Wednesday, February 27, 2008

video blog... denied

I tried to make a new post yesterday using an embedded video to actually show y'all how I'm doing. It was a good day for being an on chemo day. I got some nice surprises to offset the early onset of our friendly side effects, the least of which being a new laptop. :D

And ya know, I really wish Blogger included little smiley graemlins like the various web forums do.

Yes, I bought a new Dell Inspiron 1525. It was a top 5/10 pick in several recent pc editorial reviews and I know the Dell outlet site often has super bargains on refurbs and new orders not delivered; I paid $150 less than the current Dell $300 off code that's on the retail site now. That's nearly half off! Bada bing! This one was a refurb, but it does carry a years warranty and I have strong doubts I'll need it. 1.8GHz dual core, 1Gb memory, 160Gb storage, a/b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth, DVDR+/-, firewire, 15.4" widescreen, Windows Vista Home Premium edition, and some tres cool extras... twin headphone jacks for Jody and I to both enjoy a movie when traveling, a media access that starts a micro operating system to get onto the disk without starting Windows, and a 2 megapixel webcam hidden in the screen frame barely the diameter of a cheap ballpoint pen shaft. So yeah, that brought a smile to my face. :D

I got it out of the box and started setting it up for our network. First came permission to use the network then came the ubiquitous updates (only 9 since this box was built), then anti-virus (ask me privately if you really want to know my choice), and Firefox because IE 7 is a spitefully ugly tool. VAG-COM came next because it was the reason for buying a new laptop. The old one had served me well but the battery would not hold a charge making the VAG-COM cable useless when I needed to scan for trouble in the GTI last week (airbag fault!). The old one was a buy from back before Jody and I were even engaged so it was time for a new one.

In the midst of setting up the new machine I got a phonecall from Cigna... specifically my work incentive program officer. We'd not spoken yet, directly, though she was aware from comments on my case that I am seeking to get back to work. We discussed the resistance I'd encountered policy-wise from both Cigna and Lockheed. When I explained I was getting ready to campaign both my company and customer management chains to get their okay for my proposed schedule (one week on, one week mostly off) she agreed that would be workable. :o

See? There just isn't a way that :o conveys my total shock at hearing that news. Help me out, Schultzie...
So we chatted a little more for a whopping 20 minutes and by the end, I had just a slight change to make to my lobbying plan to get back to work. I can go back -today- if I want to. All I need to do is send in any statements for pay I earn and they can be evaluated retroactively.

That was possibly the best twenty minutes of the the last two months of my life.

So yeah, that brought a smile to my face too. I carved out a new area for cancer stuff on the new laptop and started with my lobby outline. I will solicit letters of recommendation from all of my doctors and management peeps and forward any that I receive on to both Lockheed and Cigna. Cigna will also get their own copy of Dr. Lee's initial part time release/limitations on me working at all. That will keep me smiling today while the 5FU drips away.

I had to blog about it but hey, why not try out the little webcam in the process? It worked well producing a four minute video (I outlined what I wanted to share like a little script) that chewed up 1.8G of storage. D'oh. Waaaaay too big for Blogger to swallow. I tried watering down the video capture settings but only got down to 350Mb which was still too big. I will give it another try because I think it would be nice for you guys who can't see and hear me.

Meanwhile, I have some prayers to ask you to join me in.

First is wonderful news from my cousin, Richelle, and her husband, Johnny; they are expecting a baby toward the end of the summer! I pray for a healthy kid and two sane parents on the other side and am so happy for them. :D

Next is my pal, Dave. He'll be going in for a biopsy/exploratory surgery on his spine where the edema and fractured vertebrae is. That's Thursday or Friday this week and I'm hopeful that at least the swelling can be abated and give Dave some relief. He and his wife, Shaye, also need to know exactly what's up so I'm praying for definitive results of the biopsy.

My chemo buddy, Greg, is off the drip this week but having more difficulties with his neuropathy causing pain and locking up joints now and then. He really deserves a break and if the supplements can't do it, God most definitely can. Please pray with me that he gets some specific help in those areas and can withstand the remaining chemo rounds we've both got coming up.

Me? Well The Bubblies are still there and this week's chemo seemed to wake them up earlier than normal; that's usually Thursday when the 5FU is done and my poison tank is full. Finding other things to concentrate one helps as does a little snack to keep The Bubblies occupied. Thus, the getting back to work campaign will help but a little more effectiveness from my pills or a little Providence would not be unwelcome. My car has an airbag fault that had been compounded by what appeared to be the steering convenience control module also dying. She goes to the dealer on Monday despite the steering controls coming back on Monday. :kookoo: I go in next Wednesday for a flouroscopy x-ray that Dr. Grasso will appraise to see how his work has healed. If he gives me the okay, we can schedule the ileomostomy reversal! And oh yeah, my hair is falling out. I'm getting this little sideways strip across the top with a little patch up front and a Shaolin kung-fu monk style in the back. I'm not happy and it's just the latest demoralizing loss in this whole deal. I don't know what to do about it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Monster Jaaaaam!

