Monday, December 22, 2014

The Good News Continues

Just got back in from a visit with the nurse practitioner (Dr. Whoosh has apparently abandoned me altogether) and reviewed the results of my CT scan last week. The two main masses in my lungs continue to shrink in size. They're now about half the size they were on the previous CT scan and about 75% smaller than they were when first discovered.  I also have some enlarged lymph nodes that don't seem to be responding to treatment, but they're not growing either.  Overall a good report.

The recent adjustments to my medications seem to be helping my blood pressure, it's trending downward to nearly normal. Unfortunately my heart rate is trending upward, so there's a tradeoff there.

My hip pain has decreased quite a bit, I now believe a lot of it was due to the mattress I was sleeping on. A change in sleep habits seems to have helped significantly in that area.

My hair is somewhat thinner now and has gone completely white, even my eyebrows. It's too short this year, but I'm looking forward to maybe playing Santa Claus next year.

I'm starting to notice some trembling in my hands when I try to hold something steady. I was trying to tighten some screws the other night and had a lot of trouble getting the screwdriver bit into the screw slots. I'm not sure it that's part of the cancer treatments or just because I'm getting older.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Light in the Kitchen

With my wife's failing eyesight, she's always complaining about needing more light to see things. Being the kind and caring husband that I am, I decided to add some under-cabinet lights in our kitchen to brighten things up a bit for her. To be honest, I don't think anything short of the Bat Signal would provide enough lumens to make her happy.  I purchased a 5 meter LED light strip. Theoretically, you can simply cut the adhesive-backed strip into multiple pieces, attach a solderless connector and a power supply to the end of each section and stick them to anything.

Note that I said "theoretically."

A week after purchasing all the supplies I thought I needed online, the box arrived. I immediately saw a what appeared to be problem; it didn't look like the solderless connectors were going to work. The strip had a concave cross section while the connectors seemed to be designed for a strip with a flat cross section. Looking again at the supplier's website, there was only one style of connector and one style of strip apparently these things were supposed to work together. After fumbling around with them for several hours I eventually got two sections working with much effort, but I wanted to install a total of eight sections and that just wasn't about to happen.

I finally hit upon a solution. Using the tip of a soldering iron, I carefully melted the end of each strip and flattened them out. There were still some problems but I eventually had eight working light strips.

Sticking them to the bottom of the cabinets was simple. They stayed attached for about an hour before the pull of gravity caused them to fall off of the cabinets and onto the counter top. After reapplying them several times, it became apparent that they just weren't going to stay put on their own. Each time I put them up, they fell down a little quicker due to the deterioration of the adhesive backing. I suspect that the wood on bottom of the cabinets just didn't provide a smooth enough surface.

A handy thing I discovered a while back is a super sticky duct tape called Gorilla Tape. It will stick to just about anything. I first tried cutting small pieces of the Gorilla Tape and placing them across the strips to hold them to the cabinets. That did keep them up, but the the LED's sagged between the strips of tape...not an attractive solution.

Next solution...cut a strip of Gorilla Tape the same length as the LED strip, apply the LEDS to the back of the tape, then stick the tape under the cabinets. The smooth surface of the tape back should be easier for the LED strip to bond to.  Unfortunately the repeated application of the strips to the cabinets had compromised their adhesive properties so much that after a few minutes they started drooping again.

The time spent on what should have been an afternoon project had stretched to about a week by this time. All along, my wife had been suggesting using Liquid Nails to hold them up. Fine...I'll try Liquid Nails.

Since it's a liquid glue, Liquid Nails has to set before it will hold anything in place. There was no way to smear it on the LED's and just stick them up, something would be needed to hold them in place until it set. No way to do that, so I tried putting a strip of Gorilla Tape on the counter and Liquid Nailing the LED's to the Gorilla Tape. After it set, I'd peel it off the counter and stick it to the bottom of the cabinet. Unfortunately the tape developed such a strong grip on the counter that the Liquid Nails bonded LED's broke off of the tape when I struggled to peel it off.

Final solution. Place Gorilla Tape on counter. Lay LED strip on Gorilla Tape. Cover LED strip with clear plastic strapping tape. Peel the assembly off of the counter and apply to bottom of the cabinet.

