Monday, December 28, 2015

Grumpy Old Men

It's update time again! My brother-in-law has been released from Gotham Hospital and sent to Fartland Nursing Home for rehab on his broken arm. A lot closer to home. Now it's a 30 minute drive instead of over 2 hours. 

I called the nursing home "Fartland" because it's mostly full of old farts...so my brother-in-law fits in pretty well. To say he's the Grinch channeling Scrooge is an understatement. He savors schadenfreude like Paula Deen loves butter. His day isn't complete until he ruins someone else's. I've known him for 40 years and he's always been like that. It took a while, but eventually I learned to just ignore the mean spirit and accept him for what he is...a grumpy, technophobic, cantankerous, bigoted, reclusive, diehard fan of wrestling who happens to be the brother of my wife who loves him dearly.

He's mending well and able to get around fairly well but it's sounding like it will be around the end of January before they let him go home. Once there he'll be eligible to have a visiting nurse and someone to help him with housework two or three times a week through some of the social service agencies in the area. Since he lives in a mobile home behind our house, my wife will probably be checking in on him daily as well.

In regards to my own health, I'm scheduled for another CT scan in a couple of days to evaluate the effectiveness of my new medication. I'm a bit nervous about that. My hair has been gradually turning from white back to gray but my beard remains white. I let it grow out into a full "Santa Claus" beard over the last few months but trimmed it back to my usual 3/8" length today. My voice has also become a bit hoarse, a common side effect of the medication. Other than that, no major changes. I had a routine checkup with my primary care physician this afternoon, my A1C is doing well along with all the other vitals. I also got a shot of Prevnar 13 as a 65th birthday present. All in all a good visit.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Pow!

Hey, I'm back! It's been a couple of months since an update. The main reason is that not a whole lot has changed on the health front for me. One visit to Dr. Whoosh a few weeks ago and another coming up on Monday, but no scans have been done so they don't really know if anything is happening with the new medicine or not. I'm expecting them to do another scan around the end of December. The visit Monday will most likely be a carbon copy of the last visit, five or ten minutes talking to the nurse practitioner and 45 seconds with Dr. Whoosh.

In other news, my 70 year-old brother-in-law fell and broke his arm last week. We called 911 and had him taken to the local hospital ER by ambulance. After a couple of hours and an X-ray of the arm, they first said they were going to send him home in a sling. A few minutes later the ER doctor came in and said she'd changed her mind. He was probably going to need surgery and the best thing would be to take him to a hospital in Columbus.

I'd never been to that particular hospital so I asked the for directions. They gave me a sheet of directions from Google Maps, no actual map though. I read it over carefully, thought I could find the hospital, and headed North.

Two and a half hours later I almost found the hospital...almost being the key word. I got within one turn of getting there. It was rush hour and starting to get dark, I couldn't see the street signs very well and missed a turn. After going about a mile or so, I realized I'd missed it and turned around. I missed it again on the way back and ended up on the Interstate going in the wrong direction. I finally found an exit to turn around again but it was completely dark by that time and there wasn't an on-ramp to get back on the Interstate going back to my destination. I pulled into a fast-food joint with free wi-fi and looked up the street map on my smart phone. After studying the map for a while, I headed out again...in the wrong direction again. After about 10 miles of driving I came to a dead end and turned around and went back to the burger joint. This time I got my directions straight and got back on the Interstate and eventually found the hospital.

This particular hospital is apparently considered the place to go for trauma cases. They are located in the middle of town and get all of the really bad injuries including gunshot wounds, etc. with some rough looking people wandering around the halls at times. After waiting a while he was given a bed and I followed the gurney up to his room. A couple of doors down was an old drunk berating a young nurse who was only trying to take his vitals. He was calling her some pretty nasty names but she was professional about it and kept a smile on her face the whole time. Another lady was talking on a cell phone in the hall, explaining to someone what the word "incarcerated" means.

After more X-rays the doctor decided that my brother-in-law didn't need surgery, all he needed was a sling. That was seven days ago. He's still in the hospital. His blood work and urine test indicated he had some kidney problems. We already knew that, he's been seeing a kidney doctor locally for about a year...but they don't want to release him until they get some better numbers.

I was in to see him today and noticed a few minutes after arriving that someone in the next room was making some loud noises. At first I thought that it might be someone was being moved and was experiencing some pain...but soon realized that the exclamations didn't really fit that scenario. It was more like the script from an old Batman TV show with strange hoots every thirty seconds or so. After a few minutes of this, I started writing down all of the exclamations. Here's a list: Bang! Pow! Hoot! Yeehaw! Woo! Whoop! Woot! Ahhhh! Lalalala! Yay! Boom! Fight-fight-fight! Whoooo! Yahhhh! Noooo! Hey-ho! Awwww! Ohrah! Yes! Oooo! Yahoo!

Heading back tomorrow, hoping they'll release him but not too optimistic about the chances.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Keeping on keeping on

With another CT scan under the bridge, I got the results from Dr. Whoosh on Monday. If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll remember that he took me off of my cancer drugs at the end of July. I've gone two months with no medication. It's scary to go cold turkey when you're dealing with a disease that's eventually going to kill you. Sort of like saying, "Okay, I'm dropping all my defenses, take your best shot!"

