Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Crazy Good First Day Of Chemo

With the dog days of summer, 2014 behind us, and Halloween almost upon us… All the leaves are green and the skies are gray,etc….  lately… I got to thinking this past weekend that there aren't too many days left this year before a day at the dog park with Cooper and Keegan would be out of the question. And this past weekend just so happened to be a beautiful Saturday and Sunday back-to-back, so I spent about a hour or two at the dog park both days. Monday, I was going to be starting my post surgery chemotherapy, so I wanted to really enjoy the weather on a park bench watching the dogs play. Everybody wins!
It was on Sunday, however that I struck up a conversation with the gentleman sitting on the bench next to me. He was rather quiet, and I couldn't even tell which dog was his. I was sitting there pensively contemplating going to the hospital the next day and wondering if over the next few weeks I was going to experience any nausea along with the inevitable fatigue and if it would prevent me from trying to find some part time holiday work or even afford me enough energy to work from home, being that I feel so desperately compelled to go back to work again, if even for a few hours a week.
Suddenly, I found myself saying out loud, "Wow, this is my last day of freedom for a while!"
The guy next to me on the bench replied, "Why? Are you going to jail?"
I explained that I had just had rectal cancer surgery and I was going for the chemo" He said, "I know all about it, I'm a doctor" He added, "I'm due for a colonoscopy myself. It's been about ten years"
"Yeah, you're due" I countered.
Anyway, through our conversation, it turns out he was there with his wife who was playing with their dog. The two had just returned from an anniversary celebration in Jamaica. I told him I was a musician and played a lot of Reggae music among other things in my repertoire. It also turns out he delivers babies at St. Mary Medical Center where I go for the chemo and had my surgery, and he knows my oncologist. I asked him his name and he said, "Aaron"  I told him, "That's my MIDDLE name, Hal Aaron Cohen!"  Then his wife came over and we talked all conversed a little longer before I said goodbye and headed home. They wished me luck and I said "thank you".

Next day (Monday), I go to the Saint Clare building at St. Mary's for my appointment to sit for two hours while the wonderful staff there administered the chemo-cocktail. Not two minutes after I sat down, one of the office managers walked up to me carrying a huge gift basket wrapped in cellophane from David's Florist and my first thought was, this is for someone else. She said, no, the card says it's for Hal Aaron Cohen. I'm like - WHO EVEN KNOWS I'M HERE?  

Well, it turns out that Dr. Aaron knew exactly where I'd be at 1:30 PM that Monday, because I just told him the day before. When I saw the name "Doctor Aaron" on the card, my jaw dropped. I really was speechless. I still can't quite get over it. And upon examining the contents of the basket, it became quite clear that he and his wife left the park and did a little shopping. Because this wasn't one of this "off-the-shelf-as-is" baskets. Everything in it was hand picked. There was Arizona Green Tea and Honey, bottles of flavored Smart Water, Energy bars, candy, All kinds of miscellaneous goodies, dog treats for Cooper and Keegan and what appeared to be a big box of candy in the middle. It was heavy. Like a big mass of solid dark chocolate. As I began to unwrap it, however, it turned out to be a book. Which was perfect, because I was wondering what to read for two hours during the treatment, and I forgot to stop at the library. The book was "Waging Heavy Peace" by Neil Young; and autobiographical tome about his family, his early days with Crazy Horse, Buffalo Springfield and CSN&Y to his present projects including electric cars and his PureTone music platform that plays back music with a quality much more pristine than the current MP3s. At any rate, this stuff is interesting to me :-)  What a thoughtful gift! I am blown away!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Cooper and Keegan were driving my sister crazy. Especially Keegan, who had been barking non-stop since I left the house. Cindy (my sister) is laid up at the moment with a torn tendon in her foot, so she can't get out of bed. Poor Rob (my brother-in-law) wouldn't be home from work till after I got home, so it was up to me to walk her dog Lola, along with my two fur balls as soon as I got home. When I got home, I was carrying two jackets (because it was cold when I left) and the basket of goodies, when my phone started ringing.  I figured it was Cindy calling to see where I was, but I just let it ring since I was already walking up the driveway. Turns out it wasn't her calling anyway. Oh, and I also had a pretty full ileostomy bag (I know - gross). WELLLL --- I finally got the dogs walked, bag emptied, shoes off and in bed before Rob got home. He made a killer frittata omelette for dinner and that was the perfect topper to a Crazy/Good first day of chemo!

