Mystery Solved

God is great, life is good, and grandkids are amazing.

I was looking out through the little windows in our front door when the furnace came on.  I felt the heat from the register next to the door and waved my bare foot over it noting that it wasn’t putting out much warm air.  Could something be wrong with the furnace?  I checked the next register and it was producing much more air.  Has the duct disconnected?  Did it somehow get crushed or has it become a comfortable home to a small animal under the house?  I made a mental note to check it out very soon.

I put it on my “mental note” list, walked out the door and promptly forgot about it.  If the thought had survived long enough to land on my written list, it wouldn’t have made much difference.  I keep lists to remember and prioritize, but lately, I haven’t been adding to or even looking at the master list or its sub-lists.  Lists are no longer necessary; all I have to do is look left or look right and I see multiple things demanding time and attention.

I recently stepped into a block of time that was too small to start or resume a project, but big enough that I could………..  What could I do with this unoccupied, uncommitted moment?  I looked to the left and saw the furnace register – I could push my inspection camera (cable camera) down that heater vent (instead of crawling under the house with a baseball bat and generic varmint eviction notice) and try to discover what is restricting the air flow.

I pulled the register cover off and fed the cable camera down the hole.  The cover is not fastened to the floor, it’s just a snug, drop-in fit.  The camera sent a live video report to my cell phone.  I could see something resting in the black, flexible, insulated duct.  A small, rolled up blanket?  No, it turned out to be a shirt, a kid’s shirt size 2t – but there’s more!  Behind the shirt was a pair of kids Oshkosh size 6 (US) shoes!

Careful analysis of this evidence produced a short list of suspects or persons of interest who may have witnessed or might otherwise have some knowledge of how those clothing items came to be abandoned in the duct, and could possibly shed some light on the motivation(s) for whoever put them there.

Maybe they were wet and it seemed a good place to dry them.

My ear-nose-throat doctor thought Pulmonary Function Testing (including a Meth test – the Methacholine challenge) would be prudent to rule out my lungs as the source of my chronic cough and throat clearing, before talking seriously about the previously mentioned, “procedure.”

I took two tests.  Both involved a lot of breathing and hard blowing into a mouthpiece connected to a hose.  I suggested the technicians might enjoy more enthusiastic patient participation if the mouthpiece incorporated a kazoo.

Neither test indicated a problem in the lungs.

 

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Runnin’ Low

IMG_20181124_173608Living requires a lot of energy – physical energy.  I didn’t realize this when I had more than I needed.  Most of the time now, my energy needle is surprisingly past the “E” and I wonder where I will finally run out and roll to a stop.  Is this due to the side effects of medications?  The side effects of Chemo, or radiation?  Is it due to Diabetes, or is it simply a normal part of getting older?

I’m learning to cope, to compensate, to not over-do.  I don’t mind walking away, pacing myself to finish a project tomorrow, or maybe just get back to it tomorrow (or soon).  When my body proposes a nap, I’ve learned it’s beneficial to take one (unless I’m driving).  It’s a use it or lose it invitation.

The Big Guns medication (Singulair) prescribed by my ear-nose-throat doctor has sadly lost the shoot out with my chronic throat clearing and cough.  When I asked him what’s next, he said we’re going to hit it hard with The Blunt Instrument!  That blunt instrument was Prednisone, a steroid that failed to obliterate.  I’m scheduled now to see him again to discuss a “Sinus Procedure”.

I survived the treadmill stress test (with nuclear imaging) for my heart doctor.  At our follow up appointment, he explained that the stress test was negative, but my nuclear imaging was positive, and that is a contradiction.  He explained how that could happen, and how he prefers to proceed as though I have some arterial blockage and the risk of a heart attack.  He doubled one of my daily medication doses and replaced another with something better.  He also led a horse to water with diet and exercise recommendations.

My brother rebuilt the Triumph Trike he’s owned for many years.  We took it and my Chevy to a Show & Shine while I was visiting him in Brookings.

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I love taking and editing car show pictures.  You can see some of my favorites here.

Life is good (and very busy!).  I am blessed, and I remain thankful to God.

