Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Lampoon Our "European" Vacation

One of the things that frustrates me about these past 13 months is that the family didn't get a fun, summer getaway because I was undergoing treatment.  I realize that I can't do anything about that and that getting treatment trumps other considerations, but it was still annoying.  We did, however, manage to squeeze in a five-day trip before school started.  Anyway, I won't write an entry for each day, just a synopsis of our trip to Virginia and "Europe." No, not the Europe in Europe, nor the Europe in Orlando, FL.  We went to Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, VA, where roller coasters and other rides are set amidst European scenes, like fake castles and fake marketplaces.

The first thing that made it feel like going to Europe was the long trip down I-95 in rush-hour Friday traffic.  A movie and free alcohol would have made the experience more authentic, but at least we avoided the security line at Dulles.  We were joined, for part of our stay, by brother-of-270 and his family.  Their flight from Florida was shorter than our drive.

The five flags of Europe
So, unencumbered by passports or Schengen visas, we headed to Europe.  To quote Donald Rumsfeld, this is Old Europe.  The only representatives were the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, and Italy; no Baltic states, former SSRs or former Yugoslav Republics.  Fortunately for los amigos madrileƱos, Spain was not represented.  I write "fortunately," because that's four amigos and 45 million others who won't be pissed off at Anheuser Busch for trivializing their country. Here's a brief look at selected "countries" and other notable items.
  • United Kingdom (Lite):  This UK was missing Wales and Northern Ireland, but who, other than me, is counting.  Hooligan Chase would be a good, soccer-themed, thrill ride here.  We didn't do much in the UK, except get on a ride that takes you away to France.
  • France:  The big thrill ride here, The Griffon,  was out of order when I tried to get on.  It really was out of service, not a usual French strike.  By the time I returned, it was in service but the wait was 45 minutes.  So I skipped it.  Our main attraction here was the all-you-can-eat buffet that featured traditional French dishes such as southern-fried chicken, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese.  None of that coq au vin or escargot.  France was adjacent to another area of the park, titled "New France."  If you're wondering what "New France" is, it's Canada, complete with a trading post for north woods tschotkes.  France my derriere!
  • Italy:.  Unlike the real Italy, no-one in BG's version smoked or rode scooters.  Now that would be a good ride, Bumper Vespas.  We did ride Escape from Pompeii, a water ride in which your boat floats past collapsing columns and statues, propane volcanoes, and finally, down a flume where you are splashed.  I told my kids that it's just like Indiana Jones, the world's worst archeologist.  Every time he enters an ancient temple, it crumbles to dust.  Anyway, Italy was the site of the only roller coaster that I went on (alone), Apollo's Chariot.  This was one of the few rides that made some sense.  If you remember your Roman mythology (which they plagiarized from the Greeks), you know the story of Apollo's son who took his dad's chariot without permission and went careening across the skies.  The roller coaster was sort of like that, in 45 seconds and with more screaming.
  • Germany:  Here we took a ride through Dark Kastle, a house occupied by 3-D werewolves, which scared the kids.  Then we ate at Festhaus, where dancers danced to traditional German polka and oom-pah Musik.  What authentic German fare did we eat?  Pizza.
  • Consistent (?!) with the European theme was a Jack Hanna exhibit with North American grey wolves and North American bald eagles.  This must be the NATO part of Europe.
  • Gastarbeiters.  Translated as guest workers, this is the German term for foreign labor.  Except that they stayed in Germany, fought for citizenship, and their children now play for the German national soccer team.  BG (and the rest of Williamsburg) is filled with young people, mainly from Eastern Europe, with summer work permits.  This makes some sense.  If you're going to risk your life on a roller coaster, it's good to know that the people at the controls are good in physics and engineering.
  • Shopping:  Who are these people who travel to a fake Europe and then spend thousands of dollars for a German cuckoo clock?  If they have that kind of cash, why not travel to the real Germany?  Seriously, "Germany" contains a cuckoo clock store.  Sadly, there is no German beer store, because this is BUSCH Gardens.
Donald or Douglas takes passengers around the Island of Sodor

Dum Dum.  You give me gum gum
Once you leave Busch Gardens and are back in American Williamsburg, you may visit President's Park.  A collection of giant busts of the 42 American Presidents, prior to Barack Obama, in one small park.  Obama is currently represented by a life-sized bust in the visitor center.  I don't know if this is because the sculptors are working on the giant Obama bust or if this is Virginia being Virginia.  Anyway, this place is America's Easter Island.  Presidential first name trivia:
  • 6 named James (Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield, Carter).
  • 5 named John (Adams, Q Adams, Tyler, Coolidge, Kennedy)
  • 4 named William (H Harrison, McKinley, Taft, Clinton)
  • 3 named George (Washington, HW Bush, W Bush)
  • 2 named Andrew (Jackson, Johnson), Franklin (Pierce, Roosevelt), and Thomas (Jefferson, W Wilson)
Williamsburg Arsenal FC
Colonial Williamsburg:  OK, pretty much all of you know about this 18th century colonial village, one of several cradles of the American Revolution - at least the only one that charges you $36 to get in.  Williamsburg craftsmen use techniques of the period to make bricks, silver items, wool yarn, and ummm... funny hats.  Williamsburg actors portray revolutionary war-era events such as a protest of the new taxes in the Stamp Act, which is ironic because the food and beverage tax in Williamsburg is 10 FREAKIN' PERCENT!  With all that history around them, what did the boys enjoy most?  Guns from the gift shop.  My little Americans.

