At least his lung didn't collapse, as it did with his previous biopsy about a year ago. But it sounds like he's in for a lot of chemo, which isn't a pleasant prospect under the best of circumstances. Jeff is in good spirits--much better than I am, truth be told--which is just the way he tends to tackle things.
If you're the praying type, this would be a really good time for the prayer warriors to go on the offense. And hey, if you're the good thoughts/vibes type, that would also be welcome. We'll keep everyone updated as we get news.
My grandson Hunter got to visit the ER over the weekend, with a fine and extra-special case of gastroenteritis. Apparently he felt his tonsillectomy from a couple of weeks ago just wasn't enough contact with medical professionals.
If you're thinking, as I did, "aw, just a bad case of stomach flu", look it up and be scared. I know I am.
I dropped off a care package of Pedialite, Gatorade, and crackers, and discovered that I can hold my breath for exactly four minutes and fourteen seconds when properly motivated. That's how long it took to open the back door, throw the bags into my daughter's kitchen, and jump off the porch into the car.But in all seriousness, take the time to throw some good thoughts/prayers/vibes their way--the family's had a really rough winter, and it's not over yet.
First there was illness. Then work schedules. Then more illness. Then weather. Illness. A tonsillectomy. (I realize that fits under illness, but still.) Then work schedules again. Okay, a lot of illness: flu, bronchitis, tonsillitis, a stomach bug, friggin' scarlet fever. Seriously? I thought the last person who caught scarlet fever was Charles Darwin. Luckily he survived, what with him being the fittest and all.
Some of this was with my oldest daughter's family: Two eight-year-olds collect germs the way I collected publisher rejection slips. I think my youngest daughter only got sick once during that period; my wife and I collected five illnesses between the two of us, trading them back and forth like Pokemon cards.
But finally our schedule was cleared, our lungs cleared, and the roads cleared: We would meet at my oldest daughter's house to celebrate Christmas on Sunday, January 29th. Enough time had passed that one of my grandkids asked if we were celebrating last Christmas, or next Christmas. But at least the unusual warm weather made the trip seem like smooth sailing.
I walked out that day to load presents in the car, and discovered we'd been rewarded with a white Christmas.
Well, it didn't seem too bad, not really. I mean, not for northern Indiana in January. I even shot a fun video of it, then went inside to get another load. When I walked outside again, a blizzard had hit. I've taken to calling it the Blizzard of Ours, because it seemed to be times for right when we were about to drive twelve miles.
It was a snow squall, really--it didn't last long. After that it was just heavy snow, compared to zero visibility and seeing (or rather hearing) houses blow by. At least, I think it was a house. I haven't checked to see if the neighbor's garage is still there.
But you know what? We were having by-gosh Christmas, and no more delays! The happy ending is that we made the drive safely, successfully dodging the guy who did not successfully make his turn in front of us. We all emerged unscathed, and I got new fur-lined house slippers, which every successful and unsuccessful writer should own.
And the best part is, we also made it home safely, leaving my daughter and son-in-law to deal with the present we got the twins: a home kit to make your very own volcano.
Looks like they're in for rough weather.
On a related note, remember to stock up on ibuprofen and that stinging green slime stuff you get from the chiropractor.
On another related note to self: Steal a photo from Emily to illustrate this cause and effect, and how the dog was certain this activity was crazy human stuff:
Prayers and/or healing vibes requested for my Grandmother Nannie Bricker, who fell yesterday morning and has a compression fracture in her back. Painful, but not that serious--if you're not 94 years old. At the moment she's in room 213 at Parkview Noble Hospital, but I'm not sure how things will progress from here.
Rough day, yesterday, especially with half the family still sick. Basically the perfect ending to what was, with a few exceptions, a pretty sucky year.
My Uncle Paul Hunter passed away yesterday; he had been under treatment for cancer in the hospital at the University of Kentucky, which coincidentally is where he attended college. Prayers would be appreciated for my Aunt Jewell, their kids, and all the family.
My dad beat cancer a few years ago, and my brother this year, and I had a scare myself awhile back; but this time it was the disease that ultimately won. We can only grieve, remember, and work toward a cure.
