Happy New Year!!!

Well, another year has passed and Patty and I are about as healthy as we can be! Patty got some amazing news just a week ago…

December 14, 2015 was Patty’s 5 year anniversary from her last Chemo. Five years! My how the time flies by. She just had an appointment with her Oncologist for her final check-up of the year. She has been seeing her every six months for the past couple of years. This was a big one for her since hitting the five-year mark post chemo gives her a greater chance of survival and being cancer free for many years to come. In addition, she was taking the medication Arimidex which lowers estrogen levels in post-menopausal women, which may slow the growth of certain types of breast tumors that need estrogen to grow in the body. Patty experienced a number of side effects to the medication such as tingling of the extremities, joint pain and, one of my personal favorites… hot flashes! Not just one or two a day, but we’re talking hot flashes anytime of the day, night or morning! I’ve been wanting to get her a super hero costume with a cape and call her The Hot Flash! Poor Patty… she is the only woman I’ve known that will turn the air conditioner on in the car when it’s 32 degrees outside! If things turned out well with her appointment there was a big hope that the doctor would take her off the Arimidex! So this was a big appointment for her… and us. I generally go to every appointment with her,but unfortunately she had to do this one on her own as I had “things” to deal with at work. As usual, about a week before her appointment Mr. Elephant in the room dropped by for his semi-annual visit as I could see patty starting to withdraw a little. If you look back in past posts I’ve described how she gets about a week before any appointment so I go into my routine of trying to keep her mind off of things… I go into “stupid mode!” I joke… laugh… just try to keep her entertained. It never works but why not try.

Her appointment with the Oncologist was December 23rd at 2:00 p.m. She gave blood samples the day before and had a bone density scan. So, December 23rd finally arrived and fortunately Patty was really busy with work so that kind of kept her mind off of things… Patty went to her appointment as scheduled, apprehensive as to what news the doctor would have for her…

December 23rd at about 2:30 my phone rang. I saw it was Patty when I answered it… Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “Hi Honey… How’d it go???
Patty: “Yippee! Yahoo! Yippie! Wooo Hoo! Yea!!! Yippa Screma Dema!!!”
Me: “I’m taking it that it went well?”
Patty: “The doctor said I graduated!!! Yippee! Yahoo! Yippie! Wooo Hoo! Yea!!! Yippa Screma Dema!!!”
Me: “I’m so happy!!!”
Patty: “No more Arimidex! Yippee! Yahoo! Yippie! Wooo Hoo! Yea!!! Yippa Screma Dema!!!”
Me: “That’s great!
Patty: “Yippee! Yahoo! Yippie! Wooo Hoo! Yea!!! Yippa Screma Dema!!!”

That’s pretty much how it went! Not recommended, but she was driving and doing her happy dance at the same time in the car!

Yep… the doctor gave her a clean bill of health! She graduated! The doctor also took her off the Arimidex! No more hot flashes! No more air conditioner in the car when it’s freezing outside! No more needing to wear a wetsuit to bed! I know it all sounds selfish of me, but all I can say is: “Yippee! Yahoo! Yippie! Wooo Hoo! Yea!!! Yippa Screma Dema!!!”

We hope 2016 brings everything good to you!

It’s not my first rodeo!

This past two weeks have been OK.  Just OK.  My doctor sending my slides off to Indiana for a 2nd opinion was a good thing, right?  But when he described my tumor as a “rare” form of cancer, it somewhat took me back as, in my opinion, the word “rare” isn’t good when speaking of cancer.  I’d rather have a normal cancer that everyone else has that the doctor’s know how to treat!  So… that word “rare” has stuck with me the past two weeks.  I was somewhat successful in compartmentalizing this whole thing for two weeks and was able to shove it into a mental filing cabinet not to be opened until today.  But as the past two weeks went by, i found myself opening that drawer now and then and that darned word “rare” kept coming out.

