Tag Archives: Cancer

Bugs, redux

The problem with spending quite a bit of time in doctors’ offices and hospitals is that these places are more often than not filled with sick people. While this is not entirely surprising – after all, how often do well people go to the doctor or visit a hospital unless they’re visiting someone or working there? – it is rather annoying for those of us who are otherwise healthy but are susceptible, thanks to being blasted with radiation and chemicals, to picking up bugs from various places in their travels.

Such is the case on the ranch, where yours truly has a typical case of the flu or a cold or something, resulting in an amazing amount of snot being blown out of my head.

Speaking of amazing amounts of stuff: this week, a return visit to the pulmonologist, for a followup xray to make sure that massive amount of fluid they drained out of the left lung last week remains at bay. It does, although there is still a bit of hazy “pneumonia-like stuff” hanging out at the bottom of the left lung. Do we know what it is and why it’s there? No. Do we want to preemptively treat it with antibiotics or anything? I voted no, and the doctor concurred. In two weeks we’ll have a followup xray to see what progress the body can make on its own.

On another note, I got to see the xrays and scans from before and after he drained the fluid. I have to say, it was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen on a scan, and more than a little scary: my left lung was pushed almost to the point of collapse by the sheer amount of fluid, and the CT scan results, when rolled back and forth like a film, are rather awesome in demonstrating just what medical technology has the ability to do (of course, I am a great fan of technology in general and medical technology in particular, because hey, it has saved my life rather spectacularly, twice, in the span of five years). When viewed as a film, the CT scan results, working from the top of the lung downward, show a massive black space where the fluid has displaced the lung – a bit of 2001: A Space Odyssey, minus the stars bit, because there was absolutely nothing there but a huge amount of (thankfully benign) fluid.

Right now, although my head is stuffed to the point where I want to chop it off, breathing deeply no longer is the agony it has been, and is getting better daily. A slight twinge here and there, but overall, recovery is back on track. The other day I went out for about 20 minutes or so and actually worked in the garden by chopping off some of the giant okra fingers that were threatening to topple some of the plants. All of those went into compost, as they were inedible – some had dried on the stem, the seeds rattling around in the now zebra-striped pods as I cut and tossed them.

I’ve decided to try another round of tomatoes, as a last hurrah to the season. I’ve also decided that instead of starting other things in flats, they’re just going to head straight for sowing in the frames. Since Earl is not going to pass closely enough to our coast to bring us any weather, and the daily rains appear to have moved along, there is no real danger at this point of the seeds being washed out or the soil staying wet so long so as to cause the seeds to rot in place. That means the broccoli, cauliflower, and other assorted goodies will be directly sowed at some hopefully short time in the future – but after we go through another week of 95-degree weather here, according to our forecast. Summer does not want to let go its grip, and who can blame it, really? Summer, to me, is the very best of seasons.

Draining. Literally.

Since before the actual discovery of the big C in my right lung, I’d been having some coughing, pain, and shortness of breath here and there. This is why we thought maybe I’d been walking around with a touch of pneumonia rather than with a dome sized lesion on the upper lobe of my right lung. The pain itself was bilateral for the most part, which lent itself even more to that theory.

After the surgery, I’d still been having those same symptoms. The PET scan showed fluid in the left lung (but all clear of any cancerous bits on the right, including a questionable lymph node near the trachea that the thoracic surgeon removed while removing the wedge fro the right lung). OK, we thought, a little fluid. That would jibe with what we figured, and would explain a lot. Another visit with the pulmonologist, amazingly set up very quickly for yesterday.

Now, I’m thinking, a touch of pneumonia. That means drugs, come back in 10 days after the cycle is complete. But as usual, it turned out to be far more complicated, given that I’m trying to squeeze more medical-related visits and procedures into these past five years than I’d ever had in all the previous years of my life combined. And I must say, that’s working out pretty well, so I have that going for me.

The pulmonologist thumped around on my back on both sides, and said you definitely have some fluid in there. I’d like to go ahead and drain it right now. This is not something I’ve ever had done before, so yet another brand new experience in dealing with cancer and all the assorted bullshit that goes with it. Fine, I say, we might as well get it over with. I figure it will be fairly quick.

