Friday, November 13, 2009

Les's Obituary

Leslie Martin “Les” Wood, 53, of Beckville will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, November 12, 2009 at Hawthorn Funeral Home Chapel. Mr. Ricky Simmons and Mr. Trevor Wells will officiate. Burial will follow in County Line Cemetery. Services are under the direction of Hawthorn Funeral Home. Mr. Wood died, Sunday, November 8, 2009 at his home in Beckville.

Mr. Leslie Martin “Les” Wood was born January 12, 1956 in Leavenworth Kansas. He was the fifth of seven children born to the marriage of Vernon Meyer and Audrey Maxwell Wood. Les was raised and schooled in Indiana graduating from Norwell High School with the class of 1974 and later attending University of New Mexico. He married Donna Kay Britton May 15, 1979 and together they celebrated 31 years of marriage. Mr. Wood spent his career working in the oil and gas industry. He is preceded in death by his parents.

He is survived by his loving wife, Donna Wood, of Beckville; daughters, Stacy Britton Pierce and husband Danny, of Carthage and Nicole Britton Kelley, of DeBerry; brothers, Vernon Wood, of CA, Robert Wood of, Albuquerque, NM, William David Wood and wife Kathy, of Virginia, and Gary Wood, of Bluffton, IN; sisters, Venita Wood and husband Jim Davis, of Delaware and Connie Miller and husband Jerry, of Bluffton, IN; five grandchildren, Deven, Ashton, Dawton, Ethan, and Martin; numerous nieces and nephews and a host of friends.

Serving as pallbearers will be Rex Dodd, Tom Partain, David Stubblefield, Dale Mullins, Garnet McClure, and David Blackwell.

The body will lie in state at 6 p.m., Wednesday, November 11, 2009 and the family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday night at Hawthorn Funeral Home.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Memorial to Les

I am sad. Very sad.
My brother Les is gone.
I have lost my treasure.

But no, only his body is gone.
Now his spirit is my treasure.

Les holds a part of my heart that is his alone.
I will share with him my heartaches and joys.
I will share with him the wonders of the physical plane,
and he will share with me the wonders of the vastness.
Les and I will hold each other close.

Les will live forever because his will is forever.
Les will live forever because his friends and family will always hold him close in their hearts.
Hearts that beat continue spirits that live on.

Dearest Donna, Stacey, and Niki,
and all the endless others who also love Les,
your hearts cry.
Your hearts are ravaged.
Your hearts feel things that you never could imagine.
Yet, your hearts will endure.
That's what true love encourages.
That's what hearts do.

I will always have my treasure.
And you, also, will always have Les.

A link to Les's Guestbook on It will only be there for a month.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Les is Gone

I lost my brother on Sunday morning, November 8, 2009. He died in his sleep and without pain.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Les Update 10/18/2009

So sorry info has been so long in coming. Denial on my part.

This will be brief. I have been in Texas twice this Summer, once for two weeks in July when Les's cancer was diagnosed metastatic and once for two weeks in September when Les's medical oncologist told him he wouldn't live long enough to make an application to M.D. Anderson, the cancer center in Houston.

It's been a horrible ride for Les and his wife Donna. Les has been such a trooper, insisting on treatment. Treatments that leave him weakened, in pain, and unable to eat. Donna is a walking emotional breakdown.

During my visits there were some rough times. Some were because of emotions; some were because of Les's physical condition. One emotion coming from Donna that I truly don't understand is her jealousy because of the relationship that Les and I have. Donna, I am not competing for the affections of your husband. He is my brother. He is the one who was supposed to always be in my life.

I left TX in September because Les was in the hospital, recovering from a bowel resection. The lung cancer had perforated his bowel and given him very painful peritonitis. My roll had been to chauffeur him to treatments and appointments, so there was no need for me to stay at that time. I believe the worse night of my life was spending the night in his hospital room with him screaming in pain, before someone had the good sense to ask for a surgical consult.

Les and I said our final goodbyes in that hospital room. That was about a month ago. Last I heard he was back in the hospital again, for vomiting and dehydration, and an elevated white blood cell count. I last spoke to him last Thursday (it's now Tuesday) and he said that if he had anything to tell me, he would call me.

There are two reasons I suppose he did that. First, he's tiring of giving the same bad news to everyone. Second, he wants to spare me the gory details of his death.

