Sunday, October 15, 2017

Simple Pleasures

In spite of the continuing fatigue even though I am in my off week we had a fire in our fire pit tonight. I had a stogie and a couple of whiskeys as well. These are the simple pleasures I miss so much.

Vicki and I sat in our backyard around the fire pit and reminisced about times we spent camping with the kids on our boat on Apache Lake. The fire brought back a lot of great memories. We talked about her parents, her high school years and lots of other stuff. I treasure these times. There are never enough of them.

My "Off Week" has been somewhat disappointing. For what ever reason I have not gotten my strength back this week. I struggle getting out of bed and feel too tired to do much of anything. Just splitting some wood for the fire wore me out tonight. Never the less we had a great time and I enjoyed a good cigar and some good whiskey. 

There are 2 more days left before I start taking pills again. I intend to enjoy them as much as possible.

On Tuesday I will get a scan as well as some blood work at the Mayo clinic. I am hoping for good results.

That's it from here.

Hang in there.

Here is this weeks' contribution for the new normal,

The Answer

In time 
I found the answer
to the question
life had put to me

nothing big and spectacular
just what it meant to “be”

Our very mere existence
a miracle so rare
we take for granted every day
we just can’t see it there

Yet if you’ll heed what I say
perhaps you’ll come to care

That God is in the living
the here and now and you
Believe it if you feel it
come to know it’s true

Be thankful for every little bit
of water green and ocean blue

God’s in everything you see

Observe and get a clue

RT

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Peach Cobbler

The last 4 pills of cycle 4 of the clinical trial went down tonight. I celebrated with the last of the Peach Cobbler that Vicki and I made last week. For some reason I had a craving for cobbler; peach, blueberry, or whatever other kind of cobblers you can make.

Cooking with Vicki is one of the joys of our being retired. I look forward to  cooking many more dishes (mostly desserts) with Vicki. Food is still important to us, though we are having to change our diet to more healthy offerings. She ordered a book for pre-diabetics that contains a lot of new recipes we can try. 

This next week I hope to get back some energy, start walking in the mornings and just generally feel better. I feel like I have aged past my chronological age during these last few years of chemo and cancer treatments. It would be great to be able to get back in to shape, if even just a little bit.

We are going to our daughters' for haircuts on Thursday. That will probably be the only time I get out this week. Maybe we'll stop by the cigar store on the way back and pickup a cigar for me. The nights are getting cool enough for a fire and smores. We can hang out in our back yard and I can have a drink and a stogie. 

I know, the excitement never stops, huh?

That's about it from here.  

Since we're talking about food, here's this weeks' offering.

The Crockpot

On those Sunday mornings
when my wife puts beef or pork
into her crockpot
I find myself transported by the smells
which for me are like hyperlinks to past times
and my childhood

On this morning with hands in dishwater
looking out the kitchen window
at Robin and squirrel and solitary finch
the aroma of the crockpot wafts me back
to family homestead and country life

a small rural Alabama town
Boiled peanuts and largemouth bass 
my first motorcycle and my first kiss
when the world was still new to me
and I to it.


Hang in there,

RT

Sunday, October 1, 2017

More New Normal

It's Saturday night and I'm watching the premier episode of Saturday Night Live. I miss the good old days of John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Jane Curtain. The weekend update is still pretty good most weeks, but the sketches these days are lame. 

The yard is looking great thanks to our gardener, Ryan, who takes great care of all the plants and trees. I have 9 days left in my 4th cycle of the clinical trial and then I should feel good enough to have whiskey and a cigar in the off week. It's very pleasant to sit on the patio and view the yard in the cool of the evening.

These last two weeks have went pretty good, though we did go to a funeral service for Vicki's Uncle Clint last Saturday. He was 79 and contracted a fatal infection in his spine after receiving an injection a few months ago. He was a nice guy and a good Christian man. 

On the way home I got caught by a red light photo camera at an intersection on Arizona Ave. I went into the intersection under 40 mph on the yellow but it turned red when we were halfway through. Vicki says they won't send me a ticket, but I am doubtful. State law says if you enter the intersection on yellow it's legal, though I think they will send a ticket anyway and I'll have to fight it. We'll see.

Speaking of Vicki, she went to her Doctor this last week and they are changing her Thyroid medication to help with her aches, pains, and fatigue. I am hopeful.

In keeping with the "New Normal" here's this weeks' contribution.


