Saturday, November 13, 2010

Final Sunset 11/11/10

This photograph was taken at sunset in Crystal Beach, our home and one of Mark's favorite locations to take pictures. The day was 8/23/06, and he had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Our smiling faces are deceptive because there was an air of fear and uncertainty of what the future held. He didn't know how much time we had left together as a couple. I am so grateful that he was given an additional 4 years, 2 months and 19 days to live after this moment was captured.

Although Mark's life post-diagnosis was filled with surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation treatments and countless side effects, he was able to have some enjoyable experiences as well. One of his favorite outdoor pastimes was riding his trusty "hog" as he called it - a shiny red recumbent tricycle.

Besides having me as his caregiver and wife to keep his spirits up, Mark had his beloved cat "son" Karl as a constant and loyal companion. They were kindred spirits. Both battled disease with strength and dignity at such an early age. Sadly, Karl could not bear to witness his Dad's decline, and he preceded Mark in death by just 13 days. Now the two of them have reunited and crossed the Rainbow Bridge. The sunset is behind them, and better things are to come. We mortals that are left questioning why can find some solace in the belief that my two precious boys are watching over us. They patiently wait until the day we will all be together again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

10/27/10 - Health Update

"We're in real pickle, George!"

That's a quote from one of my favorite movies... As a bonus, comment and leave what you think that movie is! [Bonus disclaimer: no reward other than the satisfaction of identifying the movie, :) ]

Well, I've been in "real pickle," for the last month! Short story, I fell down and broke my my upper humerus (shoulder), leaving me with one usable hand, my left one. I started another course of Radiation Therapy, and then had severe lower back pain. The worst pain that I felt was fifteen out of ten, even on pain killers!

Besides that I had had (still there) excessive hiccups and they increased my pain in at least two ways. First, they hurt a lot! The jolt from them affected just about anything connected to my thoracic compartment (torso). They felt like being stabbed in the back, and being hit in the lungs with a cattle prod! The hiccups also occurred throughout the night, causing acid reflux (more pain) in throat.

So, I had lower lower back surgery last Thursday to help alleviate my pain, which is slowly getting better.

The pain pills have NOT helped me, so to alleviate their dreaded side effects, I have stopped taking them. In other words, I would rather deal my pain, then deal with with their side effect... Really! :)

I'm currently still on radiation and chemo treatments. My pain has improved slightly, but now, I just have to wait and tolerate the pain. Lucky me! :)

Comments and Emails are very much appreciated, but don't expect me to reply anytime
soon! :)

I updated my calendar, too!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

06/25/10 - Journey, Accident, Repair, Rescue - Part 4 (of 3!)

Posted 8/26. What? Part 4 of 3! I just added this part to put up a few more pictures on my blog... :)

My bicycle computer said that I rode a total of 10.43 miles the day that the sidewalk punctured my tube, up until I was "rescued." My GPS said the trip was over 17 miles, but I had it on in Northern Tool (during which it lost satellite signal MANY times), and it was on after my "rescue" which likely added about 5 miles. I might have walked about a mile in Northern Tool as I searched for repair options...

My bicycle computer, after the "accident" ride

The toolkit that I ordered after the accident, allowing me to repair almost anything on a bike, yet it still able to roll-up into a fairly small package.

There are many tools in the kit that I ordered...

Despite containing many tools, the kit still rolls-up compactly!

How did I know this stuff? From my father. For most of his career, he was an auto mechanic. He also worked on cars and motorcycles at home. He restored many of them. When my brother was a teen, he restored many vehicles as well. In comparison, a bicycle is easy!

Here's photo that I recently found of a bicycle that I rebuilt in the summer before my junior year (1990) at Penn State. I lived nearly two miles from campus, so I rode this bike a lot. It was a very convenient way to get around. In the picture, I was out "exploring." In the background, you can see Mount Nittany, which is the namesake of our mascot, the Nittany Lion. :)

My college bicycle, some where near State College/ PA

More updates to come...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

06/25/10 - Journey, Accident, Repair, Rescue - Part 3 (of 3!)

Posted on 8/26. :(. QUITE delayed... I had other tasks that I made a higher priorities, which stretched into... Oh, I have SO much catching-up to do on my blog! Again making it more of a monumental task! Now I'm beginning to play catch-up. The calendar on the right below is always updated pretty quickly, because it is a much easier task to do!