Now, how do I thank Dr. and Mrs. Aaron?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The “Scotchguard® - er of Linen Napkins

I recently came across a folder with some of my essays I was saving for this blog. Inside was this rant. As I read it, i thought - Wow, talk about sweating the small stuff! Nevertheless, I felt that somewhere out there is someone who shares the same feeling, and, well, whoever you are - I just don't want you to feel alone...

Linen Napkins

Now, here's is a guy who must always work under the table. Because if anyone ever found out about him. they would string him up by his balls. He is the “Scotchguard® - er of linen napkins for the restaurant industry. You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those linen napkins they give you at the nice resataurants. - you know - those napkins they roll the she silverware in. You unroll the napkin, set the silverware back on the table and place the linen napkin on your lap.
Halfway through the meal, you get some Worcestershire sauce on your chin and the only thing you have with which to wipe it off is the linen napkin on you lap. Or maybe you got baby back ribs. Again, no paper napkins. No wet naps like the fast food places give you. Just that linen napkin that your silverware came rolled up in. So you take it off your lap and wipe the sauce off your chin. Only it doesn’t absorb the sauce. What it does do is - It smears the fucking sauce all over your fucking face or runs right off onto your clothing! Which it’s supposed to be protecting in the first place. So what’s the point of having a g-d damn napkin if it does the opposite of what you intended to use it for? Fuck me!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Absolutely Radiant? - Well No, Not Really

Well, I'm finally in the home stretch. This first phase consists of 28 treatments of combined chemo and radiation therapy sessions.  After that, I will meet with my surgeon, Dr. Schaffzin to schedule the operation where he will remove the tumor. In the meantime the tumor will continue to shrink. After it's been shrunk to a manageable size, it will be removed - along with part of my rectum on either side of the cancerous section. Then part of my colon will be attached to replace the missing anal real estate.

L - R Kristine, Melanie and Carrie
Friday will be my last day of chemo and Monday, July 14th is my final radiation visit. I told you about the chemo in my last blog, so now, I think it's time I give a nod to the Radiation Department. Thanks to the great staff in Radiology at St. Mary's Medical Center, my treatments were nowhere near as uncomfortable and humiliating as they could have been. In fact, I actually look forward to exposing my full moon to the attractive radiologists on duty. Every one of them is good natured, has a great sense of humor and they're all extremely competent in their field. 

On the first day, they had me lie down on this surface that
Selfie with my Ray-Girlz
reminds me of a massage table. You put your face into a space with blue vinyl trim and there's also a vinyl trimmed crater where you're belly is supposed to fit. However, since I had lost so much weight, my gut doesn't touch the bottom of it, so their's really no support. This causes some discomfort, because now my spine is arched in an unnatural position. Eventually, I got used to it, and fortunately, I never experienced any severe side effects from the radiation, so lying in that position turned out to be the worst of it.

Last week someone brought in a therapy dog. Theoretically, these dogs are supposed to cheer people up and have a healing effect on the patients. Unfortunately, this one was just plain fugly. And the owner looked just like him, except he
Charlie - I think.
wore a beat up cowboy hat and worn-out clothes. Actually, the dog was very gentle, but I think he was a little bored from being petted and fawned over all morning by so many people.

I think his name was Charlie. Or maybe that was the owner's name. I forget… hmmm, maybe there are side effects. Nah, I think it's just my age.

Oh yeah, and there's always a basket full of snacks, and it's usually filled with junk food containing plenty of salt and sugar; stuff like Lorna Dunes, Fig Newtons and sandwich cookies. There's also a mini fridge stocked with bottled water and soda. Lots of  cola and Mountain Dew So while they're treating you for cancer, they can set you up bring you back a little later to treat you for diabetes. Hey, a hospital has to stay in business somehow, right?  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saying F U to Cancer

Going through cancer treatment is a multi-faceted journey and depending on which course one subscribes to, can consist of conventional medicine, alternative medicine, spiritualism, holisitic, Eastern, Native American or a combination of all known remedies. My approach is to start out using conventional medicine to get a jump on the tumor because at the moment, I need to take the time to research other resources. I am in the process of labsorbing a lot of wisdom right now from friends, books and documentaries I will share with you as much as I can as I go through this odyssey.

First up: The Chemo (or Saying FU to Cancer)

Rather than go to the hospital as an outpatient for daily chemo, which would require me to sit in a chair for hours each day while the medicine slowly drips through a tube into my bloodstream, I am fortunate enough to be able to have the drug Flourouracil (5-FU) administered through a pump (Geez, did I really use the words "chemo" and "fortunate" in the same sentence?). 

