Saturday, June 28, 2014

Next Stop...

I'm traveling to another dimension, a dimension not only of health and sickness but of co-pays. A journey to a confusing land whose boundaries are only determined by insurance coverage. That's the signpost up ahead—my next stop, the Twilight Zone!

I'm scheduled for a biopsy of the mass on my lung this coming Tuesday. I always thought that biopsies were pretty quick and simple things, but apparently not with this one. I've been told that I'll be put under light sedation, not completely unconscious, just a "twilight" state between awake and asleep. It's being done by the radiology department and apparently will be using some sort of CT equipment to guide the biopsy needle. The whole thing is supposed to take an hour or two and I've been told to plan on spending up to 6 hours at the hospital. NPO after midnight (of course) and no driving following the procedure. Well, I'm impressed.

I received a survey packet in the mail today to rate my visit for last week's surgery. I probably should wait a little while and take one of the Percosets they gave me before I fill it out. If I did it right now, I'm pretty sure the envelope would catch fire before it got to the mailbox.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another Screw Up

It's been week since I left the hospital and I haven't heard about the pathology results on my tumor. I figured the doctor's office probably wouldn't tell me the results over the phone, but it couldn't hurt to try so I gave them a call this afternoon. The girl on the phone confirmed that I'd have to wait until I saw the doctor for followup and then there was a long pause. My followup appointment for July 10th had been cancelled for some reason, she'd have to call me back.

A half hour later, she called back and said the nurse that dismissed me from the hospital told them I didn't want to come back to town for the appointment so she cancelled it. What?!?! I said no such thing!

After a bit of back and forth questioning, it turned out that there was a big misunderstanding. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a bashful bladder and was unable to urinate immediately after they removed the catheter following the operation. They reinserted the catheter and told me to come back in three weeks to have it removed. THREE WEEKS!?! I didn't tell her I didn't want to followup with the surgeon, I just didn't want to wait that long to have a completely unnecessary catheter removed!  I had them make arrangements to have it removed by my local urologist in five days instead of twenty-one...still four days longer than I felt was necessary. But the understanding of the hospital nurse was that I didn't want to come back at all...hence the appointment cancellation.

So I rescheduled a followup today and guess what? It's a week earlier than originally scheduled! Instead of the 10th, I'm now scheduled for the 3rd. So what started out as a screw up ended up being to my now I'm torn between being angry and happy.

I think I'll stay angry for a little while...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

One More Scar

I'm feeling much better now that I've been freed from the ball and chain of the catheter bag. Still just a little sore and finding it hard to get comfortable when sleeping, but things are improving daily.

The headline on this post is a bit deceptive. Not just one new scar, four new ones actually. As I think I mentioned in previous posts, my surgery was laparoscopic, so there are three small scars about an inch or less in size and one about 12 inches long. That one would have been smaller, but they had to enlarge the incision to remove the entire tumor. All of the incisions were sealed shut with super glue, much neater than the one left over from my appendectomy. They all seem to be healing well, the glue came off of one of them and I've been having to put gauze dressings on it daily, but it seems to be doing fine. Very little drainage.

I'm supposed to be able to drive starting next week. I feel well enough to do it right now but probably won't be trying until the need arises.

I still haven't heard if the tumor was malignant, but from how the doctor described it to my wife, I can't imagine it not being so. I've scheduled have a biopsy done on the tumor on my lung this coming Tuesday. It sounds a bit more involved than I expected. I've been told it will take around 6 hours and I'll be put under light sedation while they do it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

One Down...

I'm back! Out of surgery and home recuperating. So now for all the details...

Showed up at the hospital as scheduled and went through all of the typical pre-op preparations. Met with the surgeon who marked my belly on the side he was going to operate on and answered a few questions on any allergic reactions from the anesthesiologist.

