The month from hell

Yes, of course I’m talking about the improbable election of Donald Trump. Who isn’t? But I have more personal matters with which to attend.

On the day before the election I visited my doctor with complaints of persistent abdominal pains. As doctors do, mine wanted to rule out gall bladder disease. So he ordered an ultrasound. Good news. Nothing wrong with the gall bladder. However, the radiologist noted “spots” on my liver. Next up: a CT scan. Several days went by before I got the results. The doctor called me to schedule a visit for the next morning, and “you should bring your wife.” That last visit was the one we all dread. The tests revealed stage-four pancreatic cancer.

Before I had time to process this diagnosis, if I ever will, I wake up on  Sunday morning after Thanksgiving unable to remember my iPhone pass code. I then tried and failed to make sense out of the newspaper texts. When I tried to communicate with my wife, the mind saw the words, but my mouth could not articulate them. We better go to the hospital.

I was admitted. As it happens, I had suffered a stroke resulting in “expressive aphasia.” I spent the next few days and nights in the hospital. Oh, and by the way, you have diabetes, another consequence of the cancer.

I am now about a month into this, having to wrestle with new challenges. I have managed to keep my blood sugar levels in check, after some trial and error to figure out the right doses of insulin, which I administer twice a day. Pancreatic cancer, which is a particularly “aggressive” variety, continually announces itself with abdominal pain. The same pain that brought me to the doctor in the first place, although much worse these days. So I take medicines trying to stay ahead of the symptoms.

My oncologist gave me a few options, none of them good. Really, the best I can hope for is to “stabilize” the cancer to tack on a few months of my personal life span. That will mean “palliative chemotherapy” about once a week.

But we can’t start on the treatment until we can begin the blood thinners. And we can’t administer those until we have a clear CT brain scan following the stroke. My last one, yesterday, showed little residual effects of the clot. So, I will begin this morning to inject myself with a saline solution manufactured from a pig. One syringe in the morning; another in the evening. (Perhaps it is a ghoulish kind of blessing that I have accumulated an ample spare tire around my equator, giving me acres of mushy surface area for my daily injections of insulin and, now, pig fluid.)

To cover more bases, I have requested a “second opinion” from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. (Seattle is, after all, the center of cancer research.)  That opinion will not change the diagnosis. It may suggest an alternative treatment regimen.

I’ve had a good life. Nothing spectacular. I did not compromise my principles, such as they are. I have a wonderful family, with two beautiful grandchildren who are much too young to make sense out of what’s going on with their grandpa.

I will try to make the best of it in the weeks and months ahead. That will include, with your indulgence, offering my proverbial two cents on the world around us. I think it will help distract me from this ton of shit that was dumped on my personal doorstep.