February 14

This week, dad’s gone to the gym three times. As I mentioned in a post from a few days ago, dad spent some time in the pool swimming laps. Yesterday, he stayed on the upright bike for around 40 minutes. He talked about how much stronger he experiences his left hand to be today compared to even yesterday. The work he’s doing at the gym and around the house has been incredible rehab. I noticed a dramatic difference in his left hand from before and after my trip to Boston. Additionally, dad noted how he finds the stationary exercise itself a bit dull, as he’s sitting / standing there without much distraction (for good reason – he needs to be intently focused on each of his movements so as not to fall off or trip). Nonetheless, he seems really satisfied and content after these trips to the gym. One Kennism from the trips: “I’m using the machines that are all dusty because nobody likes to even be near them. But it’s great. I’m at least 10 yards from any lycra.”

Yesterday was a fairly straightforward day for dad: meeting, treatment, lunch, hangout, read, dinner, and bed, with some naps interspersed through each of these activities. He learned recently that one of the best ways to work on speech rehabilitation is to read aloud. When Robbie and I were heading out for a trip to a cafe for some reading and studying, he told us that his big plans for the night were to read aloud to the dogs, his eager students. 

On the dog front, I’ve realized that Lyle (our conniving, neurotic dog) has been taking advantage of our absentmindedness: he ate an entire frozen salmon, and has taken to sleeping on the top of our couches when nobody’s looking. He is also prone to stealing cookies of varying compositions. 

This morning mom and dad went to an early meeting, and Robbie and I met them at the center after radiation therapy. Dad has a weekly meeting with Dr. Shifner, dad’s radiation oncologist. In the meeting, Shifner noted how sharp dad has been looking the last few times he’s seen him. In contrast to the first few weeks where dad was wheelchair bound, very limited in his motor control, and in comparably low spirits, dad’s spirit and body have improved dramatically. When asked about the trajectory, Shifner encouraged us to avoided dwelling on numbers and data, and rather to look at the treatment as it is reflected in dad’s state of being. He mentioned how the way someone appears in person can often contrast to how an MRI would predict someone’s health. Better to take the news as dad wears it: he’s responding to the treatment well. I also learned today that the effects of the radiation continue for longer than the 6 week period of receiving the treatments. In other words, after dad finishes his radiation treatment in 2 weeks, the radiation will continue to shrink the tumor for up to three months (give or take) following. Paired with the chemotherapy (aka biological therapy) and we’re able to postpone the onset of tumor growth. That being said, Shifner also strayed from speaking about average patients, as he’s treated every possible kind of response to the treatment. 

After treatment. dad, Robbie and I headed off to University Avenue to grab some coffee. Dad, clad in flip flops and a pair of Hunter’s jeans navigated the stairs, wet pavement, and ramps with ease and skill. He walks as fast as ever, but seems to be moving around with greater care. He tired very quickly on our trip out, so we soon returned to the house for some lunch and nap. 

Dad’s been increasingly more independent, so we’ve been giving him more time at home alone. Unbeknownst to mom, Robbie, or I, dad took a joyride through the neighborhood today. We all freaked out. He definitely, definitely shouldn’t be driving around, and especially when nobody “in charge” knew that he was out and about. While he got home safe, he realized that he probably shouldn’t be driving around, given how he feels behind the wheel (as well as his doctor’s orders). This endeavor illustrates how strong willed yet dangerous my dad can be. His thought processes and strategies aren’t complete; however, his physical improvements overshadow many of his remaining cognitive weaknesses. Though his physical progress is remarkable, he continues to require careful supervision and help. The lesson: continuous adult supervision is probably a good idea. 

Mom and dad picked up some new glasses, and we successfully mailed all the clinical trial paperwork to their respective addresses. This is an achievement in itself, regardless of whether or not we choose to seek out the trials. 

On my end, today wasn’t an easy day. Going to the hospital and meeting with Dr. Shifner broke down a lot of my willful efforts to see dad’s progress and improvements as healing and full recovery from these difficult two months. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s so natural to have a back-to-normal approach when looking at dad’s independence in household tasks and his increasing ease in navigating physical challenges. But going to the meeting today brought the reality back into view for me, which made my denial much more difficult to sustain. 

Tomorrow’s a new day. I’m looking forward to celebrating Kelly and Anna’s birthday via Mexican feast, and to cooking with Mike. 

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