7/19/2016

Author’s note:  This is a recollection of my events from a year ago.  There is no need to panic.

It is my third day in the hospital (fourth, if you count the Saturday night that I was admitted).  I get around to telling my ex-girlfriend what has been happening to me.  Many friends wonder why I still speak to her.  In American we are supposed to vilify our ex’es.  I am different in that I still care very deeply about her and none of that has ever faded.  I tell her everything that has happened and she is concerned.  I promise that I will keep her updated.

It is early in the evening when the doctor comes to my room.  Despite the light still outside my room faces the south casting a gloom over everything.  Kelly is there with me.  The doctor asks if it is okay to speak with Kelly present and I let him know that it is.  He explains that I have stage 2 endocrine pancreatic cancer with metastasis in the liver.  I know nothing about cancer so I accept the diagnosis as is.  Several months from now I will do my own research and realize that any sort of metastasis is usually indicative of stage 4.  The doctor further explains that the type of cancer I have is rare.  It’s the one that Steve Job’s had for several years.  Jobs had tried holistic remedies as part of treatment as well as a liver transplant.  That’s what that Apple money will get you.  The more common form of pancreatic cancer is exocrine, which is what Patrick Swayze had.  It burned through him in a matter of months.  They will prescribe blood thinners to me which I will administer as shots into my belly.  The blood thinners will help break the clot in the pancreas.  On Friday a surgical consult has been scheduled.  They want to see if they could cut the cancer out of the liver.

As soon as the doctor leaves Kelly starts to cry.

I smile and say, “It will be okay.  I promise.”  My first thought is to always reassure her.  I don’t want anyone to worry and this is an initial diagnosis.  There is always hope.

My birthday is tomorrow and I hope that I am discharged.  The thought of spending my birthday in a hospital room is depressing.  There is not much more they can do for me here.  I am anxious to use my own shower and sleep in my own bed.

7/18/2016

Author’s note:  This is a recollection of my events from a year ago.  There is no need to panic.

I have spent another restless night in the hospital.  Regular rounds for vital signs interrupt me while I try to sleep along with an early morning collection of blood for labs.  It has made me irritable but I am a patient man.  Everyone here at the hospital has a job to do and there in no need for me to be testy with them.  I am kind, pleasant, patient and cooperative.  It has been a lesson of self discovery that I have made over the years and have spoken about it before, that lesson of kindness.  It is a much valuable currency to use with people then our current culture of me first.

Today I have a biopsy scheduled in the morning.  I have been living on a diet of soups, ice cream and water.  Despite the lack of sustenance I still have no appetite so it doesn’t really bother me.  It will be the first time ever I have been anesthetized.  I am not sure what to expect but early in the morning I am wheeled on a gurney to an operating theater (I don’t know what else to call it).  One minute I am awake and the next minute… I am awake again.  Thirty or forty minutes have passed without any indication that I was aware of it.  The loss of time is disorienting to me.

Other than that I receive visitors throughout the day.  I am appreciative of everyone’s kindness and thoughts.  In the early evening I pull out the laptop and set up a workstation for myself.  I am behind on work and I need to catch up.  I won’t know the results of the biopsy until and worrying about them won’t change anything.

7/17/2016

Author’s note:  This is a recollection of my events from a year ago.  There is no need to panic.

I have spent my first actual night in a hospital and the novelty of the experience has worn away quickly.  Vital signs are taken every couple of hours and I have an IV feeding plasma into my arm.  The hospital bed has a thin plastic mattress making sleep very uncomfortable (in addition being awakened for vitals and blood work).  While everyone else has been in a hospital before this is the first time it has happened to me!

I ask Kelly and Jerry to share the news about what is going on with me.  I don’t know how to tell people myself.  When it comes to entertaining people I am good at posting memes or something insightful.  However I am not good at sharing my personal experiences with people outside of a handful of trusted friends.  I quite simply don’t know what to do and very uncomfortable about.

