Friday, July 18, 2008

About Those "Golden Years!"

Although my age -technically -is not old enough to retire on Social Security, (won't be 65 for another year yet and I think they upped the age to 67 too -or didn't that go through?) I've been on Social Security via Disability for the past almost five years now.

Although there are times when I DO actually wish I could be out in the work force the fact I am unable to do that anymore does have a few benefits for me. I am able to be here every day and watch the kids if Mandy has to work or has an appointment -whatever, in that respect. For me, it is a chance to watch and enjoy these two of my grandchildren as they grow, develop better coordination skills, learn to talk and just enjoy those things I missed when my children were growing up. All because there was no alternative -as a single parent -I HAD to go to work. Child support doesn't go very far and in case anyone is thinking "Well, you could have stayed at home and let welfare support you" -don't even go there! A whole lot of folks have the delusional ideas that if one is on welfare, it is a big gravy train and you are on easy street. Not true, not true at all!

I know because when I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, could not work at all but hadn't yet been declared disabled, in order to get medical assistance, I had to apply for cash assistance and if anyone is on "Easy Street" receiving a whopping big old $175 a month -to cover housing, utilities, car insurance and other "incidental" then that person is a heck of a lot better at managing finances than I ever was or will be!

But issues with welfare, economics, etc., is not my point of my post tonight.

I have come to the conclusion that the term "Golden Years" -referring to retired people -is a misnomer. The only people who see "gold" with respect to older folks are those in the medical profession.

And even that isn't really what I'm going to tell you about tonight either. That's just my opinion about the way things go once your body doesn't function quite as good as it had for most of one's life and it seems every time you turn around you're going to this doctor or that one and then referred to yet another and the cycle goes on and on that way then.

I was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer five years ago this past March having gone to my family doctor for a general check-up because of some pain issues I'd been having in my lower intestine. The GP referred me to a surgeon to have him check me out -requiring a colonoscopy -and that was how I met the first (of several) surgeons I've dealt with since then.

The day he did the colonoscopy, after I came back from the recovery room, he came in and talked to my younger daughter and me -giving me the diagnosis that the colonoscopy revealed I had a tumor in my colon and that it was malignant. He also gave me a run-down of what I would be doing over the next ten months with respect to treatment. Two days after that test, I reported to the oncologist where they set me up with what is called a "Pic" line -just an iv connecter placed in my arm which would be connected to a little portable pack that I would wear 24-7 for the next 6-7 weeks. And three days after I had the pic line installed, I was to report to Altoona General Hospital's Radiation Department where I would meet with the doctor there who is the head of the Radiology department and that doctor would have me coming over there five days a week for the next 6-7 weeks to receive radiation treatments to shrink the tumor and thus, make it more operable. The objective there was to shrink it and make it easier to remove so as to -hopefully -not have to have a colostomy but rather a resection of the colon.

So, right there, I'm up to four doctors seeing me -three of them being specialists too.

The radiation worked in that when I had surgery in June of 2003, they were able to remove the tumor by doing a colon resection -no colostomy needed. At least not at that time.

However, by the end of July, I had developed some other issues that was causing me lots of problems. Seems I had two discs in my lower spine that were herniated. Trying to get that corrected required a little over six months of physical therapy -the first three months of the therapy were really just to get me so I could walk -and sit -for more than five minutes at a clip. The pain from this problem was so severe that I was taking some heavy-duty pain pills which in turn were creating yet another problem -severe constipation -a condition no one likes any time but when you've just had major surgery on your intestines, consitipation is really a bad thing then. The combination of severe constipation, two herniated discs, major abdominal surgery on the colon and pain pills created a vicious cycle right there. Plus I also had to return for follow-up chemotherapy that August too -which added a few more issues into the mix -like nausea! Eventually, I learned too that the radiation had left some residue in my lower spine which also contributed to the pain levels then -and still does.

Because the therapy had done all it could do to get me able to walk reasonably well again but wasn't working with the rest of the pain issues, I got referred to -yes, another doctor -this time one for Pain Management. Now, I've added a fifth doctor to my list.

Finally got things to a point where I could handle the pain fairly well and I was then down to just routine check-ups, another coloscopy a year after the surgery, and then, in February of 2005, I landed in the hospital with loads of pain plus nausea and a nasty urinary tract infection that required some kind of "scope procedure" done by a local urologist. This revealed a blockage in my right urinary tract and that doctor could not do the type of surgery required to correct that issue at the local hospital so I was referred then to Pittsburgh to see a surgeon there who eventually -on Halloween of 2005 -did a resection type of surgery on my right urinary tract. Ok, now I'm up to seven doctors.

