When we last left our
hero cautionary tale, I’d had chemo #10 deferred due to low platelets. I got an Nplate shot that Thursday, and when I went in on Tuesday for chemo #10 Take 2, the platelet count had rebounded nicely and I got chemo #10 without any problems. Tuesday-Thursday that week. Side effects weren’t terrible, and I got another Nplate shot along with the Neulasta-equivalent on Thursday.
And then I fooled almost everyone.
On Saturday that week, Kim and I drove down to Austin, or more correctly Elroy and the Circuit of the Americas located therein, and thanks to the good graces of Race Chairman (Volunteer Staffing) Bill Armitage and (not sure of his title, but he’s in charge of the ACCUS, the sanctioning body and FIA representative) Tim Mayer, I was credentialed as an Assistant Flag Chief with tower and race control access. So I got to spend the day around RC, and made it back out to the worker tent at the end of the day to surprise some of my flagging friends who were not expecting me to be there. Kim, meanwhile, got a guest pass for admission and was able to meet up with Marcus & Jen Merideth, who were down from Michigan for the weekend to represent the SCCA Board of Directors (Marcus is the Area 4 member) for the F3 and F4 races, which are sanctioned by SCCA Pro Racing, and also her friend Kevin Ballard and his dad. So we both got to do something we really loved doing, and according to Bill, as far as he’s concerned, my 100% record for F1 at COTA is intact. I’ll just take his word for it, ’cause I don’t feel like I actually did anything but be a bit of a mascot, but hey, I’ll be back at it next time.
There were a handful of people besides Bill who knew I was coming, but they were sworn to secrecy. Everything is always a game-time decision right now, so I didn’t want to get a lot of hopes up in the event I couldn’t make it. The chemo schedule shift really threw a wrench into my plans, but my body seems to have understood my desire to make this thing happen and the side effects stayed minimal enough to make it happen. I paid for it on Sunday and even into Monday, but that’s okay.
It was just really good to get out and do a thing we love doing, take a little road trip (learned that I’m still not up for bigger trips, and I did pay for my efforts, but so totally worth it), see some race cars and, more importantly, race people, and that’s as good as I can hope for right now.
I’m always trying to push myself a little harder, a little farther, as I get better. The strength and stamina I lost when this all started is going to take a while to get back, but it won’t if I don’t push it.
And then I went to work for the week. That was normal. Normal is good.
And then chemo #11 happened this past week, as (re)scheduled. Platelets well into the butter zone, but still with the Nplate because we just want to be sure.
And yesterday, Kim and I went to Erin & Dani’s Halloween party — Kim managed the stairs, which if you don’t know, is a Big Deal and comes with a bit of a cost, but she was very motivated. And we got to see Chet & Erin (not the same Erin, but an equally awesome Erin) and Zack and Christine (I finally got to meet Christine in person). Turns out that Christine’s 2nd cousin is one of our dear Nerd Boat friends, Christina Diddle. The world is a weird place, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve also spent a bit of time urging my friends and family to vote for people who won’t kill us. This cycle, that means basically zero candidates from the GOP. Anyone who’s voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or acted in their capacity to hobble its implementation, or is running on the promise of doing any of those things, basically wants me dead. Or bankrupt first, if I try to stay alive, and then dead when I run out of money.
And that goes for anyone who’s ever had, or has a blood relative who has/had, anything an insurance company considers a preexisting condition. I’m not just talking cancer or diabetes here. High cholesterol? Yep. Asthma? Yep. Sleep apnea? Yep. Torn meniscus? Yep. And you don’t even have to have one of those things yourself. If your uncle has diabetes, or your mother died of cancer (both of which are true in my case), into the high-risk pool for you, even though you yourself are perfectly healthy.
As it happens this election cycle, the people who have been working to gut/repeal the ACA are also complicit in a whole host of other reprehensible things (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, wealthism, white nationalism, the embrace of brutal dictators while simultaneously angering and alienating our long-time allies, economic policies that only benefit the mega-wealthy, etc., etc., ad nauseum), so it’s not like there are a lot of redeeming qualities to counter all the awful stuff.
