My flight home from Ecuador was at 6 am and I was about 1 hour from the airport. I left my hotel at 3:30am since it took an hour to get to the Quito, Ecuador airport and I had to be there 2 hours early since it was an international flight.
I got to the airport and before I checked my bag in, I saw one of those machines that wraps your bag in plastic wrap so it does not come apart during your travels.. I had seen these before and thought it would be a good idea since I did not have a lock on my bag and was carrying 3 bottles of liquor. Once bag was wrapped in plastic I took advantage of my AA Platinum status and walked to the Priority line and got my bag checked. This day was clearly starting off right! WRONG!
Once my bag was checked I had to go through Ecuadorian immigration but as I was in line I started to notice I was feeling a bit sweaty and flush but figured it was just my being up so early and having been a bit sunburned from my trip the day before to the equator. Once through immigration I decided to get some water….2 bottles of water to be exact. I downed one and brought the other on the flight with me.
I heard my name called at the desk and figured I was being upgraded to first class. WRONG. Once I reported in they indicated that I had been “randomly selected” to have my bags searched. They led me downstairs to the place where all of the bags are loaded onto the plane, which was very weird… I noticed that I was starting to sweat since I was feeling a bit ill and got nervous that they would think I was trying to smuggle something back. I was also kind of pissed that I had paid to have my bag wrapped in plastic and they were about to tear it all off. After a thorough search where they found nothing but dirty underwear I was sent back upstairs to board the plane.
I had booked my seats so that I was sitting in the bulkhead right behind first class. The seats where the when taking off the flight attendants pull seats out and sit facing you. Once we were all boarded the flight attendant closed the hatch door and sat down in the pull out seat. THIS IS WHERE MY ADVENTURE BEGAN…..
As soon as the hatch door was closed I started feeling a bit sick. Now as someone who fly’s quite a bit I have NEVER been sick on an airplane… NEVER… until now. I started getting that taste in my mouth and feeling the “I am going to puke” drool in my mouth so I grabbed the vomit bag and tried to hide my face from the flight attendants and the guy sitting next to me and proceeded to unleash in the bag… 4 times in a row! The flight attendant asked me if I wanted them to go back to the gate since we were still on the tarmac. I said “no, I will be ok.. I am sure whatever I had in me that made me feel a bit sick is all gone now.” WRONG!
Without going into gross(er) details, I will say that I puked for 4 hours solid the entire trip. Running into the bathroom which (thank the heavens) was right next to where I was sitting. The flight attendants on American Airlines were amazing in that they made me feel comfortable with it happening and kept bringing me water. At a certain point though they started bringing me the bags they used for collecting the trash and brought me the bottle of water they use to serve other passengers…
Once we arrived in Miami I had to go through US immigration and then collect my bags. The walk from the airplane to immigration was possibly the longest walk I had ever done in my life. I was sweaty, shirt had stains of sick on it and I was carrying a VERY HEAVY backpack filled with Pacari Chocolate – 70% Raw – Organic and Biodynamic : 2012 Gold winner chocolate from Ecuador.
After getting through US Customs without issue (aside from looking like living death) I had to go check my bags back in and get in the TSA line again… This 1 hour wait in the Miami airport did not go well. I ended up getting to demonstrate to everyone in the TSA line that I was still sick… yes, I puked all over the floor in the TSA line! At this point I was so embarrassed and wanting to curl up and hide but instead just walked out of line with my mess still all over the floor. So if you happened to be in the TSA line at the Miami airport yesterday around noon.. well sorry.
I knew I could not continue on my two remaining flights (Miami – DC then DC – Raleigh) so I went to the desk and told them I needed to be rebooked since I needed to get to a hotel and possibly the hospital. The best they could do was to get me home two days later with the “chance” of standby. At this point I just needed to be in a bed so I said I would take it. The customer service rep told me I could get my check in bag within an hour but I knew I could not last that long so I told him to hold it at the airport until I was back thus leaving me with the clothes on my back.