In the meantime, the surgeon who I really liked and who had done the colon resection had decided to leave this fair state of Pennsylvania -mainly due to the malpractice insurance costs in this state -and he moved to Wisconsin. So when it came time for me to have my next lovely colonoscopy check-up, I had to see yet another surgeon. Make that doctor number eight!

This doctor told Mandy and I after performing that test that he had found a mass in my lower intestine and that it was malignant, but could not be feasibly removed. That was the news the day of that test but a week later when I had to go see him and get the full lab results, I was informed that although I did have a mass in my colon that was inoperable, thankfully, it was not what he had intially thought -and was NOT malignant. A bonus, right? But he also told me that he wasn't going to do anything for at least six months and for me to come back then -unless I developed a blockage in the interim -and he would then consider doing a colostomy.

The thought of waiting six months, dealing with the amount of pain I was having then, plus not being too crazy about the test results -just didn't trust the lab reports there -and my GP ended up referring me then to PIttsburgh -again - to meet with doctor number nine -a surgeon who determined that I should have a colostomy immediately to alleviate much of the pain issues I was having.

After that, things rolled along fairly nicely but then, a couple of months after the colostomy, the doctor who was the oncologist also left the area so that meant I was -eventually -going to have to see yet another oncologist to keep tabs on the way my system was operating -or not. I didn't get around to meeting doctor number 10 until this past January. He had me get some routine tests -cat scan, blood work, etc., -and that's when they found out I now had a hernia too! That was doctor number ten!

So, I was then referred to yet another surgeon - a local one though -but after he checked me, reviewed my records, Doctor Number eleven felt I would be better off if I returned to Pittsburgh to see the doctor who had done the colostomy for him to determine if I really should have surgery to correct the hernia -and even possibly do a reversal of the colostomy too at the same time. Thankfully, since I really didn't want another trip to the operating room any time soon, that doctor said "No surgery -at least not at this time.

So this spring then, back to my regular family doctor for my regular routine check-ups and she did one of those "routine test" we women are supposed to have regularly -a Pap test -which came back with some questionable issues which in turn required a second Pap test and it showed what was determined to be more questionable things, possibly pre-cancerous tissues -so that got me referred then to Doctor #12 - an ob/gynocology doctor -and yesterday, I reported to him to have a lovely little exam in his office and a test done there -called a culposcopy (I think that is the correct spelling -that's what it sounds like anyway and it didn't make my spell checker flash at me so it must be the right spelling, I guess.)

For anyone who has never had one of these tests, it really isn't all that bad -there are some that I firmly believe are much worse -like any type of rectal exam! But what they do in this test is that is is basically like a pap test -an internal female exam -but in doing this one, the insert sterile cotton balls that have been soaked in white vinegar, then using that lovely spectrum (yeah, you women know what instrument I'm talking about there, don't you) the doctor looks up inside the inner depths with a special green light to see if the there are any color changes on these white vinegar-soaked cotton balls. And I don't remember now if he said if they turn a different color, it indicate cancer is present there or not but the upshot with respect to my female organs he says is that there is NO cancer there! Yippy skippy! I'm a happy camper over that news -although I was a little uncomfortable all evening yesterday -from the spectrum -and also, from having my legs in a strange position for a long period of time which makes the leg and hip joints and muscles a bit on the stiff and sore side for me for a little while.

Today, I had my "routine" check-up -again -with the oncologist and he gave me a good report too -all the lab tests I had done last week came back fine and dandy -and clear of any cancer markers there too!

Isn't that just loverly!??? Well, yes, really it is because although I am not living my life in fear and panic that the cancer will come visit me again some day -in my opinion, it probably will but if so, I'll deal with that then, if and when that day comes my way.

But with meeting the new doctor yesterday and my visit today with the oncologist, I thought I'd tell you a little bit more here too -about both of these guys. The ob/gyn doctor and I were talking while he was examining me and I don't know how the conversation went in the direction of computer, the internet, etc., but I had occasion to tell him I have this blog and boy, it almost seemed like his ears really perked up over that bit of information. He asked what I write about here and I told him - just general things about me, my life, my family, my grandkids and especially the two little ones and the autism factor there. Before I left, he asked me if I was going to blog about him here and was I going to say he was a terrible individual, bad doctor, etc. I said I would only say bad things about him if he acted in any way like he was not a trustworthy physician but because I really liked him -very thorough, also very personable and my kind of doctor in that he has a sense of humor and put me at ease, made it much easier that way to deal with the tests he did yesterday, I have to say I think he's a pretty doggone good guy!

So if he's searched the net last night or today and happened to figure out which blog is mine and reads this, Cheers to to you my good man for making my visit to you yesterday as pleasant as possible, considering the circumstances that sent me there! No, I'm not going to identify him here though.

