josh: Today I finished the initial part of the Stupp Protocol, which means I get a few weeks break from chemotherapy and I'm *done* with radiation! No more mask! The mask is how they lock you in place to make sure that you won't move and get radiation in the wrong place - nobody wants that :)
The team who operated the treatment was great - very friendly and encouraging people (they even gave me the mask), and the environment for the treatment was nice too - lots of soothing pictures and music playing. You could request music, but I pretty much never did - more on that in a moment. To celebrate the end of the radiation portion of the protocol, they have a bell for you to ring:
OK - I keep going back to music with these posts. The music thing in the radiation room was really nice, but I always got stuck when they asked me what I wanted to hear, and all but once wound up listening to whatever the last patient request had been. It was mostly country music. I'm not a huge fan of recent Nashville based country (which it often was), but sometimes it was good. The treatments are pretty short if nothing goes wrong - like 10 minutes - so I couldn't get to picky about what was being played.
But I got unexpectedly hung up when I tried to think of what sort of music I, myself, for me, wanted to listen to while getting radiation zapped at the left temporal lobe in my brain. I would think of the cancer and how much I would like for it to get popped -- Geto Boys (locals - from just a couple of miles away!)? Hmmm... What about the overall attack on the enemy? One day I mentioned "Search and Destroy" by the Stooges. Is that really appropriate? Hmmm... looking for things and destroying them... with, um, technology?... actually mentions radiation in the lyrics... They played it, and I suppose I got a kick out it, even though my brain was the venue for all that aggression.
The actual song is even more complex in its own right - James Osterberg (Iggy Pop) had read an article about certain operatives in the Vietnam War and thought about the hopelessness, overwhelming abandonment, unacceptable reality of what they were charged to do, and other awful things the draftees must be going through, I think. Definitely not a pro-war song, but neither was it an anti-soldier song.
The most recent band I was in (shameless Stooges fanboys - almost a tribute band, really), Flying Monkease, covered the song. I just could not get over the fence about asking the radiation team to play our version -- just seemed like it would be going too far. We recorded and mixed the song in my studio - I think even closer to the radiation therapy center than the Geto Boys, with our notorious singer Ron Knice, our unstoppable bass player Urian Perez, me on guitar, and because we had lost our sixth (6th) drummer, I did the drums on the computer. This is neo-proto-punk rock (haha) and may not be appropriate for all listening environments:
josh: Hello! I've got just one week left of radiation and daily chemo - next Monday is my final day, then I get like a month off (including the imunotherapy trial) and then resume chemo but not as frequently - more like a few days on and some more days off. The imunotherapy trial resumes its regular biweekly infusion. I'm starting to feel pretty beat up from the treatments (but still able to work), so I'm looking forward to the break.
The hair thing is still going on. I finally got a hair cut to try and make both sides look the same, but I'm now wondering whether that was a great approach. Here's a "before" shot on the way to MD Anderson:
And here are left and right "after" shots on the way back:
Hmm.... I'm thinking the cue ball strategy is getting more attractive :). They said that the burned off hair (left side) will probably start growing back after 6 months, but it might be thinner than before.
josh: Having a great weekend. I haven't come up with a strategy on the missing hair problem, so I'm walking around with the bizarre partial bowl cut look. I get some strange looks, but no one has laughed (at least not loud enough for me to hear it :) )
I'm pretty much over the cold - yay! Things really got better, even though I'm going into the final two weeks of radiation, which they warned me would cause the most fatigue -- followed by continued fatigue for the first two weeks after the radiation protocol.
I've had more encouraging meetings with MD Anderson doctors. One of them told me I should be 'journaling' -- there are multiple ways to interpret that, but I think the main point was a regularly repeated expression and maybe documentation of the way I'm feeling / thinking as time goes past. I'm terrible at that. If I do much documentation, it likely won't be here (i.e., public), but I thought for my update this Saturday I'd take a shot at it once.
The other night I woke up in the wee hours and could not stop remembering a particular song that I worked on with my friend Chris Lively (mentioned him a few posts back) in late 2014 on his album before the latest one. Other than the music itself playing in my head, I remembered some unusual behavior from me during the production process and decided that might be a good thing to journal about. The song is absolutely beautiful (writing and vocal/instrumental performance - all of which Chris did himself, btw), and I think Chris was intending for it to be uplifting and positive, but I had other ideas.
Like every good artist, Chris does not disclose his own interpretations of his songs (to the classic extreme which makes you wonder if he even has them), but in this case I was up front with him about my own interpretation: a story about fighting a particular battle and *losing*. I was certain that's not what he was thinking, but he said it was interesting.
(as an aside, if you see Chris play live -- which I highly recommend -- you'll notice that he plays this song quite differently from what's on the album. I'm not sure why, but one likely reason is that the studio version has a strong set of backup vocal tracks which I imagine are not always creatable in the live performance scenario - there are other possible reasons as well :) )
So, the other night I remembered creating more impact on this song than usual during editing and mixing. Clearly I went too far, and at Chris' request, I wound up rolling back some (but not all) of the things I had done before its inclusion in the album. It was this pre-clean-up version that was going through my head, and I thought it would be nice to make a journal entry about my memory of that version. The following day I found the old music project file and opened it, intending to click 'undo' a few times to get the mix back to where it was before the final. I quickly realized that my system had changed so much over the past few years that the approach could not be so simple.
So, I spent a some time to rebuild the version I was remembering. In the process, I saw that my memory of the editing/mixing process was inaccurate. I thought I simply did some edit-polishing and finished up the high level changes with a cursory knod to my interpretation, but I could see that's not what happened. Rather, I used quite a bit of focus to create things like the unnerving pitch wobbles and the overpowering of the vocal tracks by the guitar tracks at the end, but simply don't remember doing it.
This was a full three and a half years before my first symptom caused by glioblastoma, but I could not help but wonder like, 'who made these decisions?' (not unlike Kermit's "Who hired this crew?"). There was no one but me involved in the process, btw.
As part of today's journaling, I decided to post the re-created song -- this is a little different from what you'll hear on the album, of course, because I'm trying to show where I was at with it before presenting it to Chris. Trigger Warning: this isn't necessary going to sound uplifting or positive :)
Chris Lively - Feather - Comfortable Mind (modified):
(I feel the obligatory but perhaps futile music worker's push to urge everyone to use a good set of speakers or headphones to hear this, or you'll likely miss what I was attempting to talk about. Then again, maybe phones and earbuds are better :) )
josh: quick update - hope you all have had a great weekend (and holiday weekend, if that applied). I'm close to halfway through my radiation protocol, and I'm finally losing some hair -- just about an inch of hair over my left ear, where they're focusing the most to get to the place where the tumor was. I'm not sure exactly what I'll do - it looks like the stupidest '80s dance music haircut you could imagine (and I know some of you can imagine stupider haircuts than others -- it's you I'm talking to). That is - matching the cut on the right side is not a good choice :)
I was doing great physically until I managed to catch a cold almost a week ago - that's a different experience when you're in chemo and radio therapy, which are affecting your immune system in odd ways. I think I'm almost over it -- I better be by tomorrow (going back to work). Overall, it wasn't as bad as I feared.
Hope you all are having a great day or night as the case may be!