Monday, May 25, 2015

Mortality revisited

For the third time in ten years I have had major surgery to cure a colo-rectal cancer. So far it has not. However, the cancer seems to revisit in the same exact spot which is highly unusual, so I always have hope that perhaps this time we got it.

In the meantime I have to put up with the sore abdomen, the uncomfortable feeling of being swollen, and the general weakness that comes with you body putting out a lot of healing effort due to the surgery itself.

Mentally it means coming to grips with mortality, again. You think you deal with it and and everything is OK until the promise of recovery and sick feeling you have during recovery. Will I see my kids, I want to enjoy retirement, I want to be with my wife, I do not want to die yet. So we fight on, we hope on, and perhaps this time, I'll be successful.

Undontional Love

Last night during our evening cocktail hour my wife, Terry, revealed to me that if we were to move to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to finish out our lives we should do so in the next few years and she is fine with coming with me. This was very emotional for me. Terry knows how I feel about my home in Munsing, MI. The friends I have there but the setting and knowledge I have of the surroundings.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Still Mind - Not!

There is a blood test, sometimes I wish I'd never known of, it is call CEA. It is used as a marker that may indicate the recurrence of certain cancers such as the colo-rectal cancer I've experienced. Slowly for the last two years my CEA has climbed from well below 3. 0 to now 8.4. Above 3 is considered elevated. I had a PET scan March of 2013 because my CEA had risen above 3.0. The scan was clear. However my CEA continued to march, but slowly and sometimes it even seemed to take a step back. My oncologist said that is not cancer, if it was it would always progress.

Well several more months went by and I had another CEA test, this time it rose to 6.4. I was in to see the surgeon for a follow-up and when he saw that the office time was over and he schedule a CT scan. That was June 2014. The scan results were clear.

I felt good, I've gotten up most mornings and worked around the homestead, gardening, repairing equipment and moving items to expand my shop and equipment shed. So when I went to my oncologist appointment in early July I was sure my CEA would be down and things were looking rosy. In fact, the Dr. patted me on the arm and said he thought I was doing fine.

Then came the port flush. It is an implant I've had in my chest for years now that gives the oncologist's nurses access to my blood system should I need a steady stream of chemo. Even though I've been cancer free for three years the port has not been removed because five years is the threshold for being considered cured.

I asked the nurse who flushed the port for the report on my CEA, you can imagine my feeling when instead of dropping I saw the number elevated to 8.4 . I was sure and so was the oncologist that the number would go down. It didn't. My heart jumped, my thoughts were Oh Shit!

So a few days later came the call from the nurse whom I've come to know by first name and like very much. She said the oncologist had scheduled another PET scan and another full colonoscopy. The PET scan came first, then the colonoscopy. The PET scan revealed a "hot spot" indicating the radioactive marker in the sugar water had congregated to a spot in what is know as my "presacral" area. I had the colonoscopy a few days later and it showed no sign of cancer.

The presacral area is just between the anus and the tailbone. To have a growth there is very infrequent. Mayo Bros Clinic logged 68 cases in 20 years. Most growths are benign, but with an elevated CEA the possibility of cancer increases.

Next Monday I have a biopsy scheduled in this area. If it is cancerous then surgery will most likely be the method of treatment. In all probability "it" is confined. Surgery, while not often performed appears to be fairly straight forward. But damn, this could make the third time in seven years. All of the previous two cases were supposed to be non-recurring and the prognosis very good for long term survival. Now, I'm not so sure. What does this mean. Is this a metastatic form or is it unique and isolated. Is it malignant?

I try not to worry. I go on about my day as though I have many more left. The damn thought though intrudes and can cause a ripple of fear to roll through my mind. I just retired. I am enjoying my life so very much, I want to enjoy life for a number of more years. Terry and I are working, growing our own vegetables, fruit and fixing the house. I love it. I mow grass with a large tractor I bought and we are clearing woods that is paying off in scenic settings. I love this, it is what I worked hard for all my life. I am not going to give it up without a fight, but it seems like all I can get is about three years of peace.

Oh well, I suppose three years at a time for 7 repeats gets me 21 years and that might be enough.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Our California brethern.

