Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Days In Between

After a fantastic dinner and evening with our good friends Jeff and Sarah, they dropped the two of us--Rachel and I--off at the hotel around 9:30. (Us old people can't stay out too late these days, you know.) And as many of you know, I spent the next hour and half glued to Twitter.

But in the room there was also this strange, black, rectangular box with gray buttons on it just sitting on the table in front of the couch. It was weird. And it felt like it was calling me.

The buttons were labeled with things like the numbers 1 through 9, VOL, CH, and a host of others I didn't understand (and I doubt anyone else understands, either), except for this big red button in the upper left hand corner labeled POWER.

I see why.

I felt it take my hand and pull it toward the rectangular box--my mind unable to resist its force. It was like I was in a short story by Stephen King. One titled The Button or something, and told from the ghost's perspective: "I pushed the button. I died." And that'd be it. A six-word story that he'd probably sell to Playboy for something like $5000 or more before selling the rights to Hollywood for some ungodly amount and then we'd get some hour and a half movie about a guy trying not to push a button.

But anyway.

I digress.

My thumb pressed the red button (obviously I didn't die) and the pixels on the black screen before me came to life. I was watching "the news" but quickly (and I mean almost instantly) I learned that I could not listen to the bleached-blonde lady and her male companion as they talked about what was going on regarding the healthcare vote in the Senate. I just wanted the live feed from the chamber. I didn't need or want the idiotic commentary.

So, I searched the channels for CSPAN. But apparently CSPAN is not a popular channel at this hotel as it was missing, along with the so-called "adult" channels (not that I was looking for those channels, I just happened to notice they weren't--)

Oh nevermind.

So for an hour and a half (way up past my regular bedtime) I read Twitter and posted to Facebook while the television silently displayed its images. Then, after eating two yogurts, I went to bed to join Rachel who had retired 45 minutes or so earlier.

Well, I didn't exactly join her. The room had two twin beds. Yeah. Seriously. So I climbed into the bed with virginal sheets and proceeded to sleep horribly.

Surgery was scheduled much later in the morning than I prefer, 9:45, but I had to be there two hours earlier. I took it as a good sign when they eventually got me to my "room" (which was nothing more than a small area with curtains as "walls") and the number was my favorite number: the number 9.

They put me through all the prep by getting me in my sexy hospital clothes, pumping hot air over me, and hooking me up to the I.V.

Then we waited.

At one point I say to Rachel, "I'm tired of this shit."

She's coloring, trying to take her mind off another hospital visit; another surgery; another possible bout of cancer. I doubt she's being successful. "Me, too," she agrees.

But it is what it is.

We keep moving forward.

It was near 10:30 before they took me back to the OR--the surgery before mine went longer than she (my surgeon) was expecting--but that's fine. If she needs more time working on me, then I would want her to take it and not rush. But, I was getting hungry. I hadn't eaten or had anything to drink since around 11:00 the night before.

Everyone in the OR was terrific--my doctor, the nurses, the anesthesiologist. We were all joking, laughing, and keep everything light. I felt relaxed. I felt good.

They placed the mask over my nose and mouth, then we all joked about the first time we ever saw the word "Sequim" and how we all incorrectly thought it was pronounced: see-qwim.

Then I went to sleep.


A couple of hours later I woke up groggy and dazed. I heard the nurse talking to me, but it took several minutes for me to understand her--for her words to actually become words in my head.

The first thing I said was, "How'd it go?"

She replied, "I know they got the biopsy, but I don't know what else they did."

I'm restless in the bed. I turn over several times, trying to come back to the living; trying to get comfortable.

Again I think, I'm tired of this shit.

I come too enough that they send me on to Recovery 2, or whatever it's called, where I'll meet Rachel.

Only Rachel's at lunch. With Jeff.


To be fair, Rachel was a trooper and only had a coffee during the morning while we waited for them to take me back for surgery. She didn't eat breakfast, so I know she was starving.

"She's at lunch and will be here in about half an hour," the nurse tells me.

I'm actually still kind of groggy, so that was fine. We weren't leaving anytime soon, anyway.

