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November of this Long Fucking Year

I write a hostile headline like that and you think I’m just going to be ranting like a madman.  I won’t be.  It’s actually been, for the most part, a very good month.

First, I Turned 42

Eh, maybe that’s not all that exciting or great, but it was time spent with friends and I can’t complain too much about where things are.  Knock on wood.

Larry made birthday cupcakes for me – I am definitely on board with that.  I think he may have been even more motivated because of the cake caddy that we bought when bringing a cake over for my mom’s birthday!

On the night of my birthday, a few of my bestest friends went over to the French restaurant in Highland Park called Cote Est.   The same people who run this also run Barbrix and All’acqua, so you know it’s good.  And this was no exception – we ended up spending like 3-4 hours there just eating, drinking, and having a fun time.

We Got Some Very Good News regarding Larry

Larry got a follow-up PET scan done the Friday before my birthday, but we didn’t get the results for a few days.  Larry’s 9th round of chemo occurred the week following my birthday, which was also a week when Fran & Joel came back out to visit and spend time with their boy.  So it was very much a happy coincidence that while they were out here, we also got the news about the PET scan results.   On Wednesday’s follow-up to remove the pump, one of the nurses let us know that he’d seen the results and while Larry would need to talk to the doctor, the results were realllly good.  And then on Thursday, they were all there for the Nulasta shot and had a chance to talk to Dr. Arzoo – and he basically said that the triplet chemo we’ve been doing has created results that are as good as could be hoped for.

Larry’s liver had been previously covered in hundreds of spots, which we knew about but didn’t actually want to see the pictures of.  We still haven’t seen pictures, but there’s basically only one 4x4cm spot remaining in his liver after the chemo he’s been getting…which is incredible.   The reason we didn’t have a parade though is that the reality is that this is still not over.   Dr Arzoo wants us to continue the current regimen of chemo, meaning basically finish it up through the end of the year.   I think we can push to at least reduce the oxyplatin as that is causing the neuropathy and Larry’s neuropathy symptoms are getting more intense and longer to recede.  We have to roll that back before the nerve damage is permanent.

Then there is the fact that this is considered a chronic condition – and that there will be some form of reduced chemo for at least another year.   Nothing as long and intense as what he’s getting now, which is good, but it’s not that we’ve ‘beaten the cancer.’  We actually may never ‘beat’ it – at least for the time being, but medical breakthroughs happen all the time.   Anyway, we have an appt with a UCLA liver specialist this week (he is the doc we spoke to about a second opinion this summer) and we should hopefully be able to get more information about next steps, whether it’s continued chemo or who knows, maybe some kind of surgery to cut the spot out?  That’s all guesses on my part, but it will be good to have an idea of what the next phase is.   But the fact is, while there’s a lot of ‘Yeah, but’ above, the chemo did its job and Larry is in a far better state than in July.  We just are processing the reality of his condition.

Fran & Joel Came Out for a Little Bit

They came out and stayed at the newly opened Hyatt Place down the street from our apartment on Central Ave in Glendale.   It’s a perfect location for them as well as us, as it’s on the way to all the restaurants from our place.  It was wonderful that they could be around when all this good news was coming through about Larry’s cancer, plus it was just nice to spend time with them.   We did take them out to eat a few times – and in fact, we ended up going back to Cote Est just a week later than the last time we were there as it’s really that good of a place to visit!

I also ended up getting my birthday gift from Larry while they were out – Larry was way too kind and got me a new Apple Watch!!!   I am a huge fan of this thing and a few weeks into owning it, I can’t imagine not having it.   It’s just the best device.  It’s the freakin’ future.

We did take Fran and Joel to visit the latest at the Glen LA, but I figure I’ll group those pictures together at the bottom of this post as then we took Michancy this weekend to see it and there was some significant progress witnessed this time too!