The front wheel of my hog, revealing some of the temporary repair

On with my hog (recumbent tricycle) repair. First, I had to remove the front wheel from my hog. Next, I had to remove the tire from the wheel. As I removed the tire, I also pulled out any of the tie-downs that I used for the temporary fix. The tie-downs themselves had a center core of metal wire surrounded by a red foam tube with yellow plastic end caps that were intended to hold each tie-down together.

The excessive wear and tear of being used pseudo-inner tube broke off most of these plastic caps which wore away some if the inside of the tire. Luckily, the tire itself was not punctured as a few of the ties' inner wires were extending quite a bit from the red foam tubes. The wires, broken caps, and remnants from the worn inside of the tire can be seen in the picture below.

The old inner tube was beyond repair because of its long punctures (exacerbated by my riding on it and turning) before I had to institute the temporary repair at Northern Tool. I still used it as both a tube protector (I used it as an extra layer of rubber in between the new tube and the tire) and to patch the spoke guard (upcoming). I know that you can't wait to hear about it! :)

Various inner tubes, and the temp fix

Is that baby powder in the picture above? Why, yes it is! The baby (talcum) powder is used as a dry lubricant to help install the new inner tube and to allow the tube to seat properly. It helps to partially inflate the new tube as well to ease both applying a coating of talcum powder, and inserting the new tube into the tire.

The bare wheel sitting on my shed workbench

Upon inspecting the wheel's rim, there was a small dent (ding) in it before inserting the new tube, to any damage from it. I'm sure the ding occurred from hitting that break in the sidewalk that caused this whole incident. This ding was on the seam of the rim, which is a weak point. I straightened the ding with pliers and then sanded the rim, so that it was smooth on its outer and inner edges.

The bare wheel sitting on my shed workbench

The next step in this seemingly endless repair (it only took a good part of a day), was to address the tube protector/spoke guard. This is like a giant rubber band that protects the inner tube from any sharp edges on the spoke nuts. The spoke nuts look like screws from inside the rim, but their threads are internal, like a nut. The ends of the spokes actually have mating external threads, so can loosen or tighten each spoke to "true" (straighten) the wheel. I noticed that the tube guard was about to snap apart while I repaired the rim ding. The tube protector was rubber, I was able to patch where it was about to break apart with a piece of rubber trimmed from the old, punctured inner tube. The patch on it worked well!

After that, I reassembled everything. I installed the repaired wheel, the tire, and the new inner tube. Done!

My hog repaired, the time on this picture was 7:07PM!

The repair was completed on Thursday, July 8th. It was my goal to have it fixed by the following day, so I could take it for ride...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

06/25/10 - Journey, Accident, Repair, Rescue - Part 2 (of 3!)

Started 7/11. Start of the repair. I wandered around Northern Tool (NT), to see what they had. Repair option 1: replace the inner tube (the easiest option). They did not have ANY 16" tubes, although they sold entire 16" wheels (spokes, rims, tubes and tires) for utility use such as carts, etc. In hindsight, I could have saved a lot of time buying an entire wheel, taking the tube out, and replacing my hog's front tube. That would have been a much higher-priced option, too...

My hog, awaiting repair on Northern Tool's sidewalk

Repair option 2: Patch the tube (not difficult, and probably the least expensive option). NT had some patch kits, but I initially skipped that option, because I suspected that the tube was damaged when I turned my hog and first noticed the flat...

Repair option 3: Make a small, wheeled platform, to strap beneath the damaged wheel. I gathered and purchased the least expensive parts to accomplish this. Along with basic, cheap hand tools, this solution still cost $35+ I walked out of the store to my wounded hog, and thought that there must be a cheaper way.

Repair option 2: Patch the tube. What, heading backwards? Well, I was highly suspicious that the tube was beyond repair, but I figured that I should at least take a look. I returned all of the parts from the cart/dolly solution, and bought the tube patch kit that had the largest patches.

When I took the tube out, my suspicions did come true. There were cuts in the tube too large for the patches in the kit to repair... Big holes aren't reliably patched, either. :(

Repair option 4: replace the tube with high density foam or a strong, appropriately-sized tube. Back to wandering around NT again. I'm not the most graceful walker since my operation and treatments. Off-balance, slow, and not used to walking far. The employees of the store surely wondered, "what is wrong with this guy, and why has he been here for hours?"

