Jen drove me in to Hopkins on Wednesday to have my port removed. I’ve had this lump on my chest since the earliest days of treatment; it was the first step of many in starting chemotherapy. Essentially the drugs are so caustic that if they injected them into my arm through a normal IV it would eat away the veins there, so they use the port to pump poison directly into my heart. It’s come in handy in the hospital visits I’ve had since then, because I’m a big chicken when it comes to needles and the port is a really simple way to draw blood. It’s not without its dangers, though: as a highway right to the heart the risk of infection is greater. The nurses at Hopkins are super-strict about blood draw policy, requiring special training and a specific procedure with masks and protocol and two changes of gloves. The nurses I had in Delaware were more cavalier, dispensing with the protocol and just jabbing a needle in. This was a bit disconcerting, but I guess I’m still alive.
This procedure was different from having the port put in; it was faster and required only a light dose of Fentanyl to make me happy, but they never knocked me out completely. I basically laid on the table for about 15 minutes under a blue sheet while the doctor tugged and poked and patted at my chest a bit, and I just focused on not giving a shit. Which I really didn’t. Fentanyl is scary stuff.
After it was finished they wheeled me back out and “recovery” took about 20 minutes. I was a little light-headed but otherwise OK, and I didn’t puke up my empty stomach like I did after the biopsy.
So now I’m lump-free with a scar on my chest, and I can’t be underwater for a month until it’s all healed up. I also won’t gross Jen out when I give her a hug, or feel it dig into the shoulder strap when I wear a backpack, or knock into the damn thing with my hand when I’m in the shower, and that’ll be nice.
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Meanwhile, I’m trying not to worry about my low white blood cell count. Hopkins has a handy portal with all of my medical information, appointments, and test results, and when I go back and look at the numbers, they plot a steady decline from last summer to the present day, with no peaks in between. What does this mean? Should I be worried about bone cancer? One of the many releases they had me sign before chemo stated that this was a possibility, but we signed it anyway, figuring we’d hit the tumor with every gun we had. It wasn’t until afterwards we learned the chemo did nothing at all. Did I give myself bone cancer for nothing?
To be clear, we don’t know what this is yet, but the drop predates the elimination diet by months, and everything I’ve been eating is supposed to boost my immune system, not lower it. Is there some other reason? It’s been on my mind a lot the last two weeks, and I’m trying to remain upbeat and calm about things.
From what I’ve read about leukemia, it seems to be treatable if it’s caught early, and survival rates have gone up in the U.S. for those who have it. That’s somewhat cold comfort, but I have to take what I can get in terms of good news right now. And it’s still too early to go out to the Internet and scare myself stupid with more bad news, because we don’t have a diagnosis yet.
Grading is complete, grades are submitted, and all my grading sheets are in the Outbox. The last step is to shoot some pictures of student work and then drop it off at the university.
Stuff I accomplished this weekend, in no particular order:
- Took a load of stuff to the dump; my nostalgia/hoarding filter is extremely thin right now, so I finally chucked a bunch of stuff I swore I was going to save to “use later,” including two of our old kitchen cabinets I had to take off the wall to be able to fit the fridge. Little by little, the basement is clearing out (aided in no small part by a trip to goodwill last weekend). I still need to figure out where to dump the old CR-V hood, two Scout brake drums and a spare steel wheel; the dump doesn’t take car parts of any kind.
- Mulched the rest of the front bed with Jen. This also allowed us to find several of the gladiolus bulbs poking through the soil that we’d planted a couple of weeks ago. Success!
- Ran over to Christi & Glenn’s house to pick up my ladder, which they’ve had in their garage since last fall. While I was there Glenn and I crawled up on their garage and removed about 30 pine boughs from the tree behind it, which were sitting directly on the slate, as well as about 6″ of pine needles stuck in the snow catchers. We threw all the boughs into the yard of the retirement community behind them, who haven’t pruned their trees in decades.
