A few weeks or even months ago, changes in my body, how it worked, what it was doing, how the cancer was affecting things, that happened slowly enough I had to really focus on one particular area to notice what had changed. That's not the case now. Things change REALLY fast! Such as going from being just fine one minute, to coughing up copius amounts of blood from my trach and mouth the next. As in that's what happened this morning. I felt a cough building up. So I gathered my goodies, threw away all my trash, waved bye bye, and the second my ass hit the car seat I was hacking up beautiful bright red blood. Suctioned some out of my mouth before it was running down my chin and onto my chest. I'm no martial artist, I'm not trained in grappling or hand to hand combat, but I can handle myself pretty well in a fight if I have the need. Okay, lets make that used to have that ability. A few years back, a nice young man asked if I'd show him how to defend himself. After some discussion about how I'm not a trained person, and that I just do what feels natural, I reluctantly agreed. After about 20 minutes, and some mistakenly too strong knees to his thigh and hip, I said we needed a break before one of us gets mad. One of us was already mad, and I didn't notice. I turned my face away from his and got cheap shot. Not bad either, since it broke my nose…again. Well, I don't think he was expecting it, but I grabbed his throat, turned him around and was just starting to put him to done with a little nap time. When I got him all situated where I wanted him (leaning back to take his ability to really move) I whispered, "Shit happens fast, don't it?" Then he had a little nap time. Not long, since I only held on long enough for him to go out, but long enough to make an impact on what I told him. I'm glad I matured just a little, 25 years before that he might have woken up with a couple of broken fingers on each hand as a reminder not to mess with people you don't know.
It turns out, that's exactly how the cancer growth is affecting me now. It's damn fast, sometimes I have enough time to sort out how to adapt, most of the time I'm playing catch up with the changes. The bleeding issue is the most bothersome. I've said there are things I don't mention on the blog, or some that I don't talk about as they happen. The new and more pronounced bleeding is one of the latter. It caught me unaware Monday at my therapy session. I knew what it was when it hit, by the taste in my mouth, but I was shocked that I didn't have the prelude that normally goes with the hit. Then, Wednesday, it got me very early in the morning. Liz has changed work hours so she goes in at close to 0300. Something woke me up at 0150, I felt wet on my chest, and that's not in the normal. Since I don't lie flat, things I drool run down my chin, neck, then chest. I look down, and low and behold I've got a river of blood running my chin to the middle of my chest. No wonder I felt wet!!! Okay, so suction a poke of blood out of my mouth, fold the shirt so it sucks up and catches the river before it hits the chair, grab the portable suction and head to the bathroom. I'm telling ya, it was a damn mess, and a near fist fight getting that straightened out. Shit happened fast, baby, way fast. I'd been tasked with talking to the family about whether or not to stay home or go to Hospice House when the bleeding got so overwhelming that I can't deal with it alone. Wednesday settled that for me. Can you imagine how horrifying it would be to one of my children to find dad soaking in his own blood and having already died? No, no damn way they are going to have to see that.
Some of the other less nasty aspects of that is the sudden need for oodles more sleep during the day. That's not so bad, actually, since I'm also sleeping better at night as well. This too is something the Doc and I discussed in rapid fashion my last trip to MD Anderson. I wish I'd pressed him more for a generalization of a timeline for the various stages, but I'm going out on a limb and say the bleeding and the extra sleep need is probably in the hallway with Critical Mass up ahead. Still a distance out, but not nearly as far as a month ago. Since this is my first attempt at a terminal disease and prognosis, I'm kind of flying by ear. My warped sense of humor just hit with that "first attempt" remark. Run with it, he said, it'll be funny he said. So I will. First attempt at a terminal disease and prognosis, I wonder if I skip a step, does that mean I go back and have to start all over? I mean, damn, it would be easier to do if I had that extra knowledge about what to expect. It would make the transition time smoother for certain. It's also a damn shame that isn't how it works. One thing I have discovered is that when I'm bleeding particularly hard out of my mouth, that the tumors that are irritated are far back in my throat, and they plug off my intake of air through my nose. Yes, I'm using the trach and some of my nose to inhale air when I breath. If I leave the inner canula in my trach tube, I can't bring enough air in fast enough, and my blood ox starts getting lower and lower. As in 88 one time at therapy. I pulled the inner canula out and that jumped to 93 in a matter of two minutes, possibly less. I also have coughed up a couple of clots when the inner piece was out and those clots plugged the tube. Let's put that one down as "fucking near all out panic" when you can't draw a breath from any of my normal spots. Close enough to panic that I struggled getting the collar undone so I could pull the trach tube and get breathing again.
