Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's Going To Be A Long Six Weeks!

Date: 2012-08-30 19:36:33


As I mentioned previously, my next appointment with Dr. K is in six weeks. At that time we will do the first post-op PSA.
I'm starting to obsess a little bit about the possible results.
Although Dr. K has assured me that the only thing that currently concerns him is the two positive surgical margins left behind, one 1mm and the other 3mm. I wouldn't be QUITE as concerned if they were anything less than grade 4 cells which tend to be quite aggressive.
There is still a lot I have to learn before I can learn to accept this and live with it.

There is still a bit of blood in the urine, especially when pressure is applied to the urethra/bladder junction e.g. full lower colon/rectum before a bowel movement. Dr. K doesn't seem concerned about it so I guess I shouldn't be, at least at this time.

I hope PCIP comes through before the PSA results. If the results are not undetectable, we will go straight to radiation.
If there is no financial assistance, we will will be forced to file for bankruptcy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Trying To Get Back On My Diet!

Date: 2012-08-29 19:03:50


I've finally concluded that I HAVE to muster the discipline to get back on the diet I was using before I knew I had cancer.
My weight isn't TOTALLY out of control yet but it will be soon.
To restart the diet ALSO means that I need to abstain from alcohol COMPLETELY! This is difficult because it gets rid of the stress (but not the stressors) of life with cancer and no job or insurance.

*Pours another large glass of wine* Lol!

I had managed to get myself down from 300lbs to around 255lbs over several months before the diagnoses using an intermittent ketogenic (low carbohydrate/high fat) diet.
I had gotten the approval of Dr. E to do this as we consider it safe as long as I remain non-diabetic.
Unfortunately, when I received the cancer diagnoses, I lost control of everything, especially alcohol.

Truth be told, if I DON'T get a handle on this soon it'll do more damage to me than the cancer EVER will!
I've NEVER been good at sustained diet and exercise but my lifestyle probably contributed directly or indirectly to my current problem.

More to come. --- Cheers!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Good Samaritan

Date: 2012-08-28 20:01:08


What a fun evening THIS was!
It all started around 5:00pm. The wife was headed home from work after stopping at the grocery store for a few items. I was doing dishes from the night before and had just gotten supper put on the stove when the doorbell rang!

*Ding-dong, followed by long pause for effect*

For some reason I chose to answer the door this time. I usually don't because it's usually either a politician or a religious nutjob trying to save me from eternal damnation. Whatever!
This time though, it was our neighbor two doors down the street informing me that the wife was stranded about three miles down on Cave Creek road with a flat tire.

*Pours a large glass of cheap wine*

As I had just put supper on and gotten comfortable for the night, I thanked him for the information and closed the door, mentally considering the potential consequences of just letting her walk home.
After a brief assessment of the current state of my briefs, (yes, that was "incontinence humor")I decided I would probably be in my best interest to go and fix the damn tire.

Sooooo... I jump in the van and arrive at the scene only to find that the goddamn lug wrench which doubles as the crank for both the spare tire undercarriage rack AND the scissors jack was missing!
Being a month out of surgery, I'm still not in good enough shape physically to go crawling around underneath the truck to get at the spare to say nothing of lifting the blown tire into the van!
I needed help!

*Enter: The good Samaritan*

I'm sure that, during the time the wife and I were stranded on the shoulder of the road, an obviously elderly couple with a vehicle issue, somewhere between 500-1000 vehicles including police, tow trucks, contractors etc. passed by without an offer of help except...one Mexican man, who DID stop and changed the tire WITHOUT my assistance. We had a little cash and I almost had to fight him to take it.

What does this have to do with a cancer blog? Not a damn thing! It just shows there are STILL people out there who care enough to help others without needing a reward.
Perhaps we should keep that in mind in November.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Nice Weekend Up North. (Too Short Though!)

