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April 14, 2000
a year ago
two years ago

Good and Bad

I didn't feel particularly well today. I woke up and went through all the motions, mostly because they were pre-programmed and eventhough I wasn't feeling at all hungry I made myself a breakfast of toast and egg; and as I was doing that John told me that Phil was coming at 8 to get paid the last installment as everything looked done. That was mildly surprising, but very good as it looked done to me. The basement has turned into a really nice little suite plus entertainment area. The suite has an ajoining bathroom and opposite that is our storage area that John's going to put shelves up in.

We got to work in plenty of time for my 9:30 mini-review with Steve. Steve was so busy that he didn't have the time for the full review today, and given the instant agenda that I suddenly found in my calander I saw why. There was going to be a group meeting from about 11-12, and then lunch with the whole group until about 1:30, which meant probably until 2 and then at 2:30 John and I were going to have to book for west Denver to get Fezzik to his appointment on time. So the whole day was pretty much shot. I wrote a letter to Geoff to say that I probably wouldn't be on much at all.

The mini-review went well. Very well. He had to have it today so that when my paycheck arrived it wouldn't be a moot point. He really liked what I'd done in the past year, so I got an above average raise, which was nice. Everyone in my pay grade got put on a bonus plan that tied into how well the company did, per profits, thank goodness, not per the stock price; and that looks to double our usual profit sharing bonuses, so that looks really nice as our profit sharing, last year, was about 5% of our salaries. Finally, I also got more options! Yay! Turns out I got the same number that John did, which made me feel pretty good, actually. It's rare, now, that I get recompensed, in any way, at the same level that John does, and it felt pretty good this time. Steve was really good with the praise. I enjoyed that a lot.

So that was the good news.

The bad news was that today the whole market tanked, solidly, and Xilinx went down with it all. So that the options are pretty much negative money at the moment, as the exercise price is pretty ridiculously above today's market price. Still, in a year or two, this probably won't matter, as we're going really strong as a company. The really amusing thing is that between the pay raise, Fezzik's illness and my illness, I didn't really care about the stupid stock market. It just didn't really matter.

The meeting was just an organization shuffling meeting. Just moving around tags under names, the group, as a whole, isn't being broken up or going anywhere, so we'll do just fine. Though Steve is moving on to other things and we're going to have to break in a new boss. That scares me a little, as Steve's been so good for us; but I've met our new boss and am impressed with him technically, we'll have to see if he can handle the people part of things nearly as well.

After that we all piled into cars and went to the European Cafe for lunch. It's a very posh place, with pretty good food, and we all sat at a long table and all talked and talked and stuff. My voice stopped working, somewhere in there, and it didn't really matter. I did figure out that it meant that I was really sick; but I really didn't have a choice as to what to do or not do and I *had* to be up to go with Fezzik and John to the vet's so it seemed really moot, at this point, to call anything off or try and go home or something. I was just really sick and just really quiet and I tried to drink a lot of plain liquids. It helped my voice, a little, but I really did feel pretty terrible. I ordered food that wasn't too fancy or expensive as I knew that the taste just wasn't going to matter to me.

We got back to the office in time to see Xilinx hit 56 from a high of the 90's a few weeks back. Ow. Then again, we were in at 13, so I'm not sure I have any right to complain. No Geoff, but a nice note saying that he'd been at the dentist's all morning and into the afternoon. I had known about the dentist, just not the exact timing, so that felt good to know.

John and I then hopped into the car to drive home to get Fezzik.

I was dizzy by then. Dizzy, tired, and unbalanced and not doing at all well, and regretting having gone to work in the morning at all, rather than staying at home with Fezzik until John came to pick us both up. There was no way in the world I was going to make John make the decisions himself and make Fezzik go through whatever without being around for him. Even if it meant abusing myself some to do so. I think I get, a little better, what Geoff was going through yesterday, perhaps. They needed me and I was going to be there.

But I needed John's help to make sure I didn't get worse. So we got water bottles and stuff, and then piled Fezzik into the back of Borax and me into the front. It was 79 degrees out, so I was really warm, but I brought a coat and a big sweater with me, just in case... and it turned out to be a wise thing, eventually. Then we went to Wheatridge, which is a good 45 minutes away from home.

I napped in the car while John drove and Fezzik napped in the back. We got there and it's a big animal hospital that's open 24 hours and had small holding pen/seating areas in the waiting room that makes is much easier to seperate dogs. We waited for Dr. Billings and eventually got in to see her.

She loved Fezzik. Said he looked six, and that he looked to be in great shape. Also said that we weren't to beat ourselves up for not spotting this earlier, as it was very subtle, especially since Fezzik is so completely furry. Just a bunch of lymph nodes swelling is really hard to spot in so much fur. She went over the test results with us and the folks that did the test said, yeah, this is lymphoma, and she said that sometimes they're wishy washy or uncertain and that's when she wants to do a biopsy to make sure of the stage of the cancer or even if it's there at all. In this case, she was confident that there really wasn't any doubt that he had it and wouldn't require a biopsy of one of his lymph nodes. With the signs that she could feel and these test results she was very confident that he was just Stage A, i.e. the earliest stage, and that he seemed to be in good shape for chemo.

