Saturday, October 29, 2011

Careful Where You Put Your Feet

I wouldn't call it viral, but the 99% pic I sent to Faces of the 99% has gotten quite a few hits. It's a little intimidating but kinda cool the way it's spread outward. This being the internet, there are trolls at every turn, waiting to crap on whatever it is they disagree with. The sick thing is they're trolling people who are, for the most part, speaking out in serious pain and fear, and these a-holes are trolling them, telling people afraid of homelessness and death, that 'if they just had a job, they'd be doing better', and worse. It's really disgusting.

I've had this sense that most of these types of people, aside from whatever political views they hold, seem to be unable to think beyond two levels deep. The whole 'consequences of your actions' thing.

I had an argument with a friend a while ago about health insurance. This was when we both had good  jobs and good insurance. His argument was the same one you always hear. The same one an old high school friend trolled one of my Facebook posts.

"I'm tired of paying for something I don't use and will never need."

This is actually what she said.

There's so much wrong with this statement it's kinda sad and infuriating. Both people were saying this as it refers to welfare and taxes. Basically, they're tired of paying taxes that help others, not themselves. When pressed further, the more honest of these cynics will say they're tired of paying taxes for lazy people who are just taking advantage of the system. Some will go even further and parrot the old "I'm tired of giving away my hard-earned money so some lazy fat woman can sit in her house and pump out welfare babies".

I've heard the same argument from people who are sick of paying taxes for public schools because they don't have kids and never will.

These sentiments are perfectly fine and good. You want to believe this is what happens, fine. There's no person on the planet that's going to convince you otherwise. The problem is, when they actually do lose your job or you or a family member comes down with a catastrophic illness, all that foresight and brilliance that got you from there to here isn't going to help you, and my taxes will then be paying to save your necks.

The main issue I have; if you're unwilling to help your fellow American when they need it most, how can you call yourself an American? Why is it that you can't see that thing I keep hearing people like you quote: "There but for the grace of God..." Is it that you think you have God's grace and therefore nothing bad will ever happen to you? Like Job? Mysterious ways and all.

Here's another one: you are amazing, yes, it's true. You got where you are, all by yourself, because you're a smart, hard-working individual. Fine. What about your adult daughter? Your sister? Your father? Did all your foresight and hard work protect them from car accidents, cancer, crime, Alzheimer's, tornadoes? Will your health insurance pay for your non-dependent son's cancer treatments? No, it won't. Do you have enough saved or enough equity in your home to pay for his treatments? No, not unless you're in the 1%. Are you going to let your son die? No, your son is going to NEED welfare.

Or should I assume that you believe your shining example will ensure that your son or daughter or sister or father never loses a job or gets dropped by an insurance company or gets denied due to pre-existing condition?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Death Panels - Who Needs Em?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Woke Up Cranky

Spammed grumpy crap on my face books. It feels like the junk they put in me are trying to claw their way into me and not leave. The dry mouth and stuff still hanging on. Still feel tired and, as of yesterday, kinda jumpy, like when you take cough medicine and it makes you jump at noises and sudden movement. Probably just in my head. Anxious to be done, knowing it isn't going to be, yadda.

I actually think it has more to do with the physical therapy. Ever since she started stretching my tendons and working the muscles, it feels like my nerves are waking up a little faster. I have a bit of a nerve thing in my arm, which feels similar to the sciatic nerve pain I get in my leg. Back injury. I think when she hit on the muscles that support the shoulder, the muscles are now pinching a nerve and I feel it in my elbow crease, just like how my back injury hurts behind my knee.

Still, I also played hackey sack with some friends for longer than I should have. Exercise is good, but I'm still sore. Went to the horse jumping event at Westworld with Kevin and his kid. Took some pictures. Still need to upload them. Passed out.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Road Goes Ever

Goes. Doesn't look like a real word there.

Busy day, after two false starts. I post-poned the first physical therapy session so I wouldn't have to struggle to make it to a Lord of the Rings trivia thing later at Bookman's with a friend from The Plaza, Ista/Andrea. I was late and blew it utterly anyway. I knew all the answers for the ones I was there for, dammit. Even Caras Galladhon! She won anyway, and they gave everyone 2 tickets regardless, so she gave me her second, which was very sweet, considering.