I live with a Woman
I live with a woman who I Love
When snuggling we so tightly cling
And fit together like hand in glove
That between us there can be no thing

After all these years, hours and days
Many kids, jobs, houses we have had
Still I prefer her special ways
Of being like a second skin clad

Of moving with me, against me slow
Then warming needing space and time
Yet knowing when the need does grow
Back into my arms and sphere to climb

I make time and take time 
If needs I push and shove
To clear the deck for mission prime
To live with the woman I love


Hang in there,

RT


Friday, September 15, 2017

My "Off" Week

This Monday was the last day of my third week in cycle 3 of the Clinical Trial. I will not have to take any pills till next Tuesday. While I have this time without Stivarga in my system I hope to be able to enjoy some different foods and maybe even a Cigar and a Whiskey.

It takes a few days for me to bounce back and each time I bounce back it's a little slower than the time  before. I held off on taking Marinol today  because it makes me tired and I am tired of being tired. There were a couple of errands that only I could do that needed to be done(just one really, getting propane for the grill) and I gassed up the car as well while I was out. That was a major event for me.

We had some sad news this week. My wife's uncle Clint passed away earlier this week. They have a big family and it will take some time to get the whole family together. His service will be on Saturday the 23rd. Vicki has just one surviving Uncle now who lives in South Dakota.

As I said in last weeks post about my new normal, I have some writing from 10 years ago that I am adding to my posts.

Here's this weeks' contribution,   


Life & Death

Love is such a powerful 
force for good 
or bad
I blush to think of what I’ve had
and wasted, trashed and thrown away
thinking there’s always another day

Friendship is so
wonderful and
rare
Simple pleasures you can share
when someone fits into your life
is there in pain and bitter strife

Breath in the
Delights of
existence Grand
Rejoice in those who take a stand
to live as fully as they will
take the cup and drink their fill

For pain and suffering 
will surely 
come
It’s up to you to add the sum
of life’s sweet blessings into the mix
Knowing that fate will play its tricks

And stand and fight for all you can
Make the best of your maker’s plan
Live with Passion to your last breath
Your story’s told between life and death

There it is, 
Hang in there,

RT





Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The New Normal

I am well into the third month of the Stivarga Clinical Trial at Mayo. My strength and stamina are slowly getting better on most days. If I am to continue to take this drug for the foreseeable future it will take some adjustment on my part.

I must be willing to get up off my ass regardless of side effects and do something, anything really, other than laying around in my easy chair and wishing I felt better.

While I may not be up to great physical exertion quite yet, I am going to attempt some intellectual muscle building at least.

I have held off commenting on our current political status and hope to continue in that mode. Instead, I dug up some writing I did in another time and place. At one point my wife and I moved to a small town in North Carolina and bought a fixer upper in a semi-countrified community just north of the town on a lake.

During the almost 2 years we spent there working on the house I had a few months of inspiration and found myself awake at 2 in the morning writing poems. I am going to add one of those to each of my blogs till I run out of them.

Here's this weeks contribution.


ANYBODY CAN

Anybody can write anything these days
And post it on the Internet
Not really dependent on older ways
Of finding audiences with interests met

I know this factually to be true
of course the deed I've surely done
not willing or able to wait on you
just writing like I'm the only one

who has got the magic words
to tell the world it's troubled state
and not giving the reason why 
it's coming from this old reprobate

Fortunately or unfortunately for my reader this is but one of 50 or so I penned during my period of inspiration a decade ago. Be warned, more will come. This is my new normal.

Till next time,
Hang in there,

RT

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Results Are In

We had a full day yesterday going from my early morning appointments at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale to my afternoon appointments with my Clinical Trial Coordinator and my Oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

The results of the lab blood work were good with a couple of exceptions. My platelet count is still at 81,000. I would like to get it higher to control some minor bleeding problems the low platelets cause. The rest of the numbers were either just a little low or good. 

The scans of my head, chest and abdomen were mostly good. There was no evidence of any neurological reason for my headaches, so that was very good. We had to check because my father died of an aneurysm in his brain at 67.

The chest scan showed that the 7 small tumors in my lungs had not increased in size and no new tumors were discovered. That's very good news. The Oncologist and I discussed what to look for in the next scan which will be in 2 months. At that time it could be possible to see some change in the tumors.

The not so good news is that I must continue to take the maximum dose which can be quite debilitating.

It's a small price to pay for continued survival, it's just that I want to be more active. I need to get to work on the RV and help Vicki around the house.

So that's it from here. 

Hang in there,

RT

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered

I got my dates mixed up on the 2nd cycle. I actually finished taking the pills on Monday the 14th, but won't get my scan till the 22nd at Scottsdale Mayo. I am easily confused these days.