It's been an hour now. It's drooping slightly in one little spot and two short segments of the LED's have inexplicably stopped shining...but I think it's going to work. My hair has turned completely white now. I'm not sure if it's the cancer drugs or the frustration of this project that's caused it.

Speaking of cancer, no major changes on that front yet. Adjusting my medications and the timing of when I take them seems to have helped with the bradycardia problems. My blood pressure is relatively normal now, but my pulse is still somewhat elevated.  I need to talk to the doctor about what else can be done.

I'm scheduled for a new CT scan in about a week and a half and a visit with the oncologist a few days later to see how things are progressing.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Maybe It's The Timing

I had another bradycardia event about 4 or 5 days ago. My pulse dropped to about 42 for a couple of hours, normally it runs around 65. That's three times this has happened in less than a month. Scary for sure. I had an appointment with my kidney doctor the following day and discussed it with him. He had several recommendations which he wrote down for me to share with my local cardiologist the next day.

The local cardiologist spent more time with me than Dr. Whoosh (see my previous post) but it was a similarly disappointing visit. He totally ignored the note from the kidney doctor and just told me to check my blood pressure and pulse before I took my medications and not take one if either reading was low. That sounds sensible, but I check my vitals every morning before I take my medications and the readings have been in the normal range (at least normal for me) before each of the I had no foreknowledge of what was about to happen.  He did go over my list of medications and pointed out each one of the five medications that affected my heart and whether it was blood pressure, pulse, or both. I will admit that was somewhat helpful.

After the visit, I started thinking about these heart events I've been having.  All of them happened at about the same time, between 9 and 10 a.m., three hours after I normally take my morning pills. Included in that morning dose are all of the five medications that affect my heart. It occurred to me that perhaps I was unintentionally overdosing on heart medications. At the suggestion of the kidney doctor, I've discontinued one of the medications plus I am now taking one of the others in the evening instead of morning with the hope that this change will resolve the problem.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Doctor Whoosh!

So...I had an appointment with my oncologist yesterday morning. It was a 9 a.m. appointment, so I had to leave home at 7 a.m. since it's a two hour drive. A bit earlier than I prefer to get out and about. I made it barely on time and was promptly ushered back to an examination room. This was unusual since they normally run about 45 minutes behind on their appointments. After several nurses took my vitals, checked my medication list, and reviewed my current state of health, I expected to consult with the doctor about something. Maybe his evaluation of my progress or what is coming up...I don't know...something medical in nature. What I got was:

The doctor opens the door and steps into the room.
"Hello, any questions?" Shakes my hand.
"Uh...I guess not." I give him a slightly puzzled look.
"The hospital is changing the color scheme on their website to red and black, we'd be interested in your opinion on how it looks. Have a Happy Thanksgiving."
Whoosh! He's gone.

That's it. Okay, maybe a slightly condensed version, but essentially that was it. Maybe a minute, 90 seconds max. I drove for two hours and made a $25 co-pay for something I could have done by phone?

Anyway, I was advised by one of the nurses that I get another CT scan in mid-December to check on my progress. Praying for good news. Also an appointment with the kidney specialist next week.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Some Good News

I received some good news this week for a change. I applied for disability benefits from Social Security a couple of months ago. They told me it would be four to six months for a decision to be made, but apparently the wheels of bureaucracy are turning a little faster at the moment. I've been approved for benefits plus I'm also qualified for medicare A & B.  I contacted my health insurance provider and found that my premiums will be dropping a significant amount as well.

The kitten we rescued from the wall I mentioned in my last post may be re-christened. It roams all over the house, so we are often wondering where it is. I'm of the opinion we need to rename it Waldo, as in "Where's Waldo?" The wife is leaning towards calling it Wall-ette, since it's a female.

We are in the middle of a minor upgrade in our kitchen, getting ready for Thanksgiving. The ceiling has been repainted and we're in the middle of hanging new wallpaper. Once that's done the floor gets a new coat of paint. The wife can't stand the house being in a the stress level has been a bit high for the last few days. I'll be glad when it's finished. The entire family will be in for the holiday, we're expecting around 14 to 15 people around the table.

Not a whole lot of anything else going on at the moment. I have an appointment with the out-of-town oncologist on Thursday, just a checkup but I'm expecting him to schedule a new CT scan or MRI to check on my progress. Fingers crossed and prayers being said for good results.