Date: 2012-08-27 19:12:10


The wife and I spent the weekend up in Sedona in our favorite little log cabin again. (No, we don't own property in Sedona!) We have had a membership arrangement for the past 12 years with one of the local recreational facilities and it's been WELL worth the investment!
It sometimes seems that it's one of the few places in the world where people can still get along with each other regardless of their race, religion (or lack of it), sexual preference, politics, etc.
Up there, you're allowed to be eccentric. That's probably why we fit is so well there! ;)

Had one of my follow up checkups with Dr. K today. He is pleased with the way things are going, so far.
In his opinion, the perineural invasion is not an issue. The only thing he is concerned about currently is the two positive margins, one 1mm and the other 3mm for a total of 4mm.
My next appointment is in six weeks. At that time, we will do a PSA and a DRE. the results of those will determine whether we go on to radiation or just basically sit back for a while (probably 3 months) and see what happens.

For now, we're biding our time trying to figure out the best strategy to pay for all this!

--- Cheers!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, Here I Come!

Date: 2012-08-23 19:44:46


Well, it took Arizona Blue Cross/Blue Shield all of two working days to decline me coverage after receiving my online application.
As a matter of fact, I actually received the hard copy letter of declination within that time. No mess, no fuss! ;)
I now have all the documentation required to apply for the Arizona Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. (PCIP or Obamacare, whichever term you prefer.)
If accepted, this coverage MIGHT help us avoid having to file for bankruptcy again. At the very least, it should allow me to continue treatments, should that prove necessary.

I guess to some, this would make me a card carrying Republican Moderate Centrist Socialist fence sitting traitor.  I forgot though, the fact that I happen to be Atheist trumps all that! Lol!

--- Cheers!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Time For Another "Sedona" Break!

Date: 2012-08-22 16:57:34


The wife and I have decided to take another break in the middle of all this garbage and spend this weekend at our time share in Sedona. It'll be nice to get out of the city and all the heat for a couple of days.

I've started a fax campaign to see if I can generate some interest in the local business community. Neither the wife nor I have ever tried this approach to finding employment but hey, why not?
The worst that can happen is that HR gets the fax package, rips it up and throws it in the trash! Lol!

*Pours a glass of cheap wine*

Early dove season starts in early September around here. I hope I'm well enough by then to get out in the field! It was a pretty sparse  last season so we're hoping to make up for it this year.

More later. Try to contain your excitement! --- Cheers!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Feeling Halfway Normal Again

Date: 2012-08-21 16:26:32


Things continue to improve as the weeks pass. The urinary incontinence issue is nearly gone, (knock on wood) and there have been no other issues, infections, etc.
All the pain is gone so I really have no excuse for not getting outside for some good exercise.
Actually, the REAL reason I'm not trying too hard to get out is that it's been in the 110s lately with high humidity. I can't take too much of that anymore!

We are continuing to negotiate with the hospital financial department to try to get the debt load down to something we can pay off in our lifetime. So far, they have been surprisingly accommodating!
As I've mentioned in previous posts, our goal here is to try to get the hospital costs down from approximately $47,000 to $9,000 or less, hopefully with an interest free payment plan we can afford.
Ironically, there are actually certain "benefits" to being uninsured in some cases.

We HAVE determined that our only recourse for the foreseeable future is going to have to be PCIP. It's POSSIBLE that I could be accepted by a private insurance company yet it's HIGHLY unlikely. They might accept my pre-existing conditions but if I require additional treatments within the next few months, any claims I made would be denied for 12 months! That's just not a viable option here.
With PCIP, I WILL be accepted and there is no waiting period or lifetime cap.
I've just applied to Arizona BC/BS KNOWING I'll be denied coverage but I need the letter of denial to qualify for PCIP. (Now watch, BC/BS will probably approve me!) Doh! ;)

The best route is if I can find a job that offers reasonably decent group coverage. If I DON'T wind up needing radiation treatments, there's a possibility I can get back into housing. If I do, I probably won't be strong enough for 3 or 4 months to do the work that would be required of me. {I really worry about that!)
With 4mm of positive margins, the odds are pretty good that I WILL need adjuvant therapy.
If I had stayed put at Desert Mountain I probably would be financially secure right now.
I seem to be a master at making bad life choices! ;)

Finally, as I've mentioned MANY times before, this is a cancer patient's "on the spot" stream of consciousness. I may, on occasion, make comments that appear to reflect my personal political views.
I you don't happen to agree with them, please don't add stress to my life with abusive comments. If you can't handle it, then don't read it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

We Need To Win The Lottery!