I have joined two cancer caregiver support groups, one a face-to-face meeting and one online. Both with The Wellness Community. Those are weekly meetings. I also have my bi-weekly women's cancer support group; the members there are very empathetic to my pain about losing Les.

I'm OK. Constantly toying with whether I should go back onto antidepressants. I am not sleeping or eating well.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Holding Steady

Les almost had his brain surgery on Friday (yesterday). Wednesday's blood tests showed acceptable platelet and WBC counts. But then the platelets took another dive on Thursday. So now it's a day by day thing. A Tuesday surgery, based on Monday blood test, will be the first opportunity next week.

Les's home health care agency has finally delivered the needed durable medical equipment--a hospital bed, wheelchair, and walker.

Les has been working with his elder daughter Stacey, who has an accounting degree, to get all his financial paperwork in order.

I've been scanning through Kubler-Ross's death and dying books to see which might be appropriate to send to my Texas family.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Hits....just keep on coming

Les's PET scan shows cancer in his stomach, pancreas, and chest cavity, as well as the tonsils and brain. His white blood cell and platelet counts are too low for him to have the brain surgery this week. Over the next couple of days, the DRs will be talking about treatment options.

The only good news we have is that the cancer in his tonsils is squamous cell, not metastatic lung cancer. We are just assuming the rest is mets; no biopsies have been done.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Les Update--Thursday

I have been talking to Les daily since the DX of mets. He intends to fight, but is very emotional about this setback. He has come home from the hospital with steroids to reduce the inflammation in his brain, an anti-seizure medication, and Ativan for anxiety.

He has a PET scan scheduled for Monday to determine whether the cancer has spread elsewhere. Depending on the results of that scan, Les is scheduled for surgery to remove the cancer in his brain on Friday, or Wednesday if the surgeon can move around his schedule. Les would like to find a surgeon to remove the cancer from his throat at during the same surgery session.

Les is starting home-based physical therapy, primarily to address the paralysis in his right side. The therapist will be working with Les's insurance company to get him appropriate durable medical equipment. So far on their list is a walker with a support for his right arm, a wheelchair, and a hospital bed.

Les's friends are showing up to visit, and I understand these visits are pretty emotional. My brother Gary from Indiana arrived at Les's on Thursday. My sister Connie, also from Indiana, will arrive there probably Monday.

I will go when I am needed. I talk with Les everyday, and he thanks me for that.

Les is my second best friend in the world, after Jim.

Monday, June 08, 2009

My Heart is Broken

I spoke to Les yesterday afternoon, and he was experiencing right side paralysis from the chemo/MS combo. He couldn't talk long; he was too fatigued.

He called today. He is in the hospital after experiencing three seizures later yesterday. An MRI this morning revealed he has cancer in the motor function portion of the left side of his brain. The paralysis is being caused by the cancer.

Last week, Les had a tissue sample for pathology taken from his throat because he has been bringing up bloody, loose tissue. Donna, Les's wife went for the follow-up appointment today. Also cancer.

Les was crying. It is the first time through this entire ordeal I have known him to cry. Until now, he had hope for survival. His lung was removed; only one of the 40= lymph nodes removed during the surgery was cancerous. He has followed every treatment boulder they have hurled at him.

When I asked Les whether he needs me there, he said "not yet." Jim and I are planning to cancel the reservations for our fall cruise. I will not make plans to attend Linda Lee's wedding. Jim's knee surgery is next Wednesday and, if need be, we can find others to caregive for him. I need to see my brother....alive.

I love you Les. I am so very sorry.......

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I am not at Room Temperature

I was properly chastised this week by my friend Libby for not updating the blog after my last surgery. I told her that I hadn't felt like sitting at the desk computer to type a long update. Libby replied that all I had to type was "I am not at room temperature."

The surgery went very very well, and I've already had two follow-up visits. The surgeon was able to resolve the last of the area where my skin was adhered to my chest wall. Consequently, except for the tightness from internal scar tissue, I have full range of motion in my arms. Not that I will ever play volleyball again.......

My foobs (or flaps, whichever you wish to call them) are reasonably symmetrical and well placed on my chest. The surgeon wanted to "diddle" a little more with them, but I told him he had accomplished my objective, and maybe sometime in the future, but for now I am THROUGH WITH SURGERY!!

The revision to my abdominal area added three inches to each end of my scar (removing "dog ears") and large black bruises on my butt (from the liposuction).

