I did it! I finally did it!

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

I finally did it!  This has been a Bucket List thing of mine for years.  I wrote and published a book!  Can you believe it!!!

Writing a blog as I went through the cancer journey with Patty was therapeutic!  As tough as the journey was, I looked forward to blogging our daily lives dealing with this mess.  I found blogging actually cleared my head of what was going on.  Get it out and prepare for the next day! I had planned on blogging for much longer than I did, but found as time passed and we settled into a somewhat life of normalcy, there just wasn’t much to blog about.  So, as a result, I stopped.  It really wasn’t a conscious decision.  It just kind of happened.

The blog had built a lot of momentum early on that I had thought to someday turn it into a book.  But, I’d ask myself, why turn it into a book when someone can just go online and read it.  It had to be more that just the blog.  So, I recalled Patty telling she had an ongoing journal as she went through the battle.  I thought “Wow… If I can get my hands on what she had written in her journal, I’m sure it would work if I intermixed her writings with mine.”  The problem is that a journal is like a diary.  What’s written is very personal.  I was hesitant to approach Patty because of that fact.  So, I put it off for a long time, but it was always in the back of my mind to ask.  I finally talked to her about it.  But, I put a spin on it that I thought I’d like to write a book from my blog and insert her writing into it.  I continued that I thought it would help others who read it who were possibly in the throws of cancer, to get a little insight into her side of the story.  She loved the idea!  She said “If you think it could help others, then let’s do it!”  That’s my wife!

So, I spent the next few years going through her journals and inserting parts into the blog/book.  Inserting her writing into the book was easy because she dated everything and so did I!  The hardest part was finding the time to work on it.  So it was an off-and-on project… more off than on.  But I did it!

I conquered a Bucket List item!

The book “My Wife Has Breast Cancer, Our Story” is published in ebook form for now.  So anyone with an electronic device can download it.  I’m working on the paperback now and hopefully it will be ready to go sometime next week… that is, if I can find the time!

My Wife Has Breast Cancer, Our Story is available through Amazon.com.  You can do an easy search on the website under the title or follow the following link:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=my+wife+has+breast+cancer

You can just copy and paste the link into your browser.

Now… I need to go tackle something else on my Bucket List… maybe that will be having my picture taken with a tiger on my lap in Thailand!

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.

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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!

Another “Bump in the Road???”

