Not As Big A Secret As One Would Think

Doctor: Uh, Mr. Griffin, I’m not quite sure how to say this…
[Peter and Lois boggle their eyes]
Doctor: … Kim ‘Baasenger’, ‘Baysenger’, ‘Basenjer’, ‘Bay-singer’? But now, on to the cancer…
[Peter and Lois gasp]
Doctor: You are a cancer, right? You were born in July? Now, on to these test results…

Family Guy, “Fat Guy Strangler” (11/27/05)


I guess I can tell the whole story, now. If not, I’ll take the beating.

cancer star chart A few months ago, Wife’s father was diagnosed with cancer. It started as an odd lump on the side of his neck that would get alternately larger and smaller, until it stopped getting smaller. Finally he went to see someone, who fortunately turned out to have a medical degree. The doctor took a sample and had it biopsied, and it was sort of a good news/bad news situation. The bad news: duh, cancer. The good news: it’s a very treatable form that has a good survival rate.

[Incidentally, you know what they don’t do in Baltimore that they do in New York? They don’t modulate their voices when they say “cancer.” Around here, they’ll say, “Mr. Smith got cancer.”

On Long Island it’s more like this: “Did you hear about Mrs. Stine? Cancer.” As though saying it aloud will somehow summon it forth. Those wacky Northerners, they’re so superstitious.


For whatever reason, Father-In-Law didn’t want the word to get out about this, so he asked us to keep mum about it. Immediate family only, thanks. And, for the most part, we were pretty good about it.

Not pictured: actual food. Not long after the diagnosis and the beginning of The Cancer Omertà, Wife and I were out shopping and were finishing up rather late. We both realized that we hadn’t eaten lunch or dinner and here it was, about 8:30. So clearly we were addled by the hunger because we popped into the Bob Evans restaurant on Belair Road, near the BJ’s Warehouse store. Despite the hour, there was actually a bit of a wait. Wife and I were—despite my advanced age—clearly the youngest couple waiting for a table. I think the average age of everyone else in the waiting area was about 125.

So we gave up our seats in the waiting area and went over to that corner near the register that has all the little rustic (or, should I say, “rustic”) doodads and candles and whatever else. While we were looking, Wife took a good look at all these 125-year-old couples waiting to eat at the Bob Evans. And that’s when she started to cry.

She cried because it wasn’t fair, she cried because her father is younger than these people, she cried because maybe he’ll never get to be one of these 125-year-old people waiting to eat in the Bob Evans restaurant. I managed to get her settled down a little bit when someone called her name.

Wife turned around and it turned out to be an aunt of hers, who wasn’t in the restaurant a minute ago. But she did notice her niece in the corner and came over to say hello. That’s when she saw the red-rimmed eyes and runny nose and asked what was going on.

And, just like that, the code was broken. Well…Wife swore the aunt to secrecy, and that lasted for a few weeks. But here’s how it completely broke free:

Not long after Bob Evans, a co-worker of Wife’s announced that she was forming a team for the Relay For Life, which is an annual event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. (On Long Island, of course, it’s the American Cancer Society. Heh.) This is a nationwide event, although it doesn’t take place on the same date everywhere. Wife agreed to join the team and set herself a fundraising goal of $200.

In the meantime, I said to her*, “What you SHOULD do, is set a higher goal and, if you make that goal, you can shave your head as a show of solidarity with your father.” She actually looked like she was pondering this idea and, sure enough, when she went back in and discovered that she couldn’t change her “official” goal, she let it be known that if the entire team raised $2000, she’d cut her hair off.

You’ll note, by the way, that great ideas like this are generally great ideas for OTHER people. I wasn’t going to do this craziness.

As the date for the Relay came closer, she and I started pushing the issue a little bit, using email at work and Facebook at home, and pretty soon it became known that Wife was working on this whole hair-cutting thing as a team goal. When her relatives started asking her why she would do such a thing, she finally told them that it was because of her father.

Getting started Almost done So the team reached its goal and, one fine evening a couple of nights before the Relay, Wife and I went up to her parents’ house. Her brother came by with electric clippers, and he and I went to work on cutting her hair down. That’s the first cut, to the left. Her mom, and her dad, and Wee One, and her brother’s two boys sat in rapt awe as we brought it down to about one inch, then did a second run at the 1/8” level. Wife didn’t want to go totally bald so that’s where we stopped. You can see, though, that she was quite hairless by the time we finished. Her mother just kept saying, “Oh, my” as the hair fell onto the sheet that was laid out. Her father watched but didn’t really say anything until it was done.

So at this point:

  • I’ve got a wife who, at this point still endures the risk of sunburn to her scalp when she goes outside;
  • her dad is, in fact, responding quite well to treatment. He finishes chemo in another couple of weeks, then they’ll put him through some tests to see what else might need to be done;
  • and the ACS has another $4000 to work with thanks to her team and thanks especially to Wife, who raised over $700.