Went to my cardiologist today for another 6 month check and all was well. I have been running on my bypass for 4 years now. I see him every six months so things don't get out of hand with blood pressure and other heart stuff.

I worry that all the drugs I've been given will damage my heart or my one kidney. I was told by my hemo nurse that the current drug I'm taking is processed out of my system by my liver. That's another organ to worry about.

I may get to take a smaller dosage of Stivarga in the next cycle. It depends on the scan results. They think I shouldn't be as tired as I am from the drug. We'll see. I want to be more active.

No more news from here.

Hang in,

RT

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Close to Finishing Cycle 2

There are just a few days left in my second month of the Clinical Trial. On Monday I will get lab work and a CT Scan to see if the drug has had any effect on the tumors in my lungs. In addition I may get a full body scan. My Hematology Nurse wants to see if something organic is causing my headaches.

I have days with some energy and days with none. The nausea comes and goes along with the corresponding digestive issues. My weight is staying around 160 pounds, a little low, I continue to try to eat as much as I can.

I have procrastinated on the RV parts. I still need to order a battery disconnect switch and a solar battery charger and solar controller. Just haven't had much energy to do anything lately.

Vicki is still struggling with her right shoulder. In addition she pulled a muscle in her stomach lifting a case of water last week, so she is hurting a bit. We are chilling this weekend. We'll watch some Game of Thrones tonight and maybe a little Saturday Night Live. Other than that we will rest up till Monday.

We have to be a Mayo Scottsdale at 6:45 in the morning on Monday. That means we have to get up around 4 or 4:30 in the morning. That's much too early for us.

I have both labs and a scan at Scottsdale, then afternoon appointments at Phoenix Mayo. It will be a long day. I just hope the scan shows something positive this time.

That's it from here.

Hang in,

RT

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Second Cycle

I started the second month of the Clinical Trial last Tuesday. It is referred to as the second cycle in the Trial Diary. I continue to take the maximum dosage each day, though I have changed the time I take the pills to just after dinner. It helps with managing the nausea.

My energy level today is pretty low. I have stayed up tonight to get my stomach more under control before going to bed. I think I'll hit the sack after I finish this post.

Vicki was very tired today. She cleaned the entire house this last week, plus we had  Zero Rez in to clean the carpet on Thursday. We're just getting ourselves  back together this weekend.

We moved most of the furniture from the living room and dining room. That took a while to put back when the carpet dried on Friday. The bad news is we're both beat, but the good news is the house is clean. If only we had the energy to start working on the RV. That would be great.

Speaking of the RV, I have ordered the first set of parts needed to make a battery shut off switch and solar battery recharge system. I still need to order the solar panel and solar controller for the system. There are a bunch of products out there and I am continuing research before ordering these items.

When everything comes in I will get my mobile RV tech to come and install the system. I may need a chassis battery as well. We'll just have to wait and see.

That's it from here.

Have a great weekend,

RT

Saturday, July 22, 2017

First Month of Clinical Trial Review

Right now I'm in my off week.  Over the past 21 days I took 84 pills, four a day for 21 days. That's the maximum dosage for Stivarga. Some patients have had a harder time than me and I guess some not as hard a time.

I was hoping to feel better with more energy during this off week. So far it's been about fifty/fifty. I feel better more often than when I take the pills but I am still having trouble sleeping and I am getting headaches that so far have been hard to fix.

I have not a great deal more energy either. Today was the first day that I was able to go out. I needed to get some stuff to work on our bathroom sinks at Home Depot. Vicki needed some prescriptions picked up at Walgreens and we needed a loaf of bread. I wanted to go to the storage yard and check on the RV as well. 

I accomplished all my errands, came back to house and picked up Vicki to join me in looking after our RV. We found the front two Tire covers had blown away in a storm and spent some time looking around the Storage Lot to no avail. Worse than that though was the condition of the RVs batteries. They (all 3, the one under the hood and the two for the RV) were dead as doornails. Pretty discouraging. Now I have to get them recharged if they aren't ruined and set up some kind of solar battery minder for both the chassis battery and the house batteries. This is another project I may not be able to do.

I spent some time tonight researching RV solar battery minders and I still don't know which one to get. I think I will give my mobile RV tech a call on Monday and see what advice he can give me.

It's important that we maintain the RV while renovating it or things will get worse rather than better. During the past month I was unable to get up and go check on it and that's my fault. I should have made arrangements to have it checked at least once a week.

The only good news from all of this with the RV is that we didn't see evidence of any storm damage or water leakage.

I hope I can get my act together on this thing and as the Cable Guy says " Get Er Done."

