Throat Blog — Good News/Bad News

So, I’ve been (im)patiently waiting to get the read from the CT scan last Wednesday. Looks like I’ll have to wait until next Wednesday to get the actual reports. But, the doctor did review the reports and gave me a summary that boils down to: “Well, I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news. Which do you want to hear first?”

So, start with the good news. No new nodules since the last CT scan 3 months ago. And, more good news, the nodules that were there 3 months ago have not gotten bigger. Untreated, they would be expected to double in size about every 3 months.

Now, to kill Pollyanna, the bad news. The nodules that were there 3 months ago have not gotten smaller, either. So, while this regimen is working, it doesn’t seem to be working quite well enough. But, that assessment is real borderline. So, I’ll do a 5th round of the current set of chemo, then will get another CT and determine what to do from there. If still no shrinkage, will probably switch to Keytruda or Opdivo.

Not looking forward particularly to another Week 1. I’m just getting over the last Week 1. I did not really realize how out of shape I’ve gotten. Mostly, I walk or sit. My most strenuous two activities are carrying my laptop into and out of the house and office and walking up the stairs to the chemo lounge on Mondays. But, yesterday I needed to review some wall art at work. These are 3×6 foot prints on a plastic film that we use at trade shows. They might weigh 1/4 pound each. Need to roll out about a dozen. This activity involves squatting down, pushing the roll so that it unrolls, then standing up and sliding the prints apart. I had to sit down to catch my breath twice. I’ve never been in this bad of physical shape. I basically did nearly nothing and it wiped me out.

So, during this week 3 I’m going to try to do some work on the exercise bike, just to get some aerobic capacity back…or maybe just keep it from getting worse. I can’t commit to doing anything next Week 1 or 2, though. On the one hand, the rash and skin effects from the Week 1 chemo have gotten progressively better (I think there isn’t much sun-damaged skin left to burn off). But, on the other hand, the added fatigue gets worse and lasts longer each time. I would have never imagined that I would actually get tired of napping.

And, with that…I think I’ll grab a small lunch and take a nap.

Guitar Gathering 2018 — Friday Workout and Johnny Hiland

Friday morning, Steve treated us to another brain workout…this time all around scales. You can get all the basic material and more from his Major Scale Mastery videos (available from his Storefront). The scales he references are in the pdf material that comes with those videos.

Then the incredibly talented Johnny Hiland spent a little over an hour playing, teaching, demonstrating, and reminiscing about guitar. Some great takeaways from his master class:

  • Guitar Playing (and practicing) should be fun)
  • The most important part of the song is the melody (seems like a duh!, but I know players who get carried away with shredding the solo and completely lose the thread of the melody…).

That doesn’t begin to touch all the high points. Watch the video…you’ll be educated, entertained, and amazed.

Throat Blog — End of the Last Week 1

Ok, I made it through my last “Week 1” 3-drug combo week. As expected, I’m more fatigued than the previous three rounds. After the dehydration of the previous round, I’m making a real effort to stay hydrated and fed, but still going to get a full bag of hydration on Monday along with my Week 2 chemo.

Fatigue, though. Bleh. Headed home very early afternoon this week, and barely hit the couch before completely zonking for 3 or 4 hours. The only one enjoying that is the cat. Until he gets bored and starts grooming me. Tiny cat licks on the face. Must be time to get up and eat something. Oh, and drink another glass of water.

I can’t really complain of feeling bad. No nausea (but little appetite, either). No real weakness. Just hard to keep my eyes open after about 2pm. Skin on my face and head looks pretty bad, today, but should slowly heal up this week.

Big thing to look forward to this week (other than naps) is a CT scan on Wednesday. This should give a very good read on whether this chemo protocol has taken care of things. Considering how bad the rash has been, everyone really thinks that it should be doing a number on the tumors, as well (generally severity of rash is positively correlated to effect on the tumors).

I realized that I don’t currently have any followup appointment scheduled for an oncologist to actually tell me the results of the CT scan…and don’t want to have to wait 8 days for the lab to release the report to me. So, emailing the Dr’s office today to set up a follow-up (or at least ask him to send me the summary as soon as he gets it).

I also want to see about getting the raw CT scan data. I don’t have the chops to be able to read it as far as the tumors go, but I can make a 3D picture that images things like cartilage and bone…if you go back to an older post, you’ll see what I was able to do with a previous CT scan (oh, I’ll just make that image the featured image for that post…no need to look for the old post). It would be nice to know what the structure of my larynx looks like, now…it feels like there is more cartilage in the front, but I really don’t know for sure. CT imaging will show it clearly.

