Monday, December 28, 2009

December 28,2009

Here I am in Yuma..... I arrived Sat. the 19th, and found a few wandering individuals already here. The Christmas Win rally didn’t really begin until Monday, so I had a few peaceful days to recover from the long drive getting here, and to get all of my systems up and running. I am enjoying reconnecting with friends that I have not seen since Feb.

I am really happy to be out and doing something beside being sick. The Win’s are an energetic outfit, and they seem to infect everyone who wanders into their circle. Wise doctors would likely prescribe two weeks with the Win’s as part of any recovery program.

I find myself impatient, and catch myself whining about having minimal energy. I seem to forget that only a few weeks ago, I had no energy..... half empty, half full????? Anyway, at this point, I seem headed for normal, and can’t wait to get there.

This motor home society displays an interesting dynamic that is similar to the social interaction that I remember from the “cruising sailor” world. People make friends easily, and interact completely at will..... no one is compelled to spend time with anyone, or in any particular activity..... you are not trapped by co-workers, your job, or your neighbors. Everyone is free to engage or avoid anyone. You are free to come and go without recriminations, and are free to spend your time exactly as you wish. The other side of the coin also warrants mention here.... others are free to avoid you as well.

As an observer of human nature, I find it interesting to notice the different ways that people (veterans and beginners alike) adapt to this unregulated lifestyle. I am particularly fascinated by my own actions when immersed in this environment.... a step toward self awareness, or confirmation that simple minds are easily amused??? I guess that it really doesn’t matter.

I will return to Frazier Park, and spend Jan. and Feb. working on my financial health. I have my last BK hearing on March 5, and need to begin a lawsuit against my health insurance co. I was unable to find a law firm to take my case on contingency..... I think that it is because my case likely falls under the ERISA laws, and there is no possibility of a large “bad faith” settlement. At best, I will be able to make them pay my medical bills.

I have a doctors appointment on the 5th of Jan. Which I believe is the first in a yearly search for cancerous activity in my necessary organs. As it now stands, there is only a 5-10% chance that my cancer has spread beyond my bladder..... Those are pretty good odds, and seem to have dropped the medical news off of the front page.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 22, 2009

Hi all..... I am in Yuma, Az. and am having internet problems..... More when I get things sorted out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15, 2009

Well, it has been 9 weeks since my last invasive procedure, and the only thing scheduled is a cat scan on Jan. 5. I believe that this is a record. For the last year, every time that I started feeling better, it was another debilitating treatment of some kind. It feels odd, and probably wrong, to be so focused on my “operation”, but, after all, this is a medical information blog.

I have noticed some improvement in the energy and endurance areas, and am thinking of visiting the WIN’s in Yuma for a few days. I am not sure that I will actually do it, but I am encouraged to at least be thinking about doing something other than being sick. This last year illness has dominated my life, and I look forward to changing that this coming new year.

As I recover physically from my illness, I notice that I still need to recover from my legal and financial hangover. When feeling really sick, I am able to ignore all of the side issues, but when feeling better, they come creeping back into my mind, and keeping me awake at night. I suppose that all of this is normal.

Nothing was resolved at the BK hearing...... I think that the judge uses time to punish people that cannot come to some agreement on their own. This issue will be decided by the judge on March 5, 2010. Opposing counsel requested a full day for the hearing, and claims to need at least 3 months to prepare. The biggest issue is the value of the houses.... What makes it tough and expensive, is that paper work, (appraisals and BPO’s) cannot be used without having the people that prepared them, in court to cross examine.

I found out that the opposing counsel is being paid by the hour...... not a big deal, except that he is the one who is trying to broker a deal, and is the only one that will profit from an ongoing battle. I think that it may be useful that the process is bleeding the debtors, but I hate to see money that could be used to settle our differences, being used to promote the fight. Maybe I should contact the principals personally.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8, 2009

8 weeks and counting..... I will be so glad when the passing of time will be marked by something other than a medical event.

Medically, I continue to make progress, slow, but progress just the same. My new bladder is becoming more predicable, and the holes in my belly are almost totally closed up. I am still tired and moderately depressed, but trending in the right direction. Energy, optimism, and humor are still missing in action.

Legally, I am still in the eye of the storm. BK law is complicated and convoluted, especially for beginners like me. I have 3 hearings scheduled for tomorrow, and am not sure if things will be finalized there, or just another continuance. There are 144 hearings scheduled between 1:30 and the end of the day.... doesn’t seem to leave much time for argument.

I want the judge to throw the houses in question out of the proceedings, let me foreclose, and start seeing some income. The debtor wants to keep the houses in the BK, and trickle out a bit of the money owed while waiting for the housing market to improve. The BK trustee, the guy that handles the estate money, and is supposed to broker a deal between the parties, stands to gain about $20,000 if the houses stay in the BK plan. (He gets about 10% of all money that passes through the plan.) Needless to say, he has sided with the debtor, and is opposing my motion for relief, and pushing for an unreasonable repayment plan to be confirmed. I feel a little out gunned, but who knows, David did beat Goliath after all.

I have put my insurance dispute on the back burner until I get the BK stuff sorted out, but am still trying to find an attorney to handle it on contingency.

I am making a conscious effort to direct my mind into a pleasant future...... reading/thinking about RV trips, BBQ’s, kayak adventures, and 4 wheel drive fun. I am hoping that my mind will drag me out of the doldrums.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November 30, 2009

OK, today is 7 weeks since my surgery, and I am still doing about the same. My wounds are nearly healed, and I can walk with very little pain. My new bladder is working pretty well..... daytime is almost perfect, and nighttime is a bit iffy, but getting better. My sense of humor and cheerful demeanor are still missing in action.

I am still caught in the grasp of an anesthesia hangover. Basically healthy, but tired all of the time.... no energy or endurance. I understand that this is fairly normal, and the only answer is patience. I guess that the good news is that I am on schedule, and things should get better from here.

I attended the “meeting of creditors” last Monday, regarding the RE note that I hold. The debtors counsel made a settlement offer that was not quite good enough, so we are still negotiating. It involves a sale of one house to the debtors’ step son, and it is about 50/50 that the sale is a sham, so I am not getting my hopes up. My next court date is Dec 9..... confirmation hearing, relief from stay hearing, motion to sell RE hearing. Looks like it will be a busy day.

We had our first snow of the year...... Sat. Morning, about 4 inches.... lots of fun. This reminds me that it is time to head south and to a lower elevation, but I think that I will have to wait until I feel better, and I get a better handle on my finances.

I have read this post, and notice that it lacks humor and zip..... lifeless, just information. Sorry.....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 19, 2009

Well, Monday will be 6 weeks since my surgery. I am definitely doing better, physically and emotionally. I still have up days and down days, but it seems that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. This fits into the pattern for this surgery...... 6 weeks to feel better, 6 weeks to one year to feel good.

My new bladder is beginning to work fairly well.... This means that I am starting to have some control over when I pee...... Woo Hoo..... I am recommending that all of you sell your "Depends" stock soon, it is almost certain to take a dive.

This whole situation reminds me that you don’t appreciate something until it is gone. Hopefully, I will emerge from this nightmare with a new appreciation for the simpler things in life..... a kinder, gentler, and more empathetic person. Of course, I might just turn into a mean, angry, bitter old man..... Right now I would put the odds at about 60-40..... LOL

Tuesday, I had to file opposition papers at the bankruptcy court in Santa Anna, a round trip of over 200 miles. It was my most ambitious outing to date, so my friend Carl went with me for company and as a relief driver. I held up remarkably well, so well in fact, that I thought that my endurance had returned. The next day, I spent about 40 minutes pumping out my black water tank, and felt like I had been hit by the swine flue, and run over by a truck. I ended up spending most of the day in bed.