I expected to hear that the tumor in my lung had grown dramatically, but the news was not quite that bad. Yes, it's still growing, but it's only "slightly" larger than it was at the end of July. In my opinion, the term "slightly" is debatable, it's grown about a centimeter in diameter. I'm on a new oral medication starting this morning, something called Inlyta.  Inlyta...does that mean I'm being enlightened?  Like the previous drug, Inlyta doesn't cure the cancer, it only slows down it's growth. What I've been able to dig up on the Internet about it indicates that it retards the progress for about ten months on average. Also, like the previous drug, the side effects sound relatively mild...I get to keep my hair for the time being. Hoarseness, elevated blood pressure and possible development of calluses on my hands and feet appear to be the most common fallout.

I gathered the results of all my CT scans over the last year and plotted a graph of the tumor size over time and it looks like the previous medicine pooped out after about four months. The graph shows a steady growth rate since January of this year, even through the period of no medication at all. I'm hoping that this new medicine will put a plateau on that line.

I didn't qualify for the clinical trial of the intravenous drug that Dr. Whoosh mentioned on my last visit, something to do with my kidney functions being slightly out of range. I was a little concerned about that anyway. It's a two and a half hour drive to the capital city and winter is on it's way. I was not looking forward to driving in ice and snow every two weeks, so the new oral medication might work out for the better in the long run. With all of my other medical problems driving in bad weather conditions is a potential disaster.

In other news, things since my last update have been rather rough. A sixteen year old girl with a new driver's license pulled out in front of me a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully no one was injured but both vehicles were totaled. After a week of hitching rides and borrowing vehicles to get to various appointments, I now have a new set of wheels. Well, not "new" new, it's a used vehicle but six years newer than the previous one, another Chevy Impala. I had just spent about $200 in repairs on Vlad [heavy sigh]. My wife has decided to name the new one "Ivan."

I suffered some atrial fibrillation which resulted in four days in the hospital. Adjustments to my medications seem to have calmed that down for the most part. My brother-in-law spent about the same amount of time in the hospital for a urinary tract infection, but not concurrently. It was, however, during the period of time when we were without a vehicle. That constituted something of a scheduling nightmare.

We've also been going through some other family drama that I won't go into detail about except to say that it's been a bumpy ride for the last month or so.

I guess that's about it for now, more updates to come as they happen. Keep praying!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Little Good News

Items of good news seem to be few and far between lately, so it was a welcome relief today when the wound center doctor said my leg was completely healed. It's been somewhere around twelve weeks in the process, but it's finally over.

The next step is getting back on track with my cancer therapy. I've got an appointment to be re-evaluated in about a week, so I'm looking forward to that. Doctor Whoosh indicated that he plans to put me on an intravenous drug next. I looked up the info on it and it doesn't appear to have any major side effects. It's just been approved recently and has some bright sounding reviews from the medicos. I'm somewhat disappointed that it only slows down cancer growth rather than aggressively combating it.

For numerous reasons my wife and I are in the process of selling the old house we lived in before moving to our present digs. My son's family has been living there and are now moving in with us temporarily until they can afford a domicile of their own. We're probably looking at six months to a year of combined households. We've done it before, we can do it again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Trip to the ER



Okay, I guess it’s time for a much needed update on my various medical problems and recent visits to assorted physicians and hospitals.

When last we met I had just returned from a visit to Doctor Whoosh, taken off my cancer medication despite the cancer continuing to grow, and sent home to tend my leg wound. I had a routine visit to my cardiologist the following Tuesday and mentioned to him that I was experiencing weight gain and some increased shortness of breath. I returned the following week so he could test my O2 level under stress. While my oxygen level didn’t drop, my heart rate increased significantly. A prompt EKG revealed I was experiencing atrial fibrillation and was immediately sent to the hospital for observation and treatment. A new medication and four days of incarceration seemed to correct the problem and I was sent home on Friday. 

The next Monday I drove to the capital city for a regular follow-up with my kidney specialist. I mentioned the weight gain (20 pounds in 3 months). He decided I need to restrict my liquid intake to 2 liters daily and take a new diuretic in addition to the one I was already taking. That’s all I need…to pee more frequently. I can’t go much over 30 minutes without having to seek out somewhere to relieve myself as it is. I also need to up my potassium intake to compensate for what’s draining out of me. That started on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday evening I noticed my pulse rate was significantly elevated when I did my routine vitals check. I watched my pulse throughout the night and determined that I was back in afib, so I headed to the ER this morning to get it checked out.

