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.

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Can I Get A Prescription For That?

I’m nearly six weeks into my seven-week series of daily radiation treatments.  I’ve met several fellow radiation patients as we rotate through the waiting room.  Everyone has a story.  Some have unhappier stories than others: Unhappy – “I got cancer.”  Unhappier – “My woman dumped me when I got cancer.”  I met a guy yesterday who’s treating for throat cancer.  His body is fighting the radiation by generating a super flem that adheres to the inside his throat.  He said mornings are the worst part of each day.  When he wakes he spends a block of time doing some serious throat clearing.  For him, it’s a matter of life and breath.  I didn’t realize until I was driving home that if there was ever an expert who might advise me on a product or routine that would clear my throat, he might well be the one.  Certainly, he would be on the cutting edge.  He may have discovered something that works for him that might quell my daily (sometimes quite intense) throat clearing episodes.  Our appointments are not always scheduled for the same time each day, so I was happy to catch him there today.  I told him I’ve had (endoscopy) test after (allergy) test and prescription after prescription trying to solve or determine the cause of my constant throat clearing.  “Have you found anything that works well for clearing your throat?”  I asked.  He answered, “Well, I really don’t like it, but what clears my throat the best is when I throw-up…  that really clears it!”

We don’t get treatments on weekends or holidays, so I got to make my annual trip to Brookings and visit my brother, Loren, over the Memorial Day weekend.  I hoped to help him organize his pictures (on three computers).  I’ve been sorting, tagging, naming, dating, and deleting duplicates of my picture files for years, and I can’t yet say they are completely organized.  I don’t know why I thought we’d organize his in one weekend, but we got a good start.

We also checked the rebuild progress on his custom three-wheel Triumph and attended a car show.

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He’s owned this trike for about 40 years

The owner of this glowing ’56 Chevy inherited it from his dad.  He proudly showed us how his dad detailed the back of the license plate so it could be read in the reflection of the bumper.

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We also visited a couple of Loren’s construction business job sites

Seven Weeks Minus Three

Tomorrow I will be three weeks into seven weeks of daily treatments.  That’s three weeks minus one day because they called one morning and said, “Don’t come in – the machine is broken.”  I imagined the unfortunate patient laying on that slab when it broke down, and then I wondered who would be the first brave Guinea pig to take it for a test run after it’s been “fixed?”

from Isabella

The mug shot we see daily when I verify my name and birth-date before each treatment

I printed the picture you see below (posted here on April 7th) and pinned it to the bulletin board in the radiation patient waiting lounge.  When the assistant who came to fetch me saw it, she said, “Oh, she’ll enjoy seeing that.”  “She’s here?” I asked.  Yes, right over there she pointed as we walked to the treatment rooms lobby.  My escort announced that I had just posted a picture of us two.  The radiologist looked at me as if to say, “and who are you?”  We went back to see the picture.  In it, I weigh 30 pounds less, have no beard and almost no hair.  She now has short hair and was wearing a technician’s gown.  She quickly inspected the photo and concluded she hasn’t changed all that much.  I agreed, “Neither have I.”

Each Monday after treatment, I consult with the doctor.  He always asks if I’m experiencing any side effects.  Last week, I answered no, and resisted suggesting he make sure the technicians have removed the lens cap (even though I’m sure he’s never heard that one).  Yesterday I answered yes, my legs feel very tired and weak, especially my upper thighs.  He said, “That’s not a side effect of radiation.”  We agreed it’s probably due to the parking structure stairs I’ve been working-out on daily.

Seven Weeks

My Urologist and my Radiation Oncologist agree the prostate cancer has returned.  My options appear to be:

  1. Do nothing – and probably enjoy 10 years before quality of life issues become apparent.
  2. Wait, watch, and maybe do something later. PSA will sometimes increase and hover around 0.2 for a long time with no real problems.
  3. I can have targeted radiation treatments now.

