August 12th, 2016 at 12:12 am

Still Not Dead Yet

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When I sat down to write this entry, the idea was to describe why I’d been away from this space for the last 12 months. It was with a double-take that I realized it had actually and precisely been two full years, and here’s why it took me so long to get back online:


In late 2014, my wife Jo was hospitalized after having suffered a pair of strokes. To say it caught us off guard is an understatement; she was just too young for a stroke, but those were the facts. She had successful surgery, and I took over running every part of the household while she recovered. She had an admirable recovery, and went back to work. I kept up everything else, running myself ragged, and because I was so damned tired I assumed that my health was getting worse due to fatigue.


In the spring of 2015 I finally gave up and consulted my doctor, who sent me to a specialist. In pretty short order I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and prescribed two separate regimens of chemotherapy – one ongoing, one at intervals – plus a program of radiation. It was all supposed to last about eight weeks, and then we’d see what our next step would be.


I was wearing a chemo pump 24/7, going into the hospital once a week to have the pump refilled. The ongoing chemo came in a container that was such a bright vile green that you expected it to have a skull and crossbones imprinted on it somewhere. Chemo has such a nasty reputation – and I remembered how it wasted Kate during her treatment – that I wasn’t looking forward to the experience. Still, I handled it pretty well for a few weeks until my energy started wearing thin. Suddenly it became harder and harder to keep food down, and I began to lose weight at an alarming rate.


I lost about 50 pounds that I really couldn’t spare, and my oncologist was so alarmed by my condition that he took me off the chemo about two weeks before the treatment had run its course. By then I was starting to look like a concentration camp survivor, and even though I wasn’t pumping bright green poison into my system I was barely able to climb out of bed and couldn’t summon up the will power to do anything. I was wasting away and couldn’t have cared less. After days of me fending her off, Jo finally managed to convince me to go to the ER. I’m convinced her insistence saved my life.


I was admitted to the hospital, and stayed for about 10 days while they ran more tests than I can remember and tried to get me straightened out. My memory’s full of holes from this point on, but I know I was treated to CTscans and a PETscan which showed that the cancer had not spread. So, good times. I went home weak and shaky and assigned to put weight on.


A few weeks later, still dizzy from some of the meds they’d prescribed in the hospital, I lost my balance and fell in the kitchen while I was alone. I slammed down hard on my side and I guess I was in shock, because I couldn’t get off the floor. Yes, I’d fallen and I couldn’t get up. I had to wait for the teenagers to come home and peel me up. Over the next few weeks, my right side grew increasingly painful and swollen. I’m told I was having trouble putting words together, and when my feet inexplicably swelled up to look like Fred Flintstone’s in mid-October 2015 (seriously, they were huge freaking cartoon feet), Jo got me off to the ER again.


I remember almost nothing of what followed; Jo says I was in the hospital for about two weeks, of which I can summon up maybe a half-dozen fleeting and disjointed images. Turns out that the swelling was more than just an abscess; the surgeons removed a full liter of infection from my abdominal cavity. They told Jo that if she hadn’t brought me in, I might’ve been dead in a couple more days. So that’s twice in just a few months that she saved my life. I was in the ICU for three days and didn’t come out of the anesthesia for 18 hours. By the time they released me I was barely able to walk, and weak as a kitten. I was checked directly into a rehabilitation center, where I went through three weeks of physical therapy. When I finally got home, I was still getting around with a walker, but I was considerably stronger. I’ve been back home since November 2015, slowly pulling myself together, and now I’m getting around unassisted and, I’m told, looking a hell of a lot better.


Meanwhile, the cancer remains, though I’m pleased to note that it still hasn’t spread. There are a couple of options for treatment, but they can’t be pursued until I manage to put on weight – not surprisingly, events of the last year haven’t been conducive to bulking up. I’ll let you know how things are coming on the health front as news comes in. But for now, at least I’m up to posting again. And I hope to start popping up here at regular intervals again.

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