Thursday, July 21, 2011

After Surgery

It's now been three weeks since my surgery and I am finally getting down to writing my first post.

First, I'd like to thank Nancy, Sean, and JoAnne for all their help. I couldn't have made it without y'all.

Adjusting to the drastic change in my plumbing has been quite difficult. Trust me, human technology is no substitute for the human body, as "designed" by millions of years of natural selection. The notion that this is how my body is going to work for the rest of my life is taking some getting used to.

So far, my last year of cancer treatment has resulted in a distinct decline in my quality of life in return for a purely theoretical extension in my life expectancy. I guess I won't know for some time how the calculus comes out in the end, but, right now, it's not at all clear that the cost/benefit ratio is less than 1.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The hotel room where I'm staying the night before my surgery overlooks the Astrodome, where I've attended many a baseball game during my life. I once slept in the parking lot to get playoff tickets. I took my daughter there when she was just a few months old--smuggling beer in her diaper bag to avoid paying high prices for warm beer. On a night like this, it's a good view.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tomorrow's the Day

Tomorrow's the day for my bladder surgery. At best, the beginning of new way of life. I hope everything turns out OK.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


So, next week I'm going into to surgery to have my bladder removed. I'll go under anesthesia with a relatively intact body and wake up with pee coming out of a hole in my belly. I think that this is one of the strange things about cancer therapy in general. As a cancer patient, you let doctors do horrible things to you when you are feeling relatively well in complete reliance on the expert's assertion that, if you don't, you will get sick in the future.

Friday, June 10, 2011


My doctor did a cystoscope yesterday and decided after looking around inside my bladder and kidney that the best thing to do is to remove the bladder. This presents all sorts of decisions. What happens if I decide to keep my bladder? If I have it removed, do I replace it with a new surgically constructed bladder (which involves wearing a diaper while being toilet-trained again)or an external stoma (which involves walking around with a bag of pee on my stomach for the rest of my life)? What to do about work, housing, caregiving, etc.? Lots of questions floating around. I need to work on the answers.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Going Home

This morning I'm flying to Philadelphia for a brief visit to see my mother, brother, and sister. I'm going this weekend because next week I'm beginning my treatment at MD Anderson and I suspect that I will not be able travel easily for some time in the future, if ever. Because of their disabilities, my mother and brother can not easily travel from Pennsylvania to Texas to visit me, so I'm going to see them. I'm glad to be able to go, but it will be a bittersweet trip for me.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

One-Hoss Shay

Have you heard of the wonderful one-horse shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it--ah but stay,
I'll tell you what happened without delay,

Oliver Wendell Holmes "The Deacon's Masterpiece or the 'Wonderful One-Hoss Shay'"

For more that sixty years, my body worked pretty well without much intervention by medical science. No broken bones, not much in the way of infections, not too much routine maintenance. I got fat in my forties, but other than slowing me down a bit, it didn't change my general perception that I was a healthy guy. I ate what I wanted, did what I wanted, and generally felt fine.

Last fall that sense came to a sudden end. Within the course of a few weeks, I was labeled a borderline diabetic and diagnosed with urothelial cancer of my kidney. I had my kidney removed and learned to control my blood sugar by changing my diet. I lost a few pounds. I felt pretty normal, but my sense of immunity was gone.

Now, the cancer has come back in my bladder and I have lost all confidence in my body. It's like Oliver Wendall Holmes's "Wonderful One-Hoss Shay," the buggy that was built to last 100 years, each part equally strong. It ran perfectly for a century and then, on the anniversary of its construction, collapsed into a pile of rubble, as every part failed at once. It seems like a perfect metaphor for my situation, but when I've alluded to it, nobody gets it--apparently Holmes isn't much read any more.

So, follow the link and read the poem. It's funny. And it helps me think about my mortality.

What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground!
You see, of course, if you're not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once,
All at once, and nothing first,
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
Logic is logic. That's all I say.