Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dear Friends of Robert Miller
Thank you for all the support and caring words (and humor) you gave to Robert during his experience with cancer.
He so enjoyed hearing from you and you lifted his soul at a very dark time.
Robert passed away March 27th shortly after midnight.
Dawn (Linda)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

No Title is Better Than a Morbid One

I wrote what follows the other day and couldn't finish. Lack of energy, depression, pick one of a hundred reasons.  Thanks to okjimm and his last post, "If you you can't write, dance," I am inspired enough to throw this one on the table and maybe have a go on finishing it.   Geez, jimm but you're my lifeasver.

Seeing that I have no one to talk to during the day, save for endless phone calls to medical people, my conversation is limited to the two pictured above.

"How 'bout a kiss?" I ask Mandy who just trotted into the living room.  Her mother raised no fool, but I still fall for the routine where she'll put her paws on the recliner and lean forward toward my face to give me a great big slurp across my whiskery face.  Not knowing if she's been recently dining in the litter box, I'll pull back and avoid the slurp.  Must be the drugs I'm taking because, I'll stick my face back down close to hers as if I really want a kiss.

Like I said, Mandy's no fool and hip to the routine.  In dog-speak "Gimmeakiss" means ,"Hey, he's going to let me smell his breath."  Having been foiled at the dog trick of licking something in order to intensify the smell and include her saliva in the olfactory mix, she'll be smug satisfied in knowing that I just ate that fortune cookie lying atop the microwave.  I don't read the fortune to her because they're really lame comments on life. I wanna know how long this suffering is going to continue, whether Dawn will win the lottery and I can buy the hospital or in the very least, buy my own doctor with advanced degrees and plenty o' smarts. The last part is my fondest wish.

Remember the last post? The hour long visit with the nurse and a bout on my part of terminal complaining?

After two days, I ask Dawn to call the oncology doctor about some of the questions I raised in the aforesaid meeting.  The doctor ignores any immediate concerns like when will the torture by nausea end and responds by having an underling make an appointment for a PETSCAN on Monday of this week.  I thought it odd that I wasn't given the usual instruction about no food after midnite, etc. etc.  I did ask if they were going to do do the radioactive flouride injection.  "Oh no," the nurse says.

You see, if I have one more poison floating around my head I'll flip out.

We go through all the hoops, blow all the whistles and Dawn says she must have a friendly looking face when people in the hospital parking lot start gabbing at her about the weather and a lady in the waiting room from Decorah won't stop with the chin music about yada, yad, yada.  The PETSCAN machine is located in a trailer off to the side of the hospital.  To get in, the burly guy who escorts me hits an auto open switch on the hospital wall forcing two large doors to open.  Then he has to lift a garage type overhead door on the trailer.  This forces a blast of cold air into the trailer.  The lab tech is wearing a T-shirt and was trained in Nome, so it doesn't affect him.  I'm escorted to a two seat theater at the rear where, you guessed it, they inject the radioactive fluoride and tell me I'll have to wait about an hour for the "sugar water" to course through my veins.

That's it. End of story?  No sirree Bob.

The doctor calls the next day to say the PETSCAN reveals something unusual about my liver. Boy o boy. Just what I needed to hear.  "It could be a false/positive. We need to have a CT scan. Can you make it here by noon?"  (It's 10:30 am).

This is Tuesday.  By Friday of the same week and speaking to five different people, Dawn is able to get a reasonable appointment for the CT scan.  Labs at 9:30 am ff. by the CT scan.  Previously, because the CT dept. is short staffed, they wanted me to show up at 8:00 am.  That means getting up at 6 am, skip feeding the dog, drive for an hour on a two lane highway over ridgetops, coulees and three major 20% grades with slow traffic lanes.

I spend hours on the phone with my angel of a primary care doctor who weaves me in and out of the up hill battle of figuring out, what, why and how. 

The hospital and oncology department I am currently tied to was once called Franciscan/Skemp. It is now part of the Mayo clinic system.

When the tree trimmers return we discuss specific plans for my 40 foot Norway pines. I apologize to the the aborist guy who walked off in a huff the last time for  being as asshole.  Cancer will make one cranky, I explain.  "Yeah, so how's that going? "he asks.

"I think their reputation precedes them."  I say.

'"Funny, but I had a buddy who was treated there.  Seems that they're going down hill." 

