• My only other obvious sign of therapy has been my right eye. The tumor there has ceased to cause blind spots but still limits my near vision significantly. My left eye can read fine. As the degree of this is still fluctuating I am hesitant to order another pair of soon-to-be useless glasses and have opted for store-bought reading glasses. My recent solution is to buy a strong prescription strength pair and pop out the left lens. It gives me an intellectual homeless look and helps keep the seat next to me empty on airplanes.
• I have been shuttling between Ft. Lauderdale and Houston on Southwest Airlines, which has a couple direct flights a day and no change fees (important when you have those open-ended doctor appointments). Last week I was elevated to their “A-list” category because of my frequent flying. I now have the highest status on the cheapest, no-frills airline in the country. Yeah! Not exactly like George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air”, but two bags of peanuts are always better than one.
• Food tastes have largely bounced back from chemotherapy. Before treatment I classified food into three categories – unacceptable, acceptable and enjoyable. The split was roughly 15/60/25% and after treatment it was 15%/84%/1%. My love of everything coffee related took a real hit, as I could not stomach it in any version. This was especially painful after my significant purchase earlier this year of a gleaming chrome and black Swiss designed, Italian espresso machine. I can now drink coffees and lungos and lattes, but the love has yet to return. However, not having to wake up for anything seems to counterbalance this somewhat. Ann and I have recently started eating raw vegan from previously eating a vegetarian diet. This makes the food split about 98%/1%/1%.
• Appetite is one of the common casualties of chemotherapy, which leads to inevitable weight loss. This is so cruel as it is one point in your life that you want and need to gain weight but when you have lost any taste for food. Note that cancer research has shown that the chemical marinol is one of the most effective anti-nausea appetite-building drugs available. It occurs naturally in cannabis sativa (marijuana). Just saying.
• Those of you who know me know that only alcohol can beat out coffee in terms of most likely to be in my hand at any given time. This went out the window during the first treatment, partially from recommendations of the medical team but mostly from taste. Now I can stomach a hoppy wheat beer with a meal but no wine or other alcohol. Besides the obvious physiological improvements that resulted I estimate this has saved me between $50 and $350 a week. Who said cancer treatment does not have a positive side?
• Other positives include the skin rejuvenation I received on my last round of chemotherapy. My face peeled non-stop for almost three weeks. As a result, I still have people telling me how much younger I look. Laser skin resurfacing costs an average of $2,100 according to Dr. Oz. In addition to significant costs savings from dry cleaning, hair products, commuting costs of gas and tolls, I think I may be in for a financial windfall.
• My wife has used some of the money to pamper me in my time of need. She does, however, get the least usable present award for buying me a gift certificate for a scalp massage after receiving a particularly fabulous one at a local spa. A few days later we found out I had a skull lesion, basically a hole in my head that is probably best not massaged. Awkward. But this did not stop her from the requisite “hole in the head” comments.
• Ann, of course, has been my champion through all of this. We laugh, we cry – but mostly we laugh. That’s why I love her and why I married her. We know that many cancer books recommend latching onto a poem or a song that can help pull you through the tough times. We could not get past a rewording of John Denver’s “Sunshine” where “sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy” becomes “sunshine on my shoulders gives me cancer” (my first and second incidents of melanoma were on my left shoulder). OK, you probably had to be there for that.
• Another inside joke between us stemmed from the award winning biggest understatement of a nurse who, upon checking off my list of symptoms, stated that I was in “perfect health – well, except for the cancer.” Now Ann I use this as our standard line when we so often have to go through these checklists. We tell them “no nausea, no pain, no falling or injuries, etc., etc., – I’m in perfect health”, then - in unison - “except for the cancer!” [buh-bump]. Cracks me up everytime, but many nurses seem have no sense of humor. I don’t think cancer has a sense of humor either.