The Specialness of Caregivers

Pretty much everyone works for a living. Some enjoy their jobs, others don't and a few lucky people consider their work a calling, even a mission to which they are fully dedicated.

Undoubtedly the Oregon Health & Sciences University Hospital, where I stayed for a total of 12 days, isn't alone in the excellence of its patient care but it has been four decades since I last needed the services of a hospital so what do I know.

I'll tell you what I know now about OHSU: without exception, every person who helped me in all their various ways – and there were about two dozen of them – were smart, knowledgeable, experienced, friendly, compassionate and always made me feel that caring for me was the most important thing they were doing that day.

At a time when I was the most vulnerable I've ever been as an adult, every one of them made me feel safe. Safer than I have ever felt.

I'm not going to mention names because I will leave out too many and there is not one who doesn't deserve my thanks, respect and gratitude:

The surgeon and his team who told me the truth about my disease with kindness, understanding, hope and who held my hand when I wept.

Meal delivery man who told me not to order coffee from the menu but allow him to bring me the better-tasting coffee that was brewed on my floor. He did that every day.

Nurses and CNAs who somehow inspired me to walk more frequently and farther than I would have done on my own, and without my ever feeling coerced. They made it fun.

Those same RNs and CNAs who wiped my bottom when I couldn't do it myself and made me feel as okay about it as when they helped me in and out of bed.

The night nurses who somehow woke me for a pill without entirely waking me so I could sleep through the night.

My primary care physician who just dropped by one day for a personal visit.

Now that I'm home, there are my go-to nurse from the surgeon's team, the dietition and the medications nurse who are friendly, caring and patient with my phone calls, questions and worries.

I believe the people who choose these careers and professions are different from me and probably most other people. They are special in ways I do not know about.

It is one thing to care for a loved one, as I did with my mother during the last months of her life, and quite another to not only show, but feel the same commitment to the strangers who arrive sick and frightened every day at the hospital or other medical facility where you work.

All these helpers never once faltered in their kindness and concern. They were not pretending. It is as though they have a goodness gene I certainly don't have. This is who they are and I cannot think of them without becoming weepy with gratitude.

* * *

Remember about four weeks ago when Autumn was writing blog posts in the first days following my surgery? She titled one of them “A Room with a View” and this is why: my room overlooked a small portion of the huge OHSU campus on a hill.

OHSU


Focus and Concentration Deficiency

It's really annoying. Since my surgery four weeks ago, I've lost focus. I can't concentrate long enough to get through an average news article or sift through a simple Google search results page and certainly not a book chapter.

Sometimes, when I read a sentence, there is a delay before I understand it. Not much; I've been describing it as the length of a slow finger-snap – just enough time so that the slippage is obvious to me.

When that happens with each sentence in succession, concentration drifts away and meaning is lost.

As it turns out, there is a name for this phenomenon as it occurs after general anesthesia. It's called Post-Operative Cognitive Disorder (POCD). TGB reader Linda commented about it here on 7 July.

She quotes from the American Society of Anesthesiologists:

"Confusion when waking up from surgery is common, but for some people – particularly those who are older – confusion can last for days or weeks..."

It's not exactly confusion for me. In fact, I never doubted that the gazillion bugs I saw crawling up the walls of my hospital room for a day or two following surgery were anything but hallucinations.

However, some other changes Linda tracked down that affect the process of cognition definitely apply to me:

”Cognition is defined as the mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment. Typical complaints of those people reporting POCD are:

Easily tired

Inability to concentrate. For example, they cannot concentrate sufficiently to read a book or newspaper

Memory dysfunction. For example, they have a reduced ability to remember things recently said or done

Reduced ability to perform arithmetic. For example, they make mistakes with normal money transactions while shopping.”

I'm doing fine with arithmetic but the first three are definitely present in my life although I'm heartened to learn they are temporary. Meanwhile, I'm mostly annoyed by it but it does make napping and resting easier than it would be if I were eager to be reading.

