Thursday, November 29, 2007

Another update

Written by John, with additional notes and editorial fixes by Anna Another update. And Diane, not to mention quote help" from deck Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

So much has happened since the last time I wrote, and no amount of time will allow me to catch you up—but here are a few highlights:

First, Dillon. He seems to be doing okay, for a sickie. He sleeps most of the time (and in the cold, wet weather that's come on recently, who can blame him?). When he’s awake, he’s alert, frisky, friendly; he shoves his head between my legs begin and wants me to scratch him. The moment he’s lying down, he is rolled over to get his belly rub. Then he wants to go outside, almost always preferring the front yard to the back, especially now that Anna had what everyone says is a wonderful fence installed: a black wrought iron fence with spires and fleurs de lys on the gate that closes automatically and slowly.

As for me, I'm doing pretty well too. No cancer. A lot of after effects of chemo and steroids, and possibly the radiation. Plus a cough that had been bothering me for over a month, and which got bad enough to be worrisome, almost gone now; two chest x-rays were clear, and they gave me more antibiotics that seemed to work.

That leaves the larger problem of dizziness and the attendant difficulty of walking. MD Anderson folks, having graduated me to cancer check-ups in Houston every 2-3 months, recommended we proceed with diagnostic workups in Austin. Anna and I spent most of last week going to doctors’ offices, sitting in waiting rooms, and waiting for results. I think we had 7 doctors’ appointments in one week—2 with internist, 2 with cardiologist, 1 with ear, nose, throat doctor, 1 with endocrinologist, and 1 with oncology nutritionist. The cardiologist said the symptoms indicated adrenal insufficiency. The endocrinologist agreed and is in the process of determining whether my adrenal hormones—which control things like adjusting your blood pressure as you stand up—were merely suppressed by the steroids I took for 5 ½ months, or whether my pituitary gland was pretty much wiped out by the radiation. In either case, there exist treatments, we were glad to hear. I am on a small dose of hydrocortisone daily, with other tests scheduled for November 29 during which they will inject ACTH into my bloodstream to determine which kind of treatment is needed. There's hope that steroid induced adrenal problems will go away eventually; if it’s permanent damage to the pituitary, it will obviously require a longer term solution if solution is the right word -- management may be a better term. So I’m hoping for steroid induced problems.

I'm griping, but I'm here to gripe, and really I feel pretty good. I've been teaching this semester, and though I've missed a few classes because I had to go to doctors, either in Houston or here, I'm enjoying the class a lot. It feels good to be back in the classroom, feels good to stretch my brain, feels good to have smart students to whom I have something to contribute.

Anna is also doing well. I don't know how she does it. She's glad to be back in Austin, and she goes from place to place, does lots of work -- good work too! -- takes care of me and Dillon, figures out all sorts of things. She's amazing.

Among the amazing things she's done lately was to organize a 10 person dinner party Thanksgiving night. Zipporah Wiseman brought pumpkin soup and a wonderful leg of lamb. Jay Byrd made cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier. Stephen made succotash with fresh organic veggies, Oskar and Valerie brought an apple pie and whipping cream we took turns whisking, Diane and Jack brought blueberry pie and seasoned green beans, and Anna made a small turkey and the most sweet potatoes seasoned with rosemary, and a scrumptious cranberry endive salad drizzled with fresh bleu cheese. You could say we ate quite well -- somebody even bought asparagus, I think. But what was truly amazing was the conversation: it just flowed, and we laughed, and it flowed some more, and we laughed some more. And then people got up to go, and Anna and I took my dad back to his hotel, and that was that. Anna was in her element. She loves to give parties and go to parties and she's been mourning the lack of dinner parties at our house -- something we just haven't done much since I got sick more than 2 1/2 years ago. I think we both realized at the same time that there was no reason we shouldn't have a party and that we have lots to be thankful for, lots and lots in fact, and we should just celebrate. The New Year has officially started yet -- wrapping up 2007 -- but it's begun just the same, and I think we should get down and party.