Still, everyone is very supportive and I receive a number of visitors through out the day.  I also receive a number of supportive messages via text and Facebook.  I respond to everyone that I can but, again, I am overwhelmed and I leave the phone alone for awhile.

Of the visitors I received that day I remember one occasion in particular.  Craig and Pratt visited me just after I ordered a late lunch.  I believe it was some sort of sandwich and fries.  They don’t mind that I eat while they are there.  The tray is nuzzled up against me on the table while I am in bed.  We are having a conversation and a few laughs.  I start off eating some fries and it is only a couple of minutes when I suddenly lose my appetite.  The nausea hits me like a ton of bricks and I am ready to throw up.  I carefully untangle my IV and other monitor lines and take the IV pole with me to the bathroom.  It takes me about ninety seconds but feels longer.  I make it to the restroom in time to throw up.  When I am done I offer my apologies to Craig and Pratt but they dismiss it.  I also let the nurse know that I threw up and can’t finish my meal.

One thing I have learned about being admitted to a hospital on a weekend is that nothing happens.  I mean, it’s the weekend.  Unless it is a life or death emergency you are pretty much going to wait until Monday before something significant is put on the schedule.  I have a liver biopsy scheduled the next day.  That means I am on a liquid diet until then.  It is something that I will keep in mind if I ever admitted to the hospital again.

 

7/16/2016

Author’s note:  This is a recollection of my events from a year ago.  There is no need to panic.

It is Saturday morning and I wake up still feeling nauseous.  I have a complete lack of appetite but I force myself to go to McDonalds and get two Egg McMuffins.  I can only eat one of them and throw the other away.  The rest of my day is spent in the recliner watching TV as I feel miserable.  Kelly reminds me that I made a promise to go to the ER.  At around 6:00 in the evening I finally shower for the day and go.

Instead of going to the hospital I go to the emergency room around the corner.  Other people refer to it as a “doc in a box.”  It is the first time I have been in the emergency room since I broke my ankle twenty-five years earlier.  The place is nearly empty with only one other patient and their family member attending.  It’s quiet but the staff are friendly.

I explain my symptoms to them.  My weight has dropped into the 150s, I occasionally vomit, feel nauseous frequently and have no appetite.  They are going to run a CAT scan on me.  I spend most of the night messing with my phone waiting for the results.

At nearly midnight they give me the news – they have found a mass in my pancreas.  They want to call an ambulance but I tell them I can drive there.  Orders are sent to Baylor Scott White down the street from me for a direct admission.  I thank them, pay the co-pay and leave.  Instead of going to the hospital I stop at the house first and grab my laptop bag.  I can’t remember if I pack a bag or not.  I may have asked Kelly to do this later on.  I also can’t remember if I told Kelly then or waited until morning.  I likely waited until morning.

I drive myself to the hospital and admit myself to emergency.  It is as eerily quiet as the doc in the box was.  The paperwork is in order and I can go straight to my room.  I am offered a wheelchair but I decline.  I also meet briefly with the doctor working.  This is the first time I have ever stayed overnight in a hospital.

7/15/2016

Author’s note:  This is a recollection of my events from a year ago.  There is no need to panic.

It is moving day and I have no choice but to go into the office.  I have already called in sick twice this week and would feel extremely guilty if I call in a third day.  But this is the last day we are in this office before we move down to Knox Henderson.

Something is very wrong with me.  I have been vomiting on average of about once per month.  I feel fatigue and nausea all the time.  When I was in New York City a couple of months earlier I visited some friends that lived there.  They were dismayed that I wanted nothing to eat or drink for dinner.  I simply had no appetite and the thought of eating is unappealing.  But I don’t like the way my stools look and I suspect that I might have pancreatitis.

But we have to move out of our old office on Forest Lane then wait a couple of weeks before our new office opens.  I am late to work regardless.  I show up at 11:00, grabbing a prepackaged snack of crackers, turkey, cheese and grapes from Tom Thumb on the way.  I slowly force myself to eat them.