ASIDE: Perhaps you have noticed in these blog posts since the surgery that they are all generated from my head alone - no research, no outside links, no facts and figures. That's unlikely to change until my brain fog (POCD) clears.

It is experience rather than reading and research that is making this months-long recovery period a sharp learning curve for me, and I expect there to be more of it.

For all the many years I've been studying ageing, I see now that I have never fully appreciated the difficulties old people face whether from a bodily assault such as my surgery, the natural progression of growing old or “just” managing a chronic disease or condition.

Only last Friday, after being home from the hospital for two weeks, did I finally get a usable grasp on my medications, their dosages, frequency and times of day. Food restrictions add another layer of complexity.

It took several hours to make a chart I can follow until my brain, out of daily practice, will finally know what meds to take when without consulting a list – and double-checking it to be sure I'm correct each time.

Fatigue requires daily management not only of one's own energy level but recognition of it by family members, friends and helpers. I tire so easily that I've given myself a routine of one hour up and about, one hour lying down or napping.

Even the normal activities of life are draining – the small amount of cooking I do, washing up the few dishes, paying bills, sorting the mail, answering email, etc. take their toll.

If there is an “event” in my day – a doctor visit, a physical therapist session at home, a friend stopping by, even phone calls with my medical team or friends – I need the next day to myself, to quietly regain my energy.

Until now, I did not realize how crucial the home assistance tools of recovery (see this post) are and it took a while longer for me to understand that for many elders, they are not temporary, that daily life without them can be nearly impossible.

It's hard to be old, something I've said in the past but did not know until experiencing it first hand how much effort goes into it every day.

That takes nothing away from the pleasures of life and it might be that the difficiulties make them even more precious.


ELDER MUSIC: Try To Remember

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

Ah yes, I remember it well, at least I hope I do – and that you do as well. If you don't, I have some songs that may jog your memory. If you think you've forgotten these you'll probably go, "Ah yes, that one is da dad dum dum dum doh" (or something like that). I hope my trigger works.

I'll start with one that wasn't really on my radar before I did a search for these songs. I really liked it, which is why it's here today. It's by JIM CROCE.

Jim Croce

Jim had a bunch of wonderful songs, and it's another tragedy that he died so young. His song is (And) I Remember Her.

♫ Jim Croce - (And) I Remember Her


FRANK IFIELD was probably the first Australian pop singer who made a dent on the charts of the rest of the world.

Frank Ifield

As was the case back then, he had to go somewhere else to make that dent. In Frank's case it was England. He got hold of an old pop song and put his own spin on it and it became a worldwide hit. I Remember You.

♫ Frank Ifield - I Remember You


THE STATLER BROTHERS were big on nostalgia.

Statler Brothers

They had a number of songs in their repertoire along those lines. A lot of people distain that sort of thing but not me. I really like it. I don't know what that says of me, but I don't care.

The song of theirs I've selected is Do You Remember These? I have to admit that I don't remember a lot of what they sing about because we grew up in different countries.

♫ Statler Brothers - Do You Remember These


There were too many versions of this next song to countenance. I pretty much threw my hands in the air (waited for them to come down, reattached them) and selected semi-at random THE FOUR LADS.

Four Lads

I don't think they were lads by this time, but when you've selected a name you're stuck with it (The Beach Boys comes to mind). Also, there was someone in there doing a talkie bit who didn't sound at all laddish. Oh well.

By now you've probably figured out what song I'm talking about because my readers are a smart bunch of people (how's that for sucking up?). Moments to Remember.

♫ Four Lads - Moments To Remember


Does it get better than OTIS REDDING?

Otis Redding

That was a rhetorical question; you don't have to answer that. I was listening to my dozen or so versions of Otis's song, just to select the best quality one, and to my surprise I discovered that he had recorded the song more than once, there are other versions out there. Well, I'll be gobsmacked.

I still preferred the original though, and here it is: I've Got Dreams to Remember.

♫ Otis Redding - I've Got Dreams To Remember


There are few people who could follow Otis, and one of those is ELVIS.

