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Randy Pausch

July 5, 2020 6 comments

Many people have asked me why I’m documenting my terminal cancer “adventure” in public. Actually, no one has asked me that because no one reads this blasphemous blawg. ๐Ÿ™‚

Besides the innate propensity to keep my potty mouth spewing verbal diarrhea, the top reason I’m writing about my walk down the proverbial plank is Randy Pausch. Randy was a computer science professor at a well known engineering school, Carnegie Mellon University. He was a victim of pancreatic cancer who succumbed to the EOAM‘s evil forces in 2008 at the age of 47.

Before he died, Randy gave a truly inspirational lecture and wrote an equally inspiring NYT best-selling book titled “The Last Lecture“. I didn’t have my cancer diagnosis back then, but I clearly remember watching his lecture (20 million views) and reading his profound, uplifting book. I can recall it so easily because I remember the hair on my neck (I have no hair on my head, and it’s not because of chemo) standing straight up and my spine tingling as I listened to, and read, his heartwarming words of wisdom.

Since Randy Pausch is one of my greatest heroes that I’ve never met, please consider exploring his work to make the world a brighter place by clicking on one of the links in this post. I guarantee you that his words, in spite of the serious subject matter, will bring you multiple tiny moments of joy as they infiltrate your being.

Categories: Cancer Tags:

Pssst! Ya Wanna Buy Some Dex?

It’s been widely reported in recent medical studies that dexamethasone is effective in the treatment of COVID-19. “Dex”, as I fondly call it in honor of my fave TV serial killer, Dexter Morgan, is a common, low-cost, steroid that suppresses inflammation in the body.

Having said that, do you wanna buy some black market dex? If so, then I’m your drug man. Ya see, I’ve been on and off dex ever since they found 3 metastatic brain tumors in my dirty brain over 3 years ago. I use dex to fight “flareups” in my brain where I get lightheaded and my off-kilter balance makes me feel like an unstable tower swaying in the wind. Strangely, when I’m feeling dizzy, it’s easier to walk than to stand still.

I’ve got dex in 4, 1, and .5 mg dosages for you. If you order before midnight tonight, I’ll give you a 10% discount and 5% off of future orders. I’ll even barter with you in exchange for cannabis edibles or bitcoin if you’re low on cash. ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ˜‚

Categories: Cancer

Toxic Dispose Of As Biohazard

Does this mean my pee and poop and other miscellaneous bodily fluids are toxic? I wonder what the radioactive half-life of Opdivo is?

I shouldn’t complain. I’m very grateful to my toxic friend for keeping me alive for three more years than my original diagnosis predicted.

Categories: Cancer

The Final Transition

June 12, 2020 1 comment

I’m about to make my final transition… No silly, I know what you are thinking and it’s not that. It’s not my transition from life to death. Not just yet! It’s the transition to the final state of health insurance on my dizzying, brain frying, leg numbing, foot burning, ear ringing, byzantine, journey through the health care jungle.

The trigger event for this final transition was the reception today of everybody’s medical holy grail: the medicare card!

Before I can drink from the blessed medi-grail, I’ve got to withstand the pain of three more months of $1000/month premiums and many unknown co-pays for treatments and specialist appointments.

For completeness, I present to you my health insurance history in the form of an STD. No silly, I know what you are thinking and it’s not that (That’s twice I caught you thinking nasty thoughts). It’s a State Transition Diagram. A handy, but simple, tool I used for many years to understand the dynamic behavior of systems.

Categories: Cancer

The Starkest Reminder

As a cancer patient with a terminal diagnosis, I’d be thrilled if my perception of time sloooowed waaay down so that I can hitch a ride on the present moment more often.

While floating along in the gentle embrace of the present moment, my five senses get continuously replenished with the joyful sensations of physical life. The metaphorical distance between each of my senses and the spatially disperse, universal energy that powers all life collapses to zero. I feel directly coupled to life itself. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

On the other hand, the starkest reminder to me that time is whooshing by way too fast is the following empty pill box…

Every time I see this horror show unfold once a week, I feel like I just refilled the compartments the fuckin’ day before! I experience a brief moment of terror as I realize once again that my life will likely be coming to an end much sooner than I’d like. But not today, ‘lizbeth!

Categories: Cancer

Baseline, Chronic, Progressive

Let’s start with a dorky reference graph that models a sentient being’s physical state of health:

Now let’s transition to a chronic, recurrent state of health:

 

In this state, you’re Ok for awhile, and then you suffer for awhile, and then the cycle repeats. The graph example above shows a worst case scenario where, as time goes on, the patient spends more and more time in a painful, “Flare Up” sub-state than she does in its peer “OK” sub-state.

And finally, we arrive at the progressive, fatal state of health:

In this bad ass state, our heroine not only spends progressively more and more time in the “Flare Up” sub-state, each “Flare Up” feels worse and worse upon each transition into it. Eventually, the last “OK” sub-state is entered, and then, upon exit…… the reaper awaits.

So now, let’s integrate up the previous babblings and concoct a homemade state transition diagram of health as follows:

Read read the model as follows.

