Monday, May 26, 2014

Be Prepared

I spent much of this afternoon getting some things ready ahead of time for our church bulletin. I normally crank out a puzzle for every issue the night before I print them, but there's a pretty good chance I might not be able to do that for a while. I also schedule people to serve during worship services, so that needs to be done ahead of time as well.

I've got the people scheduling completed all the way to the end of the year, but the puzzles are going much slower. I'm only five weeks ahead right now. I figure I need to create twenty-four more puzzles to stretch to the new year. That's going to take a while since each puzzle takes about an hour to create.

There are so many other things I need to think about as well. We tend to forget that nobody lives forever and let important stuff slide. There are things that my family needs to know if I'm no longer around. I'm not planning to go any time soon, but the chances that happening have certainly increased. And its as good a time as any to start gathering all those important papers, deeds, vehicle titles, insurance policies, etc., together in one place. I hope I can find them all.

Another thing I need to look for is the paperwork for the riding lawnmower I purchased earlier this year. We've only cut the grass three times this year and suddenly the blade won't engage. The drive belt has probably slipped off a pulley. Not a big deal, but something like that shouldn't have happened this quickly. Not a good omen for this mower's future. It's starting to look like I made a wise choice in purchasing a service contract for it. If I recall correctly, there was a lemon clause in it. Four major service calls and they have to swap you for a new mower. I hope it doesn't come to that.

As for my health, I'm still feeling pretty good physically. My vitals (BP, pulse, O2 saturation, etc.) are all doing better than usual. The only thing that has been way out of normal range is my glucose level...but that almost always runs high. I need to be more proactive about that. It all boils down to too many carbs. Mentally, I'm sort of on autopilot. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other, trying not to be too grumpy.

Nine days until I see the lung guy.

Stupid cancer.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Seeing the Lung Guy

I received a fat envelope in the mail today from the doctor I've been referred to about the mass on my lung. Enclosed was a note about an appointment that has been scheduled for me and another set of medical history forms to fill out. The appointment is 5 days before I'm scheduled to have the CT and bone scans done, so I'm not sure if that's good or not.  Guess I'll just have to wait and see. Oh, don't forget another 250 mile round trip to squeeze some more bucks out of my budget.

I wish doctors and hospitals could get together and standardize their medical history forms. This new one is ten pages of the same information I've already filled out at least 5 times already. Name, address, SSN, insurance info, medication list, diseases and symptoms, list of recent surgeries, et cetera, ad nauseum. Both of these doctors work out of the same hospital. This is time consuming and tedious stuff that could be made a lot simpler with some sort of universal form. I wouldn't mind filling out twenty pages if I only had to do it once.

Eleven days to go before this new appointment, sixteen days before the scans. Sooner or later somebody is going to give me some answers that don't include the words "I'm not completely certain, but..."  If they don't want a patient going postal on them, they had better shift into high gear after these upcoming appointments.

Screw Cancer

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I Don't Understand

I got the impersonal e-mail from the imaging lab telling me I might have cancer the first week of April.  I waited two weeks to see the doctor. The doctor confirmed it might be cancer and said he was sending me to a kidney guy. I waited three weeks to see the new guy. He backed up what the first doctor told me and said I needed to have more tests four weeks. What's with the waiting!?!? I really don't understand why every step of the process has to be three or four weeks away.

I'm following the twitter accounts of some other folks who are in the process of fighting cancers of various sorts. It's mainly to see what kind of things I might be dealing with in the future. I was reading the tweets from one lady dealing with aggressive breast cancer. She was diagnosed about the same time I got my news from the imaging lab. Her treatment started less than two weeks after the first hint of cancer and she is already dealing with her third round of chemotherapy. I don't understand why I'm having to wait. It's very frustrating.

As for me right now, I'm physically feeling okay. Still a few pains in the hip and such now and then, but nothing major. If I felt this good earlier I probably wouldn't have gone to the doctor about it. Mentally, I'm in a foggy gray funk. Not really depressed, but not especially joyful either. Just sort of putting one foot in front of the other and get through each day as best as I can. With no definitive diagnosis, I really don't know what to think. Like I wondered about in a previous I have a good chance of living another 10 to 20 years or do I have 6 months at most? It's probably somewhere between those two extremes, but not having any inkling of how severe this thing is really pisses me off. I don't understand why there isn't some solid piece of information I can grab onto for some stability.

I want to thank everyone that has taken the time to say they're praying for me or have sent cards of encouragement. It means a lot. It helps me get through the day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It's not fair!

