Rambling into eternity: Part 3

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      Dave Watson is currently battling cancer. Read part one and part two of his story.

      The Physical Challenges: It’s hard to express what a physical hit cancer has on the body. I think I resent the loss of energy more than anything, because I used to move pretty fast and now I’m reduced to prethinking many movements. It’s all in the leverage. Getting up out of bed is particularly bad, although the same applies to getting up off the couch or from a nestled-in sitting position. I just don’t have the muscles anymore. Really. They evaporated last fall, when I lost about 15 kilograms in a few weeks. That’s when my liver wasn’t working too well and I couldn’t hold down much food. I just kind of shrivelled into scrawniness. So far in 2008, I’ve managed to maintain my weight pretty consistently at about 57 kilograms.

      But the lack of energy isn’t at all consistent. Some days are really bad. Not only am I weak of muscle and low of energy, I sometimes have the deep ache of bone pain. Bone pain is really miserable. You spend half the day gobbling morphine to try to squelch it. Bone pain is the original malady that makes you want to have a worst enemy to wish it on, but I don’t think I hate anyone enough to send them this.

      But then the next day can be much better, with no significant pain and enough energy to go into town for a few hours of errand-running. In normal life, you can generally predict that you’ll feel the same way tomorrow as you do today. With cancer, you end up with no idea of how you’ll feel tomorrow or next week. Every morning has become like a lottery—a lottery with a whole range of cruddy prizes.

      Then there’s my belly. From November through mid-March, it ballooned just like that of a starving child from those fundraising infomercials. And my bellybutton popped out, after nearly 45 years as an “innie”. (I wouldn’t mind so much, but I guess this is the end of my lint collecting days). We never determined what exactly caused the bloating—dairy or some other food, painkillers or other medication that slows the bowels, eating multiple meals all day long, or simply the side effects of a metabolic illness like cancer—but it settled down by mid-March. Just in time to make room for my gradually expanding and hardening liver.

      The Football I’m sure it’s fallen out of usage, but I remember reading that at one time the U.S. Secret Service used “the football” as a name for the briefcase full of nuclear-war control codes that would accompany the president everywhere. I have something similar: a black Baggallini man’s purse, for want of a better term. It contains valuables and necessities, so I started thinking of it as “the football”, then eventually took to calling it that out loud, at least when discussing it with my wife.

      So, what’s in the football? Well, the day that the name first occurred to me, I was clutching the bag particularly tightly, mostly because it was so full of drugs. I’d just picked up several prescriptions. I had loads of morphine on me, amongst other controlled chemicals. It was also the day of my first visit to the Vancouver Compassion Club, so I was holding a bag of medical marijuana (not that cruddy government weed from Flin Flon but proper smoke grown by skilled people selecting particular strains for specific medicinal benefits). Actually it was seven bags, each for a different type, for a total of 50-plus grams. I felt like I’d become a thief’s “great rip-off, followed by a big party” story just waiting to happen.

      What else is in the football besides drugs? Well, there’s a lot of stuff that looks like drugs, a grand assortment of vitamins and supplements. They’re not in bulk, but carefully hand-packed by me into more baggies, destined for whatever part of the day they’re supposed to be consumed: before, after, between, or during meals. Royal jelly, coenzyme Q10, DMAE, l-deprenyl, salmon oil, Piracetem, Hydergine, melatonin, vinpocetine, all kinds of goodies. There’s even LactAid, in case I encounter an irresistible milkshake (or even a Wendy’s Frosty) during my travels and need to combat the dairy product’s acidity. I also have a couple of disposable facemasks for breathing purposes, should I encounter people with minor transmittable diseases like colds (which actually aren’t that minor if your immune system isn’t working up to snuff). There’s a bag of Tums to help with stomach acidity and gas. A pack of Kleenex. Note paper. Pens. The new iPod touch, with wireless e-mail access. Not to mention two or three bottles of those germ-killing hand-cleaning solutions in spray and gel form. I must have spent $125 on germ killers by now, one of the many not-so-negligible expenses that come with cancer.

      Valuables and necessities? Check the whereabouts of the football, and always guard it from strangers. And maybe from some of your friends, too.


      Read part four and part five of Dave Watson's story.




      Apr 8, 2008 at 3:16pm

      Hi Dave!

      I don't know if you remember me (Charles); I was a co-worker at Helix Internet while you were webmaster.

      I'm sorry to hear of your cancer, and glad to see you're fighting it; don't give up! You've already outlasted Charlton Heston!

      I hear that most people, upon learning of your illness, will tell you about their favorite "herbal remedies" or some such junk for fighting cancer. (My apologies if you're currently using a herbal remedy. :-) I'm not like that, I'm going to tell you about some of the latest research! Of course, being the webmeister that you are, you may have already seen these already. Or not, if you've decided to spend more time with people than on the net. :-)

      Since last we worked together, I've gone back to school (UBC Biotechnology), and hopefully learned a few things. I learned about common viruses that can kill cancer cells but leave normal cells alone, sort of like a neutron bomb. And I learned that an out-of-patent (ie: cheap, non-profitable) drug called DCA may be safe and effective for killing cancer. Both of them are in clinical trials; maybe they'd help you?

      DCA: ,<a target="_blank" href="http://www.depmed.ualberta.ca/dca/">http://www.depmed.ualberta.ca/dca/</a>
      Viruses: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=cancer+AND+virus">http://...

      Good luck!


      Apr 9, 2008 at 11:22pm

      Hey Dave,

      People from the past crawling out of the woodwork :-) We knew each other a very long time ago (27 years ago). Although we haven't seen each other since, I am a regular reader of your column, my weekly trip into the past.

      You offered me friendship and support at a time in my life when I was very messed up (I'm so much better now ;-) and in a bad situation that I couldn't see a way out of.

      I wanted to let you know that you made a big difference in my world by being there and I am very grateful that our paths crossed. Thank you!

      Good luck with your battle.

      Sherry Walker