Thursday, February 26, 2009

 

Amazing Day



Today I slept for almost six straight hours without waking up to go to the bathroom.

You have no idea how huge that is. It's like suddenly developing the ability to fly.

Labels:


Thursday, January 22, 2009

 

Surgery, Chemo, Faith and Family



Today's surgery was successful, if inconclusive. I got to go home afterwards, it really was outpatient this time. However, I'm going to have a fifth resection at some point in the coming months. I had my first round of chemo today, too, and it's as unpleasant as they say it is. I feel kinda zapped right now.

On the upside, I had a long talk with my mother today and I "outed myself" with regard to the way my feelings on religious faith have evolved (devolved?) over the past year. I was dreading that, but my mom surprised me by being totally understanding and supportive. Concerned, yes, but supportive. Downright Christian, even. She said she'd very likely feel the same doubts that I've been feeling if she'd had to deal with some of the things that have cropped up since early '08.

I was worried that my mom might flip out on me. I've been surprised by some of the reactions I've gotten when I tell the people closest to me that my religious faith seems to be gone. Some people are basically OK with it and want me to know that they're there for me regardless. Other people have made it clear that their friendship is conditional. In some instances that's really been painful. I never know how any given person will react. But I don't really regret having been honest. I'd rather be hated for who I really am than loved for who I'm pretending to be.

Labels: ,


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

 

Surgery



I'm having surgery again Thursday morning. Another tumor resection. It's possible that I'll be away from the computer for a few days if I need to spend the night in the hospital ... but more likely than not I'll be back and blogging again in no time at all. Talk to you then.

Labels: ,


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

 

Mo Pills, Mo Problems



The other night at work I had kind of a ... medical anomaly? Yeah, let's call it that.

I haven't written about it here because I'm still trying to sort it out, because it's still kinda hazy, and because it's kind of embarrassing. I did allude to it yesterday, but that was just me being my usual smart-ass self. I haven't really faced it, I haven't even discussed it much. I've only talked about it, as of now, with a couple of my most trusted friends and with my doctor. I'm writing about it now because, if for no other reason, writing helps me think clearly. But also because I do want to pass along something I've learned ... something I learned the hard way ... with hopes that it might be useful to someone.

Here's what happened:

Well, let's start from the beginning. I'm a shift-worker. I work a swing shift. To keep it simple, it boils down to a week of graveyard shift, followed by a week of evening shift, and then a week of daylight. Because of that I have a hard time keeping any kind of regular schedule with anything. That can make life a pain in the ass, but it can be even worse than that if you start forgetting to take your prescription drugs.

I'm on a number of drugs, some to treat the symptoms of bladder cancer, others for other problems, like allergies. I've also been on Effexor (venlafaxine) for several years. Effexor is a drug that's designed to treat depression and general anxiety.

It's been a long time since I've felt that taking Effexor was doing me any good. I've continued taking it, though, because missing doses has caused horrible side effects for me. Most commonly, I have really awful nightmares ... but I've also experienced mood swings, depression, anxiety, etc. It's funny: I started taking this drug to deal with depression and anxiety, and eventually it stopped helping me at all, but did start causing terrible depression and anxiety if I missed a dose.

Sometimes I have to think that Tom Cruise was at least partially right.

Oh, and before I forget, one of the drugs I take for the effects of bladder cancer is oxybutynin, a drug with it's own gnarly list of possible side effects. I've been on that for six months or so.

As near as I can figure, I think I missed taking the Effexor for two days, and I might have taken too many oxybutynin tablets the other day. Oh, I forgot to mention, I'm also on zolpidem for occasional use to help me with the sleep loss associated with bladder spasms, shift work, etc. The zolpidem tablets look EXACTLY like the oxybutynin tablets, and it's possible to take one when you mean to take the other if you're not careful and if you rely too much on one of those weekly pill-box things.

As for me, my daily drugs are served up in a cornucopia.

OK, anyway, enough beating around the bush. The other night I had a splitting headache that was one of the worst I've ever had. (I've been having them for a week or so now, and I've been taking Advil Migraine for them to try to fight them off. More drugs. Yay.)

I'd had one of those headaches all night, and then all of a sudden at work I started having intense pain in my back and my shoulders on the left side. As of now, that's probably been correctly diagnosed as muscle spasms brought on by stress and poor health.

But here's the thing: When I started having that pain in my left side, I was sure I was having a heart attack. I honestly thought I was dying. No shit, man. I thought I was about to drop dead at about 3 in the morning in the damn paper mill where I work.

And so I ended up short of breath, nauseous, and having a full-blown panic attack.

Now, I have had problems with anxiety and depression before, but I'd never had an all-out panic attack before, and I had no frame of reference for it. All I knew was that I was sure that I was dying. I thought I had minutes to live. I ended up being transported to the hospital in an ambulance, with an oxygen mask and an IV and the whole thing. It wasn't until I was in the ambulance, almost at the hospital, that I began to realize that I wasn't really dying.

Anyway, to try to wrap this up, 90% of what happened was brought on by not being careful enough with my prescription drugs. I've been pretty casual about the drugs I take ... obviously too casual. I've been too quick to do stuff like buy and take Advil Migraine pills instead of consulting my doctor when I have a headache for days. And, worst of all, I've been too lax about making sure that any doctor I see knows each and every drug I am on, the exact dosage, and the reason that it's prescribed.

I saw my doctor yesterday and some major changes were made to my prescription schedule. For one thing, I'm being weened off of Effexor. With drugs like that, you can't just stop taking them. You have to have your dosage slowly decreased over a period of months. It'll probably be four months before I'm off that drug entirely.

My doctor also gave me a "put up or shut up" exercise program and diet.

