got this week.

Have a great Friday and enjoy your weekend!



Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:28 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

So, I’ve actually had a few side-effects this past week.

There’s been two, really, since I figure being totally exhausted just sort of comes with being slowly poisoned. That is, after all, what the chemotherapy does to me. The first side-effect is from that self-same chemo. Namely, my hair started falling out Thursday night. Slowly at first, but it picked up speed pretty quickly.
Friday, I had small clumps in my hand after washing my hair. Saturday and Sunday, though, I had a veritable toupee in the bottom of the shower. This morning was almost as bad. So far, it’s only the hair on my head that’s falling out. I still have my beard and eyebrows. So far. Since this is all rather new, those may yet go, too. And, thankfully, the rest of my hair is holding on, too. Not that I was a particularly hairy guy or anything, but, well, I’ve been told that it tends to itch in certain other areas when it grows back.
Oh, and I suppose that’s the “up side” to this side-effect: my hair will eventually grow back. In fact, I’m told that sometimes it grows back darker than before, so maybe I’ll have a little grey reduction and look younger than I did before! Hey, that’d be okay!

The other side-effect is less fun, but also more temporary. In this case, it’s a side-effect of the treatments meant to boost my white and red blood counts. I have to give myself subcutaneous injections of Neupagen every day for ten days. Well, actually, I only have three left, but it was for a total of ten days. And, yes, I have to admit, the idea of sticking myself with a needle freaked me out at first, but, honestly, it’s amazing what you can get used to doing.
In any case, the nasty, little side-effect of these injections is bone pain. Now, it was described to me as “mild bone pain”, but when this kicked in late Thursday night, it was anything but mild. In fact, I would have rated this right up there with kidney stones. Without any exageration at all, it felt like my joints were trying to twist themselves in the opposite direction of the way they were designed to bend. Amazingly enough, the doctor on-call told me to take Tylenol until I could get the other prescription filled and that took enough of the pain away that I could actually sleep. Now, of course, I have my pain meds and I’m a little “spinny”.
So far, no one at work has noticed.


Return of the “Fun” Links

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:13 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Okay, so my idea of fun may be changing a bit.

I’ve noticed a theme in my cancer caregivers’ rhetoric lately: clean.  Get clean, stay clean, avoid things that aren’t clean.  Wash your hands, gargle with their special solution to keep the mouth sores away, don’t eat raw foods that might have bacteria on them.  This over-riding theme of cleanliness may have had some small effect on my choice of interesting links.

First, with all the house cleaning, there was this tool to minimize, if not eliminate, dust from doing wall-board work.  Now,  that might not seem like a big thing, but, trust me, all that dust is an irritant for months to come after the work is done!  I know, having stuck my leg through a ceiling while running cable and doing the repair work myself.
Next, is a link to a toothbrush sanitizer, which has always been a thing for me.  Well, not toothbrush sanitizing, per se, but generally good oral hygine.  I’m always worried about things stuck in my teeth and bad breath and making sure my gums don’t bleed.  That’s gotten very important to me these days!  Bleeding is bad when my red and white counts are down so low!
And, this automatic soap dispenser caught my eye, since I’m washing my hands so much.  Before I even saw it, I was thinking about how the most likely point of contact for bacteria was at the soap dispenser.  An automatic soap dispenser would cure that and this shiny, chrome one would look nice on my bathroom counter!
Finally, while not a cleanliness link, this web-enabled pill box struck me as just the thing for someone having to track a bunch of medications.  Their service, which isn’t quite available yet, helps a patient keep track of all the various medications and times and frequencies they have to take.  And, at $60 a month, trust me, this would have been a Godsend this past week.  I have so many pills to take that a little extra help keeping them straight would have been a big help!

So, there you are, that’s what sounds “fun” to a cancer patient with a lot on his mind!  Kind of boring, but at least it’s something to think about over the weekend.  Enjoy your Friday!



Praise You In This Storm

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:07 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’m not normally one for modern religious music, but…

But, well, I’m not sure if it’s the cancer or the way my church, Mercy Street, rallied around me so, but I popped a pirataed copy of Lifesong by Casting Crowns into the CD player on the way home from work. (Yes, work! I worked a full day today!) The second track on that CD always gets me these days. The song is Praise You In This Storm and the lyric that never fails to jerk a tear from me is “…I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away.”

