Friday, July 31, 2009


A young man who works for me is facing a terrible time. He is in his mid-30's, married with one child 2 years old and a baby on the way due in October. His children are his life, pictures abound his office, we are bombarded with pictures of his wife and daughter, almost ad nauseum.

Many months ago he was diagnosed with a growth in his abdomen that doctors felt was more of a cyst than anything and attached no importance to it other than they told him when he was ready they would surgically remove it for him. He was in no hurry but felt it should get taken care of sometime soon.

When his wife became pregnant for the second time he felt he would like to have the little issue behind him before the arrival of #2. So he scheduled the surgery. During the course of the pre-op work up a small mass was found at the base of his esophagus as it enters his stomach. In addition, a suspected tumor was discovered in his shoulder. Some more tests indicated the small mass at the base of his esophagus was cancerous, but had not spread to the underlying tissue so a resection of the esophagus would fix that. In the meantime during a pet scan they found a spot on his liver. A second CT scan with a dye enhancement did not find the spot on his liver, so one test said yes, another said no. They decided to do a needle biopsy of the tumor in his shoulder. They said the CT scan indicated some calcification, so being a local professional wrestler in his youth he felt he had injured his shoulder so often that it was probably some form of scar tissue.

The test came back, no it was also cancerous. At first they felt that it was two different types of cancer both localized. Late last week they found that the cancerous polyp in his esophagus and the tumor in his shoulder were the same cancer, so metastisis had taken place.

He is supposed to begin a chemotherapy regime next week with the intention of shrinking the tumor in his shoulder and esophagus, then at some future time he will undergo surgery to remove the two growths from the sites.

Today he is having a liver sonogram to find out if there is something there or not, after all one test was positive, one negative. They are doing a echocardiogram to ascertain the strength of his heart as the chemo does do some heart damage and they want to know if his heart will withstand the side effects. They are also going to do a brain scan to determine whether or not there is another problem area.

He and I talked yesterday. The odd thing is he has no symptoms. The doctors are puzzled because each tumor by itself they would diagnose as a Stage 1 cancer with a fairly high level of success in treatment. However, two locations indicated metastisis take the cancer to a Stage 4 with a survival rate of one year or more at less than 5%. So on the one hand the doctors are confused because they feel he should be having some symptoms, yet he has none. They have not ruled out the liver yet, and we shall have to see what the brain scan indicates. I hope and pray his will be OK. He has too much going for him, his family is in growth, and his wife is a very emotional person anyway. Right now his attitude is he will be OK. However, I also know that in the dark of night when everyone else is asleep your eyes pop open and you begin to wonder. You begin to speculate and of course your mind turns to dark thoughts. It is scary. I am scared for him.

I do not know how I will act if the news isn't good. I've had people I've known die of cancer, my mother died of breast cancer. However she was in the hospital two weeks before she died and I was stationed in El Paso, TX at the time so I did not see her during the waning days of her life. I know I will be positive and strong for this young man. He is a good guy and I hope he turns out OK.

Oh yeah, the cyst in his abdomen. It was an infection, they have finally found the right combination of antibiotics and the cyst is about gone. Perhaps God put it there so they'd find the other stuff.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Golf is played by humans

Sometimes the miraculous golf shots of Tiger Woods become expected. What creative, courageous shot can he pull of to salvage par, a birdie, or the tournament. This year's British Open did not have Tiger in the final field. Yet an old man taught us about humanity. Who would ever have thought that Tom Watson would take the lead on the first day of play and then relinquish it on the final putt on the final hole. Who would've thought in this day of weight lifting, chiseled athletes playing the refined game call golf and old man would hold sway.

I am proud of the way Tom Watson played. I am proud in the style with which he accepted the loss. He is a true champion, even more so now than in his hey-day. Tom proved that age is only a barrier if you let it be. Tom proved that even the aging can summon the ghosts of the past and relieve the excitement and the elation of the competition.

I am sure many professional sports writers will say a man of that age shouldn't be competitive. I am sure they may even say that the sport suffered because an old man could be competitive in such an event as the British Open. I say they are wrong. I say that on this day the true character of a man was on display for all to see. I contend that he faced odds few of us encounter and over came those odds to the very end when perhaps age did play a part in adding to the pressure of that final putt. Some may say it is a shame, he came so close. I say Tom Watson proved that the human condition is magnificent, that on a given day from the ashes of age rose a man who overcame and while he didn't triumph on the course his spirit triumphed on a day of wind and sun to show us again the reason we are such unique beings.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What do you say?

A young man, in his 30's has been found to have esophageal cancer. He has had a cyst or some sort of growth in his abdominal region for several years, but it was not felt to be dangerous so he postponed surgery. Finally he decided to have the cyst or growth removed. During pre-0p testing they found a small mass at the base of his esophagus and did a test on that. Polyps were discovered and they turned out to be cancerous, however according to the CBT they had not penetrated the underlying tissue so it was felt removal would be all that was necessary. He was encouraged by the news.

