Monday, January 24, 2011

"But Now I See"

Always learning.

The follow up schedule from the folks at MCV indicates that I need to get an eye exam once a year. No kidding. I thought it was just them being helpful to remind me to do something that I should do once a year anyway. My last eye exam was December 2008, two months after I was diagnosed. As in the past, I scheduled eye exams on an "on demand" basis. If I felt my prescription had changed, then I would go get a eye exam.

The MCV schedule indicated that I was due to have an eye exam last July. I didn't. I didn't bother as I wasn't having any vision problems. Interestingly enough, when I had the eye exam in December 2008, the doctor noted that when he looked at my retina, there was a blood vessel abnormality in my eye that could indicate cancer was present in my body. When he read my information sheet, he breathed a sigh of relief, looked at me with a smile and said, "You've made my day. I thought I was going to have to share some bad news with you and refer you to an oncologist. Now that I see you are undergoing treatment for cancer, I can tell you what I saw in your retina without ruining your day."

Today, I went for an eye exam. Not entirely because I decided to follow the MCV calendar, but rather because I have been noticing that my vision has changed again. Pretty significantly. I also didn't want my doctor to think that I wasn't following the rules. If I go in to the next appt. in a couple of weeks with new glasses, she'll know I had an eye exam. Not that my current prescription isn't sufficient, but I noticed that when I would move my glasses about 4 inches away from my face while watching TV, it was like the difference between regular and HD TV.

When the doctor examined me today, he said, "Your vision has changed dramatically since your last appointment. The treatment you have been through can change the anatomy of your eye." (My eyes have not changed in shape and are not in any danger of falling out of their sockets.) "The difference between then and now is 'normal' by cancer treatment standards. Now that you are in remission and not receiving any additional treatments, your vision may not change for another ten years."

So that's why they wanted me to get regular eye exams. I get it now.

Postscript to CT scan conversation. I did call the doctor's office today and verify that they had received the reports from the CT scan. I didn't ask any more details. Here's how it would work if they did see something abnormal in that scan. The doctor would have immediately ordered a PET scan. She hasn't ordered one.

We Now Return to Your Regularly Scheduled Program

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Greg, Not George

As in "Curious."

Another scan has come and gone and I have no idea as to what the scan from Monday showed. Sometimes I'm a "no news is good news" kind of guy. That's how I regard scans. If I was in a relationship with someone, or was a caregiver to someone who had a scan, my outlook would be different.

My doctor and nurses communicate with me that way. We know that I won't call in for a scan result and that if all is clear, they don't need to call me. When I see my doctor in February, I'll ask her about it, but until then, I'll let it go. I almost called them yesterday, but I got sidetracked. I call that God's circumstantial will.

On another note, I'm elated about the progress of Gabrielle Giffords. I know that she is receiving the best in health care. But I wonder, what if it was someone in a less socio-economically advantaged situation? It's really not a "what if" scenario. It has happened to others, I'm certain. What decisions do they and their caregivers have to make based on ability to pay?

For myself, as I have stated before, I will have to pay out of pocket my maximum deductible/co-pay every year for the next few years. As a matter of fact, I reached it the other day when I had my CT scan (bills at around $12,000 - $14,000 each time). I won't have to pay that amount, but I will be responsible for a significant portion of it. My annual out of pocket is manageable, but it's not something I want to do the rest of my life. If it wasn't manageable (and I'm sure it isn't for a lot of folks), I would have to decide whether or not to show up for the follow up care. That is the only alternative I can see. I do know that if you are making some sort of regular payment against your outstanding balance, the health care provider can not touch your assets. But, they can deny you service.

If you disagree with a solution, it's OK to do so. Come to the conversation with another solution.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Smiles In (And To) Clayton NC

The explanation of this photo comes below (from an e-mail I received this morning).

"Y'all what a crazy night we've had!   My water broke a little after 7:00 and by the time we were on the road to Rex, my contractions were 3 minutes apart.  The baby was born at 8:24pm!  Very fast.  But the most amazing part is when they laid the baby on my belly, the doctor said, 'Well your boy is a girl!'  Yes, the ultrasound tech was wrong.  We have a baby girl!

Her name is Allyson Brindley Baker and she weighs 7lbs 15 oz and is 21 inches long.  Rob and I are still in a little bit of a state of shock that we have a baby girl.  Poor Bo is reeling from the news.  So we'll have lots of shopping to do to replace all of our blue stuff with pink!

We're all doing great and are very excited!"

In addition to being a cool kid, Bo is now a brother. A big brother. To a little sister.

I know how that is going to go, and I can't wait to see it.

Cade meelah foyle-ta row-ott!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Facts Of Olfaction

I should have known.....

Today, after I signed in at registration and before I walked down the hall to the waiting room in Radiology, I had to make a stop in the rest room. After all, I drank two 450ml bottles of contrast solution and then 24-30 ounces of water before the scan - all within a 90 minute time period. It's required by CT scan "law."

As I washed my hands, I smelled the scent of the soap. They haven't changed their soap supplier at the hospital since October 2008. The memories came right out of the recesses where they reside.

