Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Great Gift

A family friend has given a great my family a great gift: Two sweet, strong, incredibly capable Fijian ladies have taken up residence in my childhood bedroom in my parents’ home. They are there to assist my father with whatever he needs, such as being lifted to sit up in bed (he cannot do that for himself any longer), and ancillary tasks including changing sheets and even emptying garbage, thereby relieving my mother of many mundane household duties.

The gift to me is alleviation of stress knowing my dad is being well cared for ’round–the–clock (not that my mom did anything less than a stellar job) while my mom is free of a myriad demands, small and large, and the risk of further injuring her back. My mother also will have precious and essential time to herself—which she needs at the very least to come to terms with the life–changing events we are experiencing.

My heartfelt and sincerest “Thank You!” to our benefactor!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Happy Birthday Betty! (Mom)

February 27th, is my mother’s birthday. Contrary to my general policy, I think it would be nice for my mom to hear from you today. Call her at [removed] or, preferrably, e-mail her at [removed] (click the preceding link to launch your mail program and create a mail addressed to my mom). I hope she can enjoy it for at least a few minutes.

Monday, February 26, 2007

O2 Little*

My dad requested oxygen in late November, when just climbing the stairs to his bedroom became a major exertion. For nearly three months, three green cylinders, a trolley, regulator, hoses and nose tubes languished in the corner of his bedroom. Partly because he had a temporary overall improvement after beginning chemotherapy, but also, I know, out of pride and desire not to concede to his disease. By my observations, the latter reasons sustained his abstainance for much too long.

The tanks languish no longer. In fact, within days of his first use of them, his need has grown such that, rather than periodically refilling the empties, the tanks will be summarily replaced with an oxygen concentrator machine, which will ensure a steady, unending supply.

*For the non-scientists among you, ‘O2’ is standard chemical notation for the oxygen we breathe.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


The onomatopoeic title of this post refers to the sound of the oxygen that finally started flowing from the several green tanks of oxygen that were delivered at the end of November. Just in the past three days, my dad completely exhausted his first cylinder and began his second. A replacement cylinder will be ordered Monday morning. Practically any activity leaves him laboring for breath.

He is mostly staying in his bed. He is still unable to eat but at least he is drinking a bit. The one possible improvement is that the swelling of his hand has visibly diminished. Though my dad said that the amount of swelling goes up and down. The cause of the swelling is still indeterminate.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Deja Vu


I’ve posted similarly to this before but I find it good to repeat the essential information every now and then: If you want to reach me, please e-mail at [removed]. You may also call me on my cell at (1+) [removed]. Please remember I am in the United States Pacific Time (PT) zone. That’s eight to nine hours behind western Europe and a similar interval ahead of much of Asia.

I can convey messages to my parents and also advise you when it is appropriate to visit or call my parents. I would prefer that you do not call my mother as she is swamped.




Well, maybe not even that. Whatever ground he gained during the week post the addition of an anti-nausea drug to the increasingly ponderous collection he ingests daily seemingly has been lost. He is in bed, weak and unable to eat. His hand is swollen as much as it ever was. He is afraid to be left alone, leading to my mother to try to ensure that someone is there whenever she is not. (Upon arriving at his house today, I found his babysitter to be Elizabeth Agrilla, his longtime assistant. She was taking good care of him.)

Really, there isn’t anything else to say.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pluses and Minuses

Spirit-wise, my dad is improving. I think he’s benefiting from a new anti-nausea medication prescribed on Tuesday by Dr. Canin. He actually ate something today. For several weeks he has been eating little. My mother and I think that that is the cause of much of his chronic weakness of the past several weeks: a simple lack of adequate nutrition. Hopefully now that he is feeling better, for the first time in about a month, his appetite will return and he can begin eating his way back to relatively better health.

As it is, he is so weak that merely going upstairs to his bedroom is completely exhausting. It’s even more strenuous for him than it was in November. Moreover, he is left utterly winded. It took probably five minutes or more for him to recover after I helped him up to his bedroom this evening. In his frustration he invoked the prospective use of the oxygen that has sat in the corner of his bedroom for over two months. He also admitted to me, albeit after my coaxing, that perhaps it is at last time for him to begin sleeping downstairs, in the guest bedroom. I know he will miss his beautiful bedroom with the spectacular view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, in which he’s slept for over thirty-five years.

Finally, his left hand continues to be swollen. Upon the recommendation of Dr. Canin, my mother has wrapped it in an Ace bandage. I guess to try to restrict further swelling and to force some of the genetive fluid out of the tissue. My father blames an infiltration of Taxol for the edema–like symptom. However, being that his last infusive chemotherapy was now more than four weeks ago, my mother, his doctor and I all are dubious of this belief. But none of us can think of any other cause. I thought it might be another bloodclot but an ultrasound proved me wrong. My mom has a follow-up call with Dr. Canin tomorrow.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Side Effects

My dad has been on oral chemotherapy for the better part of a week. It was hoped that the change—from traditional infused treatments—would alleviate his chronic weakness. But we are not seeing any improvement. In fact, he seems worse. Chronic nausea; he’s eating and drinking little. My mother and I are obviously concerned.

