What I Learned When I Forgot My Meds

Here’s what I’ve learned about the linear accelerator, it deserves respect! Before my daily session I’m supposed to take an Ondansetron (aka Zofran): Ondansetron blocks the actions of chemicals in the body that can trigger nausea and vomiting.

Wednesday I forgot! You really shouldn’t forget.

Here’s what I’ve learned about the linear accelerator I lie in daily: it deserves respect!

First, I only learned it’s called a “linear accelerator” yesterday. I like “ray gun” but that name would probably hold down sales.

Second, x-rays near my stomach make my tummy unhappy. Before my daily session I’m supposed to take an Ondansetron (aka Zofran):

Ondansetron blocks the actions of chemicals in the body that can trigger nausea and vomiting.

Wednesday I forgot! You really shouldn’t forget.

I was able to work, but not much more. Much of the rest of the day was spent in bed trying not to think about my stomach.

No fool I, today I remembered my meds. The radiation still has an effect, but it’s way down in the background now. There’s little comparison yesterday to today.

The walls at the linear accelerator facility are four feet thick. It’s probably easier to be on the other side of the wall.

My Great Leap Of Faith

Think about it for a second. The radiation is there to ‘douse’ any microscopic cancer cells too small to find. But in a best case scenario there are no cancer cells! It begs the question whether radiation is helping or hurting or maybe just wasting everyone’s time?

My seventh radiation session took place yesterday. So far, so good. There has been some nausea, but mostly it’s under control with medication. I haven’t missed any work or even been close.

I’m a frequent flier now. It’s become a daily routine. I’ve even stopped wearing a gown and just take off my shirt.

Once a week I meet with the radiation oncologist to make sure things are going well. We concentrate on how I’m feeling because there’s no way to know if radiation is actually making a difference! There’s no baseline to check improvement against.

Think about it for a second. The radiation is there to ‘douse’ any microscopic cancer cells too small to find. But in a best case scenario there are no cancer cells! It begs the question whether radiation is helping or hurting or maybe just wasting everyone’s time?

There’s no way to know. In my case radiation is a leap of faith in my doctors.

Radiation messes with the cancer cells’ DNA and stops them from multiplying. It messes with the healthy cells too, but they are able to repair themselves. That ability is missing in cancer.

As the ray gun travels around my body it’s beam’s shape and intensity constantly change. We want to zap what’s left of my pancreas while leaving adjacent organs, like my liver, alone. It’s not that easy.

The radiation oncologist works with a physicist and dosing specialist to map out a plan of attack. This is all custom medicine. Every day begins with a CTscan to make sure I’m lying in exactly the same position. It’s the precision of the beam that makes it all necessary and possible. It’s pretty close to magic.

Twenty three more radiation sessions to go before it’s back to chemo and then… (hopefully) donezo!

So Your Cancer Will Never Come Back?

Debby asks a good question. Will my cancer come back? The simple answer is, maybe. Unlike some other forms of cancer that are ‘helped’ along by environmental factors like smoking or air pollution, pancreatic cancer is more a question of luck. For whatever reason my body knows the formula to make pancreatic cancer cells.

The lasers are used to make sure I am in exactly the same piosition every time.

I am cancer free. My surgeons removed all that was seen. No cancer markers have been found in my blood. I’ve done chemo and now radiation to put out any embers which might have been missed.

My cancer treatment is definitely belt plus suspenders. It is very thorough.

Debby asks a good question. Will my cancer come back?

The simple answer is, maybe. Unlike some other forms of cancer that are ‘helped’ along by environmental factors like smoking or air pollution, pancreatic cancer is more a question of luck. For whatever reason my body knows the formula to make pancreatic cancer cells. It is as capable of making them today as it was last year (though I only have half my original pancreas left after Whipple surgery).

This means my relationship with my oncologist will run til the end of time! I won’t be getting treatment, but I will be getting my blood tested and having scans taken on a regular basis.

If my pancan does come back we should see it early enough to beat it down again. At least that’s the theory.

Under The (Ray) Gun

I continued to lie absolutely still as the techs left the radiation room and the turret began to slowly turn. It makes just enough electronic noise to be scary in a SciFi kind of way.

My radiation therapy has begun. Five days a week for six weeks I’ll lie on a flat metal table as technicians shoot x-rays through my body.

Today was my fourth trip to the facility, but only my second treatment. It a complex procedure which begins by finding a position I’ll be able to duplicate and stay motionless in day-after-day.

Lasers shot lines across my body, then targets were affixed to my midsection. It’s important to return to the same spots every day. Soon the targets will be replaced by tattooed dots.

I’ve been given an ID card to check myself in. No need to announce my presence. First stop is the dressing room where I trade my shirt for a hospital gown.

I hadn’t even gotten that far today when there was a knock on the door.

“We’re ready whenever you are,” said the voice on the other side.

Holy crap. I was about to be seen early! That’s never happened before.

