February 28, 2013 – I have my first blind date since college!

Well, I finally have a date with my gynecologist, er, oncologist. Yes, I know that joke is getting old but it’s almost automatic now. In fact, I was having a conversation with someone today when I really did accidentally use that term. Generated some snickers when they were needed most.

I see my oncologist on Monday afternoon so we can finally figure out how to attack these buggers. Now if he straps on some rubber gloves and asks me to sit in a saddle chair, I’m going to get a bit nervous. But it will finally shed some light as to what my treatment will be, how long it might last, what the prognosis is etc. Well, I already know the outcome so it’s just a question of how and how long. Whatever the treatment is, I want to get started right away as these nastygrams are not getting any younger.

While I’m not feeling that badly (is that proper English, Wendy?), these occasional coughing fits are quite a nuisance. In fact I was afraid they were going to fine me at Rotary today if one of these kicked in.Β  So I loaded up on anything I could find to stifle a cough and made it through with people just thinking I was spreading my cold throughout the room. Don’t I wish.

Depending on the treatment options, there’s a good chance I may have to break out that alligator clip after all for some Isla Vista medicine down the road. Just like old times. Can you say reefer madness?Β  I might have to have someone retrain me on the proper technique. Something tells me a few of you readers out there are up on the most current methods…

Thank you to everyone that have sent me e-mails, called etc. I can’t, of course, respond to all of you individually; otherwise I wouldn’t have time to write all of these incredibly creative blog entries. So please don’t feel ignored if you don’t get an e-mail back. I really appreciate your thoughts, prayers, bottles of Rombauer…

Looking forward to a nice, relaxing weekend, not counting the 5 for 5 I will go at my softball game on Sunday. No home-runs though – I don’t think I have enough wind for that. So I’ll have to hold back a bit.

Business as usual. Day at a time.

February 27, 2013 – A Blog Title Change :(

Went in for my brain MRI this morning. I reminded everyone 3 times that I had neck surgery 15 years ago and had a metal plate in my neck. I didn’t want the machine to yank that out. πŸ™‚ I guess it really wasn’t a concern.

The MRI reminded me of lying in a tunnel listening to the last scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Doot Did Doot Dah Doot… – in a bunch of different notes and sequences. Don’t know how I was able to but I stifled my cough for 25 minutes during the procedure. Didn’t want to ruin the test by coughing in the middle of it.

Although I did not get a call to schedule an oncologist appointment, later in the day I did get a call from my pulmonary doc with the results of the MRI. Unfortunately it shows that the cancer has migrated to my brain (near/attached to the cerebellum). From my perspective it did not seem that big: about 7mm, the size of my pinky fingernail. But then again, a tumor in your brain ain’t a good thing, no matter what size.

OK, now I’m pissed.

So it helps to have lots of friends and contacts. I received an e-mail this afternoon from a retired lung doctor who is in my Rotary club. He obviously had been forwarded my original e-mail that I sent to a few Rotarian leaders. He offered many words of encouragement. When I asked him about who he might recommend as a top gynecologist, oops, there I go again, oncologist, he said to call him. I called him this evening and he gave me the name of one he felt was the best. This was a name I had already heard was very good. He then offered to call him at home to see if he could take me on as a patient. I took him up on that and he called me back and said this oncologist said sure, he’d take my case. I am supposed to get a call tomorrow to set up an appointment for Friday or Monday. Even with this overall bad news, I feel like I will be getting the best possible treatment, whatever that turns out to be.

And since my original title referred to my tumor in the singular, I have to now pluralize it for the time being to “Fuzzies.” I look forward to the time when I re-title it “Get What?”

A day at a time.

February 26, 2013 – The Big Reveal

I was gonna wait until I had a treatment plan to go public but I felt I needed to get it aired out today. So I called a quick “important” meeting with my 10 staff, who I’m sure thought I was going to tell them I was leaving the museum. No such luck, I’m afraid. Quite a few jaws dropped on the floor along with a few tears. I couldn’t look the wet-eyed ones in the face; otherwise I got all choked up as well.