Improving my likelihood of long-term survival, and the fact that I am currently employed and have fairly good insurance are good reasons to act now (although the Multiple Myeloma – or the unexpected – could change my circumstances at any time).  The only negative my Radiation Oncologist listed (other than the ever-lurking unexpected or unlikely) is before the treatments are finished, I should expect to experience some inconvenient bathroom related issues.  These symptoms usually subside after the treatments have ended.

The Radiation Oncologist explained that when prostate cancer returns, it’s usually found in one of three places: the old prostate neighborhood, the lymph nodes, or the bones.  Since they know historically it’s in the prostate area 75% of the time, that is where I will receive daily radiation treatments for seven weeks.  I returned to the Cancer Center in Beaverton where seven years ago, I had 24 daily treatments not realizing it was a rehearsal.  I was mapped, scanned, and tattooed (again).  The treatments and commuting will begin on April 18th.

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This was seven years ago, the last day of my 24 treatments.  I wonder how much radiation exposure my technician has accumulated.

On the positive side – I signed up a couple weeks ago for the second annual Chubby Bunny Challenge, a weight loss competition at work.  I joined it to be involved and supportive, and for the $20 sign-up fee, you get a nice T-shirt and Pizza.  Last year I actually lost six pounds.  With my previous radiation treatments, I lost 30 pounds.  This year I may have a pretty good chance of winning first prize!

St Patrick’s Day

I’ve been working on a theory about time; specifically, the passing of time and the perceived passing of time.  I know I have the same number of hours in a day as everyone else, and the same number of hours in a day as when I was younger.  I think the hours were somehow fatter when I was younger.  I could accomplish a lot more in those fat hours.  My hours seem much thinner these days.  They stack tighter and can be passed quicker.  It’s hard to get things done in a thin hour.

Everyone is busy.  We all have things to do on weekends, and things we’ll try to get done after work.  There are things that need to be done before you go, and things to finish before they arrive.  I have indoor projects best suited for dark, rainy winter days, and projects postponed until the longer, warmer summer days are here.  Lately I find myself considering a vast, new scheduling option: “soon after retiring.”  It appears to be wide open.

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Taken recently on the way to visit my brother, Mark, in Salem

Today is St Patrick’s Day.  On St Patrick’s Day 2011, I had prostate surgery.  I’ve never been zealous about the holiday, but the night before, I asked my wife to find a green ribbon I could tie in a bow attached to myself where my surgeon would lift the blanket and be surprised to see I was celebrating St Patrick’s Day.  That might have been fun, but I had just recently met my surgeon, and that could have made me appear to be irresponsible, or a weird-O.  So I didn’t.  Looking back over our seven year relationship, the doctor and I have shared a few laughs, and I’ll bet the green St Patrick’s Day ribbon likely would have made a unique and memorable surgery.

Sticks and Stones may Break My Bones – but Needles…….

The van is due for an oil change.  It’ll wait.  I should dehaze the headlight lenses, but that can wait.  I really need to organize the video’s I’ve been transferring from VHS, but there’s no time for that now.  There are leaves to rake, gutters to clean, and power steering to find and install in the Toyota (and that rattling rear window is really wearing on me); but those things and more will have to wait.  I am making Christmas presents for my grandchildren, and for my sons.  They must be finished and mailed in time and, HURRAY!  I made it.

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I made coloring books

 

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Coloring books with pictures of them

I suppose now that I’ve dusted and organized the surface of my desk, I can no longer complain about not having enough time.  I did reach the point early on Christmas Eve when I’d checked-off enough lines on my to-do list that the ascending graph line of “this desk is an utter mess!” crossed the descending graph line of “time sensitive Christmas things that must be done.”  It will be nice to end and start the year with a clean desk, like that feeling of slipping into a bed of fresh sheets.

I sit here now in the afterglow of Christmas day.  Christmas was most always at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  We’ve only had one official family Christmas at our house, and that was the year Diane gave me a 57 Chevy; so when she announced we were having the family Christmas this year, I thought great!  Maybe I’m getting another car!  She shortly relieved that suspense explaining there would be no surprise car under the tree or in the driveway this year. But, among my gifts from her was a very nice office chair in which I am comfortably sitting now as I type, no longer needing a pillow to sit on to counter the seat cushion flattened by years of use (I’m passing on the opportunity to comment here on the weight or rigidity of any posterior frequenting the now previous chair).