No, there aren’t perfect candidates on the other side. There never will be. The perfect candidate is a unicorn: a mythical beast. But at least there’s a group of people looking to work for all of us, not just the moneyed donor class.
I’d hope that you, who have chosen to read this, would rather I didn’t die that way, and have/will vote accordingly. We’ll still have a reprehensible excuse for a human being in the White House, but maybe we’ll have a Congress that does its job as a co-equal branch of government instead of catering to his ever-changing whims in exchange for his willingness to rubber-stamp their bad ideas.
So back to work this week. Chemo #12, which is the last planned Big Honkin’ Chemo, will be the week after. I plan to ring the shit out of that bell when I get disconnected, and the Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center infusion clinic will be treated to some rollicking Frank Turner music for the occasion.
Kim and I have plane tickets for Thanksgiving in Tulsa. We normally drive, but neither one of us is up for the road trip this year.
And the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, I have appointments with the surgeon, the oncologist, and for a CT scan to show just how dead this shit is.
If the scan shows what we expect to see, it’ll be time to set up surgery to finally get rid of the naughty bit of my colon, now much more dead, complete the resection, reverse the colostomy, and THEN I can get into Reclaim The Rest Of My Life Mode.
It’s gonna take some work, of course, and it’ll be a haul, plus I’ll be on maintenance chemo and subject to frequent scans and colonoscopies and the like going forward, but the medical team is optimistic that I’ll get to the point where I’ll eventually, one day in the distant future, die from something completely unrelated to this colon cancer.
I can deal with that.
Life is, of course, full of surprises. Some of them are good, some of them are, well, pretty damn shitty. So there’s a chance things will go weird again. But we’ll deal with that as it comes. I’m much better equipped now than I was when this all started, for all my brave words to myself that I’d been expecting something like this to happen for most of my life and I was ready for it. I wasn’t.
I wasn’t prepared to be knocked lower than I’d ever been in my life. I wasn’t prepared to not bounce back relatively quickly, as I almost always have from illness and injury. I wasn’t prepared to stare my own death in the face, and as I’ve talked about before, I had a few times when getting my affairs in order and checking out seemed like the best option. I’m glad I didn’t follow that line of thinking to its inevitable conclusion, but I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge it was there.
This is the part where I remind you that I’ve done “couch time” with psychiatrists and psychologists on several occasions during my life, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to the couch again if I felt I needed it. Me being me, though, I tend to not only sort out my shit when I’m on the couch, but also learn the process as it works for me, and thus can self-treat fairly well. That said, I’m also the guy who says “if you don’t know, find a pro that does know” on a variety of subjects, and thus I will go back to the couch whenever I think I’m getting out of my depth. Everyone is different, your mileage may vary, and all that — and if you have a condition where your brain chemicals (something that you have no control over, so it’s emphatically not your fault) are the cause of the problems, you absolutely owe it to yourself to get to a psychiatrist who can properly diagnose you and prescribe the medications that will, with a bit of trial and error and adjustment, get those brain chemicals back in line. You, my friends, deserve that balance in your lives, and I hope you can find it.
I’m in a MUCH better place now. As bad as the effects of chemo are (remember, you’re getting poison injected into you with the general idea being it’s going to kill the bad stuff before it kills the rest of you), as much strength and stamina as I’ve lost, I’ve been able to get some of it back, been able to keep working enough to feel that I’m contributing and earning my keep, been able to reclaim more and more of my life “before cancer”, and that’s been a big help.
And what’s been an even bigger help has been all the family and friends who have stepped up. Just knowing all of your are pulling for me is the biggest boost I could ever hope for. I know there’s a lot of you still chomping at the bit to do something tangible, and opportunities to do so have been a little thin as we’re some of those wacky largely-self-sufficient types. You’re just gonna have to trust me that knowing I have all this backup, even if I don’t end up needing to invoke it, is a very tangible thing, and it’s the best feeling anyone could ever hope for.
And onward we go.