Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Chemotherapy Day 3

I am the only patient in the chemotherapy room this morning. It makes it nice for making a few work-related phone calls and meetings that I need to catch up on today.

Yesterday was a good day again. The nausea is staying under control, and for the most part I am feeling well. I participated in a meeting at work after therapy yesterday, and I could feel my body starting to shut down toward the end of the meeting, but I made it home before I got too groggy. Around 4 pm each day I have been taking a nap for a few hours - it is strange to wake up when it is dark outside. It seems to take a while to come out of it - almost like when I was trying to wake from the anesthesia after my operation.

Yesterday it felt like the vein they were pumping the drugs into was starting to complain. I could feel some burning sensations, and the I/V started to slow down - they had to hook me up to a pump. When we had some similar symptoms this morning, they decided to try a different vein, so I had to get stuck again. It is doing much better now, and hopefully we can stay with this vein for the rest of this week.

All in all, things are going well. No side-effects yet - food still tastes OK, and I am keeping it all down. Just a but tired in the late afternoons.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Chemotherapy - Day 2

Day 1 was no problem. I saw no immediate effects from the drugs while in the treatment center, and only had a few very small indications of anything amiss afterwards - some minor dizziness, and the start of some nausea. When I felt the nausea start, I took one of the prescribed pills, and it went away. Within a couple of hours, I was extremely tired, and took a couple of short naps. Other than that, the day went well. I got up and talked to some friends to came by the house to drop off some food for our family, and took a walk just prior to bed.

I was awoken in the middle of the night because of the I/V in my arm. Since they don't want to stick me every day, they leave the I/V in my arm and just wrap it in some tape. I moved the wrong way in the night, and it pulled on the I/V, which caused enough pain to wake me. Given that was the worst thing to happen that day, I would say it was a great day.

They tell me that today should be similar, although they will add a new drug to the mix today which could cause some aches and pains throughout my body. As a preventative measure, they will administer some Tylenol in conjunction with this "Tuesday" drug.

I am told that tomorrow will probably be the start of the downhill trend, when I will start to feel much worse, and I may start to loose my taste. For now, I see none of those effects.

There were quite a few people in the treatment center yesterday. Probably 15 people at one time. I am still surprised at how many people are actively fighting this disease just in this area. We spoke with one woman yesterday who has leukemia, and has been through three separate chemotherapy treatments over the past 15 years. She was here for her regular monthly visit, which took about an hour or so.

As for me, I was able to keep up with work from here, which is nice. I stayed on top of e-mails and meetings, made a few phone calls, etc. We will see how much I can continue that as things start to turn south in the next day or two. My wife spent most of the time in the treatment center with me, which really made it nice. I can't remember the last time we spent that many hours together without kids asking for something.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Technology and Being a Patient

I am sitting in the chemotherapy treatment lab, with about 5 other patients. I have been surprised at how busy this place is - I had no idea that this many people were dealing with cancer in this area. Every time I have come in here there have been 10 - 20 people in the waiting room.

This is not new news, but I have been reflecting recently on how technology has changed the experience of being a patient. As soon as I found out I had cancer, I immediately went to the web and began reading as much as I could about it. My neighbor is a doctor, and he also pulled some information off of the web for me. By the time I first met with the oncologist, I already knew the terms and could speak fairly intelligently about my test results. As he talked with me about those results, I understood more than I would have, as I had been exposed to the new terms already, and had looked up those that I wasn't familiar with.

Then there is the chemotherapy treatment lab. Here I sit, in a recliner, with my laptop on my lap, connected to the Internet. I have already done some work, answered some e-mails, and of course am blogging from this "comfy chair" (a reference for those Monty Python fans out there...). Except for the I/V in my arm, and the few strangers walking around in this room, this is much the same as when I work from home. Not exactly what I would have expected chemotherapy to be.

The availability of information and the widespread connectivity available today certainly makes the experience of being a patient much different than it once was. I wonder if the doctors find that a help or a nuisance.

Friday, August 24, 2007

When will technology serve us?

So, I have to get something off my chest. When I started my new job I was told that we use Groupwise for our corporate e-mail. No problem - I was peripherally involved in the creation of Groupwise many years ago (at WordPerfect, before Novell bought them), and I really liked it.

The problem is that I have been maintaining a personal folder in Outlook for several years. This is very important to me, as it contains all of my personal notes, e-mails, etc, and I refer to them on a regular basis.

OK - so this is not a problem, or so I thought. I would just use Outlook for my personal e-mail, and have Groupwise handle my corporate stuff. A rather simple solution, since technology should serve our needs - this will work just fine.