So the lesson I learned is that it is very important to be very aware and very involved in any prescription drug schedule that you might be on. Make sure that every doctor you see knows exactly what you are taking, how much of it, and how regularly. And make sure that you take your pills when you're supposed to take them. And in the correct dosage.

Really, this is elementary school stuff. But morons like me never learn anything the first time.

The older I get, the more likely it is that I'm going to have to take more pills each day, not fewer. So that makes it all the more important. But regardless of your age, regardless of the number of prescriptions you are on, and regardless of how long you've had to take or will have to take any given drug, remember the importance of your prescription schedule. Don't brush it off or be neglectful about it, like I have been. You don't want to have to learn this lesson in the back of an ambulance.

So there's my cautionary tale. I hope it's useful.

Labels: ,


Saturday, December 27, 2008

 

2008: Death, Disease, Uncertanty ... The Ususal Fun Stuff



I used to write about faith at this blog fairly frequently. I haven't in a long time. A year or so, I suppose.

My religious beliefs have been in flux for a long time. For as long as I can remember, really. I was raised Southern Baptist, and my religious upbringing wasn't a positive experience for me. During my mid 20's I was a militant agnostic: "I don't know and you don't, either." By my early 30's I became nominally pro-religion; I began to think that religion did more good than bad for most people, and although I maintained that it wasn't for me, I generally saw it as a force for good.

Then I got divorced and 9/11 happened and I panicked. For whatever reason I decided that it was important that I nail down exactly where I stood on religion. I started reading the Bible and C.S. Lewis and something clicked. I've gone from content agnostic to enthusiastic Catholic convert in the last few years, and at every stage along the way I've always been very happy to force my beliefs on the people around me.

Never in a positive way, though. My approach, my foundation, has always been "You're wrong! Here's why!"

I think that maybe the only thing I've ever really believed in is the blunt force of my own opinion.

I began to realize over the past year that my religious convictions were a house of cards. 2008 has been an awful year. It began with the culmination of some serious marital problems. Just as it began to look like my marriage might survive, a good friend of mine died out of the blue. Well, what happened was, first my friend's daughter committed suicide, and then about a month later he had a heart attack and died. I was still trying to sort that out when I was diagnosed with cancer in June. I've had three tumor resections since then and I'm going to have another next month.

And, yes, I might be endulging myself with more self-pity than these circumstances really warrant.

The worst of all of this was what happened with my friend. I haven't written about it here for two reasons. One reason is that I didn't want to trivialize the loss of my friend's daughter and his subsequent death by writing about it at a blog that's primarily dedicated to YouTube videos and fart jokes. The main reason that I haven't written about it, though, is that thinking about it hurts so godamn much that I just try to avoid thinking about it at all.

My friend's daughter died and there was absolutely nothing inside of me that enabled me to offer him any comfort. Don't misread what I wrote: I didn't complain that I couldn't comfort him. I was totally incapable of even trying to comfort him. This was a guy I loved and I was totally incapable of making a gesture beyond "I'm sorry for your loss." It ate at me, it kept me up at night, but I only came up empty handed. The truth of the matter was that, deep down, I simply believed that my friend's daughter was gone. Just gone.

And then one morning he was gone, too. And I think the main thing I feel about that is anger.

All of this stuff happened and I realized that there was nothing (absolutely NOTHING) built into the foundation of my faith that prepared me to handle it. I began to think that the reason I'd been drawn to the Catholic Church was really just that I line up very well with the Church's politics. I already believe what the Church teaches with regard to abortion, the death penalty, charity, etc. It was a good match.

But as far as the "spiritual core" of my beliefs, I'm as uncertain and as lost as I've ever been. I do know, though, that I've never had a transcendent experience. Not once. And I don't even want one. I don't want cause to doubt my own sanity any more than I already do. I still have this deep need to figure out where I'm coming from, to figure out what I believe and why, but I just have no idea where to go from here.

Here's the truth of my beliefs. These are the things that I believe deep down, and I don't know how to change them, or if I should change them, or what to do about them. I believe in God. I don't know why he'd feel anything but contempt or maybe pity for humanity, but I do believe in a God of some sort. I believe in altruism and love and kindness, I believe, in fact, that those are the only things that make life worth living. I don't believe in any sort of afterlife. I think that death is the end, that death is final, and that it's always a hair's breath away. I think life is fragile and mostly futile, and that it's still a wonderful, wonderful thing. The most important thing in the entire world to me is my son ... and I believe that all of the immortality that there is going to be for me will be in whatever good I'm able to pass along to him. If I'm able to be a good enough father for him to be able to look back in fifty years and say "I guess the old man wasn't a total shithead," then I think I'll have done well. I'll have been a better father than I ever had, anyway.

Those are the things I believe deep down and I don't know why I believe them, other than those seem like natural conclusions to me. I don't know what to do with those beliefs or how to reconcile them with the Church, with Christianity, with faith or with the world in general. Oh, and get this: I still believe that the Roman Catholic church is the best thing out there. Talk about being conflicted.

I know that one or two of my Christian friends are going to read this and be tempted to send me e-mails to try to reason with me. I appreciate it, but it won't really help. Trust me, I've been trying like hell to reason with myself for the past year.

If you want something poetic or philosophical, this is the best I can offer: I can't explain why or exactly what it is about it, but there's something essential about the things I believe in the lyrics to the Black Crowes song A Thorn In My Pride. That's the best I can offer, and it's typical of me. When in doubt, I come back to rock and roll.

I'm writing all of this because Scott at Spiritual Tramp posted this video that I saw today and it moved me to tears:

Generally, I've come to realize in the past year that the best thing I can do is keep all of this to myself. I made a couple of attempts to discuss these feelings with friends at one point earlier this year and I only managed to offend them. That is the one thing I'm good at. Even when I'm not trying (and I usually am trying), I can offend people like nobody's business. It comes naturally to me, I guess.

