The Kidney/Bladder Thing

 

So my Primary Care Physician (PCP) instructed his registered nurse (RN) to get the insurance company’s approval for an ultrasound test for “a cancer survivor who complains of frequent urination.”  That would be me.  That same day I received the go-ahead.

So compliant senior babe shuffled to the ultrasound place, a room where a pretty young lady technician looking like an Indian – as in India near Pakistan – greeted me with a drop-dead gorgeous smile.  I felt so welcome my tummy immediately yearned to be caressed by the warmed jelly of the ultrasound machine sensor.

She handed me a blue floral cotton hospital gown. Wear this gown with opening at the back, she said, promised to be back in a few minutes, and closed the door behind her.

I assumed I had to take it all off because the last time I had an ultrasound, no one gave me a gown.  If Miss India had stuck around a couple of seconds longer I would have asked for exact undressing specifications.  So I removed everything from my body and wore the gown with the opening at the back. When Miss India returned, she was horrified that my jeans were not showing under the knee-length gown! Put your pants back on! She ordered excitedly and rushed out again.

Not used to seeing a horrified technician, I quickly put my jeans on and laid down face up on the small examination bed.  Miss India returned and did her ultrasound motions on my belly.

A week later, RN phoned and told me, There’s nothing wrong with your kidney/bladder. Come to the office and PCP will focus on the urinary tract infection (UTI) angle.

RN gave me a small see-through plastic container with my name and birth date on a paper label.  Put some urine in it and give it to the lab downstairs, she instructed me.  I was pretty sure she wanted my urine.  Excellent idea, I gushed.  I’m probably just having a UTI.  I haven’t had one of those puppies in a long time.

The following day RN phoned me.  There are some white blood cells in your urine, she said.  Pick up the cipro antibiotics that I phoned in to your pharmacist.

Little obedient senior babe moseyed on to CVS and picked up the antibiotics.  I was to take 2 pills a day for 7 days. But wait there’s more.  After 2 days on the pills go back to the lab for a urine test, said RN over the phone. You might not be taking the right antibiotic. What is this, trial and error? I asked in feigned horror.  She answered, No! It’s just good to get you started right away on an antibiotic while your urine sample is being cultured to determine the right one.

After 2 days, I did as told.  Sure enough I was on the wrong antibiotics.  It didn’t fix the urgent and frequent urination of small volume.  I was put on a new one for 7 days.  It seemed to work but the nasty UTI sensations returned after 3 days.  I took another urine test and I was put on a third antibiotic – a sulpha this time – for another 7 days.  Hope it works, said RN.  Me too, I agreed. I don’t intend to make a career out of taking urine tests.

So far, the sulfa seems to be working. RN told me to take another urine test after I swallow the last pill.

So my conscientious PCP keeps me hopping in retirement.  There’s no room for boredom but plenty of time for visualizing successes.  Successful treatment, for example.

Always look at the bright side!

 

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What October Brings

Whoa! October is already halfway! It’s Exclamation Point Day!

October always brings excitement to me. In addition to the October Fest images of frosted mugs, ice-cold beer, and yards of bratwursts, it is a day in this month of the year that I look forward to:  my annual meeting with my Primary Care Physician (PCP).  It’s the time we come face to face; when he takes an inventory of everything medically wrong with me; and when he gets this uncontrollable urge to refer me to specialists.  He firmly believes that between him, the specialists, and me, I can break Methuselah’s record of 969 years of life.  I like the way his mind works.

Sure enough, on October 8th we met.   Hello Bikini Lady, he opened up.  I laughed to acknowledge his great memory.  In last year’s October meeting,  he had told me I reached the perfect weight.  Do not lose any more.   With cancer, he added, you must have some extra fat in your body.  I disagreed.  I said I don’t let cancer control my weight.  What controls it then? he asked.  I responded, My bikini does.  It can only let out so much  strings.  And I boomed a blast of a laughter.

