Field notes No. 3: Driving to my new job

Scan 26
Strangely glad to have a bar code.

— Some days I wake thinking my new job is to head off in the morning to get my butt kicked at Presbyterian’s cancer center in Albuquerque. But I kid a bit. I’m actually driving in to get fixed. And frankly I’ve felt pretty darn good so far this week — near normal, in fact.

— The fatigue factor usually kicks in about Friday and lasts at least through the weekend, but I think I’m faring better because I learned I need to drink and eat as much as I possibly can. Dehydration got me big time last week. We’ll see this week. I haven’t experienced that kind of exhaustion, with dehydration maybe being the big culprit, since being a wildland firefighter more than 40 years ago.

. — The other hugely mitigating detail about five-days-a-week treatment is that the cancer center staff, both in oncology and radiation oncology, are unfailing comforting and encouraging. Doctors and nurses are veteran and pros. I like and trust them all. They smooth the road greatly. And I figure that following their instruction is the biggest contribution I can make to making this course of treatment work. Despite the slight sensation of a smoking hole in my chest, and constant sunburn, I am almost happy to go in and see these folks five mornings a week.

— My chief feeling today — Friday and the end of another treatment week — is that someone whacked me behind the knees with a baseball bat. The weakness in the knees seems to wobble up to my brain. At this point, stupid TV probably is a safer bet than trying to write.

— Some radiation and chemo veterans keep telling me it’s going to get worse. I sympathize with their experience — and I’m told every case is different — but so far all I can say is that I feel lucky for the teams I’ve got treating me and how I’m feeling along the way. And I am by no means gloating. I can tell in my weekly visits to the infusion room, where we get chemo, that there are others having a harder time than I. My only treatment for prostate cancer 13 years was surgery, and I am new to this radiation and chemo experience.

. — I exaggerate a bit when I talk about my new job. I am not retired from the Journal quite yet — it’s looking like the end of May — but I am not at my desk in Albuquerque or stalking the halls in Santa Fe. The closest I’ve come to working in more than a month is an occasional lunch with bosses or friends and making a suggestion or two from the sidelines. My employers and company benefits have enabled me to take time to focus solely on the cancer deal. And as probably every retiring 65-year-old realizes, you never were a one-man band to begin with. I hope that before this, I always reflected awareness of my colleagues’ competence. Shame on me if I didn’t.

— Driving into Albuquerque five days a week — deeper into town than my former destination of Journal Center on the north end of town — I’ve slipped into that cliche of characterizing Albuquerque drivers. But you have to be on such high alert on this commute that the habit is hard to avoid.

— Rule No. 1 in New Mexico, as every long time resident knows, is never use a turn signal. This could be distracting to other drivers. Plus, you have the right of way in all cases anyway.

— I have decided that high on the list of New Mexico rules of the road is the meaning of broken white lines. These, I’ve learned, are widely interpreted to mean straddle the line  at will. If you are ahead of another car, you are free to use two lanes for your own convenience and safety.

— Passing on the right is a long-standing New Mexico tradition. It is usually more convenient than crossing lanes behind other traffic. It’s more efficient to step on the gas and stay in the lane that’s ending until your ahead of all cars to your left, then cross one or two lanes from the right to get ahead of the pack. Dawdlers beware.

— And, of course, I never make a dumb move myself.

One thought

  1. John, I’m so glad that you’re not getting terribly sick (and hopefully for the whole treatment) and that you’re staying so positive. I have no doubt that it’s much more difficult and challenging than us “followers” can imagine. Please know I’m thankful for your postings; I’m keeping you in my hopes and well wishes. Stay strong, John. And remember that you survived the Crestview fire and many others! You’ll beat this cancer!!!

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