Monday, October 30, 2006


Well, geez. I’ve stalled on writing this journal update because honestly? I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, and then really some more don’t know what to say. It’s not terrible news. It’s not fabulous news. It’s just more of the same, continuous, never-ending saga about Blaine and his ongoing struggle with cancer-surgeries-reconstruction-complications-more cancer-more reconstruction-more surgeries-more complications-more reconstruction-ooh-let’s-throw-in-some-radiation-now-crap. Those of you who are familiar with the journey certainly don’t want or need a recap. Those of you who are new to this site will have no idea what I’m talking about and assume I’m carrying on in my crazy-lady style as normal. Where to begin? How much to share? (sigh)

Little tiny chipmunk nutshell: My husband has cancer. It sucks. If you know all about it, just skip to the end.

Slightly bigger baby-squirrel nutshell: My husband was diagnosed with sinus cancer almost four years ago and naively, we thought he’d have one surgery to remove the tumor and be done. What optimistic morons we were.

Slightly even bigger full-grown squirrel nutshell: My husband was diagnosed with sinus cancer almost four years ago and the tumor was so stinking big that in order to remove it, the doctors also had to remove his soft palate, hard palate, cheekbone, and teeth. You could look in his mouth and see the bottom of his eyeball. Cool, huh? Reconstruction was set to begin later but before they started, our daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Blaine’s treatment was put on the back burner while we focused on her care and since then, it’s been one setback after another for him. Nobody’s fault, but frustrating just the same.

The gist of what really bugs me: Every surgery brings about a complication, which brings about another surgery, which usually doesn’t go as planned. Every surgery, we go in with the cheerful attitude that *this* time, *this* surgery, *this* procedure, should be the magical fix. He should be finishing up, getting back to normal, and all this will be but a blip in the rear-view mirror of life. And yet, it doesn’t. Nothing goes as planned; nothing has been easy. It’s almost embarrassing, like people are going to think we ENJOY the drama and are dragging it out on purpose. Trust me. We do not; we are not.

He’s had tracheotomy holes that wouldn’t close, bone grafts that didn’t take, tissue transfers that shrunk, a lip that forked in half, eardrums that have become blocked, ruptured, and then blocked yet again. Three (that I can think of, off the top of my head) unsuccessful reconstructive operations. How much general anesthesia can one person undergo? At last count, he’s had fourteen surgeries in the last three and a half years. And of course, one of the crown jewels in our “unexpected complication” tiara, a staph infection in his lower leg after they removed the fibula bone to use it to reconstruct his head. I didn’t know how serious the infection was until the doctor said to me, “Well, we’re no longer worried about him losing his leg.” Of course, I guess I should have been better prepared for how things could go after the very first doctor, after the very first surgery, said to me, “Well, we’re lucky, he’ll be able to keep his eye.”

He’s seen dentists, oral surgeons, plastic surgeons, oncologists, speech therapists, radiologists, prosthodontists, nutritionists, pathologists, neurologists, pain management specialists, therapists, and the Center for Disease Control, thanks to the MRSA infection. And like we don’t feel special enough as it is, at the end of the day …………… the cancer came back.


But, because we’re suckers for a good time, here we go again! Wheeeeeeee!

Blaine will be leaving for Seattle on Wednesday for yet another attempt to close up that hole in his head. This will be the fourth time we’ve tried it, and while it’s very tempting to cut bait and be done, and just go back to the Prosthodontic-Denture-Device-From-Hell that he wore earlier, the other side of the equation is that he’s come too far, and gone through too much, to quit now.

The treatment of cancer itself, obviously, is a life-or-death issue. But the treatment of complications and effects of cancer becomes a quality of life issue that can be equally as important to the person going through it, and his poor, pathetic, wilting flower of a wife who deals with it vicariously, and when all is said and done, she is SO going to Tahiti for umbrella drinks on the beach!

Hopefully, optimistically, confidently, with a little bit of luck, *this* surgery will fix things, *this* will be the last one, *this* should get his life back to normal. (Well, the last one except for the surgery he still has to have to get teeth attached to his implants ….. dear heavens will it never end????)

