It hasn't been long since my last update, but I have plenty of "content," as the kids say.
Jacqueline and I have talked to a handful of people at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, and they have been helpful and encouraging. I'm not a candidate for the "bubble boy" immunotherapy trial ("It's MOORS! There's no MOOPS!"), but that was more of a down-the-road option and, in very good news, I would qualify for the trial we wanted to do first.
The zapping of the neck has just concluded, and I'm feeling much better on that front. Probably 80 percent or so back to normal. I can sleep normally. That process got off to a painful start. First came the torturous MRI. Then, in the first of five radiation sessions, I was fitted for a head restraint that looks like a goalie mask. I lay on the MRI-style table while technicians stretched soft plastic tightly over my head and neck. That plastic hardened, and it was used to firmly hold my head still during the zapping. After what seemed like an hour of this agony, one of the techs said, "OK, Mr. Walsh, we're about ready to start the treatment." Thankfully, the next four treatments were much less grueling.
Once the neck pain started to subside, however, an old nemesis lurched to the fore:
That knee pain that turned out to be related to even more cancer was suddenly much more acute. I had been complaining about it for months, but I turned up the volume and my main oncologist at Sibley Memorial referred me to an impressively credentialed radiation oncologist there. That doctor ordered up MRI No. 1,367, and when she looked at it, she immediately saw what could well have been a fracture of my femur. She grabbed her cellphone and reached yet another impressively credentialed specialist at Sibley. This was on Wednesday, and the oncology-focused orthopedic surgeon said I should come in Thursday.
She also said I should get crutches or a cane. I chose the latter. It was my first experience with either.
At Thursday's appointment, the dapper and congenial Sawbones of Doom (the first male doctor to play a significant role in my treatment) said I really, really needed to have a titanium rod implanted in my femur. He said the bone was straining to keep up with a fast-growing tumor expanding inside it, and he painted a vivid picture of the superiority of doing that to suffering, repairing and recovering from a fracture.
DOCTOR: "And we cap it off with a locking screw to prevent twisting."
ME: "Or theft!"
This was on Thursday, and the surgeon said he could operate Friday. So, yeah, tomorrow. Crack of dawn. And the room was booked for the night -- first my first cane, and now my first real surgery and -- unless they spring me for good behavior -- overnight hospital stay. Woo-hoo!
The doctor described the operation and the recovery as a breeze. I'll be able to walk immediately, though I should use crutches at first. I'm skeptical, but whatever. I'd really rather not add broken bone to this week's list of lifetime firsts.
I'm not a religious person, but if you are, please put in a good word for Roger Federer and Venus Williams. Hope that hospital room has ESPN.