To his credit, the doctor did warn me it might be painful as the fluid drained and the lung reexpanded. In addition, there was likely some inflammation in the lining, so as the fluid drained out, the inflamed tissue rubbing together would probably be very painful, at least for awhile.

The nurse brought in the tools – new word learned: thoracentesis! – along with a liter bottle and several test tubes. Keep in mind that a liter is just over a quart. This will be important later. They numbed up an area slightly below my left shoulder blade and a bit toward the spine, set a drape over me, and then….punched a hole in my back between a couple of ribs. Once into the fluid-filled area, they inserted a catheter, attached a tube, and started draining. I myself was sitting, leaning on a pillow over a table next to the exam table. Obviously I couldn’t see any of this going on. But boy, I felt it.

It’s a strange feeling to have liquid quite literally being pulled out of the body. From time to time I could feel bubbling as the fluid was outbound. It kept going on and on, and I really started to wonder: just how much fluid was he pulling out, anyway? To make things worse, the longer it went on, the more painful, internally, it became, and eventually, I was panting like a dog, and sweating profusely. The nurse brought in some cold towels, put one on my neck and started wiping my face down with another. At the point where I gasped, “I think I’m going to pass out.”, we went on for another minute or so, and then stopped. They pulled the catheter, slapped a bandage on, and when I sat up, the resulting pain was about as intense a pain I’ve ever felt. Combine that with an inability to breathe normally, and you have the makings of a panic attack, really.

Luckily, I told myself I wasn’t dying, and we managed to get me into a semi-reclined position to relax for a few minutes. It was then that I saw how much fluid they’d pulled out. The three test tubes were full, which I expected. What I did not expect was to see the entire liter bottle was also full, to the very top. Even if we hadn’t had to stop because of the pain, we’d had to have stopped because there was nothing else to hold more fluid.

The fluid was sent off to the lab, and I was sent off for a chest xray (which looked good – he said that was about 98% of the fluid, gone) and then a CT scan with contrast (for those of you who have been through this, you know that delightful feeling that you’re about to piss yourself that comes when they release the contrast into your system). The CT scan results we don’t have, but I have a followup appointment next week, at which point we’ll do another xray before talking to the doctor, to see where we stand.

The pain is still with me, although subsiding, slowly. The area where they punched a hole in my back is quite painful, but what can you expect after having a puncture wound deliberately introduced?

Today, a visit with the oncologist to go over the PET scan results with him, and to plot our course from here. That will likely just be a return to quarterly scans to make sure we’re still all clear.

I see trees of green…red roses too

The former more than the latter, to be completely honest, as it was a long drive to the dentist this morning via my usual path that takes me past vast swaths of land that is protected or that is part of the lands to parks program. I am also not partial to growing roses, or flowers of any sort, really, other than sunflowers and zinnias (and marigolds to try to keep the bugs at bay). This to see if a tooth – or, should I say, yet another tooth – which had started to fall apart, shearing off in pieces at the gumline, should be rebuilt or should just be pulled. This is a tooth I’d previously had a root canal on, something I realized when looking at it in the mirror and seeing the vertical trench that was left in the remaining portion of the tooth, and the posts used to fill the canal that were coming out from that procedure.

And this is one of the ironies of my life, really. I have a device to help passively stretch my jaws. Using it involves placing it between the frontmost upper and lower teeth. In the past three months, I’ve been through scans, biopsies, surgeries, a week in the hospital, recovery time at home in pain, then getting a bit better, then taking a downturn with massive pain on the left side (not the side on which the surgery was done), then managing to use the device for a couple of days, then having the tooth start to fall apart, which led to so much pain that once again, the device was put aside. So, I need to be able to use the device before the eventuality that all my teeth are pulled so I’ll be able to get fitted for fake teeth. Yet, I cannot use it because my teeth insist on falling apart at a rate that grows faster and faster as time passes. One would think they’d have a way to treat this in a better manner, given everything that is known about trismus and what happens when it isn’t stressed enough to a head and neck cancer patient that keeping the jaw muscles active (even though typically, you’re eating through a tube for a great while) is vital.

