Category Archives: Cancer

The Worry Project

“Bobby Jo don’t worry ’bout nothin’!”

What good has worry done me, or you? Not one damn bit: what’ s coming is coming and there isn’t a thing you can do about it.  Sure, you can study books, save money, watch tv shows about what foods to eat (then eat those foods), you can watch the TV news (and go insane), you can vote, get politically active, smell the flowers, meditate, have coffee with friends, have dinner with family; but, nothing is going to change the fact that one morning you’re going to pull up your pants and put your shirt over your head and you are NOT going to repeat the proscess at the end of that same day.  Someone else is going to pull them off for you—poof that’s it.

So why worry?  I learned this lesson from a someone I read about named Bobby Jo Dennison.  He holed up in a local hotel room with his girlfriend or whore or whatever she was.  He decided he wasn’t coming out.  You think he was worried about retirement, his 401k, or his health insurance?  Hell no, he wasn’t worried ’bout nothin’ —his life goes on as carefree as the lilies of the field, or the birds of the air, which Jesus talked about in the New Testament.  Now, I don’t plan on threatening to cut off anyone’s toes or wear big jewelry, or my hat on backward, or have a teardrop tattoo, but I can try, just like Bobby Jo (and Jesus) not to worry.

Douggie Jo and Timmy Jo ain’t gonna worry ’bout nothin’ this week, as an experiment.  We’ll see what happens.

10 minutes after I posted this we got a call from Doug’s doctor’s office that his PET scan is scheduled for March, 12th…a month to the day after he was laid off.  This scan is to look to see the status of whether or not the cancer is gone.

Coincidence?  I think not.

Blood, Liver, Roller Coaster

Cancer treatment is a roller coaster ride.  You have to live in bits: bits of hours, bits of days…little tiny bits.  You don’t dare look ahead too far; life is micro not macro. 

Doug got a call from his nurse the other day:

“We want you to come in early for a blood test.”

“Is it anything I need to be concerned about?” he asked, near panic.

“It’s your liver enzymes.” the nurse flatly explained.

Anyone that knows cancer knows that it loves to spread to the liver.  When it spreads to the liver it often becomes deadly.  The familiar, cold-sweat panic sets in, you take a deep breath and the internal dialogue kicks in like a silent auction of life versus death.  The liver: we don’t want to visit the liver.

After three days of nail-biting, praying and waking in the middle of the night Doug got the word.  I heard the now ominous creak of the front door.  I was sitting in the same place I had been when he originally announced the unfathomable cancer diagnosis—the toilet.

I shouted, “Don’t tell me while I’m sitting here!”

My hand shook as it reached for the toilet paper, heart racing, sweat beading.  I tidied myself and emerged from the bathroom.

“My liver’s so fine, I can drink a glass of wine.”, he smiled, we hugged, I cried and I felt deep inside the first bit of hope I’ve felt through this entire hideous misadventure.

Today is Valentine’s.  We have no wine, but we have some time yet to celebrate.  Who wants to try to get into a restaurant on Valentine’s day anyway???  I will post our first toast.

Thanks to all of you!  We extend our love on this special “day of the liver”, more often associated with the heart, otherwise known as Valentine’s day.

 

The Shocker

February 12th was supposed to be “back to normal” day; but it turned out to be “slap in the face” day.  Doug spent the evening of February 11th with his usual pre-work routine.

  1. Making his lunch: usually a turkey sandwich, a piece of dark chocolate and a “healthy” sweet snack.
  2. Laying out his “outfit”
  3. Cold brewing his jug of green tea in the refrigerator

He tossed and turned in bed–he was excited like a schoolboy on the night before his first day back to classes.  I told him:

“It’s back to normal eve.”

He smiled, “I can’t go to sleep.”

I told him, “Maybe you should take half a pain pill.” (he had been diligently working at tapering off the medication even though his whole lower torso looked as if it had been seared with a torch.)  We serenely watched “The Great British Baking Show”, chuckling and commenting along the way, breathing the types of breaths one breathes when they know everything was going to be okay, soft, smooth and deep.  After watching numerous cakes fall apart, both of us finally drifted off to sleep.

