27 April 2011

Bubblers are for n00bs

Step one is getting a letter from your doctor. Step two is actually going to a dispensary and buying medical marijuana. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous just walking in the door, but as it turns out, the employees were very nice. I got to chat a bit with the guy guarding the door while some unknown entity verified my letter behind what was probably a bullet-proof one-way mirror.

Once the entity granted me safe passage into the back room, I was faced with more strains of marijuana than I thought could possibly exist. Having no idea where to start, I gave up trying to act cool and admitted to the clerk that I was lost. He was very nice, asked me what I was looking for, then brought out some samples for me to look at. First we looked at the ones best for nausea. He turned on a lighted magnifying glass and invited me to examine the samples. After admitting that I had no idea what I was doing, he explained what to look for under the glass and what to smell for. It was fairly random, and quite possibly based on the name, but I picked one that didn't smell horrible. We repeated the process with the ones best for pain, with me pretending I could smell the difference.

After further discussing my situation, I also picked out some ready-made edibles - pretzels and animal crackers. If I can barely sit up, eating might be easier for me than smoking. However, the doctor said I'd get the best result from smoking. Which brings me to the final item on my list.

I consulted with friends who had more interesting times in high school and college to determine that I should get a bong with a diffuser. Unfortunately, the dispensary only sold pipes and paper, necessitating a trip to Venice Beach over the weekend.

After being buzzed out of the two separate exit doors, I found myself on the sidewalk holding a bag full of pot. So what's the first thing I see? An unmarked police cruiser parked directly in front of me. Of course. I tried to not look so obviously guilty, but my nonchalant walk needs some practice. Miraculously, I made it back to the car unscathed.

Venice Beach is full of fine, upstanding establishments selling water pipes, bubblers, and all sorts of other "tobacco" paraphernalia. With the help of a trusted, and more experienced friend, I acquired a bubbler. The theory was that it would cool off and smooth out the smoke for my unaccustomed lungs. The only problem was that the thing was butt ugly.

Who wants to stare at something labelled "ILL-G" when they feel violently ill? Not to mention the stem looks like a glass penis. This clearly is unacceptable, so after some discussion with the ever-lovely Simone, I decided to paint it.

A unicorn jumping over a rainbow in space.

Not my best camera work, but you can clearly see that it's a unicorn jumping over a rainbow in space. More importantly, you'll note that the stars and the unicorn's horn are covered in glitter. But not just any glitter, glow in the dark glitter! Clearly I doubled the resale value of this instance of bubbler.

26 April 2011

Are there negative rankings yet?

There was a big todo over Google changing their algorithms and causing content farms to drop in rankings. Well, since so many people have asked me about this change, I have decided to respond publicly:

eHow = fail

21 April 2011

Reports of my death are greatly exagerated

As promised, the following is my account of last Monday's events.

Somehow, around dinner time, I made it upstairs to bed. My stomach had decided to join in the pain party, leaving me curled up in bed. After a few hours, Matt came upstairs to check on me. By then I had to pee quite badly, so he helped me into the bathroom. Unfortunately, try as I might, I was physically unable to pee. Not good. On top of that, I was sweating profusely and my skin was cold to the touch. Cold enough that Matt noticed it as soon as he touched my arm.

My mom was beckoned to survey the situation and immediately agreed with Matt that the doctor should be called. After explaining the situation, the doctor on call declared that it was time for me to go back to the emergency room! The doctor called ahead to let the hospital know I was coming.

I was half dragged half carried to the car for what I can only describe as the worst drive in my entire life. Every time the car went over a bump I thought I was going to die. Thankfully, I survived long enough to be pushed into the hospital in a non-ergonomic wheel chair.

Soon after arrival I found myself in a private room with a bathroom. Since I still had to pee quite badly, my mom helped me into the bathroom. This time I was successful, but it didn't alleviate my stomach pain.

The triage nurse came in to visit and take my temperature. It was a boiling 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Considering that your temperature rises throughout the day, this was even worse than it sounds.