In other news, I had a PET scan on Tuesday. I was expecting results by the end of the week, but remarkably enough, the radiation oncologist called the very next day with results: the stuff that needed to come out on the right side was all collected, and it looks clear. What does not look clear is the left lung, which shows fluid. Being the nice guy he is, he called the radiologist to have them pull the previous scans and xray from before surgery, and wouldn’t you know it: fluid in the left lung. It appears that walking pneumonia may very well be a valid side diagnosis to all this cancer business after all.

And that brings me to my personal hell week. Next week, an appointment with the oncologist, to go over the PET scan and to plot a course of action (likely: quarterly scans to keep an eye on me, since they don’t know what else to do with me since I insist on being different). An appointment with the pulmonologist, to talk about this fluid on the left side, and figure out a course of action for that (likely: a base, post-surgery xray, with a followup in a couple of weeks, which leaves me with more time to cough and get short of breath from time to time). A visit with my accountant, to tell me that I need to write a check. And also a possibility, an appointment with a nutrionist, given my weight loss in the hospital that took me down to about 100 pounds, and my inability to get more weight on even though it seems like I am constantly shoving food down my piehole – and, to add to the fun, I seem to be bouncing between 98 and 100. If I lose any more weight, the chances of having to have a feeding tube put back in increases, and quite frankly, remembering that particular experience from last time, this is not something I want to do again.

And so we go, moving from one thing to another, dealing once more with the aftereffects of another cancer diagnosis that should not have happened. The garden is almost entirely a lost cause, but what did I spy the other day when taking a brief foray out? Eggplants! Black, shiny eggplants, hanging on the plants that have managed to survive brutal, incessant heat and brutal, damaging storms that roll through here and there. The okra continues to be a scary, vibrant presence that needs harvesting in the worst way. The second round of peanuts have come up, and the way the weather looks, it will be warm enough into December that they will have maximum growth. I have yet to start any flats for fall because it simply continues to be much too hot to plant those things out by the time they would be ready to graduate. Overall, the season has been lost, again. But another season does approach, albeit slowly, and I’m looking forward to it.

Moving forward

Everyone is always after results: test results, harvest results, weather results, sports results. The results we received from the oncologist were, I must admit, those I had suspected would be the case. The sample was negative for the markers for which it was tested, as I knew it would be – after all, if the primary sample had tested positive for those same markers at the time, it would have been quite simple to point to an actual cause of the original occurrence rather than it being a grand mystery. But it didn’t, and neither did this one, which leaves us in the same position with this one as with the first. No one knows why someone with no risk factors at all amongst the various possibilities wound up with not one but two rare (for my category of risk) cancers.

Our next step, after meeting up with the radiation oncologist who developed the treatment plan for the first episode, is another PET scan. A baseline, if you will, of the state of my system,  post-surgery, to make sure that everything that needed to be cut out was cut out, and that no other hot spots appear. That will be next week, and I have to say that I’m not looking forward to it. Not because the procedure itself is scary or painful, but because you can’t eat anything for a period before the test. During my week in the hospital, I lost about eight pounds, leaving me tipping the scale dial right at about a hundred pounds. Trying to maintain that, much less put anything back on, is a daily struggle, and the way a healing body burns through calories, not eating for at least eight hours is going to be a tough road to take, and the end result will be a queasy and cranky Captain. I plan to stuff a cooler in the car with something to immediately boost my blood sugar as soon as the test is finished and they turn me loose.

The week after that, back to the oncologist, as the results of the PET will be back by then, and at least we’ll have something concrete there to look at and see where we stand.

