Tag Archives: road trip

The Radium 223 Road Trip Part Two

Taken at the Dos Amigos Vista Point along Interstate 5 on Friday, 3 October, 2014.

One of my favourite things to do is driving.  Maybe you might have assumed I’d say writing, or quilting.  Or even blogging, and yes, while those three are indeed a few of my preferred tasks, I’ve been driving longer than all those combined, for thirty-two years now.  I got my license on my sixteenth birthday, and since that date, car keys have never been far from my hand.  These days, road trips are a little more costly, and I have to wear trainers.  But the sense of the open road, while the music plays, always brings a smile to my face.

I grew up in the country, so wheels were imperative to getting away, which most young people ache to do.  My first regular vehicle was a Chevy Silverado with a three speed on the column.  I can’t count the number of cars I’ve driven over the years, although since we returned to America, I’ve been happy with a rather nondescript small SUV-sort of model; it gets me home, what more can I ask for?  And it has a pretty terrific stereo, hehehe.  Without the tunes, a road trip wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable.  I’ve been through 8-track players, cassette players, CD players, but for the last ten years, an iPod has sufficed.  I do keep a collection of CDs in the center console, just in case.  I would never wish to be at a loss for music.

The tunes of choice for my journey along Highway 99 to Bakersfield were those from a playlist, Songs for my Grandchildren.  Master Z isn’t due for a few weeks, and who knows when I’ll be humming those melodies his way, but first it is necessary to weed out songs that might not be apropos.  This trip south was a great opportunity to do just that, as I considered my dad’s next move along the cancer motorway.  Freeways and motorways in my US/UK life, but lately it’s been all American, and in America, I drive on the…  Oh my goodness, I had to stop and think.  The right, Americans drive on the right, doh!  Every time we came back to visit, it took me a few days to acclimate myself to driving on the right.  I’ve been driving so long that the action is fundamental, regardless which side of the road is the law.

But here, I drove on the right, well, on the left side of the right side of the freeway.  I tend to exceed the speed limit, but it wasn’t difficult, as the speed of traffic on 99 wasn’t slow.  I hadn’t been on that stretch of 99 for years, and once I was past Fresno, the territory was new.  My youngest daughter had said that approaching Bakersfield, the landscape looked like a bowl, what with mountains all around.  However, it was dark when I arrived, having listened to some of the Giants-Pirates game on the radio.  I turned off the iPod, just for a bit, to catch up on the playoffs, and to my joy, San Francisco would be moving right along.

Spending time with a young woman who is like another of my own was lovely; we ate lunch, shopped for baby items, enjoyed delicious ice cream while chatting about the changes in our lives; hers are more outwardly apparent, but mine contains some alterations, as I spoke about my dad.  She loved the quilts; I’m not sure which she liked better, hers or the baby’s.  When we said our goodbyes, again she expressed her appreciation for my visit; all of her family lives in Silicon Valley, and it’s not a quick jaunt from there to the bottom of Highway 99.  I’ll see her again after Master Z makes his appearance, for which she was also grateful.  Family isn’t always those to whom you are born, but those who fall into your lap along the way.

I spent a second night in Bakersfield, texting with my husband while his Green Bay Packers beat up on the Minnesota Vikings.  Rare are the times I am alone, even with texts being shared.  I was contemplating my drive home, after some sleep.  I didn’t want to leave too early, arriving in Silicon Valley while the morning rush was still busy.  But my task in the southland was done, and I wanted to be home, to ponder Dad’s upcoming treatment, and to wiggle back into my life, even if for only a few days.

Being available to care for family is a tremendous blessing.  But I need to recoup my own energy too.

That’s where the road trip comes in handy; not too many superior ways of relaxing than driving along two-lane motorways used solely as methods of long-haul transport.  I would be going home on Interstate 5, which like Highway 99 traverses the state.  But I-5 is even longer than 99, and while I would have to cut over on Highway 152, for many, many miles it would be me, music, and the freeway.  The 5, as those in SoCal call it, would take me home.

Dos Amigos Pumping Plant in San Joaquin County, California.