Other than saying I wouldn't recommend anyone to the Mayo Clinic, I avoid specifics.  The breezy 30 degree weather is too cold for me to spend any amount of time outside with details.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

No Regrets

Been pretty lonely of late.No visitors. No phone calls from the kids. Just me n' dog and katt.  Mandy doesn't leave my side.What a dog!

 Two weeks into chemo and I can't take no more nausea, gut ache, everything smelling like a cat litter box, shooting pains up and down my back.  So I decide to take control of this wildly floundering ship.  When I mention the aches especially around the area of a "port"  surgically implanted to facilitate with in-house cancer infusions, the nurse gets paranoid.  Yeah, I think I mentioned this.  After some wrangling, it's determined the port is not infected. I'm cleared of that worry, but the pain continues.

I'm scheduled for another treatment on a Friday.  Instead, I'm lucky to secure Jorge as a driver.  He, my wife and I go to oncology in Lacrosse.  I ask them to disconnect any left over tubes in the shoulder area.  Then for about an hour, Dawn and I sit with a nurse assigned to the overworked doctor and explain the problem. 

I'm good at anecdotal examples.

The reason I don't have a desire to drive a Harley anymore  ( a life goal along with flying an airplane)  is a friend's description of the sensation of sliding down a concrete highway after a gravel spill and watching the skin get peeled off of any exposed area. Chemo therapy has become like a gravel spill at 45 mph

I rather watch someone kill my blue heeler puppy in front of my face that undergo any more chemo.

I had a French teacher in college.  At the beginning of one lecture, she explained that she worked for the underground in WWII for the French.  It wasn't the danger, seeing the Nazis shoot your neighbor but the cold, she told the class.  The cold , permeating every part of your life, relentless, winter hard shell cold.  After chemo I cannot stand the feel of the wind on my face. The dog doesn't get walked, I wear three layers all the time and sit on a heated throw watching mindless TV. The nurse starts to well up.

They promise to do better.  Dawn speaks with the doctor for an idea of the scope of the treatment.  New medication is ordered and a PETSCAN is scheduled this coming Monday to see where we're at.  I've been off chemo for two weeks and this is the first time I've had the energy to write.  Mostly because when most of your life involves sleeping and trying to keep eating above a nausea  level so severe, a Sierra Mist and a saltine become a treat and are hardly writing home about.  If anything I want this to be a learning lesson for me and others.  I've haven't made promises to God yet or decided to become a priest if I survive, but believe me, there'll be changes.Big ones.

I've cried a few times lately. I've stuffed emotion for so long, especially as a ghetto fighter for 18 years, I actually don't know how to cry.  But when Dawn brings home a card from the folks she works with, and $75 of their hard earned dollars to take Dawn out for dinner when I'm cured, my shoulders heave and tears flow. I vow that they and us'n will all have a pizza party together.

When I go to the comment section on okjimmseggrolemporium ( see blog list) and read a few thoughts about me in the comments, I well up, knowing that there are a few angels out there. 

God knows, when I see my neighbor at the grocery store for the first time in the month since one disturbed resident in the group home they run wandered down here complaining of being held hostage, I get a grunt and a nod. Not a peep outa the rummy bunch of kids we call ours, but plenty of Facebook updates. No nice neighborly visits from my liberry friends.

So when the electric co-operative sends out a follow-up arborist after the tree trimmers noted a certain resistance on my part to their hacking or sawing on my mature Norway pines, he retreats quickly mumbling stuff about me putting words in his mouth . Note; try to get out more Gavrillo

Arborist:  The electric company is mandated by federal law to maintain a three to four foot distance between trees and wires.

Gavrillo( Jorge the former cop/politician agreeing) pure unadulterated bull shit.

Aborist: Most home owners aren't aware of the dangers to wires by trees.

Gavrillo: That's why I noticed a dangerous,dead white pine along the south fence line and your trimmers have ignored it for ten years .

I think he was offended when I offered to put his name on the list of defendants when I begin litigation.

A quick phone call to Hazel at the 'lectric company, a few names of people in high places dropped and yeah, I resorted to, "You know I don't need this. I've got throat cancer."  Hazel gasps.  A representative calls Dawn profuse with apologies and a big red "crazy" flag is placed next to my name.

What I learned about doing absolutely nothing  most of the time. 

Get a smaller dog.  The 50 lb lug that licks my face in the morning is difficult to hug with deep felt emotion. Appreciate a woman in a soft beige cashmere sweater. Hug her softly and often.  Hug all women softly and often (with permission).  Whew, I used up all my energy and have no reserve for the good stuff.  Better get out the note book.