Cancer Free and Now I Can SEE!!
Well I've finished my two weeks in Houston for my base line study and cataract surgery. All my scans show no sign of cancer! It appears I’m no longer dying …well not of cancer anyway!
The eye surgery went well and I can’t believe how well I can see! I can see the hair on an ant’s ass a mile away! Or is that the hair on an aunt’s ass a mile wide??? Anyway…I can see things I must have been missing for years. I’m like a child with a new toy. Only this one is hard to break and even harder to misplace!
When I went in for my barium swallow test with my speech therapist, Deince Perez, (I just love her and yes that's how she spells her name) I had to change into a gown in the bathroom. I have been in this bathroom many times and never really paid attention to my surroundings. On the wall I spot a coin operated machine made of stainless steal that accepted quarters. I’ve seen it before, but this time I noticed two symbols on the machine and slot for coins next to each symbol. One appeared to be for a tampon, but the other I was unfamiliar with. Not to say that I am very familiar with tampons mind you!
I was thinking it might be condoms, but that would be silly to have a condom machine in the hospital, right? Well, I had to ask Denice what it was. This new eyesight has me looking at the world through a child’s eyes. I called Denice to the door and pointed at the box on the wall. “What’s that for?” Poor girl turned 6 shades of red, maybe even a little purple. She said, “Nobody’s ever asked me a question like that before! It’s for tampons.”
I had to laugh at her embarrassment, “I got the tampon one, what about the other one?” As her red turned neon she replies, “I’m going to say… maxi pads.” OK, so as a guy I have no idea, but now that I can see clearly again, I just had to ask!
The barium swallow test was set up because every morning I wake up I’m unable to swallow properly. The liquid does not want to go down, instead I become a sprinkler as it proceeds to squirt out my nose! After some use by midday I can swallow with some normality again. Dr. Clayman recommended for me to stick my fingers down my throat and stretch it out. Well I will say it helps but it sure ain’t pleasant!
The swallow test showed something a bit odd. Par for the course…when have I EVER been normal? I’m only swallowing down the left side of my throat. The odd thing about this is…it’s where they sutured the tongue flap and that side is the side that has more of a tendency to atrophy. My good side, the side untouched by surgery, was not allowing the liquid to go down. No explanation was given.
Denice wants to try to wean me off the feeding tube by beginning a diet that will be processed in a blender. So I’ve been given a cook book on how to make my meals. No fuckin way am I making pizza in a blender…and yes there is a recipe for that! I have been making shakes for some time and adding protein powder to aid in the healing process, but something about Lasagna from a blender just isn’t normal! As everything else with this experience, I’ll take it one day at a time!
I’m never really hungry. I have some taste, but since I can’t chew there’s not much enjoyment. When I do attempt to chew, a small portion of the tongue flap pops it’s way between my molars. Think of a balloon half full of air and when you apply pressure to the middle, it bulges on the side. This bulge then gets caught between my teeth and causes great pain.
Pain?? Yes…during the operation the plastic surgeon attached a rogue nerve to the flap. I can’t seem to feel hot or cold, but I sure as hell know I’ve bitten it! I might need to have a second operation to make “adjustments” to the flap. It was explained that this could interfere with my speech, but if it allows me to eat regularly I’m all for it.
While I was in Houston, a life long friend, Pom (Pomeroy) made a quick visit to see me… and I do mean quick. He traveled from Dallas to Houston in 17 minutes. Yes that’s right 17 minutes! How you ask? A US Air Force F-18 Fighter Jet. Yes, he is my very own Pom Pilot. He arrived in his flight suit, we drove over to Starbucks for some coffee then back to Dallas he flew. He is always there when I need him, one of my true friends.
I seem to run into so many people who have been touched by cancer. On my way home I sat next to a young man. We began to converse. Then the question he asks, “What brought you to Houston?” I explain, “Cancer.”
