Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can a guy get a break? -or- Here, have some bacteria!

I just lost five good days.

They were stolen from me, actually, but I'm not getting them back. Today isn't looking like a winner, but it is better.

I mentioned I took a trip to the emergency room in my last post. Welp, it happened again Wednesday afternoon last week and I got an extended stay in the hospital for my trouble. I had the prior experience going for me as I struggled to drive home and call for help. It was back to the ER where I writhed and just hoped the pain would pass just like Monday. I wound up being admitted for a possible bowel obstruction and the possibility of surgery. And yeah, it's making me cry just remembering that. :'(

I cried and prayed and just begged that no new serious thing would block us on the path out of this nightmare.

I got a very rough IV and started taking on fluids. The ER had given me a laundry list of painkillers that managed to get me through a "dry" CT scan that showed only the possibility of an obstruction or maybe twisting of the large bowel. By then the pain had started to move to my left side and I was sure it was not my stomach (or my appendix... that crossed my mind very early on).

I'll get to add to my list of painkillers not to give me as whatever they pumped me up with got my stomach in knots and kicked over the vomit machine.

Let me pause here and say something about the hospital bed. They kill me. Slowly and thoroughly. I now have a darkly humorous understanding of the expression, "laying on his death bed." The gem I was given had some system of air chambers underneath that would inflate and deflate if I dared to move. I never quite figured out its method, but I was told it was to prevent bed soreness. As a user, let me be the first to say IT DOES NOT WORK. The Bionic Woman can hawk those SleepNumber beds all day, but I'll never buy one again. Be on the lookout if you end up in the hospital! (Unless they're giving you bionic legs or something cool. That might be worth it.)

Obviously the vomitting had to be mitigated so what faster way to empty my stomach that with... another tube! Yay. I literally cried in terror and half hyperventilated myself unconscious. I begged that my stomach was already empty but I had no choice in the matter. At least this time I knew what to do and I spent every microsecond praying that it would go down easy.

It was easier than the first tubes I had way back when but that's not saying a lot. When nothing came up, only an x-ray would satisfy. No amount of me pleading that I was empty could convince the nurses. At least the x-ray guy came to me.

Since the dry CT hadn't been definitive, I had to get a contrast CT. Normally you'd drink the liquid and fill yourself up with stuff that the machine can see real well as it floats through you. Mine went down the tube; a consolation prize for not having to drink the stuff that tastes like El Cheapo white-label brand lemonade without enough sugar. Why they couldn't do this downstairs in the radiology department I do not know, so I got to enjoy the Mad Hatter's spinning teacups ride with a tummy full of yuck.

What goes in must come out and the vomit machine started once again. FINALLY the nurses listened to me and gave me painkiller that wouldn't make me barf. For my last ride, I was sitting half Indian-style in the bed when the wretching probably caused a hernia (of sorts... grrrr) that I will be trying to have addressed today.

With the "possible" hernia came a whole new set of consultations with urologists. I'm sorry, but what part of "this is all swelled up, it hurts like someone pulling on me, and I can feel stuff that shouldn't be there" does not translate into hernia? "Well, it's probably not small bowel and that's what I call a hernia."

I wanted to punch that knuckledhead.

I got the all ladies version of the Three Stooges in the imaging department. I'm not joking. The one urologist lady walks in while the technician lady has her magic wand on my friends "down there." Another one walks in and says, and I'm quoting directly here, "Oooh, this is the one I wanted to check out!" I guess it has been beneficial to have lost my modesty because I'd have otherwise been scarred for life.

Yes, it's a hernia, "of sorts" they said but it's not as bad as a bowel intrusion. I now understand why some hernias hurt like crazy and others are just uncomfortable. Regardless, I really don't want anyone but Dr. Grasso messing with my guts if surgery has to be done. I did manage to convince the weekday doctor to CALL him which the weekend doctor confirmed for me.

Oh yeah, you came in here with a possible bowel obstruction...

When the CT scans turned up no blockage and no clear evidence of a twist, someone dug just a little deeper and learned that chemo patients are prone to bacterial infections. (gasp!) So, let's try you on some antibiotics and see what that does.

Bing! I cleared up pretty quickly while I was on it, but when I got home, literally less than a day later, I was sick as a dog again. So, while trying to get all my doctors caught up on what has happened, figuring out if I should resume my chemo (round three should have started Sunday), coping with a hernia "of sorts", and being bummer that this all happened on just my second week back to work, I got scripted some more of the antibiotics I'd been given in the hospital. Yes, if you're reading closely, they discharged me without any prescriptions to finish off any infection. Hopefully there will be no more vomiting today now with the antibiotics back in play.

Jody doesn't want to go back there again. Not to the hospital, but not to that hospital. And I have to agree it was a less than wonderful stay. If it wasn't the guy sharing my room and his relatives who spoke only Spanish, loudly, it was the guy sharing my room and -his- relatives who spoke only Chinese. Loudly. And that guy snored like a train at all hours. I wish I could fall asleep that fast. And doctors just do not visit patients like you see on television.

