Thursday, March 22, 2018

Good news, everyone

According to my oncologist, there is now no evidence of bone cancer.

I had a PET-CT scan at the very end of December, which revealed that my large bones, notably my spine and pelvis, were riddled with cancer that had evidently metastasised from the gastric cancer that is the source of these oncological blues.

One course of ten radiation therapy sessions and six sessions of FOLFOX chemo later, and last week's follow-up PET-CT scan shows no evidence of bone cancer. I have 'responded very well' to the treatment. The oncologist has kindly pointed out the the holes in my bones are probably there for life and I'm forever banned from heavy lifting, but these holes in my bones are now not filled with anything malignant.

She fell short of using the words 'cured' or even 'remission', and was cautious in being unable to advise how long the current situation would prevail. I have another six chemo sessions to go, and there will inevitably be further tests at the end of that. FOLFOX doesn 't really care what cancer it attacks, so I hope it's giving the stomach tumour a good kicking.

I'm now experimenting with reduced pain medication in an attempt to wean myself off opiates. A desirable side-effect of being off the drugs means that celebratory drinks become possible.

I am sure that my oncologist simply hates motorcycles, but I now have clearance to ride my Kawasaki 1400, subject to No Heavy Lifting. Fair enough. She says that the riding isn't a problem, and I can use the sidestand more and the centrestand less. Some riders never use the centrestand, and there are many bikes out there that only have a sidestand. I have to be big-bike fit by July in order to undertake my road trip.

Here's a shoutout to all those who have sent me their messages of goodwill and now congratulations and 'likes' on social media. This has been a source enormous psychological support to know that there are people rooting for me. Positive Mental Attitude must surely have helped, even though FOLFOX has probably been of greatest benefit. Thank you all.

]}:-{>

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Bike flight fright

Motorcycles do not fly. At least mine doesn't.

My speculative plans  to ship my GTR over to the USA for this summer's Great American Bucket List Road Trip have come to a resounding phutt. This is because I have received a grand total of two responses from my dozen or so enquiring emails to specialist "We ship motorbikes internationally" companies. Ten have failed to see fit to respond at all to my emails or follow-up emails, and one responded with "We don't ship from the middle east."

So that leaves one.

Twenty days after enquiring I got an email response to my reminder.

"We'll get back to you in a few hours."

Some 300 hours and several further reminders later, I got my quote. Eight Thousand Dollars. That's approaching what the bike's worth. And, lest we forget, the quote excludes the costs of a vast pile of known unknowns: Door delivery using a TSA vetted trucker; VAT; other unspecified tax; Customs duty; import duty; loading and offloading; crating; airport storage.

The fact that rather a lot of these listed charges should only apply in the case of permanent import rather suggests that the shipper hasn't thought this thing through.

Temporary import requires a Carnet de Passage. This is essentially a passport for the vehicle, and basically says that it is considered road legal in the country it's visiting, and it'll be taken out of the country again. So it is an utter nonsense that the UAE authorities would charge 5% of the value of the bike upon its return to the UAE as if it's a foreign bike being imported. It would be like driving to Muscat for the weekend and being charged 5% of the value by Oman authorites and then 5% by the UAE authorities on the way back. Nonsense. The shipping company has no knowledge of the Carnet de Passage.

Compare with testimonials on websites from which I never received a response.

"We arrived at the airport and rode away on our bikes an hour later..."

The bottom line, however, is this: $8000 is prohibitive. I could buy a decent used one out of the US small ads and throw it away a month later, still saving a great wad of cash. Always assuming I could get it registered; not necessarily a given, what with me being an alien and all that.

So it looks like I'll be solving the matter by throwing money at the problem. Bike rental is around $100-$120 a day, and I've always wondered what it'd be like to spend some time on a Gold Wing.

]}:-{>

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Plato's Cave

Like most of the people I know, I seem to get a high proportion of my outside experience from social media. Notably Facebook. Yes, like some prisoner in the Allegory of Plato's Cave, I'm getting all my information about the world from a little glowing screen and very little from real life. It's The Matrix.  From time to time something from this manufactured reality really hits home.

One such item was posted by George Takei, linking to an article possibly from the Knowable emporium of clickbaitery. In summary, one anecdote under "Unexpected Things The Doctor Said":

 "I went to the doctor with backache and came out with cancer."

 Oh yes; very familiar indeed.

Another meme, and this time quite independent of the above, was a panel that said something like:

"I weather major crises, 
and then break down 
when I can't find a teaspoon."

This too is happening to me.

DOCTOR:  "You've got incurable Stage IV cancer. We can control it, but you'll need medical intervention for the rest of your life."

ME: "I see. With treatment, can I lead a reasonably normal life?"

DOCTOR:  "Reasonably, yes."

Later...

ME: *Destructive temper tantrum because the new DVD is cracked out of the box and won't play.*

Still later...