So the day was here… today is the day that I was to get the results of the 2nd opinion.  I made sure this time to make my appointment as early as I could get and was pretty successful at getting an 8:30 a.m. time.  Patty and I showed up on time and the good thing about getting an early appointment is that the doctor hasn’t seen many patients so there’s really no excuse for him to be late.  And… he was right on time!!!  My doctor came in.  As he entered the room I looked at Patty and said “Well, it’s show time!”  He shook my hand but had a serious look on his face.  Normally he smiles and seems fairly jovial.  But today was different.  Or… was it me reading too much into this whole thing?  Funny how your mind works!  Anyway, he did the “good and bad news” thing again.  I really need to have a talk with him about that!  So… bottom line is that yes… the tumor was cancer.  And… yes… it’s a “rare” cancer that they don’t see too often.  It’s such a rare cancer that it’s name takes up a total of four words and 43 letters!  But, more importantly, he said there were still margins.  Margins meaning he wasn’t able to get all the cancer out.  He said with the naked eye, it appeared as if he got everything.  But, under a microscope there’s still some inside me!!!  So, he needs to go back in (more surgery!) and do what he can to remove the rest of the cancer!  I really didn’t know what to think when he said this to me and it’s funny how you can go through so much emotion in a fraction of a second.  In one sense I was pissed!  Really pissed!  I was disappointed!  I was sad!  But, what’s the alternative?  Not good!  If it’s another surgery, so be it!  By the way… there was good news… he’s still pretty confident that if things come back through the pathology of the upcoming surgery, I hopefully won’t need to go through chemo or radiation!

The doctor said I need to recover from the last surgery 2 1/2 weeks ago then we’ll do this next one.  He said he’s going to try to schedule it in about 3 to 4 weeks.  I can do this!

It’s not my first rodeo!

Good new and bad news = Encouraging news!

OK… what a long ass day!  Sorry to put it that way, but sometimes it is what it is!

As expected, we arrived at 3:30 pm for my 3:45 pm appointment hoping in the back of my mind that the doctor would take us in a little early.  Nope… We ended up seeing him around 4:25.  Patty and I were sitting in the waiting room for a while when the doctor walked by.  He saw us sitting there and took a second look then waked over.  He immediately apologized saying they don’t have the results of the biopsy.  In my head I’m thinking WHAT???  But I never let it show on my face… at least I don’t think I did.  He continued saying that he’d explain more when we met.  So, we sat and waited another half hour.  Sure I was disappointed that the results weren’t back yet, but I was a little concerned with his mannerisms.  Patty said I was thinking too much and maybe I was, but it was still what I was feeling.

We finally got in around 4:25 pm.  He said that he had put a rush on my biopsy after the surgery.  The pathologists did the rush and actually came up with their conclusions but weren’t 100% sure.  So he said “since this is a rare form of cancer and they want to be sure what we’re dealing with, so they sent my slides to the pathology Department at the University of Indiana for a 2nd opinion.  Apparently there is a pathologist at the UOI that is a renown pathologist that actually developed the current method of treating testicular cancer.  This pathologist accepts biopsy slides from around the world to give his opinion.  It sounds like this pathologist is the guru of all pathologists in this field so getting his opinion is a good thing!!!  Even better, the doctor said in his opinion by removing my one testicle with the tumor he feels that if the results come back the way he hopes they will, we’re done.  There will be no further treatment!  No chemo.  No radiation.  No nothing!!!

So… this is very encouraging news for us!  He said the results will take about two weeks.  I have my next appointment on Friday, May 22nd at 8:30 a.m.  Let’s keep the prayers coming that the news will be good!

Thank you everyone for your support!!!

Tic, Tic, Tic…

I have to say, this waiting game is torture! My post-op appointment isn’t until 3:45 this afternoon… it’s like having my surgery late in the day. It just sucks! There’s a lot of riding on this afternoon’s appointment…

I’ve done really well this week trying to put things into perspective. I’ve kept really busy every day. Ironic, whenever my father was a little stressed, he’d go into the garage and build something. It didn’t matter what he built, he just had to do something to take his mind off whatever issue was at hand. I can remember as a child coming home from school and asking my mom where dad was. If she said “Oh, he’s in the garage building something” I always knew something was up with dad. Well, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree sometimes because instinctively that’s what I did this week. I’ve been a woodworking fool. Everything I did this week had a beach theme to it… I’ve knocked out two wooden seagulls, three mermaids, a starfish wall hanging and have another “fish thing” in the works. Not quite sure what to call it yet. It’s been really therapeutic for me and had completely made my mind stay focused on creativity as opposed to the “scare” at hand.

photo(36)photo(35)photo(34)

I was planning on working on the “fish thing” today but I just don’t have any enthusiasm to touch it. “Mr. Elephant in the room” has paid me a visit and I’m having a difficult time asking him to leave. I slept well last night. In fact, probably the best sleep I’ve had all week. But, when I woke up, there he was sitting on the edge of the bed.

Poor Patty… she’s trying to be upbeat and really, I’m trying the same.  We’ve all been through something like this in our lifetime where the waiting game drives you crazy.  Maybe not a cancer scare but I’m confident you know what I’m talking about.  So what better thing to do to keep busy… make a Costco run!  We just got back and it wasn’t the same.  It was too early for them to have the “snacks” out yet!

