Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Worst Day at Best Buy

My radiation treatment was late this morning, as the radiation-emitting machine (?) was temporarily out of order. Since my afternoon appointment would be pushed back accordingly, I decided to go in to my office to get a few things done; in the main, I hoped to purchase and set up a new computer workstation for one of our account executives.

So I greeted everyone late this morning, took the company charge card and headed over to Best Buy; they usually offer good basic systems at (as the sign says) the lowest price. After a few trips up and down the aisles, I selected a package deal on an HP system, and flagged down a sales clerk.

To get the super-low price on the sticker, BB requires that you buy the three items (computer, monitor and printer) as a package, paying the list price; then send in no less than five mail-in rebates, totaling over two hundred dollars in this case. The sales clerk, a young woman who was keenly bored with her job, tried halfheartedly to interest me in a more expensive system, then meandered off to locate the items I asked for.

As it turned out, they were out of that particular system; so, seeing that there were plenty of boxes with the next higher-priced system, I asked for that package. In a cloud of ennui, the girl retrieved one of those boxes, then explained that they were out of the correct monitor, and she could substitute a similar model. Fine, I say. She then placed a printer on the cart, mustered her energy, and managed to sell me two cartridges and a cable.

We arrived at the sales counter and processed the card, and she handed me a form. I was supposed to fill this out; it was obviously a xeroxed form to get me on their mailing list. I balked, and she insisted, like it was a government regulation that I register this thing, like a deadly weapon. (Her complete boredom with the whole sales process began, at this time, to turn to thinly veiled hostility.) Then the receipts came chugging out of the register, and the all-important rebate forms; but only three of them. The ones for the printer were missing.

My antagonist stabbed at a few buttons on the register, frowned (rather, took her existing frown and deepened it) and paged the manager. A long time passed, during which we did not exchange pleasantries, nor did I burst into flame despite her smouldering, eye-shadow-caked glances.

Finally, after a second page, Sales Manager showed up, cordless phone in his ear. He expertly poked a few buttons on the register, and accused me of substituting the wrong printer. "I didn't even pick out the printer! She put it on the cart!" A lot of button-pushing ensues, and it emerges that they are out of the correct printer. Big surprise. Another printer will satisfy the rebate, but add twenty dollars to the total. "Can I just delete the printer? I don't really need it." No, that will disqualify the largest rebate. Best Buy, in its wisdom, will only refund me $150.00 if I also buy an obsolete $70.00 printer that the manufacturer will rebate me the entire cost of anyway.

On the ropes by now, I agree. Give me the other printer. Ennui Girl and Phone-In-Ear went off to find the correct printer, and I perched on the sales counter to relieve my back pain. They come back to announce that the only one available is a display model, but that I won't get a discount for it; in fact, I will have to pay the additional twenty. I decide that I don't want the display model, or any part of the deal any more, and ask that the sale be voided.

This requires the summoning of yet another middle manager, who arrives shortly (phone in her ear, too; the badge of office, apparently.) She asks me for my receipt. "Receipt? I haven't left the store!" Finally, it appears that she has voided the charge, and wanders off. So have Ennui Girl and Manager #1. None of them has acknowledged me further, or told me if my transaction was complete. So, 50 minutes later, I stalked out of Best Buy empty-handed.

Frustrating, innit?

I ended up buying a better system from Office Max for a few dollars more, but at least the clerk was polite, and carried the carton to my car for me. The system was on sale, with an actual discount at the register; no mail-in rebate nonsense.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

At the movies

Well, on the new futon anyway. I haven't indulged in a movie review since switching my journal from Multiply, but since the pain meds have washed me up on the shores of 6:00 am, here are a few thoughts on the DVD I rented last night:

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was released last year, at great expense and to a lukewarm reception. It is a sci-fi adventure set in the interwar years, the 1920s and 30s, and calls heavily on all of the imagery of that era. New York, zeppelins, ray guns and flying helmets; all of the elements of the old pulp science fiction and flying magazines that we are all really too young to remember.