- Replanted a bunch of marigolds from the big pots Finn and I had planted them in to separate singles, and learned you have to pinch off everything past the first two pair of leaves to promote blooms and keep them from getting leggy.
- I was taken down by a stomach ache Saturday afternoon, probably from the sushi we’d had the night before, and had to lay down for a nap until dinnertime.
- Cleaned the gutters over the new bathroom, which were completely filled with helicopters and sprouts from the sugar maple in the driveway. Which is living on borrowed time, because I emailed a signed contract to the tree removal service on Sunday in the hopes we can get it taken down in the next couple of weeks. I’m also hopeful they can drop it and leave the wood away from the central part of the driveway so I can get our cars in and out.
- Fertilized and trimmed all of the tomatoes back. I’ve been using a different method of pollination and it seems to work better; it’s basically just flicking the flowers with a finger for about 10 seconds. I’ve been pretty lethal about cutting stray shoots and old growth back, and the plants are still alive, so that’s a relief. The romas by the door have gone absolutely crazy—there’s at least 14 tomatoes working on that plant alone.
- Took an hour or so with Jen to wrap the grape arbor with netting to try and save as many of the new shoots as possible. This involved cutting half of the old netting away and attaching the new netting to the remainder; picking grapes later in the season will be interesting.
- Rebuilt the edging around the herb bed, which dates back to 2004 or so. One side had collapsed, so we picked up new wood on Saturday and I had the new bed complete by Sunday afternoon.
- Disassembled and cleaned out the A/C units for our bedrooms, which were disgusting. This prompted me to look into ductless air conditioning systems, something that could be a workable, cost effective alternative to heavy window units or rehabbing the whole house for central A/C. The system uses a single compressor outside and relies on thin hoses that go up the side of the house into wall-mounted units in each room. This avoids installing a giant air handler in the attic and a bunch of ducts in the ceiling; while having an appliance bolted to the wall of each bedroom isn’t the most attractive approach, it’s a hell of a lot better than plugging up the windows. If I’m serious about a home equity loan to finish the bathroom, this might be the other thing we spend on to raise our quality of life.
Here’s our children as of yesterday afternoon. You’ll notice some leaf discoloration on the plant closest to the camera; I think this is a bacterial infection that can be treated with a copper soap spray (ordered). The marigolds have this too, which leads me to believe it’s something bacterial. That is to say, I’m hoping it’s not Verticulum, which is untreatable and basically means you’ve got to throw the plants out.
I’ve been a lot more mercenary with these plants this year, being sure to cut back any new shoots from the main stem before they produce flowers to prevent the giant explosion of leaves and branches I had last year. Because they’re in the center of the greenhouse they can grow taller instead of wider and it’s easier to access both sides to prune them.
Meanwhile, they’re all beginning to set fruit! The romas (up front) have four, the Beefsteak have three, there are several dozen cherries starting, and I think all but two of the rest have at least one fruit. Still no love for the tomatillos yet.
I did my year-and-a-half cancer checkup yesterday, and after a sonogram, a CT scan and bloodwork, it appears the clot in my arm is gone, I’m clear of any new passengers, and my white blood cell count is low. This last bit is alarming, because we don’t know what’s causing it. I’m not run down, I’m not sick, and there’s no reason we can think of for it to be so low (it’s roughly half the count it was when I was laid up with a busted small intestine). So there will be some more tests performed in a month and we’ll wait to see what they look like before any drastic action is taken. Meanwhile, I’m cleared to have the port removed sometime in the next couple of weeks, and when that’s over with, I’ll be off blood thinners. Hooray!
It was somewhere near 90˚ today so Finn and I got the top off the Scout today in record time; about an hour and a half. It took a little longer to get the soft top on, but when we were done we took a celebratory ride: her first in the front seat. I also took about 20 minutes and scrubbed 20 years of dirt off each of the fiberglas inserts and hung them up on the lift next to the top. It’s good to feel wind in our hair again.