As for me? Well, it’s all blog fodder, isn’t it.


*For the record, pretty much anything related to our conversations is going to be a paraphrasing. I’m sure it was a series of exchanges that would bore you into blowing your brains out.

I Had the Decency To Be Born in the Late Afternoon

Kent Brockman: At 3:00 PM Friday, local autocrat C. Montgomery Burns was shot, following a tense confrontation at town hall. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was then taken to a better hospital where his condition was upgraded to "alive."

The Simpsons, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?: Part 2” (9/17/95)


This has not been the Best Spring Break Ever, let me tell you.

codeine Wee One spent the better part of last week with sniffles and other cold-like symptoms that just kept getting worse, until we finally decided that maybe she needed to see a doctor. So on Friday, Wife kept her out of school and on Saturday, took her to one of those walk-in clinics. They looked her over, listened to her worsening cough, took a chest X-ray and pronounced her as having an upper respiratory infection. Medication-wise, they prescribed an adult-strength antibiotic and a cough syrup that had codeine in it.

Strong Stuff!

Over the weekend, her appetite plummeted. She complained of stomach pains and we figured that it was the codeine at work. We stopped giving her the cough syrup and by Sunday afternoon she insisted that she was well enough to go to Cheerleading practice. I took her to the practice session but gave her coaches the heads-up and permission to bench her if necessary. They did send her to the sidelines a couple of times but generally let her participate. I learned at the end that this was probably because she didn’t tell them that, during one of her breaks, she went into the restroom and had a bout of diarrhea as well. This was a new symptom, but I chalked that up to the codeine as well. On the way home we stopped at a Chinese take-out place and picked up a pint of white rice and some wonton soup for her.

We got home, had the Chinese food and watched The Amazing Race, which started late yet again because of the college basketball. Stupid CBS. So she went to bed around 10:00 which, given that we’re in Spring Break, wasn’t too awful.

At about 11:30 or so, I’m chitchatting with a couple of friends on Facebook and getting ready to wind things down so that I can go to bed a little early for a change, when Wife calls to me: “I need your help.” Upstairs I go, where I discover that Wee One is vomiting, big-time. On the off-chance that she’s got a touch of the food poisoning, I give her a charcoal capsule.

Charcoal (An aside: if you’ve got gas pains, whether they’re accompanied by diarrhea or not, charcoal capsules are like magic. And they’re not a drug, so there’s almost nothing in the way of side effects. You can get tablets, which aren’t great to take, or you can get capsules like you see here, or you can also get an enteric-coated pill which looks like a pink Good ‘n’ Plenty.)

A few minutes later, she’s vomiting again, except now it’s black because of the charcoal. At least she had something to bring up, but still. Wife decides it’s time to hit the Emergency Room. We all put on shoes and such, stick a bucket in the backseat with Wee One, and we’re all off to GBMC.

We got to go right in, because it’s Sunday night, and it’s slow. They gave her an anti-emetic to stop the vomiting, which worked pretty quickly. They also noted that, while the antibiotic dose might be on the high side, it should be OK. They did recommend stopping the cough syrup right away and gave her something else to take.

The next morning, her pediatrician gave her a prescription for a different antibiotic and she’s finally starting to feel better. So all is well in that department.

However, my specific complaint is with Wife and Wee One’s penchant for needing the Emergency Room in the middle of the night. This is largely a guess, but I’m pretty sure that 80% of all of our ER visits have taken place in the wee small hours of the morning. When I go to the hospital, it’s in broad daylight. The only advantage to going that late is free parking. And we usually get seen quickly. But still.

So, given that I’m already on the downhill side of life, and the medical problems should be mounting up pretty soon, I’ve taken a vow that it’s going to be time for payback. Heart Attacks will take place no earlier than 11 PM. Strokes, around 1 AM. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head up to bed, perhaps breaking my leg on the way up the stairs.

Enough, Already.

Jack: How is it that you didn’t know about the crash? About us?
Desmond: I push this button every 108 minutes. I don’t get out much.

Lost, “Orientation” (10/5/05)


igorVovkovinskiy Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon, Snowgasm, Snowtorious B.I.G….call it whatever you want, it’s a lot of snow. Statistically, as of February 11 Baltimore is THE snowiest city in the US this year, with a total of 79.9 inches. That’s just enough to bury the guy to the left, here. (His name is Igor Vovkovinsky, and he lives in Rochester, NY, which is now #5 on the list with a mere 63.9 inches.) As a means of contrast, Michelle Obama is 5 feet, 11 inches tall; she only has to go to Philadelphia, PA (#4) to be buried in snow.  I’d have to go to Erie, PA (#3). My next-door neighbor B would probably go to Syracuse, NY (#2).

