Thursday, December 8, 2016

Radiation done - long blow by blow of trip to NYC

I can't say that it's been fun, but my radiation treatments are now over, and I'm currently on the train back to Vermont.  I didn't do any formal workouts for the past 9 days, but the weather in NYC cooperated, and I walked anywhere from 11K to 25K steps every day in the city.  In my 7 full days in the city, I walked 108K steps - one of my best weeks ever, and well over 40 miles.

I got to the city last Wednesday, with radiation scheduled to start on Thursday.  The weather on Wednesday was rainy, but not horrible, so with my computer bag, a suitcase on wheels, and an umbrella, I walked from Penn Station to my room on West 63rd.  It's normally a 35 minute walk, but in the rain, and carrying so much stuff, I seemed to miss every light, and it took me 45 minutes or so to go 30 blocks.  I got to my room, grabbed a quick dinner, and then got to sleep.

The next day, I was up early.  I have my routine in NYC down pretty well for these extended stays with outpatient treatment.  I get up, get some coffee, and I get straight to work.  I did that the first day, and then headed to my first treatment mid-afternoon.  By cutting through Central Park, it takes me about 40 minutes to walk from my room to the hospital.

On that first day, I met with the doctor for a while and then did the treatment.  The treatment is kind of weird.  The radiation "machine" moves around a lot, going after the tumor from multiple directions.  They put me into a mold that we'd made the week before and an abdominal binder to stop my breathing from moving the tumor too much.  The tolerance for the tumor moving is 0.2 cm, so they crank that thing pretty tight.  They strapped me in, asked what music I wanted to hear (they use Pandora, and I just gave them a band to seed the Pandora feed), turn on the music, and 15-30 minutes later, I'm done.

That first day, I selected the Dead, mostly out of my excitement that Dead and Company have announced they will be touring again next summer.  I honestly felt nothing at all from the treatment, and afterward, I headed to one of my favorite watering holes on the upper east side - The Bar Room.  But, I had an empty stomach, I'd taken some pain medication before the treatment, and after just a couple cocktails, I felt like I'd had too much.  So, I headed back to my room, ordered a pizza, talked to my sister and my wife for a while, and got some sleep.

The next day was similar, although I did start to feel the nausea I'd been warned about.  Instead of taking Zofran for just the treatments, I started taking it every 8 hours - the maximum dose.  After Friday's treatment (David Bowie was my musical choice this day), I wandered downtown for a while - down 5th Avenue to Rockefeller Plaza.  It was a zoo - the worst pedestrian traffic jam I've ever seen.  Eventually, I'd seen everything I wanted to see and I headed back to my room, grabbing some food to go from the Whole Foods in Lincoln Center.

I got 11.5 hours of sleep that night, the first sign that fatigue would be affecting me.  And, I was pretty nauseous when I woke up, but after some Zofran, I was able to drink some coffee, although food seemed totally unappealing.  Around noon, I headed out for a long walk through the northern end of Central Park and eventually made my way to Penn Station, to meet my wife, who was visiting for the weekend.  I keep trying to spare her as much of this as I can, but she wants to be there for me, and I can't believe how lucky I am.  Thirty years after we said our wedding vows, and three years after cancer began to really test some of them, we seem to be doing better than ever.  Well, our marriage is doing fine.  My health is the real issue.

We walked back to our room, grabbed an early dinner, and went searching for a place to watch the B1G conference championship game.  We tried to go to a place that was hosting a PSU alumni group, but without a reservation, they had no room for us.  Yelp saved us and we found an Irish/sports bar in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.  When Penn State fell behind 28-7, the mostly Penn State crowd was pretty quiet, but things got boisterous as Penn State stormed back.  I was careful with alcohol - sipping beer very, very slowly, to not upset my stomach.  We even ordered some wings late in the third quarter, which turned out to be a mistake.

After the game, we headed back to the room and my wife fell right asleep.  I, on the other hand, was having serious nausea problems.  I knew that I didn't want to throw up spicy chicken wings, but I wasn't in control.  With great confidence, I can tell you that buffalo wing hot sauce in the nasal cavities is highly unpleasant.  Eventually, after getting sick, I was able to fall asleep.

Regretfully, the vomiting continued Sunday morning, and I sent a note to the hospital, asking if they could add some compazine to my Zofran and Ativan.  I probably should have had them page the radiation oncologist on call, because it took until Tuesday morning for me to get the compazine.  Luckily, the nausea calmed down on Sunday, and my wife and I had a great day.