I am anxious to get back to some kind of normal life, but think that it will still be a “good day, bad day” situation for a while. I am, however, very happy that things are heading in the right direction.

Monday, November 9, 2009

November 11, 2009

I am now 4 weeks out from surgery..... Good news..... my legs are starting to work again. I can now walk short distances without the walker. It is slow and moderately painful, but still a welcome improvement.

I am still anxiously awaiting the return of my energy..... as of now, it is a struggle to do anything. I had this same energy problem after my second TURB back in April. I think that it is a part of the anesthesia hangover, and is related to the length of time you are under. For now, I think that the best thing is to just wait it out. I do, however, feel guilty regarding the important things that are awaiting my efforts.

It seems to be time for me to venture out into the world, and I find myself very reluctant. It may take several months to gain some control over my new bladder, and the thought of public embarrassment is overwhelming. The best advice that I have found regarding this messy little problem is to always carry a bottle of drinking water, and pour it over my lap if necessary. Who knew that I would be spending my time learning to walk, and potty training.

People that know, think that this may be the most challenging emotional time for someone in my situation. The drama and trauma are over, the decisions are made, the procedures complete, and I will soon be able to take care of all of my needs. I now begin the slow process of learning to live with my new body parts, and the related limitations. My plan is to be kind and patient with myself, but still do what I can everyday. Do my best to handle problems as they present themselves, and try to get back to normal activities as soon as possible.

There are not words strong enough to express my gratitude to my friends and family. Virtually everyone that I know has gone out of their way to help me during this last year. I still feel humbled and unworthy.....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3, 2009

Hello to all,
It has been over 3 weeks since my surgery, and I expected to be posting a lighthearted account of my stay in the hospital.... but seem unable to find my sense of humor. In spite of this, I feel obligated to keep everyone up to date.

I am recovering from the surgery on schedule.... by this I mean, the holes in my body are healing up, my new plumbing is beginning to function as expected, and I am feeling a little better week by week. My friends have stepped up and are taking very good care of me, and I expect to get back to my old self in a couple of months.

The good part is that the cancer was confined to the bladder, my pathology report is clear, and it is 95% certain that the cancer is gone. My ongoing treatment will likely just be a cat scan every year. Although life will never be the same as it was, I should be able to live a fairly normal life.

The bad part is, that I am having trouble with my legs, and had to return to the hospital for a couple of days of tests. The doctors have determined that there is nothing life threatening..... blood clots, infections, abscesses, etc. I have very little feeling in the upper thigh area of both legs, and cannot lift either leg to take a step without supporting my weight with my arms..... am now using a walker to get around. The doctors think that this is the result of nerve damage/irritation, and will probably resolve itself with time. I am hoping that they are right, as there does not seem to be a plan B.

Recovery is slower than I expected..... walking 200 ft. is still exhausting, but suppose to get better with time.
I wish that I had a fast forward button.....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 25, 2009

OK, I am home from the hospital, and doing well. Thanks to Claudia, who stayed with me at the hospital, and did a good job as "information officer". Thanks also to all of my friends who visited.... and thanks to my friends that are currently caring for me.
They say that you will feel better every day, but I have not found that to be the case..... I think that it might be better to say that you feel better every week.... anyway, that seems to be my experience.
Although I am very happy to be cancer free, I am still hurting and angry......
I will try to write more soon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hi there. I'm writing this blog for John. His surgery went well on Monday. The doctor was able to make the neo bladder so everything went as planned. John is out of ICU and in a private room and will be in the hospital for another week. The best news is that the pathology report came back and the lymph nodes are indication of cancer!! This was the most postive news because there won't be any chemo and John can move forward and get better.

With any luck John will be able to write the next post!


Friday, October 9, 2009

October 9, 2009

In nature, when a creature becomes old and weak, or otherwise sick or injured, the predators and scavengers gather, all looking for a piece of the action. Some species will turn and devour the hapless creature, and with other species, the herd will eventually, necessarily move on, and the defenseless will be picked clean. I am beginning to realize that this is not personal, or mean, just natures way. I am fortunate that my herd, still seeing me as a valuable member, have circled the wagons, and are prepared to defend me. I know.... mixed metaphor.... I am grateful, and wish them success.

It is nearly time to go..... I have spent the past few weeks tying up loose ends, and putting things on hold. My house is now safely installed across the street from Carl's house, I have arranged a face lift for my damaged car, and I am ready to get on with this. Claudia, playing the part of Florence Nightingale, will be arriving on Friday, having just spent 2 weeks seeing her mother through cataract surgery on both eyes.

We will leave my rig here, and, on Saturday, and take her motor home to the Elks Lodge in Burbank, which is only 11 miles from the hospital. They have elect. and water hook ups for $10 per night..... a real bargain in the greater LA area. I sure am glad to be an Elk. Anyway, she will be able to take care of me, and her dog Sophie, with minimal commuting time.

Claudia will be posting updates on my blog, calling my sister Peg, calling Terri Lynn, and e-mailing to anyone who makes a request. Claudia is quite organized.
Claudia's phone # 530-906-1234, and her e-mail is

My surgery is scheduled for 7:30 AM, on Monday, but the slicing really doesn't start until 8:30. The doc. says that he should be done by 4:00 PM. I really should add a bit of reality here..... most people do not die during this procedure, and I am relatively young and healthy compared to most bladder surgery patients, so...... not to worry. It is a big deal to me, but fairly routine for the Doctor and his staff.

I will probably have cell service in my room, if not, the room probably has a phone. I will likely be under the influence of dangerous drugs for Monday and Tuesday, but happy to have calls and visitors after that. I expect that Claudia will report any movement toward normal intellect.

I will be at: USC Kenneth Norris Cancer Hospital, 1441 Eastlake Avenue, LA, Ca, 90033. Terri Lynn will have copies of directions for those that want to visit.

On Tuesday, I realized that my life had truly changed..... At Walmart, real men buy guns and ammunition, mud tires for the truck, steak, camping supplies, beer, wide screen TV's and such.

With upcoming abdominal surgery, and new, unhealed, untrained and untested, plumbing...... I bought a robe (for tail coverage at the hospital), XL draw string jammies, XL underwear, and water proof sheets. (I couldn't bring myself to ask where the depends were, I plan to push that job off onto one of my friends who will innocently ask “is there anything that I can do?”) At the check out counter, I felt just the same as when I bought my first condom, I just knew that everyone was looking at me...... It is hell to get old and sick...... modesty, dignity and self image are the first casualties.

On the up side, my modesty, dignity, and self image have always been marginal anyway, and this procedure, though uncomfortable, will give me the best chance to be cancer free, and live a fairly normal life.

Monday, October 5, 2009

October, 5, 2009

One week and counting.....Time is racing..... D day is next Monday...... I enter the hospital on Sunday morning for a day of testing and GI tract cleansing. It really doesn't get much better that that. LOL A very expensive place to stay, and only clear liquids on the menu.

I really don't know what to say.... my emotions are all over the map, and I expect that this is normal. My plan is to endure this week, get through next week, and do the best that I can after that. Not a great plan, or even a unique plan.... it is, I think, the only plan available. I think that I have done the best that I can considering the circumstances. My doctor is one of the best in the world, the hospital is very well regarded, and, apparently, my insurance co. is going to pay this time.

I am confident that I am doing the right thing, and hoping for a good outcome. I hope that I will end up with a “neo bladder”, although I know that it is an “operating room” decision for the surgeon. The doc. will try to preserve the nerves that allow men to preform like men. Needless to say, I am hoping for success.

The next big event, after the surgery, will be the pathology report. (48 hours after the surgery) They remove the bladder, prostate, and surrounding lymph nodes, and send them off to the lab. If it is “all clear”, then 95% chance that I won't ever have to deal with this again. If not “all clear”, then chemo, and a much reduced chance of survival.