Of course the biggest issue will be what effect the Stivarga is having on my Cancer. It will be another month before I will know that.

Have a great weekend,

RT

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Second Scan in 2 Weeks and a little scare

So... I have been having some trouble with pains in my chest and stomach. During my appointment at Mayo on Monday I let my Hematology Nurse know that I was feeling more pressure in my chest. She scheduled an X-Ray for me that afternoon.

Vicki and I left Mayo a little after 4:00 and got home around 10 after 5. By the time we looked at our phones we both had messages from Kelly (the Hemo Nurse). Something had showed up at the edge of the X-Ray in my abdomen. A little after this a scheduler called and set me up for a CT Scan this morning.

By 2:30 today Kelly called and told me the scan was good. It seems that the X-Ray had showed what appeared to be an air pocket in my abdomen, which would indicate a perforated intestine or colon. Luckily that was not the case. I appreciate the thoroughness of the Mayo folks in spite of the scare. These people don't mess around. I feel like they are looking after me as best they can.

Another bit of good news came out of this as well. The fluid around my lungs has decreased.

I am still struggling with managing side effects, but I have just another week and then a week off. I am hopeful it will get better.

Hang in there,

RT

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Clinical Trial

I'm almost 2 weeks into the clinical trial. The side effects have been mostly manageable with a couple of exceptions. During the first week I had a couple of times when I vomited. The first instance was pretty tough, the second a little less. It had to do with my diet and eating times and the time I took the pills.

This week has gone better so far. I met with Trial Coordinator and the Hematology nurse on Monday at Mayo and went over my condition and side effects with both of them. They suggested some options for management. 

The biggest affect the drug has had on me is fatigue. Along with the fatigue comes headaches for which I don't take medication to alleviate. The drugs that work on a headache contain naproxen or aspirin, both of which suppress platelet replenishment. Not good. Oh and one of the symptoms of low platelets is headaches. Go figure. 

So, I am trying to work stuff out each day to get by. So far, so good I guess.

That's it from me,

RT

Friday, June 23, 2017

Finally Passed

Yep, I did it. It took another 2 blood tests to do it, as well as some dietary and medication changes. 

After the 4th failed blood test (my platelets actually went down from 95,000 to 89,000) I went on line and researched low platelets. It turns out that some foods can help, like salmon, tuna and some veggies I can't remember. In addition some foods and medications can hurt. That was the key.

I get headaches every day (which I assumed was a holdover from chemo) and I took Ibuprofen to help. Unfortunately this drug contains Naproxen which suppresses the production of platelets. I also learned that one of the symptoms of low platelets is headaches. What? Yes, I get headaches, take Ibuprofen then get more headaches. Sounds like a vicious circle. 

So I stopped taking Ibuprofen, ate some salmon along with spinach and my last blood test showed a platelet count of 112,000. Twelve thousand more than I needed to meet the Clinical Trial's criteria. The kicker to this is that the trial had officially closed and had I flunked this last time I would have not made the trial.

Luckily I did. On Thursday morning of this week I had a CT scan at Mayo in Scottsdale. Later in the day I met with the clinical coordinator and Hematology nurse at Mayo Phoenix to complete my paperwork and get randomized as to what group I would be in. It is still a little unclear to me which one I will be in, but I believe it will be the group that takes the maximum dosage from the start along with the steroid cream for the main side effect, hand foot syndrome.

I go back this coming Tuesday to Mayo Phoenix to get the medication and review the trial directions. At that time I will know for sure what group I am in.

I feel very fortunate and blessed to have made the Clinical Trial. My latest scan showed growth of two tumors in my lungs along with added fluid between the lungs and lining that surrounds the three sacks of the lungs. If this increases there is a procedure to drain some of the fluid that will need to be done.

So... Next week will be the first week of the rest of my life so to speak.

Keep your fingers crossed for me , will ya?

RT



Friday, June 16, 2017

Well Hell, I Flunked Again

You can tell from the post title that my platelet count is still not high enough.

That's the bad news. The good news is that it went from 82,000 to 95,000. It needs to be 100,000 to pass the test and meet the criteria for the trial. My Clinical Trial Coordinator and my Oncologist at Mayo think it will be good by next Monday.

Because I can't go Tuesday the 20th for a scan (Vicki has an MRI that day) I will go back to the Phoenix Mayo clinic on Monday the 19th for Lab Work and then out to Scottsdale in the afternoon for a scan. It will be another all day affair. Appointments at the Phoenix facility all morning and a late scan (3:45 PM) at Scottsdale. I won't actually get the scan till close to 5 because they give you a bottle of icky stuff to drink for an hour prior to the scan. 