It turns out that he would actually start showing signs of distress and being sick in four to six weeks if we hadn't caught it and weren't treating it. It also turns out that her line of chemo actually completely cures 25% of her patients. That was unexpected. Including those, 85% of all her patients do go into remission, where the cancer stops, on average, for 12 months. So it could be anywhere from six months to sixteen, but a year was the average of those that go on it. Which is longer than we'd originally been led to believe.

She then went through all the other tests we could do. The one that she required was a complete blood and blood chemistry make up, so she could see if it was in any of his other system and if she had to change the treatment in any way to make it harsher or easier than her original assumption. There were other tests, X-rays, ultrasounds and urine tests that were all aimed at particular organs that might be affected. They'd be useful if the blood test indicated extra damage, and they'd likely not affect her treatment. She then went through a detailed description of the five different drugs she used, when she used them, how they were administered, and what was involved. We mostly just go in once a week for about 12 weeks. Then gradually stepping down to a once a month maintenance chemo for probably the rest of his life, or until remission stops.

She also said that the best part of her job was the fact that doggy chemo doesn't affect dogs nearly the way it affects people, mostly because a dog's digestive tract is so much tougher than a human being's. They don't get sick, don't throw up, and don't have the digestive problems that humans do. They don't lose their hair, though they might shed more, and they generally have a fine quality of life even during treatment and it's all about getting better quality of life after the treatments. So that was very keen.

So we decided that she should do the blood test there, and we'd take a little time to talk about wheither we'd start treatment right then and there. She was cool and did the blood test quickly and we got Fezzik and went hunting for a Dairy Queen. As we hunted we talked things through and were pretty much in complete accord. No tests if they weren't going to affect treatment. She seemed to have a good handle on what was going on and what to do next and had the expertise to do it all right and watch how Fezzik did with it to the point where she'd have a good idea of how he would do in the long run on the treatment.

The more we talked and the more we knew, the more I felt that we'd been extraordinarily lucky in finding the lymphoma when we did and how we'd done it. Sure, the original news had been shocking, but, at least this way, we had a fighting chance and we could do something about it that was sounding, more and more, as if it would have a good chance of success. In some ways, cancer seems just a part of old age, that most creatures that live past their 'natural' or 'average' life spans have to go through some of it and it was just Fezzik's turn. The luck came in finding it so quickly and before he felt bad about it it or with it at all.

So we went back. She went through all the blood test results with us to make sure we understood what was going on, and it looks like the cancer hadn't gotten into any of Fezzik's major organs. So he was mostly a go for treatment if we decided to do so. We nodded and asked her to give him his first treatment and give us the first series of pills to give him this coming week.

It wasn't that hard a decision to make. There really didn't seem to be one that was any different that made any sense. Especially given that we had all the monetary resource, and then some, to do this. So we actually felt pretty good about it all, and while she did the half hour procedure John and I went to a little shack of a place called Jose's Burritos and had really good Mexican food. I wasn't particularly hungry, so I just ordered a single chicken enchilada while John got a whole soft taco plate. I stole a little of his beans, but the small amount of food had been perfect for me. As we ate, the wind picked up, clouds blew in and everything started getting dark.

In Seattle, we would have said, "Here comes the rain." Here all we could say was, "Here comes the wind." And, indeed, the wind came and started howling around us.

When we got back it was just about another five minutes before Dr. Billings showed up with a bouncy Fezzik. He was dragging her around a bit after him, though he did listen to her when she really wanted him to go a certain directly. He was alert and cheerful and drank an entire bottle of water when I took him out to Borax while John paid the bill. They'd added Benedril to his injection to be sure that he didn't have an allergic reaction to the actual chemo drug, so he was thirsty. On the way home he just curled up in the back for most of it, until we got to the off ramp, then he was up on his feet, looking everywhere. So he didn't seem to be affected by the drugs, at all. That was very reassuring.

Also, on the way home, we both discussed the fact that we felt very good about the decision. That there really wasn't anything else we could have done or would do. That the uncertainy was done with and we were doing what there was that could be done and had choosen the best pathes set before us.

We dropped by Safeway on the way home, to get milk and random other stuff and then got a video for tomorrow or Sunday. Then home, and I drank a Lizard Blizzard and watched a little TV and then finally collapsed into bed. Tired. Sore. Sick. Luckily, my nose was pretty clear, so I didn't have to use the nose spray and I just turned on the humidifier to have a little moisture in the air and tried to sleep as the wind banged at all the walls.

It is such an odd mix of good and bad, today. So many days have dreamed by so placidly, and then to be shaken, so hard, by this week... good and bad all mixed inextricably. I guess this is life. And we do what it is we can and that, alone, can be satisfying.

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