It is my opinion that emergency rooms are one step above medieval torture chambers. After registering, I was shuttled off to a room and placed on a gurney that was designed by someone with a major sadistic problem. The bed might have been ergonomically correct, but comfortable was not in the equation. Next they poked a needle in me to draw blood. Ouch. They poked another needle in me in case an IV was needed. Ouch again. Eight electrodes were attached to my hairy chest (assuring more pain when they get ripped off) and I was tied to a heart monitor. An oximeter was placed on my finger, an oxygen cannula stuck under my nose, and a blood pressure cuff wrapped around my arm. Once I was effectively tied to the bed, they started a saline drip IV. This is on a guy pumped up with diuretics. I think the CIA might want to consider this treatment instead of waterboarding. After over an hour (remember I normally have to pee every 30 minutes) my bladder was screaming. After finally complaining to the nurses, they reluctantly unhooked me and let me visit the boy’s room. Whew! To reward them for their kindness I graciously provided them with a sample of my urine which they subsequently ignored.

After about four hours and some consulting over the phone with my cardiologist, they let me go with yet another prescription (that’s three new drugs in less than 2 weeks) and instructions to see the doctor on Friday.

Many thanks to my son who took a day of family medical leave to ferry me to and from the ER.

As for my leg wound, I’ve missed visiting the treatment center for two weeks now. I’m not sure how it’s doing, but I’m going to have it looked at tomorrow morning. It “feels” better, but I don’t think that’s much of an indication on how well it’s actually healing.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Life Goes On



If you follow this blog you're familiar with most of my health problems. I’ve complained about them often enough. One thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned is that I have chronic venous insufficiency. The tiny little valves in my veins don’t work as well as they should. They cause some of my blood to pool in my legs instead of returning to my heart. It’s aggravated by the fact that I’m pretty sedentary. The pooled blood seeps out of the veins and the iron in the hemoglobin stains the skin of my legs dark red. It’s called called venous staining. It also makes the skin scaly, itchy, dry and fragile. A lot of folks have never heard of it and I often get stares when I wear shorts. The picture above isn’t my legs, but it’s a pretty close approximation of what they look like. Sort of like I've been stomping grapes and forgot to wash my feet.



My other health problems just compound the problem. The cancer medicine I’ve been taking slows the healing process. The blood thinner I’m on slows the healing process. My diabetes slows the healing process. I guess you get the point. When I have a cut or a wound, it doesn’t heal nearly as fast as normal people. I also have some diabetic nerve damage below my knees, so I don’t feel a lot down there except a constant tingling like my feet are asleep. 


When I noticed a strange feeling on the back of my right leg about six weeks ago, I got a mirror to take a look. Surprise! I had a nasty looking ulcer on my leg about the size of an egg. Not a pretty sight. Trust me when I say you don’t want to see a picture of it. So I hustled myself into the local wound treatment center to get it checked out. They cleaned the wound and put a dressing on it along with some compression hose on both legs. The next week when they peeled the hose off, the hose on my left leg (not the leg with the wound), stuck to my skin and peeled off the top layer of skin creating a second wound. Now I had wounds on BOTH legs. It’s six weeks later and both wounds are healing very slowly.


In other news, I had a CT scan this past Tuesday and got the results back this afternoon. The bad news is that the cancer continues to grow in my right lung. It’s now about 4 times larger than it was when they first discovered it. There was a little bit of good news; some enlarged lymph nodes they were concerned about haven’t changed any and the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of my body. But the medicine that caused the mass to shrink significantly at first appears to have become ineffective against the cancer.


Doctor Whoosh is concerned about my leg wounds, and since the oral medicine I’ve been taking impedes the healing process, he took me off it and wants me to go cold turkey for five weeks to see if the wounds heal any faster. After that he’s planning to put me on a different medicine to see how that goes. The new one is intravenous, which means a four hour drive every two weeks to get the treatment. I’m not looking forward to that, particularly if it stretches into the winter months.

I also went in and had a hearing evaluation about three weeks ago. As I suspected, I have moderate hearing loss in the higher frequencies in both ears. My wife will confirm that. She's tired of me asking her to repeat herself all the time. I need hearing aids for both ears. My health insurance won't cover a dime. She's going to have to put up with me saying "What?" for a while longer.

Other than that, I feel okay. No new aches or pains. I'm just gradually getting a little slower as time passes. Since it appears that I'll be reaching the end of my road a little sooner than I expected a few years back, my wife and I have been busy putting our affairs in order. Last wills and various other end of life documents are now taken care of and we're trying to corral our various financial obligations as best as we can. Depressing stuff, but it needs to be dealt with now rather than when it's too late.

Life goes on. At least for the time being.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Trip To The Hardware Store

I was needing some plumbing parts a few days ago. Those of you that follow my blog know that plumbing is not a major part of my skill set. But the task before me was rather simple, so I took a trip to the local hardware store. The store is a large one that stocks everything from adhesives to zip ties and the plumbing supplies are all the way in the back of the store.

I’m not able to walk long distances without having to sit down and rest, so I dread visiting this store. I appreciate the stores that offer electrified shopping carts for the handicapped and rarely shop in places that do not. This particular store only offers two electric carts plus a couple of manual wheelchairs. This particular day both electric carts were in use. I needed the plumbing supplies, so I reluctantly decided to use one of the manual chairs.


While slowly pushing myself back to the plumbing section, I passed another patron riding one of the two electric carts. I didn’t say anything, but my mind was grumbling about it. Mostly it was about the store offering only two carts, but a little bit of my ire was directed at the other guy as well. I wasn’t a happy camper.