Enough so, when the nurse said to me, "We're going to put you through one more time for another picture," I tried to recall if I passed through the CT scanner the same amount of times today that I have in the past. What was the reason for the "one more picture?" Who knows? I'll know in a day or two. I'll get a call one way or the other.

Pardon me for this, but it might have been because they were amused at my intestines today. I had some serious gas. No clue why. It could have been due to the contrast solution. Possible side effects from the the oral contrast may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or abdominal cramping. 

I hope they got a picture of my good side.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I heard a story today from another person currently receiving treatments for cancer.

He is part of a male quartet and one day when he was receiving chemo, the other 3 guys in his quartet showed up and presented a mini-concert to the other patients in the room. One of those patients was another gentleman who apparently had been having a tough time emotionally with his diagnosis and treatment to the point of being known as a pretty cranky patient. Never having good things to say about anything.

The day after the "concert," the person who told me the story was back in the clinic for follow up. While there, one of the nurses told him about the cranky gentleman and that he asked after the quartet had finished, " I saw 4 guys singing, but I only saw 3 of them walk out of the room. Where did the 4th guy go?" The nurse responded, "He's sitting over there in that chair receiving treatment."

The nurse related to the person telling me the story that upon her response to the cranky guy, she could see a look come over his face as if to realize that maybe he didn't have to be cranky all the time. Maybe, there are good things to come from a diagnosis and treatment that crankiness can obscure from view.

Not to say a cancer patient can't be cranky. I had my share of it. I talk about it in earlier posts. However, if the patient had a cranky doctor or nurse, they would ask to switch. Doctors and nurses don't have that luxury. Yet, to a person, all of the doctors and nurses that I talked to would say, "It's because of the patients that come to us with an overall good outlook that keep me in my job. Otherwise, I'd see no reason to stick around."

Good stuff.

Up next for me....Banana Smoothie for breakfast tomorrow. 6 month CT scan to follow at 8AM. Results a few days later. Seriously, I have no anxiety about it.

And also with you.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Looking Back To Look Forward (or "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda")

I've started to read "The Emperor of All Maladies" as it was a Christmas gift. It looks to be an interesting read. One that I will read in short spurts as it contains multiple segments of information that I do not want to rush through.

One thing the author states early on is the tendency of patients in the past to keep private with their diagnosis and illness. It is based on behavior from thousands of years ago when cancer was an unknown affliction, without treatment, and those who were affected by it endured it in silence. It became a part of the human habit.

Considering that, I guess I went counter to human habit. Except for a select few, initially I did withhold information from those around me, including some members of my family. The reason was that I did not know the whole story about what was going on and what was going to happen. In addition, I didn't want to be deluged with holding "individual press conferences" multiple times a day. Also, without complete information, it is easy to access incorrect information about the diagnosis of the individual affected. As a matter of fact, I later learned that one outlook on me while I was in the hospital was that I may not come out of the hospital alive. I also needed time alone to process my thoughts and pending decisions. Ultimately, they were my decisions to make.

I started the blog to put the word out. It became something else. I'm grateful for that. I now recommend to anyone recently diagnosed to tell as many people in your circle as possible about what is going on. I tell them they can't do it alone. Don't try. By telling others, you will be surrounded by help and healing. I understand if someone hesitates to put the word out, but I can't recommend that you do.

I will tell you that I haven't put everything out there about my experience, some of it I've kept to myself. That's my right. However, some of those things that I've kept internal have been addressed and attended to by the grace of others who just happened to know what to do for me. Without any input from me.

Pretty neat how that works out.

“If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them." - Francis Bacon

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Myself Included

Maybe by now, I should be an expert on the whole Health Care Debate thing. But I am not. I am more in tune to the conversation now more than ever, but who says what and what says who is currently beyond my comprehension.

However, the system is messed up. Everyone should have access to equal care. Regardless of economic status. In a capitalist society, it is perceived that economic standing dictates what level of commodity is attainable for an individual. Houses, cars, clothing, vacations, entertainment, travel are commodities. Life is not.

As of the writing of this post, I do not know what was the motivation for the gunman who shot on a crowd of people and killed 6 of them yesterday in Tucson. However, this chart troubles me. I doubt it was the intent of the originator of this chart that the people listed in this chart should be shot. I know that, and hopefully you know that. But, did yesterday's shooter know that?

I had a conversation the other day with someone about the health care debate. I told them that I thought I had a reasonably good health care plan. Then I asked them how much a month, in addition to my current health care premium, they thought I would have to pay out of pocket for the next few years for my testing (4 oncologist visits a year, 2 CT scans a year, 2 Bone Marrow Biopsies a year, 2 visits to the Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic a year, regular medical and optician appts.). When I told them, they were surprised and they said, "Something has to be done." "Exactly," I responded, "So if someone makes health care a part of the national conversation, what is wrong with that? Why do we want to leave it alone while for profit companies treat it like a commodity?"

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, (welfare n. 1. health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being) and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." - The Founding Fathers

 "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.....

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
 And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Martin Luther King - August 28 1963

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"Windin' Your Way..."

RIP Gerry Rafferty

One of my favorite songs, ever.....

"You're goin', you're goin' home."