I read the reviews of the movie at the time it came out, and decided to give it a miss. Reluctantly, because I was intrigued by the visuals. Though too young, I have read those pulp magazines, and of course I have sat through a lot of dreadful movies just for the airplanes, my particular addiction. Not just that, but I have always had an affinity for the very imagery this film wallows in - the Streamlined Moderne, collectively. The twenties and thirties saw a revolution in industrial design; I did a paper on the subject in college, which I'll not reproduce here. But the images are still famous today: the Chrysler building, the Trojan-helmet trains of the New York Central - the flowing aerodynamic look incorrectly referred to as "Art Deco". This film is the result of the art directors being as infatuated with that movement as I was, but with a far larger budget!

It's also darn near unwatchable, as a movie; dull and devoid of adventure. Most of that huge budget was spent in making the film in the George Lucas mode - where the actors perform in front of a blue screen, and literally everything is painted in behind them with computer-generated imagery, "CGI". I'm sure that this contributed to the disinterested performances by the stars - Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie - all capable actors. It didn't help that their lines were dreadfully written, or that the plot was convoluted and predictable. No, this was a movie created by and for the art directors; a purely visual exercise with as much audience appeal as - well, my college term paper.

If you know who Raymond Loewy, Norman Bel Geddes and R. Buckminster Fuller are; if you've sought out and read old pulp comics like "Smilin' Jack" and "Air Wonder Stories"; or if you're actually old enough to remember this era, you might find it interesting to look at; "Sky Captain" is a rich catalog of imagery. But don't expect to find any of the adventure or wonder that these images accompanied, back in their day.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


New futon
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
fu·ton [Japanese, bedclothes, bedding : fu, bed, quilt (from Middle Chinese phu) + ton, round (from Middle Chinese thuan).]

Our old couch was a big overstuffed barge, comfortable enough but a bit large for the room; but its kiss of death was being peed on too many times by an old, incontinent cat. Cat urine is one of the most acrid, awful odors in nature - and despite how useful this phenomenon is for the territorial Tom, it's nothing you would want to sit on and watch a movie. We got our timing just right and hauled it out to the curb just in time for the municipal trash truck to take it away.

Today its replacement arrived, a beautiful new futon that Gail and I picked out, and which my mother insisted on making a gift of. (We'll call it an early wedding present!) The cherry stain matches our existing wrought-iron tables and standing lamps, and since it features folding platforms on each arm, does away with the need for end tables, freeing up some floor space. It also has two deep drawers underneath, useful for storing things and for keeping cat toys out.

I had a futon back in my postcollegiate days, but it was a crude pine knockup next to this item. This a beautiful piece of furniture, well-made and sturdy, and a breeze to open and close. I've just given it its first test nap, falling asleep in front of a movie; Gail has gone into New York for the day to get out of the house for a bit, since I have the weekend off from radiation and such.

Thanks, Mom! And no, Hugh is not allowed on it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A New Schedule, and The Purloined Package

I got up early today, not feeling too bad. I got a message from the radiologist's office requesting that I move my appointment up to today from Friday, so I called to confirm that I would. Then I decided I would go down to the hospital again to try to retrieve the package that arrived after I left on Friday. I was feeling strong with no pain medication, so I told Gail she could sleep in and I drove myself downtown.

I had to circle the hospital block several times to find a parking spot, eventually parking three blocks away. I walked up to the main desk, where the woman knew who I was as soon as I asked about the package; this marked the FIFTH time that Gail or I have been back to ask about the missing gift. She made a few calls and said that the package was in the receiving department, across the street and in the basement; and that "T. Lydon", who had signed for the package, worked there.

I walked, a little stiffly (my stamina is pretty low at the moment) across the street and downstairs, and then down two long corridors of nitty-gritty hospital business; boxes, skids, and discarded gurneys and chairs. I arrived at the receiving department, and after a few minutes (he was at lunch) located Mr. Lydon. My hopes were sinking already; the vast room I was in was chock-full of shipping boxes, of all sizes and shapes, with labels to and from everywhere imaginable. Remember the last scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the crate with the sacred relic was wheeled into a vast warehouse, surely to be lost forever? Spielberg must have been in this room.

T. Lydon began rummaging through the stacked boxes, muttering that he was sure that the package had been here yesterday, and eventually that someone must have taken it away. I was getting gruff and impatient, mentioning our many trips to retrieve the box, that it was an expensive gift, and that I wanted the package found or replaced. Several phone calls around the hospital failed to turn up the parcel, so I gave him my phone number and asked for the number of his manager.

I stalked out - slowly - and made my way back to the car. The three blocks that I had to cross were uphill this time, and I got short of breath with a block to go. I had slowed to a crawl by the time I reached the car. I drove home to pick up Gail for my appointment with the radiologist.