And—AND! We’re not done. There’s more snow coming on Monday evening.

But, whatever. You can read all about the snow in a million other places, you can see pictures in the news and on Facebook (“Winter Snowstorm 2010”), everyone has a story of how they were snowed in away from the rest of the world and they had to SHOVEL THEIR WAY OUT, the horror…the horror.

The positive side to all of this is that you’re also seeing a lot of stories about neighbors getting together and digging each other out. Sometimes this means that they’re meeting for the first time. In our case, this wasn’t the situation (meeting each other, that is), but there was a pile of camaraderie going on this week. Everyone took some time to dig out one or more of the neighbors.

The last time it snowed a lot, our neighbor from across the street, who is a locksmith, was taking his work van through the neighborhood and he got bogged down in the snow. B from next door, his son and I all helped to dig him out and get the van about 200 feet up the slight incline to Harford Road, which was at least reasonably clear. A passing big honkin’ pickup truck coming up Harford spotted us and offered to pull him out the last 15-20 feet, which he did and then went merrily on his way. Locksmith and his wife said that they’d have us all for dinner as a “Thank You” once B’s wife, S, got home from China. (She’s studying International Business Law there for a year, but was due home for the intersession break. So if you need a lawyer who can speak fluent Chinese, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch.) (Oh, and don’t blame me if she doesn’t update; go yell at her.)

So this past week, we had everyone over at my place for the Super Bowl, which means all kinds of food, including S & B from next door, Mr. & Mrs. Locksmith, and the engaged couple across the street (who now need a moniker…give me a minute). A day or two later, it was brunch at S & B’s place. Shortly after that was the Thank You dinner at Mr. & Mrs. Locksmith’s house. And the next night we had dinner at the Engaged household (still working on it). And in the middle of all this, when we finally got one of the bigger vehicles to break free, everyone rode in the Shopping Expedition (Big Ford-related pun!) that afternoon. (Ooh, there you go: they’ll be the Ford Twins, since it was their car.)

As a result, between all the shoveling, and the meals at the neighbors, and the Nobody Goes Nowhere situation engendered by the snow, I’ve about had it with the togetherness. It’s not that I’m an anti-social person, but I definitely enjoy being social on my own terms. I don’t want to spend any more time with the neighbors, I don’t want to spend any more time with my family (Valentine’s Day be damned), I need some honest-to-god “me” time. I do realize that it sounds kind of asshole-ish of me, but I do need frequent periods of solitude or my anxiety levels go way up. And let me tell you what: they’re up. I need to get back to work so I can calm down. Especially since that’s where the BuSpar is, dammit.

This morning, Wife asked me if I’d take Wee One to her cheerleading practice this afternoon and I was only too happy, because I could work on this post and the other parents generally leave me alone. My luck: Ultimate Gymnastics is staging a kid’s birthday party this afternoon, which means that the normally-quiet waiting area has dozens of people in it, including a bunch of hyperactive seven-year-olds, plus the tables are all occupied, so my computer is a laptop in the literal sense just now, and I’m boxed in with all these other folks. I’m not claustrophobic, exactly, but I’m definitely an aisle-seat kind of guy.

So if you see a headline coming out of the Baltimore area about a murder-suicide in Parkville, that would be me.

It Really Is Through My Stomach!

Sam Seaborn: I flat-out guarantee you that if men were biologically responsible for procreation, there'd be paid family leave in every Fortune 500.
Ainsley Hayes: Sam, if men were biologically responsible for procreation, they'd fall down and die at the first sonogram.

The West Wing, "17 People" (4/4/01)


I've been doing little updates throughout the day on Facebook, and it's launched a bunch of questions. So I'm going to try to answer some of them here, all wrapped up in this tale. (Except this one: Becky, I have no idea.) Settle in, kiddies.

This is the part where the screen gets all wavy as we move back in time.

Childhood-obesity About a year and a half ago, I was at the doctor's taking my usual drubbing for not having a better cholesterol number. Apparently it's supposed to have only three digits in it, who knew. Okay, it wasn't quite that bad but it was consistently high, and consistently hovering around the same high number no matter what I did with my diet. So she finally got me a prescription for something called Pravastatin. It's a baby dose and it's worked great so far.

However, during the same visit, she questioned me about other possible symptoms of problems, and I denied having any issues, except for one thing, which I was able to trace back to a specific event. At the time, my office was on the third floor of a building whose elevator was frequently out of order. In addition, I was a busy enough guy that I often ate lunch in the car, while in transit between one building and another. So there were numerous times that I would eat lunch on the way to the office and then, on a full stomach and toting my rather weighty backpack, I'd trudge up the three flights of stairs and be completely winded at the top.