I must say, anesthesia has really improved over the years. I've been put under numerous times for various surgeries, going way back to when I was a little squirt getting my tonsils removed. They used ether back then...deep breaths and count backwards from 10. I think I made it to 8.  In later years I can remember going down dark tunnels as things around me faded to black. These days it's like flipping a light switch. One moment you're in the operating room, next you wake up in your room with lots of pain. My wife says I was loopy, trying to crack jokes that weren't really funny. I don't recall much of that, but it didn't seem to be a gradual waking up process to me.

They started with the daVinci robot, but as they got near to completing the operation they saw that the tumor was more invasive than they previously thought and sliced me open to take out the entire kidney. I ended up spending about 7 hours under the knife. I won't know if it was cancerous until the pathology comes back.

I've heard a lot of nice things about the hospital, but I must admit I wasn't greatly impressed. Things looked just a little bit dirty in the room. Housekeeping came in and all they did was empty the trash can. No sweeping up or anything and there was all sorts of detrius all over the floor.

So, they wanted to send me home the next afternoon. Out came the catheter...ouch! And I experienced some bashful bladder problems. Not the first time for me, I just can't seem to pee on demand sometimes. I once kept a surprise drug test technician at work waiting for 6 hours before I was able to perform. The hospital only gave me 4 hours...surprise, back in goes the catheter...ouch again! I got to come home with it and wait 5 more days to see my local urologist to check me out again.

They also needed to raise my magnesium level before I came home, so I got a last minute IV...which failed and puffed my hand up like a toad.

But the bottom line is, I'm home. Minus one tumor and a kidney. Percosets are my friend right now. I don't like taking pain medications, but I've decided to ignore my prejudices on the matter for the moment.

Still more followups with various doctors and a mass on my lung that needs to come out also, more to come as time marches on.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


My kidney cancer surgery is tomorrow. I should be busy getting ready, but not yet. I'm taking the morning and chillin' out. I cleared out my recent e-mails this morning, posted a bunch of funny stuff on Twitter, and looked over recent comments from my Facebook friends. I'm trying not to worry too much. I think I'll play some video games after I finish posting this. Not a lot to do anyway. I hear they give you a nice robe to wear in the hospital, so I don't need to pack much in the way of clothing. I probably won't feel like reading, but I'm taking a book along anyway. I'm also charging up the Kindle, but doubt that I use that either. They gave me lots of pre-op instructions to follow. What medications to take, which ones not to take. I need to keep my blood glucose between 100 and 200 today. Packing my bi-pap and mask will have to wait until tomorrow morning. There are special shower instructions so I'm nice and antiseptic when I get there. Of course, NPO after midnight and make sure I bring the special "red envelope" they gave me.

The lung cancer surgeon was supposed to contact me after the CT scan was done. That was a week ago Monday. When I talked to him earlier, he indicated he might want to do a biopsy of the mass on my lung. The kidney cancer surgeon said the same thing, so I was figuring a biopsy was pretty much a sure thing. Since I'm going to be in the hospital tomorrow anyway, I thought it would be expedient for them to go ahead and do the biopsy while I was there. It would save me a 400 mile round trip and about $50 in gas also, not to mention another day wasted. I waited until seven days before this kidney surgery with no contact from the lung guy, so I called his office to suggest this idea. I got an answering service that promised to give my message to the doctor. Monday I called again. My message had not been received. Yes, they do want to do a biopsy, but scheduling one that soon might be difficult to fit in since it had to be done through the radiology people. They would see if it might be possible. Once the biopsy is done, it will be at least seven days before they get results back. What would you like to bet that I'll be making another trip for the biopsy?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

No News Is... news.

 I haven't posted anything for a few days, so I thought I'd hop in just to say "Hi!" Nothing's happening on the cancer front. My surgery is scheduled for this coming Wednesday, so I should have something to say once I'm able to get back online.

As for life in general, nothing much happening there either. I've been playing 500 Rummy with the wife and brother-in-law on a daily basis and getting my butt whipped pretty regularly. I'm not sure what I've changed in my playing strategy that's causing me to loose so often. I used to be a better player.