I am now where I hoped to be in February 2007. Finished with surgical revisions and whole. I will have the nipples tattooed on August 31. That's an in-office procedure done with lidocaine.

I have been cleared for exercise and swimming.

Thank you Dr. Bernard Chang, reconstruction surgeon extraordinaire!!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Emma Leah, August 15, 2008 to May 30, 2009

Emma Leah came to live with us on December 5, 2008. I introduced her on the FDMB as the perfect kitten--she likes people, she likes cats, she eats well, knows where to poop and pee, alert, attentive, smart, and cuddly.

But sometimes, God needs the babies. She left us yesterday, in organ failure, likely from dry FIP.

Emma loved the other kitten adopted with her, Casey. Despite their size differences, they ate, slept, and played together.

Emma started to become sick shortly after her second FeLV vaccination. She stayed with us another 10 weeks, but she was different, and as time went on, we knew she was sick.

So we will try to remember the three brief month of health she shared with us.

Emma Leah fully embraced her scratching post, making it a jungle gym as well as a place to get manicures. She was very careful with her nails, never using them on people or other inappropriate items.

Emma was just getting to that stage of growth where her tail lengthens to adult size, and she would have to grow into it. She used her tail to converse, to play with Casey, and to wrap precious self.

Emma loved to cuddle for naps. This was often my view of her as she took to my lap.

She would jump onto my back when I cleaned the litter boxes. She would join me in the shower, staying safely on the tub edge behind the clear vinyl shower liner. She made the orange kitty bed I got for Casey her own, and her woolie, nursing on it unrelentingly.

Emma was the ultimate explorer of all things permitted (and early on, unpermitted). Here she is trapped in Jim's shower.

Emma often slept under the covers with me, in my armpit, at my waist, or behind my knees. Many night I fell asleep sitting up, and when I awoke, there she was on my lap.

She loved to eat. She made a game of running to the feeding spot at meal time, and always made sure she shared everyone else's plates.

Her favorite toys had feathers on them. She fancied herself quite a birder.

She was a little overwhelmed by Ennis's massive size, and would gentle push him away, or leave the bed, when he came to close. This is a rare picture of the two of them together.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Upcoming Surgery, and Other Things

I received my surgery packet last week. My surgeon's office is nice enough to send out a packet with info about the surgery, as well as preparing for it and recovering from it.

This surgery is called "revisions." The surgeon will be "sculpting" the two breast mounds for symmetry and placement, adding fat to fill in a scarred area in my right foob that is "wrinkly," liposuctioning the little bulges at the ends of my abdominal incision, and making nipples.

The surgery starts in Baltimore at 12:30pm on Monday April 27, and I am expected to be released from post-op recovery around 4:30pm. Depending on how tired/disoriented Jim and I are, we may try to find a local hotel for the overnight instead of driving the ~2 hours home.

I have to go to my family doctor this week for a mini-physical, an EKG, and orders for bloodwork. Information in the surgery packet tells me I will be down for about a week, and on activity restrictions for three weeks.

This is the last procedure planned for general anesthesia. I am very happy about that. The anesthesia really knocks me out....for days now.

Jim is planning to have his right knee joint replaced in June, and then we have planned a 9-day cruise for September. We will be taking a ship out of Bayone, NJ, up the east coast into Canada and back.

I was away for a week recently, in the DC area caring for a friend who had been released home after 3 weeks in the hospital for peritonitis. I feel this is one of the ways I can "pay it forward" for all the care others have given me through my journey.

Emma, one of the new kittens, worries me. She has a fever of unknown origin that has been going on for almost a month now. She is going back to the vet today for another check-up. She has lost weight, isn't eating well, and is very lethargic.

My brother Les is being such a trooper through his lung cancer treatments. This is his final week of first-round chemo and radiation. He is having alot of trouble swallowing, because the radiation is affecting his esophagus. But he is happy that the end is near. I talked with him on Saturday, when he was out buying a bunch of flowers for the yard. You have to feel somewhat OK to garden.

That's all the news.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

More on Les

Les is so upbeat about all of what he is going through. He has only two more chemos scheduled (his chemo combo is Taxol and Carboplatin) and only 9 more radiation treatments. He still has his hair, was feeling "like shit" the Tuesday and Wednesday after his Monday infusion, but recovered (as much as possible) by Friday. He also is having throat problems from the radiation treatments, but a DR prescribed magic mouthwash, which did wonders for my mouth sores. He also has not smoked since his surgery, and is repulsed by the smell of cigarette smoke.