Monday, November 03, 2014

If I Were a Carpenter...

Whether or not I'm a carpenter, I guess I get to play one today.

We have a variable number of feral cats that hang around, mainly due to the fact that my brother-in-law feeds them. He goes through about 90 pounds of dry cat food a month. He's also feeding a number of raccoons and possums as well, but that's beside the point. One of the cats found it's way into the ceiling over our bathroom and dropped a litter of kittens a few weeks ago. We heard something moving around but were not able to identify what it might be until last night. One of the kittens has apparently fallen down into the wall and can't get out. Now there's a continuous pitiful "meow-meow-meow-meow" coming from somewhere in the wall.

I've got the battery from my cordless drill charging and a saber saw standing by to tear into the wall later this morning and try to attempt a rescue. I'll update later to let you know how things went.

On the medical front, I had another bout of bradycardia last week. That's slow heart rate for those of you that don't speak doctor. I was sitting at my computer reading my email when the room started spinning and my vision sort of went haywire for a couple of seconds. I snapped out of it, but grabbed my blood pressure monitor to check myself. My BP was way down from normal and my pulse was about half of what it normally is. I continued to check myself every few minutes for about half an hour and the readings continued downward slightly. When the BP got to 103/40 I decided it was time to go to urgent care. I called my son, who was thankfully off work that day, and had him drive me down.

After about an hour at urgent care, my vital signs were starting to get back to normal, but they wanted me to go to the emergency room at the local hospital anyway. So we drove there and eventually they decided to put me in the hospital overnight for observation. It was a typical stay in the hospital except they didn't make me put on a butt-revealing gown. Everything went well and my vitals remained normal through the night. I was discharged around 11 AM the next day. My cardiologist made another adjustment to my medications and I've been keeping in touch with with my out-of-town doctors about the situation.

I'm not sure how the cancer treatments are progressing, I feel okay and apart from the usual aches and pains, I still haven't experienced any severe side effects. I've been visiting a chiropractor for my back and groin pain and have achieved some relief, although it still hurts to walk and move around much. I see the oncologist and the kidney specialist again in two weeks plus there's an upcoming CT scan in a month or so. Hopefully the scan will bring some good news.

That's about it for now, gotta go pick up my granddaughter and take her to school.

UPDATE - 2 hours later

Minimal damage to the wall.

Meet the latest addition to the family, appropriately named "Wally."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Shuffling Pills

My doctors have been adjusting my medications on a weekly basis. What's driving it is the results of blood and urine tests plus my blood pressure. One doctor says increase this pill from once a day to twice a day. Another doctor says to decrease that pill to once a day. Still another instructs me to take still another pill once every day except Tuesday and Friday, and these other ones Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Adding to the confusion is that some pills need to be taken with food while others are to be on an empty stomach. Two pills have to be cut in half because the drug manufacturers don't make them in the dosages that I've been prescribed...and they're really hard to cut. One is so tiny I can barely see it, the other is hard as a nail and tends to shatter when I try to cut it. I end up taking different combinations of over a dozen different pills five times a day. Keeping track of all the pills is really a challenge, especially when the doctors keep changing the combinations.

I think the thing that annoys me the most is that my original complaint that got me into all of this medical nightmare STILL hasn't been addressed. I talked to my family physician about it in February...pain in my hip and groin. He sent me to another doctor who ordered a CT scan and sent me to another one who ordered an MRI.  Both scans revealed the kidney cancer. That's where everyone dropped the ball on my pain. All attention turned to the cancer. My continuing complaints of hip and groin pain have been effectively ignored. I understand that the urgency of addressing the cancer problem, but the pain has steadily increased. In February it was an occasional pain. Eight months later it's to the point that I hurt every time I stand up or sit down. If I shift in my chair more than a couple of inches it hurts, and about every four or five steps when I'm walking. I'm planning a trip to my chiropractor next week to see if he can help me. My only problem with that is my health insurance will only authorize twelve visits a year. Typically the chiropractor wants to do an adjustment about every day for a week or two, which burns through the authorized visits pretty quickly.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Two and a Half Amens