I walked out of the airport and got in a taxi with my backpack, clothes on my back and no clue where I was going… oh and still sick. I told him to take me to a cheap hotel which was mistake #500 at this point. He drove me to a motel near the airport that he said was $55. Not really thinking, I said “sure”. He dropped me off and I went in to get a room.
The first sign that this place was not going to work out for me was the fact that the front desk was behind a glass cage and inside the cage they were selling in plain view with prices on them – bottles of cheap wine, booze, Costco sized containers with packets of lube and condoms… The woman told me there were only smoking rooms at this motel and it was $55 for the room with a $5 deposit on the programmable room key/card. These are the same cards that other hotels never think twice about asking you for. Also, they did not ask for any ID or credit card. Although I was sick my spidey senses told me that I needed to see this “room” before I actually checked in. She gave me the key card and I went to take a look. All I can say about the room is that if this was the newly renovated version I would hate to see the old version. I went back downstairs and told her I could not deal with the smoky smell of the room which was nicer than saying I did not want to stay in what was clearly a prostitute motel. All I wanted was to get into a clean bed and sleep off whatever was happening to my body. Also, the thought of bringing bed bugs home to our bed was not an option. As you can see, here is a lovely review of the motel.. seems pretty accurate. http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34284-d3454152-r153292728-Hialeah_Executive_Motel-Hialeah_Florida.html
I had to call a taxi to bring me to the Red Roof Inn near the airport. This process was an adventure unto itself since no one I dealt with outside the airport in Miami seems to speak English. Once at the Red Roof Inn I was informed that the cost of a room would be $179 for the night. If you have ever stayed in a Red Roof Inn you know that these are typically $49 rooms.. I had no choice at this point so I took the room and went upstairs to shower and sleep.
I am now at the airport hoping to get home today on standby but it is not looking good. The TSA cuts/layoffs started today and the lines are insane…. I feel bad for the person sitting next to me on my flight(s) home since I am still in the same clothes I put on yesterday at 3:30am. This may well be the longest trip I have ever taken just to get home… Once again I have to wonder, is it me or does this shit always happen to me??
So who knows what Capsaicin is?
I didn’t either…. but I do now!
So last Friday I went to the dermatologist because I had an itch on my knee that was driving me mad. I was scratching it in my sleep and was waking up with a raw knee the morning. I figured the dermatologist would be able to give me something to stop it from itching, I mean that’s what they do for a living, right? She wrote down two items for me to buy at the pharmacy; Sarna lotion and Capsaicin, which is a topical cream.
Last night before I went to bed I could tell my knee was starting to itch so I figured I would try this Sarna lotion out. I put the lotion on my knee (it puts the lotion on its body…) and watched some TV. After about 30 minutes I noticed that my knee was still itching a bit so I figured it was time for the second product, Capsaicin.
In order to better understand my mindset, I was not told anything about these products when I went to the dermatologist (aka Devils best friend) so I figured it was the sort of thing where if one didn’t work then the other would. Much like trying to put a square block in the round hole. It only works with the square hole…. Or perhaps she did tell me but I was busy wondering what interesting medical tools/devices might be in the cabinets behind her.. Either way I was not paying attention to her and this is where my story goes horribly awry.
So back to my knee… I squirt, and I say squirt, this lotion into my hand thinking it was a much thicker consistency than it really was. It was more like suntan lotion that had been sitting out in the sun, so rather runny if you will. I ended up with much more of it in my hand than I was expecting but I figured no biggie cuz I have bit legs. Now so you understand my neurosis at this point, I was worried that I might be getting a rash, chiggers, fleas, or something worse on my leg as I NEVER get anything like this.. EVER.. so any small itch on either leg was rather strange and the one lesson I learned from cancer was to listen to my body.