I’ve been writing this blog for nearly 5 years now! Granted, I’ve been pretty quiet the past two years. In fact, the last entry I did was June 11, 2013, nearly two years ago! Sorry about that. But the old saying “No news is good news” pretty much fits.
Patty is doing amazingly well! She’s healthy as can be. Her cancer exams have been pushed back to yearly exams and come December, she’ll have been cancer free for 5 years!!! That “elephant in the room” has been laying low at our house… until yesterday.
So… Going through my blog, I realized this is my 100th blog entry! It’s somewhat of a milestone. So I guess it’s appropriate for this entry to be about me…
About a month ago I was showering and while soaping up I felt something unusual in my groin area. I wondered “what the heck is that?” It was hard and shaped like a small egg. Being hypersensitive to cancer after going through Patty’s ride, I told Patty about it and we both agreed I should go to the doctor and get it checked. You know how it is when you call the doctor’s office to get an appointment… you can never get an appointment within the next few days. It’s always weeks out, which was the case here. I explained my concern to the woman scheduler and tried to make her understand I had a sense of urgency. She understood and was able to “squeeze me in” the following week. So, that “egg” was making its presence known to me over the next six days. It wasn’t painful. It’s just there and I know it’s there if that makes any sense. I made it to my appointment early and only had to wait a few minutes to see the doctor. I explained my findings to him. He felt around and said he couldn’t feel anything where I was able to immediately pinpoint its location. He still couldn’t find it. His comment was “Well, you know your body better than I do so I believe there’s something there, but I can’t find it.” So, he ordered an ultrasound which ended up being two weeks later.
I went to my scheduled ultrasound this past Monday. I was joking with Patty earlier that I hoped the ultrasound tech would be a male since there’s some “private parts” right in the area where they be working! I checked in and had a seat. Shortly thereafter I heard a door open behind me and a female voice said “Edward?” I turned and wouldn’t you know it… she was gorgeous, tall with long blonde hair! She smiled at me and said “Hi Edward. My name is Gretchen. I’ll be doing your exam today…” Gretchen? Are you kidding me!!! Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! I wanted a male! Well, suck it up Ed. I’m sure she’s done a number of these and she’s seen men’s “private parts” in all shapes and sizes. Still… these were my private parts. Damn it, Damn it, Damn it! OK, it turns out I freaked out about nothing. We went into the exam room and she had me all wrapped up like a cocoon. There was no way possible for my “stuff” to pop out while she did her thing. Phew! The exam took about 15 to 20 minutes and I was done. Now the waiting game begins to get the results.
I was at work yesterday and received a phone call around 2 pm. I answered and there was a woman on the line saying “Hi this is Scripps Clinic calling with the results of your ultrasound.” I thought “Wow that was fast!” I said “And, what are the results?” She replied “Your doctor is referring you to a urologist and you need to call this number and make an appointment. She said “Tell them you have a mass in your inguinal region.” I asked “What does that mean?” She said “The urologist will have to explain.” Great! I immediately called the urologist’s number and was connected to the scheduler. I told her my doctor referred me to see a urologist and also that “I have a mass in my inguinal region… whatever that means!” She told me the urologist’s schedule was pretty full and April 23rd was the first opening he had available. She then asked my name and I provided it to her. She brought me up on their computer and said “I need to put you on hold” click! She came back on the line and said “Can you come in at 4 this afternoon?” Hmmm… this is suspicious. Why did she move it from the 23rd to this afternoon??? I told her 4 would work for me and next thing you know, it’s 4 o’clock and I’m sitting in the waiting room. As I sat in the waiting room I saw a nurse practitioner named Susan that was Patty’s angel when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Susan gave Patty so much hope at such a scary time. I wanted to say something to her, but she appeared busy. Finally my name was called and off to the exam room to see the doctor. Of course the nurse had to take my vitals as they usually do. My regular doctor had prescribed new high blood pressure medication for me about a month ago. I take it daily and my BP has been in check normally running around 130/75. But, not today! The nurse slapped the BP cuff on me and I watched confidently waiting for the results. 176/90!!! What???? She said “Are you nervous?” I replied “Obviously!!!” She laughed and didn’t seem too concerned with the results. “The doctor will be in shortly.”
Next thing I know, there’s a knock on the door an in walks my urologist. He introduced himself and shook my hand. I noticed his hand was wet when I shook it. He said “Oh… I just washed my hands… you know, a urologists joke!” OK, I like this guy. He has a sense of humor! He asked me to take a seat and he sat on his stool and rolled in close to me. In a very sincere and empathetic tone he said “Edward, do you know why you’re here?” Wow… immediate flashback to when Patty met with her surgeon. He did the exact same thing to Patty. They must learn this trick in the “Delivering Bad News to Patients 101” class in med school. Who in the world would go to the doctor and not know why they’re there? Anyway, I acknowledged why I was there to him. He then asked “Is there a history of cancer in your family?” Oh no… this conversation is going south quickly! I told him my father had two bouts with prostate cancer years ago. He said “hmmmm… I see.” I’m thinking “Well? Tell me what’s going on!” He slid his stool back a little and said “I’m not sure what it is!” What? All this drama to tell me you don’t know what it is??? Then he changed his story a little and said I have a Para-testicular tumor 30% of which are malignant. Bam! Just like that! I immediately had this sick feeling in my stomach. Get control Ed!!! I’ve always been the guy whose glass is half full so hearing that news told me that 70% are not malignant. That’s pretty good odds! Still, my mind is saying “but what if?” He said he wants to go in as soon as possible to get it out of me. I like that plan! Once it’s out they’ll biopsy it and have an answer of what’s going on. Next step is they’re scheduling an MRI hopefully within the week. I hate, hate, hate MRI’s! I’m claustrophobic and being in that little tube for 20 minutes or so just freaks me out! I had three last year with my back issues and fortunately my surgeon prescribed Xanax which gave me some relief. This doctor did the same thing for me. Phew! After the MRI they may schedule a CT scan then surgery. He said the timeline will be within a month.

Am I scared? Absolutely! Am I worried? Absolutely! Has Patty’s elephant now taken residency with me? You bet! Will God get me through this? 100%!!!

So… I’m trying to look at this as just another “Bump in the road” or an “Inconvenience” or even an “Adventure.” Whatever you call it… it sucks. Let’s just hope and pray 70% is in my favor!