After browsing through the store for a while, I discovered a product that might do the job. A type of tie-down. They were basically 17" long, steel wire surrounded by medium-density foam with plastic end caps to hold them together. They are almost 1/2" in diameter. They are packed in groups of 4 for $5. Ten dollars later, I was out of NT (once again) with 8 of them to attempt option four.

Repair option 4: fabricating a pseudo-inner tube

Around this time, I took a quick break and ate an exotic lunch, A Snickers bar that I had bought at NT. How exciting!

Option 4 nearly finished, note tie-down package on the ground

Option 4 result, fairly decent for a temporary repair

Once installed, option 4 looked like it would work. In actual performance it worked pretty well, with one issue... My attempt at the "ideal" placement of the tie-downs failed as their was a "flat spot" on each wheel revolution, basically a "clunk" you could feel once every time the wheel completed a full spin. Annoying and probably caused premature wear on the tie-downs, but at this point my main interest was riding home, ASAP! It wasn't surprising that my placement of the ties was less than ideal, as they were wedged into the tube's space...

I rode about 3 miles back toward my house before contacting Laura about my "situation." I would have ridden all of the way home, but Laura was concerned about my potential late arrival (7:00PM+ ?) and my limping hog. I had to enact my "rescue" plan. Laura's car is a VW beetle (too small for the hog) and I temporarily don't have one (I don't drive anyhow due to my health and risks). First, I asked her if our neighbor was home (he has a pick-up truck), unfortunately, he was not. Then, I called a friend and former co-worker. By that time, it was very close to 5:00PM.

I was surprised that I caught Mike still at the office. If he were at or close to home, I would just call the next person on my "list." Lucky me he was still at work, unlucky him :(. He agreed to come and pick me up, as well as my hog. He has a smaller SUV, a Honda Element, but it has a lot of configuration options. As he wrapped things up at work and got on his way, I just kept pedaling...

As Mike got closer, I chose a convenient place for him to pick me up (actually the parking lot of Michael Baker's office which I had visited earlier that day). It is noted by the red triangle containing an explanation point on the GPS track shown below in part 1 of this this post. When he arrived, he was able to fit my hog into his vehicle by adjusting a few items. After that, he took me home (about 5 miles). I was grateful, but Laura was even even more grateful and happy that I wasn't limping home on my hog. Thanks again, Mike!

Waiting for my rescue

I guess there is a moral to this story. Be prepared for the unexpected. Luckily, my accident occurred near a hardware shop. I did not have any tools or supplies on me, :(. I was ill-prepared in that respect. The first items I ordered on the internet when I got home were basic bike tools.

Part 3 of this post will have details about the repair after I got home. Yes, I did wait about 10 days before repairing my hog! I didn't want to see it for a few days, and the other delay was waiting for parts I ordered on the internet to come in.

Oh, in real time, it is now 7/13... :(

Monday, July 05, 2010

06/24/10 - Journey, Accident, Repair, Rescue... Part 1 (of 3!)

Started 7/5, posted 7/7. First of all, I was NOT injured (maybe my pride), but my hog was, cutting my journey short. Oh well, the full story to follow...

GPS track of my full journey, click image for larger view

Before I started, I did have a potential destination, but early-on my goal was to see an orangutan (at the Chimp Farm) before 9AM. Very difficult to do when you leave the house around 9:55AM, :). I did see that orangutan and several chimps by 10:22AM, however. Not that I'm bragging, but I bet none of my readers has seen an orangutan that early...

Orangutan, he is a big boy...

Onward! I headed further North on the trail. I was able to talk to my brother on my cellphone as I rode along, which was nice. Why was that special? Before I left the house (one of the reasons I didn't leave until 9:55), I made an experimental "wind screen" for the microphone on my cell's headset. It worked very well, as I could talk and ride, and he heard no wind noise at the other end...

I stopped at an office just off of the trail on my way North. It was Michael Baker Planners and Land Surveyors. I thought they might have some relation to a Michael Baker Engineering building at Penn State Beaver Campus, where I started college. According to their receptionist, there was no relation, and people had posed that question before.

