Newsome’s Weblog


2008/second half in Review (Part 3)
January 4, 2009, 3:01 am
Filed under: Cancer

(since this is part 3, scroll down to start with part 1)

scaleBack on the liquid diet train

Due to radiation, I had lost my sense of taste – so food was as appealing as wet cardboard. A few weeks before our family vacation to Canada, I started to slowly come off the liquid diet and started eating soft food. After a while, I could start to taste a few things – meat and cheese were the first. I couldn’t eat much at a time, but at least I was starting to eat again.

Remember how I said that I stopped using the “mouth stretcher”? Well, I was getting tired of not being able to open my mouth very much, so I jumped back into my old mouth-stretching routine. Unfortunately, I didn’t reduce the time that I stretched or the tension setting on the device. After a few days, it became painful to even drink water. I was forced to go back to the liquid diet. I went to my surgeon and he said that I had what looked like an ulcer in the back of my mouth near the surgery site. He gave me some anti-biotics and told me to return in about 3 weeks. To drink each of my protein drinks, I’d have to use a prescription mouth numbing liquid, followed by Ulcer-ease (over the counter numbing liquid), then spray my throat with Chloroseptic – and it still hurt!

I go back to the surgeon and he says that it doesn’t look any better to him and that he wanted to biopsy it to make sure that it wasn’t cancer. I told him that it was hurting less, so he decided to wait another 3 weeks and check it again. This was a long 3 weeks. I was worried that I had cancer again. I was already getting skinny, but after another month and a half on a painful, liquid diet – I was down to my lowest weight of 125 lbs. When I finally go back to the surgeon, he looked at my mouth for less than 10 seconds and says “It’s healed”. Talk about being relieved! It was just what I wanted to hear.

To say that I was sick of Ensure and protein shakes would be putting it mildly. I’m eating regular food now, but I have to be careful with spicy foods.  My throat can’t take spicy too well.  I used to be able to eat really hot stuff – I mean, throat burning, tongue scorching stuff hot enough to make the people at the next table tear up.   Now, not so much. Maybe soon.

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2008/second half in Review (Part 2)
January 4, 2009, 2:13 am
Filed under: Random Stuff

(since this is part 2, scroll down to start with part 1)

The Family Trip

mapOnce every year or so, we go on a family trip with Alicia’s family. The beach, the mountains, etc – you get the idea. This past July, we threw traditional destinations and wisdom out the window and flew to Quebec. Well, to say we flew to Quebec would discard most of the important parts of this story. Our destination – Saint-Sauveur, Quebec. A nice little town about an hour northwest of Montreal. Alicia’s sister and her family were driving from Maryland to Quebec, and we were to going to fly. I was about two months out of radiation when we set out on our Canadian venture, so I wasn’t 100% sure if my energy level could handle too much – BUT, I thought “What could go wrong?”

The plan:

  • Alicia and I drive to Atlanta, then fly to Baltimore.
  • Rendezvous with Alicia’s mother at the Baltimore airport.
  • All three of us fly to Burlington, Vermont.
  • Rent a car and drive 3 hours to Saint-Sauveur, Quebec and meet up with her family.

Sounds easy, right?

We hit the road early that morning and there were just a few cars on the road: newpaper delivery folks, the woman that makes Hardee’s biscuits (I’ve seen the commercial, pretty sure it was her) and a couple of insane, vacation bound travelers.

Fast forward to the Atlanta airport – After almost undergoing a strip search and luggage check, we make it through security and start waiting for our plane. The weather was turning bad, so they started delaying flights out of Atlanta. This, in turn, started causing delays all up the East coast. After hours of waiting and several calls to Alicia’s mother, we finally got to board our plane. For the next 3 hours, we sat on the tarmac, waiting to take off. I didn’t see any babies or small children when we originally boarded the plane, but after the 2nd hour, I think they started sneaking them on board. The aisle was filled with mothers pacing back and forth trying to get their babies to stop crying. Let’s just say it was getting noisy in there. th_spongebob_buttAll of the whining, crying, kicking and screaming, was starting to upset the other passengers and they were hoping that I’d knock it off. I think I was beginning to embarrass Alicia. I had become one with my seat cusion – my butt was now square from sitting so long. I now had the physical properties of Spongebob, but more square and less yellow.

Somehow, my Mother-in-Law’s flight left on time – without us, and she arrived in Vermont before we got off of the tarmac in Atlanta. She got a hotel room and waited for us.

We finally get to Baltimore and the place is a madhouse. Tons of people are stuck at the airport and no planes are leaving. We camp out on a nice patch of carpeting and wait for our flight. At 1:30am, we get to board our plane and we sit even longer. The pilot announces that the fuel vehicle that fills up the airplane had run out of gas and was parked behind us – we must wait for it to be towed. Once we get out to the tarmac, the pilot announces that a maintenance light has come on and that we’ll need to taxi back to the terminal to have it worked on. Ok, by this point, this was beginning to resemble the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Hopefully, the “those aren’t pillows” scene with John Candy was not in my future.