In spite of my confidence in the decision, the doctor, the facility, and the procedure, I am still anxious, scared, angry, and horrified. Part of me thinks that even the best outcome is bad, and I find myself hoping for the “least worst” result. The other part of me recognizes that I may be avoiding a slow painful death, and be able to live a near normal life, The technology available is hard to believe, imagine, making new body parts. I guess that both of these are reasonable assessments.

The Ca. Dept. of Insurance has informed me that they are very happy that I contacted them, and they encourage me to stay in touch, but are unable to help with this particular problem. They say that my dispute with Health Net is a “he said, he said”...... Nothing that they can do, and that litigation is my next step. Disappointing, but I have to agree. I am still seeking a lawyer to take this on spec. If I am unsuccessful, I guess that I will do it myself...... a bit of David and Goliath drama.....

I am spending the day preparing for the hearing on my “relief from stay” motion. Imagine me in a suit and tie...... trying to make a reasoned argument with no emotion leaking out. I have the facts, and the law, on my side, but I realize that “facts and law” may not carry the day, and that they may be able to cause more delays. I will try to present myself as “poor but honest” seeking much needed justice.

Life has gotten very complicated, and much of the time I feel like giving up..... but today, I feel like a warrior..... OK, a backed into a corner, and greatly out numbered, warrior, but still willing to engage the battle.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September 29, 2009

Two weeks and counting...... seems a little bit like a “Twilight Zone” episode.... I, apparently, signed up as “victim” in a knife fight, and, in the Zone, there is no backing out.

Really though, I am staying busy making preparations for being “out of commission” for a couple of months. My friends, Carl and Kathy, have invited me to park across the street from their house...... I will be in town, and near my friends that have kindly offered to look after me. They offered me their guest room, but you all know me, I would just be too uncomfortable in a house.

Carl and I spent yesterday putting in an electrical service. There are definite advantages to owning a backhoe, and living in a town with dirt streets. Carl and I tracked down most of the neighbors and advised them that this was only temporary..... Well, this is Frazier Park, and they could have easily thought this was permanent.... OK, it could be permanent, depending on how my finances go. LOL Anyway, we are hoping that “code enforcement” has better things to do.

I have 8-10 friends that have offered to check in and see if there is anything that I need.... I am thinking.... Wash and wax the motor home, change the oil in the car, shampoo the carpets, etc. guess that I will need to make a list.

The BK is going about as expected, the meeting of creditors has been pushed to Nov. 23, and the confirmation hearing has been pushed to Dec. 9. I am hopeful that the “relief of stay” hearing will stay on schedule for Oct. 6. If so, I may be able to complete the foreclosure, and put some money in the bank.... Well, just long enough to pay some bills. LOL I did, however, make a deal with UPMC, to make monthly payments for 6 months. This will keep my credit rating in tact while I try to force Health Net to honor their obligation.

I can't say enough about the people in my life...... I don't know what I would do without them.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September 19, 2009

This is a rant, followed by a weak attempt at humor..... READERS BEWHERE

Well, “There is no joy in Mudville”. Health Net, my insurance Co, pounded some more nails into my coffin today. They have denied my appeal for payment of about $60,000 to UPMC. UPMC has started collection proceedings. Credit likely to be ruined......

I have not heard from the Insurance Commissioner yet, but I am sure that he will be by with some more coffin nails. I guess that the commissioner and Health Net belong to the same club. I was foolish to believe any different. The insurance co. is saying, “our phone reps. Are so well trained, that they must have given you the correct information, and it is right there in the notes”. I have been trying to get information on the existence of a recording of the pertinent conversation regarding this.... 5 weeks and counting.... They continue to give me conflicting directions, and excuses. If this recording exists, and it supports my argument, I am afraid that it will become lost. What they have done seems like such a blatant abuse of the rules, it is hard for me to believe that this is happening. The only avenue left is a lawsuit, but I don't know how I will find the energy to continue. I guess that they know that they are dealing with sick people, and have no problem using that to their advantage. I suppose that “waiting for the patient to die” is good business.

I still have high hopes regarding the property that is tied up in BK. It seems impossible that my “motion for relief” would be denied, but I have been wrong before. If I can get the property out of the BK, and proceed with the foreclosure, I may be able to avoid financial ruin.

I think that the only way out, is to write a hit country song...... Old, Broke, Sick, and Single..... Has a nice ring to it..... I guess that I can always downsize, and get by.

Monday, September 14, 2009

September 14, 2009

Ok, Here is the schedule..... I enter the hospital on Sun. morning, Oct. 11, have my surgery Mon. morning at 7:30, and will be there 8 – 10 days. I can expect to resume activities in about 6 weeks and feel good, maybe sooner and maybe later.....

I will supply more details as they become available. I don't know if I will have internet access or energy in the hospital. If I am unable to post reports in my blog, I encourage my friends and family to post my condition in the comments section of my blog.

I will, of course, have my cell phone, and, depending on the level of drugs in my system, will welcome all calls.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September 12, 2009

I guess that my plan to post blogs only when I feel good is now obsolete. I do, however, feel a bit less bad today, which I guess will be the new criteria.

The indecision is gone, and I am coming to terms with the inevitable sacrifice of some body parts. I am trying to accept the idea, that sometimes, bad things happen, and when they do, anger is useless. My plan is to do this as well as I can, and learn to live with the result. I didn't really choose this plan, it just seems to be the only one available.

I have spent the last 3 days playing lawyer, which actually took my mind off of health issues. I produced, and filed with the Bankruptcy Court, a motion for “relief of automatic stay”' and an “opposition to confirmation of the Chapter 13 Plan”. Each of these were about 75 pages, and were necessary to protect my interest in the property that I sold 3 years ago, which is currently in foreclosure. The opposition motion is asking the court to deny a reorganization plan that pays me far less that I should receive, and the relief motion is asking the court to kick the 2 houses out of the BK, and let me go forward with the foreclosure. I have high hopes for both of them.

I don't like being in this legal battle, but I do find it very interesting, and am getting a reasonably good education. I have discovered things that they probably don't teach in law school. Every thing that you need to defend your self is available on the internet!!!!! I just root through existing cases, (public documents all, at and find one that is similar to my case. All of the pleadings are there; motions, notices, caption pages, declarations, exhibits, and forms...... They are all there! The pleadings and forms contain the arguments used in similar cases, and all reference the proper sections of the code. The US Civil Code itself, is there as well.

This is stuff that other people paid high priced lawyers, tens of thousands of dollars to produce. They paid their lawyers to research the law, make the arguments, and produce the paperwork. All of that stuff is available for 8 cents a page in the comfort of your own home, or in my case motor home, or for free at the court house. You just substitute your name and the facts of your case. I mostly used paperwork from the legal department at “Country Wide Home Mortgage Co.” I figured that they must certainly know what they are doing. What a country.

The hard part, I find, is that you actually have to read the code sections, and really understand the arguments..... This becomes easier with time.

Oh yes, the “Rules of Procedure”, there are United States Rules, 9th District Rules, Central Division Rules, Santa Ana Rules, and ….... each Judge has their own special rules. They spend a lot of time in law school teaching these things, and I was a bit worried about the consequences of screwing up some procedural rule, and costing myself a bunch of money. Then I found this rule...... drum roll...... “these rules shall not be enforced in a way that would cause someone to lose their rights”. I think that these rules help cases travel through the system in a predictable way.

I know that my paperwork is not as polished as that of a top law firm, but am hoping that my Judge will see me as “poor but honest” and trying hard to do the appropriate things. The Judge in my last case took on this attitude, and I hope this Judge will do the same. I did, however, pay particular attention to the time allowed for various actions, and to the proper service of notice on the opposition.