I waited for the doctor while curled up on the bed. Sadly, the doctor needed me to lie flat on my back and poke my stomach for part of the exam. I managed to force myself flat by reminding myself that it would enable the doctor to give me pain medicine. Then I had to hold my arm perfectly still while the nurse took a super extra sterile gallon of blood for blood cultures. Since I still had some blood left, he filled four or five more vials for regular sterile blood tests. Afterwards, he hooked me up to a saline IV and gave me an injection of dilaudid, a narcotic related to morphine.

On a side note, the nurse who gave me the IV recognized me from my visit on Thursday. I was too out of it to remember much of anything that happened during that visit, much less the specific nurse.

I started feeling better in just a few minutes, but it was ruined by the doctor wanting me to have a CAT scan. CAT scans work best if the victim drinks a liter of the foulest tasting oral contrast. I successfully drank two sips before refusing to even try any more. The doctor approved of my dismay. Now the only thing preventing me from being scanned was the urine test.

Due to hospital policy, all females are required to have a urine pregnancy test before being exposed to radiation. Also, they wanted to do some other urine tests. Well, fine then. Except I just finally peed. But they just gave me a liter of IV fluids.

Well, my lower parts decided to return to uselessness. The result? I got probed by a catheter! I can honestly say that I did not enjoy that experience.

I barely remember the CAT scan or what happened afterwards as I drifted in an out of sleep from the happy drugs. I do remember, however, that the doctor declared me to have a lower innards infection. The nurse hooked me up to IV antibiotics while the doctor offered to admit me for observation. I desperately wanted to go home, to which the doctor agreed, provided someone kept an eye on me for the return of symptoms.

The doctor prescribed vicodin for the pain and giant horsepills for the infection. Apparently the infection was bad enough that even after the IV antibiotics, I still needed four pills a day for seven days. At least I got to go home.

Once home, I returned to my comatose state on the couch, where I stayed through Thursday. On Thursday, Matt spoke with Dr. Oncologist about my lack of improvement. She declared that I needed to be convinced to eat something, anything. Perhaps some medical marijuana would help?

That evening I forced two tacos down my throat. I can't really describe the amount of effort it took just to eat, or overcome the nausea for long enough to not choke. But I succeeded!

Friday I finally started feeling better. My stomach was no longer trying to kill me, the bone pain was no longer severe, and I had a bit of energy from the two tacos. I was even slightly mobile! I was able to eat a bit more, which gave me more strength. While there was no miraculous salvation available, it was the start of an upward trend towards rejoining humanity.

As the weekend progressed, I got kept eating and kept getting better. I even managed to get out of the house long enough to have dinner at a restaurant on Sunday night.

Today is Thursday, and I'm still not completely back to normal. I'm a bit shaky and I often feel week. But I am back at work, which is a vast improvement over stuck at home.

Only seven days left until round two. Needless to say, I am NOT looking forward to it.

20 April 2011

The munchies is a feature

For some reason, today seems like the right day to discuss California-approved medical marijuana. From when I was first diagnosed right up until the chemo drugs started flowing, it was fun to joke about how I should get a prescription and share the wealth. Then I spent a week from hell on the couch, withering away from nausea and pain. By Thursday, Dr. Oncologist was worried enough about my condition that she suggested medical marijuana. Completely on her own accord. She even wrote up the prescription for Matt to pick up, though she made it clear that it was still my choice.

At the time, the thought just made me more upset. In retrospect, I'm not really sure why it made me upset, except for the fact that I was already well past miserable and somewhere near tormented soul. Once my brain, and the rest of my body, returned to a useful state, it took me about 37 milliseconds to decide that I am willing to try anything to not experience the same level of agony again. Maybe when I'm high it'll be funny again!

This weekend we are going to the apothecary to stock up on medical supplies. I will report back with my experience on a less appropriate day.

18 April 2011

Time for happy thoughts!

Cancer is stupid and I really can't find anything nice to say about it, so I've decided to ignore it for the rest of this update. After all, there are other things going on in my life. I can barely remember what they are, but I'm sure they exist. So there.