But the things Penn Jillette had to say hit me like a wrecking ball. I felt like I had to write something. If you've read this, thank you for indulging me.

Man, I really hope 2009 is a fairly innocuous year.



Labels: , , , ,


Monday, October 27, 2008

 

Light Blogging For A While



I'm fighting another godawful post-surgery infection. I was supposed to start back to work today, but it didn't happen. Passing blood and having spasms, etc. The usual bladder cancer joy ride.

I'm gonna do a little less blogging for a little while. Part of it is that I don't want to blog while I'm sick. That leads to self-pity, etc. No need for that. But I'll be back at some point, as usual. I'm just gonna take a few days off.

Another part is ... well, you know how it is with blogging. It's like a bungee cord. There's a tendency to stretch down deep into it for a while, then pull back.

If I don't talk to you guys again between now and November 4th, PLEASE VOTE! Even if you vote for the wrong guy! ;) And I'll get this out of the way while I'm at it, since I might not be back until after the 4th: Congratulations to President Elect Barack Obama for getting past one of our country's last major hurdles. Of course, I'm talking about him becoming our first openly socialist President. Ha ha.

I'll wrap on the topic of politics with this. Just watch this clip. If this doesn't sum up Obama and the coming four years sufficiently for anyone, then I don't know what it would take:

The one good thing about the next four years (I really believe this) is that it's going to be a grand education for those young people who actually are paying attention. More new conservatives will be born of the Obama administration than any time since the Carter administration.

It'll almost be worth it.

Oh, I do want to mention this friggin' whacko story, before I wrap for a while, though:

Skinheads held over plot to kill Obama

Two white supremacist skinheads were arrested in Tennessee over plans to go on a killing spree and eventually shoot Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, court documents showed on Monday...

The plot did not appear to be very advanced or sophisticated, the court documents showed...

"The individuals began discussing going on a 'killing spree' that included killing 88 people and beheading 14 African Americans," (ATF Agent Brian) Weaks said in the affidavit...

The men planned to wear white tuxedos and top hats during the assassination attempt, which would have involved driving as fast as they could toward Obama and shooting him from the windows of the car.


It sucks that I feel compelled to mention ... to even provide a link proving ... that I've always hated skinhead Nazi dipshits. God KNOWS I don't want Obama to be elected, but I've resigned myself to his Presidency and I'm gonna make the best of it. Still, regardless of my opposition to most of his policies, I really hope it's apparent that I'm not a racist, not a skinhead, not the devil, etc.

And I want to make it clear that I think these two skinheads who've just been arrested for "plotting" to kill Obama and other people are evil and repugnant and etc, etc.

Having said all that, I'll also say this: Their "plan," if you want to call it that, is so pathetic it's laughable. Driving a car as fast as they could and shooting from the windows while wearing white tux's? Who do they think they are, the formal skinhead Starsky and Hutch? I'm wracking my brain trying to think of what moronic movie these dolts were watching when they came up with that idea and I just can't guess. Has anyone ever actually made a movie that stupid? Has Jerry Friggin' Bruckheimer ever even made a movie featuring a scene anywhere near that stupid?

I realize that anyone who makes a threat against a public official has to be arrested, and all of these threats have to be taken seriously. And on general principle my gut reaction to skinhead nazis is that they should simply be taken out behind a barn and put down. But, honestly ... white tuxedos? You just gotta laugh at these idiots.

And I hope it's clear that I'm laughing out of bewilderment, frustration and disgust.

So, anyway, that's enough for now. I'll be back later.

In the meantime, a little bladder cancer music ...



Labels: , , ,


Thursday, October 16, 2008

 

More Tumors



Today's surgery was ... well, eventful, I guess that's the word. Two more tumors had to be cut out of my bladder this morning. The doctor really wasn't sure if this was new cancer or if it was cancer that was still there from last time. I got the impression, though, that she was surprised at how much she found.

Jesus. I thought I was getting past this. I don't think it's ever going to end. It's depressing. I just want it to end.

I did get to come home today, though. I'm at home, I'm catheterized, I'm bleeding like hell. I'm having a lot more pain after this operation than I did after either of the two previous ones. That's probably because they let me come home rather than keeping me in the hospital and giving me morphine.

Sitting hurts. Standing hurts. Lying down hurts.

Not a lot beyond that to write about right now. Besides, anything I wrote beyond this would just be self-pity. This just never ends.

Labels: ,


 

Surgery And Songs



Back to UVA today for more surgery. I hope to be back to my regular life a little sooner than normal this time. We'll see.

My favorite thing about YouTube is that it affords you an opportunity to track down old songs ... usually in the form of old music videos. Songs you haven't heard in ages. This is an old favorite of mine. The "proper" music video is available at YouTube, but whoever (whomever?) uploaded it decided to add the lyrics as subtitles. And he/she got a lot of the lyrics wrong.

I am NOT trying to say anything about anything by posting this song. It's just been in my head lately, it's an old favorite song of mine. But don't take it as some sort of statement on my part. God forbid I offend anybody....

Anyway, I'm just saying I've always liked this song, that's all, and it might bring back some memories for members of my own generation:



Labels: , ,


Monday, September 29, 2008

 

More Surgery / More Vista Hatred



I've blogged about this before, but I have the need to say it again.

There are no words to describe the nightmare that Windows Vista has made of my life. I hate this OS more deeply and more adamantly than I've ever hated anything in my life. Widows Vista is to PCs what cancer is to human bodies.

Also, I have to have more bladder surgery on October 16th. I think this is primarily an exploratory thing, and to get any cancer cells that might still be hanging around. I'm dreading it.