ME:  *Massive yelling and throwing things because I'm getting no responses to my email enquiries.*

I am basically a dangerous and paranoid menace to society. Not a nice person at all. Most of the time I am just about able to keep a lid on it, but my life has been one crisis after another since 2010. See old blog posts for the litany.

2010 - Made redundant.
2011 - Made redundant (Constructively dismissed for refusing to commit fraud, actually.)
2011 - 2012  Job from Hell in Qatar Resigned after a year.
2012 - 2014  Banned from Qatar because no NOC from Job from Hell 
2014 - 2016  Job from Hell II in Qatar. Was supposed to be for six months. Contract ended after two years.
2017 - Incurable Stage IV cancer. Unable to take up new job.
2018 - With the clock ticking and, let's be frank, not much time to go, being jerked around by Officialdom over my bucket list.

ME: *Considers reasons to keep trying at all.*

]}:-{>

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I still aten't dead

The blog and its author remain alive and kicking.

Four chemotherapy sessions down and eight to go, together with 10mg oxycontin a day, and the Goat is now, startlingly, feeling healthy and happy. The latter may possibly be because he's permanently slightly stoned on the pain medication. Or not.

Anyway, he felt so great yesterday that he took the Kawasaki out rather than the Vespa. A few errands later, including a trip to the oncology department to be unplugged from his portable drug pump, and he discovered himself in Bad Odour with Beloved Wife. Apparently he should have cleared everything with his oncologist, with particular emphasis on getting permission to ride a big bike.

Now, the Goat fully appreciates that the consequences of falling off a 1400cc Kawasaki may include broken bones. And in his current state, broken bones would be extra painful and take a long time to heal. But surely at similar speeds this applies equally to a scooter. And, come to that, tripping over a cat and plummeting down a flight of stairs might have a similar effect too.

Not that there is any intent to do any falling off. The big issue with a 305kg Kawasaki is in manoeuvring it at low speed, and this always takes care and attention. This is where pain management comes in, for any aches, twinges, or searing agonies will inevitably imperil the bike's verticality and plastic. So Zero Pain is mandatory before riding big bikes can even be considered.

Anyway, the Goat has promised Beloved Wife that he will discuss the matter at his next oncology consultation. He suspects that the doctor hates motorcycles, but must be led to understand quite how important riding is to the Goat.

On his errands yesterday, and in keeping with a remark above regarding verticality and plastic, the Goat may have scored some inexpensive rear crash bars to protect the panniers in case of a drop. They come from a police bike that was apparently thrown up the road at 80km/h, and one of them is slightly bent. The Kawasaki workshop has procured new bars for the police, and as the Goat is the only one to have expressed an interest, he might be getting the old ones. It should be possible to straighten the bar, and after polishing and powder coating it'll be all good. And a lot less than $250 from the USA plus the frightening cost of shipping several kilogrammes of scrap iron halfway around the planet.

]}:-{>

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Coming to America

My bucket list includes the Great American Road Trip by motorcycle, this being a follow-up to the 2012 epic with Beloved Wife.

Unfortunately, bone cancer (or more specifically my oncologist) has forbidden the use of large motorcycles for the near future. Fundamentally, lack of bone mass and basic body strength makes it too difficult for me to wheel a big bike around. That actually riding it would be no problem is of little relevance when you consider what happens at red traffic lights, gas stations, and overnight stops.

Actually, it came to pass a couple of days ago that I had to move my Kawasaki from the front yard to the side of the Crumbling Villa so it would be parked in a less inconvenient spot. Just wheeling it about five metres was pushing the limit of what I could manage.

None of this has stopped me planning a summer of touring the USA. The overriding assumption has to be that I'll be fit enough to ride every day for a month or so. I floated the idea on a Kawasaki Concours/1400GTR Facebook group with a basic request for opinions on options:-

  • Rent a bike commercially.  Probably at $100 a day, I'd be looking at $3000 or so. It'd not be a Concours, but someone suggested I should go large and rent a Gold Wing.
  • Buy a used one, ride it, sell it.  I'd doubtless have to get my brother-in-law to own the thing because I'm not a US resident, but assuming say $6000 purchase price, it should be easy to sell at less than $3000 loss.
  • Ship my own bike to the US and then back again.  I have no idea what this would cost, nor what administrative hoops I'd have to jump through. But if UAE-registered Ferraris can spend summer in Knightsbridge, the principle is at least feasible. I've asked a shipper for cost and details.

Responses from the Facebook group where overwhelmingly positive, with offers of help, temporary accommodation, and one guy even offering to lend me his bike. "Get yourself to Texas with a license and insurance."

There were also many messages of support regarding the cancer. It seems surprising how many people have been or are are going through similar to me. This trip, if I can pull it off, might conceivably turn into a "Route 66 Defiant Cancer-Surviving Old Gits tour"

Back to Dubai and reality for a moment, and a note that I disgraced myself with Beloved Wife's Vespa yesterday. For the first time ever in my life, I dropped a motorcycle away from myself while attempting to put it on the centre stand, and fell over on top of it. Angry and embarrassed, I now have an exceptionally painful shoulder. The scooter's fine, but the incident serves to illustrate that I am currently in no fit state to be aboard anything heavy.

]}:-{>

Friday, January 12, 2018

Powerslave

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
It's Captain Caprine!!
Radiotherapy has been prescribed, and I'm halfway through ten sessions. I'm having a break because it's the weekend. The basic idea is that x-rays are beamed into my lumbar spine and pelvis to zap the cancer cells therein and reduce the pain. There are no nerves actually inside the bones, but the surfaces are covered in nerves and, as this is where muscles are attached, I get bone pain that feels like pulled muscles. The radiation is helping.

There is a thread on Facebook about this with many friends making comments about how being blasted with electromagnetic radiation will turn me into a superhero, or possibly a super-villain.

As I lay supine with heavy machinery whirling around me like some demonically-possessed fairground ride, it occurred that I might resemble some pharaoh.I was wearing the little paper apron preserving a little modesty, and my arms were crossed in the perfect place for the crook and flail. I guess I should also have had one of those stripy head-cloths and maybe a couple of Bangles...





However, unlike the pharaoh in the Iron Maiden song, I have no intention of being a Slave to the Power of Death any time soon.

]}:-{>

Monday, January 08, 2018

The final curtain?

I don’t think so. But I never expected to be writing this either.



TL;DR - I went to the doctor with backache and came out with cancer.

Being a bit middle-aged, and a bit overweight, I took it upon myself to go to a clinic and, in September, received a very clean bill of health.

And I was, with slightly elevated hubris, pleased not to be dying of something out of the Tropical Diseases House of Horrors.

That was September. By October I was getting persistent aches in my right shoulder and my lower back that weren’t getting any better. They got inconveniently worse in November, and a few days of not sitting down over the Formula 1 weekend didn’t help.By the time of my trip to Munich in early December the backache especially was becoming no fun at all. Indeed, when my transfer at Istanbul included an unscheduled trip over a flight of stairs, I was in extreme pain.

So back to the clinic in December.

“A few years ago I had an issue with my left shoulder that was treated and basically cured with microsurgery by a specialist orthopaedic surgeon. Can you check the other shoulder please? And by the way, my lower back is a bit ouchie as well.”

Two x-rays later confirmed no obvious cause, so I was scheduled for a MRI scan of my shoulder. After ten days, my medical insurance decided to approve the MRI and on 12th December I was back in the orthopaedic clinic with almost no shoulder pain but crippling back pain.

“I can see bone marrow infiltration on your MRI, and you need a lower spine MRI. I also need loads of blood tests to eliminate multiple myeloma.”

My back pain got so bad after that. Following a tortured night of no sleep I went back to the clinic, another doctor told me to go to the Emergency Room and to get admitted to the oncology department.

So I did, and suddenly had a week in hospital. This was to put me in the same building as the CT and MRI machines and a load of pain-relief chemicals not normally available even with a prescription.

Every test was the same story: “We are awaiting approval from your medical insurance.” From getting admitted to all drugs, tests, procedures, consultations. A tearful Beloved Wife must have spent hours on the phone to the insurance company.

And after a week and the last (I thought) test, I was discharged with a big bag of pills and a bill for the last night in hospital “Because you should have left yesterday and our tardy approval of your last MRI had nothing to do with staying an additional night.”

Mr Mystery Illness now called for the endoscopy and colonoscopy. Can I have the endoscopy first, please? Especially if you’re going to use the same tube.” A stomach ulcer was discovered and biopsy taken.

Dear reader, you can see where this is going. And on Christmas Eve that is where it went.

I did not have the extremely nasty multiple myeloma, a horrible cancer with a typical prognosis of a five-year survival probability around 50%.

My stomach ulcer is no such thing. It’s Stage IV stomach cancer. This has quietly jumped to my skeleton and has been attacking and weakening my bones for an unknown time.

Making ‘Caucasian Male, 54’ the star of some future dusty medical paper, metastasis from stomach to bone without touching the liver, kidneys, pancreas, etc., is apparently unusual and therefore very interesting to the medical profession.

Bone and bone-marrow cancer as extensively as I have it is incurable. My oncologist will not be drawn to a prognosis. The ever-helpful Dr Google says that the likelihood of five-year survival is less than ten per cent. This is a number that I intend to beat.

And so the therapy started in early 2018. As at today, I’ve had a port fitted in my shoulder to facilitate administration of chemotherapy. One session down and it made me very tired for several days. I’ve had two radiation therapy sessions so far of a course of ten. I have managed to get access to some really very powerful pain relief so that I can nearly function normally.

Life is nearly normal, and with the anti-pain drugs I appear healthy and fully functional. Apart from the life-threatening cancer, of course.

More anon. I am very far from giving up.

]}:-{>
 

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