Remember my old saying "Panic Kills", it damn sure would have if I'd not kept it somewhat together.
I've found a couple of new places that are exceptionally hard but not tender to the touch, which leads me to believe they are cancer tumors. I do know that some of them are in areas where I have had surgery. Some of the tightness is certainly from that and left over damage from the radiation I'd gotten almost 5 years ago. In fact, I started radiation therapy five years ago next week. I did two treatments in one day, twice. Once for Christmas, once again for New Year's Eve. If possible, do not attempt to talk your radiation Oncologist into letting you do anything quite so foolhardy as that. Those to therapy days were like being hit by a bus, and a week later, being found still being dragged by the bus. No, that was foolish. So much for being Muy Macho! The new areas already had some degree of "hardness" for lack of a better word. but the surface area didn't change and increase as it's doing now. The jaw also is getting more of a constant thumping, like a tooth ache, only not quite that bad yet. Okay, sometimes it is that bad. The morphine slows that down, but I like to use it sparingly, not because I'd get addicted, but because to me it's an emergency medicine. For when the pain is so bad I have trouble using the little syringe they sent with it. Probably a little too late by then, but since it's used sublingually the lag time for relief is close to nil. With the lortab having to go through the PEG tube, the lag time to relief is close to twenty minutes. I prefer the morphine.
One bright summers day I was having lunch at Ken's Pizza in Liberal Ks, then heading to the house to fiddle around before resting up prior to the coming nights fun and games. I don't recall why we were home from the rig on a Friday. It will come to me soon enough. Anyway, I take a right and head up Kansas Avenue toward downtown when a Volkswagen Bug comes out of the Firestone Tire shop and promptly looses her left rear tire and rim. It goes merrily on it's way across Kansas and stops at the west curb. I don't recall what was on that corner, there's a convenience store there now. I stop close in behind the lady and hit the flashers. I parked at an angle behind her since loosing the wheel put her a little into both lanes. A couple of other fellas stopped off the road and were standing with me. I wish I could remember who the two dudes that stopped with me were! Damn, old man memory anyway. Man, I can see in my minds eye everything so clearly except the guys who helped out faces. Weird, huh? The bug was a standard cream color with grey interior, but not a super beetle. The Bug had Finney County tags. The lady, an attractive strawberry blonde, was very nervous and shaken up, so I asked why she'd stopped in Liberal. She said she was just going out for a drive, since it was so pretty, and ended up in Liberal where she blew a tire close to the Firestone store. Her other 3 tires where in really bad shape so she bought four new times. (I still can't remember who was there! It's gonna run me bat shit!) So, one of the guys has run down the street and picked up the tire that ran away, we've found all the lug bolts (bolts on a Bug, not nuts) and the guys were wondering what to do. The lady had no jack. I grabbed the bumper with my back to the car, and stood up. I needed help holding it, so one of the other guys grabbed on and we were able to get it high enough the third guy got the tire on and used the ladies' own wrench to tighten the bolts. We were walking back to our cars talking and laughing and deciding we all earned a beer, which we had. I got in my car, and parked on the east side of the street, the other two guys were parked just ahead of me. We looked in the Firestone shops door, there were 3 tire men standing there, and they turned the sign around from "Closed" to "Open". I think the general consensus between the three of us was that those guys were complete pricks, which we yelled at them in a most vociferous manner. We never did get that beer, not was I sharp enough at the time to get the nice woman, who I believe to be just a bit older than myself, phone number. To live and learn
Have fun today, kids. Remember, a gentle pat on the back is more effective than a kind word.