He tells me his story. He is a cancer survivor. His cancer was of the stomach. Our war stories are similar. He shares with me that both his parents died of cancer and he wasn’t suppose to survive. He’s been cancer free for 10 years. A happy ending!
I hail a cab to take me home from the airport, a 30 minute ride. During the ride I make small talk with the cabbie. As we pull into the driveway he asks, where I had gone. I tell him I was in Houston being treated for cancer. Forty Five minutes pass as we sit in the drive discussing cancer. He is a cancer survivor. He had cancer of the esophagus and went through similar head and neck therapy as I had. He has been cancer free for over 15 years. A happy ending!
I hope it's time for my happy ending...until next time!
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For first time readers...my journey begins here: THE VERY FIRST BLOG POST (CC1)
Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
LIVE From MD Anderson Cancer Center
WE SHALL SEE... IN THREE D
Yes folks I'm back in the saddle again!
I've arrived for a weeks worth of tests and a surgery. I can't explain how tired I still am. So exhausted!
Over the last month I have had some very strange things happen. The likes of which the doctors can't explain. They say bad news comes in threes. What about triplets, 3-3-3?
For three days I've experienced pain in my arm pits! When my biceps rubbed against my chest I was in a lot of pain, causing me to walk around with my arms up like Popeye. Then I had a stabbing pain in the back of my neck for three days, as if someone were driving in a nail, but only in a very small spot, not at all like a headache. Then I experienced what I can only liken to arthritis in EVERY bone in my body for three days. You name a bone...it was stiff and hurt so badly when moved I stayed in bed the whole three days! After all that I was normal...oh wait normal by my standards!
So here I am back at MD Anderson Cancer Center. On Monday, I had a CT Scan and chest x-rays as a baseline study to use as a comparison for future evaluations. After which, I saw Dr. Clayman. He was extremely happy with the scans. So happy in fact, that he doesn't want to see me until next August, which is a bit rare. They usually want to see a patient every two months for the first year to see if the cancer returns. So, I either kicked cancer's ass or I'm so much of a pain in the ass that they don't want me back! Stop laughing. I hear you!!!
While I was in Dr. Clayman's office I mentioned that I still didn't have a resolve on my fluoride dental trays and with one wave of his famous magic scalpel he summoned the head manager of all the nurses and we talked about some problems for almost 40 minutes. She actually listened, interpreted, gave her own views, and took action. WOW!
When we finished she took me directly to the dentist office, no appointment, no waiting, no problem, and no excuses! The dentist was waiting, apologized for the inconvenience and presented me my fluoride trays explaining the charge would be removed from my bill. We talked, he listened and explained his side. FINALLY a two way conversation, with two people in one day! Too many times I have felt I have not been heard. Can you believe that??? Me not being heard???? Now I'm laughing!
The hospital appears more organized to me this trip. More staff, many in training and it seemed there are a lot less patients here than before.
As I write this I am in the hospital again for an overnight observation due to eye surgery. Remember today I had my cataract removed. I LOVE MY EYE SURGEON!!! What a doll! Dr. Stella Kim. A small woman with delicate features and delicate hands.
I arrived at 9 AM for a 9:30 appointment. I was checked in, vitals were taken and I was told to wait in the lobby. About 9:20 I was reading on my laptop in the lobby when I felt a quick tap on my shoulder as a breeze blew past me. It reminded me of playing tag as a child. As I looked up, walking with a quick pace, never stopping, I spot Dr. Kim's sweet smiling face. She beamed ear to ear and said, "See you soon." Then she disappeared down the hall.
At 10:40 AM, my nose still buried in my laptop I hear a stern women say, "What are you still doing here?" As I look up I see sweet Dr. Kim, only this time her face is a bit stern. I explain I was told to wait. She went back into the office and the whole staff stood to attention. This little Asian doll has balls! "Someones going to hear about this," she let's them know she is not happy about the error.