Little did I know that Outlook would automatically detect that I had Groupwise on my machine, and connect to it for me. Not only that, but as soon as I installed it, I could no longer send e-mails from either Groupwise or Outlook. So, I decided to uninstall both, and install and configure Outlook first. Having successfully accomplished this, I then re-installed Groupwise. Of course, Groupwise automatically detected that I had Outlook on the machine, and re-configured it to read my Groupwise e-mail - in the process, of course, removing all of the other settings I had set up. After all, these programs know better than I how they should work.

I spent several hours over the course of the next few weeks trying to find a configuration that would work for me. I am sure that there are some e-mail aficionados who would have been able to figure it out faster, just as I am sure that some would have given up long ago. At any rate, I finally have a configuration that doesn't cause havoc - albeit with some strange side-effects. Of course, I lost over 200 e-mail messages in the process, as Outlook kindly retrieved them, and then sent them into oblivion because it couldn't figure out how to route them to my personal folders with Groupwise on the box. I finally figured out how to get Outlook to ignore Groupwise, with the exception of the startup - Outlook continues to ask me for my Groupwise password, even though it doesn't handle any of my Groupwise messages now.

Why do we still have consumer applications that require a CS degree to configure the way we want? When will technology be truly intuitive, and truly serve us, rather than making us jump through hoops just to end up with a semi-acceptable solution, rather than a great solution?

I guess the answer is "when we stop accepting the mediocre solution, and demand intuitive software that does exactly what we want". In other words, probably not in my lifetime...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A personal note

I really debated whether to blog about this here, since this is a very personal issue. But, many who are already aware of what is going on have asked me if I am going to blog about the experience, and I finally decided that it might be a good idea. So, this post (and some others in the near future) will deviate from my high-tech focus, and will delve into more a much more personal issue that I am now working through.

Just after starting my new job I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I had known for a few months that something was not right, but I really didn't think it was the "C" word - after all, that happens to other people, not me. When I finally decided to see my doctor, he immediately recognized that this was quite serious. Within two days I had received an ultrasound and seen a specialist. A week later the tumor was removed, and I was informed that the cancer had already started to spread into the abdomen. It was really a whirlwind - add this to the normal stress of starting a new job, and you can see that I have been quite distracted.

It has been three weeks since the orchiectomy, and we are now "staging" the cancer. This means that we are trying to find out how far it has spread - if it is in the lungs, then I would be a stage III. If it is remained in the abdomen, I would be a stage II. Either way, I will be starting chemotherapy next week. I am told that I should expect to be in the cancer treatment center for between 4 - 6 hours each day for the first week (which really cuts into my work day...), and then I will return for a quick visit each Tuesday for the next two weeks. We will then start the process all over again, and I will go through that either 3 or 4 times.

As I begin the chemotherapy, I will continue to blog here about the experience. I hope to continue to work while going through this, although some friends say I am being overly optimistic, and they think I will be too tired to work. Everyone reacts differently, so until I know that I can't focus I will plan on trying to work as I go through this experience.

The real question in my mind is: do I wait for my hair to fall out, or shave it off before hand? Actually, anyone who knows me understands what a minor issue this is, as I am already bald by most standards. At any rate, I finally decided (with the help of my wife) that this really comes down to an issue of control - shaving my head is the only thing I can really control right now. If I do it before, then I am doing it on my terms, and not allowing the cancer to take control. Interesting perspective (she is smart that way). I am planning to shave my head before I start chemo on Monday...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

blogging from my blackberry

I have never been a bleeding-edge kind of guy. I guess that is why it has taken me so long to get a blackberry. Now that I have had it for a week, I wonder how I got along without it.

So, I am posting from it now. As you can tell from my prior posts, I am usually quite verbose. Maybe the plus side of having this blackberry is that I will learn to be more consise.

At any rate, blogging from a blackberry is pretty cool.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Loosing "Craplets"

It looks like Dell is listening - they have come out with the "Vostro" line of desktops for small business. The really cool thing is that they are not shipping any trialware on this line of machines (which Walt Mossberg refers to as "craplets").

This is significant because it indicates that we have come full-circle. Everyone wanted to get their trialware on Dell machines - it was like a comic getting called over to Johnny Carson's desk after their bit - it meant you had arrived. Unfortunately, Dell (and others) took advantage of this, and saturated the market so customers became so frusterated with all of the stupid apps that they didn't request, but yet had to remove from their machine, that we have now come full-circle, and it is "big news" that Dell is shippinng a computer without them.

As a customer, I am very glad about this switch, and I hope others follow suit. As a software guy who has tried to get small businesses up and running, I believe that we will have to get more creative regarding our marketing and delivery mechanisms now.

All in all, this is a very good thing.