I’ll keep you posted…

Today!

Wow! I apologize, but the last time I posted was July 18, 2012! Nearly a year ago! Sorry about that…
Ok… so what you’ve missed over the past year (in Reader’s Digest form) was:

• I had successful back surgery for the herniated disk.
• Patty’s been busy watching our granddaughter, Avery, during the day.
• Patty started volunteering at Palomar Hospital.
• We decided to take advantage of me working for Hyatt Hotels by taking quick one or two night trips to: Indian Wells/Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Huntington Beach, a stay-cation at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad and the Andaz West Hollywood. We try to get away at least once a month.
• I was named Manager of the Year for our hotel and as a result, they sent me and Patty on an all-expense paid trip for one week to Aruba!
• Patty, while still watching Avery, got a part time job doing court research on the computer from home.
• We went to the Lodi ZinFest with friends in May.
• We’ve hosted many, many, many family barbecues at our house.
• I’m still playing my guitar as a stress reliever.
• Etc, etc, etc…

So see, life is pretty normal at our house. But I can say, not a day goes by where that “Elephant in the room” (cancer) isn’t present! His presence isn’t remotely like it was in the beginning, but he’s still around! The thought of reoccurrence never leaves… for both of us. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t dwell on the possibility of it coming back, but it’s always there in the back of your mind. I think only those who have been through the battle may understand. It never goes away! And for Patty, she believes every little ache and pain that pops up could be an indication that Mr. Cancer is back. Again, I think this is completely natural for anyone who has been through it.

So the purpose of today’s post is to discuss… today! Patty had her six month checkup this morning with her oncologist. She has a “love/hate” relationship with her. Patty absolutely loves her, respects her, trusts her and honestly looks at her as her Guardian Angel… the woman who saved her life! But on the other hand, she hates to see her. Seeing her means blood work and more tests. With blood work and more tests come stress, anxiety and the “what if it’s back” syndrome! Patty is a smart woman and she knows when it comes to cancer, as much as you want to bury your head in the sand, you just can’t. As much as you want to postpone your checkup, you just can’t! As much as you want to forget about everything and go on as if nothing has happened, you just can’t. The anxiety generally kicks in about a month before her appointment. Not much, but knowing Patty as I do, I can tell when she’s not on her game and there’s some kind of underlying thing going on that I’m not privy to. But, I’ve learned, all I have to do is take a look on the calendar and I can easily figure out what’s bothering her. As the days pass and the appointment gets closer, the stress and anxiety of the “test” results gets greater. I’ve learned that my job is to just keep her as busy as I possibly can to keep her mind off of things!

This morning, we got up and poor Patty was just beside herself. She was very quiet and the “Elephant” was definitely with us. He was in the bedroom as we dressed… in the kitchen as we had a cup of coffee… in the car during the ride to the doctors… in the waiting room with us and he sat on the chair next to me in the examining room! Finally the doctor came in. She just has this way about her that is confident yet comforting. Bottom line… all the blood work came back in normal range!!! There’s no indication that cancer is even considering a reoccurrence at this time!!! The best news ever! When the doctor gave Patty a bill of clean health, I looked at the chair next to me and the elephant was gone!

So, chalk up another visit to the oncologist! Another positive visit, Patty is very healthy and things will be great for another five months until the anticipation of the next visit raises its ugly head!

Until then, Patty is a three year breast cancer survivor!!!

Men don’t get hot flashes, do they?

I just celebrated my 57th birthday on the 7th of this month.  Another birthday, another year older.  What’s a guy to do about it?  Nothing, considering the alternative!  With age comes aches and pains that weren’t there yesterday.  Silly aches and pains that sometimes are just enough to wake us up in the middle of the night or just enough to make us get up from a chair a lot slower than we used to.

Well… I spent my birthday hobbling around like a cripple.  Somehow I herniated a disk in my back.  How did I do it?  I wish I had a great story to tell like how I was rock climbing and fell off a cliff and was at the bottom of a ravine for days without food or water, but no.  I have no story.  In fact, I have no idea how I did it!  Quite honestly, I probably did it while doing something basic like tieing my shoe!

I’ll admit, it’s pretty painful and from what Patty tells me, it’s pretty painful to watch!  Speaking of Patty… it’s now her turn for the “love, honor and cherish through sickness and health!”  She’s been my angel!  I can’t do much other than moan and groan!  She does the rest!  She’s taking amazing care of me while I’m down!