And that is all.

Labels: ,


Monday, August 11, 2008

 

Cancer Stuff



I mentioned on July 23 that there was something about my round with bladder cancer that I didn't think I should blog about yet. I said I was considering a law suit. Well, here are the details, though it's all pretty anticlimactic, and I feel pretty dumb about it.

In 1995 I developed bladder problems that were very much the same as the ones I developed this spring. I saw a urologist in '95 and had two cystoscopies and two biopsies, and the diagnosis at the time was Interstitial Cystitis. This was weird at the time because I don't fit the demographic for that ailment at all, but I took the urologist at his word. So since '95 I've believed that I had IC and I've tried to monitor (somewhat) what I eat and drink in order to avoid flair-ups.

OK, so fast forward thirteen years to last July. I had bladder surgery twice this summer, the second time at UVA Hospital, and the urologist presented my slides to the pathology department at UVA because something about my cancer cells seemed a bit odd. Well, guess what ... the pathologist at UVA remembered my name. He remembered me because he had seen my biopsy slides in '95 and had diagnosed my condition as cancer way back then. The local urologist had sent my slides to UVA all those years ago and the pathology department at UVA had called it cancer and no one had told me.

Well, I didn't remember anyone telling me.

So it's conceivable that I've been walking around with cancer for 13 years. Granted, I have a particularly non-aggressive, superficial, slow-growing cancer ... but as far back as '95 it was recognized as cancer by the good people at UVA.

I was pretty angry when I found out late last month that the pathologist at UVA had diagnosed me as a cancer patient all the way back in '95. I felt that if I'd known that UVA thought I had cancer all those years ago I'd have certainly done something other than go about my business and allow the cancer to grow. So I considered filing a malpractice suit against the local urologist, now retired, who I'd seen in '95.

But as I got my paper-trail together I was surprised to realize that I still had a number of letters and forms from '95. I'd kept track of them all these years. And at least one of them makes reference to a diagnosis of "transitional cell carcinoma" from a pathologist at UVA. Granted, this particular letter, from a local pathologist, disagrees with the UVA diagnosis. But, nonetheless, I was informed (at least informally) in '95 that a pathologist at UVA thought I had cancer. I have the letter to prove it.

How did I forget that? How did that go in one ear and out the other? I don't know, but obviously it did. I guess I was so happy to embrace a diagnosis of something other than cancer that I just dismissed the UVA diagnosis completely.

So the moral of the story, I guess, is that even if a doctor who thinks you have cancer is in the minority, make sure you follow up on it. The Pathologist at UVA recognized my condition as cancer thirteen years ago, and if I'd followed up on that it would have been caught long before it took over half of my bladder.

Labels: ,


Thursday, August 07, 2008

 

Testing, Testing...



I went back to UVA Hospital again today. The catheter was taken out. Time to test my bladder again and see if it will do anything remotely similar to what a bladder is supposed to do.

And how much does it suck to have spent the past few months dealing with this mess? It sucks THIS much: Gov't Mule was back in Virginia last weekend and I didn't even know about it. And if I had known about it, with my medical bills I couldn't have afforded to go. And if I could have afforded to go, I would have had a tough time getting through the concert.

That sucks a LOT.

Labels: , ,


Saturday, August 02, 2008

 

Grievances



I don't do an extreme amount of bitching here at the blog, but I do get a good whine on from time to time.

This is one of those posts, so you should stop reading it now.

Really, you'll wish you had. So stop reading it now. You have better things to do.

Anyway...

I am SICK TO DEATH of having tubes coming out of my body. Latex, plastic, etc, etc. Catheters, IV lines, etc, etc, etc. Ever since the first surgery for bladder cancer last month I've been hooked up to one device or another. And I'm sick of it.

I'm trying to stay positive, trying to focus on the fact that this isn't lung cancer or prostate cancer or pancreatic cancer ... one of the really ugly ones ... but it's hard to stay positive 24/7. I'm not really positive right now and haven't been for a few days. I'm sure I'll regret posting this shortly after I post it, but f%&@! it. This is what I feel like writing right now. And it won't be the first time I posted something I later regretted ... this blog is riddled with four years worth of regrettable writing.

I want a cigarette SO DAMN BAD that I think I'd KILL for one. I haven't had a cigarette since July 9, but it was a 25 or 26 year addiction, and it's going to take a while to get over it. Going back to work is going to be the real challenge. I don't smoke around the kids (as far as I know, they didn't know I smoked) and I don't smoke in the house ... but at work I have always smoked constantly. So going back to work and not lighting up is going to take a lot of focus.

Chantix, by the way, sucks. It's no better than the patches, the gums, etc. The only way to quit smoking is to just quit. I think it's like that with any addiction.

Hopefully, from now on, every time I see a cigarette I'll think about bladder cancer, and that'll be enough to keep me from smoking.

I'm sick of missing work, too. Not that my job is anybody's idea of a dream job. My job pretty much sucks. But I do miss the paycheck. (Boy, do I EVER miss the paycheck.) And I miss the regular routine. And I miss the friends I have at work.

What else to bitch about while I'm on a roll? OK, there's this: I'm sick of Barack Obama acting like he's the Second Coming of Christ and I'm sick to my stomach of his supporters swooning over him. This McCain ad says it all:

Also, I'm sick of Ubisoft CONTINUING to push back the release date for the new Splinter Cell game. Splinter Cell is the one video game series that I enjoy. I can live without the TV otherwise. I really don't like TV, I don't watch any specific shows, I don't buy or play other video games, I generally don't think any game is worth the price. Except for the Splinter Cell games. Boy, I love those games. And God only knows when the new one will actually come out.