It could be worse

The visit to the specialist went okay I suppose. There is a small chance that the two masses might be non-cancerous, but the likelihood of at least one of them being malignant is pretty high. They can't tell anything except the masses are there from the CT and MRI scans.

The kidney mass is external to the kidney, attached to it by a little stem. It should be easy to remove. Depending on if it's cancerous or not will determine whether part or all of the kidney comes out also.

The doctor appeared to be more concerned about the mass in my lung. It is only partially visible on the scans, so they don't know how big it actually is. A more comprehensive CT scan and a full body bone scan is now on tap for 4 weeks from now, along with a visit with a anesthesiologist.

Yeah, I said 4 weeks. More waiting and worrying. I was really exasperated that I'd have to wait that long until I saw a story online about a guy with stage 4 renal cancer that the VA won't even start talking to for 6 months. So I suppose it could be worse.

Also in the news, my wife suffered a perforated ulcer last year, a complication from her bariatric surgery.  She's scheduled for some sort of "scope" exam in two weeks to to see how it's healing. A possibility of surgery looming on the horizon there that might conflict with my kidney appointments. I guess we'll just have to deal with any conflicts as they pop up.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Having a chat

Tomorrow's the day. I'm understandably nervous about what I'm going to find out, the tension is growing. Prayers please!

I had a short chat with someone at church this morning who was diagnosed with myeloma a couple of years ago. He has had a significant recovery but is still not out of the woods yet. He gave me some very interesting thoughts to chew on regarding his spiritual and mental coping with the disease. I may need to reevaluate my attitude towards this thing. He also offered to loan me a book that helped him through, I'm looking forward to reading it.

♪♫ Tomorrow, tomorrow, the sun will come out tomorrow...

Saturday, May 10, 2014


I attended a little family reunion today. I got a chance to see some uncles, aunts and cousins that I haven't seen in a long time. I enjoyed talking with the cousins I played with on my grandparents farm so many years ago, thinking about the good ol' days. So many times we only see each other when someone has passed away, it was nice to get together on a happier occasion. We've all gotten older and some of us a little wiser, others not so much. Looking through stacks of old photographs of relatives, many, many happy memories. Good food, lots of smiles and laughter. I like that.

I suppose it's a bit morbid to think that this might have been the last time I see some of them on this side of the grass, but it was on my mind. Being the day before Mother's Day, I stopped by my Mom's grave to pay my respects. It's hard to express my feelings about that, I'm not sure myself exactly how I feel except to say there's a sadness that doesn't want to go away. I find myself thinking more and more about life and death lately and I'm a little uneasy about the prospects ahead, yet strangely I'm comfortable with it too.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Angels and Devils

Well, the day I meet with the kidney cancer doctor is getting closer. It's about three and a half days now. Still just sitting around not doing a whole lot of anything. Went down to my cardiologist's office today and got a printout of his patient records for me. It's mostly just office visit notes, nothing of any significant interest. I also dropped by the hospital imaging department and requested a few additional things that probably aren't critical. Their person that does that wasn't there today, I can probably pick up the disk some time tomorrow.

I'm also working on finding someone to take over doing a task I've been doing on a weekly basis for about 30 years now. Our weekly church bulletin has been a labor of love for nearly as long as I've been attending there. I hate to think I'll be giving it up completely, but I don't know what's down the road for me in the weeks ahead. It's best that somebody else knows how to keep it going.

I think the hardest thing right now is just not knowing the seriousness of this whole thing. I mean, I know there's a 8.5 cm mass on my kidney, so it IS serious. There's also a 4 cm mass in my lung. I'm thinking that means it's metastasized...also serious. Lymph nodes are to some extent enlarged; more evidence of metastasis. Based on my online searching for more information, I have the feeling that it's at stage 4. My searches also seem to indicate that the 5 year survival rate for stage 4 renal cell carcinoma is only 5 to 15%. That, in my opinion, sucks. Major suck. But, again, that's just my layman's opinion. I'm not a doctor, so in the back of my mind I'm hoping that I've been looking at this all wrong.

You've seen the old cartoons of someone torn between two decisions. An angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Both are whispering in their ear. Right now the angel is whispering in one ear saying, "No problem. They'll cut this thing out and you'll be back to normal in a week." On the other shoulder, the little devil is saying, "Give it up, pal. They're gonna take a look inside and just sew you back up. You've got two or three weeks tops."