Elvis Presley

This is from way back in the fifties when he was at his best. I Forgot To Remember To Forget.

♫ Elvis Presley - I Forgot To Remember To Forget


A long time before he was Lennie Briscoe on Law and Order, JERRY ORBACH was a song and dance man.

Jerry Orbach

Indeed, he was in the very first production of the musical The Fantasticks, often considered the longest running musical in history. Jerry played the part of El Gallo and sang the musical's most famous song, Try to Remember.

♫ Jerry Orbach - Try to Remember (1960)


You probably remember FRANKIE LYMON AND THE TEENAGERS for just one song, but they had many others.

Frankie Lymon

One of those others is the one we have today, and I hope you remember it. If not, this might jog your memory, or if it's not there in the back of your brain, here's a new one for you. I Promise To Remember.

♫ Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers - I Promise To Remember


UTAH PHILLIPS wrote the song I Remember Loving You and he included it on his album "The Telling Takes Me Home".

Utah Philips

Somewhat later PRISCILLA HERDMAN recorded it as well, and she managed to get Utah along for the ride.

Priscilla Herdman

I like their version better than Utah's solo effort, and here it is.

♫ Utah Phillips & Priscilla Herdman - I Remember Loving You


I'll Remember April was another song for which there were many versions but I spotted JULIE LONDON in the mix and it was a done deal.

Julie London

There were many instrumental, mostly jazz, versions of the song but I ignored them all.

♫ Julie London - I'll Remember April


You knew this one had to be here. This could be the theme song of TimeGoesBy, I'm talking about MAURICE CHEVALIER and HERMIONE GINGOLD.

Maurice Chevalier & Hermione Gingold

Those who are familiar with musicals will know the song, I Remember It Well from "Gigi".

♫ Maurice & Hermione - I Remember It Well



First Post-Surgery Outing

JOURNAL ENTRY
The doctor removed my 20-odd surgical staples on Wednesday. For those of you who asked, it was no big deal, feeling something like a minor pin prick for each one.

Although I consider it a milestone, this, of course, does not end my recovery. The doctors and I discussed the eight or ten questions I'd brought with me, adjusted some medications and when I expressed my frustration with the slow return of energy and simple capabilities, the surgeon reminded me that this will take, overall, about six months before full normal activity resumes.

Not that there won't be noticeable progress toward that goal as the weeks go by.

If you don't count my ride home from the hospital on 29 June, until Wednesday I hadn't been outside since I checked in at the hospital on the morning of 20 June – more than three weeks ago.

That doesn't mean as much to me as it does to many people who like to be out and about every day. I like being home. Even so, I saw the trip to the doctor on Wednesday as my debut outing after this gigantic assault on my body, mind and spirit.

Among the extraordinarily kind friends and neighbors who are helping me out these days is Cathi Lutz who had volunteered to drive me to the doctor appointment on Wednesday.

She kept by my side as we walked to her car and was there in case I faltered as we navigated from the parking garage to the elevator and through halls to the doctor's office. I've been walking and balancing well at home so I did this without the walker and it went quite well. But I was happy to have Cathi for backup.

The doctor's office had phoned in a couple of new prescriptions so on our way home, Cathi offered to stop at the pharmacy to get them and I realized I was pleased to further extend the outing – excited to be out of the house and/or medical situation after so long.

When I said this to Cathi, we both laughed that the destination of choice (or, necessity for the medication) was – wait for it: Safeway. Go ahead, you can laugh too.

As always in these weeks since the surgery, I am paying for the change in routine today (Thursday) with a near complete collapse of energy. It happens this way every time.

According to the doctors, I am doing well but this is the way it is for awhile. I wish I could buy patience at the pharmacy as easily as a pill.


Post Surgery At-Home Assistance Tools

My 20-some staples come out today – three weeks and one day since the surgery and I'm glad for that. The incision looks nicely healed to me and it's time to move on.