I haven't been entering many Photoshop contests lately either, none of the source images seem to inspire me very much. For those I have been entering, my efforts tend to end up near the bottom of the standings. An occasional win, but my percentage is way down.

I've found something new that has been keeping my brain active lately, #hashtagwars.  I shall attempt to explain for those of you who don't do Twitter.... At seemingly random intervals during the day, a theme is announced via Twitter message. It could be something like "#SweetMovies."  Following this, players try to come up with funny responses to the theme, including the hashtag #SweetMovies in their response. For example "Cloudy With a Chance of Sweet Rolls #SweetMovies." Challenging, fun, and usually a big laugh.

My 2002 Chevy Impala is starting to show it's age. I forgot to roll up the driver's side window the other day and had a really bad storm pass through. The next time I drove the car, the turn signal relay started clicking continuously. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick... Thankfully it stopped once the interior of the car dried out, but it was certainly annoying for quite a while. The only other annoying problem with the car at the moment is that the windshield wipers are out of sync. They work fine, but when you turn them off, they point straight up instead of folding back down. It feels like you're driving through a set of football goalposts. I don't know where to begin telling about the problems with our other vehicle, a 1988 Chevy's problems are legion.

Well, I seem to be rambling, so I'll get off of here. I will post again when there's something slightly more interesting to report.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Countdown Begins

I got a call this morning, my surgery is scheduled for next Wednesday around noon. I've spent the morning calling family members to let them know and rescheduling a few preexisting appointments. The ball is finally starting to roll. Prayers, everyone!

Monday, June 09, 2014

Hold On Just a Little Bit Longer

Just got back from my multiple tests and meetings with doctors. Whew, I'm bushed!

First stop was with a new doctor, I'm not 100% sure but I think he's going to be the anesthesiologist for my upcoming surgery. Certainly a strange fellow, but in a nice way. Sort of a cross between Bill Nye and Ducky from NCIS with a little Felix Ungar tossed into the mix. He spent two hours going over my medical history with a fine tooth comb and scheduled an additional test on top of the two that were already scheduled.

Next stop was for a blood draw to check my digoxin level. That showed up a little lower than optimal, so they want to raise my dosage of Digoxin. I'll need to contact my cardiologist to have him adjust my prescription.

Then on to a different building for the CT and bone scans. Oops! Nope...not yet. Got sent to a third building to have an ultrasound done of my carotid arteries. That was the additional test that was added.

Back to the second building for the CT and bone scans...two hours later than they were originally scheduled for. I expected to be told that the scans would need to be rescheduled since I'd missed the appointments but was pleasantly surprised when they took it in stride and worked me right in with very little delay. There was some wait time for the contrast dye to work it's way through my system,  but otherwise everything was a lot faster than I thought it would be.

Finally on to the fourth building to meet with the kidney doctor who had already looked at the CT and bone scans by the time I got there. Bone scan was normal, no cancer. Yay!  The mass on my lung is larger than originally indicated. Boo! But there is only one mass there, not multiple masses. Yay! A biopsy is needed to see if it's cancerous. As for the mass on my kidney, it needs to come out. Since it's on the outside of my kidney and both of them are functioning normally, it should be a minor thing to go in and snip it out with very little of the kidney needing to be removed. I'm supposed to hear tomorrow on when laparoscopic surgery can be scheduled.

So then end result of today's activities is that things are starting to move forward, I just have to wait just a little bit longer.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

NPO After Midnight

Tomorrow is looking like a busy day. Nothing to eat after midnight tonight, leave before dawn to be able to get to the doctor's office by 7 in the morning. First part of the CT scan starts at 9, bone scan at 11, back to finish the CT scan at 2 in the afternoon, back to the doctor's office at 3, and then a 2 hour drive home. I should have something more to be able to tell people when I get home. My mobile is a "dumb phone" so no tweets or posts until I get back late tomorrow.

