So what does this mean? It means that of the three cancers that are competing to do me in, bladder cancer now is pretty much out of the race. Given enough time, it would almost certainly recur, but it's not likely to grow to become a real threat again within the time frame I have left. Bladder cancer is the most treatable of the three sites. Since it did come back a year ago had to be removed for a second time at that time, I fully expected it to be back by now. The fact that it’s not is welcome news indeed. Under the terms of my hospice care, which focuses on palliative treatment, not curative, it’s not clear whether my insurance company would have agreed to pick up the tab for a third bladder surgery even had one been needed. Indeed, it’s not clear whether it’ll pay for my Monday’s doctor’s visit. But bladder cancer is a very unpleasant business and it is good not to have that sword dangling over my head.
Of course, this still leaves the other two cancers, and it is likely that one of them will win the race within the next six months. The one that probably will get me is the one that’s in my abdominal cavity; it’s metastasized and spread to the place where my kidney used to be and also to an area behind my spleen. That is the cancer, I’m sure, that is causing all my pain and stamina problems. Cancer cells have also spread to my sigmoid colon. These two sites (not the bladder cancer, which cannot be treated that way) were what the chemo and radiation therapy were all about. The procedures did not make much headway against the targeted abdominal masses before putting me in the hospital with sepsis, but did make some progress against the colon cancer, by way of easing a constriction that was threatening to close off my intestine. There’s no word on how long that repair will remain in place. In fact, we’re not monitoring the growth of those cancers at this point, since I have said “no” to any more chemo. It’s just a game of waiting. But now I don’t have to worry about my bladder closing down due to uncontrolled tumor growth there, which, believe me, is good news indeed.
The other good news is that I gained five pounds this week. It’s been a battle trying to get me interested in food given my taste bud issues, but I’ve compensated by eating a lot of sweets, for which my taste buds are not affected, and apparently it’s starting to make a difference. I don’t know how long that trend will last but it’s good for now; every pound that gets away from you is a tiny death in the fight against cancer and right now I have the momentum although my weight is still well below what it was. But at 160, my weight is now nearly optimal for my frame, and you have to look closely at my face and my chicken legs to suspect there’s an underlying condition.
Upon hearing the news about my bladder cancer, Deborah told me she’s holding out hope for more miracles. Really, the miracle I’m interested in has already happened. Partially because of everything we’ve discussed on this blog regarding the premonition that led me to drop what I was doing to fulfill a lifelong ambition to write fiction, I feel like my life has already had its full complement of miracles. And by the way, I dedicated that third novel, The Dark, to my urologist who saved my life a year ago, Dr. Sanjay Ramakumar, and had the pleasure on Monday of finally being able to put a signed copy in his hands. I think the fact I was able to do that is a miracle that’s hard to beat, but if you want more, it’s simply that I am enjoying every second of the time I have to the fullest.
|The Kief-Joshua vineyard|
|Sonoita Vineyard from a distance--with a setting|
that looks not unlike its win
Next we went down the road to Sonoita Vineyards, which was even more impressive. Deborah is really getting in to this whole wine thing; she did the flight of tastings and hung on every word as the proprietor explained the varietals to her and what it all meant. On this particular Saturday, the winery had lunch available in a dining room upstairs. The menu was very limited, but we had grilled cheese sammiches accompanied by the finest tomato Florentine soup I think I’ve ever tasted, prepared by The Happy Cooker catering service.
|Deborah chats it up with staff, hanging on every word.|
The skies were quite monsoony for the trip back with medium cloud cover punctuated by moderate lightning flashing about. By the time we reached Tucson the skies opened up between us and the Catalinas, but not much fell where we were (such is the nature of our fickle monsoon season).
|The drive was georgous|
That night we opened one of the bottles we had bought and enjoyed it with cheese and crackers, while watching the movie “Sideways,” which of course is set in California’s wine country. It was a perfect day.
|This shower was beautiful but didn't quite make it down|
to us in the valley
As recently as a year ago if you’d asked me if I thought driving to a winery sounds like fun, I probably would have turned up my nose at it in favor of something more substantial, such as a weekend getaway to Sedona or something like that. So I was amazed at how much fun it was simply to get in to the stangy ‘Stang, drive an hour or so to a winery while engaging in small talk with the spouse and listening to vintage tunes via the iPod and car stereo on the way back. More and more I think it’s life’s little enjoyments, not the big ones, that count. Simply put, we had a fabulous time, and this kind of activity should be within my physical reach for some time to come. We will do more of it.