We are initialized at birth into a healthy, baseline state. The luckiest of us will go through life relatively unscathed from physical and mental dysfunction. The lucky ones will dwell in the glorious baseline state over time, right until RIP comes a callin’. Others will take the progressive-RIP path or the dastardly chronic-progressive-RIP path on their way through life.

In my case, I was idling away in the warm, baseline state of health for 57 years. And then, boom, upon hearing of my terminal diagnosis, I transitioned instantaneously into the progressive state. I hope all who read this are dwelling happily away in their baseline states!

Categories: Cancer

Living In The Head

May 7, 2020 2 comments

Iโ€™ve found that the best way for me to maintain a modicum of a healthy state of mind is to dwell as much as I can in the present moment, not withstanding the stage 4 cancer diagnosis and the coronavirus siege. A.k.a. “living in the now” as opposed to “living in the head“.

If Iโ€™m not diligent at monitoring and detecting which time frame my thoughts are dwelling within, I’ll find myself spending too much time speculating about a fearful future or spending too much time regretting bad decisions that Iโ€™ve made in the past. When Iโ€™m living in the present moment, life feels โ€œlighterโ€. Iโ€™m more able to appreciate the sights, sounds, smells, touches, and tastes that are right in front of me… right now. Everything is much more vivid and alive. There is pure joy in indulging the sensations that permeate my being!  

My Katy Kahuna massage chair, cannabis edibles, and meditation practices (Balance and Headspace apps) are great tools. I employ them to nudge me me back into the present moment from my wild and scary mental transgressions into the (scary) future and (regretful) past.

 

Categories: Cancer, spirituality

The Double Whammy

May 2, 2020 4 comments

Geeze, a lot has changed since my last blog post on March 20th. I’ve gotta tip my hat to the insidious new coronavirus scourge that has emerged out of nowhere and jumped into the ring to compete with the EOAM for ownership over my body and soul. This emperor+virus double whammy indicates that the fit has really hit the shan for me and millions of others with pre-existing conditions. Yikes!

I know Iโ€™ve probably been an asshole more than Iโ€™ve been a nice person during my lifetime, but I didnโ€™t think โ€œgodโ€ would be so enraged at me that she would summon the vile coronavirus to compete with the sinister emperor for the annihilation of my physical and (especially) mental well being.

 

Ok then, enough doom and gloom (for now). On the bright side, I had a CT scan and a brain MRI since my prior post. They both indicate that the emperor is still firmly shackled in place. There is no doubt heโ€™s still an integral part of me, hoping that the newcomer virus doesn’t beat him to the punch. He’s patiently waiting for the time when my Opdivo immunotherapy infusions stop working so that he can shed his shackles and resume pursuing his goal of slowly ravaging my body into dust.

 

Categories: Cancer

Inventory Check!

March 20, 2020 2 comments

I just finished my 10th and last radiation treatment for the enlarged lymph node in my left pelvic area. I was hoping to get all the โ€œburnsโ€ in before any positive Coronavirus results for my county were announced. But alas, there were 2 confirmed cases on Monday and that number has risen to 7 as of today.

Now that the radiation regimen is completed, I still have an Opdivo infusion coming up next Wednesday. After that, barring any major, unforeseen, personal medical events (like another freakin’ stroke), I can really hunker down to weather the impending Coronavirus maelstrom.

As you might have guessed, I fall into the high risk, immune-system-compromised, Coronavirus group. D’oh! If I DO get sick when the hospitals are overflowing, and the inevitable “triage” policy is instituted, the triage nurse is gonna walk right past me and I’ll smile and wave her/him by. At this point in my life, what more can happen to me? LOL!

On the bright side, I decided to take inventory on my beloved stress-and-anxiety-reducing cannabis product stash…

Between my stash and the frequent warm embraces of Katy Kahuna, I think I’m good to go for quite awhile, dontcha think?

Categories: Cancer

Rejected And Reversed

March 15, 2020 2 comments

I thought I had gotten away with transitioning between health insurers seamlessly. But alas, in this fucked up, maddeningly complicated, healthcare system, it was not meant to be.

This past Monday I started a 10 session radiation regimen for a growing cancerous lymph node in my left pelvic region. The previous week I had a standard “radiation teach”ย  learning session and a “coordinate scanning” CT scan so that the technicians could use the images to guide Burnadette’s radiation beam to its nasty target.

Early in the week I received this notice of rejection from my new insurance company:

So, I went to the Excellus BCBS web site to verify. Lo and behold:

After calling my radiologist and telling her about the rejection, she told me not to worry. She would call the insurance company and have a peer-to-peer discussion with the insurance company doctor that rejected my claims.

On Friday, I received this reversal of decision notice:

My radiologist came through for me with flying colors. Thanks Tracy. You rock!

So, I made it through 5, 15 minute, burn sessions last week. I hope I can make it through the last five this week before my state gets put on COVFEFE-45 “lockdown“. Oh, and I have an Opdivo infusion scheduled for the following week. This is sooooo much fun that I can’t wait to find out what the future holds.

Categories: Cancer
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