Friday, July 13, 2012

A hot start (Epic week, part 1)

It's hard to decide where this story goes. It's as much about my friends and my family as it is about my medical condition, not to mention the SCA and all of the relationships I have formed there. This isn't a story of what went wrong, so much as what went right, and for what reasons. And still more, this is a story about adapting to change, overcoming the unexpected, and triumph in the face of adversity. My week didn't start on a Saturday, a Sunday or even a Monday. No, this story starts on a Wednesday, July the 4th, 2012 to be exact. I had the day off of work, just  like about 90% of the country, and we had afternoon plans with friends. I woke up late that morning, an indulgence I don't normally get with a job schedule that traditionally has me up at 4:30 in the morning.  I lumbered into the shower sometime after ten that morning, letting the ready supply of hot water wake me up.  I've found that showers are now down to about 5 minutes of running water thanks to the fact that I don't have hair to wash. An interesting tidbit of fact, that's all.

Just after three, my wife, son and our best friend loaded up in my buttercup yellow Aveo and headed off to the newly acquired home of Lord Lucas and his wife Adelaide.  Lucas and I met in the SCA several years before, and one of his more notable achievement is succeeding me as the champion bard for the Barony of Wiesenfeuer (Oklahoma city chapter of the SCA) before moving on to win the title of Kingdom bard not long after. A stout fireplug of man, Lucas had moved from Norman to Tulsa following a job a few years back, and that same pursuit brought him to the upper edge of Stillwater just a few weeks ago now. They had finished moving in just in time to celebrate Independence Day. They invited us up to their new place to enjoy an afternoon of conversation, grilled hamburgers, home made desserts and swimming before heading back south to watch the Stillwater fireworks.

The day itself was wonderful. I honestly hadn't had a chance to spend that much time with Lucas and his family before, so it was a wonderful chance to really get to know them. My son, Thomas, got along smashingly well with Lucas's  4-year-old, who in turn was ecstatic about having someone roughly his own age to play with.  The day went on beautifully, with everyone glad  to see everyone else, and all of us making plans for future encounters. All told, it was a good experience.

The fireworks that night were great, we were close enough that you could feel every "thud" and "crack" of the show. They wrapped up just after nine, and we wound up pulling out of there closer to ten after waiting for all the traffic to file out of the way.

When my wife and I got home, we realized that things weren't going to go as planned. I opened the door, and what should have been a wave of cold air from a climate controlled house was every bit as stale and sticky and hot as what we had been out for the fireworks. The AC had gone out, and we were looking at a long, hot night. The night was miserable for me, I slept on three towels to try and keep the perspiration away from my skin. It was a loosing battle for me. I took a cold shower the next morning, trying to pull as much heat off of my body as I could.  I normally have Thursday through Saturday off of work as it was, so with the 4th as a paid Holiday I had four days off to de-stress and decompress from work.  As it was, one of those was going to be spent dealing with a hot house and a bad AC unit during the first weeks of July.

The repair tech arrived the next day, we’d been through this before with the unit and I knew what numbers to call and who to talk to.  I had spent a good portion of the day working in my home office (a desk in the bedroom) on my writing and a few e-mails. When the heat became too much, I grabbed my car keys and made a b-line to IHOP. I'm not overly thrilled with their food, but the Stillwater location is a favorite haunt of college students, so another body in there using their wireless connection and nursing down a water didn't even raise an eyebrow. 

This year has been good to me in terms of writing. Ever since NaNoWriMo of last year, I have been on a bit of a tear with my latest creation, a contemporary drama/romance that was inspired by an off handed comment my wife made about maybe writing something in the ninja vs samurai genre. I beat Nano last year, and late on actually finished the book, which I have since revised three times and ultimately turned over to my wife for editing. Since then, I jumped on the sequel and  have been plugging along ever since, albeit slowly.
So, that was more or less what I was in the middle of when I got a call from my wife saying the tech had made it. By the time I got home, the tech had made a grim pronouncement; the compressor had died, and the only way to fix it was to replace it outright.

We weren't going to get air conditioning back anytime soon.

Part of the problem, unlike last year,  was that as grouchy as I was, I was also a lot more uncomfortable than previous hot spells, and having a lot more trouble sleeping. I realized that night that I was slowly slipping towards an honest-to-god case of heat stroke. The problem wasn't just the heat, but the fact that the house was holding it in, and that I wasn't able to get cool and sleep. I didn't put it all together until later, but the one factor that I wasn't accounting for was my chemotherapy, which they said would make me more heat sensitive during the treatment process.

I guess I probably should have seen this coming out of intuition is nothing else. As  a whole, my prognosis with my lymphoma has been excellent ever since I started treatments. Not only are the treatments working, but I am not suffering anywhere nearly as many side effects as I was told I would. It's not easy, mind you, but even on the first week, I wasn' t the lethargic, sick, dead-to-the-world victim they expected me to be. I wasn't cocky about it,  but I was getting used to the idea that Cancer wasn't going to beat the tar out of me. I had a good crew of doctors watching out for me, and a good group of friends rooting me on, I was confident t that the odds were in my favor.

In reality, part of that success story included the air conditioner, which now that it was out of the equation, the odds weren't so stacked anymore, With heat beating me down as the days got hotter, my prospects for a sane, let alone good, weekend off of work were quickly diminishing.  It wasn't like I was afraid of dying, but without any sleep, it was going to be a rough couple of days.