A short while later we were at the medical center, a beautiful new facility only a mile or so from our house. This time I was escorted into the actual machine that will be used for the treatments, a massive carousel of technology that gyrates around the patient/target, delivering its precise (one hopes) bursts of ionizing radiation. The movie I'll call up this time is Independence Day - the scene where the giant saucerlike destroyers move into position over the White House, and then doors in their belly open up; subsequently, lethal rivers of light pour out and blast everything into smouldering ruin.

The machine that rotated into position inches from my sternum was saucerlike, and having moved into position did indeed open a set of gunmetal doors. But instead of Hollywood carnage, all it delivered was a click and a brief hum, which I believe were x-rays being taken to locate my inner invader. A few moments later the massive engine moved ninety degrees and clicked again from my side, and then I was done.

My two weeks of radiation treatments will start tomorrow rather than Monday, still with the weekends off. I will be going twice a day; Gail and I were a bit dismayed to learn that we have been scheduled at 7:45 am and 1:45 pm each day. (That is the time I would normally be at work, but I've been enjoying my respite from the alarm clock; Gail is still on a West Coast schedule, and emphatically not a morning person.) But the visits will only take a few minutes, and the center is a very short ride. If my condition permits, I can spend some of the six hours between treatments at my office, or just fall back into bed if I feel weak.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A winged skull, a bleeding dagger?

No, just three dots. Late, as usual, for popular trends, I got my first tattoos today. I went in to the radiological medicine specialists for a calibration, of sorts. I was placed on an MRI machine, similar to the platform I will rest on for the radiation treatments, and a mold was made so that my arms, shoulders and back will rest in the exact same position each time. Then stick-on metal targets were added to calibrate the machine, I gather, and finally three little pinches as marks were permanently tattooed on my skin, on my chest and either side of my rib cage. They are just little blue freckles, you'd hardly notice them (I have a fair supply of the natural kind) but they will suffice to allow the radiation techs to line me up in the machine.

The goal of all this is for the radiation to accurately hit the tumor, without irradiating my healthy tissues too much. Later this week I will climb in again to complete the modeling process - "designed" especially for my chest and tumor - and then the actual radiation treatments will begin Monday. I've been warned of the side effects; tiredness, trouble swallowing, sunburn-like effects and so on. The literature states that the actual effects may lag a week or more behind the treatments, like the chemotherapy. But the goal is the same; kill the cancer, leave Dave. Sounds good to me. Maybe later I'll expand the tattoo into a battleship, or something.

Weekend update

3 o'clock
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
It's Monday morning, and although it's only been a few weeks, I miss my routine. I think it's safe to say that no matter what your job, even Monday morning at work beats your first weekend of chemotherapy.

Until that fateful Friday X-ray three weeks ago, I would typically have been at my incredibly disorganized workspace, with a coffee and a Hershey bar (yeah, awful breakfast...) and sizing up the workload for the day. If there were nothing urgent to get on the presses, I would probably be downloading my weekend flying pictures, and checking in with Gail's blog to see what she was up to in Vancouver. And Ed would be telling me about the latest worries about his daughters, and Judy would say her warm hello, and Kim would be hard at work already; and Mike would tell us about something he read that causes cancer. I miss them.

I'm going to try to keep up with that normal part of my life, though. I've ordered a workstation for my house so that I can take some design work home, and I will try to visit the office to update some software and help out when I can.

The effects of the chemo really kicked in this weekend; I have a counter full of pill bottles for dealing with the many side effects and the pain. I'm trying to eat well and not overmedicate, but I definitely feel like I'm on strong medicine. Sometimes I'm dizzy, or numb, always tired, and nauseous, usually when I wake up. Today I will go in for the first visit to the radiological doctor, who will "design" my radiation treatments with a computer, mapping out my chest and the location of the tumor; I will be getting zapped twice a day for two weeks. There will be more side effects from that, of course.