I should pause at this point to thank my ex, Sherrie, who brought a frivolous lawsuit against me regarding a property that we jointly owned. That is when I discovered these little known techniques. I guess that there really was a silver lining to that drama.

Also a special thanks to my brother in law Tim Esq, who looks over my shoulder, and offers encouragement and advice as necessary.

While I am in the thanking business, I should thank Claudia as well. She visited for a couple of weeks of no fun, all work, tired, dirty, and crabby. I was gone for 7 months, and had a lot of catching up to do. The surprising part, is that she has offered to return for the upcoming medical festivities.

I should also thank all of my family and friends out there that following this blog, and offer your support. It really does matter to me.

Thanks also to all of my local friends that are offering to help me through the next few months.

Back to the medical future..... they are going to remove my bladder and prostate, harvest about 4 feet of intestine, and craft a new bladder for me. At least that is the plan, however, they could find problems that would prevent this procedure. It won't be the same, but may allow me to live a fairly normal life. I am very thankful that this technology exists.

My doctor, Dr. Boyd, is head of the department at USC Norris, and was one of the team that developed this procedure back in the middle 80's. Let's all wish him luck.

For those of you who are interested in the gory details, just google “neobladder”.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September 8, 2009

I am not sure how to start..... I saw the Doc. today, and got bad news. Despite the recent treatments, I still have cancer, the bad kind that tries to burrow through the bladder muscle wall (now weakened by treatments) and set up colonies in my other organs. He couldn't see anything but inflammation, however, he took random samples, and the cancer was found by the pathologist.

The good news, the cat scan found nothing suspicious in my other organs.

The bad news, trying to save my bladder seems foolhardy at this point. For the best chance to stay alive, the bladder must go. This will likely be scheduled for the first part of October.

Needless to say, I am very disappointed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

August 28, 2009

Quick update...... The poke and peek procedure went about as expected, however, my bladder has not healed from the BCG treatments, and the doc. was unable to offer anything concrete. He described it as looking like hamburger. Sorry for that image, but I am just reporting the facts. He is recommending a cat scan to check the rest of my organs.... my last one was back in Feb, with an ex, and he is probably a bit jealous.
Dr. Boyd wants to have a serious talk in about 2 weeks..... sounds like bad news, but maybe he just wants to take this relationship to the next level.
I will write more when I feel better, and am not under the influence of dangerous drugs.

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 20, 2009

WARNING...... SERIOUS WHINING AHEAD!!!!!! Sorry, but it can't be helped.

First of all, sorry for not posting sooner. I generally wait until I feel inspired, and on top of things, but it just isn't happening. I have been feeling overwhelmed, and seem unable to turn things around. The wolves are still circling, and anxiety is high.

Anyway, I met with the Doc. at USC, and didn't really learn anything new, my chances are still poor...... funny, I keep changing doctors, and they keep saying the same thing. LOL I have an appointment for a “poke and peek” on Friday the 28th. I will be asleep, in the event that he needs to do some cutting, and will be happy to doze through the uncomfortable part, but not looking forward to the anesthesia hangover. I am hoping for some definite result this time.... I am worn out with the indecision.

I spent the day preparing one of my big guns in the insurance war. I am ready to send my complaint in to the Insurance Commissioner. Health Net led me and UPMC to believe that my surgeries would be covered, and now are trying to strand me with a $60,000 bill..... regardless of what they said, there is the fine print on page 42....... I have high hopes, after all, I am sure that the government will protect me from the giant corporation. LOL

Speaking of money, the guy that owes me $185,000 has filed bankruptcy. I think that it is just a delaying tactic, and expect a series of “requests for extensions”. In the end, I should get my money, or the houses. The trouble is, that I don't know if it will be a couple of months, or a couple of years.... a little something to work on in my spare time.

The good news is, I have found renters for my 2 vacant apartments. I still have some work to do getting them ready for move in, but it will be good to have them producing income again.

I must say that here, I am surrounded by long term friends. They are helpful and supportive in every way. Unfortunately, there is not much that they can do while I am embroiled in these battles. I am trying, but find it hard to be cheerful. I truly am grateful, but am not sure that it shows.

It seems that the reality here is...... life is not fair.... not news really, but I really hoped that it might be. Most of the trouble in my life has come from my own poor decisions, no fun, but well deserved. This time, I had done everything right, I had tons of insurance, money in the bank, and more on its way...... I even got solar for the MH...... what could go wrong?

Monday, August 10, 2009

August 10, 2009

So, tomorrow is a big day..... foreclosure sale and Dr. appointment. My mortgagee has not yet filed BK, she still might, but if not, then I get the property or my money. Woo Hoo. I could sure use the money, and am hopeful that this drama will end quietly. I am not expecting much from my first meeting with the new doctor, but am still excited about it.... you know, first date jitters.

I woke up with adrenalin seeping into system, and appeared poised to worry away the day, after all, it is what I do. But wait, not this time...... I made a conscious effort to relax, and have a serious talk with myself. “These events were not a surprise, I knew what to expect, and had a plan for most of the likely outcomes. Try to spend the day doing something useful.” Now I know that this doesn't seem like much to some of you, but for me, that was an excellent bit of therapy. Some good advice from a trusted friend.

Ok, so far, so good. I went into town, called to confirm my Dr. appointment, and got involved in an earthmoving project with some friends. Well ok, it was really rock moving..... very manly stuff. A huge pile of rocks, trucks, dump trailer, back hoe, a bobcat, and diesel fumes in the air. You could have cut the testosterone with a knife!!

The day was going very well, then crisis..... USC called and said that they had not received any of my records or the pathology slides. Yikes, no need to see a doctor that knows nothing of my condition. Instant adrenalin rush, another stern talk with myself, a flurry of faxes, and all ok. Beat the Pittsburgh UPS man with minuets to spare. I would like to think that it was just a mistake, but, I had broken it off rather suddenly.

The day ended by unsticking a truck and loaded trailer that was buried about a ¼ mile down a dirt bike trail. Well, I wont name names, wouldn't want to embarrass anyone, but more trucks, even larger machines, and more testosterone. Altogether a fine day.

Monday, August 3, 2009

August 3, 2009

Ok, another quick update. I have decided to end my relationship with UPMC, and have made a date with the seductive and available Dr. Boyd at USC Norris. I do not have hard feelings, in fact, I have many fond memories and still think that UPMC is a wonderful hospital, with lots to offer. I am sure that, given time to heal, they will find another bladder cancer patient.

My appointment will be in the afternoon of August 11, oddly enough, the same day that the foreclosure sale is supposed to take place in the morning. A double header, so to speak. It is likely that neither of these events will yield definitive results. Dr. Boyd may want to get to know me better, and not want to “do it” on the first date, and my mortgagee has threatened bankruptcy, which would delay the sale. Still, I am pleased to have things moving forward.

On another front, I just got a look at my file from the local clinic.... I guess that I should bring everyone up to date. I probably had the first symptoms of my cancer back in the fall of 2007, and went to the local clinic. They found microscopic blood in my urine, and prescribed antibiotics. The problem persisted, and different drugs were prescribed...... Symptoms disappeared. Several doctors have said, very definitively, that “any blood in urine, straight to the urologist”, anything else is severe malpractice. Now, I am not generally the type to engage the lawyers, but I thought I might have no choice...... Back to the clinic file. On the notes from my 3rd and last visit, at the bottom of the page, away from everything else on the bottom of the page, were the following words..... “urologist consult advised”.

This advice never happened, I know me, and I would have been all over that recommendation. Why, what might be wrong, is this important, is this just defensive medicine? It is well known, legendary in fact, that I always question authority. It has been a habit/hobby of mine since I was.... well, about 4 years old. My family, friends, and I have suffered greatly as a result. I remember annoying the appointment person and the physicians assistant I was scheduled to see, questioning why I was seeing him a instead of a “real doctor”. I know that I would have demanded a discussion about that recommendation, and would In fact, not have taken it lightly.