When I was a kid, Paul and Jewell’s house was next to Mama and Papa’s, so they got a lot of spillover guests during family get-togethers—and with nine brothers and sisters in the family, the get-togethers could get pretty big. It was in a hollow in the area of Mousie, Kentucky; I haven’t visited for some time because I’ve heard the area has changed a great deal, and I’d rather remember it as it was.
I don’t recall now the name of the hollow or what road it’s on, but I remember sitting on my grandparents’ big front porch, looking down toward Paul and Jewell’s house and past it to the big mountain that rose in the distance—well, big to me, an Indiana boy. It was uphill on either side, too, and to visit relatives you’d walk up the narrow road, past houses built in single file. Just about everybody had a big porch, and the adults would sit there, sometimes snipping green beans, while they got caught up. The kids would play in the yards, climb the hills, and watch for ticks.
It’s funny what you remember from your kid-hood. Even back then, I thought Paul and Jewell had infinite patience, for putting up with all the kids running in and out with what was no doubt not their indoor voices. There were probably a lot of balls and Frisbees stranded on their roof.
We all seemed so very alive back then.
|If I have this right--and it is 4:30 in the morning, after all--that's my Aunt Ruby, Aunt Dorothy, my father Delbert, and Uncle Paul.|
I’m considering not taking vacations anymore. Too stressful.
I have to go back to work for at least a week before my stress levels fall enough for the stress of work to start getting to me again. Then I start needing a vacation, because the last vacation was too stressful. If Joseph Heller hadn’t already written it, I’d hit the best seller list with my own Catch-22.
Let’s start at the beginning, when we decided to vacation at a place called Turkey Run State Park. It was the vacation that ended up being a turkey.
A few days earlier, as I cleaned my glasses, a temple fell off. The temples are the parts that hang over your ears. Remove one, then try to wear your glasses. Yeah.
Whenever it’s time for new glasses I try to get the same frames, because the only thing worse than wearing glasses is wearing new glasses. And every time, that particular frame is no longer available. Every time. It’s like some kind of sick joke within the frame making business.
But this time, the optometrist office didn’t tell me the frames weren’t available. They told me the frame manufacturer wasn’t available. They’d been bought out. The optometrist was going to try and find some spare parts, which was fine except I was about to drive three and a half hours away.
Here comes the repeating theme of this story, which is that things kept working out even as my stress levels rose. During my last eye exam, my eyesight had hardly changed at all. I slipped the old glasses into the new case, and there they waited for a catastrophe just like this one.
It reminds me of the line from Apollo 13, which went something like, “I think we’ve had our glitch for the mission.” They didn’t stop to consider there might be more than one glitch.
We managed to fit all our camping gear, and the dog, into my beloved 2006 Ford Focus. I probably wouldn’t have used the term “beloved” before, but I really did love that car.
Guess I’m telegraphing the ending.
|Wait--I have to sleep outside with you? What did I do?|
Let’s go back to the dog, Bae (It’s short for Baewulf, and yes, I know it’s misspelled—don’t tell him). Bae had started his fall shed. He must have been exhausted, growing so much fur. We would open a window, and a tornado of hair would blast past us. It looked like a cloud of smoke, pouring from the car. No wonder he sleeps so much.
Meanwhile, Emily got a sore throat the same night we put a deposit down on a campsite. By the next morning she had a cold so bad I’m still not sure it wasn’t the flu. I bought a case of Kleenex and a barrel of Nyquil, and she laid on the couch and didn’t complain, because she’s not me. We were still going on vacation, she declared, because our deposit was non-refundable.
We’ll just eat the cost, I told her. Your health is more important.
She swept aside a two-foot drift of dog fur and gave me a glare that actually made me retreat into the next room. “I’ll pack the car,” I told her. She really hates wasting money.
The strange thing about this whole story is that we had a wonderful time, whenever we weren’t miserable. We’ve compromised on our camping style: She gave up the two-man pup tent and hard ground, and I gave up the giant camper with a generator and satellite TV. The important thing is the inflatable air mattress. We had a nice site, a roaring fire, and S’mores. We had some great hiking trails that traversed rivers, suspension bridges, and canyons. Yes, there are canyons in Indiana.