OK… four hours and 21 minutes to go!  Plus, jokingly I was telling Patty that even though we’ll get there on time, the doctor will always be late!  ARGH!  Oh well, I don’t want to be a whiner about this. Suck it up Ed and be a big boy. 3:45 will come soon enough and hopefully it’s going to be good news…

I’ll keep you posted!!!

By the way… I take requests for wood crafts for your yard!

Real men only need one…

What seems like endless waiting, my surgery date finally came! I have to admit, waiting absolutely sucks! Especially when you have something growing inside you that you fear may be cancer! But, I think I did a pretty good job of not letting it get to me or allowing that elephant in the room. Also, it wasn’t like this big dark cloud hanging over my head. I’m pretty lucky that I can compartmentalize unpleasant things and just file them away until it’s necessary to open that door. Anyway, my surgery date was finally here.

My surgery wasn’t scheduled until 4:30 this past Monday afternoon. I was hoping to get an early in the day surgery but I was lucky they could squeeze me in as quickly as they did so I guess I can’t complain. Its funny how the mind works… surgeons normally have one or two days a week where all they do is surgery. My train of thought was it’s probably best to have your surgery in the morning because that’s when the doctor is fresh… Come on, the guy is only human. If you have surgery late in the day, he’s probably tired and possibly not on his game. But… in this case, I gotta take what I can get. I just want this damned thing out of me! Another problem with a late surgery was that I had to fast for a minimum of 9 hours before hand…that means no food or even water after 7:30 a.m.

They wanted me to check in two hours before surgery so we had to be at the hospital by 2:30 p.m. I could hear my stomach growling the entire time during our 20 minute drive. I was absolutely starving!!! Not only starving, but I’ll admit I was now starting to get a little nervous in anticipation of the surgery. I checked in with the surgical receptionist and they promptly brought me and patty into the prep room where they take your vitals etc. and fill out paperwork. Once that’s done, you get go change into the gown/smock/robe and booties from hell! The entire process takes maybe 20 minutes max and now it’s just wait time until the surgeon is ready for me. This was at about 3:00 p.m. Patty’s trying to entertain me because she knows I’m nervous but seriously, all I could think about at that point was food!!! I told Patty that after surgery we could stop at McDonald’s on the way home and I’d get a Big Mac, Large Fries and a Strawberry Shake! I know it’s not the healthiest food but, like I said, I was starving! In fact, it’s been years… I mean years, since I’ve had a Big Mac! I checked the clock and it was about 3:45 p.m. I told Patty that they should be getting me soon since my surgery was 45 minutes away. We waited… and waited… and waited… no one came and got me. It was pushing 4:30 p.m. and I was wondering what was going on. No one came and said anything to me about a delay but I figured they’d get me as soon as they were ready. So… we waited… and waited… and waited more. It was now pushing 6 o’clock… My stomach was so empty that it was stuck together and I was about ready to eat my hand and I could feel I was getting a little grumpy! OK… not a little grumpy, but a lot grumpy since no one had said anything to me about what was taking so long. I tried to put a smile on my face and marched out to the nurses area donning my blue printed robe, green gown and tan booties. Now, let me ask you, is there any way you can get any ounce of respect wearing those stupid clothes??? I kinda doubt it! There were three nurses in the nurses station laughing and joking and having a grand ol’ time when I interrupted them and politely said “Sorry to bother you, but I’ve been waiting here for four hours now. What’s going on? My surgery was scheduled for an hour and a half ago.” The nurse who checked me in had a puzzled look on her face and said she’d check. I went back to my waiting area with Patty. Moments later the nurse came in and said there were some issues with the surgery before mine but they were getting ready to “close him up” and they’d get me soon. What??? Issues??? Now see, this goes back to what I said earlier in this post… a late surgery isn’t good. It’s now after 6 p.m. and the surgeon is probably tired and I’m next! But, what can you do? Just sit there in my stupid gown and listen to my stomach growl! By the time 7:30 p.m. rolled around I’m still waiting and really, I’m not a happy camper! Finally a nurse came in and said she was ready to take me back to the surgical room. She said “Do you have your party hat?” Oh, that’s right. Not only are you wearing the most stupid looking clothes in the world, they want to add insult to injury and make you wear that net over your head! There’s just no way to look cool now!