Over the last 7 months I have noticed many warnings and disclaimers, in reports and notes, that never actually took place. At first I was amused, but now I see why, CYA Note to self, and everyone else..... Always get the reports and notes, and read them carefully. I guess that I will be fully prepared if I survive this illness, and am stricken with something else..... Maybe a career as a consultant, give seminars, go on Oprah.... Anyway, lesson learned, and one less thing to worry about.

After a moment of introspection, I realize that, during my years as a home inspector, I have likely been guilty of the same thing.

One last thing, everyone here keeps saying how good I look. Seems that everyone expected me to look like someone that had been through hell. My treatments were mostly contained in the bladder, and not the kind that made me nauseous and unable to eat. I can, however, assure you that if you could see the inside of my bladder, you would be horrified, get that look on your face, and start to ooze sympathy.

I have noticed, if I don't act sick, people don't treat me like I am sick, and that, is a very good thing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 27, 2009

I made it back to Frazier Park, and it is good to be back in familiar territory..... I expected to be happily writing humorous stories about the trip west, but I can't seem to do it. All is not lost however, Claudia has documented the trip very well. Check out her blog..... “Black dogs house on wheels”.

I have spent a couple of days doing chores and taking stock of my business interests. There is so much to do, and so many decisions to make. Yup, stress is attacking me from all angles, and the wolves are still circling.

My next appointment is about 4 weeks away, and anticipatory anxiety seems to have found a spot in the back of my brain. Knowing that stress is bad for me seems to cause more stress..... Anyway,I am trying to put off as many decisions as possible until after I find out if the BCG treatments were successful. I have never been comfortable making decisions with incomplete information, and now there are so many “unknowns” in the equations that there are no reasonable solutions. As of now, I am unable to form a plan that makes sense..... very disturbing.

The question of the day....... Should I be faithful, and go back to UPMC for the scheduled “poke and peek”, or start a new relationship with the pros at USC Norris?.... (One of the top bladder cancer centers in the country.) There is a lot to be said for each of these choices. I already have an intimate relationship with the folks at UPMC.... no “first time” jitters there, and they already know what to expect in my bladder. I would kind of hate to break up with them. USC Norris however, is very attractive, and available. A classic dilemma. There is also the insurance issue, Health Net would like to hook me up with USC Norris (in my network), and is still unhappy with my affair with UPMC, and is still refusing to pay...... about $64,000 at this point.

My advice, read the fine print, all of it.... and maybe record all conversations with the insurance people...... they seem to have a very short memory. You are really not in the “good hands”.

Sorry about the complaining nature of this post, but after several attempts, this is what happens when I start typing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 22, 2009

Just another update..... I am in Logsten, Or. and will be leaving here tomorrow for points south. I spent a couple of days in Elkton, Or, visiting Sandy and Bob, and have been visiting the Win's here in Logsten, Oregon since Monday. I have been getting my last taste of vacation before getting home and engaging the many issues that await me there. As always, near the end of an adventure, my mind has been shifting from the enjoyable events here, to the necessities of life that will be my focus for the next 4 weeks. I have much to do, but will have to hold off any major decisions until after my Dr. appointment on the 19th of August.

I am now 2 weeks beyond my last intimate encounter with my BCG nurse, (I haven't heard from her, not even a phone call...) and am beginning to feel much better. My bladder is still somewhat annoyed with me, but seems willing to forgive and forget, and appears to be rebuilding it's lining in an effort to return to normal.

I will try to post some trip pictures after I get settled in Frazier Park.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 15, 2009

Hi all, Just a quick update...... For the first Wed. in a long time, NO BGC TREATMENT. Woo Hooo. I could almost feel my bladder cringe when I started the motor home this afternoon. Now I will get to see how it feels to be 8 days since my last treatment.... much anticipation.

Claudia and I have made it to Bozeman Montana, and expect to reach Oregon in a couple of days. I will try to post some pics soon.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12, 2009

Hi all, As you all know, I finished my BCG treatments on Wednesday, and am not due back to the doctor until Aug. 19, so there really won't be much medical news until then. I am feeling OK, but still have no stamina. I expect to feel better soon.

I picked up Claudia in Pittsburgh and headed west. We spent the first night in Cambridge, Ohio. and are now in Iowa City, Iowa, parked behind a strip mall for the night. We plan to stop at Mt. Rushmore for a couple of days of sightseeing, and then on to Oregan see friends and to meet up with the Wins.

I have said good by to my parents and siblings for a while, and look forward to seeing all of my friends soon. I will try to post a trip report and pics. as soon as I get back to Ca.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 7, 2009

I will be leaving Pa. for points west on Sat. Claudia, assuming that she survives the Mt. Whitney expedition, will meet me in Pittsburgh, and shepard me back to Ca.. We are planning to go across the top of the country, spend a few days in Oregon, and then south to Ca.

I have very mixed emotions about this. I have found that I really enjoy being around my family, yet going back to Ca. seems like going home to the family that I have adopted. My underlying thought seems to be that things will get back to normal when I get back to Ca, but I realize that things will never be back to the normal that I remember..... For me, normal has always included an optimistic view of the future. Right now part of me is pessimistic, and only sees the doom and gloom, and part of me is optimistic, aware of all of the good things, and expecting life to get better.

The standard answer is to feed the good thoughts, and starve the bad ones. I am having a hard time doing that, as the doom and gloom stuff refuses to be ignored. Treatment decisions, medical bills, reluctant insurance co, RE melt down, expiring building permit, eviction, and foreclosure (the foreclosure is regarding money owed to me)...... all circling me like a pack of wolves. The good things are there, family, friends, possible retirement, travel, adventure, etc..... but the wolves are always there, just outside the fire light.

I am receiving my last BCG treatment Wed, and will be done for 6 weeks. I am tolerating these treatments reasonably well, my bladder has gone from irritated to angry, and the rest of my body is annoyed with the entire process. Altogether not too bad. Best case scenario, I am cancer free at my next checkup, (6 weeks) and then cancer free at all of the following checkups ( every 3 months for 2 years, then every 6 months for 2 years, then every 1 year forever). Most likely scenario, cancer returns, followed by life without a bladder. Worse case scenario, cancer travels to other organs, and an early demise.

People with experience in this area say that anxiety will build as checkups approach. It will ease up as checkups pass, but will always be there. Now add in the items from the previous paragraph, and it feels like bears and buzzards have joined the wolves. Now I have always known that anxiety/stress is not good, and have always tried to avoid it, or fix the source. Unfortunately, I have never been able to deal with these kind of issues without a fair amount of stress, which likely is why I have cancer in the first place. (can you appreciate the irony?)

I guess that life has always been perilous, but now it seems that I must learn to live life with a new set of dangers.

In order to end this dreary post on a high note.... I attended a Sunday evening, drive in church service, with the rest of the family, in 3 different cars. The Baptist church owns some vacant land just outside of town, and have set up a stage there. They offered an hour of gospel music by a group from the next town over. There were about 30 cars there, with some of the people in folding chairs and the rest in their cars. The fun part came when people blew their horns in place of applause. The singers were a bit shocked at first, but seemed to enjoy it as well. Apparently this has been a tradition for the last 20 years, but a new experience for me.

