Yesterday I got behind on my pain meds and found out just how much they are helping. My epidural bag went empty so my nurse got all of the other stuff sorted out and then went to put an order in for a replacement. I waited patiently for an hour, watching SPECTRE, and fell asleep for another hour or so. When I woke up the incision was throbbing and the hole in my side where the drain comes out was angry and tender to the touch. I called the nurse’s station and they hurried over with the new bag and a shot of Dilaudid to get me back on top of things. I’ve been very pleasant with all of my nurses, even the brusque ones (Dugan’s rule: you are ALWAYS pleasant with cops, teachers, waitresses, and nurses–anyone who has the power to throw you in jail, yank on your pee-pee, or spit in your food) but I admit to being frosty with her after that.

At about 7:30, when the night nurse and I were just getting up to speed, the cramping in my guts produced one mighty bed-rumbling fart and we both celebrated with a high-five. This means I move to what they call a clear liquid diet, which is beef broth and jell-o mostly, and as exciting as tax returns. I’ve been living on sugar-enhanced saline since the surgery, and while my blood sugar is right where it should be, there’s a gaping maw in my stomach where a cheeseburger needs to be. It also means the IV drip in my hand comes out, which leaves just one connection to the pole: the epidural drip.

Still no word on when I’m getting out of here.

Date posted: December 23, 2017 | Filed under cancer | Leave a Comment »

I’ve got a neighbor on my floor who sounds like he’s in bad shape. Every day, at least twice a day, he’ll suddenly start moaning and calling out Help, and if someone isn’t there in under a minute, things start beeping, which means he’s pulled some wires out and is thrashing around on his bed. I called the nurse for him yesterday when I heard him ramping up and they got him calmed down before the alarms started. I think he may be doped to the gills and delirious, but I hope he comes out of it soon.

Last night was a little milestone that took a lot out of me (literally): the catheter is gone. They decided to schedule the removal for midnight, for some unknown reason. My overnight nurse Chesa has been my favorite by far, so I was relieved that it would happen on her watch. We made a plan so that I’d get a shot of dilaudid at 11 and then we’d take care of business at 12. At 11:30 though, my moaning neighbor started up again, shit started beeping, and they scrambled all the available nurses to deal with him. At 12:45 two nurses I’ve never met came in and I immediately understood what was happening: the older nurse was training the younger, who had never done this before. OH HELL NO. I let them prepare all their stuff and get ready, and after the fourth time the young nurse banged my junk around, I looked at the older nurse and said through gritted teeth, “Excuse me, but I’d prefer if you handled this from here on out.”

And, frankly, once she took over, it was pretty smooth sailing.

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This leaves a couple of other tubes I still have to deal with: there’s a vacuum attached over the incision on my stomach, which is helping gather all of the remaining fluid in my stomach cavity and sending it to another tube nearby which is attached to a squeeze bottle. This is where that fluid collects every day. They were talking about taking the vacuum off today, which sounded like a Big Deal. Turns out, it was not. A nice man named Peter came and within five minutes had the plastic wrap and the carpeting peeled off completely. The incision looks lumpy and misshapen, but there are no visible stitches–those are all inside. Peter put some glue on the outside, bandaged it up, and cheerfully told me we were done.

The pain team came in and talked about removing the epidural soon, once I’m able to take more fluid by mouth. I have no idea what to expect there, but what I’ve been able to feel is a piece of plastic stuck to the small of my back. And I’m up and walking to try and jumpstart my GI tract so that I can begin taking colored liquids and move to solid food. Nothing has happened yet, and I’m getting impatient.

Overnights here are the worst because there is no actual rest; someone is in the room every two hours to take vitals, clean up, or check blood sugar. And I can only sleep on my back because of the incision. I just want to get home and get into my own bed. I miss my people and my house and my food.