He reviewed my blood test results.  Everything is good, he smiled.  But your kidney functions are still a tad low.  But that’s not unusual for cancer survivors, he tried to console me.  I let out a heavy sigh of relief.  What was that about? he asked.  I replied, I’m relieved beer is not the culprit.  He reviewed the bottles of medication that he had required me to bring.  He saw calcium pills, not gummies.  My compliance brought a new smile to his face.

He directed his nurse to give me a flu shot.  Afterwards, PCP asked, Is there anything at all that bothers you? Like last year, I felt under pressure to complain about a health issue but I was prepared.  It’s my bladder.  I think it’s overactive.  I’m not incontinent but the urination frequency sure gets in the way of life.  His face lit up.  Good, he said.  I’ll refer you to a urologist.  So a urologist will soon join the specialists to whom PCP has referred me.

Another excitement this October brings is the prospect of closure of my personal injury lawsuit.  It’s been 10 months since a car hit my left shoulder from the back.  A cortisone shot followed by ten months of physical therapy has brought back some range of motion for my left arm.  I can now tie bathing suit strings on my back.  My lawyer and I have agreed to submit our bill to the opposing insurance attorney.   Waiting is the word these days.

Early this October I also met with my Onc Smiley.  He reviewed the blood test results, did his stethoscope  motions, then jabbed his fingers in my armpits and neck looking for swollen lymph nodes. Having found none, he said, Everything is fine and you look good.  We’ll do scans in February, which makes it once every 9 months. Wait a minute, I said and raised a question about the last CT scan where I read something about a 5 millimeter nodule.  Oh you have a ton of those 5, 6, 7, 8 millimeter nodules.   We don’t get excited about them because  they are neither getting bigger nor smaller, therefore stable.

Oh yes, the little fellas, the Milky Way in my designer lungs.  Still keeping me company after nearly 7 years.

Happy dance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There’s Luck!

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The Author’s Face in the Crowd, Wearing the Fateful Progressive Eyeglasses
My late mother – bless her soul – used to brag to anyone who cared to listen about how lucky her two-year-old rambunctious little Celia was; and how many times she had saved the future drama queen from drowning in the shallow river that ran through our sleepy farming town. To this day I still blame her for crushing my Olympic swimming potentials. Unfortunately, she’ll never know in her eternal resting place how lucky I have gotten.  I found what I thought had been lost for good.  I finally got reunited with my pair of expensive progressive eyeglasses which I had already written off after two weeks of diligent searching.   First, a brief background….

In the evening of the day after Christmas of 2017, a big Ford sedan accidentally hit my left shoulder from behind as I crossed a major road that traverses the retirement resort where I live.  Three weeks later at the resort pool, I learned this was how my significant other (BT) had recalled the accident to our buddies: The collision propelled Celia 80 feet up in the air then she dropped face down smacked against the pavement of the outside lane of the road.  Amazingly, she sashayed out of the accident scene like the winner in RuPaul’s TV fashion show.

BT never witnessed the accident but I love his version. It makes me feel like a trapeze acrobatic star.  But seriously, the impact of my face on the asphalt pavement flattened the eyeglass thingies on my nose.  Fortunately my nose is also flat and it helped to prevent serious harm.  However, the expensive eyeglasses which were prescribed for nearsightedness and astigmatism became worthless.

As soon as I could, I went to an optometrist’s office and used my very recent prescription in the in-house optical store.  Knowing the insurance company was paying for a new pair of eyeglasses as part of the pain-and-suffering settlement, I ordered the most expensive lenses that darken against the sun and transition from clear long distance to close-up images, eliminating bifocal lines.  The progressive eyeglasses cost $600, the most expensive ones I’ve ever owned.   Usually when quoted $200 for new glasses, my face begins to exhibit symptoms of an impending nervous breakdown.

I wore the sexy new glasses happily in the days, weeks, and months that followed. Because I never had to take them off to read menus, magazines, bills, and my smartphone, I wore them without holders that dangle to my chest from both sides of my face.

One day I took the glasses off and lost them!  I don’t remember the reason and the place but had a good idea of the events that day plus and minus another day.  Sleuthing for the progressive eyeglasses went in earnest.

