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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

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Cancer Chronicles 19

LIVE From MD Anderson Cancer Center


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!



Maureen said...

Hi Brian,
I have been wanting to comment, but really didn't know what to comment right now.
How about just taking the {{hug}} I'm sending ya. Will that do for now??
Please feel better soon, damn it!

Dr. Swill said...


Just saying Hi is enough for me. Thank you so much for your love. I'm doing well and can now see so much better the world is indeed a brighter place.

When I started this blog I expected many more questions and comments, but I guess people just don't know what to say at a time like this, so they just read. I know they are there, the counter at the bottom tells me so, but the comments are few. Yours always brighten my day. Thank You!!!


Maureen said...

Where are you????
Are you ok?
Please check in, even if you don't add another chapter.

Dr. Swill said...

Hey Maureen,

I'm still here. Thank you for asking. I just got home a few days ago. The traveling takes waaaay too much out of me. I've been trying to catch up on sleep, but I'm here and alive and will post soon.

Hugs back at ya!!!


Maureen said...

Hi Brian!
I don't know when you will see this, but I wanted to be sure to wish you a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.


Dr. Swill said...

Thank you so much! This truly will be a day for giving thanks even if dinner comes out of a blender! I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!

Dr. Swill said...

Welcome Greece and Thank you!
I will be having my left eye done on Dec 14 if all goes well.

Thank you for reading!
Peace B

Anonymous said...

Good Afternoon

Just wanted to show my appreciation for your time and hard work

Dr. Swill said...

Thank you, whoever you might be????


Words To Live By:

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