Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spinning in circles

I've been in a fog lately. It's not my usual absentmindedness. Rather, the effects of an increase in my serum calcium are being felt.

I find I'm not able to think as quickly or as clearly as usual. Clarity comes, but with greater effort. Perhaps thinking at length about it makes this mild inability to focus seem worse than it is. I've always had the attention span of a bolt of lightning, but concentrating at home and on the job -- where concentration is crucial, given my line of work -- has become much more difficult of late.

I get tired fairly easily and have needed midday naps more than usual. I have the energy to walk around my favorite Manhattan neighborhood, the East Village, to take photos, but find I need to rest and recharge upon getting home. Otherwise, I can't function. I've felt slightly more energetic the past two days, but I still feel very much off.

My appetite has been minimal these past two weeks or so. I'm just not very hungry. Oddly, sashimi (specifically tuna, salmon, shrimp and fluke) is among the few foods that I've been able to eat with eagerness, and even to excess. To put it in perspective, when I began my struggle with parathyroid cancer in 2002, I weighed 157 pounds. Today, I'm 132. I attribute part of this to exercise, but loss of appetite is also a symptom of the illness.

My knees are constantly stiff and in pain. Part of this is certainly due to my middle age, but my joints shouldn't be this achy and inflexible at this point. I walk up the stairs to the fourth floor of my office, but it's becoming increasingly difficult. My arms also hurt more and they become tired easily.

I've arranged to undergo an intravenous treatment with the calcium-lowering drug Zometa as soon as this week. I'm as needle-phobic as they come, but dealing with the phobia is better than continuing to feel like shit.

I have a consultation Friday with a surgeon at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on the feasibility of further surgery. Last year around this time, his opinion was that it would be a futile effort, and I doubt his position will have changed. My "regular" surgeon, who knows my insides better than I do, has already come down against that option.

So, I wait and endure.


Jean said...

I hope you find something that helps, Michael. Perhaps you need a few days off work? I guess that feels like a slippery slope, but no need to go to the other extreme? Keep taking good care of yourself. Thinking of you.

Michael said...

Hello Jean,

Yes, a vacation might be a good idea. Once the weather warms up here, it might be just the thing. As always, thanks!

east village idiot said...

I'm not liking what I'm reading. Not one bit. Do you have family nearby - and I mean very nearby who can take care of you during this rough spell?

When you say that surgery may not be a viable option - can you get to what is malignant with chemo instead?

Look. I'm an old goat - just like you are - and you shouldn't have so many aches and pains just yet. You've still got lots of years ahead - I don't like what this parathyroid cancer is doing. And by the way - I checked out a few of the websites about your illness and nearly had a hissy fit. Half of the f*cking websites are dedicated to telling you - "oh don't worry - you don't have it!". And I felt like shouting back "well what if I f*cking do have it?!"

Sorry to rant and rave. I just want you to be on the road to recovery.

Michael said...


As always, thanks so much for your support and encouragement.

My condition in no way is debilitating, other than that lately I've been having days on which I feel like shit -- but can still function, if at a slightly slower speed. My family is very supportive, lives close by and is just a phone call away. So far, I haven't needed much help other than to be accompanied to consultations by my eldest sister to ensure I'm not forgetting to ask key questions.

As for chemo, it doesn't work with this cancer, and neither does radiation. I'm on medication that's effective to a point. Experimental treatments are a possible next step, contingent on whether I choose to go that route.

I still go to work, take karate (though with a bit more difficulty) and wander Manhattan on foot, but it has all been tough lately.

And yes, the Web sites SUCK. They're either outdated or don't address one thing or another. That's why I have avoided them for years now. They're worse than useless because they often misinform. Let this be a caveat to ANYONE out there with a serious illness.

Again, thanks so, so much for your comments!

Matt Kohai said...

I'm rooting for you to feel better. I know Beth is as well, she's mentioned recently in conversation that she's concerned about you. Good luck.

Michael said...


YourFireAnt said...

Well, I surely admire your attitude, with its grudging acceptance and finding the good in things, its weighing the choices, and taking your time. And your photographs show this. I've especially admired your portraits lately.



Michael said...

Thank YOU.