The nurse wheeled me into the next pre-op room. This is where they get your IV in and do whatever last minute things they need to do. During this time you’re visited by the OR Nurse, my surgeon and Dr. Happy… the wonderful guy who puts you to sleep. My surgeon went over the process of getting the tumor out and it seemed like a pretty basic procedure which I was comfortable with. He finished by saying “I’ll see you in the operating room in a few minutes. I stopped him as he walked away and said “You’ve had a long day… I hope you’re not tired.” He looked me in the eye and said “Nope… I’m just warming up!” Ok… that helped. By 8:30 p.m. they were finally wheeling me into the operating room with my stomach still growling! Once in the room, they moved me to the operating table. One nurse took a peek under my gown and I was thinking “At least wait until I’m asleep!” She then said “You haven’t been shaved yet.” She then got out the electric razor and attacked my pubic hair. I always joke when I get nervous so made some smart ass comments about “Just take a little off the top” and some other crack about just having extensions put in! I had everyone in the room laughing! Ok… I still got it. Next thing I know is Dr. Happy speaking to me saying he put something in my IV to help me relax. Relax? Hell, I was out in seconds!

From what I hear, a lot happened while I was asleep… The surgeon made a two inch incision on my right side just above my right testicle and removed whatever is in that area. What he discovered was the tumor had attached itself to my right testicle making it impossible to remove without removing my testicle. This was a decision he couldn’t make and needed approval from Patty to do the removal. So, he and two nurses found Patty in the waiting room while I was out on the operating table with Dr. Happy keeping a close eye on me. The doctor explained what was happening and sked for her permission to remove my right testicle. It was either she make the call or he said he could close me up and get my permission and go back in later. Patty asked a few questions and then said “absolutely take it. He’d want to me to say yes!” So she signed a few papers and just before they left, she asked the surgeon “Is it cancer?” He replied “It looks like a slow growing cancer but we won’t know until we get the results of the biopsy.” The then returned to the operating room to finish with me. Patty was pretty upset of having to make that decision as well as learning the possibility of me having cancer. She told me later that she started crying when they left the room and within seconds he sister Kathy called. Funny how God works…

The next thing I know is I’m waking up in the recovery room… I was still somewhat groggy when the surgeon came in. He said “Ed… you did great! But I have some good news and some bad news… “ That’s never a good thing to say to a patient… “The good news is that you’re going to be fine… the bad news is we had to remove your right testicle… It’s going to be OK. You’ll still be able to father children!” WHAT??? I wasn’t upset about him taking my testicle, I was upset that he’d think I’d want any more children! For God’s sake… I’m almost 60!

So… a 45 minute surgery turned into nearly two hours. We didn’t get home until close to midnight. Good news is that I feel about a pound lighter now that they’ve removed that testicle.

So, now is the waiting game. I have my post-op meeting with my surgeon on Friday at 3:45 p.m.  This is where we’re going to learn what’s in store for me going forward.  I’ve been preparing myself to hear him say that it’s cancer and if it is, it’s not our first rodeo. Patty and I can get though anything. I’m very confident about that! If it’s clear and not cancer… I’ll be doing Patty’s Happy Dance!!!

The MRI was a piece of cake…

MRI

I’ve now officially had five MRI’s in my lifetime. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s the truth. As I explained yesterday, I absolutely HATE MRI’s. It’s just the thought of being stuffed inside a tube, without much elbow room, that drives me crazy. But like I said, I’m reluctantly going through all the tests the doctors want me to do.

So yesterday I showed up at the hospital MRI Center for yet, my fifth, MRI. I popped a Xanax about 15 minutes before my arrival. So by the time I got there… ahhhhhh…. What up dude? Life was good… life was easy… not a care in the world! It’s the pill form of marijuana without the hunger and laughter! (Not that I would ever know). I checked in, filled out some paperwork and was ready to go. But, they won’t take you in without some humiliation! “Ed, you must change into this gown!” Come on… someone needs to add some style to those stupid gowns. One size fits all and, of course, they’re uni-sex; meaning no one looks good in them! The gowns are also multipurpose. Sometimes you get to wear them with the opening in the front. Other times you get to wear them with the opening in the back. And, of course, you can’t comfortably walk in them when the “back door” is open! So I did as I was told and put the darned thing on. The nurse allowed me to put on a standard hospital issued “robe” which is an ugly blue color that clashes with the green gown. Oh well… at least it covered my backside!

I have to say, having to go through an MRI, this was the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had. The tech was very understanding and was very attentive to my concerns. The Xanax worked perfectly, but she was the icing on the cake. I laid on the table that slides in the tube. She gave me several pillows under my head and feet. She gave me some headphones of which I blasted some AC/DC and the like. The Xanax buzz was still going strong… there I go… into the tube. The tech then talked with me through the headphones. “Ok Ed, I just need to do some tests. You’re going to hear some noise but it’s ok.” “Ok Ed, here we go. This part will take about 3 minutes.” “Ok Ed, we’re done with that. The next will take 1 minute.” Ok Ed, you’re doing good.” She was great and it really helped me get through it. After about 20-25 minutes the slid me out of the tube. I thought I was done. Phew! But nope, the had to inject some dye into me and do it again. It wasn’t bad. It took another 10 minutes or so.