He awoke and readied himself so quietly, I didn’t know that he was gone.  I got up after he had left thinking about how happy he must be to be back at work where he has a few really good people as coworkers.  I worried that he might be hurt as he moves literally nearly a ton of boxes each work day.  I knew he was happy–now matter how much it hurt.

I was taking my last sip of coffee, preparing to shower, when I heard the front door creak open.  It was Doug. I was shocked. I thought he said to me, “I’m not strong enough and have to go back tomorrow.”  Because I couldn’t believe the situation which he went on to explain.  What he had said was that he needed me to be “strong” for he had just been laid off, without warning, without honor, without sympathy, coldly, cruelly, shamefully on his first day back from a long and grueling fight with cancer which we didn’t know yet for sure was over.

I literally collapsed in tears as he tried to comfort me.  Imagine that, him comforting me.  He is a good man, kind, loving, forgiving and very, very strong.  He was more worried for me than himself.  I don’t care about his job, the money, the bills…I care about Doug’s honor and dignity and to see him degraded in this way both broke my heart and infuriated me.

Last night was really, really tough.  We both awoke in the night and talked for a while, both fearing not being able to go back to sleep again.  Doug was reading and I asked him what it was.  He said it was an advanced reader copy of something or other.  I said to him, “You still love getting those advanced reader copies don’t you?”

He smiled at me with the most sincere and wide grin:

“That’s why I love being a bookseller.”

My tears began a stream to see that smile and hear those words.

Back To Work, Back to Life, Back to Good Health

Doug is scheduled to return to work on February 12th.  He is looking forward to getting back to a routine he once cursed.  His job is very physically demanding: he literally will lift a ton of boxes and move them per day.  He has grown very soft, in a way, over the course of his cancer treatment; though the treatments have hardened him in other ways.  He is just not as physically strong as he was back in December. 

He is healing well.  His pain level is decreasing slightly each day.  He refused to take the last three radiation treatments.  He seemed literally terrified when he thought they were going to wheel him down to radiation while he was trying to get stabilized in the hospital.  He said he felt instinctively that his body was trying to tell him that no more treatments were necessary and the cancer was gone.

I know this whole process has changed him; but, he is still too close to the whole nightmare to really see just how much and in what way.  He had never been hospitalized for the first 52 years of his life.  He says it will be another 52 years so he won’t be in the hospital again until he is 104!  Now that’s the spirit!

Thanks to all who have shown their support for him along the way with their visits, cards, thoughts, and prayers. 

Doug will know nothing about the status of the tumor for about two more weeks, yet seems to know something in his heart.  Doug might well have said the quote below himself.

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

— Buddha

Back Home

This story is long from over but having Doug home makes everything much more bearable.  His pain is declining slightly each day though he still walks around looking saddle sore.  He is still on an antibiotic for a few more days; we are monitoring his temperature throughout the day…sometimes he acts like a crabby baby about having that done. 

Now, we just wait to see if the cancer is all gone.  I pray that it is because I don’t know that Doug would go through this all again.  I am not sure I would ever go through it once.

He has received several calls from friends: it is so good to hear him laughing.  Thanks again for all the prayers and positive thoughts.

Wally

I have to write this stuff down before I forget the sequence of events.  (I took the picture above at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Many believe that orbs are lens dust. Devil’s Tower is a very spiritual place and I have more pictures from different angles with different orbs in different places and this is the only place I have ever taken pictures in my whole life which have orbs in them.  Devil’s Tower was misnamed because of a moronic translation by a man who had no idea about Native American faith or language.  Believe me, it is a Holy place) I have faith that there is a life beyond this one, mainly because of evidence I have witnessed first hand and secondly by reading many books about people in hospice and near death experiences.

Wally, Doug’s deceased father, is here and present during this crisis beyond a doubt!