Back to the small kiddie pools worth of Capsaicin sitting in the palm of my hand, which to be honest was about the size of a handful of quarters, I started rubbing it on my knee. Realizing of course that I could not put it back into the tube I figured I would go ahead and put it on both knees and legs to use the rest of it up. Why waste it? Right?
I finished rubbing it in and went into the bathroom to wash my hands but realized I had to pee.. Here began the first of many problems in the night…
Being the kind of guy who thinks ahead and likes to minimize the amount of energy expended (in case I need it for some sort of unexpected emergency situation, you never know!) I decided to pee before washing the remaining lotion off my hands thus only having to wash my hands once! Gross..yes… life lesson.. more so, you have no idea!
Life was fine until I got to the sink to wash my hands. I soon discovered and more importantly REMEMBERED where I had heard that word “Capsaicin”. Flashes of images from the Food network and Alton Brown started popping into my head. Ghost chili peppers… eating.. burning..people crying… Alton explaining something…. ah yes this is the active ingredient in hot peppers!
Well, needless to say I started to burn, but not only burn, but burn to the point of being stunned like a deer in headlights that had his crotch on fire and had no pants on.. yes, that kind of deer… I was no Bambi.
I grabbed a washrag and ran cold water on it to wipe off this remaining devils lotion not realizing though that what I was doing was spreading it around more surface area. This seemed to work brilliantly for the first thirty second but then I quickly found out that the lotion of the devil simply chuckled at my feeble washrag and cold water. The pain increased ten fold….
Next I figured I would hop in the shower and take a cold shower using soap to get this stuff off me. I jumped in, well more like hobbled in as though I had been whacked with a golf club in the crotch while being smacked in the face with a cold dead fish and proceeded to scrub my body with soap and water.. COLD WATER….
Well, unfortunately this topical devils cream was annoyed yet again by this concept of cleansing and lashed back by burning/stinging more than what I can only imagine having fire ants attack one specific part of the body would feel like. However in my case it happened to be the LEAST desirable spot. (This area seems to be getting quite a bit of unwanted attention!)
At this point I grabbed the empty Capsaicin box in hopes that it had some sort of directions on how to get oneself out of this situation. I mean, who creates a product like this and doesn’t put the “anti-venom” formula on the outside of the box? Certainly I can’t be the only one who’s found themselves in this position.. Can I? Apparently, Walgreens generic brand thought I was and didn’t put the directions of “how to stop this burning pain” anywhere on the box. And to remind you, we are not talking about a burning pain like one may have if they get some scalding water on their face.. oh no, that is for wimps compared to the reality I was living.
Now at some time during this crippling experience I must have wiped the tears from my eyes because my eyes started burning and watering.
I was stuck in the bathroom half naked, eyes watering and crotch burning, when of all people came to mind, Mr. Alton Brown! I knew that my endless hours of watching him and the Food Network would pay off some day! Of course, water does nothing for those who have eaten the almighty ghost chili pepper which of course contains capsaicin! What always comes to the rescue to those who have eaten peppers? Milk!
Half naked I run to the kitchen to find some milk.
I get to the fridge and the first thing I spot is unsweetened chocolate almond milk, something instinctively told me that this was not the droid I was looking for…(Google it!)
So I grabbed the REAL milk (from a cow), found a cup and poured a full glass. I then ran (hobbled) back to the bathroom.
Now I am going to warn you now that I am going to paint a rather gross picture, more disturbing than I have thus far, so now would be a good time to stop reading if these visuals are bothering you so far.
I started pouring the milk all over my genitals in hopes of stopping this burning pain. This started to work…however the problem here deals with physics. You see, you can pour all you want down the FRONT but that does not take care of, shall we say, the undercarriage pain. (if you will, and I know you will). So in a last ditch effort I straddled the toilet (with the seat up for the record) and proceeded to dip, who am I kidding, PLUNGED my genitals into the cup of cold milk and let them sit there.