Dos Amigos Pumping Plant in San Joaquin County, California.

However, in NorCal, we just say 5.  No articles, it’s a freeway, the way Britons say “I’m going into hospital”, not how Americans say, “I’m going to the hospital”.  I was taking 5 (not the 5) back to my little neck of the woods, and when I couldn’t go back to sleep at four in the morning, I knew it was time to begin that trip.  Still, I didn’t rush, calmly eating my breakfast, going over the directions to take me from Bakersfield to 5, over the 7th Standard Road.  I put on my socks and trainers, necessary for long drives now that I’m pushing fifty, packed my car, turned in my key, then headed out in the still dark of night, a quarter after five in the morning.  I had arrived in Bakersfield under cloak of darkness, and was leaving in the same manner.

But it wasn’t the same sort of drive, for morning was breaking by the time I reached the freeway.  Stopping for petrol, and some coffee, I found the eastern sky starting to glow, and once back on 5, the western horizon no longer was pitch-black.  Funny to see how the world changes, within only moments, as night is erased, day dawning.  Now I chose different artists, listening to whole albums instead of a playlist.  I started with Hollie Cook, then chose R.E.M., moving on to Dash Rip Rock.  By the time I was drumming my fingers along the steering wheel to Dash, all was light, I was singing, and the previous two days seemed faraway.  I wasn’t sure how that had happened, but time moves that quickly.  If we linger too long in the past, we’re bound to get lost in the process.

I think that’s why Dad has been able to handle cancer as gracefully as he has been; he fully well knows each day is so precious.  My daughter’s best friend, well, her attitude about the coming baby is that of a twenty-two-year-old, with not all that much perspective with which to see the forest for the trees.  She’s very excited for Master Z, but somewhat unprepared, but that’s normal of course.  No woman, regardless of age, knows what motherhood is going to entail.

The same can be said about cancer patients, or those who have never battled such a foe.  As my dad implies, it is what it is, what I pondered along 5, as Thomas Dolby followed Dash, and then was followed by a few Luna tunes.  I don’t remember what I was listening to when I stopped at the Dos Amigos Vista Point, but I had time to…  I nearly said time to kill, which seems rather wasteful, when speaking about my dad and cancer.  Not a single one of us has time to kill, although a little loitering wasn’t going to harm anyone.

I have never driven with such a sense of there is no hurry.  If I hurried, I’d hit South Bay traffic, bleh.  Not to say I drove like a snail, but I wasn’t worried about getting pulled over.  I drove with a new-found depth of a realization that perhaps had been cultivated two days prior, going the other direction on a different motorway; life is this very moment.

I just typed those words, and I’ll do it again: life is this moment.  That is all it is, and then it changes into the next moment, then the next, and then suddenly it’s Monday, and I’ve been home for three full days, and the Giants are hoping to wrap up their series with the Nationals about, oh, right now.  The third game of that NLDS is starting momentarily, so about time for me to complete this post.  Today was spent running errands, a little reading of The Hawk (about which I’ll ruminate in blog form in a day or so), and now sport.  Baseball first, football maybe later, if another East Coast squad can keep a West Coast football team in check.  If Seattle overpowers Washington, I’ll change to the Dodgers and Cardinals.

The weather outside might feel like summer, but fall is upon us, in the guise of major league sporting adventures.  And in road trips carrying autumnal themes; change is occurring, although I might not see it.  But time isn’t static, I can’t waste a minute.  I have a father in need of a jousting partner, a grandchild on the way.  Quilts to make, a novel to finish, and a baseball game through which to bite my nails.

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…

Under Wide Blue Skies

Not from today, mind you.  From July 2009, but California looks about the same today (although no hot air balloons decorating this morning's skies).

Not from today, mind you. From July 2009, but California looks about the same today (although no hot air balloons were decorating this morning’s skies).

Just returned from the first road trip of autumn; Dad is feeling better, watering the garden where before Mom did the duties.  His voice is still somewhat raspy, his legs weak.  However he’s eating like a horse, although ice cream remains off the menu.  Mom’s chocolate pie however suffices, with enough whipped topping to make one question if he has the pie simply to imbibe in said whipped topping.