My doctor is a rather cautious type. This works out kind of well when you're as anxiety-ridden as I am, and kind of not when you're as anxiety-ridden as I am. She suggested that I go to the Allergy & Asthma clinic over at GBMC. This was also the time the ball started rolling on my nose surgery. So I went to the clinic and they told me that, in addition to the allergies I knew about, I also have a mild case of asthma. They gave me Singulair and an inhaler, which I've used maybe five times. The Singulair I used until I ran out and then I bailed out on it. In November 2008 I got my nose fixed (ream out my sinuses and rebuild the septum). This past spring, in May, I said something again about the stairs, and she sent me for a stress test.

Suffocatin The May stress test I discussed in this post (click for linky goodness),  so I won't rehash it here. However, a few weeks ago I found myself back in her office for my regular checkup, and the stairs thing came up again, with a minor difference: I found that I was still getting winded on stairs, even when I hadn't eaten and wasn't laden down with anything. Long walks? No problem. Shoveling snow last week? Keep it coming; I'm fine. Two flights of stairs? There better be an oxygen canister waiting for me at the top, 'cause I'm gonna need it.

Oh Yeah? Says the doc. Here you are; go take lots of tests: chest X-ray, Nuclear Stress Test, Echocardiogram. As it happens, the X-Ray place and the Stress Test/Echo doctor are in the same building as my doctor, however they're both out to lunch so I can't get anything done or scheduled right away. I call a few days later and get the tests scheduled for today.

So this morning I get the Nuclear Stress Test done (scroll down, lazy-ass), and afterwards I headed into the X-Ray guys, where I made the mistake of telling them that I had radioactivity cruising through my bloodstream. Oh, maybe you should wait, then, before taking some more radiation. Sigh.

Echocardiogram courtesy of Franklin Institute Later in the day, I headed over to the Sinai Hospital campus for the Echocardiogram. It turns out that having had patches shaved off my chest already was NOT an advantage for this test; they weren't going to hook me up to anything. However, they were going to spooge some conductive gel on my body and press the wand into various spaces between my ribs. Obviously that's not me in the picture (I nicked it from the Franklin Institute), but it looked a lot like that, without the electrodes. Once in awhile she'd turn on the audio and I could hear the blood swishing through my heart. I couldn't really see the image while the probe was on my chest, because I was facing the wrong way (just like the photo).

Then she had me turn on my back and the probe got jammed into the space at the bottom center of my ribcage. Does anyone remember the Biology term "Xiphoid"? That's the stuff. The tech tried her best to snap mine off, but I'm a resilient guy. This time, I was able to see some of the pictures of my heart, especially when she told me to take a deep breath. Those times, it came into high relief. It was kind of cool and I really was a little disappointed that she didn't have the means to print me a hardcopy of the picture. I'd even settle for an audio file of the swishing blood.

So the tech's unofficial opinion was that everything appeared to be OK, and that I'd get something in about a week. So I guess my warranty's good for at least that long. In the meantime, once work resumes next week, I'm going to continue using the stairs, since it's the closest thing I get to exercise lately. I figure sooner or later I'll build my stamina back up.


Get a Half-Life

Beth: I don't test well. Everyone knows standardized tests are fundamentally racist.
Dave: Beth, I know your parents should have talked about this, but…

Beth: I know I'm white. I'm just not white like you, Dave.

–Newsradio, "Super Karate Monkey Death Car" (11/4/97)


Right now I'm in-between medical tests.

This morning, I took a Nuclear Stress Test. This is the one where they shoot you up with a radioactive tracer and take assorted pictures of your insides to see where the tracer goes. 

PC090090  So I get there at 8:00, which is kind of a mean thing to do to a guy on vacation, and the first thing they do is insert an IV catheter into my right arm and tape the whole thing down. Then a little stuff is injected and they take me to a room with a treadmill. I have to stand on the treadmill but there's no treading; instead I stand there while they push this scanning box against my chest and take a few pictures. Out to the waiting room with me after that. 

A few minutes later they call me back in, to a room that looks like an X-Ray room except that the unit you lie under looks like a couple of desktop photocopiers mounted on a drum and set at right angles to one another. I lie on the table and put my arms up over my head, hands touching one another. This isn't especially comfortable with the catheter in my arm, but OK. I have to lie there for twelve minutes while this jobbie takes pictures, the copiers rotating a few degrees every minute or so. Back to the waiting room. 

Shaved!  I'm called back in again after another half hour or so, and this is where they have to shave my chest. (The photo at right is the one from the last time they did this. And after all the grief Wife gave me about that photo, I'm not about to ask her to do another one.) They attach about a dozen electrodes to my body and, a few minutes later, move me back into the treadmill room. The doctor comes in and away we go. I get another dose of tracer and we're up on the treadmill. And by "we," of course, I mean "me", since the doctor and the tech are both on the nice, steady, solid floor. 