What if the drought that California is facing is part of a long term environmental cycle, nothing to do with global warming. Just a cycle. What does the government do? The president promised aid, but what aid. Will water trucks soon be on the road carrying millions of gallons of water to the parched landscape. Will the billions of dollars in lost farm revenue be made up by the government with low interest loans. What if the answer is that the man made irrigation systems and the incursion of humans into an area that is not able to sustain their agricultural effort has reached an end. What if the area really needs to be abandoned back to nature. I do not believe we can do it. We may spend untold amounts of money trying to change the course of Mother Nature, and we know who will win that round.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty, Free at last!

I am really making light here. I have come to realize that my adult work career has not been a trap. I have been fortunate to be in positions where I could exercise my creative forces, I've lead people, developed high performance teams, and earned the respect of my people, peers and colleagues. Isn't that enough? Yes, it is.

Now my first couple of days after retirement. Oh, I'm on leave for several months, but still I will not return to work as I know it. So what's different? Not much. I still find myself checking work emails. I still have a couple of memos to write trying to promote some people that I feel deserve consideration. However, I have wiped clean my browser history at work, I have stopped looking at my work calendar and the school's website. I have taken my office keys off my car key ring so they no longer can remind me of that place. Perhaps the biggest change is I am realizing this weekend that come Tuesday morning I will not get up and go to work at ANC. I shall get up and decide what I want to do at home. 

That is what I meant about Free at last! Other than appointments that I may freely make I don't have to be someplace at a predetermined time. Other than commitments I shall freely make I don't have to do anything I do not want to do. I have a sense of freedom that I believe will expand in the coming days and I am looking forward to. Thus ends the first blog.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pending Retirement

Thursday February 5, 2014 I will cease work at my current employer. I will go on leave for about five months, I have enough accumulated leave time to cover it, and my permanent retirement will be June 30, 2014. However in my mind this coming Thursday is it.

I am filled with thoughts, none of them sad or bad. I have spent my adult life managing the efforts of others. I am tired of being responsible for people's performance, output and ultimate success of the organization. I want to do something for me. I want to use my head, my hands and whatever limited capability I have physically to do things for me, my family and that is all.

That will probably change as time goes along, but right now all I can think about are the projects and tasks that I have looked forward to doing, myself. The list is long, it is ambitious, and some of it may not be possible, but I assure you the attempt will be made. My wife and I own the property we live on outright, I think we shall have sufficient income to carry us in retirement and we are eager to begin on our own agenda.

I am starting to make a clean break with my past life and start anew in this undertaking. I wish I weren't so old, 69, or physically weakened but I can still manage most things. So c'mon Thursday, I can't wait to get started working on retirement.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Simple truths

My wife and I have a morning meeting that begins most often around 5 to 6 am. We have a pleasant sitting area in our bedroom and discuss the day, issues that have cropped up we may have to deal with, gardening, recipes and whatever may come to mind. It is a treasured time.

Recently we were talking about my impending retirement. I voiced some concern that my working life was ending and sometimes I felt like I was waiting to die. Terry asked, haven't you been doing that all of your life? It's true. Work has always defined me. I love a problem and a challenge. My work life has presented me with that ongoing opportunity and I've done well. If provided for my family plus it provided me with an outlet for my strange creative powers. I'm not a musician but I'd like to be. I'm not an artist, but I'd like to be. Still I have developed an ability to direct the work of others and very well thank you.

So now I find myself in a "limping waterfowl" work situation. My focus has altered to home and projects I've been wanting to tackle for a long time. I no longer go to work feeling like there is a mission to accomplish, or a challenge to take on. In fact, because I have to endure fecal incontinence due to my two bouts with colon cancer work is more of just getting through the day. I'm not in pain, it is just distracting to have to get up and use the bathroom a number of times during the day especially when you don't have the comfort of being home.

In reality nothing has changed in my life. I have always looked forward to and enjoyed change. This is no more than a transition. I hope I have at least ten good years, by that I mean where I am physically able to care for our property, work with my wife in the gardens and flower bed and to still cut brush and built things. The changes I am contemplating, wood working and such don't require a great deal of physical effort if you have the right equipment and that I am in the process of acquiring.

Once again a simple observation from my wife is very relevant to the situation I now find myself in. I don't often think of death, I probably am more concerned with the process. I have a home, a nice piece of property and a wonderful wife. I do not want to end up in a nursing home or a hospital. But that is somewhere out in the future and other than trying to take care of myself I shall not worry about that now.