Fast forward to landing in Burlington, VT – we land about 5 AM and the airport is deserted. The car rental places are closed so we take a taxi to the hotel. I ask the girl at the desk if we can have a late check out time and she says that it will not be a problem… Yes! Our luck is changing! We can get some good rest and start driving to Quebec later in the day… no rush. By 6 AM, I am out like a light. Babies don’t sleep this well. *BRAAAZZZZANNNG* *BRAAAZZZZANNNG* *BRAAAZZZZANNNG* I am rattled awake at 9 AM by the fire alarm. We rush to get dressed and throw our stuff into our suitcases. We exit the building and stand around in the parking lot with the other satisfied guests. There was no fire, just a false alarm. Now, I get to try to track down a rental car. All six car rental agencies that are located at the airport have zero cars. I call several places in town, zero cars. I finally find a place that has one car – it was a Jeep Commander SUV. This was back in the Summer when gas prices were at their peak, so this gas guzzler was gonna be pricey to drive to Canada for a week. The saleslady, who I will refer to as Bongo Head (wait for it), talks us into a pre-paid gas plan where we prepay for a tank of gas, at a discounted rate, and we can return the vehicle without filling it up. Sounds great – let’s hit the road.

We get to Saint-Sauveur and it is a nice place. For all the photos from Quebec, click here:
We went into the city of Montreal a few times and I really felt out of place. Most of the people there took fashion sense to a whole new level. Every woman on the street looked like she was headed to a fashion photo shoot – very stylish and metropolitan looking. On a good day, I’m doing well to match my socks and these folks evidently see the sidewalks as a fashion runway. I might as well have had a piece of hay in my teeth and said “garsh, wood-ja lookey thar” and “hyuck-hyuck-hyuck” when I guffawed at all the city slickers. Most people seemed really nice and not rude, maybe they only speak French (ba-dum-bump – rimshot).

The trip was enjoyable and we had a good time once we got there. I had been planning on putting just the right amount of fuel in the SUV to get us back to Burlington – and not a drop more. I had calculated MPG and the distance, so I was pretty confident that I was not going to give them any extra fuel since we prepaid for a tank. Once we arrived in Burlington, I go to turn in the SUV and the Bongo Head says that “the gas tank is empty.” I was thinking, heh heh I did pretty good didn’t I… She tells me that I have to go fill it up – we reply that we did the prepaid thing. She pulled up our invoice and said that she must have not added that to our total, so it wasn’t paid for. She now gets the brunt of all of that pent-up frustration from the beginning of our trip from all three of us. I thought my Mother-in-Law was going to beat on her head like a drum (told you). Did I mention we had a plane to catch? It was getting crazy in there, so Alicia and I left her mother with the poor saleslady and took the SUV to the gas station and filled it up. When I returned to pick up my Mother-in-Law, she was standing beside the airport shuttle with all of the luggage. We flew to Baltimore, parted ways with Alicia’s mom, flew to Atlanta, then drove 2 hours home. I needed a vacation after all of that. Wheeww.



2008/second half in Review (Part 1)
January 3, 2009, 5:19 pm
Filed under: Cancer, Random Stuff

“How I snatched the pebble and learned to hate trismus”

I completed my radiation therapy on May 5, 2008 and I was thrilled to be through with it. My energy was gone. The last few weeks of radiation had really burned me out (HAHA – just a little “sunburned throat/peeling neck skin” humor). Remember this thing – I was having to use the “mouth stretcher” more than ever because of the trismus (lockjaw). Remember the fitted mouth piece – during the last few weeks of radiation, I could hardly open my mouth because the radiation was shrinking (read as tightening) the tissue in the back of my mouth. I had already cut portions of the mouth piece away using my Dremel tool to help it fit in.

Sidenote: what are these folks thinking when they make a dental piece for radiation?!?! Hmm, you already have difficulty opening your mouth, let’s see if you can fit this inflexible, billiard ball sized, space-age resin wedge in your pie-hole.

Cutting some plastic off of the mouth piece helped for a week or so, but not for long. Each day before getting radiation, I would sit in a chair and use the “mouth stretcher” for about 45 minutes so that I could spend the next 5-10 minutes struggling to force the mouthpiece between my teeth. It got worse every day.

jigsaw

Once I left the radiation clinic for the last time, pebble in hand, I put the “mouth stretcher” away because I didn’t want to see it again. Unfortunately, this was a bad thing. I was still on a liquid diet and I didn’t feel much like talking, so I didn’t really notice that my mouth continued to tighten. Will this cause problems? Oh yes – stay tuned.

The letter from my doctor (photo at right) explained it all. If you haven’t seen the movie “Saw”, it probably won’t make sense.



Finally, back to blogging.
January 3, 2009, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Random Stuff

For the first half of the year, I did a fairly decent job updating this blog. The second half of the year – not so much. Actually, I haven’t added ANYTHING since June. Pretty bad – since the first half of 2008 was when I was feeling the worst. I could hardly talk, couldn’t eat, had zero energy, but the blog got updated. Once I got to feeling better I turned lazy.  I have no excuse for my laziness – I’ll try to make up for it with my 2008/second half in Review.  Hopefully, this will fill in some of the gaps.