I’ve seen a lot of waiting rooms in the last month. Big ones, small ones, with hard plastic chairs and comfy faux-leather recliners. They all have the same five magazines, though. People, Us Weekly, Sports Illustrated, Men’s Health, and Sport Fisherman’s Monthly. Some of them have TVs, which are almost always tuned to HGTV, showing reruns of House Hunters or Flip or Flop. These programs are designed to be as vanilla and non-offensive as they possibly can be, even though they are depicting the real-world struggles of couples having to decide between which of three caribbean islands to purchase, or agonizing over whether to add the tennis court or the infinity pool to their mansion.
All of this is to distract you from the fact that they’re going to bring you in a room and tell you that some part of you is broken.
When we saw the three doctors before our vacation, we knew that things weren’t good, but two of them had told us that things looked benign. We asked them point blank whether we should go on vacation, and they said that we should, so we did. For a lot of reasons that made sense then, and still do now, it was the best choice, and I’m glad we had that time to relax and be together.
I got a call from Surgeon 2’s PA with some preliminary biopsy results last week: a leiomyosarcoma, which is a cancerous mass originating out of muscle tissue, and usually aggressive in nature. We saw him in person yesterday and got the first face-to-face confirmation of what I’m facing: surgery to remove the tumor, and under his breath, probably some of my bowel. This thing is big enough that it’s taking up most of my pelvis and the rest of my organs are shoved up under my ribcage, but my bowel is where it should be and somewhat compressed. He was positive and nonplussed, scheduling surgery for October 2 to go in and get it out. We thanked him and left, feeling cloudy on the details.
When we first got opinions we didn’t get to meet Surgeon 3, from Johns Hopkins. We’d been referred to the bone guy in his group, who came off like Debbie Downer, and we decided to go with the other two opinions because they came from soft-tissue experts. Today, we met first with an Oncological Radiologist in his practice, who sat us down and explained how Hopkins was thinking they wanted to shoot it with radiation for five weeks before attempting surgery, so that the chance of recurrence in the future would be smaller. So according to him, the timeline to surgery moved back to somewhere in late November. Then we went to meet with the surgeon.
Surgeon 3 is a warm, pleasant fellow, who immediately explained what their collective thinking has been, why they were recommending radiation first (and possibly chemotherapy to help) before cutting, and what that would mean for recovery. What I’m looking at–and this is preliminary–is surgery to remove the mass, some of my bowel (if the tumor is leaching into other tissue) and possibly some of my bladder. While those parts heal they’d do an ileostomy for a few weeks while my guts heal up before reconnecting the plumbing.
He then answered our questions, in the clearest way possible, giving us the worst-case scenario because that’s what he’s supposed to do. I was stunned at this point, which is why I brought Jen with me to help navigate the details. When he answered the life expectancy question by saying five years is the standard measurement, I almost threw up on his pretty shoes.
I know they have to manage my expectations, and they have people who have gone ten and fifteen and twenty years after cancer. I know this is a rare and mean version of cancer that could come back anytime, especially given how big it is now. I know human bodies are imperfect machines that make no sense and do what they want when they want to.
I just want enough time with my girls to be here for the important stuff.
I shot this with an old Nikkor 50mm f/2 manual lens on the front lawn before Finn went up for bed. While it’s not the sharpest image, I love the look.
Mode doodling. Initial reports from the doctor’s PA are not as promising as we’d hoped. We have an appointment on Wednesday to talk to him in person.
We had a real nice turnout for our Maryland meetup last night, although Brian and I were the only ones to show up in a Scout. Erik and Brian came over from the Eastern Shore, and our two Brians came even though they don’t currently own IH. Bennett surprised Brian with a check from partial proceeds of the auction at Nationals this year, which was super cool of everybody there. We caught up over beers, told stories, and made tentative plans to get together in the fall.
No word yet. I doodled while I was in a boring meeting yesterday.
Our weekend was full of activities, starting with Finn’s first soccer game of the season. They’ve had a total of one practice since the season started, rain having washed out all of the scheduled meetings, but her coaches did a good job herding the cats and getting the girls to remember how the game is played, where they should go, and what the rules are. Finn did really well on defense, but got winded on offense pretty easily. Her team has several very good players who carried the team early, and the Fireballs won the game.