We start off slowly, then a little faster and a little steeper, until you can't express my heart rate without using exponents. Then they push that scanner box up against my chest and scan me for about a half a minute, at which point they move the scanner away and slow the treadmill down. After all this, I'm a little wobbly, so they escort me back to the chair. Everything looks OK so far, he says, but once all the films come back from the drugstore we'll know a little more. 

Most of the electrodes are removed from my chest, and it's once again back to the waiting room for about fifteen minutes. Then I'm back under the copiers, this time with the electrodes hooked up. A few minutes later, I'm sent on my way. Information will be shared with my doctor, who will review it with me in February (February?) and if anything's really out of whack, with me later this week. 

So they set me free for a couple of hours. In another 45 minutes or so I'll have to go back for an echocardiogram. I've looked at a couple of websites to see what it entails and…well, at least my chest is already shaved. 

Was Blind, But Now I See

[Randy is temporarily blind]
Randy: It's not fun being blind. Why is Stevie Wonder always smiling?

My Name is Earl, "Monkeys in Space" (1/26/06)

I was going to do a post about my trip to the funeral and stuff, but frankly there wasn't much interesting about it, except for the pastor who insisted that my stepfather isn't dead, "He's only sleeping!" and used the story of Lazarus to back him up. And me, about to go up there and say a few words, including the poem from my last post with the line "I do not sleep." Heh.

But there were some consequences to the trip home, and some subsequent activities. Friday was the funeral itself, and afterward there was a gathering at my mother's place, where we served food and beverages (both soft and adult), and after that we headed over to my brother's to continue the memories and the consumption of the drinks. Contact_lens As a result, by the time I went to bed, I'd neglected to remove my contact lenses, which means waking up with a pretty uncomfortable feeling in my eyes. I took them out for a few minutes, rinsed them off and popped them back in. Then we packed our stuff and headed out to the Lucky Dill for lunch. (If you're ever in the area, you MUST go there. If you don't, you should go out and kill yourself. End of story.) After this (and one or two more necessary quick stops), we hit the road to head back to Baltimore. 

We weren't in a huge hurry, but we were hoping to reach Florence, SC, which makes a decent midway point for us. This we did, but it was nearly 1:00 AM by the time we got there. On Sunday we got up, got some breakfast and finished the trip, with the usual stopover at the outlet stores at Exit 95. Between the late start, the shopping and the bad weather, we got into Baltimore around 11:00 that night. 

Monday: I went to work and met with my boss for the day. That night I was watching movies on TCM and fell asleep on the sofa, again with my contacts in. 

This, I learned, is a Bad Thing. 

On Tuesday morning I woke up and, as is common for waking up with the contacts in, my eyes were kind of uncomfortable. I took them out, gave them a rinse and put them back in again. My vision was a little blurry, but I chalked that up to the lenses themselves being close to the end of their lives. (I should be able to use a pair for about a month before I have to change them.) On the other hand, my left eye was still kind of uncomfortable. After a little while I said "the hell with it" and put in a new pair. The blurriness didn't go away, nor did the discomfort. Uh-oh. I took the contacts out and began putting astringent drops in my eyes every 10-15 minutes. This didn't help, either. In fact, it rapidly got worse until any light source was unbearably painful to look at. The left eye was in agony and even when I closed it, it hurt to look at the light with my right eye. Finally, GF said, "OK, that's enough" and took me to the Emergency Room at GBMC. 

By this point, I had to keep both eyes closed while she led me to the car and piled me into the back seat, where the windows are tinted a little darker. We rode to the ER and she led me inside, where I explained my problem. Naturally, they ask for my insurance card and ID before they're going to do anything. Fortunately I always keep them in the same places in my wallet and I pulled them out for the receptionist, who asked me to "sign here" (where? Point, please, and I'll peek through the good eye) and then have a seat, where I sat with my eyes still closed. 

A few minutes later they put a wristband on me. I held it up for GF to inspect for accuracy. That may sound dumb, but when I was in there back in November getting my nose fixed, my wristband originally had me as a female. So yeah, we'll be double-checking that one. 

Some time later we were called into "the eye room". GF led me in and they put me in the chair. I had GF shut off the lights, so the only source of light was from the hallway. Still too much. Some time later, the doctor came in and put some anesthetic drops in my eyes. About a minute later, hey! I can see again! My eye still hurt like hell but at least I could see.

Corneal stain He put this fluorescent dye in my eyes and looked them over. He didn't see anything in the left eye (the one that hurt) but did see what appeared to be an ulcerated spot in the right. He left to call the opthalmologist and left us alone again. About a half hour later, the sensitivity started again. I later learned that the way the dye works is that it will normally remain in the tears outside the eye, but if there's an abnormality in the surface of the cornea, the dye will stick to that and turn it green. Who knew!