The second appointment was a mix-up. They'd called me to re-schedule, because my therapist called in sick. I wrote down Tuesday, but apparently it was to be Wednesday. So, Wednesday it is and back I went.

My therapist, Janice, is an older woman, which is probably a good thing as I won't be distracted by a hot young chick groping me. She was very nice. Patient and slow and made me feel like she knew what my issues were, like she'd had experience with this particular surgery's issues.

Let's enumerate those while we're here. In order to fill in the void left in my neck when they removed 27 lymph nodes and I'm sure plenty of adjacent tissue, as least near the two nodes that were cancerous, my surgeon took a good section of pectoral muscle and detached it from my sternum on the one side and shuffled it under my skin, blood supply and nerves intact, pivoting it up into my neck area and reattaching the loose end to my jaw. I have a chest muscle in my neck, and it's always tight, like it's in a constant state of flex. The added feature is that, since it's still attached to my shoulder, when I move my arm or try to do anything that used to involve a chest muscle, my neck flexes and it has a tendency to pull down on my jaw.

The whole thing feels like an experiment that hasn't been proven effective yet and they're still working on it, but the procedure has a name and everything. Radical Neck Dissection with Cervicopectoral Flap Reconstruction. The neck dissection has been around since at lest 1906. Not sure how long they've been doing the reconstruction part.

So, I have a big chest muscle swung around and in my neck, laying on top of my collarbone and attached to my jaw. Flexing pulls my jaw down, but the whole thing is also tightening up a bit and pulling my chin down all the time, making my posture worse than it already was. This combined with the lack of real neck muscles and the tendons all around the area are overcompensating for the lack and everything is tighter than Dick's hatband. My neck feels like it's got a foot of steel cable running down it.

These issues and the other throat problems I have still from the radiation and chemo: muscles that hadn't been used for over a month, atrophied and burned with radiation. Means I have to learn how to swallow for the third time. At least everything I drink doesn't come out my nose like the first time.

Anyway, Janice ask me a lot of questions, listened well to my answers and offered some good suggestions. She checked my range of motion, mostly regarding my neck, but a little around the shoulder. I mentioned a problem with my tracheotomy scar, which seems to have gotten tighter. She massaged it, gently at first, then rather vigorously, but it does seem a lot better. She then began to press upon my tendons and certain muscles to both get an idea of what's going on, and to stretch them and get some more range of motion out of them.

Pretty standard physical therapy I suppose. While lying on the table, another patient came in, and though I couldn't see, he had apparently had his foot torn or cut off and reattached. Good times. Janice arranged my appt schedule. I'm approved for 15 sessions and they set me up for 10 already. About twice a week.

And then I was on the road, heading north to meet up with Andrea and her friend, Dave. We went to Armadillo Grill in Scottsdale. Appetizers were half price. There wasn't much I could choose from with my no-saliva issues, so I got fried pickles. I was expecting pickle chips, not kosher spears. They were good, but difficult to eat since I can't open my jaw very wide anymore (Janice is going to work on that too). That and the acid in the pickles messed with my tongue and cheek. Nerve damage from surgery and all. Figured I needed some more food in me for the long evening so I got the bread pudding for dessert. Not bad. Mine's better. Still pretty hard to eat.

The concert was at Arena (I hate typing that - Jobing is a horrible construction of a non-word and naming an arena after it, with the dot com part, is ridiculous). Starting at 7:30, the orchestra and choirs came out right on time. I had been wondering what the concert's format would be like. The Fellowship of the Ring played on a giant screen behind the orchestra, complete with subtitles (since the symphony was louder than the film in places), while the orchestra played the score exactly as it is played out on-screen, right down to the voice-work. There was a female performer singing the lead parts as well as the song "May It Be" for the end credits, and a young boy from the boy's choir singing during the credits as well.  Pretty cool evening.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


I no longer have one going through my abdomen.