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.
1 Samuel 12:23

If someone asks me to pray for them or someone else, I do it. I say a prayer right there and then. The duty for the children of God to pray for each other is a frequently mentioned topic in the Bible. Failing to pray for others is a sin if we believe Samuel. But, if I understand correctly, the verse does not refer to a single prayer, but the same kind of constant prayer that Paul exhorts us to when he says "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
If this is the case, and I believe that it is, then I sin without ceasing. Certainly I say a prayer when someone asks me, but that’s usually where it ends. A prayer or maybe two and a half amens is about it for me in most cases. I don’t claim to be a "prayer warrior," but I fear I’m misleading folks when I say "I’m praying for you." Yeah, I’m praying for them at that moment, but tomorrow morning I will have most likely forgotten about it. To be honest, I often forget to pray for even myself. I suspect that many of us are like that, but I must confess that it is embarrassing to admit. This is an area of my spiritual life that I realize needs to be worked on.
I have a few non-Christian friends who are absolutely honest with me when I ask for prayer and tell me that they can’t or won't do that. They might say that they "wish me well" or are sending "good thoughts" my way, but won’t commit to prayer. In contrast, I have a few believing friends who say they will pray for me but fail to do it. Which is worse, the unbeliever who tells me the truth, or the believer who fails to pray? In my opinion it would be the believer who fails to pray. A non-believer has not subjected himself to the authority of Christ and is not bound to any requirement to pray. I don’t begrudge their refusal to do so and actually appreciate their honesty. I’m not saying that their refusal to acknowledge God is anything good, but at least they are honest about it. There are those who feel that God doesn’t listen to the prayers of non-believers anyway, based on John 9:31, "We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will." There are other references to prayers by unbelievers that show otherwise. In particular, Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Acts 10 was a gentile yet prayed regularly and the apostle Peter was sent to him in response. God is almighty and is not restricted to answering the prayers of only those who believe in Him. Yes, there are instances in which God does not answer the prayers of an unbeliever. At the same time, in His grace and mercy, God is perfectly capable of responding to the prayers of unbelievers as he chooses. My point with all of this is that unbelievers have no responsibility to pray.
As Christians we do not have the same freedom to ignore prayer or to pray however and whenever we feel like it. We are told to pray and to do so without ceasing. A failure to pray, particularly when we specifically say that we will, is dishonest and ultimately sinful.
Forgive me, Lord, for failing to pray. Strengthen my desire to talk with you at all times.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Not So Free After All

After my "free" medicine arrived, I discovered an invoice for $67 in the bottom of the box. So it's been $10,400, $100, free, and now $67. I called to verify and, at least for now, it's going to be $67 a month. Better than $100 I suppose.

I'm a little depressed today. I had another visit with the oncologist yesterday and found out that my creatinine serum level is too high. For those of us who don't speak doctor, that means my kidney isn't functioning as well as it used to. It's doubled in the last two months. Some adjustments to my medicine have been made, hopefully that will bring it back down. I only have one kidney left so, if it goes wonky, I'll be looking at dialysis. Not an encouraging prospect, let's all pray that's not happening any time soon.

I googled "foods that lower creatinine levels" and discovered that I should avoid red meat, bread, caffein, coffee, tea, milk, butter, chocolate, tomatoes, potatoes, salt, and pretty much anything that tastes good.  The "good" food list includes lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, nuts...salad. I need to eat more salad...Ick.

I applied for Social Security Disability benefits earlier this week. In typical governmental fashion, I get to wait four to six months to find out if I've been approved. The nice lady who helped me with the application was kind enough to call my wife the next day to let her know that she qualified for early benefits if she wanted to apply...and took her application over the phone. Not everyone in the federal government are bureaucrats interested in generating red tape.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Free at last, free at last! Thank God almighty...

Here's the good news I mentioned in my last post...

As you know if you've been following my blog, I started taking a new cancer medicine in August that retails for around $10,400.00 a month. Under my medical insurance's prescription coverage, I had a $100 co-pay for my first bottle from Walgreen's. I called them on September 2nd and requested a refill. When I didn't receive it by Friday the 5th (and my bank account hadn't been charged), I called back to check on it. The pharmacy technician checked on the order and told me that my insurance company contacted them and had the prescription transferred to Accredo, their preferred provider for that medication, and gave me their phone number. I called Accredo and, sure enough, they had my prescription in their system. I requested a refill and was told it would ship on September 10th. When they didn't ask for my credit card information, I asked about the co-pay. "There is no co-pay," I was told. No co-pay? Shaken a bit, I asked "Am I responsible for the entire $10,400?" No, the insurance company is paying the entire amount.