It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn these past five years, or so, that things pass on.  Both good and bad things, but, mainly, I’m thankful that I’ve finally learned God will take the pain away, if I just wait and let Him.  All the pain.  It’s not just my body He’s healing, but my spirit, too.  Surely, if I can learn to endure the pain of the proceedures I’ve been through and the fear of what might be coming next by leaning on His strength and trusting His plan for me, all the other pain that seems to hold on for so much longer will pass, too.  All the fear of not being enough to be worthwhile.  All the worry that I’m not spiritual enough, or good enough, or enough of a friend.  All those things that pull at me and weigh me down He can take away if I just let them go.  I just need to trust Him and believe that God will continue to do those things for me that he’s already done.  All those things I can’t seem to do without His help become possible, when I just let go and let Him be in charge.

Today, in the car, the thought that I never was able to pass that lesson along to my former step-daughter pulled more tears than usual from me.  As hard and tough as I like to think I am, the thought that I failed that little girl in any way still pulls at my heart.  It’s the hardest thing for me to let go of, but, today, I realize the most important.  I don’t know if she even knows that I was diagnosed with cancer, or how she would feel about that if she did, but I wonder.  I hope that she’s not afraid for me, if she knows.  I hope someone has made it clear to her that I won’t let this kill me, if she ever wants to know who I’ve become since she saw me last.  I suspect that she doesn’t even know, or think about it.  Perhaps she will one day, but I don’t think so today.
I just hope she learns from someone, somewhere, somehow, that any pain she feels now will eventually pass away and need not overwhelm her.  Somehow, I think that’s an important thing for her to know and it pains me that I never had the opportunity to teach that to her.

I suppose the blessing is that my pain over that shortcoming will pass, too.
So, as God sustains me and heals me through this process, He teaches me lessons, too.  How blessed am I?

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Our devotion to truth may bring us into conflict with those around us. What we need to remember is that we are not responsible for convincing anyone else of what we believe to be true."


Big Health Update

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:21 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

I feel like I should start with an act of contrition.

“Forgive me for not sending an update sooner…”  Or something like that.   This all is also the excuse I use for missing a Friday Fun Link for the first time in several years.  I think you all will agree that it’s a pretty good excuse.
Now, as most of you know, I was checked into MD Anderson on April 3 on an emergency basis.  I’d gone in to see the oncologist for a full diagnosis and was told that I had “diffuse large B cell lymphoma” that was particularly aggressive.  In fact, on a scale of one to one-hundred, my little, over-achiever Cletus was a highly unusual ninety.  The concern, however, was how much that growth was interfering with my breathing.  At the point they checked me in, I couldn’t lay flat at all and had been sleeping in a sitting position for almost a week.  Since the CT scan and PET scan they wanted to do required that I lay flat, this was a problem.  They also seemed a little concerned about my blood pressure, which was 168 over 103, or something like that.  Apparently, they were a little concerned about me blowing a gasket, even though I kept assuring the entire medical staff that I really felt just fine.

In any case, they got me in and started running tests and performing “procedures” the very next morning.  First, they drew off what seemed like about a liter of fluid from my lung.  It was, I have to admit, a rather curious sensation, feeling that space very quickly emptied inside me.  It was the first of many “curious sensations” that I’d never experienced before.  So, now, I was better able to breathe, but still not real excited about laying flat on my back.  That afternoon was filled with a series of quick chest x-rays to check on Cletus.  That evening, I was given three barium milkshakes and threatened with a barium enema before getting a CT scan.  Luckily, I was having such a hard time breathing while laying flat that they gave me oxygen and decided not to waste time with the barium enema.  God works in mysterious ways, thankfully, and I managed to dodge the worst part of that procedure.
Thursday, I had a PET scan in the morning and, as soon as I’d “recovered” from that, they sent me off for an echocardiogram.  I think the “recovery” from the PET scan was flushing the radioactive iodine out of my system, but I’m honestly not sure.  Things were starting to become a bit of a blur at this point.  The echocardiogram, for those of you not familiar, is just a fancy ultrasound of the heart.  My heart and lungs had a lot of fluid around them and the doctors were concerned about my capacity to breathe and pump blood through my body.  The informed me that was very important to one’s continued good health, in case I’d not picked up on that yet in my limited studies of health and medicine.
Friday, I started my day with a bronchosopy, which is the expensive word they used for sticking a camera up my nose and into my lung to check on some “spots” that showed up on the CT scan and PET scan.  Maybe it’s just me, but if they were willing to spend the time to name the procedure that stuck a camera up my nose, they should call the “spots” something fancy and Latin, too.  When I returned from my bronchosopy, I had a deceptively cheerful nurse just about waiting for me so that she could perform a bone marrow biopsy.

