Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Return of Grampy

Returning once again from a long absence, do I need to apologize again? Okay, sorry. After that hospital stay back in December, I kind of got out of the habit, plus I was sort of home bound for a while. Nothing particulary interesting or funny about sitting in a recliner 18 hours a day watching “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and “Jeopardy.” It kind of puts a damper on your creativity and zest. I received a substantial monetary offer by a major drug manufacturer to participate in an online cancer discussion group for a week, so I’m trying to get back in the swing of things. While I’m already at the computer I’ll update you with a tale of my recent activities.

At last post, I had gotten out of the hospital and was regaining my strength, hoping to be able to drive again. The chance to drive I was anticipating didn’t happen, but I did manage to do so about a week later with no major catastrophies. As for my stamina and walking, I’m still not able to get around quite as well as before the last hospitalization. For any long distances I need a wheelchair. I can walk short distances, up to about 75 to 100 feet or so on my own, for the in-between distances I’m able to use a walker.

When I got out of the hospital back in December, we mentioned to one of my many doctors that a walker would be helpful and we were assured that would happen. After a few weeks, no walker materialized and I happened to complain to someone (who has asked to remain anonomous) and they said they had one in storage that I could have. When I no longer need it, just pass it on to someone else. Great! The next day I had a sleek shiny like-new walker that was just perfect. No bells or whistles, just your basic walker frame, which is what I needed.  Two days later the Medicare provided walker arrived. Once assembled, the first thing we noticed was that it was too wide to fit through a normal door. It’s a tight fit even sideways. It won’t fit in the trunk of our car either. Wheels, brakes, a little chair to fold down that you can sit on, any fancier and it would have a horn, headlights and require a license to operate. I think this is the same walker that Godzilla used while recuperating from his last attack on Tokyo. If you look hard enough you might find a label that says “Hummer” on it. Wondering why medical costs are getting so high? While there are many reasons, overkill on things like this are a part of it.

For the last month or so my extreme shortness of breath returned along with a severe cough. I was worried that the cancer was growing back into my middle airway and another broncoscopy  would be needed. For a while I couldn’t go more than two or three minutes without having a severe coughing fit I was unable to control. After consulting with several doctors in various disciplines, nobody could find a reason. After a visit to a throat specialist (more on that to come) and a squirt of some sort of lubricant up my nose so they could snake a camera inside my head, the coughing cleared up for about 24 hours. Although not confirmed by anybody with an M.D. behind their name, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s mainly due to severe sinus drainage. Fingers crossed, a triple whammy of Flonase, Vick’s Vaporub and Sudaphed seems to be helping to stifle my cough.

Now, more about the throat specialist. I’ve complained several times about the voice-to-text capabilities of my answering system. I now have another one to add to the list.  The doctor’s name is spelled strangely, not enough vowels. When pronounced it sounds sort of like “Maturka.” Run it through my answering machine and she becomes “Doctor Metallica.” I mentioned the humorous translation and she was delighted with it.

My next CT scan is in mid-April so I should have more news on my progress then. My oncologist told me at my last visit that I’m beating the odds. A few years back and I’d be dead by now. Keep the prayers and good wishes coming!

Hey, this has been fun! I should do it more often!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I've Got Cabin Fever!

It’s been two months since my last post, so I guess I should say something to let folks know I’m still around. I haven’t been in a writing mood lately and have been putting this off for a while.
At my last post I was preparing to go to the wound center for an open lesion on my left leg. That one healed pretty quickly, but a couple of new ones popped up on my right leg that took a while longer to heal. All better now, but I’m continuing to wear some compression hose on both legs to keep down the edema.

