Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This year's Radiation Treatment

Well I am writing this from the comfort of our home in Utah, I got a little behind just getting caught up in everything that has happened over the last week. New York was a rush! What a place, there is just so much going on, it is a place that I found my self getting used to (just barely) over the few weeks that I have spent there. I know one thing for certain, I am not a city boy. I will go for the vast expanses of the open desert and the crisp mountain air of the Rockies any day over a compressed city.  Nonetheless New York is a city I will forever be grateful for. It will be a city that will have given me renewed life.

I started my treatments out on Monday, it was pretty easy. I took the bus to the hospital across town from the west side of Central park over to York Ave and 67th. I found my way up to the 4th floor of the hospital and checked in at the Radiation treatment desk. Within a short period of time the Nurse came out and spoke with me asking how everything was going and if I would need anything from her before the treatment. I was called in to change and get ready for the first round of Radiation. 

I got up onto the table and they brought out the all too familiar plastic mask that they had made for me when I had been there about a month ago. they lined me up and then they placed the mask over my head and shoulders. It was very restrictive and tight. I couldn't move if I tried, it was tight enough around my neck too that it made it difficult to swallow. this is all to keep me lines up in exactly the right spot. The black lines on the mask are where the alignment lasers are to match up to. If I were out of position by even a little bit the radiation would be given to areas that are very sensitive and could be damaged , such as the spinal cord.  I think I would rather be restricted in such a manner for a short period of time, than have my spinal cord fried causing much worse issues.

The treatment starts out with some X-rays being taken and then using those to line me up with the computer modeling of the treatment plan. Once the adjustments are made, the large head of the machine rotates around me into various positions. In those positions the radiation is delivered. I don't feel anything but I hear a loud buzzing noise. This goes on for a few minutes. The whole thing lasts about 20 mins, sometimes a bit longer. I don't mind too much though because I am just laying there, they even pipe the Pandora internet radio station of my choice through the room.

Once it is all finished and they "unbolt" me from the table and remove the mask it takes me a second to sit there and regain my balance. Because of how tight the mask is I end up with little polka dots all over my face. I look kind of weird in the mirror because of it.

I left the hospital and man it was a beautiful day outside! I rode the bus to the east side of Central park and then got off and decided to walk through it. I meandered around enjoying the amazing place that it is. I found that over the course of the week I spent a lot of time in the park just to get away from the bustle around me. I stopped somewhere in the middle and lounged out on some of the rocks listening to some "Counting Crows" on my MP3 player.  I almost fell asleep in the sun, it was great.

Well about an hour after the treatment I had just done, I started to feel some extreme discomfort in my left arm. I wasn't sure what was going on. It felt like someone squeezing the whole arm and very sharp pins and needles. I wasn't supposed to be having any radiation side effects until about a week after the treatments were done. I thought the feeling would go away, it didn't. This lasted for quite a while and I was trying hard to not let it get to me. Once I made it back to uncle Dave's place I went into the room I was staying in and wrote a quick email to Dr. Yamada detailing what was going on and what he suggest I do.

Within 30 mins of the email I received a phone call from him, not from his nurse or another assistant but from him personally. This is the type of person Josh is. He is so concerned for you he will reach out to you whenever you need it, he tries to make himself as available to talk to as possible.

He first calmed my nerves by letting me know that this sounded like good news. What?! OK so the pain wasn't the good news but the fact that I had this sensation in my arm meant that the treatment had irritated the tumor that is tangled in with the nerves that go to my left arm, and that inflammation was occurring. The inflammation would be temporary but it was a reaction that was letting us know we had hit our target!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The start of the big week

So tomorrow is the start of all of my treatments. Today I spent a lot of time after church, relaxing and getting my mind off of things. To be completely honest, I am not really worried about this right now. I am really at peace with what is going to happen. I have done a lot of praying in preparation for this week, and there have been so many prayers offered for me. I have an Army of support behind me, both here on earth and beyond. I feel so blessed to be going through this. I have learned so much, I have seen so much good in people, it has been fantastic. I hope one day to be able to return the favor.