We had leash laws.
|This was one of the less scenic areas!|
See, in a state park there are rules, and one is that you keep your pets on a leash. The lady with the dog on the trail either wasn’t holding the leash tightly enough, or was letting her dog roam, and drag the leash behind it. It saw our dog, Bae. It wanted Bae.
It wanted Bae for dinner.
I found myself quite literally in the middle of a dogfight. To our dog’s credit, he went on the defensive. However, Emily was there. When there might be a danger to Emily, “defensive” becomes a snarling, clawing, biting, 90-pound whirlwind of kick-ass. There’s no reason I can think of why my attempts to drag him away didn’t result in major blood loss.
Which brings us back to our “all’s well that ends well” theme. No injuries. The lady dragged her dog away and apologized profusely, and once Emily knew Bae was unharmed she restrained herself from going after the lady.
There was also no injury half an hour later when a much friendlier dog came running after Bae, wanting only to make friends but not realizing our dog had just been traumatized.
Leashes, people. It’s a thing.
We lasted about a day and a half. Emily was still sick, the dog was stressed, and that was it. We decided we’d come back the next week and spend a few more days there, because Turkey Run State Park was really a wonderful place.
All we needed was transportation.
Next: The “Trip” Back
Jeff tells me he has all his chest tubes out, and so is tube free and is now running and jumping and dashing around … well, he’s tube free. And he sure is happy about it.He does have some rest and recovery to work on though. If you know Jeff, you understand why that’s work—I expect Cathy’s biggest need the next couple of weeks is going to be a supply of duct tape to keep him secured to a chair.
People have been asking, and I'm overdue to give an update on my brother Jeff's status:
On Tuesday he had surgery to repair the leak that developed around his chest tube. The surgeon, Dr. Greenlee, says the surgery was a success, but he did find cancer and removed the upper lobe of Jeff's lung, along with some lymph nodes. More samples were taken, so we're awaiting tests to confirm the diagnosis ... but I assume Greenlee wouldn't have taken that step if he wasn't already darned certain of the diagnosis. I also assume Jeff''s going to have to have some chemotherapy later on, but the next course of action on that front remains to be seen.So he's back on a chest tube, as the rest of his lung settles into the resulting space. However, he was looking really good on Wednesday and was already up and walking around, as well as sitting in a recliner instead of being stuck in bed. It was some major-league surgery. As of this writing he was in room 2205 (entrance 10 at Parkview Regional Medical Center), but I don't know if and when they might transfer him to another room. We expect he'll be in the hospital another 4-6 days.
In addition to a particularly rough case of pneumonia, the doctors are now saying Mom had a stroke at some point during this whole process. She’s now got a partial blockage of a carotid artery and is experiencing bad headaches and double vision—not to mention still having to recover from the knee replacement. She’s going to be seeing a neurologist at some point in the very near future, and otherwise it’s a waiting game for now … we’ll pass it on as soon as we know more.
Often I compose my social media posts in the wee hours of the morning, then set them to post in the afternoon, when more people might be reading them. So it was early Friday, when I wrote about how my mom Linda Taylor had knee replacement surgery, and was recovering and undergoing rehab at North Ridge Village Nursing and Rehab in Albion.
By the time those posts actually came out, she was in the emergency room at Parkview Noble Hospital. I didn’t get a chance to cancel the posts because that’s where we headed, too. It’s been kind of a long week.
They thought she might have a pulmonary embolism. In short, that’s a Very Bad Thing. Her oxygen saturation was way too low, among other things, and to make matters worse they quickly determined she had an infection, and pumped about twenty different antibiotics into her at the same time. (I’m exaggerating, slightly.)
The next morning we had word that it’s a bad case of pneumonia. It might be, in fact, the first time in history that a pneumonia diagnosis was actually a relief. The sudden onset was certainly a shock. She’s getting better, but still having problems with double vision that they haven’t quite figured out.
So … that’s been our weekend. I don’t know how long she’ll be in the hospital, but she still needs some time back at North Ridge while her rehab is going on—either way, visits, cards, and letters would be much appreciated.