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She even decorated the bird bath

Diane really enjoys decorating every room and every part of our house for Christmas.  And, she did a wonderful job this year of almost singlehandedly orchestrating Christmas day arrivals, snacks, seating, background music, cats banished, gifting order and balance, Christmas dinner (Breakfast), leftovers to go with goodbyes, and directing cleanup triage.

This Christmas was very nice, but last Christmas may have been the best ever.  Diane and I met Robin and family at Brandon & Emily’s home in Michigan for Christmas week.   It was a grand experiment, and everyone survived – hopefully leaving the door open to a future Christmas with all of us together again.  On the way to that family Christmas, our flight from Chicago to Marquette was cancelled due to snow.  We decided to rent a car and drive the 370 miles.  Brandon called ahead and reserved a car for us, I hopped on the rental car shuttle bus, and Diane began the 90 minute wait for our luggage.  There she met an old couple (older than us!) who also would have been on our cancelled flight to Marquette.  In a moment, Diane phoned me and said, “Get a bigger car – I’ll explain later.  What a joy it was to meet, travel, and visit with these wonderful people.  Isn’t it funny how God works?  They said we were a blessing, but really, they were the blessing for us.

I had surgery in October to repair my incisional hernia, also referred to as an umbilical hernia (also referred to as a sticking-out-belly button).  It is so very nice to no longer have that little door knob on my stomach.  I’m glad I didn’t get the eyeball tattoo that was so tempting.  I also had the regularly scheduled quarterly cancer tests for my oncologist in December, along with a PSA test for my urologist, and a cholesterol test for my general doctor, and another test for my heart doctor.  I thought it would certainly be efficient to get enough blood for all this with one needle, but when the “draw” was finished that day, I had four little “badges of courage” on my arms and hands.

For more than six years, my PSA numbers have been rated as undetectable.  The urologist’s office called me the day after Christmas.  My latest test showed an increase in the PSA.  He wants to see me.  I suspect more needles.

I remain thankful to God for a life overflowing with blessings.

Time Is Speeding

I am really enjoying this summer and this partial remission. Time is speeding, and so am I. I’m rushing to do what I can while I am able. I got a few things done since my last posting here and a few more things nearly done. How do I feel? I feel the best that I have since starting this cancer journey. Last week I had my 3 ½ year post prostate surgery check up. The PSA test came back with the word I love to hear, undetectable. I was showing my urologist the chemouflage on my stomach from the bi-weekly Velcade shots and also my turkey timer belly button, a result of surgery he performed. He said, “That belly button can be fixed, but it’s another surgery.” I told him my thought about tattooing an eyeball on it. He liked the idea but said it would be even better if I tattooed a fish on my stomach (motioning vertically with his hand) and let that be the fish eye. We agree that either tattoo would cost much less than surgery.

Wadia Dooin?

Wadia Dooin?

This summer our younger son, daughter-in-law, and grandson stayed with us for a while. During that time, we watched Kellen go from almost crawling to crawling almost everywhere. I asked Diane if we could make him some chaps and gloves out of dust mop material.

We got to spend a week with them and extended family at Seaside. It was a wonderful vacation.  If you’d like to see some wonderful vacation pictures, click here.

There is a father-son resembelence

Robin and Kellen, I think I see a resemblance here.

 

 

 

 

I was able to attend an event this summer where I love to take a special kind of time exposure. They are low light, slow shutter speed, moving target, and moving camera photos.  If you would like to see more of those time exposures, click here.

MacGut 2010 (52)

I put a complete set of Dakota gauges in the Chevy. The speedometer broke for the third time (in ten years, that’s not bad for a 57 year old car) and it was time for a more permanent and programmable fix.

New Gauges

New Gauges

Diane and I remain thankful for your prayers and kind words and eternally grateful to God for our every blessing.