I learned something the other day. See I had accepted that the chemo doesn't "hit" me until a few days later; I know I mentioned that the first few days after a treatment are generally rosy and I am generally energetic, coherent, and hungry. Then it "hits" me, and everything takes a deep dip.

My chemo treatment is called ABVD: pretty standard for what I've got, and every capital letter stands for the the name of a drug (Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, and Dacarbazine). They do, however, give me more than four different "drips" or whatever you wanna call them, every time. One flushes me out at the end of the treatment- basically a saline thing. But before the ABVD flows, they give me what I had accepted as a pre-drug; I guess that when I am in the infusion chamber (not really a chamber) I am in compliant patient mode, and don't ask too many questions. But this time I did ask what it was, and a little bit of the mystery of my moods and medical condition has been unraveled. See, you don't smoke pot then get high two days later. You don't drink a few beers on Friday night because you want to have a good buzz for kickoff on Sunday. So why should my chemo treatment lie dormant for a few days before hitting me? Why do I run around like mad for a few days after each treatment, trying to work as much as I can, pay as many bills as I can, and exercise (and hopefully) and write as much as I can?

Because I am on 'roids- that's why. I run around like A-Rod for a couple of days because we're on similar nutritional plans for a couple of days. That makes a lot more sense, huh? It doesn't take a couple days for the chemo to set in, see? It takes a couple days for the steroids to wear off. I guess otherwise, sans juice, Chemo Patient would be a quivering, puking mess before the treatment was even over. I guess I am glad that they do it, then. I am proud to say that I did go to Tai Chi AND hit the gym on Friday, but I am embarrassed to say that I was only able to muster 0.8 pull-ups. That is not good, even for a guy who is not all jacked on steroids. But it does give me a little perspective on how good it must feel to be juiced without having been poisoned first. I'm sure that without the poisoning I could do at least- AT LEAST-  one pull-up.

A few years ago, I made it my goal to do ten pull-ups on my birthday. Something happened in there somewhere, pre-Hodgkins, and I was knocked off course. Late this summer, though, I was able to do about six, which is pretty lame, I admit, but pretty good for me. Now, though, I have been diminished- I was a lean (for me) 195 pounds pre-wedding, but then got down to about 187 after not being able to eat very much after my first treatment. The good news is that weight has come back, thanks to largely indiscriminate eating. The bad news is that what was arm, chest, and shoulder muscle-weight has come back in a softer, paler, and less appetizing form (see previous entries about pizza, etc.). Yes, the weight is back, and that's good. But I am far from ripped and ready for summer. Luckily, summer is a ways away, and maybe I can hit the sweet spot where my muscle has come back, but I still have a Zac Efron level of chest hair. That would be sweet.

Caitlyn's folks, George and Kathy, rolled into town on Thursday, and since then there has been something on the stove and something being drilled, sawed, caulked, sanded, mowed, filed, lubricated, and/or hammered. Kathy is rarely without a recipe and George is rarely without tape measure and Home Depot shopping list- in fact, making George a to-do list before his visits is somewhat of a ritual in this house. I can't compete. All I can do is take care of easy things: fix brake lights in the car, for example, or make sure that there are no gaping holes in the walls- basically just do the things that, if unattended, would result in disappointed in-law head-shaking, and let George take it from there. As each day of home improvement begins, my primary duties are to keep the kitchen in ample supply of humor and strong coffee. I got George Tennessee slab and jowl bacon for Christmas, and the smell of that sizzling cured meat in the morning serves as my signal that it is coffee time.

There's a place called Papa Boudreaux's out in Santa Fe (pronounced fee, y'all)- it's about an hour down the Natchez Trace from Nashville, and it's a creole dive run by an expatriate Louisianan and his family. Decor on the cinderblock walls consists of LSU pennants, quirky signs ("In 1897, on this spot, nothing happened," etc.), and photos of Terry Bradshaw. It's kinda famous (here), kinda hard to find, and the food is great. Caitlyn had gone once, but my first time was at their Franklin outpost, which was ok, but I felt like I was missing something big- missing whatever it was about the original that made people want to drive an hour out to Santa Fe to see, feel, and eat . It was like if CBGB opened up a second location at the Mall of America, the Franklin location felt to me.

Caitlyn took us out there for dinner on Saturday, and the original Papa's does not disappoint, as long as you know what you're getting into. Their special was crawfish etouffe on top of fried green tomatoes, with a side of their crawfish mac and cheese and chilled boiled shrimp. The gumbo was served over rice and chock full of a zoo of animal parts. And the red beans and rice- oh man. Kielbasa, andouille sausage, and thick, disintegrating chunks of tasso ham. They open at four, and we got there at about 5:30. The guy asked us whether we had reservations, which surprised me, because a cash-only, wait-outside-for-your-table shack seemed as likely to take reservation as an Orange Julius. Luckily, hour early-bird arrival got us a spot in the not even half-full restaurant, though we did have to wait outside for about 5 minutes while they prepared the table. It must be their thing, the making the customers wait outside. Makes the crawfish that much sweeter, and the beans and rice that much steamier.

Now that I am my normal weight again, I am trying to eat better, though the trip to Papa Boudreaux's may seem counter to that statement. However, my first step is to eliminate the crap I have been eating- processed cheese, pizzas from places with brightly colored boxes, Campbell's soup- things like that that I had to eat because once upon a time they were the only things I could stomach. Now I can stomach more, so I can ditch that stuff. I'm sure I will taper down to lower fat stuff- get down to the healthy stuff I was eating before I got sick (though it is worth it to note that all that healthy stuff did not prevent me from getting sick, did it?). For now, though, quality foods are fair game- even tasso.

On Sunday the girls went to see Normal Rockwell (not the man- his works) at the Frist, and George and I watched the Broncos more or less systematically dismantle the Patriots. Then the Niners game. In short, football is now dead to me until August 30, when UCLA plays at UVA- a game we may try and drive out to Charlottesville for. Should that be "a game for which we may try and drive out to Charlottesville?" That may be correct, but it sounds pretty prissy for talking about going to a football game. I am sticking with version 1. Anyway, that is but one of the many things I look forward to doing when I am cured and feeling good again. In fact, it is a bit of a pastime of mine now to think about all the things I want to do again once I can really do and enjoy them. Drink wine. Ride my bike to Percy Warner and run trails until I am completely exhausted- in the good way that I can barely remember. Sit and write comfortably. Mow the fucking lawn, even. Sweat.

Work is not a part of this fantasy, you may have noticed. It's for poor people. But I have been doing just enough of it to keep me afloat, which is a novel concept: just enough work to keep from going broke. I guess some people live like that all the time, by choice or necessity. I don't have much of a choice right now, but one thing that is apparent is that, unless you really have to- I mean really really have to- work is not worth worrying too much about, because right now I am thinking about much more important things.

P.S. This http://livingwithmcl.com/BitterPill.pdf is an article by Steven Brill, published in Time in early 2013. It's a long read- about 30 pages- but is such a valuable insight into our health care system that I really recommend investing some time in it. It is not political, and was enough to make me simultaneously disgusted with the system and relieved that, in this fucked system, I am one of the lucky (ha!) ones.