Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mind Numbing Boredom

Sitting around the house waiting, can't concentrate on anything productive. I tried reading a book by one of my favorite authors but can't plow through more than a chapter or two. I'm reduced to playing mindless video games and taking long naps.

At least tomorrow I have a couple excuses to get out of the house. I need to drive my brother-in-law and my wife to their respective doctor's appointments. Just routine check-ups, nothing serious.

As for me, I'm feeling somewhat better. The doctor at urgent care diagnosed my ailment as sinusitis and prescribed a course of antihistamine and antibiotics.  Still have a lot of drainage and have been sneezing some, but I'm feeling about halfway normal now.

You'd figure that with this thing I'm going through I might have some deep, inspirational, thought-provoking things to say. Nope. Not yet, anyway. I'm just zoned out right now. As the post title indicates, my mind is numb.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014


I haven't given up on this blog, I've just been sick for the last three days. I've picked up some sort of head cold that has me feeling pretty miserable. I'm planning to go to urgent care tomorrow morning to see if I can't whip this thing before I meet the cancer surgeon in two weeks.

Not much going on otherwise, just sitting around and waiting for May 12th to get here. I'll be back to blog some more after I start feeling a little better.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Enemy Within

“Anger can be quite rewarding…at least for those of us who have the option of blasting our enemies to oblivion.”   
 - M.A. George, Relativity

I'm back from visiting the doctor that ordered the MRI I had done on Monday. While I was downtown I took the time to drop by the hospital imaging lab and picked up a disk with both the CT and MRI scan images on it along with the written reports. I'm not an expert on evaluating these things, but the doctors pointed out the major area of concern. I have now seen my enemy and am angry. Hopefully I will have the option of blasting it to oblivion. Only time will tell.

Running In Place

It looks like I'm in another "hurry up and wait" cycle. My appointment to meet with the specialist who (hopefully) is going to cut this thing out of me is still two and a half weeks away. If past experience with new doctors is any gauge of how the meeting will go, I expect to be herded around for another week of blood tests, urine tests, scans and probings before anything gets done.

I meet with the doctor who ordered the MRI this afternoon to find out the results. I also need to get copies of both the CT scan and the MRI from the hospital imaging lab to take with me to the specialist.

While I'm out today I also plan to get the oil changed on my car, pick up some antihistamine for my wife (she's caught a really bad cold), food for the new dog, and a few other incidentals. I also need to stop by a friend's house and do a little maintenance on his computer.

It sort of feels just a bit odd, doing mundane stuff like that. Life goes on even when something like cancer is feeding on you. I realize that's normal, but something in the back of my mind keeps whispering that the entire world needs to come to a screeching halt and pay attention to my problem. Not gonna happen, I know. Everyone has their own set of problems to deal with, I'm not the center of their universe. But every now and then I just want to stop and scream "UNFAIR!" as loudly as I can.

Well, I seem to be rambling...time to get ready to go see the doctor.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about...

Looking over my posts since I rebooted the blog, I notice that I failed to mention the first major event of my current health I'll rectify that omission with this post.

Flashback to Sunday, March 23rd, a month ago. The CT scan that revealed my cancer was already scheduled due to other issues but hadn't been performed yet. I wasn't feeling too good that Sunday morning, I was moving a little slow. I was momentarily disoriented while walking down the aisle in the church auditorium, but steadied myself on a chair for a moment and the feeling passed quickly. I didn't think much about it. At the end of services my wife noticed I wasn't feeling well and asked if I was able to drive us home. "Of course!" I answered. Standing up, I immediately had a light-headed feeling rush over me and I started to reevaluate that statement. I remarked something to the nature of maybe somebody else needs to drive us home. I staggered around and a couple of other church members grabbed me by the arms and pretty much dragged me outside to a friend's car. By the time I got to the vehicle I agreed they needed to take me to the local ER.

