Monday, March 17, 2008

here we go

Before I start singing the praises of Motol and my new oncologist, I want to say a couple of things about Karlák. My issue with them is certainly not the doctors, but the Foreigner and Finance Departments. Having nice Foreigner and Finance Departments (like Homolka) is well, nice, but you don’t go to the hospital to spend time with Finance people – that’s what banks are for.

Although the faded glory of Kateřinská may be an acquired taste, there is a beautiful park and church just behind the hospital, which, unfortunately, I only discovered my last day there. The hospital is very central, small and familiar, and more importantly, the doctors are wonderful. Drs. Nováková, Horáková (now in building B), and Docentka Havrdová (to name just three) are overworked and underpaid. The fact that this does not daunt nor deter their dedication is a testament to their character and credit to their profession. There are easier ways of making money in Prague than working 24 hours a day, several days a week, taking care of seriously ill people.
Same goes for Svetlana, the cleaning woman:

Irina and I got to Motol at about 7:30 this morning. I delivered my pee sample and proudly announced that I had produced four liters of the stuff in the last 24 hours (they had asked me to do this to test renal function; it’s not some kind of fetish). They then took five vials of blood out of my hand, which contains the only veins left viable. When my blood work came back I was declared (yet again) "perfectly healthy" - except for the body riddled with tumors, of course.

After a quick, “How was your weekend?” my oncologist told me I would begin chemo this Wednesday at 9AM. Each cycle would last five days at two hours a pop in three-week intervals for three to four cycles - you do the math. She told me that it was the most effective (chemo)therapy available and fully expects it to work. She reassured me about many of the side effects, as my treatment will be a ‘standard dose’ of the ‘Dartmouth Regime’, as opposed to a ‘high dose’ treatment, which obviously runs much greater risk.

 The first day of the cycle, I’ll get both DTIC and Vinblastine. The following four sessions will just be Cisplatin, which is a bit nasty. Here’s how they're supposed to work:

“The ability of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells depends on its ability to halt cell division. Usually, the drugs work by damaging the RNA or DNA that tells the cell how to copy itself in division. If the cells are unable to divide, they die. The faster the cells are dividing, the more likely it is that chemotherapy will kill the cells, causing the tumor to shrink. They also induce cell suicide (self-death or apoptosis).” [AKA cytotoxic = cell poison]

My oncologist is trying to work the financial aspect a bit, as I don’t have insurance and both the treatment and any hospitalization will be expensive. My insurance company paid me at least today: the month and a half of misdiagnosis that I had paid for out of pocket at Karlák. Too bad Kraut never sent them the invoice, as they seem to be in a paying mood.

I’m meeting 'golden hands' himself at 11AM at Homolka tomorrow for my first post-op outpatient follow-up, as it were. I don’t want to make an ass of myself like usual, so should probably get some sleep. I’ll have to save the Munich caper for a future, more relevant post, but here's a teaser:

Happy St. Paddy’s!


Anonymous said...

Hey Mikey,
Good luck with the treatment man. And with kicking the nicotine habit.
Also wanted to send a belated thanks for the party at St. Nicks.
Still keeping my fingers crossed for you bud.

Anonymous said...

Ahoj Miku,

myslime na tebe z Londyna. Sara and I are coming in April so we will visit u and Sara will show U her walking skills.

Love Bronia, Casey, Sara and the kitties.

Anonymous said...

Hallo Mike,

a friend who had cancer talked about her experience with chemo. She said you should not see it as pumping poison into your system (yes, of course, this is what you do ) which will make you suffer - but to think of it as a good thing, a strong and powerful liquid - like a weapon consciously you use to kill all those nasty cells.

Well, I thought I pass that on.

I will keep my fingers crossed & sending you lots and lots of power and fighting spirit for the treatment.

lots of love, henny

Anonymous said...

Well, that sounds pretty involved. Hope all goes well with Golden Hands tomorrow. Ann

VMH said...

Hey Mike, Cell Suicide, sounds like the name of a band. Good luck with all this (is that what one says b4 one starts chemo? surely not "break a leg") In any case there's a bunch of us around town sending you all the positive energy we can muster.
I'm around town these days. If you need anything...need a good meal, etc. I'm more than happy to cook for you! 774 513 299.

Anonymous said...

So i guess you started chemo today. I hope it didn't leave you too sickly. Am happy to hear of the doctors positive prognosis.

What else to say? see you in a few weeks.


Pamela said...

Hey Mike!

We just wanted to wish you luck with the chemo. You have a strong will and that's the most important thing in dealing with a disease like this. Just practise a little self-actualisation - imagine the cancer cells dying off and new healthy ones taking their place. I've heard this helps. Also, I think they now have some great drugs that help with side effects (nausea, lack of energy). Just remember that if you're feeling bad, it means the cancer cells are probably feeling bad too, and that's a good thing.

We'll be thinking of you nd checking for updates!!

Pamela, Ru and Oscar :>

Anonymous said...

Hey Bro,
Show them what you're made of. I kind of doubt that the chemo folks have seen someone like you before. Btw, your doctor sounds awesome. Also, is that Schwarzenegger's son in the Munich brewpub picture? What's the story?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for making my trip memorable and fun despite your very serious situation. Your friends were really cool too. They seemed to want know a story about me. I give you permisssion to tell them about how I crapped my snowmobile suit back in the 5th grade. But remember no exaggerating

Bad said...

cau mike,

cheers from balmy chicago!! err, NOT!! more like "balls creep up" cold! anyway, glad to hear you aced your surgery. stay strong and positive,as always. see you in the summer.


bad jeff