I had checked the insurance website previously, and it clearly stated there was a $100 copay on the medication from retail pharmacies. It also said, in a confusing way, that there was no copay for prescriptions through Accredo. The way it was stated, I misunderstood the information to say the medication was not available through Accredo.

So the good news is that, apart from the insurance premiums I've been paying all along, my cancer medication is free, as long as I get it through Accredo.

I can live with that.

Now if I could just get them to do the same thing with all the MRI's, CT scans, blood draws, office visits, etc. it would be fantastic!  I wonder if they'd cover my gasoline too...

Sunday, September 07, 2014

More Good News

I got some more good news on Wednesday but I want to call someone to verify facts on Monday before I go reporting stuff that might not be completely true.  Check back in a couple of days and I'll post the details.

My PT/INR readings (how thin my blood is) have gone haywire since I started taking the cancer medicine. It thins the blood and I was on warfarin already, which thins the blood also. The combination of drugs dropped my stats past the bottom limit pretty quickly. I used to get my blood checked every four weeks, but it's now up to every week until they can get the dosage adjusted. It doesn't help that I'm having oral surgery on Tuesday and have had to go off of both medications for a few days so I won't bleed to death when they pull the tooth.

The appointment with Social Security to apply for disability is coming up soon. They're really hot for me to do it online even though I've told them repeatedly that their website won't let me past the first screen. I've had no less than two phone calls and four letters telling me how simple it is since I made the appointment.

I've mentioned the problems my wife has with her eyes. Being a former reading teacher, one of the things that frustrates her the most is not being able to sit down and enjoy a good book. Even the large print editions aren't large enough. She's been reduced to audio books on an MP3 player, which she has adjusted to to some extent, but there are a couple of problems.

First, MP3 players are tiny...with even tinier screens. She can't begin to navigate the menus so I have to get things started for her. I just purchased a new one for her last week that remembers the file position of what she is listening to and just takes a single push of a button to turn it on or off. I still have to find a starting place for new books, but otherwise it's a big improvement over the other one.

The other thing is...the audio versions of most non-public domain books cost as much as a hardback book. There's something about paying over $20 to download an intangible digital file when I can get a new paperback copy for around $10 that just sticks in my craw. It's even less if I take the time to stop at Half-Price Books.

Finally...where do two (almost three) year-olds get all of that energy? We need to pursue developing technology similar to that used in the movie "Monsters, Inc." We could shut down half of the power plants in the U.S. if we could harness it somehow.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

If I Only Had a Brain

I just got back from my doctor's visit a couple of hours ago and the verdict is: Yes, I do have a brain. Other good news included that I do not have any detectable cancer in my brain and that the two largest tumors in my lungs have shrunk. The big one by about 35 cm³. and the next biggest one by 0.6 cm³. A couple of other small ones increased in size, but the overall total was a shrinkage of 33.1 cm³.  No significant changes to anything else. The doctor said to not expect this kind of progress as a regular thing, but it is very encouraging nonetheless. 
As a side note, the report gives tumor size in a 2 dimensional format, width by height. Since these things are 3 dimensional, I estimated their size by calculating the volume of a cylinder assuming one of the values was the diameter. Probably a bit inaccurate, but close enough for me.

I was also scheduled for a blood test. They did NOT tell me they also needed a urine sample. After a trip lasting 2.5 hours and being on a diuretic, I naturally hit the boys room as soon as I arrived. I consumed about 2 liters of water while there and was able to produce the required specimen before leaving. I'll try to hold it on my next visit.

Side effect-wise, I've started experiencing persistent mild headaches. No excruciating migraines, just enough to realize my head hurts if I pay attention. Also my tongue is sore all the time. Hot things are hotter, spicy things are spicier, cold things are much colder, and carbonated beverages feel like I'm drinking liquid fire. No hair loss or nausea yet. My wife also reports that my body odor has changed. Not offensive, just different.

While there I picked up a CD of all the MRI and CT scans they've done lately. I'm planning to look at them tomorrow morning. 

Next doctor's visit in 3 weeks with regular visits every 2 or 3 weeks for the next 2 months.