Still, overall recovery will take much longer. A whole lot of stuff inside me was removed, relocated and reconnected in new ways so for several more weeks I am not allowed to bend over or twist my torso.

Until forbidden, you – like me – might not ever have noticed how often you bend every day. It can easily be dozens of times and as a result, I now have a reasonably large collection of special tools to help me do so many things I did without second thought before now.

You will be familiar with most of these but the last two might be a surprise for you.

WALKER
Of course, the ever-present walker. Lots of elders need this at some point – temporarily if not permanently. I navigate well on my own in the house but I'll take it with me just in case for awhile when I go outside.

Walker-folding

SHOWER STOOL
With the help of a home health aide, I took my first shower at home on Monday. It went well but no way, even with an industrial strength non-skid pad in the bathtub would I stand on one foot in the shower right now.

The shower stool is a steady, reliable solution.

Shower-stool

GRABBER
This tool is almost as ubiquitous as the walker. It is endlessly useful, as I found for laundry. I'd thought – hey, no big deal. I can drop the dirty clothes in the washer, put in the soap and then transfer it to the dryer.

Oh yeah? I have a stacked washer/dryer that would involve a major bend in the middle of my torso to get the wet laundry out of the washer. Not good. But then I remembered the grabber and all was well.

Grabber

NO-BEND BROOM AND DUSTPAN
Even if you've never used one, you've seen this a zillion times in your life. Custodians everywhere use them to keep floors in offices, schools and even ballparks clear of trash.

I've found it's also useful for all the things I manage to drop.

Longhandledbroomanddustpan

NO-BEND LITTER BOX SCOOP
Apologies that I don't recall the name of the TGB reader who recommended this to me. The image below is different from mine which includes a long-handled, small bucket to hold a plastic bag in addition to the long-handled litter scoop as shown in this photo.

It's slightly unwieldy to empty the litter box but it works fine.

Longhandledscooper

PROTECTING THE INCISION FROM THE CAT
Cats are unpredicatable and the last thing anyone just home from surgery needs is a cat landing on an incision.

A neighbor had told me that after her abdominal surgery several years ago, she turned a large cardboard box upside down, removed the flaps and cut holes at either end for her legs and chest.

She slept that way and was safe if the cat jumped on her - he'd land on the box, not her abdomen.

I thought this was a clever solution but I didn't have a big box. What I do have however, sitting unused in a bedroom corner for longer than I can remember, is a bed table. I place it over my mid-section when I'm in bed and sleep safely from the cat's potential errant ways.

Bedtable

CAT FOOD FUNNEL
As soon as I got home from the hospital I realized I had no idea how I would feed and water the cat. I couldn't bend over to get his bowls from the floor and he's too old and fat to jump onto the counter. What to do?

This is ingenious not to mention, the coolest thing: My neighbor, Lauri Lindquist, got a three-foot, cardboard tube. He then formed a plastic cup into a funnel and taped it to the top of the tube. Voila!

All I do now is place the bottom of the tube in the cat's food dish and pour his dry food through the tube. (Sorry the photo isn't better; you can barely see the plastic funnel at the top. I didn't have the energy to fool around to get it right.)

Catfoodfunnel

Lauri's wife, Judy Rossner, had the idea to use a watering can to carefully pour water in Ollie's water dish and that works too.

There are plenty of other useful tools for people coming out of surgery or who are disabled in other ways. They are all helpful and I'm grateful for every one of them. But my favorite is Lauri's homemade cat food funnel. Excellent.


There Was an Old Woman...

Pancreaticcancerawareness160left

...who was estranged from her only relative. A short, sad story.

They had adored one another as children – big sister, little brother. Then, the parents' divorce separated the two resulting in their living in different states, visiting on holidays and summers. The split came about thusly:

At age 15, big sister was allowed by law to choose the parent she lived with. Little brother was too young to be given the choice and further, government bureaucracy required that big sister go alone to a courthouse to answer questions from a judge about her homelife.

Sixty years ago, 15-year-olds were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are nowadays, big sister then being even more naive than many. She was frightened and nervous during the proceeding but did the best she could.