In the interest of fairness, this weeks pictures are of my sisters bed and breakfast.... The Victorian Loft. Guests are pampered, and family and friends are always welcome. I enjoyed many fine meals here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30, 2009

A quiet week from any perspective..... Treatments moving along as expected, next to the last tomorrow. I hope that they are working well, but won't know until about 6 weeks later. (I plan to fly to Pittsburgh for this checkup.) The original 3 month checkup, has morphed into a 6 week checkup, with no explanation. My Doctors head nurse is off for a month, and I am working through surrogates. I guess that it will be better to know some results sooner rather than later, but I really was looking forward to 3 months away from doctors and hospitals...... A chance to get some of the necessary things done in Ca. I guess that I will have to work twice as fast..... or do half as much. LOL

For the last 10 days I have been the guest of my brother Bill, and his wife Bet, both very good hosts. They live in a home fit for an architectural magazine, on 5 manicured acres, in the middle of 160 acres of forest. Well ok, all of my siblings are successful, and live in fine houses, makes me wonder what happened to me. LOL

My brother has been helping me with a couple of long overdue jobs on the motor home.... Installing the catalytic heater, and putting a new rotor in the generator. I can't thank him enough.

Bill, Bet, Baxter, and Potter

A very nice RV site

Big front yard

New heater replaces the small cabinet door under the sink

Brother Bill, master craftsman

Finished product

Heater aimed at my favorite chair

Generator and old rotor

Give me a lever and a place to stand..... Archimedes, 340 AD.... Still works

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 24, 2009

Today I had my 4th BCG treatment..... urethra and bladder are unhappy with the program, and still using all available resources to make me stop. It seems that you just can't reason with some body parts, it was, after all, my bladder that had the weak immigration policy that started this whole thing. The procedure and the days following are certainly uncomfortable, but the whole thing is tolerable, and I am still able to function.

Lately, I have been considering my mortality, (no big surprise there) and pondering the events and choices that brought me here. Several events have lined up to help focus my thoughts, and have given me a case of the “what ifs”.

I am immersed in family for the first time since my teens, parents, brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews. Lunches, dinners, BBQ's, and other activities...... I have enjoyed the interaction, but I find myself most interested in the relationships between parents, children, and grandchildren..... did I mention that I have no kids, having passed up the joy and/or the heartbreak. The youth in the family are a pretty good bunch apparently, no mass murderers or meth addicts, no doubt a result of good parenting. Well ok, there are a few vegetarians, and several liberals. They are still young and may improve with age, but still very very disturbing. I am not confident that my parenting would have yielded the same result.

I recently had a long conversation with an old sweetheart. Still feel warm and fuzzy when I talk to her, a trip back into time. I realized that this is my longest romantic relationship, long term affection, nothing else feels quite the same.... 40 years. (Not to worry folks, she is safely married, and I realize that things would likely be different if this romance had followed a more traditional path.)

These events have literally given me a peek through the window of “the path not taken”.

For reasons that are explainable, I have lived an exciting and interesting life, at the expense of long term stability. I gave up the dream of family reunions and twin rocking chairs on the porch, for a memory rich in adventure, full of exciting events and encounters with remarkable people. Some were fleeting, with incredibly intense emotions, and some more enduring. Maybe like the difference between a series of short intense mystery stories, and a long involved novel. Most of these ended well, and still leave a warm spot in my heart, and a few exploded into chaos and left some scars. In the end, I guess that it made for an interesting life. I suppose that every one suffers a bit of the “path not taken” regrets, and I am sure that some think that the grass is greener on my side of the fence. I, however, am still wondering.

I think that in the end, lives are a reflection of the choices made. My life choices..... the result of some deep seated fear of commitment and responsibility, or cavalier responses to random circumstances. At this point, does it really matter, or can a look back at history improve the future?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 15, 2009

Not much new on the medical front..... Tomorrow is my 3rd BCG treatment, I felt a bit off for a day or so after my last treatment, and expect this to continue after future treatments. I feel lucky, I understand that radiation and chemo therapy are so much worse. I suppose that one with a broken leg should feel lucky to have not broken the other leg as well...... Enough said, I am sure that you get the picture.

On a more pleasant note, I had a nice adventure over the weekend. Claudia and I joined two local paddlers on a three day kayak/canoe/camping trip down the Susquehanna River Trail. We paddled to the campsite on Fri. afternoon, camped Fri. and Sat. night, and paddled to the take out Sun. morning. I have now done about 30 miles of the 80 miles that are available.

The river was beautiful, although a bit thin in places, with many riffles, huge boulders, tall tree lined banks, and a little honest to goodness white water. We had the chance to salolm through the barely submerged boulders, and to enjoy some refreshing spray. I was amazed at how much gear could be packed into an 11 ft. kayak, and with me included, I am sure that we exceeded the maximum GVW. Through the most exciting section, Moshannon Falls, (no real falls at the low water level) Claudia stayed dry, and I bounced off of a rock, buried the bow, and got a 5 gal. cold water lap dance.... It had to be the smaller boat and extra weight, certainly not operator error..... LOL Anyway, that is my story.

Locals, Matt and Paul, were about the best camping companions possible. First of all, they had canoes, with weight limits of over 1000 lbs, and brought lots of food and firewood..... or as Matt said “beer and gear”. Second, they were pleasant and easy going, generous with their supplies, excellent cooks and campers, and good conversationalists. Definitely the kind of guys that you want in your foxhole.

The river was mostly in the wilderness, with many great campsites available. The campsites are back in the trees, just off of the river, and are undeveloped except for user built fire rings and benches. We saw about 20 – 30 other boats (mostly canoes) on the river. About half of the people were camping over night, and the rest appeared to be on day trips. Here, like everywhere else I have been, the people on the river were friendly and polite. One group of 6 canoes, filled with thirsty young men, were amusing themselves by tipping each other over. It reminded me of what it was like to be young and invincible.

It is probably noticeable that I have been living a double life, sometimes a cheerful adventurer, sometimes an anxious victim. So far, I have only been able to distract myself and ignore the big issues. I want to learn to generate a fearless attitude.... defiantly engage the enemy and beat it into submission, instead of falling into despair when forced to deal with it. I can't think that this is the best way to approach the problem, I am convinced that it would be healthier to be on offense instead of defense. Guess that it is something to work on.

Just click on the pictures to enlarge them

The put in at Deer Creek

The white water doesn't look very impressive from this angle, but it was fun

Canoes coming down the river


In case of rain

Best sleeping accommodations


West Branch of the Susquehanna River

The take out at Karthaus

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 10, 2009

Not much to report..... Claudia has arrived for for a visit..... We have been exploring the area, and are planning a 3 day kayak trip down the river with the local paddling club. Claudia has a background in the insurance business, and has been kind enough to help me start to sort out the mountain of paper generated by the health care providers and the insurance co. Without her help I might survive the cancer, but succumb to the paperwork.

BCG (a weakened form of the tuberculosis bacteria) treatments are underway, (every Wed. at 2:00 PM) irritated urethra.... irritated bladder.... but no major negative side effects yet. This type of treatment seems relatively easy on the body compared to chemo and radiation. (See description below.) I am trying to remember that things could be much worse...... some days, it doesn't seem to help.

What is TICE® BCG and how does it work?

TICE® BCG is a bacterial preparation of a strain called Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG). It contains live, attenuated bacteria. The medication was developed as a vaccine against tuberculosis but has been found to be useful in treating certain bladder cancers. Doctors have been using TICE® BCG for many years to treat and help prevent recurrence of tumors in patients with bladder CIS. It is also used following TUR to help prevent recurrence of Ta and T1 papillary tumors.

How BCG works to treat bladder cancer is not completely understood. A partial explanation may be that it appears to produce an inflammation in the lining of the bladder but the precise mechanism is not known.

In order to work, BCG must be in direct contact with the tumor cells. That’s why it is instilled -- administered directly into the bladder -- instead of being given by injection. BCG can be effective in treating and helping to prevent the return of bladder CIS. It also can be considered to be effective in helping prevent papillary tumors from coming back following TUR.