I was at the doctor the other day and he scheduled an MRI for next week.  But, in the meanwhile he put me on a six-day steroid program that would reduce any swelling.  It worked great!  Within days I was feeling so much relief.  I did have to laugh because the first day I took them I was at work talking to my Asst. Director of Security.  Suddenly I broke out in a sweat… I was thinking: “What’s this all about???”  I mean I was hot, red  and sweating profusely!  I hadn’t done anything to cause this perspiration, but it was like I was raining from my body!!!  He looked at me and asked if I was ok.  I told him I was but didn’t know what was going on!  He asked in a joking manner:  “Are you menopausal???”  Great!  Everyone is a smart ass!  So women… I experienced my first hot flash!  It was caused by the steroids.  I experienced several more as the days passed.  I didn’t like it but I now have a great appreciation for those who experience them regularly!  I truly apologize for any jokes I made about hot flashes in the past!

So, the MRI is next week.  Hopefully it something they can do a quick fix and I can get back to some kind of normal!

There is life after cancer!

The view from our deck in Carmel!

It’s been such a long time since I’ve blogged but today I woke up and thought it’s time to give an update as to where we are.

It’s been over two years now since Patty’s official diagnosis on June 21, 2010.  Two years ago we were both shocked when Patty got the news that she had breast cancer!  We had no idea what was in store for us and no clue what the future would bring.  But, as a team, we got through it.  Now we sit two years later… done with chemo but Patty, to this day, still suffers from some chemo related side effects which is a daily reminder of her journey… Patty’s hair has grown back curly as ever…  done with reconstruction… Life is pretty damned good!

The bad thing about cancer is that the subject will always linger around.  Linger around as in “will it come back some day?”  We pray that it doesn’t!  Patty get’s aches and pains like we all do.  The difference between our pains and her’s is that there is always a question mark behind her pains wondering if the pain is cancer related.  This is absolutely normal for anyone who has battled a life threatening disease.  Other reminders of cancer are the quarterly exams and tests Patty goes through.  She meets every 3 months with her oncologist and every six months with a pulmonary specialist just to make sure things are looking good.  And, Bless the Lord, everything is looking normal for Patty!

Room service dinner on our deck. It’s doesn’t get any better than this!

This past Monday was our 18th wedding anniversary!  18 years, can you believe it!  (And there were some people early on who predicted we’d never make it!)  I’ve been working a lot lately and we’ve both been busy/tied up with “things” that we realized we really  miss each other and needed some “Ed & Patty” time.  Time for nobody else but us!  So I took a few days off work and Patty and I took a driving trip.  We left this past Sunday morning and headed up to Carmel, Ca for a couple of days.  Thank God Patty and I travel well because the 6 1/2 hour drive to Carmel seemed like nothing.  We talked and laughed all the way there.  We stayed at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands Resort and got a room with a fireplace and deck overlooking the beach.  It couldn’t have been any more romantic!   We didn’t do much as far as sight-seeing.  All we needed was to be together.  I have to say this was one of the best anniversaries we’ve had.

Top the night off with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries!

We then drove up to Santa Rosa on Tuesday where we met some friends and did a little wine tasting.  (one of our favorite pastimes!)  We had a fun day visiting with friends.

We were supposed to stay in Santa Rosa two nights.  It’s funny how Patty and I are pretty much on the same page all the time… we got up Wednesday morning and laid there in bed… Patty looked at me and said “I’m ready to head home.”  I felt the same… so, we packed up the car and drove 6 hours down to Santa Barbara where we stayed at another Hyatt property which was ocean front!  This stop was a great way to break up our drive home.  We had a real nice dinner that night and overall, another great night!

We got up Thursday morning, rested and ready to head home.  The 4 hour drive was nothing, other than Los Angeles traffic!!!  I don’t get it!  Anyway, don’t get me started on that!  So we made it home in the early afternoon.  Patty and I love to travel, but it’s always so nice to get home!

So, here we are… two years out from Patty’s cancer diagnosis… Patty’s doing so well!  We’re doing so well!  After 18 years of marriage, I still call Patty my best friend!  And even though there’s always going to be cancer reminders and fear of reoccurrence, THERE IS LIFE AFTER CANCER!!!

