I’m radioactive

Wanted to wait till I got far enough into the treatment so I can report on how this ‘Fatigue’ (with a capital F) side effect is presenting itself…

Friday I went with Christine to Durham for my first Therasphere insertion, and I believe it went well. Got a pillow for my lower back and was permitted to listen to my music while the docs did their thing. 90 minutes later and I’m wheeled into a space about the size of my walk-in closet to chill out for the next 2 hours while the sedation wore off and the glass beads had a chance to settle into position. And then another 20-minute scan session, and then I was free to go.

Post-procedure definitely is worse – and longer – than the procedure itself. Coming down from mild sedation is a lot like trying to wake up after being hung over, not a pleasant experience but it does make the 2 hours go by faster as I alternate between being totally awake and dozing off. Sigh… one down, two more visits to go.

While getting this done on a Friday makes a lot of sense as far as recuperating goes, it does sort of trash the weekend, as I’ve been experiencing the ‘flu-like symptoms’ that I was told are part of the side effects, and it’s slowing me down during the 2 days when i want to get things done. It’s not so much Fatigue as much as a general achiness across my body, like when you exert yourself too much the day before and you can feel it the next day. I don’t think it’ll be a factor in deciding whether I should work from home tomorrow. Tylenol seems to knock out the pain if only temporarily. Like other side effects related to cancer treatments, I’m certain it would be a lot worse if I wasn’t so young and in (relative) good health.

What I like about this whole radioembolization concept is that it’s not wrecking the rest of my body, just the parts that need wrecking. So now I’m keeping my distance from the other family members and pets, lest they get unwanted radioactivity from my liver, for the next 2 weeks or so. After that, the Yttrium-90 will have finally wore out and the glass beads become inert. Then we get ready for another round. After experiencing the minimal side-effects, I’m up for the rest of it. I’m ready to go; let’s do this.

On Brothers

I have many good male friends who I consider my ‘brothers’ even though most of them aren’t related to me by either marriage or bloodlines. As far as regarding another male as being a sibling – surrogate or not – one can debate whether an only child can have the innate sense to foster brotherhood from birth, or, being a social skill, one needs to learn how to be a brother from someone else.

bros-74In my case, I’m lucky enough to have learned this skill very early in life, and I credit my brother, William Frederick Schuttler, for being the one to teach me what it meant to be – and to deal with – a brother. Billy is about 15 months younger than me, so I’ve been able to create and share my complete childhood memories with another. It’s something I would never change about my life if I could, even though I frequently get blank stares from my brother when I attempt to share previous events from my own memories… evidently we weren’t keeping our fingers on the ‘RECORD’ button at the same time.

bros-76We learned together what it meant to have a brother: you got the same type of gifts (usually they varied in color only), you had to share everything – bedrooms, bathrooms, bathwater, parental attention, the last bit of dessert, seating options, control over the TV, control over the radio – the list was endless and it was a drag most of the time for both of us. But it taught us how to compromise, and to share. And, to a certain extent, how to pitch a deal so that there was no apparent advantage to either choice (but usually there was, unbeknownst to the other).

bros-83We fought and argued, as siblings do, and we learned not only how to improve our debating abilities, but how to resolve our arguments and make up too. While my mother still maintains there was always a sibling rivalry between us, I never sensed it; having a brother so close in age made me regard him as my equal, both intellectually as well as physically. For me, it taught that everyone’s opinion mattered and points can be valid on either side of a conflict… though it took me a while to get to that idea with Billy, as I had to develop some maturity first.

bros-88As we got into high school I remember thinking, we resemble an elderly couple who’d been married for years: finishing each other’s trains of thought, bickering over insignificant things, exhibiting a level of familiarity around each other that can only exist with years of experience living together.

(Being married now for quite a bit longer than the time Billy and I actually spent together as brothers under the same roof, I realize only part of my initial impressions were correct.)

We went our separate ways in the last years of high school: I moved to the east coast to finish my schooling and go to college, Billy served our country in the Air Force before moving back to Illinois for college. We’ve always tried to keep in touch and not let the other ‘fall off the map’ too much. We’re both pretty busy raising our own kids and working and doing the regular things that make us all too busy to talk and catch up frequently, like we’ve been told we should. It’s almost as if we got enough of each other having to live together as kids; we’ve been satisfied with the small doses we get of each other over Facebook. Another lesson learned: it’s easy to get too much of another sibling, and space between brothers is necessary, lest one gets labeled as ‘clingy’ and suffocates the relationship.

bros-marchThat said, there’s nothing like having relatives you really like come visit: Billy and his family did come out to visit right after I finished my 6-month chemo schedule. While our wives and children played together, we indulged in our assorted running jokes and shared passions: discussing menu options, smoked meat products, baked beans, Chicago Bears football, and British humor. The things you savor most with brothers: Male Bonding.

I’m very lucky to have had Billy with me growing up, to teach me the rules of brotherhood. It frames how I treat others as a whole and reminds me that I’m not in this life by myself, for better or for worse. I have good friends I consider brothers, but I wouldn’t have them without Billy.

After I came home from the colonoscopy that opened my eyes to what was going on, scared and uncertain of what the extent of the damage was to my body, Billy would be the first to hear my news. He’s offered his own liver to me many times since, even though I patiently point out that he’s still using it.

I love you, Billy. Thank you for teaching me how to be a brother, whether you liked it or not. Happy Birthday!