I  remembered taking my glasses off when I had to put my face down on the hole of the massage table in the office the physical therapist (PT).  I called PT.  He said, No one has seen them.  I called the cabbie who drove me home, thinking I might have dropped them in the taxi.  Cabbie said Sorry not here.   BT and I returned to the Chinese restaurant where we had lunch.  Checking by phone would have invited too much aggravation.  Only the cashier there speaks English.  The lost-and-found basket yielded no progressive glasses.  I phoned the bus drivers.  None there.  At every clubhouse, I inspected the lost-and-found chest.  Zero.  I repeated the process the following days.  Still zip, nada.  I told anybody within 3 feet of me about my lost pricey glasses.

At the end of the exhaustive research week, at the retirement resort pool, a regular session attendee handed me a clipping from our local newsletter.  The article said a man with a Chinese name had found a pair of progressive eyeglasses in the vicinity of my recent whereabouts and would like to find the rightful owner and gave his phone number.  OMG, my heart jumped for joy!  What are the chances? How many people could have possibly lost progressive glasses at the same time and the same place?  I thought, Those glasses are mine! They belong to me!

I googled the finder’s name, hoping I’d read more about this awesome gentleman who had taken the time to write an article in the paper about found glasses and look for the owner, who would be me.  I’ve got to know this dude in advance.

Several same-named guys popped up in my research, ranging from computer expert to an oncologist, to a fortune teller.  I thought only women are into fortune telling.   I went ahead and called the finder’s number.  Major disappointment!  A man had already claimed the progressive eyeglasses.

I gave up.  Or so I thought.  I took a vacation in Calgary and stayed with a couple of my favorite people.  I focused on enjoying great hospitality,  nutritious food, beautiful sceneries, and surviving the worst pollen allergy in my memory chest which also held my dear glasses.

Three days after returning home, BT and I set out to pick up my prescription and order 2 for $69 eyeglasses at a special sale.  But first we needed to eat lunch.  We headed to our favorite Chinese restaurant.   As I sauntered into the place, I felt a tug at my gut.  Just one last time, I told BT.  I will check the lost-and-found basket.

The restaurant cashier handed me the basket. Sunglasses of every style! I sorted through them, and underneath, saw a pair of clear eyeglasses like the pair I’d been searching for. My heart skipped a beat.  I tried the glasses on and voila! The sky opened, the angels broke into Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and I could see the cash through the restaurant register.  I am the only person on this earth who can wear this!!!!, I exclaimed to the nearby waiters none of whom understood a word I said. They simply exchanged bewildered glances.  I sashayed back to our table, ear-to-ear smile, sporting two pairs of eyeglasses: the lost-and-found expensive ones on my face, and the old cheap ones dangling on my chest from my neck.

Don’t we all love happy endings! Happy dance.

 

 

The Summer of Refunds, Odds, and Ends

 

This blog update is overdue and in response to some faithful followers who have been wondering: What’s going on? Is Poksa still boogieing? Did she get her six-figure-pain-and-suffering traffic accident settlement and decided to just keep filling her cup until her number’s up?

I can explain. What happened was, I was too busy trying to get refunds and tying up odds and ends.

The pursuit of refunds began when my Plus One, henceforth referred to as BT, convinced me to plant a fruit salad tree in the front yard of my minimalist manor.  What do I know about fruit salad trees, you ask.  Nothing. I am a retired professional civil engineer whose knowledge of plants was limited to the old cherry tree on the ground near the Albuquerque sewage treatment plant.  It sure bears the sweetest cherries  I have ever tasted.  Anyway the fruit salad tree that I was talked into planting was a tree that had a variety of citrus fruits – oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits – already on the branches.  They had been grafted.  I paid $149 for the tree which I fondly named Hugo, (variation of Jugo, Spanish for juice).  Hugo was guaranteed to be a source of my lifetime supply of citrus.  Money back was also guaranteed if Hugo died and is returned to Home Depot within a year of purchase.  BT promised to provide the horticultural services free of charge. In his previous life, he supplied plants to offices and businesses.

