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 not 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.

24 Replies to “White to Black (Update 2)”

  1. I received your news a few days ago, but I thought I’d say it here as well. This is wonderful news and I’m happy to see such a great improvement. You’ve been through it in the past year, I’m so very glad that received good news and of course I hope that some relief in regard to your hand sensation and mouth sores comes about quickly.

  2. Hi Chris, Sorry for all of the nasty crap that you are going through, but glad that you have some good news, It ain’t over yet, we will keep our fingers crossed for you. If you want i can put your machines on my website, it may help. Sorry to hear about the twit and your jointer, some people are a bit nervous about sending money, but it is something that you have to get used to, like you i have purchased machines from Germany, Japan, USA and Canada, for the most part you can do some homework and check things out to make sure you are dealing with real people. Machinery dealings can be a pain when you add it all up.

    Happy to hear a bit of good news. thanks.

    1. Mark,

      yes, I find machinery selling less than scintillating myself. Thanks for your offer to host advertising – I may take you up on that if nothing moves in the next month. Thanks so much for your comment as well!

  3. The good news is great to hear, I hope the good continues. You are very strong to go through all you have been through. I hope you are enjoying Charlottetown and our beautiful island, I am “up west” in O’Leary!

    1. Well, three days on PEI is not enough time really. Love the colors in the scenery, from the blue of the ocean to the yellow orange of the rapeseed fields. Lotsa tasty potatoes to boot!

  4. Glad to hear your scan results are good, it must be a big relief for you after all of the tense months waiting. Have a good time in PEI, it’s a beautiful place!

  5. Chris, thanks for this encouraging update. It is always good to hear what is going on and I continue to hope for the best for you. You are a continued source of inspiration. All the best!

  6. Hi Chris,

    Also happy to hear the good news.

    It’s fascinating to me regarding the Martin jointer, that anybody who knows who you are can certainly see from your blog that you have the thing in your possession (at least in the past). Of course if you are keeping your Internet identity separate from your selling equipment identity, then I guess it makes a bit more sense.

    As for the neuropathy: I’ve been suffering from a little bit of carpel tunnel syndrome recently, brought on by things like while hand sawing or hand sanding. Thankfully it isn’t too bad that it affects my work (computer stuff) and seems to go away with rest. I can only imagine how worrying it might be for somebody where manual dexterity and touch is a primary factor of the work.

    Enjoy the rest of your holiday – Iain

    1. The odd thing was that in this case, the fellow from Newfoundland was personally referred to me by Brian (first poster above). Yet, after a while he got nervous and, seemingly, a touch codependent. I’ve had that happen once before, three years back or so when I offered my Martin shaper to a fellow in Eastern MA. He got so wound up after a while, imagining all sorts of disasters might befall him, that the machine might be defective in some way, etc., that it just became ridiculous and I withdrew the machine sale offer altogether. Hopefully there won’t be too many more such folks in my future machine transactions. Thanks for posting your comment!

  7. Chris
    that’s the best news we’ve had since we got the bad news ! Chemo is a nightmare, selling off your tools is another kind of nightmare. We hope you wake up to good health and a new shop.

  8. Great news Chris. I wonder if buying the special narrow truck for the machine then including it in the sale would help both you and the buyer out ? They’re gonna have to move it at their end too ?

    1. That’s a good idea Andrew. I might just do that, as even if I keep the machine it is the most convenient way to move it around.

  9. It’s great to hear the good news from the scans. I certainly hope they continue and that you find a treatment balance that relieves the nasty side effects.

    The BEST part of this post is hearing that you’re vacationing with your family. That time is precious, as is building a huge store of joyful memories in your son’s mind. Having pleasant memories of a parent, no matter how long they survive, is one of the best joys in life.

  10. I’m always glad to see a new post from you and especially now; to hear any kind of positive news. Best wishes.

  11. Chris
    Your scan results are indeed good news! I sure hope the Erbitux continues to work.

    I had an idea about moving your jointer: what about bolting it to a couple timbers that run parallel to the machine, attach another timber to the front with two serious caster wheels set wide enough to prevent tipping, then arrange the back end to be lifted with a regular pallet jack? Problem with an all caster wheel set up is then you have no brakes.

    I will keep wishing for your continued improvement!


    1. Thanks Jeff. Your idea is workable to be sure. At this juncture, I don’t have a buyer for the machine, and there is the very real possibility that the machine will get moved to my basement, which has a rather narrow opening through a bulkhead.and down a flight of stairs so that prospect, at the moment, somewhat governs the approach to take with dealing with it. We’ll see what happens.

  12. How wonderful! I am so very happy to hear the good news. 🙂
    On the other hand it breaks my heart to see that you are forced to sell your machines – but in such situation one has to prioritise I guess. *sigh*
    I like to think that you will overcome all this sh*t and at the end you will still stand – stronger and shining brighter than ever – like the Phoenix from the ashes.
    My thoughts are with you.

    ….unbelievable that no one is interested in your super cool Super Surfacer!

  13. Chris…. Absolutely great to hear you got the good news…I’m sure you are enjoying your vacation…Appreciative for all the great times seeing your blog over the years.

  14. Chris, I’m so glad you’re feeling better. I’m also really enjoying the futon cabinet build, especially the joinery details. Thanks (again) for taking the time to document your work.

    I also wanted to say that in recent days I’ve spent a lot of time going back through your previous posts and build threads as I seek inspiration for a tool cabinet I’ve intended to build for the last, oh, 30 years. And now I find I finally have the time and space.

    Although you don’t have any tool cabinet threads, that doesn’t matter to me.The Ming cabinet and associated threads have been incredibly useful, as I review all the design considerations that you so carefully considered as you worked through how to build something to hold stuff and fit a particular place. And how you “think about thinking about” design.


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