journal entry 5

I got knocked out of orbit for a bit. I’m still not back on track.

I had my surgery at the first possible opportunity: Thursday, June 15th. The aberrant growth that my surgeon, my oncologist, my endocrinologist, my gastrointestinal specialist, my nurse practitioner, and two radiologists were calling a tumor, turned out not to be a tumor – so said the hospital’s post-removal pathology. What was taken out was a growth of highly condensed “regular” pancreatic tissue with a greater than normal blood supply, which made it take up contrast differently and appear as a tumor when imaging was done – it even fooled a endoscopic biopsy.

So . . . it wasn’t a tumor and no cancer was involved. That should be news worth doing cartwheels over. But questions remain unanswered. Without the passage of time and additional testing results, I have no way of knowing if the growth held any responsibility for the symptoms that started this ball rolling. I’ll be seeing my oncologist and endocrinologist in the next few weeks to get their post-surgery take on all this. In the meantime, I’ll be testing my blood sugar several times a day, lowering my stress whenever possible, and doing a whole lot of self-monitoring. There’s not much else I can do – let time pass and gather data.

I was expecting – all concerned were expecting – a tumor of some type and one of two options: cancer; no cancer. We ended up with a third option that no one had even considered. I’m still not sure what to do with that.


journal entry 4

I’ve had meetings with several doctors and specialists at this point. Last Friday, I had a stress test done by order of my cardiologist. Tomorrow, an endoscopy will be performed at 6:00 AM. On Friday of this week, I have a first visit with an endocrinologist. I’m told all this is necessary – all bases need to be covered.

I’m growing very tired of waiting. I want the damn tumor out of my pancreas now . . . and I want to know if it was cancerous. I need to know if I have 20- 25 years left, or if I’m working on a much tighter schedule.

journal entry 3

I have several old park benches in my yard, but for the most part I only use one for relaxation. I bring my morning coffee outside and sit in the middle of it, leaving room for my semi-ferals to hop up beside me – one on each side. We then listen to songbirds and passing trains, and say prayers aloud to whoever will accept them.

My neighbors don’t get up early. God gave me that blessing I thank Him for it. I can be reasonably assured that the knotheads won’t set foot outside until 8:00 AM. After that, they will – en masse – drag out every piece of obnoxious lawn care equipment in their possession and proceed to call attention to themselves. Damage to my nerves and ability to contemplate begins each day at 8:00 AM.

At this moment, I hear a cardinal and the horn of a freight train. One of my cats has jumped off my lap because she’s grown tired of me picking off fleas. My coffee is still warm. No neighbors are up yet. Apparently God gave them something else besides peace each morning. Whatever that is, they can have it.

Journal entry 2

I had lunch at IKEA the day I was told that I’d been referred to an oncologist. Swedish meatballs, potatoes and gravy, and mixed green beans, rang up by a pretty, smiling cashier of Native American and Latino heritage. The food was good and did not trouble me later. The setting was one in which there was virtually no chance I’d be recognized and forced to engage in conversation.

The endocrinologist’s office I was supposed to visit next had received a copy of my recent bloodwork and decided I could breeze right on past them and go directly to an oncologist. My primary care office, my surgeon, and the cardiologist I just started seeing (separate issue?) were all advised and a referral to a cancer specialist was quickly set in motion.

An hour and a half after my lunch at IKEA, I was prone in a dentist’s chair having an upper molar extracted. It was difficult and painful, but my dentist was kind and patient. Her office is a passed-down mom and pop practice that’s in an old house converted to a business. I’ve been going there for a very long time and they are the reason I still have most of my own teeth.

By 5:00 PM I was enjoying a wonderful meal with my wife and our 24 year-old son. We went to a nearby Perkins. My wife had a fancy burger and fries. Our son had three pancakes, two sausage patties, and two smoked sausages. I had a ham and pepper-jack cheese omelet with hash browns and pancakes. We took home a banana cream pie.

This was yesterday. A day I’ll always remember.

Journal entry 1

The surgeon brought his laptop into the exam room and showed me the spot on my pancreas. It wasn’t big – the doc said it was about the size of the nail on a little finger – but it was definitely the brightest thing on the CT scan.

I’d been honest with the surgeon about the degree to which I’d abused alcohol when I was young. He told me the spot could be left over from those days and wouldn’t necessarily develop into a problem. But he also let me know it could be something very bad.  The goal of that particular radiology had been to determine the cause of recent lower-abdominal pain. It failed to do that and turned up this issue instead. I guess CTs have a bad habit of revealing things you aren’t looking for. A progression of tests would begin immediately.

Just twenty-four hours before, I sat with a cardiologist while he scratched his head at the symptoms I’d brought him – not sure what to make of them. He did, however, agree that a recent EKG done by my primary care physician did show an electrical issue involving my heart. The cardiologist told me that the new diagnosis – right-bundle blockage – in and of itself is something I can live with just fine. But it could also be an indicator of an underlying, larger problem. Tests would be scheduled pending approval by my health insurance.

Exactly forty-eight hours before that, I put my old SUV in reverse to back out on the street and looked over my shoulder to discover someone had smashed a rear side window. Nothing was stolen; there was nothing to steal. The police officer who investigated put it down to malicious mischief. Nothing could be done.

On Thursday afternoon of the same week in which all this occurred – this current week – I was tripped by one of my well-fed, but “starving-to-death” outdoor cats. This resulted in an epic fall culminating in all 215lbs of my body-weight coming down hard on my left thumb. I happen to be right-handed, but I’ve learned that there’s an amazing amount of stuff that’s difficult or impossible to do with limited use of a left thumb.

Today was a pleasant spring day and yard work called my name. I chose not to answer.