Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Where's the beef?

Remember that Russian proverb that Ronald Reagan used to repeat whenever he talked about the Soviet Union?

Well, starting today, I'm going to follow the Gipper's lead and think "Trust but verify" to myself every time I step on a scale.

But I am tempted to leave out that part about trust.

I'm guessing that there are, say, 300 scales within all of Kaiser Permanente's facilities at its Los Angeles Medical Center. And if I were to step on each one of those scales to get weighed, I am convinced that they would yield 300 unique results.

Last week, I stepped on one of the scales in the Radiation Oncology Department, and a nurse recorded my weight as 129.9 pounds.

I was pretty shaken up. When I got out of the hospital last month, I weighed a smidgen over 130, and I was determined not to shed any more pounds.

I started making sure that I took the time to pour three square meals of Isosource into my G-tube each day, and sure enough I gradually added weight.

But when I saw that 129.9-pound reading last week, I felt like Sisyphus at the bottom of the hill. If I were a boxer, I thought to myself, I probably would be matched in the ring against Rose Kennedy.

And once you take my trach and G-tube into account, my actual weight is even less.

This week, the nurse in Radiation Oncology asked me to step on the scale again, and I did so with trepidation.

This time, the scale said that I weighed 138 pounds!

My eyeballs popped out of their sockets. 138 pounds?! There is no way that I could have packed on more than eight pounds in less than a week.

With names like Enterprise and Galactica, the treatment rooms in Kaiser's Radiation Oncology Department have a sci-fi theme. So does that mean that the scales are calibrated to produce weight readings on different planets of the solar system?

I can't think of any other explanation.

Doesn't the County of Los Angeles have a squad of inspectors whose job is to monitor the accuracy of gasoline pumps and scales at deli counters? The minute I get my voice back I'm getting my Supervisor on the phone because the County needs to add Kaiser Permanente's exam rooms to the Bureau of Weights and Measurements' beat.

I admit that I have always been a little weird when it comes to my weight. Any of my medical providers can tell you that my habit when getting weighed is to stand with my back to the scale, and to close my eyes and ears while the nurse records my weight.

But now that cancer has moseyed into my life and snuggled up to my AIDS, I need to get a handle on how my weight influences my health.

Even if my true weight is in the upper 130s, I know that's low for a guy my height.

My sister-in-law recently told me that I need more meat on my bones. The other day, a buddy who hadn't seen me for a week or so remarked that I looked "gaunt." And on Tuesday, one of my bosses at the office told me that I was looking mighty skinny these days.

I got the same treatment in radiation therapy on Tuesday when the Radiation Oncologist grabbed my shoulder in order to slide my body on the bed and get it better aligned with the machine.

"You need to put on some weight, Mr. Serchia," he said. "Maybe you should add more cheeseburgers to your diet."

My head was locked into the ThermaSplint mask so he couldn't see me roll my eyes. But I reached under my shirt, pulled out my G-tube and pointed to it.

"Well," the radiation oncologist said, "you can always toss a few Double-Doubles in a blender and pour them down the tube."

Double-doubles, of course, are off limits in my diet. I practice mealtime monogamy. The only thing I pour down the G-tube's hatch is nutrient-rich vanilla Isosource 1.5.

I guess I just gotta start pigging out on the stuff. In honor of Fat Tuesday, my doctor increased my Isosource allotment from six cans each day to nine.

That's a whopping 3,375 calories.

Sooner or later, it's bound to start sticking to my ribs.

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