Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Valentine's Day Update, and a Top Ten List

On Our Way to the Hospital with Matching Haircuts.
Let's get to the good stuff first; Cathy is home, and resting. Surgery went very well, better than expected. They did a full hysterectomy, which is standard procedure for ovarian cancer, and that went by the book. When the doctor starting looking at the scans to "de-bulk the tumors" (which is fancy medical-speak for 'cut those suckers out') he found only scar tissue, which he described as a gritty-textured thing.

No tumors to cut out.

He biopsied all of the areas, and we'll get those results in two weeks, but the upshot was this: the surgery was way less invasive, since there was nothing for him to "de-bulk." All of that extra chemotherapy did the trick, it would seem.

We know there will be some follow up chemo, and it'll likely depend on how the biopsies turn out as to how much chemo there will be. No more than three rounds. We're hoping it's less.

Just some of Cathy's family that showed up during our vigil.
That follow-up chemo will be the last of Cathy's treatment for Ovarian Cancer, Stage 3. After that, it's routine check-ups every six months, for a minimum of five years. We should probably be getting bi-annual check-ups anyway, so no big deal, more or less. My mood is cautiously optimistic, until we get those test results back and figure out how much more chemo Cathy will need. It ain't over 'til it's over.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry with relief when the doctor told me about the tumors turning into scar tissue. I couldn't believe it; for once on the balance sheet, it looked like everything Cathy had been through--the blood clot, the surgical delays, the extra rounds of chemo--it seemed as though everything balanced out in the end.

I may well be jinxing it, but I know there's one more shoe yet to drop. That's in the future. Right now, the plan is simple: rest and heal. She needs to heal and I need to heal. And speaking of that...

I know, I know, I said last time that it would be my final post about the ol' scrotal edema. However, new information has come to light. Specifically, the light of the full length mirror in the hotel room.

You see, prior to last week, my relationship to my junk was not unlike that of three blind men describing an elephant--you know, each of them is touching a different part of the animal, and based on their limited input, describe three very different animals. Well, in my case, I was three blind men touching my hoo-ha. I could see it, peripherally, when I was laying down, and I could feel it (boy, could I ever!) when I walked, sat, or drove. And I could sense it when I used the bathroom. I had a tactile picture, but not an optical picture.

That changed when I got out of the shower last Wednesday. I rounded the corner heading for pants, and that's when I saw it. I stopped and stared...just stared. And it stared right back at me, with binocular vision, like an apex predator. I had not seen it--truly seen it--until now.

Yeah. Something like this. 
Two thoughts hit me in the brain pan at the same time.

Thought number 1: "Well, now I know why the nurses were all so damn amused."

And Thought number 2: "My God...it looks like..." and my writer's brain took over. Perhaps as a defense mechanism. I had to make sense of what I was seeing, and I've always done that with words. I waddled to the desk, took out my notebook, and filled a page with "what it looks like" until I could do no more. Over the next few days, as new ones occurred to me, I would write them down, as well.

I have since winnowed the list down to the old reliable--a Top Ten List. We're going old school for this, Letterman style. And now that you know what's coming, let me stress to those of you with delicate sensibilities, what follows is Not Suitable for Work. It's Not Suitable for School. It's Not Suitable for Life. It's basically just not suitable. Please, for the sake of our relationship, eject now.

But for those of you who have tittered, guffawed, and even chuckled at the saga of my Hindenbergian Tallywhacker, then this list is humbly and respectfully dedicated to you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Last Word About my Tumescent Scrotum

I know, I know, how many times on the Internet have we seen this promise made, only to be broken the very next day? But in my case, I assure you, it's true; this is my final post about the scrotal edema that has besieged my nether regions these past four and a half weeks, with no relief in sight anytime soon.  It's just not healing up as quickly as I'd like. Everyone keeps telling me to be patient, and on one hand, I hear them, and I'm trying. On the other hand, "AAAAARGH! MY DICK IS A GRAPEFRUIT!"

So, you can see my problem.