Life went on. In their adulthood, the sister and brother lived on opposite coasts of the United States. They hardly ever saw one another and then, mostly when sister traveled to the west because brother did not like to fly.

Time passed. At one point they developed a habit of spending an hour or so on the telephone together each Saturday and sister looked forward to that every week. It lasted quite a long time until brother's girlfriend announced she was now an orthodox Jew and brother could not talk on the telephone on the Sabbath anymore. No alternative seemed possible.

Thereafter, communication became a haphazard affair – neither regularly on nor entirely off.

Decades went by until circumstances brought big sister, now an old woman, to live in the vicinity of her brother. She thought, hoped they might be able to forge a new kind of sibling relationship in their dotage.

At their first holiday together, brother accused sister, who had taken on the caregiving their mother in her final months, of not equally sharing the small inheritance. Sister was shocked. It was nowhere near true; in fact, she had used her own money to clear up a few hundred dollars of extra bills that came in late.

Apparently, brother had been harboring his misbegotten belief for 20 years.

Next, brother refused a gift from sister because, he said, he could not afford to respond in kind – that is, monetary kind. Who, thought sister, tots up the price of gifts to make sure they come out even?

For those and some other disagreements, there was no resolution and for several years they each lived in their nearby towns without communicating.

Out of the blue, sister was hit with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. As she prepared for surgery, she thought to inform her one and only relative, if only so that he had that family medical information for his own use if ever necessary. After vacillating, she sent a neutral, informational email.

Brother was terribly busy wrote his wife, but in several exchanges between the two women, there seemed to be some room for a rapprochement that sister welcomed even if something god-awful had brought it into being.

As she prepared to leave for the hospital at 5AM on the morning of her surgery, sister checked her email for what she surmised would be the last time in awhile. There, time-dated at 2:43AM on the morning of that frightening medical ordeal, was a note from brother.

There was something he wanted to clear up, he wrote. The gist was that because of sister's conversation with the judge 60 years previously, brother had “lost his family” and grew up with the wrong parent which had ruined his life.

But oh, he added in closing, sister was his one and only relative so she had better survive, signing off with “love.”

The ride to the hospital felt longer for the old woman than it really was and she couldn't get her brother's monstrously timed note out of her mind even as she was wheeled into the operating room.

Because neither brother nor his wife has followed up since then, the old woman assumes they have come to see that with such a grotesque message sent in the final hours prior to sister's surgery, an immutable line was crossed.

Even so, not a day has passed – nor a few nights - that the old woman has not been haunted by this sad, painful story in all its aspects, wondering again and again from whence such cruelty arises.

* * *

PERSONAL ADDENDUM: As just about every TGB commenter has mentioned over the past several weeks since this difficult new "adventure" in my life began, an optimistic outlook - within the context of reality - is crucial to a good recovery. With some effort, I am maintaining that and it is in no small part to the warm, loving support of this TimeGoesBy community.


ELDER MUSIC: NAIDOC Week 2

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

You can find Part 1 here.

Naidoc Week

As I mentioned last week, it's NAIDOC Week here in Australia, celebrating the culture of the original people of the country. As this is a music column, that's what I'll be featuring.

KEV CARMODY is a songwriter and singer whose best known song is From Little Things Big Things Grow about the land rights movement that he co-wrote with Paul Kelly.

Kev Carmody

Kev had little formal education growing up in country Queensland; this was unfortunately the norm at the time for indigenous people. However, he managed to get into the University of Southern Queensland where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in music.

Fortunately he had lecturers who allowed him to supplement formal work with his guitar and oral histories.He later gained a Diploma of Education and a PhD in history.

He has made several studio albums and a bunch of live ones. His songs have been covered by musicians of all genres.Kev sings Cannot Buy My Soul.

♫ Kev Carmody - Cannot Buy My Soul


Last week we had the Warumpi Band with My Island Home. They are the ones who wrote the song, however, CHRISTINE ANU had a huge hit with it.