They wanted an LA brunch before leaving, so we took them to one of the fun places in Hollywood we’d been to before, Madera.   Goood times and good food, and loud music.  🙂

Dear Evan Hansen w/ Nicki

It has been a little bit of time since we’d seen a show (Come From Away back in May, I think, when we saw that in NYC) so when Nicki reached out to see if we’d want to see Dear Evan Hansen at the Ahmanson, it was like duh.  It was on a Saturday night so we had the ability to get some food beforehand, so we met up at Bottega Louie for a fabulous Italian dinner, then took an Uber to the Ahmanson.   Last time that Larry & I had been there was seeing Les Miserables 25th Anniversary staging of the show – which was an event unto itself.  Anyway, concerning the show itself – I really liked the staging and the music, but the story and plot were a bit interesting to consider. Obviously, it’s a damn musical – but it’s not that the situation was fantastical or unrealistic, it was that the main character is taking advantage of a situation that benefits himself and another family…only up until the truth of the situation gets out.   I’m being vague to not spoil anything, but it’s just hard to feel sad or empathy after a certain point with Evan Hansen as it’s like, come on, dude, this is fucked up.  So yeah, it was good….but also, I didn’t love it because of the above.  Whaddya gonna do.

Fireball Island!!!!

I subscribed to a Kickstarter for Fireball Island early this year as hello, Fireball Island was one of my favorite games as a 10yo kid.  I don’t know what happened to my original game (probably grew out of it and thought I was too cool for school) but when I saw a post on Kotaku about this being Kickstarter’d, I was IN.   I was IN for a lot too, as I ended up basically buying nearly every option.   Happily, they met their Kickstarter goal by a LOT and for the last few months, the updates were all about production and getting distribution lined up.  This past month or so was all about the games going out, and I was hoping it would be here for Thanksgiving and happy day, it was delivered!  We did get to play it finally with Michancy and I gotta say, I love it.   The new version has a lot more sophistication and structure to it, but there’s nothing so satisfying as getting to launch a fireball and it takes out your intended target.  It’s wonderful.

Michancy Visits for Thanksgiving

It isn’t Thanksgiving if Michancy doesn’t come down to visit!  It had actually been since last Thanksgiving when we saw her last, but a lot of curveballs were introduced obviously this summer, so not unsurprising.  It was really good to see her.   I think we had hopes to have been in the new house by this point, but that was not the case and so Michancy did get to enjoy the fact that we rearranged the office to allow for a bit more room when the air bed is set up.

On Thursday, Thanksgiving ended up just being the three of us as mom wasn’t feeling well, so we had a lot of food (from Whole Foods, again, as that option is the best option around for hosting Turkey Day).   We did drink plenty of wine but it was NOTHING like last year’s ridiculousness.  Still can’t believe how much wine was drank then.  We also played Fireball Island and I am so happy about that.  We went and saw Widows on Friday (it was okay, but somewhat disappointing), ate plenty of good meals, she got to see the house in its most current state, and then on Saturday she took off back to Vegas.  Her luck was awful though as there was an accident at the top of the Cajon Pass, holding her up for almost 3 hours.  Then it only got worse, and she finally got home like 8-9 hours after leaving.  That is not good.   I wouldn’t be surprised if she never came back this way again!  But we loved having her around so much.

Larry and I have had the remainder of the weekend to ourselves – first we did go to my mom’s yesterday to have Thanksgiving Round 2, as one can’t not have a turkey dinner this weekend.  She also has a good amount of turkey leftovers too for further meals.  Today Larry & I had brunch with Nicki and her sister and mother, who were in town for Thanksgiving.  Went to Republique in LA which was wonderful.   Then we went to see Ralph Breaks the Internet and it was fantastic.  Stay through to the very end of the credits, especially if you loved this part of the trailer:

And now it’s the end of the 4-day weekend!  BOOOO.

Updates from the Glen LA:

Before you leave though, here are pictures of the place at the Glen LA.   The first set is from the second week of November and is when we saw that we had tile in all our bathrooms and all the exterior work was finished!   It was exciting.