Let me pause here for a moment out of respect.  That bone marrow biopsy was the most uncomfortable and possibly painful procedure they did to me.  They very efficiently numbed my back, then carefully inserted a needle into my back.  Using that needle, they punched a hole into my pelvis.  But, I assure you, that was NOT the part that hurt.  One would think it should be, but it was more a sensation of pressure than anything else.  What hurt was the flexible needle they stuck in after making the hole and used to draw out a sample of liquid bone marrow. The worst part?  Now, knowing what it felt like, I had to hold still while they repeated the process.  I believe I was too far gone into some other world while they did that second sample to even chant “happy, quiet place”.

Then, the IV team came in to give me a “quick” dual port IV line into my left arm.  The tube was meant to run down veins from my left bicep, across the left side of my chest and down to just above my heart.  An x-ray showed that they didn’t quite make it on their first attempt. Luckily, they had a solution.  Contorting me into a somewhat unnatural position, they did a series of quick flushes with saline solution to whip the tube from my right shoulder, where it ended up on the first attempt, down into the center of my chest where they wanted it.  As “curious sensations” go, feeling that tube slither and slide through veins as it dropped down where it should be was about as curious as it gets.  And, yes, a second chest x-ray confirmed that they’d moved things into the right position.

That Friday night, I started chemotherapy.  Since I was terrified of the side-effects and not being able to get a nurse quickly enough, a very dear friend stayed with me that night.  It will not exempt him from funny stories in the toast at his wedding, but it did induce me to promise that I’d keep them all clean and vague enough to have his relatives scratching their heads.  Luckily, I had virtually no side-effects at all.
Though, there is one that I won’t know about for some time that both caught me by surprise and made my heart clench, just a little.  No, it’s not the hair loss.  It was that the first round of chemo may make me sterile.  Now, I grant you that I’m 38 and not seeing anyone right now, much less anyone I might want to marry, but I’d always hoped to have kids of my own one day.  I suppose if I’d known sooner that might be a side-effect of the treatment, I might have started a “savings account” of sorts to deal with it, but that wasn’t an option Friday afternoon. The doctors tell me that it wouldn’t be complete sterility, just a severely lowered sperm count and that it might get better as I heal after the treatment is over.  But, it’s hard not to hear it as a kind of final sentence.  I’m sure that will be something I discuss with my minister and possibly a therapist as this goes on, but for now, it seemed the less of two problems.  Dead and fertile or alive and sterile.  The choice wasn’t that hard to make, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it had an effect on me.
The rest of the weekend and week was mostly the same.  I took lots of pills, some of which actually made me feel better.  Turns out, the ten annoyingly small pills I had to take were steroids and were also what was responsible for my appetite.  Yes, that’s right for most of my continuous six days of chemotherapy, instead of nausea, I had an appetite!  The miracles of modern science.  Or, as J. would say, the miracles of a cancer patient with a stomach like a goat.  Which is true enough, though, I have to admit, I am trying to be careful what I eat these days lest a bout of food poisoning upset my chemo schedule. Naturally, I was tired the whole time and I did lose about ten pounds or so, but for the most part, it wasn’t too bad.  Until Thursday, when I had ALL the side effects all at once.  The chills, the shakes, nausea, the whole shebang.  But, one miserable day out of seven isn’t bad at all.

I was discharged Friday afternoon and spent the weekend mostly asleep. I’m still taking pills by the handful, some twice a day.  And I was back in for a short dose of chemo on Monday morning.  No side effects, other than being very tired and a little light-headed.  I also gave myself the first of ten subcutaneous injections that are meant to boost my red blood cell count Monday, which was a nerve-wracking experience for me. Still, I managed to do it and not draw blood, so I think I did it right.  And, finally, that Sharps container I’ve had around forever, given as a gift (it might be best not to ask about that), has come in handy.  So, now I do have some small justification for holding onto those strange, seemingly useless items forever and ever.  You really don’t ever know what will come in handy when!

This week will be filled with more clinic visits and blood work and trying to just get a normal life reestablished.  I hope to get into work for a couple hours today and work a mostly full day Thursday and Friday.  I have an appointment next week with my oncologist and I should get some more information then about how treatment has been progressing and how it will go for the next six months or so.

I know this has been a really long e-mail, but now you all should be up to date on the saga of Cletus and the medical whirlwind that my life has become.  I’m feeling a little stronger every day and cannot tell you how much I appreciate all the visits I got in the hospital and all the calls and e-mails.  Keep the prayers coming.  I’m going to need them now more than ever as I work to keep my life in balance while still fighting this thing slowly dying inside me.


Medical Proceedures

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal Archive — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:17 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I’ve learned more about medical procedures in the past week than I have in the past 38 years.

