Monday, August 30, 2010

The Silent Man

John sent an e-mail explaining that he is now the Silent Man. His nausea is gone, but he is dealing with a very sore throat. He can only whisper - and that even hurts him so we won't be phoning him for a while. He lives on tylenol and won-ton soup - along with laxatives to counteract the constipation from the drugs. He wrote that he is living in the "happy crappy" phase.

Patty is taking good care of him now that Wilma and Gary have gone. She keeps the stock of soup plentiful and provides the sign language translation where necessary.

Friday, August 27, 2010

End Game

Bobby Fischer always argued that the game of chess was determined by the “end game” – all the early and middle moves are designed to get in a strategic position for those final ones. Now that the chemo is completed and John had his last radiation treatment we are all hoping that his end game will be a piece of cake! From here, it is a process of ensuring the best conditions for recuperation, and waiting for the tests to come in about 6 weeks or so.

Wilma reported that John’s throat is rather raw – we could hear it on the phone. He sounded like he had a bad case of laryngitis. He still feels nauseous and is very tired but now has enough saliva to spit. Who would imagine that this is a good sign? The dentist was one, since it means that John’s saliva will once again start to work its wonder against tooth decay. In addition, the dentist reported that his teeth are in good shape – another positive note!

John has lost a lot of weight over the last several weeks so will need to work at putting it back on through a rather sore throat. Wilma says he eats like an anorexic person – insisting that he is eating, but just picking at his food. I expect that will change as his throat clears up.

Patty came home this morning. Wilma and Gary will be heading off on Sunday (with a stop in to see friends in Hope on the way). We are all hoping for a short period of mending!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Blisters the size of coffee coasters"

Aaron reported that the blisters from John’s radiation treatments are now the size of coffee coasters. This means that they are taking up much of the attention as he recovers from his last chemo.

John reported that they are not particularly painful, however – just something that needs a lot of attention to avoid infection. He has been given a ‘kit’ of material from the hospital along with some elaborate instructions. It includes boiling water, giving the area a saltwater bath, soaking it in gauze, and covering it with a special bandage. Apparently a garter belt does the best job of holding it all in place. He says the blisters are not getting worse, so that’s a good sign.

The blistering is only on one side – below his shoulder, near his collarbone. The other side hasn’t blistered – it’s just “scabby and lumpy”. He doesn’t even have blisters in his throat so is thankful about that – and very upbeat about the ordeal being almost over.

As usual, yesterday and today are worse than the weekend (from the chemo). He has been able to eat his 2 eggs and porridge, however, along with some vegetable soup that Patty made for him before she left. He also discovered the joy of freshly made won ton soup from a local restaurant so he will be taking advantage of that over the next few days.

Wilma and Gary are with him and when I called yesterday Aaron had joined them for the evening. They were all engrossed watching Tremé episodes.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cleaned, Creamed, and Covered

John is resting at home after his last round of chemo – doped up on steroids, painkillers, and anti-nausea medication. Wilma and Gary are staying with him and last night when we called, Aaron had joined the three of them as well.

Now the big challenge is hydration – lots of liquid to keep his system flushed. Wilma reported that it is not an easy task since soup has no taste and each spoonful is a burden. John did chow down 2 eggs and plenty of butter, however.

The doctor was somewhat concerned with the blistering on his clavicle so gave him some cream and bandages to keep it clean and covered. Given John’s reduced capacity to fight infection, the objective is to minimize the chance of it by being extra careful that the bugs don’t get in.

Only 4 more radiation treatments to go!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Last Chemo

Today is John’s last chemotherapy session. If the last 2 are any indication he will be in bad shape for a few days before bouncing back. Since Patty is off at a wedding in the east, Wilma and Gary will be taking over as the support team until her return.

John is also counting down on the radiation treatments – only 6 more left. He was surprised by the appearance of blisters near his collar bone but figures that he had missed taking care of this spot with the aloe cream treatment since he didn’t expect that the radiation would have hit this area. He is now struggling to keep ahead of the burns with the cream but finds it an irritating addition to his repertoire.

Aaron has passed on a few more photos for us.

Here is one of Shaver's anti-shaving treatment.

"Look Ma, no beard!"

Here are a few from John's trip to Bowen Island. He was enjoying the sunshine (remaining well-protected) while wandering in the garden.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bringing in the Barley

The worst part of the post-chemo agony seems to be over. So much so that John was up to a “regular workday” on Saturday. He took a trip out to Bowen Island to help with the farm chores. There was much heavy lifting since Aaron and the others were busy moving sandbags for a retaining wall. I expect John was not up to that much effort, however, so went off to check the barley that had grown up in the cast-off mulch from previous cleanups.