The best news that visit though was the fact that the gas company had FINALLY connected Phase 1.   At least part of it.  So people in Phase 1 finally closed escrow on their homes – not only that, while we were there, we saw some of those people moving in!   It was kind of…stunning.   It’s actually going to happen.  Our date is currently the later half of December – we’ll just have to see if that holds.  I have my doubts, but you never know.

The next set of pictures are from this past Friday – and while in the set above the tile was down, the hardwood floors were not.   Well, that’s not the case anymore!  All the floors are down, except for carpeting on the stairs, which won’t happen till the very end.   Even more, there’s running water in the unit, along with toilets and sink fixtures.   No power or gas yet, but it’s coming along!!!

Anyway, on to December 2018.  Let’s end this fucking year right.

Cabinets & Sound of Music for a Great Weekend

We just got back from visiting our in-progress home.   Yes, we’d been there just 2 weeks ago and saw that there was some major progress made as drywall had been put up!

Two Weeks of Travel & Stress, But We Made It

In two weeks time though, a lot has changed!     First thing we noticed once we were there was that the drywall had been pretty much sealed up.   If you look at the pictures from the post above, the drywall was up but it didn’t look finished yet.   It looks finished now.   What got us over here today though was that we had confirmation that all the cabinetry was up!!!  And boy oh boy, finished walls and cabinetry up in all the rooms makes this place look that much more finished.  It’s fucking fantastic.  Look for yourself!

Cabinets & Finished Drywall – Sept 23, 2018

You’ll see in those last few pictures that we ended up going for a long walk.   Larry’s commute will be markedly improved once we move, as he’s no longer going to have to cross the 101/170 interchange or the 5/134 interchange – both of which are terrible and soul-killing.  Mine though?  It’s going to take some figuring out.   For going into DTLA, I do have plenty of options but none of them are like, super easy.  There’s an Orange Line stop about a mile south of the house, so Larry suggested we walk it to see how it goes.   The day was right for it, so off we went.  Saw the pretty Valley Glen Community Park before getting to the Orange Line stop.   Definitely a do-able walk, but I’m thinking some kind of bike or scooter would make this easier.  Anyway, on the walk back to the house, we walked up Coldwater Canyon and saw the Great Wall mural of California History.  It’s pretty cool.   Walking through the neighborhood was a nice way to get a better feeling for the area, and I think we’re gonna like it here.

YESTERDAY was the Sound of Music Sing-a-Long at the Hollywood Bowl, and it was wonderful.  I don’t have to explain it again, do I?  It’s what we do every year and we’ll continue to do as long as they keep having it.  Based on yet another sold out crowd, I doubt it’s going away any time soon.  Melissa Peterman was the host (for her 14th time in a row!) and is just fabulous and glorious and so quick on her feet.  Love her.   There was a marriage proposal this year, which was new!  Anyway, The Sound of Music is just as glorious as it ever was, and I love it so.

Sound of Music Sing-a-Long, Sep 22, 2018

Larry Got Some Star Trek:TNG Love

I neglected to add something fairly awesome from this past weekend in my previous post:  Larry’s childhood friend Greg stopped by to visit and cheer Larry up.  Greg’s been great about checking in while Larry goes through chemo, but we had no idea what to expect when he asked if he could come over on Saturday!  Greg not only brought his son Asher, but he also brought a SIGNED STAR TREK:TNG BOOK – signed by SIR PATRICK STEWART HIMSELF!!!   It’s a slightly involved story, but Greg is in the Hollywood producing world and had the ability to meet Patrick Stewart this past Friday and provide what is possibly the world’s most perfect gift for Larry!

The inscription reads:

Hi, Larry, I am so happy to sign this for you.  I hope you are well soon and I send you all my best wishes.  Patrick Stewart

HOLY SHIT.  I got tears in my eyes when I saw this, as did Larry.  It is a fantastic thing to know that one of his idols was thinking of him just the day before.

We started Round 5 of chemo today.  I think Jean-Luc Picard’s encouragement will go a long way towards this being a good 2 weeks!