Read on, if you dare. Or, if you think this will embarrass you, please don't. You have been warned.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Health Update: Cathy First, and then Quasimodo

It's been a while since we had an official update, mostly because I've been in and out of consciousness like Robert Di Nero in Sleepers. But while I am "sitting," and before the pills crowd me out, I want to report that Cathy will be going in for surgery on February 7th. We expect to be out of pocket for a week or so. There's a lot of logistical things to work out while we set all of this up, but we are excited to be moving forward with her treatment plan. It's the shortest part of the process, if you don't count the recovery time, but it's certainly the most nerve-wracking. I will keep everyone posted if things change.

I will now give you an update on my condition, so for those of you who do NOT want to read about scrotal edema, please veer off.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

I'm in Waste Management

Warning: this post contains language that people may well find offensive, especially since we're talking about body parts that are considered naughty. Please don't read this if you are decent, church-going folk. The less you are exposed to stuff like this, the better.

I've been quiet after my surgery on December 31st, for a number of reasons. I'm uncomfortable--the surgeon pac-manned me open like Toshiro Mifune in a Kurasawa flick and then stapled it all shut again. This uncomfortable sensation has led to me needing to take pain killers, which make me sleepy, because I have zero tolerance for pharmaceuticals, and those pain killers put me right to sleep. So I'm not using my time very well. Mostly, when I'm awake, I have three things on my mind: peeing, pooping, and my two drain tubes, sewn in to either side of my groin. I've been telling people I'm in waste management, a la Tony Soprano, but that's not really what's bothering me.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Health Update: At the Last Possible Second...Some Good News

Let's close out this year on an up note, okay?

You could have knocked me over with a feather when Cathy called me on Friday to tell me that the doctor's office called her to say that MY surgery had been scheduled for (get this) MONDAY, DEC 31st, at 8 AM.

Christmas at the North Texas
Apocalypse Bunker. Happy despite our
Year's Worth of Woes. XOXOX!
Unbelievable. I mean, I'd given up on my insurance company even talking to me until 2019, when the deductible reset and we were back on the hook for everything. Don't get me wrong; I'm still paying out of pocket for this; just not as much. But if my hospital stay continues, I am sure we'll take the brunt of that in the shorts as January 1st, 2019 hits.

But that's not important right now. And I don't wish to seem ungrateful. I am reeling, to be honest. I spent most of November gearing myself up mentally for this double-decker two-in-one surgery, only to have the rug pulled out from under me two days before it was supposed to happen. And right after that, Cathy got sick with pneumonia. So I've not been able to much of anything except call for updates between dealing with Cathy's slowly-improving health crisis.

Now I'm getting it. And my head is not where it needs to be. I'm a little panicked, and I suspect I'll spend most of Sunday in a meditative state to get ready for this. The stress of the hospital and surgery takes a toll on me and I need to be in my best place to get through it quickly and heal speedily. I can't be out for too long. Cathy is still on oxygen. We're about to be a pair of shut-ins.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Health Update: Pneumonia Sucks

I will keep this short.

Cathy got out of the house today, for the first time since coming home from the hospital. With her portable oxygen tank strapped to her back, we made it down the stairs, to the hospital for a chest X-ray, and then over to our primary care physician for a check up, in just under two hours. Considering that all of the above locations are a five minute drive from the theater, you can be assured that yes, it took a long time.

That's what pneumonia does, apparently. In blocking your airway, it starves your body and your blood of oxygen. I mean, we're looking at a four-to-six week recovery time...and we caught it early. I shudder to think what would have happened if we had waited a couple of days. Cathy would probably still be in the hospital.

Still, she is feeling better. She's out of the hospital, at home, in her own clothes, and dealing with me, playing the role of Patch Adams. Here's a free life lesson for you: when someone you know is on home oxygen, connected to about fifty feet of tubing, and trying to cross a room, moving very slowly, you may be tempted to make space-walk astronaut noises, and imitate the radio crackle of Neil Armstrong talking from the surface of the moon. My advice to you is this: the person will not find it funny, no matter how dead-on accurate your Neil Armstrong impression is.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Health Update: Home

Cathy in repose. Taken during her last night in the hospital.
Part of my journey into wellness (and I know how fruit-loop that sounds, okay?) involves taking my negative emotions, my dark thoughts, my little grievances that crop up every day, and instead of tamping them down into my stomach like an emotionally-stunted garbage compactor, I process those emotions and thoughts and, well, expel them. Yeah, that's a word that doesn't sound like poop, sure. And I have been doing pretty good with that strategy, writing a lot more on this blog and turning my family's struggles into something less than poignant and a little more than maudlin.

