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Sunday, February 17, 2008

First week went well

It's hard to believe my first week back at work is over. It seemed to go that well.

Of course there were a couple of computer glitches but nothing major. After all, we do have a new software system for me to learn and become familiar with.

The welcome I received was amazing. I was deeply touched by the applause when I walked into the newsroom. And thankful that there was no party; I truly hate being the center of attention.

But the next day, my relief was set aside when my friends did, indeed, throw a party to mark my return. The cakes were great, the people moreso. It was wonderful to see everyone, especially everyone with smiles on their faces; in my absence, it seems, changes at the company left little reason at times to for smiles. So the party did serve a greater purpose.

And I will say that the party also helped me...I think I gained more than a pound from that morning to the next.

And each day since I've been able to eat a bit more food. This means that I'm beginning feel my life becoming more and more normal. It's a good feeling.

Today, Saturday, I even went to Publix to grab sushi for Ann and I. Back to normal.

Gotta like it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Back to work Tuesday

It's hard to believe, but Tuesday at 3 I'll be back at work.

After a few days longer than four months, can't wait.

But as I was saying to Catherine just a little while ago, it's pretty amazing that from diagnosis to now it's been about four and a half months. Pretty amazing. My prognosis at the time I was diagnosed was grim. Somewhere between 17 percent chance of success and 50 percent, depending on which doctor or which report you got the information from. It's much better now: I have a seven in ten chance of being around two years from now and at that point they'll re-assess and hopefully increase my odds.

But I think the docs are pretty eager to see me survive, since we plan to have drinks in a couple of years to toast their success in my treatment.

So to my friends and family at work, I'll see you tomorrow. It will be a fond homecoming on my part.

I'll toast to that.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Weird stuff happens overnight

For several years now, I've worked as night local editor at the paper, which means I've seen a bunch of strange things take place.

In the newsroom and out in the "real world." Bad crimes, good reporting. Crime reporters stuck in bad neighborhoods. Some lost, some not. Cops make really good arrests and some really bad decisions.

But last night, something happened that I never imagined when I began this blog. I knew that sometime this week my blog would reach a milestone, and it happened sometime between my hitting the sack and arising this morning.

The milestone: More than 10,000 page views of this blog since its creation last year. For some blogs, that's not a blip on the radar screen, for others its an enormous amount. A few moments ago, 10,009 views were on record.

I know it's the same dozen friends clicking onto the site off and on during the day. You know who you are. I'd like to encourage you to click on some of the ads on the site since that will raise money for Florida Hospital's Cancer Institute, which saved my life. So far, the site has raised just a smidge under $9. So there's a lot of money raising to go before Google will cut me a check at $100 or more.

But the point of the blog is not to raise money, but to raise awareness about a disease that is little known but growing. In fact, cancer of the esophagus is the fastest-growing form of the disease, and it's hitting men and women alike. And it's caused by a common problem among working Americans: Heartburn, GERD, acid reflux and the like. Which means folks in my profession and others under a lot of stress are highly vulnerable.

So please, please if you have recurring acid reflux or heartburn, see a doctor who can conduct an endoscopic exam of you gullet. You'll be asleep during the procedure and you won't feel a thing afterwards. But it could save your life.

Really. Would I lie to you?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A good time was had by all

It was great to return to the newsroom today. Better yet was the news from Dr. Boyer that I may, in fact, return to work on Tuesday.

And nearly better news still was the removal of my "J-tube" at the doctor's office.

I no longer am "Keith of Borg," as I named myself early on in this ordeal as bits and pieces of artificial equipment took over parts of my body.

With the medical port removed Friday, the "J-tube" was the last of these devices. Dr. Boyer easily removed it simply by snipping the stitches holding it in and then just sliding it out of my abdomen.

But the best part of the day was dropping off my medical releases from the docs and then visiting everyone in the newsroom. It was great to see everyone. I'm now eagerly anticipating my return on Tuesday.

Dr. Boyer said that I'm also cleared to do just about anything I'd like physically. So, I plan to visit Busch Gardens and go sailing this weekend. I've done neither in months.

It'll be just another series of ups, downs, loops and dips on this wild roller-coaster that began in September.

Can't wait.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Visit to doc tomorrow should clear way to work

I'm scheduled to see Dr. Boyer Wednesday morning and hopefully he'll give me the all-clear to go back to work next week.

Except for occasionally overeating (this means swallowing a dash more than 8 fluid ounces of food and/or drink at a time, heaven forbid) and the resulting bloated and nauseated feeling I'm doing very well. I hope the good doctor agrees.

Dr. Boyer knows just where I'm coming from. Several years ago he donated a kidney to his sister and recalls the post-surgical pain, etc., he experienced. Imagine, a surgeon with empathy. He knows what I'm feeling to a large degree.

This also shows what the man's made of. Everyone says surgeons, especially heart surgeons, are filled with themselves. I haven't seen that in Dr. Boyer. Sure, he's confident. You wouldn't want it any other way. But he's a regular kind of guy, even if he does like Mac products. He's also a good guy, one who anyone can befriend and who would befriend almost anyone.

I say this not to sway his opinion of my condition but to convey my admiration.

I'm going to go from Dr. Boyer's office to Dr. Diamond's to gain his okie dokey, then I'll drop the papers off at the Sentinel. Might even see some folks in the newsroom.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A decent link

Yahoo! has added a pretty decent article with graphics and such about GERD and heartburn, both of which can lead to cancer of the esophagus. The package was prepared by the folks at the Mayo Clinic's Web site.

This is the link:

Remember, it's not a certainty that you'll get cancer from either of these ailments, but you could.

Minor surgery was a success

It's not a ship in a bottle, it's a port in a bottle. It's my newest paperweight -- the port removed from my body earlier today.

The surgical procedure went well this morning and I was out the door shortly after noon.

I even passed on anesthesia -- well the kind that knocks you out -- and opted instead for needles to numb out the area being cut. It was a good choice. After the initial pain caused by the the numbing agent, which lasted just 15 or 20 seconds, give or take, I didn't feel a thing. The nurses and I chatted about XM radio's benefits and pricing as Dr. Alberto V. Mansilla, right, removed the port.

Ironically, Dr. Mansilla (image from the Florida Hospital Web site) is the same man who placed the port and my former "G tube" last year in the same operating room. He remembered the procedure because I had both done at the same time, which is less common than one might think.

The procedure took about 20 minutes, though paperwork before took far longer, and even preps in the operating room took more time. Go figure.

Jenny and I were gone shortly after noon but not before a hug with nurse Kim after she rolled me out to the driveway.

Guess where Jen and I went for lunch? OK, I know it's a tough one. I was only able to eat a small piece of the potato latke from TooJays, but Jen ate most of her corned beef sandwich and one potato pancake. I then went home and am relaxing as the feeling returns to my upper right chest -- and a small amount of pain with it.

I had to photograph the port and post it, since it is what funneled my chemo into my jugular vein for seven weeks. It'll be a new addition to my desk when I return to work. It's fully sterilized and the nurses say a lot of people keep their ports as a reminder of what they've gone through. After all, it helped save my life. But I promise I will not keep my "J-tube" when it is removed from my body by Dr. Boyer next week. Promise.