Realizing that the minor issue was going to be a long-haul battle, we all loaded up in the car yet again and retreated to Joseppi's (Local Italian) to enjoy cold drinks and air conditioning while we mapped out the next week.  There, we hatched a general plan that included taking my mother in law up on an offer of refuge from the heat. It wouldn't just be us, however, my family includes four cats and two dogs, including an elderly, but still loving and still determined Great Pyrenees male who was taking the heat even worse than I was.

There were catches to this plan, however. My in-laws live in Tulsa, which was every bit of two hours from my office. Commuting to work would not be an option, I would need a place to stay in Oklahoma city for the work week. Also, that coming Saturday would be the company picnic, where I had hoped to introduce my wife to some of my coworkers. Then, on Sunday I would have to work from home (or somewhere with an internet connection), while my wife ran our son up to his first sleep away summer camp.  Then… we were all supposed to make it to an SCA meeting in Enid… one out west of Stillwater, two hours from Tulsa.

Needless to say the schedule had to be modified. More or less, the SCA was out of the picture. We have a rule in the society that says "Real life comes first", and this was one of those weeks. I asked Meggan about the company picnic, and she gave a firm agreement that she still wanted to go, four hour round trip or not. For her, it was "one of those things you do" for work and a chance to meet cool people. In any event, though, we were agreed that we would go, along with Thomas, and see what Dell had to offer  by way of recreation.

So, all that was left was the evacuation of the house… and let's be clear, it was an evacuation. No, it wasn't quite Saigon, but still there was a lot to do, not a lot of time to do it, and really only one chance to pull it all off. Noah's ark (part 1) pulled out at about noon, as I remember, or there about. Meggan left first, with Herald (the Pyrenees) and three of our cats, as well as our son and all his camp supplies crammed into the van. I pulled out an hour later with Pippin (our troublesome Shiba Inu) and the second most docile but noisy of our cats.

Between Stillwater and Tulsa, we found out that Meggan's uncle was being emergency air lifted from his home near the Arkansas border to St. John's medical center.  My mother-in-law's sister would be driving out,  and two of my wife's cousins would be coming in as well. What had started off as a busy weekend for my mother-in-law (My father-in-law was out of town that weekend) was about to see her out at the epicenter of two family emergencies.

I arrived in the early afternoon, and moved my cargo of animals and my own provisions into the blessed cool of the central Tulsa, two story house.  My  mother-in law was at the hospital already with her sister, waiting for word from the doctor and the rest of the family. My son had commandeered the Nintendo Wii, arguably his favorite activity at my in-law's home, and my wife had set up her computer in the upstairs library. The animals were adjusting in their own way. Herald found a cool spot of tile on the floor and dropped on it comfortably. Pippin just curled up on a small rug and slept. Of the cats, the two sisters were hissing at nearly anything they saw out of spite from how mad they were over the move. The brothers, however, had taken it all in stride and were dealing with it quietly,  more or less.

The last real note of the day was that I called the warranty company and  spoke with an operator about the situation. They had the notes on the system, my phone number and notes from the tech. Once the review department got done with the notes they would order the part, and call me if they needed anything. It was as good as I was going to get on a Friday afternoon. 

All told, we made it to safety, and I don't say that lightly. Only once I was in air conditioning did I realize how hard the heat had hit me, and how beat up I was.  I don't want to dramatize things, but let me be clear, I was on my way to a very bad situation had we not found refuge, not to say anything for our pets. Even my son was looking a little worn out by the time it was all over, and I don't suspect the road trip was really part of it.

But that, I assure you, was only the beginning of our little adventure (more to come)


  1. Kathie Ford PetersJuly 14, 2012 at 12:00 AM

    WOW! What a wild week! I can't deal with too much heat either! Being diabetic and menopausal and with fibro - too much heat makes me very ill - headache, sick tummy and more! So glad you found refuge! I have a O2 Cool battery fan that you can fill the chamber with ice and water and mist yourself so if power or a/c goes out I at least have SOMETHING! I have rechargeable batteries and the battery charger can recharge in the truck on the inverter. It is part of my BOB I keep for emergency situations. It is good to have on hand.

  2. Hot summers in OK are NO fun. I remember still being in high school when the AC at our house went out during one of those over 100 degrees F summers. I tended to join my dog in laying on the tile in the kitchen and nearly begging to go with Dad to the local 7-11 to get an I-cee, just to be able to enjoy the AC of our van.

    Glad to know that you survived whatever encounters this Epic Week contained!

  3. Wow, Frank! Like you didn't need anything else to cope with! Know what you mean about the summers----now that we are in the Charlotte area. It's really hot and humid here. Fortuanately, the AC works, but a 1935 built house, w/o the necessary mid to late 20th Century insulation, doesn't do well in even distribution of heat and cold. Even the roof has no insulatation. Since we are renting, we are at the mercy/generosity of the landlord to perform upgrades. Sometimes it is cooler outside than in. Oh, we, too, have a Shiba Inu---a black one, we took on right before we moved. From the menagerie of seven dogs, we are down to Gretel and Schatzi (the Shiba Inu).

    Glad the medical procedures are providing positive results, BTW.