Waiting and not knowing is torture.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Wet & Wild Weekend Begins

Our house was built in a time when outdoor toilets were normal. For that reason, the bathroom was added about 60 years later. I'm not saying he is incompetent, but the guy who plumbed it trained under Rube Goldberg. The main water supply line runs up the corner of the kitchen and across the ceiling. Pipes pop in and out of the walls and one just terminates with no destination. Two pipes for the upstairs bathroom run across the back wall at a 45 degree angle on their way up. So when the fresh water supply line for our toilet sprung a leak, I thought, "Here we go again..."  I spent a good 15 minutes last night with a metal rod and a hammer, tapping against the shutoff valve handle to get it to close. Truth. It's a PVC gate valve with flat ears on each side that is wedged between the water heater and the wall. The space is so cramped that you can't get enough leverage to turn it with your hand. Thus the rod and hammer treatment.

I spent the morning calling every plumber in the phone book. It's the weekend, so I didn't expect any enthusiastic responses. I wasn't disappointed. The first one can't make it until Tuesday. The next one sounded like he was still recuperating from last night's pub crawl and mumbled some incoherent stuff about not working weekends, but he'd call me right back. That was two hours ago. Most of the rest went to answering machines. In desperation I sent out a plea on Facebook for assistance...I don't plan to call the original plumber unless a sinkhole starts developing under the house.

The plumber in question is a local handyman.  He means well, and will eventually get whatever you ask him to repair working again, but not without some unusual quirks or related side effects. He does auto and lawn mower repair, carpentry, plumbing, and is willing to tackle just about anything you ask him to do. He just doesn't do it well. Jack of all trades, master of none. Need a ceiling fan installed? No problem. Just don't expect it not to wobble when you turn it on. Need a guest room added on? Sure. Just ignore that window on an inside wall. The main electric breaker box has labels that read something like "Oven, Water Heater, Rest of the house." The most commonly used phrase around here is "Here's what he fixed and here's what's still wrong with it..."

 Update: It appears that word got back to the handyman that I mentioned him in my blog and he was offended. I admit that I was rather harsh and I apologize for that. I actually appreciate the work he has done over the years. I exaggerated his lack expertise in the attempt to get a few laughs at his expense. I'm sorry for that.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Somebody Knew About It!

Okay, so I'm sitting around with nothing to do but think about this 8.5 cm mass growing in my belly, waiting to see the specialist in ten days. Naturally my thoughts turn to my past medical history; I've had several serious incidents over the past several years. Heart bypass, broken leg, appendectomy, heart ablation, blah, blah, blah...I could go on for quite a while longer. I've been poked, prodded, drugged, cut open, sewn shut, laparoscoped, wore a wound-vac for 4 months, scanned, x-rayed, you name it. It occurred to me that, with all of these different people looking around inside me for going on 14 years now, somebody should have spotted this thing a lot earlier.

The specialist requested the CT and MRI scan images and reports for my recent stuff and I have already obtained those for him. Yesterday afternoon, since I was in the neighborhood, I stopped by my family doctor's office and requested the official records for a couple of the older incidents that affected nearby areas of my body. Specifically, the appendectomy in 2012 and a gall bladder removal in 2013.

Expecting a long wait for a flunky to photocopy files for me, I was pleasantly surprised when the girl at the desk clicked a few keys on her computer and the printer spit out a pile of scanned documents. It took only a couple of minutes. Walking back to my car, I sat down and took a look at the stack of paperwork I had been handed.

On the top of the stack was a summary of the CT scan done for my appendectomy. First page, middle of the page, "an isodense right sided exophytic renal lesion arising from the inferior pole the right kidney measuring 4.8 cm..."  Nearly the exact language used in my most recent CT scan except it's now grown to 8.5 cm. Someone spotted this thing nearly two years ago when it was half the size it is now!

As I read through the document, it was referred to as a mass or a lesion, and on page 3 in the doctor's notes, he speculates it might be a hemorrhagic or proteinaceous cyst. No references that even hint it might be cancerous. Post operative notes fail to mention anything at all. Did he even look at it while he was rooting around in my guts? It doesn't appear so.

While I'm slightly encouraged by a lack of the "C" word in this earlier scan, I'm perturbed that nobody felt it was important enough to say "Hey, by the way, you've got a big growth on your kidney that might give you some trouble down the way."

The most recent scan specifically suggests cancer, so I'm not out of the woods but maybe there's an outside chance....

Who knows? Keep prayin' people, you do a world of good.