White to Black (Update 2)

I continue to receive well wishes from readers since the initial White to Black post from a few months back, and it continues to amaze me. Again I would like to express gratitude for that – thanks!


It’s been a little more than three months since I started my palliative cancer treatment regime, consisting of receiving two different chemotherapy drugs, and one immunotherapy drug, on a cycle of one treatment per week, three weeks on and one week off. The plan was to go through two such cycles and then perform another CT and PET scan to assess whether the treatment was having effect. That scan has since been taken, and last week I sat down with the doctor to discuss the results.

So, to bring you all up to speed, I can say that there is good news and there is bad news. I’ll present the bad news first.

As it has turned out, I cannot tolerate the drug regime I have been on, vis-à-vis the two chemotherapy agents. The side effects have been rather brutal, though it had been expected, by the oncologist, that the drugs would be well tolerated. It seems I am highly sensitive to both drugs.

In the past month most of my head hair has fallen out and my facial hair has ceased growing also. These effects are trivial, though unwelcome. I now look like a cancer patient, emaciated and largely bald.

The other effects have been altogether more unpleasant. Mouth sores have become so severe that I have quite a lot of difficulty eating, and for much of the past while I must consume a mouthwash which completely numbs my mouth before I can eat. The sores have spread into my throat as well, making swallowing difficult. On top, the neuropathy in my hands has grown noticeably worse and has begun to spread to my arms, with the result that they are starting to feel quite heavy and difficult to raise. When I touch the tips of my thumbs with the adjacent first fingers, it feels as if I am holding a live electrical wire with about 60 volts running through. It’s downright uncomfortable, and there is no treatment other than pain killers. In fact it is uncertain whether I will recover from the neuropathy or whether it will become a permanent condition, a prospect I find rather grim.

With these side effects manifesting, the oncologist decided to reduce the second-to-last treatment’s chemo doses to a 75% level. This still proved to be too much, and as a result the last treatment was cancelled altogether.

This situation is representative of the horror of chemical cancer treatment, in which the treatment itself it highly toxic. The cure is as bad as the disease, and the question becomes just how much treatment one can withstand. With chemotherapy in particular, I feel like I need to be off it for a sufficiently long period that the side effects wane to the point of allowing me to feel relatively normal again before I can entertain the thought of undergoing more chemotherapy.

So, that was the bad news.

The good news, revealed by the most recent scans is that the treatment I have received, has been able to beat the cancer back significantly. Whereas three months ago the scan showed three areas in my lungs with black spots, the recent scan showed no spots at all. It was the first scan result in a long time that wasn’t negative, and frankly I was slightly shocked and incredulous to find myself the recipient of good news for once.

This result does now mean that the cancer is gone, only that it has been successfully shrunk for the time being. Going forward now, the plan is that I will receive only the immunotherapy drug Erbitux, which has the side effect of a kind of acne along with nose bleeding (like the nose bleeds you can get in winter when the air is really dry). I can tolerate those side effects. We will do treatments with the Erbitux for 2 months or so, and reassess with another CT/PET scan. The hope here is that the Erbitux alone can keep the cancer in check for an extended period. The oncologist has had other patients for whom this methodology has proved effective and durable, so it represents more than wishful thinking.

As I write this I am on holiday with my family in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and it has been three weeks since my last treatment. The neuropathy has receded somewhat, and the mouth sores, while still present, are dampened enough that I can eat more or less normally, so this is the best I’ve felt in a long time. My weight seems to have stabilized at 150 lbs. (68 kg.), which, though still decidedly on the underweight side for me, is at least not going in the wrong direction. I remain hopeful that I can start gaining weight at some point, as it has proven difficult in recent weeks with the mouth sores being so bad.

That’s all for the health update. After my next scan in a few months, I’ll let readers know where things stand at that point. There’s no way of predicting anything other than the fact that the scan at each interval sets the picture for me going forward.

In other news, I’ve managed to sell my shop’s dust collection system, which, now having been removed, relegates my jointer and planer to a largely decorative status. The 24″ (630mm) SCM planer has been sold, and will be removed, it would appear, by the middle of this month.

I’ve had several serious inquiries about the Martin jointer. One, about a month back, was from a guy up on St. John in Newfoundland who took a good couple of weeks just figuring out if he could make the purchase and deal with logistical issues. Once he finally told me he could green light the transaction, I told him I wanted a deposit of $2500, reiterated that the machine would not be available until the end of July, and that payment must be made in full and clear before the machine could be removed from the shop. This requirement, for some bizarre reason, struck the buyer as unreasonable, and he felt I was being suspiciously demanding. A few emails later, he decided that he could not trust that I even really had the machine or that I might possibly take any money he did send me and just keep it and sell the machine to someone else. He proposed to send me a deposit of less than $1000 (on a $17,000 machine), then come and inspect the machine to confirm it really existed, and then would present me with a Canadian bank draft.

I checked with my bank, and it seems that bank drafts from Canadian banks can take up to three weeks to clear. It wasn’t therefore as workable solution for me, nor did there appear to be a good solution, short of bringing me cash, which he was not willing to do.

He was right to recognize that, given he was in Canada, any money he did send me was vulnerable to being absconded and he would have no legal recourse. Unfortunately, this is a risk present with any international transaction of this sort. Indeed, I have purchased machines from Germany, the UK, and Japan, and in each case I had to make full payment for both the machine and the shipping before the machine would be sent, so I have faced this scenario personally. I decided in each of those instances that the risk was acceptable and had no problems, but this particular buyer decided otherwise for himself.

I’ve had several serious inquiries for the jointer coming from the US west coast, but the cost of rigging, crating and shipping unfortunately makes the transaction too expensive in the end. Rigging is shockingly expensive, though not out of line with, say, heavy equipment, excavating, bulldozing and so forth. It’s surprising to me that I have not had any serious interest in the Martin T54 from people who live within reasonable driving distance.

Another issue peculiar to the jointer is the fact that, as a machine to move, it is long, narrow relative to the length, and very heavy. This makes it tricky to move. A regular pallet truck does not fit under it lengthwise, and the guy that delivered it used the same sort of special narrow pallet truck they use at the Martin factory. Any other approach seems, well, less convenient at the very least.

I’m generally willing, for a fee, to palletize and crate a machine, but with the jointer, if I were to crate it I would suddenly have trouble moving it further, due to the aforementioned problem. And it doesn’t make sense for me to spend $350 or more on a narrow pallet truck simply to move it out of the building. The issue with moving it has become a bit of an impediment to sale frankly, and if someone more local does not show up to buy it I may end up keeping it and trying to shoehorn it into my basement.

Other machines I have listed for sale, like the Hofmann slot mortiser/long hole borer, and the Shinx super-surfacer, have received zero inquiries in the three months they have been listed for sale. I’m very surprised by this, since each machine is quite awesome in its own way and top quality in its class. I think in the case of the super surfacer that people here on this continent simply have no clue about what the machine is or what it is used for, not to mention, I dare say, what I suspect to be a complete ignorance as to the virtues of a planed finish in general. Not much I can do about that.

So it seems I may end up moving several of my machines into my home basement and set up a smaller shop in there. It is at least seeming like a possibility given the scan results. Some decisions have yet to be made in that regard, however the clock is ticking on several fronts, like that of vacating of my current shop space, so this issue must be resolved in the nearer term. I’ll let y’all know what transpires.

Thanks for tuning in.