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A Very Small Acute Infarct

I love “The Strokes“. They’re a smooth and tight indie band that sounds like a divine coupling of two other bands that I can’t quite articulate. And it’s driving me knutz!

As usual, I digress, but not too far (this time) from what I want this post to be about. It’s about MY Stroke – singular.

I met with my neurosurgeon today and we discussed the MRI report from last week’s exciting trip to the ER. In preparation, I read and tried to extract the signal from the medical jargoneeze in the write up so that I could understand what the stable-genius emperor is up to THIS TIME.

To achieve that end, I first present the appropriately redacted and annotated MRI report for your scrutiny:

In case you haven’t been following this gawd forsaken blog, the context of the matter is that I have 3 tumors in my brain (to complement the 3 lovely primary tumors in my right lung along with several enlarged lymph nodes).

My notes on the top right of the picture summarize what the serial, 1D, typed text to the left says about the 3 tumors in a more absorb-able, 2D tabular form. It’s actually all good news. Virtually no change compared to the late May MRI.

The NEW revelatory information in the report is highlighted in the red box:

New very small area of cortically-based restricted diffusion involving left frontal insula, most compatible with a very small acute infarct.

In other words, I formally had my first stroke. Whoo hoo!

The next thing I did was draw a 2D picture+words combo that provided me with the last bit of clarity I needed. My neurosurgeon politely said the drawing was technically wrong, but close enough. LOL.

In the picture, I only show one of the three brain tumors because the other two aren’t relevant to stroking it. 🙂

My neurosurgeon said that it was most likely only a coincidence that the infarction occurred in the same lobe as the tumor.

I’m not fully recovered from the effects of the stroke and I may never be, but that’s one of the emperor’s most devlishly effective tools hidden deep in his arsenal – “progression“. The bastid.

The most concerning symptom, my speech pattern, has gotten waay better over the last few days. I’m not jumbling whole sentences anymore but I often pronounce words incorrectly (sort of sounding like a funny baby).

A new symptom is that I feel something indescribably strange going on nerve-wise down my right arm every once in awhile. I’m still feeling too wobbly to leave my house without “supervision“, but that’s happened several times before and I recovered each time.

So, the next steps for me are:

  • To see what shape the blood vessels to and within my brain are in with a CT-angiogram of my head/neck.
  • Get an EKG-cardiogram to check for heart blockages that may break off and get me into the plural version of Stroke, like the band.

But wait, despite the thrill of experiencing my first stroke, I’ve been cleared to get my next Opdivo infusion tomorrow. Oh, and then I get a do-over with my radiologist on the following day when she will tell me the radiation schedule for nuking the two growing lymph nodes that need tending to. I hope it’s not groundhog day when I step into her office.

 

Got any kestions folks?

Categories: Cancer

D’oh! My First Post-Diagnosis Trip To The ER

July 14, 2019 1 comment

I think I’ve had a wonderful week of cancer-filled fun, but I’ll let you decide for yourself if you agree. So, here goes…

My latest brain MRI in late May said all is well “upstairs“. All three tumors were stable and the swelling around each of them was relatively unchanged.

My latest chest/abdomen/pelvic CT scan in late June indicated that two cancerous lymph nodes have grown large enough so that my concerned oncologist scheduled an appointment with my radiologist to have them Chernobyl-ized soon.

Since I didn’t know how many radiation treatments I’ll soon be having and I felt confident enough to go, I made a hastily planned 4-day trip to Florida to see my family. Of course, they treated me like a king and I enjoyed every second of the experience. Love you guys and gals!

One day after returning from FL, on the day of my scheduled visit to the radiologist, I “forgot” how to tie my shoelaces for a whole minute. Thinking it a bit strange, I nevertheless kept on moving.

I got in my car and shifted my manual transmission (several different times during the drive) but “unknowingly” left it in neutral and wondered why my car slowed down while I cranked the gas pedal to red line rpm range. Before my car stopped moving, I suddenly “figured out” why I was slowing down, I put the car into gear and lurched forward, frantically looking in my rear-view mirror for a car to shh-toop me in the bum. Yay, I did it!

Next, I dropped my notepad 3 times walking from the car to the radiologist’s office only 20 yards away. While in the office, I forgot what my birthday was twice within one minute and I had to X it out on the intake form. Strangely enough, I remembered who the president is when the nurse asked 😉 Next, the words I wanted to say started coming out all jumbled up and I relied on my wife for help in completing my sentences.

That “aphasia” was the trigger. While in the radiologist’s office, they called an ambulance and the EMTs gurneyed me out of the place, a la Britney Spears, for all the other cancer patients at the facility to see and get depressed about.

I was taken to the ER and they performed a CT scan and MRI on my brain. They didn’t detect a mini-stroke or anything unusual relative to my previous MRI and they sent me home after 5 hours with steroids to take (yet again). I can’t wait to open the unreadable, lengthy, itemized bill I get from the hospital bureaucrats and see if all the staff they had working on me were all “In Network“.

So, after all those fun and games, I have an appointment with my neurosurgeon on Tuesday, followed by an appointment with my oncologist’s nurse practitioner, also on Tuesday, followed by an Opdivo immunotherapy infusion on Wednesday, followed by another visit to the radiologist on Thursday. Oh, and I had to reschedule a Tuesday appointment with my acupuncturist so I wouldn’t have 3 doctor appointments to go to in one day.

Just think of all the co-pays I’ll be dishing out in the upcoming weeks in addition to the $700 monthly premium I have to pay for health insurance. I have the resources to pay for my healthcare, but it pains me to think about how many less fortunate people would be blown out of the water with the debilitating physical + financial double whammy.

