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.

Must Take Next Exit

It was wonderful to have our son, Robin, and his family visit us in July.  In August, we drove across the country and had a real nice visit with our son, Brandon, and his family.  There we met and held our newest grandson, Desmond.

On our round trip – road trip, we encountered many (many!) road construction zones, each introducing themselves with bright signage:

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Every year at this time, my job duties include Large Water Meter Testing with the professional we always hire, Meter Dave with Oregon Meter Repair.  If large meters are not measuring accurately, they give away a lot of free water (they give away money).

I always look forward to working with Dave, but each time I put the meter testing schedule on the calendar, I see warning signs right there on the bottom left corner of August.  Signs cautioning me that summer is circling the drain and change is as close as flipping that time-table page.

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This year I found new signs on the highway of life.

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We’ve worked our last ten-hour work day (on our summer schedule).  Monday we’re off work for Labor Day.  I will work four more eight-hour days, take the Retirement Exit and end my working career.

Some ask if I’m excited.  Apprehensive might be a better word.

Some warn me not to sit around and get bored.  There’s no chance of that.

Some might be concerned that I could become depressed.  If I haven’t encountered depression through three cancers (does a re-occurrence count as a fourth?) it probably won’t happen with retirement.

For years, I felt there was some kind of competition between Multiple Myeloma and Prostate Cancer (and a minor skin cancer), to bring about my demise.  It felt like a race towards retirement.  Retirement not being the finish line, but more like a reward for making it that far.

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Me and a goat – taking the exit

I was tempted to work a little longer, maybe a year.  I can walk to work, a monthly paycheck and insurance is nice, and I’m good at what I do.  But, I’ve reached my normal retirement age, there is no reason not to retire, and with Prostate cancer making a come-back, I’m choosing to take this exit.

 

Wadja Say?

My grandson, Jory, along with his family visited us in July.  He seems quite intelligent for a two year old who will easily break into song about some guy named Bubbah…..  Bubbah Black sheep.

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Pondering the intricacies of his holstered Light Saber

WARNING: Parent / Grandparent Disclaimer: Every parent and every grandparent thinks their baby or grand-baby is the cutest, the most intelligent and most talented baby ever.

At first you might dismiss Jory as a baby talker because he has a little trouble getting his words out.  It’s like he’s communicating through a poorly programmed language translation app.

But when he has something to say, if you stick with him he will repeat his message over and over, determined to make you understand.  He knows the words he’s trying to enunciate, and he usually composes complete sentences.

One day he announced something like “Blabbagobbywaddahoobanichamuggabee-beewaaba!” I repeated in a questioning tone what I just heard and he said, “No – Ga pabbadu vue uh-duh ahhhhaaia haaaa  riggedraaaa muggabee  jain maaliiim!” I mimicked again the gibberish I heard again, and he said “NO” took a breath and repeated it again.  This time his words became recognizable, “The property values in your area appear to have risen dramatically just in my lifetime!”

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In July I caught a bad cold – actually eye infection and ear infection.  I was prescribed antibiotics and recovered, but with lingering plugged ears.  Oddly, for two or three weeks after mostly recovering from the infections, my daily – sometimes constant throat clearing disappeared.  I caught another cold with coughing, sneezing, and clearing, but it’s fading away….  will the throat clearing stay?  Or did that infection have a positive effect?

Hood Bird

2018 07 27_1411_edited-1“Grandpa, what’s that?” My four-year-old grandson asked as he patted the old, pitted chrome ’55 Chevy hood ornament mounted on my riding lawnmower.  “Well, that’s called a hood bird.  Come with me, I’ll tell you about it.”

K&J Here_0635_edited-1I lowered the open the hood of my ’57 Belair and pointed to the wind splits.

He stood on Uncle Larry’s wooden box stool and watched as I explained.

“This is a 1957 Chevy and these two things are called “wind-splits.”  The hood bird on the lawnmower is from a car that is two years older than this one, a 1955 Chevy.  It didn’t have wind splits, it and the 1956 Chevy had the hood bird instead and it 02APR05 003_edited-1goes right here,” I said as I patted the front center of the hood.

This is a special moment for a grandpa.  I was surprised at the rush of sentimental feelings it brought – sentimental about what?  My grandson may or may not remember details from this lesson, but maybe one day years from now when he sees a car of this vintage he will remember me.

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