I was able to video chat with Amy and the Boys this afternoon. It was hard for me because Ethan and Wade both asked me to come home, they told me they missed me. I still have a whole week to be away from them, I really do miss them so much already. I can only imagine how hard it will be for them when Amy leaves to come to New York. Mom and Dad Hirschi do such an amazing job with taking care of them, and we are so grateful to have grandparents so close. I think the one who will have the hardest time will be Amy once she comes out here.

I feel like this week has been a long time coming and I am glad it is finally here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mountain Therapy

The other day I had the opportunity to spend some time in the mountains east of SLC up Little Cottonwood Canyon.  The company I work for, Petzl, places a high priority in education and making sure that we help educate those using our products. What better way to do that than to get out and use the stuff ourselves.  For this day the mountains were my office! We climbed the "Great White Icicle", this isn't a really difficult route but it sure was fun!
Brandon, Tom, and I 

I was so excited to get back out on a rope, Amy was a little apprehensive about the whole thing because I hadn't been climbing really, since my first surgery in 2009, but I was counting down the days until we were to go.  When we got up the Canyon we hiked down to the river bed and crossed the low river hopping across rocks, I wasn't so graceful and my foot slipped off of one of the last rocks dipping my foot into the cold water. Thank goodness for Tom's waterproof climbing boots he let me borrow! The funny part was Tom (our sport division manager) had just finished telling us to be careful not to slip in, oh well. As we made our way up the other side of the bank and further up the slope to the base of the ice we saw hoof prints in the snow, we weren't quite sure if they were moose or deer tracks because they looked a little disturbed in the snow, regardless it was neat to see.  It was really cool to be up in the trees with the snow all around.

Brandon on belay
Brandon and Tom
We made it up to the base of the climb and wow, I realized how out of shape I really was. I had to take a break or two on the way up and made it to the start of the climb panting heavily. After a short break and some hot chocolate from my thermos, we proceeded to gear up. Crampons, ice tools, ropes, carabiners, ice screws, cams, helmets and gloves, odds and ends, and we were ready to start climbing. Tom began by giving us some basic heads up on techniques and pointers to make the climb more enjoyable. Brandon (our International accounts specialist) started belaying Tom as I stood back and minded the coiled rope.

Tom took off like he was climbing stairs, He is really good at what he does and he is also a great teacher and friend. He explained a lot about using the different ice tools that we took with us and how each one swings a little differently. While down low he demonstrated the different techniques of placing ice screws and which kind of ice to look for and which kind to avoid. Once he got up to the top of the first pitch of the climb, he prepared an anchor to belay us from the top. Brandon and I got ready and once we were on belay we each made our way up the ice. I felt like a little kid! I was having so much fun! I was with great people, in a beautiful place doing what I love, and getting paid to do it, could it get any better?!?!
Tom in mid sentence,
He is always that excited

Tom kicking away on pitch one
Tom up the second pitch
After climbing the two pitches to about mid way up we were running out of time and decided to head back down, by this time the wind was blowing pretty hard up the gully, the snow was swirling like crazy and it was beautiful, I wish I would have thought about getting a picture of it.

We prepared to rappel down to the top of the first pitch, we double checked each others gear and I set off over the edge of the rock. Crampons on ice are great but on rock they tend to slip around a lot, they are like bowling shoes on ice. Once I got used to the footing, it was just like any rappel I had done rock climbing. I had gotten cold fingers a few times during the climb but I didn't really notice it much.  Brandon came down after me, he reached the top of the first pitch and we started chatting, waiting for Tom. 

Over the last few months I have dealt with some pretty discomforting pain due to my tumor. I have been taking the least amount of pain meds to handle it. I really don't like feeling drowsy or loopy. The pain is noticeable throughout the day, bearable but it is still very much there. 

As I was talking to Brandon I stopped and realized, I was not hurting! I couldn't believe it. I shrugged my shoulders and wiggled my back around I moved and contorted and still there was no pain. I didn't understand it. I came to the conclusion that it was due to the euphoria of being back up in the Mountains and the Natural high that I was experiencing. It was a good feeling.  
This was "Mountain Therapy"