Finally, I've lost count of the number of people that have told me they liked my "Sin Cancer" post. Thanks to all of you, it's very encouraging.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Close Encounters of The Bird Kind

One of the many "poison pills" I take on a regular basis is Coumadin. It's generic name is Warfarin and if you take a look, you'll see it's an ingredient of many brands of rat poison. It works by making a rat's blood so thin that it bleeds to death. Kind of gruesome when you think about it, but in small doses it keeps my blood a bit thinner than normal so I don't have clots forming in my bloodstream. With something so potent, you have to keep a close watch on how thin your blood is getting or you'll end up like a rat and bleed to death from a little scratch. That's why I have a blood test done about once a month.

I had my regular appointment a few days ago and parked across the street from the clinic. Returning to the parking lot, I was suddenly accosted by a small bird. Not just once. I was dive-bombed by some sort of sparrow at least four times before I got to the safety of the car. My wife had been waiting on me and laughed as I got in. "Bird problems?" she asked. She said the bird had been attacking everyone that walked past it's tree. It was probably protecting it's nest, but I found it a bit hard to not take it personal. Birds don't like me.

I park my car next to my house, under a gigantic tree. I'm not sure what kind it is, maybe a maple, but it's been around for probably a century. No matter how often I wash the car, it is covered in bird poop within an hour of parking under the tree. It doesn't matter what the season is. Winter, spring, summer, fall are all the same to the birds. And I don't think that many birds nest in that tree. You don't see them much until you pull under the tree with a clean car. It's like a clarion call for anything with feathers to come empty it's bowels.

Speaking of cars, my wife was traumatized a few days ago when she tried to renew her driver's license and failed the vision test. She got an official state I.D. card instead. It's the first time since she was a teenager that she hasn't been legally permitted to drive. She hasn't actually driven a car in about six or seven years and the last time she went in to renew they forgot the eye test. Otherwise she probably would have lost it then. Still, it was upsetting for her, another reminder that she can barely see anything. She hasn't read a book in about ten years...and she's a former reading teacher. Kind of ironic when you think about it.

On other health related issues, I had a MRI scan of my head done yesterday. When renal cancer metastasizes, it tends to go to the lungs, bones, liver, and brain. Everything else has been scanned at least once, it was time to check my head. I'm meeting with my oncologist this coming Thursday to see if they found a brain.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Relative Values

My two-year old grandson is still learning to talk. Although we are still scratching our heads about some of the things he tries to say, his vocabulary is growing daily. One thing he clearly shouts as he plays around the house is “Iron Man…Pow!” while rigidly holding one of his arms out, releasing an imaginary repulsor ray. 

Marvel Comics has been on a roll lately with non-stop big budget films of their super-hero characters. The Avengers…Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and a few other lesser known costumed crusaders, regularly race across the screen defeating evil villains, invading aliens and other baddies. Opening week box office receipts are in the hundred-million dollar range, and overall gross is in the billions. I’m pretty sure that, if you add in the merchandising, the final figure would probably double or triple.

As I was growing up I was a rabid fan of comic books. While DC Comics was my favorite publisher, I did read an occasional Marvel as well. Iron Man was a particular favorite of mine. I vaguely recall holding Tales of Suspense #39, hot off the press, in my teen-aged hands. Had I known that a mint copy of the rag would someday sell for $375,000.00, I probably would have taken better care of it. I don’t know what ever happened to it, I suspect it was sold for much less than cover price in one of mom’s annual garage sales.

Where am I going with this? I guess I’m just amazed at how much people sometimes pay for things. For example, Rolex watches (depending on the model) routinely sell for thousands, or even hundreds of thousands. There are a few people that would wear nothing less. Me, I’m satisfied with a ten dollar digital from Walmart. Sure, the Rolex looks a lot more impressive, but the Walmart special tells time just as well. I guess looks don’t impress me much. In fact, I have a bit of disdain for that kind of ostentation.

I recently started taking some medicine that retails for over ten thousand dollars a bottle. Thankfully my insurance covers about 99% of the cost, but I can’t help being a bit disturbed by the fact that I gulp down about $340 worth of pills every morning. Is it worth it? It’s supposed to be keeping me alive, so the answer is yes. Would I pay $10,200.00 a month for it? If I had the money, the answer would still be yes. As it is, I can barely afford the $100 a month it costs me. Would I pay $375,000.00 for a comic book? Nope. I had a bit of trouble getting mom to pay 12 cents for it originally.

