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.

 

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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.

 

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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And For My Next Test….

Imagine a big, fat, horse tail hair stuck in your throat.  No matter how often or how hard you try to clear or swallow, it stays right there.  That might faintly resemble this test.

I’ve had allergy test after allergy test, throat x-rays, video throat x-rays, a stomach acid prescription, two visits with a speech therapist, and an upper endoscopy in an ongoing effort to discover why I daily, and in some episodes constantly clear my throat (and cough).  None solved the mystery or even began to.

These next tests (Esophageal Manometry/Motility Study and 24-hour PH & Impedance Monitor Study) took place in the sixth week of my daily radiation treatments.   It was presented as a 24-hour monitoring test involving a tube through my nose and into my stomach.  That sounds much less medieval than pushing a two-foot wire up my nose.  The test began when a nurse squirted a horrible tasting numbing agent up my nose.  You sniff it in and swallow.  In a moment, when you notice it has become difficult to swallow, it’s time to lube and push the first tube into the nostril.  It looks like a semi-rigid strand of beads.  The beads are pressure sensors and will measure the target depth for the next probe, the wire that will remain for 24 hours.

The first probe was unpleasant, the second was quite painful.  There is a sharp turn southwards early in the passageway from my nostril to my stomach.  The beaded tube made the turn without much resistance due partially to the fact that its dimensions are close to the dimensions of the tunnel it’s slithering through.

The second intrusion, the wire, having a smaller diameter and being more rigid, needs to ram its blunt head into that sharp turn corner a few times until it realizes the path of least resistance would be to JUST MAKE THE TURN!

2018 06 06_1074_edited-1Once in place, the exposed plastic covered wire was taped to my face.  I thought that was to keep it from accidentally pulling out of my nose, but I soon discovered that when I eat and swallow solid food, the ascending food pulls the wire with it deeper into my stomach.  The wire would draw annoyingly into my nose, trying to go farther in each time I swallow, removing any joy there might have been in the meal.  I had to pinch and hold it in place while eating, to win this tiny but extremely irritating Tug-Of-War competition.  Or, did I have a fish on?

The dry end of the wire is connected to what looks a bit like a game controller.   It’s worn like a shoulder bag and has numbered and symbol buttons of various sizes, and a digital back-lit display screen.  When I clear my throat, I push button #1, when I cough – push button #2, take a pill – button #3.  There’s a push button with an icon for I’m eating,  another with an icon for I stopped eating.  There’s one with a symbol for I’m horizontal and another for I’m vertical; and one more for I’m having sex.  “Really!?” my wife asked.  I tried to bolster my case by showing her the icon button that could possibly be misunderstood, especially if you looked at it from the proper angle.  “Come on, it’s a medical test” I assured.  I think she bought it for a fleeting moment.

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Here are the immediate test results: If you are annoyed by people constantly greeting you, making eye contact and smiling, speaking to you without invitation; if you prefer to be almost invisible, you should put one of these wires up your nose and walk around in public.  There might be an untapped market for something that looks like the real thing but would only need to go a short distance into your nostril.  Who would know?  Who’s going to check?  If anyone should dare to approach, just start coughing and throat clearing as you busily push the beeping buttons on the control box.  Maybe I could make and market these in my retirement.

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.

Writing About Writing

A handful of words will get a foot-hold in my mind, something someone said or something I saw.  It might be a deep memory coming up for air, a thought that becomes the birth of an idea.  Once it begins to form, I’ll pour it out in bulk and then re-write – edit – re-write – edit, back space like a machine gun, highlight and drag to move.  And the punctuation!  Will a comma do for the perfect hesitation, a colon; or should I go all out with……. repeating periods?  And then, does anyone even notice words in italics?  Maybe I should break that mile long freight train into two or three sentences.  Blatant repetition?  Open the thesaurus!  I love writing the construction zone phase (if the idea survives it).  Yeah, BOLD!  BOLD CAPS – OUTSTANDING!!  And what about those curved bracket parentheses (probably overused)?

And then there’s the circle, that elusive, sweet – satisfying, return.  I’m sure real writers have a term for it.  If the words I’m brewing are great enough in number, and if later on, I can circle back to a key element highlighted early on, that can create an especially delightful circle within the story.  I love it when that happens!

Better phrases will knock on my mind’s door when it’s trying to sleep (thinking they’re all that important).  The exact right words will push their way through to the front of the line while I’m driving.  I’m not creating a “Master Piece,” here, but still, I’d better write them down.  I’ll torture myself because I forgot that gem before getting home.  What’s amazing to me is that I can delicately, meticulously replace one little word with another I think conveys better, and impress myself amateurish self with what a critical, but subtle difference that word made.  I will read and re-read again until I can get all the way through without making any (many) changes; sleep on it and read it again.  If I can get to the end without revising, it might be finished.  So now what?  I wrote it for my own therapeutic entertainment, and/or for my personal library.  If I think someone else might enjoy reading it, I’ll probably make it available.  If you read it, you will never know how many words I discreetly pruned or plucked.  You’ll have no idea how many times I read what you’ll read just once.  The funny – “human nature” thing is……  If I’m successful at practicing the magic of written expression, you might come away with something resembling the idea I began with at the top of this page.

 

 

 

Arranging Deck Chairs?

I had a great idea and made coloring books for my grandkids, made up of pictures of them.  That led to similar coloring books for my two grown up sons, just for fun.  I wanted to make a book for my wife, but instead of a coloring book, I made the pictures look more like pen and colored pencil drawings.

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I hope she enjoys paging through it as much as I enjoyed creating it.  It features a few pictures she has never seen, surrounded by good memories; some not roused in a while.

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It was challenging to keep what I was doing a surprise for Valentine’s Day; working often while she slept or was not yet home.  I had it spiral bound and ready for Valentines Day with hours to spare.

I also had a Valentine’s Day date with an x-ray technician.  She gave me peaches, graham crackers, applesauce, bread, and a milky drink, all generously mixed with Barium.  These treats weren’t gifts for my nibbling pleasure like my wife gave me; these were so she could video x-ray me swallowing them.  After carefully explaining that she is not a doctor and can’t make a diagnosis, she told how the x-ray video showed the consumed food hesitated a notable moment in my lower esophagus before continuing into my stomach.  That’s not likely the cause of my constant throat clearing, but it could be a clue.  The Ear Nose Throat doctor’s office called the next day to repeat what the technician said (except the part about not being a doctor), and to add that my x-ray video audition bought me a ticket to see a Gastroenterologist, coming soon to a hospital near me.  I also went in for a “CT Scan of Face (CT Sinus WO Contrast).”  The results: There is no evidence of laryngeal penetration or aspiration identified.  Please see the detailed report rendered by speech pathology.  I haven’t seen the report yet.

It would be wonderful to finally solve this constant throat clearing mystery, but if the blood test in March shows my PSA numbers going up, all these other tests may end up being as productive as rearranging deck chairs on the titanic.