Friday, July 18, 2014

Total Recall

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here, but I own a 2002 Chevy Impala. Twelve years old and it still runs okay, so I'm in no hurry to replace it right away. Yeah, now I remember mentioning the windshield wiper problem a few posts back.

Anyway, GM has been doing a significant amount of recalls for their vehicles lately and the wife has been pestering me to check to see if ours is on the list. So I got online yesterday and did some looking around and found that, sure enough, our car is among those being recalled.

The recall is being done due to an ignition switch problem. You may have read about it. GM has admitted that if there is a downward pull on the key while in the "Run" position, it can turn the engine off while you're driving down the road, which can cause an accident. In the event of an accident, it also causes the driver's airbag to fail. This problem can be caused by having several keys or a heavy fob on your key ring. Note that this is a defect in the switch...not in the key. The defect exists because GM was too cheap to engineer the switch correctly, saving them a few pennies on each unit.

Oh, by the way, I have had problems in the past with the car refusing to start a couple of times. I took it to the dealership at that time (before the recall) and was told that there was a problem with the ignition switch. The cost estimate for the repair was over $100. If it had been an earlier model it would only cost a few dollars, but GM changed the switch module somewhere along the line, probably to save those few pennies I mentioned earlier. Since it was an intermittent problem and the car would eventually start after waiting a few minutes, I opted to not have it repaired.

You would think that the correct solution for this recall would be to replace the defective ignition switches. That would be the responsible thing to do. Is that what GM is doing? Of course not. That would probably cost them a couple of dollars per unit plus some labor. Their recommended solution is to give each customer a key ring. Seriously, this is not a joke. A key ring. Just for the car key, you can't put your other keys on the ring. I have enough trouble finding the key ring I have already. Now I have to keep track of where TWO key rings are? Ain't gonna happen.

On the health front, I'm still waiting to see the oncologist and talk about chemo for my lung cancer. The incisions from my kidney surgery have almost completely healed, there are only a couple of small spots left that band-aids take care of.  My wife has been having continuing problems with ulcers resulting from her stomach bypass surgery and will be going in for another endoscopy to see if they're getting worse or not. If they are worse, the surgeon wants a do-over on the stomach surgery. We're praying that things are getting better....

Monday, July 14, 2014

Maybe You Had To Be There

I had a followup appointment with the urologist that first spotted my kidney cancer today. Nothing much in the way of new information to report. Give us your co-pay. Pee in the cup. How are you feeling? See you in three months.

As I was leaving the building, two little old ladies and a gentleman in a wheelchair came out of the elevator. All three had to be approaching ninety, thin and frail, skin like paper, hair as white as snow. The building entrance is right in front of the elevator and one of the ladies pushed the fellow in the wheelchair into the airlock ahead of me. For some reason she stopped suddenly and inertia kept the old gent kept moving forward, sliding out of the chair onto the floor of the airlock. It was kind of a slow-motion thing, he was trying to stay in the chair but didn't have the strength to resist the pull of gravity. It took probably ten or fifteen seconds before he ended up sitting on his butt in the middle of the entrance.

The building employs a young college-age woman to open the door and assist folks getting in and out of vehicles at the curb. She tried to help the ladies get old fellow back into the chair, but it wasn't going to happen. It didn't help that she was talking to a friend on her cell phone at the same time. She finally ran into one of the doctor's offices and found a pair of EMT's, who came out and got him back in his seat. They fastened the seat belt to keep him from sliding out again while one of the old ladies went to get their car.

It was amusing to me, but maybe you just had to be there to appreciate the humor.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Putting Failure In Perspective