What else? Let's see, I'm sick to death of seeing this crazy skank pop up on every news source imaginable. I think it's pretty obvious that Casey Anthony has caused the death of her daughter, either through neglect or abuse, and she's just leading everyone on a wild goose chase, trying to hold out another day before there's something solid to pin on her. Man, I hope they find something soon. It'd be great if the little girl turned up alive, but I don't see that happening, and I'm sick of every news outlet in the world passing on the lunatic mother's latest outrageous lie.

And I guess that's all I'm going to bitch about now. And that's by far enough.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Thursday, July 24, 2008

 

Back And Feeling A Bit Better



My visit to the UVA Medical Center was somewhat eventful today. For the first time since I was diagnosed I was able to go to a hospital for treatment without ending up admitted for the night. So that much is good, anyway.

I'm trying to decide how much of the most recent events I want to blog about. Some of it is wince-inducing ... and other elements are sensitive for other reasons. But, anyway, I'm back home with a new catheter that I'll have to have for two weeks. Hopefully, my bladder will actually do some healing during that time.

OK, here's a compromise: I'll write the wince-inducing details here in a white font, which you'll have to highlight with your curser to read. So if you want to know gory details, start highlighting here: I mentioned in my post on Sunday the 13th that having my catheter changed was extremely painful. Well, today I found out why. The very end of my urethra was abnormally narrow. It had a stricture due to the trauma of my recent surgeries. It wasn't that my entire urethra was too narrow, just the very end of it. The resident who put the catheter in during my last hospital stay was either too stupid or too indifferent to do anything about it, so he just shoved the catheter in and it hurt like hell. Today my urologist decided that the narrow opening of my urethra had to be corrected, so she corrected it. With a pair of medical scissors. That's right, one quick snip and I no longer had a stricture that caused an abnormal narrowing at the end of my urethra. They didn't tell me what they were going to do before they did it ... probably because they realized that if I'd known what they were planning to do I'd have jumped up and started throwing punches at everyone present. But the procedure was done, the catheter was inserted, and I'm alive and at home. Whew.
So, yeah, I survived that ... although thinking about it makes me sweat, tremble and cry. And hopefully it'll never have to be done again.

Labels: ,


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

 

Back To The Drawing Board



Well, it's back to UVA tomorrow. My bladder isn't healing anywhere NEAR as quickly as it should, so I'm going back to the urology department to try to find out why. Hopefully, this visit is going to result in something that'll give me some relief from the spasms, pain, and frequent trips to the bathroom.

I also found out something jaw-dropping about my cancer. It turns out that I've had cancer for a great deal longer than I realized. I don't want to say much more about it yet, because I think I'm going to pursue litigation ... but I'll have more details at some point.

Talk to you later.

Labels: ,


Saturday, July 19, 2008

 

Be Back Soon ... I Hope



The catheter came out Thursday about 11:00 AM and I've been having a terrible time ever since. Pain, spasms, trips to the bathroom every four or five minutes, lots of lost sleep, etc.

I just haven't felt much like blogging.

I'll be back to the blogosphere as soon as this most recent bad spell passes.

Labels: ,


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

 

Tentative Good News



I just heard from the urologist at UVA who performed my surgery. The biopsy of my bladder wall came back clean. No cancer in the wall of the bladder.

That means that the cancer that had formed on the internal lining of my bladder was probably the only cancer in my bladder. And that means that, since they believe that they got all of that cancer in my two recent surgeries, the worst is probably over.

There is still some concern about all the bleeding and bladder spasms I'm having, though. Apparently, these symptoms are a bit more than I should be experiencing right now. According to the urologist, right now this is the question: Did my bladder cancer cause all of my problems, or is there something else wrong with my bladder ... something that's causing the pain and the bleeding and that also allowed the bladder cancer to form in the first place?

Beyond that, the urologist told me that there were things about the cancer cells that were unusual. She didn't elaborate, and I'm sure it would have gone over my head anyway ... but she said that she's submitted my case to the oncology board at UVA for review and she'll have more information for me next Wednesday.

In the meantime there is another milestone coming that I'm really looking forward to: I get this godawful catheter out this Thursday.

So there are still some issues to resolve, but in the meantime, my biggest concern has been put to rest. The two operations were successful, and as of this minute I'm cancer-free.

There will be lots of tests, exams, etc, in my future in order to make sure the cancer doesn't come back. But right now things are, for the most part, looking up.

I don't feel that I've sufficiently expressed my appreciation to my fellow bloggers who've been so supportive and kind during this painful period. You guys have really played a big role in keeping me positive. Your comments, both here and at your own blogs, mean a lot to me. I just hope you guys know how much I appreciate it.

Labels: ,


Sunday, July 13, 2008

 

A Buttload Of Opium



My second surgery for bladder cancer was done on Thursday and I got to come home from the hospital Friday evening. I'm currently taking some truly heavy-duty narcotics for pain and to control spasms, so I'm sure I'll remember this particular period as kind of a daze.

Rather than try to write a coherent and detailed account of my visit to the UVA Medical Center, I'll just throw out a few random observations and memories, kinda stream-of-consciousness style. That's partly to keep this post from running on for twenty thousand words ... and partly because right now I think in random observations and memories, kinda stream-of-consciousness style.

Anyway...



Labels: ,


Saturday, July 12, 2008

 

Thanks



I'm alive, I'm out of the hospital, I'm home, I'm feeling relatively good. I'll write a blog post tomorrow, thanks to those of you who had me in mind during my surgery.

Labels: ,


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

 

Surgery Tomorrow



Well, I'm going to the the Urology Clinic at UVA tomorrow for more surgery. The plan tomorrow is simply to get the rest of the tumor. What will happen next depends on how well things go tomorrow.