I miss flying, too. This "logbook" is serving another purpose now, but I hope that it will one day revert to what it was. For a distraction, I picked up the latest version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, and I've been trying a few things to keep feeling like a pilot. Last night I "flew" some instrument approaches, which is good practice anytime; instrument flight is mostly about procedures, and the MS software is very realistic. I even downloaded a Tri-Pacer model, but it ain't the same. I miss the noise, the smell, the vibration... the expense and the danger, too. At least I was in control.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


The chemotherapy is settling in, I guess. The hiccoughs are mostly gone, but so is my appetite, and I have bouts of nausea until I take the pills. (I'm taking a battery of pills, now; at least five daily.) And the swelling has gone down, but the site of my IV is quite sore. I'm still feeling some of the effects of the illness, too; I'm having some pain just now, and I went through the sweats again last night. Lastly, and pardon me for mentioning it, but I am painfully constipated, as I was warned.

So, there are this morning's grumbles. I knew this would be an ordeal, and it will be, but at least the battle has been joined. As I suffer through these side-effects, I think that my breathing has improved a little; maybe the tumor is having a worse time of it than I am.

With little to be done for me, other than keep me eating, Gail is turning her attention to the house; cleaning it up, and trying to begin the brightening-and-redecorating that we had hoped to do. I know it's been driving her nuts; this old, dark bachelor's house is in direct opposition to her bright Pacific sensibilities. I really wish I could help her more, but I just feel tired and useless in my current state. Frustrating...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Home, Hopeful and *hic*

Well, I started my day after a sleepless night with my third and last bag of chemotherapy. The drugs are starting to to have an effect on my stomach and appetite, nothing too severe; but I am having frequent bouts with the most minor and irritating of the lot - hiccoughs. It's foolish, but whenever I start to move briskly or speak a lot or even burp, the hiccoughs start, and I have to stand very still, hold my breath and swallow to get rid of them. My oncologist says that will go away soon.

Both Dr. A (the oncologist) and Dr. B (the radiologist) came to visit me this morning, each bearing good news. The last of my tests, the CAT scan of my organs, has come up clear. As Gail reported, the brain MRI and radiological bone scans were both clear as well. Dr. B claims that we can thus classify my cancer as "limited stage" lung cancer, and that my prognosis for remission is much better with this news. I will stay on my regimen of chemotherapy for the next eleven weeks, and Monday I will visit Dr. B's office for a scan of my left chest. This will be entered into a 3-D computer model which will allow him to design targeted radiation treatments. Under the combined forces of the chemo and the radiation, the tumor should be in for a rough time.

So it seems that I do have some good news today. Given that this is a serious illness, it's fortunate that I was diagnosed when I was - by chance, due to a cancelled office visit - and that I was able to be seen by a brilliant oncologist, who acted immediately to intercept this fast-growing threat. I have a tough road ahead yet, but this evening I am happy to be home and optimistic about my prospects.

I am most fortunate, as well, to have such a group of people in my life; my amazing fiancee, loving family, friends, internet pals, flying comrades and co-workers. Your notes and cards, calls and emails and support of every kind have touched me to the core - I can't thank you enough.

Day Two (placeholder)

This is Gail writing, because David was too tired by the end of the evening to write something up. We have excellent news, though, which David will elaborate on further when he gets home:

gailontheweb: THE BEST NEWS YET

Also, I'd like to point you to a limerick that our friend Karl wrote in David's honour, and the limerick David typed back on his cell phone:


Both Karl and David are limerick fiends, by the way; I can attest to the fact that they've both developed systems for limericking.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Day One

curative cookies!
curative cookies!,
originally uploaded by gail on the web.
My first full day in the hospital was a busy one. I slept fitfully the first night after Gail left, and only shortly after I fell deeply asleep at around 5:00 am an early-bird friend phoned me at 7:20. Ten minutes later I was wheeled out for my first test of the day, an MRI brain scan. The technician was friendly, and piped our local classic-rock station into my headphones as the machine is quite loud. (And quite small. I never knew if I was claustrophobic, but apparently I'm not, even with my head immobilized in a white plastic mask and inserted into a tube.)

Back in my room by shortly after 9:00, and to my chagrin no breakfast, but two pitchers of a chalky barium dye to infuse my system for the next test, a CAT scan. They gave me until 10:30 to put away two liters of the stuff - the second pitcher was the hard one - and then took me down for the scan. This one was easier, although the couch was uncomfortable for my sore back, as they only scanned my torso and hips.