Recovery continues, slowly. Weight maintenance/gain is the single largest issue right now, followed closely by range of motion/strength rebuilding in the affected area. I have this nasty dry cough thing going on, which aggravates every muscle they cut through during surgery, along with the ribs they spread apart to get a good view of the lung. Try coughing without involving any abdominal or back muscle. Doesn’t work very well. On the plus side, I’m not coughing up any blood, and it’s probably related to the fact that I spend the vast majority of my time inside in the air conditioning rather than splitting my time between being inside and being in the great outdoors. It’s simply too hot and humid right now to be outside doing anything much of consequence other than stepping out from time to time, as it’s difficult to breathe the heavy, humid, still air without starting to gasp like a fish unceremoniously dumped out of the bowl. Since our fall won’t arrive for a couple of months yet, the most I can hope for is periodic trips outside without doing anything strenuous (like pull weeds) and that the weather modulates just a tad to something more bearable so I can start getting back outside here and there, even for a short walk around the gardens that are going to hell.

Planning around

The great rice experiment of 2010 is a bust. We had thought it would be fun to try to grow our own rice, and set up a couple of bins with some dirt, flooded them, then tossed wild rice in one and brown rice in the other. A few days ago, during a lull in the nonstop rains when we had several clear, very hot days of no rain in a row, I noticed the wild rice bin was dry. I filled it again, and it looked fine, but two days ago, we noticed it was once again dry. The culprit? A leak, not previously noticed, allowing the water to slowly and sneakily drain out. The other bin has no hole, but is looking a little fetid – the problem with not having a large, open-air area with natural breezes and circulation, I suppose. There is, however, a solution to both problems: a new bin sans leaks for one, and a small recirculation system for both, akin to a fishtank aerator setup. Just enough to keep things bubbling along and keep the water from getting scummy. That will have to wait until after the hospital.

Speaking of, I went today for the pre-op ordeal, which is less than an ordeal than it is an exercise in patience. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork: a consent form for the hospital. A consent form for the doctor. A privacy advisement. Yet another questionnaire about general health, diseases, and meds I’m taking. I notice that the doctors carry their own liability insurance (I suppose so the hospital doesn’t bear the entire responsibility for whatever lawsuits might arise from something or another). A sheet of instructions about the day of the surgery. All of these things are things I’ve seen multiple times before at this point, so I’m talking along with the nurse who is rattling off the same things I’ve heard before.

Then they took four tubes of blood from me and made me pee in a cup. The latter is, I think, another way of covering their butts to make sure I am not pregnant although I have already told them I’m not.

Barring anything strange, we’re on for the 6th, where yours truly is to arrive four hours prior to the scheduled operation time, in order to sign more consent forms and to get prepped for a procedure the surgeon estimates will take about 45 minutes or so. Then they will hold me hostage for several days unless someone manages to smuggle a file in my jello so I can escape. I am not counting on this, as everyone seems to think it would be grand for me to be in forced inactivity for at least a few days.

The upshot of all of this, as we rocket toward surgery, is that I have a massive number of things to do, and little time to do them. Although the rice experiment do-over can wait, there is something else that cannot: the flats of seedlings that are rapidly becoming too large or their starter flats, and which need to be planted out in the frames. Since the seedlings have been outside since they were started, I’m thinking they should be fine in the great outdoors, but I am still leery of putting them out without being able to be here to keep an eye on them and take preventative action (like partially shading them if necessary, assuming the sun ever comes back, from the worst of direct sunlight until they’ve settled themselves). On the other hand, I know that another week plus in the flats is probably not the best thing for them. It’s something I think on while getting some new servers set up and installed so they will be ready before I head in for my version of a vacation.

Today I picked a beefsteak type tomato called Steak Sandwich (Burpee, hybrid), and sliced it open. It smelled, as most tomatoes fresh off the vine smell, like a tomato, with undertones of green vine. It was juicy, with nice, small define pockets of gel and seed, and not grainy at all, as some can be. According to my taste tester, this one could benefit from a touch of salt, unlike the Cherokee Purples we got before they gave up and died on us. Still, it was great to pick a beefsteak, long season tomato before July 4, given all the issues we’ve had around here.

And now, back to work, to continue the server setups and get as much in order as possible before I’m forcibly separated from my laptop and cell phone.

Breathe deeply

I am certain that my half dozen faithful readers are wondering what cliff I fell off, given my complete lack of maintenance here on ye olde blog front. What, they ask, is she doing? Lolling around, eating bonbons, instead of planting things, cooking goodies, and the like?