What occurs during TICE® BCG treatment?

The instillation -- pouring the medicine into your bladder -- takes only a few minutes. However, the medicine must stay in your bladder for 2 hours. The process itself is simple.

A tube (a catheter) is passed through your urethra and into your bladder. Any urine that remains in your bladder can then be removed so that the BCG can easily touch all of the bladder lining.

The TICE® BCG mixture is administered into your bladder through the catheter.

The medication stays in your bladder for 2 hours. During that time, you will be lying down. Your position will be changed from time to time to make sure that the BCG is in contact with all parts of the lining of the bladder long enough to be effective. Lying down and changing position may also help to reduce the urge to urinate during the treatment period.

What are the common side effects of treatment with TICE® BCG?

You should talk to your doctor about possible side effects associated with TICE® BCG treatment. Some reactions such as painful or frequent urination can be related to irritation of the bladder. These symptoms typically begin 4 to 6 hours after instillation and last 24-72 hours. They are usually seen after the third treatment and tend to increase in severity after each administration. Other symptoms, such as flu-like symptoms, fever, fatigue, and chills may affect your whole body. These symptoms also may get more frequent or worse with subsequent treatments.

Notify your doctor at once if you experience any problems, particularly severe urinary symptoms such as burning or painful urination, an urgent or frequent need to urinate, or blood in the urine. Also report joint pain, coughing, or rash. It is especially important to report these symptoms to your doctor before you receive the next treatment of BCG. They may be a sign that you have an infection requiring immediate attention. You should be aware that infections associated with TICE® BCG treatment have led to death on rare occasions. Symptoms lasting longer than 48 hours or a fever of 101.3°F (or higher) should be reported to your physician immediately.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 2, 2009

OK, it is D day...... I am going to go for the BCG treatment, and try to be one of the successful bladder savers. I am also planning a change in my diet and a change in some parts of my life style. It is a tall order, but probably my best chance.

I start tomorrow afternoon......

Monday, June 1, 2009

June 1, 2009

Since starting this blog, I have been encouraged by many to “become a writer”. I don't want to take these compliments to literally, but my mind plays with the idea, and it has been a definite trend. My theory that prolific writers often suffer from chronic social deficiencies, and alcoholism is contradicted by my most recent experience. I have had a few days filled with bad news, interesting activities, pleasant social interaction, and sobriety, and still have an irresistible urge to write a blog piece. Mysteries abound.

I got a call from Dr. Campbell at the Cleveland Clinic last Fri, and found that my chance of a cure has been reduced yet again. My urinalysis showed signs of active cancer..... another nail in my bladders coffin. From my original diagnosis in Feb, my odds of being a long term bladder owner have gone from 0% to 50% to 35% to 20% to “less than 20%”. Horrified at the prospects, and paralyzed by fear once again.

Fast forward to Saturday, my BIL Tim found himself up against a deadline in a renovation project..... tenants needing to move in, and the house not ready. He has done huge favors for me, so it would make sense to ask me for help, after all, I am a professional. OK, that didn't happen. In an apparent break from his professions ethics, he displays remarkable compassion and selflessness. Some things are incomprehensible. I became aware of the situation and was able to help a bit. I am finding that my self centered approach may be counter productive, and that I felt better while painting the inside of closets..... maybe Tim has already discovered this phenomenon. BTW The tenants will be spending a free week in the normally expensive rental cabin.

With the tenant problem solved, my nephew Luke and I seized the day, well ok, we seized Sun. afternoon, and kayaked down the Susquehanna River. I feel a little guilty introducing him to a possible addiction, but better that family does it instead of a stranger. (Long boring trip description omitted) Beautiful day, beautiful river, blue heron, buzzards, Pa. wild mountain ferret, bald eagle being attacked by a smaller bird, thin water, encounters with predatory rocks, and a fine meal at the world famous 100 lb. Burger joint.

The river trip would have been great by itself, but what made it exceptional was a conversation of the most elusive type. Diverging beliefs, theories and opinions, regarding religion, social order, nature, joy, fear, anxiety, contentment, and morals, exchanged at a low decibel level, with no need for a winner or a loser. 24 year old Luke offered a defined, educated and well crafted view of the world, and I contributed an experienced and thoughtful but far less organized picture. No conclusions emerged, but Luke, wise beyond his years, offered me this, “if you don't fear death, close decisions don't much matter”..... I find some comfort in that, and noticed that I may fear “making a mistake” more than I fear death. Now that is disturbing.

Just an aside..... lately I have been meeting cancer survivors everywhere I go, I don't run around seeking this, but when people tell me their story, I tell them mine. At the kayak rental place, I met man who survived cancer, and a dog with bladder cancer who wagged his tail and gave me a friendly greeting. Knowing what I know about how he must feel, I was inspired by his attitude.

The day was capped off with a what I would call serendipitous, and Luke might call divine, gift. We launched the kayaks from Elliott's Park, (BTW Elliott is a dog, see photo of park sign) a privately owned and maintained, public welcome, park in Clearfield.

While retrieving my car at the park, I noticed a proprietary looking couple removing a barrier from a new patch of grass. Taking a page from Randy, (Mobile Kodgers author) who declares that we are surrounded by interesting stories if we just choose to look. I decided to get the story.... John and Carol own the park, and had just returned from canoe trip down the river. John has recovered from throat cancer and just celebrated his 5 year survivor anniversary. He is hosting a Livestrong (a Lance Armstrong organization) event here later this year, and gave me a yellow Livestrong bracelet to wear. He started to work on the park as a recovery activity, only able to work on it one hour at a time at first, and now seems vibrant and full of life. Quite an example for guys like me!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

May 28, 2009

I have been experiencing some highs and lows recently, full of energy and ready to take on any problem, or depressed and paralyzed with indecision.... Normal for my situation, or some previously dormant neurosis trying to get a foothold? Hard to say, but the future will likely answer that question.

I guess that colonoscopy gods took pity and smiled on me. I shared a room with another guy in for the same procedure, and felt like I had inadvertently wandered into a Seinfield episode. I got a visit from a competent anesthesiologist, and had an informative conversation about the difference between anesthesia and sedation. He got a visit from a nurse who gave him a short course in the lamaze method, describing sever cramp like pain, and deep breathing solutions. During recovery, he was in pain, and I was feeling fine. My nurse scurried in and out bringing coffee and juice, and making sure that I was warm enough, his nurse never showed up. He finally staggered out into the hall in search of help, was helped back into bed and abandoned by unidentified hospital personal, and his nurse still didn't show. He did ask for my doctors name, and was still there when I left. I hope that he survived.

I breezed through the colonoscopy with ease, and am now very proud of my healthy colon that will not have to be invaded again soon. Can ones body and mind get used to a “no holes barred” regimen of violent intrusion,.... if so, it is either a tribute to human adaptability, or blind obedience to a white smock..... Either way, it is path I have taken..... OK, well I do ask many questions.

Last week it hit me, I am, after all, an adventurer and a WIN, and decided to start acting the part. I pretended that I had just arrived in town, and went looking for fun things to do. WOW, it appears that I am near the epicenter of Pa. recreation. 100+ miles of navigable wilderness rivers complete with local paddling club, 100's of miles of hiking and bike trails, huge bolder fields, caverns, museums, etc.... Made me want to vacation here. LOL Anyway, I was overwhelmed with the possibilities, and at one point, felt that it would be hard to make the time to be sick. Realistic? Manic? Making lemonade? Avoiding the larger issues? A key to good health? Mid life crisis? Reasonable explanations all.