The nurse asks if I'm in pain, which surprisingly I was not in much. Probably still pumped up on something. She offers me something to eat: applesauce, popsicles, and something else I don't remember, but I remember thinking, hell no, that doesn't sound good.

"You have any pudding?" I ask.

"No, we don't."

What? Who doesn't have pudding available for patients after surgery?

Instead of saying that, though, I politely ask, "You have grape popsicles?"

They do and she brings me one.

A half-hour or so later, Rachel and Jeff come walking down the hall. They both get on me right away when I ask them how lunch was.

"You're not supposed to be talking," they both cry, almost in unison.

I can talk, I just need to keep it to a bare minimum. And no whispering.

I say something of the sort back to them and Rachel says, "Well, you sound kinda sexy."

Yeah. I know.

Rachel spoke with the doctor after surgery. She got most of the papilloma but will need to get the rest off during the follow-up visit in her office.

Wait! What?

That sounds like it's gonna hurt.

But I trust her. She's fantastic. So that's the plan.

About 45 minutes or so later, Rachel gets the car while Jeff and the nurse wheel me down to meet her at the front doors. We say thanks and goodbye to Jeff, then head to the ferry.

Well, Rachel, being the one to remember such things, asked the nurse before we left the room if we could get a medical pass for the ferry. That certainly came in handy as we aimed to get on the 3:00pm boat. Without it, we would not have made it.

The drive up HW 305 was nice. A beautiful summer day in the Pacific Northwest as we drove through forests and over the water. The ability to easily do both of those things in a matter of minutes, never ceases to amaze me.

We're headed to Central Market in Poulsbo because I'm hungry. Two weeks ago, you remember, when the surgery had to be aborted, we stopped at Central Market, as well. That's when I learned how delicious their New England clam chowder is. Holy cow. That stuff is good. So yes, we're stopping so I can get some.

Bluetoothed (is that a word?) to the car radio, we're listening to a playlist on her phone. She skips through a few songs before settling on "(Don't Fear) The Reaper)."


Now look, I really like that song, have liked it for decades now, and I'm not offended she chose to play it, but all I can think at that moment is she's either trying to tell me to not, you know, actually "fear the reaper," or she just really needed to hear some more cowbell. (SNL wouldn't let me embed the video, so below is one of lesser video quality. Still, god damn funny, though!)

More Cowbell - Saturday Night Live! from Robert J. Lunte on Vimeo.

I get my soup and we both eat in the car and enjoy the summer breeze, even if we're just sitting in a grocery store parking lot.

"What's your pain level," she asks.

I hold up one finger, then take another bite of chowder. Damn, this is good.

We finish eating and then continue heading down HW 305 toward HW 3, then across the Hood Canal Bridge on HW 104.

"The Days in Between" by one of my favorite bands, Blue Rodeo, came on and I thought, yeah, these are the days in between: the days we find hope, the days we live, the days we love. The days we're happy for awhile.

Between the days when everything falls apart.

And over the past several years, a lot has fallen apart.

I don't have bad news to tell you at this time, though.

And for that, I'm grateful.

During the past couple of years my posts have been about bad news I needed to share, or just flat out needed to write about.

But not this one.

This one is actually turning into the "musical" post. You know, kinda like that musical episode of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" titled "Once More, With Feeling." Except you don't want to hear me sing. (Neither before nor after surgery.)

We're headed up HW 101 now, nearing "See-qwim," when "New Dawn Coming" by the Cowboy Junkies comes on. Rachel turns up the volume. Begins singing. (She certainly sings better than I do.)

I look out the window, watch the beautiful scenery go by, and think about how lucky I am.

Despite all the pain, all the suffering, all the...shit, I have a good life. I know fantastic people, many of which I am lucky enough to call friends. I have a terrific occupation, one that allows me the freedom to deal with the all the shit, and which has been something I've enjoyed doing for 27 years now. (I hope for many more.)

I know who I am and what I stand for.

And I'm not afraid to stand up to the injustices I see.

Then, there's my family.

Yes, I miss my dad something fierce. That will never change. But I have my mom and yes, my grandmother. I can only hope to live as long a life as she has.