I phoned my brother

He’s very busy and making good money by setting mobile homes in a mobile home park in his town.  He asked how I was doing and I answered with my usual, “Very busy.”  Doing what? He asked.  I fumbled for an answer as I realized that the things I am busy with are of no real consequence to anyone but me.  He’s busy making self-employed money.  I was busy at work until I retired, but that was not the busyness I feel so rushed about.

I’m not sure I can explain why I feel so busy, or in such a hurry.  Most everything I do or most everything on my list(s) reflects my effort to get as much done as I can before cancer makes a move and slows or stops me.  My list items aren’t grand, important things.  They are just things I would like to finish.  Do folks who don’t have cancer have a more leisurely outlook on life?

My latest cancer test results showed a, “slight variation” from my beloved, stable, “No Change.”  I’ve had previous slight variations, and the doctor said it was hardly worth noting.

I’ve been testing my blood sugar almost daily since my diabetes diagnoses.  In 64 finger-stick tests, my average glucose level is 117.  I’ve had some high readings, but nothing anywhere near the number that won me the diagnosis – making me increasingly suspicious of that high test result.

My wife and I recently returned from a wonderful vacation.  We haven’t been gone from home for three-weeks in 20 years.  We enjoyed precious time with kids and grandkids in Florida, and on a cruise,

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with stops here and there,

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and in Disney World,

 

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and in Lego Land,

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and, stalking wild butterflies and flowers to photograph in our grandkids back-yard.

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It was all wonderful, but someday a vacation without schedules and deadlines might be nice.  Maybe that’s what retirement is supposed to be.

Diabetes

I was with my family doctor in the exam room. He was pulling up my records on his computer and asked rather rhetorically, “Why am I seeing you today?”  I explained that my quarterly cancer check blood test showed that my glucose level was “elevated.”  I could not see the computer screen, but I did see his head jerk back ever so slightly when he saw my glucose numbers.  “You have diabetes.” He announced.  Not pre-diabetes, not early diabetes, he continued, “You’ve probably had it a year or longer.”

He proceeded to sketch a rambling diagram on the wax-paper cover of the exam chair in an effort to explain the basics of diabetes, how my sugar is not getting into my muscles to become energy.  I asked how I might have suspected I had diabetes – what are the symptoms?

He asked if I was often thirsty or if I peed frequently?  “How could I ever be thirsty when I received a dump truck load of Mt Dew for a retirement gift?”  He asked, “Do you often feel fatigued?” Yes!  I answered quickly with surprising energy for someone so fatigued, “That seems to be my natural state since the stem cell transplant years ago.”

How about tingling in your feet? He continued. Yes!  I’ve had neuropathy in my feet since the chemo treatments with the stem cell transplant.

We realized I already had the symptoms that might have tipped me off to diabetes, and properly credited them to side effects from previous cancers or treatments.

He put his hand on my shoulder and offered a heart-felt, “I’m sorry” (about this unhappy diagnoses).  “It’s not cancer,” I told him. “I’ve had three cancers, one of them twice.   Diabetes is not cancer. That’s good news, I can live with it.”

I’ve taken the diabetes classes, was prescribed Metforman, learned to test blood sugar and have been monitoring.   Most importantly, I have greatly decreased my Mt Dew intake (also candy, pastries, ice cream, etcetera that I have been freely consuming as if I had immunity). My glucose numbers have been in the normal range since I began testing at home, roughly half the score that preceded the diabetes diagnoses.

Apparently, being diagnosed a diabetic is similar to being determined an alcoholic. Once an alcoholic, forever an alcoholic; even if you never drink again. I asked the diabetes class teacher, “If my blood sugar numbers return to and stay in the normal range, will I continue to be a diabetic?” Yes, but a diabetic under control.

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Three months already?

I used to feel that I was in a race for Pink Slips between cancer and retirement.  If cancer wins, it owns my retirement – and this body of mine!  If retirement wins, cancer may still Life Is Goodbe lurking, but, Yea!  I’ve made it to that reward most working people are working towards.  Allegedly, the Golden Years, time to enjoy life.  My life has been awesome – can it get any better in retirement?