Date: 2012-08-16 16:58:36


There hasn't been much to post over the past few days. Physically, things seem to be gradually improving. Most of the day is spent in communication with our healthcare providers in an effort to get our total medical debt load down to something we can manage.

I have been cleared by Dr. K to do light physical work which is a good thing, however I'm NOT ready to do the work I used to do before the surgery. All my life I have worked as a maintenance mechanic, primarily in public housing. I am the guy you call at any hour of the day or night when something doesn't work and you panic!

I've always enjoyed that type of work because there is a great deal of variety in the day to day routine. I ALSO had mistakenly assumed that that type of work would pretty much insure reasonably stable financial security well into my later years.

BIG MISTAKE!

Companies nowadays, whether large or small usually aren't too interested in hiring a 59 year old obese man with multiple medical issues. I can't really blame them. They want young blood, right out of one tech school or another, ready to work 80  hours per week, be on call 24/7 with a starting salary of $10 or less. They want people in career mode, not some old fat guy who is just looking for a job to pay the bills, even if he DOES have 30  years worth of experience in the field.
Experience and practical skills trump book learning with little or no field training ANY DAY!

If I can't find a full time job with a starting wage of AT LEAST $10/hr. plus health coverage, we will be forced into bankruptcy...again.
A great deal of our concern financially, is whether I will require further treatment down the road. We may not know that for another two or three months. If it IS needed, it could easily set us back by another $50,000 or more.

Ironically, If we made just a few thousand dollars less per year, we might not have to pay for this AT ALL! Go figure!

--- Cheers!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Evening Train Of Thought

Date: 2012-08-13 20:20:04


Had a nice chat with my cousin in Maryland this evening. Got some stuff done around the house and no disasters occurred so I'm happy tonight.

*Pours some wine*

I think the kids are pissed off at me for something. Maybe I'll try to Skype tomorrow and see what's up.

Most of my time lately is spent trying to figure out how we're going to pay for all this. PCIP eligibility looks like it's going to be a little tougher than I thought. I should have had brains enough to apply much earlier (hind sight being 20/20) but I didn't.
Any documentation I originally had regarding denials from insurance companies are now outdated and useless for our purposes. This is going to be an issue if I need further treatment.

*Takes 10mg Valium*

My mind seems to be constantly fixated on whether there are little grade 4 cells roaming around my body already. We will never know until even one cell decides to settle down and and set up housekeeping. Then, a tumor develops somewhere. Cancer sucks ass!

I want to live at LEAST as long as current stats suggest I should. I that unreasonable?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Weekend Blues

Date: 2012-08-11 19:14:28


So far today hasn't really been the greatest. My blood pressure is elevated and my overall mood is down. I'd like to get out and have more physical activity but I honestly don't feel that good yet. I tire easily and any time spent outside still needs to be calculated around my proximity to a restroom. It's also been extremely hot, 105-110  degrees!

This mood change has happened a few times now but never before I was diagnosed. It seems like I currently see life in a sort of dreamlike state, devoid of ambition and color. I feel old and yet, at the same time, young.
I feel too young to just give up and die, yet I'm glad I'm not just starting out on life's journey. I just don't have the energy!

My constant life companion, the OCD was messing with my head today as well which didn't help matters at all. It's kind of like being in a prison without walls and a lot of people who have no fucking clue what they're talking about still get uncomfortable around me when the subject comes up. I'm NOT INSANE and I'm NOT A FUCKING SOCIAL PARIAH!
Hell, I should be used to these transient mood swings by now seeing as how I've had them all my life!

I'm afraid to make long term plans. The wife and I were originally considering moving back east or somewhere down south, possibly Charleston, South Carolina but with both of our new health issues and massive debt load, that seems to have turned into more of a pipe dream. I STILL feel like I'm going to wake up one morning and discover this is all just a bad dream.