I realize how absurd this whole dilemma sounds but I feel the need to share it for one reason; educating others who may find themselves in my shoes. If you happened to decide to pee after applying Capsaicin to your knee’s but before washing your hands…. The trick is milk my friends. I was never really a milk fan to be honest, even as a kid I never really liked it. I have made peace (and perhaps friends) with milk as of last night. We are now new buddies who fought as a team to beat the devil and his evil topical cream called Capsaicin.
Here is a photo of my friend Michelle, a friend of mine from 19 years ago. We went to school together at The Boston Conservatory of Music.
So I am going to make a very long story short since I am in a bit of a hurry at the moment.
I went to Indiana to see Dr. Einhorn and have Dr. Foster perform surgery to remove my tumor on the left side. I was told that. I would most likely lose my left kidney as well. I arrived in Indianapolis the day before surgery. I met with Dr. Einhorn in the morning before my meeting with Dr. Foster. After Dr. Einhorn took a look at my most recent CT scans he delivered some amazing news. The cancer was gone and my marker levels were back to normal. The remaining mass that we were seeing in the CT scans was dead scar tissue and did not need to be removed. It turns out that the chemo had continued to work during that month whilst we were waiting to Indianapolis for the surgery.
Here’s a photo of Dr. Einhorn and I just minutes after he told me the fantastic news.
I just had a forever alone moment.
The hospital called me to go through the pre surgery interview. The questions were the standard, are you allergic to any medications, what other medical issues do you have, bla bla bla… Then she asked me this,
Nurse: Dane, do you snore at night?
Me: I think I might.
Nurse: When you snore, is it loud? Louder than normal speaking volume?
Me: hmmm. I am not really sure.
Nurse: Does your snoring keep anyone awake at night?
Me: Ma’am, there is no one here at night to hear me when I snore.
Monday night I head to Indianapolis to meet with Dr. Einhorn and Dr. Foster in preparation for my cancer surgery Wednesday morning (4-11-2012).
A bit of an update on what all has been going on.
I went through three full rounds of BEP chemo and discovered after a CTscan that although the cancer had reduced in size the tumor was still there. To be specific, I am talking about the tumor that wraps around the renal artery and vein. After consulting with Dr. Einhorn (Lance Armstrong’s Dr) in Indianapolis, he wants me to come to Indianapolis to have surgery to remove the tumor. The surgeon would be done by Dr. Richard Foster who performed my RPLND surgery two years ago. We have scheduled the surgery for April 11th.
I will post more when I have more information but I wanted to post an update since it had been such a long time. Still doing well and staying very positive.
I have been doing ok, just have been bad about updating the blog. I will post an update later on today or tomorrow.
8:18am – feeling groovy!
Saline is flowing and day four is underway. I have had an amazing response to my second round thus far. I had the same response last night on day three that I had in round one. Hiccups! I took the thorazine I was given for the hiccups (apparently not that uncommon) but it took two over the course of 6 hours before they really worked. I find what does work, and I know it sounds crazy, is eating a spoonful of white granulated sugar. That kills the hiccups within seconds. It needs to be repeated every 45 mins so it is not recommended for diabetics but it does work.
I thought I would also post comparison pics of the tumor on the left side. This is the larger and only remaining tumor remaining at this point since treatment has been working as planned. The tumor is actually wrapped around the renal artery going into my left kidney. It is a bit tough to see in these photos but the mass has reduced quite a bit in size, 89% to be exact. This is based on the calculations of the entire measurements of the mass.
The photo on the left is from 12-21-11 and the photo on the right is from 1-27-12 (click to enlarge)
Here is what a days worth of chemo looks like for me (all three photos are the same just different angles). The only thing missing in this bunch is the Bleomycin but that is a push from a syringe and is quite small. The bags on the left are the saline I take in during a normal chemo day totaling about 2 liters and the bags on the right are my favorite vintage of chemo (etoposide and cisplatin). Each is given one at a time so as to not “poison” me too much.