The drive to the ER from the church building took somewhere around thirty minutes or so. I wasn't watching the clock, I was moaning, groaning, and dry heaving all the way. Pulling into the emergency entrance, they dragged me out of the car and threw me in a wheelchair. That's where my memory starts getting spotty. I remember laying on a really narrow bed with my right arm hanging down feeling like it was about to fall off but they wouldn't let me move it. I recall a lot of people around me and one guy pushing really hard on the right side of my neck and complaining about some problems he was having with whatever it was he was doing. There were some big electrode patches glued to my chest and I felt a few shocks from them. In my foggy half-awake state I said something a little fresh to one of the nurses also...she did look pretty.

While all of this was going on, I later discovered my frantic wife was meeting with a grief counselor. My heart rate was down to 27 BPM when they brought me in. Not sure about the other vitals, but I'm pretty sure they thought they might loose me.

I eventually woke up with a temporary pacemaker in my right neck and IV lines hanging out of my right arm and left shoulder.  Eventually I was told that the level of digoxin in my system was way too high and had caused the episode. Four days later my medications were adjusted and I was able to go home. Once home, I looked up the normal dosage for digoxin. My old prescription called for the maximum dosage of 500 mcg per day. I'm now down to just 125 mcg and only 5 days a week. Some of the other heart medications have been cut back as well and I'm doing a lot better, thank you.

My cardiologist recommended a pacemaker on my followup visit after my release from the hospital. That's on hold now while I deal with the cancer thing.

Just got a call while I was writing this post with the appointment for the out-of-town specialist for May 12. Let's get this show on the road, people! I don't want to wait another three weeks!!!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Making Redactions

I went back through all of the old posts on this blog this afternoon and did a little creative editing. A couple of posts were deleted, but most of it was just getting rid of personal references such as names and places. It won't keep someone who is even the least bit determined from gathering personal info about me and my family, but it makes me a bit more comfortable about what I've been posting. As the old Dragnet TV show used to say, "The story you are about to see is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent."

Just a couple of minor updates to mention tonight. The urologist confirmed that the kidney affected is my RIGHT one. The left kidney is fine. That sort of surprised me just a little since the pains I've been having in my back and hip are on the left side.

I'm supposed to get a call tomorrow with the appointment for the kidney specialist. He's out of town and is apparently one of the top people in the field in this area of the country. An expert at laparoscopic and robotic surgery and specializing in renal cancers. The hospital has a little video of him discussing his bio information, why he does what he does and some of his personal philosophy. Seems like a pleasant fellow who cares about his patients.

We adopted a dog a few days ago from someone who was unable to care for him. Unfortunately his name was the same as our cat. It was causing some confusion with two pets running around the house with the same name...which one are you talking about? So the dog has been hung with the name "Huhu" for the time being anyway. Why "Huhu" you ask? That's what our 2 year old grandson says a dog's bark sounds like.

Oops, there I go, putting out too much information again. I suppose in this case it probably won't matter too much. I can always come back and redact the dog's name later....

Healing The Masses

As I waited for my appointment with the urologist this morning, I noticed a Bible laying on the table. I picked it up and turned to a random passage in the New Testament.  It was the Book of Matthew, chapter 14.  My eyes quickly fell upon verse 14, "And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick." Some folks refer this as "Jesus healing the masses" although I haven't been able to find that exact phrase in the Bible. I had to smile as I thought to myself, "I've got a couple of masses right here that need healing, Jesus. One on my kidney and one in my lung."

The visit with the urologist confirmed that the CT scan shows what is probably renal cancer. He is sending me to a specialist, I'm waiting for a call with an appointment time...hopefully ASAP. I looked the new guy up online, it looks like he's one of the top men in his field, at least in this part of the country.

My research over the weekend tended to indicate that the survival rate for renal cancer that has started metastasis is only about 5-10%, but the doctor this morning seemed to think my chances were much better than that. In his words, "don't give up hope, this thing is survivable."