I need GOOD NEWS for both the wife and myself and we need it on a continuing basis!
Based on the way this year has gone so far, I just don't see that happening.

--- Cheers!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Getting My Mind Ready For 1st PSA

Date: 2012-08-10 21:18:33


I'm trying to get ready for my first post-op PSA test. This is the test that will help determine, among other data, if I am going to need further treatment at this time.
I am a little nervous, mainly about the grade 4 cells and the 4mm positive margin. The positive margin is common and usually, not too much of a threat however the grade 4 cells are a bit of an issue as they are aggressive and make up most of the surgical margin.

I am not thrilled about the possibility of having to undergo radiation therapy in addition to surgery but I will go through it if it is deemed necessary for my prolonged survival.
Actually, most of the research I've done seems to indicate that in the majority of cases, the side effects are usually fairly well tolerated, especially if one is in reasonably good health to begin with which, as far as I know, I am.

Thanks to my wife, we now have the name of a highly rated oncologist should either one of us need to go that route in the future.

I am seriously considering contacting Strong Memorial Hospital In Rochester, NY to see if I can still obtain the stats regarding my father's disease and how it compares to mine. Information such as that would be useful if passed on to other male members of our side of the family.

This is my train of thought for tonight. Stay healthy, Stay aware!

--- Cheers!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

To Pee Or Not To Pee, That Is The Question!

Date: 2012-08-07 20:28:49


The ongoing saga of the post-catheter urinary incontinence continues but appears to be improving on a daily basis.

The urethra is still what I would describe as "hypersensitive". The urge to pass urine comes and goes, sometimes without anything to void.
The urges, when they occur are usually extremely intense but not painful.

The goal here is to restore the bladder sphincter to it's original tone through exercise. I"m hoping to have nearly full control within a few weeks. (Hard to be in a job interview wearing wet diapers!) 'Course I suppose it depends on what kind of a job you're applying for.
Like I always say, "better to be pissed off than pissed on"! LOL!

Tomorrow will likely be a "phone day" for me. I need to begin negotiating payment arrangements with the hospital. I am currently unemployed and uninsured and cannot even apply for PCIP until the August 16th.
They want money NOW. I was mailed information regarding state and federal aid programs however the forms must be submitted in the same month as the provided services were rendered. Unfortunately, all the services were rendered in July and I didn't receive the information until August 6th. Kind of makes you wonder. :(

Bottom line: They are going to have to live with the maximum we can give them!

Words of wisdom: If you live in America, and have a job, KEEP IT! If you have decent insurance that you can afford, KEEP IT! Finally,try to stay as healthy as possible at least until you reach age 65.
The healthcare system is NOT your friend!

--- Cheers!

Monday, August 06, 2012

The Staples Are Out!

Date: 2012-08-06 20:15:33


I had my second follow up visit with Dr. K today. Got ALL the staples out this time. He say the incision is looking good. Of course, he WOULD say that considering it's HIS work! LOL!

He appears to be mostly concerned with the urinary incontinence issue. There DOES seem to be a small improvement over the past week but he says as long as there is ANY improvement, it will continue. He just wants to be absolutely sure we're heading in the right direction.

My next visit will be in three weeks on the 27th. He didn't mention it but it's possible he'll do the first post-op PSA. Hopefully, levels will be in the "undetectable" range. (between 0-0.02 ng/ml).
If not, he will probably do a repeat test within a few weeks of the first and base our next move on those results.

My job, in the meantime is to lose as much weight as possible and get myself into the best shape I can, both mentally and physically.
I will really need to have my body as fully recovered from the stresses of surgery if I need to undergo radiation treatments.

The wife and I watched "The Big Lebowski" last night. It seems that it is one of my son's all time favorite movies. He introduced me to it years ago and said "the Dude" reminded him of me, or vice-versa.
When he first told me that, I admit to being mildly offended. Now, I clearly see the connection! LOL!

--- Cheers!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Painkillers Linked To Depression???