Refusing to give up, the stalks had taken advantage of the rich soil and pushed themselves up into patches of nicely ripened barley. John said that he cut off much of the “harvest” and piled the sheaves into stooks much as peasant farmers have done for centuries. Some of the grains were already dry enough to fall into his hands and he discovered how a little hand-rubbing could break off the husk. The wind was not strong enough to blow off the chaff in an efficient manner but he was certainly pleased with the opportunity to re-enact this time honoured tradition. “There is too much bran in the grain to make barley soup” he added.

Wilma and Gary are back in Vancouver again. They will be around for John’s final chemotherapy treatment on Thursday and will fill in for Patty when she heads off to attend a family wedding in the east. I expect he will miss her soups, ointments, experiments, comfort, and support.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Swish and Swallow

"Swish and swallow." Those were the instructions John received with the medicine to keep the thrush at bay. "Just do it 4 times a day."

The instructions should have been "Swish, gag, and hurl." according to John - they would have been more in line with his experience! It seems that his aloe vera elixir does not mix well with the thrush medicine so he has to time them to avoid any cross-contamination.

Today, however, he reported that things are much better - he can actually swish and swallow without the gagging. Maybe it was the Chinese herbs that Patty has introduced to his diet, or the gravol and ginger she found, or just the care and attention, but something seems to be working.

He said he even has enough energy to make a trip to Gibsons after his morning radiation treatment tomorrow. It turned out that his mailbox over there needs some attention so he will make the trip with his cooler stuffed with medicine, soup, and calorie drinks by his side.

"If only it didn't all taste like sand!" he added. Even french toast with lots of butter and maple syrup has lost its flavour. He reported that there is little joy in mixing up a fresh nectarine milkshake with gobs of ice cream since the taste is only a memory.

Shaving has also become a thing of the past as the radiation takes its toll. He said that the "damage" is right up to his top lip so he only has a bit of a moustache left. Once again aloe vera saves the day - this time as a face cream. I'm sorry I don't have any photos - yet.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fighting Candida

John suffered a bout of “thrush” in his mouth this last week. It is a yeast infection of the mucus membranes due to his depressed immune system. Mouthwash and meds seem to be controlling it, however, and he reported that once he worked out the timing of mouthwash, gargle, and eating, the relief was almost immediate.

He also reported that Friday was the first day after the second round of chemo that he went without the heavy nausea meds – and he felt pretty good. He has lost almost all of the weight he gained, though, so is now supplementing his food with calorie-boosting drinks. He is back down to 94 kg.

The good news is that food actually tastes like food. Patty made him a tasty lentil and coconut soup and he found that pork tenderloin can be cut up into small enough pieces and, when added to beef broth, makes a nice stew. “I can even taste the lovely pork fat flavour.” he told me.

After getting 21 of his 35 radiation treatments he is still without blisters and manages the fitful nights with his aloe vera mixture. Much of his time includes plenty of napping since he still feels exhausted.

Wilma has gone back home but she and Gary will be returning next week. This means that they will be around for his third and final chemo treatment.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Eating and Sleeping

John reports that his regime over the last few days has been eating and sleeping. As with the first round of chemo, the days following are “horrible” – super nausea (significantly moderated by the heavy medication), fatigue, and struggles to keep enough food going in to counterbalance the ramped-up metabolism of his body under attack. Our call caught him during an awake part of the cycle, slurping on a milkshake, and sounding like he was ready for another nap.

He said that he can finally tell that his neck is getting irradiated since the hair has stopped growing on his neck – on both sides: where the radiation enters and exits. His throat seems to be holding up, although his apple juice and aloe vera cocktail has been modified to aloe vera and water to avoid the acidic nature of the apple juice.

The daily radiation treatments are relatively quick, John reports. He lies down on a table and they clamp the previously prepared mould over his head – to make sure that his head is in the proper place for aiming the radiation. The radiation only takes a couple of minutes – except on Fridays when they add some time to conduct some “imaging” to assess the results of the treatment. This last Monday, meant no treatment however, since it is a BC holiday.

I have attached another of Aaron’s picture of John in his sunshine garb. He figures it may become a permanent feature of his attire – although he did not escape being ‘corrected’ by his older sister regarding the way in which the scarf is folded.