Good for you Les. I love you bunches.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Update on Les

Some more info about Les's lung cancer. He got a report yesterday that said his lung cancer is non-small cell carcinoma, Stage IIIA. Les has not done research about prognosis, so I will not put what I know about it here. If Les doesn't want to know, I don't want to be the one to force it onto him.

Les is in remarkably good spirits. He has worked some, but it is physically difficult for him. Any time spent at work means the entire following day is spent on the couch.

He has been measured and marked for radiation and begins it today. He will have radiation every weekday for 25 session. He also will be getting chemotherapy during the time he is on radiation therapy. Les doesn't know the "flavor" of chemo. He will an infusion every Monday for 5 weeks, then an infusion every 3rd Monday for 4-5 months.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Reaching out to Kathy

I have a friend on the FDMB (let's call her Susan) who has a co-worker (let's call her Kathy) who has breast cancer. I've offered through Susan my contact information, but I'm told Kathy is a strong, independent person who doesn't reach out for help for herself. She is a single mom of one son, and is being cared for by her parents.

So I told Susan I would write something up to converse with Kathy. I thought my breast cancer blog would be a good place to put this.


I, like you, have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I am about 3 years post-DX, but still living with the effects of my diagnosis and treatment every day. I have made part of my cancer journey helping others with their cancer journeys, in whatever way I can.

Susan tells me you have been in severe physical pain from the treatments. I understand that. The chemo, and the Neulasta that I got to stimulate white cell production, put me in a world of hurt. Nothing nothing NOTHING made me comfortable. Even lying brought pain to my hips and ribs. And the pain made me the crabbiest person ever.

Yes, crying. Crying is a part of the pain (and other things).

For my first two infusions, I didn't know that there were ways to manage that pain other than the prescription pain killer I was given. My neighbor Mary, a nurse, showed me how to layer prescription meds with over-the-counter meds. I talk about the process I used here. Of course the pain wasn't gone, but it was very well masked. Kathy, talk to your doctors or the oncology nurses about better pain management. It is possible.

Susan tells me you are a fiercely independent woman and that being dependent on others is the hardest part of your journey right now. Might I suggest you take a brief look through your caregivers' eyes. Your parents are doing what they are doing out of the purest and most sincere love. Think of the fear in their hearts, when they think of the situation you, their daughter and the mother of their grandchild, are facing. Think of how they just want to hold you and take you pain and fear.

Kathy, please take a break from your independence, just for the time it takes to get through your treatment. Cherish the help that your parents and others are giving you on your journey. Your willing acceptance is a gift to your caregivers.

You will regain your independence in time.

Kathy, you are going through a process that will likely radically change who you are. I have known many people say they are glad for having gone through the experience of facing and fighting cancer. I am not one of those people; I would have much preferred not having to face and fight cancer.

But I am glad to have learned some of the lessons I learned and met the people I have met along my journey.

We can talk in the future about some of the things I have been doing to reclaim my balance and my life post-treatment. Maybe I will have some nuggets that will help you get back to a comfortable place. For the time being, though, for the treatment phase, my best advice is to let the current carry you, try to avoid the rocks, and grab for every life ring someone throws you.

Take care, and stay strong.


PS: My offer of an email or phone relationship is always open.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Place Called Today

Lori recently sent this to me.

A Place Called Today

There is a place where I have found great peace. I don’t visit it as much as I should. It is a place called Today. In Today, I often have no problems. If I do have problems, there are usually no more than one or two. Interestingly, these problems are fixable. I have the tools I need right before me. Action can be taken. Today is run by a benevolent king named I Am. I Am seems to give me everything I need just in time. He is the eternal Present.

Unfortunately, I am often in a place called Yesterday. Yesterday is a frustrating place to live. There are a thousand little suburbs of yesterday stretching back as far as the eye can see. Each Yesterday has one or two of its own problems. These problems prove impossible to fix. I ponder them endlessly. Even when I dream up a solution, I don’t seem to have the tools I need. Yesterday is ruled by two evil parties, Remorse and Resentment. They are constantly taxing me with old problems, yet providing no answers.