My Coordinator told me that if all goes well I will be able to join the Trial on Thursday of next week. Now I just have to get the nausea medication out of medicare and it'll all be good. I received a call from them today and they denied the drug under my part "D" but approved it under my part "B". I am going by the Walgreens here in Sun Lakes tomorrow to talk to the pharmacist again and see it has gotten down to them yet. 

Vicki's MRI on Tuesday is about her shoulder. She may need surgery for a rotator cuff injury. We hope we can find out and get her shoulder fixed.

It's been so hot that I've held off on working on the RV. We'll see if we can get some work done on it in the next week or two. Now that the RV specialist I hired has finished his part, it's up to us to finish the carpentry and painting that remains. I also have a little plumbing to do in the bathroom as well. We bought a new bathroom sink which I got installed when we moved the shower faucet, but the new RV toilet is still sitting in my living room. I guess that's better than appliances on the front porch like back in Alabama, but I still feel like it's the redneck in me coming back.

That's all the news that's fit to print with one exception. Our middle daughter and her family are moving back to Oklahoma on the 22nd. Vicki is miserable about this, but the kids have a son who is going to be a freshman at OU this fall and they want to be there with him. My son in law and he are both big OU fans.They will live in Norman to be close to our grandson, plus they really like the small town life better than here in Phoenix. 

I want them to be happy and will miss Jamie (my middle daughter) like hell but I think it's the best for them. We will make Norman, OK one of our first stops when we get the RV finished.

Try to stay cool this coming week and be careful out there,

RT

Friday, June 9, 2017

I Flunked My Tests

I went in to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix on Thursday of this week for tests needed prior to my joining the Clinical Trial for Stivarga. The day was to be filled with interviews with the Trial Coordinators, signing consent forms and a series of basic lab tests along with an EKG and a Cat Scan.

They give you the lab tests in the morning in order to determine if the condition of your blood meets the trial's criteria. Mine did not. My platelet count was too low. I flunked. Luckily I get to retake this test. We canceled the scan till my platelets get better. They made an appointment for me to go in to the San Tan Mayo facility on Wednesday of next week for just blood work. If I pass this time I will then go to the Scottsdale Mayo clinic the next day for a scan. 

The coordinators seem anxious to get me in the trial. Everybody I've dealt with at Mayo has been great. The place seems like a first class operation and the people as well. From my nurse to the lab tech and the EKG tech to the doctors and admin folks, they have all been great. I am hopeful the drug and the results will be as good.

There is good news this week as well. Vicki is feeling better. We went out to our oldest daughter's salon today and got our hair cut. So if nothing else, we look sharp.

I am still having problems with my Part D medicare getting the anti-nausea drug I need while in the trial. This particular drug is the only thing I've used that worked during the last 3 years of my treatment. When we had private insurance it was no problem, now it is seemingly unattainable through medicare. I am very disappointed with medicare so far.

Perhaps I'll bring our RV to the house this weekend and get some work done on it. That would cheer me up tremendously. 

Have a great weekend,

RT

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Stuck on Stivarga

We had a very informative appointment with the folks at Mayo Clinic last Wednesday. I was first met by a doctor who went over my medical history with me. Then a Colon Cancer Specialist came in and talked to me about my cancer and what options I had for treatment. It seems that Stivarga (pills) is the last drug available to me for my stage 4 metastasized colon cancer. 

The good news is that they are running a clinical trial on the drug at Mayo. I will go to Mayo in the next few days for a series of tests. If I qualify after having a CT scan, EKG, and blood work done then they will randomize me to determine which of the 4 subdivisions I will be put in. Each of them receive the drug but with different doses and a different side effect dosage for the main side effect, which is a severe rash on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.

After that his nurse came in to give me contact info and tell me about the trial. Next the trial coordinator came in and explained how the trial worked and the different groups and subgroups. She also gave me a packet with all the info to take home and study. I told her then that I would be joining the trial if I qualified. A day later another person from Mayo called me to confirm my decision and set up an appointment for the tests I will need to have before joining the trial.

I am hopeful I get the group that starts with a low dose and the steroid cream for the rash. The other part of this group gets the same dose of Stivarga but no cream till the rash starts. In the second division you start with the maximum dosage of Stivarga and either get the cream to start with or have to wait till the rash appears. I would prefer to not be in this group. The online reviews from patients have been very bad for taking the maximum dosage.