Water Country USA:  The last day of the trip turned out to be the most exciting.  The boys, who eschewed anything that looked like or was next to a roller coaster in BG, eagerly went down water slides.

After that, it was back on I-95 for the quick return trip home with the mandatory stop at Cracker Barrel.  Country fried steak, can't get that in any Europe.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Where Do We Go From Here?

These patient-written cancer blogs have two ways of ending  Too often, a sad entry is written by the patient's family member.  Otherwise the writer has moved on, trying to resume a somewhat normal life, and writes less frequently.  Maybe, someday, Mrs. 270 will write that I died celebrating my future grandson's goal in the 2046 World Cup, or future granddaughter's in 2047 (the other grandchildren will be a successful too, however, one must maintain some sense of decorum at the awards ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo).

The alternative to ending this is to go on with mindless prattle about everyday things.

Today the boys got ready for school on time, without my yelling at them.  After I dropped them off, as I was driving to work, some idiot in a 7-series BMW cut me off. So I flipped him off.  Then he turned in to my office's parking lot.  I didn't know that our director drove a 7-series BMW.

But I'm not sure that I care to do that or that you would care to read it.  Rather than write for the sake of writing, I'll keep you up to date on scans, tests, etc.  So blog entries will decrease (as if they could possibly be fewer).

Before the blog entries get fewer and further between, I would like to thank all of you for your emotional and practical support. It has lifted our spirits to know that you care enough to read this and send us good wishes.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Your Vote Is Needed To Fulfill a Dream

In many countries, people are denied opportunities to fulfill their dreams because of war, poverty, malnutrition, or lack of education.  This is the story of Tim (his real name). Tim lives in Gainesville, Fl, in a hovel (by Beverly Hills standards).  His annual income is a tiny fraction of a Wall Street CEO's bonus.  Tim's dream, like that of so many men with a mid-life crisis, is to perform with his rock band in front of thousands of drunken, screaming chicks with full-sleeve tattoos and body piercings.  But Tim cannot fulfill this dream because his band does not have enough votes on an internet contest to open for KISS in Raleigh, NC.

Rodin's Kiss

Rockin KISS

Tim's band, The Sevilles, is known in North Florida for college-crowd pleasing songs such as "Mary Jane," "Riding the 8-Ball," and  "Highway 69."  As a good Catholic boy, Tim must be singing about a pious girl, a game of billiards, and  the unfinished rote from Michigan to Texas.  And "Highway 69" will one day form a triumvirate of road songs with "Route 66" and Highway 61 Revisited."

Tim and his Flying V
Tim sings and plays a Gibson flying V, which he slings low on his hip as if he's in his 20's.  He will soon develop carpal tunnel syndrome in his left hand from this.  If he had access to proper health care, an orthopedist would advise him to play the more ergonomic Les Paul and wear it higher.

Tim is getting older (much, much older - really, he's so much older than I am) and may not have more chances to reach his goal before he loses his hearing. Please help him and The Sevilles by voting at the website below. Just a minute of your time could help this aging rocker achieve his dream.  If they win, not only does get the opening gig, but Tim will wear make-up like Gene Simmons. That's on top of the lipstick and mascara that he puts on each morning.

How to Vote:
Go to this absurdly long URL
Select USA
Enter the Zip Code 27601
Fill out the fields: Gender, Birth year, e-mail address.
Enter the security code that's shown
Uncheck the "Receive Special Offers" box
Click Continue

(You're welcome, Tim)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

FOLFOX Round 12: "I hold in my hand the last envelope."

Remember Johnny Carson's Karnac the Magnificent sketches and how the crowd would applaud in mock relief when Ed McMahon gave Johnny the last envelope with the corny set-up to the punchline?  Well, that's sort of what I feel like (relief, not corny).

So this is it.  The last FOLFOX treatment.  I may be done with chemo, but it's not done with me.  My fingers and toes are still numb and my taste buds are still not functioning properly.  The side effects will fade over the next four weeks and, I hope, none will become permanent.  Do I celebrate?  Not really, I'm too tired and no food tastes good to me. In a few weeks, when I have my energy and taste back, I may go out for a ribeye and a beer.  In the meantime, everyone else should have a drink and some cake to celebrate. - and strippers.  Everyone should have strippers in the kitchen.  What?  They're  good for getting the leaves off sprigs of rosemary and thyme.  Rosemary and Thyme aren't good stripper names, like Ginger and Cumin.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, If you recall, the whole thing started on July 22, 2009, when I was diagnosed with an adenocarcinoma of the rectum.  It's been a bumpy ride since then.

28 radiation treatments
12 FOLFOX treatments
two colonoscopies
two PET scans
two CT scans
too many digital rectal exams
one major surgery
one unnecessary trip to the ER
lots of percoset and oxycontin
one really sweet morphine drip
one episode of Ativan-induced hallucination

eight (at least) oncology nurses
four oncologists (primary, radiation, consulting, cousin-in-law)
four anesthesiologists
three primary care physicians (my regular doc is usually on vacation when I need an appointment)
three physician's assistants
three surgery residents
three radiologists (two for the scans, one is a college friend)
two radiation technologists
two gastroenterologists
too many phlebotomists
one surgeon (you really don't want more than one person knifing around down there)
one ER physician
A whole bunch of other medical personnel who have seen me naked from the waist down

Thousands of blog hits
Dozens of supporters
Several readers, co-workers, friends, and relatives who scheduled colonoscopies (and some who still need to do that)
A few new comrades also in the fight
One who succumbed

The number  I'm looking forward to now is zero, as in zero spots on the next CT scan.