Well, in spite of BT’s tender loving horticultural care for and some heart-to-heart conversation with Hugo, it still went kaput.  He blamed the soil, the mites, the root system, a sick palm tree,  everything.  Hugo’s demise broke my heart but the prospect of the refund of my money softened the blow.  So BT dug poor dead Hugo up from the ground, loaded it on my golf cart, and off he drove the three of us to Home Depot for Hugo’s proper funeral and refund of my mullah.

As it turned out, what Home Depot didn’t tell me when I bought the tree was that the refund was going to be in the form of store credit.  Prior to the tree purchase, I had not been a Home Depot store kind of guy.  Now I have to think of a home improvement project to get my money back.

Other purchases with guaranteed money-back return possessed me: a hidden microphone finder that promised more than it could deliver and a door bell video that required more technology than I had imagined.  These purchases happen to little old ladies who live alone and watch a lot of True Crime TV.  By the way, the retirement resort is very safe.

But don’t get me wrong.  I am not of the chicken persuasion.  I am not a bit scared.  As a matter of fact, last year when my little sister was a guest in my manor, she went out with friends and later when she tried to return through the retirement resort gate, the security guard refused to let her in citing a technicality.  Instead he sent a security trainee to my house to get my consent to let the “pretender” guest in. The young clueless man knocked on the door.  I ignored the tapping at first.  Next thing I knew I was seeing the silhouette of a man’s face and the palms of his hands plastered flat on the drapeless glass window, like a scene in a horror movie. What do you want? I yelled. Of course the glass window prevented him and me from hearing each other.  So I rushed to the house front – put on a robe first – opened the door then asked the same question: What do you want? He asked if my sister was trying to gate crash.  I said, She has a pass. Let her in.

The security story ended happily and taught me valuable lessons.  A minimalist manor is good but it needs the minimum required bedroom window curtain for privacy.  Also turn the cellphone on when expecting someone.  The phone serves its purpose that way.

On the health front, it has been uneventful.  I’m not complaining.  Uneventful is good.  All I had was my every-three-months callus scraping from my podiatrist in my primary care physician’s office.  The scraping/buffing always takes less than 30 seconds.  I often wonder how much he collects from Medicare.

On the fronts requiring closure, some good news.

My fight with the insurance company is over.  The case concerned the liquid biopsy after the end of my CO-1686 trial participation.  A year has passed and I never heard from the insurance again after the letter that said, We agree with you.  Thousands of dollars that I did not have to pay and did not want to pay!

The AARP gentleman volunteer lived up to his promise to file my income tax towards the end of summer.  I had to pay a whopping $6.00 to the federal government.  Win some lose some.

The physical therapy for my right shoulder which was injured in the traffic accident the night after the 2017 Christmas is winding down.  The latest MRI showed progress has been made but there is still some inflammation in the traumatized area of the shoulder joint.  Since some important range of motion has returned, the physical therapists are concentrating on strengthening the left shoulder.  By October everybody hopes to settle the price of pain and suffering.

It’s a good thing I take things in stride.

Happy dance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June, CT Scan, & Tagrisso

Last month – June – brought exciting events.  June is my cancerversary month – the 6th this year. A few days after posting my 6th cancerversary story, I had my scheduled chest and abdomen CTscans, the kind that requi red me to drink two bottles of the white chalky raspberry-flavored barium shake over a period of 2-1/2 hours. It had been 7 months since the last time I went through those motions.  Then came the CT scan procedure and soon it was over.

After dislodging myself from the CT scan contraption, I thought, Wow, the results better be awesome, after all I had just crowed in my blog update how great I am doing, hopefully boosting the spirits of the afflicted others. The fans who exist only in my imagination would be terribly heartbroken if I post that something horrible is seen in the latest scan images.  I like to fantasize being deeply cared for by wonderful humans other than myself.

The moment of truth came.  My smartphone notified me that Onc Dr Smiley had a message in the Patient Portal.  I went there and there it was: a short paragraph from the happy-faced doctor announcing that he and his family will be off for over a week for their summer vacation.  I quickly glanced at my face in the mirror to look for indications  that I gave a hoot about his family’s whereabouts.  Finding none, I returned to the smartphone. There was another email!  It contained a short paragraph summarizing the radiologist’s good report on my CT scans.