What do you value?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thank You!

I received donations to go towards my medical expenses from two very generous sources this week. I want to say thank you to those involved, both donations were from groups of people I associate with. One was from several folks in an online forum, the other group is composed of many IRL friends. There is no way I can express the magnitude of my appreciation. Please know that the money will be well spent.

I broke a crown off of one of my molars last week and went to the dentist yesterday to have it repaired. No such luck, it's beyond repair and I'll need to go to an oral surgeon to get the remains extracted. Bummer.

No other major developments to speak of. I bump up the dosage on my cancer medication tomorrow morning to full strength and (knock, knock) no major side effects so far. No stray follicles in the hair brush yet. I did have a couple of low level headaches, not sure if that was due to the medication or not. I also had to stop the stool softener I had been taking....

Nothing else happening until next Thursday when I get more CT and MRI scans to establish a benchmark on the cancer's growth or lack thereof.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dealing With The Government Online

Last year I considered applying for Social Security Disability benefits. I looked it up on the official government website and was dismayed by the mountain of paperwork needed to make the application and put it off until later.  It's later.

I'm already receiving SS regular benefits and the signup at the local field office took about fifteen minutes. I figured I could gather the paperwork together and do the same thing with disability. It took several days of digging through my records to find every doctor, their address, their phone number, every hospital visit, every diagnosed illness, every medicine, last day I held a job, tax records, insurance records, et cetera. Once I had what I felt was just about everything I drove down to the field office and took a number. And waited. And waited.

Once my number was called I went to the window. Two minutes later I was back in my car headed home. To apply in their office I need an appointment...which takes two weeks. Once I get an appointment I bring my information back in...the clerk guaranteed that I wouldn't have everything...I find out what else I need and make another appointment which would take another two weeks. He strongly urged me to apply online instead.

Fine. I'll try it online. The website seemed fairly easy to navigate and I was encouraged. This should be a piece of cake.

Q1: Full name.
A: Well that's easy. I typed in my name.

Q2: Social Security Number.
A: Another easy one.

Q3: Birth date.
A: I hope everything is this easy.

Q4: Gender.
A: Male, of course.

Q5: Are you blind?
A: Nope. Simple as pie.

Q6: Are you unable to work?
A: Yeah, I sure am.

Q7: When did you become unable to work?

Okay, it's starting to get a little harder. My first thought was...two and a half years ago when my employer fired me for not being able to help unload delivery trucks. I looked up the date and plugged it in.

Q8: Have you previously been denied Social Security benefits?
A: Nope.

Q9: Have you been diagnosed with a condition that is expected to lead to death?

Hmm. Well this cancer is eventually going to kill me if my ticker doesn't fail or I get hit by a bus first. But that isn't going to happen for a while...I hope. Let's say no.


We're sorry...we cannot process your request. 
We are sorry for the inconvenience, but we cannot process your benefit application online because some information we have on file is different than the information you provided.


I looked back over the questions.
Name. Couldn't be that.
SSN. Same deal.
Birthday. Mom and dad wouldn't have lied to me.
Gender. Let me check. Yeah...definitely male.
Blind. I'm reading the screen with my own two eyes.
Unable to work. Yeah, I'm sure, I have a dozen reasons on that one.
When did you become unable to work? Okay, that's gotta be it. 

I thought about that one for a moment and remembered I had received unemployment benefits for a while after I was fired. To get unemployment you have to state you are able to work and some of the funding is federal...they probably have a record of that. Bump the date up to January first of this year, long after the unemployment ran out.

Denied benefits? I'm sure about that one also.
Condition leading to I don't think so. Not immediately anyway.

Go back to the form and plug in the change.

We're sorry...

Same message.  Okay, go back and say "Yes, I'm gonna die."

We're sorry...

Looks like I'm gonna have to call for an appointment.