A year later…

First of all, I know its been about a month since my last post.  My goal at that time was to keep you up to date with posts as Patty and Nicole were walking the Komen 3-Day walk.  It turned out that I got pretty sick with what I thought was just a cold, but it turned out to be pneumonia which, to say the least… kicked my butt!  I’ve since recovered and am feeling pretty much back to myself but this past month has been rough.

Patty and Nicole completed the Komen 3-Day!  I will say, they had some tired and sore feet by the end of the weekend, but, the bottom line is that they put their minds and feet to the test and did it.  Unfortunately I wasn’t there except for the closing ceremonies, which, by the way, were pretty emotional!  Nicole blogged about their experience so I think I’ll just give you the link to her site so you can read about their  journey from her perspective… http://hipfitmom.com/

I do have a couple of pictures from day three of the walk to share…

Amazing how a shot of tequilla can relieve foot pain!

Thank you El Dorado County!

December 14th… a special day for Patty and me.  December 14, 2010 was the day Patty received her 6th and final chemotherapy infusion of her breast cancer treatment.  December 14, 2010 marked the end of one chapter of our lives and the beginning of a new one.

I took a few minutes this morning and read through old posts of this blog.   Wow, it brought back so many memories.  Patty was so sick just one year ago.  She had lost so much weight.  She had lost her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes.  She was so weak and fatigued… she’d even passed out several times.  I remember referring to those times as “Adventures in Chemo – the bathroom Chronicles!”   Twice she required medical attention and stitches from passing out.  It was a pretty scary time in our lives, but you know what?  We made it.  Not having ever faced a health issue like this, not knowing what day to day issues we’d face, I think we did pretty good as a team… mostly flying by the seat of our pants!  Even as scary as the whole experience was, and I mean it was scary, our love and respect for each other kept us going!  And that love and respect has grown 100 times over since then, if not more!  The other thing that kept us going was keeping our sense of humor… when dealing with breast cancer you can either laugh or cry and we found a combination of both worked for us!

Now look where we are… one year later.  Patty has come so far.  She has a head full of curly hair.  Her eyebrows and eyelashes are back and have been back for months.  She looks healthy and feels healthy!  She goes to Jazzercise a couple times a week and, as you know, she was able to walk 60 miles in the Komen 3-Day for the cure.  A year and a half ago, we didn’t even know if she’d be alive today.  But you know what?  She is and she’s doing great!

Patty had an appointment with her oncologist this past Monday.  Everything looks great and the oncologist had no issues where she is with her recovery!    Next appointment with her is in three months.  Patty goes back to see the reconstruction surgeon in mid-January for her next to last procedure.

Everything is just falling into place…

So, as I said, yesterday was a big day for Patty.  Sure, she’s still dealing with some issues from the chemotherapy.  But the bottom line is that she’s come so far and has a whole life ahead of her…

That’s my girl!!!

 

Komen 3-Day Walk – Day 1

The excitement for Patty in anticipation of the Komen 3-Day Walk grew as this last week passed.  It seemed to be our main topic of conversation.  Patty was a little nervous about walking 20 miles for three days in a row plus the possibility of rain in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday, however, I don’t think there is anything that would get in her and Nicole’s way to keep them from walking.

It’s funny, I work strange hours with my new job and a few days each week I don’t stumble in until around 3:00 a.m.  I always try to be as quiet as possible to not wake Patty… I’ll walk in the bedroom and whisper “I’m home honey.”  Generally I’ll hear a “grunt” from Patty acknowledging my presence and that’s about it.  Last night I walked in with my usual routine, whispered “I’m home honey” and she startled me with an alert voice asking “What time it?”  I told her it was 2:45 a.m. and she responded “Good… I have an hour and a half to go!”  4:15 a.m. couldn’t come soon enough for her!  Patty is not a morning person, but today, she was all about getting up and facing her walk.  She reminded me of when I was a kid and my parents announced they were taking my sister and me to Disneyland the following morning.  The excitement of the next day kept me awake all night!  Patty and Nicole needed to be at the walk starting point by 6:00 a.m. then participate in a community stretch followed by the opening ceremonies.  The walk officially started at 7:00 a.m.