Sometimes I get sick of the crowded conditions of Yesterday and venture into the wilderness of Tomorrow. The wilderness of Tomorrow is an infinitely vast place. There are no roads and it is very easy to get lost. There are millions of little trails that lead to Nowhere. There are billions of problems here also. They are supplied by Imagination. Imagination mixes the problems of Yesterday and Today to come up with an endless supply of new problems. There is a ferocious beast that prowls the wilderness of Tomorrow. Its name is Anxiety. It is always watching and pounces at will. The only way to escape it is to run back to Today. It will not go beyond the edge of the wilderness of Tomorrow.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Spoon Theory

This is a very interesting writing that explains the energy conservation measures a person with a chronic condition goes through every day. It's long, but worth the time.

Surgeon Update/Les Update

I didn't mean to concern some friends when I explained that I was having a follow-up with the DIEP flap surgeon. I had developed two lumps and wasn't sure what they were. My oncologist's PA also wasn't sure, so she suggested I go back to Dr. Cutter, who is local, to have them checked. No way, no one but Dr. Chang is going to do any procedures on these flaps.

So on Friday Jim and I took a drive down to Baltimore. Dr. Chang and his surgical assistant reassured me that the lump in my left flap is fat necrosis, and relatively small. He will be able to do a little liposuction on it during my revision surgery if it hasn't reabsorbed by then.

The other lump, between my right flap and my armpit, is not fat necrosis. They speculate that it is scar tissue. That makes sense to me because it is the spot that keep me from having complete range of motion in my right arm. Too much stretching there (as with yoga) leaves my right side pretty sore for the rest of the day. I have started a massage routine on the suspected scar tissue to try to soften it up.

We also talked about why I continue to have discomfort in spots about one inch above my abdominal incision. Turns out that's where they cut through the muscle to harvest the feeder blood vessels. Dr. Chang said it could be up to a year for that soreness to go away.

Dr. Chang and his surgical assistant spent some time "planning the project" on my chest. "We can lift this up a little bit here." "We can pull this in." "We can fill those scar lines with fat from the abdominal liposuction." It was a little uncomfortable being looked at as a canvas.

As the visit was ending, we complimented the surgical assistant on her new hair-do. Dr. Chang said "show them," and she whipped off a wig. She has alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes her to lose her hair in round patches. And, where she has the balding/thin spots, her hair has turned pure white. She must feel pretty comfortable with her patients, or lack vanity, to just whip off her wig like that.

So the surgery is going to be April 27 at 12:30. We are to arrive at 10:30. Dr. Chang said I would likely be released from recovery about 4 or 4:30. Just in case we happen to run longer, or we are whipped by the procedure, I'm making an overnight reservation at the hotel across the street from the hospital.

I've talked with Les a couple of times since he's been home. He's taking some work phone call already, and doing some walking for exercise. He will see someone at the surgeon's office, maybe it's this week, to have the staples removed and to get the pathology report. He has appointments with medical and radiation oncologists in early March.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Les went home Friday

I don't think he was the ideal hospital patient. But he sounds good now that he is home. Sadly, Donna caught the flu while Les was in the hospital, so their younger daughter is there caring for both of them now.

I am so happy that this step of Les's journey is over.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Les called this morning

His voice is the most beautiful sound on earth. He is weak, in pain, and a little mumbly, but in very good spirits. He's out of ICU and into a regular room. What a weight that short phone call lifted for me.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Les's older daughter just called. The surgeon found a spot at the top of Les's left lung, attached to the artery, and had to take the entire lung. Taking the entire lung will make for a longer recovery, but a better outcome.

Les is in recovery now, a little freaked out because he woke to find himself still intubated. His color, O2 level, and blood pressure are good. He will be transferred from recovery to ICU. They may hold him there for a few days because the hospital is full and there are no beds available outside of ICU. Future treatment will likely involve radiation.

I was about to break into tears, but my neighbor came by with her border collie puppy. Shotsi. Not spelled that way, I'm sure, but that's the phonetic. The puppy took me out of my funk.

In Surgery

Les should be in surgery now. The surgeon has indicated that he plans to take only the lower lobe of the left lung. Prayers, bright light, and calm for Les and his family, and skill for the surgeon.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Reality Checklist

Ennis, my diabetic cat, usually asks for food every two to three hours. Small frequent meals help him feel better. It doesn't matter to him whether it is day or night.