In the middle of the disastrous mess commonly known as last week, I received two phone calls. The first was to let me know that Mom's dress for my wedding had arrived. The second was to let me know that my dress was also ready. How's that for timing? And while that was by far not the worst thing to happen in recent memory, it left me extra miserable. How dare my dress arrive while I was busy dying on the couch!

Seeing as how my mom was just as cooped up as me, only more capable of walking without falling over, she had no problems going to her dress store on Sunday. She had fun strutting around the store in her shiny Jimmy Choo shoes and sparkly dress. I had fun not being in the house. Matt had fun sitting in a corner and pretending he was somewhere else.

After lunch, which was also outside our domicile, I wanted a shiny new wedding toy. Ideally I would have tried on my dress, but apparently it's hard to make an appointment ahead of time when you have no idea if you'll be alive on a given day. Instead, I had to make due with a trip to Tiffany's. Alas, woe is me.

I knew which wedding band I wanted. Any guesses? No? Oh fine. The one that matches my engagement ring! Easiest decision I ever made. Matt pondered a bit, then chose the one I knew he'd choose. My mom seemed to approve of our choices, or at least she didn't complain audibly.

The nice lady behind the counter asked if I wanted to wear my ring home, but Matt said no. Also, that would have been slightly very odd. In the pretty blue box with a white bow it went. Matt's had to be ordered in his size, so he has to wait a couple of days to not wear his ring. And then we'll both have to wait while they are engraved. And then wait until September. If only I was better at the whole patience thing. At least I can admire the box.

Now where is the picture of the aforementioned shiny wedding band that matches my engagement ring so perfectly? Why, there is none! To take a picture I'd have to unwrap the also aforementioned ribbon, and there's no way I can retie it properly. It's all about priorities.

In other wedding news, we have a newly revised list of things we should have done two months ago. Since we were slightly preoccupied with doctor-type activities, we may have fallen a bit behind. Luckily, we have a whole week and a half before chemo ruins my life again! We're doomed! Dooooooooooomed! But that's why we have a wedding planner and a signed contract that says she'll help figure everything out. Take that subspace!

16 April 2011

And then everything got worser

When I last posted, it was the day after round one of chemo. Everything sucked, but it was a marginally bearable amount of suck. Unfortunately, it didn't last.

The damn Nulasta shot from last Friday works by sending the active bones into overdrive, so they create more white blood cells to replace the ones killed off by chemo. While perfectly fine in theory, some people experience severe bone pain around 12-16 hours after the shot. And by some people, I mean me.

My bone pain was worst in my femurs, though it made itself known in my pelvis, sternum, and neck as well. Sometimes my the back of my head would get bored and join in the fun, but that may have just been a side effect of something else.

Just in case things weren't bad enough with the residual steroids and severe bone pain, Saturday morning was also time for the chemo drugs to start adversely affecting me! Even with all the anti-nausea meds, I couldn't eat. I couldn't drink. The few times something purporting to be edible got near my tastebuds, it tasted wrong and awful. Sitting up was not an option. Just getting to the bathroom practically required someone carrying me, yet it still used up any energy I might have had. Talking was a waste of energy, so I didn't bother unless I really needed something. Even changing the channel when something stupid came on wasn't worth moving. It was that bad.

Per Dr. Oncologist's instructions, Matt rotated me through all the boring over the counter pain relievers. Nothing worked, so I was bumped up to the percoset left over from my surgery. That got rid of the bone pain, but it also made the fireplace attack me. Or at least that's what I thought was happening, despite Matt's assurances that the fireplace was resolute in it's inanimateness. Unfortunately, I had similar problems with a watering can and plant in the bedroom. In my defense, the watering can is shaped like an elephant and has googly eyes.

Apparently Matt didn't think hallucinations were a good thing, so he called the doctor on Monday morning. She called in a prescription for Tylenol with codine, which wasn't perfect, but did a decent job of alleviating the pain without any fireplace attacks. Sadly, it did nothing for the intense nausea, complete lack of energy, or aversion to food and water.

