Monday, June 27, 2011

Savoring the heat.

I suppose it is time to update the mechanics of chemotherapy.  That was the purpose behind this blog in the first instance.  As you may recall, I once openly declared that treatment was done, my doctor had cut the ties that bind, and I was let loose into the world to sink of swim on my own.  But I probably also mentioned that I would have the pleasure of biannual maintenance sessions where I returned to the chemo den for infusions of one of the drugs called Rituxin that makes up the R-CHOP cocktail.  C and I were told with confidence, "Twice a year!  No problem!"  What wasn't clear at the time is that "twice" means "two treatment blocks" or "eight."  So we are operating in a world governed by alternate laws of mathematics in which 2 = 8 is a true statement.  The long and the short is that the Rituxin sessions consists of infusions once a week for four weeks every six months.

The first of those months and four week sessions came and went last May.  C and I trooped back to the little room with the leather chairs and pulled up a seat.  Rituxin causes allergic reactions in some people, which means the infusion happens slowly and only after administering a large dose of Benadryl.  I once again had the pleasure of sitting for five hours while feeling drowsy and loopy.  The good news is that Rituxin has no side effects that I can identify.  Other than the time burden, it is a non-event.

My oncologist did not see any reason to redo the PET scan yet, and is waiting until we are a year or so out from remission.  Reasoning: "We don't want to scan you to death."  OK, I can accept those grounds.  My next appointment is... later?  Who knows.  I calendered it at work, so hopefully I'll get a reminder.

In the meantime, summer has fully arrived in Anchorage in all of its 50 to 60 degree fury.  To escape the oppressive heat, we spent last weekend further north in Fairbanks.  We figured that much closer to the arctic circle, sea ice, and the north pole we would find reasonable temperatures designed for human habitation, something like 35.  But to our horror, it was up in the high 80s.  I collapsed in a heap while C tried to fan me back to awareness with a well tanned moose hide.  So revived, we set about finding ways to occupy our time.

Luckily, friends S and S decided to hold a wedding.  It was a gorgeous sunny day, perfect for an outdoor ceremony.  Later in the afternoon, thunderstorms reared up, seemingly simultaneously in the four cardinal compass directions.  They added drama and beauty, but spared the wedding entirely, at least for our stay.  I cannot speak to drenchings that may or may not have occurred after we left.  The wedding had the three hallmarks of a classic Alaska ceremony: 1) It was held on an airstrip; 2) Towards the end of the actual ceremony, the groom called out for a leatherman; and 3) One of the guests performed hasty repairs on sun umbrellas placed strategically around the dining tables with a roll of duct tape.  If you want to avoid the dregs of the typical catered wedding dinner (another overcooked piece of Atlantic salmon and pasta primavera for the vegetarians?), I can heartily recommend that you attend the wedding of a chef.  It is the only wedding I've been to where the closest thing to a greeting line that ever formed was standing in line waiting for the groom to carve you up a chunk of pig.  Really, if all greeting lines ended that way I would probably try to stand in more of them.

I also got to head out for a 7 mile race hosted by the Running Club North on the trails around UAF.  They are some gorgeous trails for running.  If nothing else, the day taught me that I should be working in more hills on a regular basis.  The course was hilly, nothing big, but lots of ups and downs.  It amounted to only about 500 feet of total climbing, but still took it out of my legs.  Earlier last week, I went out for a six mile run on our local, flat, paved trail, and was able to truck along at about a 7:40 pace feeling good.  I was hoping to knock that down to 7:30 for the race last weekend, but instead came in at 58 minutes (8:22 pace).    Long time blog readers may recall that pre-chemo I had been hoping to do a fast (for me) half marathon last summer.  Of course, that plan was derailed.  I'll have to see if I can get there this year or not.  I'd say I still have some work to do.

In other events, C and I returned to the Chugach for some hiking and learned an important lesson: C doesn't like hikes that march upward, upward, ever upward for, say, hypothetically, 3,600 feet.  She announced as much part way up Wolverine Peak, but had likely been thinking it for some time prior.  Possibly since last September when we hiked part way up Wolverine.  It didn't keep her from smiling at the top though!

Some other shots from the way up and surveying neighboring valleys:

As noted, we had warm weather in Fairbanks.  We also had clear views on the drive up, which let us capture a picture of what has to be the most photographed spruce tree in all of Alaska:

Somewhere behind that spruce tree was a mountain:

And finally, in every sunny summer day, a little thunderhead must form:

More summer coming!  

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