I broke the news to my church family a little while ago, a lot of faithful, praying people there. I love and appreciate every one of them.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Letting It Out

Okay, everyone in the family pretty much knows about my cancer now. I had hoped to have all the kids home for Easter to tell them at the same time, but that didn't happen. Each got told separately yesterday. My youngest son on the phone, my daughter when she got in from Columbus, and the older son when he dropped the grandkids off for us to watch them overnight. Dad was told a few days ago. The only one I haven't contacted is my sister, but I'm guessing she's already heard about it from Dad. I'll probably give her a call later today just to make sure about it though.

I'm not sure if I'm going to tell anyone else at church about it quite yet. The elders and pulpit minister know for sure, and maybe the associate minister. I think that's probably the only ones. I did ask for prayers on the church Facebook "prayer chain" page, but I wasn't specific as to the reason except for a "major crisis" sort of thing. I'm planning on letting folks know as soon as I get the "official" word from a doctor and know just how bad this thing is. While I'm about 99.9% sure it's extremely serious, I don't want to be shouting "wolf!" if it turns out to be some sort of anomaly.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

In Other News...

I guess I should do a quick update on things that happened during the last two years to bring anyone interested up to date.

When we last left Grampy, his mother had just died and his son had been fired. Grampy was unemployed but recovering from a ruptured appendix and unable to receive unemployment benefits, and his wife was in the last stages of preparing for bariatric surgery....

1. Mom is still dead...obviously. I've pretty much adjusted to the trauma of missing her funeral, although it still bothers me from time to time.

2. My oldest son did find a job as a telephone tech support person for a major telecommunications company. The pay is better than his previous job but it's a long drive and they're pretty unforgiving when it comes to punctuality. His wife found work for the same employer but their work shifts are different, so it's one of those "ships that pass in the night" sort of situations at the moment.

3. I've recovered from the appendix surgery. It left a VERY large and unattractive scar, but otherwise I'm good with that...not counting my current crisis.

4. I exhausted all of my unemployment benefits but was able to start drawing early Social Security benefits, so it sort of balanced out. The money is still tight, but we're not starving.

5. The wife had her bariatric surgery. She's lost some weight and her diabetes has stabilized, which was what she had hoped for. She hasn't lost as much weight as she had expected and still needs insulin, so it wasn't a complete success. Another down side is that her ability to tolerate different foods is about nil. Two or three bites of most foods and she's done. More than that makes her want to throw up. Unfortunately she can tolerate things like cookies, ice cream and potato chips...which accounts for her not loosing as much weight as expected.

6. I signed up for bariatric surgery after the wife completed hers. The insurance company didn't balk at any of the doctor visits, tests, etc. until the last stage. I even had my gall bladder removed because they saw some "sludge" in it. I got all of my ducks in a row for nearly six months and the surgeon contacted my health insurance provider for approval on the surgery. Surprise! My insurance policy specifically denies all forms of weight loss surgery. What??? Yup, health insurance Nazi says "No weight loss for you!"

7. My daughter finally graduated college and got a good job working for the school in an area similar to what she was doing in the student work program. She's not 100% happy with the job, but tolerates it and is making reasonably good money.

8. I don't hear much from my youngest son, but he seems to be content and is working pretty much full time as is his wife.

9. I now have two grandchildren.

So that's pretty much all I can think of at the moment...back to the crisis at hand in my next post.

Spinning Wheels

Waiting for things to happen is the worst. It seems that everything about my latest crisis moves at a snail's pace.

I had an appointment with my cardiologist yesterday to talk about getting a pacemaker. The appointment was made before the CT scan results (cancer) were known. When I mentioned it, his jaw dropped and he said "Oh my God!"  Not the reaction you expect from someone who sees that kind of thing on a daily basis. It wasn't exactly comforting, although I do appreciate his apparent empathy. He usually has sort of a cold fish, clinical demeanor, so the exclamation was really surprising.

So, the pacemaker is off the table for at least six months. Apparently it would make any kind of radiation therapy more complex. Also he remarked that my heart rate seems to be doing better since they adjusted my medications. Yeah, sure, that's what he told me the last time he screwed around with them. I'm not that confident.

