Blog/Newsie/Health Updates 3-27-23
Greetings, friends and family!
To those folks who were on the original share list for these things in 2020, thank you for check-ins, messages, hidey-hos about how things are going in the intervening time. As I have said to some, and others have hopefully (correctly) assumed, NO NEWS HAS BEEN GOOD NEWS ON THE CANCER FRONT. Thanks for being in our corner
With the passage of time, some lifting of The Plague, get-togethers, etc., we have had opportunities to share info with more people along our journey.
So to the folks who are receiving a message like this for the first time:
1—Thanks for being in our corner.
2—If you want to sift through any of the blogs I wrote in the 2020 process (gory details, chemistry, even some pix, and more) below is a link to the general blog page where you can see all the blog entries if you want more back-story information.
3—We have not and will not be sharing this journey on social media. Love to hear from you in all sorts of fashion—phone calls, Zoomy world, FB messenger, texts, emails, cards/letters (on PAPER) or what you will….But please help us keep this communication off the public socials.
For anyone who wants to view or re-view my 2020 blog entries, here is the link to the main blog page:
These things being said, I do have some updates to share now. Most of the news is good, sprinkled with a bit of misfortune.
-Cancer: holding steady. PSA scores remain very low, no new action in existing or new met sites. Feeling reasonably well for a guy with no testosterone (hormone therapy is suppressing it, remember?)
-The New-ish Thing: On Wednesday, 3/29/23, I’m having surgery on my back. The problem might be caused by a range of various things. I’m getting The Tiger Woods Fusion (one vertebrae up.) Ironically, Doc sez “no golf this year.” We’re upgrading sportsball and movie channels.
-All in all, we’re hanging in there.
-Remember, please, we are not using any public social medias to communicate these tidbits. Feel free to reach out in all the other ways!
The More Detailed Accounts
--CANCER. All remains reasonably well here. My PSA blood scores, taken at least every 3 months, remain very low. The number has hovered between 0.04 and 0.12, so fractionally less than 1 point. When I was diagnosed that score was 54.00. My oncologist continues to consider these current numbers low enough to use words like “inconsequential.” The metastatic sites on my bones remain what-I’m-calling “dormant”—they are not growing or active—and no new ones have been found up through my most recent bone- and CT-scans, which were just a couple weeks ago. The quarterly “treatment”, testosterone suppression with Lupron injections and bone-strengthening Zometa infusions, still has some side effects such as fatigue, cognitive focus/memory issues, muscle and bone weakness with difficulty building muscle mass, some continuing weirdness with my hair…all the things that testosterone takes care of when one has some. But I’m still here and functioning reasonably well, which is better than the alternative(!)
--THE NEW-ISH THING. For 3 or 4 years I’ve had some discomfort in my tailbone if sitting on hard things and/or in one position for a long time. More recently I started having some left-side sciatic discomfort—a little bit at the end of my London visit in Fall of ’21, a bit more in Summer of ’22. I went to see someone about it and a follow-on MRI revealed that a couple of my lower vertebrae were out of alignment (more on that in a second.) The first recommended remedy was physical therapy, which I did pretty regularly for all of Fall ’22…I kept doing it because after about 3 or 4 weeks at the start, the pain and discomfort got way WAY worse and the medical people (and my hopeful optimism) thought we could work our way out of it. We couldn’t. Option 2 recommendation was spinal injection of steroids, so we did one of those in December. The “average” person’s length of relief is about 3 months and sometimes people just stay better forever after that. My period of ‘pretty good’ relief was about 3 weeks, and it started degrading from there on. When it was mentioned to me that those shots can also have the effect of weakening or degrading the bones around them, that was the end of that (see FX of already having no testosterone.) We are now at the precipice of Option 3. I’ll be having surgery on Wednesday, 3/29/23, at Methodist/UnityPoint hospital in Des Moines.
So what’s going on down there? (Biology 101 warning) The lumbar L4 vertebra is out of alignment relative to L5 so it ‘sticks out’ a bit and pinches the big spinal nerve/s. There is also some arthritis build-up on the nerve-facing side of the L4 which increases the “impingement” pressure.
What has caused this? As with all things body-function, “it’s hard to say for sure.” Here are some things that may or probably have contributed to it: age, more sedentary living, weight gain, bone-weakening via no testosterone, cancer “lesions” (metastatic sites) on L2, L3, and L5 vertebrae, too many buckets of golf balls the last two summers, lots of back reliant physical labor and/or exercise over the years, and who knows what else.
How will surgery fix it? If you want to avoid the science and the gory details, you could go with this—I’m getting The Tiger Woods Fusion. Google will explain it all and maybe even have pictures. The only slight difference is Tiger’s was “L5->S1”, so one notch lower than my “L4->L5.” Here are more of the logistics for my procedure as I understand them. They are going to remove L4, insert cadaver bone/s, screw a steel plate into the bones in question, cement them on both ends, and put a little wire tube-like cage around it all to hold it in place. My own bone is expected to grow on and around the wire cage over time.
Recovery? No lifting of heavy things for a long time, nor even of light things for a good while, no physical activity like sports or building stuff, etc., considered until at least 6-week checkup, no golf this summer. On the other hand, I think they are going to get me up and take steps within hours (maybe even minutes) after the procedure, and the doc says “Walking, lots of walking” as much as I can tolerate. So lots of ever-longer walks in my future. We are also upgrading our streaming services, especially in the sportsball categories.
So this Fall and Winter has been, literally and figuratively, a pain in the ass, but I am very optimistic about this being the fix for the problem. Thus far the surgeon and his staff have all been great, very organized, kindly, and just the right amount of smart-ass-levity so we are feeling good about all that.
Whether things do or don’t go all according to plan, we will try to keep you updated if we can.
OTHER NEWSIE BITS IN CASE YOU MISSED IT (SINCE LAST BLOG POST IN 2020)
-Ann got tenure, promoted, and then made Theatre Department Chair at Simpson College.
-After giving it our best for 4 seasons, we decided to cease operations for TheatreMidwest in mid-2022. Simultaneously I (Tom) retired.
-Wilson-dog is still kicking, but starting to pee in the house a little too much. Old man/dog problems = same.
-Christina, Ryan and the 2 grands are all growing and thriving and it’s a blessing to live in the same metroplex.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: Thanks for being in our lives. It means, and helps, a lot.