I felt like I had to open with that statement after a long hiatus from the blog, lest anyone worry that this update was bad news. Assuming anyone still reads this. I know when I see an update from the other caring bridge people I follow, my heart skips a beat, fearing the worst.
The last 6 months have been a slog for all of us, and as an immuno-compromised individual it would be tempting to wallow in self-pity about the situation, but honestly I haven’t found it to be that bad. Cancer aside, I am extremely blessed, and my personal situation allowed me to remain employed, be (relatively) productive in that job, and still find things to do to keep life enjoyable. I don’t know what it says about me that I don’t really miss being out and about with people, but it probably ain’t good.
I have just completed 6 months of immunotherapy which simply involved going to the hospital every 2 weeks, getting tests, consuming an IV full of immuno-gunk, and making bad jokes to the nurses. Visiting a hospital with a compromised immune system during a pandemic wasn’t super high on my bucket list, but the hospital did an amazing job of dealing with it. As of this writing, none of the patients under the care of the cancer center I go to have tested positive, which is wonderful news as they are a highly vulnerable group.
I did have a weird lingering cough for a while which required me to get Covid tested, a simple procedure using an 8-foot lance to stab my brain. It wasn’t really that bad although I have lost all my memories of 8th grade. No biggie, 8th grade sucked for me socially. The test was negative and gradually the cough subsided.
We suspect the cough was a mild side effect of the immunotherapy, and there were a few other side effects, although they were all laughably mild by comparison to the last 18 months and nothing to complain about. I did become somewhat of a running joke in the ward however, as my strength returned, and with nothing much to do due to covid, I became more and more active, and for some reason more and more accident prone.
In May, in pursuit of what I am sure was a murder hornet in our home, I managed to split my head open on a bannister. My platelet counts were not yet 100% back up to snuff, so it bled a little more than I was comfortable with, so I made the call. All was fine, not even stiches needed.
Then in June, as my physical activity increased, disaster nearly struck. I decided, in my imminent wisdom, that I would attempt to ride my bike to the top of the highest paved road in North America, Mount Evans. My logic was, if I got tired or in some sort of distress, I could always just turn around and coast home. The problem with that logic is my brain isn’t super big on quitting, so I pushed it all the way to the top where the air is thin, and the goats have taken over (see photo). All was fine however, but on the decent my lucky streak continued, and a very small rockslide came down right in front of me. Occasionally this happens in the Rockies, you sometimes see a few small rocks on the road from a crumbling hillside. But I have never seen it happen live, just the result. The odds of this happening right in front of me with no time to avoid it must be infinitesimally small. At least that is what I was thinking as I regained consciousness in the middle of the road. Two flat tires, a cracked helmet, a badly contused hip and shoulder and a badly scraped hand were the result. I actually had to descend 20 miles on a rear flat tire as I only had one spare and help was nowhere to be found thanks to the road being closed to drivers.
I drove myself to the ER and got stiches in my hand and chalked it up to bad luck. My doctor and the immunotherapy clinical trial people were NOT amused at my next visit however. OK, they were a little amused as apparently riding to 14,000 feet is usually not on the “to do” list of recently recovered cancer patients and I think they enjoy seeing the result of their work. Unfortunately, the pain in my hip persisted and I had to go in and have a hematoma drained in a pretty minor procedure. The doctor was your typical Denver doctor – a rider himself, very fit and very laid back. As he left the room he yelled back over his shoulder, “Keep the rubber side down man!”, advice I will certainly try to apply.
My insurance company despises me. I have stopped taking their calls.
So, for now, I am done. I go back in December for a scan to check the status of my treasonous torso, so until then it is fingers crossed that the sledgehammer of therapy we brought down on the lymphoma did the trick. It was slightly weird saying goodbye to the doctors and nurses who have taken such good care of me for so long, but they are used to people saying they hope they never see them again, and they embrace the valediction.
As always, I appreciate the support I have received from the many family members and friends who have stuck with me through all this – it meant the world to me, it really did. I do have one more favor to ask. As I was recovering, I decided to set a goal. There is a small 15-20 rider event in Colorado every year called "The Octopus". It's basically a very long, very difficult bike ride that involves about 100 miles of riding, while summiting 8 mountains over the course of a day (None of them are the cursed Mt. Evans, don’t worry).
It was a lofty goal, but with not much else to do but train it started looking more and more possible as time went on. Unfortunately, the event organizer had to cancel the event due to Covid. Undeterred, I reached out to him and asked his advice on how I could pull this off solo. Scott is a lovely guy and took the time to call me and coach me on how this could be done (safely, don't worry Mom). I have a plan and I intend to make the attempt on September 12, 2020.
I have set up a fundraising site in support of this, in hopes of “paying it forward” since I was the beneficiary of the decades of research that came before me. The link is below, and I would be grateful for any contributions – I promise you they are going to a very good cause!
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