Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Me and My Port


I figured the last post was so jam packed with stuff that I'd save this last pic for a separate post. Here's what the port looks like under my skin. It's a little creepy to me still, like a little alien or cyborg part or something sitting there. Luckily it doesn't really move around or anything. The double circle is where they stick the two needles in to access it, and the line goes up over my clavicle, so you can see the catheter sticking up through the skin there. So far it's definitely been worth it. No more shower sleeve, no more weekly dressing changes - plus I can swim and climb and do all sorts of things without worrying too much about it. I tend to fiddle with it a lot, kind of like people who have piercings, but usually I don't notice it too much. It does help me feel that much closer to normal.

Me and My Brows

On the flipside, one thing that's been making me feel a little less normal is my loss of eyebrows and lashes. The brows have really thinned out quite a bit, and the lashes have also mostly fallen out. I guess like everyone I'm a little vain, so the ability to pass myself off as some guy who just decided to shave his head was kind of nice. I suppose most people don't really notice, or if they do they certainly don't say anything, but for some reason I always end up wondering what the guy on the street would think. Plus, I think I've started coveting other people's eyebrows. For some reason I find myself staring at them all the time now. It's ridiculous, I know, but I guess I just never noticed eyebrows before. Maybe I can start to make other people feel self-conscious by just continuously staring at their nice thick, bushy brows.

Anyway, my eyelashes coming out doesn't bother me that much from an aesthetic level, but practically I think I've started getting more gunk in my eyes as a result. I guess it turns out they really do serve a purpose, to keep crap out of your eyes. I can't even do the boy scout first aid trick we learned where you pull down your top eyelid over your bottom lid to get the botttom eyelashes to scoop out the gunk in your top lid. How is one supposed to get gunk out of his eye without eyelashes?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hawaii, Graduation, Round 9, Oh My!!


Hey folks, it's been a long while since I last posted. I guess usually that's a good thing, since it typically means I'm able to do more and more besides sit in front of my computer all day (or do something different while I'm sitting here, like actually write up some of my research). Aaaannnyway, It's been a pretty busy month or so. After the last round of chemo (round 8), I spent a couple days trying to recover in time to go to Hawaii (woohoo!) for my college buddy's wedding. I was a tad worried when I wasn't feeling that great on Sunday, since our flight was on Tuesday, but it all worked out and I was fine (though a little tired) by the time we had to go to the airport. After coming back from Hawaii I had about a week to recover from that (I guess somehow I managed to have energy while there but my body kind of revolted and crashed a bit when I came back) before walking for graduation. Then it was on to round 9, my last in-patient chemo and my last chemo with doxorubicin (adriamycin).

Woo hoo Oa'hu

I was a little concerned about bringing my neupogen shots on the plane, but the security folks weren't really phased by it at all. I brought the syringes in a little soft-sided lunchbox cooler that Serena and I found at Target. I had a note from my doctor all prepared, but didn't even need it. The guy did ask to look inside the cooler, but all he said was, "Is it medical?" I nodded my head and that was good enough. (Funny enough, on the way back the guards were more concerned with the orange and jars of jam that I had in my bag than the needles).

So of course Hawaii was beautiful and awesome. My friend Tom (from high school - wait, actually from MIDDLE school!) surprised us at the airport with a lei greeting and took us to a place in Chinatown for lunch. Tommy decided to up and move to Hawaii for a year or so, since his brother is stationed there right now with the Navy. Tom and his bro live up in Kailua, which has a gorgeously long stretch of beach with very few people on it. Quite the difference from the touristy bustle of Waikiki.

Our hotel in Waikiki was a little rundown but had a kitchenette and fridge (though at first we thought the fridge might not be working - it took a while to cool off), so that was good for storing the neupogen shots and cold drinks. We spent most of the days driving around the island or hanging out with friends who were in town for the wedding. I'll let the pics speak for themselves (err, with the help of captions, that is).

Diamond Head: The lookout from the top of the crater on the east side of the island. It's a short but steep-ish hike to get up there - the top part has a bunch of stairs that were part of the old military lookout tower. I was huffing and puffing but I made it up!

Yay! I'm in Hawaii!

This was a really cool lookout point on the north shore. There's a hole that goes right through that big island rock out there.

Swimming at Waimea Bay on the north shore. I actually got to go in the water, too, thanks to my medi-port, but I didn't get any pics of myself.

Morning stroll at Kailua Beach on the windward side of the island. It's a lot more relaxing and less crowded than Waikiki.

Then of course there was the wedding. Not a bad backdrop, eh?

Me and the groom, Mike. In college people used to get us confused with each other because we both had longer hair and would rollerblade around campus. I told him he has to shave his head to keep the confusion going. . .

A mini-reunion of our freshman dorm. I'm standing next to Michael, my freshman year roommate. There were tons of other Stanford folks there too, which made for lots of fun.

Graduation (6/15/08)
Graduation was actually more fun than I was expecting. The day wasn't too hot, and though the ceremony was its normal bit of tedium, it was fun to see people there having a good time with their friends and family. Plus, it was nice to celebrate something after all that's happened (thanks for the perspective, Blase). For those of you who might be confused, no I haven't actually graduated yet. As a PhD student, if you're close to graduating, they will let you walk during the graduation ceremony (for PhDs, you are "hooded" by your advisor), but you don't actually get your diploma. Here are some pics:

Pre-ceremony photos with the roomies, Charlie and Janet. Charlie is also getting his PhD, but he walked last year.

"Getting hooded" by my undergraduate EE advisor, Bob Dutton. Usually this is done by your PhD advisor, but, well, it's a long story...

I've got another pic like this from when I got my masters. This time, they actually put something in there to tell you you have to give the folder back. Last time, it was just blank. I guess my mom found it amusing and wanted to recreate the picture.

Me, my mom, and my advisors. Prof. Gunter Niemeyer (Mechanical Engineering) is the tall guy on the left (sporting MIT faculty robes) and Dr. David Liang (Cardiovascular Medicine) is the one on the right. Don't ask me how I'm ending up with an EE degree, but it does turn out that both of them have "courtesy" appointments in the EE department.

Round 9 (6/16-6/18/08)

Well, as I said before, this was my last in-patient chemo AND my last chemo with doxorubicin (adriamycin). From here on out, when I get this set it'll just be VC (vincristine, cyclophosfamide), which is just a one day infusion. So the remaining chemo cycles will alternate between four days (ifosfamide, etoposide) and one day every three weeks. Just eight more cycles to go!

Right now I'm feeling pretty good (6/23/08), although I last week I was apparently a little anemic. Not enough to need a blood transfusion, but I think it was enough to make me feel really tired and worn out when I went climbing yesterday (I know, I should probably just be happy to be able to climb at all and not complain about how well I'm climbing, but I guess that's the overachiever in me. Besides, what's the world coming to when you can only do a 5.9 and can't make it all the way up a 5.10a at Planet Granite? Honestly...). It's actually not too bad if I take long rests between climbs, but if I try and do anything that requires a modicum of endurance, my whole body starts to feel like it's about to collapse. It's such a strange feeling, because it's much more sudden than if you were normally just exhausted from exercise, but it also recovers more quickly as well.

Oh, and there's one more bit of good news! My scans were totally clear! I had an MRI of my pelvis and it showed that the nefarious "butt bump" has totally gone away. My chest CT showed that the little lung nodules are still there, but as we thought before, this probably means that they're just from an old infection or something. My doctor thinks it's very unlikely that one tumor would respond to the chemo but the others wouldn't, so basically the nodules should have gone away if they're tumor. Since they didn't, it seems like they're not. Woohoo!