Well you guessed it. I was ushered in immediately. Cap, gown, compression socks, booties, handed to me with speed. The process begins. Anesthesia, drip,drip,drip, I get comfortable as if having a few drinks, but not totally out. Does that come in Jack Daniels? Drops to the eye for numbing and to prevent infection, then I'm almost ready.
Into the O.R. we go. There's that smiling face again, so kind, loving, and honest. Dr. Kim holds my hand and says, "I'll take good care of you." Of that I have no doubt. I trust her wholeheartedly.
They numb the eye with more drops, place an oxygen tube in my mouth, then place a device to keep my eye open as she works.
The procedure is called Phacoemulsification (fak-o-e-mul-sih-fih-KA-shun). During this procedure, the surgeon removes the cataract but leaves most of the outer layer (lens capsule) in place. During phacoemulsification, the surgeon makes a small incision — about 1/8 inch or 3 millimeters (mm) long — where the cornea meets the conjunctiva and inserts a needle-thin probe. The surgeon then uses the probe, which transmits ultrasound waves, to break up (emulsify) the cataract and suction out the fragments. The lens capsule remains in place to provide support for the lens implant.
Once the cataract has been removed, a clear artificial lens is implanted into the empty lens capsule. This implant, known as an intraocular lens (IOL), is made of plastic, acrylic or silicone. It requires no care and becomes a permanent part of your eye. You'll likely need reading glasses after cataract surgery.
Some IOLs are rigid plastic and implanted through an incision that requires several stitches (sutures) to close. However, many IOLs are flexible, allowing a smaller incision that requires no stitches. The surgeon can fold this type of lens and insert it into the empty capsule where the natural lens used to be. Once in place the lens unfolds to about 1/4 inch (6 mm) in diameter.
Recent advances in IOLs include lenses that filter out ultraviolet light — also known as blue-blocking lenses. This was the type I was fitted with. Other types of IOLs provide multifocal vision — being able to see things both near and at a distance. Multifocal lenses offer reasonably good near and distance vision. However, vision at the intermediate range is sometimes less than satisfactory. Glare is reportedly a problem with multifocal lenses, but design improvements are ongoing.
My new lens now in place, I find myself in a familiar hospital room arguing with room service about getting something to eat. I am still on my feeding tube. I can eat things like yogurt, ice cream, and puddings, but my chart says "CLEAR liquid diet." They won't let me order. I have to bargain with my nurse to get it changed to "soft food."
I feel like an attorney presenting a case. Eye surgery...HELLO!!!??? How does that affect diet? Does everybody that has eye surgery get water or juice for dinner? I know I have a feeding tube, but I want a banana smoothie, chicken soup, and pudding. Why is this a problem? Is it hazardous to look at food with a new implant? Are you afraid the eyeball will fall out during dinner, making more difficult to retrieve from chocolate pudding than say, Ice Tea?
For the third time in three days..humm again with the threes, a conversation takes place were someone listens, interprets, gives their view, and takes action. My nurse grants permission to change my chart to "soft food." She was outwitted. I've had plenty of rest!
To add to today's excitement, I checked my phone messages: My mom is back in the hospital, in Michigan, with severe breathing problems again, her second time in less than a week. Big surprise...SHE'S SMOKING AGAIN! I received a call from a neighbor asking if I was alright due to the fact that a fire truck and EMS squad were in front of my home. WHAT????
Yupper, apparently the house medic alert button went off and the alarm company dispatched even though my cousin, who is on their call list, told them it had to be a false alarm. I find it odd that on the same day and approximately the same time both mom and I are admitted to hospitals in different states, the medic alarm goes off at the house, in yet a another state. How odd, three states, another THREE occurrences.
I'm now fed, well...felt like I was anyway. I know I still need the feeding tube gruel for my health and nutrition. I long for the day to chew real food again! Now one of the youngest members of the ocular implant club, I can rest from another long day. With all this experience I'll be a doctor in no time. There's more than one way to get a degree. Would you consider this "street smarts" or "book learning?"
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
God bless everyone!
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