Again back to the room at 12:05, where I began inquiring about LUNCH, since I was getting hungry; the many quarts of liquid running through my bod, from the various testing dyes and the constant saline drip, do nothing to keep the stomach from rumbling. (They do, however, keep me shuffling across the room lugging my IV stand to the bathroom.) Happily, I learned in short order that I was getting lunch, and my first run of chemotherapy, and a radioactive dye injection - all at once. A doc from my oncologist's office figured we could sneak in one bag before the bone scan, thus the isotope dye; which came with the cheery warning that my urine would become radioactive, and that I would have to handle it carefully! The chemo tick-tocked into my IV through a timed release over the next 90 minutes, with no noticeable effect; they said that the side-effects could be expected a few days later. Meanwhile I ate my lunch, every bit of it.

I was finally picked up for the bone scan about twenty minutes late, and made my third trip of the day to the basement (traveling everywhere in an escorted wheelchair, of course; the novelty is wearing off fast). Then I was left outside the imaging room door for a long spell, long enough that I fell asleep. Finally the tech brought me into the dim room and asked me her questions - EVERY separate testing department asks me the same questions, and requires that I sign releases. The series of images for my bone scan took the longest, since the table and me each had to be repositioned for each shot. The sequence required six frontal images to capture my skeleton from head to toe, including my skull from left and right; then two more for my arms; then four from under the table to get my back from shoulders to hips. For many of the plates I was able to watch the monitor to see my ol' bones in realtime; fascinating, especially my own skull, while I'm boggling away inside of it.

Dave blogging away at Mercy Hospital
It was nearly three hours until I made it back to the room, and when I got there my mom had been waiting over an hour. We visited for a while, then two of my close CAP friends came by (bearing cookies! Welcome, since dinner was lame) and eventually Gail came too with my radio and other goodies from home. Thankfully the nurses are lenient about visiting hours - and more - and didn't mind that we curled up together in bed to watch a movie on her Powerbook. Having done so, I am now using it to compose this entry, for her to post in my journal later.

Again, many thanks to the friends who have called and written. I can read my email and the comments to my journal on my cellphone, and I do appreciate them very much. My local friends are welcome to visit me too, although I've been warned that I mustn't be exposed to anyone with colds or communicable illnesses; my immune system is going to be severely depressed by the chemotherapy, and I'm getting two more treatments tomorrow.

(Email is still appreciated; I don't think computer viruses pose any threat!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

We Leap Into Action

Or into bed, anyway, which is fine with me as a base of operations. Gail and I met with Dr. A, the highly-regarded local oncologist, who has streamlined his normal procedures to take me as a client. We spent a little over an hour at his office, having a brief physical exam and being educated on the course of treatment he is recommending. (Chemotherapy, and radiation, but no surgery for a case like this.)

I am being admitted to Mercy Hospital tonight, and the first round of chemotherapy will begin in the morning. While I am there they will be performing additional tests to determine whether the cancer has spread, but Dr. A is confident that the best thing is to start shrinking the tumor immediately, since this small-cell type has a fast growth rate. It generally responds well to chemo, though, and he said I may get some relief from my secondary symptoms within a few days.

I don't know my room number yet, but I will be on the ninth floor, and probably in for 3-4 days. Gail will keep everyone updated on her website, but I should be able to read emails and send a few on my cellphone. I've been touched and greatly cheered by all of the support I've been given, by all of you who read here; thank you, it really helps. I am frightened, but determined to overcome this - and I look forward to the day when I will be flying you all over Pennsylvania, in thanks for your uplifting words.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

"Camp Jeep"

Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
Yesterday was HOT and humid, but Gail and I went out in it for a short while to see the WWII planes at the Mount Pocono airport. The Jeep corporation sponsored it, as part of a series of promotions called "Camp Jeep" - sort of celebrating the Jeep lifestyle, as it were. This event centered on a fly-in of planes from the Second World War, and the display of various Jeep vehicles from the same era, along with a hangar dance and musical acts on Friday night. I was contacted some months ago by the organizers to have our CAP squadron provide help with parking and flightline security, which we did.

Bent wing beauty
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
The event was quite a gathering, in regard to the aircraft; the B-17 bomber "Memphis Belle" that was used in the movie, plus a bevy of fighter planes: A polished P-51 Mustang, a burly Marine Corsair, a rare twin-engined P-38 Lightning, and a pair of massive P-47 Thunderbolts. It made for a great display out on the ramp, along with the various olive-drab vehicles, and the tents and period posters.