  1. The morning after Doug had been admitted to the hospital, I awoke to heat up my cup of coffee in the microwave.  We always have leftover coffee.  The microwave had been moved and, as soon as I pushed the start button, the timer light came on and then it just fried out, kaput, done.  Okay, it was very old but if you read anything about “ghosts” they do seem to like electrical objects.
  2. The Cardinal bird, which I almost never see, appeared in the bush outside.  If you had read previous posts you would know that both Doug and I see a male Cardinal bird as a sign of his Dad, Wally.
  3. That same morning, I put a load of laundry in the washer.  Knowing it would be done when I got home, I went down to put the clothes in the dryer.  Somehow before I got home, the washing machine had been turned off!  We have an old washing machine on which you have to pull out the giant button on the top right in to stop it.  It was still a third full of water and, when I pushed the button in, it came back on and finished the load of clothes.
  4. When I came up from the basement steps immediately after that incident, plain as day, I saw Doug walking through the kitchen in his maroon sweatpants and beige hoodie which has been his outfit of choice through this whole nightmare.  Looking back, I believe it was a spirit masquerading as Doug in order to comfort me.  Yes, you think I’m nuts! I know!
  5. That same morning, when I went to visit Doug at the hospital, my foot started itching so I took my shoe off to scratch it.  Something was inside my sock: a penny!  Now I can see a penny showing up in my shoe but this one was inside of my sock which I had just taken out of the drawer that morning.  It was a 1997 D penny for whatever that is worth.  I put it on Doug’s little shelf in the hospital as a “lucky” penny.
  6. That same day, I believe, Doug’s mother was visitin tig him in the hospital. She was desperately searching for a TV guide (so she could watch some kind of college sports)  and had a handful of brochures to page through…when…whe stumbled upon the one brochure which had on its cover page a picture of Wally, smiling glowingly at a nurse. “Options for Pain Control” was the title and Wally was the star.
  7. On the day Doug went into the hospital, his Uncle Ken called (Wally’s Brother), “out of the blue” to see how Doug was doing.  Now, I believe he knew that Doug had cancer, but he had no clue he was in the hospital.  I know Wally put a bug in his ear to call Doug’s mom, he then called Doug in the hospital “out of the blue”.
  8. Last night  I called Doug’s mom, extremely frustrated about what I had seen going on in the hospital during that day.  I was in tears, terrified, “Mr. Doom and Gloom” and all that—then, as I sobbed on the phone, the lights in the house went dim as if someone had turned a dimmer switch 40 percent to the dark setting, in an instant!His mom asked me, “Well, how many lights do you have on?”.  “Two.”, I said.  They stayed that way until I went to bed.

There was no logical reason to have a brownout.

So far, today, nothing unusual has happened electrically or otherwise but my faith is strengthened when I have seen, at my lowest point, my nadir, someone is working to send me signs through the only medium they have available, that they are here and sending energy to make all things right, or more tolerable.  I guess I must say, put that in your pipe and smoke it.  “Mr. Doom and Gloom”, believes in the afterlife!

 

Sooooo Much Better Than Yesterday!

Doug has come a long way in a day.  Above is his self-portrait he sent.  Yesterday had to be the nadir.  Nadir is the low point.  I learned that word by reading about chemotherapy where they use the word nadir to describe the low point in the body’s white blood cell count.  Yesterday was so bad that I wrote a lengthy post this morning but couldn’t bring myself to push the publish button.   If anybody would like to read it just let me know and I’ll email the story to you; otherwise, it is better off left behind.

In certain circles, I am accused of “over-exaggerating things” and been given the insulting moniker “Mr. Doom and Gloom”–doesn’t necessarily sound like someone you’d want to spend any time with; but, I suppose Doug has acquired a tolerance for said “Mr.” over nearly thirty years which is all that really matters.  That being said; yesterday was horrible for Doug.

Today he has made an amazing rebound from yesterday’s low point.  For the first time in about five days, I watched him eat almost a whole plate of food and his vanilla pudding despite the fact he felt it had a “fake texture”.   If he was willing to complain about something that petty he had definitely come a long way!  

He had a whole day without running a fever.  His trips to the bathroom have decreased, however, he still can’t walk with his legs together–kind of like a cowboy who’d been riding too long.  The dark circles under his eyes were gone.  We talked and laughed and joked; it was like an hour in heaven.  For the first time, he said his pain was a 5 on the scale from one to 10.  He is getting hydrated finally after they gave him a big jug to drink from instead of little styrofoam cups; his urine is no longer the color of Galliano.  