Date posted: December 22, 2017 | Filed under cancer | Leave a Comment »

Overnights seem to be the hardest part of this gig so far. I’m on about five different medications which are all competing with each other on how to make me feel the most stupid. As a result, they are messing with my sleep patterns and I’m up and down the whole night. They’ve got saline going in my arm and a slow drip of some kind of pain med through the epidural. When I hit the button for that stuff it feels like someone is spritzing ice water down my back and then things get groovy. But the side effect of that one is how it messes with my vision; my eyes jump around a lot and I can’t focus up close on anything. Last night I asked for something to help me sleep so they gave me some benadryl and that put me down for about two hours before I woke up again.

I want them to show me how to get cleaned up because I’m getting pretty ripe. I think they’ve been waiting until all of the major tubes come out  (the one I haven’t talked about  is the drain in my midsection, which has been collecting less and less but will not feel good coming out).

Yesterday I did two laps around the ward at 1 with Jen and another two at about 6 after she’d left. I wasn’t worried about passing out like I was on the first day and that was encouraging. They want me up and moving so that my GI tract will start functioning again; apparently when I start passing gas my intestines are waking back up. Today I did three laps in one shot, and I’m going to get up and do another three in a few minutes. I’ve never wished for farts before, but I am now, because I’m getting hungry.


Date posted: December 21, 2017 | Filed under cancer | Leave a Comment »

I’m laying on a hospital bed on the fourth floor of the Weinberg Center under several blankets. My left hand is a mass of tubes and tape (the arterial line in my right hand came out last night) and I’ve got more tubes in other places plus an epidural, which was the first line they used to get the ball rolling, and the last thing I remember before waking up in the ICU.

I made it through with fewer complications than they were expecting. The mass wasn’t sticking to or growing from any major organs. It was self-contained and freely floating about my abdomen which meant that it was a lot easier to remove. They did radiation treatment while I was open, and removed my gall bladder for good measure. I’m thanking my lucky stars because all of that meant they didn’t need to set up an ostomy of any kind.

Now there’s a large scar running up my stomach, sealed with what looks like black indoor-outdoor carpeting. At first I didn’t notice it all that much, because I was still coming off anesthesia. Later in the day I went from the epidural to Tylenol to Dilaudid as the pain got more severe; there was a point when my breathing was so shallow as to be useless. The Dilaudid helped back off that pain and I was able to breathe and speak somewhat normally. I was also able to get up and walk a loop of the ICU, which was one of the boxes I had to check to be admitted to the main floor up here. The other was getting the gastric suction tube removed, and I hope I never have to do that again. Think of the sharp pain you get at the pool when water gets up your nose but this time it doesn’t go away, and then add the sensation of plastic scraping all the way up your windpipe from somewhere down by your legs.

Overall, it could have been much, much worse. Jen has been with me the whole time and told me that everyone has been checking in on the situation and sending love. I like to think that love counted for this outcome.

P.S. I’ve got pictures of the baby. Who wants to see? Use the comment box below with a viable email address.

Date posted: December 20, 2017 | Filed under cancer | 6 Comments »

I ordered a lineset ticket for the VIN on Peer Pressure a month ago or so, and it came in this afternoon. I always figured the plate was not original to the body, because it’s screwed in with sheet metal screws, but I was never really sure. From what it says, the original shell was built on August 18, 1975, in Kansas City for Bob Post Chrysler Plymouth in Aurora, Colorado. It was painted Solar Yellow, Code 4410 (a 1976 color), and it had a 304 V-8 with an automatic transmission.

My body shell was originally painted Gold Poly, a 1975 color, and as mentioned before, is not original to the frame. This basically just confirms it. My only shot at identifying it now is finding the VIN chalked on the body somewhere.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: December 15, 2017 | Filed under history, Scout | Comments Off on Lineset Ticket

I’m running nonstop at work this week before I wrap up for the year, and I haven’t written much. So here’s a picture of the attic stairwell (looking up at the foam I installed on the underside of the trap door) after I asked Mario to finish off the entryway. It looked like hot buttered shit before and it’s clean and tidy now.