Speaking of my mother, she is showing several signs of chronic stress. She needs assistance—more than I can give her. She has had a woman coming in occasionally but not enough, despite my encouragements. Moreover, the woman is about to give birth to her first child after which I am sure she willl not be available. So I am asking you to help me to encourage my mother to obtain more regular and extensive assistance. Referrals of candidates also would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

And So [He] Goes

Today was my dad’s second day on his new oral chemotherapy. And he is suffering for it, principally with nausea. Dr. Canin, his oncologist, said the side effects will pass in a few days. In the meantime, he’s not eating and barely drinking. At least he is a bit more ambulatory than even a few days ago. So I guess this amounts to an improvement.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Perspective (addendum)

I just spoke to my mom. She says my dad is definitely doing better. Notably, his color has improved from its disconcerting pallor of a few days ago.

My dad began his new oral chemotherapy regimen today. Hopefully it will be as successful at staving off tumor growth as was the traditional intravenous treatment, while allowing him to simultaneously feel better. However, given Dr. Canin’s preference for the intravenous, I’m guarded in my hopes.


I spoke to my dad earlier today. He sounded more cheerful than he’s been of late, but still very weak. His speech was quiet and labored. I had to listen carefully when he spoke into the telephone. At least he is again regularly making the effort to leave his bedroom and go downstairs to the television room on the main floor of my parents’ home. The sad irony of celebrating this small achievement by a man who formerly adventured around the globe is not lost on me.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


The chemo was aborted today. Dr. Canin, my dad’s oncologist, and my mom agreed that my dad is just too weak. My mother said to me that “the quality of life is just not there” [with the current intraveneous regimen]. For the next month my dad will receive daily oral chemotherapy, which isn’t nearly as potent as the every–few–weeks infused kind, but will be considerably less harsh on his system.

[This post has been renamed, from “Quality,” and slightly amended. Both changes were for clarity.]

Just Another Tuesday

As I write this, it is about 10:15 on a Tuesday morning. As I write this, my father is sitting in a large, fairly comfortable reclining chair. He has been lightly dozing for over an hour, the result of several milligrams of Benadryl having been dripped into his veins through an intravenous line. That drug in turn has been followed by his standard chemotherapeutic cocktail of Taxol and Carboplatin. This is, if I am correct, his fifth such infusion.

The entire treatment will last at least five hours, after which my father will go home, sleep, and probably awaken tomorrow to feel—to use his own words—“like shit.” Such is a typical post–chemotherapy state, for my dad and most other chemo recipients. This isn’t surprising when you appreciate that chemotherapuetic drugs are powerful toxins whoses goal is to poison malignant cells—hopefully without poisoning the healthy host cells (the patient) too much.

Through all this my mother simply waits. Perhaps she will wander over to nearby Broadway Plaza and shop a bit or grab a meal. But, on the whole, she will just wait. Alone. Then she will drive them the thirty minutes or so back to their home.

So, how is your day going?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Back at it...

I was sick for a week. Lost five lbs. Great new diet treatment! (Can’t be any worse than the zillions of others being hawked on television these days. My millions await.) My mother told me that when she stopped by my apartment, she hadn’t seen me “look so sick in many years.” And yet, even as I lay abed, coughing incessantly, sinuses running, head throbbing, I feared that my father generally feels far worse than I did. This was sobering and forced me to abstain from any self–pity.

Speaking of him, my dad is still trending better. Slowly. Two steps forward, 1.9 steps back. Yesterday definitely was a step or two back. He looked ashen. Pallid. No color to his skin. He was tired. But today... Well, I haven’t yet seen him but when I spoke to him by phone earlier, he said he was feeling better and he sounded more upbeat.

Forward backwar forward backwar forward backwar...

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


Just in the last two days, he is finally feeling better. This, after having felt pretty damn awful for well over two weeks. We’ll just hope that this upswing continues for a while. Which it probably will—maybe till his next chemo treatment next week.

It’s all so routine now. The jargon, heretofore experienced primarily on television medical dramas has become part of our every day dialog: (representational)
Hi Mom.
Hi Brian.
How’s Dad today?
Oh, he’s doing a bit better. We’re just about to leave for Kaiser.
What’s going to happen today?
Well, he’s going to have another Aredia drip. He has chemo tomorrow and another scan next week.
Oh, okay. Well, tell Dad I love him and that I’ll talk to him this evening.
I will honey. Bye bye.
Bye Mom.
Amazing. How did treatment of a terminal illness become such a blasé topic?

Monday, February 5, 2007

Siege and Sick

The siege of long hours and crushing deadlines has ended at last. But, right on the heels of that alleviation, I have contracted a pesky virus. I’ll start posting again when I feel comfortable sitting upright for more than two minutes!

For now know that we are all still here and that my dad has been very weak for two weeks. A period of such duration that I don’t believe the symptoms to be consequential of his most recent chemotherapy, albeit it is worth reflecting on their commencement being within a day of that treatment. At least his spirits are improving and he seems to be more comfortable.

I’ll be back soon. My apologies.