I have been poked and probed and punctured and scaned so many times in the past several weeks that I think they can build a full-scale replica of me. I’ve lost count of how many times they’ve taken blood from me. The worst was the bone marrow biopsy they did on both hips.
Now, you have to understand, I have a really high tolerance for pain. I mean, really high. I passed several kidney stones before hitting the nine millimeter stone that took me down and I’m told that passing kidney stones is comparable to childbirth. So, when I tell you that the bone marrow biopsy hurt, you can count on the fact that it HURT. Oddly, it wasn’t when they punched the hole into the back of my pelvis, but when they stuck the flexible needle into the bone and drew out the liquid bone marrow that hurt. And, the worst part was that, after doing it on one side, I had to just grit my teeth and know they were going to do it again on the other side. That part was the worst. Knowing how it was going to feel and just having to lay still while they did it. Blech!

The rest of this whole process, though, hasn’t been that bad. Chemo has been easier for me than I would have expected. It turns out that my father, who had colon cancer several years ago, also had virtually no effects of chemotherapy. Must be that hardy, Mid-Western stock that we’re so proud of, eh? Naturally, I’m tired. Apparently, the chemo attacking my body does that. So, too, the whole being stuck in the hospital.  Now, that may change a bit as things go on, but, so far, it’s been okay.
There’s more to say, naturally, but, frankly, I’m tired and the angle that I’m working at with my laptop is rather inconvenient and uncomfortable, so I’m done with my update today.  When I get home, I’ll write more.


Still Laughing

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

What?  You thought a little cancer would keep me from posting a Friday Fun Link?

Not a chance!  So, yesterday one of my more attractive visitors was telling me about a place you can buy funny, anti-cancer t-shirts.  Now, I’m not sure if this is the place she was talking about or not, but their t-shirts are funny.  And, they have cancer supporter t-shirts, too.
Anyway, the place is called GotCancer.Org and, while they don’t list any specific charities they support, they are working with charities to form bigger, better relationships, so they’re probably okay to buy from.  Besides, the t-shirts are pretty funny.

So, keep the faith, keep praying for me, and enjoy your weekend.


Medical Leave

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:50 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, I’m in MD Anderson.

Turns out old Cletus was a bit more aggressive than we first realized.
Tuesday, I went to see my oncologist and she was a little concerned about how much Cletus was restricting my breathing, so she had me admitted on an emergency basis Tuesday night. Thankfully, I have an amazing array of friends who all jumpped in and started taking care of everything for me right away. So, my darling Hilda is being taken care of, and, in fact is probably being spoiled by someone who’s even more codependant with my dog than I am. I actually think she went and bought McDonald’s fries just because Hilda likes them.
Tomorrow, and most likely Saturday, I’ll have people all up in my house cleaning it and stocking it with food for my parents who will be arriving Tuesday evening. Someone else has already made arrangements to pick them up from the airport and help them find their way around Houston. At least, as far as getting to the medical center and back home. Naturally, they’ll be staying at my house. All that room does come in handy.

Now, I suppose you’re wondering about what kind of cancer I have and what my treatment will be. Okay, I have diffuse large B cell lymphoma, which, in case you’re wondering, is not good. On the menu of cancers, this is not one a wise person would pick. What’s more, it’s an aggresive case. On a scale of 1 to 100, Cletus rates a 90. Not the best way to be an overachiever, is it?
The concern is, however, how fast and far it’s spread. That’s the problem with lymphoma like Cletus, he tends to sleep around and spred his problems all over, real quick. So, after having had several different kinds of scans in the past two days, tomorrow, I’ll have a few more and then follow that with a couple of bone marrow biopsies, which will most likely be a pain the ass, literally. They seem to want to take samples out of my hips, by way of holes in my backside. So, we’ll see how that goes.  I haven’t started chemotherapy yet, either, but I should be starting that soon, too.  I expect that it will be as aggressive as Cletus.  Not sure if I’ll lose my hair or not, but I do rather expect this to knock me on my ass for a bit.

But, all that being said, I don’t expect to die.  I think some people who have been following this the past couple weeks might be afraid that I’m going to, but I’m not.  I don’t know quite what God has in mind for me, but I really don’t think He’s brought me through all the crap of the last five years to kill me now.  I just don’t think it’s part of His plan to kill me at 38 with so much left to do.
Rather, I think I’m meant to survive this, too, so that someone I haven’t even met yet, who will need an extra helping of hope that I’ll be able to provide after I’m well.  I feel this deep in my heart and bones.  I know that my life’s purpose has not quite been fullfilled yet, and that is why I will, why I must, make it through all this.  I don’t think it will be pleasant and I’m sure parts of it will hurt, but I don’t plan on dying any time soon.

So, keep up your prayers for me, and keep on living your lives.  I’ll be well soon and I’ll do my best to keep you all updated via the blog.
Thank you for your support.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is only when they go wrong that machines remind you how powerful they are."
   --Clive James

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