They will be doing, in essence, the same surgery they did a year and a half ago, where they took bone and muscle and tissue out of his leg to rebuild the oral cavity, only they’ll be taking it out of his arm this time. Since arms aren’t weight-bearing, we’re all hoping recovery is easier and quicker. And, we’re hoping that after this, he can eat without food coming out of his nose, talk normally, breathe normally, and that he won’t suffer from chronic sinus problems and pain. (Once the radiation burns finally heal up, of course.) And one small, teeny-tiny, last little thing, that he not get another resistant staph infection because ANOTHER six week stint of self-administered IV high-dose antibiotics through a PICC line and all the completely stinkin’ miserable side effects **that** entails would pretty much put us both over the edge is all I have to say about that.

Blaine will have pre-op in Seattle on Thursday and Friday, and then I’ll join him this weekend. Surgery will be on the 6th of November. Guesstimation is that he’ll be in the hospital for a week to ten days, then he has to stay in a nearby hotel for another week to ten days, depending on his recovery. Last time, I thought he could manage the hotel by himself, and then his brother planned to fly up from Texas and bring him home. In the middle of all that, Blaine’s mother passed away and of course, his brother couldn’t come. (You know, it’s a miracle we have ANY friends and people don’t shy away from us like the black freakin’ plague.)

THIS time, we’re not taking any chances and I will be staying with him the entire time, much to the chagrin of my children, who are quite certain they are being abandoned. (I hear our dear friend Joe R. breathing a sigh of relief, thought, since he was kind enough to cash in his frequent flyer miles last time to go up and get the poor guy!) We’re hoping to be home by Thanksgiving. Grandma saves the day once again and will be flying here to Georgia to take care of the kids. It’s no longer called “babysitting” around here …. She has “Month of November Duty”.

So, my dear, dear Internet friends. If I could ask of you a few particular favors, it would be that you pray, meditate, cross your fingers, or sacrifice a live chicken, whatever floats your boat, specifically for the following things to happen:

1. Serious (and I do mean serious …. have I mentioned serious?) pain management after surgery. He has been on narcotics for so long, and has built up such a tolerance to them, that in the past we have had quite a struggle in the hospital getting the doctors and nurses to take his post-operative pain seriously. Seriously. The surgeons at the Army Hospital in Augusta finally *got* it last time he was in and gave him enough drugs. The doctors in Seattle? Haven’t gotten it yet. I hope they get it this time, because while it *has* taken me three years to grow a spine, I’m no longer hesitant about calling some doctor’s home number at 2 am and opening up a can of phone-line whup-ass if I have to. (How do you think the doctors in Augusta finally realized we weren’t kidding around, and that he’s not just a druggie, looking for a fix?) Serious. Pain. Management.

2. Quite simply, that the surgery works. I’m not sure how much longer Blaine can plod along this path and maintain his mental health.

3. OK, you’ll think I’m a lunatic (what’s new) but Blaine and I never fly together if I can keep from it. It’s a crazy, irrational *thing* I have. And I know it’s crazy and irrational, but I have it anyway. Obviously, since I’m the one bringing him home from Seattle, we’ll be flying together. So please, pray that our plane doesn’t crash. Because despite Blaine’s maddening, annoying, extremely patronizing and rude commentary about how statistically there’s a greater chance we’ll be killed in a car accident on our way TO the airport, blah, blah, blah, shut up Blaine, it’s one of my biggest, most absurd fears that the plane he and I are on together, without our kids, will go down in a fiery crash, plunging us to our untimely and premature deaths and our children will wind up as orphans, doomed to lives of burlap sack clothing and gruel and stale bread for dinner, living in an orphanage with an evil, uncaring warden, holding out their dinner plates with a pathetic, “Please, sir, may I have some more?” I know, I told you, it’s ludicrous. But these are thoughts that go through my head at night.

So, thanks for letting me vent. Sometimes it’s good to write it down and get a black and white narrative of what exactly the poor guy has gone through, as a reminder. It helps me not get so annoyed with him on the days he doesn’t feel good. And liquor. Liquor helps a lot, too.

PS. I was kidding about the live chicken. Mostly.

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