Date: 2012-08-05 13:43:04


I decided to take a day off from the diary to try to regain some semblance of reality. Some of the stuff I've been posting lately is so depressing that I don't even read it myself! LOL!

Although it would be a tragic mistake to make the assumption that I am totally and permanently cured of cancer, the situation, in reality is nowhere near as dire as my imagination would have me believe. It is simply way too early to tell.

It is interesting to note that my gradual mood upswing roughly correlates with my running out of opiate painkillers, specifically Oxycodone, which I have been on since the surgery.

It is well known that I have at least a mildly addictive personality, especially when it comes to anything that calms or relaxes such as the benzodiazepines or even just alcohol.

I need to remind myself that opiates ARE NOT "mother's little helper" (Valium) and need to be used with great care. The potency and addictive potential ranks right up there with heroin, especially in certain individuals. (Just ask Rush Limbaugh!)

I am by no means addicted but I DID find myself using it when it was clearly unnecessary. I have now exhausted my supply with NO refills and I'm glad.
I'm not sure if there really is a connection between opiate use and depression but what I AM sure of is that, despite the relief and "pleasure", I am clearly FAR better off without them!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Depression Back...Again

Date: 2012-08-03 20:04:19


The wife and I are really beginning to feel overwhelmed lately.
I just feel that NOTHING is going to go right for either one of us from now on.

We are becoming acutely aware that we are both confronting our mortality and neither one of us is prepared for that.
The fact that we are both affected by recent health issues is actually only part of the problem.

We feel that, even if we get another 10-20 years, it will fly by in a heartbeat. We will NEVER be "ready"!
We want answers and reassurance but none can be had. All that goes through my mind lately is what if this and what if that.
Do ALL elderly people go through this?

It breaks my heart to think that one of us could suddenly be left alone. We have loved each other and depended on each other for so long...whatever, it doesn't matter. I feel our energy and reserves being rapidly sapped and it's scary.
We clearly need professional counseling to help manage this but competent, experienced people are so damned hard to find.

All we ever wanted was to grow old gracefully, together and in reasonably good health. Is that so fucking much to ask?

I feel like I'm outside, looking in at life, the world and the people who infest it and I realize we're all doomed to the same fate.
This realization does NOTHING WHATSOEVER to lift my mood.

I also realize that this entire journal entry was pointless.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Blah, Blah, Blah...Etc.

Date: 2012-08-02 20:05:53

Things continue to go well,as far as we know. I get the rest if the staples out this Monday.
They still don't want me lifting anything over ten pounds so I'm still excluded from the power lifting competitions. :)
Embarrassing if your intestines accidentally fall out, I guess.

Got some reading material from the Virginia Piper Cancer Center in the mail today. Looks like the wife and I have more options than I initially thought regarding ongoing information and support etc.

I'm hoping to resume my "normal" work schedule within a couple of weeks. I really need to get back to annoying folks like I used to.
Who knows, maybe I can even con some poor, innocent, unsuspecting company into giving me a REAL job!

It's that time of night when there's nobody online to interact with. They have real lives and real jobs. I feel like I'm in sort of a kind of "limbo land". Interesting, I could have cared less about that before I found out I was sick and now it really matters. I guess that's part of "Not Taking Friends For Granted 101".

--- Cheers!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Today Was A Good Day!

Date: 2012-08-01 20:31:08


Today was a good day, at least from MY perspective.

I think I recall reading something, somewhere about post-op depression???
I can't seem to find any information the subject from any sources that I would tend to consider credible. If anyone reading this has had any experience in this area, I would welcome any feedback.

Anyway, maybe that's what's going on when I get so morbid lately. Yesterday was bad but today I felt depression free all day.
I didn't seem to have that stomach/chest tightness that I've been dealing with since all this started.

I'm planning on starting a daily walking routine starting this weekend. It's essential that I get out and move around as soon as possible.
We live in a nice neighborhood and the weather hasn't been too bad lately so I really have no excuse! ;)
Maybe I can get the wife to walk with me once in a while. She always complains that I outpace her when we walk together but that certainly won't be an issue for a while. :)

--- Cheers!