Sunday, September 16, 2007

How we are doing today

Well, I wanted to let you all know how Erica and I are doing today... I'm pleased to report that we're both doing very well. Erica feels fine, and yesterday played a full AYSO soccer game (about 1 hour). She started back to school last Wednesday, and that seems to be going fine. Today (Sunday) she and Frances are going on a hike in the afternoon with her Girl Scout troop to see their new camp site. She is also practicing now for her first meal away from home, which will happen next weekend, when she goes with her very good friend Clara Sternberg and Clara's parents Paul and Jane to the LA County Fair. Erica will have to do all of the carbohydrate monitoring, etc., by herself! But she's got a full week to learn the procedures...

As for me, I'm doing very well too. I have no noticeable side effects from the chemotherapy or the radiation therapy: no nausea, no headaches, nothing. I almost think: "Hey! Better turn up the dosage! I'm not getting enough side effects here!" (But of course I don't really say that - I know that the dosages are set by lots of experience, and are the values they are because those produce the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people.)

I feel virtually no pain or discomfort of any type. The only symptoms that I could do without are some memory issues... it's not so much that I forget things that happened; instead, I tend to remember things that didn't happen. Usually these are fairly mundane events, not at all different in character from the things that really did happen. I'll find myself thinking, for example, "As I was saying to that guy sitting next to me on the plane the other day..." and then I'll suddenly realize "On the plane?? I haven't been on a plane lately! And strangely enough, I can't remember anything else about this guy I supposedly had a conversation with!"

I think it may just be an over-active imagination... Probably this will all settle down as time goes on, and I stop remembering my dreams so vividly. It is a bit troubling, though, to realize that it is possible to honestly "remember" things that never happened! How, then, can testimony in criminal trials be trusted? If something causes our "imagination" and "fact recalling" circuits in our brains to get mixed up, then how do we know if anything we remember is real? In some ways, that's the worst thing about this - now that I've seen that a few things that I "remember" could not have happened, I find myself asking how I know that other things are real... Until my imagination circuits stop interfering, the only thing I can think of to do is the collect tangible items throughout the day (business cards, etc.), that "prove" I was where I remember being, and that it is not simply a trick of a still-healing brain.

So I hope you won't be offended if next time we meet I make some notes in my notebook about where/when we met, who else was present, etc., or if I pick up cards, brochures, etc. that prove I was there. I'm only doing it because I want our meeting, conversation, trip, or other encounter to stay part of my internal "narrative" of what is happening in my life, and not be tossed out of the narrative in the belief that it must not have happened because I have no "proof" that it did.

I know what I am saying must come across as very odd to many of you. And I hope for your sake your brain circuits controlling constructed storylines (imagination and dreams) and those controlling experienced storylines (true facts) never get their wires crossed!

I have to say this has been an interesting experience, and gives me new (and highly skeptical) perspectives on any study, poll, survey, or clinical trial that relies on self-reporting of "factual" events after the fact! Our brains are not movie cameras, faithfully recording events as they occur. A better analogy is that our brains are producing a "film" every day, and act not only as faithful jounalists, but also as directors, producers, screenwriters, and editors. Depending on the particular mix of these roles in your brain, you may be producing a documentary (but still perhaps with some political or philosophical slant...) or a super-hero fantasy, in which you (or the much thinner, younger, more attractive actor who plays "you" in your mental "film") save the day repeatedly in so many ways, but the other characters never seem to catch on that it is you doing it. (That is, they think you're just Clark Kent, not Superman too.)

Of course, there are lots of other possible story presentations too... buddy movies, situation comedies, horror flicks, highbrow art films, lowbrow "guilty pleasures", history-channel documentaries, etc. Whatever sort of productions your brain specializes in determines your belief about "reality," since there is no other source of objective data, except that that enters through your 5 senses, from which your brain constructs a plausible storyline consistent with the sensory inputs.

So the point of this whole movie analogy (appropriate for me, as a Southern Californian living only minutes away from Hollywood) is to stress that your experience of the world around you is not necessarily the "straight scoop", and just because you are sure of something doesn't necessarily make it so... I think I see this more clearly now, since I know that the balance of power between my "documentarian" and my "screenwriter" is out of whack. But I think it is only a matter of degrees... what I am experiencing now as abnormal (for an engineer who values "the facts") might be considered normal by others, or at least desirable, in the sense that people pay good money for pills to achieve these mental effects that I get for free and would rather not have at all...

Anyway, enough rambling on for one day! The bottom line: Erica is doing just great. I am too in all physical ways. Now if I can just turn down the volume on some of my imagination circuits, I'll be doing great and even be in touch with reality! What a bargain!

[Disclaimer: some statements in this blog post have been exaggerated for purported humor value...]


Dickie said...

Hey, you're nudging up against Sociological theory. And I'll bet you think of that as a "soft" science. Oh well, just so long as you remember the $500 I loaned you.

Verma G said...

One way I have learned how differently people process information and experiences is in comparing happenings from our shared past with my sisters. Recently I said to Joy, "Remember that tone of voice we always used to answer Grandma when she asked us to do something? We'd answer in that drawn out, drawly, whine and usually say something like, "In...a...minute..."

My sister said she had no recollection of ever answering Grandma like that. Was it just me? I was sure it was all three of us, but that is not how my sister remembers it and it's too late to ask Lola.

Different brains process differently and what is an indelible memory to one is unrecorded or forgotten by the other. And that is without any brain surgery.


RayG said...

Glad to see the health update on both you and Erica. Did this have anything to do with your mom calling you last night? It wasn't a dream she really did call you.
Mothers want to know.


Copper's Wife said...

I'm certainly glad to hear that your and Erica are both doing so well. Do the doctors indicate that the "crossed wires" you've been experiencing might possibly be a side effect of the radiation? It certainly sounds plausible to me.

In any event, still praying and I'll be thanking the Lord a bit today, too, for Erica's doing so well, and your continued positive and humorous outlook! ~ Cheryl

Ravi said...

Hi Dave

Some of the smartest ideas have come about when people have had their wires crossed. Archimedes' "eureka" moment in the bathtub being a classic example of that. Now, I am not suggesting that you run from your bathtub and out onto the street; but perhaps you can take good notes of any wacky ideas that come your way in the next few months.

Perhaps you will get a wacky idea that leads to a feasible photovoltaic cell....or a cure for cancer.


Ron G said...

I would like to claim that I loaned you $500 like Dick did ..but I am certain your dad would remind me of something for which I owe him $500 or more!

Thanks for the on going updates of you and Erica....being read by most of the Kansas family.

As one who has had vivid dreams for most of my life I thought I would mention a book I read last year you might be interested is: Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. (Not smart enough to underline the title).....duh.

As for Ravi's interesting might want to check with your other uncle on 'getting high' and other out of body experiences....

Uncle Ron