I consider myself fortunate to be getting this done at UVA. It's probably the best option available to me. I looked up UVA's rank among medical centers with department heads specializing in urological oncology, and I found out that UVA does have a rank. And US News And World Report ranks UVA in a bunch of categories with different numbers and such, all of which probably mean something to somebody. So that's good. Right?

Plus, if you go to the UVA Department of Urology website, you're greeted by a picture of a doctor smiling in a way that isn't really that creepy, all things considered. So I've got that going for me, too, which is nice.

Here's an interesting fact about my surgeon: She was part of a committee that authored a study called Complementary and Alternative Medicine Modality Use and Beliefs Among African American Prostate Cancer Survivors. So if nothing else, she can probably talk my tumor into submission.

Seriously, though, I do have the utmost confidence in the good people at UVA. But I don't know how long I'll be away from home. If all goes as well as possible, I could be home tomorrow night. But, if all goes as well as possible, it'll be the first time things have gone as well as possible since this whole bladder cancer thing started! So I'm not holding my breath, but I still remain confident that things are going to turn out OK.

So I'll be blogging again when I get home after this next surgical procedure, and hopefully I'll have stuff to talk about besides bladder cancer. Be good, I'll talk to you then.

Oh, yeah, by the way, the Xbox is working fine, just like B13 said it would. I'll take that as a good omen. And one day I'll invest in the Xbox Live package that let's me game online!

Labels: ,


Thursday, July 03, 2008

 

Current Distractions



Just a quick note; I'm still alive, still waiting for my bladder to heal post-surgery, still dashing to the bathroom every seven seconds (or so it seems).

Here's a quick list of the distractions that have been preoccupying me for the last few days. Consider these the reasons I haven't been blogging much.



Hope everybody has a good 4th! I'll blog more when I have fewer distractions.

Labels: , , , , ,


Monday, June 30, 2008

 

Getting Veeeeery Sleeeeeepy....



It's hard for me to believe it now, but when I was a kid I had to be FORCED to do two things: eat my dinner and go to sleep. As an adult I'm the exact opposite. Once I do either of those things I basically have to be FORCED to stop.

The worst thing about my current health issues is that I've had a terrible time sleeping for the past week. Between last Monday morning and yesterday evening, I hadn't had more than an hour of sleep at one time. My bladder keeps me in the bathroom day and night, usually three or four times in an hour. There have been a few spells when I've had to go to the bathroom literally every five minutes for two or three hours at a time.


And the pain I'm experiencing keeps me from sleeping, too.

However, last evening I fell asleep and actually stayed asleep from about 7:30 until 10:30. Three hours! Three blessed hours of uninterrupted sleep! I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was a God-send to me last night. When I first woke up again around 10:30 PM, I felt ready to take on the world. That feeling faded pretty quickly, but those three hours of sleep really did me a world of good.

I've been awake since then, though ... like every other night this week. I used to be a night-owl when I was younger, and there was a time when I'd have used this awake-time productively. Instead, this week I've used my surplus waking hours doing things like watching TV, listening to music, and watching YouTube videos and turning them into blog posts.

I've also read about bladder cancer and joined a discussion board for people with bladder cancer ... and I've read a little bit about sleep, sleep deprivation, and dreams.

I took a quiz that's designed to assess how healthy my sleep habits are, and I answered all the questions truthfully, based on my current condition. I didn't provide answers based on my usual sleep habits. According to the quiz, I currently likely suffer from sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome. Whoo hooo! I hit a grand slam!

There are a lot of sites on the net full of interesting info about sleep, such as this one and this one and this one and this one and this one.

Here are some of the interesting trivia tidbits I've learned about sleep, sprinkled liberally with nuggets of BS I made up. Can you tell which of these items are actual facts and which ones are SouthCon hogwash? I'll tell you what's real and what's not in the first comment.

Labels: , ,


Friday, June 27, 2008

 

More Bladder Cancer Stuff



I don't go see the urology team at UVA until July 7, but I've been reading a little bit on the net about bladder cancer and the options that are available ... and I've learned quite a lot. Or, at least, I think I have.

There's all kinds of information out there. There are even YouTube videos, like this one:



My urologist had told me that he thought a bladder rebuild would be the best route for me, based on the concern that chemo wouldn't keep the cancer from coming back. But now that I've finally gotten around to doing some research on bladder rebuilds, I'm not so keen on the idea.

Removal of the bladder is called a Radical Cystectomy, and it doesn't just involve removal of the bladder. It also requires removal of the bilateral pelvic lymph nodes, the prostate gland and seminal vesicles. So (if I understand what I've read correctly) all men who have this procedure done are rendered infertile and many of them also become impotent.

I ain't no Casanova ... but I am a normal, red-blooded, heterosexual, married male. The idea of becoming infertile and impotent just a few months shy of my 40th birthday scares the hell out of me. I mean, damn! I didn't think I was even done having kids yet.

And on top of that, many people who've had this procedure done have to use a catheter for the rest of their lives.

I'm kinda confused right now about why my urologist told me that I was a good candidate for a Radical Cystectomy. The thing is, he also told me that my bladder cancer, while substantial, was only on the inner lining of my bladder and not in the bladder wall. I've included a graphic here that I found on the net. If my bladder cancer is on the inner lining and not in the bladder wall, that would be a "Stage 0" cancer (I guess), and not the stage 2 and 3 cancer that usually involves total removal of the bladder. (Again, this is all based on the presumption that I understand the stuff I've read correctly.)

You know, it might not a good thing that I'm reading all this information on the 'net. I might be confusing myself. And, besides, what I'm reading is a mixture of opinion and specific case histories, none of which might be relevant to my case history or to the opinions and/or experiences of the urologists at UVA. But I digress.