The day my father gives up Cool Whip is the day I shall worry.

I spent an extra day away, only in that when I was going to leave, the hour had grown late, it was hot out, and I was already weary.  Better to drive home on a decent night’s sleep, or the best night’s rest I could manage away from my husband.  It was good enough, buffered by a well-savored cup of java, the real stuff even.  Sometimes I need a cup of coffee, not like a hole in the head, only as a treat.  Starts off a road trip in the best way.

As I drove south, I considered who else I saw there; my BFF from high school, who always makes me smile, who is as big of a sports fan as I am, although our teams of choice differ.  She’s A’s, I’m Giants.  She’s Steelers, I’m…  Um, well, I’m a Packers fan this year, but we shan’t speak any more of football for a few days, although my hubby is the TRUE Packer Backer, and last night’s game, well…  Yeah.  Moving right along…  So I was thinking of my bestie as I drove under wide blue skies, an endless Californian blue, hazy at the edges, cloudless and vast and bright.  Bright light blue that speaks of (relatively) early mornings, lorries on the motorway, coffee in the cup holder.  Miles collecting as I steer in fairly straight lines, with a strap on my left arm, to ward off the silliest bout of tendinitis I have ever encountered.  I’ve weathered it with cross stitching and crocheting, but never road trips.

But then, I’m not getting any younger.

I realized that, speaking with my bestie yesterday at lunch, chatting about varsity football players from our high school days; I wanted to know if they still wore shirts and ties on game day, while the JV players donned their jerseys.  Indeed they do, she noted, her youngest a senior at our alma mater.  Then we spoke about the chaps we recalled from those days, and how dapper they appeared so well dressed.  To my shock, I learned that one of those no-longer-young-men had died of brain cancer five years ago.  That brought our chat down a level, but then we’d already discussed my dad’s neighbor, who is about five years my senior, and in the early stages of ALS.  Yes, time marches on, and not everyone stays in step, a sobering consideration.

But I wasn’t thinking about that while I zoomed far under those bright blue skies.  I was thinking how blessed I am for that woman’s friendship, for my husband, who I will see in a few hours, after he visits the dentist, to have a crown reattached.  (Hopefully the dentist can simply reattach it.)  And how tremendous are these beautiful autumnal days, where the sunshine covers this state like a permanent blanket.  Yes, it’s a little boring, I’ll admit.  But it is amazing for the continuity, for how blue are those skies, and how precious are all who dwell underneath them.

I’m fortunate that driving only causes a little tendinitis, well, long-haul driving.  Maybe I’m too aged to pull off a late-nighter, but so what?  Now I’m home, where words and quilts await.  I was thinking about The Hawk as the tunes ricocheted inside my vehicle, pondering Jane’s first birthday and Stanford’s visit with his psychiatrist.  Not sure if I will get to that tomorrow, we’ll see what that day brings.

Not sure when I’ll return to the sewing machine either; I’d planned to do that today, assuming I woke this morning in my own bed.  But sometimes assuming, well, it’s not always the best path to take.

But occasionally a break is necessary; absence does make the heart grow fonder.  It makes one appreciative of what is often taken for granted, home and hearth, also those with whom visits are sporadic.  I love chatting with my dad; on Wednesday afternoon we were rooting hard for the Washington Nationals to overtake the LA Dodgers.  I said my goodbyes in the eighth inning, just as the Nats had gone ahead 3-2.  Six innings later….  Good grief, but at least LA lost, keeping SF within two games.  My father is as vociferous of a fan as I am, where I got my enthusiasm for sport.  However his voice was subdued, so I cheered for him.  And I’ll see him again soon enough, a bone scan upcoming, as well as another visit with his doc concerning those results and the post-chemo treatment.  I’m very thankful to be somewhat close to home, just a few hours in the car.  It’s not like I live in England anymore, several hours away by plane.

Merely a little trek under wide blue skies, with music and musings to pass the time.