The year 2002


Well.... thank goodness THAT year is over with! Chemo, radiation, surgery, loss of my father, September 11 th - definitely not a good year. Here is my deepest wish that 2002 is a great year for all of us. As I said last month I will no longer keep monthly updates here. Medically everything seems to be stable and we hope it stays that way. I will update as we go through the normal medical testing us'n post-cancer people have to undergo.


Made an appointment to see the surgeon, Dr. Moore, on 1/15. We already have the readings on the barium swallow and CT, so don't expect to learn anything new. Will post after seeing the doctor.


As expected, there were no surprises during the visit with Dr. Moore on Tuesday. In fact, it was the shortest visit I have yet had with the good doctor; probably less than 5 minutes from the time he walked through the door until I was putting my shirt back on to leave. Everything continues to look good. Have to see him again in April with a barium swallow and chest x-ray. That will mark the one year anniversary after surgery - a BIG milestone. Candace says it is possible he may release me at that time. However, I will continue to see Dr. Yaffe for several more years on a regular basis. (I don't want to start making plans too far out in fear it may jinx things!) One thing I have been doing is some weight training. My good friend, Harry, and Candace, conspired to start me working out 3 times a week with Harry. Not lifting much weight, but there has been a noticeable increase in strength in just a couple of weeks. Candace and I are heading down to Florida on Saturday to spend a few days soaking up some sun and working on the condo left us after Dad's passing. We have already had it painted and we hope to get new carpet installed while down there. After that, we will see about a bit of a kitchen re-do and some new furniture and the place will be ready to serve as a refuge from the rigors of everyday life.


Had a great trip down to Florida! Candace and I drove down on Saturday, the 19 th and came back up on Thursday, the 24 th. The condo was a mess! Looked just like you would expect a place to look after the painters have been in. We spent Saturday night at the local Ramada because the place was not livable. Worked our buns off on Sunday and Monday getting the place back together along with new Closet maid shelving in the pantry and linen closet and lots of cleaning. Repaired the toilet in the small bathroom (replaced all the innards); ordered new carpet and expect to have it installed before heading back down on February 4th. I will be driving down that Saturday before heading to the Keys for the 2002 Winter Star Party! Missed the WSP last year due to feeling REALLY bad after chemo and radiation. Not going to miss it this year and am getting very excited. The pile of camping and telescope equipment is starting to grow in the basement.


What a WONDERFUL trip to the Keys! Meeting many friends whom I had not seen for more than a year was great. Spending a week immersed in my astronomy hobby was great. Getting out and not feeling like a cancer patient was REALLY great! Even though we didn't get in quite as much observing time as we would have liked - the Keys weather was not with us this year - the trip was a smashing success. On the medical front, I have my appointment with Dr. Yaffe (oncologist) coming up on 3/7. He will be taking another peek at the CT I had done for the meeting with Dr. Moore in January. I need to set up an appointment with Dr. Moore in April and will have to have a barium swallow (oh goody!) and a chest x-ray for that meeting. Otherwise, I am doing just fine. Still lifting weights with Harry and still eating my big bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream at night.


Met with Dr. Yaffe on Thursday and everything continues to look good. It was a pretty quick checkup with the usual pokes and prods. He looked at the CT scan and didn't have much to say. I need to see him again in June with another CT scan. Will be going in towards the end of March for a barium swallow and chest x-ray and then see Dr. Moore in April. So far, so good!


Had my chest x-ray and barium swallow today. No reading on the x-ray yet, but the Doctor doing the barium said everything looked about as it did last time. Always love hearing that things are staying stable!


Last week marked the one year anniversary of my surgery (4/9) and the 18 month mark (4/6) of the initial diagnosis. Believe me, I'm as surprised as anyone that I'm still here! Have a meeting with Dr. Moore on the 16 th and Candace has insisted that it is time to go back to see my internist, Dr. Clark, so we have an appointment with him on 5/1. Most of our medical concerns have been about cancer, but she wants to make sure nothing else is sneaking up in the mean time. On Wednesday we head down to Florida for a long weekend. Hope to set up an installation of new kitchen cabinets while we are down for a week in June. Otherwise, nothing much else is going on at this end.


Time for an update.... I guess the biggest news is "Reflux from Hell!" Before all this started I used to suffer from reflux. Medical thinking is that the reflux may be at the root of the esophageal cancer. One of the good things about surgery is it completely cleared up the reflux. Well, it cleared it up, but only on a temporary basis. While Candace and I were down in Florida last month, I had a very bad occurrence complete with aspiration of the material down into the lungs. Since then the reflux has become a regular event. It has gotten so bad that I now have chemical bronchitis caused by the damage to my air passages from the bile and stomach crud. We are fighting back with various inhalers to open up the air ways, antibiotics and by now sleeping on a wedge pillow in an attempt to keep the crud in the stomach. The wedge pillow seems to be working, but I continue to cough, gag and retch from the damage to the air passages. Things should start to slowly improve. Other than that, everything else is ok. Starting back on my rounds of medical tests with a CT scheduled for 5/27 and an endoscopy on 6/10. Will report the results of those tests when available.


5/30/2002 20 days since the last update and what a whirlwind ride we have been on! First for the good news - my CT on 5/27 came back clear with the exception of a MAJOR increase in size of the left pleural effusion. To go back, all my scans since surgery have been showing pleural effusions under both lungs (bilateral pleural effusions) which are pockets of fluid between the pleura and the lung. Has not been a problem, but Dr. Moore always comments that he might drain them one of these days. The last couple of weeks have been very bad in regards to coughing, retching, gagging and vomiting and we were looking for an answer. The CT showed the left effusion had grown to fill 50% of the left chest cavity! Not a problem - we get in touch with a pulmonologist with Kaiser and he was going to drain the chest on Tuesday, 5/28. Went in for the procedure and it was noticed my pulse was racing at about 180. After almost 2 quarts of gunk was pulled out of the chest, the heart had still not settled down and I was hooked up to an EKG machine.

30 minutes later an ambulance was transporting me to the Coronary Care Unit at Northside Hospital in a state of atrial fibrillation. We are not sure when the fib started, but it's not a good thing. Cardiologist said the plan was to do a TEE (trans esophageal echo cardiogram) the next morning, make sure there were no clots forming in the heart and then shock me with the defibrillator paddles to try to return the heartbeat to a regular "sinus" pattern. I was put on a beta blocker called Lopress to slow down the heart and boost the blood pressure and was very fortunate that a few hours later the rhythm of the heart "converted" back to normal on its own. Was taken in for a nuclear stress test on Wednesday and failed. It looks like there might be some blockage of the coronary arteries, so... tomorrow (Friday) I am off to St. Joseph Hospital here in Atlanta for a coronary catheterization and, if necessary, balloon angioplasty. The cardiologist doesn't think there has been a heart attack nor does he believe there is any significant heart damage. If there is no blockage, I will be home tomorrow afternoon; should the angioplasty be required, will be spending tomorrow night at the hospital. Will post after this is finished to let you know how it goes. At least everything else is now easier with the 2 quarts of stuff gone from the chest! The CGV (choking, gagging and vomiting) has stopped and breathing is SO much easier.


Just a quick follow-up to the week's roller-coaster ride.

To re-iterate: a month's worth of chest pain was eased considerably by the draining of almost 2 liters of gunk from my chest. At that time, it was discovered I was in atrial fibrillation and sent to the hospital CCU. heart rhythm converted back to sinus rhythm on its own, but I failed a thallium stress test and was set up for cardiac catheterization yesterday.

The results? Excellent! No signs of coronary disease and no need to do the balloon angioplasty.

Questions that remain to be answered are: