The Radium 223 Road Trip Part One

 

If my life were longer, say another couple hundred years, I’d write a novel based upon this entry’s title.  But even if I live to my nineties, most likely the last few days will remain as a memory, barely touched on within this and the accompanying post.  So many things happened over the last few days that snatches will waft through me, until as Julie Brown once said, I can’t recall them anymore.

But obscure pop culture references aside, I want to recount a few tidbits of my recent days, because while life is meant to be lived in the here and now, what we pass along to others matters too, be it in the confines of doctor’s offices or over ice cream, or even when alone, conversing with a creator who made the whole kit’n’kaboodle.  At times, time is frozen, like the sign at a Bakersfield liquor store, advertising the sale of film, sandwiches and picnic supplies.  When I saw that sign, I had to pull out the phone, capturing that piece of a bygone era.  Who sells film, or even notes its sale, anymore?

(Later I learned that no, they don’t sell film.  But I’m glad they still have the sign.)

When Dad saw his oncologist a few weeks back, radium was already on the proverbial treatment table.  His visit to the UC Davis Medical Center last week was the preliminary step, introductions between Dad, Mum, me, and a very personable doc who thought Radium 223 was Dad’s best option, assuming Dad isn’t anemic.  Radium 223 is relatively new, approved by the FDA in early 2013 after very promising trials.  It’s infused right into the bloodstream, going straight for the bones.  Fatigue and diarrhea will be the main side effects, but Dad was optimistic, especially after hearing that the next treatments were Jevtana, the bully-chemo-cousin to Taxotere, or another hormone pill that probably wouldn’t do Dad much good, coming too close on the heels of his days with Zytiga.  We might consider Xtandi later on, well after his encounter with Radium 223 is over, but right now Radium 223 will be enough to ponder.  Dad won’t be radioactive, the doc noted with a smile, so hugs are strongly encouraged.

After the low-down was discussed, we were sent to the lab, so Dad could give blood, to make sure among other things that he’s not anemic.  This has become so much of his life now that he doesn’t flinch, even made the doc laugh when Dad said they could poke him wherever they wanted.  “You’re at a university hospital,” the doc slyly smiled.  “Don’t go saying that around here.”  We all chuckled as Dad was called back to give blood.  Mom nibbled on a granola bar while I considered my next activities; we all had miles to go before we slept.  Dad wasn’t in there long, and slowly we approached the main entrance.  The facilities at UC Davis Medical Center were excellent, and everyone was pleasant and upbeat.  As usual Dad was his charming self, which I know bolsters not only his health, but the rest of us too.  Several times the doc noted this wasn’t a curative therapy.  It’s solely to give Dad, and us, as much time as possible.

And again Dad noted that he felt he had another couple of decades.  What more can we ask for?

While my parents had to navigate Sacramento freeways to get back home, I took another route, not one returning me to Silicon Valley.  The Central Valley was my destination, so we didn’t linger long, saying our goodbyes, which are temporary, for Dad will be back in Sac in a few weeks, possibly sooner, depending on the results of his labs.  If his white blood count and platelets are normal, and he’s not anemic, the first infusion of Radium 223 could take place ASAP.  These treatments will continue every four weeks for six months, unless his PSA skyrockets, in which case this option will be dropped.  But the doc noted that PSA’s are no longer the be-all end-all markers of prostate cancer.  In the last five years, PSA’s have mattered less, as long as the patient is feeling well.  With bone cancer now in the picture, not to mention Dad’s COPD, a host of ailments hover.  Dad himself said that prostate cancer isn’t usually what kills, and some men live for years with the condition.  Dad’s thinking another twenty of those years, and we’ll take it day by day to see.

Day by day is all any of us have, whether we’re seventy, forty-eight, or twenty-two, with another life eager to enter the world.  My next stop on the road trip was to see my youngest’s best friend, the mum-to-be of Master Z.  I was also on a quilt-delivery mission, but that destination was at the tail-end of Highway 99.  Before I closed my eyes on that day, Bakersfield, California was awaiting me.  I hugged and kissed my parents, walked to my car, then started the engine.  Pulling out of the UC Davis parking garage, I made my way for US 50, which would take me to 99 South, for Fresno the sign said.  I smiled; many cities and small towns between Sac and Fresno, and a few more separating Fresno and my final stop for the day…

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