Moments later the other guy turned around and pulled up beside me. “Want to trade chairs?” he asked. I was dumbfounded. Why would this fellow want to push himself around in a rickety old manual wheelchair? It turned out that he was on his way to the checkouts and saw me struggling along. I eagerly traded carts with him and thanked him profusely. What a nice gesture! My bad mood instantly turned to one of happy gratitude.


Do kind things for others whenever you can. You'll feel better and you'll make their day a little brighter too.


"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
-Matthew 25:35-40 

By the way, I finished my plumbing job without a problem. I think that's a first...

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Major Upgrade

I've been holding off upgrading to a smart phone for quite a while. While I absolutely hated the mobile I had been using, I was to cheap to pitch it and take the next step. The main reason I didn't like the old phone was that it only took one button press from the main menu to pull up the Internet browser. I can't begin to count the number of times I butt-dialed the world wide web and wasted precious minutes. I tried locking the keyboard, but that was such a hassle when I wanted to place a call. Another reason was that the keyboard was so tiny. Even though I have relatively small fingers it was still hard to dial. I never did learn to text on it...and forget scanning a QR code with it. Applications? Forget that too. I think I downloaded two games for it, both of them were pretty crappy and playing them with the tiny keyboard was a struggle.

The decision to upgrade was forced upon me. I recently noticed the old phone was missing. I looked all over the house in the usual places and cleaned out the floorboard of the car, hoping it would turn up, all to no avail. Finally we decided to cook some steaks outside on the grill a few days ago. There, laying on the grill in a puddle of rainwater was my phone. It had been there for about a week, a week that it's rained just about every day.

I didn't even bother trying to turn it on. I got online and ordered a new smart phone on Friday.  It's supposed to be coming FedEx 3 Day Express, but with the holiday weekend I suspect I won't be getting it until about Wednesday or Thursday.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

I grew up in the middle of the 20th century. Even though I wasn't in the middle of the conflict, I watched the civil rights movement evolve on the nightly news. The women's rights movement became a big issue. Many other social issues came to the forefront and our political leaders struggled with how to calm the storms. Many laws were written. Many social injustices were addressed. Many of those laws were contested and eventually decided by the Supreme Court. Many of  those court decisions were sharply divided on religious and political boundaries.

Just because a law was passed doesn't mean that the problem no longer exists. It doesn't magically go away. Look at how many major federal laws have been passed regarding civil rights: 1991, 1968, 1965, 1964, 1960, 1957, 1866. Do people still discriminate against those who are different? Of course they do.

Discrimination is a fact of life. Is it right to discriminate? Of course not. Is a law going to make those who discriminate change their minds? Nope.

Multiple federal laws have made discrimination illegal. Those laws didn't prevent the recent mass murder in Charleston, South Carolina.  Roe V. Wade was decided in 1973, that was 42 years ago. Does everyone now agree that abortion is okay? Passing a law on social issues doesn't fix the problem. It's putting lipstick on a pig. It might look nicer, but it's still a pig.

If you have gone your entire life believing something, a law isn't going to change your mind about the matter overnight. You're going to struggle with the new idea for a long time. Maybe you'll change your mind, maybe you won't.

A few of my friends and even some of my children feel that the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage is the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. I have to admit that it's a struggle for me. Growing up in the 1950's and 60's, I was taught that homosexuality was wrong. I'm a religious guy and the Bible says it's wrong. It just feels wrong and I can't change how I feel about something just because the Supreme Court says it's okay.

Do I hate homosexuals? Do I want to go out and shoot a few of them? No, of course not. But it's like a bad itch to me. It bothers me. A lot. And it's not going to go away tomorrow, in fact I'll probably go to my grave feeling it's wrong.

Don't get in my face and tell me I'm wrong. It won't help and will just make it more difficult for me to accept. Understand that it's a big struggle for me to change my mind on a difficult issue. I won't tell you that you're wrong and will go to hell because you think it's okay for two people of the same sex to marry. I might think it, but I won't say it. You're free to think I'm a bigot. A close-minded old man who is behind the times. Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. A Supreme Court decision isn't going to change the way I think.

Give me some time.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Case of the Travelling Bras

Note: This is a guest post written by my wife.

Without giving out too much information let me say I am a difficult person to fit correctly when it comes to bras. So, when I see just the ones I need being advertised in one of those mailers that comes in the post, i immediately go online and order three. That was on June 19.

I admit, I’m rather spoiled when it comes to ordering things online. It is so convenient. Order today, get package delivered in less than five days. Usually. The bras I ordered online have been taking the scenic route. They started out in Los Angeles and then went to Walnut, CA, from there they went to Hespera, CA. Okay, California is covered. Next they show up in Holbrook, AZ. , then Fort Sumner, NM. Well that covers the Southwest pretty well so I track them as they go to Lebo, KS and then Edgerton, KS.  Next, I get a feeling my bras are not in Kansas anymore and sure enough, when I check, they are listed as residing in Earth City, MO.  (Perhaps for a back to nature retreat?)