The procedure I had done on Thursday (called a Transurethral Bladder Tumor Resection) wasn't entirely successful. They weren't able to get all the cancer. So I'm going to at least have to have another TBTR done at UVA to get the rest of it. After which (if I understand correctly) I'd have the option of beginning the chemo that my urologist doesn't think will be entirely effective.

And that chemo sounds pretty unpleasant, too, since it's administered to the bladder through a catheter. (Man, I never thought the word "catheter" would play such a prominent role in my life at this age!)

Anyway, from what I've read (there's that phrase again), if they're able to get the rest of the cancer with another TBTR, I'll then have to have some chemo and I'll have to go back to be checked regularly. The schedule I saw on one of these websites was something like one check-up every two months for the first two years, then four check-ups a year for the next two years, and then one a year for the rest of my life.

But at least I wouldn't be infertile or impotent ... not yet, anyway. And I wouldn't have to get used to a life-long catheter.

Nonetheless, I thank God that if I had to get cancer, it is bladder cancer. The survival rate is high and gets higher every year. I saw a statistic somewhere on the net tonight that said that a quarter of all men diagnosed with cancer these days are specifically diagnosed with bladder cancer. Who knew?

One survivor I came across has put together an informative YouTube video and has also started a blog about his own experiences with bladder cancer. There is a lot of information out there and even a growing support network on the internet.

I guess I better add a "bladder cancer" label to this blog, by the way. Looks like I'll be preoccupied with this subject for a while.

Oh, yeah ... there's basically no denying how I ended up with bladder cancer in the first place:



Labels: , ,


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

 

Pain And Preachin'



I had two topics I was going to blog about this evening. Well, I was going to blog about one of two possible topics.

If I had a serious frame of mind when I sat down I was going to write something about having to deal with chronic pain. The cancer/surgery process I'm going through now involves a great deal of constant physical pain ... and I don't do well with pain. My preference is to deal with physical pain by way of a constant stream of narcotics. But doctors don't like to give you a constant stream of narcotics these days. Marcus Welby, where are you when I need you?

These days, you're supposed to deal with chronic pain through any number of processes known collectively as "pain management." Like "anger management" and "self esteem," "pain management" is one of those new-age psycho-babble concepts. It makes health-care administrative types feel good about themselves because they're creating fewer Vicoden addicts, but doesn't really do anything for the guy with the hot coals burning in his lower abdomen. It's difficult to concentrate on closing my eyes and "going to my peaceful place" while running to the bathroom every ten minutes to bleed into the toilet.

So I'm dealing with my pain by taking twice as much actual Vicoden as I'm supposed to. Eventually my prescription will run out and I'll have to figure out something else. Boy, THEN I'll be screwed! But I'll worry about that then. Whoo hoooo!

Anyway, the other possible blog topic for tonight was going to be something about comic-book inspired movies. I've actually written some of that post and saved it as a draft and I thought I might sit down and finish it this evening.

But before I did any blog writing I decided to do some blog reading. And after a few minutes of surfing I noticed that for some reason I couldn't get streaming video to work this evening.

It turns out that it was apparently a Firefox problem, because when I loaded Rhodester's blog into Internet Explorer I was able to finally watch his "Vlog" video.

And when I loaded The Cubical Reverend's blog in Internet Explorer, I was able to watch the three YouTube videos that he posted on the 18th. The three videos were of a shared theme; something to do with irreverent reverends.

I was so effected by those three videos I decided to post them myself. First, there was this old chestnut, the farting preacher:


OK, clearly somebody monkeyed with the audio in that clip. But then there's this guy. The audio on this video is pretty low, you'll have to turn it up to hear it. And if you do so, about a minute and ten seconds into the praise chorus you'll here the preacher just flat out LOSE. HIS. EVER. LOVIN'. MIND.


And then ... there's this guy. Let me make it clear that this video comes with a HUGE LANGUAGE WARNING. I don't know what this guy's denomination is, but I'm guessing it's something like The First Church Of The Divine Gangsta.


Wow. Wow. Just ... wow. Kinda makes Jeremiah Wright come off like Jerry Falwell, huh? I just, I ... uh ... man. What was THAT?

I mean, I was half way through my second viewing of that before I even noticed the haircut.

I'd write more but I just flat out don't know what to say. And besides, it's time to crawl to the bathroom again.

Labels: , , , , ,


Monday, June 23, 2008

 

Not To Beat A Dead Horse...



I'm sure you guys are getting sick of me talking about my bladder situation, but it is my main preoccupation right now, so bare with me.

I have to go to UVA on July 7th to meet with a urologist down there and figure out what the next step is going to be.

Today my urologist removed the catheter I'd had since my surgery on Thursday (good riddance!) and gave me a disc with digital copies of the pictures from my CT scan to take with me to UVA. I couldn't resist making a copy of the disc for myself and taking a look at the images.

The images to the right are the ones that my urologist showed me before the surgery so I could see the problem for myself. I marked them to indicate where the problem was.

As the image indicates, the big white blob is my bladder and the bright part to the right is the tumor.

The doctor told me that the tumor was taking up 45 percent of my bladder, but it didn't appear to have gotten into the bladder wall yet. I get the idea that this is important with regard to metastasis. Apparently that's not as big a concern because the bladder wall was in tact. You go, bladder wall!

Also the cancer wasn't in the part of my bladder where the kidneys feed into it. Which means my kidneys weren't at risk, either.

I have pictures (taken during the surgery) of the kidney ducts, too. Wanna see 'em? Wanna see 'em? I'll post them at the slightest provocation.

Labels: ,


Saturday, June 21, 2008

 

Fun With Morphine

Morphine, Morphine, what made you so mean?
You never used to do me like you do.
Where's that sweet gal I once knew?