Two Weeks of Travel & Stress, But We Made It

I won’t lie – the last two weeks have been hard.  I’ve been having to travel for work and while of course when one hears where I went, they probably think I’m a little bitch because oh boo hoo, I had to go to great places.   But the fact that I had to leave Larry (even though he had amazing support from friends and family while I was out) was ridiculously hard to deal with.  Then the travel was all about work, but when you’re traveling for work, it’s very difficult to not fall behind on the regular work stuff you’re also responsible for doing.  So yeah, it has been a relief to be at this point and know that I am back to a regular kind of schedule.

It wouldn’t be me though if I hadn’t taken pictures while out and about!  So let’s start from long ago and work our way back to drywall.  It’ll make sense once you see the pictures.

Larry started his 4th round of chemo back on Monday, August 27th.  It was another round of the FolFoxIri + Avastin, which is the max approach we can take at this point.   I then was leaving to go to Mexico City on Tuesday.  EEK.  Larry wasn’t on his own though, as my mom was able to help take him on Wednesday for unplugging the chemo port, and Nicki also came by on Tuesday night to keep him company.  It was a relief to know he was in good hands.

I went to Mexico City to help with training up PwC Mexico folks on our code review template and to also, and more specifically why I was there, to give an introductory crash course on COBOL.  Yep, what was my life for 16 months in 2016 and 2017 is now part of what I’m known for here at PwC.  Good times!  🙂  I was slightly nervous about the whole ‘going to Mexico’ thing, but I managed.  Uber is prevalent in Mexico City just like nearly everywhere else in the world; my experiences from Puerto Rico also had me prepared for what to expect, as just like there, there’s plenty of the regular, non-touristy areas where people live as well as the more haute-touty places.   While during the day of Tuesday and Wednesday were spent at PwC Mexico, the evenings were good for enjoying the area.  My coworker who was there with me is Mexican and knew the area, so we had good ideas for where to go.  The first night, we went to a good restaurant right nearby, but on the second/last night, we got to go into historical Mexico City’s Zocalo, the city center.   It’s where you see James Bond in the beginning of Spectre – and it’s pretty damn great.

Mexico City, Aug 28-30, 2018

I was very very happy to get home though – which was Thursday night.    And god bless Global Entry – I was able to get right through customs without much fuss at all.  But leaving LAX on a Thursday evening is awful any time of the year, but worse before a holiday weekend.  I got home finally but I was exhausted.   Obviously Larry wasn’t feeling all that great himself, and in this case, one of the side effects of his chemo was causing him a lot of discomfort.  We had been trying to rig some solutions using OTC medicines but it really wasn’t doing much to help, regrettably.  Spoiler alert:  Larry was able to call the wonderful GI doctor (Dr Fisher) and get prescribed something that has drastically reduced his discomfort.  It’s not entirely gone, but to say that it’s so much better for Larry is entirely accurate.

Anyway, let’s talk Labor Day weekend.  We had originally been going to go to the Hollywood Bowl to see John Williams’ concert, along with my mom.  But Larry’s discomfort basically meant we weren’t going to be leaving home this weekend for that kind of excursion.  It sucked, but Nicki and Rekha reached out to see if we wanted some company so they came over and brought delicious food from All’Acqua (which is a great Italian place in Atwater Village).  That evening, in addition to food, I got them to play Jenga with me, so yay!

Nicki & Rekha Cheer Us Up w/ Jenga, Sat, Sep 1, 2018

On Sunday, we again mostly just hung out at home and watched The Crown and relaxed.  It was nice.

Then on Monday (Labor Day), Nicki & Rekha came back over to enjoy our apartment’s pool complex, which is a very nice thing to have.  We not only enjoyed the pool, but managed to snag one of the cabanas.  It was a nice way to spend the day.

Labor Day Cabana Fun, Mon, Sep 3, 2018

Jetting off yet again on Tuesday, I went to Orlando for PwC’s Risk Assurance leadership conference.  This was a trip that had been scheduled for quite a while, and at one point (pre-diagnosis), I think it was something Larry & I had considered maybe him going on too so we could spend some time at Disney World.  That didn’t happen obviously.  It was a good conference though and I got to spend some time with current friends and connect with new people too.  Always about the networking in this company.  Like I said before, Larry ended up getting some medicine to help with his side effects while I was gone this time, but when I left it was definitely not a resolved issue.  Happily, by Tuesday evening, he was feeling better.  So yay for victories where we can take them.