GF saw the bottle of anesthetic drops on the counter and considered just putting them in my eyes again, but I told her to ask the doctor. This turned out to be a good idea. Apparently there's a side effect of overusing these drops: it tends to eat away at your eyeballs. But the doctor said that we could use them once more and sent in the nurse to put them in. 

Finally he came back and told me that the right eye ulcer may be the problem, and gave me antibiotic cream for the eyelid (ecch) and also antibiotic drops, and a prescription for percocet so I can get some sleep. He also told us to call the eye clinic the next day and insist on a followup visit that same day. 

Next day: still with my eyes closed, we returned to GBMC and went to the eye clinic. Again GF led me through the parking garage, down hallways and so forth, into an elevator and up to the clinic's floor. While checking me in, the receptionist asked GF a few questions about me that I could easily have answered. Finally, I said, "Um, you know I'm here, right?" The receptionist said "Yes, but your eyes are closed." I'm STANDING here, honey; that probably means I'm not asleep. 

Into the exam room after a short wait and more eyeball-eating drops so I can see. Another exam and the eye doctor, who coincidentally is a nice bit of eye candy (a very nice person to see when one's vision returns, thank you). She told me that the "ulcer" in the right was some small blood vessels that had gotten into the cornea, which was unusual but not especially dangerous or painful, and appeared to be quite old. The theory is that they're from the time I scratched the cornea in that eye over 20 years ago. The left eye, on the other hand, was showing definite signs of my having worn the contacts waaay too much.

No matter what anyone says, contact lenses are not gas-permeable (or at least, not as much as they'd have you believe) and they prevent air from getting to your eyeballs. Consequently, the cornea can actually start to die from oxygen starvation. This is what was beginning to happen to me, but fortunately it was caught early. Also fortunately, eyeballs tend to heal relatively quickly.

So I got benched from work for the rest of the week, and I'm on a two-week vacation from wearing th
e contacts. As I type this, my distance vision is still slightly affected, but the light sensitivity is finally gone. And come Monday I start making up a lot of work. 

Because Working for City Schools Wasn’t Enough of a Test

John Pinette: [about having to shave off his eyebrows for his role as a woman on Broadway] It was very hard on me, socially. When you have no eyebrows… people don't know what's wrong. But they know something isn't right.

John Pinette: I'm Starvin'! (2006)

A couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that my doctor wanted me to have some followup bloodwork around this time. Unfortunately I'd forgotten what the test was about, so I called up her office. When the secretary answered, I gave her my name and asked whether or not I was supposed to fast before the test. 

"Is it a cholesterol test?" she asked. I told her I think so but I'm really not positive, could somebody please check? She put me on hold and, a minute later, someone else picked up. I repeated my question. This person told me that she'd have to pull my file and get back to me. I gave her my cell number and waited. 

And waited. 

If you've been reading this tripe for any length of time, you know how I feel about this sort of thing. So two days later I called again, and again repeated my dilemma. And again the secretary asked me if it was a cholesterol test. And again I said I thought so but wasn't positive. She told me, "Well, if it's a cholesterol test then yes, you should fast." 


Fine, I think. I'll go in and, if they wanted me to eat then I'll duck into the little deli/convenience store/whateverthehellitis on the first floor, wolf something down and come back. Before I hang up, I asked her, "The lab has the test order, right?" Yes, they do, I'm told. Great. I schedule the appointment to go over the lab results and hang up. 

The next morning, I head on over to the lab, which is in the same building as the doctor's office. I figure I'm going to go in, get the blood draw and get out again, so I use the metered parking on the street rather than the parking garage. Also, it's pouring rain and the trip from the meters is quicker than from the garage. Inside and up to the lab.
Where they do NOT, in fact, have my lab order. 

Downstairs to the doctor's office, where I tell them that the lab order that they'd told me was waiting wasn't there. Once again, I'm told that they have to pull my chart and see what's up. I stand and wait.

And wait. 

And wait until I realize that I've been in there nearly thirty minutes on my fifteen-minutes-maximum meter. I leave without further comment. 

