June 2012


This is a radiation therapy machine. Pretty funky looking, right? I went with my dad this week to see what happens when he has radiation sessions. While he changed, one of the nurses took me into the room and explained what they were going to do. It’s kind of nifty, actually, and she took care to treat me as a daughter but not a 5-year-old. I chose this picture so you can see what I did – the whole thing rotates. It’s huge! And rotates. So actually, a lot of the machine is behind this.

Basically, my dad lies on a table (which they can also move 360 degrees, or close) and then they turn him and the table so that little tattoos are lined up with laserbeams coming from the walls and ceiling. When they created his care plan, they put tattoos on him so that the radiation would only go where it was needed. You don’t want that stuff going all over your body.

They let him bring a CD or iPod, and blast Beatles songs through his room (and the nurse’s station – which for radiation mildly resembles a cockpit). When my dad first spoke of his radiation, he mentioned it feeling as though he were in a planetarium. Now I see why. The radiation machine moves, he moves…it must be strange, disconcerting. He brings them M&Ms. He brought popcorn once, telling the nurses he’d put some kernels in his stomach to see if they popped. Always the comedian.

It’s a big room, as hospitals go. There is even a slight entryway before you turn the corner and see the layout of all the equipment and monitoring systems. As I left the room with the nurses, I thought maybe it was an extra precaution against the radiation. But what do I know. Maybe it’s just a nice privacy thing for patients. Regardless, a huge door slowly closed, and intermittently a sign above it would light up: “Radiation In Use.”

There were 2 monitors that showed my dad, and 3 others for the radiation, monitoring, and treatment itself. I didn’t watch this. I saw the setup and was content to sit in the little extra waiting area in front of the door.

After he changed back into his clothes, we went to a cafe so he could sit down and drink some water, get a snack. Incredible what just 15-20 minutes of radiation can do to the body. He’s on the last leg, though, which is good. Nearly done.

But the last is always the hardest. I was trying the somewhat chaotic work-from-home-and-bus-and-airport-and-plane, trying to figure out if I needed to be on a conference call or not…you know. Fun post-vacation agreements. My dad called me from downstairs. He had a hard time saying it: “I don’t think I can drive myself to radiation today.” He was so tired. Is so tired. And was just feeling awful. I called my mom; we knew there had been a chance of it, and it was fine, but she could not get out of her meeting. I raced around the house, throwing my things into my duffel bag and brushing my teeth so I’d be ready to catch my bus, and so I wouldn’t smell, respectively. I drove. We got there. There was no parking. He went off to his appointment and I drove around the parking lot like an idiot for awhile. There is a garage but it’s down the road and it would take too long. If his appointment was on time and as short as it had been the day before, I might be able to make it home in time.

As it was…no space opened up, Mom called, and after several back-and-forths, and voicemails on Dad’s phone, we agreed I should leave and meet her at home to grab my stuff.

Now, I know my dad doesn’t feel this way, but at the time…worst daughter ever, abandoning your dad at the hospital like that.

I reluctantly drove out of the hospital, grabbed my duffel bag and some snacks/breakfast/tea for the road, and my mom drove me to the bus. After, she picked him up. Turns out he did not have his phone on him, so even after his session had ended he would have no way of knowing. Presumably both got home with minimal freak-out, but I admit I’ve been too embarrassed to ask.

It will all be done soon. My dad would probably feel better if he watched his sugar more, but he’s in single digits for sessions left. He still ostensibly buys treats for me when I’m home, but is the only one to eat them.

My spastic work-from-wherever day was frustrating at best, and I didn’t get what I needed nearly on time, which led to backups the following day. My boyfriend picked me up from the airport and we grabbed dinner with his family. I checked work email. I was….well, just not in a good place. But my boyfriend, as ever, handled it, and we went to a late showing of Snow White and the Huntsman. Yes, lack of sleep followed. Yes, I was exhausted. But, mentally, I was good. We got everything done, on time, to the best of my ability, in the time given.

And…

Tomorrow is Friday!!!

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My dad is ready, organizing people, places, things – all for the wonderful August “Farewell to Cancer Party.” If you’ve been following for awhile, you may recall that almost as soon as I started this blog, I wrote about how weird it feels to bring someone you love to a hospital cancer center:

After a swing by a coffee shop, we headed back the way we came. Outside the doors, the ones below the big white sign: Cancer Center. Someday, this year maybe, it will be the last time he has to walk through them. He will be walking. And on his way outside. No more meds. No more treatments. Cancer-free.