I was telling anyone who asked, that now (retired), I am busier than ever; until I realized that was not accurate.  I have always been busier than ever.  But, each weekday (sometimes more) I had to stop doing my stuff, set it aside and put in 8 hours (sometimes more) doing other people’s stuff.  I would get back to my stuff as time allowed.  Now that I’m retired, time allows all my stuff, every item on all of my to-do lists, to crowd in close, jump up and down, wave arms and shout, Do me!  Do me!”  Because they know I no longer have to go to work – I’m retired – I’ve got nothing but time.

Doctors, doctors, doctors: I enjoyed legendary biscuits and gravy at the hospital cafe before my appointment with my ear-nose-throat doctor.  I am still clearing my throat – maybe overall not quite as often as before – it’s hard to tell.  He wondered out loud about the possibility of my throat clearing being automatic or habit now.  I told him that I’m certain I have nearly constant sinus draining, even when my sinuses feel clear, and that when I do clear my throat, there is something there.  I can feel it clear.  He said most everyone does that, it’s normal.  But I might have over sensitive nerves in my throat that compel me to continually clear it.  He announced that there is a medicine for this, and he has had patients in my exact situation who have had good success with it.  I’m thinking are you kidding?  Why has this not been mentioned before today?  Patients in my exact situation? I repeated suspiciously.  Good success? I echoed.  Yes, he confirmed.  The medicine is Gabapentin, a drug prescribed to me a couple years ago in an attempt to relieve the peripheral neuropathy symptoms in my feet.  It might make you sleepy, he warned.  Rather annoyed at the thought of another medication to make me sleepy, I asked, Isn’t there a drug whose side effect would make me more alert, make my mind and my vision sharper, and give me a boost of energy?  “Yes, there is,” he answered, “It’s called amphetamines.”

Although Gabapentin might work on the symptoms and not the cause of the symptoms, it was the only offer of possible help I’ve had.  I began taking it daily and it did make me feel kind of drugged.  After two weeks I saw no change in the throat clearing.  I called the doctor and said I’d like to quit the Gabapentin.  He suggested doubling down instead – taking three doses daily instead of two.  I did that for two more weeks with no change in symptoms.  When I reported that, he said it was time for the BIG GUNS: Doxycycline, twice a day for 90 days.  If I have chronic sinus infection, that should take care of it.  I’m now about halfway through the 90 days.  I’d like to say it’s helping, so I will say it might be helping a little.

I saw my heart doctor not long ago, it was a routine 6-month check with nothing to report.  Not long after that appointment, I began noticing an annoying pressure that would come and go in the middle of my chest.  I told the doctor about it and now I’m on the calendar for another stress test (with nuclear imaging).

I made it to another 3-month visit with my oncologist.  My tests were good, showing only one concern, a high glucose score, winning me an appointment with another doctor to look into that.

In a break between doctor visits, inspired by my nephew, John Paul, my wife and I purchased an electric car.  Imagine a comfortable, two-seater, front wheel drive, electric go-kart.  That’s how it feels, ELECTRIFYING FUN!  It was an adventure driving a short-range urban run-about purchased in Washington to our home in Oregon.  You can read about it here if you’d like. 

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High Card Again

I had my three-month Multiple Myeloma cancer check recently.  I had a blood draw for lab work a few days prior.

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Emma

I once watched Emma, a high school girl, sink twenty or more baskets in a row.  She warmed up by sinking ten hoops, missed one and started over, sinking one-handed shots one after another until I lost count.  She seemed unstoppable.  Each time the three-month mark approaches on my cancer watch cycle, I wonder again – how many consecutive times can I “swish” with favorable test results?  How many times can I draw the high card without fail?  I can do it for the rest of my life!

Walking out the door after church recently, a young lady ahead of me turned around and smiled.  I said, “I know you, but don’t remember how.”  She answered, “I treated you.”  I’ve had a few treatments, so I asked her politely, trying not to sound like a smart-ass, “Where did you treat me?” “At St Vincent’s.”  “Yes!” I said.  “Radiation Therapy!  I remember you!  Thank you.” It was so good to see her again, especially there at Athey Creek Christian Fellowship.