Michael Baker's Office

Back on to the trail. I reached its northern extent and transferred to a sidewalk that paralleled "big" Route 19. At that point, Rte 19 is at least a 6 lane highway, but it has traffic-light controlled intersections every few blocks. Ironically, it was just a couple of miles from my apartment in Pittsburgh (after college), and the same road is just a couple of miles from my house in Florida.

The sidewalk is where my journey went kind of bad. A pedestrian was approaching me head-on, so I slowed-down and focused on where he was. Unfortunately, I took my eyes off of the sidewalk's surface. The sidewalk had a large hole in it, which stopped my hog very quickly. Luckily because of the pedestrian, I was only going 1-2 mph. The sudden stop made my chain pop-off its front sprocket, but I thought, "At least I don't have a flat tire." A few minutes (and photos) later, I was on my way with two greasy hands and a reseated chain.

The broken sidewalk, note linear scrapes on concrete, likely evidence of other victims

Another minute later, I made a right turn towards Northern Tool, one of my destinations. As I made the right, my front tire slid, it was flat. I thought that turn may have severely damaged the tube... Luckily, Northern Tool was close, so I pushed my trike there. Once there, I locked my hog to a trailer on their shaded side walk and went into the store...

Northern Tool from where the "accident" occurred

Will my hog be repaired? Will I make it home? Stay tuned for Part 2...

06/23/10 - Radiation 5.17

Posted VERY early on 7/5. My 17th and final treatment in series 5! As usual, non-eventful, which is good! I am scheduled to follow-up with my Radiation-Oncologist on July 15th. Series 5 was meant to treat my L4 "lesion." I still call it a Lesion, because my doctors at Moffitt referred to it in that way, but in simpler terms, I believe it was a spread of cancer to my L4 vertebra (bone) in my spinal column. It was also suspected to be the main cause of my sometimes severe lower back pain. No one will no the true effect of the radiation until I have MRIs on July 22nd. In the meantime, the back pain is nearly gone, so that is a good sign that the radiation treatment was effective.

My tumors have so far been sensitive to (eliminated by) radiation treatments. The next step may very well be more radiation treatments focusing on a different area, or chemo. I'll most likely find out around July 22nd.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

06/22/10 - Ride, Radiation 5.16

Started 6/27. Seriously, I want to post more often to keep readers interested, but I have many other things to do. So, I will try to post about something at least once per week, hopefully more often! See, I already went rogue :), The true (post) date is now July 4th! As you can see from the above note, I started this post a week ago..

On Tuesday, 6/22, I went on a trike ride for fun and exercise and to visit a local business, Britton's Archery. Unfortunately, Britton's was closed when I got to it, because it has limited hours. A good reason to call before you go, especially if you are riding a bicycle/tricycle on a very hot day. No worries - I was going to ride my "hog" anyway...

My ride as a GPS track, 7.1 miles

So, I decide to head home sort of early, but I wanted to explore other businesses located along Alternate Route 19 (Alt 19), especially restaurants! I hadn't eaten lunch yet, and it was around 1:30PM. I just wanted to sit down and eat casually somewhere...

I stopped in at a consignment store because they had a 3-wheeled jogging-type of baby stroller on the sidewalk in front. I just mentioned in a comment (on the post titled 06/11/10 - Roofing, Riding, Radiation 5.9) "shopping cart" therapy - that pushing a shopping cart stabilizes me, supports me, and helps me walk better. So, I thought a jogging stroller would do the same... As a plus, the one at the shop had a handbrake for the front wheel, and "parking" brakes for both rear wheels, aditionally it folded-up. I was going to fabricate (make) one, but this one had a fair price, so I bought it.

My attempt to tow the jogging stroller

At the time, I only had a bungee cord in my rear basket - so, I used it to secure the "jogger." As an extra safety measure, I tied a nylon strap from the jogger to my trike frame. This attempt functioned poorly, whether I attached the jogger's front or rear wheels. The jogger bounced around excessively, and its wheels interfered majorly with the rear wheels of my hog.

Luckily the shop owner had an errand to run, and she said that she would deliver it to my house in her SUV. Phew!

I stopped on the way back to my house at the Chimp Farm and had a quick lunch of an energy bar and some water... The "casual" lunch would have to wait until another day. Surprisingly, I beat the shop owner to my house, but she had stopped at home to pick up one of her kids...