If I am sleeping--napping or out cold for the night thanks to a sleeping pill--Ennis wakes me. It often involves a cold paw applied to my cheek. Sometimes, it is just the presence of this big hulking cat standing next to my head and purring loudly.

It might be advancing age, it might be the effects of cancer treatments, but when I wake I go through a reality checklist. First I decide whether I can be woken. If not, I advise Ennis to go ask his "poppy," Jim. Ennis usually doesn't buy that and I get another cold paw on the face.

So I progress with my checklist. I observe the outside light--am I taking an afternoon nap, is it the middle of the night, or is the dawn breaking? I roll over to check the clock. Will my feet and legs move; will they hold me when I go vertical? Up to a sitting position. Do I need to use the restroom?

Get up, grab a can of food from on top of the TV, pop it and scoop it onto the plate on the bed, and head to the restroom. I continue my checklist. If it's nighttime, the checklist goes like this--Did I brush my teeth before I collapsed into bed? Am I hungry? Did I take my nighttime pills? What day is it going to be? Do I have plans for the day? What's the weather supposed to be?

If it's daytime, a different checklist--What day is it? When did I fall asleep and why was I taking a nap? Do I have plans to get up at a certain time? Is Jim home?

I deliberately ask myself these questions. BBC (before breast cancer), those realities used to just pop into my head. Not anymore; now I need a checklist.

Since Monday night, I haven't needed my checklist. I wake up and it hits me--my brother has lung cancer. I just focus on that, and all the other realities flood into my consciousness, smothering the fear I feel rising in my belly.

I hate cancer.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My Brother has Lung Cancer

Les is the person I love second best in the world, and a real close second to my husband Jim. Les has just told me that he may have cancer in his left lung. He has a tumor in his lower lobe that is something like 2x3 cm. Les said "may" because he has not yet had a sample of the tumor tissue pathologized. But as his doctor told him, PET scans don't lie. The PET/CT scan lit up the tumor in the lower lobe of his left lung.

I'm not sure what I should write here about Les's cancer because he reads this blog. But I don't think anyone who knows him, other than some of my friends, read this blog, so unless he asks me to stop I will write what's on my mind and in my heart.

Les has multiple sclerosis, diagnosed maybe ten years ago. He has been so brave in that struggle, still working full-time or more, despite what are now very serious physical limitations.

Les is four years younger than me, and the only one of my six siblings I keep in close touch with. Most of my siblings have hurt me, emotionally or physically, in some significant way. Les never has. He adores his wife Donna, and has two adult daughters he holds dear, and a number of grandchildren.

Our family of origin was very dysfunctional, and with the abuse, my siblings and I became loners or went outside the family for emotional support. I was not close to Les growing up, although he was a nice enough kid. I "remet" him at a family wedding in the 1980's and we hit it off like gangbusters. How could I not be drawn to this brother who was intelligent, and funny, and hardworking. We ruined many a wedding photo cracking up at the raunchy jokes we whispered to each other.

Les lives in rural northeast Texas, and easily picked up the Texas drawl when he moved there. He sounds like a native. He has worked for years for oil field service companies. He is very mechanically inclined; as as my sister-in-law says, he is handy as a shirt pocket.

Les tells me he has been going through diagnotic testing since December 19, 2008. It all started with a chest X-Ray, although I don't know the reason the X-Ray was taken. Seeing a suspicious area, testing proceeded to other imaging methods, as well as a bronchoscopy to remove a tissue sample for pathology. The doctor was not able to get deep enough into the lung to get a sample of the tumor, but other tissue taken from the procedure was clear of cancer cells.

Les is seeing a thoracic surgeon this Thursday. Les has been told that regardless of whether the tumor is cancerous or benign, it has to come out. Therefore, the doctors are not planning a needle aspiration of the tumor; they plan to go straight to surgery. Les says that by this time next week, either the lower lobe or the entire left lung will have been removed. Les has had pulmonary testing that shows he will be able to function with his right lung alone.

Yes, Les is a smoker. Our father died young of lung cancer, with metastasis to the brain.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Long Overdue Update

It's been almost 3 months since my reconstruction surgery, and I am so sorry to be remiss in giving updates.

I am just flat-assed happy that I had this reconstruction done. I am finished with physical therapy, and have complete range of motion (ROM) in my left arm with almost no discomfort. My right arm ROM is vastly improved over pre-reconstruction status, although not 100%. But manageable, very manageable. And it may continue to improve over time. Experience shows that it takes me about a full year to fully recover from a major surgery.