I had a small incident last night, doing okay now though. I was getting a glass of water before bed and noticed a smear of red on the kitchen floor. It looked like strawberry jelly or something. It didn't really register with me mentally, I was kind of tired and I just thought "Huh...I wonder what that is?" I went into the TV room, sat down in my chair, and noticed a big dark spot on my house slipper. Again, it didn't register. I wondered what I might have stepped in or spilled that might have made the spot. Kicking my slippers off I found my right foot was covered in a LOT of blood. That got my attention. I'm not sure exactly what or how it happened, but I discovered a small cut between my toes. As my dad would say, I was bleeding like a stuck pig. I have some diabetic nerve damage in my feet, so I don't always feel stuff like that. Add to that the fact that I'm on blood thinners, so cuts tend to bleed more than normal. A piece of sterile gauze and some adhesive tape helped to stanch the flow and this morning all was fine.  It was a bit of a scare at the time though.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Hello Kidney

Another Office Visit

Just a quick note regarding today's office visit with the lung cancer surgeon. Exactly what I expected, which was nothing of consequence. Get my medical history, take my vitals, short chat with the doctor which amounted to "we need to wait until we get the test results," and out the door.  He was rather upbeat about the whole thing which encouraged me a little more. Needing to find out if this is a single tumor or one of several. I've had quite a few chest x-rays over the last couple of years and none of them showed anything, so I'm hoping that this is the only one (except for the one on my kidney of course). CT scan and full-body bone scans are coming up Monday and I meet with the kidney cancer surgeon that afternoon, so I'm expecting the pace to pick up soon. Once again, thanks to everyone who has been praying for me. The cards are encouraging as well. I love you guys!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Kick Cancer's Ass

Meeting with the lung cancer surgeon tomorrow. Don't know what's going to happen for certain, but I'm suspecting it'll be just a preliminary evaluation meeting and maybe a slight chance that a biopsy might be taken. He'll probably want to wait until the CT and bone scans are done next Monday.

I've been sort of mulling over what might be down the road in the future. One thing I haven't thought much about is money. Yeah, I have health insurance, but I think it only pays about 80% after my deductible is met. With major surgery and the possibility of chemo and/or radiation therapy down the road, things could get pretty expensive quickly.

I've been following the blogs and Twitter accounts of several folks who are fighting cancer and some of them are doing some aggressive fundraising things of various sorts.  In the back of my head I've been kicking around the idea of silicone bracelets with something like "Kick Cancer's Ass" printed on them. I don't know...just thinking out loud.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Samoas to the Rescue!

I don’t remember how long it’s been since the Girl Scouts were selling cookies, but it’s been a while. We were approached after morning church services today and advised that there were still a couple of boxes of unclaimed cookies that my daughter-in-law had ordered way back when. No problem, we made arrangements to pick them up at evening services. I thought to myself “I hope they’re not Samoas. I hate Samoas.”

Just before leaving for the evening service, I checked my glucose level and noted that it was unusually high…so I gave myself a shot of insulin, a bit higher than my usual dose.

We arrived at church and got the cookies, Samoas, of course. Following the worship service, we had a special showing of a movie that was based on a book that had been written by one of our church members so we stayed later than usual. About fifteen minutes into the movie I started sweating and feeling light-headed, a sure sign that my glucose level is going low. I had apparently given myself too much insulin. So…about 10 stale Samoas later, I started feeling somewhat better. I’m not sure how low it went, but two hours later when I got home it was only 101 which is base-line normal. After that many cookies, it would usually be way over 200. I’m guessing it was probably down into the low 50’s.

Normally I would not have had something handy with enough carbs to bring my glucose level back up so quickly. Some folks might say “coincidence,” but I don’t look at it like that. God knew I would need something and made provisions for it to be there when I needed it. 

But why Samoas, God? Ick!