Typing is zapping away all my energy, so you'll have to wait to find out what excitement occurred later that day. Here's a clue: As of right now, I still have my hair, so it didn't all suddenly fall out on Monday afternoon.

08 April 2011

Steroids are just as stupid as bald

I just spoke with Dr. Oncologist. Apparently the ridiculous amount of steroids pumped into my veins yesterday are causing the burning face problem. At least they served their purpose yesterday, what with the warding off death and all.


I am currently on the couch, trying desperately not to puke while the first anti-nausea drug kicks in.

Everything started out normal enough. The nurse, whose name happened to be Sharon, took half my blood, making plenty of room for the horsepill and eight gallons of IVs. It was by no means fun, but at least I had Mommy and Matt to talk with and order about.

The first drip was a Benadryl and something else cocktail designed to ward off allergic reactions and cure me of hairy wolf feet. The first real drug was the Herceptin, the HER2 drug. No problem there, unless you count having to wait for an hour and a half while it slowly seeped into me arm. That was my first dose of a year's worth of treatment. Then came something else of equal boredom. And then came the evil known as Taxotere.

About a minute after it started, I suddenly felt nauseated beyond all repair, immediately followed by my face turning firetruck red and my breathing becoming difficult. Having never had an allergic reaction since the Pertussis vaccine when I was a youngin (according to mom, that merely gave me a fever and the urge to scream, but the screaming part wasn't anything special), it would be appropriate to describe my terror as me thinking I'm about to die.

Dr. Oncologist and her nurse minions rushed over to stop the drip and flush me with all sorts of anti-allergy drugs. I didn't catch the name of most of them, but I'm sure Matt remembers. They were about to hook me up to oxygen, but the hydrocortisone was nice enough to let me breath.

Apparently the stupid Taxotere is incredibly important, and I would have received it regardless of the HER2 results. In other words, once I recovered and was given a direct shot of Benadryl, bringing me up to 75mg of intravenous Benadryl, it was time to restart the damn Taxotere. This time the drip would be much slower.

I now know what it's like to be a fish in a bowl as everyone was staring at me for signs of firetruck face. I was fine at ridiculously slow drip pace one, enticing Nurse Sharon to bump up the rate ever so slightly. Still fine, and still being pumped full of anti-firetruck face drugs, Dr. Oncologist authorized another increase. This turned out to be a mistake.

I felt my cheeks start to burn again and my throat felt weird. NURSE! The Taxotere was officially called off for the day. Since I technically only need four doses of it, but I'm scheduled for six doses of the other goops, this wasn't a major setback, just an unfortunate one. Dr. Oncologist decided that since she and her nurses had no other ideas for getting the damn stuff in me while allowing me to breath, she is going to spend some time with the other doctors figuring out what to do such that yesterday's results don't reoccur. The stupid Taxotere is that important.

It's hard to tell, but there are seven bags hanging. This does not include all of the injections that were shot directly into the IV.

Happily, it was time to go home. Or at least that was the plan until my face started burning on the car ride. Matt immediately called the doctor, who instructed him to give me two of the steroid pills. They didn't work. Another phone call to Dr. Oncologist and it was time to turn around and go to the emergency room at St. Johns. The doctor called the ER ahead of time, and conveniently her office is part of the St. Johns medical center, so they had all my records before I arrived.

I was pushed in on a wheel chair because all the medicines left me unable to walk without tipping over in the most inconvenient direction possible. I felt horrible. I was told I looked nice and red again. That didn't make me feel any better, but at least it got me into my own private ER room quickly. I didn't even know they had private rooms there.

They only let one visitor go into the back with me. Since I'd be damned if I was letting go of Matt's hand, he was it. Needless to say, I was terrified and not letting him go anywhere. A random nurse was kind enough to bring my mom in, under the guise that the waiting room was too full for her to stay in there.