I slept in until around 9 and Patty called minutes after I awoke.  She sounded so excited!  She just rambled about how awesome the event was and how happy she was that she and Nicole could participate together.  She said there was more energy then you could ever imagine, women and men walkers dressed in wild pink clothing, boas, hats… you name it.  She’s having the time of her life!  She said she didn’t think there would be an issue for her to complete the 20 miles today.  (We’ll see how she’s doing tonight!)

Unfortunately I’m not able to make it to the walk today as I’ve now come down with the cold that’s being passed around the family.  I’ll do my best to be there tomorrow!

Here’s a couple of pictures she texted me of their adventure…

I’m not going to even bother asking who this guy is!

I’ll keep you posted on their walk as I hear more!

Just venting!

A mere 18 months ago, Patty and I were just this happy-go-lucky couple.  Life was perfect, at least that’s what we thought.  Sure we had many of the same issues and challenges as most couples have, but overall, life was great.  But you know what?  I think I can honestly say that now, life is better!

Looking back, my father had prostate cancer in his mid-60’s.  I’m ashamed to admit, but I was young and pretty self-absorbed at the time. I remember him having surgery and going through radiation treatments.  I do recall him very weak from the treatments and one day him telling me “Ed, if I would have known how these treatments made me feel, I would have never done it.”  He finished his treatments and went on to live a very long life of 94 years!  I never gave it a second thought that he could have died from the cancer.  “He’s my dad!  He’s going to live forever!”  I just went on with my life and never gave a second thought to what he and my mother were going through. Now knowing the challenges Patty and I have face the past 18 months, I look at what they went through much differently.  I wish I could apologize to them.

Other than my father, Patty and I had never been affected by cancer of any type.  We had never known someone outside the family who was diagnosed with it.  Patty’s family has no history of cancer.  We’ve never had a friend, or a friend of a friend, who had it.  Cancer just wasn’t in our world.  When we did hear of someone diagnosed with cancer, we’d look at each other and say “Oh.. that’s too bad.  I hope they’re going to be alright.”   And that was about it.  No further thought.  No idea of what that person was facing nor how the cancer affected them, their family, their friends.

Patty and I talked last night and counted the number of people we personally know who have some form of cancer…. TWELVE!  TWELVE people!  Twelve people we personally know who have cancer of various types and in various stages.  Twelve people who’s lives will change forever.  Some of those twelve will make it through the battle… others may not!   That just angers me!

I’m not sure where I’m going with today’s post.  I think I’m just venting.

Cancer is just so random.  Why it chooses one person and not another person is beyond me.  There are times I’ve thought “Why did it choose Patty?”  Was God trying to give us a wake-up call?  If he was… it worked!   Patty and I have face challenges and trials over the past 18 months that I could have never imagined facing.  These challenges were no more and no less than what any person diagnosed with cancer goes through.  Sure the types, stages, grades and treatments may vary, but the challenges, both emotional and physical, are similar.

What is the deal with cancer research?  There are billions of dollar that go into research and yet no cure.  I hear rumor the researchers are close in some respects, but still so far from beating it!  Researchers etc. have made a lot of headway regarding breast cancer treatment as treatment is now leaps-and-bounds from where it was even ten years ago.  Maybe researchers will accidentally come across something that will cure cancer.  Kind of like how they accidentally discovered Viagra.  In that case, researchers were testing a cardiovascular drug known for lowering blood pressure.  They found the drug did lower blood pressure however had a significant side-effect on the male volunteers… presto chango… Viagra was discovered!  Maybe something like that can happen for a cure for cancer.

Well, thank you for letting me vent!  I’m done!

Team Patty in Pink hit’s the road this Friday morning for the Komen 3-Day walk.  Patty and Nicole have been squeezing in their training walks as often as possible, but it hasn’t been as often as they’d like due to weather, work, travel, sickness, etc.  They did do a 12 mile walk about a week ago.  I can tell you, Patty is pretty excited for the walk.  Knowing her, she’ll do just fine.  Stay tuned… I’ll be doing more posts about the walk this weekend.

I started this post saying that life is better now than pre-cancer.  It really is!  I didn’t think it was possible, but Patty and I have grown so much closer.  We have so much respect for each other.  We enjoy our time together so much.  She’s my best friend.

Patty still gets very frightened about cancer.   The subject seems to always be lurking around the corner or hovering around like a dark cloud.  I was telling someone just today that people often thing that when the treatment is over and you’re cancer free you just continue on with life like nothing has happened.  Not true.  It’s something we’ll just have to live with…