But Tara visited me twice and Dad's friend, Terry, did as well. Naturally Jody and my parents kept me company too. I got a surprise visit in the middle of the night from Tara Ross, a nurse I'd met at a Superbowl party last year. She'd heard through her and Jody's mutual friend, Sue, that I'd been checked in and spent a nice long time with me on her break in the middle of the night. So, the lonely times weren't so much and the waiting times went by as fast as they could. Thanks to all of you. :)

Now it's off to try and get some food to stay in me today. We'll also see if I should get back onto the chemo and if the hernia is a real problem or something I can live with.

A year ago I was saying how much I wished this was over. I'd give anything just to be myself again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

back to the grindstone

I did resume the position last Monday. I did not wear a pink shirt, but I did wear some of the khakis and oxfords I've had hanging in the closet now that they fit me once again!

A thought occurred to me a few weeks ago when I was threading on my favorite belt; the one I got in Camden Lock in London when Jody and I first vacationed there when we were dating. I am thinner than when I first met her. I vibrantly remember talking with David Bristow, the leather crafter, as he measured my waist and sized my belt to let me gain or lose some weight. I'm on the last hole he put in the belt for me. :)

I had a bit of a scare before I did start back. Wednesday and Thursday were sketchy as I'd probably eaten something I shouldn't have. Friday it was the other end as I'm pretty sure the yogurt I had with breakfast, though fully fresh and very yummy, did not sit well all day. My pink friends helped.

I also had a fright last night as I reluctantly had Jody take me to the ER. I'd had me regular Monday dinner with some of my oldest friends and come home ready for bed. I was dozing and Jody was reading when I was literally sat up in bed by a very sudden and very sharp pain... right in mah belly! [/very bad Mike Meyers/Austin Powers voice]

Though I would be proven wrong later, it was very very different from my usual gas pains from eats I've learned to avoid. I was doubled over within minutes and nothing I did was making things better. Jody very deftly rushed me to the hospital with smooth speed and maybe a few pictures from some red light cameras. If she gets pinched, I will testify on her behalf I thought I was in serious trouble.

The pain subsided with some choice, um, expressions of my gas-itutude and thanks to the nurses and technicians in the ER. With some fluids, I was able to lay flat again in about an hour and a half but I tell you now, I was seriously hurting beforehand.

I called in this morning to relay my story and ask to come in late and was told to just stay home and rest. It's not like I'm missing anything urgent right now. When I reported in last Monday, I was given a desk on a ghost-town of an office. A football field's worth of cubicles and a whopping three people amongst them; myself included. We're a rag-tag bunch with me just getting back into the swing and two other fellows looking for work between assignments. I checked email, got my voicemail restored, returned a voicemail from a month ago, reformatted my resume, got my retirement elections back on course, and surfed the company network for job listings. It's like when I first started with Lockeed so I imagine I'll be tapped to do some backfill work here and there for a while and then be off on another glamorous, action-packed adventure.

Back home I've been chipping away at the net finding old episodes of Top Gear and Fifth Gear. I found a cool fleet vehicle service company whom was able to steam slean the engine and transmission on the bimmer so I can plot my assault on the timing belt and water pump in the coming days. Knock on wood, the Xeloda pills haven't hit me very hard except for possibly being the cause of my trip to the ER. But that I think may have been a bad combo of the chemo starting to accumulate and poor timing of slight dehydration and maybe a bad choice for lunch or dinner yesterday. I may have crossed a threshold with the stuff and might need to get the Tagamet pills back into my daily snack pack. When dry toast makes you belch, you may have a little stomach acid trouble. ;)

Speaking of lunch yesterday, I got to enjoy it with Jody as we celebrated her passing the Project Management Institute's Project Manager Professional exam! She's certified now!

To close on an upbeat note, I ran across a net web game/toy you should try.
Check out Fantastic Contraption!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pink things

Last night Jody and I watched the stunning spectacular of the Beijing opening ceremonies of the '08 Summer Olympics. If you missed it, stop. Do not pass Go and do not collect $200 until you've made an effort to find some video of the production. It was unbelievable.

And it came to me courtesy of some little pink friends. One was Pepto Bismol's new antacid pills that helped me finally come down off of something bad I had for breakfast yesterday. Dunno what it was though I strongly suspect the yogurt though it tasted perfectly yummy... so did my bowl of Cheerios. Go figure.

This was after a very loooong day before finally relieved by this pink cream called Calmoseptine. I'm not kidding; this stuff is magic. Come to think of it, it was two very looong days. It's bad when something hurts so much that you can't remember time.

My little chemo pills are also pink and that first week wasn't all that bad. I was expecting a lot worse, but it didn't really hit me. I had more difficulty psyching myself up to take them the first few days than they actually affected me.

These little pink aides are helping me avoid a pink slip that would otherwise be coming my way at the end of the month.

I'd thought three more months of chemo were going to seal my fate and keep me from going back to work. Dr. Lee suggested I give the pills a try and see how they affect me. I agreed, mostly out of desperation, but was pleasantly surprised. I'm not being stupid though and I've acknowledged there will likely be a cumulative effect, but that is okay with Lockheed and they're welcoming me back part-time on Monday morning. :)

Personally, I think getting back to work and feeling useful again will have their own benefits. I may wear a pink shirt on Monday.

Maybe not. ;)