--Gillian Welch, My Morphine

I had my first experience with morphine the other day, after my bladder surgery, while I was in the hospital. I was given a spinal anesthetic for the surgery, and it took several hours to wear off. So while I was still numb from the chest down I felt no pain at all. But when the anesthetic wore off, the pain came on all at once.

All of a sudden, my bladder was on fire with pain.

I asked the nurse to bring me something for pain and she wanted me to rate the pain on a scale of one to ten. I couldn't really think in those terms, so I simply said "Well, it's WAY above a five." That must have been enough for her. She brought a syringe and injected it into my IV tube.

I asked her what I was getting and she told me that it was "synthetic Morphine." I had just enough time to think "Oh, wow, I'm gonna really feel this stuff..." and then WOOSH!

It was like I had hyper-warped across the entire universe and back to where I started in a about half a second. And I felt REALLY weird. I don't know how to describe it, really. I didn't feel like myself, for one thing. And my speech and hearing was strange. It felt like there was some sort of time-gap between when words would form in my mouth and then leave my mouth and then travel to my own ears.

My wife, mother and step-dad were visiting me when I got the morphine and they seemed to be slightly ahead of me in time. It was like I was struggling to keep up with what was going on around me and lagging behind. I kept apologizing and saying I felt like I'd been drugged. Mom reminded me that I had been drugged. I'd asked to be drugged.

For the rest of the afternoon, until the morphine wore off, I constantly felt like I was out of sync with time. I was either slightly behind time or slightly ahead of it. I know that sounds weird, but it's the closest I can come to describing what I felt.

I was also itching all over. Especially my nose. I could NOT get my nose to stop itching.

Oh, yeah, the morphine knocked the pain out completely.

I didn't get morphine again for the rest of the time I was in the hospital. They brought me lower-grade pain-killers when I'd ask for something for pain. And I'm glad, really. I can understand how morphine would be addictive for some people. If you like the experience of having reality chemically altered, you'd REALLY get a sense of that with regular use of morphine.

Here are some fun facts about about morphine from the net:



So there you go. I can now add morphine to the list of drugs I've experienced. And I honestly hope to never experience it again. Partly because it's so disorienting. Partly because of that itching. But mostly because I hope I never have pain that's severe enough to warrant the use of morphine again!

Labels: , ,


Friday, June 20, 2008

 

Bring On The Medical Marijuana!



Well, OK, no, not really. I do not intend to try to get hold of any prescription pot. But I did have surgery yesterday and it did turn out to be an eventful day. Here's the info, for those of you who are curious ... and let me say right up front that there is more good news than bad here.

So let me get the ugly part out of the way first: It turns out that I do have cancer.

So there it is, the "C" word, which seems to be little more than an eventuality in my family. My mom and my maternal grandmother both got cancer when they were each about five years older than I am now ... and there's been plenty of other cancer cases in my family. So it was really little more than just a matter of time.

And I did bring this on myself, to a large degree. I have bladder cancer, and bladder cancer in men is caused by smoking more often than not. I've smoked for 26 years, so there's that.

Had I admitted on the blog that I'm a smoker? No, I don't think so. I'm ashamed of myself for smoking. I've quit for fairly long periods a few times, but I've always come back to it. Looks like this time I have to quit and stay quit. Period.

And being so out of shape has made things worse, too. Fat guys who smoke are prime candidates for ... well, for a number of ailments, including bladder cancer. And so you get what I have here.

Now the good parts: One, this was caught before it could kill me. My urologist talked to my wife while I was in post-op yesterday and he told her that it's a damn good thing I came in when I did. If it had gone much longer, the prognosis wouldn't be very good. The cancerous mass in my bladder was taking up about 45 percent of my bladder space.

And another good thing to report is that my surgeon was able to get (these are his numbers) 95 to 98 percent of the cancer out of my bladder.

Now this next part isn't really clearly good news ... but I do think it's neat. My urologist says that chemo isn't really practical in my case; he's sure that it wouldn't keep the cancer at bay. What's probably going to happen now is that they're going to remove my bladder and build me a new one. Really! They're going to take a little piece of my intestine and build a new bladder out of it. So I'm gonna be kinda like Steve Austin. Except my new bladder won't technically be bionic. But I do expect it to give me super-human peeing powers.

I spent last night in the hospital and MAN and am I glad to be out of there. There was an old man down the hall from me who apparently needed to talk to his nurse every few minutes AND who apparently couldn't figure out how to push the "Call" button. So what he did was lay in his bed and shout "LAAAADY!" over and over and over and over and over again. After three or four hours of that I was ready to go down the hall and beat him with my catheter bag.

Right now, the worst thing about my situation ... at least, the part I keep focusing on right now ... is that I'm going to miss the next three weeks of work, which means no paycheck. And after the next surgery to replace my bladder I'll miss another long period of work. I hope they're able to do the next surgery soon so that the recovery time will run together instead of being two separate periods of missed work.

But on the other hand, I will get to sit around and be waited on hand and foot for a few weeks. And you better believe I'll milk this for all it's worth. Just don't tell Wendy I said that.

So there's the update. The news was bad but the prognosis is good and the situation will ultimately lead to unavoidable lifestyle changes that will make me healthier in the long run. The smoking has to go and it's time to get serious about exercise.

But not this week. I'm sitting here with a catheter that I'll have to have for the next five days at least, and it is pretty uncomfortable and just plain gross. So, this week I plan to spend some quality time with my couch, putting on my most pitiful face and asking anyone within shouting distance to PLEEEEASE bring me a root beer.

If necessary, I'll resort to shouting "LAAADY!!"

Labels: ,


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]