My abdominal swelling is completely resolved, and I can button my jeans again. YEAH!!

I found myself slipping back into clinical depression after the surgery, and I really couldn't understand why. My therapist suggested I go back onto antidepressants, but the nurse practitioner that I wanted to see in the office was not taking new Medicare patients. (Why this place screws with mentally ill people has always confused me.) But over time, the depression lifted. I mentioned this at a cancer support group meeting, and someone suggested it might have been anesthesia-induced depression. I had never heard of such a thing, but it certainly made sense.

I have started exercising again, mostly at the YMCA. I try to do at least 2 yoga sessions a week, as well as something else. Sometimes the something else is a mile or two on the stationary bike. This week the something else was a class called "Dance NRG" (energy). Semi-aerobic, lots of bouncing and stretching, quite a challenge for the sensory neuropathy in my feet and the motor neuropathy in my legs, and a real brain teaser for my cognitive impairment--trying to remember the steps. I just might do that class again next week.

I am trying to get into an exercise study for breast cancer survivors. It would involve 14 weeks of supervised exercise at a pretty classy rehab facility. There would be pre- and post-study measurements. The one problem is that the study would have a randomly chosen control group. The control group would get the measurements, but be asked not to engage in an exercise program during the study period. I will not be part of the control group, even if it means not joining the study and thus not getting the possible opportunity for the supervised exercise.

I lack stamina right now, and I know exercise, and nutrition, will put me back to right. And we all know how bad I am about nutrition, so exercise is necessary.

Here's an example of lack of stamina. Yesterday, I did about 2 hours of running around chores, and then about 2 hours of housework. Nothing really physically challenging. I watched TV in my bedroom in the evening, and laid my head down at 10pm for a quick nap. I woke at 1:30am. I hadn't realized how pooped I was.

Jim has been away this week at Myrtle Beach for a guys golf week. It's been nice to get a little alone time, and not have to plan and make dinner every day.

We haven't had such a great 2009 so far. At New Year's, Jim and I both came down with a GI tract virus--vomiting and diarrhea. It wasn't the flu; no fever or muscle discomfort. Jim had it for 3 days; thankfully, mine was only one day. Then Jim had in-office surgery on his head for a basal cell skin cancer. The next day he was diagnosed with macular degeneration. We saw a specialist, and he had the dry kind in his left eye and the wet kind in his right eye. His left eye isn't too bad, but the right is. He has started treatment on his right eye, which involves the injection of a small amount of a chemotherpy agent into his eyeball. Every six weeks. The shot isn't painful, just frightening, so I will be pre-medicating Jim with some valium before his next shot. (There is no treatment for the dry type of macular degeneration.)

I had been suffering since early December with a full body rash. Our dermatologist gave me a cortisone shot and some acid mantle cream, and although the rash and itching were reduced, they did not fully resolve. When the DR saw me 10 days later, she declared that I had scabies, which comes from mites. The DR said I probably picked them up in the hospital. Both Jim and I had to be treated with a Permethrin cream, and our bedding, towels, and clothes had to be washed in hot water, or put into sealed trash bags for two weeks. I still have some itching, but I think it is just my normal winter dry skin.

And of course, there are our new babies. Emma Leah is a grey tabby with white bib and legs, and Casey is an orange tabby with white bib and legs. When we got them in early December, Emma was 4 months and Casey was 6 months old. Both came from shelter/rescue situations. Casey brought in a very nasty upper respiratory infection, which all the cats got, including Grandpa Ennis. It continues even now, with Casey finally on a course of Doxycycline Hyclate (an antibiotic) because he is now sneezing green snot.

Ennis isn't thrilled with the new cats, but he's becoming accustomed to them, especially now that he is over the conjunctivitis he picked up from Casey.

So what does the future hold? Jim is toying with the idea of going to Clearwater, FL, in March for part of the Phillies spring training. I am starting back on that book I still need to write for the AICPA. I have revision surgery on April 27, where the surgeon will be making cosmetic corrections to my breast flaps and adding nipples. Jim may have his other knee replaced this summer....he seems reluctant to go through it again. Other than that, we are just looking forward to the end of winter, even though we have been very fortunate with little snowfall so far.