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The retirement gift from my wife.  It makes working under a car a pleasure.

I retired, but I’m still anticipating the rumored leisure of retirement.  In a stroke of good timing(?), just as I retired it became necessary for my mother-in-law to move to an assisted living facility.  I was able to help relocate her, and help move (still moving) most of her things out of her house, paint and prepare (still preparing) her house to sell, and more.

I have enjoyed a few retirement victories.  For example, my picture files are well on the way to being more organized than ever.  Also, it’s late morning on a week day and here I sit enjoying more writing practice.  And, when I finish getting dressed, I will go out and walk under that Chevy and finally replace the “Roulette Wheel” fuel pump (Roulette because if it stops on just the right spot, it leaks).

Since I had the labs done in advance, I was able to see my cancer test results online just before seeing the doctor.  There are many categories in the tests results and they continue to be reported in Medical Greek, but I saw no spikes or nose-dives in the numbers.  The doctor confirmed my suspicions that the test results were good.  I have nearly three months before I cut the deck again.  I remain thankful to God for a life overflowing with blessings.

 

Back To Undetectable

Friday, September 7th was my last day on the job.  The Wednesday evening prior, I got a haircut, the first in about two years.  I was ready for a change.

Scott's PonytailI told the barber I wanted to keep the ponytail.  I brought it home and glued it into my work hat.  The co-worker sitting nearest me the next morning at the daily briefing looked suspiciously at my hair below the hat line.  He made scissors with his fingers and ran them near his ear (our local sign language for you got haircut?).  I turned my head.  He shrugged and returned his attention to the meeting when he saw the ponytail.  PW Retire_3701Our crew leader was telling us we could expect some real changes around here in the very near future.  I stood up and announced to all that I was ready for a change right now!  I pulled off my hat (with ponytail attached) and  I thought those guys were going to fall out of their chairs.  The faces before me expressed TOTAL SHOCK!  Jaws dropped to release hoots and gasps!  That was fun!

My retirement barbeque at PW, last day on the job

Clarification: Okay, it was a load, and it was in a dump truck.

The next day, my last on the job, I enjoyed a great barbecue lunch with soon to be former co-workers.  Along with cards and gifts, handshakes, hugs, and well wishes, I was presented a unique lamp made mostly from a water meter and meter box lid.  I also received a dump truck load of my favorite drink – Mt Dew.

The following evening, my wife, Diane said we were going out for pizza.  It turned out to be a surprise retirement party with family and friends.  The best surprise was my son and granddaughter flying here and attending both parties.  I enjoyed seeing everyone, and I sincerely appreciated all the cards and gifts, handshakes, hugs, and well wishes.

It occurred to me that the act of retiring is a bit like the act of getting married.  You can get married quietly at a courthouse, go home and say, “Okay, we’re married;” or, you can have an unforgettable celebration of a lifetime with family and friends.  When you retire, you can go home after your last day on the job and say, “I’m officially retired now,” or you can celebrate with family and friends and make it a meaningful occasion.

IMG_20180916_0001The second-best surprise at the pizza party was Diane’s gift: a lift.  Not a ride home – a car hoist.  I, a humble back yard mechanic, will be able to stand upright under a car to work on it (or just to enjoy the view).  Years ago, I came very close to buying a lift.  It would have cleaned out my hobby account, but I would have recovered.  Before I ordered it, I was diagnosed with cancer.  Someone asked me, “Do you want to leave that nice of a gift for Diane’s next husband?”

I saw my Radiation Oncology doctor today (Sept 18th).  The Aid who came out to escort me to the exam room looked confused when she approached.  She said she almost didn’t recognize me, “You shaved your beard…..  Wasn’t your hair longer?  Did you get younger?”  I had blood drawn and tested in advance; the doctor pronounced me (my PSA) “Back to undetectable.” Back to my favorite diagnosis.  He said to test again in six months.  Smiling, he affirmed reports of a most memorable radiation patient in Wonder Woman underwear.