Another good day: trains were on time (the N Judah was even early) and I made the 12:37 Caltrain, getting to Palo Alto 30 minutes early: the walk home from the Stock Farm stop on Marguerite’s B Line was just wonderful. The sky was beautiful (as seen silhouetting a wild California Live Oak on Stock Farm Road), and I easily walked the mile home. The commute is on the verge of becoming routine. So I set to getting a few things done.
For one thing, the blog has been a bit monothematic lately, and there are a bunch of things I’d love to write about (stay tuned), so I decided today would be a good day to get going on that. Best laid plans, of course, are sitting ducks in the modern, wired, just-in-time, always-on world. So I’m just sitting down to write at 9:00 PM, a good 6 hours after I walked through my gate on Oak Street.
The City, and, the N Judah were fun again this morning. I bumped into an earnest, well-dressed job-seeking young man about my stepson’s age, who needed a little help navigating the Muni. We got talking, and it turned out his dad has cancer, too. He talked about seeing him for the holidays, and thinking maybe it would be the last time. Then he got off, per my advice, at Embarcadero to get the BART train to his interview.
Here in San Francisco, folks are wont to put quotes and phrases, both prose and poetry, on the sidewalk. Sometimes it’s in spray paint or chalk, sometimes, it’s in bronze plaques placed by the City. I think of these as being among the ‘San Francisco Values’ that so upset Republican candidates in the recent election. At the 2nd and King Muni station, while waiting for the N Judah, I read:
We asked the captain what course of action he proposed to take toward a beast so large, terrifying and unpredictable. He hesitated to answer, and then said judiciously: ‘I think I shall praise it.’
Seemed a good fit for my current circumstances: it stuck in my mind mind all the way to the Radiation Oncology dept. at UCSF. The University of California at San Francisco is a huge complex of tall buildings built on a steep hillside. The N Judah drops me at UCSF’s ‘transportation center,’ basically a place where streetcar, buses and private cars all converge on a set of parking garages and large elevators that lift one 8 stories to Parnassus Street, where many of UCSF’s facilities’ entrances are located.
Exiting the elevator at the J level, I cross Parnassus and head for the ambulance E.R. entrance to Moffitt Hospital, and then veer left at the last possible moment to a door that opens on to 3 flights of stairs that takes one down to the basement, and a corridor that leads to Radiation Oncology. I’m not sure if the basement location has something to do with the radiation produced by the Siemens linear accelerators and other exotic gear, or they just wound up there for space reasons.
There are 3 waiting rooms: the main waiting room is usually populated, often with family members and caretakers, and is a little loud for my tastes. Since I was previously an ‘insider’ (I was wheeled down from the ICU for my first procedures here) and know and am known by much of the staff, I head throught the basement maze to the small, harder-to-find, normally empty men’s and women’s waiting rooms just outside the big, heavy door to the Mevatron. I’m not sure why there are men’s and women’s waiting rooms, unless it’s because some of the waitees could be patients, and be dressed in those stupid hospital gowns that let your butt hang out.
The men’s waiting room has a large coffeemaker full of sort-of hot water and a cup of instant coffee and a box of some Lipton tea bags, along with powdered milk, liquid sweetener, paper cups, plastic stirrers and one metal spoon. A sign on the wall warns you to use the spoon only to scoop the instant coffee. Other signs implore all comers to keep the area neat. The coffee is not good, but the tea bags aren’t too stale: I’ve had a couple of cups of not-quite-hot tea while I waited, and read July’s Economist or the August Wired.
A pretty blonde tech in scrubs looked in and said ‘Your turn, Mr. Gulker’ and led me into the radiation therapy room. The huge Mevatron head was parked in ‘neutral’ and I hung up my coat, hat and parked my new, cool (to me anyway) Oakley messenger bag in the corner. I was talking to the blonde, saying how happy I was that my seizures had stopped for 4 hours last night, allowing the best night’s sleep in a while.
As I got on the gurney, a tech who was new to me, a pretty brunette said that she’d overheard the seizure talk and was going to strap me onto the gurney, before pinning me down with the radiation mask. ‘It’s a lot easier than doing the paperwork later if you fall off,’ she said, disarming me with a smile. I decided not to fight, and got strapped in, helmeted, and positioned under the green laser they use to line my head up for the procedure.
There’s a boom box in the room, but the CD selection tends toward Kenny G and other unenjoyable compilations. Yesterday I brought them Yo Yo Ma’s Vivaldi’s Cello, a CD I burned for the occasion. I don’t know a lot about Vivaldi, but this album, which I bought on iTunes about a year ago, has a calming effect on me. The techs finished strapping me in, lined me up under the lasers, put Yo Yo on the box, finished programming the big Siemens machine, and left the room, pushing the big radiation door closed behind them.
The radiation machine is big, but it rotates around my head silently. The only noise is a buzz when it’s actually producing x-rays and Vivaldi in the corner. I usually take the opportunity do the stress-releiving breathing exercise I learned in cognitive therapy for the 15 minutes or so while the big machine swings to and fro around my head. Three deep breaths, from the diaphragm, followed by 3 normal ones…