Of course the spell was broken by a conversation with a bladder cancer specialists at the Cleveland Clinic. (One of the best doctors and cancer treatment centers in the country.) He was brutally straight forward and honest, not ducking any questions, and was easily understandable. He mostly helped confirm and clarify things that I already knew, and helped narrow the big question. Do I give up more than 10, ten year survival percentage points, (80% Vs <70%, in an effort to join the 20% who successfully save their bladder. His opinion..... If I was a tiny bit worse, no question, out with the bladder and prostrate. If I was a lot better, no question, make a salvage effort. From a cancer perspective, no question,out with my organs, however, quality of life issues muddy the water. Success would be easy to take, early death would be painful and complicated, and life without a bladder could be fairly normal, or very complicated.

I need to decide this by next Tuesday. I appear adept at posing the questions, but clear answers seem above my intellect, and just out of reach. Maybe you have the answer..... feel free to comment.

Friday, May 22, 2009

May 22, 2009

So, I am engaged in several disputes with my health insurance company, and naively entered this arena as an insurance virgin..... I fear that this will soon change. (More on this in future posts.)

Anyway, I am trying to be more organized, and rather than tackle the mountain of insurance paper, I decided to sort my picture folder instead. Guess that I need to do something about this procrastination tendency. In any event, I ran across these pictures that I like, and think add a bit of texture to my southern adventure. Hope that you like them too.

Many sheep pastures included guard dogs, these sheep seem to be very safe

You have to love a diner that has a resident dog on the porch

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 20, 2009

Ok, preparations for tomorrows colonoscopy are underway. I just took 4 tiny pills, and am now confined to my MH, awaiting the designated time to begin drinking the dreaded liquid..... I have emptied the holding tanks, and cleared a path to the bathroom. What to do with the time, Hmmm, why not write the last travelogue piece for my blog.

The blog now returns to Tyler Bend Arkansas, home of high water, poisonous snakes, vicious insects, handicapped raccoons, suicidal buzzards, and dangerous rangers. In spite of the dangers, we had a great time, the sky cleared, the birds were singing, and the river dropped below the 12 foot flood stage. We were able to squeeze in two great kayak trips, a short 6-8 mile trip down river from the camp, and a 16 mile trip from up river to the camp. The buffalo river is indeed a beautiful place to see, the water was high, and flowing quickly. My experience is somewhat limited, but the high water seemed to result in faster but easier rapids, and no need to paddle. The condensed version is..... we saw many creatures, got a little wet in the bumpy spots, saw gorgeous scenery, and met some other river travelers. Altogether, more than enough reason to be there.

I spent the last few days of this adventure at an RV resort called Treasure Lake in Branson Missouri, as a guest of Alaska Bob. He was hosting an event for the Singles International, who graciously included members of other RV singles groups. Single RV'ers have to be the friendliest people on the planet. Treasure Lake is huge, over 600 RV sites, and has all of the amenities..... club house, lodge, dances, breakfasts, hiking trails, miniature golf, frisbee golf, indoor pool, horseshoes, tennis courts, shuffle board, etc..... OK, well I didn't see a lake, and there was the tornado warning at midnight, but it was very nice, not my kind of place, but very very nice. Branson, has hundreds of things to do, music shows, restaurants, variety shows, museums, dinner shows, theaters, comedy shows, etc.... very nice, but once again, not my kind of place.

In spite of being out of place in Branson, I had a great time for the entire 3 week trip. The people that I knew, and the people that I met were all truly engaged in the business of living, and they just sort of sweep me along..... Sometimes that is just what I need.

Notice the tree stump lodged in the tree near the center of the picture, must have been some very high water... Click on the picture for a better view

Blue heron nests

A herd of turtles

This is where blog pictures come from

These three guys were spending many days on the river

Lunch on the river

Sunday, May 17, 2009

May 17, 2009

Well, with the steady help of Miss Garmin, I have successfully negotiated the highway system, and am safely back in Pa. The old bounder gobbled up one thousand miles in a day and a half without complaint. I will make an effort to post the last of the travelogue series soon.

I had a great 3 week break from the business of being sick, and wanted to write a cheerful piece regarding great friends, kayak trips, campfires, and handicapped raccoons on welfare, but my mind stubbornly remains fixed on the battles ahead. Medical procedures, insurance issues, RE market crash, and foreclosure battles, are all ominously looming. Historically, I have been successful fighting these kind of battles, but I believe that I have sacrificed my health in the process.

Do I attack these problems, and chance stress killing me, or avoid these issues, and chance one day find myself still sick and in poverty? An interesting paradox.... How to create and spend emotional capital? In this battle, I seem to be the general and the private, entities with conflicting goals, and nearly impossible to do both jobs well. Once again, I find that my life choices have left me in a precarious position.

The search for options begins today.

Friday, May 8, 2009

May 8, 2009

Hi Yall, Once again, not much to report on medical issues... Stress reduction is on schedule, and, after careful testing, most of my body parts are trending toward normal. A tribute to the basic design of the body, and to the embedded directives of the mind. I still tire easily, 4 or 5 hours of activity, and I am OK, more than that, exhausted..... I expect this to keep improving right up until my next series of treatments. LOL I am looking forward to getting the BCG treatments finished, and having 3 months of doctor free bliss.

Had a great kayak trip on Monday, and moved up the river about 40 miles on Tues. I am camped here at the Tyler Bend campground on the Buffalo River with about 20 friends, and having a great time. This river is said to be one of the best in the country for kayaks and canoes..... OK, maybe the best for our kind of kayaking...... interesting but safe.... it's a very fine line. The definition of perfect may be, that others end up swimming, but that you don't.

Every morning at 9:00, we meet for “hugs and mugs”, and every afternoon we meet at 4:00 for “circle”..... I guess that some would call it happy hour, but we don't. In any event, these meeting are for social interaction, information sharing, and activity planning. Wednesday afternoon we were visited by a heavily armed lady park ranger (her side arm looked to be a 9mm, with 4 extra ammo clips) she seemed ready and willing to handle any trouble that might arise.

The ranger welcomed us, and then advised us of the following.... torrential rains, flash flood warnings, river closed due to flood water, (no help if you got into trouble), cotton mouth water moccasins fleeing the flood waters, diseased ticks, vicious stinging insects, and record poison ivy. She wished us well, and advised us to expect a visit from another ranger. Sure enough, another ranger arrived to explain that behind schedule construction may impact reservations at the next stop on the circuit. The Win's, veteran travelers all, took this in stride, card games, local restaurants, car trips, paperwork, and blog writing.... To be fair, in spite of the bad news delivered, and prominent weaponry, the rangers were pleasant and easy going.

I am attempting to repair some of the leaks in my roof, (never had rain like this out west) and tracking down the replacement DVR box that Direct TV sent to “General Delivery” by way of Fedex. The Fedex folks are somewhat confused by a person with no address, after all, they are all about addresses.

Max Bob (in keeping with the spirit of the south, Kurt Bob has added “Bob” to everyone's name) took us on a long road trip yesterday to the “Lost Valley”. (Perfect weather, river still at flood stage) We passed hundreds of rental canoes and kayaks poised for action, I suspect that the river would resemble a Walmart parking lot should conditions moderate.... Beautiful country, great lunch at a cliff hanger cafe, and a hike to a cave and waterfalls. I didn't go, preferring to take a nap in the parking lot, (it is hell getting old and being sick), but they came back dirty and happy. Surprising how many fun things, are also messy..... Like being a kid again..... BTW, the Win trips are sometimes described as a never ending “summer camp” for big kids.

Several of us may leave early and go to Branson Mo. for a country music fix. It is on my way to Pa, several singles MH groups are there, and I have never been there. More than enough reasons to go....

Win's are organized.

Win's find neat stuff.

Win's have nice kayaks.

Win's are happy and like to eat.

River at 13.8' flood stage. Bottom sign was under water at 18' flood stage.

1850 Homestead.

Max Bob and Judy Bob practicing for old age.

Win's are friendly.....