I’m not much on bonbons. At least for myself, not these days.

No, dear readers, yours truly has actually been doing things like whipping up batches of pizza dough for the freezer, babying plants along and harvesting goodies (six pounds of cukes the other day!), making bread and butter pickles and foisting them off on anyone within arm’s reach, cooking up some homemade french onion soup (delicious!), and pulling weeds (a losing battle).

But I’ve also been undergoing yet another round of tests, from an x-ray to a CAT scan to a PET scan to a biopsy, and on the 6th your intermittent blogger will be back in the hospital, this time to remove a wedge of lung that has a suspicious lesion on it, along with a lymph node hanging out near the trachea that also looks suspicious. None of this is good news other than the fact that a) it’s very small, and b) it’s very early, so given my overall good health, my total lack of smoking, ever (which makes it all the more ironic this second time around, having some crap I absolutely should not have),  and my relatively young age, should be not as big a deal as it would be were I a two pack a day puffer with cardiac issues and high blood pressure.

Still, it’s no fun, and I’ve had enough of medical stuff these past five years to last me a lifetime – in fact, it seems like I’m making up for a lifetime of not a whole lot of medical anything, doesn’t it? And still, the same people ask the same question over and over again: smoker? The only thing I smoke is bbq on my Bradley, thanks. They’re always surprised, and I suppose given their professions, they should be, since it still surprises the hell out of us here that me, of all the people in this family, should be receiving these diagnoses. On the plus side, I’m probably the healthiest person in the family, so my odds are a lot better for recovery than most everyone else’s.

The doctor says a 4-7 day stay in the hospital (let’s aim for four here), and then six weeks for recovery (too long for me), which will put us at the beginning of planning stages for the fall garden. Once again, it seems another prime season has been lost in some fashion, this year from a late start due to an extended illness and death in the family a few months ago, and now an interruption in the height of the season due to surgery and recovery. One of these days, we will have all the pieces together for an actual, planned, well-begun, well-managed season.

The tomatoes are soldiering along as well as they can, although the heirloom Cherokee Purples went down to blight due to an extraordinary run of rain we had. The paprikas, the stars of last year’s garden, and the bell peppers are both a major source of disappointment this year, as neither are producing. The latter is especially discouraging, as I wanted to stash plenty of roasted red peppers in the freezer for those times when I want to make soup. On the plus side, as we’ve been going through all this testing/scanning nonsense, I did get some more flats started, and put in (I think) about 36 starts of a bell pepper called Fat N Sassy. If there is a more appropriate name for a pepper that should be perfect for roasting, I don’t know what it is. On the downside, these will be ready to go out into the garden proper in the next couple of weeks, and I’ll be directing traffic instead of participating fully, what with all the mother hens hovering.

The peanuts are going gangbusters, and we’ve already enjoyed zucchini, green beans, filet beans, and okra from the garden, along with the aforementioned cukes. I have kidney beans, another round of green beans, and limas popping up out of the soil – once again, score one for getting these things in before surgery time!

This coming week I”ll be working like an over-caffeinated squirrel trying to get things in order before I go down for the count. The upside is that I’ll have time, sitting around on my ass, to post some of the pictures that I’ve been taking here and there. One thing I will say is that french onion soup, delicious though it is when homemade, is not very photogenic. It surely was tasty, though.

A day like today

I do not, as a general rule, sleep well or much. My family knows this because they have to put up with my oddball hours. Friends and clients know this because it is not rare for them to receive an email from me at some horrible, zombie-like hour where I, fresh from about three hours of sleep, have logged on to see what is happening in my little corner of the world.

Most of the time, this does not bother me overly much. After all, I have a great deal many more hours at my disposal than most people, meaning I can come up with grandiose plans about various things, and also cement the reputation I have garnered of being a robot rather than a human being. Since the radiation from the cancer treatments still has not brought me any real superpowers, I suppose it’s as close as I will ever get, although I won’t be doing this anytime soon.