While I was there, I visited the CT lab where the test was done to try to resolve some discrepancies in the test results. There are two sections in the report. One mentions a mass on the LEFT kidney. The other section talks about the same mass, but says it is on the RIGHT kidney. So either the guy interpreting the scan doesn't know right from left, he's made an error, or both kidneys are endangered. Of course it was Good Friday and he was off work that day. They left a message for him to check his work. I'm not encouraged. If they're going to cut me open and take one of my kidneys out, I want them to be sure they're getting the correct one!

I still haven't mentioned my condition to my children yet. I sort of wanted to tell them all at the same time so I don't have to rehash all the details three different times, and since Easter is this weekend I had hoped they would all come home for the holiday...but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. One is running late and won't be here until late Saturday. Another has some sort of event he has to attend Saturday night and is working Sunday. The third hasn't responded to my phone call and is apparently not coming at all.

My appointment with the urologist is Monday. I'm guessing that's when I'll get the official word on exactly how serious this thing is. I'm bracing for really bad news in the hopes that it won't be as bad as I'm thinking it is. The facts I'm working with are:

1. The main mass is 8.5 centimeters in diameter. That's bigger than a large orange.
2. The other mass is 4 centimeters. A ping pong ball. Nothing to sneeze about.
3. I don't think benign tumors are metastatic.
4. I've been having symptoms for 5 years or longer and attributed them to muscular aches and pains.

So based on that evidence, I'm guessing it's pretty advanced and possibly a waste of time to operate. I'm hoping that's not the case, but it's what I'm getting ready to hear.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A New Crisis

Perhaps I'll start with a bit of ancient history. Back in the 1980's (that's ancient to some of you, right?) I used to work as a quality control technician for an asphalt paving company. My job was to assure that the asphalt we made met specification by testing samples of our product three or four times a day. I would take a large sample of the asphalt and break it down into it's component parts and analyze it's composition. To do this, you place the mix in a centrifuge, pour in some solvent, and spin out the asphalt cement (tar) until it's nothing but rocks. Then you cook the solvent saturated rocks until they're dry and run them through a series of graduated screens. Weighing the rocks on each screen and comparing the end result to the original weight of your sample will tell you whether or not it meets state and/or federal specifications.

I did  this for probably three or four years. The solvent was something called "Trichlorethelene." We called it "trichlor." It's a clear liquid that has a very strong chemical odor and evaporates about like rubbing alcohol. That's about all we knew about it for a long time. Then suddenly we were told to stop using trichlor and switch to a natural product made from orange peels called "Orange Sol." It seems that they discovered that the solvent we had been using like water...breathing in the vapor...washing our tools in...even using to clean our hands...causes renal cancer. Cancer of the kidney.

Flash forward thirty years. I've just discovered I may have renal cancer.  Coincidence? I'm thinking no. I'm pretty sure I have it, but I say "may have" because, as of this moment, I still haven't talked to a doctor about the test results that I unceremoniously received in an email. From the reading I've done on renal cancer in the last few days, I'm suspecting I'm at stage 3 or 4.

So that's why I've resurrected this blog. To tell my story, to rant, to blow off steam. To anyone who happens to stumble across it.

Mad As A Hornet

It's been slightly less than two years since I last posted. I haven't even looked at this blog in well over a year and upon my return I see that there are several broken images and who knows what other problems. Even my header image has disappeared. I'll see if I can get at least that fixed this evening. As for the missing images in previous posts, I don't think that's going to get fixed.

[EDIT: Ok, the old broken images are due to my deleting what I thought was an unused directory on my image server a couple of months ago. Sorry folks, the missing images are history and not coming back. Sigh.]

As in previous posts, my return has been precipitated by a crisis. You can tell from those older posts that this is a rant blog. I use it to blow off steam and just work out my frustrations. I've got a big one this time and I'm mad as a hornet. I feel violated beyond measure. I want to scream at the world, "UNFAIR!"

More in my next post, but to sum it up, I've just discovered...not gently...that I probably have renal cancer. I'm not mad about the cancer though, I'm mad about how I seem to have been placed on the back burner by all of the doctors and other medical professionals that I've been seeing for the past month and a half.

See the next post for more details...