The other good news is that the drug will be payed for by Bayer, the manufacturer. It's a good thing because the standard price is $9000 per month. This is less expensive that some other infusion drugs I've been given while on private insurance. Now though I am on Medicare and don't know how much of the cost they would cover. The part "D" drug portion has already been a disappointment and I've only had it for a month. 

The Bad news is that Vicki has been sick the last week and we don't really know what was the cause. She is better today and I am thankful for that. In addition to that bad news is the length of the study and the possibility that I will be unable to work on the RV due to side effects. We'll see.

That's it for now,

RT

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

I put our flag out this morning and took it down just before dark. That's what the flag regulations say you should do unless you have a way to light the flag at night. Not a lot of folks know this, but my father in law was an ex-marine and a stickler for rules, so I learned this years ago.

I thought some today about my experience during Viet Nam. I was lucky that I didn't lose any close friends. The two buddies with whom I joined the Marines both had very close calls, but made it back OK. The closest I came was when a 122 MM rocket went overhead and landed in the Quag (a name we used for a funky stream that went through our hut area) about a hundred feet down the stream. 

I did think that we should also remember the innocents killed in our wars as well. These poor folks did nothing wrong except be in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of the countries involved in wars past and present end up killing civilians as well as combatants. They deserve some thought and memories as well.

That's part of our problems in the middle east now. We don't get how much hatred we have created toward our country and the west in general. Don't get me wrong, there is no excuse for what the the terrorists do, it is truly inexcusable. We just need to be more aware that our policies and actions have consequences. We will never be able to kill all our enemies, so what should we do? I hope someone someday will find the answer. Until then we will continue to fill our memories with loved ones lost in conflict and need Memorial Day all the more.

Most of Americans today probably spent the Holiday in some form of recreation. I admit that I did barbecue a chicken breast on the patio. Maybe I am going too deep on the implications of our Memorial Day Holiday. It's the price you pay for being thoughtful about our society and country. Trouble is, the older and sicker I get the more I think about things like this. 

Sorry to get so dark. On a brighter note, I have a picture of some innocents that came by our house today and spent some time in our backyard. Here you go.


It's a Momma Mallard and 4 little ducklings. She bedded down for a while under one of our Orange trees. The next time we looked she and her ducklings were gone. We did our best to leave her alone while she visited and even researched animal rescue sites if she stayed the night and was there the next morning.

I always have a soft spot for the underdog or in this case the underduck.

Have a great rest of the week,

RT

Friday, May 19, 2017

Second Opinions and RV shock

I reached out to the Mayo Clinic this week and have an appointment set for the 31st  to get a second opinion. I was originally going to have an appointment with a general oncologist, but after they looked at my info a nurse coordinator called me and suggested I see a Colorectal Cancer specialist. So that's what I am going to do. 

There may or may not be something they can do to help me. I am hopeful they will offer me an alternative to chemo. We'll see.

In the meantime our work on the RV continues. I took it to an alignment shop on Tuesday of this last week and the mechanic found issues with front end components to the tune of over $2000. It bummed me out and made me feel like the guy who sold us the RV took us.

Nothing to be done but eat the expense and move on. Which we will do. I worked on the dining table top and the cabinet  next to my side of the bed in the bedroom yesterday. I was able to change the fittings that hold the dining table to the wall so that it will be permanent and more stable. This required routing out the underside of the table top to accept the fittings in reverse. When I mount this to the fittings on the wall I will be able to screw them together on the underside of the table. 

In addition I fixed the drawer guides on my bedside cabinet and changed the top.(The old top had a couple of large holes drilled through the top) It turned out to be more of a job than I thought but still well within my abilities. So job well done for me.

Next I will modify another cabinet to be Vicki's bedside cabinet. This will take more work than mine since there are no drawer guides and the cabinet must me cut down in depth to match mine. We will also be removing the rest of the wallpaper in the bedroom once the RV tech has moved some plumbing and electrical from the now useless washer/dryer hookups. 

The coming weeks will be interesting if nothing else. I still am working on the RV every other day at most, though this last week I worked two days in a row.

Vicki is pulling staples as we remove carpet, so that project is going along as well. If this all seems like a lot of work, you're right. I don't believe it is beyond our abilities though. It will just take us longer than it would have a few years ago.

That's the latest from here.

Have a great summer,

RT

Friday, May 12, 2017

Another Great Week without Chemo

As the title states I did not have any Chemo this week. Vicki and I worked on the RV on two different days this past week. We were only able to work about 4 hours each day. After each day we took the next day off and slept in till almost noon. We were both really pooped. 