My cadets did well at their work; I got glowing reports from the event staff on their contribution. They looked to be having fun yesterday, smiling through the sweat and sunburns. Gail and I took pictures, of course; she was trying out my old film camera, the first time in years either of us have shot film. (I guess it was in keeping with the historical theme! My Pentax K-body is older than I am.) It's funny how obsolete film seems already - you can't review your pictures? And you only get 36 exposures, rather than the hundreds we normally shoot? How did we put up with this?!?

The event ended at 3, and a very motivated guy from the event staff began chasing everyone out. We were grateful to get back in the air-conditioning in the car, and decided to go look for a lake to wade in to cool off. We picked up shorts and some very cheap towels in a frightening foray into the local Wal-Mart, and drove out to Gouldsboro State Park. I used to go fishing there when I was a kid, and I remembered the nice white beach there. Well, I was in for a shock; the park is still there - but the lake is gone! The fishing pier and boat launch are still there, but the water is just about all dried up. They must have drained the lake for some reason; the other nearby lakes are low in late summer, but nothing like this.

So we went back down the road to Tobyhanna State Park - luckily, Pennsylvania is full of them - and spent a while by the lakeside there.

Friday, August 12, 2005

OK, here's the news:

And I wish it were better. I don't have any form of lymphoma; it is in fact lung cancer. The extra tests were ordered so that the pulmonary doc could be sure of what he was telling me, of course.

The mortality rates are much higher for this than for lymphoma, but that reflects the fact that this cancer usually strikes much older people. The doctor who did my biopsy is baffled by the results, since it's a statistical fluke for someone of my age and health. Hopefully that means that I will be better able to handle the chemotherapy and radiation treatments that will be necessary; I suppose that surgery might be an option too. I will know more this coming Tuesday, when I have an appointment with a crackerjack oncologist - from what I hear, the best fellow in the area.

Gail and I are stunned, of course; this is worse news than we expected. But if you know me, and have read the happier parts of my journal, you know that I have a lot to live for. More so than ever, I have been looking forward to a fulfilling life - with my good friends, my small but loving family, and a woman that I am madly in love with.

Thank you, everyone, for your words of encouragement. Please know how much I appreciate it, and how much it helps to hear.


For my friends and family waiting to hear the biopsy results, here is the latest: A preliminary report came to the pulmonary specialist this morning. His office just called to tell us that he is at the lab himself, and they are performing "additional dye tests" on my tissue sample. They said that the final results may or may not be available by this afternoon.

Gail and I don't know what that means either, except that we will have to wait a bit longer. So we are going about our business of putting the house in order, and enjoying a pleasant Friday afternoon. I hope you are all doing the same, and I will write here when there is any news to relate. Thank you all, for your support and concern.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Gail wrote about my biopsy this morning, while I was sleeping off the effects of the anasthesia:

Inside AviatorDave

At least I was able to sleep it off at home, as they did the procedure on an outpatient basis. Gail recapped the results, so I'll just offer a few impressions.

We had to sign in early; 6:00 am at the admissions desk. After a short wait, I was ushered into the outpatient surgery wing and given the requisite dignity-robbing hospital gowns to change into. At least now they give you two, so that by wearing one forwards and one backwards like a robe, you don't run the risk of offending anyone with a "wardrobe malfunction." A note to hospital-wear tailors: Buttons. Look into them.

I filled out a four-page form stating that I was perfectly healthy, and that I have never had adverse effects from anasthesia. Then I signed another form stating that I would not sue them if I had adverse effects from anasthesia. The lung specialist who would perform the procedure outlined what we would be doing, and I signed a form stating that I understood that everything could go horribly wrong.

With an IV inserted (absolutely painless, this girl was good) and my papers filled out, they told me that Gail could join me until I went in. She came in, and twenty seconds later the transport orderly showed up with my gurney. So I handed Gail my personal effects, and climbed up on the cart, and she flashed me our trademark wink as I was wheeled away.

After a LONG gurney ride (Am I still in the hospital?) I was in the operating room, glaring white everywhere. I was given a little pipelike thing to breathe from, which was bubbling and steaming like a tiny witch's cauldron; this was novocaine for my breathing passages. Then a shpritz in my throat for more numbness, and a hard plastic ring was taped into position over my mouth. A nasal cannula went into my nose. As they got me into position, my saline IV drip was switched to the hard stuff by the anasthesiologist; he said, "Now we are giving you something to relax. Do you feel anything yet?" I said, "No, I'm still lucid."