Christine Anu

Christine's version won song of the year at the APRA Awards (sort of the Oz version of the Grammys) and she performed the song at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics.

Christine has recorded the song three times now, with quite different arrangements, so if there are people who are familiar with one or the other, this one may come as a surprise. It's the most recent.

♫ Christine Anu - My Island Home


TROY CASSAR-DALEY is one of the biggest names and most successful performers in country music in Australia.

Troy Cassar-Daley

He started busking when he was eleven and began touring with his band at just 16. From the beginning he wrote his own songs and also wrote for others as well. One of his own songs is My Gumbaynggirr Skies.

♫ Troy Cassar-Daley - My Gumbaynggirr Skies


One of the young opera singers that Deborah Cheetham, mentioned last week, has mentored is SHAUNTAI BATZKE.

Shauntai Batzke

She is a graduate of the Short Black Opera Artist Program based at Melbourne University. Shauntai has performed in a number of contemporary roles as well as singing the traditional opera repertoire. In that latter role she performs Sì, mi chiamano Mimì from Puccini's La Bohème, accompanied by a piano.

♫ Shauntai Batzke - Puccini ~ La Bohème ~ Sì mi chiamano Mimì


YOTHU YINDI is the best known of the indigenous rock groups.

Yothu Yindi

They had several songs that made the pointy end of the charts over the years, the best known of these would be Treaty. Unfortunately, their lead singer and organizer of the band, Mandawuy Yunupingu, died several years ago. Gurrumul, mentioned last week, was also a member for a while.

♫ Yothu Yindi - Treaty


The STIFF GINS are Nardi Simpson and Kaleena Briggs. Emma Donovan was also a founding member of the group.

Stiff Gins

Gin was a Dharug word for woman but was used by some of the wider community for far too many years as a derogatory term for an Aboriginal woman. The group decided to reclaim the word. They perform Go Go from their album "Wind and Water".

♫ Stiff Gins - Go Go


NO FIXED ADDRESS were probably the first indigenous rock band to make an impact on the wider community.

No Fixed Address

The band was formed by the charismatic Bart Willoughby who sings and plays drums, and guitarist Les Graham. Besides performing, they also made a film in 1980 called Wrong Side of the Road with another Aboriginal band, Us Mob.

The film was about the trials and delights of life on the road for such bands. The band has split and reformed several times in their performing career. No Fixed Address play their best known song, We Have Survived.

♫ No Fixed Address - We Have Survived


Although born in Sydney, SHELLIE MORRIS is mostly associated with Darwin and other parts of the Northern Territory.

Shellie Morris

She has performed with many of the artists featured in these columns and has toured Europe and China as well as Brazil and South Africa. Shellie is also an ambassador for foundations concerned with diseases of the eyes and other health concerns, and has won awards for these as well as for her music.

Shellie enlists the help of the Borroloola Songwomen to perform Li-Anthawirriyarra A-Kurija (Saltwater People Song).

♫ Shellie Morris & the Borroloola Songwomen - Saltwater People Song


ZOY FRANGOS is a classically trained singer who also performs in musicals.

Zoy Frangos

He appeared in the world premiere of the Deborah Cheetham's indigenous opera "Pecan Summer" and has sung in other such productions as well as similar operatic roles.

Zoy was the first indigenous Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables". Here he sings Anthem from the musical "Chess".

♫ Zoy Frangos - Anthem (Chess)


EMMA DONOVAN was born into a musical family.

Emma Donovan

Three of her uncles were part of the award-winning country band The Donovans, and Emma performed with the group when she was young. She later helped co-found The Stiff Gins (mentioned above) before embarking on a solo career.

These days her singing style is a blend of soul, gospel and reggae as will be evident in the song Mother she performs with her band The Putbacks.

♫ Emma Donovan & The Putbacks - Mother


As a bonus treat, at least it is for me, I'll include DEBORAH CHEETHAM and SHAUNTAI BATZKE performing The Flower Duet from Léo Delibes' opera “Lakmé”.