In spite of our inability to work for extended periods or work consecutive days, we did make significant progress. The carpet is ripped up all the way to the kitchen and all the staples have been pulled with the exception of the bathroom. It took quite a bit of effort on my part to get the carpet up in the john. This included removing the toilet which is always fun. So the staples need to pulled in there.

I also did some small repairs on the drawers in the kitchen and started removing the wallpaper from the walls of the bedroom. In addition, I have made a good start on countersinking the screws in the sub floor. This has to be done so that I can level the floor prior to installing vinyl plank flooring.

Vicki has been working very hard on the RV and I greatly appreciate her doing so. I cannot do this alone. 

I will probably go over to the storage yard tomorrow and do a little work by myself, but not too much. It will take some time to get my strength and stamina back. I like fixing things and working with my hands, but right now I just don't have the energy.

I received a letter from the VA today as well. They have denied my appeal. My benefit stays at the lowest amount. At least it's something. I will not waste any more time on the VA. I have never had much use for them and I certainly don't want to spend any more time thinking about Agent Orange or any of that crap.

The good news is that I feel a little better each day. I plan on calling the Mayo Clinic next week to see about getting a second opinion. It would be great if we could go after my tumors without chemo. There are intervention options, but they depend on the status of my cancer. I remain hopeful.

Wish me luck,

RT

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Chemo? No thanks!

As you may have guessed from the title, I did not have chemo this week, nor will I have it for the next 3 weeks. My Oncologist thinks it possible that the two small new tumors that showed up in my last CT scan could be inflammatory and not cancer. Either way they are very small, 4 to 5 mm. 

So he agreed with me to stop chemo for a while. I told him I am just too tired and sick to function and I need to function. 

At the end of the 3 weeks he wants me to start on a pill call Stivarga. The reviews I have read on it are not good. Many complain of heavy side effects with no progress on suppressing or killing the cancer. A couple however did report good results. I will continue research for the next 3 weeks and then make my decision.

I do not want any Chemo if I can help it, not infusion or pill. The poisons in the drugs are waring me out. At my age I need something that builds me up not tears me down. After a while I begin to feel like a guinea pig. At this point I believe I've been given about every drug recommended for colon cancer. 

In the meantime I will continue working on the RV. I have an RV tech coming to look at it on the 15th and I'm taking it to Spectrac for alignment on the 16th. We had to cancel our reservation at Buckskin Park for the 15th and 16th. I just couldn't get all the work I needed done in time.

I remain hopeful we will finish the renovations on our rolling home and hit the road sometime this summer.

Here's to you having a great summer.

RT

Monday, May 1, 2017

After Effects

Vicki and I are struggling today. We worked two days in the RV this weekend. Our son that helped last weekend had his 13th Wedding Anniversary this Saturday, so we did what we could on our own. 

Still, some progress was made and some questions answered (it's surprising all the things you have to know about your RV) and some new ones asked. I'm taking the unit to get it's two front tires changed and balanced tomorrow. Then later in the week or maybe next week to another place to get it aligned. 

In the meantime we are officially on medicare as of today. I learned that Cancer Centers of America doesn't take medicare patients when I called to check today. 
I am looking at what options are available to me if I decide to change providers, if indeed I can change.

There are other oncology and cancer providers in Phoenix. I will talk to as many as I can find. 

We will have a talk with my oncologist this Friday about treatment without Chemo. Maybe even a clinical trial. Who knows.

This will be another busy week I suppose.

I hope yours is more  calm.

RT


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Arriving at Geezerville's Gates

I turned 68 today and I feel pretty damned good for a guy who had chemo on Friday. I know it's more about my mental attitude than my physical condition. 

It comes from working with my youngest son yesterday on our RV. I worked with my Dad in a cabinet shop in rural Alabama when I got out of the Marines in 1971. Working with Damien yesterday brought back some of those memories.

The cabinet shop was on the second floor of an Old Barn in Verbena, Alabama. The train tracks ran behind it about 50 feet away. In the winter (it gets cold in Alabama in the winter) We would sit by an old wood stove taking a coffee break and watch the freight cars go by and marvel at all the different states and locations they came from.

I spent a lot of time yesterday sitting on the RVs couch and watching Damien work. My stamina is pretty low, I can work in spurts, but not continually for any amount of time. He worked tirelessly and smartly as well. It was a real pleasure to work with him. I am looking forward to the next time we work on the RV together.

Vicki made me Taquitos this morning for Breakfast. Right now I'm watching the Bruins and the Senators playing game six in their playoff series. The Senators just scored another goal and lead 2 to 1. If the Bruins lose they are out of the playoffs.

It's a great day to be alive regardless of your age and ailments. 