I believe they started with blood tests, via a shiny new IV. Since I can only have injection in my right arm, it's starting to look rather miserable. I started feeling more like a non-dying person. I also received my first allergy notice band, which I proudly displayed next to the regular admissions band.

On a side note, apparently most tetanus shots are given with pertussis now, for god knows what reason. I may have to start wearing a medical bracelet.

The doctors wanted a urine test, so I experienced the thrill of peeing in front of a complete stranger. Her purpose was making sure I didn't fall over and bonk my head. Sadly, she was necessary.

As various tests came back in what I can only assume was record timing, I was given drugs to make everything all better.

All I wanted to do was go home. Eventually, I got my wish, but two someones insisted that I eat a small bowl of chicken soup broth before I went to bed. They are so mean.

I feel better this morning, though my face still feels hot. I have to go back to Dr. Oncologist anyway, for a Neupogen shot. Apparently it's important if I want my white blood cell count to stay up.

We'll see what happens.

07 April 2011

Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get any worse


This took place three blocks west and one block south of the hospital full of all my lovely doctors. There are at least three helicopters hovering, none of which belong to a news station.

And now I must exit the elevator, as apparently, despite my protests to the contrary, I still need chemo.


UPDATE: It turned out to be a poorly randomized gas explosion.

Look at me, I'm panic-y! Lousy with cancer-y!

When chemo was merely a distant impediment, it was nothing more than an unfortunate hair cut. The past week or so, well, it's been HOLY CRAP I REALLY WOULD RATHER NOT BE INFUSED WITH VOMIT-INDUCING MEDICINE THANK YOU VERY MUCH. On top of that, my psychiatrist switched me from Zoloft to Paxil the week before surgery, since Paxil helps more with the depression that inevitably comes with an OCD and cancer cocktail. Unfortunately, I'm still working my way up to the usual OCD dose. In other words, I may not have been my normal rational self recently.

I performed some spectacular freaking out over a truly minor bend in my semifinal game ticket while we were in Houston. At the time, as far as I was concerned, the world was ending and I was appropriately miserable. Matt was fully aware of what was going on, and that my ever so erratic behavior was highly influenced by my fear of chemo. My cousin and Matt's friend, also known as Seat 3 and Seat 4, were totally confused at first, but I think they finally understood what was going on in my less than sane brain.

On Sunday, we went to the Houston Zoo, one of two worthwhile non-sports attractions in the city. A penny squishing machine in the reptile house was missing its broken sign, so I spent fifty-one cents acquiring half of a poison dart frog penny. Admittedly, under normal circumstances, I would have complained to management. Not only did I get my money back, but they let me keep the problem penny. Oh, and they put up a new sign. I totally taught them a lesson.

While I'm on the subject of the zoo, I should mention that a certain Matt wouldn't let me adopt an Asian river otter. At first he was incredulous that there was actually a sign encouraging adoption, but he still refused even after discovering that adoption was just zoo-speak for a donation to help support a specific animal. Seat 4 encouraged adoption, but he was mostly just trying to mess with Matt. In other words, no new friends for Zero.

Matt wasn't able to stop me from acquiring a giraffe from the gift shop. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to stop a leg from breaking off on the trip home, as I discovered this morning. Not cool.

Monday saw us renting a car to drive to the Space Center, the other worthwhile attraction. What was supposed to be the non-basketball highlight of the trip was best described by Seat 3 as a crappy version of the Liberty Science Center. The only adult activity was the two hour wait for the tram ride to the Saturn V rocket. We decided to skip the line and drive over ourselves. And then it started to rain. My great hope for distraction from bent ticket doom may not have lived up to expectations, but it did provide some temporary amusement. At least until I started thinking about stupid chemo again.

Yesterday I went to work for an attempt at normalcy. The miraculous part was that I actually got my OKRs done for the next quarter. I won't mention the horrible grades I gave myself for last quarter, seeing as how I have a damn good excuse for failing to finish anything. While it was nice to see people again, everyone wanted to know about Operation: Chemo. In other words, I became more and more nervous as the day wore on, until finally I left to retrieve the mutt from boarding and the mom from the aeroport.

