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The Pat Parish Family
I was born in Youngstown... kidding, before I start my cancer chapter I want to acknowledge my incredible wife Ruth. Those of you who know her understand how special she is. My "Renaissance Girl" added yet another skill to her long list of talents by assuming the role of "Nurse Ruth." These last couple of months have been most trying and I can't imagine what it would have been like without her fierce advocacy, positive attitude, kindness, patience and above all, love. As is her nature, she jumped in and assumed the role without hesitation, while maintaining her other roles as mother, friend and educator. How fortunate I am to have the the best friend, partner, and lover anyone could ever hope for. Many of you know this story already so feel free to skip down to the acknowledgements. On Thanksgiving morning I woke up and went to use the bathroom and my lower back seized up severely. I had been having pain in my rib area and lower back, but after working with a massage therapist/ healer, learning stretching and core-strengthening exercises, I was, for the most part, pain-free for several weeks, until about a week before. Since I had passed kidney stones previously, I assumed it was another stone. I went to Little Company and had an CAT scan and blood tests. The ER Dr. reported no signs of stones, did see scarring from past stones. Also saw "mottling" in my ribs, vertebrae, and pelvis. He was able to compare this Cat scan to the last one, three years before and saw no lesions at that time. He also discovered from the blood tests that I was anemic. His conclusion, no kidney stones but you most likely have multiple myeloma. Happy Thanksgiving! My first thought was, since Ruth and I were going through some physical challenges recently we would end by saying "Hey, it's not cancer", well, that no longer applied. We had a house full of people for Thanksgiving and had a lovely time. Since this was a very preliminary diagnosis Ruth and I decided to keep it to ourselves. It must be noted that Max and I as a team, lost our first game of "corn hole" together, and I am not making excuses here, but instead vow to not let happen again. The following week I saw a colleague of my Primary physician and she referred me to Cancer Care. I set up an appointment for December 13. Meanwhile, I would have blood work done before the consultation. I continued to work but the pain continued to worsen. The Er Dr. prescribed percoset and motrin which wasn't doing much. On December 7th I went back to see my Primary Care Physician to see if he could expedite the process. He recommended using a cane as I was having difficulty walking and cautioned me about falling. He told me to call Cancer Care to try to get an earlier appointment. I tried to no avail, I would have to wait until the following week. I did not return to work and had planned to take off the 9th anyway to drive to Santa Rosa and celebrate Hanukkah. We decided to go and I was able to manage pretty well. I had a wonderful time with family and it turned out to be a great decision. On December 13th we met with the oncologist, Dr. Sikaria who confirmed the diagnosis and gave us an idea of what was happening, explained the course of treatment, and different scenarios depending and how I responded to treatment. The first round of Chemo was scheduled for December 27th or the 30th. However, by the next day I couldn't get out of bed. The next day, the Nurse Practitioner at Cancer Care recommended calling paramedics to transport me to the ER. On December 15th I was admitted to Torrance Memorial Hospital. I was moved to the oncology unit and was given my first round of Chemo on the 17th. My pain was still so severe that I couldn't move from lying flat on my back. I would remain that way until I was transferred to the Transitional Care Unit. In the meantime I had an MRI, full skeletal x-rays, and bone marrow biopsy. MRI and x-rays revealed lesions throughout and compression fractures in five vertebrae as well as fractures in ribs and pelvis. I went from the "penthouse" a newly constructed single room suite to the "basement" the oldest part of the hospital in a shared room. This provided ample motivation to get up and get out. On December 22nd I was finally able to get up and out of bed. It was incredible how much my muscles had atrophied after only a week. After seeing myself in the mirror I wanted to cry. This further motivated me to get moving and get well. Since I was on so many opioides, I was constipated for days and needed an enema. To further complicate matters, my bladder also shut down and needed to have a catheter inserted to void. The following day, I had my second round of treatment. The Chemo seemed to be working already as my pain was lessening. I began Physical Therapy and was able to start walking with a walker. The next night my roommate "Art" a very old man, incoherent most of the time, came bursting through my curtain, in what can only be described as the scene out of "The Shining" "Heeeere's Art" with a wild look in his eyes and I'm convinced he's going to take a header on top of me. The bed alarm is going off and I'm furiously pressing the call button holding up my hand speaking to Art for the first time " No Art, get back in bed, get back in bed!" Finally the nurse came in and got him back in bed. Yes, more motivation. The next morning, my ever present and relentless advocate Nurse Ruth, had me transferred to another room. While "Ali"was hard of hearing, he was a quiet, sweet man with a kind, respectful family. A welcome relief. I was getting around and feeling stronger by the day. I was to be discharged on Christmas eve. The catheter was pulled but I was unable to void. The plan was to try in two more days and if I couldn't void I would have to leave with a bag. Insert catheter for the second time (big ouch). Wanting to be home for Christmas I was disheartened and sad. But with the help of friends and neighbors (see acknowledgements) Ruth ,Max and I were able to have a lovely Christmas dinner. On December 27th the catheter was pulled again but I was unable to void and was discharged with a bag. Going home was wonderful and lifted my spirits immeasurably. Seeing the Christmas tree and lights helped me to feel a little more of the holiday spirit. I am very grateful for all the love and support from my family and friends. The food, and gifts, visits, phone calls, e-mails, texts and cards are very much appreciated. Special thanks to Kate for being so helpful with Max, taking him to get a Christmas tree and taking he and his friends snowboarding, even though she was not feeling well, and being such a good friend to Ruth and myself. To Kay, Melanie, Pat and Deb for making delicious meals and cookies. To neighbors Jenny and Judy for flowers and grocery shopping and a delightful dinner party. To Ted, Larry, Les , the Simon family and Chuck and Paula for providing lunch. A very special thanks to Karen for lunch and helping us set up the Caring Bridge website. I continue to get stronger and more flexible every day. I have been very fortunate to have been very healthy my entire life, so this is very different for me. Luckily, I have learned to live in the present, because the past no longer exists and neither does the future. I can only live in the present and accept whatever challenges I face. I will say that this experience this has re-affirmed my commitment to living each day to it's fullest. Health, family, and friends remain my main priorities and with the help of modern medicine, will continue to enjoy all.