The following week, of course, I keep the appointment. And when the doctor starts rifling through my folder looking for the labwork, hey: I've got a story to tell her.
But that's not even the good part of today's tale, kids.
During the visit, we went through some previous labwork, and she asked a few questions about the meds I'm taking now. I told her that the allergist had diagnosed me with a mild form of asthma, but I'd bailed out on taking the Singulair because I didn't think it was making much difference. She then asked if I'd used the inhaler, and I told her that I had, three times. But each time, I was able to trace it back to a specific event of overexertion.
Such as?
Such as the time I'd just eaten, then I put my 40-lb. backpack over my shoulder and climbed three flights of stairs to get to a meeting. And surprise! I was out of breath at the top. Chest pain? No. Tightness anywhere else? No. Wheezing? No, just out of breath.
Well, that was that. She ordered a stress test for me. Off to the second floor with you and go make an appointment.
So yesterday, I showed up at the office to get my stress test. I'm getting the short version. First, the nurse sent me into the room "on the left, with the treadmill in it" and told me to unbutton my shirt. A minute later she came in and collected some information from me such as height & weight, and current medications. Then she looked inside my shirt and said, "Oh, I'm gonna have to shave you. These leads won't stick to that." Out of the room and back in with a disposable razor in hand. Zip, zip, zip, and here I am:
Don't think I'm not a little itchy today. (Incidentally, I asked GF to take this picture and she asked me "What the hell for?" "So I can blog it, of course," I said. That's when she suggested that I was kind of sick.)
Next , the nurse stuck the contacts to my chest. After that is a small box about the size of a Tom Clancy novel, which is strapped to my body. This has the lead wires, about nine of them, which look like little clothespins. As she clipped them to the contacts, I thought, "gee, in any other context this would all be kind of kinky."
Now that I'm all hooked up, she put a pressure cuff on my arm and made me sit again, to wait for the doctor. While I was waiting, I could watch my EKG and heart rate on the monitor. It was kind of cool, playing the biofeedback game with myself. The doctor came in a minute later and put me on the treadmill. There are maybe three settings, each at a slightly higher speed and elevation than the previous one. Every couple of minutes he'd ask if I was OK and give me the heads up that the speed was going to change. At the end, my heart rate was up to about 160, and again I was able to fool around with my breathing rate to watch it change while I waited for the nurse to take the leads off again.
The quick version of the report was that everything looked normal, nothing to worry about. So that's one test down and now I still have to get the bloodwork done. I hear the lab has the order so there shouldn't be any problem, right? RIGHT??


Capt. Jack Doyle: My only child was murdered. She was twelve. Did you hear about it? What you probably didn't hear, and what I hope you never have to deal with, Miss Gennaro, is what that feels like. What I have to deal with. Knowing that my little girl likely died crying out for me to come and save her. And I never did. My little girl died afraid and alone in a shallow ditch bank by the side of the road, not ten minutes from my house. I know what it feels like to lose a child.

Gone Baby Gone (2007)


I've been having these weird mood swings lately. Those of you who report what I write to GF (who doesn't usually read this trainwreck, having much better stuff to do, like watch Dog the Bounty Hunter or the Lifetime Movie Network) don't have to bother telling her; I'm pretty sure she knows I've been moody. For the most part lately, my mood has been jutst plain crap, except when it's not, in which case I'm likely to be medicated. 

I think I know the reason for this, but I'm not going to discuss it here, since you don't have to know everything. But I will share with you that it's clearly affecting my sleep: I'm staying up very late, then waking up frequently at night when I finally do get to sleep. The meds aren't meant to help me sleep so I don't take them late in the day.

Last night I actually got to bed at a decent hour and slept through most of the night. The bad news is that I had a pretty upsetting nightmare and that played havoc with my attitude the better part of the morning.

Nightmare Again, I won't go into the deep details. I do remember most of them, which is unusual for me (I rarely remember my dreams), but the overall theme was that Daughter had died of an allergic reaction to an apple she'd eaten, and I couldn't get anyone to listen to me, or even care about it. And when her lifeless body was delivered to me, I (in the dream) completely lost what little cool I had left. And still nobody seemed to care. Nobody wondered why I was so upset despite the wailing and sobbing and whatever else I was going through. It was not a cool frame of mind in which to wake up.

It may be time to head back to the doctor to get myself a Checkup from the Neckup.

Never Say Diet

Mayor Phlegming: Good evening, citizens of Frank. In the past few weeks of the campaign, my opponent has thrown around a lot of fancy words to try to confuse the issues. Words like "exercise," "low-fat," and "diet" — words designed to scare us into changing what has worked for so many years. Well, I say let's stay the course. Remember, a fat Frank is a happy Frank.

Osmosis Jones (2001)


Today I entered into a pact with a couple of coworkers.

Queen-mary-2 I've lost some weight over the last couple of months. We're not talking about a great deal, here: since August I lost about 17 pounds. For some of you, 17 might be a lot, but for me it's about like throwing a deck chair off the Queen Mary. But it's a start, and it's motivating me to go for more. So when I heard about this support group cum wager going on at school, I decided I wanted to be in, despite starting several days later than everyone else (they started before the break).

Our target is for each of us to lose twenty pounds by the last day of school. Here's the kicker: if you don't reach your goal, you have to pay $200 into the kitty. This money gets split among those who did reach the goal. If we all hit our goal, well that's the prize then, isn't it?