And we will buy him scotch and throw a party.

OK.

And now it’s happening, calendars are getting marked. I’m beyond excited. This week has been completely up and down, with more awake midnights than I wanted, but everything is turning up. I’m catching a baseball game tonight, I’m going home this weekend. It reminds me of a song off the new Carrie Underwood album “Blown Away” (oh, is it not new? It’s just that it’s been on repeat on my iPod ever since I bought it).

Thank God for hometowns
And all the love that makes you go round
Thank God for the county lines that welcome you back in
When you were dying to get out
Thank God for Church pews
And all the faces that won’t forget you
Cause when you’re lost in this crazy world
You got somewhere to go and get found
Thank God for hometowns

To boot, I’m seeing some of our neighbors, speaking of “faces who won’t forget you.”

13 radiation sessions left. A party. Everyone’s going to be there. Reserving the location, planning caterers (and scotch for my dad, of course), getting ready to say farewell to cancer.

I’m so ready.

I finally saw my first lightning bug of the summer last night. I saw it on my walk home, just at late dusk. And then another, and another. They’ve always fascinated me. I don’t recall ever putting them in jars; that would have seemed mean. But I do remember shyly cupping them in my hands, giggling as they flitted and lit, and watching them fly off again. What memories of summer.

Playing outside in the grass until dark, wondering when my parents were going to come looking and trying to play as far away as I could, so they’d have to find me, and I could play longer. We used to go to the beach, and follow the lightning bugs around, being careful not to step on the rock-crab-seaweed we couldn’t see in the receding light. There’s one. Then there. There. There. Was it the same one, making us hurry-hurry-wait…wait? Or lots of them, playing with us, with each other?

Sand has this amazing power of feeling perfect on your feet, beneath your toes. It’s almost a squish but a welcome one, not quite like mud. I used to plop down in the middle of the little playground and spread sand over my feet, burying and reburying, over and over. Make sand-cakes, trying to keep them whole until the tide came and swept them away. Or the determined combination of wet sand, dry sand, and wind, when all of a sudden my creation fell out from under itself.

Suddenly it’s Thursday and I owe my few followers a post.

So, last night I splurged, sucked it up, and bought myself a new chair for home. I feel I should warn the front desk whenever it’s supposed to arrive, since it will be quite heavy and large.

I’m pretty excited. I know it won’t solve everything, but it will hopefully solve enough that I can stop PT soon, and also get back to playing Diablo III without it hurting.

It moves in so many ways! The chair itself: 9. The armrests: 2!

  1. Pneumatic Lift (up and down)
  2. Tilting Backrest (back, forward)
  3. Back Height Adjustment
  4. Tilting Seat
  5. Sliding Seat (slides forward or backward)
  6. Rocking Tilt (which…actually looks the same as tilting seat…)
  7. Tension Knob (for how easily it lets you lean back)
  8. Adjustable Lumbar (moves in and out)
  9. Forward Tilting (like rocking tilt, but forward, too)
  10. Armrests: up and down
  11. Armrests: in and out (to fit to your body)

Woo!

Besides that, I am starting to think about the summer craziness ahead (next week will be pretty intense) and may slow my frequency of posts. Haven’t decided.

Anyway, tomorrow is Friday, which is awesome. I think I may try to go dancing, and will go again Saturday night. Fun times. Peace.

You know those times when, you swear, you’re really going to get into a rhythm, a schedule? For real this time, I’m going to start getting up on time. I’m going to start going to bed earlier. I’m going to…

Yeah. I’m in one. For the past several nights, my bedtime has been around midnight. Now, you normal people might say, “Yeah, and?” but in fact I can’t often do that anymore. Well, obviously, I can, but I don’t like to. It totally messes with me. So, after finishing a lovely DVD marathon of Boy Meets World Season 1, around midnight, I decided: yeah! This time I’ll do it! I’ll just force myself to get up early, suck it up, and..stuff! Yeah! I even meditated last night (this morning?).

I practice transcendental meditation (TM). TM is unlike other meditation methods in that I’m not forced to clear my mind. Because that’s ridiculous. Our brains work all the time. You can’t just turn it on and off, like a lightbulb. I’ve tried. TM, when you learn it, aims to let you be calm, to let thoughts pass in, and then pass out, and gradually penetrate that deep part of your brain that you almost never use (you don’t use most of it, actually). It relieves the stress (or attempts to) from the surface down. Several studies prove a number of things about it, most of which are positive. Better, less-stressed, more intellectual. All sorts of cool things I won’t bore you with. It’s just 20 minutes, twice a day, repeating a mantra over and over. The mantra is particular to each person, private, your own. I learned TM my senior year of college, and absolutely loved it. After several weeks of regular practice, I started getting at that deep part of myself. I’d repeat the mantra, everything would fade, and all of a sudden my timer would go off. Almost every day, many of us also went to the same space to meditate as a group. I got better meditations with other people and good energy in the room.