So while I was in Orlando, we really only got one evening of pretty awesome fun – we were going to get a dinner in EPCOT center and then time to ourselves in the park!  Not a lot of time (<2 hours, actually) but still, this was my first time ever at a Florida Disney park so I was gonna take advantage of it.   Larry gave me the heads up on what rides were worth it in EPCOT so I had my marching orders.  A few others of my friends were on board for this too, so off we went!  Basically from our event space by the UK area of EPCOT, we headed straight to Spaceship Earth, which is within the famous geodesic sphere.   It’s a slow ride that drives you through the world of communication and how it’s evolved over 30k years.  It’s pretty great, to be honest.   It’s also cool to be inside the sphere!   After that, it was over to Test Track, and let’s just say that this ride is the shit.  It’s clearly a forerunner to Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure, and possibly even more fun?  Finally, we ramped up the intensity for the last ride, Mission: Space, and geeeez, it’s a rough one.  It’s a G-Force simulator and fucking wrecks you.   It’s still a fun experience, but next time, I’ll take the less intense alternatives, which do exist!

PwC & Epcot Center, Wed, Sep 5, 2018

Again, it was wonderful to be back home after this trip, especially knowing it was the last one for hopefully a while.

This weekend has been good – our house has drywall up!!  It’s actually been a few weeks since we heard that process started, so waiting a few weeks means it’s all up now.  It’s very exciting – within the next few weeks, cabinetry will be going in.  Yay!

Drywall!  Sat, Sep 8, 2018

Catching Up on the Last Few Weeks

I’ve been pretty bad at updating, as is my way.  So I’ll try to rectify that here, with some pictures and general “here’s how it’s been going” updates.  Long story short though, Larry has been doing pretty damn great during Rounds 2 & 3 of chemo. A brief update on the chemo story:  For Rounds 1 & 2 of his chemo, we were doing a “doublet” chemo treatment called Folfox.  I’ve linked to a site that kind of explains it so I don’t have to get into the weeds.  This treatment approach is the typical standard one for colorectal cancers, and so that’s what our oncologist recommended.   The goal though was to see how Larry took to these and if the side effects were going to be too much. Because his port surgery was still within 4 weeks, we did not do the +Avastin though, as that is the drug that inhibits capillary growth, to stop both cancer cells from building out but also good stuff, so healing Larry’s surgery scars would have been impeded.  But we did Folfox for the first 2 rounds and while he definitely did experience neuropathy as expected, and of course fatigue and occasional nausea, it wasn’t anything we couldn’t manage.  And by the time each 2nd week came around, Larry felt pretty good.  So by the time it came time for Round 3, the onocologist (Dr Arzoo, who is an amazing man and doctor) let Larry decide if he wanted to increase the treatment potency.  There is a “triplet” chemo treatment that has been shown to be very effective too, Folfoxiri.  It’s more aggressive and comes with heightened side effects, namely much more diarrhea.  Dr Arzoo was supportive if we were wanting to go for this, and after some consideration, Larry was on board.  It definitely adds more time to the chemotherapy process on Monday, and the neuropathy seems to be heightened, but the dreaded constant diarrhea really didn’t manifest for Larry.  He’s been actually doing pretty good during this Round, which is certainly hopeful for us.  Really hoping that will remain the case as we go into Round 4 tomorrow.  All thoughts and good vibes are appreciated!

Here are some pictures from Round 2, on July 30, 2018

Why don’t I have pictures from Round 3 two weeks later?  Well, that’s because Fran came in to spend some time with her boy!  Only one visitor is allowed at a time, so I stayed home while she went in for the Round 3 super dose.  I had told her that it wasn’t such a long day, but Folfoxiri + Avastin does take a long time, so my bad!  I’ll get to be there for the long day tomorrow.  Anyway, before she accompanied Larry on that Monday, we picked her up on the Sunday before from LAX.  Taking advantage of the fact that we don’t typically spend much time on the West Side anymore, we planned an outing to the Century City mall – and went to Eataly for lunch!