Deborah Cheetham & Shauntai Batzke

♫ Deborah Cheetham & Shauntai Batzke - Flower Duet


Surgery Recovery – Day to Day

(NOTE: This is a report about my personal progress – no one else's. Maybe there are hints for others in a similar recovery, maybe not. Aside from the general path toward recovery, none of us can know another's needs or solutions. This is one person's journey to wellness that might - or not - have a little value for some others.)

* * *

Nothing anyone told me prepared me for how hard this recovery is. I think that unless you are on a second or, god forbid, a third major surgery, you have no idea.

This is the hardest thing I have ever done.

Two weeks after the surgery, Wednesday, was my first pain-free day. The only discomfort was, and still is, where the 20-odd staples are in place down the middle of my torso. But that's only an irritation, not pain.

(If I were 40 years younger, I'd plan for a zipper tattoo when I am healed.)

The sorriest difficulty, which continues so far without improvement, is that the thing that most heartens and inspires me is also the most exhausting. Let me tell you about exhaustion, the kind I have never imagined:

A walk from the bedroom to the kitchen requires a sit-down rest. Scrambling an egg and washing up the pan and dish is equally tiring. Cleaning the cat's litter box – even with a special long-handled utensil (I'm not allowed to bend or twist) – requires a lie down.

But worse than that is how much a friend's telephone call or neighbor's visit depletes me while, ironically, also invigorating me – if only in my heart and not my body.

Any phone or in-person visit longer than about 15 minutes results in an hour's nap but I know they also make me feel better. So I try to balance but other forces get in the way.

On Tuesday, a woman from a home health care service came by and spent two hours taking my medical history, medications, inspecting my home and taking notes. She is smart, knowledgeable and spelled out a good course of help.

But after those two, long hours, it took all of Wednesday in bed to get back to my (admittedly, low) normal. A phone call that day with the pharmacy to sort out a prescription took more attention than I was capable of giving.

Eating is difficult. I'm almost never hungry so must force food in five or six small meals a day. Most of the time it feels as though I've just finished Thanksgiving dinner so I worry that I'm not getting enough calories and protein. I've not found a solution but to hope for improvement as healing continues.

There is a dreaminess to my days. I've made myself a schedule of one hour up and one hour in bed that I intend to expand to 90 minutes when I feel ready. The in-bed time expands and it's not that I sleep. Nor read. Nor watch television. Nor listen to music necessarily

I'm in a kind of stupor then, aware of what's around me if I care to pay attention but mostly drifting to head places I don't recall when I “come to” again.

Although it takes several sittings over two days to get one done, writing these blog posts keeps me focused for longer periods. I've decided that's good for me.

Recovery from something as big as this surgery is, I think, living in another world for awhile that I never imagined existed.

Watch this space for a story about the ingenious tools some neighbors and others have invented to help me through these weeks of recovery.

* * *

FACEBOOK: For many years through Typepad, the company that hosts this blog, each post has automatically posted to Facebook. A week or so ago, Facebook, without announcement or notification to Typepad, stopped this connection so that TGB posts no longer show up on Facebook.

Typepad tells me that I can let TGB Facebook readers know about a new post by including a link to the blog in a "status update" on Facebook. I have no desire to learn any more about FB than I already know but apparently I am being forced into this much. Anyone who can explain what a status update is and how I do it, please let me know in the comments below. And thank you in advance.


A Cancer Patient's Perspective on Today's Politics

There is a lot I want to write here about this frightful disease, treatment and recovery, the hospital, doctors, nurses, other care professionals, friends, helpers and more.

But today, I want to give you a short take on how my worldview has changed as a result of this major health and medical interruption.

Most TGB readers know that my second big interest after ageing is politics and government combined with the media that reports on those institutions.

You wouldn't be wrong to call my attention to them rabid – at least in the past and perhaps again in the future but for now, since the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, mostly suspended.

Potential imminent death does focus the attention in new directions and, I think, clears the fog of constant screeching reports of a baby president's latest tweet storm.