So because the best diets always start Tomorrow, today was my last fling with the Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich at Subway, which is one of my favorites. I figure I have to lose roughly one pound per week between now and June 10, which is the last day of school unless there are snow days (note to self: pray for blizzards). As some of the crap foods which are leftover from the holiday (as there always are) get used up in the house, I won't replace them. And as the weather warms, I'll have a great excuse to go biking practically everywhere. I still have yet to put panniers on the new bike, so I'll have to take care of that to make it more useful for running errands. In the interim I'll get more walking done. I made the switch to almost exclusively diet soda awhile back; I'm going to try to leave soda behind altogether. (That one will be especially tough for me at first.)

And the best part is that it's not a New Year's resolution in that sense of the word; I mean I'd planned to eat better and be more active this year, but never phrased it as a resolution. It's a bet, baby, and I'm out to win this one.

Medical_scale For the record, I weighed in at the school's Official Weigh-In Station: the nurse's office. Today I weigh 273 lbs (up three over the break, not bad considering all the crap and alcohol I consumed). So the goal is to be 253 pounds (or $371.58, American) by the last day of school.

Wish me luck!

Venturing Out

Otto Meyer: [Honking car as it pulls into the Ray & Irwin Garage] Fellas. I'm glad you're here. Look, I need your help. Here's what happened. I had this blowout. I think there's a spare in the back. It may be a little flat. Take a look at it, will you kid? Is there an airport anyplace around here? Look, if the spare is flat don't bother fixing it. Gimme a new tire, alright? You ain't got a new tire? Then you'll have to fix the spare. But don't look at me. Move it, will you kid? You, you could be gassing up while he's working. What is it a staring contest? Come on!

–It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)


The day before I had the operation, I discovered in the morning that I had a flat tire. Well, that's no fun on a Monday, but what are you gonna do. I changed the tire, putting the compact spare on the car, and headed toward school. On the way I stopped at an auto repair shop–a real, reputable chain, mind you, whose name is a homophone of one of the presidents of the United States of America–to drop off the tire. The guy behind the counter told me it'd be at least an hour and a half. "No problem," I said, "I want to pick it up around noon." Great, all is well, and I headed in to school.

As it happened, I got out a little later than I expected to, and I found myself back at the repair place at 1:00, an hour later than I'd told them. When I walked into the entryway, the same guy was there, telling me "He's putting the plug in right now." Uh, glad I wasn't on time, then. He goes back into the garage area and emerges a few seconds later, telling me that the guy couldn't find the leak. He refilled the tire and nothing's coming out, so it's no charge. Hey, great! I put the tire back into my trunk and head back to work.

At the end of the day, it's getting dark so I move the car into a well-lit spot in the school's parking lot. I get the jack out of the backseat where I'd tossed it earlier, loosen the lug nuts on the compact spare, and start to raise the car. Let's see…what am I missing? Oh yeah, tire. I pop the trunk and remove the tire…

…which is once again flat, three hours later. I toss it back into the trunk, re-do everything on the spare and head home. Naturally, it's starting to rain.

So my car has been sitting in the same spot since I parked it last Monday. Today I decided to go outside on my own for the first time since the surgery. Up the road from me is a Mr. Tire outlet, so I head up that way and go into Mr. Tire. The way I do this, incidentally, is by making the left from Harford Rd. onto Linganore Avenue and then the quick right into the parking lot.

I go inside and tell the guy I need a flat fixed. He takes all my info, then asks which tire is being replaced (as in driver's front, passenger rear, etc.). I tell him I'm leaving the tire and I'd like to come back in about an hour or so. "No problem," he says. "I'll see you then." He sends a guy out to get the tire and I head across the street into the SuperFresh for some last-minute holiday shopping.

(This is where I learn the hard way that my new nose might not be quite ready for the laundry detergent aisle.)

Back out of the SuperFresh, about an hour and a quarter later. As it happens, I take an exit from the shopping center that has me south of the Mr. Tire again. But in the 75 minutes since I was there previously, a few guys have erected a new traffic sign: it is now illegal to make the left from Harford Road onto Linganore. In fact, they're still there, wrapping up their new installation. I have to drive up another 50 feet or so and turn directly into Mr. Tire's parking lot. So it's possible that I'm the last person who legally made that left. History!

I go into the reception area and there's another customer standing there waiting for someone to come along. I wait a couple of minutes. Then I notice that my tire is exactly where the guy had brought it. Of course, it's still flat. The hell with it, I'm in no hurry for it anymore, so I head home. They have my information; they'll call when it's ready, right? Only, it's about 11:30 now and I never heard from them, so I guess I'll have to follow up on this in the morning.

But I have to wonder why I'm still expecting people to come through on their promises. If the guy had told me that an hour wouldn't be long enogh, no big deal. I live a quarter-mile away. The other guy asked for an hour and a half; I gave him four hours and it still wasn't done when I got back. What the hell is it with these people?

Perhaps it's this: I went to Mr. Tire's website tonight to get their phone number so I can call them. One of the things I learned is that Mr. Tire is a subsidiary of a company whose name is a homophone of one of the presidents of the United States of America.

Go figure.