A semi-quick lunch break

Why a jogging stroller versus a walker? They make four wheel walkers with a handbrake and a place to sit if you get too tired. But the tires are too small for extended outdoor use. Hence the jogger. I will use it just to walk for now, maybe slowly building up to jogging (I "ran" in a 1 mile race nearly 2 years ago, needless to say, I ran through MANY front yards to avoid running people over on the street - I was like a 175lb wrecking ball).

My departure ~12:30PM

My return, sweating, ~3:00PM

Radiation 5.16. A couple of hours later, Laura took me to my next to last treatment in radiation series 5. No strange extra happenings, as usual... :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

06/18/10 - Radiation 5.14

Radiation treatment 14 of 17 was again uneventful, as expected. The radiation treatments have had their desired effect of gradually reducing my lower back pain, due to my cancer. The pain is still there, but it has decreased each week.

Of course, the main reason for the radiation treatments was to eliminate cancer in my L4 vertebra of my spinal column (bone). The reduction in my lower back pain indicates that it has been successful. I won't know the full extent until MRI images are taken and evaluated at Moffitt on July 23rd.

At this point, only 3 radiation treatments in this series remain!

Friday, June 18, 2010

06/11/10 - Roofing, Riding, Radiation 5.9

Posted 6/19. I'll start earlier in the day on this post. Recently (6/7,6/8), we had our roof replaced by Arry's Roofing, who did a very nice, quality job. On Friday, 6/11, they called around 11:15AM to say what our remaining balance was. We could pay it by check (U.S. mail), or by credit card (a visit to their office). I wanted to pay by credit card, as I get points, which add-up to cash-back. :)

Since Laura had to work until 4:15, their was no other way for me to get there besides my hog (recumbent tricycle). Even though I had significant lower back pain at the time, I was actually looking forward to getting out on my hog.

Luckily, the Pinellas trail is just blocks from our house. It is a paved, former railroad track, part of this country's Rails-to-Trails initiative. Nice, and convenient for us. Long story short, after lunch and other preparations and delays, I did not leave until around 1:00PM. Knowing that it usually takes me at least 45 minutes to get ready for radiation, and we typically leave at 4:55PM to make it to my radiation on time. I knew I was pressed for time...

Fortunately, Arry's is also VERY close to the "trail" as well, but I had never been there, and was relying on directions from an Arry's employee. Big mistake, I should have at least looked at a map or Google Earth before I left. The below GPS track (green) shows my full "journey" on Google Earth. Notice the loop at the top of the path...

My full journey, click to enlarge

Yes, the loop at the top of the path is me searching for Arry's. When I was close I called them multiple times for directions, which I, admittedly, misunderstood multiple times. I'm ashamed to say that I had a GPS clipped to one of my belt loops. I didn't think to use it, because on my trike, I use it mainly to track where I have been, not to navigate. My cellphone also has a GPS, but they charge for navigation. "Lost" with TWO GPSs - ironic and my own stupidity at the time...

My full journey

Since I was in a rush, I didn't stop to take many photos, the following shows the Pinellas Trail as it goes through the town of Tarpon Springs. As you can see, Tarpon Springs has done a nice job of landscaping it.

The trail through Tarpon Springs

Prior to that photo, I stopped at the "Chimp Farm." It's now called "The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary," but I still prefer its old name of the "Chimp Farm." The chimps were making noise, so I had to take a couple of videos. The video below is edited down to 12 seconds from 1+ minutes, mainly to use less memory. Sorry for the shaking, but I had the camera zoomed-in, which only increases the effect. I took this video on the way TO the roofers, and you can here me saying, "I must be moving on," since I was in a rush... Yes, I had to listen to it a few times before I figured out what I was saying! I sub-scripted it in the video.
Chimp Farm Video

I left Arry's around 3:43PM. I knew that I had to scramble, so I pedaled as fast as I could. About 3 miles from home, I was exhausted. It was hard to muster the strength just to put my left foot on its pedal - approximately 6 inches from the ground - pitiful... Why the exhaustion? Many factors, the biggest being over exertion. I continued, nonetheless.

