I am happy to report that Rosalee and I had a very enjoyable trip to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN yesterday and today to meet with the treatment team for my brain cancer. My youngest brother, Milton, who is 25 years younger than me, and his wife, Beth drove us to Clinton, Iowa, where we met up with my oldest son, Jeremy, and his wife, Bomina, who happens to be a registered nurse. Jeremy and Bomina drove us to Rochester, stayed the night, met with the treatment team with us and then drove us back to Clinton to meet up with Milton and Beth, who brought us home.
Bomina has been invaluable to us in helping us to understand what the physicians are saying to us, in asking the right questions, in taking notes on the answers, in working through the red tape with our insurance company and the specialty pharmacy companies. And, I guess it goes without saying, but it should be said anyway, none of this would have been possible without the solid support of my wife, Rosalee. (I feel like I must have stumbled upon a copy of an Academy Award acceptance speech and at any time the music is going to start, signaling me to stop with the shout-outs to my family and get off the stage.)
The hardest part of this, up to now, has been turning over my car keys to Rosalee. I have been driving since I was 13 years old -- and have done nearly all of the driving on family trips for our more than 40 years of marriage. Turning over the car keys brought home, like nothing else, that the independence I value so much is gone and will never come back. No more grocery shopping, which was my chore for many years and which I loved. No more trips by myself on Sunday afternoons to see movies. No more sneaking off to the ice cream store. My penis shrunk three inches when I turned the keys over to Rosalee. (This was not a scientifically valid measurement and should not be relied upon by others for its validity. Individual results may vary. Objects in mirror may appear larger than they actually are.) Please no wisecracks from the siblings who the nurses at Mayo were referring to as "the naughty Otto brothers."
The best part of the trip was the quality time we got to spend with Milton and Beth and Jeremy and Bomina. Milton and Beth gave us some valuable insights into dealing with this issue with our children, particularly when our religious beliefs are different in many ways. Jeremy, Bomina, Rosalee and I got to talk for extended periods about the impact of this disease on each of us, on how much we love each other and support each other as we work through these hard times. (Okay, I hogged more than my share of the talking, but as a dying man, I should be afforded some privileges.)
I am still feeling surprised and exhilarated that my loved ones and I can talk about what is happening is such an open and frank fashion, not being overly-pessimistic, but not looking through rose-tinted lens either. I was never able to do that with my parents, before they died of cancer. My father particularly, was in deep denial, despite his profound religious beliefs, talking to me the week before he died of business decisions he had made "in case something happens to me." I refuse to shrink from the truth. I refuse to be afraid. I am at peace.
Oh, the treatment plan. It's pretty much what we expected. Radiation will start July 31 and continue at Mayo five days a week for six weeks. I don't expect any major side effects, possibly some fatigue and decreased white blood cell counts which could make me more susceptible to infections. Throughout the radiation, I will be on low doses of chemotherapy,with the drug temozolomide. (Temodar.) I am told that any side effects of the chemotherapy, like nausea, will be very mild, way too mild to qualify for a prescription for medical marijuana. That really sucks. I never got to fully experience the 60s in the 60s and I had hoped that that in my personal 60s, I could find out what it was all about.
And now for a word about prayer. I deeply appreciate and am humbled by the many expressions of support. I got a card from a woman in our church who understands perfectly where I am on prayer. She said, "We're praying for you -- whether you want us to or not." That's fine. I recognize the prayers as an expression of love and concern. I certainly would not want to stop anyone from praying if that makes them feel better. It makes me feel better that they love me and feel the need to express that love. But as I said in my first post, I cannot accept a concept of a deity who would pull strings to change the laws of nature to help a 68-year-old man who already has so much when so many millions of humans suffering horrible deprivations are left to fend for themselves.