That was the last thing I remember.

inside AviatorDave
Originally uploaded by gail on the web.
My next memory was rolling along on the gurney again, with the doctor alongside. Surprisingly, I had the presence of mind to ask him whether he was successful in getting a tissue sample, and he said that he did and that everything went well. By 10:00 I was allowed to have a drink, and Gail joined me in the recovery room. I regained my equilibrium quickly, but was still groggy, and we came home for a long nap.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Didn't go flying this weekend...

I've been feeling under the weather for the last three or four weeks. Nothing debilitating, just a few symptoms that have been keeping me from being as active as usual; back pain, a tired feeling, and a persistent dry cough. After a week of this, I called my family physician for an appointment, but they said they couldn't get me in for ten days. So I asked for a prescription, and he sent in one for ten days' worth of doxycycline.

The antibiotic had no effect, so I made another appointment, and managed to get one at the end of the same week. But that day - last Friday - the doctor had to cancel his afternoon appointments, including mine. I didn't want to suffer through another weekend, so I left work early and went to the emergency room, hoping to beat the weekend rush and see the on-call doctor.

After a few hours' wait - four car accidents came in when I did - I finally saw a doctor, and told him my symptoms. He ordered blood tests and a chest x-ray. After these were accomplished, he told me that they had found a spot on my x-ray, and needed a CAT scan. So, another new adventure; I received a dye injection and rode in and out of the tube. Finally (it was almost sundown, and I had walked in at 2:30) I got the verdict: A 4-cm mass or tumor on my left lung. The mass is pushing on my breathing passages, causing the dry cough. The other symptoms are likely related to this mass.

The ER doc went on to tell me that a likely diagnosis for someone my age (38) could be lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes (Hodgkin's disease is one of the less-common types). Modern treaments for lymphoma are very effective, and the disease is quite survivable. Another, more serious matter would be lung cancer, which would require aggressive treatment, and could be harder to fight. But the main thing was to schedule a biopsy, so that the nature of this thing could be determined.

I was wiped out, of course, and terrified. The ER doc said he wanted to admit me right away for further tests and observation, and to see if a lung specialist could be found to do the biopsy over the weekend. I asked to be released so that I could go home and get some things, and look after my cat, promising to come straight back. So they took out my IV, and I went home, sweating bullets. I threw some things in a case - mostly the wrong things, in this case - and called Gail to tell her the news. I went back to the hospital and was admitted just before midnight. As I tried to go to sleep, I realized I was starving; I had forgotten to eat anything since lunchtime. The night shift nurses were ordering pizza, and finally brought me two cuts of pepperoni, which I devoured before falling quickly asleep.

I was in the hospital until Sunday morning, the first two nights I have spent in a hospital bed in my life. I can't say I enjoyed it, although it did give me a chance to sit and think and rest. My friend Angela from my CAP squadron came by; she is a nurse, and one of the few I could trust with this troubling news. (I wanted to wait until I knew more, and could get out of the hospital, to tell my mother.) It was good to have someone to talk to other than medical people - who were all friendly, but professionally detached. Naturally, no specialists could be found over the weekend, so I was finally released, since no more tests or drugs were ordered.

Gail arrived in Scranton from Vancouver at 1:15 Sunday morning, after a chaotic 20-hour dash across the continent by bus, car, plane, subway and who-knows-what else. Seeing her, and having her here, did more to lift my spirits than anything; she is calm and rational, and loving, and is helping me immensely to deal with this. Her actions over the last two days only confirm what my heart already knew - that she is an amazing woman, of singular strength and character, and that I love her. I was looking forward to seeing her under happier circumstances, to carry on with our wedding plans; but now, we will have to deal with this first I suppose.

So now it's Monday morning, and I am blogging this experience, to chronicle it for myself and for a little perspective; and to let my friends who read here catch up on the news. I just heard that the lung specialist will do my biopsy tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 7:30, so Gail and I will have some free time to be together at home - and straighten it up a little! Embarrassing, but I have been tired and achy, and really let the housekeeping careen out of control.

Sorry for the absence of flying stories and fun pictures this week. I trust my friends and family will understand, and I appreciate their support and encouragement. Whatever this turns out to be - and we really don't know yet - I will deal with it, with all of your help, and get back to happier matters.