I can’t wait so see where they go next. Surely they will be able to fit in a few days touring Canada? At any rate, they are scheduled to be delivered to me by June 30th, so they have plenty of time to take the Appalachian Trail if they choose.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Today is World Blood Donor Day, sponsored by the World Health Organization. The theme of this year's campaign is "Thank you for saving my life." It focuses on thanking blood donors who save lives through blood donations and encouraging more people to give blood. It's a worthy cause. Just one pint of blood can potentially save the life of three people. About every two seconds someone, somewhere, needs blood. And you can give blood more than once, you know. There are folks who donate as often as they can and have done so hundreds of times.

I take a medicine called warfarin. It's also known commercially as Coumadin or Jantovin. Many folks refer to it as a "blood thinner," but it doesn't really affect the viscosity or how thick your blood is. Warfarin affects the clotting properties of your blood. The more of it you have in your body, the longer it takes for your blood to clot. The main reason it's administered is to reduce the chances of a stroke due to a blood clot blocking a vessel to your brain or other vital organ. All medicines seem to have a negative side effect. The obvious one for this medicine is that if you have too much of it in your system you can bleed to death from a minor injury that normal people wouldn't even put a bandage on. They also use this stuff in rat poison. It makes the rats bleed to death internally when they eat enough of it. Because I have it running through my veins, I can't donate blood.

I also have to get my blood tested every four weeks just to make sure my blood still clots enough that I'm not going to bleed excessively if I cut myself somehow. Getting poked with a needle every four weeks isn't a whole lot of fun. I can think of much better ways to spend an afternoon, but I do it because I don't want to die the next time I decide to shave.

A person who specializes in taking blood samples is called a phlebotomist, or a phlebotomy technician. I like that word - phlebotomy. It's unusual and doesn't come up in conversation very often. Phlebotomy. Phlebotomy. Phlebotomy.

I'm what some phlebotomy technicians call a "hard stick." Although I will grant that the clinic where I routinely get my blood drawn almost always gets blood on the first try, that's not the case just about everywhere else. Other folks generally stick me at least two or three times, sometimes more. A few places have a policy that they will only try three times and after the second try they'll call in their best expert to do the job. I hate it when they go for the hand...that hurts unbelievably. I've been told my veins roll, that they collapse, or they just "blow out." I tried to donate blood a few times back when I was a younger man and not on these medicines. After a few tries, one of the ladies taking the blood told me "Don't come back. We don't need your blood that badly."

Some interesting facts about blood I looked up: The average person has a little over a gallon of blood running through their veins but a newborn baby only has about a cup. It's not recommended, but you can loose about 40 percent of your blood and probably still survive if there aren't other mitigating circumstances. A heart pumps over 82 billion gallons of blood in the average lifetime. If you're a normal person, you have about 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your body. The time it takes for a single blood cell to leave the heart and travel through your body back to the heart is only about 30 seconds. It would take about 1.2 million mosquito bites to completely drain your body of blood...although I've seen some pretty big mosquitoes in my lifetime that might tend to make that number somewhat lower.

In church we often talk about the blood of Jesus. We sing about being "washed in the blood" and how his blood cleanses us of sin. The concept is that God commanded animal sacrifices in the Old Testament to defer his punishment for the various sins that men committed. Animal blood took the place of human blood. Jesus changed everything. He gave his own blood, his life, as a permanent sacrifice for the sins of man. I guess you could call him the ultimate blood donor.

If that's the case, if Jesus made the final sacrifice, why should we worry about sin or eternal life in hell? The catch is the sacrifice is only good if you believe it. There are specific requirements to be included in the class action. Of course you need to hear about the sacrifice, what Jesus did, the details of the pain and suffering he went through. As I said before, you also need to believe the story is true. You need to accept that the idea that sin exists and that you, and everyone on earth, is guilty of sinning against God. Finally, you need to personally accept the sacrifice Jesus made, confess that you believe he is the true Son of God, and be baptized as a symbolic cleansing of your sins by the washing of his blood. The theme for World Blood Day is "Thank you for saving my life." In the case of Jesus, it's "Thank you for saving not just my life, but my very soul."

Monday, June 08, 2015

Left turn at Albuquerque

First, an update on my health. I reviewed the latest CT scan with Dr. Whoosh on Thursday. For the first time he showed me a copy of the images and pointed out the mass in my right lung. I had obtained copies of the scans myself and looked at them, but wasn't exactly sure what I was looking at. Now I have a better handle on what I'm seeing. The mass in my lower right lung is still growing at a slow pace. Although there was some dramatic shrinkage after I first started the oral therapy, the trend has reversed and the cancer is growing back. It's now slightly larger than it was when I first started the treatment. No changes to the therapy yet. I'm tolerating the medication very well and it does seem to be retarding the cancer growth somewhat. There are only a limited number of drugs that will work on this thing and they don't want to exhaust all their resources too quickly. Plus I might not tolerate the other medications as well. The fewer side effects the better.