So my phone rings yesterday afternoon and my pal, Brett, has a pair of tickets he cannot use... for the Monster Jam monster truck show at the arena downtown. Can I put them to good use? A few phonecalls later and yes, I can.

Jody had no interest, but how about Alex? He got his grades back into shape and got new permission to play videogames with Mr. John when he's feeling well. To quote his mother, he was speechless when asked if he'd like to go.

So we met up and drove into the city with time to spare. I shared a little secret with Alex that if we paid for our parking before we went to the show, we wouldn't get stuck in traffic afterwards...

Inside the arena, we were greeted with the floor paved over in fresh dirt with jumps and whoop de doos and the commensurate sacrificial cars to be crushed by the monster trucks. I had a strong suspicion the relatively small confines of the arena would be mighty loud with the roar of unbridled, un-muffler'd, torque-happy monster truck engines. I was not wrong and I was thankful I had some nice, new, professional grade ear plugs to share with Alex.

Of course, I forgot to take the good camera. I forgot to take my old PHd camera. I did have my phone though...

Whoops... let me change the picture settings and see if I can get a better shot...

There we go! Well, sorta.

To be brief, the show was awesome. It started a little strange as the Cannon Lady was shot from her firetruck-sized cannon hiiiiiigh into the air and landed in a net right in front of us. She did this all without any fanfare or music though so the crowd was a little surprised.

Then came the trucks. In the timeless grunts of Tim Allen, "ARRR! ARRR! ARRRRRGH!!!" Eight huge trucks lined up in front of their four-wheeled victims promising to crush them to pieces. The contests began with a wheelie contest where the poor cars below served as ramps to launch the huge trucks into the air.

Things continued with drag race eliminations, over the gradually flattening four-doors. In between, the dreaded Team New York quad-bike racers managed to win the first of three rounds of Quad Wars racing on the dirt floor. They played nasty against hometown heroes, Team Baltimore. And with the first win, their team captain provoked the crowd by insulting the beloved Ravens wondering why we were booing the winners. They'd get theirs soon enough...

The drag race eliminations continued with favorite truck, GraveDigger, suffering a breakdown at the starting line! The tension mounted and fans were worried the truck would not be able to compete in the final Freestyle contest (it had won the Wheelie contest, hands down). The radical Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle truck was there though to keep the fans excited.

The quad racers returned and Team Baltimore strategically put one of their men ahead at the finish for a big win. The crowd went nuts and sent the New York team packing with taunts and well-deserved boos. In the final race, the New Yorkers were out for blood and crashed on of the Baltimore riders in a scary moment. The rider was unhurt and Team Baltimore took the victory. The icing on the cake was the mouthy Team New York captain had gotten hung up on a Baltimore rider he was trying to bump off. Even after the checkered flag, he was flailing around on his ride and managed to flip himself over on his own butt. HA! Take that, Yankee!

Now it was time for the Freestyle competition. The trucks were offered fresh meat in the center of the arena with uncrushed cars and a big van to smash. Out came the trucks and in went the earplugs. I admit I'm a bit of a motorsports snob but man o man when those trucks were let loose to just do whatever the driver wanted... it was awesome. It's not about being fastest or most precise but being the most impressive. The trucks sailed through the air and bounded around on their huge tires, crushing the cars and van using them as launches, ramps, and sometimes as landing pads... with car parts falling and breaking on both the cars and the trucks. Sparks flew and the fans cheered when the GraveDigger truck emerged ready for the challenge. It closed the show in a spectacular finale spinning donuts and flying higher and farther than all of the other amazing trucks had done. It was totally cool.

I was very thankful to be feeling well enough to even think of going. Hopefully Brett will be able to let me return the favor so he can take his son tomorrow because Alex and I had a lot of fun. Thank you, Brett!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

a little peace for a bit

It's not completely gone away, but my stomach has calmed down a little. I do not know if it was the crushed Protonix pill or not; I asked my pharmacist and she said don't do that. :\

I did get to talk with my friend about what's happened to him. He's still in those surrealistic days since it's been just a bit more than a week that he found out. It's either a guy thing or something else but he too was strangely relieved to hear there was a reason for the pain he was having. It's in his back; one of his vertebrae, specifically. Whatever it is, it has caused a fracture and allowed that bone to compress with plenty of natural swelling that the body tries to use in reaction to an injury. To me he sounds like he's taking it well and he won't be leaving my prayers any time soon. I am very glad we finally connected and even more glad his treatment probably will not involve any radiation.