But I wanted to read the full report.  I had this crying need to use the knowledge gained from my web oncology degree.  Use it or lose it, so they say.  I don’t know who they are.

I sent a message to Dr Smiley who was by then in transit with his clan. I said, Kindly post the full radiology report in the Patient’s Portal.  Lo and behold, I had barely hit “send” when his registered nurse phoned me and said that Dr Smiley had asked her to respond to my request. She then proceeded to read the same short paragraph that I read. Like I was illiterate!  Later in the day, under Dr Smiley’s name, the full radiology report appeared in the Patient’s Portal.

So I read the report, word for word, line by line, reading between the lines, periodically asking my distinguished colleague Dr Google for his interpretations.  Long story short, my take: Everything in the chest and abdomen was stable or within normal limits. The tiny nodules too numerous to count still populate the lungs.  Conclusion:  My designer lungs persevere!

There we have it.  Tagrisso has been rocking it for 19 months.

Feel free to ask questions.

 

My Sixth (6th) Cancerversary

 

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Six is Six Anywhere

Yup!  We’re talking about the number six (6) here, as in 3+3, half a dozen, one boxcar of the gaming craps pair.  I wanted to go on and on and bowl you over with my mathematical prowess but I fought the feeling.  Six years is six years in any language and definitely longer than eight months.  This month of June marks the sixth year I have survived adenocarcinoma non-small-cell lung cancer Stage 4.

In the year 2012, I was quietly minding my own business when cancer came knocking at the door of my existence.  Actually, barging in would be more accurate.  First, a tell-tale sign it might barge showed up.  A dry cough harassed me.  I called it allergy, hay fever, asthma, scratchy throat.  The word cancer was not in my vocabulary then.  Long story short, a visit with a Nursing Practitioner that June led to – in quick succession – an x-ray, a CTscan, a PET scan, a biopsy, a lung cancer diagnosis, an aborted surgery, and finally, an oncologist’s prognosis:  Without treatment, 8 months of breathing left in me.  With treatment, 11 months maybe a year.  The news shook me to the core and brought tears to the eyes of the two men in my life at that time.

Being a veteran of conflicts, I simply squared my shoulders after the unpleasant surprise sank in.  I faced the future with aplomb with a view toward fighting.  Since time immemorial I had been fighting.  Over two decades and two continents, I fought for my place in the engineering and construction world. Which meant I also had to fight laziness.  The truth be known, during lulls in the battlefield, my imagination teemed with hammocks in exotic shores where I sipped toddies from glasses with tiny colorful umbrellas.  Carousing in balmy breeze instead of fighting for survival in the workplace

I prepared for the battlefield at hand.  I read as much as I could to learn about lung cancer.  Knowledge of the enemy gave me power over it.  It was my catharsis.  I maintained my sense of humor.  Laughter is also cathartic, excellent for the lungs.  My booming laugh probably unleashed each time intensity 9 tremor to the undesirable characters  in there.  I took chances.  I entered a clinical trial for an experimental drug and wrote a blog about it to entertain myself and share the experience. I covered every event in the trial, both good and bad.  The good ones outdid the bad ones such as the drug-induced diabetes and the consequent loss of appetite.  In time the worst event resolved.  The diabetes disappeared and the appetite returned. Feeding my face again was so exhilarating that it inspired me to post “Stoke That Appetite,” a rip roaring account of my medical marijuana adventure.

Whoohoo! It’s been six years since June 2012. In the span of those six years,  I experienced important family milestones I would have missed had I dropped dead on or before the Onc-proclaimed expiration date.  On the other hand, who knows what exciting happenings I might have missed had I keeled over dead and floated to the other side of the Pearly Gates? Fortunately, everybody – without exception – gets to participate in those events sooner or later, preferably later.

For now I’ll talk about what I know.  I’ll reiterate a couple of developments I’m glad I witnessed after beating the prognosis. I saw my only grandchild, a boy, develop from a 6-year-old kid who was unclear on the concept of rhyming to a gifted pre-teen who’ll one day in the future say earth-shattering things.  I saw my only biological child, a son, a schooled artist and architect, transition professionally from starvation mode to a commercially competitive sculptor.  There’s always hope!