Following the visit to Dr. Whoosh,  I took a weekend trip to see my cousin in West Chicago and pick up the wheelchair I bought on Ebay. The trip took a bit longer than it should have since I misread a map and got lost in Indianapolis for about 45 minutes. I also made the mistake of waiting too long to stop for the night in Champaign, IL.  Instead of stopping at one of the nice places we passed on I-74 W, I decided to wait until I made the turn on I-57 N to look for a hotel. Big mistake. I-57 north of Champaign is a black hole. The first sign we saw advertized a Microtel. The exit had absolutely no street lighting of any kind and the signage was pitiful. Lost in the dark, it took me fifteen minutes just to find my way back to the interstate. I never did see the hotel. The next exit at Rantoul offered a Day's Inn. We stayed there out of desperation. I requested a non-smoking room. What I should have requested was a non-smelly room. There was a definite odor of mold and mildew with a hint of chlorine from the indoor pool. I can cross "stay overnight in a crappy hotel in Rantoul, Illinois" off my bucket list.

We spent the next two nights in my cousin's beautiful home being wined and dined. A very pleasant stay to say the least. Terrific pork chops on the grill, all the coffee you could drink, a wonderful breakfast...hmm it seems I'm obsessing about the food. Well, it was good. I don't recall ever seeing a four-poster bed quite as tall as the one in her guest bedroom though. Thankfully she provided a stool to help climb into the bed. The top of the mattress was literally chest high. I also knocked one of the balls off the top of the finials when I leaned on it. It had been broken once before, but still I should have been more careful. Sorry, Alyce.

The wheelchair fits in the trunk of my car, but it fills  it up completely and is a bit difficult to load and unload. I'm going to need to do some work on the wheels. It doesn't roll as easily as it should. Perhaps some lube on the hubs or maybe new bearings. I haven't had a chance to take a really good look at the problem yet.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

LIfe Goes On

It's been six weeks since the last CT scan showed some growth in the spots on my lungs. I had another scan two days ago. I get to hear the results on Thursday. I waited around after the scan and got a CD with the images on them for both scans and looked at them already. Yeah, I can't interpret them at all, but in my layman's opinion the second one appears to be worse. I'm not looking forward to Thursday at all.

As I mentioned in my last post, Dr. Whoosh adjusted my cancer medication. I was taking three pills a day, he had me raise it to four pills per day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and told me to keep an eye on my blood pressure. After a couple of weeks, the blood pressure hadn't gone up a great amount, so I increased it to four pills every day as he had suggested. Nope...the blood pressure went up some more so I've dropped it back down to alternating three and four pills per day.

During the visit, the nurse practitioner noticed a rash on my wrist and asked about it. I explained that it was some contact dermatitis I had gotten from my wristwatch. Over the last couple of years I've gotten to the point that I can't wear any type of wristwatch without it causing a rash within a week or so. I've tried metal, plastic, fabric...all to no avail. She suggested a pocket watch and started joking around with my wife about how I'd look very distinguished in a waistcoat with a pocket watch on a gold chain, what with my white hair and beard. The conversation escalated, and by the time we left the office, my wife was making plans to dress me up steampunk style. I got hooked on the idea and we discussed it all the way home. By the time we reached home we had decided to create our own steampunk costumes and attend a steampunk convention somewhere.

Since I can't walk more that a few hundred feet without resting, I decided I'd need to invest in a wheelchair...so why not get one and steampunk it? I also don't want to make my wife have to push me around, so I'd need to motorize it. This all lead to my current project...building a steampunk wheelchair to take to a steampunk convention in Cincinnati in April of next year.

I've got a little over $200 invested in it already, but a good portion of the major mechanical and electrical components are already purchased. I'm hoping to bring it in at under $500. You can read about the ongoing project on my other blog at https://www.tumblr.com/blog/grampy0729. Note that you'll need a Tumblr account to view the blog.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wait and See


I just got back from still another visit to Dr. Whoosh, this time to evaluate a CT scan I had done a few days ago. The news wasn't as good as I had hoped, but not terrible. The masses in my lungs have grown a fraction which, I am told, is not unusual for this type of cancer. Not enough growth to be extremely worried, but a concern none the less. I'm scheduled for another scan in 6 weeks just to see if new growth is really happening and how fast. They also increased the dosage on the cancer medication. The last time I was at the new dosage I had some blood pressure problems, but my other medications have been adjusted since then...so we'll just have to see if the BP problem returns.

The doctor has moved a couple of miles away from his original location due to a need for more office space. It's a more shabby building and has a severe lack of parking. I had to park and walk about three times further than I'm able, so I had to stop and rest a couple of times. Also, the only parking I could find was metered. I wasn't expecting parking meters so I had to send my wife back with five bucks worth of quarters to feed the monster. After leaving I drove around to evaluate the parking situation a little better and discovered valet parking on the other side of the building. Sigh.

Otherwise things seem to be going well. I'm feeling good, spring has finally arrived, the sun is shining, and the wife is itching to get outside and work in the garden.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Logistics

I needed something from Wallyworld. Not just one something, several somethings. Well, actually, a lot of somethings. In fact, I needed more somethings than the local store ever stocks. So I ordered the somethings online. Over fifty dollars and delivery is free. I don't have to get out in the rain, drive there and back, carry the somethings out to my car, etc. You get the picture, the somethings just magically appear in a box on my doorstep. Which is nice.