Hope your day is as good,

RT

Friday, April 21, 2017

God is laughing Again

The old joke is "How do you make God Laugh?" "Tell him your plans."

The scan came back with 2 extra small tumors in my lungs, so I had chemo today. The oncologist is on vacation and his assistant gave us the news. We were disappointed to hear this. It made Vicki cry when a lady we met in the chemo room asked after me. Both the ladies were crying and hugging and I tried not to cry because seeing Vicki cry breaks my heart.

I think she took it harder than I did. I spent the 4 hours we were there figuring out how to get the remodeling on our RV done while in Chemo. I have already reached out to my brother in law for help. Now I will need another helper and I will call my youngest son to come help if he's not working on Saturday. 

The next step is removing the washer/dryer combo unit from the bedroom. After that we have painting, cabinetry to move and reinstall, a full 60" X80" platform to build, and new flooring. And that is just in the bedroom. We will also be replacing the 22 year old carpet with Vinyl Plank Wood Look flooring in all but the cockpit area. But before we do any of that we will need to finish removing the old carpet from the rest of the coach. ( I took the carpet out of the bedroom along with the storage cabinets that went under the original twin bed setup.)

After all the carpet is out we will still need some time to remove all the staples from the half inch plywood underlayment in the RV. I was happy and reassured to find real wood and not pressboard or some other crappy substitute.

Today we are supposed to get a big order from Camping World with more projects, including replacing the not functional vent fan in the bedroom with a
new fantastic fan with thermostatic control and the ability to reverse the fan for blowing out or in. Walmart has my order for door minders ready to pickup whenever I get the energy this weekend.(These are little plastic gizmos that hold up the basement storage doors.) It doesn't sound like much, but it requires drilling out the heads of pop rivets used to attach the holdup rods that are currently used to prop open the doors. These clips will keep the doors all the way open for loading and unloading the bins.

Yesterday I worked on the oak cup holder that the previous owner had mounted on the doghouse. I routed out the back to make it fit like it should. I hadn't used my router in over a year. It was nice to be doing a project instead of laying around feeling tired and funky. In addition I  bought a hole saw to put holes in the bottom to allow soda cans and water bottles to stay in the holder.  The way it was made was just for coffee cups.(Wide with room for the handle, but not deep enough to hold other drinks)

I am considering going out to garage and working on it. The chemo has other ideas. We'll see how I feel later this afternoon. I will probably be too busy playing with the new stuff from Camping World.

On a much lighter note, I turn 68 on Sunday. Officially entering Geezerville.

Vicki has just 5 days to work before her retirement. That's really great. We are looking forward to her being home with me. Plus we will be able to travel and  camp during the week at some point. I just need to get the RV finished and get out of this damned Chemo.

I feel challenged by this turn of events, but not overly bummed out. I will continue to carry on.

Wish me luck,

Rich


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

We finally found a Motorhome

Yep, we sure did. It's not all that pretty, not that new and thankfully not that big. It's a 31 foot Class C Fleetwood Tioga. This particular unit is on an HD Chevy Chassis with a 454 Truck V8 and an auto tranny.

The Winnebago we looked at before the Tioga was 35 feet long and a class A. It unfortunately had issues we did not want to deal with. 

So, we will be remodeling the bedroom on our coach in the next week or so. New flooring and removing the washer/dryer combo that the original owner from Florida had installed. Our seller (second owner) had the unit for 12 years and never used it and neither will we. In addition our seller changed the layout in the Bedroom from single beds to a queen by putting the two mattresses together. 

We (by that I mean me and brother in law) will be removing cabinetry and adding as well, plus building a platform for a standard queen mattress that is 80 inches long. It turns out that an RV queen is only 74 inches long which is a tad tight for me at 73" tall. 

Also this thing has 2 TVs in it. I tried to talk Vicki out of the one in the bedroom, but she nixed the idea. So when we change and add cabinets I've got to find another spot for the TV. I hope we never ever use it when camping. 

Anyway when I get the RV cleaned up a bit more I'll put a picture of the exterior and interior.

In the meantime I've made reservations for our shake down cruise in May to camp with full hook-ups in Buckskin State Park on the Colorado River outside of Parker. I might even get in some fishing if I can get my cheap self to spring for the 37 bucks the state wants for a fishing license.

Things went smoothly today getting the sale finalized and getting tags and insurance. I am hopeful the remodel and refit will progress as well as today.

My next Oncology appointment on the 21st will be to review my Cat Scan. I am very hopeful we will be able to stop chemo and move on to intervention.

I am looking forward to getting the RV ready and hitting the road.

Hope your days are going well,

RT