I proceeded to tell the rest of the senior staff and those in my immediate office area. My boss was already aware and he informed our board President prior to our board meeting today. I also sent an e-mail out to a few executive level Rotarians I work with so they would understand if in the near future they didn’t see as much of me. Lots of very quick messages of support in reply. Rotarians are wonderful people.

Tomorrow morning I have an MRI of my head to ensure nothing is going on up there as well. I tried to tell them to save their money as I know nothing ever goes on up there. But they wouldn’t listen.

Day at a time.

February 25, 2013 – The Results Are In

Got a call late morning from the pulmonary doctor saying that the test results still had not come back but she was hopeful they would have them later in the day.

True to form, mid afternoon she called back and indicated the results were in. The tests indicated I had a “moderately differentiated” type of cancer called adenocarcinoma, a “non-small cell” version of lung cancer. This is better than the small-cell version apparently. The results indicated it was “lung primary,” a type that usually develops in the lung and normally does not come from another location in the body. Hopefully further testing will confirm that fact.

Hell of a deal for someone who hasn’t smoked anything since college, and even then it was only those funny cigarettes that you hold with an alligator clip. πŸ™‚

There were two other tests they wanted to do with my tissue sample that might have a bearing on my future treatment regimen. The tests are called a EGFR and an ALK test. Apparently a low percentage of non-smokers like me, that are diagnosed with this kind or cancer, have a genetic marker that may allow for treatment, at least initially, viaΒ  oral medication. We shall see.

She said she would arrange to have an oncologist call me for an appointment in the next couple of days. Once the two tests above are complete in the next day or so, and we meet with the oncologist, a treatment plan will emerge. Stay tuned.

Still have not told very many people. Family of course and only a few close friends. But once I know what the treatment plan is, I will get the word out to a larger select group.

February 24, 2013 – B-ball, Oscars success

Having played Sunday morning softball every Sunday up here in Scripps Ranch for the past 30 years, I couldn’t very well bail out on my teammates for our 8:30 game. Off course I picked the wrong day to go 4 for 4 with a triple. πŸ™‚ I had to pull myself out of the game the inning after my triple. But I was otherwise able to finish off the rest of the game. Amazing what a little adrenaline will do.

That afternoon we went to the first T-ball game of the season for our pseudo-grandson, Jake, the son of a very close friend. It brought back memories of watching our own son Brett. It was a crackup watching these kids hit and run (not always to the right base :)); many of them were totally involved in anything BUT the game. Another great day of fun.

Of course that night we watched the Oscars with our close friend Jayne, a tradition that has gone on for many years. A full day which helped me forget about not knowing where I stood.

February 23, 2013 – Kickin’ Back with da Bro

My brother Kirk and his wife Teresa came down (bringing a couple bottles of wine, including a bottle of Rombauer – yum!) for the day to just hang out with us. He and I went to breakfast and then to a local golf shop but I quickly wore out as my breathing had gotten a bit more difficult after the biopsy. We returned home and had a putting contest on our putting green in the back yard. Created our own mini-golf crazy game by hitting the ball from anywhere in the backyard, through obstacles, over rocks etc. Had me laughing – just what I needed. πŸ™‚

That night we went to our son’s (Brett’s) restaurant (La Bastide) where he is a chef. It was a kick knowing he was preparing our dinners in the back. Of course he came out to be sure we were enjoying his creative efforts – very cool!

February 22, 2013 – Hurry up to Wait

I thought my pulmonary doc said she would call be whether or not the biopsy results were back by this Friday afternoon, but alas, no phone call. When I tried her office at 4:30pm, they said she was gone for the day and would not be back at that office until Tuesday the 26th. Bummer, another 4 days to wait until I know what the heck was going on. That probably was the hardest part – not knowing. Oh well, day at a time.