I order the somethings online and, surprise, there's an order limit. You can't order more than a dozen somethings, and I need sixteen. But the problem has an easy solution, just make two orders. Order twelve in the morning and another four in the afternoon. To keep the second order over the fifty dollar limit and get free delivery, I added a couple of other little somethings I use on a regular basis. Common somethings that just about any warehouse would probably stock.

Both orders shipped the next day via the same carrier, Fedup. The big order is coming from a warehouse 467 miles away and is scheduled to be delivered today, two days later. The smaller order shipped from a warehouse only 243 miles away and Fedup estimates it will take a week to get here.

I'm not really complaining...I just don't understand the logistics.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Fixed

One last post about my windshield wiper problem. They're finally fixed. Before I took the car in this time, I did some more research online and found a service bulletin about how to fix the problem. I also printed out a screenshot from a video showing the defective part. Taking this info with me, I gave it to the service manager who was a bit skeptic about it. Twenty minutes later he was telling me that my info was correct and the wipers were working correctly.

Windshield wipers and I just don't seem to get along. I think I've mentioned before that I have wiper problems with my old 1988 Chevy pickup. The wipers on it work fine as long as it isn't raining. A little mist doesn't cause any problem, but a light drizzle causes them to stop working in delay mode. A steady rain makes them stop working in normal mode and you have to put them into fast mode to keep them working. The truck has so many other problems that I've stopped getting it repaired. I could spend twenty times what it's worth and still not have everything fixed that needs fixing. Eventually it will stop running and I'll have to put it out to pasture. Until then it's my standby for short trips when no other transportation is available. I wouldn't trust it for any trips out of the local area.

On the health front, I visited Dr. Whoosh's office last week. I put a stopwatch on him this time. One minute and four seconds from the time he opened the exam room door and he closed it on his way out. I did visit with his NP for a while and learned that all my blood tests are still looking good. I'm scheduled for another CT scan in about three weeks to see how things are progressing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The World May Never Know...

"Mister Owl, how many visits to the GM Service Center does it take to fix a defective windshield wiper?" 

"Ah-one...ah-two...ah-three...ah-four...ah-five...ah-six...."

Six...at least (I've lost count) and the problem still isn't fixed.

I have a lot of trouble believing that this is such a major problem. I Googled "2002 Impala Windshield Wiper" or something to that nature and found a ton of information on the problem I was having, including a lengthy video tutorial on YouTube for the exact make and model. It appears that it is a relatively common problem that many people have experienced. This is not a hole-in-the-wall garage, it's the largest GM dealership in southern Ohio but they don't seem to be able to find their backside with both hands and a mirror.

I'm pretty sure I've described the problem in previous posts, but I'll tell you again so you don't have to go back through half a dozen posts to find it.  The wipers were not folding back down in the correct position when they were turned off. Instead, they stopped sticking straight up making it look like you were driving through a pair of goal posts. This happened a while back and I drove around with them like that for almost a year. It  wasn't a major problem, so I waited until I needed something else repaired (wheel bearings) to have it done. I've tried to reconstruct the timeline below to the best of my memory....

  • Trip 1 - The wipers were supposedly fixed along with the wheel bearings and a few other minor things, I turned on the wipers after leaving and discovered they were still busted. I called them when I got home and scheduled another visit.
  • Trip 2 - They supposedly fixed them but, turning them on before I left, I discovered that although they folded down correctly when turned off, they stopped in mid-window in delay mode. The mechanic decided the new motor was bad and he would have to order another one.
  • Trip 3 - The second new motor failed to fix the problem, it must be the wrong part. They would have to order still another. The service manager gave me tickets for two free oil changes.
  • Trip 4 - They determined it was apparently not the motor, it was probably a special spring that was not available anywhere but from GM. They would have to special order one.
  • Trip 5 - They still couldn't get the wipers to work correctly so they gave me a loaner car and said they would call when they were fixed. Loaner car had plenty of nice features but was so small I could barely get my head in...and I'm only 5'9" tall.
  • Trip 6 - I drove their clown car for six days before the service manager called and guaranteed my wipers were working correctly. I turned the wipers on before I left this time...the original problem is back. Now they say it's not a mechanical problem, it's electrical and they have rescheduled me again for next week. 
I'm going to drive Vlad the Impala rather than try squeeze into their sardine can again.

On the health front, I'm still feeling okay. I had to cancel several doctor appointments due to the deep snow storms in February, so it's been well over a month since I've been checked. I have an appointment early tomorrow morning, I suspect they'll want to schedule a new CT scan soon to determine my progress.

One of the side effects of the medication I've been taking is supposed to be blisters on the bottoms of your feet. I haven't noticed any blisters, but I had some diabetic peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet before I started taking the medication. Up until now I attributed the discomfort to the neuropathy, but the bottoms of my feet have become increasingly sensitive and somewhat painful to walk on. I am suspecting the medication might have something to do with that. The tremors in my hands also continue to give me some problems but the neuropathy in them does not seem to have progressed to any significant extent.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Klaus Barbie?