My church has a special service on Thanksgiving weekend every year and a few of the men are invited to speak about what they’re thankful for. Since things had been going very well for me, I asked to be one of the speakers back in October. At that time I was up and walking around without oxygen and feeling extremely good. Lots of things to be thankful for! By the time Thanksgiving rolled around I was still doing well but wasn’t able to stand for extended periods and had to rely on a stool to support me while I spoke. Soon I was back on oxygen 24/7 and barely able to stand up. I was admitted to the hospital in Gotham on Dec. 7th for extreme shortness of breath. A thoracentesis treatment drew 1.4 liters of fluid off my right lung and a bronchoscopy followed the next day. The surgeon removed some additional fluid from inside my lung and trimmed back some of the cancer that was invading my middle airway that was causing some of the shortness of breath. Too bad they couldn’t get all of it. After 11 days, I returned home shortly before Christmas.

I’m still recovering my strength and am still on oxygen 24/7. I have only been out of the house once for a follow-up visit to Dr. Whoosh a couple of days ago. I get to try driving tomorrow, taking my wife out for a couple of errands. I resume my immunotherapy treatments on Friday.

Things have been pretty dull lately, sitting around watching TV, reading, playing computer games, doing a little Photoshopping, and taking long naps. Looking forward to being able to drive again, hoping tomorrow’s outing goes well. I'm getting cabin fever...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Wet Feet Mystery

It’s been about three weeks since my last post, so I guess it’s about time for an update. I made two trips to Gotham to see my doctors last week. A good visit with my cardiologist, doesn’t want to see me for six months unless something develops. Doctor Whoosh thinks he might resume my cancer treatments next week. The steroids he put me on have caused me to pick up about 15 pounds, that and a ton of Halloween candy.

The long journey to the 2016 election is finally over and we have a new president-elect. Half of my friends on Facebook are happy, the other half can’t believe what just happened. The sudden disappearance of political ads on television is a nice change. If the news media will stop obsessing over it, things might get back to a semblance of “normal” some day.

I woke up Wednesday morning and noticed the bottom half of my bed was very damp. No, I don’t sleep in a waterbed. Putting on my house slippers, one of them was completely soaked…like you’d dipped it in a bucket of water. It was very puzzling. I didn’t wet the bed, I wasn’t sweating, I was unable to figure out where the moisture came from. My wife suggested I might have left a partial bottle of water balanced on the foot of the bed and it spilled in the night. A fresh set of bed sheets and I went to bed last night in a dry bed. I woke up this morning and the bottom of the bed was damp again. My left shoe was soaked again. I was completely puzzled by what was going on. I thought either somebody is pranking me or this old house has spawned a bed-wetting ghost. The sheets are wet but the duvet is dry. I slept in my socks and they are dry. Finally my wife asked if I had any wounds on my legs. Examining my skin, I discovered a small scrape about the size of a dime on my left leg just above the ankle that was slowly weeping moisture. With my diabetic neuropathy, I couldn’t feel it. The scrape doesn’t look like something that would completely soak my shoe, but who knows? I’m putting a gauze bandage on it today, if it doesn’t get better I’ll be visiting the wound center in the next day or two.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

But, It Was Just A LITTLE Itch!

I just got back a little while ago from my latest visit for chemotherapy. They insist on setting my appointments as early as possible, so I have to leave Smallville in the wee hours of the morning in order to arrive in Gotham during the middle of the morning rush hour. For a long time I noticed that gasoline prices in Gotham averaged anywhere from 15 to 25 cents cheaper than local.  Since it takes almost three quarters of a tank to get there and back, I developed the habit of leaving town with just enough gas to get me there (with a little to spare) and filling my tank with the cheap stuff.  Suddenly something changed. Gas in Gotham was more expensive there than it was in Smallville. I figured it was just a temporary thing the first couple of times, but after three times I figured I’d better fill up before I left. Gotcha! Gas was twenty cents cheaper in Gotham today. Some days you just can’t catch a break.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve had some side effects from the new treatments. Most noticably, I've had a lot of itching on my back, shoulders and knees. Scratching at the itches has left a few small scabby places which I sort of expected…I wasn’t too concerned. The nurse asked me about the itch today, how it was doing, which I told her wasn’t severe and showed her one of my shoulders. “Hmm,” she said, “not too bad but we’d better have the doctor take a look at it.”