It's amazing how much better I feel, emotionally, now that the feeding tube has been taken out. It's obvious why. It's the last hurdle to healthy, the last bit of pharma invading my body. That damn tube I'm grateful I had in me was definitely wearing out it's welcome and now it's finally gone. It also means I'm able to eat real food.

The real truth is that I've always been paranoid about the tube. From day one I was trying my hardest to protect it from getting snagged or yanked. Once I had to take care of it myself, I taped it to my stomach and rigged another piece of tape to hold the tube close to it can't get pulled. I had to wear buttoned shirts so I can always have easy access to it, especially when the damn thing leaked or the syringe port came out.
Not Actual Size
So, being the paranoid guy I am, I was a bit concerned about how it would come out. How it would be, coming out. I knew the mechanics of it; screw a syringe (needle-less) to the smaller port and draw out the water in the balloon keeping it from coming out of the hole in my stomach. Once the water is removed, the tube is pulled out. Mechanics are one thing. Reality is another. I'm already freaked out that I still have two holes in me and a piece of medical equipment hanging out of them, so the idea that the Dr is going to pull this thing out of me is a bit unnerving. And knowing how this Dr works, I was kinda jittery about the whole procedure.

So I did what I do: I scrolled the internet for information. There weren't too many pictures of my particular PEG tube (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy), but I found a couple that made me feel better. Once the water was removed, the tube should be fairly smooth, with no ridges or changes in diameter. I think part of my paranoia in this area comes from my experience with the drainage tubes after surgery. I was imagining the same thing happening, but in my stomach as well as my abdomen. I scrounged for info for too long, stumbling across too many pictures of what happens when things go wrong. I felt better for knowing it wasn't nearly going to be as bad as my mind was making it.

Dad drives me to the doctor's. Knows the way by heart now. I'm letting him drive because the shifting bothers my shoulder a bit and I'm taking advantage of a driver while he's here. At the office, I give the receptionist the PET scan disk and the report and eventually get called in. He's happy with the results and asks what Dr. Szewczyk said about the two slightly lit nodes. I said she felt they were not a concern and he agreed but said they were something to watch. He checked my mouth and my scars and then asked if I was ready to get the tube out.

He takes the syringe and screws it into the port. He draws out the plunger. Nothing. He screws it in better. Nothing. He tosses the syringe and gets the scissors. No water comes out after he cuts it open. By this point I'm thinking, "Shit. That's 0 for 2. I know where this is going". So he hands me the horseshoe shaped bowl to catch whatever might possibly come out. My dad thought he was trying to distract me, but later said he doesn't think that anymore. So I'm looking down at the bowl he's handing me and it's almost like a sleight of hand thing because he's handing it to me with one hand, grabbing the tube with the other and then, before I can even turn my eyes to see what's going on, he's pulled it completely out, with exactly the gut-pulling, stomach skin-hole stretching sensation I was dreading.

It wasn't that bad. Just shuddery and cringy. Yeah, two totally made up words. In the big scheme of things, it was somewhere between getting an IV and yanking off my bandages too fast. Nowhere close to how the drain tubes felt.

My dad took me and Kevin's kid to The Keg, a nice steak place (sorry Livvy), for a celebratory dinner. It was pretty good. The server asked if we were celebrating anything in particular and my dad told him we were and explained about the clear scan and the returning taste buds and such. I told him that I had just had the feeding tube removed, and was celebrating that with food. He was very nice and congratulated me pretty sincerely. Said he had relatives who had passed because of cancer. A few minutes later the manager came over with a hefty slice of coffee ice cream pie. He congratulated me too and left us with the pie. My dad had some, but I ate the hell out of that pie. I swear I could taste the chocolate cookie crust.

Monday, October 03, 2011


There are always grey areas, but according to my oncologist, Dr. Szewczyk, my PET scans look very good. The material injected into me lights up when there is above normal metabolic activity. There were some areas that were lit up on the side I didn't have cancer on, basically lymph nodes that have had some metabolic activity but weren't enlarged. She said it is most likely nothing to be concerned about (famous last words), but Dr. Rothman will probably want to do an endoscopy to get a better look. Which probably means another trip to the hospital. Which sucks.

But yeah, good news.