So, forcing myself to stay awake past noon. Been working on the last of my Nashville videos (uploading now, post about that should happen later this afternoon). Planning a new video shoot of a guitarist friend, but want to wait a few weeks so that I have the stamina to get it done.

Guitar Gathering 2018 — Blues Counsel plus Phil Keaggy

Thursday night we were treated to a 2-hour concert by Blues Counsel (the first 45 minutes or so), Phil Keaggy (for another 25 minutes) and then the combined group (for yet another 45 minutes or so). Some fantastic musicianship. And what a great theme for a Sunday morning release…Faith Music.

Phil was, as usual, ethereally phenomenal. He illustrates a new twist (pun intended) on string bending in his song “Salvation Army Band.” Watch for it around the 1:11:45 mark.

And, Blues Counsel are certainly not shirkers in the talent and performance arena. From rocking guitar solos to a rather unusual jungle treat by their percussionist.

Just a couple of sessions to go, then GG 2018, the video editing sessions, will be behind me. Next up after that, I have a good friend who is a great guitar player. We’re planning to get one or more of his originals on video in a month or so (after my last chemo round).

Throat Blog — Just Add Water

After mulling that dramatic 5 lbs in 6 days weight loss, I realized that that could not have been body mass loss. I was eating some, if not enough. So, considered the other probability…hydration. I am not in a habit of drinking a lot of water in-between meals unless I’m doing physically active things.

Sitting at my desk. Driving to/from work. Sitting on the couch. Sleeping. Hmmm, none of those are really falling into the category of “physically active things.” And not eating as much also means (to me) skipping some meals entirely. Which means skipping my main time to drink fluids…mealtime.

So, yesterday I made it a point to keep sipping on water throughout the day. I probably put down a little over 2 liters of fluids. And, this morning, right out of the shower, I weighed a little over 3 lbs more than I did yesterday morning. So, instead of 5 lbs weight loss in 6 days, maybe 1-2 lbs, which is still not great, but also not alarming or entirely unreasonable.

My appetite yesterday was better, and today I also feel more like eating. So, I suspect that during the coming week I’ll be able to pack in more calories (and water!) in preparation for the 4th and final 3-week round.

Throat Blog — Chem-on Down!

Ok, I’m about 66% through treatment and it is starting to wear on me a bit. Pretty evident from my weight chart, above, which plots from beginning of treatment to today. Rounds 1 and 2 (each round is 3 weeks, starting w/a 3-drug combo the first week, then a single drug each of the next two weeks) I got by pretty good. Appetite was a little affected (especially during the first week of each round), but recovered by the end of the round.

The first round, just had a little queasiness for a couple of days, the rash from the Erbitux, but not much else. The second round, the rash was still pretty bad (especially on my head) and I did get pretty tired by the end of the day during the first week, but the 2nd and 3rd weeks I had plenty of energy. Well, round 3 and I still have the head rash (a bit on my chest and back, too, but it doesn’t itch there, so doesn’t really bother me). But the two things most affected now are my energy levels and my appetite.

Even in the 2nd week, my energy levels were pretty low. I went to work every day, but also left early every day. I got into the early afternoon and realized that if I hung around until 5 it would not be safe for me to be driving. So, early in the week I took off around 3. Later held on until about 4. Got home and crashed in front of the TV and tried not to go to sleep too early. On the plus side, I was able to catch some great documentaries (making of National Lampoon’s Vacation…I never knew that Lindsay Buckingham did the “Holiday Road” theme song…rockumentary on The Doobie Brothers, and another on Brian Wilson).

Appetite, though. That is the worst, as not eating also affects energy levels/fatigue. I’m not nauseous, but food is unappealing when I look at it, tasteless (mostly) when I eat it, and I quickly fill up…long before the plate is empty. I can feel my appetite slowly recovering (the week 1 combo is really what drags down my appetite), but not enough to keep my weight up. As you can see from the graph, the last two weeks my weight has fallen off the cliff. Overall, about 10 lbs lost, but 5 of that has been in the past week or two.

So, I am trying to pick higher calorie (even if it also means higher sugar) options. Instead of black iced coffee in the morning, grabbing a latte. Most sweets and coffee still taste OK (but potatoes taste like sawdust, as do many other foods). I was eating oatmeal for breakfast, but it tastes so bad, now, I’ve switched to yogurt. Lunch I’m trying out a variety of soups (Udon noodle is best, but Phó is also pretty good). Dinner is the toss-up. Sometimes just a smoothie (homemade from freeze-dried then powderized banana, strawberry, kale, and broccoli). Sometimes I can manage 1/2 of an entree like lasagna or other pasta.

Even typing the above makes me feel like I want to have nothing to do with food. Ugh. I’m not even going to re-read it for typo’s and grammar tweaks.