On the bright side, it looks like I may be resurrecting my stoner days from college (and shhhh… my high school days hangin’ out with the kool kids). Whoo hoo! Among other heavenly benefits, cannabis helps me “temporarily forget” the worsening peripheral neuropathy in my feet. It’s way better on the body than drinking (which I have extensive experience doing), dontcha think?

Thanks for listening!

Categories: Cancer

My Disks

Here is almost three years worth of CDs that contain the CT scans of my chest and the MRI images of my brain.

At first, I was religious about asking for a disk after each test. I did that just in case I needed to go to another oncologist if my current one said something frightening like “I’m sorry but there’s nothing more I can do“. But now, it’s like meh, I don’t care if I forget to ask. I can always get the latest CT/MRI pair by stopping in at the imaging facility during normal business hours. By now, they know me like I work there. 🙂

Categories: Cancer

Gabba Gabba Hey!

I’ve tried Cymbalta and acupuncture to extinguish the fire in my feet caused by chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy.

I ditched the Cymbalta after taking it for 4 days and getting no relief. I’ve also undergone 6 acupuncture treatments so far with no bottom-line results. I’m still going to continue the acupuncture treatments for a while at $120 per pop because it feels good even though I’ve got a bunch of needles stuck in me by Dr. Wang for an hour. One of my dear friends jokingly said I liked it because I was being “poked by a wang“. Damn, I wish I came up with that!

My latest attempt at managing the heat is to take the anti-seizure drug Gabapentin (a.k.a. Neurontin). Lo and behold, it fuckin’ WORKS for me. Yay! It takes the heat away but it doesn’t take the numbness away and it doesn’t help the weakness in my right leg. But hey, I can handle those much better than pain.

Whenever I hear or think about the word “Gabapentin“, for some strange, free-association, reason it reminds me of the beloved punk rockers “The Ramones“. LOL.

Tommy Ramone, the last remaining original member of the Ramones, died of cancer at the age of 62.  Damn, that sux. RIP, Ramones.

Categories: Cancer

Uplifting Reading Material

Look at the uplifting reading material that I was given when I recently visited a pain management doctor…

Whoo hoo! My favorite pamphlet is the middle one because of what it says at the top, and the fact that all the people are smiling: “Let’s talk about the impending doom that will soon be upon you”.

Community-wide End-of-Life/Palliative Care Initiative

Yikes!

On a more “uplifting” but unrelated note, check out the new Bitcoin hat I bought from Etsy.com…

It’s much nicer than my older hat (see below) because, as one of my dear radar-nerd friends says: “It’s got more vertical aperture“. I hate hats that are so lacking in vertical aperture that you can’t see what it says when you put it on your head. 🙂

Categories: bitcoin, Cancer

Before And After

Before I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, I was always concerned about how to compassionately talk to a dying person, face-to-face. What do you say? How do you say it? Do you crack jokes? Talk about the weather? Pop culture? Politics?

After I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, I now worry about the transposed dilemma. How does a dying person talk to “living” person face-to-face? The same questions apply. What do you say? How do you say it? Do you crack jokes? Talk about the weather? Pop culture? Politics?

Since I’m not on my death bed, I don’t consider myself dying imminently. But the above rambling is a mild sampling of the type of thoughts that arise in my consciousness from time to time. It’s impossible to control which thoughts involuntarily appear in one’s head, but it’s possible to control how one responds to those thoughts after the fact. I try as best as I can to “think it” and then to “let it go“. An unhealthy, alternative response is to “think it“, “think it again“, “think it again“, “think it again“….. you get the picture.

For some wondrously strange reason, writing this post reminded me of one of the funniest scenes ever from the Sopranos HBO series. It’s not a “Before and After” scene, it’s a “Before and Waaay Before” scene…..

 

Since we’re all in a good mood now, here’s what I think is THE funniest Sopranos scene of all time: The “Mix It With The Relish” scene.

What’s your favorite funny Sopranos scene and, while you’re here, what are your thoughts on how to talk to a dying person? 🙂

Categories: Cancer Tags:

Year Three

April 12, 2019 4 comments

Wow! I just noticed that I haven’t posted anything on this god forsaken blog in almost three months. That’s a far cry from when I accepted WordPress.com’s “Post a Day” challenge waaaaay back in 2011. Being a total blowhard back then, I easily conquered the challenge and spewed some verbal diarrhea up on here every single day for the entire year. If you’re bored to tears (or you’re so weird that I wish you weren’t reading this blog), you can fact-check me by clicking on the “postaday2011” tag on this page and reading every post. 🙂

I’m stunned and thrilled to report to you that I recently “celebrated” my 3 year cancerversary 2 months ago. As you might guess, I’m quite a statistical outlier for a stage 4 lung cancer survivor. Did you know that lung cancer kills more people per year than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined? Yikes!

My first two years of doing battle with the “emperor of all maladies” were a breeze compared to this last year. I’ve been feeling a relatively slow, but sure, decline in my physical and mental well-being over the last 12 months.

Physically, the standard chemo (Carboplatin/Taxol/Avastin), brain radiation (CyberKnife), targeted chemo (Gilotrif), and immunotherapy (40+ Opdivo infusions) treatments have killed my thyroid and severely limited my mobility. The peripheral neuropathy in both of my feet, my right leg, and (most recently) my mouth has been getting worse.  The numbness is starting to creep up further beyond my toes and higher on my right leg. The “tingling” is morphing into “hot” pain. It feels like someone is slowly pulling up a stocking from my toes to my thigh.

Mentally, I’m feeling both anxious and exhausted more often. I’m finding it impossible to latch on to a new topic and perform a sustained, deep dive to learn more about it and revel in the warmth of a new understanding. And of course, it’s getting very tiring holding back those cancerous thoughts just chomping at the bit to burst through the door.

But hey, enough of the whining…. let’s have some fun while we still got time….

 

 

Categories: Cancer
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