Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mannish boy

I went to bed Wednesday night substantially more manly than I was when I woke up on that morning.

More humanly, at least.

Wednesday morning I headed to the Kaiser Kampus with a hefty to-do list, starting with a return appearance in the Urology Department.

Kaiser's urologist and I had a deal: If I could demonstrate my ability to pee successfully on my own, she would authorize removal of the Foley catheter I had been schlepping around since the day I left the hospital.

Just as she did one week ago, a nurse pumped my bladder full of water, removed the catheter, and then handed me a plastic container. My mission was to fill the container with enough urine to convince the urologist to liberate me from the rubber-and-plastic albatross anchored to my leg.

Michael Phelps never experienced the pressure I felt yesterday after the nurse left me alone in the exam room with the empty container. But I gave the performance of a lifetime, and left that artificial appendage behind in the medical waste bin.

From Urology, I headed across the street to the Kaiser pharmacy.

Cancer sucks up all of my attention these days, making it easy to forget that I have AIDS, too.

I got an AIDS diagnosis 18 years ago. If not for the potent AIDS treatments that began to arrive on the scene in the late 1990s, I would be long gone.

I access all of those medications at the Kaiser pharmacy but they are paid for by the government's AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Yesterday, just by showing the Kaiser pharmacist a utility bill, my driver's license and last year's W-2 from my tax return, I was able to re-enroll in the ADAP another year.

Unless Congress usurps ADAP funds to turn over to the Big 3 auto makers, I can count on accessing my AIDS meds for another 12 months.

My last appointment at Kaiser on Wednesday was down the block in the Radiation Oncology Department.

Much as I would like to have radiologists start zapping at the cancer cells in my mouth immediately, it's not that simple. Three appointments in Radiation Oncology are required before I begin radiation therapy a week from Monday.

On Wednesday, I had the first of those three sessions, and it was action-packed.

I learned more about the treatment process. A nurse took my photograph to add to my chart. I had another CT scan, after a sheet of hot plastic was wrapped around my head, producing a mask that I will wear when I get zapped with radiation. (The guy who molded the mask says it looks just like me but I scribbled a note that said, "C'mon! You exaggerated my nose, dude!")

Finally, I got a few red dots on my face and chest, intended to last the duration of my radiation treatments.

Those dots are life-changing: I have sacrificed my distinction of being the only man in greater Los Angeles without a tattoo. A certain tattooed friend of mine will have to find something else to tease me about.

Just getting more and more manly all the time.

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