So, when did I get home? I was about 4:44PM. Although Laura was supposed to work until 4:15, she got stuck on the job and got home around 4:45PM. Lucky for me, I had a chance to slip into the house before she got home. Unfortunately, Laura "busted" me as I was nearing the top of the stairs to our house as she pulled her car in. I went in the house and jumped into the shower (OK, I got into the shower as quickly as I could, if I were to jump, I would very likely fall down). I took a very quick and cold shower, it felt good since I was just riding my hog in 90+ degree weather!

I was ready by about 5:05PM (again Laura insists I be ready by 4:55PM). We actually made it to my radiation appointment on time! Radiation treatment 5.9 went well. So, it all worked out in the end. In the days to come my leg muscles were sore, and my back was likely stiffer than usual, but nothing I couldn't handle.

The ride on my hog - it was just over 10.6 miles according to my GPS. Can't wait to do it again when I don't have to "rush!" :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

06/03/10 - Radiation 5.3

Posted 6/13 - I'll rate myself "poor" on this post for being slow... Radiation 5.3 was typical, but two of the Radiation Therapists(RTs) did take a little extra time to take a few photos of the process. Anyone hat knows me knows that I love photos, I especially like to post them on my blog to help break up seemingly monotonous text and help to better explain things. The following photos were all taken by RT Lynn, with impromptu "model" Chief RT Andrea.

Me on radiation treatment table

(Above) Me positioned physically on the treatment table by lining up lasers with my tattoos by the RTs. Note that this is actually one step beyond alignment as the table is raised to align with the radiation machine.

Me on treatment table, Andrea in background

Once raised to treatment height, the table is pretty high, as it becomes apparent with this view of Andrea in the background. Of course it does lower to load/unload me.

Andrea controlling the radiation machine

Andrea controlling the radiation machine, just outside of the treatment room. There is a heavy, foot-thick door that closes when the therapists leave the room to protect them from any stray radiation. I'm still in the room. Maybe that's why I glow at night... :) Actually, I don't glow, but I wonder if a sensitive Geiger counter would detect any radiation when held to my spine? Laura has probably asked in the past if it has a "Tazer" setting...

Video of me in radiation room

This video is used to track if anything goes wrong during treatment - if I start moving around or dancing, whatever. Apparently, it is closed circuit TV. Unfortunately, it is not piped to the local TV station.

Thanks again to Lynn and Andrea, for creating these photos!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

06/01/10 - Radiation 5.1

Posted 6/5. New notation: Series 5 (the fifth time I have received radiation treatment), Session 1 (the first of 17 radiation doses I am scheduled to receive). The number of treatments is adding up, so I created this notation to help myself and anyone else to keep track of them...

I didn't have any pictures taken at the session, because it was a little longer than normal as it was the first one. The radiation technicians made sure to place me accurately, and add pen marks and new tattoos to my lower back. Thanks Rick and Nancy!

Actually, when I did get home later that evening, I asked Laura to take pictures of my lower back. There were a LOT of blue circles around old and new tattoos which the technicians did during the session. I don't know which tattoos are old and which are new, although I could take an educated guess... They will appear as tiny blue "periods" (.) when they heal.

My lower back, targets and tattoos are circled in blue

Other than being about twice as long as usual (still relatively quick), radiation 5.1 went well.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

05/30/10 - 5/31/10 - Emergency Room Visit, Pleurisy?

Posted 6/4. Late Saturday (5/29) afternoon, I had a pain start in my right-chest area. It wasn't so bad, so I just dealt with it. That all changed as it kept worsening throughout Sunday. I didn't tell Laura, as I could still tolerate it, and it was now near bedtime and I didn't want her to worry all night.

She fell asleep quickly, and I still watched TV a little bit. Upon laying down in bed, I felt what was now a very increased sharp pain in my right chest, especially when I inhaled. The deeper I inhaled, the worse the pain got. I could no longer tolerate it.

I woke Laura up, and said I needed an ambulance. We went back and forth for a little bit, and decided to take her car to a nearby hospital. We went to the Emergency Room (~10:30PM), and I was quickly admitted (I guess "experiencing chest pains" speeds things up quit a bit :) ). Just as quickly, my veins were accessed via an IV and around 5 external patches were adhered to my chest.

Before I knew it, blood was drawn to test for various enzymes, cell counts and bacteria. The patches on my chest were attached to what I assume was an ECG (Electrocardiogram). I should've asked... A technician came in and took an X-Ray of my chest... I was also put on supplemental oxygen...