Typically, I would go in on a Monday, where they would attach a transparent line to a port in my chest and then have it disconnected on Friday, so I could be unencumbered for the weekend.  The pump looks like an eight track player and is in a case with a strap that goes around my neck which I must then carry around Monday through Friday wherever go. It's important to remember it's on, because accidentally pulling on the line can be rather painful. Also if the line gets pinched, an alarm goes off to let me know the medicine stopped flowing and I need to uncrimp it ASAP. So far, I haven't experienced any major problems, however, there have been a few times where I took it off and got a slightly painful tug when I attempted to walk away without it - ouch!

Anyway, they say a picture is worth a thousand words so here's a little video I made right before my trip back to St. Mary Medical Center to have the hose unattached for the weekend. I also demonstrate how to make the best if the situation by converting the contraption into a combination chemo dispenser and mp3 player. I call it "The iPump".

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hal's Pain In The Butt Fund

I've been putting off posting this because I am not sure I have my mind wrapped around this yet, myself. So I'm just going to come right out with it, because there's no real way to sugar-coat it, anyway. The diagnosis was Rectal Cancer... Stage 3.  My initial thought going in was that it was some form of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I had been scouring the web for info on Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease and other related ills and ailments, but somehow, Cancer never crossed my mind. But after a CT Scan, colonoscopy and post rectal ultrasound, the results are conclusive.

Now, I have a fight ahead of me which entails radiation therapy, chemotherapy and eventual surgery. From what I've been told, fatigue and nausea will be coming along for the ride. Oh, yes, it's going to be a long, hot, summer of fun! But fear not… Hal Aaron Cohen is ready for battle!!

The only thing I was NOT ready for was the expense. I was told I may lose some of my ability to play the guitar once the treatment starts and it's likely I won't feel much like entertaining in the first place. Much of my income is derived from gigs during the Spring and Summer months and I have been forced to turn down a lot of opportunities - both musical and non-musical sources of income. 

This isn't the kind of thing I could ever see my self doing in a million years, but I have no savings, no assets and no options except to ask for a little help from my friends. It kills me to even do this but I didn't really know where else to turn.  So, I have set up a page where you can donate to help me pay expenses for medical and everyday living.   I set a goal of $8000. I'm hoping to raise at least enough to get me through the next few months until I can get back to work full time again. Thank you in advance for any help. Positive thoughts and prayers are equally welcome.

Learn about Successful Fundraiser Ideas

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

There Oughta Be A Leash Law (Pet Peeve #4 )

Let me be clear. I'm not talking about a law designed to punish people for not having their dog on the leash. I already spent a night in jail for that one (Maybe I'll tell you that story in a future post - it's hilarious).  No, this is a rant aimed at the manufacturers of certain leashes that are just plain stupid. Okay, so let's get right to it…

Retractable Leashes. You know those spring-loaded retractable leashes with about 16 feet of lead?  They make them for different size dogs and they're capable of supporting different weight groups.  No matter what size dog you have, they make a leash that can restrain him or her - no problem. If you have a German Shephard, you might get one for pets up to 150 pounds. If you have a Chihuahua, you'd choose one for pets up to 20 pounds. Now besides being extremely dangerous, the manufacturers of these leashes are so dumb, they assume that if you own a small dog, you have a tiny hand, and if you own a large dog, you have larger hands. So let me illustrate this so you can see how idiotic this assumption is.

In the first picture, you can see the leash I use for my larger dog. It's very easy to grip with my entire hand and I can press the button down very quickly in an emergency, such as stopping him when he's about to dart into the street or go after a squirrel.  

But now let's look at the version they make for the smaller dog. Now, remember, I haven't shrunk; I'm just walking a smaller dog. But for some reason, these morons scaled down the entire leash. As you can see… I can only get two fingers through the grip. And the button for the stop mechanism is so small, it doesn't readily respond every time i attempt to push it. 
Well, DUH!!
But the true hazard lies in the thickness of the lead itself. As you can see, the larger leash has a lead that's about 1/2" thick, while the smaller one is the thickness of piano wire. This is the same thickness used to make a garrote , a weapon used by the mob to decapitate someone.  

And lest you think this is a joke, let me defer to a couple of other blogs where you will be enlightened about the physical dangers posed by these retractable leashes. 

The Dogington Post

Sarah Wilson  dog expert

It is my sincere hope, that uneven if you are experienced and  fully cognizant of the pitfalls that come with using retractable leashes, that you opt to replace yours ASAP with a standard leash no longer than 8' in length. If this helped to save just one dog's life or one human finger, my mission has been accomplished.
Life's Abundance Logo