My session took around 20 minutes. They had trouble finding my exact spot (verified by matching CT scans) until a thin towel under my tail bone was moved a few inches lower to the small of my back.

I continued to lie absolutely still as the techs left the radiation room and the turret began to slowly turn. It makes just enough electronic noise to be scary in a SciFi kind of way.

Five minutes later we were done.

Total time door-to-door under an hour. This is more treatment I can deal with.

What I Learned About Networking While Reworking My Network

WiFi is slower than hard wired. This is ALWAYS true. If and when you can, hard wire. Everything in my studio is connected by Ethernet cables. Only my phone and tablets are wireless.

This weekend marked a transformation in the studio and throughout my home. I’ve ditched my “s-l-o-w” 35/350 Mbps Internet service from Cox and traded up to “Gigapower,” AT&T’s 1,000/1,000 Mbps offering.

This afternoon I uploaded a 2:30 HD video clip to Nebraska in under 30 seconds!

Speed equals time. Time is my most valuable commodity.

Speed Test on AT&T Gigapower

My first concern after ordering the service was can my current infrastructure handle it. 1 Gbps is a recent addition to the possible.

A quick check found two switches that handled up to 100 Mbps. Hey, whaddaya think this is, 2015? A dumb switch is a commodity device. It works or it doesn’t. I bought two new ones by price.

WiFi doesn’t make it from the garage/studio to the family room or master bedroom above it. There’s an extra AP (access point) in the family room. Our 2013 home already had cabling in the wall to tie all this together. Welcome to the new world.

That AP too was a generation behind. What’s one more device to upgrade? I put a new 300 Mbps WiFi AP behind a cabinet.

The speed in the family room won’t be Gigabit, but it’s plenty fast for web surfing. Because of overhead processing web requests, getting data faster makes a smaller difference than you’d expect, especially when it’s already fast.

WiFi is slower than hard wired. This is ALWAYS true. If and when you can, hard wire. Everything in my studio is connected by Ethernet cables. Only my phone and tablets are wireless.

With this upgrade my intention was to try and leave my equipment’s IP addresses unchanged. It looked like the router built into my modem supported that. Looks can be deceiving.

AT&T has neutered this box. A bunch of things just don’t work and there’s no explanation, only the muffled screams of other nerds on web forums.

In the end I was forced to let the box’s DHCP server hand out IP addresses. To my surprise most of the network ‘relationships’ between my computers needed no touching. It just worked, even with the new addresses.

Some of the equipment, like my server, have to face out onto the Internet. That meant port forwarding and punching small holes in the firewall. It went pretty easily too.

My printers were a little tougher to wrangle. Their original IP addresses were hard coded in. I needed to uninstall then reinstall on six separate computers.

My Nebraska VOIP phone stopped working. I speak to our production coordinator every night. She is four digits away. Like the printers this was a hard coded IP problem.

One part of my switchover needed tight coordination. Weather maps for News Channel Nebraska are sent to my server from WSI in Massachusetts. If my system goes down their system grinds to a halt. My longtime buddy Don Morelli was on-the-case Sunday evening. Seamless!

There are twenty four devices on this LAN. A few boxes used as spares or only occasionally haven’t yet been powered up. A Mac and iPhone will be added the next time Stef visits.

The goal was to accomplish this on my off days with no impact or downtime. Mission accomplished!

Blood Draw Tuesday

I didn’t notice it at first but one of the boys and his mom were called to the back. Then shrieking and blood curdling screams, loud and often accompanied by tearful pleading. It was horrible, painful to hear. This kid did not want blood drawn.

Blood draw from my left arm.

Blood test today. Why? The oncologist wants it. That’s enough.

“Go to Quest,” he tells me every time. Fine. Quest it is. Wonder if he’s a stockholder?

The waiting room was crowded when I walked in. It was as if it had been cast. An Asian couple played with their six month old. A older woman (like my age) sat in a corner wearing a mask. There were separately two moms with sons.

I didn’t notice it at first but one of the boys and his mom were called to the back. Then shrieking and blood curdling screams, loud and often accompanied by tearful pleading. It was horrible, painful to hear. This kid did not want blood drawn.

A few minutes later he and mom exited. By this time the six month old was screaming at the top of her lungs. She didn’t know what hit her until it was too late.

It’s tough to take. The poor baby has no clue what’s going on except it hurts. The bigger kid knew what was going to happen and panicked.

I was that kid. Absolutely.

My turn now. I walked to the back past the currently quiet screaming kid, back in the lab and now with his mom in a side hallway.

I invited him to watch my draw and see it was no big deal. Uh huh. Right. I’m not Ward Cleaver.

The blood draw was very easy today, just three small vials. Once the needle’s in it doesn’t matter anyway. No pain. That was unexpected.

The kid was still pacing as I walked out. I feel bad he’s agitated. I feel bad a kid needs a blood test.