I had a talk over the phone with his nurse about midnight last night.  That’s all I’m going to say; but since he is getting a little more attention.  

He still has a long way to go but there is word on the street of him maybe getting out by Friday.  However, being Mr. Doom and Gloom, I don’t see him coming home quite that soon all though I desperately hope and pray that it is so.

Keep the good vibes coming.  You too Wally! I know you are here.

 

Not Much Better But Not Any Worse

Still, in the hospital…everything is vague.  Doug is half out of it with morphine and never asks any straightforward questions like: “What exactly is going on with my health status?” or “Why am I running an intermittent fever?” or “What is my prognosis of getting out of here?”  His appetite is almost non-existent today, has a fever of 101 (the highest it has been), still going to the bathroom every two hours, all day and all night.

I finally asked to talk to someone so that we all could have an idea of what is going on with him.

His potassium keeps dropping because of constant diarrhea, they seem to be very concerned about this and are giving him a lot of supplements.  Doug thinks he should just be able to eat a banana but he would have to eat about 40 bananas a day to replace what they are giving him in pill form. The fever is just part of how the chemotherapy and radiation attack the body.  The body thinks it is under attack so it reacts as if it were with a fever: even though there is no infection.  He is not losing any blood in his stool so his hemoglobin levels are fine.

I think what happened here is he waited too long to express how bad he was really feeling to the doctor over the phone.  Now one can’t fault him for being the person he is; Doug is just him.  He is stoic, outwardly calm (though he might inwardly be in turmoil), and especially hesitant to be any trouble to anyone. 

I want to mention that Doug’s deceased father Wally keeps giving us signs that he is here watching:

Wally on the brochure!

Yesterday, Doug’s mom was here visiting and was looking for something that would help her find some sporting event on the television.   She was shuffling through hospital brochures and by pure coincidence (NOT!) she found a picture of Wally in a hospital brochure which had been taken a few years ago, with his permission,  for a pamphlet about “options for pain control”.  He had a glowing smile on his face just to remind us all that he is still around, working to heal Doug from the “other side.”   There have been other incidents which I have personally had; but, nothing as obvious as this event. 

 

Update Hospital

From what I can tell, Doug is doing slightly better today…at least from his telephone reports.  I told him today to stop apologizing for everything as if his having cancer was his own fault and everyone else’s problem. 

I called him too many times this morning:

  1. First thing when I woke at 5 am.   (the hospital doesn’t even allow calls through that early.
  2. Then he called me at 5:15 am to apologize that he didn’t call me at 5 am to make sure I had gotten up for work; which, I was afraid I wouldn’t as a thunderstorm was coming through and I feared the power would go out and the alarm wouldn’t sound.
  3.  6:30 am on the way to work
  4.  7:00 am when I got to work.
  5.  Let’s say about ten more times after number 5.

Of course, he was worn out by my calling, and having been a patient myself way too many times, I should have known he just needed to rest.  The calls were all selfish, just for me!  So Doug told me in so many words that he needed to rest so I grew up for the first time in 30 years and just let him be. 

Of note today:

  1. Fever is gone, though some think a fever is a “good thing”????
  2. He took less pain medication today: yesterday morphine wasn’t even working!
  3. He is eating more food.  I tried to scare him into that one because I’ve had a feeding tube shoved up my nose and down through my Adam’s apple.  Believe me, it is easier to force down horrible hospital food than to have it pumped in through your nose!
  4. His voice sounds brighter, more life in it.
  5. He is still having diarrhea but it is slowing slightly, still about every two hours.

I think his colon is becoming less fried and, perhaps more par-boiled at this point, but don’t expect to see him home anytime real soon. Although I saw him walking through the kitchen last night in his beige hoodie, with the hood up and his maroon sweatpants, plain as day.  We leave footprints which exist outside of time.

I can’t in any way thank all of you enough who have even spent a second giving hope to us through prayer, meditation, fingers-crossed, heads bowed, hands held together…whatever you have done and can do is building Doug’s body back together and revitalizing both of our souls.  I will, however, try to thank you by saying from both of our hearts (hearts do speak) “THANK YOU AND MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL,”