We had a late lunch at Shake Shack, a NYC institution.  It was really good, although $5 for a basic burger, and a $5 Vincent Vega-esque milk shake was a bit pricey,   But, the food sat well, and we headed to Macy's.  I had forgotten how huge the Macy's is in NYC.  My wife wanted a new pair of dress boots, and they must have had over a 1000 options.  After one full loop of the second floor, I opted to just sit down, and have my wife text me when she'd found something, since I'm the one with a Macy's card.  Finally, she found something, I paid for it, we got my son a Christmas present, and we got out of there.

By now, it was getting dark, so we headed to Rockefeller Plaza to see the big Christmas Tree.  I quickly realized that the crowds were worse than Friday, so I started looking for an alternate way in, and luckily, I found one.  We got some photos, and then simply had to get out of the crowds.  By now, I was exhausted and my wife was thirsty, so we found a place for her to get a cocktail.  Then more walking towards the room, and I ran out of energy again, but this time, we were right at a Champagne bar.  My wife is a huge Champagne fan, so we dropped in.  It turned out to be some sort of event - women drinking Champagne and drawing a variety of models.  But, the models were in various forms of undress and in various BDSM gear and poses, so it was, uh, interesting.  After a little Champagne, we stopped at Whole Foods to get some dinner, and called it a night.

The next day, my wife was heading home and I had to work, so it was a low key day.  We had thought of going to Carnegie Deli, which is closing at the end of this month, but the nausea was too bad for me to consider it too seriously.

So, about noon, my wife headed to Penn Station. About 5:00, I headed out, planning to stop at the Dean and Deluca store on upper Madison.  I have been a customer of theirs for years, but I'd never been in a store.  I ended up buying one Christmas gift before heading to my 6:15 radiation appointment.  Everything lined up perfectly this night, and before the third Janis Joplin song was over, I was done.  I got them to page the radiologist to make sure I would get compazine, and then I was gone.  I picked up some beef chow fun at a popular Chinese takeout joint, and it was amazingly good.  In Vermont, I only get this dish when I make it myself, and I can only make it when I'm lucky enough to find the correct noodles.  This random restaurant's version was outstanding and it sat well in my stomach.

The next morning, my first goal was to pick up the compazine, and what a difference it made.  During chemo, Zofran had been the key to my nausea, but for some reason, during radiation, compazine made all the difference.  My Monday radiation went quickly, and my stomach felt great afterward.  (I requested Talking Heads on tuesday).  After I finished working for the day, I went to Rosa Mexicano by Lincoln Center for dinner.  I knew my stomach was a lot better if Mexican food sounded good.  And, this place was stunningly good.  Not cheap, but really, really good.

I told my waiter that the place would easily be the best Mexican restaurant in the entire state of Vermont if they opened a branch there.  And, I liked it so much, I made a reservation to come back the next night.

On Wednesday, I had to meet the radiologist before my treatment.  He was gushing about how well the radiation had gone, about how well they'd been able to isolate the tumor.  His attitude left me wondering if he thought things were in doubt beforehand and they'd just glossed over that piece of information.  I chose the Dead again, did the final treatment, and we were done.  I go back to see the surgeon and the radiation oncologist at the end of January.  We will likely set a date for surgery during that visit.

After one more trip to Rosa Mexicano, I got to bed early.  I got up early, packed, had some coffee, showered, worked a bit, and walked to Penn Station.  My train was a bit late, but not too bad.

And, that catches me up to right now.  While I still have medical appointments in VT, I'm done in NYC until late January and then a likely surgery date in February.

For now, I'm hoping the nausea calms down a bit more in the coming days.  I'm hoping I feel good enough to ski this weekend.


janinsanfran said...

You're tough. Love reading about walking about NYC -- what I do when I get to go there. Be well.

WxBoy said...

We are! Just signed up for a Rose Bowl package.

Damon said...

Jan, I've been very lucky on my trips to the city to not get too much rain. This has allowed me to walk a lot, which has been a saving grace on these trips. Even after my surgery last March, I was able to walk a lot after my discharge, but before I went home. With the next surgery in February, I'm going to need to take some warm clothes, I'm guessing.

janinsanfran said...

The windy corridors between tall buildings can be a special kind of cold. Be well.