February 20, 2013 – the Big “B”

Checked in bright and early and they prepped me for the biopsy. They explained they would give me a “twilight” sedative to put me mostly out. After wheeling me into the room with some sort of scanner to guide the doctor doing the procedure, I was pretty much out of it. When I woke up in the same room I thought they were still prepping me but the procedure was already over. TMI Warning!: the procedure consisted of the doctor inserting a hollow needle in the upper part of my back through which was inserted a tool of some sort to extract some of the tissue from the larger mass, aka Fuzzy,Β  in my lung.

Immediately after the procedure they took a picture of my lung to use as a baseline to compare later on for any possible leakage. I had to remain in the hospital for another 4 hours in case any complications developed. Thank goodness for free hospital wi-fi and my i-Pad (and of course my wife who kept me company). They then took another x-ray to compare to the earlier one to be sure nothing had changed. Nadda, so they dismissed me, and Kim drove me home. I actually felt fine. Of course that was probably a result of the sedative but I wasn’t complaining. Noooo, not at all….

February 15, 2013 – Push me, Pul(monary) you

Kim and I went to see the pulmonary specialist that Friday who went over in detail what the CT scan showed. Again, the most likely diagnosis was some sort of cancer but it would require a biopsy to know for sure. She scheduled the needle biopsy for the following Wednesday the 20th at Sharp Hospital. She also set up an MRI appointment for my head, the only other part of my body that really hadn’t been scanned. With some very light headaches that came with my illness, she wanted to eliminate the possibility the growth hadn’t started upstairs and moved south, or vice-versa. The MRI was scheduled for the 27th.

The doc said, or I thought she said, that they might have the results of the biopsy by Friday afternoon the 22nd and would give me a call one way or the other. Notice the “I thought she said.” That will give you a clue…

Feb 13th, 2013 – Lucky 13? I Think Not

My doctor scheduled a mid afternoon appointment to go over the results of the x-ray earlier that morning. At the time this appointment was set, the X-ray had not happened. I was in and out in 5 minutes that morning. They were very quick and efficient. After I was home for an hour, I got a call from the doctor’s office to see if I could come in right then instead of waiting for the later appointment. At the time I thought it was because he had an opening and the afternoon would be more problematic. Little did I know.

When I got into the doctor’s office, the usual cheerful, friendly face on my family doc was missing. He had a pretty serious look and immediately brought up the picture of my x-ray earlier in the morning. There was an obvious round shaded area in my right lung along with two smaller areas of concern. Kinda floored me.

The doc immediately set up a CT-scan for that afternoon to get a better look at my lung along with everything down to my hips. The procedure required an injection of a dye to offer better contrast for the scan. He warned me it would wave over me with a very warm feeling from my neck down to my thighs. He wasn’t kidding. However, later when I tried to compare this to one of my wife’s hot flashes, she wasn’t buying it.

My doc asked that I bring my wife back with me after the CT-scan so he could go over the results in more detail with both of us.

Back to the doctor’s office (fourth trip to somewhere medical that day) and Kim and I met with my doc. He showed Kim the regular x-ray I had seen earlier and indicated that the CT scan confirmed the one larger mass and two smaller ones in my right lung. He had consulted with a couple other doctors and the conclusion was that it was most likely evidence of a variety of lung cancer, although there was a slight chance of it being some other kind of infection.

I should have known. It was 15 years to the day that I had my cervical fusion surgery (on Friday the 13th of February, 1998) where I lost my voice for 10 weeks. I need to stay away from 13’s in the future.

He then set up an appointment with a pulmonary specialist for that Friday the 15th to go over the next steps.

February 7, 2013 – A Huff and a Puff

I thought I had started feeling a little better after the Prednisone treatment but alas it was short lived. He then set up a breathing test downtown to check for my air volume. This particular test turned out that my air volume was within the normal range. Hard to believe but it did. Coughing still a major problem along with a feeling like having a low grade flu.

My doctor had said that he recommended a chest X-ray and I thought he meant he would set up an appointment for me. It turns out that he had set up a standing appointment for me to walk in. Once we got that miscommunication cleared up, I took a day off work and went in early morning on Feb 13th.