My wife recently mentioned an article to me that she read about Paul Williams. Some of the older folks might remember him as the short little blond guy in “Smokey and The Bandit.” He is also the author of a lot of memorable songs such as “Old Fashioned Love Song, Rainy Days and Mondays,” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.” Now in his seventies, Williams was reminiscing about a 1974 movie he wrote the music for and starred in called “Phantom of The Paradise,” a rock and roll version of “The Phantom of The Opera.” Although nominated for an Oscar, the film was a box office flop in the U.S. and has since been relegated to “cult” film status…only true aficionados remember it. Williams says he chalked that one up as a career failure at the time.
Sometime later, while appearing at a concert in Mexico, Williams was approached by a teenage boy who had a copy of the movie soundtrack and asked him to autograph it. Williams had a short conversation with the teen and recalls signing the album but little else of the encounter.
It is now forty years since Williams did what he considered a flop. Imagine his surprise when he was asked to help write a musical based on a critically acclaimed movie directed by the same teen who grew up to be director Guillermo del Toro. Williams says he also has been working with other song writers and singers on other projects as a direct result of that “failure” of forty years ago.
Be careful what you consider to be your failures. Just because you don’t see immediate results from your efforts doesn’t mean something wasn’t a success. Forty years down the road what you did could turn out to be one of your greatest achievements. Some people refer to this as the “Butterfly Effect.” Something as insignificant as a butterfly flapping its wings can conceivably snowball into a hurricane given just the right sequence of events. Del Toro’s encounter with Paul Williams is one of the small events that eventually inspired him go on to become a world famous movie director.
What’s the spiritual point of all this? Don’t think that what you do for the Lord has no consequence. Even the smallest of efforts can produce monumental results given enough time. Remember what Jesus said about faith the size of a mustard seed. Don’t let what you consider to be failures in the present cause you to give up on things in the future. Get out there and do something for God, because you may inspire someone else to do even greater things.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Major Prize

As some of you know, one of my hobbies is participating in Photoshop contests. Actually, I use Paintshop Pro, but it's essentially the same thing. Most of the contests I enter don't offer prizes except bragging rights if you happen to win. I tend to do well in those, I've been ranked among the All-Time Top 5 Photoshoppers on for several years now.

Steve Jackson Games recently announced a contest requesting entrants to Photoshop one of their company mascots with a major celebrity. Since my wife is a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, I put their female mascot "Flower" on his arm and submitted it to the contest. Maybe fifteen minutes worth of work, but I thought I did a fairly decent job even though it was mostly cut & paste stuff. I promptly forgot all about the contest and moved on to other more important things.

A couple of weeks later I was surprised to receive an e-mail notifying that I had won the contest and please send them my mailing address so they could send me my prize. Woot! I sent them my address and forgot all about it again.

I was surprised once again this afternoon when I received a small box in my mail. Opening it up, I found a letter and a butt-load of packing peanuts. The letter again congratulated me on winning the contest and hinted that somewhere amongst those styrofoam curls was my prize.  Carefully dumping the box over the trash can, I discovered two small cards. One was a bonus card for one of their games (similar to Community Chest or Chance in Monopoly). Okay...well the only card game I play on a regular basis is rummy, so that's not much of a prize to me. The other card was labeled "Imaginary Friend" and had a plastic blister glued to the front of it...which was completely empty. Get it? Imaginary Friend? Invisible? Not really there? Oh, and the card was actually PERSONALLY SIGNED by somebody at the company. Well, it was more like a scribble...but the letter assures me that it's a signature.

Wow, I'm so honored to have won such valuable prizes! Thanks Steve Jackson Games of Austin, Texas! You really went all out on that contest!

My Photoshop

My Prizes

Update: My daughter informs me that these things are actually worth something and that I could probably unload them on eBay. There's a sucker born every minute.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Just a Short Note

Just got a call to schedule an appointment with the oncologist for my lung cancer, August 4th (3½ weeks away). So it's more waiting for me.  Meanwhile, I looked up the doctor's information online and found about what I expected. There were only about a half dozen patient reviews and they were pretty evenly split between disgruntled relatives whose loved one died and gave him the lowest possible rating versus patients who were cured that think he walks on water. About the only thing they did agree on is that 30 minutes in the waiting room is too long to wait.

So...that's about it on the health front. I've written a new article for the front page of this week's church bulletin, look for me to be posting it sometime on Saturday.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Results Are In

Final diagnosis, Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma. The doctor said the pathology report indicated they got all of it, he was confident that was the case and wants to follow up with me in 6 months. Good news...I guess.