The RD asks how I feel and I tell him.  He seems sympathetic.  I still very slowly and gingerly pack up all the stuff from my cubicle.

Kelly has been nagging me to go to the doctor.  I promise her that if I feel this bad by tomorrow I will actually do it.  I am unaware that I would spend ten days out of the next two weeks in the hospital.

Rule #1 Make the Most of Your Day

zombieland

If you have never seen the movie Zombieland stop what you are doing and go see it right now.  It is the best zombie comedy movie ever made.  After you have seen it come back to this post.

For those of you who have seen it then you might get the reference going forward.  In the movie our hero Columbus has a list of rules that he lives by during the zombie apocalypse.  I decided to make my own list of rules for dealing with cancer.  There is only one rule so far so consider it a work in progress.

Rule#1 Make the Most of Your Day

You will have good days and you will have bad days.  When you have a good day appreciate it fully.  Don’t take a good day for granted.

When I say “make the most of your day” I don’t have the expectation that I am going to build a rocket ship, broker peace in the Middle East or even cure cancer.  But I am going to do something constructive with my day, whether it is going to be work or personal.  Even with the personal I am going to find something fulfilling or, at the very least, entertaining.  It doesn’t have the be monumental but set a goal, even a small one, and work to accomplish.

This is going to be more important to do on the bad days.  You will have complications from chemotherapy or the cancer that will feel like a set back.  Still try to accomplish something.  You need to keep yourself grounded with a purpose that keeps you moving forward.

Saturday Morning at the Lake

Lake

It is actually Saturday morning as I write.  I will likely post tomorrow or Monday.  Never just write and hit publish.  Write, edit, let it marinate then rewrite and edit again.

I am here for the wedding of a couple of friends, Amanda and Randy.  As of right now the sky is cloudy and the lake is covered with light layer of fog.  I woke up early at 6:00 and sat on the balcony watching the peace surrounding me.  Birds were singing and deer quietly traipsed in the woods below.  I anticipated a lake full of boats this morning but they were very infrequent.  When they did motor by they interrupted the serenity.  By the time the sun comes out this afternoon I anticipate a traffic jam of boats but the wedding I attend should be picturesque.

I haven’t written anything in a couple of months.  Call it a sabbatical.  I was doing too much at once and needed to take a step back from everything.   Back in March I brought my laptop into the bar and after opening it I dreaded typing the next word.  In my real world job of software sales I work ten to twelve hour days.  In the corporate world you don’t ever really get a day off.  Instead, your PTO is used to buy time before you have to respond to somebody.  Last month I was in Las Vegas with friends and I did two back to back conference calls at 7:30 in the morning.  But work is necessary because, as I stated earlier, work = healthcare = survival.  In addition to the a sequel of my novel I started writing a second.  And then I have this blog as well as social media to keep up with (Twitter still baffles me).  Oh, and lets not forget the ongoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

fallout4

So I just stopped everything I was doing and played Fallout 4 for the last couple of months.  It’s not that I have writers block.  I definitely have stories in my head that want to get out.  Just that the act of sitting down and writing is time consuming work.  After working a ten hour work day I am loathed to sit down and pound on a keyboard for another hour or two.

hermarglerbern

My cancer treatment continues.  We have run through the first course of chemotherapy.  Now something called Lanreocide has been added to the mix.  It is supposed to starve the tumors from the hormones that are feeding it.  The doctor said most people want a break from chemo at this point but I seem to be holding up well.  The primary concern with side effects seem to be anemia.  My hemoglobin is a concern.  It is down to 8.1 and iron supplements don’t seem to be helping.  That walk from the party barge uphill to the resort pretty much kicked my ass last night.  For the next round of chemo (#18) I anticipate a bag of iron sucrose as black as Satan’s blood.

My last two months have been pretty quiet.  I really dialed down everything and kept to myself a bit (aside from that trip to Vegas).  I can’t stay too idle for long.  While the physical tasks of living becomes more challenging with fatigue my mind is as active as ever and I can feel that urge to do more.  Maybe it is time for me to step up again?