UPDATE: Made an appointment the next morning. Two weeks? Nope...FIVE.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Sin Cancer

The following is an article I wrote for the weekly church bulletin I edit.
Most of my friends know by now that I’m in a battle with renal/lung cancer. The strange thing is, I don’t feel any different. I suppose that if I woke up feeling like I do now twenty years ago, I might have noticed the change. But it gradually slipped up on me. Inch by inch, the cancer has taken over my body, but I feel fine. There’s an old cliché about putting a frog in a pot of water and starting a fire under it. The water gradually gets warmer and warmer, but the frog doesn’t notice until it’s too late and the water is boiling. That’s how this cancer was with me. I didn’t notice it until it just showed up on a CT scan one day. If it hadn’t been for the CT scan, I still wouldn’t know.

Sometimes we tend to be somewhat oblivious to what is going on. We get focused on unimportant things and fail to pay attention to what really matters. Others may notice changes, but often they don’t warn you about it. That actually happened in my case. A CT scan two years ago showed a mass on my kidney that was mentioned in passing on a report by the radiologist who interpreted the scan. The doctor that ordered the scan was more interested in my burst appendix and failed to notice (or at least failed to mention) the problem with my kidney. It wasn’t until a second scan was done a couple of months ago, and I was accidentally sent the report, that I found out about it. The mass had doubled in size. It now had a solid hold on my right kidney and has moved into both of my lungs as well.

Yet, like I said, I feel fine. Sure, I have aches and pains. I can’t stand up for more than a few minutes without my back feeling like someone is poking a knife in it. I can’t walk more than 100 feet without stopping to catch my breath. But that’s just part of getting old, isn’t it? That’s what I told myself anyway. There’s nothing wrong with me. But there was.

That’s the way sin works too. Sin Cancer. It’s a gradual process. Little by little, it creeps into your life and you don’t even realize it. Or, if you do notice it, you don’t worry about it. You tell yourself that it’s not that big of a deal. Given time, it gains a solid hold that can be impossible to break on your own.

I’ve just started taking pills called “Votrient” that will hopefully stop the growth of my renal cancer, but not without a cost. I can look forward to some nasty side effects. I don’t know yet how my body will react, but none of the side effects are pleasant. The doctors say my form of cancer can’t be cured, but maybe someday they will figure it out. The best they can do is put it in remission. At the moment, it sounds like I’ll be taking poison pills of one type or another for the rest of my life…and they’re not cheap.

The cure for sin cancer is available today. It’s free and has been available for two thousand years. It’s called “Jesus.” He sacrificed his life as atonement for the sins of the human race. To atone means to reconcile or repay; it is to set things right. Jesus made reconciliation between God and mankind for all time. Like I said, it’s free. All you have to do is accept it. Believe that Jesus was the Son of God and accept his sacrifice for your sin. Acknowledge your belief by confessing it and being baptized to remove sin from your life. That’s pretty simple. Side effects? Yeah, there are a few, not the least of which is eternal life.  Take the cure for sin cancer today before it’s too late.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Hair Today...

Well, I got my cancer medicine this afternoon and will be starting on it tomorrow morning. While the medicine is supposed to halt the growth of the cancer, it also has some devastating effects on the rest of your body as well. Reading through the warnings on the information sheet is pretty frightening. 

One of the possible side effects of this, and most cancer drugs, is hair loss. I have hair today, I’m not so sure about tomorrow. If it does happen, I’m wondering if it happens really fast, coming out in clumps, or just a gradual thinning. I guess I’ll find out. I’ll let you know.

The hair loss thing isn’t the worst side effect by far, but for some reason it’s the one that intrigues me. Most of the other side effects I’ve experienced at various times in my life; nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, rashes, and so forth. I’ve never been bald, so I suppose that’s why. Yeah, I’m getting a little thin in the back, I know, but I’m not bald yet.

I wore my hair pretty short up until my teenage years. I rebelled and let my hair grow out a little more then. Not really long, but long enough to need a comb occasionally. After high school I grew a moustache and let my hair get long enough to perm into an afro style for a while. I grew a full wooly beard for a little while but it itched and made me look a lot older, so I shaved it off.  Recently I let the beard grow back but have been keeping it trimmed fairly short…but I’ve let the rest of my hair go for almost a year now. It’s getting rather long. Not on my shoulders yet, but it’s longer than I’ve ever let it get. 

I’ve never been one to be fussy about my hair, I often forget to comb it and I look like Einstein on a bad hair day. But now that I face the prospect of losing it all, it bothers me a little. What will look like when I’m bald? Should I just go ahead and shave it all off now? Nah, not yet anyway. I’m going to just wait and see what happens next.