Eataly @ Century City on Aug 12, 2018:

As far as other stuff that happened since, here are some pictures and stuff! One of the things Larry & I saw at the Hollywood Bowl was a live performance of Annie – which was amazing.  Much like Mamma Mia last year, it’s basically putting on the Broadway show but keeping the sets from being too over the top.  In both of these cases, the sets actually were pretty flexible in that they took advantage of rotating sets to great effect.  In Annie, the letters themselves were able to be used as various locations by rotating them around to show they were hollow and had sets in them.  AWESOME. The cast of Annie, especially the lead and then the celebrity cast that filled in the other main starring roles, were all amazing.  Ana Gasteyer was great as Mrs. Hannigan as was David Alan Grier as Daddy Warbucks.  The girl who played Annie was fantastic.  I love the songs too, and they didn’t disappoint with numbers like “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”, “Tomorrow”, and “Maybe” (and everything else, of course).

Annie @ the Hollywood Bowl, July 28, 2018

Early this month, Larry & I went back to the Glen to see how our house was coming along.  No drywall up (although we have heard that has started this week!) but we got to see that all the electrical and plumbing is in, as are all the windows, and a lot of the clutter on the floors was gone, so it was much easier to walk around and imagine the future.

The Glen LA, Aug 5, 2018

The day before Fran arrived in town, Larry, my mom, and I went to the Hollywood Bowl to go watch The Empire Strikes Back accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl orchestra.  It’s a phenomenal movie and has one of the more iconic soundtracks – obviously it’s the movie that first used the Imperial March, but it also has such great themes such as the love theme and the stupendous Asteroid theme.  It was a pleasure to hear it play out live.  Plus there were so many lightsabers in play it was a joy to see them all come out when certain actions or musical moments came on, notably when the Imperial March played.

The Empire Strikes Back @ the Hollywood Bowl, Aug 11, 2018

I have been working basically from home while Larry is going through this.  With the stuff I’ve been working on lately, that’s been an option.  I do go in occasionally though just to make sure people see me or when others let me know they’ll be in.  In this case, my ex-work wife Barb let me know she was going to be downtown one day AND she wanted to take me to lunch!  How could I refuse that offer?  Fran took Larry duty (I kid, honestly – he doesn’t need such attention) and I went in and met her at her new office neighborhood and she then surprised me by saying we were going to 71 Above, the restaurant which resides at the top of the US Bank building.  It was spectacular, and since we got there around 11:45am, we beat the rush and got window seats.  It’s kind of nuts.  The food was fantastic, and I definitely appreciated her generosity!

Lunch w/ Barb @ 71 Above, Aug 16, 2018

It’s been a blur though, to be honest.  I can’t believe we’re on to Round 4 tomorrow, and that Fran has come and gone already.   There was fun to be had, as we did go and see Crazy Rich Asians which was awesome (go see it), we’d go for walks to keep Larry active, made dinners at home, Fran and I drank wine, she’d watch a lot of her British Netflix shows, and overall it was just an easy time, thankfully. So here’s hoping the good vibes continue.  We’d love to learn that the chemo is doing its job, but we won’t know how well it’s working for a little bit longer.  Dr Arzoo has mentioned we’ll test levels after Round 6.  In the meantime, positivity and confidence it’s all working out are the order for the day. In random news, I’m in love with this mop I saw at Bed Bath & Beyond:
My absolute joy
I got it and I used it yesterday at home and never again will I use those stupid Swiffer Wet Jet things.  Such a waste of paper and resources those things are.  This mop has a built-in spinner function to help you both wash the mop head and then a salad-spinner thing that helps you rinse off excess water before using it.   I’m sad to report that our floors were filthy, but damn if they’re not clean now!