From there we picked up a friend of hers for a playdate in the Scout, stopped for a celebratory donut, and then I got to work bagging up 1/2 of the acoustical tiles in the attic, which had finally succumbed to repeated cycles of heat, moisture, and cold and dropped all over our stored baby gear. In four hours, I had it all bagged, the contents of the attic vacuumed, and everything rearranged. Jen offered all of Finn’s old clothing to Christi and Glenn for Ruby, so this week she’s going to go up and sort through the piles to see what goes and what gets sold. I also used our $10 handcart to bump the A/C unit down from the attic and stick it in the back of the Scout.
That evening we had friends come for dinner, and stayed up late eating, drinking, and sitting in front of a roaring fire to roast marshmallows. Sunday morning revealed a house destroyed by the girls, a kitchen destroyed by dinner, and two sizable hangovers. The girls went to church and I continued working around the house until the afternoon, when we had another family come and join us for dinner.
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I got an email last week asking if I’d like to teach a class next spring, which sounds really good. While it’s not a senior-level class (I think the full-time faculty claimed those for themselves) it’s one Jen and I have taught before, so I won’t have to worry about developing a syllabus while I’m down for the count.
We’re also building a list of stuff that has to get done before I can’t get up off the couch; This includes stuff like pulling all of the air conditioners from the windows, stocking up our inside wood supply, putting the hardtop back on the Scout, and kegging a batch of beer. I’m sure there are more that I’m not thinking of, but I know it’s going to get longer.
As usual I shot a ton of pictures on our vacation. The lion’s share were taken with the Fuji, although I did bring the Nikon out to the beach one day. The runner-up was a Canon Powershot a540, an 11-year-old point and shoot that I inherited from work with a waterproof dive case. Proving the adage the best camera is the one you’ve got, I took this into the ocean with us every day and just kept pushing the button whenever I saw something. Almost every shot taken from the water was with this camera, and I don’t care if they’re only 6MP; they’re all good.
I played around a lot with a cheap egg timer/photo turntable while we were at the beach, and had some mixed results. In short, I can see why it only got three of five stars on Amazon; what was supposed to revolve 360˚ only made it to 180˚ before crapping out. Still, what I got with a GoPro set to 5MP normal, and stitched together with a little app called Time Lapse Assembler wasn’t bad. I’m toying with the idea of taking it apart to see if I can wind the spring up tighter to make it work better; for a $14 investment I’m not too upset. Besides, the GoPro I’ve got isn’t good enough to really get excellent stills–I’d love to set it up for nighttime timelapses of the stars moving but the camera isn’t sensitive enough.
I definitely brought too many fucking cameras and spent too much time trying to organize gear. Next year I’m going to pare back and replace the two camera bags I lugged there with one good backpack. I’ve narrowed the field down to the LowePro ProTactic 350, which will carry two bodies, a couple of lenses, and a 13″ laptop with more room for gear than the model I’ve got at work. I’ll leave the Nikon at home and bring take the Fuji kit with me, as well as whatever manual gear I’m fucking with at the time. I did shoot two rolls of 35mm and one roll of 120 film, so I’m going to try and finish the 120 off this weekend and send it out for processing.
This is Chewbacca as they dragged her out of Brian’s garage. God, what a sad sight.
The local Scout guys are getting together next week to catch up, which will be great–I haven’t seen anyone in over a year. I’m hoping a few of the guys I haven’t met yet will show up. There’s Dwight, who lives right near the train station I use, who has a pretty green Terra. I’m going to send another email to the guy with the diesel Traveler I saw last month. And, there’s another new Scout in our neighborhood, under a tarp by the high school. I’ve stopped over there a couple of times but it’s always under cover. I’m going to ring the doorbell this weekend and see if the owner is home and likes beer.
From the weekend; stay tuned for a 360 video (you can see the Gear360 over Finn’s head in this clip).
I threw up only once, but like any good hangover, it helped a lot. That was after I was on my feet and getting dressed in the recovery room. My anesthesiologist, a lovely woman named Bonnie, brought me a cup of coffee, which I sipped gingerly, but that, a can of ginger ale, and about half of the IV bag came up into the wastebasket right after I put my socks on. The anesthesia they gave me was enough to keep me awake but not moving, until I tried to scratch my nose a couple of times during the procedure–where they had me in the middle of a CAT donut with a needle in my stomach. Bonnie had to up my dose a bit. I blame that and the raging caffeine migraine I was suffering through for my fluttery stomach. The procedure itself went well, and apparently they’ll be able to tell us something within 3-4 days. Jen drove me back home, and I crawled into bed and slept for about two hours before dinner. Jen and Finn brought Pho home and I devoured a bowl and a half of that before heading back upstairs.