How much more foolish they all seem to me now - the self-serving politicians, the (with a few admirable exceptions) sycophantic reporters and pundits and all the rest who, day in and day out, pretend (they couldn't believe, could they?) that this is a normal presidency, a normal world.

What mean little men (they are mostly men) we have in Washington, D.C. who openly trade health care for the poor to enrich just 1,000 gazillionaires, and the few who say they oppose them have only empty words, no deeds.

The world has become demonstrably more dangerous in the months since the baby president took office as he ignores the nuclear threat from southeast Asia, buddies up to America's pre-eminent and crafty political enemy, and doesn't even acknowledge the lastest terrifying climate change warning from Stephen Hawking.

(Look it up; I can't bear to repeat it.)

According to American news media, there is no news now except about President Trump's idiotic tweets and they have lost the craft of editing. If it comes out of the mouth of the incompetent, ignorant, vulgar and stupid president, it leads the newscast and they, the media, drone on without insight, without thought, without citing consequences. It is all so much the same each day that I've stopped reading and watching but for headlines.

I am equally angry with the leaders of the United States, with the fourth estate - both for abdicating their responsibilities - and terrified for future of the world. Not that I wasn't before my surgery – it is just so much more obvious to me now that no one has a plan or the will to do anything to stop the world's headlong rush into oblivion.


My Pancreatic Cancer Prognosis

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According to my surgeon, only 10 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are eligible for surgery. Had I not been one of them, there would have been, essentially, no useful treatment.

Following surgery, it was a week before the pathology report on the bits and pieces taken from my body was ready. In words you and I can understand, here is what it said, the short version:

The mass in my pancreas was positive for pancreatic adenocarcinoma – pancreatic cancer to you and me.

During surgery, called the “Whipple Procedure,” the diseased part of the pancreas was removed along with my gall bladder and some other parts. The tumor was determined to be “clean at the margins” - that is, cancer had not escaped the pancreas.

In addition, 17 lymph nodes touching the pancreas were removed and tested for cancer cells; two were positive. Here is what that means for me.

There are types of chemotherapy to treat this cancer and I will meet with a medical oncologist about that sometime in the next month or two. According to my surgeon and his team, a few people respond to this treatment and live up to ten more years.

Sounds good except that 80 percent in my circumstance who take this treatment are dead from the disease in five or fewer years. Numbers may vary from other sources but not enough to talk about.

(Excuse me while I take a moment for another small weep.)

Well, that's a stunner. Even though I'm 76 years old and even though my parents and other relatives died of one cancer or another when they were younger than I am, I was aiming for my grandmother's lifetime (92) or my great aunt's (89).

Nonetheless, I find it hard to complain that 77 or 78 or 80 years is not a decent run at life. And I have no patience with “miracle” alternative cancer cures – believe me, if they were real we would all know about them. Nor do I place any hope in beating the odds – a foolish waste of time.

Beyond that, my thoughts are an unrelated jumble still fogged from the effects of surgery, anesthesia and follow-up drugs – not useful. It takes every bit of my physical and mental effort right now to work out my medication schedule, figure out this new way of eating and give my body time to recover from the trauma of the surgery.

Walk, they tell me, even short distances. Keep your feet above your heart to reduce the swelling in your feet, ankles and legs. Well, which is it? How do I balance that?

Not to mention nap time. For the short future, I'm doing one hour up and about, the next hour in bed and so on.

I want to answer your lovely email and snailmail cards but 30 minutes at the desk every couple of hours is my body's and mind's limit and there are also banking, bills, personal business items, etc. to deal with.

Thinking time too. How do I want to spend the months and years remaining to me? I don't expect to answer that now, all at once, but the thoughts bubble up and need attention or, at least, notation before they float away.

The most I've figured out so far is that I desperately do not want to become a professional patient but I don't even know yet how much of my time and effort will need to be devoted to being as healthy and active as possible.

There is a lot more to life than dying and I still want as much of it as I can get.

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