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Home.  Home to the first “snow days” that our school board has declared in 37 years and home to our cozy, warm house.  Although it is going to take some time to acclimatize to winter it is good to be here.  Good to be in my own bed, good to be back in my role of slave to my cat master.

Getting home was not much fun.  I can only describe the car ride home as awful.  The trip from Vancouver in July after surgery was tough, but with the skin on my back deteriorating, lingering bowel issues, pain from pressure on my sacrum and flaring nerve damage from my foot, this was much more difficult.  We made great time, the border crossing was easy and traffic was light, but by the time we got home I was exhausted.  I spent the entire next day in bed and have yet to leave the house, which is okay as I wouldn’t get far anyway in this snow.  The trip was difficult but it was worth it to walk into our house with Christmas lights on and the tree still up, to be home.

While it is good to be home it was emotional leaving Seattle and leaving SCCA House.  We shared a quiet moment of gratitude prior to leaving room 503; it was a wonderful refuge for ten weeks, a welcoming place to rest and a base from which to discover Seattle.  I will miss the city, miss my routine, miss winter being rainy and above zero.

At UWMC, I was invited to ring a gong when I finished my last radiation treatment.  It may seem like a silly ritual, but after daily visits for almost two months it seemed fitting to recognize the conclusion of them.  The gong sounded a clear, satisfying note to signify the end of my time with the radiation oncology department, and also to remind me that at the start this process seemed like a “gong show”.  On Wednesday I had a “radiation graduation” at SCCA’s ProCure Center where I started my proton radiation therapy.  I shared a ceremony to mark the end of treatment with a lovely two year old boy and a woman who is completing her pbt this week.

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When I was at ProCure for my initial appointments in October I saw a similar event and thought it was a little strange to commemorate medical treatment, but now I see the value in it.  The ceremony was very meaningful and far more emotional than I thought it would be.  ProCure mints coins for each “graduate” that display the Seattle skyline, a Bragg’s peak (a radiation term, not a ski reference) and a fern (a symbol of healing as well as being common in the Pacific Northwest).  The event includes all of the staff and reinforces their patient focused approach to treatment.  Once again I came away from this center feeling that my individual care and treatment was important to them.

Following a nap, Olivia, Stella and I celebrated New Year’s Eve with a brisk walk and a seafood dinner.  I was back in bed by eight, thinking that I would skip the midnight celebration.  We woke up to the sound of fireworks rising from the top of the space needle.  Watching from our windows we had the best view possible, creating further good memories of room 503.  The fireworks were spectacular, not quite on par with Sydney last year, but amazing nonetheless.

I normally obsess over New Year’s resolutions, making long lists of goals and ways to better myself, everything from fitness, to reading habits, to learning languages to cultivating an appreciation for Grecian antiquities.  I rarely pursue them with as much vigor as I put into enumerating them.  This year however my resolutions are simple:  recover well so that I enjoy good health; be a good father to Maya and Stella;

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pursue meaningful work that is financially rewarding, and hold onto the good from the past seven months by being grateful, generous and kind.  I can’t add “donate blood’ to my list as I am banned until I am “cancer free” for a while, but if you can, please give.  I also can’t vote in the Greek elections this week but if you can, please do so.  All elections are important, of course, but this one in the cradle of democracy seems vitally so.  And of course, support your local library and public transit.  There, lecture over.

I intend to make a slow re-entry into life (which the snow storm has helped me do and my need to nap every two hours has enforced).  I know that jumping back into too much too quickly will lead to slower healing; however, I do need to get back up to speed eventually.  I need to balance rest and recovery with work and being proactive.  I have a consultation today about the worsening condition of the skin on my back, an appointment with my family physician, Dr. Wickstrom next week, a February 3rd appointment with Dr. Fisher in Vancouver to discuss nerve pain progress and options, and a follow up appointment with Dr. Tseng in Seattle on March 2nd.  Throw in a dentist visit and health care is becoming my full-time job.  Between this and taking on more work I almost don’t have the time or energy to think about the Seahawks’ playoff run, which is good because I am finding it incredibly stressful.  I know that I shouldn’t be as concerned as I am about Saturday’s game, surely they can get by Carolina (I’m thinking 24-9, 21 of those in the second half), but if I stop worrying about the Panthers I will become consumed with fear about the following week’s contest with the Packers (seriously, America’s Team is not going to survive winter at Lambeau Field on Sunday).  I know, I know.  I know that I shouldn’t devote even the slightest amount of energy to worrying about the outcome of an NFL match, but it is so much more enjoyable than wondering which large portion of the skin on my back is going to peel off the next time I stand up.

Over the past week my non-football thoughts turned to appropriate souvenirs to commemorate my time in radiation.  I had decided on a tattoo from these guys

Dark horse tattoo operates out of a converted ambulance under the I-5 near the cancer house

Dark horse tattoo operates out of a converted ambulance under the I-5

but opted to settle for something less permanent (I’m not far enough out of the woods on this for that definitive a reminder and it would be a little ironic to subject my skin to any self-inflicted damage right now).  In the end, I think I’ll settle for the coin from ProCure, my 12th man scarf and the memories of the good parts of my “radiation vacation” on these winter nights as I enter the healing phase of this journey.

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13 thoughts on “Home

  1. We are so glad you are home. Hugs to you and your family. Hope every day finds you feeling stronger.
    With love from Lori’s mom and dad

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  2. Welcome home, Paul! I love the idea of a coin to commemorate the end of radiation! I also love that the staff & patients celebrate together. One can spend a lot of time with a medical team so having them celebrate with one is a great way to move onto the next part of one’s journey. When you feel better, we’ll get together with the workshop gang & celebrate your completion of pb therapy! J

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  3. I’m sure you get tired of hearing this but I have to say it anyway because I feel it: You and your family are so very, very brave. I’m glad that you are back home and I hope and pray that 2015 will be a brilliant year for all of you!!!

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