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For first time readers...my journey begins here: THE VERY FIRST BLOG POST (CC1)

Meaning of life

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." ~ Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Cancer Chronicles 7

Well gang …I’m BACK!!! I’m having so much fun here in Houston I’ve decided to stay!

Thank you so much for your cards, letters, calls, and love. It really makes me feel good to know you are all still there!

Let’s play catch up. I came to Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center to have the tongue cancer removed, and they removed it. Boy, did they remove it! Here’s the deal….First they knock you out, then they plan your slow death while you sleep. Need further explanation?

In The Operating Room:

They cut over ½ my tongue out, more than originally anticipated. Maybe I used the “F” word once too many times! Ok now we have to find something to replace the cancerous tongue. I got it!!! Let’s take a 4 X 6 inch piece of skin from the wrist and cut it completely out. We’ll call it “a flap” Gee, how do we fix the wrist??? Let’s shave a 5 X 7 inch section of skin off the thigh and graft that skin over the forearm. Now that we are ready put the flap in we see he has an extremely small mouth. Betcha never guessed that would happen! To fix that we’ll just cut the ends of his mouth about an inch to get better access. While we are slicing, let's slice the throat so we can add a tracheotomy to our list of DOs. Oh and I must mention that the lymph nodes in the neck must come out. Let’s dissect the neck cutting from ear to Adam’s apple and dig out 20 or so of them puppies!

Well now he can’t talk, swallow, or barely breath. GREAT JOB people, lets go home!!! One lone nurse raises her hand and asks, “Can’t we at least feed the poor guy?? Well alright let’s shove a rubber tube down his nose to his stomach and suture it to the inside of his nose. Just make sure those sutures are excruciatingly tight and secure! 10 1/2 hours later…Time to go home people!

In ICU I wake in a bed that feels like the bucket seat in a sports car. Great drugs by the way! Recommend them “high”ly. Tubes, IV’s, Drugs, Nurses, Doctors, Doctor's Assistants, People taking vitals, and Cleaning People round the clock, it never ends. After 1 ½ days after the operation the Plastic Surgeon came in to ask how I was doing and I told him I felt like I was run over by a truck. He looked at me in amazement and said, “You can talk?” Not well, I feel like I have a sock in my mouth and I sound like a two year old with a speech impediment. Does that make me eligible for "the short bus?" He told me I was very fortunate that I was able to speak at all, especially so soon after surgery. It wasn’t my voice and I wasn’t happy.

I was visited by so many professionals I can't remember all their names. I don't even know what they all did except get paid! One bit of great news was when Dr. Clayman stepped in and announced proudly, "I think we got it all!" He was genuinely happy for me. Great news!!!

After 3 days in ICU they found me a room of my own, very nice. A private room with shower TV and nice furniture, and $100,000 bed with a hard bucket seat, very uncomfortable. After a few days of that, my ass was getting bed sores. I had to figure out how to use the adjustable digital air mattress myself. I don’t think anybody there actually knew how, not my job kinda thing. After that my butt was more comfortable, but the soars are still with me and now have a Wound Care Specialist. Hummmm let’s give him bed soars and then charge him to fix them….can you say Cha-Ching!

Now back in my apartment having been released last Wednesday, May 2nd, I have been trying to relax getting used to the tube feeding formula. Friday I went for a barium swallow test, to see if I would be able to eat solid foods soon. Simple answer...NOPE! Just clear liquids. They give you different items to swallow; water, apple sauce, yogurt, one at a time. Then they perform a live x-ray to see how everything in your mouth is working. I think the barium that is mixed with the items allows the swallowed items to show up better on film. This helps to see if anything is going down the wind pipe and how well the movement in the oral cavity is. This is going to be a long term recovery. Let’s take out the short term nose feeding tube and let’s insert a longer term PEG tube into the belly.

NOW…Remember I told you I was having so much fun I decided to stay? Here is why...today the crowning blow. After being told they thought they got all the cancer during surgery, I was told that the cancer had spread into the lymph nodes and past the outer layer. Dr. Clayman delivered the blow with loving grace. He was truly upset.

WHAT EVER DO WE DO NOW? Radiation Chemotherapy!!! SIX WEEKS of it!! FIVE days a week. F**K! OK, sorry had to get that out! Oh and by the way ALL of my swear words I can speak clearly, go figure.

Isabel has to leave next Wednesday. She’s been a great help and has been here a long time doing so. I applaud her for her patients. While I’m at it I’ll applaud myself for mine! I don’t know how I’m going to get through the radiation alone but I have no choice. Anybody want to visit Houston??? Give me a shout!

Throughout this life altering journey there have been many angels. One recent one was a Tech named Bunmi (Boomie.) She’s as cute as her name. A little ebony angel (think Beyounce’s younger sister with brains.) She came everyday with her laptop to check my new tongue flap. The doctors inserted a wire under the flap and used a device similar to a fetal Doppler and Bunmi evaluated its progress. They wanted to make sure adequate blood flow was keeping the flap healthy. I thought that was her job. She was actually writing a paper with my Plastic Surgeon on tongue flaps. She starts her residency to become a surgeon herself in the fall.

One day I was alone in my room and Bunmi came in to check the flap. On her way out she turned slowly and softly asked, “Mr. Walin, I don't normally do this but…would you mind if I prayed for you?" Well it couldn't hurt??? I thought she’d go home and pray for me. But to my surprise, she closed the door, sat on my bed, held my hand, and prayed for me. Afterwards she held me close and I cried. A cleansing cry that was well over due. I hadn't yet cried throughout this whole experience. It was very moving and very sweet. She visited me everyday, even after she was done recording my flap, until I was released from the hospital. A true angel.

Thank God for angels!

Peace B

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"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others." -Mahatma Gandhi