Anyway, I really don’t feel bad. Just get tired early and often. I’m able to mostly keep up at work. My guitar practicing has suffered. The couch looks so much better than my practice area. And, keeping up this blog has suffered, as well. But, I can tell that next week will be better. I’ve already warned my office that the week of the 30th will likely be my worst week (the beginning of my last round).

So, back to editing videos from the Nashville trip. Or, maybe a nap. Well, definitely a nap.

Guitar Gathering 2018 — The Thursday Sessions

Ok, editing down the videos is taking me a bit longer than anticipated. But, I have now completed all of Thursday’s sessions. So, just a few left to go.

Thursday Morning started with another workout with Steve. But, unlike Wednesday’s workout, which strained our hands and muscles, Thursday’s workout was an exercise in stretching our minds. Steve has a great series of Fretboard Workouts available in the Mighty Oak Music store. Covering scales, agility, speed, and jazz chords, these make a great resource for inspiration in practicing methods.

Next up, Joe Robinson, who gave us such a great performance Wednesday night, walked us through many of his techniques for practicing, learning, songwriting, and performing. As I mentioned before, he has a new course at Truefire.com on fingerstyle techniques (Fingerstyle Synergy: Bass and Melody) worth checking out.

Our afternoon was filled with the music and accumulated wisdom of Musicians Hall of Famer and veteran session musician Will McFarlane. Will is funny, talented, and brings a wealth of practical experience to his master class. Although it is titled “Blues Guitar” this is actually a wide ranging master class that applies to blues, rock, country, and more. Note that this video is uploading as I publish this, so it could be a few hours before it is actually available to view.

So, that was Thursday Day. Hopefully, I’ll have time today or tomorrow to edit down the Thursday Night performance by the Blues Counsel f. Phil Keaggy and then start to work on the Friday sessions. Have a great weekend!

Guitar Gathering — Contemporary Fingerstyle Masterclass with Christie Lenee

Wednesday, Christie Lenee gave a great masterclass on Contemporary Fingerstyle Guitar. In addition to being an incredible guitarist and songwriter, Christie quite obviously knows what she’s doing, why she’s doing it, and when to do it…and is able to explain it all in terms that even I can understand.

Christie has quite a few videos on her own YouTube channel. You can also find CDs and  a link to her Fingerstyle Guitar for Songwriters Truefire course on her web page: www.ChristieLenee.com.

Guitar Gathering 2018 — Why does Steve Hate Us?

Well, that is what I asked him after the Wednesday Warmup. Wow. One of the most strenuous mornings my fingers have seen since…well…last years Guitar Gathering warmups. He replied that he didn’t hate us. It is just tough love.

There are some great tips in this video for improving finger strength and finger flexibility. Steve makes it painfully fun. If you find this helpful, you should check out his full Speed and Agility Workout video.


Guitar Gathering 2018 — Acoustic Night

As promised, GG2018 Acoustic Night with performances by Steve Krenz, Collin Hill, Joe Robinson, and Christie Lenee.

Steve Krenz was introduced to many of us through the Learn and Master Guitar course. Many others through weekly Live Lessons podcasts. You can connect with Steve and the rest of the GG community at www.guitargathering.com.

Collin Hill has been coming to Guitar Gatherings for several years. Originally from California, he and his family moved to Tennessee 3 months ago to put him closer to where the guitar action is. I’ve got a couple of other performances on my YouTube channel definitely worth checking out. You can also find his videos in his own YouTube channel. One of the youngest members of our gathering, he’s also one of the best players you’ll find in the group. Maybe Steve is better. For now.

Joe Robinson grew up serenading the cows on his family farm in Temagog, Australia. At 16 he won Australia’s got Talent and he moved to Nashville shortly after, at the invitation of Tommy Emmanuel. This is the first time he’s joined us for Guitar Gathering and, in addition to this incredible performance he also gave a great Master Class on Guitar Technique and Musicianship (look for that video in the coming days or weeks…). He frequently tours…if you see he’s going to be near you, definitely worth going. You will be wowed. He also has a courses on TrueFire.com covering Fingerstyle Guitar techniques (Fingerstyle Synergy: Bass & Melody).

Christie Lenee is the 2017 International Fingerstyle Guitar Champion. She is the May, 2018 Guitar Player Magazine centerfold, and her latest CD, Stay, was a finalist for “Best CD of 2016” for Best Lyrics (Indie Acoustic Project Awards). She plays intricate, percussive, emotional and unique original songs. Her performance at GG 2018 will leave you spellbound. This is also her first time to join us for a Gathering, and earlier in the day she discussed Contemporary Fingerstyle technique in her Master Class (video to come).

Ok, so this ended Day 1. I got back to my hotel exhausted and inspired.