When we came back out of the grocery store someone had scrawled, “NICE RIDE!” on an envelope and dropped in on the passenger seat. That made me smile.
I spent most of Saturday grading student work at the dining room table, attempting to ignore my stomach. I was able to get through eight resubmissions of the first project, six of the second, and about six final projects by noon on Sunday. It’s been somewhat faster going than previous years because I’m taking advantage of the Mac’s dictation feature, which does a reasonableJob of understanding. What I am talkingAbout (real-world results). Still, it’s faster than pecking out a bunch of feedback and I can do it stream-of-consciousness style which means I’m not stopping and starting my thoughts. What the hell was I just saying?
The Elimination Diet has been going OK, if not a bit challenging. Breakfast is the worst time of day because the smoothies we’re drinking are delicious but fuel me for about seven minutes and then I’m back to BACON EGG AND CHEESE HANGRY. We’re usually having leftovers of some kind for lunch and then we make something new for dinner so there is some variety; we got beef back yesterday and I am here for it. Because I’m generally grazing lightly during the day, it’s the 10-12AM and 3-5PM hours that are the hardest. There is nothing I’m allowed to snack on other than carrots and air, and air holds me longer than carrots do.
Next up we get pork, which will be nice, but we don’t get bacon back until we can have sugar (nitrates are verboten but there are some brands that are cured with sugars) and that’s after three long weeks of various nuts. I’ll tell you this: when I get cashews and almonds back, I’m going to eat a dump truck full of those fuckers.
I dropped a pile of stuff off at the Goodwill this afternoon, some stuff that made me sad to leave behind: My old Nikon D70, battered and scratched but still able to take pictures at 2004-era quality, the old IKEA dishes I had in my house in Baltimore, and the Onkyo receiver Renie gifted me around the same era, sadly retired for want of HDMI inputs.
Speaking of that, I brought Dad’s big Denon head unit home and set that up a couple of weeks ago, then reconfigured the entire A/V setup in the den to work with it. The results are stunning. I mentioned setting up his center channel speaker earlier, but I really noticed the difference when Finn and I were watching Isle of Dogs this past week: in a section of the movie the characters walk from left to right and the sound followed them across the speakers. It almost makes me want to have rear-channel sp…never mind.
Drew Magary is one of my favorite writers. His sports writing gets me excited for football season, and he has a special way with soliciting and answering email from the public. Late last year he went silent for a couple of months; it turned out he’d had a brain hemorrhage and was in the hospital for a month. He finally wrote about the experience; I can directly relate to about 85% percent of his story.
I otherwise slept well, except for numerous instances when staff would have to come in to check my vitals or give me appointed meds. They usually did this by switching on all the sour fluorescent lights, which caused me to groan out loud. Then they would say GOOD MORNING MISTER MAGARY! like they were there to deliver me news of Christ’s birth.
He’s a professional, so he writes much better than I do. There were many things I wish I’d been able to say that he said so much better.
I cheated death, and now the Reaper has a chit for my head that he can cash in any time he likes. I now know firsthand that he doesn’t always telegraph his arrival. I was blindsided. When I was young, I thought nothing could kill me. I know I’m old now because I believe that everything can kill me, including just going to a work shindig. I have the receipts to prove it.
Here’s a quick video of a drive I took in the Scout last fall (it was stuck on my GoPro) sped up about 15X normal speed. There’s not too much that’s special about it; I just wanted to get it off my desktop.
I got an email out of the blue two weeks ago from a man in New York who asked if I still had my Scout, and would I be interested in renting it out for a day’s photo shoot in Annapolis? intrigued, I called him back, verified he was legit, and sent him a link to my Flickr feed in the hopes that they would follow through and use it. (He said they had pictures of my truck on file with my contact information. !!!)
I didn’t hear back from him last week, which leads me to believe they didn’t like the looks of my truck—but, then again, it rained all last week…