Live, learn, laugh. That’s what I’ve been doing.

Please share your thoughts or ask a question if you like.

 

 

 

 

The Sculptor’s Mother

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The Author and Her Son Thomas, circa 1976….We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

I’m so excited!
I just can’t hide it!

Remember the opening of that popular Pointer Sisters’ song?  I’m going through the emotion right now.  What happened was, my son, a professional artist, was selected as one of three finalists among over a hundred entrants in a sculptors’ competition for “One Per Cent for the Art” in a $6M New Mexico animal care facility.  Then he emerged as the winner!  It was his first attempt.

OMG! I have become an insufferable stage mother.  I now refer to him as my Son the Sculptor with capital letter S.  I can’t decide what to do right now.  Should I buy a sequined gown to wear at the unveiling of the sculpture?  Should I throw a big bash and invite anybody who cares to listen about the art-world-shattering news? I already made a big fat announcement on the retirement resort bus. The decrepit old people just looked at each other bewildered.

My Son the Sculptor has finally arrived as an artist.  The events of the days when he was a struggling new artist are forever etched in my head.  The clearest memory is of his first commercial solo exhibition.

I remember that morning vividly.  I was pacing the kitchen floor frantically in my baby doll lingerie.  Do you have a problem? Asked my concerned late husband Tom, the first in the widowhood series.  He was eating refried pinto beans, bacon and over-easy eggs smothered with red chili.   Yes, I do, I replied emphatically.  Our son’s exhibit formally opens tonight and if he doesn’t sell a single painting, I’d die a couple of hundred deaths.  I need to do something.  He laughed. Don’t worry. I got that covered.  I gave Tim $300 to go to the exhibit, pretend to be an art connoisseur and buy Son’s most expensive framed painting.

We cracked up at the clever scheme. Our unsuspecting son, the starving artist, had just been guaranteed at least one sale and the highest-priced to boot.  I was so relieved by the plan that an unseen force pushed me to plant a smashing wet kiss on Tom’s forehead.  Mwah! You’re a genius, I exclaimed.

At the show, before the guests arrived, I gave our son a piece of advice:  Put a red “SOLD” sticker on your favorite piece so you have a primer, just like the street musician’s see-through tip jar containing his own dollars.  When the guests started to arrive, I smiled sweetly at anyone who made eye contact.  I was wearing a name tag that identified me as Artist’s Mother.  Okay, got it: shameless self-promotion.  An unfamiliar face approached me and struck a conversation: Pleased to meet the artist’s mother.  He shook my hand. I preferred that he kissed it, like my European suitor did when I was a young  hottie engineer in the Philippines. The distinguished looking man continued his line: You must be an artist yourself.  I worked it demurely.  No I’m not an artist.  I’m a civil engineer.  I’m into sewers.

Tim, our designated art buyer, was the fittest-looking of the small-business men with whom we drank libations at the local watering hole after work hours.  Nobody ever built a beer belly on Southern Comfort.  The problem was, Tom forgot to give Tim a crash course on how to act as an art aficionado.  Tim came to the showroom more like a man sent by his wife to buy a loaf of white bread in a grocery store.  He strode in the show room with a sense of urgency, picked the most expensive art piece, and paid for it.  No perusing of the art work, no questions for the proud artist, no idle talk with the artist’s drama mama, nothing.

Our son got wind of the well-meant scheme.  Who wouldn’t after watching Tim’s flop of a performance?  His Southern Comfort breath might also have wafted in the showroom. After the exhibition ended, our son handed the $300 back to his dad.  I can’t accept this, Dad, he said.  What a guy!  He did sell some paintings on his own merits.

Now Son the Sculptor talks about expanding his horizon. He plans to enter national competitions.  Imagine how stressful that would be for the mother.

Fortunately, stress becomes me.  So go ahead. Bring it on.  Share your stage mother (or father) moment. I’m listening.

For those possessed of the time and the inclination to see the winning piece, here is the link https://thomastomlinsonart.blogspot.com