Monday, July 31, 2017

Ramping It Up

First of all, I want to say thank you to the deacons and other fellows who built a new wheelchair ramp for us a couple of weeks ago. Superb work, guys!  It’s just what we needed to help me in and out of the house on my “bad” days.

That said, I feel like we’re in the middle of a TV reality show around here. One of those old house renovation sagas where they’re doing renovation work and they keep running into problems that weren’t in the original plans. Things like, “Oops! That wall we’re knocking out is a load bearing wall!” or “The foundation is crumbling and you’ve got enormous termite damage!” In our case, when the guys sunk posts for the ramp, they accidentally cut the gas line coming into the house. We sort of expected that, so it was no big deal. We had the gas company come out to fix the line for a reasonable price, but in the process two more problems came up.  First they discovered there was a leak somewhere.  After checking their work and all the connections in the house, they finally found it in our dark, dank, seldom used cellar. Wow…we could have blown ourselves up!  Second, while they were digging a new trench for the gas line, they hit an old 220 V. live electrical line that my late brother-in-law had buried years ago. The scary part is that the circuit breaker didn’t kick out when they hit it. Still working on getting an electrician out to work on that problem. To compound problems, the day after the gas company fixed the line, we had an all-day rainstorm that washed all the dirt out of the trench. We’re going to need to haul some dirt in to fill the trench back up. The heavy rain also revealed that we have a leak in our porch roof. I’m wondering what the next problem is going to be.

On the health front, the immunotherapy has been discontinued and my oncologist has pretty much cut me loose. I have a follow-up appointment with him in a couple of weeks, but I think that’s just curiosity on his part to see if I’m still alive by then. The cancer has pretty much consumed about 80-90% of my right lung and is moving into my central airway, apparently heading for my left lung. I have good days and bad days. On a good day, my atrial fibrillation calms down and I can get up and move around the house without a lot of problems. On a bad day my heart flip-flops like a fish on dry land. I just sit in my recliner and try to relax. I’m also coughing a lot more lately. I think it’s the cancer making me feel like there’s something down there that needs to be coughed up. I wish I could.

I guess I can announce to the world that I’m going to be a “grampy” again. My second son and his wife are expecting twin boys in October.

Well, I’ve got a fly pestering me that has been trying to land on my nose for the last 15 or 20 minutes. I’m going to close this post and go find a fly swatter.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Going and going, and going...

Several folks have asked me if I planned to post anything more in Dry Crusts, so here I am at the keyboard again. I don’t know how many more posts I’ll get in, but here’s another one.

I’ve been home about a week now following another trip to the hospital. This trip was probably the most serious one so far. One of my nurses said I’m like the Energizer Bunny, I just keep going and going. One of the Energizer commercials mentions that their bunny has a furry little tail. After this last trip, MY furry little tail is feeling pretty bedraggled.

This episode started when I had a coughing fit that lasted about an hour.  Couldn’t put two words together. Once I stopped coughing I couldn’t get my breath. After about three hours, it finally occurred to me to check my oxygen level. I was at 60% saturation when I’m normally 98 or 99%. Most folks pass out at around 55%. I decided it was time to make a trip to the emergency room. I got to the local ER and they put me on a Cpap machine, but it didn’t help. I don’t think they were sure what to do next. My wife insisted they send me to Gotham hospital to see if they could help. A two hour trip, they said I  needed to be stabilized before life-flighting me there in a helicopter. That meant ventilation. They knocked me out, put a tube down my throat and sent me North. 
Since it was the weekend, nothing was done until the following Monday. I remained in stasis for about three days before they got around to working on me. I have no memory of anything from the time they knocked me out until I woke up in Gotham except for being in a sort of gray limbo and somebody telling me to squeeze their hand if I could hear them. Once they did a broncoscopy, they discovered a mucus plug had formed in my good lung and caused it to collapse. Once the lung was reinflated, they woke me back up.

I’ve been told that to come off a ventilator and not have any major problems is highly unusual and that I’m a very lucky guy. Personally, I don’t think luck had anything to do with it. I have dozens of people praying for me both locally and elsewhere. You won’t convince me that isn’t what pulled me through this time.

I talked to my oncologist Thursday and he said the imunotherapy treatments have done just about all they can do for me and decided to terminate them. Of all the  patients he put on this therapy at the same time as me, there are only two still alive. I am one of them. But it looks like it’s getting close to the end of the trail for me unless some other miracle treatment is discovered. The end could come tomorrow or maybe six months from now, everybody is different. It’s up to me now to make sure I stay healthy and breathing deeply for as long as I can.