When I woke up, I could feel in my sinuses that the weather was changing—again. Not exactly a superpower. Then I went outside, skidded across the porch, pried open the car door, got the car started (barely), and chipped ice off the mirrors while it warmed up and charged the battery.
But what I hadn’t expected was the way I felt after being outside for half an hour. Although overall I haven’t started feeling better from the sinus surgery yet (12 weeks to a year), I have been able to breathe through my nose much better. I think that actually works against me in weather like this.
In short, I’m not going out again until time to head to work in the snow tonight. But feeling under the weather (heh) is something we all go through. It doesn’t keep me from today’s task, which is to go through our vast collection of photos to pick out pictures for the Indiana history humor book. It’s bicentennial year—time’s a-wasting.
|Another goal: Avoid snow|
I don’t have this peculiar, almost pathological hatred of New Year’s resolutions some people have. Maybe that’s because I haven’t made one since 1989, and so haven’t experienced the loathing that comes with breaking them.
Still, I do set goals. I’m not sure what the differences is, except that resolutions come with a party hat and a large cup of questionable liquid. Goals should never be made while under the influence of booze, parties, or trying to impress woman. (Or men.)
My first goal for 2016 is, in theory, an easy one: to get published at least twice. Since 2011 I’ve had seven books published, which works out to … um … well, less than two books a year. (Now that I think about it, my 1989 resolution was to get better at math.)
It’s an easy goal in theory, because I’m already shopping three completed novels to agents and editors. With two more almost done, I could switch to independent publishing and get two out this year. The problem comes with finding time to write more books. By my count, if I don’t produce more manuscripts, I’ll run out in … um … a few years. So the next goal is the hard one: complete at least the first drafts of two more books by 2017. It’s a good thing I dedicated myself to writing full time. It’s a bad thing I still have my day job, which I work at night.
My next goal is to lose 35 pounds by spring. I’m not doing this for me: I’m doing this because my doctor told me to and, more importantly, my wife found out my doctor told me to. So this is a selfless act, something I’m doing for them. You fans, stop sending chocolate and chips to my home. Send them to my workplace, care of me. My day job workplace.
My final goal is to declutter my life, which translates to decluttering my house. Like many people who grew up poor, I can’t stand to throw anything away. “This broken 8-track player could be repaired! Suppose I lost my job, and this was my only way to listen to music?”
There’s a certain irony that many lower middle class people have more stuff than rich people do. When something breaks for a rich person, they throw it away; when something breaks for a less than rich person, they put it in the garage “just in case”. I do this despite the fact that I have absolutely no ability to ever repair anything.
Here’s another way to put it: If you keep something because you might need it someday, but when you finally do need it you have so much stuff you can’t find it—keeping it was pointless.
So my goals for 2016 amount to more writing and less of everything else. See? I boiled it down to one sentence, and left the resolutions to the United Nations. You might say I decluttered already.
|Another goal: Avoid snow|
I missed all the fun and exciting ice/wind storm stuff today due to a little post-operative problem. No, as predictable as it would be, I do not have another sinus infection.
I have a SUPER sinus infection. The doc gave me two shots of kryptonite today, and if that doesn’t work, he’s sending in Batman.
Boy, I wish I was kidding about the shots. I can barely sit down.
But at least we have power, for now, and a lot of people around here don’t. Just a quick reminder, so you don’t end up with the kind of pain I’m in: Be very cautious of fire, whether candles to light your home, or auxiliary heating like kerosene. Fire danger is high, and with open flames or generators, there’s a carbon monoxide hazard. Remember that just because downed power lines are quiet doesn’t mean they’re not live, and just because you can’t see ice doesn’t mean you aren’t about to look like Charlie Brown kicking the football. Be careful.
I suppose a weakened immune system from the surgery contributed to it, or maybe I just pulled that idea out of my nose. In any case, there isn't anything this week I can put off, so I suppose I'll just muddle through and hope Emily doesn't get it, which I think she is. Getting it, I mean.
And yet December has still been a bit better than November, so far.