What about me? Well thank you for asking...

Jody and I paid another visit to Dr. Grasso this past Tuesday afternoon. I was expecting to get x-rayed with a little something extra (contrast) and I was psyched and ready. Nope. I misunderstood Dr. Grasso at our last visit and he wanted to check me out again to make sure I was ready for the x-ray exam. first it was holistic and then came the scope. His resident was attending as well so I got to do the exam twice. And I'll stop right there.

Everything checked out so I got the okay to get the x-ray and then some. I'll courier the films back to his office and pray we can schedule the reversal surgery shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, long term disability is pending. Jody and I taked it through last night and this morning and decided to go ahead and buy my existing coverage via COBRA. It will cost a lot more but it will be far less hassle for the short time I'll be on it. I will also not lose the help of my case manager, Denise. She has been so awesome through this whole thing.

On the work front, I'm getting some resistance for the proposed schedule I think I can resume; half days for a week, off some of the next week when I'm on chemo. Lockheed doesn;t usually do that. I pushed a little and got them to at least consider it if I can get my doctors and my management to back me up. I think that won't be difficult. What's being missed in all this 'you need time to heal' chorus is the value of human interaction and the benefits of feeling useful. I'll give it a try... otherwise, I'm forecasting 20-22 more weeks off between the expected surgery, recovery, and the remaining chemo rounds.

Round four next week. I hope the Protonix works better with a few more pills gone from the bottle.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

the captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt signs...

Okay fine, I can wait forever but please, PLEASE get me some relief from The Bubblies. I do not know what it is this round, but nothing is helping. By Sunday I'm usually fine, but not this time.

I want to barf, but it's just not happening. I can belch now and then for a few minutes of peace, but they build right back up again. It's not as bad as when I was pumping dilaudid into myself in the hospital, but it is like the absolute worst case of airsickness ever. As if I've been flying in turbulence for a week.

It may all be added stress.

Despite hearing my long-term disability claim has been approved, I haven't heard anything on how/when I might get back to work. This is nothing though.

I heard that an old friend of mine is entering the arena to battle cancer. I want to rage but all I can do is cry that someone else I know and love has to go through this crap. I can't kid myself out of it and I just want to scream THIS IS NOT FAIR! He's hardly been married and has a little boy with his new bride. I know and I feel this is another test and that people are watching, but I am so angry. It's not right! NONE OF THIS IS! It's no excuse, but I just haven't got the strength. If I did, I wouldn't know what I'd do. I feel nothing but helpless. :(

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Me and My Big Mouth

Good evening, all. I feel lousy.

It's the start of round 3 and I'm pretty sure I jinxed myself bad this time. You see, last Thursday I got an iron drip. It was a different formulas and though I was seriously scared going (after that first iron experience) it went well and I had been feeling great. Yesterday ,I went into work. :gasp: Like I said, I was feeling great and I wanted to drop in for a visit so I had lunch with Dad and Richie and warmed the chair at my desk for afew hours. I shared my plan to let the long-term disability thing happen and get back to work early in March. Chemo this week couldn't possibly go as bad as before... I've got new iron in me!

Well, that doesn't seem to be the case. I'm struggling right now with a really weird shakiness on my left side and my old friends, The Bubblies, percolating in my tummy. Food isn't helping like it did before. I'm making more typos than ever just writing the post so thank you, Firefox, for the built-in spell checker.

'Serves me right for just saying I'm not getting my hopes up but not actually keeping my hopes from getting up. I really thought the iron would be a factor. Who knows, maybe it will shorten the lousiness? I could live with that, but I think it's just going to be like so many of my chemo friends who have good rounds and bad ones no matter what. For what it's worth, this is 25% done.

Chemo tech Brenda told me my iron numbers did improve which was a little surprise. I didn't think they'd check right away or that things would improve so soon. This was offset with news that my white cell count wasn't so great and Dr. Lee wants me to get a series of three shots to bump me back up. The chemo knocks it down every round so this may become a routine thing. Again, not really a surprise based upon the experiences I've heard from others. As I was telling my pal Clarence yesterday, it's a good thing I've grown pretty indifferent to needles. I used to be a big chicken about them. Go figure.

I hesitate again because it feels selfish, but I really need to ask for some prayers. The chemo is enough on its own, but the gauntlet with my disability benefits and the lonely hours at home have been getting to me. A lot. I need just a little more patience to just let the disability changes happen before I can get back to work. Hearing that it might be postponed even more has not helped because I'm just so anxious to be doing something useful other than sitting home alone waiting for the next doctors appointment. So, more patience for me or just an easy transition and no more waiting... or both, please. ;)