The plan was to go out to one last dinner before my world once again collapsed in upon itself to for a black hole of yucky. You'll note that no where in this plan did I mention an asshat forgetting to look left while turning left and smashing in the side of my car. It was my first day of driving since the surgery, so I was driving Matt's non-manual transmission car. He was driving my car, what with his two useful arms, when it was hit. He was absolutely fine. My pretty Audi S5, a car that I absolutely love, well, it's going straight to the body shop.

Matt's car almost got squished when I stopped short to avoid hitting the car in front of me that stopped short. The car behind me ended up swerving into oncoming lanes (thankfully empty lanes) to avoid hitting me.

In case it wasn't remotely obvious, I don't want to go to chemo. But Matt and my mom are rather insistent on the subject. So in one measly hour, I will be flooded with all sorts of chemicals. Whether I want to be or not. Definitely, absolutely, one hundred twenty-seven percent not.

When I was born, I spent some quality time in a neonatal glovebox with a tiny lamb doll that my grandmother bought. My mom brought it with her, so now it can spend some quality time in the oncologist's office. Yay?

I am done rambling as I am about to be dragged out the door. Totally voluntarily.

06 April 2011

We didn’t have a dog in this fight

None of the teams that Matt picked in his bracket made it to the Final Four, but we did! I was too busy not moving, or caring, to fill in my own bracket, so I was perfectly fine with just the idea of adventure.

You may be wondering where we got Final Four tickets. Or what the Final Four might be. Or what a wall hanging device has to do with anything. So I shall start from the very beginning.

Matt actively cares about one sport, which happens to be college basketball. After the 2010 season ended, a previously dormant neuron in his brain said, “Hey! You there! Perhaps you should look into getting tickets to see one of those spiffy games in person?”

Obviously, many of the finals tickets go to the schools playing. Others go to media, NCAA peons, the host schools, and other categories that in no way include us. However, those of us not deemed worthy can enter a lottery to buy tickets. Fork over the full price of the tickets and lottery fee upfront, and voila, you are entered. The Final Four consists of two semi-final games (which are the same night and on the same ticket) and the national championship, so for four seats, that’s eight tickets worth of paying upfront. At least they refund the tickets, if not the lottery fee, should you lose.

Sometime over the summer, Matt received an email indicating success. I have to admit, it was hard to get excited over Houston. But, like I said before, adventure.

Now that your curiosity regarding tickets has been appeased, you may be wondering if our little trip got in the way of my being flooded with more chemicals. Well, Dr. Oncologist happens to be a big college basketball fan, so she had no problem making sure that my already aggressive treatment schedule had room for the trip. Also, I needed to finish healing up enough from surgery to be further inundated.

Now for the games. But first, it must be said that Reliant Stadium is freaking huge. No matter how big you are picturing the stadium to be, double it. Then add another thirty percent. Cap it off with a retractable roof and oxygen tanks for the upper tiers. Now you have some idea as to where we were sitting. Being recently built, there was nothing impeding our view but ice cold air. Oh, and our tier had binocular rentals.

Saturday night consisted of two games in a row. In other words, six hours in the stadium. Towards the end, I wasn’t exactly paying the slightest bit of attention to the game, much less holding still. I was originally rooting for VCU, since they have a better looking mascot, but I changed my mind about Butler when they brought out a cute bulldog after winning. As for the UConn Huskies versus the Kentucky Wildcats, that was a no brainer. Husky > Dumb Wildcat.

UConn won, making Monday’s final a dog fight between the Bulldogs and Huskies. In general, I have to prefer a Husky over a Bulldog, but a certain team failed to bring an actual husky to the game. Ergo, I rooted for Butler.

Well, UConn destroyed Butler, even without a cute puppy. We stayed long enough to watch them cut down the nets in celebration. Most people didn’t, which meant no long line for the shuttle back to the hotel when we finally left. Victory was ours!

Matt has already entered the lottery for next year’s Final Four in New Orleans.