As for the mass on my lung, results of the biopsy shows it is metastatic cancer from the kidney. I also found out there are THREE MASSES, not one as the lung surgeon had previously indicated. One on my right lung and two on the left. The original mass on my right lung is 5 cm by 3.5 cm in size (2 inches by 1.3 inches). The second mass on the left is smaller, 1 cm (0.5 inches). The third is very small, only 3 mm (0.1 inch) in size. Also there is some enlargement of some lymph nodes.  I'm being referred to an oncologist to deal with that. Treatment options will be the oncologist's call, but the kidney surgeon said the probable course will be oral chemotherapy and that surgery would most likely not be considered.

I looked up all the oral chemo drugs for lung cancer I could find and checked them out with my insurance provider. Yes, all but one are covered, but with high co-pays. I'm looking at about $100 per month at least. Hopefully the one that isn't covered won't be prescribed. That one would run almost $3000 a month.

Following up on the A1C results I mentioned in my previous post, the doctor says I did not receive any blood during the operation. The good results were all my own doing. Happy happy joy joy.

I spoke with my father a little while ago about my results and discovered that he has been the victim of the same sort. He had a CT scan done for some blood related problems a little over a year ago, a specialist was wanting to check out his spleen. Nothing was found and he's been taking B12 shots for the blood problems. 

After I told him about my doctors not mentioning a mass for 2 years, he got curious about his CT scan and requested a copy of the report from the hospital. Surprise! The report says there was a small spot on his kidney and followup was recommended. No followup was done, nothing about it was mentioned to him at the time. His family physician has scheduled a CT scan to take another look at the spot.

Take notice folks! Doctors are not infallible. They screw up. If you can get a copy of test results, be sure to get them and read them carefully. You might be surprised at what your doctor doesn't tell you.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Poppin' My Balloon

I had my quarterly check-up with my family physician today. I'd been sort of dreading it because my A1C level was pretty high last time. I've been watching my glucose levels a lot closer recently and guessed that it would probably be lower than my last check-up, but wasn't certain how low. Target for A1C is 7. Imagine my pride when the doctor popped into the exam room and announced my A1C was 6.8. 

Then he asked "how much blood did they give you during your kidney surgery?"

"I don't know," I answered, "I have a followup with the surgeon tomorrow and can find out."

"Do that," he replied, "this is probably the blood of somebody else."

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A Tough Stick

One of the things I dread most about a visit to the hospital is having my blood drawn or getting an IV put in. I can tolerate the pain (usually) and I'm not afraid of needles. I've always been one of those people that phlebotomists hate to meet. I've been classified as a "tough stick." I've been told my veins are deep, that they roll, they collapse, they disappear. The lady on the Red Cross Bloodmobile told me to never come back. Sorry folks, it's no party having you stick me multiple times either. Once in a blue moon someone will hit the vein right away, but that's not the way it goes most of the time. The first try on the arm is usually not too bad. The second try digging around in the other arm is a little annoying, but still not extremely uncomfortable. But when they start searching the back of my hand and poking around on my knuckles I tend to get rather exasperated. I actually know someone with similar problems that endured...I'm not exaggerating here...THIRTY attempts to start an IV. I was happy to learn today that the normal OSU policy was to call in someone with an ultrasound device to find a good vein after two failed attempts.

As a side note, I have also noticed that hospital furniture is not built for comfort. Whether it's a patient's bed or a chair for the visitors, a relaxing experience is not in the cards. Laying on a thin blue plastic mattress for six hours straight brings the phrase "cruel and unusual punishment" to mind.

My biopsy went pretty much by the book today. A short delay while they found a vein for the IV, and some delays following the procedure due to some scheduling conflicts, but nothing out of the ordinary. I came out with just a band-aid stuck on my back that my wife has to check periodically for the next day or so to make sure I don't start bleeding out. Pathology results should be complete by Monday, but I won't find out what they are until I meet with my lung surgeon. No followup appointment has been scheduled yet, I'll be calling his office if I don't hear from them by Friday.

I missed my trip to the Twilight Zone. The drugs might have made me a little mellow but I was acutely aware of what was going on during the entire procedure. Darn...I was hoping for at least a little reverb and some video distortion effects.