And today, my appointment with the oncologist revealed things about him that I wish I had know back in January and really, that I wish he'd been with the onology department here all along because you see, in our chat today, I learned he had cancer when he was in medical school and had done a good deal of his medical school studies and work while getting treatment plus, he had an ilieostomy done then too. Being able to talk to someone who knows first hand the quirky little things one has to learn to deal with when you have either a colostomy or ileostomy (basically the same procedure, just slightly different regions of the abdomen involved there) really builds one's comfort level with a physician! As he said - and yes, I agree completely with him on this, even though having surgery of this type and dealing with the ramifications it brings is not always pleasant, sometimes downright disagreeable, it is still a life-saving procedure and I am actually grateful that I had this done.

That doesn't mean I love it -I don't -but I accept it and appreciate it for the relief it has provided me in terms of alleviating a whole lot of pain issues over the past 21 months now!

And I hope you all realize I don't think these doctors -all twelve of them now -are all making windfall profits because my body is in a somewhat declingin -maybe deteriorating state these days with my comment about the Golden Years applying only to the doctors and pharmacies. I'm actually very glad each of them has been around to help me over the rough spots I've encountered in the past five years.

I may not be in the very best shape these days but as I always tell people now when they inquire about my health, how I'm doing now -"As long as Im still breathing and am able to move about even a little stiffly these days (thank you "Arthur" as a cousin of mine refers to the arthritis thing), I'm one happy little camper and hope they all enjoy the "Golden Years" on my contributions to the pot!

This is a long, drawn-out post -I know (my usual, huh) but it is something else too. It's actually my post for Faithful Fridays -hosted by B;essed1 at Daily Blessings Blog!

Because I am very, very thankful I have had the help of each of these doctors in my life!


Hammer said...

You've been through a lot! I hope you don't have to endure any more.

Maggie May said...

Thanks for filling us in with the type of things you have had to face so sensitively, and I sincerely hope that you have no more problems of that nature!
Have to live in the present & hope for the best & try & eat sensibly & look after ourselves. Not much more we can do really.

Linda said...

Holy Crapola, Woman! How you managed to keep all that straight is beyond me!

I sure hope that all of your problems are behind you (no pun intended!) and that you've got some smooth sailing for the next ten, twenty, thirty years! You sure deserve it!

By the way, did you give the doc your URL so he can read your bog and see what you wrote about him??

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

What Linda said. Yikes honey. I'm in those Golden Years too. I just had a stress test (treadmill) and the doctor was so rude. Okay, I'm off onto something else.

I love your attitude though. Going through all this and you're still thankful. Awesome. Have a great weekend. :)

Vic Grace said...

What a lot you have had to deal with. I am so glad you are on the upside of it now.

I too don't know why it is called the golden years. Growing old is not for wimps is it.

Dianne said...

Jeni you approach everything with grace and humor and a whole lot of strength.

I can't begin to express how much I admire you.

terri said...

You are a trooper to have such a positive attitude about all that you've been through. You remind me to be grateful, no matter how difficult things may be. There's always someone who's got it worse.

Suldog said...

Long and drawn out? Sure. But still mighty interesting.

It always makes me feel good to find someone who knows that joy may be found in many ways. You don't have to have everything operating at 100% efficiency to find happiness. You obviously know that, and I thank you for sharing your insight!

God bless.

Sandi McBride said...

I have admired you for so many reasons and you just gave me a pot load of more reasons! I always thought the world of you for just being you and such a great Mom and much on your plate and here I didn't know that you had a second plate on the back burner...I wish I could just hug you hard...the way sisters who want to convey their admiration my friend, are tops in my book...and here's your hug {{{{Jeni}}}}...don't go sharing it, it's all for you. When I talk to God tonight, your name is gonna be in there a LOT!

Minnesotablue said...

JENI: I admire you so much. You have had so many medical issues and yet you are able to go forward with grace and dignity.

Sylvia said...

Kudo's to you. The "Golden Years", pardon this, suck. But after reading all your trial and tribulations of the past five years, my ails are minor. You have a wonderful attitude and it shows in your writing.

Travis said...

Good news that you're cancer free!

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

You my dear friend, DESERVE A HUG! What a trek you have had in the last five years.

I drove my MIL to her chemo (breast cancer) treatments each week. What an experience that was for me.

Hope your trip there was uneventful!!!

michelle of bleeding espresso said...

Such a lovely post reminding us what's important...something you do *so* well, Jeni. So happy to hear your tests all came back bearing good news!

masgblog said... have been through the mill and back...but we're glad that you're still here to tell your tale....kudos to you...