Bottom line, I got through the MRI. And seriously, please don’t tell my doctor but if need be, I’d do it again but only if this woman drove the machine.

Now back to waiting…

Let’s hear it for Xanax!!!

It’s ironic how Patty and I went through her journey nearly five years ago. Yes… it sucked but we learned so much… not just about cancer but also about each other, life, God and just how strong we both could be. So having gone through this together, we’re somewhat familiar with what’s going on with me. Granted there’s been no official diagnosis other than the tumor is real, but having the “C” word hanging above my head and not knowing is somewhat unsettling, to say the least. I think I’ve done pretty darn good putting everything into perspective. Bottom line is that it is what it is and there’s not much I can do about it other than stay positive and go through whatever tests the doctors want me to go through. Sure, I could easily burry my head in the sand, ignore and hope everything goes away, but I know that’s not going to happen. So, I’m reluctantly going to every appointment and test that’s scheduled! ARGH!!!

So there’s been some encouraging news. After my appointment with the urologist last week, he had ordered a battery of blood tests. That was a week ago this past Monday. I got the results last Wednesday. I was a little concerned when I heard the doctor say, along with all the other blood tests, he also wanted to run “Tumor Markers.” Having gone through this with Patty, I knew exactly what that test was for. Tumor markers are used to help detect, diagnose, and manage some types of cancer. Elevated tumor markers is a good indication of the presence of some type of cancer in your body. Scripps has a pretty good patient record system in place where I can actually log in to my account and review my medical records. So I had received an email from Scripps stating my medical records had be updated. I went online and there it was… the result of my bloodwork. The first click was on the “Comprehensive Metabolic Panel” which is pretty much every function/organ in your body. Everything came back within normal range! And believe it or not… even my liver function was normal! Ok… that’s good! I then saw the “Alpha-Fetoprotein” result button. That’s the tumor markers. I hesitated for a few seconds… closed my eyes and clicked. I slightly opened my eyes, pretty nervous what I’d see. The normal range for the tumor markers is 0 – 15. Mine came back a 2!!!!! That’s way on the low side! Terrific news!!!!! That’s very encouraging!!!! Phew! Ok… I’m feeling good!

I got a call last Thursday from the scheduler for my urologist wanting to schedule my surgery to get this damned thing out of me. She said she was currently scheduling his surgeries in mid-July! But, she said he had put a “stat” on my chart meaning he wants to do the surgery as soon as possible. I’m good with that! So, she was able to “squeeze” me in on Monday, May 4th at 4:30 p.m.! I’m good with that!

As I said, I’ve been doing pretty well ever since getting this news. I keep telling myself “This is just a bump in the road! That’s all!” And I’ve been sticking to it… until yesterday. The doctor’s office called yesterday wanting to schedule my MRI. I have to tell you, I HATE MRI’s! OK… I’m claustrophobic. I admit it! And sliding into that damned tube really makes me go crazy! Fortunately, in the past, the doctor had prescribed some Xanax (anti-anxiety) to help get me through the process. It’s worked before and I’m pretty confident it’ll be fine again. Anyway the scheduler called at 1:30 p.m. and asked if I could come in at 3:30 p.m. that day!!! Two hour later! I immediately panicked! I could have gone in, but I needed time to process this request. I told he that it wasn’t a good day but I’d be happy to come in the following day (today). She said “But the doctor put a “stat” on your MRI and we need to get it done right away!” Too bad… I wasn’t mentally ready to do this and what difference is a day going to make?! I again told her that it wasn’t a good day and I’d be happy to come in the following day. She said she needed to call me back. She called back a half hour later with my MRI appointment today at 11:00 a.m.

So… here’s the deal. I thought I had everything pretty much in perspective. But the tests continue and that’s the reality of what’s going on with me. Patty lovingly laughs saying “Ed, in no time at all, they’re going to know everything going on in your body!” Great! I’m not happy about the MRI but the reality is that they’re taking this very seriously and there’s definitely a sense of urgency from their side. So Ed… suck it up and go with the flow!

So, I’m putting this back into perspective and hanging on to 70% of these tumors are non-cancerous! My tumor markers were on the low side! All my bloodwork came back within normal range!

Bring on the MRI… and the Xanax!