By this time, it was around 2:00AM, and things started to slow down a bit. I told Laura that she should go home to get "some" sleep (she left before 2:30). I was given pain medication around 12:30 and 2:30, they helped, but I could still feel the pain. Oh yeah, before Laura left she took a picture of me with my cell phone (it did not come out), and she was "reprimanded" by a nurse about taking pictures. I didn't realize it was a secret. This entry is too far along for me to stop...

Sometime around 3-3:30AM I had a CT (Cat) scan of my chest scan. It was specifically to look at my heart, and I'm sure there were other features of the scan, so it was called an "angiogram." I'm pretty sure that is what I was told, but my spell-checker suggests "cardiogram." I just looked up both quickly on Wikipedia, I'll stick with angiogram for now...

Not long after, I was admitted to a private room. Sleep, Blood Draw, Sleep, Blood Draw, Sleep, Talk to Cardiologist, Sleep, Call Laura and tell her not to come until around noon, Sleep, Eat Hospital Breakfast after 11AM while watching "The Price Is Right," Laura Arrives (~noon), Eat Hospital Lunch (~1:00PM), Cautiously take pictures, Wait.

Me in hospital bed ~1:00pm, Memorial Day (Monday)

IV in my arm

My PCP (he was my PCP-Primary Care Provider, on my old insurance, now he's probably my primary Doctor, or whatever my current insurance says) came in sometime after 4PM. He suggested I had,"Pleurisy" an inflammation of the outer lining of my lungs. He prescribed some steroid-based medication to be taken in decreasing doses over the next six days. He also released me from the hospital which also was a relief because Monday night was rapidly approaching.

My first full day of taking the drug was Tuesday. Six pills throughout the day. That first day's dose almost eliminated the sharp pain. The next day, I took 5 more pills, Pleurisy be gone! And so it was... I still have to take doses 3-2-1 over the next few days, but so far, it has been a great relief! Oh yeah, I started Radiation Tuesday night...

A few facts about pleurisy (from Wikipedia). It has many causes, regrettably cancer is one, :(. It can easily lead to pneumonia and death... Benjamin Franklin died due to pleurisy. In 1973, Elvis was diagnosed with recurrent pleurisy. Ringo Starr had chronic-pleurisy when he was 13. Sleep is good to overcome Pleurisy, which I shall now partake of since I woke-up at 5:00AM...

05/26/10 - Radiation Simulation

Posted 6/1. Last Wednesday afternoon, I had a radiation simulation, my fifth one. Seems like I just had one (3/25/10)! Below are some pictures of CT ("Cat") Scans, in progress... Click on any picture to enlarge it.

My lower body protruding from CT Scanner, blue arrows point to marks on my skin

CT scans are used to line up external marks to internal areas, such as my L4 vertebra, which is due for treatment by this round of radiation. This way, the radiation technicians can accurately position my body for treatments in the future. The radiation machine also takes a couple of X-Rays to more precisely position me at each treatment, in between when the techs leave the radiation room and the actual radiation treatment begins.

My upper body protruding from CT Scanner, blue arrows point to marks on my skin

During the simulation process, the technician draws several plus signs (+) on me for markers. For this simulation, I know that the tech marked the first "+" on a tattoo (a small, permanent dot) on the skin above my lower spinal column. The tattoo was created at my last simulation. After that first mark, lasers were aligned, and I had two more reference marks placed on my sides in blue pen.

Reference BBs (fiducials), that were stuck to pen marks (+ signs) on my body

Before my final CT scan, the tech placed little stickers on each of my three plus signs, or reference marks. The stickers have a metal "bee-bee" on them an they are placed so that they line up with the plus sign center (think cross-hair). The BBs show up as bright spots on the CT scan, referencing the marks on my skin to my internal anatomy. Voila! The simulation is done!

05/25/10 - Radiation Oncologist Visit

Posted 6/1/10. Today, I visited my radiation oncologist to find out his strategy on treating the "ugly" portion of my MRI from 5/20/10. Unfortunately, he can't just set off a "nuclear bomb" at the base of my spine to take care everything at once, :(. Treating all of the "bad" areas would be too much radiation for me at once.

My "L4 Lesion" amongst other tumors...