Balancing two majors, weekend nights as an EMT, a job at the library, and directing or managing several plays, I was somewhat relieved to be able to learn how to meditate. I was able to keep it up most of the summer, since I interned near home and not crazy hours. It slipped off, and now I rarely remember. And it’s not a save-all anytime: you don’t benefit from just a random session, here or there. So, every once in awhile, I think, Yeah! This time! Tomorrow! This week! On Monday!

This morning, my plan was to get up at 5:30, meditate, ease into the day, shower, make tea, heat up a home-made cinnamon roll for a sweet breakfast, and slide out, arriving at work by about 7.

This morning, in reality, consisted of approximately:

5:30 – hear music, see post-it note past-me had placed over the alarm time change buttons, feel the correct ones anyway, reset for 6am.

6:00 – hear music, see post-it note, reset for 6:15

6:15 – hear music, see post-it note, cringe, reset for 6:35

6:35 – hear music, see post-it note, reset for 6:50

6:50 – hear music, see post-it note, sigh, reset for 7:15

7:15 – hear music, see post-it note, reset for 7:30

7:30 – hear music, see post-it note, go to reset, and realize I have a meeting and have to actually get up this time; speed through a shower, put work back in bag, realize I have no time to actually make a lunch, make tea, grab rainjacket, run downstairs with shoes half pulled on.

So, you see my dilemma. Of course I was useless for the better part of the morning until the tea kicked in. I know what I need to do, I just have trouble doing it.

This time, really, I’ll do it. I’ll even set my alarm to reveille to have it blast me out of bed. I’m not military, but my summer camp used bugle songs as a sort of time-keeper, like bells in a school, and there were consequences for missing flag-raising. There wasn’t actually a lot of time between reveille and flag-raising, and the bathroom was always crowded. It was in your best interest to go, and be seen there on time.

I’m a dork, I know. It got me back, though: the other week I was riding the train with my iPod on shuffle, and wouldn’t you know but reveille came on and about scared me out of my seat. Go figure.

PS: please try not to spell “meditate” as “mediate.” They’re so not the same thing. <cough>news writers<cough>

Results from procedure came back and I’m in the clear! I also spoke to my PTist. Is that a thing? PT tends to mean “physical therapy;” can I do “PTist” as physical therapIST?

Regardless, he’s found a different chair with so much adjustability the hardest part will be finagling it to fit me. I can even get armrests that move in or out & up and down…I’m slim, so armrests that don’t make my elbows fly away from me is good. Snazzy long name: Office Master 7780 Paramount Task Chair.

This weekend means a gala event Friday night, possible coffee-hangout with college friend, and planned brunch Sunday. I’m going to make cinnamon rolls! So, I’ll either get up 3 hours early or let them set the night before. Yay!

Short post. But full of relief.

Do I get it? Do I not? Do I splurge on something that could help me a lot? Is that a splurge?

Thanks to my pleading call to friends, I have somewhat settled on Herman Miller. I’ve heard a lot about them. The one I want is called the Aeron.

Thank you to Herman Miller for the picture (screenshot)

Aeron has some renown in the ergonomic world. HM has a 12-year warranty, which seems sweet to me. Their Return policy is nice.

Mods:

  • Small Chair Size (not standard Medium; I’m pretty small)
  • Adjustable Lumbar Support (instead of the Adjustable PostureFit Support, for which I’ve heard slightly less than amazing reviews)

I’m thinking about my summer. More than usual, my summer entails hours upon hours of work at a computer, typing. Some of that I’d like to do at home, for various reasons. In fact, my arrangement at work, though not perfect, is far better than the one at home. After a couple of hours at home, I can barely move my neck, and the pain lasts for days afterwards. I know stretches from PT, and after tomorrow’s session (yes, I’ll ask about the Aeron), I’m not sure how much it’s really going to help me. My job revolves around writing (which I love), so there’s no getting out of that. Besides, I’m also a nerd who plays select computer games. It’s just how the world works these days.

So? What do you think? This isn’t just a “buy a new chair” – this is buy the new chair.

<PS they’re having a sale so it’s this week or…well, more money>