Some days, though, the lack of sleep brings out the cranky, especially if I am also not feeling well. Like today. This makes me want to kick someone’s ass right off the planet for tossing a nonsensical legal threat our way about information in a domain registration that she provided, even though we have pointed out what she is saying means nothing and she readily admits she doesn’t understand the “jargon” – and by “jargon”, I mean English. Apparently, she is simply terrified that one of her “fans” (she is an actress, apparently) will find out her address from a years-old cached pieced of information on google, something that we do not control, last time I checked, and do some stalker-like thing, or kill her, or both. Or something. This is the time when I want to state it flat out for people: you are just not that important. You are not fodder for the next American Justice where some crazed, obsessed person hunts you down and kills you. You may tell yourself, actress aspiring to be famous, that someone would care that much, but let’s face it here: you provided your own biographical information to IMDB which is quite handily on your own web site, and it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist or some weirdo even slightly off their meds to find you. I know: I tracked down someone, including their name, date of birth, current residence, current hobbies, other web sites they visit, and the fact that they coached little league from a single piece of information (an IP address attached to a comment they left on a blog we host). With all the information you have provided on your own, deranged psychos could track you down if they wanted. They haven’t. This should tell you something about your place in the greater universe.

A day where you think it would be nice to be able to eat and drink the way you used to. That an icy cold beer and a pile of wings would be great after sweating off a couple of pounds working on the ranch, except that you can no longer drink alcohol due to the radiation burning off the lining of your mouth and you really can’t eat wings any more because the chewing issues make it virtually impossible. That it would be great to settle in with a margarita and a blackened chicken burrito with extra sweet and hot chile sauce, but the spicy foods are offlimit now for the same reason alcohol is, and you know even as you sow the seeds in the garden that you’re unlikely to ever be able to eat habaneros or even jalapenos again any time soon, if ever.

On the other hand, on a day like today, where I’m having some trouble catching my breath and generally feeling like crap – oh, not to mention having a slight bout of anxiety over the fact that the doctor wants me to have a chest CT because of something they saw on the chest x-ray they wanted before I started hyperbaric dives after having yet another tooth pulled – it’s nice to Get Shit Done. Like sow the cukes from seed that I’ve wanted to do for several days now, for a total of about 140 seeds planted, with a little overflow from my nephew helper, who put half a dozen seeds in several holes while I tried to convince him that really, one was all that was required. I also directly sowed some more tomatoes and peppers, because let’s face it: there are rarely enough, and we intend to do a lot of preserving this year. If we have the space, I want to fill it with something. That includes the newest 8 x 4 frame I polished off today in the herb garden, with a little assist by my sister, who hauled a load of dirt and poop for me amongst the five others that I brought over and mixed in. Tomorrow, while we wrangle a scheduled CT from the hospital people and I stay out of the hyperbaric chamber until we determine what the hell is going on – and if I have walking pneumonia, I will, as I have told several people, be pissed – I will begin work on the final 8 x 4 frame for the herb garden. Tonight, I may just go ahead and sow some things in flats that really want the much hotter weather we will no doubt be heading into very soon, and set them up on the heat mats in the garage, turning on the lights for them in the morning.

It’s a day where you also get nice, chatty mails from certain clients, about their newest projects, and about being a test case who found a bad link on our site. Or from someone who understands the information (some of it erroneous) at some random, invisible data mining company is not the end of the world as we know it, which then leads in a roundabout sort of way to a discussion about critters and gardening/sustainability. Or from someone who congratulates us on ten years of putting up with all of this. Or where a pooped out puppy sleeps on the back of the couch while you work from home on a laptop, ass planted on the couch yourself, his tail slapping against the cushion now and then, his nose crinkling as he sniffs out a rabbit or turtle or whatever populates puppy dreams, every now and again his paws wiggling manically, chasing down a bird he will never catch, growling and then squeaking out what would be a bark were he awake. Or where you watch as your nephew, having discarded his swimming diaper at some point, stands on the patio in the shade, fresh from the pool, with only his water wings on, downing saltines with a slab of cheese between them, crumbs falling from his mouth and sticking to his wet chest. Or where you decide, apropos of nothing, that Saturday would be a great  time for a spaghetti dinner night, and that homemade pork/beef/veal meatballs in homemade sauce, with homemade Italian bread as a vehicle for carrying butter and garlic, would be a rather fine thing indeed, even as you muse about the possibility of making homemade pasta, just to top it all off.