However, the Dr.'s wanted to do a PET scan to see if there was anything else. The PET scan revealed a spot on his liver and in his shoulder. He now has to go in to have a needle biopsy of the liver spot. He should find out the results on Monday. If it is cancer they will refer him to a specialist in Memphis, Little Rock, or St. Louis, his choice. If it is not cancer they will check out the shoulder, however he has a history of shoulder injury and it is felt that that object is either scar tissue or a bone spur as it appears calcified. If that checks out he will have surgery on the esophagus August 31.

Seems like a lot of problems cropping up and at his age. In addition he and his wife have a two year old daughter and his wife is pregnant with their second child. A pretty hefty load to bear.

So, what do you say? I just focus on the process, try not to worry too much although from my own experience that is just about impossible, and be upbeat about his outcome. In the meantime I keep up the work requirement because he needs some means of relieving the stress in his mind. I do hope that all is well. He is a good guy and valuable employee.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Price of Aggravation

During our ice storm clean up last spring I suffered a small cut in my right rear lawn tractor tire. It resulted in a slow air leak that would leave the tire soft after a couple of days. I used some tire plugs to try and plug the leak but because it was a cut I couldn't stop the leak completely. So I decided that instead of having the leak repaired I would simply air up the tire when I need the tractor using my trusty old air compressor. I did this for about four or five months. However it was an aggravation to back my tractor up to the garage, start the compressor and air up the tire. It didn't take long, but I do like convenience.

This Saturday I decided to see if I could get the tire fixed, or replaced. I have suffered enough aggravation. The end result was I took it to a tire repair center where they put a tube in the tire for me. Now the tire maintains pressure and the problem is solved for now. The cost was $20.50 to have a new tube mounted in the tire. Now one has to wonder, how much is my time worth? Insurance companies and the IRS say my time is worth zero, zip, nada. So then how much to fire up the compressor, a few cents, lets say $0.05, that means I could could air up my tire 410 times before I spent $20.50. If I used the tractor twice a week that means I could go 205 weeks before I hit break even. Almost four years before I reached the cost of having a tube installed, and I still have an old tire. Hmmm, what price aggravation???

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The measure of a fine lady

We now are the owners of two fine Labrador pups. They are basically white in color, although the hair along their backs does have a yellow tinge to it. Terry brought them home from her mother's. I was not against the idea of having dogs again, and I had even thought that if we had dogs I would want two so they kept each other company. I just wasn't ready at this time, and was caught off guard. For the first month or so it seemed like taking care of them basically fell on me and I began to resent the time commitment when I have so many other things to do. Terry seemed to stand off a little bit, helped a little in feeding them and seeing that they had water down, but other than that I seemed to have the bulk of the work. I must admit I had thoughts that this didn't seem fair.

However, change was in the offing. A few weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night and realized the lights were on in the house and Terry was up. Normally, I get up in the middle of the night and let the dogs out to potty so they don't soil their sleeping area. This night Terry was going to let me rest while she dealt with the dogs. If I get up in the night to take the dogs out I just go out in a pair of flip flops and my sleep shorts, no shirt, no bug dope, just get up and go. I could hear Terry moving about but wasn't sure what was going on so I got up in case she needed help. I walked into her dressing closet and her she was struggling into jeans, had a long sleeve shirt on and was going to take the dogs out. She was upset with me for getting up as she wanted me to have a good night's sleep. God Bless her.

Last week we had some serious discussion about the pups being too much for us to handle and we should look for a home for them. Both of us agreed that they are good dogs, very loving and well mannered for how young they are. We kind of agreed that we should continue to try to get them controlled and work through their adolescent period. Perhaps! That evening Terry said she was aware she was not pulling her share of the load and took over the evenings chores of walking the pups, taking them out for the evening bathroom stroll and I should stay in and relax.

She made the mistake of not leashing them. For some reason I am gaining control over their actions with my voice, Terry is not. It was a hot evening, still in the 90's. All of a sudden the door opened, this intense yet disheveled woman came in and slumped in the kitchen table chair. The dogs had seen a neighbor's pet rabbit and chased it. Terry had gone after the dogs and could not get them to come home. Finally she picked up Molly and carried her back home, some several hundred yards. The dogs now weigh in the 30's and Terry is not a physically strong woman so it took all of her determination to carry that dog home. Where one dog goes, so goes the other so Lily follow Terry and Molly home. Terry was hot, beat, sweaty, thirsty, all of the things that cause her discomfort that she so detests. But, she made it. She had swung her weight, and even though she perspired, which she dislikes, and lacked strength she brought the dogs home, and got them in the house without too much incident.

That effort and partnership is the measure of a fine lady. I did not know the difficulty she was having otherwise I would've gone outside and helped. But she would not have wanted that, and I am proud of her, grateful for her love, and love her all the more for her effort.