Doctor Whoosh arrived within a few minutes and took a quick look. “We’re going to give you a treatment today, but we need to postpone your next treatment for a couple of weeks and put you on some steroids to clear that up. I’ve seen this before in some of my patients and my concern is that if it gets worse, your skin could fall off.”  I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t smiling. He was serious. Terrific, just what I need…my skin sloughing off like an escapee from The Walking Dead.  If I start moaning “BRAINZZzzz,” and walking with a pronounced limp, you’d better give me a wide berth.

Upon returning to Smallville, I discovered that my insurance had denied coverage of the prescription for the steroids. I bought enough out of pocket to cover me for a few days while I call the insurance people and threaten to go Zombie Apocalypse on them if they don’t change their mind.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Cat Did It...

I awoke this morning to discover that one of the cats had knocked a nearly full can of green wall paint off a table and onto the kitchen floor sometime during the night. Our dog, a Jack Russell that can't sit still, then tracked it through every room in the house. Spotty green paths on dark brown going in every direction. Not to be outdone, the cat took the mayhem into the vertical dimension and tracked it onto chairs, beds, tables, desks, and whatever else it could find to climb on. We're still assessing the damage, but it looks like a trip to the paint store to get something to cover this mess up with is now on today's agenda.

In health news, my latest round of chemo went well. I've been experiencing a few minor side effects but nothing I can't handle so far. It's mostly some fatigue and excessive itching on my back, shoulders and knees. My next treatment is in about 10 days or so. The latest CT scan showed no growth in my cancer since the last one.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Immunity Idled

I finished the second round of my resumed cancer therapy today. The first treatment went well resulting in only one of the potential side-effects, mouth sores. I probably exacerbated the problem by eating pizza with banana peppers, jalapeno poppers and chewing cinnamon breath mints the day before I realized what was happening. What can I say, I love spicy foods! I’ll try to be more responsible this time and stick to chocolate pudding and cottage cheese…bleah. I’m also surrounded by people coughing and wheezing with what appears to be the flu. Since the cancer therapy compromises my immune system, I’ve been hibernating in my bedroom, only venturing out wearing a face mask and wielding a spray can of Lysol disinfectant spray.

You’ll recall that I had a vascular access port installed back in April to avoid the repeated poking of my hands by well-meaning nurses taking blood samples. Well, to paraphrase Robert Burns, best laid plans oft go awry. Last week the first home care nurse to visit me tried three times to access the port, then tried my hand. No blood resulted. The next day they sent a second nurse. She tried twice to access the port and ran out of the special needles required…they ran through a month’s worth of supplies in two days. The second nurse did succeed in painfully getting enough blood from my hand.

Today I asked the nurse doing the cancer therapy if they could leave my port accessed since I’m scheduled for another blood sample tomorrow by the local home care nurses. After looking at the port site, the nurse was horrified. There was still a significant mark where the two home care nurses had tried to access the port last week. Worrying about the possibility of infection or potential damage to the port, she contacted my oncologist and got the okay to take a blood sample while I was there. They also said they would be glad to do it for me in the future to avoid more problems. Sounds good to me, I just need to clear it with my family physician and the home care folks.

Some of you may know that I like to use Photoshop and participate fairly regularly in online contests. While I try to be a “model Christian,” occasionally a funny idea pops into my brain that is a bit irreverent or somewhat risqué. I struggled with this for a long time. I love to make people laugh, but I don’t want to be branded as a “dirty old man” either. Being a deacon in the church just made matters worse. If some of the more conservative members of the church saw my work they would probably have an apoplectic fit. After a long time trying to balance the two extremes, making people laugh at something that’s somewhere out in left field and being a prim and proper Christian, I finally came to the conclusion that everyone has an occasional thought of that nature whether they will admit it or not. I don’t hide the fact that I’m a Christian online, but I don’t always fit in the mold either. I received a very polite e-mail today from another Christian who had read my online profile and admired my Photoshop work. I also have a few agnostics and/or atheists who follow my blog and make positive comments upon occasion. Sometimes you can be your own worst critic. When I stand back and look at things, I guess I’m not as a bad of a person as I thought I was.