Or where, in general, despite never having as much time as you think even though you don’t sleep, berating yourself for not writing nearly as much as you would want to (or anything at all, for that matter), and having a list of todo items that is constantly expanding, you think this is a pretty damned good life, overall, and that you wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything.

Forced downtime

Three consecutive days of dentist/oral surgeon visits have resulted in forced downtime for me on the ranch. On Wednesday, a visit to the dentist to address the broken tooth slated for a crown. While much of the shearing off was the buildup, some of it was the actual tooth, and what was left after that was one little stub, resulting in yet another unrestorable tooth. Luckily, we had already made an appointment with the oral surgeon for Thursday, because I could tell what was coming: an extraction of what was left.

And that’s what we did on Thursday: appointment at 10, and by 11:20 I was walking out the door, my mouth yet one more tooth lighter. This was a bit more difficult an extraction, as the top stub broke of and he wound up using forceps to dig in and grab the root, but he managed to pull the root out in one piece. No cutting! Gauze, the usual prescriptions, and off I went back to the house. Because of the additional rooting around (no pun intended) this one hurt quite a bit more than the last one, and my lower jaw started to swell fairly immediately. I also felt quite a bit more nauseated this time than last, but sleep plus the various drugs made it all slide down the list of my concerns, even if it did put me behind on various things and make me a bit foggy throughout the evening. My oral surgeon – Dr. Tayapongsak, by the way, if you’re ever in this area and need a very good one – also mentioned to me something I resigned myself to three years ago as I began the never-ending dental work: eventually, all my teeth will probably have to come out. For now, though, I’d like to retain what I can.

Friday, back to the dentist for what was actually my scheduled appointment for crown preps, now on a single tooth instead of two. That didn’t make it hurt any less, as my jaw had swollen further through the evening, but I went ahead with this appointment to avoid having the other tooth meet the same fate as the one requiring extraction. As he shaved away the buildup and shaped the remainder of the tooth, of course some of that work wound up going right along the gumline. Ouch. Then the impressions, and me trying to open my mouth widely enough to get the trays in, which were then jammed up against the teeth and held there for several minutes. Then the even greater challenge of getting the trays out through my limited opening, without destroying what we’d just managed to create. Then the temporary crown, on the tooth, off the tooth for shaping, over and over again, every time jammed up against and into the gumline until it was shaped properly.

After that adventure, off to the hospital and an EKG and a chest xray, so I can begin hyperbaric dives on Monday to promote the healing of the socket where the root had been. While I was in xray, getting lined up for the second shot, a code blue in MRI comes over the intercom. Such is the ebb and flow of the medical world.

All of this adds up to no work outside since Wednesday. My face is still swollen today, although less so than yesterday, and there is no heavy lifting permitted anyway for a day or so after the extraction, to avoid the potential of dislodging the (very nice) blood clot that formed in the empty tooth socket. Since I feel like someone has been beating me with a lead pipe – and look a bit that way, too – this is disappointing, but sort of welcome at the same time.

Tomorrow, though: full steam ahead. Lots to do. Not many people to do it. It’s time to really start ramping things up here on the ranch.

You say tomato

Make that tomatoes, plural.

This is Stupice, a Czech early variety. It is also one of the handful of transplants that survived being put out.

Poor planning on my part and poor weather on Mother Nature’s part conspired to kill off or stunt many of the stunningly healthy transplants that had been started in the garage just before the new year kicked in. Next time, I will keep two things in mind: first, in addition to the other care I gave the seedlings in their sheltered quarters, they need a little opposition as well, to help toughen them. A fan to force strength into their stems is going to be a requirement, not an afterthought. Second, they really do need a proper hardening off period, no matter how much the weather outside seems to be cooperating when I make the decision to put them out. It may seem to be overcast and mild enough to put them in the frames and let them be, but it would be better to have the babies mobile enough to be able to bring them back in before, say, a massive windstorm or two straight days of pounding rain come along.