Thanks to EVERYONE for your prayers and well-wishes. It does a WORLD of good.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Return of Grampy

Returning once again from a long absence, do I need to apologize again? Okay, sorry. After that hospital stay back in December, I kind of got out of the habit, plus I was sort of home bound for a while. Nothing particulary interesting or funny about sitting in a recliner 18 hours a day watching “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and “Jeopardy.” It kind of puts a damper on your creativity and zest. I received a substantial monetary offer by a major drug manufacturer to participate in an online cancer discussion group for a week, so I’m trying to get back in the swing of things. While I’m already at the computer I’ll update you with a tale of my recent activities.

At last post, I had gotten out of the hospital and was regaining my strength, hoping to be able to drive again. The chance to drive I was anticipating didn’t happen, but I did manage to do so about a week later with no major catastrophies. As for my stamina and walking, I’m still not able to get around quite as well as before the last hospitalization. For any long distances I need a wheelchair. I can walk short distances, up to about 75 to 100 feet or so on my own, for the in-between distances I’m able to use a walker.

When I got out of the hospital back in December, we mentioned to one of my many doctors that a walker would be helpful and we were assured that would happen. After a few weeks, no walker materialized and I happened to complain to someone (who has asked to remain anonomous) and they said they had one in storage that I could have. When I no longer need it, just pass it on to someone else. Great! The next day I had a sleek shiny like-new walker that was just perfect. No bells or whistles, just your basic walker frame, which is what I needed.  Two days later the Medicare provided walker arrived. Once assembled, the first thing we noticed was that it was too wide to fit through a normal door. It’s a tight fit even sideways. It won’t fit in the trunk of our car either. Wheels, brakes, a little chair to fold down that you can sit on, any fancier and it would have a horn, headlights and require a license to operate. I think this is the same walker that Godzilla used while recuperating from his last attack on Tokyo. If you look hard enough you might find a label that says “Hummer” on it. Wondering why medical costs are getting so high? While there are many reasons, overkill on things like this are a part of it.

For the last month or so my extreme shortness of breath returned along with a severe cough. I was worried that the cancer was growing back into my middle airway and another broncoscopy  would be needed. For a while I couldn’t go more than two or three minutes without having a severe coughing fit I was unable to control. After consulting with several doctors in various disciplines, nobody could find a reason. After a visit to a throat specialist (more on that to come) and a squirt of some sort of lubricant up my nose so they could snake a camera inside my head, the coughing cleared up for about 24 hours. Although not confirmed by anybody with an M.D. behind their name, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s mainly due to severe sinus drainage. Fingers crossed, a triple whammy of Flonase, Vick’s Vaporub and Sudaphed seems to be helping to stifle my cough.

Now, more about the throat specialist. I’ve complained several times about the voice-to-text capabilities of my answering system. I now have another one to add to the list.  The doctor’s name is spelled strangely, not enough vowels. When pronounced it sounds sort of like “Maturka.” Run it through my answering machine and she becomes “Doctor Metallica.” I mentioned the humorous translation and she was delighted with it.

My next CT scan is in mid-April so I should have more news on my progress then. My oncologist told me at my last visit that I’m beating the odds. A few years back and I’d be dead by now. Keep the prayers and good wishes coming!

Hey, this has been fun! I should do it more often!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I've Got Cabin Fever!

It’s been two months since my last post, so I guess I should say something to let folks know I’m still around. I haven’t been in a writing mood lately and have been putting this off for a while.
At my last post I was preparing to go to the wound center for an open lesion on my left leg. That one healed pretty quickly, but a couple of new ones popped up on my right leg that took a while longer to heal. All better now, but I’m continuing to wear some compression hose on both legs to keep down the edema.

My church has a special service on Thanksgiving weekend every year and a few of the men are invited to speak about what they’re thankful for. Since things had been going very well for me, I asked to be one of the speakers back in October. At that time I was up and walking around without oxygen and feeling extremely good. Lots of things to be thankful for! By the time Thanksgiving rolled around I was still doing well but wasn’t able to stand for extended periods and had to rely on a stool to support me while I spoke. Soon I was back on oxygen 24/7 and barely able to stand up. I was admitted to the hospital in Gotham on Dec. 7th for extreme shortness of breath. A thoracentesis treatment drew 1.4 liters of fluid off my right lung and a bronchoscopy followed the next day. The surgeon removed some additional fluid from inside my lung and trimmed back some of the cancer that was invading my middle airway that was causing some of the shortness of breath. Too bad they couldn’t get all of it. After 11 days, I returned home shortly before Christmas.

I’m still recovering my strength and am still on oxygen 24/7. I have only been out of the house once for a follow-up visit to Dr. Whoosh a couple of days ago. I get to try driving tomorrow, taking my wife out for a couple of errands. I resume my immunotherapy treatments on Friday.

Things have been pretty dull lately, sitting around watching TV, reading, playing computer games, doing a little Photoshopping, and taking long naps. Looking forward to being able to drive again, hoping tomorrow’s outing goes well. I'm getting cabin fever...