And, of course, there's my two boys.

I need to keep talking to almost nothing, right, so I downloaded a text-to-speak app on my phone. The boys have taken to it well (so far). The oldest asked me a couple of times if it was Siri or Alexa that was speaking, and I think he was a little disappointed when I told him it wasn't. I think, though, that I just need to put the phrase "I told you to stop!" on repeat. I mean, they're boys. Most of you understand.

And then, there's Rachel.

We're driving up the road that leads to our house, now only a little over a mile away from home. We're a little tired, not quite as hungry as earlier, and we're happy. "Break Your Heart" by The Gaslight Anthem comes on and she slows the car down so we can listen to as much of it as we can before being overwhelmed by the chaos of the boys.

I love you Rachel.

Thank you for riding this rollercoaster with me.

I have my follow-up appointment next week. Obviously, I'm hoping it's not cancer again, but whatever the case, we'll deal with it.

For now, though, we'll enjoy these days in between.

I'll let you know what we learn next week. Until then, take care my friends.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Of Course

I awoke to the sound of someone saying "Wake up, Mr. Anderson. You're in recovery."

It was the nurse.

Everything was black. I couldn't see a thing, but I could still hear her; like the lamp in the movie projector burned out but the soundtrack was still playing.

The audio track continued: "Wake up, Mr. Anderson. They had to stop the procedure. You're in recovery."

Wait. What?

The lights finally came on; bright hospital lights. Everything white.

"They were unable to complete the procedure," she said again.

My head spun, the fogginess of the anesthesia clouded every sensation.

I sat there and stared at the curtain, the fabric wall that separated me from the hustle of the medical staff.


As you may recall, my last surgery had to be aborted, as well. That's the last two surgeries--two routine, out-patient procedures--that had to brought to an end shortly after they began.

A few minutes later Rachel walks in.

What's there to say?

My mind was still in a fog, so I honestly don't remember if I said anything to her or not.

I didn't have a seizure.

Well, that's good.

The doctor visited with Rachel for quite some time after she called the surgery off, while I was in recovery.

I'm frustrated, but unlike last time, I am not raging with anger. I'm not yelling at the nurses or cursing to relieve my frustration. Instead, I just sit there. Staring.

It's surreal. I almost fall into a self-pity party because really, can't anything just go as fucking planned?

The doctor joins us a few minutes later.

She has terrific bedside manner. She's compassionate, concerned, and attentive--three reasons I have been seeing her the past couple of years. When she emerges from behind the cloth wall, I see the sympathy in her eyes, she seems just as frustrated as I am.

Bottom line: I have a very narrow passageway from my mouth to my vocal chords--and it needs to be straight. Mine, of course, isn't. There is also still quite a bit of swelling from the radiation treatments which makes the passageway even smaller.

So she couldn't get a scope down my throat--she didn't have one small enough. It's the second time in her twenty year career to see such a thing.

Of course. Of course, it would be me. I'm already in the 2% club for having a congenital bicuspid aortic valve; I'm one of the rare ones that has gotten staph endocarditis (and of the much rarer ones that have survived it--ok, that's like really good); and I've battled stage four tonsil cancer, which apparently the treatment helped screw up this procedure (though I think it would have been aborted anyway, even if there was no swelling from the radiation). I'm tired of being rare.

Ok. That's it. That's my fucking pity party. I'm done.

So, she couldn't remove the warts.

No removal. No biopsy. Nothing.

She gave us four options. The only one I'm going to tell you about is the one I'm doing next: we're trying again. She's going to get a smaller scope, probably one for a child, and we're going back to try this shit again.

Yeah, I'm pissed off about it. Yeah, I'm frustrated, disappointed, and sometimes sad.

But it is what it is.

If the next time doesn't work, then we'll go from there. I still have three more options, remember. But as some of you know, when you get down to the last few options, well, they all kind of suck, if not just completely outright suck. Here's to hoping we don't have to keep going through them.

So that's the latest. Thank you all for everything, Rachel and I appreciate all the love and support.

I'll let you know what happens next.

(No jokes about my small passageway.)