Date posted: December 15, 2017 | Filed under bathroom | Leave a Comment »

I went back into work on Thursday and Friday to a lovely welcome from the staff; there were gifts and signs and a card on my desk when I got in, which was a surprise that made me a little misty. I got lots of hugs from everyone and a ton of support that really made me feel humble and appreciated. The Grinch in my heart melted quite a bit, I admit.

Renie came into town this weekend to visit, wrapping a tiny business trip into a great 3-day weekend with family. The weather decided to drop about 2 inches of snow on us the morning she hit the road, but the plows were out and she made it down with no drama. We spent Saturday evening and most of Sunday catching up in between a trip out to Second Chance and Housewerks, punctuated with Manhattans and a fantastic sushi dinner (after being froze out of football by a balky FIOS box). She shared the details of her engagement(!) and life in Upstate NY, and we caught up among the rows of cabinets and mismatched toilets. On Monday morning it was with a heavy heart that we waved goodbye to the Subaru on snow tires. I’ve been doing a lousy job of keeping in touch with everyone this year, but as I said after Rob passed, my #1 resolution is to keep better and regular communication with all of my loved ones.

As mentioned earlier, there’s been a ton of progress on the bathroom. Everything is taped, mudded, sanded and primed. I asked Mario to continue the drywall up the stairs to the edge of the attic door, and he drywalled that part last night. He framed in one window on the weekend and it looks OK but it’s not up to my standard–the vertical wood has a gap at the top where it meets the cap board, and the way he made the bullnose isn’t the way I do it. So that will need to be redone in the spring. We’re nearing the end of this phase, which means we’ve got to identify the radiant floor heat system and floor tile we want. The former I know but the latter is a mystery.

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix is a good read but I’ve forgotten what whiny teens they all are in this book. I think it might be my least favorite of all of the books in the series. Still, it’s the highlight of the day to pass the book to each other over sleeping cats while the wind howls outside.

Date posted: December 13, 2017 | Filed under bathroom, family | Leave a Comment »

Two quick pictures of progress in the bathroom. We’re nearing the end of Phase 1, minus some trimwork and drywall around the opening to the attic.

Date posted: December 12, 2017 | Filed under bathroom | Leave a Comment »

Looking toward the back of the house. Dual sinks will go on the right side.

Standing in the closet looking at the attic stairs (what’s left of them) and the door to the back bedroom.

Looking out of the closet toward the front of the house at where the sinks will be (center), and the door to the front bedroom.

Date posted: December 8, 2017 | Filed under bathroom | Leave a Comment »

I finished insulating the walls and buttoned up all of the sheathing this morning, using sprayfoam liberally for all of the cracks too small to fill with insulation. Mario came back in the evening with his brother and a bunch of drywall and knocked out about half of the room. Behold:

Looking to the front of the house from in front of the closet

Standing inside the closet, looking at the doorway to the front bedroom.

When Jen and I got married, one of the things she brought with her was her vacuum cleaner. It was a big black modular unit that served us well up until the summer of 2015 or so when it finally gave up the ghost after about 20 years. We then sprung for a Dyson Ball, which was a lot of money at the time, but we got it home and it’s been working for us really well until Sunday, when it started making a funny noise and smelled like burning. I’m pretty handy with household repairs so I sat down with it and disassembled all of the parts I could get to; this isn’t hard with a Dyson because it’s engineered extremely well. The Dyson has several color-coded elements that help the user disassemble the key sections where clogs will most likely occur. I went through all of these areas and found a piece of cardboard that had clogged the main pipe but that didn’t fix the burning smell, so we called the local Dyson service center, which is only about 10 miles away. Jen brought it in and the guy told us the motor was probably shot, but he’d replace it as it was still under warranty. That was Monday. She picked it up today and we were vacuuming pine needles this evening. I think that’s a stellar bit of customer service, even if I’m annoyed the motor broke after only 2 years.

Date posted: December 6, 2017 | Filed under bathroom | Leave a Comment »