My radiation oncologist is going to focus on treating my L4 lesion right now, for two main reasons. First. the L4 lesion is pretty much an anatomically isolated structure, it is one vertebra of my spine, physically separated from other features (for example treating tumors on/in my spinal cord, would involve at least two items, my tumors and my spinal cord).

The second reason for treating the L4 area of my spine first is that it will likely end the lower-back pain that I have been experiencing for several months now. We'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

05/26/10 - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly... Part 2

Wow! So many comments referring to Clint Eastwood's movie (started by Carson), I just had to put-up a poster from the original movie...

Movie Poster

Maybe I should paste my face over Clint's? Not now, too many other things to do! Although I do need to see that movie again...

Hmmm... I've had two medical appointments yesterday and today. I will get to posting about them, hopefully tomorrow!

Monday, May 24, 2010

05/20/10 - MRI Images (aka - The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly)

Posted 5/24. Before I go on, here are images of basic spinal anatomy (thanks, Wikipedia). Hopefully they will help you identify the areas of the spine that I am referring to. The letters/numbers are standard Medical Terminology (aka Doctor Speak) that determine specific vertebra in the spine. Again, click on ANY picture to enlarge it.

Basic spinal anatomy

Last Thursday, I had MRIs taken at Moffitt. I have basically been having them done every two months to track my disease for the better part of the last year. This time was special, though. I got to see the results of radiation treatments to my T5/6 tumor on my spinal cord. The results (shown below) were great! The radiation seems to have completely eliminated that tumor! :)

The Good - Radiation seems to have eliminated this (T5/6) tumor!

The "good MRI image" shown above was an exception to the other MRI images... The next one showed that my L4 "lesion" was getting worse, and there may be a lesion starting to grow on my L2 vertebra. :(

The Bad - L4 lesion and potential "growing" lesion on L2

In the next MRI Image, I have labeled the five areas that are "not so good." They are all visible in the image, except for the potential L2 lesion which is shown above. No wonder my lower back hurts! 8(

The Ugly - A lot of activity is going on in my lower spine

So what's next? I am going to meet with my radiation oncologist tomorrow afternoon to see what radiation treatments he will recommend. About two weeks ago, he already recommended treating my 3(?) T12 Tumors, I guess I will find out tomorrow what else he may treat...

Some more information about my L4 lesion. It puts me at greater risk of a vertebral fracture. Radiation treatment could increase this risk. I may have to get spinal surgery, even rods implanted in my back, to resolve this problem. Once again, I'll find out more tomorrow. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

05/20/10 - Moffitt Post

Aaah! The device I'm using to create this post is difficult for me to use... Waiting to have MRI scans performed at Moffitt. I will try to add more when I get home... 2 reasons - I don't know when I might be called, and I am not used to this device! Oh well... :)

**** Begin PC Edit ****
That "device" was my Nokia N810. All the features of a more intelligent cellphone (smartphone), but it only has wi-fi, NOT cellular service. Like the Apple iPhone without the phone (it can make internet phone calls). I think it is better than the iPhone, because it doesn't have a proprietary operating system, and every "app" that I have seen is free... I bought it to learn Linux, but it's small size makes it hard for me to hold and type on it. I still like it though, and many people (including me) say that it beats the iPhone... :)

My Nokia N810

**** End PC Edit ****

Monday, May 10, 2010

05/07/10 - Paradise...

Posted 5/10/10. Last Friday, I rode my "hog" (recumbent tricycle) down to our Post Office to check on a package (it was there, but the Post Office did not notify me). Being close to the water (Gulf of Mexico), I rode down to it to take a few pictures.

It seems as though the summer has arrived early. High humidity and temperatures in the high 80s. I'm sorry if you desire that, and your weather isn't complying. A lot of the U.S. is having terrible weather right now, as well as other parts of the world. I guess I'm lucky there... :)

Anyhow, it was a beautiful day (around 11AM), so I took a few photos...

Looking west from the old Crystal Beach boat ramp, click to enlarge

Sailboats moored offshore to the southwest

My "hog."

An Ibis, the mascot for Miami University, which is about 5 hours south of here

My goal was to put up pictures as above. Unfortunately, I spent a LOT of time experimenting with slide show options that seemed intuitive at first, counter-intuitive next, and low quality at the end. I thought it was a good option at fist but returned to my usual practice after a few hours... Losing that time did aggravate me, but not for long...