After that, though, they’re fair game for the elements.

In the morning, a visit to the oral surgeon, at which point he will probably decide to go ahead and pull this one tooth right then and there. Since my emergency visit with the dentist today interrupted my day, no work outside for me. Tomorrow, after what will be a difficult pull, it’s likely I won’t be working outside, either, which could get bad as the rain that we’ve had is going away for awhile, and there is irrigation to be worked on out there. Friday morning, back to the regular dentist, for the crown prep on the companion tooth to the one being yanked out – so far, that second tooth is hanging in there, with no cracking, shearing, or other disintegration before my eyes. Lucky me. To top things off, I’ll have to do ten hyperbaric dives after this pull, to help the healing process, which will further interrupt my early morning hours and is likely to leave me low on energy, putting me even further behind in the work that I need to get done.

Will it all ever end?

Getting corny

It rained today. Usually, in Florida during the summer, this is not exactly newsworthy. After all, for all the years, off and on, that I’ve lived in Florida, summers typically have the same forecast: partly cloudy, highs in the mid-90s, afternoon thunderstorms.

Then I moved out of the city and into this very strange, Bermuda Triangle-like plot of country only to find that if the forecast calls for anything under 50%, it can generally be ignored, because the rain will blow itself apart before it gets to us, or slide off to the north or south, leaving not a drop here. The other extreme, of course, is the tropical storms that come and hang out for a week, dumping two feet or more of water around the property. Most of the time, it’s the former rather than the latter.

Still, it rained today, this afternoon, which meant I hauled myself outside very quickly this morning and managed to get straw put down around the garlic – one variety of which is turning into a tremendous disappointment – as well as move almost 1300 pounds of dirt and poo. Keep in mind that here on the ranch, almost nothing is mechanized. That’s right: hauling this sort of stuff around is done by human power, not machine power. By the time I think a tractor is worth the investment, it won’t be necessary because all the work for which it was intended to be used will be done. While I’m sweating out the latest activity, I sometimes wonder if this is what it was like for the earliest settlers, although I have the benefit of being able to escape into more comfortable quarters for a break or before the rains come (after battening things down against the storm).

The good thing about the rain is that it makes the irrigation line running less of an issue. That’s good news for the silver queen corn, which currently occupies three frames of an incomplete six frame row. Even though I made good progress today on the remaining frames in that row, I can’t run the lines until they’re complete, and that means hand watering. Unless it rains.

As with most of the rest of the planting, this was delayed by family issues. The vendor had stamped an 85% germination rate on the pack, so I overplanted the rows, planning for a less than optimal germination. As it stands, it looks to me more like 95%. I consider that a good thing, and I am ever hopeful that we may actually harvest corn this year instead of losing it to deer romping through it (not an issue now with the fencing) or to bizarre weather that flattens it to the point of nonrecovery or alternately drowns it/droughts it.

I also put in another variety as a test: Vision F1.

This planting went in earlier than the silver queen, and is a sugary yellow variety, slightly shorter on harvest time than silver queen. Corn really has turned out to be my personal windmill here on the ranch, a la Don Quixote, and it would be nice to see some through from seed to harvest.

My dental saga continues apace. I’ve had four teeth pulled recently, and it looks like another one is going to have to go: cracked down the middle of where the temporary build was done, awaiting a crown – ironically enough, the prep date was supposed to be this Friday – and the actual tooth part is loose in the socket. No sense capping something that is going to fall out or snap on its own, so it’s time to call the dentist to see if he can work me in for ten minutes to give me a thumbs up on the pull of that one, and I’m thinking we might as well pull the opposing tooth, also slated to be crowned. The oral surgeon will love me as much as the dentist by the time all is said and done. Radiation and chemo are hellish things. Eventually, I will probably end up with all my teeth pulled, which would mean dentures – and that means I have to really get going with the torture device meant to help stretch the scar tissue created by the treatments and assist with the trismus. The only problem with this is when I have one or more teeth that need attention: I need to use the device in order to help with dental treatment and try to hold on to my teeth, but it is quite difficult to use it when I have teeth that require attention. Yet another lingering gift from the big C.