Even so, I was not prepared for Cathy's stay in the hospital. Not at all. It was a clothesline maneuver from the get-go. We walked in to get blood work done, and then she got an oxygen tube in her nose, and then they ordered a chest X-ray, and then here comes a second doctor, and suddenly, they are admitting her for pneumonia. Onetwothree like that. Oh, and in the midst of her dealing with pneumonia, here comes this whack-a-do muscle spasm that is locking her body up like a rictus, shooting agonizing pain through her with every breath, every sneeze, and oh, hello there, pneumonia, every single cough.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Cancer: Pain Management

Cathy, under the blanket her sister knitted for her. The damn
thing weighs twenty five pounds, I kid you not. It's like a
Thunder Shirt for grown-ups. Cathy loves it. 
I should have known better. It was going so well. In every movie, every comic book, every aspect of cliched storytelling the world over, it's the guy in the war movie who stands up and says, "I can't wait to get home tomorrow to see my baby girl!" that gets taken out by a sniper.

The "we've got a handle on this pneumonia" post must have felt a lot like bragging, because the Stage Three Ovarian Cancer Sniper was quick to remind us that he's still out there, and he's an asshole.

Ever since her diagnosis, and a little before, Cathy has complained of intense, localized lower back pain--think a charlie horse, but up in the middle of your back. We have examined, poked, prodded, massaged and kneaded the area, to no avail. Muscle relaxers? Tried 'em. Yoga? You betcha. Nothing worked. The thing was this: it didn't feel like a back muscle spasm. No knots, no bulges, no tightness, nothing I could feel. The muscles in her back were fine, even in the midst of a 'spasm.'

With her cancer diagnosis, Cathy was quick to report the problem to her oncologist, who confirmed what we knew: not only was there no muscular problems, there was no cancer, either. Not there, anyway. The cancer and its accompanying physiological problems could still be the culprit, however. Neurological pain is complicated, and without being able to isolate something, there could be any number of things pressing down on somewhere else, and the pain receptor in her back is going haywire.

Yeah. This sucks, all right.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Health: Cathy Update

Dateline: Sunday December 2

One of the things that they tell you look out for when you start taking chemotherapy is "flu-like symptoms." They are serious about it; emphatic. The doctors tell you. The nurses tell you. The guy making the sandwiches tells  you. "Hey...no screwing around, now. You get to feeling sick? You call in and let us know immediately."

And it makes perfect sense, right? I mean, after all, the chemotherapy messes with your immune system. Your white blood cells, etc. It's part of what makes the chemotherapy work, and also part of what everyone dreads about it. I've written before about some of the symptoms that Cathy has endured in these past six months, and while I've tried to be as whimsical about it as I can, it's still a problem, especially since Cathy has an ever-rotating palette of symptoms and side-effects that present themselves, at different times, dependent on where we are in her chemotherapy cycle. It's a lot like living with a werewolf.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Health Update: Well, Shit.

It's been a difficult month. I've been prepping for surgery for the last two and a half weeks. Lots of logistical loose ends to tie up, everything from assigning various theater duties to minions and/or training them, to dealing with insurance companies and the vast sums of money that prop up the medical health profession, not to mention my own normal fears about doctors, needles, surgery, and body invasion that have been hounding me for as long as I've been aware that I will need surgery.

I've done my best to embrace the change: "This is a good thing," I told myself, over and over again, usually whilst rocking in a a near-fetal position with a glass of bourbon. "These are necessary for your ongoing health, wellness, and recovery." I've used every moment of physical discomfort or an inability to lift something as a way of reinforcing the idea that soon, this will be addressed, and then you'll have some mobility back as well as a quality of life that you haven't had in years.