Yes, it appears that Barbie Millicent Roberts has joined the National Socialist Party! 

I stopped at McDonald's today and picked up a girl's Happy Meal for my granddaughter. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the toy was Nazi Barbie. Notice that her right arm is raised giving a "Hitler Salute." In addition to this she has no knee joints, so she must goosestep everywhere she goes. 

She may not be wearing a brown shirt or a swastika arm band, but she might as well be.

Next thing you know,  Ken will be sporting a toothbrush mustache...

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Facing the Cold Hard Facts

My house is heated with propane. Each winter we usually go through about two and a half tank fulls. I've had it filled twice this year and, since we've had a colder than usual winter, I decided I ought to check the tank level on Monday afternoon. Oops...it was down to about 10%. A quick call to the dealer revealed they were really backed up with orders and didn't know how soon they could get to us. They were also rationing their supply so I couldn't even order a full tank. It's now Wednesday afternoon and we're still waiting on a delivery. I checked the tank again this morning, the needle is now hovering above the "E" and I don't think that stands for "Enough." All the heaters are turned down to their lowest settings to try to preserve what little is left. Time to throw on another blanket.

Update: 
Thursday morning. Shortly after posting the above, our electricity failed...our backup plan for heating the house. Then the snow started to fall. Six to eight inches were predicted. To our relief, the power returned after about an hour and the snow appeared to have stopped. Opening the door to check on the snow depth, the wife spotted a paper tag hanging on the outside door handle; a receipt from the propane company. At least we wouldn't freeze!

Upon waking this morning we were greeted with what looks like about a foot of freshly fallen snow. More snow than I can recall seeing at one time in many, many years. Beautiful, but it looks like my next doctor's appointment will need to be cancelled. That's at least three, maybe four, cancellations due to winter weather. I can appreciate, to some extent, what the Boston area has been going through.

Thank you, Lord, for the gas, electric, and all the other comforts we enjoy daily.

Updated update
Thursday evening. Less than five minutes after posting the first update our electric went off for about 8 hours. Snow continued throughout the day with a final accumulation of around 2 feet. At least we don't live in Boston...

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Bleah...

I had a visit to the oncologist scheduled for yesterday but had an upset stomach all night and experienced some dry heaves first thing in the morning so I rescheduled the visit for later this month. I didn't want to make a two hour trip feeling like that. This is the first time I've experienced that since my bradycardia event several months ago. I'm not sure it it was a side effect of my medications or I just had some sort of stomach bug. I'm feeling okay today, so that's a positive sign I guess.

It's been three weeks since I first went to Glock Nerds to get my car repaired. I made my third trip today and I'm still waiting to get the windshield wipers fixed properly.  The first trip they replaced the wiper motor but it just created a new problem with them. On the second trip I discovered that a new motor needed to be ordered. This third trip reveals that the wrong part was ordered. Perhaps the fourth trip next week will be the last...but I won't hold my breath.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snow Problem

Glock Nerds service department closed early on Monday due to the heaviest snow we've had in several years, so they didn't finish my car repairs until Tuesday morning. An additional day's rental fee goes to Innerpride, and I forgot to take my grandson's car seat out of the back. I'll have to go back down to pick it up on Thursday since I'll be heading out of town for another doctor's appointment on Wednesday. Also, Glock Nerds charged me for a new wiper motor and the wipers still don't work correctly. Before they "fixed" them, they worked correctly as long as they were turned on, but when turned off they stuck straight up instead of folding down. Now they work correctly when turned on full speed and fold down when turned off...but if you put them on time delay they pause in the middle of the windshield, right at eye level. I have a new appointment next Monday to fix them again, they promised to get me in and out the same day. We'll see about that.

As I said, I have another doctor's appointment tomorrow. I've been hearing rumors of more snow on the way, so I may have to cancel it. Crossing my fingers that it won't be bad, but it's just a routine check, so there's no urgent reason to keep the appointment if driving conditions are less than optimum. I'm still feeling good, no new side effects to report and my blood pressure and pulse have been pretty stable. I did experience a slight dizzy spell about a week ago, but I believe it was due to low glucose levels. A small can of fruit juice seemed to fix the problem. The wound on my chest from the infected gland is still healing slowly, mostly due to my diabetes and maybe the blood thinners I'm on. I'm guessing another month or two before it's healed.

My wife has been suffering from a major sinus cold for several days and has gone into hibernation. I'm surprised that I haven't caught it yet. I've had a runny nose for almost a week, but otherwise I'm feeling fine. Makes me wonder if maybe the cancer medication I'm on might be part of the reason.

Update - Saturday Morning: After they fixed the wheel bearings, etc., they of course had to realign the wheels. I'm now feeling a noticeable shimmy when driving over 45 mph. I called Glock Nerds yesterday and had them add "check wheel alignment" to my Monday visit. I'm now hoping they can still get me in and out the same day. I certainly don't want to visit Innerpride for another rental. Being without reliable transportation is a major inconvenience.