Thursday, July 7, 2011

puzzles and the prostate posse

It's the crack of dawn and off we go to the hospital for another zapping. It's become a routine now. Get up, get ready, take Sunset Blvd down to UCLA as the sun comes up, look for the closest handicap spot, walk up to campus, take the elevator down to the dungeon, which always takes forever. People will get in by accident and ask if it's going up and we tell them, "No, this one is going down to the dungeon, we don't think you want to go down there." Wait a few minutes to have your name called, Paul goes in and I sit in the waiting room and wait for about 15-30 minutes depending on if the machine is working that day or if they need to realign the laser. Then I can hear when the zapping starts and when it ends, wait for my English Patient to reemerge. Start heading out of the clinic, wait for Paul to make a pit stop for his morning cup of decaf (another thing cancer has taken away from him, no more caffeine as that will cause him to become dehydrated and that's one of the last things you want). Get back in the car, head back home, get the patient settled, if it's an extra early appointment and we haven't had to wait too long, I can sneak in a quick nap before heading out to work.

The waiting room at radiation has to be one of the most depressing places ever. There is a sad looking aquarium on one wall but you rarely see the fish. One can come to all sorts of conclusions why there are so few fish in there like: have they have been killed off due to all the radiation, are they just hiding because they are depressed. You get the picture. The beige walls are bare for the most part and there is the customary stack of out of date donated magazines to keep you occupied. But there is also a table in the middle of the room with a half-finished puzzle. I learn quickly that it's first come, first crack at the puzzle. So if no one is around I will sit there and take a stab at it. The other regulars sometimes get annoyed with me since there is some unwritten rule that no one seems to talk to each other and no one will ever join another stranger in completing it. It's just plain strange. There are two Russian men who really become territorial about the puzzle and it amuses me.

Since the clinic books all of your appointments for the span of your treatment all at once, you tend to have the same time every morning and you start seeing the same people each day. I have nicknamed the predominantly male patients, the Prostate Posse. Remember no one really speaks to each other but I overhear them talking to the nurses and the other techs around and figure out that most of them have prostate cancer. Some have traveled from out of state to LA to have their treatment at UCLA. Some are local. Some come in wearing workout gear and then after treatment, get changed into suits for a day at the office, which just stuns us since the combo of the chemo pills and daily radiation is quickly taking its toll on Paul and these other guys look like spring lambs compared to him. We just keep reminding ourselves that everyone reacts differently to treatment just like there is no generic type of cancer or treatment.

Apparently today was graduation day for one of the other patients. Turns out he has brain cancer and was having his last zap. The clinic gives all patients on their last appointment a diploma saying that they completed treatment and in the case of brain cancer patients, they get to receive the mold that was created to keep their head in the right place for the laser. I've told Paul we will frame his certificate when he is done with this. Only 20 more zaps to go.

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